Saturday, December 31

An Epiphany Hymn

Incarnational hope hastens hence
on bud, breeze, and blossom
grieving rynds banished in lilac scents.

Hark, the Epiphany Hymn rings haste
from its loveliest biding-place.

A lavish breach of winter's curt hard sword
an ardent repudiation of death's dark pall
the out-viening sun of the Christus Lord.

Hark, the Epiphany hymn rings haste
From its loveliest biding-place

At the refectory of your loving-care
the transfiguration clarion sounds a call
that didactae could ne're convey nor spare.

Hark, the Epiphany hymn rings haste
From its loveliest biding-place

Thus, Gospel comes ensconced in Word and Deed
and the evidence is your shimmering touch:
Christus Victor, shown in a life's sown seed.

Hark, the Epiphany hymn rings haste
From its loveliest biding-place

Tristan Gylberd (1954-)


The celebration of Epiphany is the culmination of what is traditionally called the Twelve Days of Christmas. The word literally means “revelation” or “sudden unveiling” or “manifestation.” It commemorates the day when wise men from the East were conducted by a miraculous star to the nativity in Bethlehem. The magi were thus the first to comprehend that Jesus was not merely the prophetic fulfillment of Jewish aspirations since the beginning of time. Instead, He was the hope of the world, the light of the world, and the joy of every man’s desiring. They beheld the very glory of God that day—for in the city of David, the Savior was born.

As a result, Epiphany is the celebration of the ultimate proclamation of good news. Good news, indeed.

Thursday, December 29

The Holy Innocents

Often called Childermas, the very ancient Feast of the Holy Innocents solemnizes the slaughter of the children of Judea by Herod the Great following the birth of Christ (Matthew 2:16-18). In ages past it has been the focus of the Church's commitment to protect and preserve the sanctity of human life--thus serving as a prophetic warning against the practicioners of abandonment and infanticide in the age of Antiquity, oblacy and pessiary in the medieval Epoch, and abortion and euthanasia in these days of Modernity. Generally set aside as a day of prayer, the day traditionally culminates with a declaration of the covenant community’s unflinching commitment to the innocents who are unable to protect themselves. At a time of increasing secular barbarization, it would behoove local congregations to recover this rich tradition of public repentance, solemn assembly, and covenantal faithfulness.

The Coventry Carol is a marvelous and haunting hymn that has long been used by churches commemorating this feast. It was written in the fourteenth century as a part of a cycle of mystery plays which were performed in the English town of Coventry each year. The cycle told the redemption story from the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden to the Last Judgment.

The hymn was sung at the climax of the birth narrative as mothers in Bethlehem quietly, desperately sang to hush their children lest the soldiers of Herod locate them by their crying:

Lully, lulla, thow littel tyne child,
By, by, lully, lulla, thow littel child,
By, by lully, lullay.

O sisters too, How may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor yongling For whom we do sing:
"By, by, lully, lullay"?

Herod the King In his raging
Chargid he hath this day
His men of might In his owne sight
All yonge children to slay.

That wo is me, Pore child, for thee,
And ever morne and say
For thi parting Nether say nor singe:
"By, by, lully, lullay."

Monday, December 26


“Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow in Australia.” Charles Schultz

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“The reason why worry kills more people than work is that more people worry than work.” Robert Frost

“If you worry about everything, then you don’t have to worry about anything.” Woody Allen

“You probably wouldn't worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do.” Olin Miller

"Worry: a god, invisible but omnipotent. It steals the bloom from the cheek and lightness from the pulse; it takes away the appetite, and turns the hair gray.” Benjamin Disraeli

Sunday, December 25

Wonder of Wonders

"Infinite, and an infant. Eternal, and yet born of a woman. Almighty, and yet hanging on a woman’s breast. Supporting a universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother’s arms. King of angels, and yet the reputed son of Joseph. Heir of all things, and yet the carpenter’s despised son. Oh, the wonder of Christmas."
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Saturday, December 24


Winnie the Pooh, one of the world's best loved literary characters, is celebrating his 80th birthday.

Pooh--the main character in the bedtime stories by Alan Alexander Milne--first appeared in the London Evening News on Christmas Eve 1925 in the story, The Wrong Sort of Bees. The honey-loving bear's many adventures--along with his friends Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore--have since been translated into more than 40 languages and several Walt Disney animated films.

The inspiration for the stories came from Milne's son, Christopher Robin--who, as a result, figured into the stories as well. The real-life boy had a favorite teddy bear, which he named Winnie the Pooh in honor of a Canadian bear he had seen in London Zoo. He had other stuffed animals, including a kangaroo, a piglet and a donkey, which all became the basis for other characters in the stories, which were written for Milne's family.

The initial story was such a success that Milne wrote a whole anthology of Pooh stories, Winnie the Pooh, which was published about a year later, in October 1926.

The Weakest Link

"Jesus Christ founded His Kingdom
On the weakest link of all--a Baby."
Oswald Chambers (1874-1917)

The love of God which leads to realms above
Is contré-carréd by our notions of a God of Love.
Evidence: Bethlehem's push and Calvary's shove.

Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)

It was the winter wild
While the heaven-born Child
All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;
Nature in awe to Him
Had doff’d her gaudy trim,
With her great Mater so to sympathize:
It was no season then for her
To wanton with the sun, her lusty paramour.

Only with speeches fair
She woos the gentle air
To hide her guilty front with innocent snow;;
And on her naked shame,
Pollute with sinful blame,
The saintly veil of maiden whte to throw;
Confounded, that her Maker’s eyes
Should look so near upon her foul deformities.

But see! The Virgin blest
Hath laid her Babe to rest;
Time is, our tedious song should her have ending:
Heaven’s youngest-teemed star
Hath fix’d her polish’d car,
Her sleeping Lord with hand-maid lamp attending:
And all about the courtly stable
Bright-harness’d Angels sit in order serviceable.

John Milton (1608-1674)

Wednesday, December 21

The Bach Book Is Out!

Greg Wilbur's new book on the life and legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach is finally available! More than two years in the making, this is a remarkable book that will not only change your perspective of Bach and his stunning musical genius, it will change your perspective of all music. It will also challenge your ideas about Biblical worship, the nature of Christ-honoring art, and the way Christians can impact the wider culture. I think that Glory and Honor is such a vital tool for modern reformational work that I am buying a copy for every one of our pastors and all our ministry directors at church. You're going to want one too. Rush out and get yours pronto--or order it from Standfast Books. You won't regret it.

Monday, December 19

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Every day, from December 25 to January 6, is a traditional part of the Yuletide celebration. Dedicated to mercy and compassion--in light of the incarnation of Heaven’s own mercy and compassion--each of those twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany is to be noted by selfless giving and tender charity. In many cultures, gift giving is not concentrated on a single day, but rather, as in the famous folk song, spread out through the entire season.

Not surprisingly then, all of the gifts in that folk song, The Twelve Days of Christmas represent some aspect of the blessing of Christ’s appearing--but perhaps not as specifically as you may have been led to believe. Though theories vary on the origin of the song (it first appears sometime during the advent of Protestantism in Tudor England) it is likely an urban legend that it was intended to be a secret catechism song during those difficult times of persecution.

That rather fanciful interpretation of the song has attached very specific and very dubious meanings to the symbols: the partridge in a pear tree, for instance, is taken to be Christ, Himself. It is supposed that in the song, He is symbolically presented as a mother partridge feigning injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings--an expression of Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered thee under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but thou wouldst not have it so." The two turtledoves are taken to represent the Old and New Testaments. The three French Hens supposedly symbolize faith, hope, and love. The four calling birds are said to portray either the four Gospels or the four evangelists. The five golden rings are supposed to be the first five books of the Old Testament the "Pentateuch." The six geese a-laying are said to be the six days of creation while the seven swans a-swimming are taken to be the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. The eight maids a-milking are supposed to be the eight beatitudes while the nine ladies dancing supposedly represent the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit. The ten lords a-leaping are naturally taken to mean the Ten Commandments. The eleven pipers piping are supposed to be the eleven faithful apostles and the twelve drummers drumming are either the tribes of Israel, the elders of Revelation, or the points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed.

Most of these well-intended interpretations are likely just wishful thinking. For one thing, all of the first seven gifts actually refer to birds of varying types. The fourth day's gift, for instance, is four "colly birds," not four "calling birds" (the word "colly" literally means "black as coal," and thus "colly birds" would be blackbirds). The "five golden rings" on the fifth day refers not to five pieces of jewelry, but to five ring-necked birds (such as pheasants).

But, even though symbolic maximalism likely goes too far, it is equally excessive to assume that the song is "strictly secular," as one debunking web site dubbed it. Indeed, secularism in sixteenth century England was about as credible then as an Elvis sighting is today. The answer to overly-anxious allegorical apocryphalism is not the equal and opposite error of overly-anxious rational reductionism. Symbols don't have to mean everything in order to mean something--nor do they have to mean nothing.

