Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading onlineHere are some of the great reads I discovered this week:

How to Disagree Better about COVID-19, Conspiracy Theories, and Pretty Much Everything Else in Life.

The Cure for a Lack of Fruit in Our Christian Lives, HT to Challies.

5 Ways Christians are Getting Swept into a Secular Worldview in This Cultural Moment. HT to Proclaim and Defend.

The American Soviet Mentality, HT to Challies. I hadn’t made the connection between today’s cancel culture and what they used to do in the Soviet Union, but now that I’ve read this, the similarities are striking and scary.

How to Bear Up Under Your Burdens.

Getting Practical: How to Host a Middle Eastern Friend, HT to Challies. These are useful tips if you have the opportunity to host someone from the Middle East.

11 Transcendent Moments of Movie Music. “Wordless music in a film often speaks more to us than all the words of the script. Why? I think it’s because music in general is a language with mysterious communicative potential.” I enjoyed this a lot. I haven’t seen all the movies listed here, but would like to check out some of them now. And with that, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite pieces:

Friday’s Fave Five

It’s so hard to believe we’re almost 2/3 of the way through June already. Whether the days contain good or bad, they fly by. I enjoy this pause on Fridays with Susanne and friends at Living to Tell the Story to recount some of the blessings of the week.

1. A haircut. My daughter-in-law graciously agreed to cut my hair for me last weekend at her house. I know it was nerve-wracking for her, and I appreciate that she did it anyway. 🙂 She did a good job. My hair just does not cooperate when it gets a certain length, so it’s nice to get it to a place where it responds better.

2. Lunch with Mittu and Timothy. While Mittu cut my hair, my husband was outside with Timothy doing a bit of yard work. Then Mittu made us a lunch of egg salad sandwiches and chips. Jason, unfortunately, had to work, and Jesse had stayed home. While Granddad worked outside some more, bleaching the mildew off the sidewalk and patio, Timothy and Mittu showed me some funny You Tube videos they had enjoyed.

3. A belated Mother’s Day gift. My son and daughter-in-law pre-ordered Nathan W. Pyle‘s Stranger Planet for me for Mother’s Day, but it was just released a few days ago. They brought it over as soon as they received it. You can see some of his work here. The book was so good! I love his beings’ observations about life. The only downside: I finished it in one evening.

4. Old pictures. Our church is putting together a Father’s Day collage slide show for this Sunday, and anyone who wanted to participate could send in photos of themselves with their dads. I had a couple I could use, but started looking through old photos to see if I could find any better ones. It’s always fun to look through them. I’m ashamed to say I have at least three shoe boxes of photos from before the digital age that have never been put into albums yet. I was able to organize them a bit, which will help whenever I finally do get to them. I need to redo all my photos that have been in the sticky photo albums (which they say is not good for them, and some of the pages have browned and lost their stickiness). So that’s going to be a big job someday, but one I look forward to.

5. A special moment. Last Saturday morning, I started reading Jen Wikin’s None Like Him on the attributes of God. Wow. So good. All morning afterward, the song “None Like You” came to mind. When I got into the car to go for my haircut, I plugged my phone in and set my playlist to shuffle. The first song that came up was “None Like You.” That just made me feel so seen and loved and cared for. It reminded me of this meme:

I discovered a couple of songs with similar names concerning there being none like God. This is the one I am familiar with:

Book Review: The Mother-Daughter Book Club

In The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick, sixth-graders Emma and Jess are best friends in Concord Massachusetts.

Emma loves reading and writing. Her parents are big Jane Austen fans who named their kids after her characters. Her father is a writer, her mother, a librarian.

Jess lives on a farm with her father and brothers. Jess’s mom is an actress currently working in NYC.

Emma and Jess are definitely not among the popular girls, who tease Emma about wearing hand-me-downs and call Jess “Goat Girl.”

One of the “mean girls,” Megan, was Emma’s friend years ago. But now their paths have diverged. Megan loves style and design, but her mother has dreams of math and science camp and MIT and Harvard for her.

Cassidy is a new student who loves sports, especially hockey. She’s tomboyish and doesn’t care at all about her appearance. Her mother was a super–model.

