The Story of French

The Story of French

The Story of French

I stared at this book on the French language, The Story of French for months in various bookstores. The book is only $15 and quite the bargain for such an in-depth look at this language. However, I found it boring.

I skimmed the last hundred pages. I wanted to learn the history until I found it included a timeline when each word entered a French dictionary. I don’t care what The New York Times and the Kirkus Starred Review says. I say this makes a great cheap textbook and that’s it. I will try the other book, Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong, but I can’t give this book a positive recommendation.

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Confessions of a Shopaholic

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Confessions of a Shopaholic was entertaining fluff. I was certainly entertained but I did not learn a fine lesson from this book. This logic is why I read non-fiction. Some fiction books do teach me about life and cultures.

I learned about British landmarks. But I felt I needed to do research to figure out where this story took place. I can see why the film makers turned to America to tell this story. But I was disappointed in that change. 

Actually, the character made me mad to spend so much money and not place value in money. Maybe I’m sick of hearing how we’re in a recession and sick of people not realizing the errors of their ways.

However, from a reader’s standpoint, this book was enjoyable and well-written. The character leapt of the page. But non-fiction readers, beware; this book is nothing but entertainment.

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10 Things I Hate About Christianity: FIRST Wild Card Tour

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working through the Frustrations of Faith

X-Media (March 1, 2009)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jason T. Berggren grew up in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and was a part of the band Strongarm. After leaving the band, he earned an AA in Mass Communications and a BA in Theology. In 2000, he helped to start the Calvary Fellowship church in Miami, FL, fulfilling the role of Assistant Pastor overseeing several areas of service. In 2005, he decided to explore a different ministry calling, returning to his childhood ambition of being a writer. His new book, 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working through the Frustrations of Faith conveys his conviction that “positive momentum begins with negative tension” and will be available soon. Berggren felt compelled to write the book after realizing that all of his spiritual difficulties and challenges originated from the same ten issues. While his fledgling writing career begins to take flight, Berggren also runs handyman business to provide for his family. Berggren and his wife have been married since 1999. The Berggrens have three boys and attend Northpoint Community Church in Alpharetta, GA, where they lead a small group.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 244 pages
Publisher: X-Media (March 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0981944302
ISBN-13: 978-0981944302

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Why Hate?

I’m wrong. I usually am.

I’m not saying that to sound self-deprecating, or to appear whimsical and charming in order to endear myself to you (though if it happens, I’m fine with that). I’m saying that because it’s true. I know hate is wrong. I just don’t know any other way to describe what I feel. It’s to-the-point, direct, and yes, maybe even a little reckless and rude. But it’s what I mean.

When I was growing up, my father — who’s more civilized than I am — would strongly admonish me for using hate to describe my feelings about something or someone. He wanted me to understand how potent this word is. He was uncomfortable with its implied violence. He wanted me to use it cautiously.

I understand. But there are realities I must face.

Like Coca-Cola. I’ve loved Coke since I was a child. I would do fine never letting another beverage touch my lips for the rest of my life, not even water. I love the taste of the ice-cold liquid as it passes through my lips and cascades down my throat. I often say I’m a Coke addict as a joke, since it has such power over me. But the reality is that Coke isn’t good for me in such large doses, and it causes me to gain weight. So I hate the fact that I love Coke. It’s a tension I have to learn to manage.

Unfortunately, this wrestling exists abundantly in the deeper, more important issues of my life as well.

My life is filled with personal conflict. This conflict has the power to crush my hopes and blur my dreams until they’re merely memories of childhood fantasies, never again to be imagined, for fear of bringing even more tension, more confusion, more hate. Especially when the conflict is coupled with failure.

I used to dream of being a musician. When I was twelve, I worked through spring break and used my earnings to buy a cheap amp and guitar. I spent years teaching myself how to play. I would listen to tapes of my favorite bands, trying to copy the music and sing along. Eventually I began writing my own songs and even went on to be in a few bands.

After investing time and money and delaying college, in my early twenties I finally realized I wasn’t very good, and I quit. It was a heartbreaking reality to face. The experience still follows me. It’s as if I’ll never let myself pursue any type of dream again. Dreams aren’t worth the disappointment and heartache when they don’t come true, and it’s almost certain they won’t. Is failure the end? Or is failure one of many steps to succeeding? The risk doesn’t seem worth it. But unlived dreams can also cast an unbearable shadow of “what if.” There’s no way to avoid this conflict in my life.

When we’re alone and being honest, most of us would probably admit there’s a deep personal war going on inside us. The smaller battles in this war break out in strange ways. They might drive us to eat a little too much dessert, spend a little too much on yet another pair of shoes, or have another drink. When left unchecked, conflict leads to confusion, regret, and guilt. And it grows. It may cause us to do things like insist on the last word in an argument and cause damage to a relationship we care about.

The truth remains: Life is a constant battle. If we’re to experience any peace, joy, or love as we learn to do life and relationships more productively and successfully, our only option is to learn to fight our own inner demons. Because if we give up, we’ll turn into a mess (or more of a mess, in my case).

I hate all this tension, and I hate having to face it. It’s a dilemma wrapped in a crisis stuck between a rock and a hard place.

But I’ve learned that bigger conflict, the deep inner conflict, can be a positive force. It can bring us past the endless cycle of reaction and regret, and lead to a breakthrough and the opportunity for much-needed personal growth and renewal. We can train our minds to use our hate, and when we begin to sense it, we can create forward momentum: We sense the tension, wrestle the issue, win the battle, learn a lesson, grow as an individual, and move ahead. This can bring a new day with a new perspective and new opportunities.

* * *

There’s nothing like watching the strength of the human spirit reaching forward in times of turmoil. This is why I put pen to paper. I’m just trying to chart a course through the murky waters of frustration and hate. I think I’m discovering a path through this fog, and I want to share it with you.

In this process, my faith has been key — which may surprise you, given this book’s title. I am in fact a Christian, though I hesitate using the term because of the baggage that comes with it. Maybe it’s better to say I’m trying to follow Jesus as closely as I can, like one of his twelve disciples. It’s not easy. This may be why I like the disciples Thomas and Peter the most. Like them, I have a lot of doubts and open my big mouth way too much.

This book is basically a log of my journey with faith, sometimes faltering, sometimes firm. It’s a record of release and renewal, as I try to work toward contentment and wholeness.

So I’m inviting you to hate with me — not the unguarded, irresponsible, and negative emotion my father often warned me about, but the inner sense of overwhelming dissatisfaction that can launch a progression toward personal growth. Identifying my feeling of hate has given me an awareness to move forward. It has ignited a drive toward newness, unseen potential, and the fulfillment that lies ahead. It has also caused me to seek resolutions to bigger questions in my life: Why are we all here? What’s it all about? Is there more to it than this?

It’s these bigger questions that led me to a faith in Jesus. It was different from what I expected, which I’ll get into. But it was what I was looking for through my wrestling. I’ve found it to be the only way to achieve sanity in my own existence.

Unfortunately, believing in him didn’t fix everything. While I deeply admire, respect, and love Jesus, my faith in him has actually added to my inner struggles. And this is a real dilemma.

Faith can be a challenge, and extremely inconvenient at times. Over and over I’ve had to face certain aspects of my faith that don’t seem to line up. I’ve been quite confused by what it means to seek God’s purpose for my life and to follow the teachings of Jesus. And while working through these questions, I came to a helpful life-lesson that has become self-evident: Wrong expectations lead to absolute frustration. When we don’t have all the facts, we usually end up disillusioned and angry. Like when a couple thinks that having kids will make their relationship better. Then comes the rude awakening: More people equals more problems.

I’m constantly bumping up against this principle about wrong expectations because it pretty much applies everywhere. It has been especially true when it comes to my faith. If you remember only one thing from this book, make it that. It will help you in every arena of life — career, relationships, marriage, sex, having kids, faith, etc. I wish someone had told me about it a long time ago, so I’m telling you now.

