Bedtime Stories for Young Brains – The New York Times

Bedtime Stories for Young Brains – The New York Times.

Reading 2 children-1And from this story in the New York Times comes more evidence that reading to young children is good for them (post dated Aug.17, 2015). While most of us may yawn at such reports because they state the obvious, in this age of declining reading we ought to be reminded of how important it is to read to our children – and to read in front of them as an example.

So, read on by visiting the link above – and then renew your commitment to read to your children and grandchildren. They – and you – will be better for it.

A little more than a year ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement saying that all pediatric primary care should include literacy promotion, starting at birth.

That means pediatricians taking care of infants and toddlers should routinely be advising parents about how important it is to read to even very young children. The policy statement, which I wrote with Dr. Pamela C. High, included a review of the extensive research on the links between growing up with books and reading aloud, and later language development and school success.

But while we know that reading to a young child is associated with good outcomes, there is only limited understanding of what the mechanism might be. Two new studies examine the unexpectedly complex interactions that happen when you put a small child on your lap and open a picture book.

Persecution: What the Future Holds – Owen Strachan

What the Future Holds by Owen Strachan | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-August-2015The fourth featured article in the August issue of Tabletalk on the theme of persecution is written by Dr. Owen Strachan, associate professor of Christian theology and church history at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY and president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Dr. Strachan addresses “What the Future Holds” in his article, and he presents a very realistic picture of what Christians can expect in this country. He lays out four main points, all of which are worth reading and contemplating.

What I really appreciated, however, was the way in which Strachan closed out his thoughts. These words especially, it seems to me, are worth our careful pondering.

There will be no retreat of the church. We will never stop witnessing unto life. We will never cease to minister the gospel. We will not forget the holy Apostles. We remember how they welcomed the jail cell, the Roman prison ship, the hair-raising tribunal. In any and all settings, they preached Christ. They went so far as to believe that God had not only permitted such moments, but had appointed them for His glory (Acts 5:41). They saw suffering with Christ as a privilege, much as this challenges our material sensibilities. We must not forget that if the church is unsettled, it is not by accident. It is by divine design, and it will be used for divine purposes.

While we live, like the priests of old in fallen Jerusalem, we may weep (Ezra 3:11–13). We cannot forget the millions of babies driven into the afterlife at abortion clinics. We cannot erase the suffering felt in fatherless homes and families detonated by selfish sin and bitter divorce. We cannot help but think back to past days, happy days, that celebrated the good of religious people and did not seek their undoing. All these trends speak to fallenness. All of them deserve our tears.

We will weep. But we will also dry our eyes. We will rise to our feet. Whether in a gated community, a busy city, a tense workroom, a chilly playgroup, or a prison cell, we will never cease to speak and to minister the gospel. The gospel was not made for quiet days and easy questions. It was made for the toughest stuff, the worst of times, the hardest of circumstances.

What does the future hold? The future will bring suffering. The days will be evil, as they have been (Eph. 5:16). But the future is bright, because God is real. The church must take heart. We have a living Lord. When history concludes, we will reign with unbroken bodies in a world of love. We will worship the Lamb of God, slain from before the foundation of the earth. There is no life like this life. There is no hope like this hope. There is no God like our God.

How a Five-Letter Word Built a 104-Year-Old Company | At the Smithsonian

How Think Built IBM | At the Smithsonian | Smithsonian.

For our word feature this Wednesday, we post something from the Smithsonian website yesterday (August 3, 2015). And from the heading you will see why this item caught my attention and became the content of our word feature today.

What’s the word? And which is the company? And who came up with the idea? Read on!

Last year, the daughter of an executive at J. Schoeneman Inc., one of the first garment manufacturers to buy an IBM computer, donated a seemingly modest item to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History: a 4.5-by-3-inch paper notepad with the word THINK embossed on its leather cover.

Small enough to fit into the breast pocket of a dress shirt, the notepad, according to Smithsonian curator Peter Liebhold, was a gift to the executive from his IBM salesman. This would have been in the 1960s, Liebhold says, when all IBM employees carried THINK notepads and business cards and worked beneath THINK signs.