The moms cook up an idea that they’ll form a mother-daughter book club, and their first book will be Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

None of the daughters wants to participate. Some of them clash with each other, some clash with their moms. But perhaps they can learn a thing or two from Louisa.

I don’t read many books for this age range, but a friend recommended this to me. I loved the tie-in with Louisa and Litttle Women. The girls even visit Orchard House in Concord, where Louisa lived and wrote Little Women. I also enjoyed how the girls learned and grew over the course of the book. Even the moms learned that they can’t make their daughters fit into their own “castles in the air” dreams.

The chapters all begin with a quote from Little Women and vary between the different girls’ points of view. At the end is a discussion guide, recipes, charts for planning goals, and information about starting a book club.

The only thing I didn’t like was the treatment of Mrs. Chadwick, the head “mean girl’s” mom and villain of the piece. Mrs. Chadwick seems fair game for names and derogatory comments about her anatomy from the parents as well as the girls. In one scene near the end, the girls and their moms turn the tables on Mrs. Chadwick and her daughter with some mean girls’ (and women’s) tricks of their own. I suppose, in a literary sense, this was their comeuppance. But I wish the moms had been better examples in this.

But other than that, this was an enjoyable book in many ways. It’s the first in a series of seven, each one built around a classic book. I like the idea and the characters, so I may try some of the other stories.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved)

Book Review: Wynema: A Child of the Forest

S. Alice Callahan is regarded as the first novelist of American Indian descent with her book, Wynema: A Child of the Forest. The book was published in 1891 when Callahan was 23; sadly, she died just three years later.

Her only foreword reads as follows:

TO THE INDIAN TRIBES OF NORTH AMERICA

Who have felt the wrongs and oppression of their pale-faced brothers, I lovingly dedicate this work, praying that it may serve to open the eyes and heart of the world to our afflictions, and thus speedily issue into existence an era of good feeling and just dealing toward us and our more oppressed brothers.

THE AUTHOR.

 The story begins with Wynema as a child amidst the peaceful habitations of her tribe. A Methodist missionary opened a school, but most of the Indians did not see the point of it. Wynema, however, was enraptured by the idea of learning. “His was the touch that brought into life the slumbering ambition for knowledge and for a higher life, in the breast of the little Indian girl.” She begged her father for a school in their own village, and he agreed. So the missionary, Gerald Keithly, sent for a woman to come and teach. The call was answered by Genevieve Weir, who believed, “God made the Indians as he made the Caucasian—from the same mold. He loves the work of His hands.”

As Genevieve tries to teach the Native children reading, English, and Christianity, she also learns their ways. When she laments some of the “barbaric” customs, Gerald wisely counsels her that white customs would seem just as barbaric to the Indians if they observed a white doctor or ballroom dance, etc., and that in many ways, they were more civilized than their white compatriots. Wynema and Genevieve become close friends.

But behind these peaceful and informative interactions, the Indians were being cheated out of money and land by the white government. Callahan shares the escalation of events leading up to the battle of Wounded Knee as well as the aftermath.

She has her main characters recognize the distinction between the kind white people who wanted to help and the others who wanted to oppress rather than lumping them all into on category.

I perused a few articles on Callahan and this book. Responses are mixed. Some felt that making Genevieve the main character, or at least equal in importance to Wynema, diminished the Native American influence. But since it was written partly to white people to show that the Native Americans weren’t “savages” and to chronicle the wrongs done to them, it seems natural to show this through a white woman’s eyes being opened as she comes to know and love them.

Another article (which I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find again and have not been able to [Update: it was not an article but the introduction to the book in the Amazon edition]) said that the book rejects the Christianization of the Native American as well as the colonization. But it seemed to me that Callahan presented both. Callahan includes a letter by Hadjo saying that “The Indians have never taken kindly to the Christian religion as preached and practiced by the whites. Do you know why this is the case? Because the Good Father of all has given us a better religion—a religion that is all good and no bad—a religion that is adapted to our wants” and that they have their own Messiah. But Wynema and others accepted the Christian message, and the general tone of the work is Christian.