Everyone has a story. This is mine — what I’ve actually hated about my faith at times, and how I’m working through it all. Maybe it can help you work out some of the issues in your own story.

#1

Faith

Like many kids in America, I grew up playing baseball. At age seven, I skipped T-ball and went right to Pony League. It was extremely intimidating at first. This was real baseball, complete with the threat of being decapitated by a stray pitch. Kids were reckless. Everyone was trying to throw the ball as fast as possible, because speed equaled great pitching. Control was secondary.

After Pony League came Little League. Now pitching was something to really be afraid of. Kids were bigger, so speed increased dramatically. Unfortunately, the accuracy still wasn’t there. Plus, the formula was still the same: Speed equaled great pitching.

But for a nine-year-old, the real challenge in moving up to Little League was striving to hit a homer, as every young boy wants to do.

The homerun. It’s what dreams are made of. When boys are staring into the clouds outside their classrooms, they’re probably thinking about hitting a homerun. When a mom has to scream for her son’s attention, more than likely he’s daydreaming about knocking one over the fence. When young kids have sleepovers and stay up way past bedtime, they’re probably predicting how many long balls they’ll hit next season.

I had homerun dreams. I obsessed over them. And I was thrilled when I met our new neighbor, Bill. He was an old-timer and told me about the glory of his Little League years. You know, “back in the day.” I hung on his every word, because he said he could hit homeruns at will. He even claimed to have hit homeruns in every game. I fantasized about being him and living those moments. It seemed so unfair that he was so good.

But that was all about to change.

One day Bill told me his secret. I never felt so lucky in all my life, because his method wasn’t magical at all. The next time I stepped up to the plate, I knew things would be different. This kid was going to give Hank Aaron a run for his money. As Bill explained it, all I had to do was keep my eye on the ball. Simply watch it leave the pitcher’s hand all the way until it hit the bat, and BAM! A homerun. “Don’t try to kill it,” he added. “Just make contact.” After that, I never took another swing without my eyes locked on the ball. But I never hit a home run. Never.

I began to resent my neighbor. His advice didn’t yield a mantle full of homerun balls, the admiration of teammates, fear from opponents, or attention from girls. All I wanted was to feel the thrill of hearing the crack of the bat as the ball sailed away from me, and the victory lap around the diamond, and the applause of the crowd, and the home-movie immortalizing the moment. I wanted what so many other kids seemed to get. But it just never happened for me. I couldn’t accept that I wasn’t good enough or that I was doing something wrong. It was his fault. I felt as if Bill lied, and all his stories were probably lies too.

As my temper took hold, I did what we kids did to other neighbors we didn’t like. I lit a flaming bag of dog poop on his welcome mat and rang the doorbell so he would be forced to answer the door and stamp it out. Hot dog poo everywhere! Not really. He was too close to home. But it was hard to resist the urge to take vengeance on him. I wanted a guarantee. I wanted to know how to control the outcome, but I couldn’t. I’d been given a false sense of hope, and the results, or lack thereof, crushed me. After that season, I never played baseball again.

Not much has changed since Little League. I’m pretty good at most things I put my mind to, but not really amazing at anything. I’m also not very lucky. I’ve never been in the right place at the right time. I can’t help you get a crazy deal on a set of tires, and I’ve never won an all-expenses-paid cruise to Cozumel. I find myself just having to work hard at every little thing in life.

And a familiar feeling much like my failed homerun dreams eventually brought my faith in Jesus to a breaking point. I was reaching for purpose and meaning, but I found new questions and new problems. I started feeling as if I wasn’t good enough for this “team,” or maybe I was doing something wrong, and I wanted to quit. I often wondered if there was a way to find an angel with a sense of humor so he could help me place a flaming bag of poop in front of heaven’s pearly gates for St. Peter to answer and stamp out. I suppose I have passive aggressive tendencies in my spirituality too.

Something wasn’t quite right with my faith; it wasn’t working out that great for me. I started to wonder: What’s the point to having faith if it isn’t even helping or working?

The Small Print

There’s always fine print, isn’t there? A friend offering a free lunch comes with a catch like, “By the way, do you mind feeding my pet iguana his live bugs this weekend while I’m away? And while you’re there feeding Leonard, could you pick up my mail too?” Don’t you hate that?

I thought faith would dispel all the unknown variables and problems in my life. It seemed reasonable to think that if I took Jesus seriously, God would answer all my questions and take away all my problems. I thought it was a good deal. But it seemed to take a wrong turn, because he didn’t come through. Didn’t he understand I didn’t want to live with so much confusion anymore? It made me so mad at him, and I wanted to take back the commitment I made. To be fair, I don’t think it’s totally his fault, but I still get mad over it.

One thing I hate about my faith is the fantasy element. There’s Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, God and Jesus. We teach kids they’re all real, but they’re not all real. Eventually our kids will be okay with Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy being cute little white lies, while accepting Jesus and God as completely legit — right? Now I know the intentions are good and fun, but I wonder if it’s unfair. Could this also set us up for almost certain disillusionment as we all inevitably question the existence of God and consequently the meaning of our own existence? I’ve had many a conversation with people trying to figure out how to work through this, and it’s not easy. Many times they hit a wall, and I totally understand.

In any other context, believing this “lie” would be clinical. For instance, imagine you and I run into each other somewhere and I ask if you would like to meet my friend Jane. You respond, “Sure!” With hand extended, you reach around me to find no one. But I insist. I’m adamant about her being right here with us. I even tell you how much Jane loves you and wants to help you in your life. Undoubtedly you would give me a casual smile as you contemplated making a secret phone call. The whole episode could end with me being escorted off the scene in a white jacket with lots of extra straps and shiny belt buckles, and remarking how much better this thing would look in black leather. You would call me crazy, and you would be right.

Do I expect people to think it’s any less delusional because my friend’s name is Jesus? I admit it. The whole having a relationship with someone who isn’t physically there, and talking to him on a regular basis (praying) is weird, to say the least, and eccentric at best. If only God and Jesus would appear every so often around town to buy sneakers at the mall to prove to everyone they’re real, it would make all this a little easier. But they don’t, and it makes me mad. I’ll be expecting my jacket anytime now.

Once I can get past the fantasy element, I have to deal with feeling stupid. I hate feeling stupid. Who doesn’t? It seems like I always have to face the fact that having faith isn’t really an intellectual exercise. There really are no facts and figures to prove (or disprove) the existence of God or what I believe, and that makes me feel dumb.

If I were talking to someone who considered himself somewhat intellectual and fairly intelligent and rational (as most people do), and he was explaining to me how he came to a certain large-scale life-altering decision, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear him say it involved reading some academic research, pondering certain intellectual principles, and weighing lots of empirical evidence. Maybe he would even pull out some graphs and pie-charts. And his decision would make total sense to me. But when I describe my own life-altering decision, it’s a little different.

I always end up in pretty much the same place. “Yes, I believe in Jesus. I can’t really explain it. It’s basically a decision I made based on a feeling. And I trust in the sincerity of that feeling.” Unavoidably, there’s a sense of embarrassment. And I hate that. It makes me feel so stupid. It’s not that I’m ashamed of what I believe or who I believe in. I know it to be true. It’s just an awkward situation by default. Not to mention the many people who already think having faith is simply superstitious, primitive, and irrational.

I know I would sound more introspective, informed, and perceptive by pointing out flaws or being more skeptical and not believing. But I can’t, because I do believe. There are, in fact, volumes of reference-type materials that try to deal with faith in the academic arena and do a fine job of intellectualizing a faith decision. In the end, however, all these scholars and philosophers arrive at much the same place as me: Faith is essentially a decision based on a feeling. There’s just no way around it. But I hate having to push through that every single time I talk about what I believe.

