Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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THIS & THAT: A Weekly Roundup of Favorite Articles, Cartoons & Quotes

  • What Tim Keller Wants American Christians to Know About Politics. In this episode of “Quick to Listen” Tim Keller joins associate digital media producer Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli to discuss how he follows this news, where his political convictions come from, and just how great the stakes are of politics.
  • How Do Christians Fit Into the Two-Party System? They Don’t. Tim Keller writes “What should the role of Christians in politics be? More people than ever are asking that question. Christians cannot pretend they can transcend politics and simply “preach the Gospel.” Those who avoid all political discussions and engagement are essentially casting a vote for the social status quo.”

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Mom’s Tree and Our Faithful God

I’ve been enjoying the opportunity to do a lot of writing since I retired from the organization I had worked at for nearly 38 years at the end of March. My favorite place to write is at a table under an umbrella on our patio in the backyard. It is quickly becoming my “outdoor office”. We recently completed some landscaping work in the backyard which turned out nicely. The growing trees and bushes give us some privacy and a very comfortable space.
As I write, I hear the birds as they come to feast at the bird feeders just off the patio, and then dart back into the red sunset maple tree nearby. Oh, yes, that red sunset maple. We go back a ways, about twenty-two years back.
Back in the mid-1990’s, a lot of my peers on our staff were around 40 years old, and unfortunately a lot of us were also losing parents. Oftentimes what we did was to give the one who lost a parent a gift certificate for a tree to be planted in their memory.  I can remember like it was yesterday my supervisor, Steve, kindly coming to my parent’s home as we were preparing for my Mom’s visitation to give me my gift certificate.     Continue reading


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My Review of LITTLE WOMEN

Little Women, rated PG-13
***

In 2018, on the 150th anniversary of Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved 1868 novel, we have had two new interpretations of Little Women, one miniseries on PBS and this new film. And while I enjoyed the Masterpiece version of the book better, I did enjoy this modern retelling of the book, finding myself caring about each of the characters.
The film is directed by Clare Niederpruem in her directorial debut. The screenplay is written by Niederpruem and Kristi Shimek. The film had a budget of only $250,000, giving it the feel of a low-budget faith-based film or Hallmark movie. In contrast, this weekend’s big opener A Star is Born had a budget of $36 million.
The story is told primarily through the perspective of Jo, played with energy, and a bit over the top, by Sarah Davenport. Jo wants to be a great writer. She is ambitious and outspoken. She is generally dismissive of sister Meg, played by Melanie Stone (Mythica), who longs to get married and have children. Beth, played by Allie Jennings, who loves music and is ill in much of the film, is the most likeable sister. Amy, played by Elise Jones and as an adult by Taylor Murphy, is the youngest sister, a painter, and is often left out by Jo.
We see Jo leading theatrical productions with the girls as part of the Pickwick Club. They meet Laurie, played by Lucas Grabeel (High School Musical), an orphan who has moved in next door with his wealthy grandfather, and his tutor Brooke, played by Stuart Edge.
The girl’s mother Marmee is played by Lea Thompson (Back to the Future). She homeschools the girls and runs the home as her husband, played by Bart Johnson (High School Musical), is away at the war for much of the time. Papa March gives the girls a way to deal with their disagreements, or grievances. Marmee teaches the girls important moral values, such as forgiveness, though her influence in forming the girls is understated in the film.
The film moves forward and back in time, primarily following Jo’s story as a writer, and her relationship with a professor named Freddy, played by Ian Bohen (Yellowstone), who agrees to give her feedback on her book. Other characters in the film were Mr. Lawrence, played by Michael Flynn and Aunt March, played by Barta Heiner.
The film could have easily been rated PG, but was rated PG-13, primarily for a scene in which Jo and Meg go to prom. Too much of the film revolved around Jo, which left little time for the development of Marmee, Beth, Meg and Amy. As I mentioned earlier, Jo’s character seemed to overact, and could come off as irritating and unlikeable. The film used a lot of music, which I felt neither added to or distracted from the film.
In addition, this version of the story seems to downplay the Christian aspects of the book. Other than the singing of a few Christmas carols, reference to Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and Beth wearing a cross necklace, there was little Christian content.
Content concerns include a brief sexual situation and drinking at a party.
Themes include family, friendship, dreams, conflict and loss.  This film would be appropriate for children ages 8 and up.
Little Women is a pleasing new modern interpretation of the much-loved novel by Louisa May Alcott.


