Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Why I Don't Despair

Sometimes things are tough, and sometimes I know that I'm not the Christian I should be. Sometimes (often), I fail, and fall down, and sin. That's when I take comfort in the knowledge that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and that I belong to Him forever. The good news of the Gospel is not just for the moment of salvation, but for the whole life of the Christian and all of sanctification.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

About Following Christ

The song says, "I have decided to follow Jesus". "Decided": past tense. Like it was one decision and that's taken care of and now I'm happily following Jesus all the time.

It's not like that. Following Jesus is a series of decisions that we make every day, sometimes the same decisions over and over. Will I watch this television show, or will I read (or even watch, or listen to) something edifying? Will I waste time (sometimes just because I'm feeling lazy), or will I use my time wisely? Will I keep putting myself first, or will I reach out to others who may need me? There are so many decisions every day, and all too often I know I make the wrong choice. I choose to follow the world or my own desires, and not to follow Christ.

Today my heart is heavy. I have a friend in the hospital because of an intentional overdose. I don't know her very well because I didn't take the time to get to know her. She lives close to me, and she suggested a couple times that we get together for coffee. I was always too busy with too many things and too many other people, and always agreed that we need to do that "when things slowed down". You know how it is: things never slow down. I never made the right decision.

Today I am thankful that my friend is on the mend, and that she's waking up, and responding to people. I am praying for her recovery and healing, and I am praying for myself. I am seeking God's forgiveness for the choices I made concerning her (and rejoicing in God's faithfulness and His promises of forgiveness), and praying for the chance to make the right choice and be in her life.

Every day we need to make the choice to follow Christ. Today I remembered that my choice to follow or not follow affect not only my own life, but also the lives of those around me. It's a great responsibility, and only through the power of the Holy Spirit can I keep choosing to follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

New Year, New Attempts

I don't make New Year's resolutions. I still think the "new year" starts in September, when school goes back, and January 1st is just a nice holiday! Which is probably why this year, I started making some changes to my schedule and stuff in November and December, rather than waiting until January.

Once again, I'm trying to spend less time on the computer and more time on useful pursuits. To that end, I've set up a reading schedule with a book for each evening and I haven't been turning on the computer after work on weekdays. I read at least one chapter, and maybe more. I was doing a chapter a week for a couple books to slow down my reading (so I'm reading to learn rather than to finish the book). I'm not going to continue that slowly, but I am trying to read more nonfiction this year and to learn more. I've also started studying Greek again. I'm still near the beginning, but I'm slowly reviewing and learning again.

I also spent time cleaning things out. I've cleaned out the bedroom closet and the laundry room. Things aren't perfectly organized, and I'm not naturally tidy, so I can't say how long it will last, but at least it feels under control again. I still want to go through the kitchen cupboards and such, as well as the bathroom cabinet. I like feeling organized and tidy, even though I'm not that good at staying that way!

We'll see how things go this year.

Friday, 8 January 2016

60 Years Ago

On Sunday, January 8, 1956, Ed McCulley, Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, and Roger Youderian landed their small plane on a beach in the jungles of Ecuador. They were waiting to make contact with some of the Auca people. They had flown over the villages several times, lowering gifts and calling out friendly phrases. Now they had found a spot to set up camp and were waiting for the coming Aucas. 

Back at the base, their families were waiting by the radio to hear from them. The call never came. The next day, someone flew over the camp and spotted the plane, stripped of fabric; two days later, they spotted the first body. Eventually, it was confirmed: all the missionaries were dead. 

This sounds like it should have meant the end of the mission labours. On the contrary, it only intensified things. More people applied to take the place of the pilot and hundreds volunteered for missionary service. Within three years, two of the women who had waited (Rachel Saint and Elisabeth Elliot) had moved to live with the tribe and taught them the gospel. Some of the murderers believed in Christ. 

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." -Jim Elliot

Friday, 1 January 2016

Non-Fiction Favourites

Today, here are the best non-fiction books that I read in 2015.

1. Courtney Anderson, To the Golden Shore. This is the biography of Adoniram Judson, and it is a great book. It makes Adoniram into a real person: he isn't always perfect, he dealt with a lot of health issues, and he spent his life working for the gospel.

2. John MacArthur, A Tale of Two Sons. It's a look at the story of the prodigal son, looking at the historical context and the role of the older brother as well as the younger brother and the father.

3. Carolyn McCulley with Nora Shank, The Measure of Success. What does it mean to be a godly woman in the workforce and in the home? Here women are pointed towards Scripture to make wise choices without all being shoved into the same box of what makes a "godly woman".

4. Tony Reinke, Lit. Yes, I read a book about reading books and why to read more books. I wanted to see how he argued in favor of Christians reading fiction. I already agreed with him, but I really liked the way he said it.

5. William Varner, The Chariot of Israel. If you want to learn about Elijah, his live, ministry, and time, this is the book for you. Plus, it has maps!

6. Malcolm Gladwell, What the Dog Saw. I just like Malcolm Gladwell's writing. He gives me new ideas to think about and new ways to look at the way the world works.

7. Molly Caldwell Crosby, The Great Pearl Heist and Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic that Remains One of Medicine’s Greatest Mysteries. Both books look at an event in history, which is interesting enough, but also the background that lead up to this event, what else was happening in the world, and all sorts of interesting historical information.

8. Michael J. Fox, Lucky Man. Who doesn't like Michael J. Fox? I enjoyed the backstage glimpse into his life and career.

9. Bill Bryson, the mother tongue: english and how it got that way. I like Bill Bryson's writing style, I like the English language, so I naturally liked the combination of the two!

