Writing Meditation

5 Things You See

For my practice of mindfulness I completed the exercise of describing five things I observed when I went outside today.

Water

The shimmering surface of a pool of water.  The clear blue hue.  Stained surfaces beneath the water, bleached, rough, and uneven.

abstract aqua blue clean
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Shadows

Gray Oak leaves blowing in the wind.  Bouncing off the ground.  Waving along a wooden fence.

Hammock

An empty hammock rocking slowly back and forth.  Dozens of pine needles trapped in the white cloth webbing , dotted with dried leaves.

hammock palm trees bungalows bora bora
Photo by Chris McClave on Pexels.com

Lamp

A black oil lamp hanging from a pole.  Rust spots below an empty wick slot, on one side of the base a capless reservoir.  Soiled surfaces along the frame and a dusty glass enclosure.

Wind Chimes

Six silver flutes strung with black string hanging from a stone stamped with “Welcome” in a bed of flowers.  Alongside, two faded tear drop clappers twisted into a line of miniature Christmas lights.

decoration design hanging love
Photo by Manesh Xavier on Pexels.com

Do you practice writing meditations?  Does it help you with mindfulness?  Does it benefit your writing?

Book Review: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Book Review: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

I read this book because I read Small Great Things & I appreciated Jodi Picoult wanting to write about racial issues in the U.S. Leaving Time is another novel where the author explores big societal issues. It tackles the issues of grief, man’s inhumanity towards man, and man’s mistreatment of wild, undomesticated animals.

What you should know.

As usual the author’s research is noteworthy. There is talent in educating yourself accurately and thoroughly and then being able to incorporate that knowledge into a story so that it is entertaining instead of lecturing. If that is important to you in your choice of reading you won’t be disappointed here. The book takes place in North America and South Africa. It has characters who narrate first person point of view in the present and also one character who narrates in the past.

What I liked.

This book has much to offer. There is a child protagonist. There is a psychic! There is good old fashioned detective work. There is a missing person. And there are unsolved mysteries with suspects at every turn.

Picoult’s focus on wild and captured elephants is very nicely handled. It’s great reading. Real, grounded storytelling at its best. I saw everything vividly, pictured the animals, their emotions, and the challenging work done by caregivers and researchers alike.

By moving seamlessly between four character POVs the pace remains fresh, only bogging down slightly on occasion when Alice, researching elephant grieving, shares insights about her experiences.

The author makes several strong statements about human behavior that should be studied. You might disagree with some of them. However, without scientific evidence to support one position or the other, who’s to say whether those hinted at by Picoult’s prose or your’s are correct? It will certainly offer up topics for discussion regardless. If only elephants conducted anthropological studies we might learn something useful!

What I didn’t like.
The two main characters are intellectual in the fact they are highly educated. The main protagonist is unabashedly selfish. It could be that this is typical human behavior, and I am perhaps ignorant. But it also could be that I am unwilling to accept such a trait in this story. It does however speak to a larger trend in the novel.

One of the distinct aspects of the story is that the actions of all the humans are described without any moral assessment of them whatsoever. Other than making an effort to help elephants, none of the humans do any good, in my opinion. Everything they do besides help elephants is either harmful to themselves or other people.

So it begs the question. What should the characters learn from the experience? What should the reader conclude from this? The only single explanation given by the author is that humans are less evolved than elephants. Are we to infer then that humans are evolutionarily bereft of the ability to identify and then perform moral acts (except one, trying to right the wrong done to elephants by other humans)?

If the message was that we are best served learning from the behavior of elephants, it was overshadowed by the fact the humans behaved so badly it left no room for debate.

Recommendation: Good Read

56D91907-CAA4-4EB2-921C-3CF5DD6F0A32

Book Review: Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

What you should know

This is a novel about real world spying, relatively modern post-cold war espionage between nation states.  It is written by a retired intelligence professional.  I’m not sure anyone not interested in the genre would want to read it.  Just as I would guess anyone who is interested in the genre would most likely read it.  It is both violent and pro American, not as if those two characteristics go hand in hand.

What I liked

The story takes its time developing.  It isn’t in a hurry.  Which allows for readers to get to know the people as well as the places they inhabit.  The story is multilayered with several characters having to experience life and make choices about who they are, what they want to accomplish, and who they ultimately may become.

The author goes after President Putin.  Apparently, nobody wants to go after him in real life, at least it happens in this novel.

There is real suspense.  There are harrowing encounters.  The romantic aspect isn’t overdone.  Enough interest is built that you definitely want to know how it all turns out.

