Saturday, February 1, 2014

Empire of the Summer Moon: Three Stories

I recently finished the book Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne. Wow, what a read. This is the story of the rise and fall of the most dominant Indian tribe on the Great Plains, the Comanche’s, most specifically centered on the story of their last great Chief, Quanah Parker.

The story of the Comanches traces their meager beginnings as Neanderthal-like hunter-gatherers to their radical transformation into dominance upon being introduced to horses. It was at this point that they did what few other tribes had; they mastered the art of breeding horses and warring from their horses. They became extremely skilled at shooting bow and arrow from the back of the horse, and even learning to slide over the side to protect themselves and shoot from under the horses neck, all while maintaining a full gallop and deadly accuracy. A great portion of the book – probably 2/3rds – is given to this tale, but all of it provides the necessary backdrop to Quanah’s story.

One of the things that makes Quanah’s story so intriguing is his half-European heritage. His mother, Cynthia Ann Parker, was captured from her family’s fort as a nine-year old white girl and quickly became a full-fledged member of the Comanche tribe that kidnapped her. She became so ingrained in the Comanche culture that she eventually married a tribal chief, thus leading to the birth of Quanah. Her story alone is worth reading the book, along with some of the other stories that appear of other women who were kidnapped and lived to tell the tale of surviving among the Comanche tribe. I don’t want to give too much away here, but she is eventually ‘rescued,’ yet her response to the rescue and her ensuing circumstances were not as she had hoped.

One thing about the book that is simultaneously fascinating and incredibly difficult to read is the amount of savage brutality that occurred among the many warring Indian tribes. Rape, pillaging, plundering, and all types of creative tortures are described to the extent that would have made Saddam Hussein’s sons blush. Not only are the acts shocking, but the extreme volume at which they occurred and the pleasure with which they were enacted. No doubt there were many peaceful Indian tribes. This book doesn’t focus much on them. And yes, there were all kinds of atrocities committed by the White/European settlers against the Indians. This book reports many of those as well yet interestingly casts very little moral judgment against either side.

That was one of the more intriguing parts about the book for me. Here you have the clashing of two cultures at an alarming rate and with violent consequences. Never before or since on the American continent is there such a gulf between two civilizations, coming together to fight for their existence. It is hard to imagine a time when roaming out west would most likely have meant an incredibly painful death. Yet this summer I walked and biked freely all over the foothills of the Rockies.

But the main reason I want to talk about this book is because of three stories that especially stood out to me, each of which I give greater attention to below.

Comanche Manhood Initiation
The first is that of an initiation rite the young Comanche boys went through for their transition into manhood. Gwynne explains it as such: 

“For Comanches it began with a swim in a river or stream, a form of purification. The young man then ventured out to a lonely place where he would see no one, clad only in breechclout and moccasins. With him he carried a buffalo robe, a bone pipe, tobacco, and fire-making materials. On the way to his secluded spot he stopped four times, each time smoking and praying. At night he smoked and prayed for power. He looked for signs in the animals and rocks and tress around him. He fasted. Unlike some of the northern plains tribes, there was no self-torture involved. Usually this lasted four days and nights, but the idea was for the young brave to remain in place until he received a vision…. After they returned, there was singing and drumming and the young men danced, imitating the cry of eagles. The idea was that they were young eagles attempting to leave the nest.”

The interesting part of this for me was the statement in bold. Much has been made by men like Robert Bly (as in his book Iron John) about the significance of the wounds that are given to young boys in their transition to manhood (whether intentionally or unintentionally). Robert Lewis talks about how men can learn to deal with these different types of wounds. I’m sure you’ve read or heard of some of those terrifying ceremonies that that caused painful wounds to boys as they became men. But here we have the Comanches, likely the toughest and most dominant tribe of their time and era, and yet they avoided this approach all together. Instead they sought to build the inner man with a vision that he can embrace and employ. Make no mistake, these boys would have endured many hard times and lived very tough lives, but their initiation moment was centered on a deeply spiritual and reflective experience, rather than an act of betrayal from an older man.

