Thursday, October 28, 2010

Our Olivia--2007-2010

Thanks to so many of the QG readers who left their sympathy and kind words to me on Facebook today after our precious little dachshund Olivia passed away at age 3. I'm posting this to provide closure to the previous posts from Beatrice earlier in the week.

Olivia became suddenly ill Saturday afternoon and was diagnosed with acute liver failure Sunday night. The vets don't know the exact cause. Possibilities include ingestion of a toxin, bacterial or fungal infection, accumulation of copper due to genetic deficiency or all or part or none of the above. 

Everything was tried to help her but to no avail, so finally treatment had to be discontinued and her suffering ended. Portia, DK and I were with her to say goodbye and grieve.

She was a unique and winsome little personality and we will dearly miss her. Beatrice had a couple of accidents in the house today for the first time in more than a year--she surely feels our distress and also misses her daily visit from Olivia. It breaks our hearts to see her hang around the back door where Olivia came to stay with her on weekdays while our kids were at work.

Again, thanks for the care and concern.

Here's a link to more photos and a beautiful post from Averill about Olivia on her blog Odi et Amo.

Book Review: The Church Awakening

This review is also posted on QG's Book Reviews, where you can enter for a chance to win a copy of this book from the publisher.)

Right after I read The Great Emergence, I read The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call For Renewal by Charles R. Swindoll. The Church Awakening is written in answer to Phyllis Tickle (she is quoted once in the book) and other advocates of the "emergent" church by this prominent evangelical pastor and author.

Swindoll's book is aimed at both church members and pastors, and its purpose is to persuade them to stand against the tide of postmodernism and to engage the culture for Jesus Christ.

Readers like me, who are of a conservative, evangelical, reformed theological viewpoint will appreciate this book. Those who identify with progressive, postmodern, or emergent theological beliefs will either dismiss it or find it challenging.

Swindoll calls for a return to expository preaching from the Bible as the centerpiece of Christian worship and challenges the drift away from it. In other words, Swindoll believes sola scriptura is a fundamental truth.

In response to those who fear the Bible has become an idol, he replies " we do not worship the print on the page, the paper and ink lead us to a knowledge of the One whom we do worship--Jesus our Master and Savior." I loved this quote, too:
If you need direction in life, you don't need to look for Jesus' face in a burrito, or try to interpret the clouds in the sky for a sign from God, or rely on the advice of a professor with three Phd's. When you are not sure which direction to go, read your Bible. Seek the scriptures and pray to your God.
Swindoll's criticism of the emerging church movement is that it engages the culture in "conversation" instead of preaching transformation of the culture. He is also critical of creeping professionalism: " the people pay the pastors to do the work of ministry, while they sit and watch and offer critiques". As for the marketing of the church, "Jesus is not a brand", Swindoll declares, " Churches don't need to try so hard to be creative and cute that folks miss the truth."

Swindoll is not a hide-bound traditionalist. In the chapter Worship: A Commitment...Not a War, he encourages those who seek to dispense with self-serving traditions and defends good contemporary hymns and praise songs.

In the end, it comes down to the question of authority, as Tickle and Swindoll would both agree. Is authority found in the culture or scripture? Their answers are very different.

One of the oldest symbols of the early church was a sailboat. The sailboat represented the church of believers sailing upon the sea of this world under the guidance of the breath of the Holy Spirit that directed its path. As Swindoll observes, the danger to the ship is not sailing on the waters of the culture, but taking too much of that water on board.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book Review: The Great Emergence

NOTE: This review is also posted at QG's Book Reviews.

Phyllis Tickle spoke at an event during the General Assembly of the PCUSA on the subject of her book, The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why. Subsequently I engaged in a discussion on my blog (Quotidian Grace)  and in a podcast with Rev. Landon Whitsitt, the Vice Moderator of the PCUSA, about her statement in the book and during her speech that "sola scriptura" is dead.

I was not at GA to hear her speak but I have now read her book. A copy was given to me by a friend at presbytery who was very enthusiastic about it, so I took it as as sign that I needed to read it.

I'm not nearly as enthusiastic about The Great Emergence as my friend.

This is a short book packed full of sweeping generalizations, which the author readily admits can be nit-picked, so I will spare you my lengthy list of nits. Tickle begins with a quick overview of the history of the church since the time of the apostles until today. She deduces that the church goes through a big upheaval ("emergence") roughly every 500 years in which it "cleans out its attic" of non-essentials and disposes of the non-essentials which have cluttered up and impeded its mission and purpose.