The campaign was parodied in MAD Magazine, the subject of New Yorker and Look cartoons, and IBM was “deluged with requests from the public” for THINK paraphernalia, according to company archives. By 1960, IBM was distributing “about 250,000” THINK notepads annually to non-IBMers like the Schoeneman executive. THINK fascinated people because its pervasiveness represented something so new: a consciously created company culture.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/how-five-letter-word-built-104-year-old-company

IBM-think

In John Roberts’ America, Words Mean Nothing

In John Roberts’ America, Words Mean Nothing.

words-2For our word feature today, we are going to post something that could be taken as rather negative. But truth is truth, and the truth is always positive, also when it exposes the lie in negative terms.

I found this online article by Kim Holmes in the July 5, 2015 “Daily Signal” (Heritage Foundation’s daily commentary) about Supreme Court Justice John Robert’s distorted use of language in the recent Obamacare decision to be quite revealing. And I think my readers will agree. It touches on something vitally important in our postmodern – and, I might add, post-Christian – world.

Can we agree, therefore, to maintain (and practice!) that words must mean what they are intended to convey? There is, after all, objective reality in words too. And we cannot function properly without such objectivity. Just consider the collection of words in the image I chose. Can “Michigan” – to take one example – mean whatever I want it to mean? Can the meaning of that word change from decade to decade? You get the point.

And shall we not then be a people who “speak the truth in love” no matter what the issue is and to whom we are speaking it? Our Lord had something to say to this too when He said in his great sermon, “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil” (Matt.5:37).

Here’s the beginning of Holmes’ article. Find all of it at the link above.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s lament last week that “words no longer have meaning” got me to thinking. I don’t claim to know Chief Justice John Roberts’ motivations in deciding in favor of Obamacare, but I do know that his deconstruction of the meaning of language is increasingly commonplace in our culture. Could his willingness to bend the meaning of the word “states” indicate something larger than what’s happening to the law? Could it actually be a sign of a major cultural shift in the country?

Welcome to postmodern America. For decades now, we have been living in a culture where the meaning of words is stretched almost beyond recognition. “Metanarratives” ring truer than actual facts. Self-prescribed identities trump everything, including nature. A white woman can blithely claim she is black, but when challenged, the only thing she can muster in her defense is irritable confusion and a declaration of how she “identifies.” A man announces he’s a woman and is celebrated as a hero.

Chief Justice Roberts may have had legal and political reasons for ignoring the common usage of words, but it is hard to escape the conclusion that, like so many others in our culture, he felt that being a stickler for a word’s actual meaning was just pedantic, a trivial matter when compared to the importance of some larger cause—in his case, delivering what he thought Congress really intended.

And why should we blame him? After all, if the prevailing wisdom says that a person’s gender or race is what he or she says it is, then why fuss over the meaning of the word “states”? Words mean what we say they mean, right?

TV: The Cyclops That Eats Books – L.Woiwode

Last Saturday I stopped at a local thrift store and found a few more treasures in the book department. One is a collection of speeches give at Hillsdale College (Hillsdale, MI), which are often reprinted in their monthly publication Imprimis.

The book is titled Educating for Liberty: The Best of Imprimis 1972-2002 (Hillsdale College Press, 2002), and among the great printed speeches in it is the one given by Larry Woiwode in February of 1992, the title of which is in my heading above. Woiwode is a former college professor turned novelist, and of interest to our readers, an OPC elder (For more details on him, visit his website.).

CyclopsThough his speech may be a bit dated, it is a powerful description of what television has done to our reading abilities and desires. Today, we may add the book-devouring influences of laptops, video games, tablets, and “smart” phones.

You may find the entire print version at the Imprimis archives, but I give you just a few samples of what he has to say here:

What is destroying America today is not the liberal breed of one-world politicians, or the IMF bankers, or the misguided educational elite, or the World Council of Churches; these are largely symptoms of a greater disorder. If there is any single institution to blame, it is, to use the cozy diminutive, “TV”.

