Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fall Photos from Mississippi and Florida 2012

I haven't done a photo post in a while.  Here are photos I took while visiting family in Central Mississippi and Destin, Florida over Thanksgiving week.

Mississippi has the closest thing to a fall in the deep south.  Nothing as brilliant as the Northeast but pretty in its own way.

The following photos are from Fred Gannon State Park in Niceville, Florida

The following is from Destin, FL

  Military helocopter.  Destin is near Eglin AFB, the largest military instillation in the world.

The sun had set.  Can you see the egret?

Caught this rainbow crossing Pensacola Bay Bridge

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Spirit of Giving: Ravi Zacharias and Samaritan's Purse

With all the family and activity this past couple of weeks I haven't been able to get to my blog.  Last night, Christmas evening, I read to my family all the Christmas books we traditionally read.  As usual I couldn't get through some of them without breaking down. The common theme in them is people suffering grief and loss but finding hope and joy through the birth of Christ.  I've already reviewed those books and if you'd like to read them, go here. For Christmas stories about the history and origins of some of the traditions go here.

What I would especially like to share are the charity organizations that I contribute to and hope you will be encouraged to contribute to them as well.

The one my son and I always donate to  is from Ravi Zacharias' ministry.  Mr. Zacharias was born and raised in India and became a Christian as an adult.  He is considered the greatest living Christian apologist, taking the mantle from C.S. Lewis.  He has a radio program called, "Let My People Think".  Here is a link to his broadcasts .  My favorites are his question and answer sessions with college students from Harvard, Oxford, and Georgia Tech as well as Cornell University.  Our favorite charity coming out of his ministry is called Wellspring International.  The specific one we contribute to is called the Scarlet Chord which helps deliver woman and children out of a life of prostitution.  Here is an excerpt from their website:

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

“We say that slavery has vanished from European civilization, but this is not true. Slavery still exists, but now it applies only to women and its name is prostitution.”
Victor Hugo

The Need

The city of Amsterdam became world famous for its legalized prostitution and red light district in the year 2000. Over 400 windows line the district streets, with a woman on display behind each one. It has been estimated that over 75% of the city’s 8,000-11,000 women in prostitution are from Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia. Many are victims of trafficking; others were lured in at a young age by pimps, called loverboys, through an intentional scheme that moves them in to prostitution. Many remain out of fear for their own safety or that of loved ones, or victim of sizeable debts they must repay to a pimp. Those who want to leave struggle to find options that will enable them to escape safely and empower them to support themselves in an alternative line of work.

Here's the link if you'd like to donate.

The other Charity we donate to is Samaritan's Purse. They provide help and relief to just about every crisis out there globally, including the Hurricane Sandy. Here's an excerpt from their website:

Our emergency relief programs provide desperately needed assistance to victims of natural disaster, war, disease, and famine. As we offer food, water, and temporary shelter, we meet critical needs and give people a chance to rebuild their lives.

Our community development and vocational programs in impoverished villages and neighborhoods help people break the cycle of poverty and give them hope for a better tomorrow.We impact the lives of vulnerable children through educational, feeding, clothing, and shelter programs that let them know they are not forgotte

If you'd like to give to this worthy charity here is the link to their very long list of ministries that you can choose from.

Finally, I sponsor a child through Compassion  International.  For $35.00 a month you can sponsor a child in a third world country, providing them with necessary means for survival and schooling.  Little Madina and I write each other several times a year. There's a waiting list for children who need to be sponsored from all over the world.

Remember, all donations are tax deductible. May you all have a very Blessed Christmas and New Year!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Beowolf translated by Seamus Heaney photos edited by John D. Niles

   For twelve years King Hrogarth and his Danish warriors have been terrorized by the monster Grendel who has invaded their hall and attacked and eaten many of the men.  A hero comes across the sea who kills the monster-and later the monster's mother.  His name is Beowolf and his epic saga has been read for the last thousand years in the original Old English as well as various translations. 

  I won’t go into the entire story but it is one that shows the reader a culture of heroism, early medieval life and the transition from pagan beliefs to Christianity in Scandinavia.  What’s especially interesting is that Beowolf was written in England at a time when that country was still recovering from the scourge of Viking invasions that had started a couple hundred years previously.  One wonders why someone from England would want to write a heroic saga about Scandinavians.  If you know the answer to that, please tell me in the comments box.

   The purpose of this review is to comment on the recent edition that has come out with Seamus Heaney’s translation.

   I had read the translation of Beowolf by J.R.R. Tolkien many years ago but frankly had a hard time understanding it.  I attribute that more to my youth than Tolkien’s translation.       Nevertheless, when I saw Heaney’s translation in the book store, I couldn’t resist buying a copy for myself.  It’s a beautiful book. 