Another thing I especially hate is the seemingly broken promise. As I’ve indicated, I like guarantees and predictability. I want to be able to forecast and control the outcomes in my life. Faith was supposed to bring clarity in my confusion, answering all my questions and helping me make total sense of life. This would give me the ability and confidence to make the best decisions in all situations, thereby ensuring that only good and beneficial things happen in my life — total peace all the time. Sometimes it gave me peace, but mostly it didn’t, and I felt like God was letting me down.

My confusion multiplied with the number of forks in the road. Should I buy a car or lease it? What should I major in? When should I get married? When should we have kids? Can I even afford a kid? Is this the right house to buy? We all have our own lists of unpredictable situations, and mine gets longer the older I get, as life grows more complicated. I find living with so many unknowns to be quite unsettling.

The fact is, I knew absolutely nothing about faith. In an effort to fire me up in my commitment and keep me devoted to Jesus, some Christians early on seemed to inadvertently “sell me” on this cure-all idea of faith, like some kind of acne medicine that could clear everything up and help me get a really hot girlfriend. Christian television and radio reinforced it, telling me things like “name it and claim it!” With enough faith, I’d be able to create and control the outcomes in my life and get whatever I wanted. Like Luke Skywalker using “the force,” I could move objects around in my life and make people do what I want with my Jedi mind-tricks. And if my faith wasn’t doing those things for me, I just didn’t have enough of it.

I liked the idea, but it didn’t work. This obviously meant something wasn’t right, and I felt like it was me. I was doing something wrong; I wasn’t good enough.

Where were the guarantees? Where was the security? The good deal turned raw, and I wanted my money back.

All these issues brought a dose of reality I wasn’t prepared for. I mean, who wants to trust his whole life to someone nobody can see? Who wants to tell others about this very nebulous personal decision? And who wants to keep up the commitment when things don’t exactly work out like we think they should, making it all look pointless?

That’s the fine print no one ever told me about. It’s been twenty years, and sometimes I still feel like I’m about to come apart. These things still go with the territory.

Sometimes I still get mad. But as I made myself push through these issues and work them out, I began to discover the true value of my faith. I would have robbed myself had I shut down over these issues and let my hate and frustration defeat my faith and newfound purpose.

I have to be upfront. I owe a lot of this to an old friend of mine who caused me to think through this stuff. It’s an old conversation, but it formed the very basis of why I still have an enduring faith today. This is why I have to share the highlights of that conversation. It illustrates the process of my faith.

The Other Jason

It’s always strange when you meet someone with the same name as you. It’s even weirder when you’re alike. I met Jason in my high school years, and he became a good friend. He didn’t go to my school, but one of his best friends was in most of my classes, so we hung out periodically in mutual social settings. Eventually I caught up with Jason at community college, and that’s when we started becoming better friends.

We had a similar schedule on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We would hang out in the cafeteria between classes, usually grabbing breakfast or lunch if it looked edible enough. He always wanted to play chess, but I despised the game. It took too much thought. I’m more of a checkers kind of guy. I was at community college, after all. So we talked instead. We were young guys, so we talked movies, music, and girls. Eventually we started talking about spiritual stuff because we were both curious.

I wasn’t as smart as him, but I communicated the best I could. I started telling him things I’d been wondering about and how I’d come to believe in the life and teachings of Jesus. This subject became our ongoing dialogue, as he challenged premise after premise that I presented. Inside, I hated his apprehensions, but I began to appreciate them as he stated his questions with respect. He seemed to be tracking with me and gauging his spiritual search along the way. Our dialogue went on for nearly a year.

He first challenged me to explain why I would believe in someone or something I couldn’t see. I acknowledged it was a strange practice. I thought it through a little more, and the next time I saw him, I told him I just couldn’t ignore something going on within me (and it had nothing to do with the cafeteria food). I started to sense a void deep inside. In no particular order, I was overwhelmed by the randomness and despair in life, I was struggling with a sense of purpose for my future, and I was more and more convinced there was a spiritual element to our existence. That was the framework for my void.

Just acknowledging these realities brought an initial sense of relief, though it soon yielded a greater sense of responsibility.

I told Jason I was noticing and thinking about things I never had before, and I couldn’t stop. Clearly there was more to us than flesh, blood, and bones. I mentioned how some of our classes might actually be backing this up. In Chemistry, my professor tried to rationalize the mystery of why an atom remains intact and the universe doesn’t fly apart. She taught us about “cosmic glue,” “dark matter,” and “X.” To me, this fit what I was discovering spiritually. But to explain the unknown, there had to be more than overly generous, sweeping, generic catch-all descriptions. I told Jason I thought there was a spiritual element to life that these deficient descriptions were touching on. Specifically, hidden deep down inside him, somewhere between his heart, soul, and mind, I was convinced there was a spiritual being, something all the science in the world could never explain. It’s in all of us, it explains who we really are, and it has little to do with blood or guts or cosmic glue.

Besides, there’s so much about our existence that can’t be explained or classified. So believing in something I couldn’t see wasn’t a big issue to me, since we all do it to some degree. It was more a matter of what to do with that knowledge. Would I ignore it? Or try to make sense of it? Was there a reason for, and behind, all this mystery?

Jason could see how I got to that point. It made some sense to him, as he was having similar thoughts. But he still wasn’t sure if he was willing to have faith in something he couldn’t see or prove.

I said I understood. I also reinforced the idea that we all believe in someone or something. Every individual relies on a set of beliefs or core values, not necessarily religious in nature, that may guide them at unsure times. Perhaps people seek the advice of good friends, or ask their parents or grandparents, or take a class, or read a book. The resulting beliefs and values they develop aren’t visible, but people trust in them. So, I argued, everyone looks at the situation they’re facing, considers what they believe, and then leaps. This functions much like faith. For the most part, we’re all trusting in things we can’t see — a type of faith, to some degree. I was simply bringing it to the next level and choosing to be influenced and mentored by Jesus.

He saw my point. We finished our waffles and went off to our classes.

The next time I saw Jason, he asked why I would trust in God even when things aren’t exactly going great. He’d often observed bad things happening to people of faith, and it made him wonder: What’s the point? There had to be some immediate benefit to faith, if it’s worth anything at all. Or maybe God wasn’t as involved in our lives as people like to think: Either he didn’t care all that much, or wasn’t really that powerful.

“Fair question,” I admitted. Here was his own version of the “broken promise” and “guarantee” thing that had angered me.

I came back the next time, ordered my pizza and tater-tots, filled my cup with Coke, and told him my additional thoughts on the subject. I had to believe that regardless of how things were going, there still had to be a rhyme or reason greater than myself.

Part of this was just out of necessity. I talked about my growing sense of needing certain absolutes with regard to truth. There was a part of me that didn’t want be the sole authority in my life anymore, the sole decider of what was right and wrong. With just me, I could remodel my right and wrong at any time simply to make them more convenient, and that was too chaotic and dangerous. It made everything too relative and fluid. It meant that ultimately I couldn’t find the meaning in life I desperately wanted out of all these spiritual musings.

I told Jason I was convinced there had to be a measure that was true, regardless of outcomes. Bad stuff happening or things not working out right did not mean there’s no God. That stuff was another issue altogether (which I’d have to deal with later).

Jason remarked that perhaps my relationship to God was based less on what I was getting out of the situation, and more on who was going with me through life as I experienced it.

“Exactly!” I answered.

He said he’d never thought of it like that before — like a relationship. He compared it to hopefully being married and having kids in the future. His wife wouldn’t fix all his problems and make life perfect, but sharing his life with someone he loved deeply, and who loved him, would definitely make life better.

There was more I needed to say. I admitted I still sensed frustration, since I wanted life to be a lot easier and safer and without so many variables, so much unpredictability. But I had to be fair to God. Faith had, in fact, brought me more clarity and confidence — just not to the level I wanted or expected. Yet without a doubt, I was better off now than when I functioned without faith.

