The wise man is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things both new and old.

Month: October, 2014


It is uncommon for me to see a video on YouTube which makes me approach the verge of having an accident in my pants.  This video clip from The Graham Norton Show where John Cleese of Monty Python fame insults Taylor Swift’s cat is good for a hard laugh.  Happy Tuesday.

A beagle update.

UPDATE (2:18 PM):  I located Snoopy’s owner and returned him to the man.  Was told that he was “skiddish” ever since the guy took ownership of Snoopy at a swap meet (REALLY?!?).  Was told Snoopy had been missing since Friday and that the guy can barely keep him on a chain (Great.  Why would you keep him on a chain outside then when clearly he wants to be an inside dog?  How is he being treated regularly, since there is a no way a dog could have been THAT filthy and stink after being gone from his owner from twelve hours?)

Despite my best “You do not deserve to have this dog, sir!” facial expression and tone of voice in questions, either the gravity of what I was insinuating didn’t sink in or was ignored completely.  I hope Snoopy escapes again.




At the counsel of the local humane society, Snoopy was taken to the local vet to see if he had an ID tag to help locate his home.  Sarah and I, though not Snoopy’s owners, did not want our own reputations put in jeopardy by bringing a stinky dog to the vet; we bathed him and gave him a flea treatment.  While he’s definitely a cute beagle, he’s also pretty dumb.  That racquetball-sized growth on his right side looks pretty gross.  We’ll have to get it removed if we end up as the owners of a beagle.

Snoopy- all up in your grill!

Snoopy- all up in your grill!

A dog-day Saturday.

Today, Sarah and I may have adopted a second dog.  Inadvertently.

We were sitting by a window, drinking coffee, when all of a sudden Sarah points out that there is a beagle in our yard.

We did the responsible thing: caught him, took pictures of him, notified both of the closest animal shelters, and posted a sign about a “Found Dog.”

This dog is dirty yet loveable, has obviously been abused, and has a fatty growth the size of a racquetball on its right side.

So here’s the question, readers:  How long do Sarah and I wait before the dog is officially ours and we start taking care of it, getting it check up at a vet, getting him fixed, and getting the growth removed?

Say "hello" to Snoopy.

Say “hello” to Snoopy.

Vanishing Grace.

This is a review on Phillip Yancey’s Vanishing Grace.  While I don’t usually state this outright in a review on my blog, but if you are a believer in the word and work of Jesus, buy this book!


In 1997, Zondervan published a book by author Phillip Yancey on the subject of Grace.  That book, which I was introduced to two years ago, quickly became my favorite book on the subject, surpassing my love for a book written by Jay Bakker or one by Brennan Manning on the topic.  Seventeen years later, Yancey wrote what I would consider the sequel to the first book.  His newest, Vanishing Grace, picks up where What’s So Amazing About Grace? left off.

What’s So Amazing About Grace? introduced his readers to the idea of what is “Grace?”  Building on the first book, Yancey takes readers from the what of Grace and leads them in to the hows of it.  Yancey’s book, which divides into four major sections which he states are miniature books, each addresses an aspect of Grace in modern society: a world thirsting for Grace, modern examples of who are the voices of Grace, why Grace matters, and how Grace has an unreplaceable position in modern culture.

As I was reading Vanishing Grace, there were moments -many more than I would like to admit- where I felt like in a gracious, loving way, Yancey was chastising me for my lack of Grace as a Christian.  The reader who chooses to engage with this book should be prepared to ask him or herself questions such as: How am I making Grace evident?  How am I not?  Where do I see Grace being extended to me?

One can tell that Yancey is a seasoned writer; he presents both sides of the conversation on Grace so that the book does not come across as one-sided.  In the section on why Grace matters especially, Yancey provides counter-arguments for his point and then responses to them.

It should be obvious to the reader of this book that Phillip Yancey is a man who has an inkling as to what Grace is.  The reader can also discern in reading Vanishing Grace that Yancey’s approach to encouraging the reader to be an activist to grace does not involve guilt, shame, or manipulation but instead Grace abounding as he explains why the world needs Grace and Grace more abundantly.  This book serves best when read in conjunction with Yancey’s first book on the topic, and it would be my hope that one day Zondervan combines the two into an omnibus with both books in one cover.

This book was provided for through the Book Look Bloggers program in exchange for writing a review on the book.  I was not obligated to post a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.

God of the gaps = (one of the) worst apologist argument(s). Ever.

Recently, I posted a review on here for a book on here about the meshing of Science and Faith.  One of the points that the writers make is the idea that an argument like this (which is commonly known as the “God of the gaps” argument):

Existence of life + No apparent answer = God

is a reason for the falling out of relevance of Christianity.  The reason is because as we learn the answers to some of these questions about life and that it isn’t God specifically, people start to assume that God automatically is not or cannot be the answer to any questions.

And this is why I say it might be the worst argument ever.

It opens the possibility to make oneself completely wrong.

