RSS

Book Review: “Brother Sheffey – A Christian Who Knew the Power of Prayer” by Willard Sanders Barbery

Book Review: “Brother Sheffey – A Christian Who Knew the Power of Prayer” by Willard Sanders Barbery

If we went for a coffee today, I’d tell you about this book. It’s in pieces, the paperback binding fell apart as I was reading it.

A few weeks ago, I was in Millbrook, Alabama helping clean out and sort some of my grandparents affects after they passed last year. On Wednesday night, my son and I walked up to their home church, Victory Baptist Church in Millbrook. After the prayer meeting and Bible Study, I had the opportunity to peruse their book shelves where they had this biography along with two others that I “borrowed.” There was no one there to receive my money for them. I saw the pastor, Brother Joey Byrd the next day and he didn’t seem to mind that I had helped myself to them.

If he sees this post, he might change his mind! In that case, I’d be happy to forward the $4.50 to the church.

In reading it, I deduced that it was written around 1950. I couldn’t find a publishing date printed anywhere on it. It was reprinted by Larry Harrison of the Christian Book Gallery in St. John, Indiana.

This wasn’t a well written book. I’d be surprised if it went past the desk of an editor. If it did, the editor didn’t read it, or hopefully found another line of work.

In spite of all that, the source material for the book was fascinating to me. It was the life of a man named Robert Sayers Sheffey as told by the letters he wrote and the people who knew him. Brother Sheffey lived from 1820-1902 in the hills of Virginia. He was a Methodist circuit rider, which means that he spent most of his life on the back of a horse visiting homes, villages and small towns scattered throughout 18 counties in rural Virginia and West Virginia. His life was spent with the aim of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with anyone in that geographic area.

Apparently, he wasn’t a very good preacher. At all. What he was known for was his prayer life. He wasn’t remembered because he prayed a lot, he was revered because his prayers were answered so consistently and yet in many peculiar ways.

Peculiar was the recurring word, because he was a peculiar man. There were many examples of it. He seems to have been a germaphobe and a neat freak, which is remarkable in the hills of Virginia. He was known to always be clean, and to prize clean sheets in the homes he stayed in. He would clean saucers and bowls and cups that were served to him, and talk about how being clean was important, and how water was so necessary for keeping things clean and good.

His prayers were peculiar. In fact, his prayers were sometimes offensive, as he would pray aloud exactly what was on his mind and affecting his heart.

For instance, in those days they had a lot of revivals and camp meetings where whole communities would come together for about a week of preaching and singing and praying and seeking the Lord for loved ones to become Christians. There were times that the meetings were dull and really couldn’t get going. Often in those meetings Brother Sheffey was there, but hadn’t been invited to speak or to pray, because he would sometimes say embarrassing things.

Eventually, they would ask him to pray, and he would say things like: “Lord, they have been ignoring me for a couple of days, haven’t invited me to do anything because they are ashamed of me. But, Lord, I pray that you would visit this meeting and bring revival and …” and the meeting would become full of life and vitality and many people would become Christians. The people loved him. His colleagues would sometimes struggle with him.

He would pray for insects and farm animals that were injured or weren’t acting properly. He would pray for lost objects to be found. He would pray for people to be healed.

He would also pray that the Lord would take some people home to heaven. That was when they kept continually falling back into temptation or the world, he would pray the Lord would take them after they repented “while the fur was good!”

He was well known for praying against the production of alcohol in the mountain “stills.” When it came to alcohol, seemingly whatever he prayed would come to pass. If he prayed for trees to fall on them and destroy them it would happen. If he would pray for them to be turned to pigsty’s or cow pens it would happen. If he would pray for them to be swept away by a flood it would happen. In one case, he prayed that the still and the lounge would close and be turned over to a preacher and his family and of course, a year later, it had happened.

He would pray these kinds of prayers when he saw a “still.” He would ride his horse up close to it, even when the men were working there, dismount, pull out a white sheepskin, lay it on the ground and then kneel on it and pray aloud. He was feared by people who established “stills,” lounges or bars.

He was also well known for his altar ministry. People in these revival meetings and camp meetings would come under conviction and become so troubled by the condition of their heart and soul and come forward to talk with a pastor and pray. Brother Sheffey was gifted in those moments as hundreds of people entered into peace with God through trusting Christ there at the altar under his gentle guidance.

