Category Archives: Personal

Book Review: Everything That Remains

Everything That Remains: A Memoir by The MinimalistsEverything That Remains: A Memoir by The Minimalists by Joshua Fields Millburn

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

“Why waste time, say lot word when few word do trick?” -Kevin Malone

“Good author not need tell you he good. Big words not make you seem smarter.” -Me

To be clear, I understand and embrace the idea behind minimalism. I enjoyed the Minimalism documentary on Netflix – in fact, it was life changing for my family. It caused us to re-examine what was important in life and begin the process of decluttering our home and office. The message of The Minimalists is spot on – we live in a materialistic society who needs to understand that more stuff will not fill the void in our lives. Millburn almost gets it. He has learned that material possessions and shallow relationships will not satisfy the longing in your heart that stretches you thin every day and keeps you awake at night. But he hasn’t learned the true source of joy, peace, and contentment.

I was expecting a book that was 50% biographical and 50% practical advise on minimalism, but this book is not about minimalism. This book about the author. It’s 80% biographical, 10% pretentious humble-brag, and 10% words I don’t understand without a dictionary. Honestly, I walked away from this profanity-laced memoir feeling more pity than pleasure. I can only hope that one day when his pen dries up Millburn will realize that he has exchanged one god for another. The True Source of happiness lies elsewhere.

Image result for kevin why waste time
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Posted by on October 8, 2018 in Book Review, Personal


Book Review: The Case for Miracles

The Case for Miracles: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for the SupernaturalThe Case for Miracles: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for the Supernatural by Lee Strobel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you’ve read The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, or The Case for a Creator, then you know the format and Strobel uses in his books. As an investigative reporter, he interviews witnesses (experts) in various fields to gain their knowledge and wisdom on the subject at hand. This book started well and ended well, but grew disinterested in the middle. A couple of chapters strayed into a laborious scientific discussion about the origin on the universe that seemed to drag on. A couple more chapters were lifted from the previously mentioned books. Perhaps there was some correlation to the topic at hand, but it felt more like they were copy/pasted to fill up more pages in a book.

As I said, the book started well and ended well.  I was intrigued by the interview with Michael Shermer, a well know atheist and skeptic, about his take on miracles. And I was equally fascinated by all of the accounts of modern-day miracles. Honestly, I would prefer an entire book of miracle accounts to the fluff found in the middle of this book. But taken as a whole, it was a good read, especially if you haven’t read his other work.

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Posted by on October 7, 2018 in Book Review, Personal


My Top 10 Reads in 2017

My Top 10 Reads in 2017

After missing the mark in 2016, I pushed myself to achieve my goal of 30 books in 2017!   Setting such an ambitious goal pushed me to read more than I normally would and I’m very pleased with all that I’ve learned during my 2017 challenge.

My full list of all 30 books included a good mix of fiction and non-fiction, averaging about 300 pages per book.  I won’t include them all on this blog, but here’s a quick countdown of my Top Ten favorite reads from 2017 and a brief summary of each.

#10 – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Asset 1

Unexpectedly enjoyable. This was on my son’s reading list from school and, since I missed the movie in theaters, I wanted to check it out (we still haven’t watched the movie). I’m a huge fan of time travel fiction, so the constant flipping back and forth through time was fun to follow. Also, I loved the old (supposedly authentic) photographs that were sprinkled throughout the book and the way they were uniquely woven into the fabric of the story. I really enjoyed meeting each of the children, but would like to have seen more character development on each one. I wanted to know where / when they were from and how they discovered their unique peculiarity.

My biggest admonishment is the language. There was a lot of vulgarity; much more than I was expecting for a book aimed at Jr High readers. The sheer volume of profanity is the precise reason my son put the book down and refused to finish it. It felt unnecessary and forced. Without the bad language, I might have given this book 5-stars.

#9 – Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Asset 3

This is not a faith based book by a Christian author about God’s divine protection of a deeply religious man. In fact, it’s quite the opposite by all accounts. However, as a Christian reader, I can see God’s fingerprints on every page – from Louie’s turbulent childhood to a his brutal internment and especially his life changing encounter at a Billy Graham crusade. God had his hand on Louie and used his story in a powerful way to affect the lives of thousands.

