Friday, November 25, 2016

A.D. 30 (A.D., #1)A.D. 30 by Ted Dekker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this for my wife since she enjoys "Christian fiction" but hadn't read Dekker's other work. She read it and enthusiastically recommended it to me. I've read his thrillers, so I hoped he would do a good job with historical fiction. I was not disappointed. AD 30 is beyond Christian fiction. it is an example of great fiction written someone who happens to be dedicated Christian.

Ted Dekker is a writer with the talent to forcefully bring an ancient word into the world of today's reader whoever he or she is. This is Ben Hur for the 21st century. As a Christian, I especially enjoyed the scenes where he helped me feel the depth and power of the heroine's transformational encounters with Yeshua. I felt as if I was her standing before the Lord. As a Christian pastor and chaplain, I've read lots of non-fiction about conversion and putting faith in Jesus. For me, this book moved the focus from the mind to the heart. It helped me remember that Christian conversion is not so much Jesus getting into us as it is us moving into the new world He is creating (see N.T. Wright's books "How God Became King" and "The Day the Revolution Began."

Ted Dekker continues to tell stories in ways that challenge and invite people to consider the faces on every battle between good and evil and what we plan to do about it. I believe in his take on the story we are living. I will recommend this title to my friends and family who are wondering what the world is coming to these days.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Day After

What might it be like to be Hillary Clinton tonight?

I stand opposed to nearly every position she (and the Democrat party) takes, but in the end she is another human being like all of us.  I appreciated the tone and content of her concession speech and hope that people will come together so that no one feels left out of this continuing great experiment we call America.

As much as we pray for Donald Trump to be a leader America and the world needs, I find myself sensing an urgency to pray for Hillary Clinton as well.  What must it be like to have not been chosen after such a long effort to win the country's approval and confidence?  She is someone used to being left.  Her husband did it to her for other women.  The Democratic Party did it to her when it opted for Barack Obama in 2008.  Now it has happened again.

What kind of person is it who is able to regather herself after such abandonments?  Regardless of how much I disagree with her worldview and policy stances, I have to respect her ability to bounce back from circumstances that could have left her despairing.

Don't we know the feeling?  Jesus knew the feeling on the cross: "My God why have you forsaken me?"  Perhaps real faith in God begins where our weakness is most evident: "Into Your hands I commit my spirit."

Now what will Hillary do?  I pray that whatever she is feeling now, she will take it to the One who has promised, "Never will I leave you or forsake you."  And I pray that Donald Trump humbles himself to admit that when he pledges "one nation under God" he understands it to mean "one nation accountable to God."

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Smell of Fine Leather

Back in the day when men landed jobs for life at major manufacturing plants, my father was someone who was ready to move if the grass seemed greener elsewhere.  The summer after my kindergarten year, he moved us from Michigan to Rochester, NY where he took a job in the tool room at Hickok Manufacturing.

Hickok was founded in 1909 by S. Rae Hickok.  It was bought in 1971 by the Tandy Corporation (the same one who owned the now defunct Radio Shack).  My Dad worked there from 1963-1965.  What I knew was that Hickok made belts and other leather accessories for men and awarded the Hickok Belt to the sportsman of the year.

My Dad moved on from there to work at other small shops and factories, eventually spending the last fifteen years of his life in Florida until he died in 1995.

A few weeks ago I was browsing eBay and found an auction for a brown Indian goat skin wallet made by Hickok Manufacturing.  It was in its original box and so far no one had bid on it.  I placed a bid and two days later got word that I had won it!  Now I carry it in my right back pocket.

The word “Hickok” is embossed inside in small gold letters.  I don’t know the date of its creation but it smells wonderfully fresh and two pieces of aged paper sat inside the box.  Given the date of the company’s acquisition by Tandy, my guess is that the piece was manufactured less than 5 years after my Dad left there.

Dad’s been gone for 21 years and we weren’t especially close, but I find myself thinking about him more and more.  I find myself feeling proud of what he did.  I watch Tom Hanks' production of the HBO series The Pacific with appreciation for what he went through as a Marine on Okinawa.  I watch the Cubs with the World Series this year and thought of how his father – my grandfather – loved baseball (The Detroit Tigers).  I read science fiction and remember all the book shelves filled with 35 cent paperbacks he would read at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a cigarette.

My new wallet is simple.  Only two credit cards fill the slots.  It’s a bifold and carrying too much cash will stress the hinge (Ha!).  There’s no room for pictures in my new wallet – except for one of Nadine I tuck behind my driver’s license.  My best pictures are in my head and they are moving in form and emotional impact.  My new wallet is the best quality fashion accessory I have ever owned.  Best of all, it takes me back to a time when Dad would come home from work and I’d meet him at the car and race him to the door.

Thanks for the wallet, Dad!