Saturday, July 30, 2005

Book Review: Levi's Will

Will Mullet grew up in a pacifist, Amish home in Ohio. His father, Levi Mullet, was a hard man to love. He demanded a great deal from his children, especially his sons. The one thing that his sons could not afford to do was make their father angry. Will Mullet made that mistake at 19 years old when he gets a girl pregnant and then rather facing the consequences of his mistake runs away from home, assumes a new identity, joins the Army and attempts to build a family of his own.

In Levi's Will, former electrician turned author Dale Cramer sketches a story about love, forgiveness, family and redemption. His characters are sketched with amazing detail and a terrific understanding of the culture of both the Amish community as well as the deep south where Will eventually settles down with Helen, the daugher of a Georgia farmer.

Ironically, the characters Cramer has created are very similar to his own parents. He even acknowledges at the end of the book that many of the events in the story are drawn from his parents' own experiences. This first-hand knowledge of these details makes the story even more vivid.

This is not a typical Christian novel that has a protagontist who faces some crisis in their life, hears the Gospel and becomes a believer. It's focused much more on the development of characters than focused on action. Both of these factors are great advantages.

As the story unfolds and Will begins to raise sons of his own he begins to realize how much he needs to be reconciled to his own father. Much of the book serves as a word of caution to fathers to be positive influences on their children and to understand how much of their own parenting is shaped by how they were raised. In fact, the title of the book is a reference to the fact that in the Amish community it was common to introduce yourself with your father's name hence Levi's Will.

This is a wonderful book that is well worth reading. Mr. Cramer has devoted great attention to detail and provides a vivid picture of real people dealing with real problems. In the end, not everything is tied up in a neat bundle. But the reader is left with plenty of things to think about. Levi's Will is well worth reading.

This book was provided to me by Mind and Media through a gift from Bethany House Publishers. No other consideration has been received in exchange for this review.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Did You Know....

....that if you type "failure" into a Google search the first result you get is the official White House biography of President George W. Bush? (Hat tip: The Corner)


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Christian Carnival LXXX

This week's Christian Carnival promises something for everyone as we cover a wide range of interests and subjects. Thanks to everyone who submitted their posts. As always, it has been fascinating to discover each other's perspectives. Here are this week's submissions:

The recent bombings in London has several bloggers wrestling with terrorism and Islam. John at /musing/struggling/dreaming asks how we should respond to terrorism. Steve the Pirate, in his Rant O' the Week, offers his views on the persecution Christians face on account of hypocrites, while Islam gets a free pass. A Catholic and an atheist liberal discuss Islam and modern political philosophy at The Sharpener. Donald Sensing has some thoughts about Islam and the theology of martyrdom.

Susan at Sisters' Weblog says she admires the mission of the pastors of, but finds it is difficult, if not impossible, to support their methods.

Douglas at Apprehension examines Google's rejection of the ads of Christian Exodus and says it's the latest in a string of incidents of Google characterizing content with which it disagrees as "inappropriate".

Donna-Jean at Liberty and Lily talks about risk-taking, fear, and courage in "Ya Gotta Be Nuts".
Jonathan Witt of Wittingshire marks the recent anniversary of the Scopes Monkey Trial by pointing out that Inherit the Wind is more fiction than fact.

Speaking of the evolution debate, Orac at Respectful Insolence discusses Cardinal Schönborn's recent editorial in which he appears to embrace Intelligent Design.

Mr. Standfast has been meditating on Ephesians and focuses on the Pauline concept of fullness.

Shannon Woodward tells of a young girl's gift of love--and reminds us that life is fleeting, in "A Kiss of Kindness"

David at All Kinds of Time takes a look at trying to find purpose in such an easily-lived life.

Focusing on prayer: Donald Sensing has some thoughts on unanswered prayers. Richard at dokeo kago grapho soi kratistos Theophilosbe begins a series on the role of prayer in the Gosepl of Luke. Dan at Cerulean Sanctum says it is a far easier thing to call someone an Enemy of Christ than it is to pray for them. Jay at DeoOmnisGloria asks how often do you pray the Lord's Prayer? Dr. Bob from The Doctor Is In has some thoughts on prayer in a post entitled The Prayer of Java. Kevin at Technogypsy looks at prayer in a post entitled Serious Stuff in a non-serious manner.

