Abandoned Democracy and Emptied Tombs

Today is a big day in Turkey. Today is all about abandoned democracy and emptied tombs. Most people today will be casting a vote to decide if it is time to do the former. While they do so, others will be taking the narrower road in celebrating the latter.
As you, wherever you are, celebrate the empty tomb today, please remember to also pray for an infusion of common sense into those who are considering the possibility of abandoning democracy. Fortunately, no matter how the vote turns out, we know who still reigns.

Two Truths And A Lie – February Reading Wrap Up

Truth #1

Book: The Martian

Author: Andy Weir

Date Finished: February 15

Review: Absolutely brilliant!

This book covers the near future story of an astronaut, Mark Watney, whose suit was punctured and was left for dead on Mars. He then spends the next year and a half struggling to survive on this inhospitable planet while those back on earth learn of their error and then scramble to recover him.

Right off the bat I honestly did not think I would like this. Much of the story is told in a diary style as Mark records his mission logs. For the first few days after he is stranded there is obviously a lot that needs to be done right away and these first four or five chapters are heavy on both technical detail and foul language.

Once his shock and urgency evolves more into a long term struggle you really begin to see a very well developed and written personality that shines through. Also once earth discovers he is alive the story broadens beyond just him and I found myself reading through the final 2/3 of the book in one setting (barely putting it down even to eat or… other stuff).

While I love physics and cosmology, I am not so much a fan of engineering and this book is highly technical with regards to the mechanics and biology of what it would take for one man to survive in such an inhospitable environment. I don’t know nearly enough to know how accurate and realistic Andy Weir was in telling this but he sure *sounds* well researched and knowledgeable. Please don’t let that technical detail scare you away from this great read. He writes it well enough that even an amateur like me can grasp it and it actually enhances the telling of Watley overcoming impossible odds in his struggle to survive. I can’t remember the last time I was pulled so deeply into the life of a book’s protagonist and found myself laughing and crying and cheering right along with him.
Read this book. Seriously. Read it.

Truth #2

Book: Chaucer’s Tale

Author: Paul Strohm

Date Finished: February 26

Rating: 3.8 of 5 stars

Review: This an excellent detailed and readable biography of Geoffrey Chaucer leading up to and concluding with the posthumous publication of the Canterbury Tales. Actually, I’m not sure “publication” is the right word for a book created before the invention of the printing press. Either way, if you are interested in Brit Lit or in the history of medieval England than this is a great read. If you like early British literature or are a fan of Chaucer, this is essential.

On the other hand, if such things do not interest you, don’t bother with this book. It is definitely well written enough to hold interest but the subject matter is quite focused. Personally, I’m more a fan of the preceding era (Richard Lionheart to Edward II) but even still I enjoyed the read.

The Lie

Book: The Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho

Date Finished: February 14

Rating: 2 of 5 stars

Review: This is one of those books critics love to promote but the people suckered by the marketing into reading it end up disappointed. Honestly, I can’t believe I bought into the hype. I knew this wasn’t going to be worth my time but I just felt it needed to be one of those books I have under my belt. This is what I get for caving into peer pressure… a couple hours wasted time.

Imagine starting with a second rate life coach. This guy has a bunch of one liners that mean nothing like: “If you want something bad enough, the whole universe conspires into helping you achieve it.” Now convince this run of the mill life coach that he should write a book even though he has no real talent for the craft. This book would be the result of his efforts.

The Alchemist follows the journey of one poor Spanish Shepherd boy who crosses the straits into Africa and then journeys the entire Saharan desert all because one gypsey told him he would find treasure near the pyramids. Along the way he is robbed of his life savings three times but never loses his pluck. He also meets Melchizedek, the king of Salem (see Hebrews 7), a crystal salesman, an English scholar, a caravan master, the love of his life, and the alchemist. Each person teaches him some “profound” lesson as they spew their life coaching one liners at him. (About once every ten pages the one liner I quoted above will be repeated by someone new.) The characters and locations were brimming with possibility but no one and nowhere along the journey bears any true resemblance to the culture or history they should have represented. Each is simply a cardboard cutout trope meant only to convey the next phase of this life coach turned author’s “ten steps towards personal fulfillment” or some other such drivel.

