Book: A Study in Stone

I just finished an interesting book, the first of a series. It’s free on Amazon, so I gave it a try and wasn’t disappointed.

A Study in Stone

“You have all the tact of a gently lobbed hand grenade,” Alan Hargreaves tells his new neighbour, as they go about asking questions re: some strange writing on a stone and what it means. Alan, a writer of adventure stories for children, delivers these unique turns of phrase; all the deadpan humor, neatly woven into the text, gave me many chuckles.

Fresh from the dog-eat-dog world of corporate London, hard-nosed and wary, Dan Corrigan definitely lacks people skills. But the corporate world has chewed him up and spit him out; now he’s going to lick his wounds in a peaceful country setting, his sister’s rental cottage in a remote Devon village. When he arrives a passing neighbour stops to chat. The silence hits him. Settling in, he finds he can only get four channels on the telly – and no internet service! “Peaceful” soon becomes bored stiff so he joins his neighbour Alan at the local pub. All through the book the author has an amusing way of dealing with Dan’s “This isn’t London” frustrations.

In a coffee shop the next day a curious code on a stone attracts their attention and Dan’s tenacious attempts to learn the story behind it take them on this long adventure. I really liked Alan’s character; his level-headed and congenial nature makes a great foil for Dan’s skeptical, abrasive one. The two men form a unique give-and-take friendship and Alan helps Dan make the adjustment to another world, calling him on his “you out here in the sticks” attitudes.

The mystery in this story isn’t a menacing one and easy enough to guess if you’ve read some WWI history. But the story’s compelling and the dialogue enjoyable; once I started I didn’t quit reading until I was done. I enjoyed the excerpt for the next novel the author has included at the end and definitely want to read that one, too.

I debated between four and five stars, but I always hesitate to say I absolutely LOVED it. I really did enjoy it, though. 🙂 Checking the Goodreads reviews, I see that some others didn’t. A few people thought the mystery was too easy, which is true. Some enjoyed the historical details while for others there wasn’t enough suspense. Some readers couldn’t handle Dan’s behaviour, some liked the developing friendship between the two men.
Reviews:
5 stars: 42
4 stars: 32
3 stars: 15
2 stars: 6
1 star: 5

Pondering these various reviews has given me fuel for my next post: The Inky Slope of Book Reviews.

Contributing to the Future

Destiny

By Edgar Guest

Who knows what lies behind us all
that we who live today
might train a rose along a wall
or watch our children play?

We cannot mark each deed or thought
in some long-vanished year
by which the present earth was wrought
for us to labor here.

But all we find along our way
to times by-gone we owe;
the world is as it is today
because men made it so.

And since today must be the sum
of all that was before,
our lives may hold what is to come
when we shall be no more.

Blindly perforce the road we tread
and cope with good and ill
that one a thousand years ahead
his little place may fill.

So strangely is God’s purpose planned
that none of us can see
into the great uncharted land
which men call DESTINY.

No we are here, and know not why;
the end, no man can say.
The answer to our lives may lie
long centuries away.

From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A Guest
© 1934 by The Reilly & Lee Company

Although I won’t promise this old world will stand “long centuries” more, there’s still a valuable sentiment in these lines.

Staircase image by jplenio — Pixabay

Who’s Calling?

It was one of those intriguing calls. Do you ever get them?

One morning when we were living in Ontario the phone rang and I answered. “Hello?”

Hello. Guess who-o-o.”

The voice sounded familiar, though my friends don’t usually play guessing games. “Is this Dee?”

“No…”

“Anne?”

“No…”

I was stumped.

“This is the girl that gave your that terrific hairdo.”

I racked my brain. I wear my hair simple; it had been many a year– if ever – since anyone gave me a terrific hairdo. She must have known me in my teens. Was this one of my sisters calling me from the prairies? “Donna? Rose?”

“No.” Frustrated now, the caller abandoned her game. “This is Pat.”

