Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I MADE IT-- Add on some more C.S.

Sorry for 2 posts in one day, but I had to put this one up. I ALSO just finished The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis really just about an hour after publishing that last post. So make that 17 for 2008. That's 1.4 a month.
It was about the hardest book I've read all year...a deep one. Hard to grasp.

The Books I Actually Finished

Here's a list of the books I actually finished in 2008. 16 in all. Next to the author's name is the date I finished. Enjoy.

1. Out of Africa
, Isak Dinesen (2/19)
This is an autobiography that I had to read for a class, but it turned out to be one of my favorites of the year. After I finished, I learned that it's also a movie, and that the movie won best picture in 1985. I haven't rented the movie yet, but someday, I will. It's a great read about a women who lives in Africa on a farm with natives. It's basically a collection of vignettes about her time there with the people. Great read.
2. Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, Mary McCarthy (3/1)
I had to read this one for the same class. Wasn't as good. Slightly interesting, but mostly sub-par. I'm not going to recommend this one.
3. Life of Pi, Yann Martel (2/24)
This was a fun and interesting and (seemingly) thought provoking read. I thought it was going to be pretty deep and present some big questions, but in the end it basically presented its underlying philosophy flat out: believe whatever is easiest for you to believe.
4. Lord Foulgrin’s Letters, Randy Alcorn (3/3)
A modern day Screwtape Letters. Always good to get the demon's perspective. Scares you a bit.
5. Poetics, Aristotle (2/28)
Pretty much all of creative writing technique is based on this short, less than 150 page book by Aristotle. If you want to be a writer it's an essential. If not, pass on it.
6. Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (4/30)
I guess I expected to find symbolism and cool connections with reality and so on, but, to me, it was just a non-sensical story that had its moments but really went on too long.
7. Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell (4/28)
Another autobiography. It's Orwell's story of his early days as a homeless, jobless, hungry vagrant in the streets on Paris and, well, London. An interesting perspective and a good read. If you like autobiographies, consider it.
8. Total Money Makeover, Dave Ramsey (5/4)
Good advice on getting out of debt. Luckily, I'm not in too much debt (darn student loans!)
9. The War of Art, Steven Pressfield (5/25)
Dr. Jack Simons, my college adviser and professor for many of my writing classes, gave this to me as a gift upon my graduation. I read it pretty quickly (the chapters are really short and that always makes it easy for me). It was somewhat enjoyable, but it was mostly just saying that if you want to be a writer, you have to please the muses of writing by sitting down and writing 2 hours a day, rain or shine. The funny thing was he actually believed in muses, which was kinda weird.
10. Desiring God, John Piper (8/3)
Awesome book that has gotten me hooked on all things Piper. Read him for challenge or inspiration or deep thinking. Desiring God especially has it all. Read it.
11. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Prisig (8/12)
This is simply a philosophy book in story form. Hard to follow at times, and not entirely worth it at the end. Interesting, but, in a sense, futile.
12. The Road, Cormac McCarthy (10/11)
This was a pretty sweet book. McCarthy is coming off a good year after what's become of No Country and has grabbed my attention. He has a certain style that I like, simple and concrete, Hemingway-ish, I might say, but also quite pulling emotionally. Tragic yet hopeful-- and also a brilliant depiction of our world.
13. Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper (12/1)
Every high school graduate Christian should read this book. Period. It's incredible.
14. Peace Child,
Don Richardson (12/2)
I love reading missionary stories, and this is one of the classics. Set in 1960 Papa New Guinea, in the Sawi tribe, where they have never seen white skin, heard of cars of planes, and most importantly, heard the name of Jesus. In the tribe, treachery and deceit are the highest virtues. It's an incredible story of how God uses the missionaries to bring the gospel to the tribe, and how it turns their world upside down.
15. Crazy Love,
Francis Chan (12/6)
This book is really innovative, with online supplements to some of the chapters and online videos that go with them. In the first chapter he goes: "Now go to and watch the video on there. Seriously. Do it." and then the chapter goes on. You can always count of Francis Chan to do something in a new way. It was a good book, a lot like John Piper's Don't Waste Your Life but a little less of a punch in the face. Maybe it was a punch in the stomach- I don't want to minimize the impact of the punch: it was good.
16. ‘Till We have Faces,
C.S. Lewis (12/26)
You've already read my review to this. If you haven't scroll down one post and you'll see.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold, by C.S. Lewis

Probably my last book of 2008, unless I squeeze in a short one before New Year's, but most definitely not the least favorite of 2008 was C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces. It is not one of Lewis' most popular books-- in fact I had never heard of it before I got it as a gift a couple years ago for my birthday. I put off reading it for a while simply because I was reading other books and when I decided I wanted to read it it was mostly because I had been reading a lot of non-fiction Christian living books and I felt like reading some fiction. I got more than I bargained for-- and I liked it.
The story is a retelling of the Greek myth of Cupid and Pysche, set in a pre-Christian world of kings and queens and castles and knights. The story is narrated by Psyche's oldest sister-Orual, whose ugliness has left her unmarred and unwanted. The book that she writes is her "complaint against the gods." It is compelling from the first chapter, but increasingly draws you in as you begin to question the reliability of the narrator, her motives, and even the nature of love itself. The culmination of the book, in perfect Lewis fashion, leaves you in awe and longing, perhaps to start the book over and read it again.
It was Lewis' last book and his own favorite; and if you're looking for a read similar to Narnia but with some more depth, this is the book for you. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's a Christmas Time Blog!