Seriously, don’t bother reading it, but even if you do desire to cave to hype there’s no worries. It is a quick read. At worst you are annoyed for a couple hours like I was. At best, you have a few one liners you can throw around at the gym or when you want to annoy rather than cheering up a depressed friend. If that is your aim… have at it.

Other Books Read:

Blood and Bone – Ian Esslemont
Sharpe’s Eagle – Bernard Cornwell
Lion of Macedon – David Gemmell
Restoration of Faith – Jim Butcher
Storm Front – Jim Butcher
Fool’s Moon – Jim Butcher
Flourishing – Miroslav Volf

For reviews of these books (except Storm Front) or any other books I have read in 2017 please check out my goodreads page.

Two Truths And A Lie – January Reading Wrap Up

 

Truth #1

Book: Slavery Inc

Author: Lydia Cacho

Date Finished: January 9

Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars

Review: Some books are such that we do not love them so much as we need to read them. This is one of those books. Here Lydia Cacho presents some sobering truths about the global sex slave trade with specific emphasis on how our governments and many corporations are complicit in this modern day tragedy. She begins like David Batstone does in Not For Sale by moving place to place weaving heart rending stories with regional statistics and trends. In si chapters she covers Turkey, Israel, Japan, Cambodia, Burma, and then Argentina/Mexico pulling you in with heart breaking personal stories and then knocking you out by revealing how this story is repeated tens if not hundreds of thousands of times and how local and international governments are complicit in allowing (or even aiding) its perpetuation over and over again. She then turns in the next portion of the book to show how specific groups or organizations serve to continue this crime. She talks about the clients, the pimps, and the mafia’s involvement but also the banks and the militaries (with specific focus on American, Japanese, and Thai forces)

What I loved in this book most is how she would often highlight specific groups that are on the ground fighting the herculean effort against this human tragedy. What I did not like is that throughout the book there was very little of how we, the reader, can help where we are at right now. She does have a portion of her appendix cover some practical things but even then most of the ideas are no more than common sense. I appreciate this appendix but I would have loved to see the same things weaved into her narrative as well.

Also, there are no footnotes and there is no bibliography. While most of the individual stories and interviews are her own and I understand the desire to protect those people’s privacy, I would have loved to be able to do further research into many of the numbers and statistics she also uses or to read deeper into some of the geopolitical problems she highlights.

Truth #2

Book The Five Elements of Effective Thinking

Author: Edward Burger and Michael Starbird

Date Finished: January 25

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review: Burger and Starbird co write an excellent book on what I view as an essential lack in modern contemporary society. More and more of our society, including many supposedly well educated individuals do not seem to have even the most basic ability to think well. Rather than harp on this problem as I would, they use natural elements as touch points to set down what they view as key view as the way towards more effective thinking. Those are:

Earth – Embrace a deeper understanding of the most basic concepts.
Fire – Fail, and learn from your mistakes.
Air – Ask challenging questions.
Water – Watch the flow of ideas.
The fifth element is that the only unchanging fact of the universe is that it is always changing.

Each of these concepts is broken down into smaller elements with plenty of illustrations and practical application steps. All of these are great but my only complaint is that I seem to keep seeing the same illustrations popping up in similar type of books. For example, both Edison’s light bulb and Newton’s apples are used to show that “aha” moments are never truly that. The Accidental Creative, another book that I read a couple years back, used the same two examples to say the exact thing. The creation of Post It was used here and also in Made To Stick, or was it the Tipping Point, either way I heard it before. They are all great illustrations but it seems all these self help gurus tend to dip from the same well.

The Lie

Book: Doubt, A History

Author: Jennifer Michael Hecht

Date Finished: January 28

Rating: 1 of 5 stars (if that)

Review: This book is a lie.

When I first pulled it off my (virtual) shelf and started to read it, I was expecting to read an Armstrong or MacCulloch like history of Doubt. I was expecting to read of great thinkers who challenged the way those around them viewed their world and in the process brought about change and innovation. I don’t know why I would expect this… maybe the title? What a red herring. Honestly I don’t remember if she gave a definition of doubt at the beginning. It doesn’t matter, because throughout she equates doubt with atheism and the more anti religious a person was (or rather, as she could twist them into seeming), the greater of a doubter they were.