What I didn’t like

Jason Matthews gives one of the main characters, Dominika Egorova, a gift of sorts, the ability to sense letters as colors.  The diagnosis is that she is a synesthete, someone who perceives sounds, or letters, or numbers as colors.  Eventually she develops the ability to read emotions and even detect deception and ill will by interpreting the colors she sees around other people.  Fascinating.  Yet how would someone best take advantage of this?  To become a ballerina, apparently.  So our challenge then is whether to accept how someone with this ability would use it.  Would that Matthews had made a stronger case for why Dominika only uses it to survive internal office politics in Russia.

This is book one of a trilogy.  Book two is Palace of Treason and book three is The Kremlin’s Candidate.  While we certainly like trilogies when we can’t get enough of a story, this one left me wondering whether I’d ever read books 2 and 3.  That isn’t a good sign.

Recommendation:  Maybe Read

 

red sparrow

Book Review: The Prophecy Con (Rogues of the Republic book 2), By Patrick Weekes

Book Review: The Prophecy Con (Rogues of the Republic book 2), By Patrick Weekes

Chaos Abounds

What you should know

Read The Palace Job (Rogues of the Republic book 1) first.  It introduces all of the important players and is a better book all around.

The Prophecy Con picks up in the epilogue of The Palace Job an continues to tell stories about many of the characters introduced in book 1 and re-introduced to an extent in book 2.  To appreciate the full backstory and understand who the characters are completely, you have to read book 1.  But that’s a good thing.

In a realm where one part of the world is governed by an empire, and the other a republic, a war is building that could determine the future of both societies, and everyone in them.

What I liked

Author Patrick Weekes proved his ability to write enjoyable dialogue in book 1.  The more of that I found in The Prophecy Con the more I liked it.  The Palace Job introduced us to some very interesting, humorous, multidimensional characters, who are easy to appreciate.  Weekes writes about them and takes great care in keeping them consistent to their values, as he reveals more about them, and as they deal with growing challenges in their relationships, and their struggles to survive against difficult odds.

What I didn’t like

There just wasn’t enough down time for me.  The author seemed obsessed with frenetic action to the point where he gave no breaks between one violent conflict after another.  But that wasn’t the worst of it.  Even within each fight, he kept raising the stakes, doubling and tripling down within the combat to add doubt about the outcome and heighten the intensity.  The problem with doing that, I found, was that not only did it seem like the characters needed more than two arms, two legs, and one head to cope with all the simultaneous assaults, I needed to be two readers to keep up with what was happening.  That, I’m afraid, didn’t happen.

I want to be fair here, but book 1 didn’t fall into that trap.  I’m reading, believing that the heroes will survive each onslaught, they got through the first book didn’t they?  Yet with every line Weekes seems to try to get me to believe they have to do the impossible in order to be alive in the next chapter.  If I was one of the characters, I’d offer to sacrifice myself, just to avoid all the suffering I’ll have to endure in the remaining chapters.  Can a brother get a breather?

Another problem with the plot is that one, or more, its hard to tell at times, of the characters has the apparent ability to disguise themselves while knowing what everyone else is doing.  Sort of like the fly on the wall, or having the ability to be completely undetectable.  Some not only disappear, but they disappear into other beings.  It’s a problem because these characters leave the reader guessing too much.  Who are they?  How many are they?  They were so hidden I had trouble distinguishing them from each other.  What is they’re agenda?  Whose side are they on anyway?  These secret characters wield so much control it seems like they’re outside the story.  You never get to know what rules govern these mysterious beings, certainly not the same rules that apply to the more or less human characters.  So they provide mostly frustration when I think they’re supposed to be adding suspense.

Not as much fun reading.
Questions raised in The Palace Job included what separated these two major powers, and how would the future be impacted by their differences?  The Prophecy Con addresses these to some degree.  However, the real question the book emphasized was who were the real puppet-masters?  The significant leaders in the republic and the empire did not have enough intelligence or integrity to prevent them from being manipulated by anyone with more than an adolescent level of maturity.

Recommendation: Maybe Read

The Prophecy Con

Book Discussion Home Page

Join me in a book (club) discussion.  Each day we will cover the main concepts and questions of one of the chapters.  I will summarize the points in each and offer my insights.  You are welcome to comment.  If you choose not to comment, you still may consider these and other points of interest to you.  Feel free to do so on your own or with someone you know.  I hope you enjoy and benefit from this experience.  Shall we?

e92da91f-0ea5-42ca-8bc5-7f95532f41b2

Why this book?

The introductions states –

What someone believes about God affects everything else he or she believes.1

It includes these 5 most critical questions in life:

  1. Origin: Where did we come from?
  2. Identity: Who are we?
  3. Meaning: Why are we here?
  4. Morality: How should we live?
  5. Destiny: Where are we going?