I ended with this: My faith actually gives me the ability to navigate life in the midst of the unknown.

He said that was kind of similar to what he was saying, and I agreed. The bottom line was, things may not be perfect or perfectly easy, but my life was better with faith.

We cleaned our trays and went on with our days.

Jason later admitted he often viewed faith as a crutch. I’d heard this many times and found it insulting, but I didn’t know how to respond. Was there no way faith could find a home in the heart of the truly strong-minded, independent, freethinking person?

I came back the next Thursday and confessed I agreed with Jason. I even took it one step further. For me, faith was more like a wheelchair or one of those motorized things old people drive around in the grocery store. I was beginning to gain a little life-experience, and to realize that when I’m down-and-out, beaten up emotionally, or at my wits’ end, faith is the only reason I can press on.

I also submitted the idea that those who live by their sincere faith are in fact quite strong and resolute, maybe even the strongest of individuals. Faith can propel a person forward against all odds and carry them through the storm of failure and discouragement. They may act against practical thinking and pragmatic theories, but they don’t care. They have a drive in them that’s absolutely amazing, like Rocky Balboa in the boxing ring. And no matter what they’re facing, they see each situation as an opportunity.

I said I that in the hearts of the willing, faith can lead to achievements of mythic proportions. Because of my own faith, I knew I was learning to pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep going in tough times. “Yes,” I told him, “I lean on my faith, because I’m weaker on my own.”

The next time I saw Jason, he asked me something I didn’t want to answer, and it was pretty big. This was really the last major theme we discussed. (Everything afterward was mostly a rehash of ideas we’d already covered.) Jason asked why I found the Christian faith and philosophy more interesting than any other. Why did I think it was true?

That was a hard one. Not that I didn’t know, but I knew my answer would be kind of polarizing.

Next time, I told him I wasn’t interested in religion, specifically. What was compelling to me was the spirituality Jesus spoke of, and the context for it he created. What Jesus said was relational, making it different from the systems our World Religions class revealed, which were legalistic (working our way into heaven) or fatalistic (you’re doomed no matter what you do in life). I understood that Jesus wanted to spend eternity with me, and even go with me through this life, just because he loves me. There’s nothing I have to do to earn his love, and I can do nothing to drive it away. All I had to do was sincerely believe.

This gave me a sense of value. My parents had separated when I was young, and growing up I never felt particularly valuable or valued; I pretty much felt like an inconvenience, like something disposable. That always loomed over me. But what Jesus said finally washed all that away. He gave me a blank page, a new beginning, a reason to set some goals and even dream a little, because my life mattered. My future did too.

It also challenged me about growing, being continually willing to stretch myself. I already didn’t like some things I was turning into. I was developing some addictive habits, had a tendency to get angry, and was typically negative and pessimistic. Reading the words of Jesus, I decided he wanted me to never be too impressed with myself. He challenged me somehow to question the status quo, reach beyond my limitations, and test my potential.

Just think, I told Jason, about those first twelve followers of Jesus. They were a rag-tag team of misfits. Many were rough and working class. Some were even hated for their professions. They were just average people, not particularly gifted or successful. No fame, power, position, or influence to speak of.

At first, this discouraged Jason’s view of the Christian faith, as if those men weren’t qualified to represent God. He even wondered why Jesus would pick them.

But look at the flip side, I told him. God didn’t want perfect people, just willing people. And when Jesus said, “Follow me,” they did. And because of those devoted misfits, we’re still talking about Jesus two thousand years later. He continues to be the most influential person in history because of that handful of failures and undesirables who found value and purpose and were willing to challenge the possibilities, even the threat of death, in those early days of the Christian faith. And that’s what Jesus wanted me to do — to keep going, to keep growing, to keep reaching forward.

I also mentioned how Jesus inspired me. Sometimes life just plain sucks; we can’t control it, and there’s no way to change our surroundings. The only thing that helps is a little comfort as we wade through all the garbage. Jesus gave me that comfort in the form of hope. He said his spirit would be inside my heart during those times to comfort me. There was something to look forward to, the promise of a better day. This helped me endure whatever situation I might be facing. To me, that’s really what hope is.

I’d become convinced that a life without hope is no life at all. Life had proven to be filled with so many personal failures and overall difficulties. Life was hard way more than it was easy. And when people lose hope (which is easy to do) — nothing to live for or look forward to — it seems like something dies inside.

I ended by saying I think we all want something more in our lives than to just exist. My faith gave me this — a sense of value, a reason to dream, a reason to grow and become a better person, and hope to inspire me.

The Deciding Factor

It was amazing. The next time I saw Jason, he said something I never expected. After our months and months of talking, he said he was totally convinced that what I’d discovered was true. I couldn’t believe it! But he also said he wasn’t ready to make the change and decide just yet. He had to think it through a little more to be fully convinced. I didn’t really understand that, but I gave him some space.

That’s where we pretty much left things. From then on, I decided to let him initiate any spiritual-type conversations.

It became awkward when I saw him. It was as if he was avoiding talking to me on a deeper level. We mainly talked about what was going on with him, and it wasn’t pretty. To get through it, I thought he needed faith more than anything. I wanted him to experience some of the peace, contentment, purpose, and clarity I’d begun to have. But I didn’t press it. I wanted to, but he was becoming distant, so I wanted to give him some room. I knew he had to make the connection himself. We’d spent a year building our friendship, and I didn’t want to ruin it by being overly enthusiastic and appear like I had some agenda (though in a way I did, but for a good reason).

Jason always had a hard time at home. His dad was never around. As a result, his mom looked to him for everything. She turned her relationship with him into some warped kind of husband-friend-son combination. He had to do everything around the house, help with the bills, and listen to all her woes and somehow fix them. It had been like this for a long time, and it got to be too much. He had to get out.

That’s about the time our conversations became shallow. He moved in with a friend who had an apartment with his girlfriend. Jason slept on their couch, but I think it was an improvement.

Things were better for a while, but then got worse. Jason’s mom wouldn’t leave him alone. She called him and showed up at his job. She told him how much he let her down and what a jerk and failure he was, and how worthless he was to leave her just like his dad did.

Jason finally decided to make another change.

I hadn’t seen him at school for a couple weeks. This wasn’t completely unusual, since we both had jobs, papers, and projects to balance. Plus, since Jason wasn’t living at home, it was hard to phone him. (Not everyone had cell phones back then; they were the size of a brick and really expensive.) Finally I asked another friend if he’d seen him. He hadn’t, but he knew where he was. He told me the story someone else told him.

One day Jason quit his job, withdrew from school, closed his bank account, and left a note to explain everything for his roommates and the rest of us. When the roommates came back late that night, they found the note on the coffee table. It was right in front of Jason’s couch, where his dead body was lying. He’d purchased a gun with his last dollars and killed himself.

I was devastated.

Then, there we were again, like back in high school, in a mutual social function. Except that this one was a funeral. Jason’s mom even read his suicide letter aloud. She was emotional and weeping and seemed strangely ambivalent to the parts in it related to her. It was uncomfortable, and I just wanted to leave. It was one of the saddest moments I’ve ever been part of. It was so empty and hopeless, and I felt partly responsible in some way. If only Jason and I could have had one more talk.

I know it’s a heavy story. Jason had a big affect on me, and his story is part of my story. He challenged what I believed and caused me to really examine it. And he also helped me learn one last lesson in his final act: Everyone has made a decision about God. Even the atheist or agnostic decides something. Even no decision is a decision.

I just wish my friend had made the decision I wanted him to make.

When Jason and I had talked, I never wanted to be overly enthusiastic and press too hard and turn him off. I always wondered, how far is too far? When do conversations on faith become pushy and self-defeating rather than healthy and productive discourse on important spiritual issues with eternal consequences? It’s a balance I still struggle with today when talking to friends, family, or people I meet or work with. Most of the time I choose to opt out of those conversations so I can seem more normal. That bothers me, because no one’s guaranteed another day. You never know about tomorrow.