He was known for shouting when the Lord would answer prayers, or anytime that he was just happy about what the Lord was doing.

And, he loved to have a mouthful of maple syrup, or honey, or something sweet as he would ride away to the next stop.

The book was difficult to read because it desperately needed an editor. However, the stories of Brother Sheffey’s life, and the window into what life was like over 150 years ago kept me riveted to the page, even though the page would fall out of the book!

The other thing that struck me in this book, was though he was a Methodist, and many Baptists would attend these meetings, they reported so many supernatural experiences: uncontrolled weeping and sorrow, inexpressible joy, the sound of angels singing, fainting (slain in the Spirit), but widespread return to religion that spread like a fire through communities, producing lasting change in lives, marriages, families and communities.

That was inspiring. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Lord, do it again! Raise up another Brother Sheffey for these times and these days.

Isn’t it time to seek the Lord?

 
6 Comments

Posted by on June 21, 2022 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Book Review: “Never Split the Difference – Negotiating As If Your Life Depended on It” by Chris Voss

Book Review: “Never Split the Difference – Negotiating As If Your Life Depended on It” by Chris Voss

A little over a year ago, I was standing in the courtyard after we finished a wonderful morning at Calvary Fellowship in Ottawa. One of my friends there is a young man who is being groomed for work in the ambassador corps. He’s incredibly intelligent, well read, and one of the most polite people that I’ve ever met.

In our conversation it became obvious that in his formal education, on the job training and mentoring there had never been one course, or one workshop, or even a session on negotiating. Doesn’t it seem obvious that if you’re a diplomat, this would be a necessary skill, one that the government would recognize as crucial? Apparently not.

Fast forward several months, I had a long drive in front of me and had caught up on my usual podcasts, and so scanned the archive of the Jordan B. Peterson podcast to see if anything caught my interest. I stumbled upon an interview from a couple of years ago with Chris Voss the FBI Hostage Negotiator. It was amazing. Super informative. I found a copy of his book at the local library and waited several more weeks till it was available.

It didn’t disappoint. Every chapter opens up with a story of a tense negotiating situation in his career in law enforcement. From there, he breaks down the situation, the factors at play and introduces the next concept of negotiation. Each chapter closes with at least one more example of that concept in a more everyday situation. It’s brilliant.

Negotiation, like most things in life, it isn’t what you think. And, like most things in life, it requires you to get a hold of your emotions and be others focused. It’s fascinating to be reminded of those truths from a completely different approach.

I wish I owned the book. There was one chapter that I read twice. I may need to read it again. My teenaged son is now reading it. I’ve recommended it to several people, hopefully, this review makes it’s way to my friend.

Let me ask you, have you had any training in negotiation? Do you have any books to recommend? Do you have any experiences using Chris Voss’s material?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 14, 2022 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Book Review: “An Unquiet Mind – A Memoir of Moods and Madness” by Kay Redfield Jamison

Book Review: “An Unquiet Mind – A Memoir of Moods and Madness” by Kay Redfield Jamison

This book was recommended to me by one of my brothers. He was kind and purchased a license for the audiobook version. Sadly, I don’t get as much time as I’d like for listening to content. Fortunately, the local library had a copy I was able to borrow for free. Which these days is an attractive price.

This book is a memoir of many of the author’s experiences with manic-depressive or bipolar disorder. The thing that makes this book special is that she is also a psychiatrist. She aims to bring dignity and perspective to a perplexing condition.

It’s obvious that this was a very popular book. The edition I read had a new preface from the author to commemorate 15 years of the book being in circulation. This copy was released in 2011, which makes the book over 25 years old.

I read it in two days. She’s a gifted writer. The editing is superb.

The topic hits close to home for me, as there’s more than one case of manic-depressive on my father’s side of the family. It’s helpful to read someone’s experience in their struggle to process life through a mind that isn’t always trustworthy.

There are two themes that emerge from this book. One, is to have compassion for people that have a mental illness. She admits that this is difficult because so often, the behaviour that accompanies it is corrosive to relationships. She gives multiple examples. And, they are heartbreaking. She obviously treasured people that were kind and generous and understanding.