Perhaps because Callahan had a Native American father and a white mother, her desire seemed to be to bring about reconciliation and understanding rather than further animosity. Part of reconciliation is acknowledging the wrongs done to another.

I’m glad that I discovered this book this year. I am counting it for the Classic by a Person of Color Category of the Back to the Classics challenge.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved)

Flawed people in a cancel culture

flawed people in a cancel culture

I have not seen the musical Hamilton. But I watched a special on TV called Hamilton’s America, which interlaced how Lin Manuel Miranda became interested in Hamilton’s story, early American history, the road to writing and production, clips from the musical, and commentary from several actors and observers. It was a fascinating special, and I learned much that I hadn’t known about our history.

The musical is famous for is using an ethnically diverse cast. As Miranda said in one interview, he wanted to represent what America looks like today.

In one of the most moving parts of the documentary to me, Christopher Jackson, a black actor who portrayed George Washington, visited Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home. He sat in Mount Vernon’s slave quarters, pondering the disparity of such a great man owning people.

Several of the actors portraying founding fathers wrestled with the fact that these men did both great and terrible things The only conclusion they could come to was that people are are flawed. Appreciating their contributions didn’t mean endorsing everything they said or did.

It doesn’t take much searching to find that most historical figures were flawed. Even most Bible people were flawed. My favorite Bible character, David, was guilty of some of the most heinous sins.

In our fiction, we don’t like a hero or heroine who isn’t flawed because they aren’t realistic.

But somehow, in our modern day, we can’t seem to allow for the fact that people can have sides of themselves that we don’t like or agree with. In today’s “cancel culture,” if you make a single mistake in the public eye, you’re out. People have lost jobs and even been personally threatened when a simple reprimand or correction would have been effective.

Last week when I opened Twitter, I noticed a particular celebrity’s name trending. I don’t follow many celebrities, and am not even all that interested in this man. But I was curious, so I clicked on the hashtag of his name. A backlash had erupted over one of his tweets, which probably could have been worded better. One of those enraged by his comment wrote of “taking great delight in destroying his career.”

It’s horrifying that anyone would enjoy destroying someone’s career in the first place. But it’s even worse to do so while swept along by the mob without taking the time to clarify what was meant or give the benefit of the doubt.

The cancel culture offers no understanding, empathy, forgiveness, or redemption. Just instant judgment, mob rule, and destruction.

We need to hear first.

It’s true, sometimes we need to take a stand or call people. But “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13).

By contrast, James 1:19 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

People post links and commentaries fast and furiously online. We should give the benefit of the doubt and not assume. It’s always a good idea to fact-check, to wait to hear the whole story, before forming an opinion.

We need to be careful in judgment

Jesus said, “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2). He went on to talk about the ridiculousness of trying to get a speck out of someone else’s eye when we have a log in ours. He also said that if we don’t forgive others, we won’t be forgiven.

Some things are obviously wrong. But if someone is on the opposite side of the political fence than we are, or has a different opinion on a major societal issue, the tendency these days is to write that person off completely. It’s all or nothing.

We need to react redemptively.

Maybe someone made an insensitive remark. Instead of trying to ruin their career or lives, wouldn’t it be better to tell them what was wrong with what they said and give them a chance to see the light?

In the passage mentioned above, Jesus did not say that everyone should just live with logs and specks in their eyes. “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). We’re supposed to help each other see clearly, after we see clearly ourselves. 

Our church has been reading through the major prophets in the Old Testament, and now we’re working our way through the minor prophets. Though God threatened judgment on His sinning people, His preference was that they repent and change their hearts and ways. Repentance would avert the judgment, as was the case with Nineveh in the book of Jonah. In the New Testament, chastening and discipline was not destructive but refining. If God gives undeserving people grace, shouldn’t we?

We need to accept each other as flawed.

We know that we are not perfect. We know that no one is perfect. So why do we have trouble accepting people who are not perfect? As the actors of Hamilton came to grips with, good people can do bad things. We all have our blind spots. That doesn’t make wrongdoing okay. But we have to recognize that most people aren’t all or nothing, politically or any other category.