At first things didn’t seem all that bad. She opened up with working her way through the Greek philosophers and she showed how each rejected the beliefs of those a generation before. It did seem a bit inconsistent because she was praising people for rejecting the very beliefs she was praising others for just a few pages back. This intellectual inconsistency became even more glaring when she moved on to the Romans. She spends a large chunk of her time focusing on two individuals: Cicero and Lucretius. She goes to great lengths to show how great Cicero was for bashing Epicureanism and then in the very next moment she lauds Lucretius to the heavens for composing an epic poem delineating the “doubting” world view of Epicurus. Huh?

Things get even worse when she moves from the Greco-Roman past into the Judeo Christian one. Most of her time on early Jewish thought is spent cherry picking her way through the books of Job and Ecclesiastes. To be fair, this is probably exactly where I would have zeroed in too, but she willfully ignores the main thrust of each of these books. In Job she doesn’t even once mention the fact that he is doubting the justice of God, not God Himself. In Ecclesiastes she doesn’t bother to recognize that the entire book is structured to record the writings of the “teacher” who works his way through his doubts to find faith. Her propagandist dishonesty continues into the beginnings of the church era where she goes to great lengths to “doubt” the veracity of the gospels because they were written decades after the events they describe and then turns right around and relates the martyrdom of Hypatia (a pagan supposedly killed by Christians). She describes the story as is without “doubting” it one bit even though it was written more than five centuries after the event it purports to describe.

Once Hecht moves into the early Medieval Era she equates doubt directly with the Greek philosophy she praised Cicero for criticizing and yet doesn’t even to bother to share the fact that it is the lowly “believing” monks she cannot bring herself to say one good thing about who are faithfully preserving and copying these very same writings so that they are not lost to history and we can enjoy them today.

In moving eastward, she gives a description of the early Muslim intellectual movement and especially the Mutazilites and Falsafah that is vastly different from what I read of them in The Closing of the Muslim Mind. I am not read enough yet to critique it beyond that except to comment on what she says of al-Ghazzali. He is probably the most influential Muslim thinker outside Muhammad himself and is the greatest reason why Islamic fundamentalism and anti-intellectualism is so prevalent to this day. He started out as a Falsafah (a skeptic or rationalist) but left that to become the first true fundamentalist and author of The Incoherence of the Philosophers. Without any giving cause to defend her stance Hecht blames his sudden conversion on a nervous breakdown. It couldn’t possibly be because he began to doubt his earlier atheism, now could it.

I could go on and on working my way through this “history book” pointing out all her logical inconsistencies, intentional misdirections, and the like but already this review is going long. Instead I will look back to an illustration she herself brought forth. She credits Cicero with claiming that the Stoics of his day have reinterpreted the early Greek poets so that, to the poets surprise, they have all become stoics. Well, Jennifer Hecht, you have done one better. You have reinterpreted hundreds of great men down through history so that, to their own surprise, they are now all atheists. I can honestly say I haven’t read propaganda this dim since reading Hitchen’s short work trying to paint Mother Teresa as a devil. Good job.

 

Other Books Read in January:

Islam and the Son of God – Daniel Shayesteh
Seven Days That Divide the World – John Lennox
From Eternity to Here – Sean Carroll

For reviews of these or any other books I have read in 2017 check out my goodreads page.

 

 

Versatile Blogger Award

the-versatile-blogger-award

Although I seem to get one of these every couple months, most of the time I smile for the ego boost it is and then continue on my way. Bit since I haven’t filled one out in a good year or more, and since I haven’t written anything else on here for a small bit, and since I am on a holiday from some of my work I figured why not?

So first of all I want to send a big shout out to Shakeane for nominating me on The River Walk. She does a great poetry blog you should all go check out at Untamed.

