Captain’s Blog

Reading for 2010

Here is the list of stuff I read in 2010:

  1. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde  by Robert Louis Stevenson. I had never read this before. Since references to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are all over the place, I thought I’d better read it. It’s a short, easy, and entertaining read, even if the story is a little odd.
  2. The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun  by J. R. R. Tolkien. This is Tolkien’s retelling of a handful of Norse legends, but in an attempt to make them into a coherent story. In addition to harmonizing the legends, Tolkien set the story in what would be the equivalent of Norse poetry, only in English. This means that the word order is unfamiliar, and the major poetic form is a complicated form of alliteration. The result is a remarkable story that is nevertheless quite difficult to read. Not for the faint of heart.
  3. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism  by Tim Keller. The best example I have seen of the presuppositional apologetic method in action. Easy to read, and seems to scratch where our culture is itching.
  4. The Book of Three  by Lloyd Alexander. This and the next five are The Chronicles of Prydain, a series of children’s fantasy. Although they contain a little too much moralizing for my taste, they are still all fun and imaginative stories that adults can enjoy as well as children.
  5. The Black Cauldron  by Lloyd Alexander.
  6. The Castle of Llyr  by Lloyd Alexander.
  7. Taran Wanderer  by Lloyd Alexander.
  8. The High King  by Lloyd Alexander.
  9. The Foundling: And Other Tales of Prydain  by Lloyd Alexander.
  10. Heroes And Heretics: Pivotal Moments in 20 Centuries of the Church  by Iain D. Campbell. With a name like that, I was expecting this book to rail against supposed heretics from every generation in church history, even when there were no ecumenical councils to pronounce heresy. Instead, Campbell covers the highlights of 2000 years of church history in a gracious and readable style. My only complaint is that in the last several chapters, he focuses disproportionately on the Scottish church, but that’s a minor quibble.
  11. Pride and Prejudice  by Jane Austen. I think every guy should give this book a read, even though there were parts that I thought went a little slow. It is amazing to me how much character development Austen can accomplish solely with dialog.
  12. The Tales of Beedle the Bard  by J. K. Rowling. Fun short stories from the world of Harry Potter.
  13. Guatemala: Never Again!  by Archdiocese of Guatemala. United Nations report on the human rights violations during the Guatemalan civil war (1960-1996). This is not an easy read at all, but was required as part of the class I took at SETECA.
  14. Guatemalan Journey  by Stephen Connely Benz. Another book about Guatemala from the perspective of a mostly sheltered foreigner working in the country during the last decade of the civil war. For him, the war was mostly just “the violence” that was occurring away from Guatemala City, where he lived with his family. His basic premise: Guatemala is a land of contradictions. This book was much easier reading than the last one.
  15. They Call Me Coach  by John Wooden. Coaching advice and memoirs from a basketball legend.
  16. Patrick: Son of Ireland  by Stephen R. Lawhead. A historical novel about the life of Saint Patrick. Lawhead does a superb job of fitting a novel in and around the few historical facts we have about Patrick in a very enjoyable style.

I also read a lot from a number of blogs:

January 1st, 2011 Posted by | reading | no comments

Horn Creek 2010

Western Night Sheriff
From Horn Creek 2010 View in Google Earth

This year, the RP Midwest Presbytery conference at Horn Creek was entitled Christ our Cornerstone: The Church Moving Forward by Standing Firm. Rut Etheridge spoke about the Emergent Church Movement, and called us to place our focus firmly on Christ.

Since I was recovering from a shoulder injury, I scaled back my sports participation a little bit and instead took the opportunity to hike up Horn Peak on our day off. It’s not a 14er, but it’s extremely steep, and Dave’s ultra-marathons sure have paid off. I was bringing up the rear the whole day. The clouds hid the view a little, but it was still quite spectacular, and the lightning and rain stayed away.

For me, the highlight this year was the consecration service given by John McFarland, who challenged me with the question, “What does Christ have to do in your life this coming year for your sanctification?” I liked how he included the truth that sanctification is God’s work without taking away our responsibility to press ahead. I also really enjoyed the discussions we had in the cabin in the evenings (thanks, guys).