Paula at Listen In had to read a particular book of the Bible threetimes in one week to find the best lesson for a single like her. Read about it in "My Best Lesson From the Book of Ruth."

Separation of Church and State in the Great White North: Angry in the Great White North reports on an op-ed broadcast by Canadian government funded broadcaster the CBC calling for churches to be subservient to the government.

There is a lot in our labels -- but we are not labels -- weare people, and we are people who are at our best when we findourselves in a proper relation with the triune God--according to John at Blogotional.

Jeanette at Oh How I Love Jesus shares about Fred and Verna Ludwig, two special Christians who were missionaries that influenced her life and probably many others while on earth, owning nothing of value for themselves.

Ales Raus examines the Catholic doctrine prohibiting the use of contraceptives and why so few Catholics adhere to it.

Martin at Sun and Shield examines the bioethics of C. S. Lewis.

Katy at asks: How often do I simply cast myself upon His tender mercies which--the Scripture assures me--are new every morning?

Louie at The Marshian Chronicles points out that questions are just as powerful as answers in many ways. After all if we didn’t wonder about things and ask the right questions how would we ever get the right answers?

Adrian Warnock is concerned that recent debates about the atonment and other crucial doctrines are a sign that the Evangelical movement is in its death throes. He has called for bloggers to highlight signs of hope by telling bloggers about their favorite preachers and offers papers from a recent UK debate involving Steve Chalke for the theobloggers to get their teeth into.

Lee at philithreten wonders whether in a world with no future does our understanding about God change?

Diane at Crossroads continues her series focusing on revivals. This week she focuses on the 1960s Indonesian revival.

Dadmanly, blogging at Gladmanly, reflects on Abraham Lincoln who led our country with deep conviction during a time of great tragedy and sacrifice. His words pointed back towards Truth and the Eternal he saw as directly guiding our Nation's destiny – if it would but survive.

Kim at Sharing Spirit says that the Fear Factor can become a Leap of Faith.

Wayne's World 2005 looks into the human side of peacekeeping and reconstruction in Iraq through the eyes and handsome smile of Sgt. Wayne West and his family.

The two Pastors and their wives over at Chapelccino use their blog to ask their people somequestions and get them thinking about what's coming in "Sunday - and Some Questions!"

A Firm Nail reflects on Harry Potter and how Christians should respond to the phenomenally successful book and movie series. Lance at Ragged Edges also adds his two cents to the discussion in a post entitled "There's Something About Harry".

DeputyHeadMistress at The Common Room reflects on a very rough day that reminds her that she is grateful God only asks her to live one day at a time.

JC encourages us when meditating on our relationship to God to focus on The Big Picture.

Irene wonders how involved God is in our day-to-day lives and "what all that believing is supposed to mean".

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren is one of the bestselling books of all time. But Warren is not without his critics. Sharon Hughes of Changing Worldviews Talk Radio sits down with Richard Abanes to discuss his new book Rick Warren and the Purpose that Drives Him.

More book blogging: Derek P. Gilbert talks to Patrick Heron about his new book "The Nephilim and the Pyramid of the Apocalypse" in which he contends that the Great Pyramid of Giza proves that it couldn’t possibly have been built by the Egyptians of 5,000 years ago. He made his case for the builders being the offspring of the "Sons of God", and explained what the pyramid can tell us about the end times.

Even more book blogging: Kevin at Collected Miscellany reviews Dinner with a Perfect Stranger by David Gregory and has some thoughts on a modern parable about dinner with Jesus.

Edgar Allan Poe discovers the Roman road and the journey becomes a lesson in blogging and popularity - with the help of a bestselling book by a significant author. Confused? All is revealed in this post by Catez of AllThings2All.