Practically speaking, the book started to drag a bit in the middle. I was enthralled with Louie’s running career and his early military exploits, but I labored to get through the detailed chronicle of his time at sea and in the POW camps. Hillenbrand picked up the pace again toward the end and she wrapped everything up very well. I haven’t read the young adult version of this novel, but I wonder if that wouldn’t be more to my liking at 322 pages instead of 529. This is a wonderful story that everyone should read, but I could have been given less details and still enjoyed the overall experience.

#8 – 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You
by Tony Reinke

Asset 4As a father and a youth minister, I felt especially compelled to read this book.  I had seen several recommendations on our Youth Ministry FB page from fellow leaders and it did not disappoint.  Incredibly practical advice that caused me to examine my own habits.

Drawing from the insights of numerous thinkers, published studies, and his own research, writer Tony Reinke identifies twelve ways our smartphones have changed us—for good and bad. Reinke calls us to cultivate wise thinking and healthy habits in the digital age, encouraging us to maximize the many blessings, to avoid the various pitfalls, and to wisely wield the most powerful gadget of human connection ever unleashed.

#7 – Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1)
by Sylvain Neuvel

Asset 5Perhaps the most intriguing book I’ve read in a long time. I would definitely recommend listening to this one on Audible though. I can’t imagine trying to read a hard copy of this book simply becuase of the format. It is written as a series of interviews and the audio version capitalizes on this by using different voice actors to read the parts, which works very well. The “interviewer” is a nameless figure that reminds me of “The Smoking Man” in the X-Files television series. He is above the government, has unlimited resources at his disposal, and has a way of reading and manipulating people that is unmatched.

The story takes a few twists and turns that were unexpected, but everything was resolved well in the end and I find myself still thinking about the plot even now, a few months after finishing the book. My only hesitation about recommending this book is the gratuitous language. What’s that old saying? “If you can’t be interesting without using profanity, you’re just not that interesting.”

#6 – Family Worship: In the Bible, in History & in Your Home by Donald S. Whitney

Asset 6This book is a rare gem.  So small (only 64 pages), but so powerful.  The book is necessarily brief because Whitney aptly states that family worship is not that complicated.  This book may have a greater impact on the life of our family inside the home than anything else I’ve read this year.

Many Christian families have never experienced the joys and benefits of family worship. But the daily worship of God by families at home is a practice rooted in the Bible and common throughout Christian history.

#5 – Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot
by Bill O’Reilly, Martin Dugard

Asset 7   After reading this book it was immediately apparent to me that many of the facts surrounding the death of President Kennedy went right over my head in high school. I know that history class tends to give us a cursory view from 30,000 feet, but I’m glad to have read a book like this and landed the plane in Camelot for a few days.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would rate it just as high as the previous two book in O’Reilly’s “Killing” series. (Killing Lincoln and Killing Jesus) I especially like the way the author covers every angle chronologically then brings them together at the fateful moment, but he doesn’t stop there. He concludes by tying up all the loose ends and explaining how the main players in the Kennedy White House carried on in the aftermath of his assassination.

#4 – Doxology and Theology: How the Gospel Forms the Worship Leader by Matt Boswell

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Recommended reading for every worship leader. Each chapter is written by a different worship pastor, giving the reader a variety of perspectives on our calling. Very well done. Especially chapters 5 and 10. Some of my favorite quotes include:

“Worship leaders ought to come to lead the people of God with a guitar in one hand, a Bible in the other, and know how to use each weapon well.”

“Throughout the Scriptures, when ordinary people see the majesty of God, or the mercy of God, they are forever changed by it, and they go tell everyone about it. That’s just what happens.”

“We’ve got to do more than lead songs; we’ve got to lead people. If nobody’s following us Monday through Saturday, we’re not leading worship; we’re just leading songs.”


#3 – The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

VorkosiganSagaOkay, okay… I’m well aware that there are 5 books in the photo, but that’s how many of these books I read this year!  And I can’t pick just one for my Top 10 list!!  A friend recommended “The Warrior’s Apprentice” and I was hooked.