Very likely, this delightful folk song was just intended to generally and joyously portray throughout the Yuletide season the abundant Christian life, the riches of the Church's covenantal inheritance, and the Gospel's ultimate promise of heaven. Sing, therefore, with new gusto and zeal. For, "every good and perfect gift comes from above." Even partridges, pear trees, and leaping lords!

Thursday, December 15

Texas BBQ

Once upon a time I had to travel several hundred miles just to get a taste of real Texas barbeque. Then a couple of years ago, an expat Texan (and a direct descendant of the infamous hanging judge, Roy Bean) opened Judge Bean's BBQ near downtown Nashville. Though it was more than 30 minutes away from either the church or the house, my truck quickly acclimated itself to autopilot--right to the front door of my new favorite hangout. Life is good.

Now, life has gotten even better. The younger brother of the "Judge" has just opened Mickey Roos BBQ right here in Franklin (and by just opened, I actually mean today; and by right here, I mean less than 5 minutes from the church). And it is really good! Really good. Texas good. Austin good.

The brisket is tender, smoked to perfection, and very moist. The chicken is amazing. The hot beans will open up anyone's sinuses. The cole slaw is Texas-style: fresh and crisp without even a hint of vinegar. The tacos are made with chunks of brisket, corn tortillas, and creamy guacamole, just like God intended. And the sauce has just about the right amount of sweet chipotle kick and zing. Even the remodeled burger-joint building has an authentic Texas feel.

Boy, oh boy, am I ever in trouble now! I am going to have to double, maybe even triple, my run mileage!


Literally “Knocking Night,” each Thursday evening in Advent is celebrated in many German communities by youngsters walking from house to house, beckoning upon the door stoops, singing carols, and offering gifts of fruit and candies. A reversal of the “Trick or Treat” ritual, the Klopfelnachte tradition is a joyous and selfless expression of interpersonal commitment in a genuine covenantal community.

Wednesday, December 14

Santa Lucia’s Day

A beautiful and wealthy Sicilian who was martyred during the persecutions of Diocletian, Lucia of Syracuse (c. 304) was known as the patron of light. According to tradition, Advent was for her a glorious celebration of the approach of Light and Life. Interestingly, her feast days-- held on December 13 in most of Europe and December 14 in much of Latin America--are among of the shortest and darkest days of the year. Thus, a great festival of lights is traditionally held in her memory. Candles are set into evergreens. Garlands are spread, full of twinkling lights. Torchlight parades are held. And fireworks brighten the evening sky. It is a joyous reminder of our great calling to sally forth into the darkness of the world with the illuminating hope of the Gospel.

Year End Giving

As you prayerfully weigh your many opportunities for charitable giving during the final weeks of 2005, please consider contributing to the ongoing ministry and work of the King's Meadow Study Center. Thank you and merry Christmas.

Monday, December 12

Lessons and Carols

Last night Greg Wilbur, along with the choir and orchestra he leads at Christ Community Church, conducted a wonderful service of Lessons and Carols. It is one of my favorite Advent traditions. And once again, the evening was a complete delight.

The service of Lessons and Carols has long been associated with the King's College Chapel, Cambridge but over the years it has become a staple of the Advent repertoire all around the world. The service consists of nine Scripture lessons which alternate with carols of a similar theme. The lessons and carols tell of the Fall of Man, the promise of a Savior by the prophets, the annunciation to Mary, the shepherds and angels, and ends with the reading of John's Gospel prologue.

In the book Christmas Spirit, Greg Wilbur has written:

The service, originally intended for Christmas Eve, follows a form laid down by the King's College Dean, Eric Milner-White, in 1918. As he saw it, the strength of the service lay in the Scripture readings which outline the need for redemption, the promise of a Savior, and the Nativity itself. Milner-White patterned his service on an Order of Worship drawn up by E.W. Benson, later Archbishop of Canterbury, for use in the wooden shed which then served as his cathedral in Truro for 10 PM on Christmas Eve 1880. A.C. Benson recalled, "My father arranged from ancient sources a little service for Christmas Eve--nine carols and nine tiny lessons, which were read by various officers of the Church, beginning with a chorister, and ending, through the different grades, with the Bishop."

The suggestion for the service had come from G.H.S. Walpole who later became the Bishop of Edinburgh. The service in Cambridge has been adapted and emulated throughout the world. With the exception of 1930, the BBC has broadcast the concert annually since 1928. This includes the period of the Second World War, when the ancient glass (and also all heat) had been removed from the Chapel and the name of King's College could not be broadcast for security reasons.

The combination of prayers, liturgy, carols, Scripture, and congregational worship creates a solemnity that recognizes the historic nature of the Christian faith as well as a celebration of the fulfilled promise of redemption.

For me, Yuletide is really not altogether underway until after this service. Afterward, I cannot help but be in the "Christmas Spirit."

Saturday, December 10

Advent Pleasures

During Advent I always like to go back and reread a handful of old favorites--books that really provoke a profound sense anticipation apt for the season. G.K Chesterton's many Christmas essays and poems, which inspired the Advent meditation-in-verse I posted yesterday, are the first to be pulled off the library shelves. Arthur Quiller-Couch has some great Christmas stories set in and around Cornwall at the beginning of the 20th century. I read them lazily, haphazardly, and joyously. Miss Read also has a collection of Christmas tales I love to browse through. And just for fun, Karen and I always try to read a Jan Karon novel aloud during Advent. Her Christmas novel, Shepherds Abiding is a particular delight.

All of these familiar books make the holiday season just that much more pleasurable.

As far as viewing goes, I am terribly predictable: It's a Wonderful Life, White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street are our family's film staples. I know that I am supposed to love Christmas Story as well, but it has never been a must see tradition for us. The last couple of years, I've also been prone to pull out the Lord of the Rings DVD set for some random sampling of favorite scenes (which is when I usually complain for the umpteenth time that Peter Jackson's greatest mistake was in cutting Tom Bombadil out of the screenplay).

But, I'm really not that much of a movie-goer or movie-watcher. I'd rather read. I do, however, listen to a great deal of Christmas music. In addition to a wide-ranging Classical choir repertoire, I dearly love Celtic Christmas music. I've compiled quite a collection over the years and listen pretty constantly during Advent.

This year, of course, I've prepared for the film version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by rereading all of the Narnia books. But, that's not my usual Advent fare.

All-in-all, it is the poetry that I love the most about this time of year and its joyous celebrations. It just seems that Yuletide is tailor-made for verse and that verse is tailor-made for Yuletide.

Friday, December 9

Aslan's On the Move

First thing this morning, our entire church staff went to see the new Narnia movie The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Afterward, Greg Wilbur reviewed the film for the Reformation 21 webzine. I don't want to spoil it for you--but, he very appropriately gives it "two thumbs up."

Thursday, December 8

The Whip of Advent

The pitch of the stall was glorious
Though the straw was dusty and old
The wind sang with orchestral beauty
Though it blew bitter and cold

The night was mysteriously gleaming
Though the earth was fallen, forlorn
For under the eaves of splendor
A child--The Child--was born

Oxen Sheep and doves
Crowded round Nativity's scene
Though the world still failed to grasp
T’was here that peace had been

Cast out into a cave
When no room was found for Him
His coming was a scourge
That cleansed a robber's den

While the Temple's become a cattle stall
Where beasts and such are sold
The Child's turned Manger into Temple
And changed the base to gold

Tis the paradox of the ages:
Worldly wisdom will ne're relent
To notice signs of visitation
Nor the cords of the whip of Advent

Wednesday, December 7


The little berries of the Mistletoe plant, renowned for their healing powers, became a Medieval symbol of God’s provision and grace. Even when the vast northern forests were buried in deep snows and the hardwood trees had lost all their foliage, the Mistletoe continued to bloom--to offer its medicine of hope to the afflicted and the needy.

Often, families would decorate their doorways with little sprigs of the plant as reminders of providential love. It became a happy ritual for lovers to kiss beneath the sprigs as a kind of covenantal affirmation or renewal of their fealty in the sight of God. A single berry was to be plucked from the sprig for each kiss. Often the bare sprigs were kept as testimony to the couples’ vows. Sometime in about the tenth century or so, the hanging of the Mistletoe became an Advent and Christmas tradition.

Tuesday, December 6

St. Nick

The fourth century pastor who inspired the tradition of Santa Claus, may not have lived at the North Pole or traveled by reindeer and sleigh but he certainly was a paradigm of graciousness, generosity, and Christian charity. Nicholas of Myra’s great love and concern for children drew him into a crusade that ultimately resulted in protective Imperial statutes banning child-abuse and abortion--statutes that remained in place in Byzantium for nearly a thousand years.

Though little is known of his childhood, he was probably born to wealthy parents at Patara in Lycia, a Roman province of Asia Minor. As a young man noted for his piety, judiciousness, and charity, he was chosen bishop of the then rundown diocese of Myra. There he became gained renown for his personal holiness, evangelistic zeal, and pastoral compassion.

Early Byzantine histories reported that he suffered imprisonment and made a famous profession of faith during the persecution of Diocletian. He was also reputedly present at the Council of Nicaea, where he forthrightly condemned there heresy of Arianism--one story holds that he actually punched the heretic Arius in the nose. Ho, ho, ho!