10. Martin Dugard, Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone. This was an excellent book. It told the stories of both men's lives before and after they met up in Africa. It also brought the dangers and wildness and beauty of Africa to life.

11. D.A. Carson, Praying With Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation. This was good, both Scriptural and practical. It didn't just tell us to pray, but why to pray and how to pray.

12. Randall Monroe, What if? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. This is just fun. It answers very important questions such as: Could you build a jet pack using downward-facing machine guns?

13. Chris Brauns, Unpacking Forgiveness. Brauns cuts through a lot of nonsense about forgiveness by looking closely at what Scripture says about how God forgives and from there to how we are called to forgive.

There were other good books this year, but those are the best of what I read. I would recommend that you read all of them!

I'm off to start this year's reading (I already have a list of what I want to read; is anyone surprised?). 

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Fiction of 2015

Here are my favourite fiction books from the past year. These are books I read in 2015, not ones that were published in 2015. They are in no particular order.

1. Terry Pratchett: Unseen Academicals, The Dragons of Crumbling Castle, and The Truth. I always enjoy Terry Pratchett, although I didn't read much from him this year. Of the three, The Truth was my favourite.

2. Agatha Christie: around 43 books! I won't list them all, but this was my summer for Agatha Christie (and by "summer" I mean June-August, and then a few into the fall, and one last week). I like Miss Marple more than Hercule Poirot, and really enjoyed the Tommy and Tuppence series.

3. Benedict and Nancy Freedman: Mrs Mike. I read this years and years ago (I think I was about 15) at my grandparents' house. It's my mum's favourite book, which is how I read it again this year.

4. Kersten Hamilton: Tyger, Tyger; In the Forests of the Night; The Stars Throw Down Their Spears. This trilogy made me laugh and cry, and held my interest straight through. It didn't fall into the bad habit that seems to plague so many recent trilogies for young people, where the third book becomes too preachy in its attempt to get across its message. There is a message (books in general have some sort of theme that tends to teach something, no matter how unintentional), but it's just part of the story and not in your face.

5. Charles Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities. Yes, it's long (he was definitely paid by the word), but so worth it. I devoured the final few chapters because I had to see how it ended.

6. Manga Classics: This is my new favourite way to read some of the classics! I read three of them this year:
The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne (Story Adaptation by Crystal S. Chan; English Script by Stacy King; Art by SunNeko Lee)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin (story adaptation by Stacy King; Art by Po Tse)
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (story adaptation by Crystal Silvermoon; English Script by Stacy King; Art by SunNeko Lee)

7. Leonie Swann: Three Bags Full. Someone has killed their shepherd, and the sheep are determined to figure it out. It's fun to read, especially since the sheep, of course, don't quite understand the human world. The author did a great job of writing from their perspective.

Those were the best (at least in my opinion). I read a lot of other books, some from my childhood (The Secret Garden, The Story Girl, a few books by Monica Hughes) and others that were good, but not at the top of the list. I read one that would have made the list, but around page 350 the young heroine goes into the magician's room and they spend the night together (and it gets a bit too detailed for a couple pages). It really bothered me, because the story is good, but I can never recommend it to anyone because of 4 totally unnecessary pages.

Tomorrow I'll look at the non-fiction of the year.

Monday, 28 December 2015

2015 Reading Challenge

Much to no one's surprise, I finished the 2015 reading challenge (at the beginning of November). It was a good way to expand my reading habits at least a bit. Of course, many of the books I would have read anyway fit into at least one category, but there were some books that I searched out to fit the categories.

Here are some books that I enjoyed but wouldn't have found if I hadn't been doing the challenge:     

  1. A book written by someone under 30: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. He's pretty interesting (I also read Paper Towns) and not as depressing as you'd think given the popularity of The Fault in Our Stars.
  2. A book set in a different country: The Ink Bridge by Neil Grant. This one takes place in Afghanistan and Australia. It's interesting and sad.
  3. A book based on a true story: The Great Pearl Heist by Molly Caldwell Crosby. This is about the theft of the most expensive necklace in the world, and gives some information on the formation of Scotland Yard, London a hundred or so years ago, and the jewel trade.
  4. A book that scares you: Dracula by Bram Stoker. It's not a book I'd read just before turning out the lights, but I really enjoyed it.
  5. A book based entirely on its cover: Tyger, Tyger by Kersten Hamilton; also In the Forests of the Night and When the Stars Throw Down Their Spears. It took three tries to find a book based on the cover that I was willing to finish, but this one was really good (enough that I read the trilogy). It's based on Irish mythology.
  6. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. London and Paris both, and a story that had me staying up to finish the last chapters.
  7. A graphic novel: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin (the Manga Classics version; story adaptation by Stacy King; Art by Po Tse). I liked this format enough that I also read the Manga Classics version of Les Miserables and The Scarlet Letter.
  8. A book that takes place in your hometown: Thunder Bay by William Kent Krueger. Granted, much of the novel takes place in the states, but they do have to travel to Thunder Bay and the surrounding area.
  9. A book originally written in a different language: Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann. It's about sheep who are detectives, trying to find out who killed their shepherd. What's not to like?
      There were more, of course, but these ones were my favourites. At some point over the next few days, I'll give you my top picks for fiction and non-fiction over the past year. And then I'll get started on this reading challenge: I'm planning to do the light, avid, and committed reader, with some forays into the obsessed reader (but I don't think I'll finish that). Granted, I read 135 books in 2015, but a lot of those were light reads, children's lit, and the like. I think 2016 will be a deeper reading year, and that tends to slow down the number of books read.