The Vorkosigan Saga is a series of 29 science fiction novels set in a common fictional universe by American author Lois McMaster Bujold. The first of these was published in 1986 and the most recent in 2016.  Think about that… 30 years of writing and crafting this wonderful universe beyond our own solar system.  Fans of Star Wars or Star Trek will love this collection.  The unique thing about The Vorkosigan Saga is the unorthodox reading order.  I’ve seen so many different suggestions!  Similar to Star Wars, there are prequels and in-between-quels galore, but honestly, you could start just about anywhere and enjoy the epic adventures of Miles Vorkosigan and his crew.  My personal recommendation… The Warriors Apprentice.  Let me know if you’re interested, I’ve got an extra copy to pass around.

#2 – Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi

Asset 10I began reading this biography with very little knowledge about Muslim customs and beliefs, but Nabeel Qureshi offers us a unique windows into his early life, being raised in a devout Muslim home. He gives us definitions and explanations along the way as he describes, in detail, the symbolism behind the expressions of their faith. Qureshi points out the similarities between Islam and Christianity, but more importantly he expounds on the differences – how the western world thinks differently from middle-easterners in the very core of their beliefs.

Qureshi shares his deeply rooted passion for Islam and his discovery of evidence that Jesus rose from the dead and claimed to be God – evidence that directly contradicts what he had been taught. Unable to deny the arguments but not wanting to deny his family, Qureshi’s inner battle will challenge Christians and Muslims alike. “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” tells of the clash between Islam and Christianity in one man’s heart and of the peace he eventually found in Jesus. This is a must read book, especially for the Christian who wants to know more Islam and how to tell your Muslim friends about Isa (Jesus).

#1 – Look and Live: Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ by Matt Papa

Asset 11Easily the best book I’ve read all year.  No question.  As soon as I closed the cover for the last time I knew this would be at the top of my list.  Matt Papa was a “professional Christian” in full-time ministry, ready and determined to change the world. All the while he was depressed, addicted to the approval of others, and enslaved to sin. But then everything changed. He encountered the glory of God.

All of us live in the tension between where we are and where we ought to be. We try our best to bully our desires into submission. And we all know, this is exhausting.  Matt doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to dealing with our sin problem.  Look at the cross, and LIVE.  One of the many, many things I underlined is this:

“The reason God commands us to love Him with all our heart is not because He is an egomaniac! It is because He knows that anything we love more than Him will betray us. Eventually, we lose it by its death . . . or ours.”


That’s it!  What do you think? Any you’ve already read? Anything you want to read?

As we begin 2018 I’ve already signed up for the reading challenge and this year, I’m moving that mark up to 36.  Set a goal for yourself.  And happy reading!



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Posted by on January 6, 2018 in Book Review, Personal


My Top 10 Reads in 2016

My Top 10 Reads in 2016

At the beginning of 2016, challenged it’s users to set a reading goal for 2016.  Initially 26 books sounded like a reasonable goal – one book every two weeks – but after giving it a little more thought I decided to push myself and set my goal at 30 books. I didn’t make it, but I did hit the original goal of 26 and thoroughly enjoyed myself in the process. Setting such an ambitious goal pushed me to read more than I normally would and I’m very pleased with all that I’ve learned during my 2016 challenge.

My full list of all 26 books included a good mix of fiction and non-fiction, averaging about 300 pages per book.  I won’t include them all on this blog, but here’s a quick countdown of my Top Ten favorite reads from 2016 and a brief summary of each.

#10 – A.D. 30 by Ted Dekker

ad30Step back in time to the year of our Lord…A.D. 30.  The outcast daughter of one of the most powerful Bedouin sheikhs in Arabia, Maviah is called on to protect the very people who rejected her. When their enemies launch a sudden attack, Maviah escapes with the help of her father’s warriors. But Maviah’s path leads her unexpectedly to another man. A teacher who speaks of a way that offers greater power than any kingdom. His name is Yeshua, and his words turn everything she knows on its head. Though following him may present even greater danger, it may be the only way for Maviah to save her people – and herself.