July 31st, 2010 Posted by | hiking, photos | no comments


Denver Students in the nuns' rooms
From Guatemala View in Google Earth

I took a class through Denver Seminary at SETECA in Guatemala City from June 19 through July 2. It was entitled “Hermeneutics and Contextualization.” It dealt with how the culture we find ourselves in affects the way we read the Bible. Part of the class was experiencing aspects of Guatemalan culture at different levels of society.

Before the Spanish conquered Central America, Guatemala was part of the Mayan culture. When the Spanish came, it was with the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. They read a proclamation (in Spanish) that those who would not bow the knee to Jesus Christ would be destroyed. However, they made it easy for the natives to join the church – they were allowed to bring their Mayan rituals with them (at least some of them – there is debate as to whether human sacrifice was Mayan or whether that was Aztec culture which was on the verge of taking over the Mayans anyway). All they had to do was perform their rituals in the name of Christ.

While South America gained it’s independence from Spain and Portugal by violent revolution, Central America’s independence was gained peacefully. However, local politics turned into tribal warfare, creating the handful of nations, mostly ruled by dictators. In the second half of the 20th century, when the United States was battling communism on a global scale, we supported the local tyrants in Latin America against the various guerrilla groups that were following Marxist ideology against their abusive governments.

In Guatemala, the guerrillas gained support from the indigenous people (the Mayans), not because they were Marxists, but because they wanted protection from the injustices being committed against them by their government. Part of this class was reading the United Nations human rights report on Guatemala, which goes into sickening detail about the atrocities committed against the indigenous people, mostly by the US-backed government. This civil war was not ended until 1996, so it was going on while our professor Dr. Carroll was growing up in that country.

I took a bunch of pictures which are available in the gallery along with short explanations. However, there were places where it was inappropriate to bring a camera (or at least a camera as bulky as mine), so I wanted to mention some additional things here.

  • We went to a restaurant in a 5-star hotel to have coffee and desserts. I don’t drink coffee, but the hot chocolate was terrific, and the desserts were just like you would find at a nice place in the States, only a little cheaper.
  • We visited a church in La Limonada, right next to the ravine. Many of the people living in the ravine are the ones who scavenge at the dump, so these people are quite poor. However, the warmth and kindness was, if anything, magnified by their situation, and they prayed for us (virtual strangers) with a sincerity that was very touching. The pressing question was, “How do you raise the next generation of leaders when the youth coming to the church might have a father in prison and a mother who is a prostitute?” We walked through the cinder block shacks, but were not allowed into the ravine, since gang violence has increased there recently. At a small house (three small rooms), there were some women making tortillas. We asked if we could try and entertained them with our incompetence.
  • We went to a large government-sponsored university that has a theology department and toured the facilities with the head of that department. They had some very new classroom technology donated by the Dutch government including an impressive computer setup for collaborative learning.
  • The first Sunday, we all went to church together. It was very similar to a non-denominational church in the US. The only difference was that the guitar was replaced with a flute and violin, and the language was Spanish. Of course, there was also the natural warmth of the Guatemalan people. The second Sunday, I went to a church with my new-found Bolivian friend Samuel Paco. I think that was a Presbyterian church, and it also seemed quite similar to North American churches. The big difference there was the existence of tambourines played by some of the congregants, making it a bit more lively than a Presbyterian church usually is in the States. All the churches we went to had big sound systems. Dr. Carroll says that Latin Americans like their music loud. Even the poor church in La Limonada had a big sound system for such a small room, complete with overhead projector connected to a laptop.
  • We went to a neo-Pentecostal mid-week service the second Wednesday. Neo-Pentecostal churches basically preach a health and wealth gospel, which is quite a travesty in a country where most of the people are poor and will never see what is promised them.
  • Finally, we ate a full meal at a fancy restaurant the last night we were there. Typical Guatemalan food is not really to my liking. There are black beans at almost every meal including breakfast. Rice, plantains, scrambled eggs, and tortillas make up most of the rest, with a little bit of meat thrown in here and there. At this restaurant, the beans were mixed with rice as usual, but the steak with jalapeno sauce was fabulous, and the Jamaican something-or-other drink was excellent as well.