TV is more than a medium; it has become a full-fledged institution, backed by billions of dollars each season.  Its producers want us to sit in front of its glazed-over electronic screen, press our clutch of discernment through the floorboards, and sit in a spangled, zoned-out state (“couch potatoes,” in current parlance) while we are instructed in the proper liberal tone and attitude by our present-day Plato and Aristotle-Dan Rather and Tom Brokow. These television celebrities have more temporal power than the teachings of Aristotle and Plato have built up over the centuries.  Television, in fact, has greater power over the lives of most Americans than any educational system or government or church.  Children are particularly susceptible.  They are mesmerized, hypnotized and tranquilized by TV.  It is often the center of their world; even when the set is turned off, they continue to tell stories about what they’ve seen on it.  No wonder, then, that as adults they are not prepared for the frontline of life; they simply have no mental defenses to confront the reality of the world.

The Truth About TV

One of the most disturbing truths about TV is that it eats books.  Once out of school, nearly 60 percent of all adult Americans have never read a single book, and most of the rest read only one book a year.  Alvin Kernan, author of The Death of Literature, says that reading books “is ceasing to be the primary way of knowing something in our society.”   He also points out that bachelor’s degrees in English literature have declined by 33 percent in the last twenty years and that in many universities the courses are largely reduced to remedial reading. American libraries, he adds, are in crisis, with few patrons to support them.  Thousands of teachers at the elementary, secondary and college levels can testify that their students’ writing exhibits a tendency towards superficiality that wasn’t seen, say, ten or fifteen years ago. It shows up not only in the students’ lack of analytical skills but in their poor command of grammar and rhetoric.  I’ve been asked by a graduate student what a semicolon is. The mechanics of the English language have been tortured to pieces by TV.  Visual, moving images-which are the venue of television-can’t be held in the net of careful language. They want to break out. They really have nothing to do with language. So language, grammar and rhetoric have become fractured.

Recent surveys by dozens of organizations also suggest that up to forty percent of the American public is functionally illiterate; that is, our citizens’ reading and writing abilities, if they have any, are so seriously impaired as to render them, in that handy jargon of our times, “dysfunctional”. The problem isn’t just in our schools or in the way reading is taught: TV teaches people not to read. It renders them incapable of engaging in an art that is now perceived as strenuous, because it is an active art, not a passive hypnotized state.

Passive as it is, television has invaded our culture so completely that you see its effects in every quarter, even in the literary world. It shows up in supermarket paperbacks, from Stephen King (who has a certain clever skill) to pulp fiction.  These are really forms of verbal TV-literature that is so superficial that those who read it can revel in the same sensations they experience when they are watching TV.  Even more importantly, the growing influence of television has, Kernan says, changed people’s habits and values and affected their assumptions about the world. The sort of reflective, critical and value-laden thinking encouraged by books has been rendered obsolete. In this context, we would do well to recall the Cyclopes-the race of giants that, according to Greek myth, predated man.

Bestsellers ≠ Best Books

Bestsellers ≠ Best Books.

read-good-christian-booksThe “Aquila Report” in its latest summary of church news this past week (June 23, 2015) carried this depressing “Christian” book news. It has been this way for some time now in the Christian publishing business, but it is nevertheless discouraging that such drivel continues to be so popular, especially when there is so much good material being published.

You have heard me say before, “read more and read better.” I hope this applies to books such as these too. Yet, these lists are a clear window into the “Christian” culture of books and what people like/want to read in our day.

Let’s help point Christians – new and old – to sound, biblical, Reformed literature that will grow their minds and souls, their faith and life. What kind of list would you put together if someone asked you for some good reads?

Here’s the first part of the news item as carried by the “Aquila Report.” Find all of it at the link above.

