Monday, February 26

A Best-Seller!

It’s not often that I ever make it onto a bestseller list--much less to the top of one! In fact, I don’t think I’ve had a number one since Grand Illusions very briefly made it to the top of the CBA non-fiction list nearly two decades ago! My book on the ACLU made it all the way to number nine once. The first edition of Blood of the Moon just barely broke into the top twenty-five. And some sixty book later, that’s been pretty much it. Until now.

This week The Patriot’s Handbook (the first edition was released over a decade ago and the second edition was released a little over three years ago) made it to the top of the WorldNetDaily bestseller list. OK, I know. So, this is not exactly the sort of thing that is going to make headlines anywhere (except here, I guess). Still, it is more than a little gratifying. Woohoo!

Saturday, February 24

What I'm Reading



Fountain Pens

Ever since I was in high school I have used fountain pens. As you can probably imagine, I have gone through quite an arsenal of them over the past three plus decades. And you might have guessed that I have come to have strong opinions about my favorites.

Montblanc’s Meisterstuck fountain pens are beautifully handcrafted (meisterstuck is the German word for masterpiece). They are made of black precious resin with gold trim and the finest, smoothest nibs available anywhere. Over the years I have owned a Diplomat (I still have it but hardly ever use it), a LeGrand (my favorite “good” pen), and a Chopin (alas, lost one dreary afternoon on the London Tube).


I have an interesting Montblanc LaBoheme also. Given to me in the exotic city of Jakarta, I always think of the East when I write with it.


When I want to write elegantly, I almost always reach for a Montblanc. But of course, I don't always want to write elegantly. Sometimes I am just dashing out ideas, scribbling notes, sketching furious impressions, or just making lists. For such pedestrian fare, I typically use a cheap, but fabulously well-designed, Lamy Safari (I have three or four of them).


Or sometimes, I will reach for the "best everyday pen ever made," the Waterman Philias (I have two).


The pen that I most miss using (I gave it away on a trip years ago) is the Cross Townsend. I have often thought about replacing it, but honestly, I have a hard time justifying actually buying these kinds of things.

I prefer a fine nib, though I tend to apply a good bit of pressure when I am first breaking in a pen to give it some "leading and kerning" depth. When I have to do a lot of correspondence or book signings though, I really enjoy the heft and breadth of a medium nib.

I know, I know, all this sounds terribly persnickety and peculiar. But, my pen is my "axe," my "tool box," my "instrument." And having a sharp axe or the right tool or a tuned instrument can make all the difference.

Wednesday, February 21

What I'm Reading




Moleskines

I would not want to have to do without my Moleskines. These are the legendary pocket-size notebooks used by artists and thinkers for the past two centuries--from Van Gogh and Picasso to Ernest Hemingway and Bruce Chatwin, from Charles Spurgeon and John Ruskin to Hilaire Belloc and John Buchan.

I’ve taken them all over the world and rarely am I without one (or two). I use the lined journal as well as the daily diary. I keep a few with watercolor-specific paper for sketching and drawing. And I've just discovered the new Moleskine City Guide Series (a combination journal and map book for cities like London, Vienna, and Prague).

I have stacks of old Moleskines--filled with random notes, outlines, lists, reviews, goals, agendas, piorities, quotes, squibbed ideas, and journal entries. And I always keep a few extras on hand--just in case. Nothing's better:




Tuesday, February 20

The Well-Read Traveler

Jay Parini is a novelist, poet, and professor of English at Middlebury College. His most recent collection of poetry is The Art of Subtraction (George Braziller). He is also a well-traveled bibliophile. You won’t want to miss his commentary in the Chronicle of Higher Education on what books to read while jetting around the globe.

It's About Time

The latest issue of Time Magazine has a long--and for Time, an almost fair--article about the quiet vanguard of the pro-life movement: local crisis pregnancy centers.

Upcoming Conferences

In the next few weeks I will be speaking at two conferences. The first is the Greenville Seminary Worldview Conference on March 13-15 at Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville, SC. Other speakers include Scott Oliphant, Anees Zaka, Gary DeMar and Joey Pipa. For more information visit the Greenville Seminary website

Karen and I will also be speaking at the PCA’s 2007 Mercy Ministry Conference April 20-22, 2007 in Atlanta. Other speakers include Phil Ryken, Diane Langberg, Randy Nabors, and March and Mariam Bell. For more information, visit the PCA website.

Monday, February 19

My Problem with G.K. Chesterton

My friend James Sauer writes, “I’ve got a problem with Chesterton. The problem is that I think he is a wonderful, wise, witty, and pious man; after reading his works, I never leave the page without feeling edified.”

So, “Why is that a problem?” you just might ask.