That's a reasonable general metaphor. However she totally loses me when she says "we begin to refer to Luther's principle of 'sola scriptura, scriptura sola' as having been little more than the creation of a paper pope in place of a flesh and blood one." Tickle throws out fundamental principles of faith along with the barnacles of human history and tradition.

Tickle is an Episcopalian and that denomination views Scripture, Reason and Tradition as having equal authority for the Christian believer (the "three-legged stool" of Episcopalian theology). As a Presbyterian, I do not believe that human reason and tradition have the same authority as scripture. This is where she and I part ways.

Tickle, like many progressive Christians,  makes the mistake of conflating those who hold to the five solas (sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus and soli Deo gloria) with those who adhere to inerrancy and literal interpretation of the Bible. They are not the same groups although there is some overlap between them.

My fundamental disagreement with Tickle's theological point of view, aside, I also question her emphasis on the influence of the PBS series "The Power of Myth", the success of Alcoholics Anonymous, and Timothy Leary as major contributors to the emergence she describes. She does do a good job of analyzing the influence of the automobile, the birth control pill and the move of women into the workforce in large numbers at the end of the twentieth century on the life of the traditional churches in America. However those points have been made before.

I stumbled around page 35 with Tickle's diagram and description of the cable of religion. I found it unintelligible and put the book aside for a few days. There are several more diagrams at the end of the book which were likewise abstruse. Readers with an affinity for that sort of thing  may find them helpful.

One of the reasons I read the book was to learn what the "emergent church" is. Alas, this is the closest Tickle came to enlightening me on the subject:
"...when pinned down and forced to answer the question, 'What is the Emergent or Emerging Church?' most who are will answer 'a conversation' which is not only true but which will always be true. The Great Emergence can not "be", and be otherwise."
Excuse me?? Say that again?? I'm afraid that for me parts of this book are an exercise in imprecise thinking lurking beneath  a pretentiously intellectual presentation.

Tickle is correct when she observes that many within the church today are questioning or rejecting the authority of scripture as the guide for faith and life as well as what she terms the "exclusivist" claims that Christ alone is the way to salvation. That should be decried, not encouraged.

I've attended my share of conferences that focus on reviving/awakening/reforming the church over the years and seen many trends come and go. I'll be surprised if the "emergent church" isn't just another one.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Beatrice Blogs: Olivia Responding

Woof! Beatrice here to say many thanks for the prayers and encouraging words for Olivia. 

This evening the vet says she is responding well to the antibiotic and the blood transfusion. She's not out of the woods yet but I'm hopeful she'll keep getting better. Poor thing will have more tests tomorrow, but I hope they tell her to put up with it so she can come home soon.

All for now,

Beatrice Blogs: Pray for Olivia

Woof! Beatrice here.

I'm very worried about my BFF Olivia. Portia and DK had to take her to the emergency vet hospital yesterday afternoon because she wasn't keeping her food down. And then she wouldn't eat. Imagine Olivia refusing a piece of cheese! She has to be really sick.

This morning QG rushed over to their house because they got word Olivia is in liver failure. The vet is doing an ultrasound this morning and the good news is that a lot of the possible causes are treatable. However, we are all very worried about her.

It's all so sudden! She was fine Friday when she spent the day with me as usual. They won't let me visit her, either.

I'll keep you posted.

Despondently yours,

Friday, October 22, 2010

On the Twelfth Day

It's been 12 days since Patrick's accident and 12 days of emotional downs and ups. The surgery Tuesday relieved the pressure on his brain and so he remains in stable, but critical, condition in the ICU. He is moving around some, which is a good sign. We continue to watch and pray.

Prayer is such a powerful force. I see Carolee buoyed up and strengthened by the prayers of friends, family and people she doesn't know at all. She feels them in her heart and soul and they bring her peace and calm in the middle of a tragic circumstance. We are all re-learning what is really important in this life--faith, family and friends who care.

Everyone is settling in for a long watch, returning to their routines but adding prayer, calls and visits to the hospital. Many thanks to everyone for your continuing prayers.

There is a Caring Bridge site you can visit for updates if you are interested: 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book Review: America's Prophet by Bruce Feiler


I'm a fan of Bruce Feiler, the prolific journalist and author whose recent books Walking The Bible, Abraham, and Where God Was Born reveal his increasing knowledge and commitment to writing about the roots of his Jewish faith and culture. So I happily accepted the invitation to read and review his newest book for the TLC virtual book tour.

