Read in 2015, Part 2

  1. The Light Princess and Other Fairy Stories by George MacDonald. Delightful and profound as always.
  2. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. We listened to this driving back from somewhere, and I picked it up and read it on vacation in Denver. It was a beautiful story – a smalltown Kansas pastor and son of a pastor looks back on his life. I do think this is one of the rare books that was better on audiobook than print – the reader’s voice added much to the story.
  3. Spiritual Friendship by Wesley Hill. Hill’s new book discussing the Christian perspective on friendship – some theory and some practicality – especially as pertains to single Christians. I thought it very good, and very important for our church moving forward.
  4. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams. Crazy, campy, intricate, and funny as ever.
  5. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. We stumbled across Brother Odd on another long drive and loved it. Odd Thomas is the first of the series: An ordinary guy can see dead people and uses it to solve mysteries. The series is witty, funny, and deep.
  6. Forever Odd by Dean Koontz.
  7. Odd Hours by Dean Koontz.
  8. Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill. This is Hill’s first book, writing about the practicalities of living out a celibate life as a gay Christian in modern times. I thought it was very good – informative and thought-provoking for those gay or straight, single or married.
  9. Patrick by Stephen Lawhead.  Lawhead’s treatment of the legend of St. Patrick covers his early life and a bit of his return to Ireland. I enjoyed it, but was left wanting more, especially about his ministry in Ireland. I really enjoy how Lawhead weaves in native beliefs with Christianity – I think it is done authentically and well.
  10. Peter Pan by JM Barrie. So good!
  11. Tramp for the Lord and Not I, but Christ by Corrie ten Boom. Tales of Corrie ten Boom’s travels and a collection of speeches. Lovely, but I’ve enjoyed her other writings more.
  12. Robots and Empire by Isaac Asimov. This and the next book bridge Asimov’s Robots series with the Foundation series, which I have never read. Enjoyable.
  13. Currents of Space by Isaac Asimov. 
  14. Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. My Halloween reading this year.
  15. Lost World of Genesis One by John Walton. I’ve been meaning to read this one for a long time. Walton sees Genesis One as narrative about the creation of the cosmic temple (with parallels in other ancient Near Eastern writings and in other places in the Bible) and has some convincing arguments. This viewpoint resolves (or rather, removes Genesis 1 as evidence for) a lot of controversies. I really liked this one.
  16. Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers. Enjoyable mystery introducing Harriet Vane.
  17. Letters to Children by CS Lewis. Read as I was beginning a penpal relationship with my small kinfolk. Very good.
  18. My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. Potok is Greg’s favorite author. This story follows a young Jewish boy with a profound gift for art.Very good.
  19. Greenwitch by Susan Cooper. Part of a kids’ Arthurian series. I enjoyed the first two books, but this and the Grey King had some things in it that concerned me. The book argues that light and dark are equal and opposite powers, and that there is a cold hardness at the center of the light. I will probably finish reading the series and then get rid of it.
  20. Grey King by Susan Cooper
  21. Empyrion: the Search for Fierra by Stephen Lawhead. Lawhead does sci-fi?! I found these at my in-laws’ over Thanksgiving. The main characters go to a far-off planet expecting to find a recently planted colony, but they actually end up far in the colony’s future. I’m not sure it was particularly profound, but I enjoyed them very much.
  22. Empyrion: the Siege of Dome by Stephen Lawhead
  23. The Martian by Andy Weir. I got this for Christmas and devoured it. It was amazing. My two complaints were (1) language and (2) being too short.

Happy reading!

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A Comfort

I had “a comfort” yesterday.

I’ve been struggling with some health issues lately that have altered my appearance – my feet are really only happy in my tennis shoes, and my eyes/brain apparently no longer tolerate contacts. I’ve never really struggled with self image issues in the past, but these two problems have hit me kind of hard.

Andrew Peterson’s song World Traveler came on my radio yesterday.  One of the lines says,

Tonight I saw the children in their rooms
Little flowers all in bloom
Burning suns and silver moon
And somehow in that starry sky
The image of the Maker lies
Right here beneath my roof tonight

The image of the Maker. 

That’s me. I am an image of God. 

How can I not be beautiful if I bear His likeness?

A comfort.

The image of the Maker.

That’s you too, my friend.

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Life as Gift

Christianity teaches that life is a gift from God. It is a gift given and taken away under His authority.

I think seeing this truth is important because it protects against two seemingly opposite errors at both ends of life.

On the one hand, seeing life as a gift protects against the idea that a life that is not wanted is disposable. This error has led to abortion and infanticide at the beginning of life and assisted suicide, “mercy” killing, and neglect at the end of life.  If life is a gift, we accept its entrance into the world at any time and in any form. If life is a gift, we treasure it while it is here and do not throw it away early.

On the other hand, seeing life as a gift protects against a clinging, clawing, grasping for it; it protects against the idea that life is worth preserving at any cost.

With life as a gift, techniques like IVF and surrogacy that separate the marital act from the beginning of life are seen as wrong. If children are a gift to be received, then children are not a right to be manufactured.

