Not by Self-Promotion

In a fallen world it is possible to mess just about anything up, including the good things. That said, there are some things that can help us mess up less.

The weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper could get messed up. It could become stale ritual, a heartless motion-going. Worse, it could become a source of self-righteousness and superiority over others who don’t do it as often or who use grape juice or tiny, dry cracker bits.

But you really have to work to not think about what we’re doing here to get to that point. It doesn’t take much remembrance to promote humility and relationship.

The reason for the bread and the wine is because of our sin. Jesus gave His body and His blood because we rebelled against God and God requires atonement. We remember what we deserved, and we remember that salvation came from outside of us and by grace to us. That is humbling.

The goal of salvation, though, is not that we be humbled, but that we be exalted by Him rather than exalted by self-attempt and self-promotion. The Lord’s Supper is a time for our communion with the Father through the Son by the Spirit. That is relationship with the Trinity, and relationship with others in the Body in reflection of the Trinity.

More than facts, more than truth, we know God’s love, and that feeds our love for Him and each other.

Truth-Tubes

Ignorance of God makes idolators or weak worshippers. Knowledge of God, like knowledge of one’s spouse, increases and intensifies love and praise for God.

But it is easy to seek knowledge as an end, or maybe more accurately to seek knowledge for the praise of our knowledge. This is a subject that I’ve spoken about repeatedly, a subject that I believe is relevant for our flock, and a subject that regularly requires repentance.

I’ve referred to seeking Bible knowledge as an end as trying to fill one’s “truth-tube” and those who do so as “truth-tubers.” This is not a criticism of truth, but rather an image intended to provoke our thoughts about what truth is for.

Imagine organized rows of clear and clean glass test tubes, all filled to various heights with fantastic colored liquid. What good are those tubes doing for each other, including the ones that are filled to capacity? They are close, but they are not connected.

The illustration of truth-tube came as I attempted to come up with the opposite of a great illustration used by John Bunyan in his book, Christian Behavior.

“Christians are like the several flowers in a garden, that have upon each of them the dew of heaven, which, being shaken with the wind, they let fall their dew at each other’s roots, whereby they are jointly nourished, and become nourishers of each other.”

The “dew of heaven” is grace and truth. We are “nourished” in order to “become nourishers of each other.” This is why we speak truth in love for sake of being joined as a body and growing as a body built up in love.

The Weight of Irritability

The author of Hebrews urged his readers to run the race of faith by first laying “aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely” (Hebrews 12:1). Jon Bloom wrote a series of articles that start with the idea of laying aside the weight of something, and I’ve had this particular post banging around my head since 2014: Lay Aside the Weight of Irritability.

He gives some examples of our selfish justification for being irritable:

  • When I’m weary I want rest, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m sick or in pain I want relief, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m preoccupied I want uninterrupted focus, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.

Then he reminds us that there is always a target of our irritability:

Jesus didn’t die for our punctuality, earthly reputation, convenience, or our leisure. But he did die for souls. It is likely that the worth of the soul(s) we’re irritable with is infinitely more precious to God than the thing we desire.

The entire exhortation is worth reading, and repenting where necessary.

Unfinished Stories

Here is a story I wrote for the final assembly. It references a bunch of books our students read this year, so your appreciation may vary.


In the year of our Sayers 71, a small group of children and adults prepared to enter something they called Summer Break. To initiate this sense of freedom they performed a variety of very old rituals. They exchanged ashen colored vestments for royal colored ones, they sang and chanted verse, they ate meat grilled over fire, and many of them sought to hold back tears of exhausted gleefulness. The festivities lasted throughout the afternoon until all the students and teachers said goodbye to one another and loaded up their heavy bags one more time for home.

Only a handful of people returned over the next week to do different sorts of work. Many things were moved around, sorted, counted, and put away. Eventually even those activities came to an end, and the campus became uncommonly quiet.

But if anyone had walked through the now desolate building ten days later, and if they had ears tuned to hear, they would have heard murmurs of discontent, disappointment, and disturbance. The noises came from multiple rooms, usually smaller rooms called Closets in our world, or rooms the size of a closet. Sounds could be heard coming out of beige boxes, off of burdened shelves, and even from stacks that looked like tapered chimneys on the floor. If you had listened closely, you would have heard voices coming from books.

An ominous word had begun to spread among the characters in the books left behind: school was done for the year. Students, and therefore the Readers, were not expected back. This caused no little worry, not because the characters feared to be forgotten, but instead because they feared their stories would be unfinished.

Each assignment came directly from the Ministry of Fiction under the command of the Curriculum Controller for Division 17 in the SnoHoPaNoWe Region. These deployments were a crucial piece of the plan to equip a new army, though they called themselves Students rather than soldiers, which was part of the Ministries’ strategy of inconspicuous conquest. Each character had arrived from the Terra of Truth, the Ordnance Depot of CP, or even the Amazon Arsenal. Each had been recruited to do a specific job. But some of their jobs were only partially done.

Though in most situations it was not the fault of the character, too many of them were left only partway through the plot. The Reader had just left, left the book, and left the story hanging. If you have heard of the land of misfit toys, these were the characters of unfinished books.

A meeting was called of the Committee for the Finishing of Books for Character Squared, or “CFBC2” as the patches abbreviated. Characters were elected to represent the various grades, though not all could make the journey to the far corner of the Desk of the Unruly Headmaster. Some of the characters required extra travel time because when they asked for directions from the local gnomes, the gnomes were drunk on the joy of so much silence without so many laughing students around that good directions were hard to gather.