“Perhaps, the problem, if it is a problem,” Sauer responds, “isn’t in Chesterton, but in me.” You see, he explains, “I am a Protestant; but not just any Protestant. I am an American Evangelical Protestant. But there’s more. I am a Conservative, Capitalistic, Bible-thumping American Evangelical Protestant. And hold on to your seats folks, just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse; I must confess, I am also a Calvinist. We all have our crosses to bear.”

OK. So far, so good. But then, Sauer gets to the sticky part, “Anyone who is familiar with the writings of Chesterton will see the great irony in my situation. I can only ask you not to blame me for this state of affairs, I didn’t choose to be elected; it was irresistible grace. I was predestined for Presbyterianism. But since I have received this unmerited favor of God, I might as well enjoy it. I can only thank my Sovereign Maker for His predestination. Not only did He choose me to be among his chosen people, but He also destined me to be among that other elect who have had the privilege of meeting through literature the great mind and good heart of Gilbert Keith Chesterton.”

I could not agree more. That is why I have been reading--and collecting--the works of G.K. Chesterton for more than 20 years now. I have a whole section of my home library exclusively devoted to Chesterton and his close friend, Hilaire Belloc--and this despite the fact that like Jim Sauer, I am an American Evangelical Calvinist!

I liberally salt virtually every lecture, every sermon, and every book I have produced with Chesterton quotes. So, it probably should come as no surprise that my students have caught the Chesterton bug as well. That fact is evidenced by the latest King's Meadow Newsletter. There are a host of great articles, appreciations, and reviews by my several of my students and former students including Ray Ware, Dave Raymond, Courtney Cahoon, and Wes Jackson. I couldn't be more proud!

Sunday, February 18

What I am Reading



Pilgrim's Progress

Next to the Bible, the best-loved and most-read book during the first three hundred years of American colonial and national life was John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Its plot was familiar to every school child. Its characters became cultural icons. Its imagery was seamlessly woven into the art, music, literature, and ideas of the people.

The opening lines of the saga were etched into the memories of untold thousands and became a kind of yard-stick against which to measure literary and devotional excellence: “As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep, and as I slept I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold I saw a man clothed in rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden on his back. I looked and saw him open the book, and read therein; and as he read he wept and trembled, and not being able to longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry, saying: What shall I do?”

First published on this day in 1678, the vivid allegory detailed the trials and tribulations of a young man named Christian as he made his way through the treacherous world. He was a pilgrim—journeying toward his ultimate home, the Celestial City. Along the way he passed through such tempestuous places as Vanity Fair, the Slough of Despond, Strait Gate, the Hill of Difficulty, Delectable Mountains, By-Path Meadow, Lucre Hill, Doubting Castle, and Mount Caution. Those inhospitable locales were populated by a variety of carefully drawn villains such as Obstinate, Pliable, Mr. Worldly-Wiseman, Mistrust, Timorous, Wanton, Talkative, Envy, Mr. Money-Love, Faint-Heart, and Little-Faith. Despite the fact that he was helped from time to time by a whole host of heroic characters such as Evangelist, Faithful, Good Will, Hopeful, Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere, the hapless pilgrim had to struggle through one difficulty or distraction after another. Again and again he was forced to decide between compromise or faithfulness, between accommodation with the world or holy perseverance, between the wide way to destruction or the narrow road to glory. After overcoming a number of chilling risks and hazards, the story was ultimately resolved--like virtually all great classic works of literature--with a happy ending.

Though written in a coarse, speech-pattered prose--a far cry from the polite literary convention of the seventeenth century--the book was almost immediately acclaimed as a masterpiece of imagination and inspiration. Even those Christians who chafed a bit at Bunyan's gallant Puritan theology, his stalwart Calvinistic doctrine, and his intrepid Non-Conformist practice readily identified with his beautifully realized vision of life in this poor fallen world. What appeared on the surface to be little more than an episodic series of adventures or a blithe narrative of folk-tale ups and downs, was in fact, a penetrating portrayal of the universal human experience.

Pilgrim's Progress struck a nerve. As literary critic Roger Sharrock said, “A seventeenth-century Calvinist sat down to write a tract and produced a folk-epic of the universal religious imagination instead.”

Thursday, February 15

A Napoleonic Love Story

Niagara Falls was established as the ideal honeymoon destination by the French at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Napoleon’s brother, Jerome Bonaparte, traveled by stagecoach from New Orleans to spend his honeymoon at the remarkable natural wonder, on this day in 1802. He returned home with glowing reports. Since then, it gradually gained a reputation as the undisputed honeymoon capital of the world. And for good reason.