OK. So the rules of this are:

  1. You have to thank the person who nominated you for this award and provide a link to their blog.Done.
  2. Nominate at least 15 bloggers of your choice.That’s a bit much. How about ten? Since I was one of ten, I figure this is a fair compromise.
  3. Share seven facts about yourself.OK. Here goes…1) I am an American but have spent most of the past two years in Turkey and have no intentions of ever living back in the States. I am where God has called me to be and loving it.2) I am an avid (and fast) reader. I set a goal of 100 books a year and usually come quite close to hitting it. (99 in ’16) Two supplemental goals this year is to again have a majority of those be non-fiction and to do a much better job reviewing what I read over at Goodreads.3) I am the second of eight kids. My six younger siblings are adopted. Seven of us are are still living and we are all in our twenties or thirties. (Or forties, Krista.) Yet none of us are married and my poor mom doesn’t have a single living grandchild.4) I am probably the biggest Star Wars fan you know who hasn’t seen Rogue One. I desperately want to but my budget at the moment cannot afford a trip to the movies and I don’t want to watch a third rate pirated version.5) Practically every day I am interacting with people from at least three different distinct languages and cultures. None of those are English.6) I listen to podcasts on my commutes. On Monday, its Chris Hodges from Highlands. On Tuesday, Steven Furtick from Elevation. Wednesday is Erwin McManus from Mosaic. On Thursday I am still listening to New Spring even though Perry Noble is no longer there. On Friday I listen to Herbert Cooper from People’s Church.  On the weekends I switch to History with either Dan Carlin’s Hard Core History or Mike Duncan’s Revolutions Podcast7) I have lost nearly ten kilo since moving to Turkey. When I look at pictures or video from my days in America my first thought is, “Man, I was a chunker.”OK. So here are my nominations:

    1. The crew over at Inscribed who just finished up doing a series in 1 John…
    https://gospellandblog.wordpress.com/

    2. Lisa from Experiencing God…
    https://iwillnotstaysilent.wordpress.com/

    3. Grace from Life From Grace…
    https://lifefromgrace.wordpress.com/

    4. Faye from the Philippines over at Captivated Child…
    https://captivatedchild.wordpress.com/

    5. Look at the world a little differently with Stuti Raizada at…
    https://iotatimesinfinity.wordpress.com/

    6. Josh Palande has some great photography at…
    http://www.theshadesofhappiness.com/

    7. She has disappeared lately but hopefully a little love for Bianca will get her writing again. As an American living overseas, it was fun to read of someone else’s international adventures in America.
    http://thebuzzingadventuresofbee.wordpress.com

    8. Give and D will be given is student in Australia from Hong Kong writing about Democracy. Sound interesting? Check it..
    https://giveanddwillbegiven.wordpress.com/

    9. Check out Sylvia Miranda at
    https://mirandavoice.com/

    10. Last but certainly not least is Kristi Ann. Though we might not agree 100%, no one can doubt she is both passionate and prolific in her posting.
    https://kristiann1.com/

    There are plenty of others who I could have chosen. I love reading a lot of what you all write. But I tried my best to have a diverse group in styles, locations, and themes. I also did my best to nominate people I haven’t nominated the one or two other times I have done one of these. So of course that means the first 5-6 bloggers that came to mind I said no. If you weren’t nominated this time around I promise you were one of those.

    God bless. I love you all.
    BJ

Oh Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say

cakeI have heard the story of a mother whose oldest daughter was in her last year of high school. This daughter’s class had a trip coming up and were holding a bake sale to raise money for it. Because the mother was very competitive she decided she was going to make the biggest and best cake anyone had ever seen. She had ambitious plans for a huge three layered cake and everything was at first going along well. Then, when she tried to put the third layer on, the middle of the cake started sagging.

tpWhat was she to do? There was no time to start over and she couldn’t bring the cake into school as it was. So this mother did what any sensible person would do. She propped up that middle with something that was sturdy and the right size even though that prop was not quite edible. She took this cake into school and after dropping it off, she went to visit her daughter. She gave her daughter some money and told her to make absolutely sure to be the first one after school to get to the bake sale and buy that cake before anyone else does.

A couple hours later this mother got a text message: “Mom. I got there as quick as I could but the cake was already gone. Somebody else bought it before the bake sale even started.” The mother was horrified but what could she do? She could only hope and pray that whoever bought that cake did not notice who had made it.

