Tuesday, September 30

What Can the Rest of Us Do?

In times of crisis--national, financial, or cultural--how should we then live? What can we actually do--those of us who do not work on Capitol Hill or on Wall Street? According to Christian financial advisor, Dave Ramsey, there are at least three things we all need to do right now. His hard-hitting, plain-speaking, and sense-making plan includes a link to a common sense fix for the current fiscal crisis. Read it. Do it. And pass it on.

Free Grace and Hard Trials

I know no sweeter way to heaven than through free grace and hard trials together." Samuel Rutherford

Spurgeon and Books

Though he was best known as a world-renowned author, preacher, and philanthropist, the bookshops of London knew Charles Spurgeon as a voracious reader and an avid collector. He was the most famous preacher in the world for most of the nineteenth century. In 1854, just four years after his conversion, Charles Spurgeon, then just barely twenty years old, became pastor of London’s famed New Park Street Church—formerly pastored by the famous Puritan’s John Gill and John Rippon. The young preacher was an immediate success. The congregation quickly outgrew their building, moved to Exeter Hall, then to Surrey Music Hall. In these venues Spurgeon frequently preached to audiences numbering in the tens of thousands—all in the days before electronic amplification. In 1861 the congregation moved permanently to the newly constructed Metropolitan Tabernacle. It quickly became the largest congregation in the world.

In addition to pastoring that remarkable church, he was also the founder of more than sixty philanthropic institutions including orphanages, colporterage societies, schools, colleges, clinics, and hospitals. In addition he established more than twenty mission churches and dozens of Sunday and Ragged Schools throughout England.

But in the midst of the busyness of his life and ministry, he always found time to read. Books were his most constant companions and bookstores were his most regular haunts. He was born in the little Essex village of Kelvedon in 1834. Both his father and grandfather were pastors and so he was raised around books, reading, and piety. As a youngster, he began a life long habit of diligent and unending reading—typically he read six books per week, and was able to remember what he had read and where he had read it many years later. He particularly loved old books. He claimed in his autobiography that before he was ten years old, he preferred to go into his grandfather's study and pull down an old Puritan classic and read rather than go outside and play with friends.

As he grew older, his passion for books, and the little shops that sold them, remained unabated. Each day Spurgeon would scour the newspapers to find when an antiquarian book shop might be selling certain books. He would then beat a hasty path to the shop to purchase the treasure—or if he was too busy that day with appointments, he would send his secretary to buy the book. In time, his personal library numbered more than twelve thousand volumes.

The books were all shelved in Spurgeon’s study at Westwood, his family home. Of course, Spurgeon was not merely a collector. He was utilitarian, if anything. He viewed his books as the tools of his trade. And the shops where he found them were essentially his hardware stores. As a result, the books were used. They were hardly museum pieces, despite their scarcity or value. They were the natural extensions of his work and ministry. He once wrote, “My books are my tools. They also serve as my counsel, my consolation, and my comfort. They are my source of wisdom and the font of my education. They are my friends and my delights. They are my surety, when all else is awry, that I have set my confidence in the substantial things of truth and right.”

Friday, September 26

A Greater Depression

Want another Great Depression? Or perhaps an even Greater Depression? According to Congressman Ron Paul, here's an easy way to get your wish: just support the Treasury Secretary's proposed $1.8 Trillion Wall Street Bail-Out Plan. After all, it's taken straight out of the Hoover/FDR playbook. Forrest Gump's mama was right: "Stupid is as stupid does."

Wednesday, September 24

PETA's Ice Cream Gambit

No, Dave Berry did not make this up. Maybe it would be funny if he had. Maybe. Instead, it is just pathetic. The radical animal-rights activist group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has asked Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, to replace the cow's milk they use in their products with human breast milk. No really. According to PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman, the change would "lessen the suffering of dairy cows and their babies on factory farms and benefit human health." Right. That's just what consumers need to improve their experience with a Cherry Garcia or Chunky Monkey double-scoop waffle cone!

Monday, September 22

High Tech Dumb

Did googling start making us stupid or did stupid start making us google? This is the question James Bowman takes up in a fascinating essay in The New Atlantis about short attention spans, technology, mass media, and the woes of our badly-educated, poorly-disciplined, and overly-pampered modern culture.

Saturday, September 20

The "Bush Doctrine"

When journalists chide politicians--in particular Republican politicians--for not being able to satisfactorily articulate just what the "Bush Doctrine" is or is not, they reveal little more than their own monumental insularity, narcissism, and hubris.

Consider: the term was not actually coined by the Bush Administration, but by editorial writers at the New York Times and Time magazine; it is almost universally used derisively by opponents of the "War on Terror," the administration's foreign policy principles, and the president himself; it is rarely ever clearly defined beyond a handful of broad ideological categories, catch-phrases, epithets, and accusations; many of the concepts supposedly contained in the "doctrine" have been forthrightly denied and rejected by administration officials and their defenders. So, since the Bush Administration does not claim to have a "Bush Doctrine" per se, which "Bush Doctrine" are we to discuss when the subject comes up? The "Bush Doctrine" of Charles Krauthammer, of Ben Wattenberg, of Anderson Cooper, of Charlie Gibson, of Robert Kaufman, or of the constantly-barking Move-On blog-dogs?