The biggest thing I took away from Guatemala was the experience of seeing first-hand the syncretism in the Catholic Church. To see people hobbling about on their knees in designated pattern before a crucifix was awful. Even worse was the ceremony at the high place, where the lady was chasing away the evil spirits with a handful of plants, and all three of them were burning an offering of chocolate, a white powder (flour?), candles, and other assorted items in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It seemed straight out of the Old Testament – burning incense on every high place.

Another thing is the whole issue of illegal immigration into the United States. Many of the illegal immigrants in our country came here as they tried to escape abject poverty or wars in their own country. If I were in a similar situation, in the midst of atrocities committed by my own government against its people, and without any way of gaining land or a good job, it would be very tempting to break what is seen as a minor immigration law, especially for the sake of a family. I don’t believe we can sacrifice the rule of law, or our country will soon be no better than what they are fleeing from. However, we certainly need to take seriously the Bible’s injunction to help the foreigner and the alien in our midst. Too much of the immigration debate on both sides is just a bunch of sloganizing and stereotyping.

I have purposely left out most of the actual content of the course. If you want to know what I learned in that respect, you’ll have to ask me.

July 10th, 2010 Posted by | photos, travel | no comments

Sunday Stroll

From Siamese Twins

After a wonderful Sunday dinner, some friends and I went on a nice stroll in the Garden of the Gods out to the Siamese Twins, a rock formation that kinda resembles two faces looking at each other, if you find the right angle and squint a little. I couldn’t find the right angle this time around.

May 22nd, 2010 Posted by | hiking, photos | no comments


From Grandpa

On April 30th, my grandfather died.

The day before he died, I was reading in a book:

I’m eating my lunch in a graveyard. Human seeds have been planted in neat little rows. Stone stakes label the crop.

My back is against a wall, and while I chew, my eyes wander.

Not ten feet from me, a Richard has been planted. He was planted three decades ago. There is a space on the stone for another name, room in the ground for another seed, the completion of a pair.

The sun is bright, but doing less than I had hoped it would. The ground is wet and cold. I’m in Maryland, lingering behind an old gray church. The Spring is struggling, young.

The sun livens the ground where it falls, but only briefly. Clouds, damnable clouds, interfere with its grace.

It doesn’t matter. These seeds need more than the sun can give.

I stand and move through the rows, reading labels and predictions. Some time and effort has been put into these markers, money spent so we won’t forget where to water and weed and watch, so we won’t forget where we put that other pea from our pod.

Three postcards await our perusal, yea, three visions of a world.

One: I see a theme park where there are lots of rides, but there is nobody who can control them and nobody who knows how the rides end. Grief counseling, however, is included in the price of admission.

Two: I see an accident. An explosion of some kind inhabited by happenstantial life forms. A milk spill gone bacterial, only with more flame. It has no meaning or purpose or master. It simply is.

Three: I see a stage, a world where every scene is crafted. Where men act out their lives within a tapestry, where meaning and beauty exist, where right and wrong are more than imagined constructs. There is evil. There is darkness. There is the Winter of tragedy, every life ending, churned back in the soil. But the tragedy leads to Spring. the story does not end in frozen death. The fields are sown in grief. The harvest will be reaped in joy. I see a Master’s painting. I listen to a Master’s prose. When darkness falls on me, when I stand on my corner of the stage and hear my cue, when I know my final scene has come and I must exit, I will go into the ground like corn, waiting for the Son.

I see my world.

The man that let us kids creep around his pond capturing frogs and laughed at the effort. The man that I hunted and fished with. I saw him shoot a bird out of the air, and a rabbit on the run. The man that liked telling a good joke. The man who could still mow his lawn at the age of 97, and complain that, “I’m not as strong as I used to be.” The man who thanked God continually for His many blessings. He was planted in the ground, and his soul went to be with his Savior. Now he expectantly awaits the resurrection of his body in the new heavens and the new earth. We grieve, but our grief is not without hope. We will miss you Grandpa. See you in the Spring.