Ed at Attention Span asks whether the Church is really doing what the Church is supposed to be doing, or have we lapsed into a comfortable version of what we feel like doing? Are we just fooling ourselves into thinking that this is the way Jesus wants us to speak, think, act and live?

Doug at CoffeeSwirls shares his incredible birth story and the sacrifices his parents had to make to have him in a post entitled Loving Children More than Convenience.

Abednego, blogging at Parableman, reflects on a Johnathan Edwards sermon on the preciousness of time and the importance of putting it to good use.

Barry at Wanderings of a Postmodern Pilgrim says that faith is about growing and maturing and - through constant use, i.e. practice, practice, practice - allowing the ways of God to become more natural in our lives.

Micahel at Tantalizing If True poses an interesting question: How many promises of the Bible can you really claim when your name isn't Timothy or Onesimus?

A Penitent Blogger has a post entitled That Day that reflects on consequences, grace, and the end of the world.

Thanks to everyone who participated and make this week's Carnival a tremendous success. Next week the Carnival will be hosted by Dunmoose the Ageless.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Political Implications of the SCOTUS Confirmation Battle

This Associated Press article speculates on the possible impact that 2008 Presidential aspirations may have on certain Senators' votes when Judge Roberts nomination comes up for vote both in the Judiciary Committee as well as the full Senate (hat tip: Rich Galen). While the article is somewhat interesting it misses what I believe is the bigger story: the 2006 Congressional Elections.

Democrats will be under tremendous pressure from constiuent special interest groups to vote against Judge Roberts. However, Bill Nelson (D-FL), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Kent Conrad (D-ND) are all in situations where they may need to vote to confirm Roberts in order to appease a growing conservative electorate in their states and ensure their re-election.

Meanwhile, Republicans Lincoln Chaffee (RI) and Olympia Snowe (ME) have both angered conservatives with their centrist voting patterns. Chaffee in particular may face a primary challenge from a more conservative Republican and may feel he needs to vote for Roberts in order to appease conservatives. Ohio's Mike DeWine, who was one of the Gang of 14 who forged the deal that temporary halted judicial filibusters may also face a conservative challenger next spring and may vote to confirm Roberts to appease conservatives.

I have my doubts that Presidential aspirations will matter much in this confirmation vote. The only question remaining is how much Democrats will fight Judge Roberts' confirmation which appears to be more inevitable with each passing day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Analyzing the Roberts SCOTUS Nomination

After watching the SCOTUS rumor mill all day, I'm pleasantly surprised that President Bush decided to nominate Judge John Roberts to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court.

The President wisely took advantage of his bully pulpit to present his nominee directly to the American people in a televised speech that, for once, all the networks carried. Although the rumor mill had been suggesting Edith Clement or even Edith Jones was going to be nominated, the President went against the conventional wisdom in nominating Judge Roberts rather than another woman to replace Justice O'Connor. The President also calmed fears of conservatives who were afraid that he would nominate Alberto Gonzales to the Court. In fact, the media again showed themselves to be totally out of step with reality in their reporting of the rumors surrounding this nomination.

The President also seized the opportunity to frame the debate over the nomination with his brief statement tonight. Here are the key points in the speech:

"He's an honors graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School."

Opponents of the nomination will have to be prepared to ask smart questions. Judge Roberts clearly is a smart guy.

"In his career he has served as a law clerk to Justice William Rehnquist, as an associate counsel to President Ronald Reagan and as the principal deputy solicitor general in the Department of Justice.

In public service and in private practice, he has argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court and earned a reputation as one of the best legal minds of his generation."

Obviously he already knows his way around the Court and his professional credentials are beyond question. The Left is not going to be able to argue that he doesn't have the appropriate curriculum vitae for the Court.

"After he was nominated for the Court of Appeals in 2001, a bipartisan group of more than 150 lawyers sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. They wrote, 'Although as individuals we reflect a wide spectrum of political party affiliation and ideology, we are united in our belief that John Roberts will be an outstanding Federal Court of Appeals judge and should be confirmed by the United States Senate.'