     There are actually two editions.  One has the original old English on one page with Heaney’s translation on the other.  I can’t read old English so I didn’t need that version, although I’m sure it would be a great resource for English Literature students.

     The edition I bought has the poem on one page and a photo of Viking artifacts and Scandanavian scenery on the adjoining page.  The translation is beautifully rendered and easy to understand.  I read through the epic poem in a short amount of time.  What makes this book worth buying, however, is the photos. 

     This edition is a photo illustrated version of the saga.  Each photo depicts some part of the poem.  If the poem on the adjoining page is about the bogs of Norway, the accompanying photo is of a bog.  If the poem is talking about the boat, clothes, weapons or housing the Vikings used, the photo will illustrate that.  The pictures provided a wonderful visual companion to the poetry.

    Bottom line:  I found the poetry beautiful, the story as interesting as ever and the photos a great enhancement.  I would recommend this edition to anyone interested in this famous epic poem.

I bought this book.

Bilingual Edition:

Kindle Edition for $8.52:

Illustrated Edition:

For further links on Beowolf:

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dating and the Single Parent by Ron L. Deal

  Dating and the Single Parent by Ron L. Deal is an important book and one that should belong in the library of every divorced person who has considered remarrying or at least reentering into the wonderful world of dating.

    Bottom line:  if you are divorced with kids still at home you’re better off not dating or remarrying.  You should devote your time to raising your children.  The odds of remarrying at this time and not becoming a twice-divorced statistic are not in your favor.

    However, they are not insurmountable, and, as Mr. Deal realistically observes, many single parents do not want to wait-especially if they believe they have met someone they want to spend the rest of their life with.

 Therefore, the rest of the book is devoted to detailing what steps a single parent needs to take to not only prepare themselves but their children for what is at stake and what they have in store for themselves. 

The first section of the book includes chapters that help the single parent decide if they are ready to date. 

Mr. Deal accurately describes divorce in the same terms as experiencing a death.  The recovery of both can take years.  You may think you want someone in your life.  You may believe that you are in a healthy frame of mind to accept that person into your life.  But are you?

Deal provides a lot of real case scenarios as well as a checklist to help the single parent evaluate just how ready they are to add another person to their family equation.

Then there’s the children.  You may feel ready, but are they?  Deal poignantly and deftly points out that if your children are not emotionally ready to handle a new “parent” the chances of marital success are slim. 

After evaluating yourself and your children, Mr. Deal gives invaluable strategies to help prepare yourself and your children for the dating arena.  One chapter delineates the fears that children (young and adult) have when their parent starts to date.  Again, ignoring these very real challenges are huge strikes against a lasting relationship or marriage with a second spouse.

Section two gives helpful advice on the RIGHT places to find love.  He has a great chapter called, “Yellow Light, Red Light, Green Light.”  He gives a checklist for each.  What signs does this potential partner give that is a warning you should take seriously?  What are deal breakers?  When is it clear that you can go ahead?

His final section has useful advice on marriage commitment and step-family preparation.  His most profound point, in my opinion,  is that step-families should not be thought of as “blended” as though you could throw two different groups of people in a figurative blender and they’ll quickly mix.  It’s better to think of the process as a crock pot, where people “simmer” together, taking years to get used to one another. 

 If you’re thinking of remarrying, this would be a good book to read before embarking on that adventure.

I received this book free from the publisher.

or buy it Kindle on $8.79


Friday, November 30, 2012

Books about Music and Epilepsy

   Sally Fletcher has written two books coming out of her own personal experience.  She is a musician who plays the harp and organ and she also has suffered from epilepsy.
In The Challenge of Epilepsy:  Complementary and Alternative Solutions, Ms. Fletcher shares her own challenges with epilepsy and how she arrived at-if not a cure- a method to prevent seizures.  In the first chapter she tells us that she used to suffer from ten to fifteen seizures per month that were uncontrolled by medication.  She now is seizure free and the rest of the book is devoted to explaining how she, without the help of doctors, books, or any other outside source overcame her affliction. 

The book explains the facts and myths of epileptic seizures and what we know about what parts of the brain are affected.  She devotes a couple of chapters to diet and life style habits that can affect seizures and their frequency. She delves into what is called biofeedback, neurofeedback and brain waves.  A chapter describing medication and their side affects are also listed.

After filling the reader in on the background of epilepsy- causes (unknown), medical facts and different studies of the brain, she gets to the main thrust of her book.  According to her, a person can control their own brainwaves and eventually learn to prevent seizures.