The Niagara River is actually a mere 35 miles in length, stretching between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. But along that short distance are some of the most stunning sights on the face of the earth. The imposing Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of the river drop 177 feet, and the stupendous Vertical Falls on the American side of the river drop 184 feet. Together with the thunderous crash of the waters, the rising mist from the pool below, and the wide panorama across the gorge, the falls create a surreal spectacle of titanic proportions. Winter brings an added dimension of beauty and outdoor activity to Niagara. Thousands of gulls and terns flock around the Falls and rapids. The clinging spray of the Falls blankets the nearby trees, rocks and lamp posts forming luminescent frozen shapes. When Charles Dickens visited the Niagara Falls in 1841, he wrote, “Niagara was at once stamped upon my heart, an Image of Beauty; to remain there, changeless and indelible, until its pulses cease to beat, forever.”

In May 1535, Jacques Cartier left France to explore the New World. Although he never saw Niagara Falls, the Indians he met along the St.Lawrence River told him about it. Samuel de Champlain explored the region in 1608. He, too, heard stories of the mighty cataract, but never visited it. Etienne Brule, the first European to see Lakes Ontario, Erie Huron, and Superior, apparently was also the first to behold the Falls, in 1615. Later that same year, the Recollet missionary explorers arrived in Ontario. They were followed a decade later by the Jesuits. It was a Jesuit father, Gabriel Lalemant, who first recorded the Iroquois name for the river—Onguiaahra, meaning the Strait. In December 1678, Recollet priest Louis Hennepin visited Niagara Falls. A few years later, he published the first engraving of the Falls in his book Nouvelle Decouverte.

Although Napoleon’s greatest contribution to American was undoubtedly the Louisiana Purchase, the discovery of this marvel as a place to nurture young love must rate a close second.

Wednesday, February 14

Valentine's Day

Valentine was likely a third century pastor from the southern Umbrian town of Terni who was imprisoned for his faith during the great persecution of Claudius II. According to a popular legend, he wrote small pastoral notes to members of his congregation on leaves he was able to pluck from a maple tree just outside his cell. These little “Valentine’s cards” expressed his love for the flock, and his desire that they demonstrate like love toward one another. Gradually the tradition grew up for Christians to exchange notes of love and encouragement to one another on this, his birthday.

Monday, February 12

Odds and Ends

Wowed by the life and business efficiency techniques detailed in books like Getting Things Done by David Allen? Check out the 43 Folders blog for a host of very helpful interviews, profiles, reviews, and insights.

Want to learn how to train for a marathon or half marathon? You need to check out the Marathon Rookie website. It is chock-a-block full of great information, tips, and training programs.

Do you really know what to look for and what to ask when you have to hire an employee? Mike Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, offers some insight on his always informative From Where I Sit blog.

Saturday, February 10

How to Not Read a Book

Pierre Baynard’s new book, Comment Parler des Livres que l’on n’a pas Lus, is about how to talk about books you haven’t read--so as to make yourself seem smarter, more literate, and more debonair than you actually are. It is currently a blockbuster bestseller in France. According to Sarah Vines in a fantastically funny London Times review of the book, this is a quintessential French concept, given the overweening hubris of what she calls the Gallic "intellectual patrimony." In a delectable twist, Vines did not actually read the book. Instead, she took Baynard's message to heart and just faked it.

Tuesday, February 6

Slow Reading

Harvard's Lindsay Waters wants to start a movement. Right now. But, very slowly. Very, very slowly. Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, he states his case against "speed reading" and beckons for us all to return to the quiet, deliberative, and thoughtful practice of slow reading. You absoltely must read this. But please, take your time!

How to Read Slowly

Once Waters has convinced you. Let James Sire teach you. This is my favorite book for teaching reading skills, reading comprehension, and most importantly, reading enjoyment. Sire, the senior editor at IVP during the halcyon days when Francis Schaeffer first started publishing, will gently guide you toward a life of reading deeply, delightfully, and "worldviewishly." You'll never even be tempted to rush through a great book again. After all, speed kills.

Sunday, February 4

Beyond the Ultimate

In case you missed their full page ad in USA Today, you probably will be encouraged to know that the two head coaches facing off in Super Bowl XLI have joined forces to create an unprecedented evangelistic outreach to the nation. Visit the Beyond the Ultimate site to see how these two remarkable friends are utilizing the good providence of their success in sport to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel.

Friday, February 2

Let It Snow


OK, there really wasn't all that much. Even so, the first snow of the season dusted Middle Tennessee this morning with what John Milton once called "the sublime glory of whitness."

Thursday, February 1

As Ugly As Sin

Modern brutalitarian architecture has often been appropriately critiqued as "ugly as sin." Two recent news stories highlight the fact that people may finally be wising up:

According to The City Journal a modernist architectural "icon" in Boston is finally going the way of the Dodo. It's about time!

Along the same line, an alternative to those nasty modernist FEMA trailers may soon be available to consumer markets according to the always interesting The Institute of Classical Architecture Blog. Huzzah!