A Comanche Romance

Secondly there was the story of Quanah’s marriage. Much about this story is all wrong (for instance, this was his second of what would eventually be 8 wives), and parts of Quanah’s later life contradict some of the heroic love portrayed here, but the story stands as deeply romantic. I can only imagine that any woman reading this would be honored to be treated in a similar way (other than the whole being traded for horses thing).

“Quanah was in love with Weckeah. They had grown up together. She was in love with him. She beaded his moccasins and bow quiver. [ah… true love] They wanted to marry. There was just one problem: Her father, Old Bear, opposed it. This was partly because of Quanah’s white blood and partly because, as an orphan and thus a pauper, he had no standing in the tribe. Complicating matters was a rival suitor, one Tannap, son of Eckitoacup, who was a wealthy chief. Weckeah did not like Tannap at all. At the heart of Quanah’s problem was that most important unit of Comanche wealth: horseflesh. Tannap’s father, who owned a hundred horses, offered ten of them for Weckeah’s hand in marriage. Quanah could offer only one horse.
Still, Weckeah implored him to try to match Tannap’s offer. So Quanah went to his friends and managed to gather up ten horses. He then drove them to Old Bear’s tipi and presented them. Unfortunately, Eckitoacup had already heard of his plan and had doubled his offer.

Undeterred, Quanah cam up with a new idea. Now he told Weckeah that their only hope was to elope. This was not uncommon in Comanche culture… In such a case the relatives and friends of the boy might supply the necessary ponies to soothe the dishonor suffered by the wife’s parents. Quanah had no such family. Which meant that by taking Weckeah he risked death, as did Weckeah.

But Quanah had something more than simple elopement in mind. Before he and Weckeah left, he recruited what amounted to an insurance policy: a war party of 21 young warriors. Together they rode south for seven hours, not breaking a trot except when crossing streams. This was as fast as Comanches could travel, and could only have been done with a large number of mounts for each warrior. So fearful were they of what might be pursuing them that they traveled by night for two nights, split up and rejoined a number of times, then split again into units of two, coming together at Double Mountain, near the present town of Snyder in west Texas. They finally stopped on the North Concho River near the town of San Angelo and, as Quanah put it, “went to stealin’ horses.”

They stayed there for more than a year, during which time Quanah built the camp into his own power base… With time, some of his young and daring cohorts returned to their main camp, telling tales of riches and adventure, and Quanah’s leadership, returning to the North Concho with their sweethearts or wives, as well as other young men who wanted to ride with Quanah. At the end of the year, Quanah’s band numbered several hundred. They owned a large horse heard.

Meanwhile, Weckeah’s elopement had not stopped gnawing at Eckitoacup, and he finally decided he would mount an expedition to get her back. By now everyone knew where Quanah was. Eckitoacup rode south with a war party and arrived at the renegade camp on the river. It is not clear what he expected to find, but what he and his warriors found themselves confronting was Quanah’s entire band, armed and painted and drawn up for battle. Shocked by the number of warriors, Eckitoacup became alarmed for his own safety. Instead of fighting, he decided to settle.. After much smoking and haggling, a deal was made. Eckitoacup would receive nineteen horses, the pick of Quanah’s heard. In exchange Quanah would be granted the right to return to the tribe. (Quanah observed, after the deal was concluded, that he knew a ranch were he could steal 19 horses in a few hours.) The deal was sealed with a night of feasting and dancing. Because Quanah’s band had by this time become too large to be left in peace in that part of Texas, he followed Eckitoacup back home the next day, where he found that he enjoyed new status as a fully fledged war chief.”

Like I said, all kinds of issues with this story, but there is certainly something that speaks to his intense love of Weckeah to take that kind of risk and put forth that much effort.

An Epic Reversal

Lastly there’s a story that has garnered the greatest amount of my attention over the last few weeks.