The signers of this letter included a former counsel to a Republican president, a former counsel to two Democratic presidents and former high-ranking Justice Department officials of both parties."

He enjoys support from all across the political spectrum and from a number of legal heavyweights. He's not a nominee that will easily be characterized as "out of the mainstream".

"He has profound respect for the rule of law and for the liberties guaranteed to every citizen. He will strictly apply the Constitution in laws, not legislate from the bench."

The President has said repeatedly that he intended to appoint a strict constructionist to the Court and has accomplished that goal with this nomination.

"I believe that Democrats and Republicans alike will see the strong qualifications of this fine judge, as they did when they confirmed him by unanimous consent to the judicial seat he now holds."

This was my favorite line from the entire speech. The message to the Democrats was simply this: Confirm him. Now.

Democrats will have no choice but to confirm him. If they object too loudly, they will show themselves to be the obstructionists that they truly are. The beauty of this nomination is it gives absolutely no ammunition to the Left to use in the confirmation process.

I expect Roberts to be confirmed fairly easily after a lot of shouting from the Left.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Numbers Game

As a baseball fan, I pay attention to statistics. Anyone who follows baseball knows that statistics can tell you a lot about a particular player or team. In fact, statistics can often be used to predict how a player or team will perform in the future.

As a blogger, it's hard not to fall into the same trap of becoming focused on statistics. As Joe Carter explains in a recent post on blog statistics, it's a common trap for bloggers to fall into to become obsessed with numbers.

Early on in my blogging career I would check my Sitemeter report every day and fret about how few readers I had each day. I would send e-mails to the higher beings in the blogosphere hoping they would link to my puny little blog and share a little bit of the traffic they seem to so effortlessly draw to their blogs.

Then I discovered that it was possible to have surges in traffic without really trying. Sometimes I would write on a particularly hot topic and traffic would flow into the site.

Now after 9 months of blogging I've come to the conclusion that really all I need to do is focusing on doing the best I can every day and not worry about how many hits this blog receives.

Much of what I have gained from blogging is what I didn't expect. I didn't expect to make friends with other bloggers the way that I have over the last nine months. Many of those friends are folks who have been kind enough to link to me and I gladly return the favor. By the way, if you've linked to me and I haven't linked to you please e-mail me and let me know.

If there are any words of wisdom in these late night/early morning ramblings it is this: focus on doing your best every day to God's glory. It is because of Him (not me) that there is anything here worth reading. And a big thank you to everyone who has found this blog worth reading. I am honored far more than you know.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Screwtape on the Blogosphere

One of my all-time favorite books is The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. Lewis dares to imagine what it would be like for a senior demon to offer instruction to a younger demon on the finer points of tempation and tactics to cause the Christian to stumble.

Inspired by this classic book, Aaron at Two or Three speculates on the advice Screwtape would have for his nephew Wormwood in dealing with the blogosphere. It is well worth reading.

Baseball Blogging; Second Half Predictions

With the All-Star Break just concluded and play resuming today in the Major Leagues, it's a good time to recap where we've come so far and make some fearless predictions for the future. First, here's the division and wild-card leaders going into the second half of the season:

AL East: Boston Red Sox
AL Central: Chicago White Sox
AL West: Anaheim Angels
AL Wildcard: Minnesota Twins

NL East: Washington Nationals
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
NL West: San Diego Padres
NL Wildcard: Atlanta Braves

In the AL East, the surprise is not so much that the Red Sox are leading but that the New York Yankees have struggled so much. However, the Yanks are only 2 1/2 games back so things don't look so bad for them. I still like the Red Sox chances the best but the real test will come in September with 6 games against the Orioles and 6 against the Yankees (including the last series of the season). This is a division that could literally go down to the wire.

The White Sox have a commanding lead at this point in the Central (9 games over the Twins). In fact, the Twins best hope may be to simply hold off the Orioles and Yankees and get into the playoffs as the wild card. My bet is the Sox will hold onto the division but don't count the Twins out of the equation.