You won’t see any other Dekker books on this list becuase I’ve read so many of them in years past.  He’s a brilliant author and this novel is no exception to the rule.  This is a fictional story, of course, but it includes biblically accurate accounts of familiar characters such as Jesus, his disciples, Nicodemus, and Herod.  It brings the story of Jesus to life in a new and unexpected way from a completely different perspective.  Interestingly, all the words that Jesus speaks in this book are taken directly from Scripture.

#9 – Rooms by James L. Rubart

roomsCryptic letters from a long deceased uncle, a house with hidden rooms, a canvas that paints itself, memories from a life you didn’t live, angels, demons, and life lessons taken directly from God’s Word. Everything that made me want to keep reading until I’d turned the page on the last chapter. This is the kind of book that makes you examine your life and your relationship with God long after you’ve put it back on the shelf.

Honestly, I wanted to like this book even more than I already do. I desperately wanted to rank it higher on my list, but we’re left with a few unanswered questions at the end of the book, possibly a contradiction or two, and my analytical mind just can’t handle it if all the pieces of the puzzle don’t fit neatly into place. Granted, this is the author’s first offering, written over a six year period, and his subsequent books (which are further down this list) are much better.  Rubart has quickly become one of my favorite authors.

#8 – Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas

7_menI love biographies, and this book is really seven mini-biographies in one. I was at least familiar with all seven of these men, but knew very little about any of them. Reading about their lives, their struggles, and their character in the face of adversity was a great encouragement to me. I’ll be looking for more of Metaxas’ work in the future.

Each of the seven biographies represents the life of a man who experienced the struggles and challenges to be strong in the face of forces and circumstances that would have destroyed the resolve of lesser men. Each of the seven men profiled—George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, John Paul II, and Charles Colson—call the reader to a more elevated walk and lifestyle, one that embodies the gospel in the world around us.

#7 – Killing Jesus: A History by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard

killing_jesusI know what the Bible says concerning Jesus’ life and death, but I thoroughly enjoyed learning about what was going on in the world during the time of Christ from other reliable historical sources. I didn’t realize many of the things involving the Roman Empire, the death of Julius Ceasar, his struggle for power, etc., that played such an integral part in Jesus’ death.

This book, understandably, omits many of the things that I believe as fact – such as Jesus’ miracles – since they can’t be proven “scientifically”, but the book doesn’t try to disprove them. It just omits them entirely. Overall, a very good read that presents many facts that I did not know.

#6 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

#5 – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

hpx2Can I just group these two together and get them out of the way?  I loved reading the first Harry Potter book in 2015, so naturally I wanted to follow up by reading the next two books in the series.  Knowing what happens in the subsequent books (from watching the movies), means I probably won’t read past book 3.  To the die-hard fans that’s an outrage, but here is my reasoning: I read books to escape reality, I like happy endings, and the main characters should never, never die.  Some books are written to evoke emotions of sadness or grief to help us feel the full range of human emotion, but I happen to believe that life can be sad enough already.  I’m not going to read a book (or watch a movie) that helps me feel sad.  I’ll stop at Book 3, thank you very much.

Anyway, both of these books are very entertaining, introducing us to some wonderfully memorable characters – Dobby the house elf, Gilderoy Lockhart, Ginny Weasley, Moaning Myrtle, Sirius Black, and Professor Lupin.  They keep getting better, but let’s be honest, the Prisoner of Azkaban is the best book in the entire series.

SIDE NOTE:  I know some people in Christian circles don’t approve of the Harry Potter series.  My wife and I had a discussion just this week with a parent who wanted to know our opinion of the books becuase her 17-year-old daughter wanted to read them for the first time.  For a full review I’ll refer you to Andrew Peterson’s blog on the subject, which expresses my feelings more eloquently than I ever could.  Patterson points out clearly that “this story isn’t inspired, at least not in the sense that Scripture is inspired; but because I believe that all truth is God’s truth… I have the freedom to rejoice in the Harry Potter story, because even there, Christ is King. Wherever we see beauty, light, truth, and goodness, we see Christ.”  

He’s there and this is a good series.