“Quanah Parker… became the most successful and influential Native American of the late nineteenth century and the first and only man ever to hold the title Principal Chief of the Comanches. His rise was doubly strange since he had been the hardest of the hard cases, the last holdout of the last band of the fanatical Quahadis, the only band of any tribe in North America that had never signed a treaty with the white man. At the time of his surrender he was twenty-seven years old. He was known as a fierce and charismatic warrior, a true killer, probably the toughest of his generation of Comanches, which was saying something. He had killed many Indians and white people in his short life, a statistic that will remain forever unknown because in the reservation years he quite intelligently refused to address the subject. He had led his own band in the wilderness after his elopement with Weckeah and was famous for having done so… he was the most prominent and the fastest rising of the young war chiefs. His surrender to Mackenzie in June 1875 ended such traditional career prospects forever.

But it also marked the beginning of something. His attitude toward his captivity had completely changed by the time he arrived at Fort Sill. He would take the white man’s road. He would leave the glories of the free life on the plains behind and he would not look back. Just as important, he would strive to lead his often recalcitrant, retrogressive tribe down that road. That meant the white man’s farming and ranching, white man’s schools for the children, white man’s commerce and politics and language. The void that loomed before the pitiable remnant of the Comanches was for Quanah Parker a grand opportunity. He would remake himself as prosperous, tax-paying citizen of the United States of America who dressed in wool suits and Stetson hats and attended school board meetings. And he would try to haul the rest of the Comanche nation along with him. In the dreary, hopeless winter of 1875-76, the notion of bourgeois citizen-Comanches was just short of ridiculous; no one would have wanted it anyway. But Quanah saw the future clearly. On the high and wild plains he had been a fighter of jaw-dropping aggressiveness; now he would move just as resolutely from the life of a late Stone Age barbarian into the mainstream of industrial American culture.

Wow. Such a radical shift, and almost overnight. This stands out as solid leadership. He saw where
things were headed. There was no going back. A new path had to be blazed. And boy did he blaze it. He slowly amassed a small fortune and built the largest home of any Indian on the plains, all while continuing to give toward those in need among his tribe. Tons more to this story, but a great picture of leadership on this account. Sometimes there is great wisdom in giving up and leading those under your care to embrace a new direction. In fact, sometimes this requires changing everything you though you knew in order to survive in a new world.

Great book. Worth picking up if you have the time. I borrowed the audio book from my library. You can also listen to an interview with the author on NPR here:

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Power of Redemption in a Broken Marriage

This is an unbelievable story. A couple, active in marriage ministry, even hosting their own TV program. And then the unthinkable happens. The wife has an affair. But wow, what happens after that is mind blowing. Take the time to listen to these interviews with Bob and Audrey Meisner this week. You will not be disappointed.

Marriage Undercover
Day One
Day Two

Monday, January 6, 2014

Pascal, the "Vileness" of Man, and Primo Levi

"The vilest feature of man is the quest for glory, but it is just this that most clearly shows his excellence. For whatever possession he may own on earth, whatever health or essential amenity he may enjoy, he is dissatisfied unless he enjoys the good opinion of his fellows. He so highly values human reason that, however privileged he may be on earth, if he does not also enjoyed a privileged position in human reason he is not happy. This is the finest position on earth, nothing can deflect him from this desire, and this is the most indelible quality in the human heart.

And those who most despise men, and put them on the same level as the beasts, still want to be admired and trusted by them, and contradict themselves by their own feelings, for their nature, which is stronger than anything, convinces them more strongly of man's greatness then reason convinces them of their vileness." (Penses - p159)

Pascals words are especially poignant after having just finished reading Primo Levi's book If This Were a Man

The brutalities endured in Auschwitz is incomprehensible, and of course, the stories have been heard and recounted in many different books. But the thing that stood out to me about Levi's experience is what he noted about the prisoners' transformation that occurred. By the time they left the camp (for those that did) they had completely forgotten how to care. This he noted was the brilliance of the prison camp structure by the Germans. For in this environment it made revolt nearly impossible. Because one had to care in order to revolt. One had to hope in order to revolt. But all that had been taken away. 