“Pat who?”

My caller paused, then asked, “Isn’t this Sherrie?”

“No, I’m Christine.”

“Oh, I guess I must have the wrong number. Sorry.” She hung up.

Whoever she was, she gave me a surprise and later a story to tell. 🙂 I’m not sure if the same thing happens in these days of answering machines and Call Display, but I dialed wrong numbers myself.

A few years back, after an hour of shopping, I called my husband from the store. When he answered, sounding a bit gruff, I said, “I’m done. You can come and pick me up now.”

There was a pause at the end of the line and a man answered, “Okay. Uh… Who is this?”

BLUSH!

This morning I read the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10. Many church-going children know this story well, and sing about how “Zacchaeus was a wee little man…who climbed up into a sycamore tree, for he wanted the Lord to see.”

He’d heard that Jesus was coming to his town and wanted to see him. Being a short man behind a large crowd, he did the sensible thing and climbed a tree. When Jesus came past that tree, he stopped, looked up and called to him.“Zacchaeus, come down. Today I must stay at your house.”

No wrong number. No “Who are you?” Jesus knew exactly who Zacchaeus was – and what he was: a rich tax collector, despised by his fellow citizens. In fact, when they heard what Jesus was saying to Zacchaeus, people who would have welcomed Jesus into their own homes grumbled that he’d chosen to be the guest of “a man that is a sinner.”

But Jesus explains that, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” It’s evident from this account he knows exactly who they are and where to look for them.

“I write to be remembered…”

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is WRITE
And maybe if I WRITE fast enough, I can be the first to respond!

All because I’m up in the wee hours — sinus problems just wouldn’t let me rest in peace — so thought I’d see what’s going on in the world. So here’s a little verse that came to mind when I saw the prompt and no responses yet:

By hook or by crook;
I’ll be the first to write in this book.”
This is a slight adaptation of a verse someone wrote in an autograph book of mine years ago. It actually went like this:
“By hook or by crook
I’ll be the last one to write in this book.”
The girl who wrote it signed on the inside back cover, so no one could beat that. 🙂

I wonder how many of you can remember those old autograph books we handed around to our family and friends, asking them to write a verse so we’d have a memory of them for our old age? I’m pretty sure I still have one of mine, dating from about 1963-65. My husband also had one and collected some interesting verses of his own.

The idea was to write some sort of good wishes, a verse, an inspiring quote, a bit of song, and then sign and date your entry. This poem was written by one of Mom’s siblings:

“How nice it is to have a friend
who always plays the game,
knows all the faults that you possess
and loves you just the same.” 

This bit of wisdom, maybe a forerunner of the “How to eat an elephant” line, was given to Bob by his Dad. It’s often encouraged me when I feel overwhelmed by many To-Dos:
“Little and often makes a heap in time.”

Here’s another encouragement my third-grade teacher wrote for me:
“May your life be like a snowflake;
leave a mark, but not a stain.”

Verses could be silly, like these written by two of my friends:
“I saw you in the ocean; I saw you in the sea;
I saw you in the bath-tub. Oops, pardon me!”

And here’s a last, very humble verse to end my post with — and by now I may not even be the first in the queue. 🙂

“Some people write for money,
some people write for fame;
I write to be remembered
so here I’ll sign my name.”

Have a great weekend, everyone!

This Constant Call to Judge

My Thoughts on Facts, as Presented by Pro-s and Anti-s

Another attempted coup against the government of Prinstonia has been thwarted. Inside sources report that a group of anarchists calling itself the Citizens’ Coalition launched an attack yesterday but the National Army were successful in routing the rebels and restoring order to the country. Prime Minister Jerimeau, appearing in a news conference this morning, lauded the swift action of the National Army to avert anarchy.