At the end of life, if life is a gift, we can recognize that while life is a high good, it is not the highest good.  This prevents us from errors like that of the villain in The Wolverine who grasps and claws at staying alive such that he changes from a kind grandfather to an evil… thing. (Surely there are other, better examples?)

(Edit: OH MY GOODNESS.  Voldemort.  Voldemort was the example of an ugly, grasping, clawing at life that I couldn’t think of the first time.)

I’m currently watching the 6th season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in which the Federation is at war with the Dominion. There have been multiple arguments where a character argues for doing a certain reprehensible act because it will save x number of people. If we see that life is a gift, and that it is knowing Christ that is the highest good, then we can reject that faulty logic. It is acceptable for people to die – there is a higher good. (This article, with the phrase, “Better two deaths than one murder,” espouses a similar idea.)

… what do you think?

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Read in 2015, Part 1

  1. Voyage to Alpha Centauri by Michael O’Brien.  In the near future, a group of scientists set off on a 10 year voyage to explore Alpha Centauri.  The book is the journal of a pocket-knife-carrying cowboy/engineer.  It is an excellent story, and I see its depth more and more as I ponder it.  If there’s one book on this list that you pick up and read, make it this one.
  2. Ringworld by Larry Niven.  Explorers stumble upon a “world” stretched out like a ribbon around a sun.  Interesting meditations on how much a world would work; I dislike the worldview purported by the author.  A re-read so I could read…
  3. Ringworld Engineers by Larry Niven.  Who built the Ringworld?  Let’s find out!
  4. The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers.  Read while I waited in the hospital to collect data.  A murder mystery infused with imagery from English church bell change-ringing.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and learned a lot about bells.
  5. The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder. True story of the development of the Eclipse computer (launched 1980).  A loan from my dad.  A fascinating tale of a time when computers were designed largely with pencil and paper.
  6. Nemesis by Isaac Asimov.  Nemesis was the name of a hypothetical star in orbit with ours that caused mass extinctions on Earth.  Here, Asimov posits its existence.  It was a good story and an enjoyable read, however, I feel like he is a better short story author than novelist.  His novels seem to be strung out a bit.
  7. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  I’m so cultured!  Another read while waiting in the hospital.  Enjoyable, but I’m sure I missed out on a lot.
  8. Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.  I didn’t realize that this was a collection of short stories – did you know there are seals?
  9. At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald.  Another hospital read.  I enjoyed this one immensely, as is becoming a pattern with anything I read of MacDonald’s.  Highly recommended for any age.
  10. Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.  Some challenging things in here.  Some puzzling.
  11. Mark: The Gospel of Passion by Michael Card.  We were studying Mark all year in our graduate group.  It’s the Gospel of the current liturgical year.  And my church decided to do a read-through of Mark during Lent.  So, I added on this commentary-ish book by Card.  Very well written; I learned a lot!  I look forward to reading his books on the other Gospels. (It also goes with a CD of music Card wrote on Mark.)
  12. Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.  Somehow, I’d never read this.  Enjoyable.
  13. The Innocence and Wisdom of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton.  The first two collections of Father Brown mysteries.  Think Sherlock, but with a priest.
  14. Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum.  There’s so much more than in the movie!
  15. Worthing Saga by Orson Scott Card.  A science fiction story meditating on the necessity of pain for human growth.  There were a few things I turned my head sideways at, but it was quite good.  At some point, I felt like this book had a different answer to a question posed by another book on this list, but now I can’t remember what it was.  (Edit: Oh!  It was on a previous list, and they had similar answers – the End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov.)
  16. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.  Not sure why I picked this book up again.  I hated it less than I did in junior high.
  17. Anathem by Neil Stephenson.  Could be subtitled: “Plato’s theory of forms gets its own novel.” “Hey! I know old math stuff!” “I can make up words, too.” Stephenson says just what he thinks of the modern world, but with all of the names changed to protect the offend-able.  I thought it was a little over-the-top at first, but I did enjoy the read.  There are mathematical proofs included.
  18. In My Father’s House and Amazing Love by Corrie ten Boom.  We found this collection at a used book store a while back; I only knew of the Hiding Place!  Good words from an amazing woman.
  19. Earth Unaware by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston. A re-read so I could get to…
  20. Earth Afire by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston and
  21. Earth Awakens by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston.  Birthday books!  Finishing out the prequel to the Ender’s Game series telling the story of the first Formic War.  Naturally, I loved it.

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Helmets & a Slippery Slope

This post argues that the US should re-enact legislation requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets.  I don’t disagree at all with the fact that motorcyclists need helmets.

However, the reasoning the author gives troubles me.  His argument is that wearing a helmet reduces injury, which leads to a financial savings of $2.2 billion per year (I’m unclear what area this number covers and who the payer(s) are, though I don’t think it matters).

It seems that determining our laws and rights based on their financial cost or savings leads down a slippery slope, one that is especially slippery for the rights of the individual when the government determines that it is in the nation’s best (financial) interest to restrict those rights.