Any book that rightly helps us figure these out is worth discussing.

What we believe about God is often referred to as a worldview

There are 3 primary worldviews about God,

Theism, Pantheism, and Atheism.

Simply put

Theism = God made all

Pantheism = God is all

Atheism = no God at all2

The authors introduce us to the modern myth that religion is nothing more than faith (blind faith, some call it) and they include the parable of the 6 blind men and the elephant story as an illustration.

The point we are asked to consider is that all religious worldviews make truth claims.  To the degree those claims cannot be completely 100% proven, faith is used by people to cover what doubts remain.

We should evaluate these claims with scientific and historical evidence.

One example the authors provide is

Truth claim:  The universe had a beginning

Truth claim: The universe has always existed and did not have a beginning

Both claims cannot be true.

The book is a presentation of the evidence that allows us to decide which claim to accept as true.  This passage capsulizes the authors’ premise:

Yet despite these intellectual, emotional, and volitional obstacles, we submit that it’s not faith in Christianity that’s difficult but faith in atheism or any other religion.  That is, once one looks at the evidence, we think it takes more faith to be a non-Christian than it does to be a Christian.  This may seem like a counter-intuitive claim, but it’s simply rooted in the fact that every religious worldview requires faith – even the worldview that says there is no God.3

The book systematically covers twelve points that show Christianity is true.4  I have summarized them below.

  1. Truth about reality is knowable
  2. The opposite of true is false
  3. It is true that the theistic God exists. There are 4 types of evidence for this truth. A.  The beginning of the universe   B.  The design of the universe.  C.  The design of life.   D.  The Moral Law
  4. If God exists, then miracles are possible
  5. Miracles can be used to confirm a message from God (acts of God confirm a word from God)
  6. The New Testament is historically reliable, based on 4 key points of evidence. A.  Early testimony.   B.  Eyewitness testimony.   C.  Uninvented and authentic testimony.    D.  Eyewitnesses who were not deceived
  7. The New Testament says Jesus claimed to be God
  8. The Jesus’ claim to be God was miraculously confirmed by
    1. His fulfillment of many prophecies about himself
    2. His sinless life and miraculous deeds
    3. His prediction and accomplishment of his resurrection
  9. Therefore, Jesus is God
  10. Whatever Jesus teaches is true
  11. Jesus taught that the Bible is the Word of God
  12. Therefore, it is true that the Bible is the Word of God – and anything opposed to it is false
adult biology chemical chemist
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

One of the closing points made by the authors in the introduction is that acceptance of Christianity is not solely based on proof that it is true.  Many atheists and non-Christians refuse to become Christians because they are unwilling to live by the what they understand to be what Christianity espouses.  The authors assert that God wanted it that way.  Where there is room for choice.  Here’s what they say is why God made the world the way it is in order that we have free will to accept or reject him.

God has provided enough evidence in this life to convince anyone willing to believe, yet he has also left some ambiguity so as not to compel the unwilling.  In this way, God gives us the opportunity either to love him or to reject him without violating our freedom.5

Discussion point

I agree with the authors that God expects us to be knowledgeable about why we believe what we believe.  I have found the Old Testament encourages wisdom.  This is the type of book that helps us get exposed to more wisdom.  I have also found that the New Testament encourages teaching and discipling other Christians and persuading non-Christians.  This book should help with each of these.

What would you say on the points made in the introduction so far?  The authors have promised to cover each of these topics in detail.  Ideally, any questions you might have now will be answered in the chapters that follow.


1Geisler & Turek page 20 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

2Geisler & Turek page 23 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

3Geisler & Turek pages 24-25 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

4Geisler & Turek page 28 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

5Geisler & Turek page 31 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

Book Discussion Day 16: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek

Chapter 15 – Conclusion:  the Judge, the Servant King, and the Box Top

Click here for the start of this discussion 

There are two parables in the chapter, the judge and the servant king.  Here is a synopsis of the servant king.80

This is exactly the problem God has in his pursuit of you and me – if he overwhelms us with his power we may not be free to love him) love and power are inversely related).  And even if we retain our freedom, we may not love him but merely love what he gives us.  What can God do?  Here is what the king did:

The king, convinced he could not elevate the maiden without crushing her freedom, resolved to descend.  He clothed himself as a beggar and approached her cottage incognito, with a worn cloak fluttering loosely about him.  It was no mere disguise, but a new identity he took on.  He renounced the throne to win her hand.