Another attempt was made yesterday by the Citizens’ Coalition to oust the dictatorship now governing the country of Prinstonia. Inside sources report that the National Army, in a bloody battle for control, ruthlessly crushed the attempted coup by Coalition soldiers. Prime Minister Jerimeau, the tyrant who has been holding the country in an iron grip for the past five years, appeared in a news conference this morning, obviously gloating over the victory.

You be the Judge. Which report are you going to believe?

Every day readers around the world are bombarded with news, actual happenings infused with carefully crafted opinions. Daily the media invites us to pass judgment on situations we know little or nothing about. Journalists and editors offer their opinion on what’s going on and how sensible people should feel about it. Thus they bring public pressure to bear on — and usually against — any government or decision. However, the pressure generated is based almost wholly on what’s been written by said journalists and editors. Forty years ago my husband commented that the Press considers itself the official opposition, and in the time since, I’ve seen that to be true.

In the account above, Prime Minister Jerimeau may be a tyrant – or he may be a half-decent sort who truly has the welfare of his country at heart. He may be ruthlessly clutching at power – or he may be trying hard to hold together the various rebellious factions in a quavery sort of peace. He may be lining his pockets – but that in itself doesn’t mean he’s out to crush his people. A stable country where the citizens can go about their business without fear is always going to be better off, even if the big cheeses have mansions and the PM has his own private jet, than one in constant civil war.

Are We Living in an Anti- Age?

Doesn’t it seem these days that if anyone squawks about being oppressed by their rulers, people are more inclined to be sympathetic than skeptical? I get the impression at times that news articles are more apt to support anti-government, anti-status quo groups than voices from the pro-side of things. In any country, at any time, there will always be the dissatisfied “if we were in charge we’d do things right,” types – and the media seems only too happy to find them and air their vitriol. But they’re feeding us the news we want. “Looming civil war” sells. “Everyone’s content” is so hohum.

I wonder how much our inclinations have been shaped by the anti-establishment, anti-status quo, anti-materialistic thinking of the ’60s? We know there must be law and order – we and our own cushy lifestyle would not survive long in a war zone. But do we still have a bit of that 60s sentiment running through our veins that inclines us to favor rebels? And is the media giving us regular infusions of the same?

Examples in history show that rebels who kidnap and murder to destabilize the current government are very apt to continue the practice once they do get into power. Also, though they are certain they could do so much better at running things, rebels seldom have a clear plan for the future — except to wipe out all the last guys.

A Few Historical Examples

No Proposed Plan:
Prior to the US Civil War the Anti-Slavery league had noble goals and great rhetoric. The cause was just; things needed to change. Feeling of compassion were fanned and many Northerners were truly concerned about the suffering victims. More philosophical sorts considered slavery a blot on the country; it must be wiped out. However, it seems no one had a “where to from here” plan, either for restoring the shattered American union or bettering the lot of the now homeless, jobless, landless, illiterate, former slaves. They were mostly left to shift for themselves as best they could in a very hostile environment.

An Idealistic But Untried Plan:
During World War I the Russian government was in a disastrous downward spiral and the peasants were starving. Along came Vladimir Lenin, anti-monarchist, anti-bourgeoisie, enthused about Karl Marx’s brilliant plan for a utopian society based on share and share alike. However, when put into practice, communism just created a new bunch of tyrants and an oppressive, ineffective government.

The “We’ll Get It Right” Plan:
Prohibition had actually been tried in the state of Georgia in the late 1700s. The law was rescinded after seven years seeing as folks kept right on drinking; farmers found operating a still more profitable than farming; juries were lenient toward offenders; rum-runners from nearby states were making mint. Had the Temperance leaders circa 1900 studied this and taken to heart the results, they could have saved North America a LOT of woe. Or maybe they did know, but decided, “We’ll do it better and it will work this time.”

Yes, the big pushes behind the anti-drinking movement, the churches and the Womens’ Christian Temperance Movement, were very optimistic about their ability to reform human nature. And they were actually doing a good work of promoting temperance — until they took it into the political arena. They meant well and thought legally turning off the tap would finally stop the thirst for liquor. They never dreamed that Prohibition would so foster organized crime.