   Much of what she offers includes yoga, meditation and relaxation techniques that she asserts will raise an epileptic’s threshold so that they do not suffer a seizure.  Examples of “correct thinking techniques” are included in one chapter where she directs the epileptic to allow the body to obey each conscious thought as follows:


1.  I feel very quiet.

2. I am beginning to feel quite relaxed.

3.  My feet feel heavy and relaxed.

4.  My ankles, my knees and my hips feel heavy, relaxed and comfortable.

5.  My solar plexus, and the whole central portion of my body, feel  realxed and quiet.


There are 23 more thoughts listed that Ms. Fletcher walks you through. 


Other chapters discuss good exercise and the role music can play in healing an epileptic of seizures.


I would like to point out that I am not an epileptic and have not tried any of these techniques so cannot vouch for them.  However, the book was interesting to read and the idea of controlling one’s thoughts to contain seizures is thought-provoking. My personal advice?  Consult a doctor before embarking on any unconventional therapy.



Ms. Fletcher’s other book is Music:  Healing and Harmony.  In this book she gives a lot of information on how music affects the mind and body.  She cites many sources that show the impact music has on the development of our mind, the manipulation of our emotions and even our bodily health. 

She devotes some interesting chapters to the actual science of music, the vibrations that make up different pitches and how they can affect the brain and emotions.  She gives information on different styles of music and how they help us to become energized, relaxed, concentrate, think logically or excited.  She describes studies that have shown how music helps control ADD and ADHD as well as the immune system.

While some of her information smacks of Eastern mysticism (she talks of enhancing bodily energies by finding “chakra” points), I found the book –if not providing a lot of new information ( I have a Master’s degree in Music)- at least an interesting and useful tool for the non musical layperson. 

Disclaimer:  I received these books for free by the author.

Ms. Fletcher also records on the harp and organ.  For more information you can go to her website:


Monday, November 19, 2012

White Nights and Other Stories by Fyodor Dostoyevsky


My favorite genre of literature is classical.  My favorite time period is the nineteenth century. Favorite authors?  Russian.  Favorite Russian authors?  Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky!


When I moved to Texas several years ago, the men who moved my furniture (if boxes of books qualify as furniture) were from Russia.  I got into a conversation with one of the men about Russian literature.  I mentioned to him my predilection for Russian authors and how much I enjoyed Dostoyevsky in particular.  The man looked at me a moment, then tapped his forehead.  He said, “Dostoyevsky was crazy, you know that?”


   I don’t know if Dostoyevsky was certifiably insane or not, but his writing does seem to express the soul of a tortured individual.  But never without hope.  That is why I love his writings so much.  Dostoyevsky never shies away from writing stories about people whose ‘hearts are desperately wicked’ but, unlike secular humanist writers, he doesn’t stop with the despair.  In spite of evil circumstances and unstable, selfish people, power and hope course through the veins of each story.


Dostoyevsky never preaches, yet God is written on every page.  His presence is declared as it is in nature.  To compare, read a story written by a secularist, such as Anton Chekov or Albert Camus or just about any 20th century writer.  The difference is striking.  Their characters are left adrift. At the end of the story you’re left asking, what was the point?  In Dostoyevsky’s stories, no matter how hard life becomes, no matter how wickedly a person acts there is the sense that God is still holding them in the palm of their hand.


 White Nights and Other Stories is a collection of short stories with Dostoyevsky’s trademark peculiarities.  Each story keeps you guessing with many twists and turns in the plots and events. 


His stories are darkly psychological in nature.  Often, he has the reader following the rambling thoughts of the protaganists giving us a first person account of how the hero perceives his environment and how he reacts to it. The first two stories, The Honest Thief and An Unpleasant Predicament show this- the first as a man wrestles with his conscience over a theft he has made and the second when a man from an upper class crashes the wedding of his subordinate.  He doesn’t shy away from putting his characters in awkward situations and we suffer with them as they struggle to extricate themselves.


Some of his stories are simply zany from a superficial view but contain a message that exposes certain facets of Russian society.  In Another Man’s Wife, we’re led on a merry chase with a man who suspects his wife of infidelity.  He follows a man he believes is her lover, only to enter the wrong door and ends up in the apartment of a strange woman.  While trying to explain his presence to the startled woman, her husband can be heard climbing the stairwell.  In order to avoid a confrontation, the man hides under her bed.  To his surprise he finds another man already hiding there.  You’ll have to read the story to find out how it all resolves.

In The Crocodile, an ambitious business man visits an animal exhibition and falls into the crocodile pit where he is gobbled up by you know what.  He does not die, however, and refuses to be rescued as he believes that living in the crocodile will increase his standing in society.  He even insists that his wife join him.  While these stories seem crazy, a larger picture of 19th century Russian culture and values is drawn.