This is exactly what God did to win you and me!  He descended to the human level – in fact to one of the lowest social levels possible – to that of a servant.  Paul describes Christ’s sacrifice this way in his letter to the Philippians (2:5-8)

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!

neutral-atheists

Summary

Here are the answers to the five greatest questions we have.81

1.  Origin: Where did we come from?  We are created beings. Wonderfully made in the image and likeness of God.

2.  Identity: Who are we?  Since we are made in the image and likeness of God, we are creatures of supreme worth.  We are loved by God and endowed with certain God-given rights and responsibilities.

3.  Meaning: Why are we here?  Adam and Eve were created in a state of innocence, but their choice to disobey condemned the human race to punishment in accordance with the infinite justice of God.  Since that time, each of us has confirmed the choice of Adam and Eve through our own disobedience.  We remain fallen state so that we can make free choices that will have implications in eternity.  This temporal life is the choosing ground for the eternal one.  Choices we can make that will bring glory to God, and may bring us eternal rewards, include:

a. Accepting the ransom Jesus paid in order to free us from eternal punishment and welcome us into his eternal presence.

b. Serving as ambassadors for Christ to help others make that same choice, and

c. Learning from our own sufferings to comfort others who suffer, and realizing that our sufferings enhance our own capacity to enjoy eternity.

4.  Morality: How should we live?  Since God first loved us, we should love him and others.  In fact, the “whole duty of man” is to “fear God and keep his commandments”.  This includes making disciples of all nations and enjoying the good things God gives us.

5.  Destiny: Where are we going?  God’s infinite justice demands that he punish our sins, but because of his infinite love he has taken the punishment on himself.  This is the only way he could remain just and still justify sinners.  His gift of salvation from eternal punishment is free to all the world.  It cannot be earned through good works or any kind of merit.  And God wants everyone to be saved from the eternal punishment we all deserve.  But since he cannot force us to love him (forced love is a contradiction), each one of us must choose for ourselves whom we will serve.

the-wrath-of-god-romans-1-vs-18-20

Your Destiny

Whom will you serve?  God leaves that choice in your hands.  Love knows no other way.  In order to respect your free choice, God has made the evidence for Christianity convincing but not compelling.  If you want to suppress or ignore the evidence all around you (Romans 1:18-20) – including that which is presented in this book – then you are free to do so.  But that would be a volitional act, not a rational one.  You can reject Christ, but you cannot honestly say there’s not enough evidence to believe in him.82

C.S. Lewis said it best when he wrote, “There are only two kinds of people in the end:  those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done, and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’  All that are in Hell, choose it.  Without that self-choice there would be no Hell.  No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek find.  To those who knock it is opened.”83

Discussion point

What do you think were the author’s best points in the book?  What weak points did you find in the evidence presented in the book?  What would you  consider doing to decide if you agree or disagree with what the book is arguing?

I will continue to read and discuss books like these with an open mind.  I hope you will too.

Romans+1_18-20


80Geisler & Turek page 380 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

81Geisler & Turek pages 383-384 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

82Geisler & Turek pages 384-385 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

83C.S. Lewis page 72 The Great Divorce.

 

 

Book Discussion Day 15: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek

 

Book Discussion Day 15: Chapter 14 – What did Jesus Teach About the Bible?

electric lamp
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Jesus gave the following assertions in his teachings

  1. The Old Testament is divinely Authoritative. In 92 occasions Jesus and his apostles supported their position by saying “it is written .”
  2. The Old Testament is Imperishable. Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets.  I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.  For assuredly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will be no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”
  3. The Old Testament is infallible. John 10:35 :the Scripture cannot be broken.”
  4. The Old Testament is Inerrant. Matthew 22:29 “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”
  5. The Old Testament is Historically Reliable. He validated Noah Matthew 24:37-38 and Jonah Matthew 12:40.
  6. The Old Testament is Scientifically Accurate. While adherents of other religions may accept a complete separation from science Christians do not.  Truth about the universe cannot be contradictory.  Since all truth is God’s truth, religious beliefs must agree with scientific facts.
  7. The Old Testament had Ultimate Supremacy. Jesus corrected the Pharisees and the teachers of the law by claiming that they should be obeying the Old Testament Scriptures instead of their own man-made traditions.  Matthew 15:3,678

Jesus promised the New Testament

The 27 books comprise the only authentic record of the apostolic teaching we have. All were written in the first century by eyewitnesses or by those who interviewed eyewitnesses.

Summary:

Jesus taught that the Old Testament is the inerrant Word of God, and he promised that the New Testament would come through the apostles.  The apostles, who were authenticated by miracles, wrote or confirmed 27 books.

Since the Bible is our established standard for truth, anything that contradicts a teaching in the Bible is false.  This means that any specific teaching that contradicts a teaching of the Bible is false.