That evening all the ladies from the church were to get together for a dinner. After the meal the pastor’s wife said, “I have a surprise.” Then she brought out this beautiful, three layered cake. Of course the mother who made it was mortified to see her cake. She was wondering what she could say or do that could somehow prevent what was about to be a horrible situation. Then one of the other ladies said to the pastor’s wife, “That is such a beautiful cake!” The pastor’s wife beamed with pride, “Thank you so much. It took me forever to bake it.”

– – – – –

The title of  my message comes from a song I remember singing way back when I was a little kid. “Oh be careful little mouth what you say. Oh be careful little mouth what you say. For the Father up above is looking down with love. Oh be careful little mouth what you say.” That pastor’s wife is about to learn the truth of this song.

I know I have been gone most of the time but I understand that this summer we have been going through the book of James and we have made our way up to James 4:11 but I would like to back up a little bit and read a few of the verses that came before:

 

And He gives grace generously. As the scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you… Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
James 4:6-7, 10

I wanted to back up here because this is a direct contrast of what we will be looking at today. Today’s scripture talks about gossip but when I was starting to prepare, I realized that the three things we are really saying when we gossip are also true about bragging so I will be talking about them both. In James 4:11-12 we read:

Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?
James 4:11-12

 

A couple decades back I was working for my first of many summers as a counselor at a Christian kids camp. Things seemed to be going along fine when suddenly one of my campers got angry and started yelling at everybody about everything. We dealt with the issue but then later one of the older, wiser counselors pulled me aside. He asked me what the camper was really saying? At first I didn’t understand and so he taught me that very often there are words that are spoken beneath the words that we hear. Often what the mouth speaks and the ears here are not the same thing as what the heart is crying out.

Today I want to look at the words beneath the words. All too often we only deal with the words spoken and although that can correct the behavior it does not change the heart. Instead of saying, “don’t brag and don’t gossip” lets look at our motivations for sinning in these ways and what we are really saying when we commit these sins. Lets get to the heart of the issue.

text1The first thing we are saying is the easiest one to spot. We are saying, “I want you to think I am better than you.” Why do we brag? We want the world to think we are like that beautiful cake. We want to lift ourselves up in others eyes. Why do we gossip? We want to expose the toilet paper lurking hidden inside someone else’s cake. By putting them down we will make ourselves look nicer in comparison. Rather than walking in humility and letting God lift us up in His timing, we are trying to do it ourselves. We will use both the bragging cake and the slanderous paper to put ourselves on that pedestal and knock off any threats to our beautiful reputation.

What is going on in our heart that gives us the urge to do this? Do we even know how often we do it? Has it become so commonplace in our hearts that we do not even realize how often we sin in this way? Is it insecurity? Do we fear that this TP is what we are even though God has called us beautiful? Is it idolatry? Are we more concerned with the opinions of others than we are with our standing before God? Is it apathy? DO we think that these sins are not really a big deal?

text2That is at the heart of the second thing we are saying. In addition to saying, “I want you to think I am better than you” when we are bragging or when we gossip we are also saying, “The rules don’t really apply to me.” This is what James is talking about when he writes:

If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you.

How many people think bragging is wrong? How many people think gossiping is wrong? How many people think that God says we should not brag? How many people think that God says we should not gossip? Those of you who aren’t raising your hands, well phooey. Next time play along. This isn’t a debatable issue. I could list out dozens of scriptures condemning both of these sins but here is just a quick sample:

He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets. Therefore do not associate with a gossip.
Proverbs 20:19

Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy.
No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will endure.
Psalm 101:5

Let another person praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger and not your own lips.
Proverbs 27:2

Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of his gifts falsely.
Proverbs 25:14

Last week Partos Mark mentioned how we tend to rank sins. We might look at some sins and then think about how horrible they are while others like showing favoritism we tend to think are no big deal. All too often I think I put things like gossip and bragging right down there with playing favorites. I haven’t murdered anyone or robbed any banks so I must be doing good. What we don’t realize is that almost every time Paul lists the sins “evil” people do, he puts both bragging and gossiping right up there with others. One such example is found in Romans:

Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. (Romans 1:28-30)

We can’t think we only have to follow the easy rules. It is easy for me not to murder people. In fact, it has been over a month since I last visited my siblings and so I have gone at least that long without even contemplating it. Murder isn’t a struggle, but gossip? That isn’t so easy so I am just going to say that rule doesn’t apply to me. That way I won’t feel so guilty. No. It doesn’t work like that. When we hold this attitude we come dangerously close to the third thing we are saying when we brag and gossip.