Bobok is about a man who dies and is buried in a cemetery but remains conscious.  He lies in his coffin listening to the conversations of all the other dead people.  We, of course, listen too, and hear some very interesting stories from people who came from all walks of life but are now lying together in a grave yard.

The title story, White Nights is about a man whose character must have been inspired by Dostoyevsky’s own impulsive, passionate nature.  The man falls in love and wishes to marry a lonely young woman confined to a life of living with her grandmother.  The woman is waiting for her lover, who has promised to return and marry her on a certain day.  The time is approaching and the woman is losing hope.  Will the man return?  Who will she marry?  Or will she get married at all?


Each story pulls the reader in and arrests them until the end.  I don’t believe anyone will be able to put down the book in the middle of any of these novellas.   If you’re a lover of Russian classic literature and especially Fyodor Dostoyevsky, you will enjoy this collection.





Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough


   David McCullough has written a brilliant chronicling of Americans who traveled to Paris in the 19th century.  Before reading his book, I never realized how many famous Americans lived in Paris and how living there impacted their careers.

     In the 1830’s Oliver Wendell Holmes, Samuel Morse and John Fennimore Cooper kicked off the migration.  Call me ignorant, but I didn’t know that Morse was an artist.  He spent countless hours in the Louvre painting and receiving commissions stateside for his work.  Cooper wrote many of his most important novels there.  Holmes and many other American medical students studied medicine.

     The invention that Morse is most famous for, the telegraph and the code named after him, was conceived in Paris.  Later, P.T. Barnum and his famous Tom Thumb toured the city to great acclaim.  The pianist and composer Gottschalk spent many years performing in Paris.

     Other artists that came were John Singer Sargent, James McNeil Whistler and Augustus Saint-Gaudens.  Mary Cassatt, who became good friends with Edgar Degas, was the only American accepted into the Impressionist fold. 

     In addition to the artists, architects, and musicians, important politicians left their mark.  Elihu Washburne was the only international diplomat who stayed in Paris during the political upheaval and wars during the 1870’s.  He helped protect and provide for many native and foreign people caught in the crossfire. 

    We don’t just learn of the Americans’ accomplishments but of their lives:  how they spent their free time, the sort of friendships they made, their characters and personalities.

     McCullough does a meticulous job gathering notes, letters, and diaries.  His bibliography takes up almost a quarter of the book.  His writing is fluid and eloquent.  This is no dry recitation of facts but a vibrant, breathing, compilation of the different lives and events that shaped Paris and the Americans that lived there.  Reading The Greater Journey paints a vivid picture as rich and voluptuous as an oil painting by Cezanne.  One can see and experience a Paris of the past.  The only way anyone will be able to do so now.

    For anyone interested in history and how one culture is shaped by another, this book is highly recommended.

Further links:

Cleopatra: A Life

Or buy on Kindle for $9.99



Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cleopatra: a Life by Stacy Schiff

      Cleopatra is one of the legendary figures out of history that we hear about but may not necessarily know much about.  I had read about her in the works of Josephus.  Shakespeare wrote about her and so did some French romanticists. Elisabeth Taylor glamorized her and others have vilified her. Other than that I was fairly ignorant about this “Queen of the Nile.” 

    Stacy Schiff writes a colorful, if not very objective, biography of one of the most famous-or infamous depending on your viewpoint- historical figures.  In her book, Cleopatra: a Life, she attempts to weed out the legend and get at the heart of who this woman really was.

     It’s interesting that Schiff starts out her book by declaring that most historicists throughout the ages had a biased opinion against Cleopatra rooted in the age old sin of chauvinism.  Sure, she murdered her own family members in her quest for power.  Sure, she slept with powerful leaders of the Roman Empire.  Okay, and maybe she poisoned a few hundred prisoners in order to get just the right sort of elixirs to use on her enemies. Hey, she had a country to maintain.  What’s a poor girl to do? 

    Ms. Schiff’s prejudice for her subject is exposed in an especially revealing response to a question in an interview printed at the end of the book.  After blasting all those rotten men for relentlessly attacking Cleopatra just because she was a woman, the interviewer asks her why a woman, Florence Nightingale, referred to Cleopatra as a “disgusting woman.”

    Ms. Schiff answers the question thus: 

     By the time Florence Nightingale got her neurotic hands on Cleopatra, she had been mangled beyond recognition by both history and literature.  For their own political reasons, the Romans needed her to be a femme fatale who seduced Mark Antony and lusted after Rome.  Shakespeare took it from there.

     Neurotic hands?  Uh, maybe Ms. Nightingale found someone who would murder her own family members and poison hundreds of people disgusting.  Does Ms. Schiff not find that disgusting?  My advice to Ms. Schiff is not to fall in love with your subject if you want to be taken seriously.  And, by the way, I find it somewhat chauvinistic to assume that because a writer is male he can only have nefarious reasons for writing about a female historical figure.  That’s called presuming motives.