#4 – Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

silentplanetDr Ransom, a Cambridge professor, is abducted and taken on a spaceship to the red planet of Malacandra, which he knows as Mars. His captors are plotting to plunder the planet’s treasures and plan to offer Ransom as a sacrifice to the creatures who live there. Ransom discovers he has come from the ‘silent planet’ – Earth – whose tragic story is known throughout the universe…

From the creator of Narnia comes a lesser known allegory that is so well constructed that I am now compelled to read the following two books in this trilogy, even though I understand that each book can stand alone. I’m glad that I chose to listen to this one on audiobook, as the names and the made-up Malacandrian language would have been difficult to pronounce correctly if I were reading a paperback. (The pfifltriggi saw the hman, who was a hnau, eating the honodraskrud from the handra). Yikes.

Not only does Lewis have a wonderful way of writing allegory, but he is able to make the reader believe that the fictional story could have really happened. He does this with the wardrobe in Narnia, transporting the children from that world to this. In this novel, Lewis uses the prologue to persuade the reader to believe that this was a factual account, only presented as a fictional work because people wouldn’t believe the truth even if they heard it. Well done.

#3 – The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

great_divorceThe narrator boards a bus on a drizzly English afternoon and embarks on an incredible voyage through Heaven and Hell. He meets a host of supernatural beings far removed from his expectations, and comes to some significant realizations about the nature of good and evil.

I can’t believe I haven’t read this book before now – especially considering how much I love C.S. Lewis’ other works. One passage in particular, when a ghost with a lizard on his shoulder approaches an angel, was incredibly moving. Their discussion will stay with me always. I’ve read it over and over, contemplating it’s meaning. Lewis was a master of allegory and metaphorical writing. Such a beautiful, wonderful novel that I will revisit again and again.

#2 – The Long Journey to Jake Palmer by James L. Rubart

jakepalmerCorporate trainer Jake Palmer coaches people to see deeper into themselves—yet he barely knows himself anymore. Recently divorced and weary of the business life, Jake reluctantly agrees to a lake-house vacation with friends, hoping to escape for ten days.  When he arrives, Jake hears the legend of Willow Lake—about a lost corridor that leads to a place where one’s deepest longings will be fulfilled.  Jake scoffs at the idea, but can’t shake a sliver of hope that the corridor is real. And when he meets a man who mutters cryptic speculations about the corridor, Jake is determined to find the path, find himself, and fix his crumbling life.

I told you he would show up later on my list. This is Rubart at his best and this is, incidentally, his latest novel.  The writing, the depth of insight in his characters and his ability to weave the spiritual and natural together is simply outstanding.  He even makes several references to C.S. Lewis and The Silver Chair, one of the Chronicles of Narnia.  I loved this novel.  You can’t read this and not be impacted by the themes of healing, discovery of identify, where we place our significance and the absolute desire our Creator has for us to know Him more.

#1 – The Five Times I Met Myself

5timesBrock Matthews’ once promising life is unraveling. His coffee company. His marriage. So when he discovers his vivid dreams – where he encounters his younger self – might let him change his past mistakes, he jumps at the chance. The results are astonishing, but also disturbing. Because getting what Brock wants most in the world will force him to give up the one thing he doesn’t know how to let go… and his greatest fear is that it’s already too late.

It’s rare for me to read a book from cover to cover so rapidly, but this page turner was hard to put down. I’ve always been fascinated by time travel (Back to the Future is one of my favorite movie trilogies) so the prospect of visiting your younger self and changing past events was intriguing from the start. I also loved the spiritual aspects of the book – touching on prayer, missions, and God orchestrating events through dreams.

Honestly, I could switch these top two books and still be satisfied with my list.  They’re both just so good.  Highly recommended reading from James L. Rubart.

That’s it!  What do you think? Anything you’ve read? Anything you want to read?

As we begin 2017 I’ve already signed up for the reading challenge and this year, I am going to hit that 30 book mark.


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Posted by on January 2, 2017 in Personal


May I Kill It?

C.S. Lewis had a wonderful gift of using allegory and metaphor in his powerful gospel-centered writings.  I just finished reading “The Great Divorce” and my wife and I have talked about several passages along the way as I’ve come to them.  Mandi even relayed one of the stories – the one below – in a discipling/counseling session last night with a friend.  I pray that it speaks to you as you read it and that God might use it in your own life.