 

 

text3Not only are we saying, “I want you to think that I am better than you” and “The rules don’t really apply to me” but also we are saying, “I am a better judge than God.” At this point, many might be thinking, “Wait a minute, stop. You are making this a much bigger deal than it really is. Nobody really thinks that.” If that is true, why does James write:

God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?

When we show judgement through either boasting or slandering we are trying to take God’s job for ourselves. One day He will reveal to the world how valued we are so there will be no need to brag. One day he will expose what is in each person’s heart so we have no need of trying to do so now.

When that day comes we will also have to give an accounting of what we have said as well. No matter how small a sin we might think it is, we will then see it for what it really is. Jesus Himself said,

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.
Matthew 12:36

Now you might be thinking, “OK. You’ve convinced me, gossiping really is a big deal. But how do I quit it? I knew it was wrong, knowing it is worse than I thought doesn’t help me quit doing it.” I’ve got good news. James has already shown us how to do so. Let’s go back and look at verses 6-10:

And He gives us grace generously. As the scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourself before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
James 4:6-10

 

First we need to recognize that it is His grace. We cannot do it on our own. We need His help. So we come close to God. When we do so, He also comes close to us and we begin to better understand what it means to be holy. That brings sorrow. There are tears for what we have done. We realize that when we gossip and brag we aren’t just hurting others, we are blaspheming this holy God. But He has provided the way for us to be pure. Through His sacrifice on the cross a means for us to purify our hearts, not just from these sins but from every sin, has been provided. He can make us clean. Once we have accepted this, we need to recognize that our loyalty can no longer be divided. It can’t be God plus anything else. It is God and God alone. It is complete surrender. We are His. Finally, we need to learn to trust His timing. We must trust that when the time is right He will then divide the cake from the paper. Our job is to just humbly follow Him until that day.

2016 books read

Happy New Year!

What are your resolutions for 2017? I have a few but one resolution I make every single year is to read 100 books. This is a resolution I have successfully completed more than once, but for four years running now I have fallen short. That said, I came real close with 99 read and this I believe is the first year where a significant majority of those books were some serious works of nonfiction instead of just fluff novels.

Are you on goodreads? I have found that it is a great place not only record and review what I have read but also to find great new authors both based on my reviews and also by reading the reviews of others whose opinions I have come to trust. Here is a PDF of what my 2016 reading goal looks like on Goodreads and below that is a list of what I have read (title – author – date finished – my GR rating). Feel free to ask me in the comments about any of these books that catch your eye or also to tell me what your favorite reads in 2016 were.

goodreads-_-see-what-your-friends-are-reading

 

The Bible – God – April 19 – *****
The Bible – God – November 24 – *****
The One Year Bible – God – December 31 – *****

Non-Fiction (biography)

A Great And Terrible King, Edward I – Marc Morris – April 2 – ***
The Spiral Staircase – Karen Armstrong – April 7 – ****
The Heavenly Man – Paul Hattaway – June 12 – *****
Buddha – Karen Armstrong – June 23 – ***
Muhammad – Karen Armstrong – August 11 – *
The House I Left Behind – Daniel Shayesteh – September 14 – ****
If I Perish – Esther Kim – November 23 – ****
Saladin – Stanley Lane-Poole – December 21 – ***

Non-Fiction (history)