The second is for people to take their medicine. In her case, that is lithium, which she describes as nothing special, just an elemental salt. She hammers this point home. By the middle of the book, the reader is compelled to root for her to stay regular with her medicine despite the side effects. It becomes life and death.

Near the end of the book, the reader rejoices with her, when she lowers her daily dose, and describes how she’s able to better engage with her surroundings and increase her enjoyment of the simple things in life. Her descriptions are vivid.

This is a well written memoir. She and the team that she worked with did a superb job. It’s a helpful introduction into the experience of a loved one, or family member that struggles with this condition. For a person with a mental illness, it would be validating as it comes from a patient and a psychiatrist.

Because it was published 25 years ago, I do have two categories of questions.

First, Have there been any further developments in our understanding of treatments and causes? We do know that this has a tendency to travel in families and bloodlines. Is that genetic? Or, is that a result of the Microbiome? What role has diet, supplements, exercise and sleeping routines found to have with it?

The second set of questions come from the category of presuppositions. For instance, Is there a memoir out there that includes the realm of spirituality in it’s scope? The medical community in those days had adopted a view that completely discounted the influence of spirituality in the body and it’s processes. She makes passing reference to Christianity. It appears that it has no affect on her experiences.

Because of her worldview appears absent of spirituality, for me, it would be helpful to hear someone’s experience who wasn’t in as many intimate relationships as she was. She’s been married three times, and had significant romantic relationships outside of marriage.

These two dynamics, spirituality and sex would have a major influence on moods, emotions and feelings. I recognize that there are countless people that have struggled with mental illness that were both monogamous and spiritual, but I can’t readily recall a memoir of their experiences with mental illness.

As a dad, I can tell stories about what certain foods do to the moods and emotions and thinking of children. This is undeniable. I can’t imagine what adding alcohol to the mix would do.

Leaving my questions aside, this remains a very interesting book, from a very interesting person. It is a tremendously helpful book for anyone affected by mental illness. I would guess in western society that would be everyone. I’m grateful that my brother recommended that I read it.

What about you? Have you read this book? Do you know of other memoirs that are more recent? Or, include the items I have questions about?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 6, 2022 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Book Review: “Jesus Revolution – How God Transformed an Unlikely Generation and How He Can Do It Again Today” by Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn

Book Review: “Jesus Revolution – How God Transformed an Unlikely Generation and How He Can Do It Again Today” by Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn

This book has the best cover, don’t you think? I love it.

I picked this up about a year ago, and it got packed in a box when we moved. I found it while rifling through the box looking for a different book to give someone, and saw this one, pulled it out and said… “yeah! I did want to read this.”

Pastor Greg Laurie has written lots of books over the years. I discovered him through the book “Harvest” by Chuck Smith. Greg’s story was one of the stories in that book, these unlikely guys that the Lord worked in and changed and they are or were pastoring fairly large churches at the time.

A few years later, Greg did a movie of his life, sort of a long form testimony of what the Lord had done. That was called “Lost Boy” and it was very powerful. We used it for an outreach in Ottawa and saw a handful of people come to Christ as a result. There’s one scene near the end of the movie, where Aaron Gillespie is singing Amazing Grace, and people are responding to an invitation. It’s very powerful.

I expected this to be similar.

It wasn’t.

Surprisingly, this book is more like a history book. It’s true that Greg’s story is part of the book, and there’s elements of his story here that weren’t told in other books or the movie. There’s also parts of Chuck Smith’s story in this book that I haven’t read or heard in other books or recordings.

But, largely, this is an introduction into the world of the 60’s, 70’s and into today. It’s helpful for someone like me, or even younger than I to know what life was like in those days, how chaotic it was, how uncertain it was, and what fundamental and huge changes our society went through.

Those older than I lived through it and I would expect that would remember the events and how they felt as they lived through them.

The overall point is in in the subtitle. That the Lord did this amazing work in these very unlikely people, during a crazy time. And, that’s easy to say, and point to, but I have to say… the details make that vivid.

And, they did a great job with the details. What the Lord did, especially with the cultural context in immediate view, is nothing short of miraculous. It’s encouraging to remember.

“The Lord’s works are great, studied by all who delight in them.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭111:2‬ ‭CSB‬‬

https://bible.com/bible/1713/psa.111.2.CSB

If you’re doubtful that the Lord could do something wonderful in redeeming in our current society, this would be a book that would encourage you. I’d recommend it to you.