The evidence revealed indicates79

  • The revelations of Judaism are true, but it is incomplete. It lacks the New Testament
  • The revelation of Islam has some truth. But it errs on some fundamental teachings, including its denial of the deity and resurrection of Christ.
  • Only the revelation of Christianity is the complete, inerrant Word of God.

Could the authors be wrong about all this?  It’s possible. But in light of the evidence, skeptics and those of other faiths need to have a lot more faith than Christians to believe otherwise.

red lighted candle
Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

Discussion point

I think one point worth talking about here is why people willingly choose to reject what the Bible says.  Is it because they have been given false information about the Bible that they allowed to convince them without finding out the truth for themselves?  Is it because they haven’t taken the time to look at the evidence?  Are they afraid of something?  Is it, as the authors have said about atheists, that they know that if they acknowledge that the Bible is true then they no longer can justify being the sole authority on how they choose to live their lives?  If so, is there a danger of them promoting and anti-Christian agenda on an unwitting public in order to influence political debate?

Another topic is related to agnostics.  What should our attitude be towards a person who is questioning and open to the idea of God?


78Geisler & Turek page 357-360 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

79 Geisler & Turek pages 376 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

 

 

 

Book Discussion Day 14: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek

sistine-chapel-ceiling-H

Book Discussion Day 14: Chapter 13 – Who is Jesus:  God?  Or Just a Great Moral Teacher?

 

Chapter 13 outlines the Old Testament prophecies that point to the Messiah and ultimately provide the evidence that Jesus, the only person to ever fulfill the prophecies, is God.

Isaiah 53 has an important prophecy of Jesus.  Isaiah 42 has another description of him.74 

Some of the other Old Testament verses about Jesus include

Genesis 3:15

Genesis 12: 3, 7

Genesis 49:10

Jeremiah 3: 5-6

Isaiah 9:6

Micah 5:2

Malachi 3:1

Daniel 9:26

Isaiah 53:11

40971-isaiah.1200w.tn

The New Testament writers claimed Jesus was God.

John 1:1, 14

Romans 9:5

Colossians 2:9

2 Peter 1:1

Matthew 1:23

Hebrews 1:3,8

Matthew 8:29

Luke 4:34, 41

 

Jesus himself declares he is God.

Mark 14:61-64

John 8:56-59

 

Jesus refers to himself in a manner that God would.

John 17:5

Revelation 1:17

John 10:11

Matthew 25:31

John 8:12

John 5:21

John 14:6

John 4:42

 

Jesus alluded that he was God in the parables he spoke

Luke 15:4-32

Matthew 19:28-30

Matthew 20:1-16

Matthew 25:1-13

 

Jesus did things that a God would be able to do

He forgave sins Mark 2:5-11

He commanded discipling Matthew 28:18-19

Commanded new law John 13:34

Said to pray in his name John 14:13-14

Allowed people to worship him on at least 9 occasions75

 

Proofs that Jesus is God

  1. He fulfilled messianic prophecies written hundreds of years in advance
  2. He lived a sinless life and performed miraculous deeds
  3. He predicted and then accomplished his own resurrection from the dead

Michelangelo's_Pieta_5450_cropncleaned_edit

Skeptics remain

Skeptics complain Jesus wasn’t more overt

They cite and misinterpret Matthew 19:7

They cite John 14:28 and Matthew 24:36 which may confuse them without a thorough understanding of the Trinity.

They object to the Trinity

The authors provide useful insight for the Trinity

Some Muslims charge that the trinity is too complex.  But who said that truth must always be simple?  As C.S. Lewis aptly puts it, “If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier.  But it is not.  We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions.  How could we?  We are dealing with fact.  Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about.”76

 

Summary:

 

Since Jesus is a morally perfect being – Chapter 7 – then anything he teaches is true.  What did Jesus teach?  What did he teach about the Bible?  Chapter 14 answers this question.

Discussion point

 

The chapter addresses the claim people sometimes make that Jesus was only a man who was a great moral teacher.  The evidence in the New Testament proves that is a false conclusion.  Liar, lunatic, or Lord are the only possible conclusions a person can draw after studying the New Testament.  Have you come across people who said they saw Jesus as a moral teacher but not God?  How did that conversation go?

 

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish things that people often say about Him:  “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.”  That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would rather be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is , the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.77

signature


74Geisler & Turek page 333 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

75 Geisler & Turek pages 344-345 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

76Geisler & Turek pages 352-353 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

77Geisler & Turek page 346 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

 

 

 

The Mystery of Writing and Living

%d bloggers like this: