Friday, August 24, 2007

Jack Franklin

Well, Jack Timothy Franklin is now in the world. Several of you have received email announcements and pictures, but I finally got a chance to post some on the blog. Jack is doing great and Karina is doing even better. She said that she has not felt this good since. . .before she got pregnant.
We're thankful for how God took care of us during all of this. The plan is to go home on Saturday. We can't wait to initiate Jack into his new home.
By the way, the stats are 7 pounds, 12 ounces, and 19.5 inches.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Summer Reading

While I have not read as many books this Summer as I intended, I have got to read a bunch (and portions of many others). Now that Summer is drawing to a close, I wanted to throw out some responses to the books I have read.
The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoffer.
Amazing book. Real depth and challenge. Bonhoffer talks about the call of Christ being, "Come and die." He also talks about the Christian community and about the truth that Christ is just as much at work in the world today as he was during his earthly life. It is powerful to read a book from a man who died for his beliefs. His convictions led him into danger, but they had an impact that is still alive today.

Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. It was a bit of a transition to read this right after reading Bonhoffer. I took several weeks on The Cost of Discipleship, while I took about two days on Velvet Elvis. There was a lot that I liked about what Bell was saying. I liked him emphasis on community, and I thought many of his points were very good and biblical. I was troubled by some of the things that he was willing to throw up for grabs (the virgin birth?). I think the book reflects, however, much of what is going on in the upcoming generation and I think it can have a very positive impact (as it has already).

A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin. Now to the fiction. These are the first two books in The Earthsea Cycle. They are fantasy fiction, a bit in the genre of Lord of the Rings. I liked them. Short reads, interesting story, deals with themes of overcoming when we are dealt a bad hand in life. Good enough that I will read the other three in the series.
The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason. This was my favorite summer novel. It is in the vein of The Da Vinci Code, but without all the heresy. It focuses on an ancient document, and on uncovering its meaning. I know that this sounds about as exciting at watching a hockey time-out, but it was actually very engaging and well-written. A fast read and one that I really enjoyed.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy. This book has been getting a lot of recognition. It is a post-apocalytpic story about a father and a son trying to survive. It is written in a way that it really involved me in its world. At parts I thought it was really hard to read. At many parts I didn't totally know what to think about the characters. At some parts I didn't even know that I was sure I understood what was going on in the plot. Despite all of this, I found myself filled with emotion at the end. Not a fun read like The Rule of Four, but definitely an interesting one.

The Pleasures of God by John Piper. I have been meaning to read this book for years, and I finally dove into it. Each chapter explores something that the Bible says is a pleasure of God. In other words, the book examines things that God says that he delights in. There was a great chapter on creation, and another great one on how God delights in giving mercy to those who trust in him. Not my favorite Piper book, but definitely a very, very good one.

A Drink Before the War and Darkness, Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane. These are the first two novels by the author who wrote Mystic River (which was made into an Academy Award Winning movie about five years ago). These books feature a private investigator and his partner, as they wrestle through corruption, murder, and cover-ups. They also deal with their own demons, doubts, and longings for a world in which things that not so devastatingly difficult. I found the books powerful, disturbing, frightening, and dark. I actually stopped reading the second one for a while. This was not because I felt that it was inappropriate, but simply because I found that it was scaring me. I was glad I finished it, though, because I think Lehane's perspective, while often without hope, is insightful into the perspective of many people in our world today. In Lehane's worldview, there is something terribly wrong with the world, and no matter what we do, we cannot fix it. He illustrates this powerfully. Sadly, though, in his worldview, there is no real hope beyond this world (at least none that he has arrived at).
Essentials of Evangelical Theology, Volume 1 by Donald Bloesch. I thought this was a good way to follow up the Lehane books. I am actually not finished yet, but I have read a good chunk. It has been very enriching, reading about God's sovereignty, Christology, and Scripture. I was a bit troubled, however, on some of Bloesch's takes on Scripture. I think he gives up more than he needs to when he talks about Scriptures accuracy. He is willing to say that there are real mistakes made by Scripture's authors, but that these mistakes don't compromise the truth of what the Bible is teaching. Strangely, he gave no examples of these mistakes, so I didn't quite know what to make of it. With no examples, I wondered why he thought that point was important enough to make.
Books that I have read portions of: Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy by Jane Levy, Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, Is This All There is to Life: Answers from Ecclesiastes by Ray C. Stedman. All are good, and I hope to finish all of them by the end of the month, along with Jesus in the Margins by Rick McKinley.
I'd love comments on the books any of you have been reading, or your thoughts on the books I have been reading.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Jason Kessler, 1977-2007

Last Tuesday morning I went for a walk, and while I was walking I got a call from my best friend Dave McAllister. He was calling to tell me that our friend Jason Kessler had been killed in action in Iraq. It was quite a shock. I still feel strange about it. I was good friends with Jason during all four years of college at The Master's College. We went to Israel together, were in numerous classes together, and were RA's at the same time. I have not talked to him, however for about six years. Below are some pictures of Jason.

This is Jason and I with Dave when he graduated. Jason is on the left.
This is Jason, Dave, and I in British Columbia, where the three of us once spend a day during Spring Break of my junior year.
Here is Jason in my room (I must have taken the picture). He's there with (left ot right) my roommate Chris Kropf, and our friends Brian Noel and Greg Spangler.
Here is one of my favorite pictures of Jason and I in Israel. As you may have guessed, the picture is completely staged, but I still think it looked cool.
And here we are when we graduated. Jason is on the far right. From left are Quincy Lima, Chris Kropf, me, and then Greg Spangler.
Things I think of when I think of Kessler.
1. Jason and I always used to wrestle in the hallways of Waldock dorm. We would be walking past each other and then spontaneously drop our books and try to take each other down. I would usually win (okay, so we'll call it a draw).
2. Jason was the most adventurous person on our Israel trip. During that semester he climbed out on more ledges than any of us. He really made the profs nervous.
3. Jason was really gifted academically. The hardest class I took in college was Old Testament Archaeology during the Israel semester. Jason was in the class also. On the midterm he got 100%. The prof (Todd Bolen) actually said afterwards, "I must not have made it hard enough." Believe me, Todd, you did. My grade reflected that truth.
4. Jason was an ultimate frisbee pal. He was a good athlete and we played lots of frisbee together.
5. Jason was a deep thinker. He really didn't like the idea of easy answers. He wanted to live by conviction. Actually, this fact about Jason led him into a lot of questions about the Christian faith. I hesitate to write that because I don't want to be negative, and I don't know where Jason was at. I do know that he really began to struggle with the Christian faith (I never saw it coming while we were in college). I hope that he reconciled with Christ, but it is really hard not knowing. I really pray for Jason's family and close friends, and I myself wrestle with God on it. I know that God is righteous, and I know that his timing must be wise somehow. I guess I don't have anything else to say on that.
6. Jason was my friend. I love him and, even though I haven't talked to him for so long, my hurt is in pain over his death. I am thankful to him for giving his life for his country, for us.