His latest work, America's Prophet is a meticulously researched and well written survey of the adoption by America of the story of Moses from the early days of the first Pilgrim settlers to the Revolution, to the abolitionist movement, the Civil War, the eastern European migrations of the end of the nineteenth century, to the civil rights movement of the mid to late twentieth century. America's Prophet is written in a more academic style than Feiler's other popular books.

Feiler reveals how this Moses metaphor was invoked by the early Pilgrims and explicitly used to describe the most revered figures of American history such as Washington, Harriet Tubman, Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Feiler reminds me of Lee Strobel (author of The Case For Christ among other books). Both writers use the journalistic tool of interviewing experts on the subjects they are writing about as well as engaging in personal explorations of their own. For example, Feiler records his observations and emotions while re-enacting the escape of slaves across the Ohio river along the Underground Railroad to safety in Ridley. Then he interviews the curator of the home of an abolitionist who was a conductor of the Underground Railroad and assisted many slaves to freedom.

Three themes are  comprehensively explored in America's Prophet: the courage to escape oppression and seek the Promised Land, the tension between freedom and law, and the building of a society that welcomes the outsider and uplifts the downtrodden. Feiler speculates that in today's America, with its widespread Biblical illiteracy, Moses is becoming a slogan that embodies these themes without reference to the full meaning of his life.

 One of the sub-texts of the book is Feiler's attempt to  compare the influence of Jesus and the influence of Moses on this country's development. He takes this issue to Professor Allen Guelzo, who teaches Civil War history at Gettysburg College: " I would have thought Jesus was a much more influential figure in America. But I'm starting to believe the themes of Moses may echo more."

Guelzo's response is that the question is not why Christ is so attractive, but "how did Moses get on the stage and why is he still here?" His conclusion is that it is because Moses represents deliverance and Jesus represents redemption. In other words, Moses is a political figure while Jesus is a spiritual one.
As Feiler concludes his book, he says that although he expected to find the themes of Moses' life in America's history, he did not expect to find the extent to which the Exodus story permeates the American experience as Moses has been invoked from the earliest days of the colonies to the present by American political leaders.

Who will be our next Moses? Feiler asks towards the end of the book. I don't know the answer to that, but the next Moses can expect to lead his people into something new and better, to persevere despite complaining from them, and to pave the way forward into the Promised Land but not entering it himself or herself.

America's Prophet is a challenging but worthwhile and thought-provoking. It gave me a whole new perspective on American history and the development of American culture.  I could see it becoming required reading in college courses on American civilization. The book would also make be a good choice for a book club or church adult study group that is interested in tracing the influence of Biblical themes on American history and modern culture.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It's a BOY!

Portia called this afternoon to let us know that our grandchild will be a boy! More importantly, all the tests show everything is as it should be.

Due date moved up to March 4, too. Woo-hoo!

Just call me Granny QG.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

In Case Of Emergency Contact...

First an update on our niece's husband, Patrick. He is still in critical condition in the ICU and has had both setbacks and progress in the last few days. There was a wonderful prayer service for his healing yesterday afternoon attended by family and many friends. Thanks for your continuing prayers!

This situation makes me want to remind everyone to check their own emergency contingencies.

Here are some tips:

Put a card with current emergency contact information of your spouse, children, neighbor in your wallet or car glove compartment so that officials can find your family quickly in case of an accident.

If you are married and maintain separate checking and /or savings accounts, either have your spouse named as a co-owner of the account or execute a power of attorney so your spouse could access the funds in case you are unable to do so. It might be needed!

Make sure you have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care executed and that the person named in that document knows where to find it in case it is needed. You can download the form for your state from the internet and get it signed in front of a notary. 

If you have a minor child be sure you have a will. 

Don't put it off until tomorrow. Truly, man knows not when his hour will come (Ecclesiastes 9:12).

Monday, October 18, 2010

Book Review: What Good Is God?

(This review is also posted on my new book blog, QG's Book Reviews.)

What Good is God: In Search of a Faith That Matters is the latest book by prolific Christian author Philip Yancey. It will be released tomorrow in both hardcover and e-book formats.

The meaning of grace and the question of whether or not belief in God really makes any difference in a broken and hurting world are the twin themes of this book. Yancey has written extensively on these two themes before in previous books such as Where Is God When It Hurts, What's So Amazing About Grace, Grace Notes, and Disappointment With God.