May 8th, 2010 Posted by | photos | no comments

Reading for 2009

Here is the list of stuff I read in 2009:

  1. The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun  by Brother Yun. I had to read these first eight books for a seminary class on Christian Ethics and Modern Culture. This one was an interesting read. I don’t really know what to make of it, though. It sounds like a modern day book of Acts, with all the miracles happening to the same guy. Could he really have fasted for 74 days? And been transported the way Phillip was to see the Ethiopian Eunuch? On the other hand, he seems to always point us back to Jesus. I believe miracles still happen, but I really don’t know about this book.
  2. Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernism  by Douglas R. Groothuis. Dr. Groothuis was also the class’ professor. He always has something good to teach, and this book is no exception.
  3. Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics  by Scott Rae. A decent introduction. My biggest complaint is his rejection of what he calls “ethical voluntarism” – that things are good because God commands them. He doesn’t really raise an argument against it, he just says it’s “counterintuitive,” since God could have commanded that we torture babies. But it would only be counterintuitive if God created the human conscience contrary to what he has defined as good, which he hasn’t. So what’s the problem?
  4. Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice  by Francis J. Beckwith. An excellent defense of the pro-life arguments against abortion. I wish he had spent more time with the biblical texts that speak of “the breath of life” or that state that “the life is in the blood,” but that is a minor quibble, and the book covers all the other bases very thoroughly.
  5. Art and the Bible  by Francis A. Schaeffer. I don’t think Schaeffer is the best wordsmith, but he always has something helpful to say. This book was another good one.
  6. A Christian Manifesto  by Francis A. Schaeffer. Yet another good one.
  7. Culture Clash: Islam’s War on the West  by Mark A. Gabriel. Gabriel is a former Muslim who is now a Christian. This book was excellent at describing the Islamic faith and culture and explaining the causes of violence coming from it. Where if failed miserably was at attempting a solution. The proposed solution was basically to hope that Islamic culture will reinterpret the Koran to mean something other than the authorial intent. I think the real solution is for the gospel of Jesus Christ to conquer the Islamic world by the peaceful preaching of the word of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Anything short of that is no real solution.
  8. Idols for Destruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture  by Herbert Schlossberg. This was an excellent critique of American culture. Although published in 1990, the themes he addresses from twenty years ago have only intensified. I only wish he would not have used so many big words, or I would recommend it to everyone. If you think you have a large vocabulary or you aren’t afraid to keep a dictionary close by, this one is a must read. Particularly important is the discussion of what he calls ressentiment. “Ressentiment begins with perceived injury that may have a basis in fact, but more often is occasioned by envy for the possessions or the qualities possessed by another person. If the perception is not either sublimated or assuaged by the doing of some injury to the object of the feeling, the result is a persistent mental condition, stemming from the repression of emotions that are not acceptable when openly expressed.” This mental condition, he says, leads to all sorts of social problems including the recent push towards statism. I wrote a review of this book that I might post if I get the time. (Please leave a comment if you’re interested.)
  9. Leepike Ridge  by N. D. Wilson. Another one of Nathan’s fun children’s stories with a strong father figure. I really like the way Wilson plays with words.
  10. Dandelion Fire  by N. D. Wilson. Wow! This is the second book in the 100 Cupboards series. I thought the first book was excellent, but this one was considerably better.
  11. Nine Lives  by Bob Hemphill. A story about sixth grade football. Bob is a friend of mine, and I really am glad that he has written these books for young boys, particularly because of their unambiguously Christian themes. However, I just couldn’t get into them much. I thought that too many words that shouldn’t need any explanation even to young boys were laboriously defined, while other words that I was expecting an explanation of were not. Also, it was hard for me to get excited about the “big game” when there was so little character development otherwise. Admittedly, I am not in his target audience, so maybe they are just better left for the boys.
  12. Six and Zero  by Bob Hemphill. Similar, only about basketball.
  13. Meet Windmill Pete  by Bob Hemphill. Similar, only about baseball. This was the best of the three.
  14. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (all five)  by Douglas Adams. I’ve read them before, and I’ll probably read them again. I think they’re hilarious. But you have to “get it” – they’re not for everyone. I especially like how he pulls in stuff from science, philosophy, sociology, and almost anything you can think of, and jumbles it up until it’s funny.
  15. True Spirituality  by Francis Schaeffer. These next five books were for a seminary class called "The Dynamics of Faith and Doubt." It was a really good class, and this was a really good book to start it off with. I don’t always agree with Schaeffer, but he’s always worth reading. And this one was full of rich truths describing a Christian worldview.
  16. A Grief Observed  by C. S. Lewis. Lewis is the wordsmith that Schaeffer is not. In this book there is plenty of food for thought, including some things to strongly disagree with – like his acceptance of something like purgatory. However, I always find that Lewis challenges me to grow spiritually like few other authors do.
  17. The Call to Joy and Pain: Embracing Suffering in Your Ministry  by Ajith Fernando. A great book exploring the theology of suffering – one of the western Church’s great blind spots. We have "a lot of reflection on how to avoid suffering and on what to do when we hurt. … Christians are not taught … why suffering is so important for healthy growth as Christians." Lots of good stuff to consider.
  18. The Screwtape Letters  by C. S. Lewis. Always a good reminder to keep putting on the armor of God.
  19. God in the Dark: The Assurance of Faith Beyond a Shadow of Doubt  by Os Guinness. An excellent look at how doubt arises in a Christian’s life and what are some constructive ways to use the doubt for spiritual growth.
  20. Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World  by N. D. Wilson. A sort of invitation directed particularly to post-moderns to try stepping into a Christian worldview. Not at all a linear argument, but more of a painting. He still manages to interact with many different philosophies, but in a way postmodernists might appreciate. If you’ve studied postmodernism a little, this would be an interesting read. If you’ve picked up some postmodernism along the way (most of us have), it still might be an interesting read. If you’re not sure postmodernism exists, you might not appreciate this book. But I thought it was well done. I’ll probably read it again next year.
  21. Is Christianity Good for the World?  by Christopher Hitchens, Douglas Wilson, and Jonah Goldberg. A debate between a little-known reformed pastor using a presuppositional apologetic and one of the big three "new atheists" who likes to use words like "evil" and "immoral." I like Tim Keller’s approach a little better, but this is still a good book, and it has the added twist of being listed with Hitchens as the author, so hopefully people will read it and see the hollowness of the new atheism.
  22. The Institutes of the Christian Religion (Volume 1)  by John Calvin. Translated by Ford Lewis Battles. I was trying to keep up with the Calvin-in-a-year schedule (to celebrate Calvin’s 500th birthday), but failed miserably and only made it barely into the second volume. So I’ll keep plugging away at it this year. The content is generally quite good, but I do have a few disagreements.
  23. The World English Bible (audio book)  by Yahweh. I don’t have a specific reading schedule for the Bible, but I figure when I listen to or read the whole thing in a single year, I will post that here along with the other books. It’s the best book ever!