If you love God, and love to study what he’s done, this would also be of interest to you.

A couple of final notes, things I thought about while reading this.

I wonder if one of the reasons that this book was written and published when it was, was to help ease the transition of Pastor Greg and his ministry and Harvest Christian Fellowship into the Southern Baptist Convention. I found it interesting how Greg related some of his more charismatic experiences here. I don’t think his position has changed at all. But, I could see where an SBC stalwart would want to know his position and his leanings and Greg helpful answers that through the story.

Also, Ellen Vaughn mentioned in her acknowledgements that she received so many wonderful stories and testimonies from various people from that time as part of her research. She regretted not being able to include them.

I doubt this post will reach her, but if it does, I would love to read those stories. Maybe a follow up book, that just contains more evidence of what God did during that time, would build on the cultural contextual work in this one, and really drive the point home. There’s hope for us today.

Lord, send revival to our churches!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 1, 2022 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Book Review: “Gentle and Lowly” by Dane Ortlund

Book Review: “Gentle and Lowly” by Dane Ortlund

My friend Rich Crosby was the first one that told me about this book. We were talking at the local playground one morning and he told me how much it blessed him. He wanted me to read it.

Then, over the next few months it kept popping up in conversation, as different friends who were pastors had read it and had been moved and blessed by it.

Here’s the thing though, they were all Calvinists. And, this book was published by Crossway, which to my knowledge only publishes from that theological position. I’m not a Calvinist.

So, I don’t remember how I got a copy of this book. I may have grabbed it at the same time that I snatched “If You Can Keep It” by Eric Metaxas out of the lending library at Tennessee River Baptist Church a couple of months ago.

Anyway, I finished it a couple of days ago.

And…

Every Calvinist should read it! It provides a necessary correction to their view of God. I could see this being cold water to a heart that has been imbibing the neo-Calvinist idea of God.

If you don’t feel close to God, or have never experienced the love of God, or have listened to a lot of John MacArthur, John Piper and so forth (why are they all “Johns?”), may I encourage you to read this book?

A great way to do it, is to take a chapter a day, as a devotional and read it and meditate on it. Another idea would be to take a chapter a week, and read that chapter every day so you can meditate on it. There’s some wonderful truths about God, that God says of himself that have been neglected.

The title comes from Jesus’s autobiographical statement… “I am gentle and lowly of heart and you will find rest for your souls.

Sadly, this book didn’t strike me as profoundly as it did my Calvinist friends. I’m happy for them, don’t get me wrong. But, I find that these books by Calvinist authors are more difficult for me to connect with.

For this topic, I was much more blessed and encouraged by “Love – The More Excellent Way” by Chuck Smith. That book was excellent. It’s the distillation of his teaching and meditating on the love of God over fifty years. It’s far more accessible, far more practical and exponentially deeper.

Have you read either of those? What do you think? I want to know.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 23, 2022 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , , ,

Book Review: “The Flourishing Pastor” by Tom Nelson

Book Review: “The Flourishing Pastor” by Tom Nelson

So… there I was, sitting at Craft Kafe with my friend Tim Wolter, discussing one of our favourite topics, church. He had been reading this book and was about 3/4 of the way through it and asked if I would read it as well and comment on it. He graciously let me borrow it, and as soon as I finish writing this, I’ll return it to him.

The book is divided into three sections, based off of Psalm 78:72 which reads:

“He shepherded them with a pure heart and guided them with his skillful hands.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭78:72‬ ‭CSB‬‬

https://bible.com/bible/1713/psa.78.72.CSB

The first section is about “The Shepherd,” the second is “Integrity of Heart,” and the third is “Skillful Hands.”

One of the themes that runs through the book is transforming the reader, who is a pastor, into someone that thinks not only about Sunday, but about Monday, specifically about the work situations of the congregants and equipping them to be an effective witness for Jesus in those environments.

I found this book tough slogging through the first two sections. I wanted to put it down. That part felt forced, like maybe the editor or the publisher wanted it in there. Pastor Nelson, hit his stride in the third section, where he got into the “skillful hands” and it was obvious to me that he had some things he wanted to say and thought they were helpful.

