Quote of the Week

"The palest ink is better than the best memory." - Chinese proverb.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Booksmoore has moved!

Booksmoore has moved to Wordpress. Go to www.booksmoore.com.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Randy Pausch - Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

Randy Pausch is the professor from Carnegie Mellon University that last year gave his now famous Last Lecture on "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." It is very stirring particularly since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and had been given only 3-6 months of good health. As you watch it, it's unavoidable to think, how can he do this and know that he dying soon? He has just recently died (July 25, 2008).

Only recently had I heard of Pausch and thought I've got to watch this. So I did and it was worth it. In this lecture he discusses his pursuit of his childhood dreams and some of the lessons he has learned along the way. If you want to know what his were and whether he achieved them go and watch the lecture! I will give some highlights and thoughts after viewing the lecture.

The main line is powerful: "Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want things." We all hit brick walls in the pursuit of our dreams, it is our response that matters. Brick walls are opportunities to those who have the courage to scale them, and they keep the less earnest and eager out. That's the other side of the coin of achievement, if it wasn't hard it wouldn't be worth achieving. What would be the point of pursing an Olympic Gold Medal if they handed out at the door to all who merely showed up?

The other point that really stuck with me was this one: We often learn more from the dreams we pursue that we don't achieve than from the dreams we do achieve. He discusses one of his unfulfilled dreams but that he learned unforgettable lessons from the pursuit itself. Two points here. First, "fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals": "whatever it is that you are pursuing remember that you can't do the fancy stuff, if you can't do the fundamentals." Second, "when you are doing badly, and no one lets you know anymore, then no one cares anymore." Ouch. That is a terrible place to be. The take-away is to find people that really care.

You can visit Pausch's site, or the Wikipedia article on him. The lecture can be viewed on his website or you can download a great copy of it from iTunes from Carnegie Mellon's posts to iTunes University (all free, search for "Pausch" on iTunes).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Worldly Cliches and the Christian Life

Do you ever just stop and listen to the way we Christians talk to one another about life? Perhaps that is the best test of whether we are worldly or not.

I've often heard and used expressions that have as of late got me to thinking. The two that come to mind are: "you only live once" and "this is as good as it gets!" There are more and these are may have valid uses in the right contexts, for it's true we do only live once before Christ's coming. And sometimes I have uttered on a beautiful sunny day when I feel all is right with the world: "ah, this is great! This is a good as it gets!" And that maybe true on this side of "the sunny banks of sweet deliverance" (as Anthony Mangun says).

However for the born-again believer these must be turned on their head. The cliche "you only live once" is really only true for the unbeliever. The unbeliever lives once and dies forever. The believer dies once but then lives forever.

The cliche "this is as good as it gets" is really wrong-headed as well. For the unbeliever this is as good as it gets, and the worst day on earth will be far better than hell. But for the believer, the best day on earth will never compare to what's coming. No, for the believer it's always: the best is yet to come. And that's a word for all of us, and that's hope. That's what caged Christians facing beasts in a Roman coliseum held to and that's what every suffering saint of God can find hope in. This is not positive thinking, it's faith in God that He's building a city--a Kingdom--that's coming and will right all wrongs and conquer all evil. And even there I believe we will live in hope and see greater things forever.

I've always liked the ending of C.S. Lewis's The Last Battle, the final book in the Chronicles of Narnia, and it's fitting here:

"...the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before".

This is not a rant and I'm not claiming these as signs of the times, no they have been constant dangers to all Christians since Christ ascended. The question is: do I live and talk in such a way that points to a reality beyond me? That reality is God and His Kingdom that is soon coming in it's fullness. Am I walking and working in such a way that displays a real belief that treasure and reward in that great reality are greater than anything in this life?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Regan on Reading

I found this through Tony Reinke's Miscellanies blog and with him I neither endorse the Letterman show. However, this is absolutely hilarious.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Nero Wolfe: Reclusive Detective of Massive Genius

You've doubtless heard of Sherlock Holmes, and you may have heard of Sam Spade, but there's a good chance you've never heard of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin or of their creator Rex Stout. Nero Wolfe is a massive man - a "seventh of a ton" - with an even larger genius for crime solving. But he's also an obtuse recluse that doesn't like to leave his orchid's at home nor the food of his personal chef, Fritz. He doesn't even like to leave home for business, that's why he's got a full-time assistant, Archie Goodwin, who's the street-smart, sure-foot sleuth who does the legwork. It's a 20th Century Holmes and Watson but with more fireworks both between Goodwin and Wolfe and they and their enemies as it's set in New York City from the 30's to the 60's. There is also intense and amusing competition between Goodwin and Wolfe and the New York Police Department and the police, particularly Inspectors Crammer and Stebbins are always close at hand yet far behind the private detectives.

I read somewhere that one reads a single Nero Wolfe story and enjoys it but reads two or three and is addicted. I agree with this opinion. I recently read my first Wolfe novel, Death of a Doxy and enjoyed it thoroughly - it was good fun. It's the story of a straightforward homicide that Wolfe sorts through fairly easily. Then I read my second Wolfe novel, In The Best Families and this one really drew me in. It was great fun. Wolfe is really put to the test this time by the tangled mess of a homicide and a mobster. This is a fabulous story and I'm looking forward to more.

Wolfe and Goodwin are truly interesting characters and Stout draws them well. These are good stories, the characters are worthy and the dialogue is excellent. Wolfe himself really is fascinating. He's similar to Holmes but is more arrogant, more obstinate, more passionate when drawn out, but is even colder towards the fair sex than the occupant of 221B Baker Street. He also seems more human, he has other interests besides sleuthing, such as reading, his orchids, and his cuisine, and his stance towards the other sex is not merely cold business-like but rather seems driven by some past lost love. When it comes to his side interests his detective work seems a distraction from what he really wishes to do, but he must do it because he's so good at it and makes good money doing it (and his comfortable and sedentary lifestyle has a price). And when a mystery is brought to him he can't hardly help himself until he resolves it. And he resolves it by sitting around and simply thinking on it. When he figures it out, he only acts to prove it, he doesn't care to defend himself to others for he doesn't need their approval.

"I can give you my word, but I know what it's worth and you don't." - Nero Wolfe

Nero Wolfe is among the best of literary detectives - Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Ellery Queen - and if you like murder mysteries you'll find that this is very good stuff. And I'm not alone in saying so, Eugene Peterson, recognized author and translator of the Bible paraphrase The Message, recommends Wolfe, among 12 other mysteries, in his Take & Read book of recommended reads. Peterson says that for 30 years he has amused himself with the Wolfe stories, of which there are over 70. If you like detective fiction, you'll love Wolfe. Dig in and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Seven Subtle Siphons

I wrote this list down some time back and forgot where it came from, I think it was John Piper. I found it thoughtful and helpful. There are always dangers, even slight ones, lurking around and some of them are like siphons - overtime they drag us down, empty us, and are long-term defeaters. Like Proverbs, short lists and aphorisms, so long as they are not too cliche, are very helpful to provide course-correction.

Here are seven:

1. Words without actions.
2. Busyness without purpose.
3. Calendars without sabbath.
4. Relationships without nourishment.
5. Personality without accountability.
6. Giftedness without humility.
7. A biblical theology without personal integrity.