As I’ve come to understand my faith’s value, it has become clear that faith is the reason good times are better, while it makes hard times livable. I think that’s essentially the promise God does make to humanity as we have faith in him — that he’s still with us regardless of how we feel. It’s a compelling promise, and I still trust in it.

Don’t get me wrong, I still doubt from time to time. But I think it’s normal to doubt. In fact, I don’t even view it as the opposite of faith. Some think it is, but that’s unfair. In the same way that caution isn’t always the opposite of risk, or fear isn’t the opposite of courage, doubt is not the opposite of faith. They can both be present at the same time. There’s always a measure of caution balancing a risky decision. There’s also a sense of fear to sober us as we advance in a courageous endeavor. And there’s always a sense of doubt that tests and purifies my faith as I step forward with it. I just believe what Jesus said is true.

To me, faith is the unknown revealed and explained. Having faith may seem irrational to you — and I assure you, it is. With faith it’s strangely possible to acknowledge the unexplained, face it, embrace it, and move forward. It’s not mindless devotion to antiquated ideas or benevolent ideals, but a calculated conclusion in the light of present reality: There’s more unknown than known. It’s a coming to terms with the mystery of life. It’s the strength to keep a conviction when surrounded by questions. It’s discovering twenty variables and one truth, then holding to that truth regardless of the present ambiguities. It can go against better judgment and modern thought, while being the wiser approach.

My faith is still a mystery in many ways, which drives me insanely crazy, but I also know it’s the one thing that’s true.

Maybe that’s my home run.

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All About Me: An Interview with Deena Peterson

Visit A Peek at My Bookshelf to learn more about me. Deena Peterson posed twenty tough questions for me to answer. It took me a while, but I answered them all and I hope you learn something new. Happy reading! While you’re at it, read some of her book reviews; Peterson has great insight.

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Raising Godly Children in an Ungodly World: FIRST Wild Card Tour

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Raising Godly Children in an Ungodly World

New Leaf Publishing Group/Master Books (September 2, 2008)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ken Ham is the founder and executive director of Answers in Genesis in the USA and one of the most sought-after Christian speakers in North America. He is also the author or co-author of many books, including The Lie: Evolution, The Genesis Solution, Genesis and the Decay of the Nations, What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs?, A is for Adam, D is for Dinosaur, Creation Evangelism for the New Millennium (now called Why Won’t They Listen?), and One Blood: The Biblical Answer to Racism.

Visit the author’s website.

Steve Ham, brother of Ken Ham and the youngest of six Ham children, is the founder and director of Growth Point Financial Ministries, an Australian charitable organization. Steve is married to his wife, Trisha, and is the father of two. He is also coauthor of Answers for Life.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: New Leaf Publishing Group/Master Books (September 2, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0890515425
ISBN-13: 978-0890515426

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

dead men

do tell tales

with Ken Ham

. . . the righteous shall be in

everlasting remembrance

(Ps. 112:6; NKJV).

legacy (lěg´e-sē) n. Something handed down, by one who has gone before in the past, and left to those in the present and future.

There is a saying, one that we have gathered from the legends of the Wild West, which says “Dead men tell no tales.” The saying implies that the knowledge and influence of the deceased goes with them to the grave, never to be heard from again. I find that not to be the case! Dead men do tell tales. If you ever take a walk around the small English town of Bedford, as I have, you will quickly see what I mean.

Bedford was the hometown of John Bunyan, author of the still very popular Pilgrim’s Progress, now in its 400th year of printing.1 The day I walked around the town, I saw reminders of John Bunyan everywhere — the site of the jail where he spent many years imprisoned, the site of the house in which he was raised, his statue in the town square, the church he preached at in later life with a museum of many of his personal items, and the church where he was baptized in 1628. Bedford even has a pub called “Pilgrim’s Progress Pub!” (I’m sure John Bunyan would love to know he had a pub named after his famous book!)

Something really hit me as I walked around Bedford. As I thought about the life of John Bunyan and how he was persecuted and jailed for preaching the Word of God, I wondered about what happened to those responsible for his persecution and jailing. There was no mention of any of Bunyan’s enemies in Bedford. In fact, in the large graveyard of the church where Bunyan rang the church bell as a child, I saw many very old gravestones. It is certainly possible that some of these gravestones stand on the graves of Bunyan’s persecutors. However, these gravestones were so eroded that the names had disappeared. Whoever these people were, their memory has all but gone. As I looked at these nameless gravestones, Proverbs 10:7 came to mind:

The memory of the righteous is blessed, But the name of the wicked will rot.

Certainly, this is the case in Bedford. The man who stood for the authority of the Word of God is remembered. The memory of those who opposed Bunyan has disappeared into oblivion. Bunyan and his books (particularly Pilgrim’s Progress) live on in the memories of people all over the world and in the printed pages that still come off the printing presses today. Yes, “The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.”

A very similar type of situation exists in the town of Worms, Germany. My wife, Mally, and I walked around this town, finding many memorials to the memory of Martin Luther, the great reformer who started the Reformation in 1517.2 There were various statues, plaques, and other markers that told the story of Martin Luther. I even had the awesome opportunity to stand at the very place where it is believed Luther stood when he was purported to have uttered these now famous words:

Here I stand [on Scripture]. I can do no other.

God help me! Amen.

I must admit, tingles went down my spine as I stood there and contemplated the life of a man who started a movement that has affected the world for the Lord to this day.

Again, I didn’t see any memorials to all of those who opposed Luther. They aren’t remembered in Worms; the memory of those who persecuted him is all but lost. Luther — the man who stood for the authority of the Word of God — is remembered, and his legacy continues to have great impact on the world today . . . even among those who don’t know his name. The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance; but unfortunately, the unrighteous can still make an everlasting impact as they forge legacies of an entirely different kind.

If you walk the streets of Shrewsbury, England, you will find memorials to another man of great influence — memorials quite similar to those left for Bunyan and Luther. There is a statue outside his school and a sign outside of the home of his birth, noting the date of February 12, 1809. This is the birthdate of Charles Darwin, who at the age of 50 would publish On the Origin of Species. Throughout the town a similar pride is felt and is reflected in the names of many locations: Darwin Gardens, Darwin Terrace, Darwin Street, and Darwin Shopping Center.

There are similarities in the memorials to these three men, but the legacies they left behind could not be more different. Darwin proposed that “life” can be explained without God. By concluding that a supposed link between ape and man meant that there is no God (as detailed in his subsequent book, The Descent of Man), his ideas left humanity to decide right or wrong on their own, to write their own rules and do their own thing, following whatever seems best in their own eyes.

The implications of Darwin’s legacy are far-reaching. He paved the way for moral relativism, and fueled racism (claiming that blacks, aborigines, and others are inferior, less-evolved races.) His ideas have also fueled the abortion industry, leading to the conclusion that an unborn child is nothing more than a lump of cells (or just an animal) and that a woman has the right to kill it if she so chooses. The ideas of Darwin even paved the way for Hitler, who used them to justify the extermination of those he considered less than ideal — resulting in the mass murder of millions of Jews, gypsies, and others. His ideas have contributed to the erosion of the family, educational institutions, the decay of the legal system, and have led to great compromise in the Church.

To see evolutionary measures and

tribal morality being applied rigorously

to the affairs of a great modern nation

we must turn again to Germany of 1942.

We see Hitler devoutly convinced that

evolution provides the only real

basis for a national policy.3

One of the students involved in the Columbine (Colorado) school shootings wore a T-shirt with “natural selection” written on it. The more students are told they are just animals, and have evolved by natural processes — the more they will begin to act consistently with this view of origins. As generations are trained to believe there is no God, thus no absolute authority, then there is no basis for determining right and wrong — moral relativism will pervade the culture.