The Ancient Church – WD Killen – January 16 – **
Lost To The West – Lars Brownworth – February 2 – ***
Hattin 1187 – David Nicolle – March 21 – ***
The Real History Behind The Davinci Code – Sharan Newman – May 4 – ***
The Battle For God – Karen Armstrong – May 18 – ****
The Closing Of The Muslim Mind – Robert Reilly – June 4 – ****
The Ottoman Road To War – Mustafa Aksakal – June 17 – ***
Shadow Of The Sultan’s Realm – Daniel Allen Butler – July 14 – **
Jerusalem – Karen Armstrong – September 22 – **
The Crusades Almanac – Michael J O Neal – December 8 – **
God, Humanity, and History – Robert Chazan – December 26 – ***
Fields Of Blood – Karen Armstrong – December 29 – ****

Non-Fiction (Theology/Inspiration)

The Ascent To Truth – Thomas Merton – January 24 – ***
A Long Obedience In The Same Direction – Eugene Peterson – February 1 – ****
In The Beginning – Karen Armstrong – February 29 – **
Behold The Beauty Of The Lord – Henri Nouwen –  March 5 – **
The Crucified God – Jurgen Moltmann – March 25 – ****
The Inner Experience – Thomas Merton – March 29 – ***
Scary Close – Donald Miller – April 15 – ****
On The Incarnation – Athanasius of Alexandria – April 22 – ****
The Fidelity of Betrayal – Peter Rollins – May 15 – **
40 Questions About Interpreting The Bible – Robert Plummer – July 9 – ****
unChristian – David Kinnaman – September 4 – ****
Paul – EP Sanders – September 30 – ***
The Trellis And The Vine – Collin Marshall – October 1 – ****
Can You Drink The Cup – Henri Nouwen – November 18 – ***
Benefit Of The Doubt – Gregory Boyd – November 19 – ****
Quran – Muhammad – December 18 – *
Finish The Mission – John Piper (ed) – December 22 – *****

Non-Fiction (Other)

The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell – January 3 – ****
The Politically Incorrect Guide To Islam – Robert Spencer – February 9 – ***
The Road To Reality – Roger Penrose – February 23 – ***
In Pursuit of Silence – George Prochnik – March 11 – ***
Why We Left Islam – Susan Crimp – April 5 – ****
The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg – April 28 – *****
Necessary Endings – Henry Cloud – May 13 – ****
The Ethics Of Authenticity – Charles Taylor – May 31 – ***
Made To Stick – Heath Chip – July 20 – *****
Hegel – Charles Taylor – August 29 – ***
Predictably Irrational – Dan Ariely – September 2 – ***
Multiculturalism – Charles Taylor – September 27 – ***
The Game Of Life And How To Play It – Florence Scovel Shinn – September 29 – * (my only DNF. I read about 80% but could endure no more of this drivel)
Modern Social Imaginaries – Charles Taylor – December 23

Fiction (Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan)

New Spring – May 21 – ****
Eye Of The World – June 7 – ****
The Great Hunt – June 20 – ****
The Dragon Reborn – July 3 – ****
The Shadow Rising – July 26 – ****
The Fires Of Heaven – August 25 – ****
Lord Of Chaos – September 13 – ****
Crown Of Swords – October 6 – ***
Path Of Daggers – October 12 – ****
Winter’s Heart – October 16 – ****
Crossroads Of Twilight – October 20 – ***
Knife Of Dreams – October 27 – ****
The Gathering Storm – November 1 – **** (The Last Three were written by Brandon Sanderson using RJ’s notes)
Towers Of Midnight – November 8 – ****
A Memory Of Light – November 15 – ****

Historical Fiction

Troy, Lord Of Silver Bow – David Gemmell – January 14 – ****
Troy, Shield Of Thunder – David Gemmell – January 19 – ****
Troy, Fall Of Kings – David Gemmell – January 23 – ****
Starbuck, Rebel – Bernard Cornwell – February 10 – ****
Starbuck, Copperhead – Bernard Cornwell – February 14 – ****
Starbuck, Battle Flag – Bernard Cornwell – February 19 – **
Starbuck, The Bloody Ground – Bernard Cornwell – February 26 – ***
House Of Dreams – Pauline Gedge – March 7 – **
Sharpe’s Tiger – Bernard Cornwell – April 25 – ****
Sharpe’s Triumph – Bernard Cornwell – May 8 – ***
Sharpe’s Fortress – Bernard Cornwell – June 29 – ***
The Forgotten Legion – Ben Kane – August 2 – ***
Sharpe’s Trafalgar – Bernard Cornwell – August 7 – ****
Sharpe’s Prey – Bernard Cornwell – September 3 – ***
Sharpe’s Rifles – Bernard Cornwell – September 15 – ****
The Silver Eagle – Ben Kane – September 20 – ***
Sharpe’s Skirmish – Bernard Cornwell – October 6 – ***
Sharpe’s Havoc – Bernard Cornwell – November 21 – ***
Sharpe’s Christmas – Bernard Cornwell – November 22 – ****
The Road To Rome – Ben Kane – **