Thus this becomes the most perplexing part of the final solution as it converges with Pascal's quote on the "most indelible quality in the human heart." That the Germans could demand to be admired by those they despised shows how there is an inane basis for human morality implanted in the soul of every person. And it is this: I expect to be treated as a person, even from those to whom I do not extend the same honor. 

The lesson for my heart is simple: when I find myself tempted to 'despise' another human, it is a good exercise to simply stop and ask myself how I would want them to look upon me. I never desire to be despised. So how can I learn to love those that i'm tempted to vilify? One thing I've noted about myself over the years is a ready willingness to judge others. This often leads to a subtle disdain in some relationships. But I've also noticed that those once disdained have also eventually become some of my closest friends. I must call upon the power of the Holy Spirit to fight the vile temptation to vilify others, and trust that the Spirit will do an amazing work in that relationship.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Top Books of 2013

Here are my top 10 books of 2013, in no particular order of preference, just as they came to mind. This was probably a more diverse reading year in terms of literature, but as you can see, not as many deep theological works were completed (though many were started and nibbled upon).

The Heart of Darkness: I was blown away by the literary quality of Conrad's work. I listened to this in the car to/from the office and on numerous occasions needed to stop and capture a phrase I heard to share it with others that would appreciate it. Here's one of my favorites: "The servant came running.'Look at those flies, brother;' and he pointed to the horrible mass that hung from the ceiling. The nucleus was a wire which had been inserted as a homage to electricity. Electricity had paid no attention, and a colony of eye-flies had come instead and blackened the coils with their bodies." I've since learned that the classic Martin Sheen movie, Apocalypse Now, is a modernization/retelling of the story line of this book.

127 Hours: Almost didn't pick this one up, as it seemed too obvious. Guy gets trapped by a boulder while hiking in the wilderness, cuts off his own arm, survives. Amazing, but how do you string that one out into a book? But then my son blazed through it, necessitating a thorough review on my part. Though skeptical, I was surprised by what I found. This guy was well read and thoughtful. And he wasn't some careless hiker who strayed from the trail to get a photo of an albino mouse. No, he was a seasoned high caliber mountain climber (he has since become the first person to solo-winter climb all 14K+ mountains in Colorado). How he ended up stranded was quite a bit of a fluke, but his personal drive and character that allowed him to survive is astonishing and inspiring.

My Reading Life: Great little book on the influence of good books in the life of a well known writer (Pat Conroy). His account of the influence of his English teacher on his life as a writer was humbling and inspiring. And his passion for reading and its affect on his life as a writer was equally contagious. He also shares some details about his life and habits as a writer (i.e. the daily discipline) as well as his reading goals (tries to read 200 pgs/day) and other interesting stories from experiences like his time spent writing in Paris, or from his neighborhood bookstore in Atlanta.

The Great Santini: After reading My Reading Life, I wanted to read some of Conroy's fiction. This story is based on his experiences growing up with a hard driving marine corps pilot as a father ('Santini' was his nickname for his father). Fascinating read. There's a section in here I've quoted a few times on identity to co-workers and friends where his dad lectures at length about what it means to be a descendent of his. Powerful stuff (though a bit over the top at the same time - which was Conroy's point). I've since seen that Conroy has written a follow up, just released (which I've not read) called The Death of Santini

The Long Ships: This is the most fun I've had reading a book in a long time. It's the story of one Viking's journeys and adventures in his homeland, the middle east, and pushing westward. The combination of the adventure and the authors clever wit makes for loads of fun. There is a fair amount of plunder, pillaging, and feminine conquest (nothing graphic) in the book, so not for the young. Overall I think this was my favorite read of the year.