The late Dr. Carl Sagan and his wife Ann Druyan wrote an article that appeared in Parade Magazine, April 22, 1990, using the fraudulent idea of emybronic recapitulation popularized by Ernst Haeckel (the false idea that when an embryo develops in its mother’s womb it goes through a fish stage, etc., reflecting its evolutionary history, until it becomes human) to justify abortion. They claimed the embryo wasn’t really human until about the sixth month.

I’ve heard of girls who were told by an abortion clinic that what was in their womb was in the fish stage of evolution, thus they could abort it. A false view of origins leads to terrible consequences.

For example, families are breaking apart due to evolutionary views of unborn children as nothing but animals, and subsequent abortions that result. School shootings such as those at Columbine High School are prevalent among secular schools, because students view other students as animals. The ideas of Darwin are having an effect throughout the culture.

This is the Darwinian legacy: A false idea that has led to the destruction of the authority of the Word of God in our modern age. He popularized a philosophy that has convinced others that the Bible is not true, that everything is the result of random natural process, and that we are little more than animals; free to decide as we are bidden to decide.

Two signs outside of the Shrewsbury Unitarian Church speak for themselves. The first proudly proclaims:

Charles Darwin worshiped here

when he was young.

The second church sign, permanently etched as a motto to be seen by all who pass by, gives a clear indication of the legacy behind which the legacy of Darwin emerged:

No one has the only truth, this we believe.

Not a Question of “If”

Luther, Bunyan, and Darwin; these three men left two entirely different kinds of legacy. Each legacy continues to impact the world in different ways. Let there be no doubt: A legacy is a very, very powerful thing. Let there be no doubt about this either: You too will leave a legacy. Truly, it’s not a question of if you will leave a legacy, it is only a matter of what kind. Long after your body is laid to rest, the impact of your life will continue to spread throughout your community and your world. Never forget that your legacy will be felt most strongly by those closest to you: your family.

Your family desperately needs you to stand up and lead, because the world is drawing them in all the wrong directions. Statistics indicate that around 90 percent4 of the children from church homes attend public schools in America. Sadly, statistics indicate that seven out of ten of such students will walk away from the church after their senior high years.5

America is said to have been the greatest Christian nation on earth. This country has the world’s greatest number of Christian bookshops, Christian radio stations, churches, seminaries, and Christian and Bible colleges. It is inundated with all of the best Christian resources available, yet America is becoming less Christian every day . . . and many Christian parents are heartbroken to see their children move toward the world and away from the church.

Dads and moms are crying out for answers, and teachers are becoming increasingly concerned by the rebellious attitudes, lack of politeness, and vanishing Christian morals they see, even in “church kids.” Barna Research found that only nine percent of teens who call themselves “born-again Christians” believe in absolute moral truth.6 Family breakups, even among those calling themselves Christian, are startlingly common.7

What are the problems? What are the solutions? Are there answers that will deal with the heart of the problems and provide real solutions? Christian and secular books about the family and raising children abound, yet the questions continue. How should children be raised in today’s world? How can a family produce godly offspring dedicated to the Lord? What methods of discipline should be used in bringing up children? Should Christian children be kept in public schools to witness to others, or is Christian or home schooling a necessity? How can Christianity be made relevant to the younger generations?

The list of questions goes on and on, and the Christian family of today is deeply struggling to find answers. I believe there are answers — but I want to warn you that they may challenge your comfort zone, and they may go contrary to what is “acceptable” in your community. The answers may be labeled as “offensive” to those who are more worried about political correctness than righteousness.

Before you can even begin to search out and apply the answers, an even more fundamental question must be answered:

What kind of legacy do you intend to leave?

What type of memorials might be

left in your remembrance?

Can I humbly suggest that you can leave a memorial that can affect the world as Luther and Bunyan did? Many of you reading this might be saying, “Give me a break! They were great and now very famous men. They deserve such memorials, but I’ll never have statues or other memorials built in my memory. I’m not going to be famous like them.”

I disagree with that kind of thinking. You have no idea how God might choose to use you or your children or your children’s children. You must understand that God’s Word gives us the foundation from which we can do our best to build the right structure in our families. God’s Word (not your own wisdom or strength) is the basis of a godly legacy. The Bible alone is living and active, and able to divide and judge correctly, and its principles can lead to astounding results.

If you are going to leave a legacy like Bunyan or Luther, you are going to have to decide to go against the flow, because the flow of the world today is leading to decay, death, and even hell. Each of us has a personal choice to make regarding the future of our family. Will we lead into a legacy of life and freedom based on the Word of God, or will we lead our families into a legacy of relativism and death, as did Darwin?

The question is not rhetorical, but immensely practical, affecting everything that you might do and everything you might be. The type of legacy you choose will most likely have great impact on your community, your world, and, most graphically, your family. Which will it be? Will you lead your family into a legacy of truth, life, and freedom based on the Word of God, or will you lead your family into a legacy of relativism, bondage, and death, as did Darwin? It’s a decision each one of us must make. I know, I had to do it myself and it was a critical decision in my ongoing journey for truth and answers.

When I started high school, I eagerly looked forward to my science lessons. However, I was perplexed when the teacher taught that humans evolved from “ape-men,” and that animals had evolved over millions of years. My textbooks laid out what claimed to be convincing proof that we progressed from molecules to man without any outside influence. I was further taught ideas on how the universe had formed — but they all involved naturalistic processes. God wasn’t involved at all. They claimed that everything somehow exploded out of nothing all by itself, and they made it all sound so “scientific.” Everything I was taught about the origin of matter, life, and man conflicted with what my parents had taught me from the Bible. How was I to resolve this?

I sat down with my father and asked him to help me sort this out. Sadly, at that time there were no books or other resources that we were aware of that dealt with the creation/evolution issue. Certainly, none were readily available to us in Australia at that time. (When I look at all the resources available today, I often think back to this time in my life and realize how blessed people are today.)

From a scientific perspective, my father could not refute the supposed ape-men fossils, or the billions of years of evolution, or the supposed “big-bang” history of the universe. He wasn’t a scientist and he didn’t understand where these ideas had come from. Although my father had lots of answers in many areas where secular ideas contradicted Scripture, in this area of origins, he just didn’t have a defense — he didn’t even know where to start.

I completed high school, rejecting molecules-to-man evolution as a philosophy, but I didn’t have any solid scientific answers to defend my position. I was concerned about this, but my father’s words kept ringing in my ears:

Even if we can’t find an answer to explain why

the secular idea is wrong, we need to continue

to search and wait for the answer.

During my college years while studying for my science degree, I was bombarded with evolutionary ideas in biology, geology, and other subject areas. I still had no scientific response to what I was being taught, so I just lived with the dilemma — though I recognized that sooner or later I had to sort this out in some way. As I studied, however, I did observe that my textbooks and professors did not have convincing evidence for Darwinian evolution or the supposed billions of years for the age of the earth. I recognized there were numerous assumptions behind the various interpretations of fossil bones and the supposed long ages attributed to them, but I really wanted some answers.

Somehow, a little booklet that dealt with the creation/evolution issue from a biblical perspective came into my possession. As I read through this booklet, one particular section stood out from all the others. The author stated that from a biblical perspective, there could not have been death and bloodshed of animals and man before sin, since this would destroy the foundations of the gospel. As I thought about this something really hit me between the eyes: A Christian can’t consistently accept the idea of an earth that is billions of years old (with its supposed millions of years of layers of fossils that we know contain evidence of cancer and other diseases in bones), and accept the statements concerning sin and death in the Bible. Over the years, we have certainly developed such arguments to a much more sophisticated level, but the respect I had for the authority of the Word as instilled in me by my father caused me to recognize the vital importance of this death issue.