The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association has compiled a list of the best-selling Christian books of 2014. I was scandalized at the results, as was Adam Ford of the Christian webcomic, Adam4d.com. His response is hilarious and right to the point. The recent Pew Report on American religion claims a 7.8% drop in the Christian share of the population. The survey also claims that 19.2% of those raised Christian will abandon that affiliation. If these books are characteristic of the thought and theology most associated with Christianity in America, perhaps it is not surprising that many are leaving and fewer people are joining.

These are the top ten Christian best-sellers of 2014:

  1. Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence: “After many years of writing in her prayer journal, missionary Sarah Young decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever she believed He was saying to her. It was awkward at first, but gradually her journaling changed from monologue to dialogue….They are written from Jesus’ point of view, thus the title Jesus Calling.”
  2. Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back: “A young boy emerges from life-saving surgery with remarkable stories of his visit to heaven.” Not to be confused with The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven whose subject later revealed his heavenly tour was just a hoax.
  3. Heaven is for Real Movie Edition 
  4. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts
  5. Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change: “In this riveting book, New York Times best-selling author, Pastor John Hagee, explores the supernatural connection of certain celestial events to biblical prophecy—and to the future of God’s chosen people and to the nations of the world. Just as in biblical times, God is controlling the sun, the moon, and the stars to send our generation a signal that something big is about to happen. The question is: Are we watching and listening to His message?”

More Book Art: The Work of Jacqueline Rush Lee | Book Patrol

Still Harmony: The Work of Jacqueline Rush Lee | Book Patrol.

JTL Vascellum 2013

For our first “Friday Fun” item today we post another book artist’s work. I am amazed at what people can do with old (or newer), discarded books. I think you will appreciate the artistry involved in this woman’s work.

Here’s the introduction to this “Book Patrol” post and two of Lee’s works. Visit the link above or the artist’s direct link imbedded below.

Jacqeuline Rush Lee has been creating bookworks for over 15 years. Her work has been and remains a staple in most anthologies that deal with contemporary bookworks. 

In 1998 Rush devised an experimental process where books and periodicals were fired in controlled kiln environments and transformed into what Rush calls “fossilized” books where “the books were no longer recognizable in their usual context, but transformed into poetic remnants of their former selves–ephemeral and ghost-like forms suggesting internal landscapes and a trajectory of time, transformation and memory…”

These “poetic remnants” emit a still harmony that retains the power of the book while transforming them into spectacular works of art.

JRL Lorem Ipsum III (Summer Reading Series) 2010-2012

Published in: on May 1, 2015 at 6:31 AM  Leave a Comment  

April “Tabletalk”: “Our Shameless World” – Andrew Davis

Our Shameless World by Andrew Davis | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-April 2015You will recall from our previous Monday posts this month that the April issue of Tabletalk is devoted to the theme of “shame.” The third main featured article on this subject is the one linked above, written by Dr. Andrew David, pastor of First Baptist Church in Durham, NC.

His article treats the shame that we find in the world about us, due to the fall – a shame we participate in also, but a shame we are also called to respond to properly as Christians. Davis uncovers “three ways our world displays corruption in the matter of shame”. These are “delighting in what is shameful”, “suppressing true shame”, and “seeking to shame the righteous.”

I will pull a few paragraphs from Davis’ article, encouraging you to read the full article at the Ligonier link above. There is good reading here for us, relating to how we handle the shame found in the world – and in ourselves.

The world delights in bold sinners who flout God’s Word and expect no punishment whatsoever. Our culture celebrates the skillful cold-blooded assassin, bold thief, self-righteous vigilante, foul-mouthed recording artist, creative rebel, blasphemous stand-up comedian, naked actress, fornicating “glamour couple,” self-worshiping athlete, occultic mystic, and the like. Perhaps the clearest example in our day has been the movement of homosexuality from something almost universally seen as shameful to something that ought to be delighted in. The gay rights movement is seeking not merely tolerance of what God calls sinful, but society-wide celebration.