But it was his love for and care of children that gained him his greatest renown. Though much of what we know about his charitable work on behalf of the poor, the despised, and the rejected has been distorted by legend and lore over the centuries, it is evident that he was a particular champion of the downtrodden, bestowing upon them gifts as tokens of the grace and mercy of the Gospel.

One legend tells of how citizen of Patara lost his fortune, and because he could not raise dowries for his three young daughters, he was going to give them over to prostitution. After hearing this, Nicholas took a small bag of gold and threw it through the window of the man’s house on the eve of the feast of Christ’s Nativity. The eldest girl was married with it as her dowry. He performed the same gracious service for each of the other girls on each of the succeeding nights. The three purses, portrayed in art with the saint, were thought to be the origin of the pawnbroker’s symbol of three gold balls. But they were also the inspiration for Christians to begin the habit of gift giving during each of the twelve days of Christmas--from December 25 until Epiphany on January 6. In yet another legend, Nicholas saved several youngsters from certain death when he pulled them from a deep vat of vinegar brine--again, on the feast of the Nativity. Ever afterward, Christians remembered the day by giving one another the gift of large crisp pickles.

The popular cultural representation of St. Nicholas as Father Christmas or Santa Claus, though drawing on a number of such legends, was based primarily on a the Dutch custom of giving children presents--slipping fruits, nuts, and little toys into shoes or stockings drying along the warm hearthside--on his feast day, December 6. Throughout the rest of Europe during the Medieval Age, that day was marked by festively decorating homes and by a sumptuous feast that interrupted the general fasting of Advent. And in Scandanavia it was celebrated as a day of visitation, when the elders of all the remote country churches would bundle themselves in their thick furs and drive their sleighs laden with gift pastries through the snowy landscape to every home within the parish.

But perhaps more than any other sources, the advertising of soft drink manufacturer Coca Cola and the holiday cartoons of New York newspaperman Thomas Nash have profoundly shaped our perception. Coca Cola’s serving trays, signage, and print ads popularized the Nash caricature of a rotund, jolly, fur-draped, gift-laden, and unbidden visitor who pops down chimneys and distributes gifts to children all over the world. Alas, thus stripped of his pastoral function and parish proximity, Santa has become almost fairy-like in his mythic proportions.

Monday, December 5

Life Is Football

On this day in 1815, the Earl of Home led the men of Ettrick against Sir Walter Scott and his team from Yarrow in a game of football. In honor of the match, which took place at Carterhaugh in Ettrick Forest, the great Scottish poet penned two songs to inspire his team--including these words which immortalized sports in literary history:

Then strip lads, and to it, though sharp be the weather,
And if by mischance, you should happen to fall,
There are worse things in life than a tumble in the heather,
And life is itself but a game of football!

Saturday, December 3

King's Meadow Newsletter

Be sure to catch up on all the news from the Center. We've posted our latest newsletter in a PDF format right online. Just click here.

Friday, December 2

St. Paul's

The dedication ceremony for the newly rebuilt St. Paul's Cathedral was held in London on this day in 1697. A church had stood on Ludgate Hill since the seventh century and a magnificent medieval cathedral was built there in 1087, twenty years after the Norman conquest. But this medieval cathedral was destroyed by the Great Fire that swept through London in September 1666.

The royal architect Christopher Wren was chosen to design the new cathedral--and his baroque and classical design was stunning with a main aisle of more than 150 yards and a dome soaring 366 feet above it. Construction began on June 21, 1675. Dedication ceremonies were held over twenty years later.

The church quickly became a London landmark. Many famous Britons were buried there in the years that followed, including the Duke of Wellington, Lord Nelson, and Sir Christopher Wren himself. During the Second World War, during the Nazi Blitz, the dome of St. Paul's towering through the haze was a beacon of hope and a comfort to the embattled population of London.

It remains one of the greatest architectural achievements of all time. Oh, how I love to visit it when I am in London.

Wednesday, November 30


This past Lord's Day was the first Sunday of Advent according to the church calendar. Despite that, in many Christian communities, the holiday season really only begins when the month of November ends. Thus, today would be the actual beginning of the "Little Pascha" that announces the new Gospel year.

This wonderful holiday season--what we Moderns generically just call Christmastime--is historically a long sequence of holy days, festal revelries, and liturgical rites stretching from these waning moments of November until the first week or so of January. Collectively all these varied celebrations are known as "Yuletide." Beginning with Advent, a time of preparation and repentance, proceeding to Christmas, a time of celebration and generosity, and concluding with Epiphany, a time of remembrance and thanksgiving, Yuletide traditions enable us to see out the old year with faith and love while ushering in the new year with hope and joy. It is a season fraught with meaning and significance.

Unfortunately, it is also such a busy season that its meaning and significance can all too easily be obscured either by well-intended materialistic pursuits--frenzied shopping trips to the mall to find just the right Christmas gift--or by the less benign demands, desires, wants, and needs which are little more than grist for human greed. The traditions of Yuletide were intended to guard us against such things--and thus, are actually more relevant today than ever before.

St. Jude Marathon

In just three days I will be running the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis in an effort to raise funds for the life-saving work of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital there. Thankfully, even as my training is winding down, my fundraising is winding down too. I have now crossed the 98% threshold in reaching my targeted goal. On Saturday, as I run, I will do so with the support of lots and lots of dear friends cheering me on--if not in person, certainly in spirit.

You too can still join this noble throng. Why not push me over the 100% mark? Just go to my st. jude sponsor site and pledge right online. You can also follow my daily training and progress at my run blog.

Monday, November 28

Medieval Humility

Gregory the Great served as the pastor of the city church in Rome from 590-604. Tomorrow morning I will be lecturing on this remarkable man and his remarkable heritage. He was of vital importance in the development of Christendom precisely because he forged the Roman bishop’s see into the formidable force of the Medieval papacy--indeed, before Gregory the pastors there were not yet called “popes” nor did their jurisdiction extend much beyond the city itself. There is much to admire in this man. And perhaps just as much to disdain. Like all men, he was a tangle of complexity and his legacy is not so easily summarized as most historians suppose.

Though I have studied his life and legacy a good bit in the past (at least in survey), I had never read much of his writing. In fact, he left behind a substantial and varied literary heritage. His most ambitious work and one of the most popular works of Scriptural exegesis during the Medieval Age was the Moralia in Job. A vast and sprawling commentary on the book of Job in 35 books, it runs to over half a million words. The piety and humility of the work is quite profound--as this sample from the highly confessional last page of the text illustrates:

Now that I have finished this work, I see that I must return to myself. For our mind is much fragmented and scattered beyond itself, even when it tries to speak rightly. While we think of words and how to bring them out, those very words diminish the soul's integrity by plundering it from inside. So I must return from the forum of speech to the senate house of the heart, to call together the thoughts of the mind for a kind of council to deliberate how best I may watch over myself, to see to it that in my heart I speak no heedless evil nor speak poorly any good. For the good is well spoken when the speaker seeks with his words to please only the one from whom he has received the good he has. And indeed even if I do not find for sure that have spoken any evil, still I will not claim that I have spoken no evil at all.

But if I have received some good from God and spoken it, I freely admit that I have spoken it less well than I should (through my own fault, to be sure). For when I turn inward to myself, pushing aside the leafy verbiage, pushing aside the branching arguments, and examine my intentions at the very root, I know it really was my intention to please God, but some little appetite for the praise of men crept in, I know not how, and intruded on my simple desire to please God. And when later, too much later, I realize this, I find that I have in fact done other than what I know I set out to do.

It is often thus, that when we begin with good intentions in the eyes of God, a secret tagalong yen for the praise of our fellow men comes along, taking hold of our intentions from the side of the road. We take food, for example, out of necessity, but while we are eating, a gluttonous spirit creeps in and we begin to take delight in the eating for its own sake; so often it happens that what began as nourishment to protect our health ends by becoming a pretext for our pleasures. We must admit therefore that our intention, which seeks to please God alone, is sometimes treacherously accompanied by a less-righteous intention that seeks to please other men by exploiting the gifts of God. But if we are examined strictly by God in these matters, what refuge will remain in the midst of all this? For we see that our evil is always evil pure and simple, but the good that we think we have cannot be really good, pure and simple.

But I think it worthwhile for me to reveal unhesitatingly here to the ears of my brothers everything I secretly revile in myself. As commentator, I have not hidden what I felt, and as confessor, I have not hidden what I suffer. In my commentary I reveal the gifts of God, and in my confession I uncover my wounds. In this vast human race there are always little ones who need to be instructed by my words, and there are always great ones who can take pity on my weakness once they know of it: thus with commentary and confession I offer my help to some of my brethren (as much as I can), and I seek the help of others. To the first I speak to explain what they should do, to the others I open my heart to admit what they should forgive. I have not withheld medicine from the ones, but I have not hidden my wounds and lacerations from the others.

So I ask that whoever reads this should pour out the consolation of prayer before the strict judge for me, so that he may wash away with tears every sordid thing he finds in me. When I balance the power of my commentary and the power of prayer, I see that my reader will have more than paid me back if for what he hears from me, he offers his tears for me.