The Meaning of Marriage: Keller at his best on an important topic (one that I carry a bit of a bias toward). A Christ centered teaching on marriage. Very, very helpful. A must read this year. He puts marriage in its proper biblical and historical context (though in a way that is 100 times more interesting than I just made it sound). Without that, I'm not sure you can really understand what your own marriage is about.

Journal of a Novel: Last year I read East of Eden, by Steinbeck, and thoroughly enjoyed it (a modern take on the Cain/Abel story with some very interesting discussions of human nature and the meaning of a Hebrew word). This book, also by Steinbeck, is the daily journal he kept while writing East of Eden. So I don't think the average person would care much about this work, as it is everything you imagine a daily writing journal would be (an accumulation of the mundane details of life, such as an internal debate about the superiorty of certain types of pencils). But I found it fascinating for this very reason. I'm not a 'writer' in the sense that I sit down and hammer out novels or articles every day, but writing is a key part of my daily work, and it is often the hardest part. So reading some of these similiar sentiments from one of the greatest writers of the 20th century was wonderfully encouraging.

All the Pretty Horses: I'm ashamed to say that I've never read Cormac McCarthy before this year. And I was blown away by the quality of his writing. His style was like the perfect nexus of Hemingway and Stegner. Sparse, intense, and out in the old west.

Amusing Ourselves to Death: This is a must read for every person that ever looks at a screen of any kind for any reason. Though written in 1985, it is scary relevant to today's world. He tracks the progression of communication from oral to text to image based and the affect these mediums have on the way the information is interacted with and consumed. In an age where technology overwhelms the conversation, his frank insight is a good reminder of the basics of communication and brings some sanity to the conversation.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: This book was first recommended to me by a Southern Baptist pastor in rural Kentucky. Even the title struck me as odd - not your normal "must read" from that stereotype. I'm still not sure why he recommended it but I did find it to be an interesting read. The author (Robert Prisig) weaves together a story of a motorcycle trip with his son and his own philosophical ramblings on the topic of "Quality." There's a subplot to the story that gives it an extra edge of interest. Any one of these literary structures in and of itself would not make for much of a read, but the way he weaves them together makes it quite engaging. The book has inspired many to follow his journey on their own bikes. One disciple, who made the journey 30 years after Prisig, wrote about his experience in the book Zen and Now. This account also provides more biographical information on Prisig and reflects on the importance of the book in his own life and the importance of making the journey as a middle age man. I know that sounds thrilling to those 28 and under. I apologize. Yes, I turned 40 last year. No matter your age, Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance is worth reading, though not everyone will be able to endure the philosophical ramblings. I found myself skimming some segments at times to get back to the story of the journey and his interactions with his son.

Others to finish in 2014
I started the following books in 2013 and hope to finish them this year.

The Meaning of the Pentateuch: Picked this up because of John Piper. He responded to a tweet by Mark Driscoll, who was raving about a Piper book by saying "Sell all your Piper books and buy The Meaning of the Pentateuch." Bold statement. I can already say that I think every Christian should read the Introduction. That alone is worth the price of the book. But you can read all 50 pages of the intro, for free, right here.

Here I Stand: Classic bio on Luther. Pretty good. Helped to watch the recent movie, Luther, in the middle of it (in honor of Reformation Day).

Penses: by Blaise Pascal. Nibbling on this a few pages at a time (and posting excerpts on it occassionally). So rich. So rich. And loving this classy folio society version.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Update on Reading Goals for the Year

At the start of the year I posted some 2013 reading goals here.

It is amazing what a non-sleeping-infant can do to reading goals (our third child, born Jan 2013, has just begun sleeping through the night in the last month). It's hard to read ancient works when you are sleepy. I hope we can chalk this year up as a loss on reading, but an investment in eternity (amen).

But it wasn't a total loss, as some progress was made. So here's what i've covered so far from the original post:

PLUTARCH: Have progressed steadily through volume one. probably 3/4ths of the way through. Long way to go, but making progress. Have found some fascinating stories along the way.