What Good is God is a collection of Yancey's speeches (or sermons) given to audiences around the world. The book is divided into ten parts and each part has two chapters: one which explains who the audience is and one which contains Yancey's remarks. Audiences include survivors of the Virginia Tech massacre, Chinese Christians, survivors of the Mumbai terrorist attacks, and post-apartheid South Africans. 

I had to read several chapters before I figured out how to approach the book. Each part stands alone, but all are related in that Yancey explores the question of what difference God makes in the unique circumstances of each audience. This is not a book you can sit down and read straight through, but one that is more like a book of devotions  which is read one complete part at a sitting because each part prompts a lot of reflection.

Each reader will find different parts of the book more compelling, depending on one's own experiences and concerns. 

I found Yancey's address "Why I Wish I Was An Alcoholic" before an AA group in Chicago a thought-provoking comparison of the way an AA group accepts and supports its members versus the way church congregations tend to respond to members with chronic and difficult challenges in life. 

The chapters about the church in China and the stalwart Christians Yancey met there were a timely and inspiring reminder of the struggles of that growing church today in the face of oppressive persecution. Just this weekend I read a story in the newspaper about a group of evangelical Chinese Christians being denied permission to leave China to attend a Christian conference abroad for "their own good."

Yancey visits a small group of Christians in the Middle East  who represent a faithful remnant in the area of the world where Christ was born, and encourages them:
"those of you who work and pray in this hostile part of the world may sometimes feel as if you do nothing but move rocks, or dig furrows. Maybe so. God alone controls the harvest. Most of the Westerners who come here represent something other than Jesus...But you have a different calling: to make known the spirit of Jesus and to join the stream of liberation that broke free two thousand years ago."
What Good is God is a challenging journey with this popular journalist and Christian apologist that is sometimes uncomfortable because it forces examination of your faith and actions. Yancey takes his message not only to those reeling from inexplicable tragedy, but also to those struggling with poverty, discrimination, sinful and addictive behaviors, and cynicism.

This book would be a good choice for a book club or a Christian adult study group because each part will elicit good discussion. Yancey's books are popular choices for adult Sunday School classes, but this one does not have a readers' or leader's guide or video to go along with it. (At least  there was none in the review copy I was furnished by the publisher.)

The publisher is giving away a copy of this book to one of my readers. To enter go to my new book blog, QG's Book Reviews and leave a comment on this review. The drawing will be held a week after the review date.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Launching the QG Book Review Blog!

Over the past few years I have written over 75 book reviews here on Quotidian Grace. Recently I have been asked by several publishers to read and review their books so I decided that it would be a good idea to have all my book reviews in one place.

Receiving the nomination for the best spiritual, inspirational or religious book blog from Book Bloggers Appreciation week also encouraged me to consider doing a book blog. Personal blogs have been replaced by Facebook and Twitter, so my plan is to write a blog that is more narrowly focused.

I spent some time researching book blogs and worked on setting up the new blog. Now it is ready to go and the first post is up! Check it out: QG's Book Reviews.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Prayer Request Update

I appreciate your caring comments and especially your prayers for Patrick! Prayer is the one thing--and the best thing--that we can do for him and his family now.

I visited the hospital yesterday and the doctors said that he was slightly improved. We may know more by Monday about his situation. We continue to watch and pray. There has been a tremendous outpouring of love and support for the family from friends, church and school folk. 

A Caring Bridge page has been set up for him and if you are interested in checking his progress the link is

We are grateful for your concern and support. This will be a long-term recovery situation, so I will post significant changes in his status but not daily updates here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Prayers Needed

Yesterday was a beautiful day. I was getting ready to take the dogs for a walk when my sister-in-law called. Her daughter's husband was critically injured in an auto accident.

He has a severe head injury and is in the neurological ICU at Ben Taub, which is the trauma center for the Houston area.

Please pray for him, his wife and four year old daughter. We are now watching, waiting and praying for him.

Blogging may be sporadic.

Monday, October 11, 2010

It's Monday!