     In fact, after establishing that it is practically impossible to know the true Cleopatra, we are then expected to take Ms. Schiff’s word for who she says Cleopatra is.

     Still, I have to say that I found Cleopatra: a Life to be engaging, interesting and a book that finally put a definitive face on someone I had never taken the opportunity to examine before.  Frankly, I don’t know why Ms. Schiff takes the ancient biographers denigrative portrayal of Cleopatra so personally.  She accuses Josephus of hating her, but-having personally read Josepus’ account- I didn’t see where Cleopatra got special treatment.  The times were brutal and so were the leaders of the era.  Josephus makes her out to be a typically manipulative power monger. Schiff admits the same in her own account.  Besides, it’s nothing compared to his description of Herod Antipas.  Yeesh.  No wonder Joseph fled to Egypt with Mary and baby Jesus.  What a monster.

     In Ms. Schiff’s book we follow Cleopatra as she climbs to power in Egypt and how she carefully maneuvers herself and her country into a favorable position with the Roman Empire.  Her first conquest is Julius Caesar, by whom she has one son, Ceasarian.  When Julius falls to assassins, she then turns her sights on Mark Antony.  Her relationship with Mark Antony produced three children.  Cleopatra gambled in order to secure her position inside of the Empire but unfortunately aligned herself with what -after several acrimonious years of power struggling with Octavian (Augustus Caesar) - became the losing team.  This led to both her and Mark Antony’s death by suicide.  Better kill yourself than be dragged through the Roman streets in chains or worse.

     Ms. Schiff has done her homework and her bibliography testifies to the meticulous detail and research she invested in this book.  It reads as well as any novel and will give the reader a definite taste of the time period preceding the first century A.D.  I recommend Ms. Schiff’s book to anyone interested in the life of one of the few female rulers of the ancient world.

or buy on Kindle for $9.99

Other links:


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Father of the ghost story: M. R. James

Last year I forgot it was Halloween  until kids came to my door and I had nothing to give them.  So this year I'm hiding at my local bookstore sipping a pumpkin spice latte and writing a review about a very scary writer.  That's my trick to the kids and my treat to you. 

(Of course if I return home to find my house covered in toilet paper the trick will be on me.)

When we think of Victorian ghost writers we may think of Mary Shelly or Bram Stoker.  Last week I introduced you to a lesser known writer of the supernatural, Sheridan Le Fanu (for the review go here).  Today's post is about someone who was inspired by Le Fanu.

   Montague Rhodes James was considered the greatest scholar of medieval manuscripts of the English speaking world. He is known for his contributions to the study of Christian art and archeology.  He also is the father of what has come to be known as the ghost story.  As an avid antiquarian, his ghost stories  can trace their roots to medieval sources. For those of us who love reading medieval literature and culture this makes his stories especially enjoyable.

    I know there are less sensitives souls out there but I must confess that getting half way through James' Complete Ghost Stories I began having nightmares and threw the book away.  His stories are not filled with graphic violence or anything that defines the modern horror story.  They are simply the scariest tales I've ever read.

     There's the story of an evil man who has the ability to cast spells over people. The spell attaches a familiar spirit to that person.  In a weird turn around, other people can see the creature walking alongside the victim while the poor person on whom the runes have been cast, cannot.  (Casting the Runes)

    Whistle and I'll Come to You My Lad is one of the more famous.  A man finds a tin whistle out on some sand dunes.  He takes it back to his hotel room and innocently blows on it.  He soon finds by doing so he has beckoned an unwelcome visitor.

    Other stories are about vampires walled up in church alters, evil monks that have achieved some kind of perverse immortality through the architectural design of their abby, or mezzotints (old prints made of sepia) that reenact supernatural crimes as the observer looks on. (Actually, the mezzotint is more frightening than that- every time the observer returns to the painting, the figures are in a different position.)

James even uses Greek mythology in a story about a man who inherits a country estate with a garden maze.  He soon discovers that the maze is designed in such a way-not to keep people from finding their way back out, but to keep other things within the maze from escaping.

I recommend his books not just because they give you a good scare, but because they are so well written.  His stories have lasted for over a hundred years because his caliber of writing is on the same level as any Victorian writer.  I think that anyone could enjoy a good scare at the hands of M.R. James'  but I think those of us who love antiquarian history stemming from a Christian heritage will especially appreciate James' use of the history and culture of the European dark ages.