58079111_eab37a1e49Before you read, let me give you some background.

“The Great Divorce” is a story about a group of “ghosts” from purgatory or hell who take a bus trip to the foothills of heaven where they meet the “spirits” of saints that have gone before them who urge them to journey upward to the mountains of Heaven.  The ghosts are all self-centered, fragile, “unsubstantial” creatures, and the spirits are all large, solid, unselfish, happy people.  What follows is a powerful scene where our narrator, a ghost, observes an awesome encounter between another ghost and an angel…..

I saw coming towards us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder. Like all the Ghosts, he was unsubstantial, but they differed from one another as smokes differ. Some had been whitish; this one was dark and oily. What sat on his shoulder was a little red lizard, and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear. As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience. “Shut up, I tell you!” he said. It wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him. He ceased snarling, and presently began to smile. Then he turned and started to limp westward, away from the mountains.

“Off so soon?” said a voice.

The speaker was more or less human in shape but larger than a man, and so bright that I could hardly look at him. His presence smote on my eyes and on my body too (for there was heat coming from him as well as light) like the morning sun at the beginning of a tyrannous summer day.

“Yes. I’m off,” said the Ghost. “Thanks for all your hospitality. But it’s no good, you see.  I told this little chap,” (here he indicated the lizard), “that he’d have to be quiet if he came – which he insisted on doing. Of course his stuff won’t do here: I realize that. But he won’t stop.  I shall just have to go home.”

“Would you like me to make him quiet?” said the flaming Spirit – an angel, as I now understood.

“Of course I would,” said the Ghost.

“Then I will kill him,” said the Angel, taking a step forward.

“Oh! Ah! Look out! You’re burning me! Keep away,” said the Ghost, retreating.

“Don’t you want him killed?”

“You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.”

“It’s the only way,” said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the lizard.

“Shall I kill it?”

“Well, that’s a further question. I’m quite open to consider it, but it’s a new point, isn’t it? I mean, for the moment I was only thinking about silencing it because up here-well, it’s so damned embarrassing.”

“May I kill it?”

“Well, there’s time to discuss that later.”

“There is no time. May I kill it?”

“Please, I never meant to be such a nuisance. Please-really-don’t bother. Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.”

“May I kill it?”

“Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that. I’m sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it.”

“The gradual process is of no use at all.”

“Don’t you think so? Well, I’ll think over what you’ve said very carefully. I honestly will. In fact I’d let you kill it now, but as a matter of fact I’m not feeling frightfully well today. It would be silly to do it now. I’d need to be in good health for the operation. Some other day, perhaps.”

“There is no other day. All days are present now.”

“Get back! You’re burning me. How can I tell you to kill it? You’d kill me if you did.”

“It is not so.”

“Why, you’re hurting me now.”

“I never said it wouldn’t hurt you. I said it wouldn’t kill you.”

“Oh, I know. You think I’m a coward. But it isn’t that. Really it isn’t. I say! Let me run back by tonight’s bus and get an opinion from my own doctor. I’ll come again the first moment I can.”

“This moment contains all moments.”

“Why are you torturing me? You are jeering at me. How can I let you tear me to pieces? If you wanted to help me, why didn’t you kill the damned thing without asking me-before I knew? It would be all over by now if you had.”

“I cannot kill it against your will. It is impossible. Have I your permission?”

The Angel’s hands were almost closed on the Lizard, but not quite. Then the Lizard began chattering to the Ghost so loud that even I could hear what it was saying.

“Be careful,” it said. “He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and he will! Then you’ll be without me for ever and ever. It’s not natural. How could you live? You’d be only a sort of ghost, not a real man as you are now. He doesn’t understand. He’s only a cold, bloodless abstract thing. It may be natural for him, but it isn’t for us. Yes, yes. I know there are no real pleasures now, only dreams. But aren’t they better than nothing? And I’ll be so good. I admit I’ve sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won’t do it again. I’ll give you nothing but really nice dreams-all sweet and fresh and almost innocent. You might say, quite innocent____”

“Have I your permission?” said the Angel to the Ghost.

“I know it will kill me.”