And they were for me. Let me give you a couple of excerpts that appealed to me, and may prove to make some wholesale changes in my life.

First, on pages 154-155, he starts by quoting psychiatrist Curt Thompson. Pastor Nelson writes:

“Christian psychiatrist Curt Thompson makes the point that our brains are actually altered in storytelling. ‘People change not just their experiences, but also their brains — through the process of telling their stories to an empathic listener. When a person tells her story and is truly heard and understood, both she and the listener undergo actual changes in their brain circuitry.’ If congregations are to flourish, shepherding leaders must realize that everyone has a story to tell and everyone needs someone to whom they can tell their story. Every person who is entrusted to us within the congregation needs to know others and be known by others. Storytelling is a primary way that deep relationships are formed and sustained and that joy is released. As shepherding pastors, we must grasp the importance of encouraging and equipping our congregational members not only to share their stories with one another, but to share their unique story with others who may not yet know Jesus.”

“The Flourishing Pastor” by Tom Nelson, pages 154-155

I think this is clutch, especially in our cultural context. That practice we did of breaking into groups of 3 and 4 people to share testimonies and what we were grateful for at Calvary was profound in forming relationships. On top of that, and not only equally important, but maybe more important was taking a few minutes at the close of our Sunday morning gatherings to break into groups of 2 and 3 to pray for each other. I felt affirmed in that practice after reading this.

The next excerpt is much longer and for me was more personal. It’s from pages 113-114 in the second section “Integrity of Heart” in a chapter called “Pursuing Wholeness.” Pastor Nelson writes:

“I will never forget the advice a wise executive gave me when I was a seminarian… ‘love where you go home to at night.’… He simply reminded me that our homes are a place of refuge from the world, a place of rest and renewal. These wise words have guided me over the years, and my wife, Liz, and I have invested time and treasure in making the place we live a place of rest and beauty, one conducive to hospitality. As pastoral leaders we don’t have to have elaborate homes, but within our budgetary capacity we are wise to invest resources in making our homes a refuge, a place of beauty and serenity. Creating beautiful, warm and inviting spaces in our homes enhances the flourishing and joy of others who share with us times of celebration, laughter, and fun. Surrounding our lives with beauty is not only a way to minimize the corrosive effects of evil, it is also a way to bring joy and well-being to our lives and relationships. We were created to flourish in a beautiful garden, and even though we live in a fallen world, we are renewed when we encounter beauty.

“The Flourishing Pastor” by Tom Nelson, pages 113-114

That struck me. I’ve thought of that idea over the years, but it’s been quite some time since Gen and I have invested time and treasure into the furnishings and decorations of our home. Part of that is because we had growing children and between the pace of life and how hard that season of life is on our effects, we were just surviving! A few days later, these words from Proverbs jumped off the page:

“A house is built by wisdom, and it is established by understanding; by knowledge the rooms are filled with every precious and beautiful treasure.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭24:3-4‬ ‭CSB‬‬

https://bible.com/bible/1713/pro.24.3-4.CSB

We have recently emptied out our storage unit and brought everything to the condo we are temporarily living it. It’s time to do some cleaning! So, with the encouragement of Pastor Nelson, and the criteria of “precious and beautiful” we have some work to do. And, yes, we will say “thank-you” to stuff like Marie Kondo.

Overall, I found the book helpful. Frankly, it must be said, that I usually find myself out of step with most of what is produced by people associated with The Gospel Coalition (TGC). There are exceptions, of course. And, that’s what I struggled with through the first two sections of the book.

Here’s the questions I had after finishing the book: I wonder if my colleagues that have swallowed Calvinism, or like one person said: “invited John Calvin, or John Piper into their hearts,” are struggling with the intimacy and integrity part of their personal relationship with the Lord? Is that why the first two sections were included?

Or, was it a publishing decision to have a larger book, a little more comprehensive, and not just be a technical, practical encouragement in the skill part of pastoring?