Think of it like this (Thank you to The God Delusion for the idea to use this graphic):

A great way to understand “God of the gaps.”

We see things as they are, and there are some holes.  Those holes could create something but that something may or may not be there.

We as Christians get uneasy when our apple pie in the sky by and by is attacked.  We get panicky when confronted with the idea that we might not know for sure about what is out there.  But I think this reveals something deep within the life of faith.  Getting overworked over someone sharing a disagreement reflects a greater priority for the person on what comes after death versus the ability to live now.

I believe in Jesus.  Yes I believe in the Crucifixion/Resurrection.  Yes I believe that there is the possibility for new life and that following Jesus does cause a transformation now.  I also believe in what Jesus and Paul write about as “salvation” after death.

But no one going to know for sure that “salvation” is a reality until after dying.

We can’t wait that long to sit around and do nothing.  It seems that we have become content with sitting around (or letting others sit around) and waiting for the Second Coming or death to bring us to heaven.  Jesus’s call to life begins now at the moment of conversion.  Embrace love and life.

This has been my random soapbox moment for today.

“Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?”

This is a review of Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?…and Other Questions from the Astronomers’ Inbox at the Vatican Observatory by Guy Consolmagno and Paul Mueller.

I am an amateur quantum physics buff. I am also an amateur theologian. Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? is an example of how both of these interests can merge together in one book without contradicting each other. Guy Consolmagno and Paul Mueller are two highly educated researchers for the Vatican Observatory who take on some of the most common questions related to their work and theology which they have encountered over the course of their careers.
The book takes the format of a conversation between the two men over six days, where each day has a specific question as its focus. The fist question on the Big Bang versus Genesis (my favorite chapter from the book) is a chance to share that God is the author of Nature and the Bible, and that a person should not freak out when Science and the Bible seem not to be harmonious. Science and the Bible look at life from different angles with different purposes. The chapter on Pluto focuses on the demotion of the planet, as well as information about the galaxy. The Galileo question is one steeped in history which expounds upon how his work influenced modern science and thought. The Star of Bethlehem chapter is a discussion about the possibility for miracles and a scientific explanation on unexplained spatial and natural phenomena. The End of the World question is a chance to talk about the potential of life ending via meteor while at the same time encouraging people to embrace life given and not wait to be “spirited away to another world.” The title chapter discusses the possibility of life in other parts of the Universe while not minimizing OR maximizing our “specialness” on Earth.
There are some great nuggets of insight in this book. One of my favorite lines from the book comes early when Mueller discusses the need for the “faith in the ultimate unity of truth” (p. 54). There are other profound moments throughout the book. The writers use Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner as an extended metaphor throughout the book, which seems to work. A reader with a curiosity about how faith and science can be in harmony would enjoy this book.

At times I felt like someone without basic background knowledge on the various topics in the book might end up confused, lost, or disinterested. I at times I lost interest throughout the book trying to follow some of the writers’ extended object lessons and wanted them to get to the point quicker. The hardest part for me in reading the book was the “dialogue” format in the text where the writing bounces back and forth between the authors.

Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? is a good book for an example for how to respectfully discourse both religion and science. For all the things about it I am not to crazy over, there are just as many good and enjoyable moments. This book should be worth considering for reading if the person considering it enjoys a good, well-balanced conversation.

***I received my copy of this book for free through the Blogging for Books program. I was not obligated to post a positive review; the opinions in this review are my own.***

When to forgive Durden and when to have an intervention.

Peter Rollins once made a spectacular connection between a pop culture icon and one of the greatest philosophical masterpieces of the last twenty years: in short, he made a connection to Wile E. Coyote and Fight Club.  His basic thought is that Wile E. Coyote must have a Tyler Durden-esque personality which sabotages all of the devices Wile E. buys from the ACME company because no company could manufacture that many rubbish products and and still be in business.

As a teacher, I have students who make irresponsible decisions regarding their school-issued technology.  They download and install programs, software, and apps onto their laptops which they do intentionally to be able to play any number of games, bypass the content filters on the school’s networks to access YouTube, Facebook, and other sites, and any other number of things.

And things get wonky.

And then they ask me to fix their problems.  Which I do.


And then after explaining what happened to cause the issue in the first place, they then go right back around and do the same or a similar action again.

What I call “forgiving Durden” (not to be confused with the indie-alternative group) is when an uh-oh happens with student technology and I simply go ahead and fix it.  Usually, a kid gets to shots with grace attached where I will fix their problems.

But then comes the intervention.

The intervention is where I’ve fixed the issue twice for them and they still haven’t learned their lesson.  After that I’ll leave them to fend for themselves to let someone else fix the problem.

Does that solve the bigger issue?  Probably not.

But it’s a start.

I’m curious to know what other people do in similar situations with younger people who we are trying to enable to “know better.”

In defense of handy manliness.