“It won’t. But supposing it did?”

“You’re right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature.”

“Then I may?”

“Damn and blast you! Go on can’t you? Get it over. Do what you like,” bellowed the Ghost: but ended, whimpering, “God help me. God help me.”

Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and then flung it, broken backed, on the turf.

“Ow! That’s done for me,” gasped the Ghost, reeling backwards.

For a moment I could make out nothing distinctly. Then I saw, between me and the nearest bush, unmistakably solid but growing every moment solider, the upper arm and the shoulder of a man. Then, brighter still and stronger, the legs and hands. The neck and golden head materialized while I watched, and if my attention had not wavered I should have seen the actual completing of a man-an immense man, naked, not much smaller than the Angel. What distracted me was the fact that at the same moment something seemed to be happening to the Lizard. At first I thought the operation had failed. So far from dying, the creature was still struggling and even growing bigger as it struggled. And as it grew it changed. Its hinder parts grew rounder. The tail, still flickering, became a tail of hair that flickered between huge and glossy buttocks. Suddenly I started back, rubbing my eyes. What stood before me was the greatest stallion I have ever seen, silvery white but with mane and tail of gold. It was smooth and shining, rippled with swells of flesh and muscle, whinnying and stamping with its hoofs. At each stamp the land shook and the trees dindled.

The new-made man turned and clapped the new horse’s neck. It nosed his bright body. Horse and master breathed each into the other’s nostrils. The man turned from it, flung himself at the feet of the Burning One, and embraced them. When he rose I thought his face shone with tears, but it may have been only the liquid love and brightness (one cannot distinguish them in that country) which flowed from him. I had not long to think about it. In joyous haste the young man leaped upon the horse’s back. Turning in his seat he waved a farewell, then nudged the stallion with his heels. They were off before I well knew what was happening. There was riding if you like! I came out as quickly as I could from among the bushes to follow them with my eyes; but already they were only like a shooting star far off on the green plain, and soon among the foothills of the mountains. Then, still like a star, I saw them winding up, scaling what seemed impossible steeps, and quicker every moment, till near the dim brow of the landscape, so high that I must strain my neck to see them, they vanished, bright themselves, into the rose-brightness of that everlasting morning.

Ah, the wonderful mercy of God.  We try to hold on to our pet sins.  We try to justify our actions by believing the lies whispered in our ear.  Meanwhile God is patiently waiting and speaking softly, yet boldly.  ”Shall I kill it?” He says to us.  And we will not move any further up the mountains in our walk with Christ until our answer is “Yes”.


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Posted by on September 19, 2016 in Personal


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An Enthusiastic Second Fiddle

SecondFiddleWhen asked which was the most difficult instrument to play, the great conductor Leonard Bernstein said, “Second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm, now that’s a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony.”

Personally, I really struggle with this.  My love language is “words of affirmation”, my personality has this built-in desire to be liked, and if I’m not careful, my actions (and sometimes my words) scream “LOOK AT ME” like a melodramatic toddler.  It can be difficult for me to get motivated when no one is watching or when becomes apparent that I won’t get any credit for a job well done.

Everyone enjoys a pat on the back now and again, but I thrive on them.  My wife sent me an encouraging text message a few weeks ago and I took a screen shot, printed it out, and taped it to my computer.  I’m looking at it right now, extremely grateful that my wife speaks my love language and affirms me on a regular basis.

Knowing all of this – and knowing my bent toward pride and puffery – I have to guard my motives carefully.  What do I hope to gain?  Why am I doing this?

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” -Galatians 1:10

I attended a meeting recently, for which I had done a considerable amount of behind-the-scenes work.  The organizer announced that he wanted to recognize several people who had made this event possible.  I adjusted my collar and made sure my hair was in place as he began calling out the names.  First were his business partners, followed by notable board members and then staff.  A quick assessment told me that he was going in order of importance and, in my pride, I assumed my name would be near the top of this list.  A few minutes later people stood all around the auditorium and I was still seated in my folding chair like a deflated balloon.  Even that fleeting thought – “he saved the best for la…,” was quickly dashed upon the rocks as everyone was seated to a round of applause.