Sobering insights indeed for ministry, for writing, for life.

Friday, November 25

Where the Girls Aren't

A UN agency contract researcher says the prevalence of abortion and infanticide targeting girls has caused a critical global gender imbalance--with a disparity of more than 200 million worldwide. According to his report, delivered to international health officials this past week, the girls are “missing” because of a practice he calls “gendercide.”

Swiss Ambassador Theodor Winkler, director of the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, said the number of women who die because of gender-related violence, deprivation, and discrimination is larger than the casualty toll in all the wars of the 20th century combined. The deeply rooted phenomenon of violence against women is “one of the great crimes of humanity,” he asserted.

The study he directed, a 335-page global investigation by 60 authors titled Women in an Insecure World, shows that sex-selection abortions and infanticides are the primary cause of this gross imbalance, which has also resulted in increasing problems with child abuse, sibling violence, spousal exploitation, and sex trafficking. “We are confronted with the slaughter of Eve, a systematic gendercide of tragic proportions.”

“There are dozens of ways women come to a grisly end,” Winkler argued. “Obviously, human rights and the legal protection of women is of crucial importance but it is only one component. There is also a cultural change that must operate… It starts in the womb. There are societies where male births are preferred, particularly if the number of births are limited. That's where abortion for gender reasons starts,” he said.

According to Winkler’s report, now being distributed to governments, academic institutions, and field health officials around the world, UN figures, World Heath Organization research, and government reports unanimously demonstrate that personal and family violence against women is among the leading causes of premature death internationally. “Abortion is now both a moral issue and a health issue--but in quite the opposite manner that abortion advocates have long argued.”

Marathon Countdown

I'm getting close to my goal. There are just 7 days to go before I attempt to run the full 26.2 miles at the Memphis St. Jude Marathon! I've got just one more long training run before I begin a full taper this next week. You can follow my daily preparation and progress at my run blog. I'm getting close to my fundraising goal as well. I am running to benefit the vital cancer research efforts at the remarkable St. Jude Children's Hospital. I've passed the 85% mark. You can help me get over the top. Visit my st. jude sponsor site and pledge right online.

Wednesday, November 23

Thanksgiving Newsletter

As you celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends, we too have a lot to be thankful for and wanted to share it with you! Click here to read our King's Meadow Thanksgiving Newsletter.

St. Clement's Day

Today is St. Clement’s Day--celebrated through the centuries in Christian communities as the threshold to the Advent season and the first of the festive Holy Days (or holidays) that mark the last five weeks of each calendar year.

The third successor to Peter as the pastor of early church in Rome--after Linus and Cletus--Clement (c. 100 AD) was one of the greatest stalwarts of the Patristic Age. His letters, sermons, and commentaries remain one of the best testimonies of the dynamism of the fledgling Christian witness to the world. A constant encouragement to others, he was responsible for the establishment of at least seventy-five churches. His martyrdom apparently occurred on November 23 and as a result, believers have long remembered him on this day.

Celebrated as the first day of winter in many Christian lands, St. Clement's Day has been marked by community or guild suppers--where friends, families, neighbors, and co-workers gather to sing, to roast apples, and to offer mutual encouragement in the faith. So, celebrate this day before Thanksgiving, in accord with Clement's legacy, with a renewed commitment to love well and live well to the glory of Christ.

St. Clement's Day Rhyme

Like all nursery rhymes, the famous St. Clement’s Day Rhyme or the Oranges and Lemons Rhyme is rich in Medieval history:

Gay go up and gay go down,
To ring the bells of London Town.
"Oranges and lemons," say the Bells of St. Clements;
"Bullseyes and targets," say the Bells of St. Margaret's;
"Brickbats and tiles," say the Bells of St. Giles;
"Halfpence and farthings," say the Bells of St. Martin's;
"Pancakes and fritters," say the Bells of St. Peter's;
"Two sticks and an apple," say the Bells of Whitechapel;
"Maids in white aprons," say the Bells at St. Katherine's;
"Pokers and tongs," say the Bells of St. John's;
"Kettles and pans," say the Bells of St. Anne's;
"Old father baldpate," say the slow Bells of Aldgate;
"You owe me ten shillings," say the Bells of St. Helen's;
"When will you pay me?" say the Bells of Old Bailey;
"When I grow rich," say the Bells of Shoreditch;
"Pray when will that be?" say the Bells of Stepney;
"I do not know," say the Great Bells of Bow;
Gay go up and gay go down,
To ring the bells of London Town.

In a sense this wonderful nursery rhyme is an imaginary tour of the old city of London--before the Great Fire of 1666--recounting the predominant trade, guild, and lore of the neighborhoods surrounding each of the churches (with their bell towers). So for instance, St. Clement’s church was in Eastcheap where citrus fruit was unloaded at the nearby warves while St. Margaret’s on Lothbury Street was near an archery range, St. Giles at the Cripplegate Barbican was the center of the building trade, and St. Katherine Cree’s on Leadenhill Street was the site of the Leadenhill marketplace, etc. Who’d have ever thought that the sing-song chants of children through the ages would be so redolent in meaning?

Marathon Countdown

Just 9 days to go! For better or for worse, I'm starting my tapered training in the final run up to the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis. Follow my daily preparation and progress at my run blog. And remember that you still have time to support my run. Visit my st. jude sponsor site and pledge right online. I'm getting close to my goal of $2,500 for cancer research and patient care at the remarkable St. Jude Children's Hospital.

Tuesday, November 22

C.S. Lewis

Long before the bane of television invaded our every waking moment C.S. Lewis commented that while most people in modern industrial cultures are at least marginally able to read, they just don't. In his wise and wonderful book An Experiment in Criticism he said, “The majority, though they are sometimes frequent readers, do not set much store by reading. They turn to it as a last resource. They abandon it with alacrity as soon as any alternative pastime turns up. It is kept for railway journeys, illnesses, odd moments of enforced solitude, or for the process called reading oneself to sleep. They sometimes combine it with desultory conversation; often, with listening to the radio. But literary people are always looking for leisure and silence in which to read and do so with their whole attention. When they are denied such attentive and undisturbed reading even for a few days they feel impoverished.”

Lewis went further admitting that there is a profound puzzlement on the part of the mass of the citizenry over the tastes and habits of the literate. “It is pretty clear that the majority,” he wrote, “if they spoke without passion and were fully articulate, would not accuse us of liking the wrong books, but of making such a fuss about any books at all. We treat as a main ingredient in our well-being something which to them is marginal. Hence to say simply that they like one thing and we another is to leave out nearly the whole of the facts.”

C.S. Lewis was the happy heir of a great tradition of books and the literary life. His brilliant writing—in his novels like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Screwtape Letters, and Perelandra, as well as in his nonfiction like The Four Loves, Surprised by Joy, The Abolition of Man, and A Grief Observed--evidence voracious reading. He was born in 1898 and died on this day in 1963, just seven days shy of his sixty-fifth birthday--the same day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, and thus, largely overlooked. In the years in-between he became renowned as a popular best-selling author, a brilliant English literary scholar and stylist, and one of the foremost apologists for the Christian faith. Recalling his formative childhood years, he wrote, “I am the product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles. Also, of endless books.”

Throughout his life, Lewis celebrated everything that is good and right and true about the literary life. The result was that he was larger than life in virtually every respect. Though he knew that this was little more than a peculiarity in the eyes of most, he did not chafe against it. Instead, he fully embraced it. He explained, “Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realize it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, is in a prison. My own eyes are not enough for me. I will see through those of others.” This is because, he argued, “Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”

Monday, November 21

Marathon Countdown

Just 11 more days until the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis. I'm starting to get excited. I've got all my gear--with all the necessary contingency gloves, shells, hats, and layers just in case race day turns out to be really cold. And I've poured over the race route. I just need one more really good long run to convince me that I'm ready. Follow my daily preparation and progress at my run blog.

And you still have time to sponsor the run. Visit my st. jude sponsor site and pledge right online. I'm getting close to my goal of $2,500 for cancer research and patient care at the remarkable St. Jude Children's Hospital.

Q and I

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, fondly known simply as "Q," was born in Bodmin, Cornwall on this day in 1863. According to most accounts his greatest accomplishments was the compilation of The Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900. Certainly, that was a remarkable feat. That single volume is practically a "classical education in a box."

But, because he was a popular lecturer in English Literature and Classics first at Oxford and then for much of his later life at Cambridge, he became the reading and writing mentor to an extraordinary generation of creative geniuses. We can thank Q for guiding the imaginations--and the skills--of such iconic figures as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dorothy Sayers, T.S. Eliot, and Evelyn Waugh.

I've been reading Q for years--ever since I was introduced to him by Helene Hampf's marvelous book 84 Charing Cross Road and its sequels. I love his novels about his beloved hometown in Cornwall. I am constantly wowed by his collections of literary criticism. His poetry is stunning. Indeed, I collect anything and everything that I can by him. And that is no mean feat--he wrote more than 100 volumes including the brilliant On the Art of Reading, On the Art of Writing, Studies in Literature, and Shakespeare's Workmanship.