I also read a lot from a number of blogs:

January 13th, 2010 Posted by | reading | no comments

Grays and Torreys

From Grays and Torreys

Jenna, Phillip, and I hiked the Kelso ridge (class 3) up to Torreys Peak, from there over to Grays, and then down the normal route with all the people. On the way up, we could look out across the valley and see at least 200 people at any one time on the normal trail. On our trail, we saw only seven other people. Class 3 is the way to go if you aren’t afraid of heights.

September 14th, 2009 Posted by | hiking, photos | no comments


I have seen six rainbows this summer (so far). This was the only one I took a picture of. It was in the DeB’s back yard. I had to take several pictures at wide angle to fit it all in, and then use Autopano Pro to stitch them together, which I think might have distorted the shape of the rainbow a little bit – aren’t they really a little flatter than that?

Photographer’s note: The wide angle on my lens is 17mm (x1.6 = 27mm equivalent on a 35mm camera). To get the whole arc of a rainbow requires an 11mm or less wide angle lens on my camera (Canon 20D), and to get the double rainbow requires an even wider angle than that. There is a Canon EF-S 10-22mm lens that would capture the first arc, but to get the second requires stitching at least two photographs together with panorama software.

September 13th, 2009 Posted by | photos | no comments

Laramie, WY

From Laramie

Craig, Keith, and I took a trip up to Laramie to visit our friend Bob Hemphill who is starting an RP church there. It was a fun weekend. We spent some time in the Snowy Range on Saturday, where I saw my first moose ever (actually, three of them). On Sunday, we went for a walk in Vedauwoo after church.

August 11th, 2009 Posted by | hiking, photos | no comments

Waldo Canyon Wildflowers

From Waldo Canyon

The wildflowers were more numerous this year than I can ever remember them.

August 5th, 2009 Posted by | hiking, photos | no comments