It's Monday and I'm checking back into the blog. My schedule got scrambled at the end of the week, but now I'm catching up!
  • El Jefe and I donned our Faux Aggie disguises this weekend, going up to Dallas to see A&M vs. Arkansas in the new Cowboy stadium with St. Betty and The Old Marine. We had a fabulous time although (poor Aggies!) our team lost. 
  • And speaking of Faux...we stayed at the Gaylord Resort near the DFW Airport. It has a large domed roof and features a Faux San Antonio Riverwalk in a huge courtyard. Made me want to return to the real thing.
  • Just before leaving I decided I needed some new blouses for fall and made a quick trip to a couple of nearby stores to look for the same. Ugh--the season's theme seems to be either Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves or Camo or Animal Print. A little of any of these looks goes a long way, IMHO.
  • And I'm working on a companion blog for QG--just for book reviews. I'm hoping to debut it this week so watch for the announcement! My plan is to continue posting all reviews here as well, but I would like to have all the reviews in one place. Plus there will be giveaways on the book review blog! So stay tuned....

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Lakewood Fashion Extravaganza

It's been a while since QG has brought you a Lakewood update. I know my Gentle Readers have been wondering what's up over there. Last week there was a report on one of the local TV stations about the Lakewood Women's ministry style show and fashion extravaganza which benefited Victoria Osteen's charity for children's literacy.

You know I had to check it out! So I found a behind-the-scenes video promoting the event on You Tube. Whatever else you can say about Lakewood, they are certainly internet-savvy. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Best of the Blogs: Youth and Young Adults

The October issue of Presbyterians Today is now available online. My Best of the Blogs column this month highlights youth and young adult blogs,  including Madame Future Moderator (written by seminarian Talitha P.) who attended last summer's General Assembly and writes about her experiences (note:you'll have to check the July archives to read those posts).

Check it out!

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Big Game As Told By QG

Okay, so our team didn't win. I'm not going to give you an analysis of the game. I know you're relieved. Instead, here are some of my observations about our day at the Texas State Fair and the UT-OU football game.

The weather couldn't have been better! Well maybe 5 degrees cooler would have been nice. But there wasn't a cloud in the sky. The huge crowd (about 100,000) was evenly divided into burnt orange and red tribes who were excited and happy before the game.

Here's a photo of El Jefe eating the traditional corn dog at the Texas State Fair in front of the iconic robot BIG TEX who has welcomed folks to the fair since the mind of mind knoweth not to the contrary.

By the way, we learned the hard way that you can only purchase food and drink with coupons. The lines for coupons took about 45 minutes to negotiate. Then you had a similar wait to get any food! So we missed out on trying some of the weird fried foods there--like fried oreos, fried twinkies and fried snickers bars--because you are apparently required by law to eat a corndog.

OK, gals, here's my fashion report. Eensy weensy shorts and skirts paired with cowboy boots are apparently the stylin' attire for the Longhorn and Sooner coeds and young grads. I never saw such huge silver jewlery in my life as was on display by gals of all ages and from both tribes. QG felt very under-dressed in her khaki capris and orange and white striped shirt.

The game itself is an amazing spectacle. Half the Cotton Bowl is decked with burnt orange-wearing fans and half in Sooner red. Both sides cheered their teams on at the top of their voices. We had fabulous seats just 14 rows back of the Sooner bench (on the UT side of the bowl) near the end zone and BEVO.

I did notice that when the BEVO mascot tried to approach the little boy sitting a few rows down and offered to pose for a photo for his parents the child wailed in fright. Guess Bevo looked too much like a Giant Calvinist Puppet of Doom. I told you kids don't like huge puppets!

After the game some friends joined us at a very chi-chi restaurant in downtown Dallas. You know you are out of your league when the Caesar Salad comes with the romaine leaves reaching to the sky as they are encircled with a parmesan crisp in the shape of a napkin ring. The food was very good, but deconstructionist in that the patron had to disassemble the presentation to eat it!

El Jefe pronounced the day a huge success, despite the loss, and declared we'd be back next year.

Further the affiant sayeth not.....

Friday, October 01, 2010

El Jefe Checking One Off Bucket List

Tomorrow El Jefe is checking a big one off his bucket list: we are going to the big UT vs OU game in Dallas!

Natives of the Texas Panhandle (a/k/a Baja Oklahoma) like El Jefe take this inter-state rivalry very seriously. "This is when football becomes war," he  declares every year as he settles in front of the TV to watch the Big Game. (Note QG rolling her eyes in response). That's not a phrase he originated, but one he adopted from the book Texas vs. Oklahoma: When Football Becomes War--one of his favorites.

So tomorrow his dream becomes reality and it looks like the weather at the old Cotton Bowl is going to cooperate, too. Look for us in the stands with the Longhorn fans: I'll be the one with the orange hat and sunglasses. Everyone in my family is a UT alum--except El Jefe.

Go Longhorns!!!