I am celebrating Q's birthday today by reveling in this master of the Mother Tongue. It is cold and rainy and dreary--the sort of day C.S. Lewis recommended for curling up in an overstuffed leather chair with a big cup of tea and a stack of books beside. I'm going to read. I'm going to read Q.

The Ballad of the Tempting Book

Nearly every year for the past decade or so, I have made it a habit to give each of my graduating students a book. Sometimes I try to find an antiquarian book that I think fits their individual personality, experience, or calling. Sometimes, I stumble upon a cache of rarities and I grab the whole lot of them.

But, more often than not, I buy them all an old copy of Q's Oxford Book of English Verse. As I present it to them at the end of the year, I am wont to recite this little doggerel ballad:

Sometimes when I sit down at night,
And try to think of something new,
Some odd conceit that I may write
And work into a verse or two,
There often dawns upon my view,
The while my feeble thoughts I nurse,
A little book in gold and blue:
Q’s Oxford Book of English Verse.

And though I try, in wild affright
At thought of all I have to do,
To keep that volume out of sight,
If I so much as look askew,
I catch it playing peek-a-boo;
Then work may go to--pot, or worse!
I'm giving up the evening to:
Q’s Oxford Book of English Verse.

O! some for essays recondite,
And some for frothy fiction sue,
But give to me for my delight,
One tuneful tome to ramble through;
To hear the Cornish lilt of Q,
And all those noble songs rehearsed,
Whose deathless melodies imbue:
Q’s Oxford Book of English Verse.


Kind reader, here's a tip for you:
Go buy, though skinny be your purse
And other books of yours be few:
Q’s Oxford Book of English Verse;
‘Tis a classical education in a box,
Worldly sins and Righteous wisdom, unlocks;
Buy every book from every store and still you’d do worse,
Than if you had this single title:
Q’s Oxford Book of English Verse.

Thursday, November 17

Reading C.S. Lewis

After last night's conversation with Wayne Shepherd on the Moody Radio Network, I've gotten a slew of e-mail and phone requests for book recommendations: "What's the best guide to The Chronicles of Narnia?" Or, "What can I read to understand some of the backgrounds Lewis is working with?" And, "Is there a good biography of Lewis you might recommend?"

Well, I'm no expert. But, as is the case in so many other areas of my life, I am an confirmed and veteran enthusiast. So, with that as a caveat, here are my recommendations:

C.S. Lewis: Man of Letters by Thomas Howard (Ignatius) is a very helpful guide to reading the whole fiction corpus of Lewis. It is, like all of Howard's books, wise and witty, literate and learned.

Simply C.S. Lewis by Thomas Peters (Crossway) is a great general introduction to the life and work of Lewis--very much along the line of his award-winning introduction to G.K. Chesterton, Battling for the Modern Mind: A Beginner's Chesterton.

The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis by Terry Glaspey (Cumberland House). I solicited, edited, and wrote the foreword for this book--and still very much appreciate it despite the fact that it is a decade old now!

Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis by George Sayer (Crossway) is my favorite of the many biographies of Lewis that I've read. But, I'm also very partial to the books on Lewis by Kay Lindskoog and Michael Coren.

I could probably go on and on, but to do so would be to risk having you despair altogether of reading anything. So, I'll stop with this: at the very least reread the first volume in The Chronicles of Narnia before you head out to the theater to watch Hollywood's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. You'll be very glad you did.

Wednesday, November 16

Adrian Rogers (1931-2005)

Dr. Adrian Rogers is home. Yesterday, he went to sleep in Memphis. And then he woke up in Heaven. Adrian, who retired as the pastor of the 27,000 member Belview Baptist Church in Memphis, died of complications from the cancer treatments he has endured for the past several months.

But, while the Christian community has suffered the loss of a great statesman and ambassador of truth, he would not have us weep too bitterly. He often quipped, “When my time comes, don’t be sorry for me; I’ll be kicking up gold dust on the streets of glory.”

Indeed, shortly after being admitted to the hospital with pneumonia, Adrian asserted, “this is a win-win for me.” By that he simply meant that, whether God chose to heal him or not, he was in the hands of God's good providence. Thus, among the last words that this remarkably gifted pastor, author, and media personality uttered were, “I am at perfect peace.”

Not surprisingly, his favorite Bible passage was Romans 8:38-39: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Through the years, Adrian and I rallied for battle, sometimes side-by-side and sometimes on opposite lines. He always liked to pretend that he never quite understood why I was a Presbyterian. I always liked to pretend that I never quite understood why he was a Baptist. None of that really matters any more--I'm guessing he knows better now! Somehow though, I can almost hear his sonorous voice engaging the Apostle Paul--or Polycarp or Augustine or maybe even Calvin, Bucer, and Beza--arguing against the idea of covenantalism, even as he did with me, but all the while punctuating each rhetorical flourish with a familiar jolly chuckle.

I know my beloved brother, is going to enjoy being home.

Monday, November 14

Moody Open Line

This Wednesday evening, I'll be on the Moody Radio Network's Open Line program discussing The Chronicles of Narnia in anticipation of the Hollywood film release of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. With my good friend, Wayne Shepherd, I'll be talking the life and legacy of C.S. Lewis, the Narnia series, the Inklings, Lewis's other wonderful books, and how families can begin now to prepare for the theatrical release on December 9. The program airs at 8 PM CST.

Friday, November 11

What I'm Reading

The multiple stacks on my bedside lamp stand, my desk, and the end table next to my reading chair are starting to teeter. They are so ominously tall I’m beginning to despair that I will ever get to the bottom of it!

I’m reading a couple of big biographies at the same time. The new Peter Ackroyd biography of Shakespeare is pretty incredible--despite his insistence on a “Stratfordian” authorship. Likewise, the new biography by James J. O'Donnel on the life of Augustine is irresistable. It is groundbreaking in several areas and will provide new insights for Augustine scholarship to work through. At the recommendation of the Reformation 21 online journal, I have also picked up Mark Ellingsen’s The Richness of Augustine. I haven’t started it yet--but I have perused it and can’t wait to dive in.

Because I’ve been teaching through the Book of Acts, I’ve been reading a slew of commentaries on that book. The one that has really caught my attention time and time again for its practical wisdom and down-to-earth sensibility is a little paperback by Derek Prime, Active Evangelism. I’m also rereading Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s, Majesty in Misery. The three volumes collect the Victorian master’s best sermons on the passion of Christ. Since the whole of Acts is essentially an exercise in those earliest believers coming to grips with the finished work of Jesus, the sermons are incredibly applicable. Besides, every time I tackle one of Spurgeon's works I’m reminded of how little I know and how far I have to go in sermon content and delivery. And that is always a helpful realization for a preacher!

There is also a big pile of novels I’m trying to work through: I’m just about forty pages into Jan Karon’s latest Mitford novel, Light from Heaven. So far, it is great. I’m almost finished with Alan Zweibel’s The Other Shulman. Zweibel is a former Saturday Night Live writer and the hilarious author of books like Bunny, Bunny and Our Tree Named Steve. This novel is about a man who runs the New York Marathon in an attempt to save his marriage, his business, and his life. I’m also just about finished with Anne Rice’s surprising new novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, the first volume in a planned series. It is a far cry from her earlier vampire and voodoo books. Clearly, she has undergone a remarkable spiritual transformation. I’m not ready to endorse it, but I sure am amazed by it. I have one more chapter to go in Vince Flynn’s latest thriller, Consent to Kill. He’s not the greatest writer--maybe just on a par with Clancy and Grisham--but, man oh man, can he ever tell a story. Plus, I just love all the CIA covert action in the war on terror.

And just for fun, I am reading Jeff Galloway’s Running: Testing Yourself. It is not really helping me for my next marathon (which is just two weeks away now). But it may help with the one after that (the middle of February) and surely the one after that (the end of April). And last but not least, I couldn’t resist the latest by Lynne Truss, Talk to the Hand. Like her earlier book on grammar, this book tackles a very unappealing subject--manners--in a most appealing fashion. Truss is witty, wise, and well informed. This is a much needed, finely argued work. Plus, it is just loads of fun.

OK. Enough of this writing business, I’ve obviously got a lot of reading to do.

Tuesday, November 8

St. Jude Marathon

I am now down to the last couple of weeks of preparation before I run the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis. If my wounded knees and gimpy ankles cooperate, on the morning of December 3rd I'll be in the thick of it attempting to stay upright for more miles than I care to contemplate.

Once again, I will be running for a very special cause. I will be raising funds for essential cancer research. If you'd like to make a pledge, you can do so online at my st. jude sponsor site. With the diagnosis of my dear friend Wes King with cancer this past year and the continuing battle against the dread disease by one of my students here in Franklin and two of my correspondence students in New York, I am more committed to this cause and this work than ever before. My goal is to raise $2500 for St. Jude Children's Hospital this year. Won't you help?