Sadly, Christians are still far too inclined to push plans they feel will benefit mankind and refuse to accept what the Bible says about non-Christian thinking, that it is “not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Coming from an non-Christian background myself, I can testify that making Christian moral rules for people who are not Christian is a kind of self-delusion. You kid yourself that “In our country we don’t allow…” while the average Joe just finds ways around the rules.

A Current Example of Compassion But No Plan
In the past few years I’ve seen many stories about the plight of children caught at the US-Mexican border. Accounts of “children being ripped from their parents’ arms” – though some workers in that area do question whose children these really are – and now being held in detention centers in Texas. I’m seeing a lot of criticism and condemnation of the US govt and the President, but no practical fix-it for this sad situation. Should they just turn all those children loose to fend for themselves? Hall them all across the border and dump them? Allow all those illegal aliens to reclaim their children and make them US citizens, thus sending the signal for more to come?

I have many questions about all this. Why did these people suddenly start coming? Who led them to believe they could now successfully sneak into the US?
Somebody has created this unique situation; what was their motive? Was this sudden influx somehow a cleverly engineered plan to force, or embarrass, the US administration?
What if all the concerned, critical Americans would rather offer to take in, and be responsible for, these children? Like foster care? Would that help?
This would show genuine compassion rather than simple anti-Trump vitriol. But there are so many children in the US foster care system now that need homes, too. Alas, it’s all beyond me!

Being Overfed Isn’t Healthy

In our day we have so many conflicting voices, so many people pointing us this way and that. This pressure adds a lot of stress to our lives as we’re almost forced to decide on issues we know so little about. We’re being “fed” – and sometimes the fare is toxic, giving us heartburn and high blood pressure. But just because the media wants to feed us doesn’t mean we have to swallow everything they’re offering us. We can resist emotional pleas that overlook so many factors. Generally, it’s best to reserve judgment until we’ve done some serious digging to find the facts.

Sometimes we have to hit the OFF button. Knowing my own limitations, I can’t have the weight of the world’s woes pressing on my mind and be an emotionally healthy person.

The Roles Jesus Refused

This is a continuation of my thoughts on the Kingdom of God and how it now appears. Here are the first parts, if you’d like to read them:
Part One: The Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Click here to read.
Part Two: The Kingdom Foretold by Daniel Click here to read
Part Three: Three Things God Needed Click here to read
Part Five: Kingdoms and Dominions to Come Click here to read
Part Four: We Have Seen His Star. Click Here to read

The Roles Jesus Refused

Reading the New Testament and studying the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, I see some things that our Lord flat out rejected. I’ve paraphrased the various quotes, but will include scripture references so you can read the actual accounts.

Jesus refused to be made king.
When people wanted to make him king, he slipped away. (John 6:15)

He refused to be a judge.
“And one of the company said unto him (Jesus), Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And (Jesus) he said unto him, ‘Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?” (Luke 12:13-14)

At one point he told his listeners, “It’s not me that will judge you.”
He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. (John 12: 47-48)

He refused to punish, or allow his disciples to punish, people who rejected him.
In Luke 9: 54-56 we see where Jesus and his disciples approached a Samaritan village, hoping for a warm reception. Didn’t happen.
When his disciples saw that the Samaritans wouldn’t receive Jesus, they asked him, “Lord, can we call down fire from heaven and wipe these wretches out?
And he told them, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”

He refused to mix politics with religion.
Nowhere in the Gospels did Jesus criticize the government or the way the country was being run. He taught people to be fair, kind, honest, compassionate and merciful, but he never got involved in demands for justice and human rights. He encouraged giving to the poor, but he didn’t hand out money or earthly goods to the needy. He rather invited people into the kingdom of God, where there’s equality and compassion for every citizen. He healed the sick as a way of demonstrating how God is willing to deliver from sin and heal the soul, but his healings were very deliberate, it seems.