But, like I said, overall, I found that third section helpful and helpful enough to recommend the book to others.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 4, 2022 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , ,

Book Review “Kill the Noise” by Ryan Ries

Book Review “Kill the Noise” by Ryan Ries

So there I was, a few months ago, stopping by CCF, and I don’t remember why, but I was there near lunchtime, and saw my new friend Jairus Hodges, and somehow, a few minutes later, I was in his car with Ryan Ries and his buddy Daniel on our way to lunch. Ryan was in town to speak at CCF, do some stuff with Zeal, and I think they were doing an event in St. Pete as well. After lunch, Ryan gave me a copy of his book.

I had met Ryan a few months before at the Pastor’s Conference in Diamond Bar, California. He was friends with Chris Waldrop and we were introduced. I was pretty sure that he wouldn’t remember me, only because of the sheer scale of people that he meets on a regular basis.

I knew him because many years ago, I was at a Pastor’s Conference in Murrieta Hot Springs and Raul Ries, Ryan’s dad, introduced him. Ryan shared how he had been a prodigal for many years, and how the Lord got a hold of him after an overdose in a hotel room in Panama on a skate tour. It was a powerful story, and Ryan was introducing the new ministry he was a part of called “The Whosoevers.”

The original idea for “The Whosoevers” came from Sonny Sandoval of P.O.D. It was born through a conversation in Las Vegas over dinner. Sonny invited his friend Brian “Head” Welch of Korn, and Ryan invited Lacey Sturm of Flyleaf and the four of them partnered together and have been sharing the gospel with a part of our culture that not many people have been effective in.

The book is Ryan’s story. What’s refreshing about it, is that it’s not heavy. It doesn’t mince the realities of a life with sin, but, there’s huge sections where Ryan is explaining from the New Living Translation of the Bible what was happening in his life both before Christ and then his journey as a Christian.

It’s very Southern California, and beyond that, lots of skateboard culture and Latin culture. I found the way he relates the Scriptural truths to not only be accurate and engaging but like I said earlier, “refreshing.” It’s a fresh voice, some new words, some fresh expressions, and the trustworthy truths are hopefully heard by a new group of people.

My teenage son read it and enjoyed it too. We would recommend it.

Ryan’s not the only long time prodigal that we have seen come to Christ through praying parents. And, not just come to Christ, but blaze a new trail into areas of our culture that desperately need to hear the good news of Jesus. If you’re a parent of a prodigal, you’ll be encouraged reading this book.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 26, 2022 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Family Update – Spring 2022

We are due for an update. Actually, when I go for coffee with people, or when I have phone conversations with all of you, this is the topic that comes up the most, and usually first. What are you guys up to? Where is the Lord leading you, etc…

When we went for family debriefing one of the counselors shared how going through a transition like this was like crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. When you start it’s rare that you can see the end of the bridge because there’s usually fog in the middle. We are in that fog. There will be an end to the bridge, we just don’t know yet what it will look like.

So, in the meantime, the kids are plugging away at school. Olivia has been thriving at a small Christian School in St. Petersburg that runs the A.C.E. curriculum. Thaddeus and Sarah are doing a superb job at keeping up with Calvary Preparatory Academy online. We get to see Isabelle regularly even though she’s plugged into the Zeal School of Ministryen at Calvary Chapel Fellowship of St. Petersburg.

Gen has had the opportunity to do some music recently. She’s led worship for a few churches, and has been slowly making some connections with other musicians and song-writers here.

And, I’ve had the privilege of teaching a few times at various churches. For the next couple of months I’ve been asked to do “pulpit supply” at Azalea Baptist Church in St. Petersburg while they search for a new pastor.

We are both continuing some individual counselling that was provided for us after the family debriefing. I feel like I’m in the locker room at halftime. I have almost 20 years of ministry (great ministry!) behind me and it’s good to take some time to pause and reflect. I’m doing some reading, lots of talking and praying and considering what kinds of changes I’d like to make in preparation for the next 20 years.

I’m encouraged by two things. First, that when the gardener comes through and prunes, it’s in order that there might be “much more fruit.” Second, I’m encouraged because I felt the Lord make Psalm 32:8-11 personal to me recently.

“I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with my eye on you, I will give counsel. Do not be like a horse or mule, without understanding, that must be controlled with bit and bridle or else it will not come near you. Many pains come to the wicked, but the one who trusts in the Lord will have faithful love surrounding him.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭32:8-10‬ ‭CSB‬‬

https://bible.com/bible/1713/psa.32.8-10.CSB

We are still living temporarily in a 2 bedroom condo in South Tampa. It’s like an overgrown hotel room and the pool is really, really nice. We are still doing lots of paperwork from our move, it’s incredible how many details still need attention.