Recently, my mom bought me a coffee mug of a childhood icon, Red Green.  The mug features a quote from Red Green which read, “If women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.”  While I would like to say that I wish I had more of a knack for home reno. projects like my wife, I will confess she’s better at it because of the whole “eye to detail” thing.  She’s also good at the whole trimming of trees, bushes, and shrubs thing.  Again, it’s because of the whole eye to detail thing.  We found out a while ago that if I am given the task of pruning a tree, I will cut everything way back to the point of unnecessary.

With all that said, in reflecting on the past ten months of 2014, I have had plenty of manly moments, of which I am proud to share a few to defend my manliness.

1. I managed to navigate treacherous, snow-covered roads in one of the worst winters since ’76 in my two-wheel drive Oldsmobile without getting it stuck.

2. I pulled a half-rotted, dead cat out of the window well from my basement with only a plastic shopping bag around my hand.  I then dug a 2 1/2 foot hole and buried the stupid thing.  And then for the next two weeks, with the assistance of Sarah, we cleaned out a massive colony of maggots from our basement on account of the dead cat.

3. I taught Sarah how to properly use a cordless power drill to hang new coat hooks on our porch.

4. I brewed my first French Farmhouse Saison ale.

5. I got lost in downtown New Orleans.

6. I navigated without a map downtown New Orleans, all while really having to pee.

Updated at 8:47 EDT:

7. Mowing the lawn this summer, I ran over a rock. When I picked it up, I got an incredibly bloody, nasty cut on my finger. I swore, threw the rock, swore again, and then threw the rock one more time before going inside to clean and bandage the wound.

End of updated section.

My wife may not always find me handsome, but I hope/know she finds me manly/handy.

(Watch the segment beginning at 3:17, or the whole episode if you have the time.)

I thought English was an all encompassing language…

…and then I read the book Lost in Translation by Ella Frances Sanders.


I am not an inherently visual, artistic guy.  I am, however, an English teacher and a lover of words.  Reading through Sanders’s book Lost in Translation left me feeling sad because English is not quite the rich language I once thought it was.

In her book, Sanders demonstrates that she did an impressive amount of research in preparation for this book.  A collection of unique words like this does not simply come together; based on the fun and whimsical words that Sanders includes, my assumption is that this list of 50ish words was originally around 100 or more and had to be pared down dramatically.  My favorite word out of the whole collection is the German word “kummerspeck,” which according to the book literally means “grief bacon” and in short is the eating one does as an emotional response to a situation.  Who has not done this from time to time?

The collection of words Sanders uses is made even better by her illustrations for this book.  If not for the fact that tearing the individual pages out of the book to frame them would ruin the book itself (this might be one of the most visually appealing and beautiful books I have encountered in quite a few years), I would frame and hang every page of this book.  Like I stated at the beginning, I’m not an artsy guy; this book is one where I found myself unable to stop staring at some of the pages.

Lost in Translation is the perfect book for anyone in love with beautiful books, random trivia, unique words, or grief bacon.  Read this book and smile.

I received my copy of this book for free from the publisher’s Blogging for Books program.  I was not obligated to post a positive review; the opinions in this post are my own.

Thank you @michaelyankoski for THE SACRED YEAR.

This post is my review of The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski.

It’s not very often that I pick a book up that seems to speak to where I am in a current season of life.  In reading the first sentence of the back cover, however, “Frustrated and disillusioned with his life as a Christian…” I stopped reading the back cover and decided I needed to read The Sacred Year.  If you are in a frustrational season, Michael Yankoski’s book is a potential catalyst for you to begin a transition into another season of life.

Yankoski’s The Sacred Year is divided into three sections which focus on renewed depth with self, God, and others.  Each chapter opens up with a short anecdote, followed by some connection to an extended metaphor, which transitions into explaining the chapter’s specific spiritual practice and how to attempt it, and concludes by cycling back to the opening of the chapter.

Three chapters really hit home for me.  The chapter on “The Daily Examen” caused me to realize that I spend so much time in prayer asking for stuff or sitting in silence, but I completely avoid the idea of reflecting with thanks and reflection.  The chapter on “Sustenance” made me realize how much I take the idea of food for granted and that I should do something like bake my own bread or fast (which I am taking up that challenge in the 40 days leading up to Thanksgiving) to really enjoy food and not take it for granted.  The chapter on “Lectio Divina” reminded me that the Bible is not simply about reading chapters, but taking the time to slow down and enjoy the words on the page.

The big question I was left with after reading The Sacred Year was how much of a time frame over the year Michael participated in each practice.  Were certain ones only done over a series of a couple weeks?  Were some of them ones he did repeatedly over the course of the year?  Who knows…

In any case, The Sacred Year is a big I will return to again and again.  I found myself highlighting, underlining, and making notes in the margins about many passages in the book.  Michael Yankoski wrote an exceptional read which is deserving of one day being considered a modern Christian classic on spiritual practices.

I received my copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for writing a review on the book.  I was not obligated to post a positive review; the views in this post are my own.