M.R. James (1862-1956)
And if you're wondering why I'm recommending a book I threw away, I retrieved the stories by downloading them on my Kindle.  I feel safer knowing that they're out there in Cyberspace rather than in my house.  Hey,  I told you I was sensitive.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Book of Daniel by Clarence Larkin

Clarence Larkin (1850-1924) is best known for his copious dispensational diagrams and charts on a host of theological subjects. His The Greatest Book on Dispensational Truth in the World sits on bookshelves far and wide. Much truth is contained therein. In the quote below, the "some books that fell into his hands" were books written by the original Plymouth Brethren.  (From the With Christ web site)

 This is part of the series of books I’ve been reviewing about end times.  In addition to Revelation, the book of Daniel is one of the most important books of the Bible that prophecy about world events.  Many of the prophecies have already come to pass as history has verified.  Today Christians examine this book to make sense of what is happening in our world today and where it is leading.

     Rev. Larkin takes the reader through each chapter in the book of Daniel and their meaning as it pertains to Daniel's time as well as its relevance to us. His book is divided into ten chapters.  Chapter one describes the beginning of Gentile dominion.  This started when Israel was taken away into captivity into Babylon.  Daniel was one of the young men that was taken away.  He and his friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego so impressed the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, that they become high officials and advisors to him.

    Chapter 2 records Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation. For those not familiar with the book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of a giant image.  This image was of a man.  The man’s head was made of gold, his breast and arms of silver, his belly and thighs of brass, his legs of iron and his feet were part iron and clay. A stone hits the image and it breaks up into pieces.

 Daniel informs Nebuchadnezzar that this image represented the different powers that were going to succeed each other.   (For those not familiar with the scripture, go here.) Rev. Larkin breaks down each part of the body

Much of the dream has already transpired as historical events show.  Here is the breakdown:

1.  The Head of the Image:  The Babylonian Empire

2.   The Arms and Breast:  The Medo-Persian empire.

3.  The Abdomen:  The Greek empire.

4.  The Legs:  The Roman empire.

5.  The Feet and Toes:  Powers that are still to come.

6.  The Stone:  The Millennial Kingdom of Christ  (And in the days of these kings shall the God of Heaven set up a Kingdom, which shall never be destroyed:  and the Kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand Forever.  (Daniel 2:44)

Chapter 3 is about the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar erected for everyone to worship.  Daniel’s friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse and are thrown into the fire.  Their response to the king is one of my favorite passages of scripture:

    Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If it be so, Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O King, but even if He does not, be it known unto you, O King, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up." (Daniel 3;18)

    And, as we know, God does deliver them and Daniel records:

Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers "Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?" They replied, "Certainly, O king."

He answered and said, "Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like a son of the gods."  Daniel 3:25

  The 4, 5, and 6th chapters form the rest of the historical part of Daniel and include the Tree Dream, the Fall of Babylon and the Lion’s Den.  The final chapters analyze Daniel’s visions and how they pertain to the future and our modern day.  He explains the meaning of the Four Wild Beasts, the Ram and the He Goat, the Seventy Weeks and the Scripture of Truth.  

    He also includes charts with time lines.  It’s important to note that Rev. Larkin takes a dispensationalist point of view when evaluating these scriptures.  So he interprets the Great Tribulation as a time that is still coming to the earth.  He also believes in a thousand year reign of peace following the return of Jesus Christ.

     He writes about the regathering of Jews to the nation of Israel. He calls this a “National Resurrection”.   He quotes Jeremiah 16:14-15 and Ezekial 37:11,12.  and explains that  the “dry bones” coming back to life are Israel becoming a nation again.  What’s exciting about this is that Larkin wrote his book in 1919.  It hadn’t even happened at the time of his writing.  Little did he know it was just around the corner!

  I found this book to be eloquently written and scripture lucidly explained.  If you weren’t excited about Christ’s coming before, you should be after Rev. Larkin explains the book of Daniel to you.




Sunday, October 14, 2012

In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu

It’s October so I thought I’d write a couple of reviews about book collections of ghost stories.  I like to be scared as much as the next person but I don’t find the violence and gore of today’s stories about the occult scary.  They’re just gross.  Also, today everything’s been turned upside down and now “evil is called good”, as is evidenced by the books and movies whose heroes are vampires and witches.

In order to experience genuine horror one has to reach all the way back to the 19th century.  That’s where writers really knew how to write a scary ghost story.  The great thing is that not only were the stories truly scary-as opposed to today’s  predictable butchery- they held deeply psychological messages.  These authors knew how to keep you thinking about their stories for days after you’d finished reading them.

And on top of all that, they were brilliant writers.  There’s a reason why their books are still in print after a hundred years.

Everyone is familiar of course with Mary Shelley’s tragic monster created by Frankenstein as well as Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula.  What many readers may not be familiar with are the stories written by Sheridan Le Fanu.