At one point the Pharisees hatched a plan to trap him in this very thing. They came to him, first buttered him up lavishly, and then put forth a seemingly innocent question. Here’s my paraphrase of that story. (See Mark 12: 13-17)
“Master, we know that you’re so honest and don’t kowtow to any man, no matter what his position; rather, you teach the way of God in truth. Now what do you think about this question: Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar or not?”
(If you say yes, you’re supporting this heathen government. If you say no, you’re rebelling against Roman authority. Either way, we’ll nail you.)
But Jesus, understanding their guile, said, “Bring me a coin.” Which they did.
Then he said, “Okay, whose image is this on the coin? What name is stamped on it?”
“Caesar’s.”
“So, render to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar. And give to God the things you owe to God.”

They didn’t have much to say in response.

He refused to endorse the death penalty for sinners.
According to John 8: 1-11, a group of Pharisees came to where he was, shoving along a woman. “Master, this woman was taken in adultery. In the very act!”
(Does anyone else wonder why they caught her and not her partner?)
So why did they drag her to Jesus? They knew – in fact they told him – what the law of Moses commanded. But they also knew that the Roman law didn’t allow anyone to be put to death without a trial.

So here was another trap. Moses’ law commanded that adulterers should be stoned, but the Roman law demanded a trial first – and would the Romans consider adultery worthy of death? So if Jesus said, “No, don’t kill her,” he was teaching disobedience to the law God gave to Moses. If he said, “Yes, stone her,” he’d fall afoul of Roman law.
His way of sidestepping the decision they were demanding was absolutely brilliant. “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.”
He tossed the ball back in their court and their own consciences convicted them. One by one they left. Then Jesus looked up at her and told her, “I’m not going to condemn you, either. Go home, and sin no more.”

Jesus rejected the multiplicity of laws so dear to the Scribes and Pharisees
They’d developed interpretations of exactly how each commandment should be carried out and had tacked them on to the commandments of God. Jesus scolded them for heaping heavy rules on men’s backs.
He pointed out how some of their rules actually nullified the laws of God. In Mark 7: 6-13 he talks of one loophole and says, “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.”

They were trying to buy holiness by keeping their multiplicity of rules, but Jesus wasn’t buying it. He kept pointing them back to the ugliness lurking in their hearts.
“Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. …ye tithe the leaves of herbs and pass over judgement and the love of God.”
Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing and love salutations in the marketplaces, and the chief seats in the synagogues and the uppermost rooms at feasts: which devour widows houses and for a pretence make long prayers, these shall receive greater damnation.”

God wants children who love Him, and each other.
One scribe asked Jesus, “What’s the greatest commandment?” You can read this account in Mark 9: 28-34. As this man listened to Jesus’ answer, the light went on. He got it.
“Well, Master, you’ve said the truth. There is one God, and none other but he. And to love him with all our heart, all our understanding, with all our soul and all our strength –and to love our neighbour as ourself, this is of more value than all our burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Israel was the prime example — and God meant it to be the prime example – of why a lot of rules would never hold people’s hearts. Those who were dedicated to serving God would do so, and those who wanted a way around would find it somehow. Holiness must be voluntarily pursued. People first desire it with all their hearts; then, with God’s help, they will do their best to live it.

Some Bible scholars today, all enthused about what’s coming on planet earth, say that Jesus plans to return and set up a literal kingdom. Jesus, whose life on earth was all about offering people a choice, is going to rule over an earth full of people who will be forced to serve Him. Is this really a correct interpretation of future events? What about all the scriptures that indicate a spiritual kingdom? Jesus calls himself “the door” to the Kingdom of God; a kingdom, he says, “that cometh not with outward observation.” (Luke 17:20-21)

“He came unto his own and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”