The reason I picked St. Jude as the focus of my fundraising efforts is actually very simple to explain: this nationally renowned children's charity hospital is one of the most remarkable and effective medical research institutions anywhere in the world. St. Jude has treated children from across the United States and from more than 70 foreign countries. And yet ability to pay is never an issue because St. Jude is the only pediatric research center where families never pay for treatment not covered by insurance, and families without insurance are never asked to pay. Not one penny! Not ever! Zip! Zilch! Nada!

The treatment of children and the onging research at St. Jude includes work in bone marrow transplantation, chemotherapy, the biochemistry of normal and cancerous cells, radiation treatment, blood diseases, resistance to therapy, viruses, hereditary diseases, infectious diseases, and psychological effects of catastrophic illnesses. Vital work, indeed. And again, always made available to families regardless of their financial means.

Obviously, this kind of care is very expensive. Won't you help me support the remarkable ministry of St. Jude to children and families battling cancer? Please donate now and come back to visit my St. Jude sponsor site often. Tell others about what I'm trying to do. Learn how my effort to help find cures and save lives is going. Oh yes, and do pray for my weary old knees and ankles to hold up!

Day of Prayer

This coming Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Alas, these days most Christians spend very little time thinking about—much less praying about—our persecuted brothers and sisters around the globe. This despite the fact that more believers have been martyred in the last century than all the other centuries combined!

There was a time though when persecution and martyrdom were among the church's highest callings and greatest honors. Early on, Christians embraced the truth that "all those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12). The heroes of the faith have always been those who actually sacrificed their lives, fortunes, and reputations for the sake of the Gospel.

E.M. Bounds, the great nineteenth century pastor and evangelist is probably best known today for the classic books on prayer that he wrote. In his own time though, he was equally well known for his advocacy for the persecuted church. He once lamented the fact that it is “all too often the case” that “when the church prospers it loses sight of the very virtues from whence its prosperity has sprung.” According to Bounds those virtues "invariably have sprung out of either the suffering of believers or their response to the suffering of others."

That insight was honed from his own personal experience. Throughout his long earthly service to Christ, Bounds suffered both fierce persecution and enforced obscurity. During the terribly uncivil Civil War he suffered great hardship, hunger, and imprisonment. Later he suffered scorn the hands of liberal denominational administrators who objected to his unswerving evangelical faithfulness. Even at the end of his life, he was unable to enjoy success--he was sorely neglected by publishing executives who believed that his brilliant devotional writings were of little value. He was beaten, ridiculed, defrocked, and defamed. He suffered poverty, isolation, betrayal, and disgrace.

Through it all though, Bounds said that he found solace in the fact that the Christian vocation does not depend on the confirmation of worldly notions of success and thus does not need to adjust to the ever-shifting tides of situation or circumstance. He knew that the blood, toil, tears, and sweat of the faithful are the seeds of real success and that our diligent, unflagging efforts on behalf of the despised and rejected are our most potent caveats to the worldly-wise.

Though that may be an alien notion to us today, it has been the common experience of virtually all those who have gone before us in faith. They tasted the bittersweet truth that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to "those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness" (Matthew 5:10) and that great "blessings" and "rewards" eventually await those who have been "insulted," "slandered," and "sore vexed" who nevertheless persevere in their high callings (Matthew 5:12-13).

According to the Scriptures it is incumbent upon us to "comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted by God" (2 Corinthians 1:4). We are to "bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). We are to "encourage one another and build up one another" (1 Thessalonians 5:11). The mandate to care for one another and all those who suffer--even in the midst of our own travail--rings as clear as a clarion down through the ages: "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly" (Romans 12:10-16).

The tenderest stories, the greatest adventures, and the most inspiring examples of faith across the wide span of history are invariably those instances when the Family of God has actually acted like a family and when the Household of Faith has actually functioned as a household. They have been when the church served as Christ's own instrument of mercy, when it became a kind of medicine of immortality to the dying minions of the of the world.

Like so many before him--and so many who would follow--E.M. Bounds discovered the beauty of fellowship, the strength of communion, and the brilliance of grace at a time when ugliness, weakness, and dullness seemed most certain to prevail in his life. Indeed, it was only as he witnessed the constant and fervent service of the true church during his bitterest days of adversity that he began to comprehend the place and power of prayer--a comprehension that would in later years bring blessing and strength to generations of Christian readers through his many incisive books.

Merciful service in the face of suffering is "often the glue that holds together the varied fragments of the confessing church" says the remarkable Romanian pastor Josef Tson. It affords the church "strong bonds of unity, compassion, and tenderheartedness" says Russian evangelist Georgi Vins. It "provokes the very best in us, demonstrating grace to a watching world, working out that which God has worked in," according to Indian apologist Vishal Mangalwadi. It "lays sure foundations for evangelism and discipleship simply because in the face of tyranny, oppression, and humiliation, the church has no option but to be the church," asserts Croatian pastor Josep Kulacik. "Disguised as evil, persecution comes to us as an ultimate manifestation of God's good providence" says Bosnian Christian leader Frizof Gemielic. "It provokes us toward a new-found dependence upon His grace, upon His Word, and upon His people. It is in that sense a paradoxical blessing perhaps even more profound than prosperity."

Our response to the "fragrance of oppression," as historian Herbert Schlossberg has dubbed the persecutions and sufferings of our world, is perhaps the single most significant indicator of the health and vitality of the church. After all, it is in "afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, sleeplessness, and hunger" (2 Corinthians 6:4-5) that our mettle is ultimately proven.

On this International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church may that mettle indeed be proven anew.

Monday, November 7

Contending Aright

“One man with courage makes a majority.” Andrew Jackson

“Those who are quick to promise are generally slow to perform. They promise mountains and perform molehills. He who gives you fair words and nothing more feeds you with an empty spoon. People don't think much of a man's piety when his promises are like pie-crust: made to be broken.” Charles H. Spurgeon

“The streets of hell are paved with good intentions.” Mark Twain

“The most dangerous form of sentimental debauch is to give expression to good wishes on behalf of virtue while you do nothing about it. Justice is not merely words. It is to be translated into living acts.” Theodore Roosevelt

“We should remember that it is no honor or profit merely to appear in the arena, but the wreath is for those who contend aright.” James A Garfield

“The process has been long, to some extent tedious, but profitable, because insomuch as it has taken time and care and intelligence, by that much does it have meaning.” Andrew Nelson Lytle

“If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to it.” Andy Tant

Sunday, November 6

NYC Marathon

This morning the thirty-sixth running of the ING New York Marathon drew more than a million spectators onto the streets of the city to witness one of the most remarkable human dramas in all of sport--some 37,000 men and women running 26.2 miles from the Fort Wadsworth staging area on Staten Island, across the Verrazano Bridge into Brooklyn, up through Queens, across the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan, along the East Side into the Bronx, back down the West Side to Central Park, and finally to the finish in front of Tavern on the Green. My off-the-cuff take on this amazing spectacle is written up in two posts over on my run blog.

Friday, November 4

How to Preach

"Think yourself dry, read yourself full, write yourself clear, and pray yourself hot." Alistair Begg

Vicissitudes of Life

“Often the same thing that makes one person bitter makes another better.” J.C. Ryle

“God often digs the wells of joy with the spades of affliction.” Isaac Watts

“To scale the uppermost heights, we often must come out of the lowermost depths. The way to heavenly joy usually leads through hellish travail.” Herman Melville

“Affliction is often that thing which prepares an ordinary person for some sort of an extraordinary destiny.” C.S. Lewis

“It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds.” Theodore Roosevelt

“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” Francis Bacon

“A coward dies a thousand deaths, the valiant dies but once.” William Shakespeare

“A pound of pluck is worth a ton of luck.” James A Garfield

“Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength. Industry and determination can do anything that genius and advantage can do and many things that they cannot.” Theodore Roosevelt

“Brethren, standfast.” Paul of Tarsus

Thursday, November 3

Reform Not Revolt

There is a great deal of difference between a revolutionary and a reformer. Perhaps the most notable feature of America’s founding era was that its leaders were not inclined to revolution whatsoever. Virtually all of the patriot founders—from the familiar heroes like George Washington, John Adams, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry to the less known heroes like Richard Henry Lee, James Iredell, Samuel Chase, and John Dickinson—were careful, conservative, and constructive men. They were reformers not revolutionaries. They resisted even the idea of radicalism. They loathed the disruptions of violence—whether rhetorical, political, or martial.

As Paul Johnson has pointed out in his magisterial History of the American People, the patriot fathers were largely faithful sons of colonial gentry. They were devoted to all the conventional Whig principles of political stability including the rule of law and the maintenance of corporate order. They had worked hard to maintain a law-abiding, settled, and peaceful society. They wanted nothing to do with the raucous upsets and tumults of agitation, insurrection, and unrest.

Even in the face of increasing pressure from Parliament and Crown, they were terribly reticent to protest, much less rebel. They were determined to exhaust every possible legal course of action before they would countenance the thought of armed resistance. Over the course of a decade they sent innumerable appeals, suits, and petitions across the Atlantic to the Westminster authorities. Even after American blood was spilled at the Boston Massacre, they were willing to negotiate a settlement.