…Conversely, our world also heaps abuse on those who stand up for righteousness in our corrupt age. Isaiah 5:20 captures the defective moral compass of our age: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness!” So our culture delights in what is shameful and is ashamed of what God finds delightful. I recently saw a T-shirt that proclaimed, “Homosexuality isn’t shameful; homophobia is.” The new term homophobia (c. 1969) implies that biblical conviction on that sin is itself a form of mental illness. When University of Missouri football player Michael Sam declared himself to be gay, his fellow students gave him a standing ovation at a basketball game. Anyone who refused to stand and cheer certainly would have been made to feel ashamed.

…Christians should display humility in the matter of shame and set an example to the world. We should own that our sin is a shameful thing, and that feelings of shame are reasonable responses to the conviction of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:21). In our evangelism, it is essential to proclaim the law of God to bring about that conviction and the corresponding feelings of shame in our hearers. But we should also display and proclaim the joy of full forgiveness that the cross of Jesus Christ lavishes on anyone who believes in Him alone. As Romans 10:11 says, “Everyone who believes in him [Christ] will not be put to shame.”

Heaven Tourism Books Pulled from Nearly 200 Christian Bookstores – ChristianityToday.com

Heaven Tourism Books Pulled from Nearly 200 Christian Booksto… | Gleanings | ChristianityToday.com.

90-minutes-in-heaven-9780800759490Here is a healthy development in the world of Christian books: removing from shelves and stores books purporting to relate one’s experiences of going to heaven – a wildly popular form of writing, publishing, and reading these days. And part of the reason for doing so is also good – the sufficiency of Scripture to tell us about the afterlife.

“CT” carries this story from Baptist Press in this week’s summary of Christian news (“Gleanings”). I post the first part of the story here; find all of it at the “CT” link above.

NASHVILLE (BP) — LifeWay Christian Resources has stopped selling all “experiential testimonies about heaven” following consideration of a 2014 Southern Baptist Convention resolution on “the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife.”

LifeWay told Baptist Press about its decision to halt sales of heaven visitation resources today (March 24) in response to an inquiry about the book 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper, which is being made into a movie slated for release this fall. The book recounts Piper’s supposed experience of heaven following a severe auto accident and has sold 6.5 million copies in 46 languages.

…Though LifeWay “was not mentioned in the SBC resolution affirming the sufficiency of biblical revelation and affirming the truth about heaven and hell,” King told BP in an interview, “the resolution was approved overwhelmingly and was considered during our process.”

The resolution, adopted by messengers to the SBC annual meeting in June, warned Christians not to allow “the numerous books and movies purporting to explain or describe the afterlife experience” to “become their source and basis for an understanding of the afterlife.”

…The resolution affirmed “the sufficiency of biblical revelation over subjective experiential explanations to guide one’s understanding of the truth about heaven and hell.”

PCUSA Makes Marriage a ‘Unique Commitment’ – ChristianityToday.com

PCUSA Makes Marriage a ‘Unique Commitment’ | Gleanings | ChristianityToday.com.

marriagepic-1Christianity Today’s latest “Gleanings” feature (March 18, 2015) carried this note of further apostasy from the teaching of God’s Word about marriage on the part of the mainline Presbyterian church in this country.

Below is the first part of that story; for the full news item, visit the “CT” link above. The report includes a map showing how the various states have voted to this point (Michigan has not yet decided.)

May the Lord call out of this apostate denomination those who are truly His and who desire to be faithful to His Word and the true Presbyterian heritage (Rev.18:4).

The Presbyterian Church (USA) will now define marriage as a “unique commitment between two people,” rather than a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman as an act of Christian discipleship.

Last June, the PC(USA) general assembly voted to change the language in its Book of Order, the denomination’s governing constitution. Following the vote, a majority of the PC(USA)’s 171 presbyteries also had to approve the measure for it to go into effect. On Tuesday, this number (86) was reached.

The conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee (PLC) criticized the denomination’s shift.

“In terms of the PCUSA’s witness to the world, this vote demonstrates a complete accommodation to the prevailing winds of our culture,” said Carmen Fowler LaBerge, PLC president, in a statement. “Any prophetic voice that the denomination may have once had to speak truth and call people to repentance is now lost.”

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