-->Christmas is a time of joyful celebration. Come December, it seems like there’s just a huge change of mood. People are happy and energized for the holiday season. Carolers are in the streets, dressed up and singing boldly. The masses are excited to go out and spend money on friends and family—love is in the air. If I were Pastor Gary, I might have just broken into song. But seriously, can you feel the change? Can you sense the energy and excitement? It’s the Christmas Spirit.

I have to admit that when Christmas time rolls around I get excited. My family, to fan the flame of the Christmas Spirit has traditions. In fact I think that traditions are one of the most fun things about Christmas. On Christmas Eve every year we’d go out to my grandparents house and exchange gifts, and on the ride home we’d sing Christmas songs. On Christmas morning, my dad, who never cooked any other time all year, would put together an awesome bacon and eggs breakfast topped off with a choice between orange juice or sparkling cider! It was also a tradition of ours to go out to the Christmas tree lot and pick out a Christmas tree in the first week of December. Family traditions are one of the joys of the season.

Of all the Christmas traditions, the Christmas tree tradition is the most widespread. The funny thing is that few of us really know the background of the Christmas tree? Why have a Christmas tree? Why decorate it with lights? Why put a star on top?

Well, I did a little research as to why we have Christmas trees. I’m sure there is more to it than this, but one of the reasons we use Christmas trees can be traced back to 16th century Germany. In 16th century Germany it was common for Christian churches to put on plays at the beginning of the advent. The play was of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and on stage they had what they called the Paradise Tree. They decorated it with colorful flowers and apples. After telling the story of Adam and Eve, and after both of them had eaten an apple from the tree, there would be read the biblical prophecy of a coming savior to save us from our sins.

There is also a legend as to why we decorate the Christmas tree with lights. It is said, that on a cold December night as Martin Luther was walking home, he saw the glimmering of the stars through an old pine tree. He was struck by the beauty of the sight and decided that he would decorate his Paradise tree with candles. Apparently, the trend caught on, and slowly Europe started following Luther’s lead.

The star on top of the tree symbolizes the star that led the wise men to see baby Jesus. Sometimes, instead of a star, there is an angel, which represents the multitude of angels who appeared to the shepherds and cried “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace—good will toward men!”

The final step of the popularization of the lighted Christmas tree came during the Victorian Age when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were portrayed in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a decorated, lit Christmas tree. Being the popular rulers that they were, the lighted tree quickly became fashion. Soon enough, around Britain lighted Christmas trees went up in the house.

And now everyone has a Christmas tree. And we decorate it now with some of the most meaningless, hilarious things. Not to say that it’s bad, I just think it’s kinda funny. It seems that you just accumulate weird ornaments along the years and then they become way too sentimental and you can never get rid of them. We had this one growing up that I made when I was in kindergarten. It was a milk cap with a picture of me glued to it covered in glitter. There wasn’t enough glitter to actually hide the fact that it was a simple, plain blue milk cap. But there was just enough glitter to get all over you whenever you pick it up to put on the tree.

These things are part of the joys of Christmas. It’s even kind of fun to know how and why the Christmas tree came to be a living room constant in December. The truth is that the Christmas tree, however well we know all the history and symbolism behind it, is a mere addition to the true joy of Christmas. The true joy, which comes from knowing Christ our Lord. This true joy is what we call the Christmas Spirit. And it’s something that I contend we take quite seriously. This Christmas Spirit should be the mark of all Christians everywhere—and not just during the Holiday Season. We should bear this mark all year round.

I can’t say it better than J.I. Packer,

We talk glibly of the” Christmas Spirit,” rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis. But what we have said makes it clear that the phrase should in fact carry a tremendous weight of meaning. It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas. And the Christmas spirit ought to be the mark of every Christian all year round…The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob. For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor—spending and being spent—to enrich their fellow humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others—and not just their own friends—in whatever way there seems need.

Enjoy the Christmas Spirit and let your Christmas Spirit give others joy. Because Christmasis a time of joyful celebration.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

If Christmas Never Happened...

Take a look here to get a glimpse of what the world would be like if Christ never came.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Joyful and Triumphant

After some long months of preparing for our Christmas musical, Joyful & Triumphant, we can rest. We had our musical Sunday night of the 14th. One of the words that someone used to describe the musical was "flawless." That's incredible, considering about a half hour before the doors opened mics were crackling, speakers were blaring, and we were worrying. But in the end, once the lights went down and the thing began, things went perfectly.
All that preparation for 1 hour. Was it worth it? Yeah, I think so. It was fun to be a part of a choir (I hadn't done it since the 6th grade) and get to know some of the people in it better. In fact, thinking back on it, I had a blast. Next stop: Easter Sunday.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Want a Free Ipod Touch??

Okay, Tim Schmoyer, a fellow youth pastor, on his website showed how he got a free ipod touch, a Xbox 360, and $580. Here's a real picture of him and his ipod touch.
Anyway, I'm trying it. It's actually quite simply. All I need are four referrals. You sign up, and it counts as a referral to me. According to Tim, you don't have to worry about spam because this company has a pretty aggresive private policy. So, if you want to get me an i pod touch for Christmas, click here. This will take you to a website and it will ask you to sign up. Just do it. It costs nothing.

When you all come through and I actually get the i pod touch, I'll post some pictures of myself as living proof. See ya soon.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

God is Huge...Period

I love the Pink Floyd in the beginning. It's awesome. But seriously, after watching this I can't help but worship.