Granted, there are some people with whom it’s impossible to live peaceably. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). I have unfriended or hidden toxic people on social media because there is just no peace with them. But that was not after the first disagreement; it was after long years of interaction.

There are even times the Bible tells us to separate from someone else. Again, that’s not for every difference or infraction, and it’s with the ultimate hope for the person’s salvation. But most situations don’t need to go that far.

And we need to remember, if we cancel each other out because of our sins, flaws, and mistakes, there will be no one left.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Senior Salon, Hearth and Soul,
Literary Musing Monday, Purposeful Faith, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragement,
Recharge Wednesday, Worth Beyond Rubies, Share a Link Wednesday,
Let’s Have Coffee, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network)

 

Guest Post at Almost an Author

I have a guest post at Almost an Author today titled Publishing Dreams Can Come True. I share a bit about the immense obstacles one author overcame to write what’s now considered a beloved classic. I want to encourage authors (and others!) to pursue their dreams and overcome their own obstacles with God’s help. I hope you’ll check it out.

Laudable Linkage

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Here are some thought-provoking reads discovered recently:

How Should Christians Respond to Racism? HT to Challies. “We have so confused Christianity with politics that people often assume Christian equals the stuff political conservatives identify with and non-Christian equals the stuff progressives talk about. And since racial justice often tends to be at the forefront of the discussion in politically progressive circles, we shy away from them because we think that to discuss the evil of racism is to identify with the liberal left. But here’s the thing. When we call out the evil of racism, we’re identifying with the word of Almighty God.” (Update: I removed the link to this one because evidently it was taken down from the Core Christianity site. The quote is included in the show notes of this podcast of the same title.  Perhaps what I originally saw was the transcript that was later taken down. That’s too bad—it was a good article. Probably a lot of people who would have read the article would not take the time to listen to a podcast.)

Three Thoughts on Current Events.

Three Tips on Teaching Your Children about Racism, HT to The Story Warren. “Parenting is hard, but learning how to parent as a white mom to black, white, and biracial children and discuss racial issues with them has been quite the journey. They are not naïve to the realities of living in a broken society.”

Canceled: How the Eastern Honor-Shame Mentality Traveled West, HT to Challies. “Today’s cancel culture is the 21st-century Western version of the Eastern honor-shame paradigm.”

How to Walk with Jesus When Your Kids Are Little. This is one of the hardest times to have any time with God. But it doesn’t have to be quiet, solitary, or lengthy.

How to Care for Your Pastor, Part 6: Rewarding. I’ve known people who didn’t believe pastors should be paid by the church, or at least supported full time by the church. But that’s not Biblical, as Dan Olinger shows in this sixth post in a series on caring for one’s pastor.

What It’s Like to Get Doxed for Taking a Bike Ride. This is scary. A man was misidentified as someone who was racist and assaulted someone. The Twitter mob turned on him, threatening him, with someone even publishing his address. “We must align in the fight for justice and equality — but not at the cost of due process and the right to privacy and safety.”

This is an engaging video explaining the concept of peace, or shalom in Hebrew. As often as I have heard this word, I don’t think I have heard it explained this way. HT to The Story Warren.

Friday’s Fave Five

Every Friday, Susanne at Living to Tell the Story invites us to pause for a few minutes and recount some of the blessings of the week. It’s harder some weeks than others to find them, but they are always there. And looking for them can transform our whole outlook. So here are a few from my week.

1. A park outing. We went with my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson last weekend to Norris Dam State Park for a picnic lunch and fishing. We had our little picnic area to ourselves most of the time. The few people who came and went stayed more than six feet away. Jesse and I left a little early after watching the others fish for a bit—neither of us was interested in fishing and the heat was getting to me. I can’t remember if this was Timothy’s first time to fish, but it was fun to watch him get the hang of it.