Because it looks like we will be in this transition for the rest of the calendar year, and because a handful of people wanted to support us financially through it, I’ve registered as a missionary with Axia International. They can receive donations on our behalf in any currency and will help us with the paperwork associated with it. As you might imagine, the honorariums from pulpit supply and guest speaking and worship leading are a tremendous blessing but don’t quite cover all our expenses. We would like to stay available for ministry and make good use of this “halftime.”

So, that’s the update!

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 21, 2022 in Uncategorized

 

Book Review: “If You Can Keep It” by Eric Metaxas

Book Review: “If You Can Keep It” by Eric Metaxas

There’s always a story to how I get a book and why I read it in the first place. You might find this story interesting.

Earlier this year, I reconnected with my friend Don here in Tampa. He’s the one that introduced me to the people at “County Citizens Defending Freedom” and introduced me to “Kingstone Comics.” In all of my conversations with him, he’s been urging me to read this book. Because I currently don’t have an income, I wasn’t looking to purchase anything extra. It’s on hold at the local library with a bunch of people in line waiting for it.

Olivia had spring break a couple of weeks ago, and my friend Gary asked me if I would be willing to drive a car from Illinois down to Tampa for him. Olivia and I took a flight and drove his car down (and that’s a story for another time) stopping along the way to visit my family that I don’t get to see that often. We had a ball.

When we visited my cousin, Jeremy in Tennessee, he took us to his work and we got to see and sit in the fire trucks and visit the rescue squad equipment depot and also tour his church. They had a lending library and I took a couple of minutes to peruse their selection, and there near the top of a pile of books to be sorted, in this Baptist church, in a small town called Camden, was this book. They let me take it.

Mr. Metaxas is a great writer. A few years ago, I read his Bonhoeffer biography and “7 Men.” My first exposure to him, however, was a speech he gave in Ottawa at the National Prayer Breakfast. He talked about abortion. That was one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard in my life. I don’t know how Justin Trudeau survived it. He was sitting nearby. As a writer, he makes the rest of us look like we are in kindergarten. His use of a variety of words and interesting turns of phrase I find to be beautiful. His subject matter was engaging.

The basic premise is that the foundation of our country has been forgotten. He was Yale educated and never exposed to the wealth of the thoughts, ideas and even art that produced the United States. In this book, he takes the time to tell some stories that used to be told and haven’t been lately. He also exposes how the founders and their society thought about the US and why it was in their words… “exceptional.” He also gives some historical context that helps us to understand why the US was founded in the first place.

I know now why my friend Don was urging me to read it. It’s needed and necessary and very accessible.

Mr. Metaxas starts with a story of Benjamin Franklin in conversation with a citizen at the close of the Continental Congress. It’s where the line “if you can keep it” comes from. He closes with an incredible story about the Statue of Liberty from his own family’s experience. Within the book is the backstory of Paul Revere, told afresh in the midst of the backstory of Longfellow and his poem, cast in the meilleur of our educational and cultural moment. All of these stories propelled me along, causing me to finish the book faster than I anticipated.

I read the backstory of Squanto to the family over dinner. It’s too good not to tell.

But, the chapter that will leave a lasting impression on me was his recounting of the influence of George Whitfield. He argues that the US would not exist, and would have no national identity without him. I’ve read Whitefield’s biography, I’m familiar with the story. But, this was a story about the US and Whitefield was a character in that story, and to consider the impact he made is quite revelatory.

The other thing I’ll walk away with from this book is another viewing of “Amazing Grace” and the story of William Wilberforce. I haven’t read his biography yet.

Maybe, when I come across that one, I’ll have another interesting story to share. And, hopefully, by that time, my writing skills will improve!

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 30, 2022 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Book Review: “The Man Behind the Curtain – Inside the Secret Network of George Soros” by Matt Palumbo

Book Review: “The Man Behind the Curtain – Inside the Secret Network of George Soros” by Matt Palumbo

There’s always an interesting story behind every book. And, this one doesn’t disappoint. I’m actually hesitant to share these details publicly because our society is so divided at the moment about some very important issues. Because of the animosity, the impulse is to protect, but that comes at the expense of sharing helpful information.