CHURCHILL: Not much progress here. Read a couple of a pages last week. Maybe 50 pages total.

JOSEPHUS: Have read very little from this. Maybe 20 pages total. But this one isn't the same kind of loss. My daily goal is to read regularly from a church history work. Instead of reading from Josephus, I've turned my attention to finishing a book begun a few years ago, Turning Points in Church History by Mark Noll. Tremendous read and a great overview of some of the most significant events in the history of the Christian Church. 1/2 way through that. Also about 1/2 way through Paschal's Penses (which I have quoted from a few times on this blog and likely will continue to do so), which isn't technically church history, but definitely significant historically.

SCHAEFFER: Currently re-reading How Shall We Then Live? From Volume 5. Discussing with a co-worker.

GREEK NT: Almost through the book of Matthew. Far below the desired amount, but some progress. 

I plan to post soon about reading goals for the coming year as well as some book reviews from the previous year, my top books from 2013.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The little moments that touch the soul

Last night, as my daughter was preparing for bed, she said the following:

"I really really love you daddy." 
Then she paused and said, "And I love purple and blue and pink." Okay...
Then, after a longer pause, she whispered with a sheepish little smile, "And I love Jesus!"
Then she said "I like that people share. I like that momma shares her things with Holly (neighbor) and Holly shares her things with momma."

Man... did I just hear that? What a blessing.

On a related (i.e. touching) but different level, a friend sent me this video emphasizing the power of passing down a legacy:

And this apple add has a similar punch. Definitely moved my tear glands to action.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A visit from the good Doctor

One of my favorite people on the planet was in town today to talk about his new book, The Poverty of Nations. Dr. Wayne Grudem was my mentor, professor, and friend at Phoenix Seminary. Thankfully, we've been able to keep in touch since returning to Little Rock. After picking him up from the airport, he joined us for dinner last night in our home.

Caroline, Dr. Grudem, and John Isaac

Some wonderful conversations with a brilliant man with a deep burden for prayer and a sincere love of Jesus Christ.

In studio
He recorded a few radio programs today with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine.
Bob - Wayne - Dennis

And here's the book. Make sure to pick it up. Very insightful. Our friend from Rwanda, Alphonse, has read it and found it to be a helpful assessment of the problem and an encouragement that things might be able to improve one day.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


My wife posted this excellent overview of the book Kon-Tiki. You'll be glad you checked it out.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

Rosaria Butterfield was a self proclaimed lesbian and feminist working as an English professor at Syracuse University. When Promise Keepers came to town in the 90's, she wrote an article for the local paper criticizing the event being held on campus. What happened next is a wonderful display of the power of the gospel at work through hospitality and friendship. Here's some of the transcript from her interview on FamilyLife Today:

[NOTE: I've excerpted and edited a longer section of the transcript. If you don't make it to the end, make sure to skip ahead for the links to the audio!!!!]

Bob: Your editorial said: “Syracuse should have nothing to do with these patriarchs coming to our campus.”
Rosaria: I got all kinds of responses and had two boxesOne, I kept for hate mail. One, I kept for fan mail. Then, this one letter came in. It wasn’t hate mail, and it wasn’t fan mail. I had to figure out what to do with it.
Bob: And the first thing you did with it was wad it up and throw it away?
Rosaria: Yes, absolutely; absolutely.
Bob: Well, what did this letter, that didn’t fit either box, say?

Rosaria: Well, it was kind; and it was gentle. Yet, it was also clearly written from a Christian world and life view. It was from Ken Smith, who is my dear friend and became my first pastor. But at that time, he was just this dude who wrote me a letter. It asked me some basic questions that were genuine questions, and he wasn’t answering those questions for me. I admired that. I really liked that.

I [also] admired the fact that here was somebody who knew a lot about the Bible. I was going to need to read the Bible for my new research project; and I thought, “Well, you know, I’ll bet this is somebody who could help me with my research.” At the bottom of the letter, Ken asked me to call him back; and so, I did. I thought these were questions that needed to be aired on the phone. We had such a lively conversation on the phonethat he invited me to come to his house for dinner.