2. A potty tent. 🙂 Though the state parks are open, the restrooms are closed. Personally, I’d rather use a public a restroom and sanitize than wonder where people might have relieved themselves outdoors. A while back Jim had invested in a camping toilet and a little pop-up tent to put it in, so he brought all of that and set it up. Yes, I did feel funny using it when another family was in the area, but it was much better than finding a tree to hide behind. I don’t know if they thought it was really weird or a good idea. 🙂

3. Time off. This was something from the week before last that I forgot to mention. Everyone in my husband’s company was required to take a week of vacation in May since business was running a little slow and some of their clients were closed. Jim chose the last week in May plus a couple of Fridays before that. He got a lot done in our yard and our son’s, rearranged his office a bit, cleared some things out of the garage, and took some things we both had culled to the thrift store.

4. An actual letter! My oldest son and I used to write back and forth when he first moved out-of-state, but that eventually fell by the wayside since we FaceTime pretty regularly. So it was a nice surprise to get a letter from him.

5. An unexpected history. I’ve had this little mini cedar chest for years. Lane mini cedar chestIt had been my mom’s, and I kept all kinds of childhood treasures in it. Now it just has odds and ends. It never occurred to me to ask when or where she got it. Then my friend Susan had a post about these Lane chests. It turns out that for many years, the Lane company gave these out to female high school seniors who requested them. It was fun perusing this site and finding out about the history of them. They share a way to find out when a box was made by its dimensions and inscription (which I have not done yet).

Lane mini cedar boxIt was so fun to discover that this little box that I have used for decades had such a history!

That was my week. How was yours?

Book Review: Summerhills

Summerhills is the sequel to Amberwell by D. E. Stevenson. This book focuses primarily on three of the adult Ayrton children.

Roger is the oldest and the heir since his father died. But he assured his four siblings that Amberwell would always be the family home and they would always be welcome. In the last book, his wife had died in the London bombings, leaving him with their infant son, who nearly died as well. Since Roger was in the military, he sent his son, Stephen, home to Amberwell to be taken care of by his sister, Nell. In this book, Stephen is approaching the age to go to boarding school. But Nell can’t stand the thought of Stephen being sent away. Roger had inherited his wife’s fortune and had been pondering the best way to use it. Now he decides perhaps opening a boarding school nearby would help others as well as himself and Stephen. Summerhills is the name of the new school, and almost all of Roger’s time on leave is spent preparing for the school: consulting with a builder, finding a headmaster, etc. Roger had no interest in other women. He felt his wife was the only woman he would ever love. But perhaps becoming reacquainted with a childhood friend will reawaken the part of his heart that he thought was closed.

Nell had kept Amberwell afloat all during the war. With the loss of most of the staff during the war, Nell continues all of the tasks involved in attending to Amberwell while also caring for her nephew and her confused mother. Nell had always been the shyest Ayrton, content to be at home. When her brother Tom’s friend, Dennis, comes to visit, he is drawn to her. But he knows he will have to win her slowly, through friendship, before he can share his heart.

Ann had been missing from a large part of the last book after her aunt more or less pushed her into marrying a man that her parents would not have approved of. In time, this man proved abusive and eventually died. Ann did her best to provide for her young daughter on her own until the rector of their village found her and urged her to come home. Now she keeps house for the rector. The new headmaster is an old friend, and Ann senses he would like for their relationship to develop into something more. But marriage has been ruined for her.

Tom, the other brother, is away at sea throughout the book but is mentioned. Connie, the oldest sister, had been married and had three children in the last book, and had gotten hold of a book advising against thwarting or correcting children. Consequently, her children are rude, uncontrolled little monsters.

There are comic scenes, often involving Connie’s children, a pretty young governess, and the banter between Nanny and Mrs. Duff, the cook. There’s not a great deal to the plot besides getting the school ready and the various romances. But it’s a sweet, cozy book with some touching moments.

A couple of characters’ fates were left up in the air. There is no other sequel, but, according the this site, some from Amberwell make an appearance in a later book, Still Glides the Stream.

Objectionable elements: a few “damns” and mentions of blacks and Chinese that would be considered racist today. Though I don’t condone such references, I wouldn’t avoid a book with them any more than I would avoid any book where the characters do something wrong in some way.