Because of my experience in Canada, I’ve been awakened to the need to be more involved in the political process. It’s part of being a fully functioning adult in our society and a mature Christian. Our ancestors gave us the privilege of self-government through a representational democracy (or republic) and not only do we have the right to vote, but to also run for office, lobby, petition and even protest. In the transition back to Florida, I knew I wanted to get involved.

In reconnecting with a long time friend, he introduced me to another friend of his who has joined CCDF-USA in Hillsborough County. She’s an almost retired attorney in Tampa and is now devoting most of her time to assisting a group of volunteers engage at the county level. I was fascinated to hear how they have been helping parents and concerned grandparents express themselves effectively with local officials and decision makers.

A week later, I had the joy of meeting the man who is working on getting a local county level organization going in more places around the country. He’s a local business man, who in the last half of his life was inspired by the work that the Alliance for Defending Freedom has been doing, and saw that there was a need for an organization that could help citizens engage at the county level. He shared some stories from some work that that they had been part of, and I recognized them because I had read about them in the regular news. They had been a part of making a good, positive difference.

He’s the one that gave me a copy of this book. He wants to assist citizens in their desire to “defend freedom.” He was alarmed to discover the role and amount of money that was being inserted into local, county level officials from international sources, specifically organizations and foundations that are funded by George Soros. I’ve heard the name, but like J. Edgar Hoover, didn’t know much about the guy.

This book is new. It’s only a few months old. The author, Matt Palumbo, has taken an enormous amount of time to research and footnote the myriad trails of money that originated in the fortune of George Soros. It’s a difficult book to read because of the amount of just raw data and figures.

He opens by giving a biography of Mr. Soros. Born in Hungary, raised during the Nazi occupation, and sharing significant experiences that must have shaped his worldview. He also gave an explanation of the influence of philosopher Karl Popper on his ideas of how the world should function. It’s where the name “Open Society” came from and why it’s used as a name on many of his endeavours.

Allow me to admit that I don’t understand this philosophy. It wouldn’t be appropriate to fault the author’s explanation. It’s quite possible that I don’t understand, because it’s not understandable. It may exist outside of rational thought. Soros seems to be the only one that purports it, yet, as the author argues, he’s often operating in contradiction to it.

The most powerful chapter of the book for me was the one describing the donations that Soros funded organizations and foundations have made in local politics. It’s mostly the story of District Attorney’s and how they have shifted their approach to a much softer view of petty crimes, attributed poverty to the cause of crimes, and chosen to not prosecute some categories of crimes, or crimes committed by certain segments of the population. It’s been very difficult on communities and we’ve seen that in the news recently.

The main argument of the book is that Soros is funding all of this, and it all comes from his worldview and what’s implied is that our society would be better off without him meddling in not only our affairs, but those of other countries around the world.

I was also interested in the chapter devoted to Soros’s involvement in the Ukraine, because the Ukraine is dominating our news these days. We know the Biden’s had some business there. And, now, I can see all the involvement Soros has had there. Soros was a hero there. It’s difficult to refute any arguments that they aren’t completely and hopelessly corrupt and it isn’t their fault.

Here’s the bottom line for me. I’m grateful to read this. I needed to know how pervasive Soros’s money is. However, I’m not convinced that he’s getting what he wants all the time, as much as people are getting money from him and doing all kinds of crazy things with it. The guy is 91 after all. And, there’s no way for him to control the size and scale of the operation he’s funding. Anyone that will lie and manipulate others can be sure to lie to himself. Money doesn’t cure that problem.

Leaving the topic of Soros, we don’t have a CCDF organization here in Pinellas County. It would be good to get one going. I would think that citizens here would be interested to know if and when one of our officials has betrayed their oath of office. It would also be good to know which County Commissioners, School Board Trustees, or if the Sheriff, or District Attorney, or Supervisor of Elections has been on staff at one of these foundations or organizations that Soros funds, or has received funds from them. That doesn’t make them guilty of anything. It’s just good to know what we might expect from them.

What about you? How involved in the political process are you? How involved do you want to be? Feel free to comment (publicly!) or send me a message (privately!).

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 17, 2022 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,