The bottom line is that the whole concept of the "Bush Doctrine" has become little more than a liberal media-fabricated exercise in intellectual-insider-trading.

Now, to be sure, someone like Sarah Palin probably ought to be up to snuff on the latest prog-left logomorphing jabberwocky--if only to point out its preening self-absorption and soaring egotism.

Friday, September 19

Get Your Pirattitude On

Arrr! Avast, ye lubbers! It's ye old International Talk-Like-a-Pirate Day! Shiver me timbers!

To Autumn

John Keats wrote his remarkable poem, "To Autumn," in a single afternoon on this day in 1819. It was first published a year later in the Talor and Hessey edition of Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems. It has been reprinted innumerable times since. In fact, according to University of North Carolina professor William Harmon, the three-stanza ode inspired by the beauty of the changing season has become the most anthologized poem in the English language:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Monday, September 15


The Labor government of Great Britain--the same government that recently endorsed Barack Obama in his presidential bid--has officially officially adopted Sharia Law, with special Islamic courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases. One must wonder if this is the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning.

Sunday, September 14

TR Rex

On this day in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt became the youngest man ever to become President when he was sworn in upon the death of President William McKinley. He was 42. McKinley died in Buffalo, New York, from gunshot wounds he had received at the Pan-American Exposition more than a week earlier.

Saturday, September 13

Worldviews Matter

"The most practical and important thing about a man is his view of the universe. For a landlady to consider a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. For a general to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy’s numbers, but still more important to know the enemy’s philosophy . The question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether, in the long run, anything else affects them." G.K. Chesterton

"As a man thinketh in his heart so is he." King Solomon

"Worldview is the most important thing that we can know about a man. Ideas have consequences. And those consequences affect everything in the practical realm as well as in the theoretical realm. Discernment of worldview is therefore the most necessary of all the tasks of wisdom." Richard Weaver

Friday, September 12

Get It?

"In some languages,” said the Oxford philosopher J. L. Austin, “a double negative yields an affirmative. In other languages, a double negative yields a more emphatic negative. Yet, curiously enough, I know of no language, either natural or artificial, in which a double affirmative yields a negative.” But then suddenly, from the back of the hall, in a round Brooklyn accent, came the comment, "Yeah, yeah."

Thursday, September 11

The Mufti's Prayer

Just two weeks before the brazen and horrific terrorist attacks were carried out on the Pentagon in Washington, DC and the World Trade Center in New York City, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheik Ekrima Sobri offered a chillingly prophetic prayer in the Al Aqsa Mosque:

“Allah, there is no strength but your strength. Destroy, therefore, the Zionist occupation and its helpers and its agents. Destroy the U.S. and its helpers and its agents. Destroy Britain and its helpers and its agents. Prepare those who will soon unite the Muslims of the world and march in the footsteps of Saladin. Allah, we ask you for forgiveness, forgiveness before death, and mercy and forgiveness after death. Allah, grant victory to Islam and the Muslim’s in the coming war.”

A host of questions immediately spring to mind: what did the supreme spiritual leader of Palestinian Muslims know and when did he know it? What war is he talking about? Why would he invoke such virulent hatred against the Western world? Why would he pronounce such fierce anathemas against the nations most responsible for brokering peace between his own people and the Israelis? Why would he reserve such impious enmity for the powers that had insured the transformation of Yasser Arafat from a rogue terrorist operative into a respected nationalist leader and his Palestinian Liberation Organization from a disreputable revolutionary cell into a legitimate regional government? Why would he so openly attack his land’s chief financial and political patrons?

Preparing the Way

Seven years ago, when President Bush was interrupted during a visit to a Sarasota, Florida elementary school with the news that a plane had struck the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, he had already been providentially prepared for the Herculean task of leadership that would follow.

Earlier that morning, his regular habit of reading a selection from Oswald Chamber’s classic devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, had led him to a very telling passage--how telling, he would have had no way of knowing at the time. Based on the model of servant-leadership from the Gospel of John, the short reading portended and portrayed the path the president would have to take in the difficult days ahead: “Ministering as opportunity surrounds us does not mean selecting our surroundings, it means being very selectly God's in any haphazard surroundings which He engineers for us. The characteristics we manifest in our immediate surroundings are indications of what we will be like in other surroundings.”

The President would indeed soon find himself in haphazard surroundings. The passage continued even more dramatically: “Towels and dishes and sandals, all the ordinary sordid things of our lives, reveal more quickly than anything what we are made of. It takes God Almighty Incarnate in us to do the meanest duty as it ought to be done.” And finally: “We have to go the ‘second mile’ with God. Some of us get played out in the first ten yards, because God compels us to go where we cannot see the way, and we say, ‘I will wait till I get nearer the big crisis.’ If we do not do the running steadily in the little ways, we shall do nothing in the crisis.”

