I need Christmas more than ever before

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We’re about three weeks from Christmas, and we haven’t put up any decorations. No garland, no lights (inside or out), no tree, no angels, no stockings. Our house looks about as festive as it did around Labor Day, which is to say that it looks exactly how it has looked on any given day since we took down last year’s decorations. Read More

C.S. Lewis on Bicycles

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This guest post is brought to you by C.S. Lewis. To be fair, in this essay, “Talking About Bicycles,” Lewis is actually quoting a conversation with a friend, and it is this friend who passes along the wise words below. Still, Lewis has the byline for the essay, so he gets this byline, too.

Before reading Lewis, though, take a moment to look at the bike pictured above. It’s my bike, and yes, it has a six-pack carrier. Does yours have a six-pack carrier? Didn’t think so. If you want one, I found mine here.

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“Talking about bicycles,” said my friend, “I have been through the four ages. I can remember a time in early childhood when a bicycle meant nothing to me: it was just part of the huge meaningless background of grown-up gadgets against which life went on. Then came a time when to have a bicycle, and to have learned to ride it, and to be at last spinning along on one’s own, early in the morning, under trees, in and out of the shadows, was like entering Paradise. That apparently effortless and frictionless gliding—more like swimming than any other motion, but really most like the discovery of a fifth element—that seemed to have solved the secret of life. Now one would begin to be happy. But, of course, I soon reached the third period. Pedaling to and fro from school (it was one of those journeys that feel up-hill both ways) in all weathers, soon revealed the prose of cycling. The bicycle, itself, became to me what his oar is to a galley slave.”

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Chesterton on Cheese

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Another guest post from a writer far more famous than I am. This one is by G.K. Chesterton, and it’s about one of my favorite subjects. It’s appropriately titled “Cheese.”

My forthcoming work in five volumes, `The Neglect of Cheese in European Literature,’ is a work of such unprecedented and laborious detail that it is doubtful whether I shall live to finish it. Some overflowings from such a fountain of information may therefore be permitted to springle these pages. I cannot yet wholly explain the neglect to which I refer. Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. Virgil, if I remember right, refers to it several times, but with too much Roman restraint. He does not let himself go on cheese. The only other poet that I can think of just now who seems to have had some sensibility on the point was the nameless author of the nursery rhyme which says: `If all the trees were bread and cheese’–which is indeed a rich and gigantic vision of the higher gluttony. If all the trees were bread and cheese there would be considerable deforestation in any part of England where I was living. Wild and wide woodlands would reel and fade before me as rapidly as they ran after Orpheus. Except Virgil and this anonymous rhymer, I can recall no verse about cheese. Yet it has every quality which we require in an exalted poetry. It is a short, strong word; it rhymes to `breeze’ and `seas’ (an essential point); that it is emphatic in sound is admitted even by the civilization of the modern cities. For their citizens, with no apparent intention except emphasis, will often say `Cheese it!’ or even `Quite the cheese.’ The substance itself is imaginative. It is ancient–sometimes in the individual case, always in the type and custom. It is simple, being directly derived from milk, which is one of the ancestral drinks, not lightly to be corrupted with soda-water. You know, I hope (though I myself have only just thought of it), that the four rivers of Eden were milk, water, wine, and ale. Aerated waters only appeared after the Fall.

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Before I hapreparedd even finished the foreword to Prepared by Grace, for Grace, I was afraid I had gotten in over my head. This book, promises Sinclair B. Furgeson of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C., “will be eagerly read by students of seventeenth-century theological literature, whether literary scholars, historian, or theologians.” Uh-oh. I’m no student of 17th-century theological literature—scholar, historian, theologian or otherwise.

It’s true: This book reads more like assigned reading from a seminary syllabus than it does like the latest paperback by Chan or Platt (introduction, no doubt, by whichever of the two didn’t write the rest). But—and this is key—do not let this dissuade you. It’s accessible, intelligent and rewarding.

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scotland

This is a guest post by the Prince of Preachers, C.H. Spurgeon. I would say it’s my favorite excerpt from his sermons, but that’s not entirely accurate, as it’s the only Spurgeon excerpt I’ve ever read. Still, I can’t imagine finding one I like more than this.

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I must confess that I think it a most right and excellent thing that you and I should rejoice in the natural creation of God. I do not think that any man is altogether beyond hope who can take delight in the nightly heavens as he watches the stars, and feel joy as he treads the meadows all bedecked with kingcups and daisies. He is not lost to better things who, on the waves, rejoices in the creeping things innumerable drawn up from the vasty deep, or who, in the woods, is charmed with the sweet carols of the feathered minstrels.

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Kids these days

Today, I read in an article that 12-year-old boys in a handful of California counties can now place online orders for free condoms and lubricant without the consent of their parents. In other words: whether they want to or not, or are even aware of it, taxpaying parents are buying prophylactics and lube for their newly pubescent sons.

The article features the sad tale of Juan Bautista, a high school senior and teen father:

When Bautista was having sex with his former girlfriend, he said condoms were not a priority. ‘I would go into a store, but end up buying a soda,’ he said.

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BoundTogetherAs a general rule, I get a little cynical about books that open with big promises. And Chris Brauns’ Bound Together: How We Are Tied to Others in Good and Bad Choices opens with a doozie: If I “carefully investigate the reality that we are deeply connected to one another,” he claims, I will “discover truth that is fundamental to all real joy.” And then he doubles down: “Indeed, without the truth that we are bound together there is no joy.”

Those are big promises, and right out of the gate. But before I tell you if he keeps his word—before I tell you whether I’ve discovered a truth that is fundamental to all real joy—I’ll walk through the basics of his book.

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Deny Yourself

No Limits SignAt 30 years old, I’m on the leading edge of what has, for some time now, been called the most selfish generation in history. In a memorable article from The New York Times Magazine, Judith Warner wrote that our generation—born between 1982 and 2002—has been depicted “by employers, professors and earnestly concerned mental-health experts as entitled whiners who have been spoiled by parents who overstoked [our] self-esteem, teachers who granted undeserved A’s and sports coaches who bestowed trophies on any player who showed up.”

Ouch. That stings a little, but I don’t disagree with the general idea. I’m not convinced, however, that the problem can be explained by pandering parents, grade inflation or equal-outcome sports. It goes much deeper than that.

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Rob Bell: A clerihew

Rob Bell’s new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, is releasing this week. To mark the occasion, I’ve composed a clerihew about Rob. Yes, that’s right: a clerihew. I offer it here in celebration and anticipation of WWTAWWTAG:

Rob Bell
Wrote a book about hell.
Other things he’s done include
Surfing and eating Mexican food.

You’re welcome.

The truth incarnate

artofthehobbit1Jack often asks me why I like The Lord of the Rings so much, and I usually tell him it’s because I think it’s one of the best stories ever told. What I really want to say is that I think it’s one of the truest stories ever told, but I don’t think he’s quite old enough to get the difference between ‘true’ and ‘real.’

Earlier today I read an essay called “In Praise of Stories” (one of the many excellent essays in The Christian Imagination) that touches on the same topic:

But what do we mean by a true story?… In what helpful sense is a fictional story about a boy and a slave on a raft, or, worse yet, a story about hobbits and wizards, true? Here is the answer: Any story is true, fictional or otherwise, that testifies accurately to the human condition.

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