It took far more than the conflicts of Lexington and Concord. It took more than the full-scale battles of Bunker Hill, Falmouth, and Ticonderoga to provoke the patriots to commit themselves to a course of independence. As late as the first week of July 1776, there was not yet a solid consensus among the members of the Continental Congress that "such an extreme as full-scale revolt," as John Dickinson dubbed it, was necessary.

When the Declaration of Independence was drafted by a committee composed of Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, the resolution was defeated twice before it was finally adopted. But even then the cautious delegates decided to keep the document secret for another four more days before releasing it to the public.
Clearly, the Founding Fathers were, at best, reluctant revolutionaries.

So, what was it that ultimately cause them to rebel? What was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back? What finally convinced them to set aside their native conservatism and steer the thirteen colonies toward war and independence?
Again, according to Paul Johnson, it was actually their traditionalism. It was their commitment to a settled life of freedom that finally drove them to arms. They fought against Britain in order to preserve everything that Britain had always represented before.

Colonial pastors, patriot orators, and pioneer journalists decried the radicalism and revolutionary character of the mother country, of Parliament, and of the King. They saw themselves, not as revolutionaries but as the protectors of the Common Law tradition. In a sense, it was Britain that had staged a revolution, not America.

This was the gist of what John Adams wrote in his in his manifesto, The Rule of Law and the Rule of Men. He argued that it is the "duty of all men" to "protect the integrity of liberty" whenever the "laws of God," the "laws of the land," and the "laws of the common inheritance" are "profligately violated." Justice demands, he asserted, "a defense of the gracious endowments of Providence to mankind," including "life, liberty, and property." To deny this duty is to ensure the reduction of "the whole of society" to the "bonds of servility."

Sometimes it is essential for principled leaders to fight—not because they like the fighting, but because by fighting once they can avoid the hazards of fighting continually.

That was why Patrick Henry, chief among the founding conservatives, joined the fray. It was, he said, only a "grave responsibility to God and countrymen" that compelled the peace-loving people of America to fight. He believed that the tyranny and corruption of the Imperial system had all but ensured that "an appeal to arms and the God of Hosts" was "all that was left" to the patriots. "Is life so dear," he asked, "or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me: give me liberty or give me death."

Thus was America's great experiment in liberty begun—as a reform not as a revolution—and only thus can it possibly endure.

The Maddening Dreidel

“I am of certain convinced that the greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.” Florence Nightengale

“Time after time mankind is driven against the rocks of the horrid reality of a fallen creation. And time after time mankind must learn the hard lessons of history--the lessons that for some dangerous and awful reason we can't seem to keep in our collective memory.” Hilaire Belloc

”Weak things must boast of being new, like so many new German philosophies. But strong things can boast of being old. Strong things can boast of being moribund.” G. K. Chesterton

“To be wise, one must take time to deliberate. But when the time for action has arrived, one must stop deliberating and boldly act.” Napoleon Bonaparte

“To be genuinely wise, one must make haste slowly.” Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, November 2

Luther's Table Talk

"Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times."

"I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, Self."

"You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the Word which the Lord who receives sinners preaches to you."

Monday, October 31

School Daze

"I am much afraid that schools will prove to be the great gates of Hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth." Martin Luther

Soli Deo Gloria

Martin Luther was born in Eisleben on November 10, 1483. He was descended from the peasantry, a fact in which he took great pride. His father was a copper miner in the mining area of Mansfeld—but humble as he was, he determined to procure a sound education for his children. Thus, Luther received a Brethren of the Common Life education at Mansfeld, Magdeburg, and Eisenach. In 1501, he enrolled at the University of Erfurt, receiving his undergraduate degree in 1502 and his master's degree in 1505. He then intended to study law, as his father wished. But in the summer of 1505, he suddenly abandoned his studies, sold his books, and entered the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt. The decision surprised his friends and appalled his father. Later in life, Luther explained it by recalling several brushes with death making him astutely aware of the fleeting character of life. Luther made his profession as a monk following year and was ordained as a priest the year after that.

After his ordination, Luther was asked to study theology in order to become a professor at one of the many new German universities. The following year he was assigned by Johann von Staupitz, vicar-general of the Augustinians and a friend and counselor, to the University of Wittenberg which had been founded just six years earlier. He was to give introductory lectures in moral philosophy. Two years later, he had the opportunity to visit Rome and was shocked by the worldliness of the Roman clergy.

Increasingly concerned about corruption within the church—both material and spiritual—Luther suddenly became a public and controversial figure when he published his Ninety-Five Theses, on this day in 1517. They were supremely academic in character—Latin propositions opposing the manner in which indulgences were being sold to raise money for the construction of Saint Peter's in Rome. The Theses caused great excitement and were immediately translated into German and widely distributed. Luther's spirited defense and further development of his position through public university debates in Wittenberg and other cities resulted in an investigation by the Roman Curia that led to his condemnation three years later and his excommunication a year after that in 1521. Summoned to appear before Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in April 1521, he was asked before the assembled secular and ecclesiastical rulers to recant. He refused firmly, asserting that he would have to be convinced by Scripture and clear reason in order to do so, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”

Condemned by the emperor, Luther was spirited away by his prince, the elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony, and kept in hiding at Wartburg Castle. There he began his translation of the New Testament from the original Greek into German, a seminal contribution to the development of a standard German language. Disorders in Wittenberg caused by some of his more extreme followers forced his return to the city in March 1521, and he restored peace through a series of sermons.

By that time, it was clear that the protesting churches—or the Protestants, as they came to be called—would not succeed in reforming the whole church as Luther had wished, and so they established a new ecclesiastical structure rooted in the idea of the three Solas: Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), and Sola Fide (Faith Alone). Thus was born the Reformation. Soli Deo Gloria!

Sunday, October 30

Where the Battle Rages

"If I profess with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I maybe professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle field besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point." Martin Luther

Saturday, October 29

Reformation Before the Reformation

Even before the Reformation, there were many varied reformations led by many varied reformers. Among those early Gospel pioneers who bravely pushed Biblical reform forward, Jerome of Prague (c.1365-1416) stands out as a champion of the first order. This year as we celebrate Reformation Day, it would behoove us to remember him and the resplendent legacy he left for us all.

According to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, he was one of the greatest heroes “for the cause of truth in the whole of the history of the church.” Living through the very difficult final decades of the fourteenth century, he saw the wrenching cataclysms of the Great Schism, the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, the Hundred Years War, the Mercantilist Revolution of the Hanseatic League, and the pandemic of the Black Death. The glories of early medievalism very nearly collapsed under the weight of apocalyptic devastation. Wars and rumors of wars, famines and plagues, natural disasters and unnatural ambitions seemed to conspire together against all hope. Through it all, Jerome maintained the faith with unflinching ardor and steadfastness. Preaching the doctrines of the Reformation almost a century before Martin Luther, his life and death offer us rich testimony to the “Gospel hope in the covenant of redemption.”

He was already a respected philosopher and theologian at the Charles University of Prague, when his colleague, Jan Hus, began to popularize the ideas and writings of John Wyclif. In short order, it seemed that all of Czech Bohemia recognized the necessity of addressing the systemic corruption of the Western Church. Like so many others, Jerome was convinced by Wyclif’s stirring call for reform and began to seriously think through its practical implications.

At Hus’s suggestion, Jerome sailed to England for further study at Oxford—where the first generation of Wyclif’s disciples continued to develop his ideas. He read widely, corresponded with a wide range of other reform-minded thinkers, and visited all the great centers of learning—from Paris to Jerusalem, from Vienna to Moscow, and from Budapest to Cologne. In a very real sense he became traveling ambassador for the fledgling reform movement. Eventually, his wide-ranging contacts enabled him to become very active in public affairs throughout Christendom.

When he finally returned to his native Bohemia to teach at the university, he sided with Hus and the Czech nationalists who were demanding sweeping Biblical reforms not just in ecclesiastical affairs but also in political affairs. Needless to say, the bitterly divided authorities suddenly were united in opposition to such notions. Hus and Jerome were soon marked men. When Hus was arrested and charged with heresy at the Council of Constance in 1415, Jerome secretly followed, hoping to mount some sort of a defense. He soon discovered though that not only would he not be able to defend his friend, but that he was in great danger himself. He fled to neighboring Idelberg and sought a guarantee of safe conduct. But unwilling to stand idly by while grave injustices were perpetrated, he had placards posted throughout Constance saying he was willing to appear before the bishops, that his character had been maligned, and that he would retract any error which could be proven against him. All he asked was a pledge of security.

When no pledge was forthcoming, Jerome dejectedly set out for home. Along the way however, he was seized and sent in irons to appear before the Council. John Foxe records that over the course of the next three hundred and forty days he was “dragged about like a wild beast” and forced to endure “insults and examinations” after which “he was conveyed to a tower, and fastened to a block with his legs in the stocks.” After Hus was burned at the stake, Jerome was threatened with further torments if he would not recant. By now terribly weakened and dangerously ill, he yielded.