 Sheridan Le Fanu, an Irish author born to a Protestant clergyman, grew up on the supernatural legends of Ireland.  He was especially fascinated with stories that involved encounters with demons and fairies.  Many of these stories were orally transmitted from one generation to another and are unfortunately not written down.  Le Fanu, however, has preserved them in a sense because they served as an inspiration for his own works.  There are many collections of his writings available online.  The book I bought is titled, In a Glass Darkly.

Many of his stories come from a first person’s perspective so the reader is never sure what is real or what is perceptual. Is the man truly being stalked by a demon or is he insane?  Le Fanu explores this theme in many of his stories.  Sometimes it seems there are truly malevolent forces at work.  Other times it appears the person is tormented by their own guilty soul.

In Green Tea, a pastor seeks the help of a doctor because he believes he’s going mad.  There is one scene in particular that is disturbing and I don’t recommend reading the story at night or in the house alone.

The man is sitting in a carriage in the evening and it is dark.  He comes to realize that something is in the carriage with him.  At first he sees just red glowing eyes staring at him.  To get a better look he draws closer to the eyes until he finds himself face to face with a monkey.  He doesn’t understand how the animal came to be in his carriage and pokes him with his cane.  His cane goes through the monkey’s body. The animal is actually a spectre.

No matter where the pastor goes, the monkey is with him.  At first it is silent but eventually begins to speak to him.  It urges the pastor to kill himself.  The rest of the story is extremely suspenseful and it’s ending impossible to predict.  Many of Le Fanu’s writings deal with man trying to fight against evil urges and often losing.

One of the best stories is Carmilla.  This has to be one Le Fanu’s most powerful and horrific tales.  The protagonist is a young girl who begins to fall ill.  As the story continues it becomes apparent that she is being made sick because something is preying on her.  There is one moving scene when the girl’s dead mother communicates with her through an angelic being.

I am going to tell you now of a dream that led immediately to an odd discovery. 

One night...I heard a voice, sweet and tender, and at the same time terrible, which said, “Your mother warns you to beware of the assassin.”  At the same time a light unexpectedly sprang up and I saw Carmilla, standing, near the foot of my bed, in her white night dress, bathed, from her chin to her feet, in one great stain of blood.”

This is another story that not only holds suspense but fascination because it is not merely a story of “Satan masking as an angel of light” but a study in how humans are deceived by external appearances and our own longings that we allow ourselves to be seduced by evil which can eventually lead to our own demise.

Next week, I’ll review the works of M.R. James who received his inspiration from Le Fanu and is today regarded as the foremost Victorian ghost teller.

or on Kindle for $4.99

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Revelation Four Views A Parallel Commentary ed. by Steve Gregg

Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins by William Blake (1822)

    This is the latest book I’ve finished about the book of Revelation and the end times.  I’ve heard so much about different view points I was glad to come across a book that categorizes and defines each view point.  This book takes the entire book of Revelation and outlines each verse and step by step gives each view’s interpretation of that piece of scripture.

     Before delving into the actual book of Revelation, the editor gives a historical background, the years  people believe  the book was written,  and why John the Apostle is the author.  He also analyzes its structure as to how the different prophecies were grouped and the order in which they were revealed.

   The next section describes each end time interpretation.

       The four viewpoints included  are:  Historicist, Preterist, Futurist, and Spiritual Approach

Historicist View:  Revelation surveys the whole of church history.   It aligns specific historic events with certain details in Revelation.

     Those who teach this approach today are rare but Gregg includes it in this volume because it survives today in most of the classic commentaries of the past centuries.  Historicists of the past include:  John Wycliffe, John Knox, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, John Foxe, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, and C.H. Spurgeon.

      Historicists believe that God revealed the entire church age in advance through the symbolic visions of the apocalypse.  For example, the breaking of the seven seals (chap 6-7) is often said to be the barbarian invasions that sacked the Western Roman Empire.  The Scorpion/locusts that come out of the bottomless pit (ch 9) are the Arab hordes attacking the eastern Roman Empire.  “The beast” (ch. 13) represents the Roman papacy.  (From the Introduction.)

Preterist Approach:  fulfillment is in the past, shortly after the time of writing.  There are two types of Preterism.

   The first type of Preterists are also called Contemporary-Historical.  They are also called hyper or full Preterists- and are not Preterists in the evangelical sense.  They believe that contemporary elements of John’s own day can be identified in the symbolic language he uses.  They do not believe in any actual fulfillment in ensuing events of the things prophesied in the Apocalypse.  They believe the date of writing to be during the Roman Emperor Domitian’s reign (A.D. 95-96).

 In contrast, Classical Preterism believes in the infallibility of Scripture and dates the Book of Revelation prior to A.D. 70.  Classical Preterists-also known as partial Preterists- point out many details in Revelation that they believe were fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem, and see in later chapters the prediction of the fall of Rome and beyond to the second coming of Christ. 