This small booklet gave me a number of biblical arguments about why Christians can’t accept molecules-to-man evolution and the Bible’s record of origins at the same time. For example, Darwinian evolution teaches man evolved from ape-like ancestors, but the Bible teaches Adam was created from dust and Eve was created from his side. Thus, there is no way one can consistently reconcile the Genesis account of the creation of man (if one takes it at face value) with the Darwinian account. These explanations sustained me for some time.

As the years progressed, the Lord confirmed in my thinking that it was important to wait for answers, just as my father had trained me. I learned to continue in heartfelt faith, based on what God said in His Word, in spite of a lack of understanding. Passages from Job have helped me considerably in dealing with secular ideas and secular interpretations of evidence when they conflict with what the Word of God says:

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding (Job 38:4).

Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:1–6; NKJV).

God aggressively quizzes Job through chapters 38 to 42, asking him questions about various animals and other aspects of the earth and universe that Job cannot possibly answer. “Job, were you there when I made the earth? Do you know this? What about this, Job? Do you understand that? How much do you know about this?” At the end of God’s inquisition, Job falls down in dust and ashes, basically saying, “I give up Lord — compared to You I know nothing.”

Psalm 147:5 reminds us that “Great is our Lord, and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.” It is absolutely impossible that we should understand everything . . . yet God does, and for the time being, He has given us all the answers we need for a big-picture understanding of life and the universe in His holy and perfect Bible.

My father’s words echoed the truth of the Job passages. To this day, I often remember one of the things my father taught me: If the Bible can’t be trusted in one area, how can it be trusted anywhere else? Dad clearly understood the importance of not compromising God’s Word with man’s fallible ideas . . . and he taught me to do the same. Looking back on this time, I can’t help but think of Proverbs 2:3–6:

Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, And find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding (NKJV).

So, as I prayed for answers, I held to my faith in a vacuum of scientific evidence. Still, I felt the conflict between what I thought was “science” and my faith. (I found out later that there is a big difference between “observational science” which we all agree with, and “historical science” which involves the scientist’s beliefs about the past.) I really wanted to honor God’s Word and find the answers that would validate what I believed to be true. I needed some scientific answers to sort this out; but where would I find them? While I didn’t know it at the time, God was working in a special way to provide them for me.

God heard my earnest prayers. In 1974, during my post-graduate year, I mentioned the creation/evolution issue and my dilemma to a friend. He told me about a book that had been published in America which gave lots of scientific answers concerning geology and Noah’s flood. Where would I obtain such a book? I traveled into the city of Brisbane to visit the only Christian bookstore I was aware of. It was on the second floor of an old building — not very easy to find. When I described this book on the Flood to the woman looking after the store, she immediately went and found a copy of The Genesis Flood by Morris and Whitcomb. (I still have this first major creation book that began my creation library.)

As I read the book, I found so many answers to questions about dating methods, rock layers, fossils, and many other aspects of the creation/evolution issue. I was so excited! They were answers that made sense and clearly showed that observational science confirmed the Bible’s account of creation and the Flood. (Even though some of the arguments in this book are now out of date, subsequent research built on this publication has only reinforced the overwhelming evidence that confirms the Bible’s account of history in Genesis.) My eyes were opened and I began to understand the nature of the scientific arguments concerning the origins issue for the first time. I clearly remember smiling and thinking, Once again my father’s stand on the Scripture has been vindicated — and once again God’s infallible Word has judged the pretense of the evolutionists and the compromise of liberal theologians.

Almost 30 years later, while visiting a particular tourist attraction in Brisbane, an elderly lady recognized me and approached me. As we talked, I realized that she and her husband had owned the Christian bookstore where I purchased The Genesis Flood. I explained to her that this was the first major creation book I had obtained, and that it was an integral part of my journey through life. I shared with her that the Lord used that one book to begin a creation ministry in Australia, then Answers in Genesis in the United States, and now many other parts of the world.

She became very excited and told me that her husband had had a real interest in science, the Bible, and the creation/evolution issue. He had such a burden that he made sure he had a copy of The Genesis Flood in his bookshop after he found out about it. That book was there on the shelf waiting for me to purchase it.

Soon, I took the book to my father saying, “Dad, I’ve found many answers to the creation/evolution issue! Observational science does confirm the Genesis account!” To this day, I can still picture that smile on his face as he flipped through the pages. He so loved the Word of God and was so thrilled to have adequate answers to uphold God’s Word in Genesis. If my father had compromised his stand on the Word before he had the evidence to confirm its authority, I don’t believe I would be writing this book or be involved in active ministry today. Thankfully, my father’s faith held, and he chose to act on it. In the process, he began a legacy of worldwide influence that neither of us dreamed possible — not from a no-name bunch of outback Australians at least!

****

In a public cemetery in the city of Brisbane, Australia, stands a particular gravestone. The marker is not outstanding in any sense; it is not in any prominent place, nor do tourists gather at this spot. Throughout the city of Brisbane there are neither statues nor memorials in memory of the man whose body rests below the marker.

As one among the thousands of other gravestones, this marker is not easy to find. Unless you were specifically looking for it, there would be no reason to even think about searching for it, or to think it should be noteworthy from all the others, but it is noteworthy to me — even more than those of Luther and Bunyan. The words on this gravestone are few and simple:

In loving memory of HAM, Mervyn Alfred

who passed into the presence of the Lord on 9th June, 1995

Aged 66 years

“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain”

Forever Loved

No signs, no statues, no museum. Our dad, together with our precious and godly mother, will be remembered by memorials of a different kind . . . memorials that will stand into eternity, long after the plaques and portraits of others have fallen. Mum and Dad produced six living memorials in their children, and we, in turn, are now creating a godly inheritance to leave to our children. By the grace of God it will be a godly legacy that will teach and remind people for generations to come about the authority of the Word of God and the saving mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

A rag-tag bunch we are, dented and tainted by our own sin. We all have our struggles and battles with the old nature, but we praise the Lord for the godly parents to whom we were entrusted to be trained for our ministries in this world and the next.

Understanding the sovereignty of God, I know I would not be in this ministry if it wasn’t for the upbringing my parents gave me. They set the example as dedicated and humble Christians who intentionally sought to raise a godly family that would evangelize the lost in an ungodly world. The Answers in Genesis ministry is itself a memorial to my parents and the legacy they began in our lives and in our world.

Please understand that you too will leave a legacy to the generations to follow. They may not build memorials to you and it’s unlikely that they will place signs outside of the place of your birth . . . but what you leave behind will forever impact the hearts and souls of those in your family and beyond. You will leave a legacy; the only question is what kind of legacy will it be. May you recognize from this day forward one certain thing: The foundation of a legacy worth leaving is made up of a faith in God, and a trust in His Holy Word. All we have to build will either stand or fall on this foundation.

Consider this question: What will your children say about you when you die? When your days are done, what kind of legacy will live on in those you touched? Most importantly, will the Lord say “Well done, good and faithful servant”? (Matt. 25:21;NKJV).

Key thoughts from this chapter:

1. Everyone leaves a legacy. The only question is what kind of legacy it will be.

2. A godly legacy is built on the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.

3. A godly legacy begins with a decision, and may require waiting for answers to certain questions.

4. Leaving a legacy is a big deal. Our children, grandchildren, and the world will be eternally impacted by it.

Questions to consider:

1. Has your community been more influenced by legacies like Bunyan’s and Luther’s, or have the people around you been more influenced by legacies like the one left by Darwin?

2. What type of legacy did you inherit from your family?

3. Have you ever made a firm decision to leave a godly legacy for your family and your world? If not, please consider doing so now. Your decision will make an eternal difference.

Resources and tools:

John C. Whitcomb Jr., and Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co., 1961).

Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993).

Greg Bahnsen, Always Ready (Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 2004).

Brian Edwards, Nothing but the Truth (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2006).