Still he was not released however. Instead, a second recantation was demanded. He said he would only make such a confession in public. But at the public "recantation," he took back his earlier recalcitrance and demanded a hearing to plead his cause and that of “the Gospel’s revelation of the covenant of redemption.” The corrupt Council refused this plea. Indignantly he protested, “What barbarity is this? For thee hundred and forty days have I been confined in a variety of prisons. There is not a misery, there is not a want, which I have not experienced. To my enemies you have allowed the fullest scope of accusation: to me, you deny the least opportunity of defense. Not an hour will you now indulge me in preparing for my trial. You have swallowed the blackest calumnies against me. You have represented me as a heretic, without knowing my doctrine; as an enemy to the faith, before you knew what faith I professed. You are a general council: in you centre all which this world can communicate of gravity, wisdom, and sanctity: but still you are men, and men are seducible by appearances. The higher your character is for wisdom, the greater ought your care to be not to deviate into folly. The cause I now plead is not my own, it is the cause of men: it is the cause of Christians: it is a cause which is to affect the rights of posterity, however the experiment is to be made in my person.”

Embarrassed and enraged by his eloquent steadfastness, the Council promptly scuttled him away and condemned him to die in the flames just as Hus had. Then, for two more days the council kept him in suspense, hoping to somehow frighten him into a capitulation. The cardinal of Florence personally cajoled him with threats, derision, and scorn. Jerome remained unshaken. When the Canon of Notre Dame made a paper cap him, decorated with prancing red demons, Jerome declared, “Our Lord Jesus Christ, when he suffered death for me, a most miserable sinner, did wear a crown of thorns upon his head; and I for His sake will wear this adorning of derision and blasphemy.”

Led to the place of execution, Jerome embraced the stake with great cheerfulness and resolution. The executioner circled behind him to set the pyre ablaze. But Jerome rebuked him, “Come here, and kindle it before my eyes; for had I been afraid of it, I had not come here, having had so many opportunities to escape.” When the flames began to swirl around him, he sang louder and louder with apparent glee. Such was his comprehension of the great covenant of redemption that he entered eternity with no trepidation, only joy.

With his final breath he declared, “Hanac animam in flammis affero, Christe, tibi! This soul in flames I offer, Christ, to thee!”

Thursday, October 27

King's Meadow Newsletter

The latest edition of the King's Meadow newsletter is now available online as a PDF download file. Catch up on all our doings!

Bless This Food

One of my favorite collaborations with Karen has just been re-released in a beautiful french-fold, over-size paperback. Bless This Food is a scrumptious cookbook, a guide to seasonal celebrations, an anthology of prayers and blessings, a cofee table display book, and a theology of food all rolled into a single volume. Besides that, it has my favorite cover of any of our books. Available in most fine bookstores and online services, the attendees at the King's Meadow Film Conference this weekend will have first shot at it here in Franklin--just in time for holiday giving!

Tuesday, October 25

Saint Crispin's Day

Crispin and his brother Crispinian were Christians who were martyred during the persecution by the Emperor Maximian in Rome. They were humble men who preached Good News to their neighbors during the day and made shoes at night in order to earn their living. Their sterling example provided a model of courage and persistence against overwhelming odds for the generations of Christians who came after them. This day has therefore been celebrated as St. Crispin's Day ever since.

Of course, for many of us St. Crispin's Day does not so much bring to mind Crispin and his brother as it does the Hundred Years War. It was on this day in 1415, during that calamitous war, that England’s King Henry V defeated the overwhelming force of French Army in the fields of Agincourt inspiring Shakespeare’s famous monologue:

"If we are marked to die, we are enough to do our country loss; and if to live, the fewer the men, the greater share of honor. God’s will, I pray thee, wish not one man more. This story shall the good man teach his son, and Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by from this day to the ending of the world but we in it shall be remembered. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition. And gentlemen in England now abed shall think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us on St. Crispin’s Day."

Monday, October 24

Controversy and Hope

This coming weekend, Vision Forum Ministries will host the Second Annual San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival and Jubilee Awards at the Lila Cockrell Theater and Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas. The festival will feature more than forty independent Christian films presented on four screens over a three-day span. Once again, I have the privilege of being one of the judges—though I will not actually travel to San Antonio this time. Indeed, King’s Meadow will actually host a companion film conference here in Franklin. But, I have had the chance to view all of the films submitted to the festival and I am even now working on reviewing each of films of the finalists. I am taking my responsibilities seriously. The stakes are high, after all. The “Best of Festival” winner will receive the $10,000 Grand Prize Jubilee Award.

All this is quite timely and quite important. “The mission of the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival is to encourage Christian filmmakers to neither retreat from society, nor to synthesize with paganism--but to do God’s work, God’s way, from the ground level up,” explained Doug Phillips, the festival’s founder. “We are urging filmographers to force the antithesis between cultural righteousness and cultural evil.”

Last year’s inaugural festival drew more than seven hundred attendees, including filmmakers from England and Scotland. More than twelve hundred are expected to attend this year’s event.

“We are pleased that the call to take a stand for Christ in the critical arena of film has resonated with filmmakers across the globe,” remarked Phillips, “What this festival showcases is a groundswell of interest on the part of aspiring Christian filmographers to chart a new path and to define success using a biblical criteria--not to except the scraps from Hollywood’s table.”

“Our film festival is controversial,” continued Phillips,” not because it seeks to be avant-garde or push the envelope of visual acceptability. It is controversial, because it dares to proclaim that the Lordship of Christ applies to our methodologies as well as our ends. It is controversial, not because of the offensive things you will see, but because of what you will not see.”

In addition to the film screenings, the festival will offer workshops with seasoned filmographers, including veteran producer Geoff Botkin, adventure cinematographer David Rasmussen, and composer Ron Owen, who wrote the score for “Beyond the Gates of Splendor.” Bible teacher R.C. Sproul, Jr. and radio host, Kevin Swanson, will also address the gathering.

Festival attendees will be treated to outdoor entertainment at the Riverwalk’s enchanting Arneson River Theatre with dramatic presentations by narrator and actor, George Sarris, and rousing ballads with maritime balladeer, Charlie Zahm.

While some may not agree with the standards advanced at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, organizers believe the event provides a forum for hope for Christian filmographers, “Those who take part in the festival you will not only hear a message of hope,” explained Phillips, “but they will witness the fruits of the hopeful -- men and women laboring to advance the crown rights of Christ in a medium of defining significance for twenty-first century Christians.”

Festival passes are $125 for adults, $100 for students. Passes allow access to all the festival events. Space is limited. For more information on the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival and Jubilee Awards, please visit the vision forum film festival web site .

Thursday, October 20

Those 'Stros

I was sitting in my first Major League Baseball game--between my father and my grandfather--in the old Colt 45s stadium in Houston, Texas. I still remember the ceremony during the seventh inning stretch when Judge Roy Hofheinz announced to a jubilant crowd that he was building a new "super-futuristic domed stadium." I looked back over my shoulder to the place where the Astrodome, the "Eighth Wonder of the World," would be built and began then and there to dream about going to a World Series to watch "my" team take on Mickey Mantle and the Yankees.

Things never quite worked out that way though. Indeed, until last night, the Colt 45s-turned-Astros have been a paradigm of post-season futility. Now at last, they are on their way to the big one. Alas, they are going having dispatched the other team that figured into my childhood, the St. Louis Cardinals (the team from my dad's hometown and thus, the only baseball team we ever really talked out loud about at home--unless it was to curse the Yankees).

You can imagine my delight when my good friend, Bob Donaldson, sent me the following late-night, post-game rumination about baseball, theology, and Texas:

You know ... I was dozing in and out last night after the game ... that time of day when the most convoluted and obscure philosophical problems seem to suddenly become crystal clear ... and it occurred to me that sports ... and baseball in particular ... are a wonderful confirmation of the principles of federalism. After 43 years of waiting, "we" are going to the World Series. "We" have suffered from several near misses though the years ... as well as extended period of genuine mediocrity ... but now "we" are about to be ushered into the promised land. How is it that the "we" includes people like me; he of the .037 Little League batting average; he whose slow-pitch softball career came to an end two decades ago; how is that possible? Clearly, the principles of federalism are at work. The current crop of Astros represent me and my aspirations for victory in battle and the attendant glory. I cringe with them when things go wrong; I share their despair when victory is wrenched from their expectant grasp by a ninth inning homerun; and I somehow actually participate in the glory of ultimate victory ... taking to myself some reflection (at least) of the praises that they have earned on my behalf. I didn't elect them to be my federal representatives, and they certainly did not invite me to the party in any formal sense; somehow it was just part of the natural order of things ... ordered, that is, by the One who orders all things.

When I try to capture these thoughts now in the light of day, they seem somewhat less profound ... less helpful as an insight into the meaning of life. But last night, it seemed that I had hit on an essential truth ... we want to be "included" ... we want to share in the glory ... and that is what God invites us to do through Jesus Christ, our federal representative, who has earned eternal glory and invites us to join with Him in the eternal celebration of that victory.

Maybe it's just baseball. Maybe it's just entertainment. But for a moment last night, it seemed to me to be the ultimate metaphor.

Amen, and amen.