My first thought was, “Well, that was a waste of my time.” followed quickly by, “I won’t do that again even if they ask me.”  But right away the Holy Spirit began to convict me.  “What’s your motive, Robert?  Did you do this in service to God and others?  Or just to be recognized.”  It was a humbling experience – a gut check – and now I praise God for it.

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  -Philippians 2:3

It’s easy to be enthusiastic about your job when it’s more prominent, but when you feel like your labor goes unnoticed and unappreciated it can begin to feel like a grind.  When you go to work each day you may feel like you’re in a “nothing job” that gives little satisfaction, but remember, you can glorify God by your attitude and your motives!  In Colossians the apostle Paul reminds us:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  -Colossians 3:23, 24

Lord, help remind me every day that you are glorified when I work enthusiastically, knowing that my labor is for You and my reward comes from You, even if I’m playing second fiddle.



Posted by on July 2, 2016 in Personal


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Wishing for Another World


A few days ago I asked my Facebook friends to name books or movies in which the main characters travel, by any means, to another world.  And they did not dissapoint!!  The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, Harry Potter, The Neverending Story, just to name a few!  Some of the most popular works of all time!  Technically speaking, I was only asking different worlds – alternate universes – but if you expand the list to include time travel in this world, the list grows even longer (see full list below).  I mean, how else could we get Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure on there?!

It’s fascinating to me that so many popular books and movies focus on this theme. The creator of Narnia, C.S. Lewis, once said,

“I have found a desire within myself that no experience in this world can satisfy;
the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

And the book of Ecclesiastes tells us that God “has put eternity into man’s heart.”  We were created with this longing that can only be satisfied by spending eternity in heaven with our Abba Father!  It’s in our very DNA (even if we don’t realize it) and it leaks out all over the place.  We were created for eternity, and bound by time… for now.

I sincerely believe ‘other-worldly travel’ is such a common theme in books and movies because writers and directors all experience this longing deep down inside.  It fills their dreams and fires their imagination.  Consequently, their created works become so popular because they strike a chord with every reader and every viewer.  We’re entertained by the thoughts of another world, because it reminds us in some small way that we were created for more than this.  There’s another world on the other side of death.  “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face.” -1 Corinthians 13:12

Just something I’ve been thinking about…  By the way, did you realize that every human being will live for eternity?  That’s right.  Gandalf was correct when he said, “Death is just another journey. One that we all must take.”  There is life after death in another place, but the choices we make here on earth will determine which place that will be – Heaven or Hell.  If you haven’t already, place your faith in Jesus Christ.  He is the only way you can get to heaven when you walk through the wardrobe of death.  Before you read any of the other books listed here, pick up a Bible and read the book of John.  It’s a great place to start.

Here’s the full list from my Facebook friends:

Disclaimer: I’m not familiar with everything listed (not even half), so I can’t be sure that all of these works fall under our theme of other-worldly travel or time travel, but it gives me a great list of books and movies to check out in the near future!

100 Cupboards – Book by N.D. Wilson
Alice in Wonderland
Aladdin (A Whole New World.. right?)
The Ancient One
Avatar (James Cameron’s… not the Last Airbender… although that may fit…)
Back to the Future
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (party on, dudes!)
Bridge to Terabithia
Children of the Shaft by Richard Gunther
The Chronicles of Narnia (everybody has read this, right?)
The Circle Trilogy by Ted Dekker (if you don’t read anything else here, read this)
Deathgate Cycle
Doctor Who
Dragon Tales
Enders Game
The Expanse
Flowers in the Attic
Gulliver’s Travels
Harry Potter
John Carter
Jupiter Rising
Land of the Giants
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
The Magic Treehouse
Mary Poppins (a personal favorite in my Top 10 movies… maybe Top 5)
Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood (never would have thought of this one)
The Neverending Story
Peter Pan
Star Trek 5
Star Wars (the force is strong with this one)
The Summer Tree
The Sword of Truth series
Tennis Shoe Among the Nephites
The Time Machine
Water Babies
Watchers in the Woods
Where the Wild Things Are
The Wizard of Oz
Wrinkle in Time
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Posted by on April 20, 2016 in Personal


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