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SEASONS


Here in the Midwest we are at the end of summer. It’s been a very hot summer and pretty dry. Summer vacations are over. We’re a university community and the students have migrated back to campus, so our town has an entirely different feel than it does during summer. The local schools are back in session, and ministries are kicking into full-gear as church. Life is getting busy again.
Fall is a beautiful time of year here with many festivals to attend and enjoy the vibrant autumn colors of God’s creation. But it seems like just yesterday that my wife and I were admiring the first corn and soybean plants coming up from the earth. We love those tidy green rows!  Life seems to move by so quickly. Harvest is in full swing and the farmers are bringing in the fruit of the land. Soon winter will be upon us. Such is the rhythm of the seasons: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease”. Genesis 8:22

The Bible tells us that for everything there is a season:

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”               Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

There are seasons of life as well. I’m in a new season personally, having recently taken early retirement after nearly 38 years at my organization. You may be a in a very different season. Perhaps you are a freshman college student, adjusting to a new roommate, community and school. Perhaps you have taken on a new job, and are working hard to complete all of the required training and learn the job well. Or, perhaps you just found out that you are going to be losing your job soon due to downsizing in your organization. Perhaps you are a new parent, adjusting to the responsibilities and joy of parenthood. Perhaps you just got married and are adjusting to your new life as a couple and looking forward to a great life together. On the other hand, perhaps you just became a widow or widower and are finding your new life one of sadness and loneliness.
Whatever season you are in, you can take confidence in the fact that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). You can trust him because he is faithful. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

What season are you in today?


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SIMPLE PLEASURES


I’ve written a lot about calling, vocation, work, and leadership, all passions of mine. But right now, as I sit on the patio under an umbrella on a windy day, I’m really just trying to find a way to keep the squirrels and chipmunks out of our bird feeders. I’m also thinking about the simple pleasures in life. You know, like:

God’s Creation

  • Getting that much needed rain for your yard or plants you just planted
  • A cool breeze
  • The smell of fresh cut grass
  • A beautiful sunset
  • Sitting on the beach watching the ocean waves
  • A rainbow
  • Seeing the first growth of sweet corn or soybeans in the fields in central Illinois
  • The Fall colors (trees)
  • A walk along the beach
  • Snow-capped mountains
  • Walking along the path around Geneva Lake in Wisconsin

Food/Drink

  • Taking that first bite of a juicy peach or slice of watermelon
  • The smell of fresh popped popcorn at the theatre
  • Taking a long draw on a tall glass of sweet tea from Chick Fil-A
  • Eating pizza, just about any pizza
  • Searching out the best doughnuts in whatever city you’re in
  • A great burger

Experiences

  • Hearing one of your favorite songs on the radio
  • Watching the birds and hearing them sing
  • An on-time, turbulent free plane trip
  • A walk-off win by the St. Louis Cardinals
  • Taking a nice walk
  • Going to Disney World
  • Listening to a new record by one of your favorite artists
  • Picking up your dog from vet and seeing how happy they are to go home
  • Hitting a great golf shot
  • Hearing everyone sing a great hymn or praise song at your church
  • A place to lay your head, to call home
  • Going for a hike
  • Reading a good book, especially by one of your favorite authors
  • Going to a movie that you’ve been looking forward to
  • Summer vacation with the family
  • Binge-watching one of your favorite shows
  • Taking a bike ride
  • Wearing new clothes for the first time
  • Christmas traditions
  • Attending the Ligonier Ministries National Conference in Orlando

These are just a few of the simple pleasures that I can think of. What would you add to this list?


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6 Things I Have Learned from Those Who Suffer

I was first introduced to the concept of suffering as a vocation in R.C. Sproul’s 1988 book Surprised by Suffering. See my review of and 15 helpful quotes from the book here. Suffering can come in many ways – physical suffering, loss of a loved one or job, loneliness, etc. l have previously written about “Encouragement in the Midst of Loss” here).
Sproul’s purpose in writing the book was that Christians would not be surprised when primarily physical suffering comes into their life. He wanted us to see that suffering is not uncommon nor random. No, it is sent by our Heavenly Father, who is both sovereign and loving for our ultimate good. He also wants us to understand that suffering is a vocation, a calling from God, a concept that will be new to many.
In a fallen world, suffering is going to come to all of us. You may be suffering now, or you may be caring for someone who is. Sproul tells us that suffering is one of the most significant challenges to a believer’s faith. I often wonder how nonbelievers deal with suffering without the strength found in Christ, who Himself was called by God to greater suffering than anyone who has ever lived.
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The Best of Times; the Worst of Times…. A Caregiver’s Story by Don Lusk PART II

In January 2016, Angie was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia after having undergone treatment and surgery for the Breast cancer. Her treatment at Northwestern was about six weeks long. This treatment was followed by a stem cell transplant in April 2016 which was another 3 plus weeks.    Her doctors were fairly optimistic as she responded well to the transplant and we felt that our journey on the “worst of times” road was finally winding down. In fact, we were given permission to travel to our home in Barbados to visit her mum & other family.  This gave us a much-needed reprieve; AND we began to strategically plan our next steps in life…, which included my early retirement.

As we began to make the best of this smooth path on the “best of times” road, Friends, family and others celebrated with us!!  We traveled to visit my older brother who celebrated his retirement after 38 years in education; we attended the wedding of my best man in California; we had friends from England visit us in Bloomington in September 2016, where we began planning a couples’ tour of Australia & New Zealand in summer of 2017 after my planned retirement. Continue reading