It is a great comfort to know that regardless of how magnificent or mundane our path may be in the days ahead, God is even now preparing the way for us.

Wednesday, September 10

Liberty Mutual Ad with HEM Music

Samuel Rutherford's Wisdom

”I hope to over-hope and over-believe any troubles.”

“Grace withereth without adversity.”

“I see grace groweth best in winter.”

“Your rock doth not ebb and flow--but your sea.”

“I know no sweeter way to Heaven than free grace and hard trials together.”

“Dry wells send us to the Fountain.”

Diminishing by Adding

"Everything you add to the truth subtracts from the truth." Aleksandr Solzhenytsn

Tuesday, September 9

Love Among the Ruins

As affecting as is the image of terrorists crashing into buildings in an effort to take as many lives as possible, the image of firemen rushing into those same buildings in an effort to save as many lives as possible is more affecting still. The worst that evil can do is no match for the best that love can do.

The horrors of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington transfixed the nation—and ultimately changed the nation. But the stories of rescue workers, co-workers, family members, friends, and strangers were even more arresting—and in the end, changed us more. Who could ever forget the poignant sacrifices of the men and women who gave their lives while helping to save others? Or those who ignored their own exhaustion, hunger, and safety to continue their desperate search for survivors? Or those who searched the hospitals, the shelters, and the police stations for some word of their brothers, mothers, neighbors, or friends? Or any of the other evidences of love that suddenly transformed New York City and Washington D.C. emblems of enduring faith and courage? Or any of the demonstrations of compassion, generosity, sympathy, and charity from across the entire nation in the weeks and months afterward?

Evil intended to deal a death blow to our national spirit. But love was a healing balm because it always “bears all things and endures all things.” Evil intended to destroy life and smother hope. But love was enlivening and invigorating because it always “abides in hope.” Evil intended to crush freedom under the rubble of tragedy and despair. But love was able to triumph even in this because it always “covers a multitude of sins.”

We must never lose sight of the fact that evil is a very present reality in this poor fallen world. But we must never lose heart. Love remains. And love prevails. Love is the greatest force in the world.

There is no power, no authority, no influence, and no achievement greater than the affection of love. There is no emotion, no desire, no vision, and no aspiration more potent than the sentiment of love. There is no priority, no precedence, no incentive, and no enthusiasm more significant than the motivation of love. There is no fervor, no zeal, no passion, and no inspiration more dominating than the enthusiasm of love. There is no thought, no idea, no concept, and no dream more transforming than the revelation of love.

Love sets the poet to rhyming, the musician to singing, and the artist to painting. The vocabulary of love seems to be overwrought with sentimentalism and cliché—but only because its height and breadth and depth so transcend even our best attempts to describe it that we inevitably resort to the obvious and the familiar. Even so, no other subject has served to stir the imaginations of creative men and women quite like love.

Love has not only always been the most important element in great literature, but in great architecture, great music, great philosophy, and great art. Love is an essential aspect of the human psyche and a central feature in human sociology.

According to the great German philosopher and poet Schiller, “Love can sun the realms of night.” Indeed, he argued that love was the single greatest gift to fallen men and nations because “by God’s grace, it alone can overcome every obstacle and solve every dilemma.” It will, he said, “always find a way.”

Building Parish

Guess Who?

Can you guess who I am?

I am not yet 45 years old but already I have taken the nation by storm.

I am known for my avid love of the outdoors.

I hunt, fish, hike, and camp whenever I possibly can.

I have made my mark in politics as an unlikely Republican reformer.

Of course, I have had to take on the Republican Party establishment.

Not that the Democrats are too fond of me either.

I have a large, happy, but rather rambunctious family.

I have been governor of my large northern state for less than two years.

Nevertheless, I was the surprise pick to be the vice presidential candidate in a crucial national election.

Have you ever heard of me?

Surely you have. I am Teddy Roosevelt.

Saturday, September 6

Off and Running

In the first election year benchmark--the GOP has come out on top.

The Republican convention was the most-watched convention on television ever, beating a standard set by the Democrats just one week earlier. An average of 34.5 million viewers watched the GOP convention over three days while the Democrats had an average audience of 30.2 million over four days.

A record 40 million Americans watched the speeches of each of the party standard-bearers, Barak Obama and John McCain. Meanwhile, the Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, drew an astonishingly high number of viewers as well--her speech was watched by more people than the American Idol finale, the Academy Awards, or the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics this year.

A Provincialism

"Modernism is in essence a provincialism, since it declines to look beyond the horizon of the moment." Richard Weaver

Friday, September 5

The Nature of Modernity

"Modernity is the age of smothering, dominating civil government--where all the other jurisdictional spheres God has established for men and nations are subverted by the impulse of centralizing, ideological, authoritarian control." Tristan Gylberd

Wednesday, September 3

Modern Despotism

"The sin and sorrow of despotism is not that it does not love men, but that it loves them too much and trusts them too little." G.K. Chesterton