As one example, pregnancy is dangerous, and complications can lead to high costs for the patient or the taxpayer.  Without checks on the reasoning used above, we could end up in a situation like China, where forced abortions and sterilizations are the norm.

That’s my two cents.

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Sitting at the Feet of the Trinity

…sharing the life of the Trinity is like a young child listening to a fantastic conversation of adults in a pub:

“Think for a moment of a group of three or four intelligent adults relaxing together in one of those conversations that have really taken off. They are being witty and responding quickly to each other–what in Ireland they call ‘the Crack.’ Serious ideas may be at issue, but no one is being serious. Nobody is being pompous or solemn (nobody is preaching). There are flights of fancy. There are jokes and puns and irony and mimicry and disrespect and self-parody…Now this child is like us when we hear about the Trinity.” – Henry McCabe from God, Christ, and Us

Via my friend Rachel because I can’t figure out Tumblr.  I love, love, love this picture.  I remember often sitting on the floor of my mom’s office listening to her talk to others, soaking in all her wisdom about topics seemingly over my head.  I love the picture of this being how I relate to the Trinity, privileged to sit at His feet and listen, basking in the love.

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Life

In a place where new souls see the world for the first time, I expected a more positive attitude towards life.

I did not expect the first question upon admitting a laboring woman to be, “What kind of birth control do you want after you deliver?”

I did not expect the doctor to sweetly and gently suggest, “Well, the IUD lasts longer and you don’t have to keep coming back for a shot.”

I did not expect the nurse to condemn women for getting pregnant after a C-section.

I did not expect the mom who was about to lose the baby conceived with an IUD in place to request another IUD.

I did not expect to hear a labor nurse say disdainfully, “I don’t understand why these women with young kids get pregnant again.”

(I had similar musings last time I was working here.)

While I think many of these attitudes are common across the country, I can’t help but wonder if part of the attitudes are due to the fact that I’m working at a public hospital, largely serving low income populations.  The notion that we can “solve poverty” by stopping the procreation of poor people is an old one – certainly dating to Margaret Sanger and the founding of Planned Parenthood, continuing through Nazi Germany, and now showing up in even the most respectable Melinda Gates*.  I think the devil would like nothing more than for this horrible notion – killing people we perceive as problems – to become normal, sanitized, and out-of-sight.  How can something be bad when our doctors or our cultural heroes recommend it to us as normal?

Walking through the US Holocaust Memorial Museum recently, I was stunned by how familiar so much of Hitler’s pre-war propaganda sounded.  Like the evil Dr. Zola stated in Captain America: Winter Soldier, “HYDRA was founded on the belief that humanity could not be trusted with its own freedom.  What we did not realize was that if you try to take that freedom, they resist.   The war taught us much.  Humanity needed to surrender its freedom willingly.”  The things Hitler forced on people – sterilization, death to those who are disabled – we in America ask for now!  “Please give me a vasectomy.”  “You must give me free birth control.”  “My fetus might have Down’s syndrome – kill it.”

Killing the disabled or the people of the wrong race is (rightly) abhorrent to us when they are adults; we all reject what was done in the Nazi concentration camps.  However, when we kill them young or prevent their birth entirely, using “nice,” distancing words like terminate, or abort, or contracept, we don’t have to see what we’re doing.  Their tiny bodies get whisked away by the doctor and we don’t have to stare at the piles of bodies we’ve accumulated.  In the U.S., the babies killed since Roe v. Wade number over 57 million, and the number prevented from being born due to sterilization or birth control is uncountable.  The people killed by Hitler number “just” 11 million.  I think the devil fights for the holocaust of abortion to stay hidden, forgettable.

I recently watched this stellar speech by Gianna Jessen, an abortion survivor.  Her testimony – her life! – brings the ugliness and injustice of abortion into the light.  Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service responded to this shocking tale by stating that there are now laws in place to prevent such a sad story, referring to the replacement of saline abortions with other abortion procedures that are more difficult to survive. She seems to be saying, “This was a terribly uncomfortable speech.  Thankfully, we have laws now that will ensure we kill all people who could grow up and give similar speeches in the future.”

Today marks the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion in the US, and the 41st March for Life.  Remember.

If you label yourself pro-choice, pro-woman, pro-sterilization, or pro-artificial birth control, please continue to read, research, listen, and learn.  If you are a Christian, pray that God would open your heart to the truth, no matter how uncomfortable (I do the same).

As I sit here in Obstetrics, I’m reminded that the solution is not simply, “Love babies more” or “Make abortion illegal.”  The solution to this problem, as with all problems, is Jesus.  Everything is broken; He is the remedy.  Come, Lord Jesus, come.

* To be clear, limiting family size due to health concerns, financial concerns, etc. is totally acceptable and sometimes good – but the God-honoring and spouse-honoring way to do so is to abstain from that-which-leads-to-children, not to kill the children.  The recent much-taken-out-of-context comments by Pope Francis explain this.

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