Sometimes, people don’t know this—but the gay and lesbian community is also a community quite given to hospitality. I tell people this—that I’m a pastor’s wife now. I believe, strongly, that hospitality is just the ground zero of the Christian life, and of evangelism, and of everything else that we do, apart from the formal worship of God. But I tell people that I honed my hospitality gifts in my former queer community. So, when Ken invited me to have dinner with himthat seemed really like a great idea. He already seemed like my kind of people.
Here’s what I discovered in Ken’s house. That door was ALWAYS opening and closing. People, from all walks of lifeI met them at that table. I did not meet Christians who shared a narrowly-bounded, priggish world view. That is not what I met. I met people who could talk openly about sexuality and politics and did not drop down dead in the process.
But you have to understand that was normal for Ken. Ken didn’t say: “Oh great! We’re going to have the lesbian over for dinner. Let’s be sure to share the Gospel as soon as she walks through the door!or, “Let’s....” Hethis was normal for Ken. Ken cares about the heart. In fact, I found Ken’s business card in one of the books I was looking at for some writing that I’m doing. The business card said: “When you’re ready to talk about God, give me a call.” That’s what the business card says. It’s just—that’s how Ken was. It is how Ken is.

They did two startling things the first time I had dinner at their housetwo things that were against the rule book that I believed all Christians followed. They did not share the Gospel with me, and they did not invite me to church. But, at the end of our dinner, when Ken extended his hands, and I closed mine in it, he said: “We’re neighbors. Neighbors should be friends.” I found myself being in complete agreement with Ken.
Also, Ken had a way of asking questions; and he had an authorityyou know, I had been in a queer community. I had been in a feminist community. In my community, women ran the show. I had not encountered a man like Ken in my whole life.

I found that his gentle authoritythat when he asked me a questionin fact, I left his house that night and I thought: “I cannot believe you said those things, Rosaria! Why did you give him all that material?!” I found myself actually answering his questions honestly instead of answering with the programmed party line.
[Later Bob asks if Ken prayed before the meal...]
Rosaria: That’s right. And you know what? I had heard plenty of prayers beforePlanned Parenthood, gay pride marchesyou know the prayers that the crumbs are there for the heathen, like me, to hear.
That was not Ken’s prayer. It was vulnerable and honest. He prayed to a God Who is not a god I had ever been introduced to. One of the things Ken asked me that nightand I still cannot believe I actually answered him honestly!I mean, it was just soit was so out of character for mebut he asked mehe said: “Well, what do you really believe? I mean, do you reallyyou know, you just really don’t believe in anything? What do you really believe?” I said: “I don’t know what I believe. I was raised Catholic, and I’m now a Unitarian. I don’t really know what I believe,” which was true but not anything I had said out loud. 

As promised, that was a long excerpt. All three days of the programs are just amazing to listen to.

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert audio and transcripts

You can also order her book by the same title here.

And read her interview with Marvin Olasky in World Magazine.

The powerful part of all this is the example it sets for all followers of Jesus. Open your door and your table. Don't vilify those who have made different lifestyle choices, instead, reach out to them and love on them. Get to know them, sincerely, and, as Ken Smith said, be a neighbor.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Restored Marriage

FamilyLife Today recently aired an inspring and moving program on the power of the gospel to change a marriage. It is a series of interviews with a couple on staff here at FamilyLife, Sandy and Cheryl Spangler (Cheryl passed away earlier this year). The story is primarily about how God used the Weekend to Remember to rescue their marriage from the brink of divorce. And the last is a touching tribute from her step-son given at her funeral. I listened to all four programs during a bike ride one morning and was crying like a baby through the last two. Yes, it was embarrassing. 

Program Links
First three programs about their marriage: Parts 1,2 & 3
A tribute from Cheryl’s step-son after she died from cancer: Part 4