Anaheim leads the AL west but Texas is only 5 games behind so this division could go either way. I'm picking the Rangers to make a second half charge and make this more interesting. Don't count out the A's in the wild card race, either. They're only 4 1/2 games behind the Twins and already making moves to put themselves into contention.

The NL East has to be the most interesting division this year because the Washington Nationals are leading by 2 games. The big question is whether they can keep up their winning ways. They were besieged by injuries just before the break and really needed the rest. Thankfully, their schedule is pretty favorable in July and August before they hit the tough September stretch. If they can extend their lead in the next 6 weeks they can put the division flag out of reach. The only other negative for them is they are playing in the toughest division in the majors. It's a fairly safe bet that the wild card team will likely come from the East with Atlanta leading the race and the Florida Marilins only 4 1/2 games back.

The St. Louis Cardinals have an almost insurmountable 11 1/2 game lead over the Houston Astros in the Central. My beloved Chicago Cubs are 12 1/2 games back. The only things the Cubs have going for them is they can expect to get Nomar Garciaparra back sometime in August (the sooner the better) and they still control their own destiny with 13 games left on the schedule against the Cardinals. The Cubs will have to play a whole lot better in the second half than the first and their sweep of the Marlins to end the first half should help their confidence. In 2003, they went 41-27 in the second half after a 47-47 start to win their division. It will take a second half on that order to have any hope of contending for a playoff spot.

The NL West has another pleasant surprise in the San Diego Padres. The West is a fairly weak division so unless the remainder of the division starts playing better in the second half the Padres should make it to the postseason.

I'm betting on the Braves to take the wildcard unless the rest of East starts catching up to the Nationals and then it's anybody's guess as to who will get in.

It should be a fun second half of the season.

Total Truth Wins Award

Congratulations to Nancy Pearcey whose groundbreaking book Total Truth has just been awarded the 2005 ECPA Gold Medallion Award for best book in the category of Christianity and Society.

This is by far one of the best and most important books I have read in quite some time. My review of the book is available here.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Book Review: Unlock the Prison Doors

Have you ever been held captive to a habitual sin? Perhaps someone you know is struggling with a sin or pattern of sin they are finding difficult to overcome. You know the Bible has things to say about habitual sins but don't know where to find them?

In Unlock the Prison Doors, pastor Terry Barber methodically works through Scripture in order to help break the chains of habitual sin. Although the book is portrayed as a practical guide to dealing with habitual sin, it comes up somewhat short.

I had the impression while reading the book that Mr. Barber was targeting the book towards newer believers. In that respect, he seems to come closer to accomplishing his goals. The book starts with a very basic understanding of sin and our fallen condition and how Christ's death and resurrection freed us from sin's bonds. It then moves through dealing with the habitual sins and how to overcome them. The second half of the book is not quite as strong as the first but on the whole it's still a pretty good tool.

This is a book I could envision reading through with a newer believer who needed to deal with issues of habitual sin that might have existed prior to their conversion to Christ. Those who have been relievers for a lot longer will probably be frustrated at the lack of depth and practical assistance particularly in the second half of the book.

This book was provided to me by Mind and Media through Advantage Books. No other consideration was received for this review apart from the book.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Quick Takes

This has been a crazy week and as a result, I must confess, the quality of my blogging has suffered. In fact, I have my doubts as to whether I've been able to stay above the blogging equivalent of the Mendoza Line (with apologies to Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost who coined the phrase). Hopefully next week will be better. In the meantime, here are some worthwhile links for your perusal:

Baseball is not just a sport. There is much more we can learn from the greatest game ever invented. Don't believe me? Check out Standing On The Mound: The Virtues of Baseball. (Hat tip: Thecla Mauro)

The Federalist is essential reading every week. If you're not reading it you really should. Check out Mark Alexander's essay today entitled Supreme Consequences.

Steve Camp (yes, the musician) has a blog entitled CampOnThis. It looks like a blog that will be worth checking regularly. His essay entitled It's the Church, Stupid is well worth reading.