I listened to the audiobook, wonderfully read by the same reader who narrated Amberwell, Leslie Mackie.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved)

Book Review: Breaking Anxiety’s Grip

Dr. Michelle Bengston writes from her own experience as an anxiety sufferer, a neuropsychologist, and most of all, as a Christian, in Breaking Anxiety’s Grip: How to Reclaim the Peace God Promises.

Everyone experiences worry, anxiety, and fear on occasion to some degree. But for some, they are regular companions.

After defining terms, Dr. Bengston discusses what contributes to anxiety, etc., brain chemistry, heredity, example, our own thoughts and heart, and Satanic influence. Interestingly, “While brain chemistry can impact mood and behavior, thoughts (e.g., ‘This place isn’t safe,’ ‘I can’t handle this any more,’ ‘I’m overwhelmed,’ etc.) actually impact brain chemistry” (p. 35).

The author spends the rest of the book explaining “the tools to effectively exchange our worry, anxiety, and fear for his peace” (p. 28). She doesn’t spout empty platitudes: she has put these principles to work in response to cancer diagnoses for herself and her husband, problems in her practice, a son’s major obstacles in his career path, as well as “everyday” problems and concerns. Her tools are based on the sure foundation of Scripture.

I had read a few of Michelle’s posts when she participated in some of the same of the same blog link-ups I participate in. I always enjoyed what she had to say, so when I saw she had written this book, I got it. It sat on my shelf for a while, then I picked it up, then set it aside for another book. When I finally delved into it in earnest, I knew God had led me to read it at just the perfect time. The coronavirus pandemic began just after I started this book, and the chapters I read then helped me immensely in the uncertainty and anxiety of that unprecedented situation.

Here are just a few of the principles that most helped me:

Dealing with worry, anxiety, and fear isn’t a one-time event: it’s a process.

I’m not in control. God is. He knows best and knows the big picture. What He allows may not be what I would have chosen, but He has a purpose in it for my good.

“When concern about the future comes, we can recognize it and then refuse to entertain it. We can determine to stay in the present and in God’s presence, trusting in his perfect plan” (pp. 70-71).

We can reframe our worried thoughts to focus on God’s provision: “Instead of saying, ‘I’m worried I won’t be able to make ends meet,’ exert your trust in God and declare, ‘God, I’m trusting you to provide because you promised to supply all my needs according to your glorious riches.’ Or instead of saying, ‘I’m afraid to be alone,’ look to his promises and declare your trust in him: ‘Thank you, God, that you promise you will never leave me and will always be with me so I won’t be alone'” (p. 119).

“God’s peace is not the calm after the storm. It is the steadfastness during the storm. It is in his presence that we can find peace in the midst of the storm” (p. 140).

“When self-protection is our goal, there’s no room for trusting God’s protective love. That self-protective stance leaves us lonely and unwilling to invite others in, including God. Fear is not from God. It is a direct attack from the one who wants to prevent us from drawing close to God or knowing his trustworthy love. In reality, we are powerless to protect ourselves. Fear doesn’t protect. So self-protection is futile. What we really need is a sure protector—and only a trustworthy God can be that for us” (pp. 171-172).

“Emotions are the outward manifestations of the thoughts we believe. So when we feel anxious, it’s because we’ve believe the thoughts that prompt anxiety. Instead of acting on our feelings, we must speak out against the thoughts that caused them. We must recognize that the thoughts are from the enemy, refute them, and speak back to them” (p. 186).

2 Timothy 1:7 says, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (the KJV and NKJV says “sound mind”). Michelle spends a lot of time unpacking and applying those verses.

There were just a couple of places in the book where I had a question mark or maybe would have had a somewhat different view. And I wish she would have said a little more about anxiety that seems to come out of nowhere, not triggered by worry, as described here. But whatever the cause, the solution of taking our thoughts captive and applying God’s truth would be the same.

Overall, however, I found this book a great encouragement to my faith. Much of it was truth I already knew, but as was said earlier, fighting against anxiety is an ongoing process rather than a once-for-all victory. This book is an excellent tool and help in the fight.

(Sharing with Grace and Truth, Literary Musing Monday, Hearth and Soul,
Senior Salon, Global Blogging, InstaEncouragement, Worth Beyond Rubies,
Carole’s Books You Loved)