Other Fiction

Dust of Dreams – Steven Erikson – January 10 – ****
The Crippled God – Steven Erikson – January 13 – ****
Echoes Of The Great Song – David Gemmell – January 26 – ***
The Dervish Gate – Ahmet Unit – April 16 – **
Enigma – Robert Harris – December 4 – ****
Night Of Knives – Ian Esslemont – December 7 – ****
Return Of The Crimson Guard – Ian Esslemont – December 12 – ****
Stonewielder – Ian Esslemont – December 20 – ****
Orb Scepter Throne – Ian Esslemont – December 30 – ****

Thankful

I Think I Ate Too Much

“I think I ate too much. This was rude of me. Next time I will be more careful.”

I was walking towards my bus along the other evening with a friend when he (I will call him Ricky) said this to me. I would have laughed if he was not so sincere. Instead I explained a little bit more about Thanksgiving and assured him that for this celebration eating too much was the best thing he could do. It is part of the Thanksgiving tradition and it is a way to tell our hosts they have done an excellent job preparing our meal.

A few hours earlier I had entered the apartment of some American friends along with Ricky. He is an adult student that I first met when teaching an English conversation class. Soon others joined in so that the people who would celebrate Thanksgiving together represented China, Germany, and America along with the cities of Konya and Gaziantep. Our conflicting schedules meant we were a few days late but we still had the traditional American spread. There was turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes (with American gravy), corn casserole, homemade dinner rolls and a cheese and broccoli dish. For dessert we had pumpkin pie, apple pie, carrot cake, and ice cream. We had to bend a little to local culture and we had Turkish coffee and tea along with various other drinks but no apple cider.

“Ricky” was the only Muslim but he was not the only one there for whom this was the first ever Thanksgiving celebration. We ate and talked and then played some games. As dessert was being finished off and the night was winding down, we all went around the circle sharing something we were grateful for. We then all bowed our heads and went around the circle again in prayer.

“I want to thank you for having me over. I have never in my life prayed like this. It is so different. It is so good.” There is no way I can adequately express what it is like to hear a grown Turkish man say this in public while fighting back tears. Most Muslims who don’t speak Arabic have no idea what it is they are saying when they pray. The words are just sounds and it is the motions and the ritual that for them are the truly important matter.

This was Ricky’s first truly intimate moment of connection with God and we desperately pray that it will not be his last. He has promised to eventually come to our church but he wanted us to understand that he will come to the English service not the Turkish one. He says he wants to come so he can practise his English not because he wants to learn about God. Hey, whatever gets him through those doors, we will take it.

This holiday season I just want to send out a huge thank you to all of you who continue to give and pray for me here in Turkey and for those like Ricky I am coming in contact with every day. The transition over this past month from Istanbul to Gaziantep has been both incredibly difficult and amazingly rewarding. I know without a doubt that I cannot do it without your continued prayers. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, çok teşekkür ederim.

His Servant,
BJ Richardson

https://theriverwalk.org/

To get into the holiday spirit The River Walk will be doing things a little differently in December. From the first right up to Christmas we will be doing a series called “The 25 songs of Christmas”. Thanks to all who have continued to faithfully read and use these devotionals. If you would like a say in what songs are going to be used, feel free to send me an email requesting your favorite. I will do my best to honor everyone’s requests but the longer you wait the harder it might be to fit it in.

There is a secret group on facebook that receives updates and prayer requests about once a week on what is happening here in Southeast Turkey. If you are not a part of this group and would like to be, please let me know and we can make that heppen.
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