   Another point favorable to the early-date Preterist approach is that the prophecies of Revelation exhibit many points of correspondence with the fall of Jerusalem as recorded by the eyewitness historian Flavius Josephus.  Since Josephus was not a Christian and probably never  read the book of Revelation, these correspondences seem to bolster the credibility of this interpretation. 

The Futurist approach:  Everything after chapter three awaits fulfillment in the future.
   The futurist approach is primarily a literal interpretation of Scripture.  Most futurists believe in a dispensationalist point of view.  They believe a world leader will arise, seeming to bring peace but will eventually turn out to be a world oppressor.  He will seem to help the Jews rebuild the temple but will then set himself up as the object of worship (the Abomination of Desolation who sits on the throne).

    He will demand that everyone comply and worship him and carry his mark on his arm or forehead.  Those that don’t won’t be able to keep jobs or buy or sell anything, including food.  There will be a seven years’ tribulation followed by the return of Christ where He will destroy this antichrist Beast and will Himself reign from Jerusalem for one thousand years with all the believers.

    At the end there will be one final battle with the enemies of God before they (the enemies) are completely destroyed and thrown into the lake of fire, along with Hell and death. (Revelation 20:14)

Spiritualist:  No single fulfillment: only transcendent principles and recurrent themes. 

     Spritiual appraoch includes all approaches that do not look for individual fullfillments of the prophecies of Revelation but which believe only that spiritual lessons and principles are depicted sympbolically in the visions.   There are many spiritualists who hold Scripture to be inspired and that John had visions revealed to him exactly as he claims, but who believe that their meaning is to be spiritually understood in a way that would be edifying to believers of any age.

To give one example of the four different approaches I’ll write out one excerpt of Revelation followed by the different viewpoints.  The following are all direct quotes from pg.202-207:

Revelation 10:1-4 

       I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud.  And a rainbow was on his head; his face was like this sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.  He had a little book open in his hand.  And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars.  When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices.  Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Seal up he things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.

Historicist:  After Rome fell to the barbarians in 476, as signified in the first four seals, the power of the papacy arose in its place in Western Europe.  The peoples and the system that sustained their authority became incredibly corrupt.  In fact, they became antichrist, the principal opponent of the pure faith of Christ in Europe.

   The rise of the papacy has not been mentioned in Revelation until this point.  The fall of the eastern empire in the sixth trumpet now turns our attention back to developments in the west.  The prophecies of chapters 10 and 11:1-5 are about the Reformation period in the early 16th century. This follows naturally the identification of the second woe with the fall of the Byzantine (Greek) Empire in 1453. 

Preterist:   This mighty angel is, no doubt, Jesus Himself.  His face shining like the sun is a feature mentioned in the vision of the first chapter.  The rainbow, which is now on his head, was seen around the throne of God in revelation.  The second prophecy, contained in chapters 13-19 concerns the fall of Rome, as the first was concerned with the fall of Jerusalem. The things uttered by the seven thunders could have been too horrible to record or it could have been for John’s ears only.

Futurist: The descending angel is thought to be by some Christ Himself, The little book in the angels hand is interpreted as representing the authority given to the angel to fulfill his mission.   The sealing up of the prophecy illustrates a divine principle that while God has revealed much, there are secrets which God has not seen fit to reveal to man at this time. 

Spiritual:  The mighty angel who appears here is either Christ Himself or a special envoy of Christ bearing a striking resemblance to him.  This angel has a message for the whole world, indicated by his having a foot on the land and a foot on the sea...the seven thunders represents the voice of the Lord.  The sealing of the seven thunders, leaving them unwritten, suggest that the whole counsel of God has not been revealed or that never shall we be able to know and to describe all the factors and agencies that determine the future.


I’m someone who likes to be clear on different positions and I found this book fascinating, not the least of which of how I could see the different viewpoints not necessarily contradicting each other but rather complementing different aspects.  I could see how scripture could apply to the people of John’s time period but also how they apply to us today.  I saw how certain things could be taken as meaning certain epochs in history as well as historical figures but also how it could mean actual times in the future as well as spiritual principals that could be applied everyday.

   I don’t know why God wrote Revelation the way He did but one thing I do know:  how we should live our lives and be prepared to watch the signs and times is very clear.  Like the wise virgins, we better have enough oil in our lamps to keep them burning.  (Matthew 25:1-13)

Further links:

The Second Coming by John MacArthur

The False Prophet by Ellis Skofield

The Harbinger by Johnathon Cahn

The Apocalypse Code by Hank Hanegraaff

What is the abomination of desolation