The Anchoress is one of my favorite bloggers in large part because of the tremendous faith that is evident in her writing. In her latest post entitled Listen she shares how her faith is being put to the test. Please say a prayer for her.

Welcome to the blogroll Exploring the Mystery. Thanks for the link. Stop by and pay Chris' blog a visit.

Earlier today, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Stacy Harp of Mind and Media. Click here to listen to us talk about blogging, books and other fun subjects.

Coming next week: reflections on the first half of the baseball season as well as my fearless predictions for the second half, reviews of Unlock the Prison Doors and Levi's Will, and much, much more.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Christian Carnival LXXVII

Christian Carnival LXXVII has been posted over at The Bible Archive and has a Jedi theme this week. Check out all the great links in this week's Carnival!

Next week's host: a ticking time blog.

An Intriguing SCOTUS Scenario

Rich Galen speculates in his Mullings column today on the possibility of three Supreme Court vacancies this summer.

Assuming Chief Justice Rehnquist retires and President Bush nominates one of the remaining Associate Justices to be Chief Justice (either Thomas or Scalia) then there would be three vacancies to be filled.

This presents an intriguing opportunity for the President. Assuming for a moment that Rehnquist does retire and President Bush wanted to elevate an associate judge, which one would he choose? I would consider Justice Thomas as my top pick. First, at age 56, he's the youngest of the justices. Second, it allows the President to make a "legacy" nomination by naming the first African-American Chief Justice.

Then, if the President wants to continue to make "legacy" appointments he could nominate Janice Rogers Brown (she would become the first African-American woman to serve on the Supreme Court). He could also put a Hispanic justice on the court by nominating Miguel Estrada, Emilio Garza or even Alberto Gonzales (although he seems to be too moderate for many conservative groups to support).

Ethnic considerations aside, the one thing all of these candidates have in common is that they are highly respected jurists. All of them are highly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court and are worthy of careful consideration.

By having three vacancies to fill at once there will be pressure on the Senate leadership to move quickly on confirmation hearings to have a full Court by October. If the Senate decides to drag its feet, the President can always use his recess appointment power to fill the vacancies until the end of 2006. By that point, the Congressional elections may provide Republicans with a larger margin in the Senate making it easier to confirm judicial nominees.

It could be a very interesting summer.

Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Prognosticating the SCOTUS Confirmation Battle

With the somewhat surprising retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor from the Supreme Court, many in the press and the blogosphere are engaging in the "let's guess the next Supreme Court Nominee" parlor game. Rather than dwell on who I think the nominee will be (although I did post a guess in a comment on this post), I'm going to go out on a limb and make a couple of predictions about what we can expect to see in the next few months:

1. Democrats will filibuster the nominee.
Given the behavior of Democrats during the judicial confirmation process thus far it is a safe bet that they will find reason to filibuster the SCOTUS nominee. There's much more at stake in this nomination than any other to date. Also, Democrats will be under tremendous pressure from special interest groups such as Planned Parenthood, People for the American Way, the ACLU, and other groups to filibuster any judicial nominee that the President submits. In fact, I believe Democrats made a huge tactical error by filibustering judicial nominees. Supreme Court justices have far greater influence that other members of the federal judiciary. By filibustering so many of the President's nominees to date, they've left themselves with no other option but to filibuster the SCOTUS nominee. As a result, Democrats will likely pay a high price at the polls next year.

2. The President will nominate a very conservative judge.
Since President Bush can count on very vocal opposition from Democrats, he's free to nominate a very conservative judge. Although conventional wisdom has been that the President should nominate another woman to replace O'Connor or another moderate who mirrors her judicial philosophy, President Bush can be free to nominate whomever he chooses since he knows that the opposition will be fierce regardless of the nominee.

3. The President's nominee will be confirmed.
Although the process will be bloody, Democrats don't have enough votes to sustain a filibuster and probably won't be able to muster enough opposition to any SCOTUS nominee to prevent confirmation. The only question will be how long the Republican leadership will allow the process to drag out. If they're smart, Senate Republicans will move swiftly to get the nominee confirmed.