Endnotes

1. The Pilgrim’s Progress was published in 1678.

2. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

3. Arthur Keith, Evolution and Ethics (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1947), p. 28.

4. Daniel J. Smithwick, “Teachers, Curriculum, Control: A ‘World’ of Difference in Public and Private Schools,” Nehemiah Institute, Inc., Lexington, KY, 1999, p. 11.

5. T.C. Pinckney, “We Are Losing Our Children,” Remarks to Southern Baptists Convention Executive Committee, September 18, 2001.

George Barna, Real Teens (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2001), p. 136, states: “If we apply a ‘correction factor’ to these responses, we would estimate that about one out of three [nearly 30%] teenagers is likely to attend a Christian church after they leave home.”

Barna Research Online, “Teenagers Embrace Religion but Are Not Excited About Christianity,” January 10, 2000, http://www.barna.org/cgi-bin/PagePressRelease.asp?PressReleaseID=45&Reference=D – states: “When asked to estimate the likelihood that they will continue to participate in church life once they are living on their own, levels dip precipitously to only about one of every three teens.”

6. Barna Research Online, “The Year’s Most Intriguing Findings, from Barna Research Studies,” December 12, 2000, http://www.barna.org/cgibin/PagePressRelease.asp?PressReleaseID=77&Reference=E&Key=moral%20truth.

7. Barna Research Online, “The Year’s Most Intriguing Findings, from Barna Research Studies,’ December 12, 2000, http://www.barna.org/cgi-bin/PagePressRelease.asp?PressReleaseID=77&Reference=E&Key=divorce. “Born-again adults are more likely to experience a divorce than are non-born again adults (27% vs. 24%).”

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Crazy Horse Steakhouse and Saloon–Holland, Michigan

A friend said to me on Twitter using Brightkite, “This place has mashed sweet potatoes.” I had to visit Crazy Horse Steakhouse and Saloon. I walked in and my jaw dropped.

The interior was entirely decorated to be representative of the days of saloons. I stared in amazement at the wagon wheel transformed into light fixture. There are signed dollar bills tacked to the wooden trimmed walls. This isn’t just a destination for tourists. I went in the middle of the week for lunch and the parking lot was packed.

I ordered the Sirloin Steak Combo, steak & chicken with choice of potato. I, of course, chose mashed sweet potatoes topped with pecans. After all, is there a better potato?

The steak was medium with no juices spilling all over the plate because the meat rested. I have come to appreciate chefs who ensure meat is well-rested before serving. It’s easy to rush food when there’s a hungry mob waiting outside. After eating 6-oz of sirloin, I had 6-oz unseasoned chicken. It wasn’t anything to write home about but it wasn’t tough which is a problem at even the fanciest chicken-serving restaurants in town.

These mashed sweet potatoes were like candied sweet potatoes only mashed and without marshmallows. Sweet may be in this bright orange tuber’s name but it is not sublimely delicious until a spoonful of sugar is added.

From the hostess to the server, everyone was exceptionally friendly and patient. When I told the hostess, some more people were joining us later, she did not ask for the whole table to arrive to be seated. She took down the person’s name and ours so the group could be united. We all ordered quickly except my one friend who has dietary restrictions. She had to be patient to take his order; he did a lot of hemming and hawing and finally made his own concoction. I even sent him the menu ahead of time.

Located on 2027 North Park Drive in Holland, Michigan this is a festive place for a large group to have a good ol’ hoe down. Just call ahead at 616-395-8393. The saloon opens at 11AM on Monday through Saturday.

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Milk Money: FIRST Wild Card Tour

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Milk Money (Maryland Wedding Series #2)

Barbour Publishing, Inc (2008)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Cecelia Dowdy is a world traveler who has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember. When she first read Christian fiction, she felt called to write for the genre.She loves to read, write, and bake desserts in her spare time. Currently she resides with her husband and young son in Maryland.

Visit the author’s website and blog.

Product Details:

Mass Market Paperback: 170 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602602557
ISBN-13: 978-1602602557

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Dumbfounded, the accountant gazed at a cow giving birth. He dropped his briefcase when he saw the feet of the baby sticking out of the mother’s canal. A rope was looped around the legs of the young animal, and a brown-skinned woman pulled so hard that the muscles in her slender arms flexed. Her eyes squeezed shut while she grunted, reminding him of the noises people made when they bench-pressed weights.

She opened her eyes.

“Casey, hold on,” she cooed. When he watched the birth, his sour stomach worsened, and the bagel and cream cheese he’d managed to eat for breakfast felt like a dead weight in his belly. Her tears mingled with the sweat rolling down her face. She continued to pull and glanced in his direction. “Oh, thank God you came. Come and help me.”

A plethora of unfamiliar scents tingled his nose. He swallowed, losing his voice. What was he supposed to do? She continued to look at him, pulling on the rope periodically.

“I already left a message on your answering service that it was coming out backward.” Pushing the door open, he entered the room adjoining the barn, still hoping he wouldn’t throw up. She nodded toward the rope, still tugging. “With both of us pulling, maybe we’ll be able to get the calf out.”

“Okay.” He swallowed his nausea and pulled, mimicking the way he used to grunt when bench-pressing heavy weights. He followed her example, keeping tension on the rope and pulling each time the cow had a contraction. She grunted also, and their noises continued until the calf exited the birth canal minutes later. She dropped the rope, and he rushed behind her to look at the young animal. He touched the newborn,

awed by the birth. She glanced at him as she cleaned gunk off the calf ’s nose and mouth.

Her sigh filled the space when she noticed the animal was breathing. “Aren’t you going to examine the cow and calf?”

Before he could respond, a young man holding a large black plastic tote entered the pen. “This the Cooper farm?”

Confusion marred her face when she glanced at Frank. Then she focused on the new arrival. The newcomer rushed to the baby cow and began examining it. “I’m Dr. Lindsey’s son. I’m taking over my daddy’s practice this week since he’s on vacation. He told you that, didn’t he?”

She nodded, still looking confused. “I left a message on your answering service earlier.”

The vet grunted. “I was down the street at the horse farm helping out with another birth, so I couldn’t leave.”

“Are the cow and calf okay?”

“They both look fine.” He stopped his examination and looked at them. “I’m glad you had somebody helping you. You might not have gotten him out in time if you’d been pulling him on your own.” He pulled a tool out of his bag. “You have antibiotic on hand for the calf, right? If not, I’ve got some.”

The attractive woman nodded, her dark hair clinging to her sweaty neck as she promised the vet she would give the new calf the medicine. Frank watched, mesmerized by the whole process. A short time later, the newborn nursed from the mother. “Thank you, doctor,” said the woman, patting the man on the shoulder.

The doctor shook his head, placing his tools back into his bag. “Don’t thank me. You two got him out in time.” He told Emily he would send her the bill, and then he left the farm.

Emily glanced at Frank, as if taking in his khaki slacks and oxford shirt. Noticing his bloody hands, she beckoned him over to a room containing a sink and a large steel tank. After ripping off the long plastic gloves covering her hands and forearms

and dropping them into the trash can, she turned the water on, pumped out several squirts of soap, and washed. “I thought you were the vet,” she said, continuing to scrub her hands and forearms. “I’ve never met Dr. Lindsey’s son, so that’s why I

assumed you were him.” After rinsing, she pulled paper towels from a dispenser and gestured for Frank to use the sink.

Frank shrugged and walked to the sink, placing his hands under the running water. “Sorry. I helped you out, but I didn’t have any idea if I was doing it right. It’s probably good I showed up when I did. It looked like you’d been trying to help

that cow for a long time.”

She shook her head. “Cows are tough. They can be in labor for hours before giving birth. When you came, I’d just started pulling the calf out with the rope.” She continued to stare, frowning. “Well, if you’re not Dr. Lindsey’s son, then who are

you?”

He offered his recently washed hand, glad the nauseous feeling had evaporated from his stomach. “I’m Franklin Reese, Certified Public Accountant.”

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