Presiding over the meeting was Henry York Maccabee. While not the oldest or most mature of Committee Members, it was he, as a seventh son, who was most fit for helping a school seeking to begin its seventh year. Mr. Maccabee had great personal interest in the proceedings because he himself was caught in a dark valley of the shadow of the unfinished, less than a third into the third book of his work. It was only the previous day that his father had left for Endor, his uncle had been taken captive, and his raggant locked in a closet. It was not a good time to stop reading his story. There were rumors that his book would be completed, and so his case was not quite as desperate as some others. Nevertheless his precocious cousin pestered him for a quicker resolution, and young Mr. Maccabee called the assembly to order.

The first to speak was Morris the Moose, who was very angry. Though some students at K-Level had finished the story, others had not, and so he was arguing with Cow again and hearing her complain that she was not in fact a moose even though she had four legs, a tail, and things on her head. Morris yelled above the crowd, since yelling was a thing he did, “It’s maddening to be stuck here. I’m tired of making moosetakes, and just want to see myself in the stream again. But what if the stream dries up in the summer sun before I can see my reflection?“

Representing Level Half (those under the “1/2” symbol) were Uncle Nick and Uncle Pete, along with Mr. Gump and his seven hump Wump. Granny and Grandpa Amos stayed in their walls to watch Baby Betsy, and the Red Fish and Blue Fish were trying to figure out along with One Fish and Two Fish if a Yink really does like to wink and drink ink that is pink. The Littles and the Seuss families were phonetically and poetically up in personified arms about not getting to their ends.

On behalf of TertiaQuarto, the brave squirrelmaiden Triss had traveled by herself. Though she had already tried many things, including a party with treats and costumes, she still could not get readers to send she and her friends to Riftgard to free the slaves of the ferret king, King Agarnu (who was a second cousin to Gary Gnu). Triss had not yet figured out the riddle and needed to find a good sword. “Why won’t they finish the story?” She cried. “We can defeat the Ratguards and the King if someone would just turn the pages!”

A guy named Guy spoke next. “We have traveled 451 miles, as the pages turn, to represent the High Grammerers of Eejitsland. They have been so busy that they have left a fire burning that must be put out or great libraries of the world will be destroyed.” His traveling companion, a Mr. Underhill, explained that some fires can be very beneficial, even necessary, but that humanity is doomed if they destroy the wrong items.

The next to present were those speaking on behalf of the Logicians and the Rhetoricians. More of these characters came to make a case for themselves because they knew how important their work was, and they even argued among themselves whose story was most important as they rode together on a six-story bus. One was named Pilgrim, and despite his name, he did not desire an endless journey but rather sought the end of his journey. There were two Toms, both headed south on rivers for different reasons and neither with all their plot lines tied to the shore. There was a Mr. Gatsby, who’s story was short, and meaningless, but regardless, he wanted to get to his party. There was also a Mr. Ahab and a Miss Emma, who hadn’t met each other prior to the trip but shared a fate of still not finding what they were looking for. “Perhaps that has happened to you, too,” they said.

With the cast assembled on the Headmaster’s desk Henry called for proposals on how to encourage the readers to finish more of these books. This was an urgent mission for two reasons. If the books remained unread, some characters would be in plot purgatory. Mr. Ahab would be getting more mad, but no nearer to his catch. Henry himself would never know how his family was or what witchery Nimiane would commit.

Mr. Underhill proposed the use of a very old game. He said, “My uncle had a saying. ‘I haven’t read half as many books as well as I should like; and I like less than half of the books as well as they deserve.’ In order to promote more page turning he developed a game named after himself called Bilbo. He later changed it to ‘Bingo’ because he liked the ring of it better. Let the readers cross out various symbols in rows and columns and earn prizes for completing books.”

Triss urged that a proclamation from the U.H. be sent directly to all the concerned parties over invisible wires buried under ground. Most of the characters were not familiar with such technology, but were happy to see an example program from the U.H. Pilgrim similarly advised that a sort of allegory be narrated about the dangers for all involved of not finishing stories as well as the rewards of reading to the ends.

Mr. Gatsby recommended that a spectacular car crash could take out an electrical transformer leaving entire neighborhoods without power for long stretches. Kids without access to telescreens and digital games might be desperate enough to read. A small Seuss said, “From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere. Send them to the lake, reading on the shore is great. Any sort of trip, packing a book will be hip.”

The characters were now refreshed with hope, both that their stories might be finished soon and that the stories of their readers’ lives would be back on track. As they said their farewells and headed back to their closet or cubby or classroom, they said to one another, “This may be the best summer of our Sayers yet.”

Quite Some Ride

Today we passed another milestone. A small group of us finished the sixth and final year of the Omnibus curriculum.

My wife says she knew about Omnibus before we started the school, and I believe her. She was even interested in trying it out as homeschoolers. I also remember the summer before ECS started, our Headmaster along with our first full-time teacher went to the national ACCS conference and learned about Omnibus. We weren’t following the recommendation of the School Startup Notebook and so we needed something for three secondary students, two 10th graders and one 7th grader (who just graduated on Sunday).

Jonathan (our Headmaster) was very excited about Omnibus, a theology-history-literature class rolled into one. It is a six year program that cycles through Ancient, Medieval, and Modern periods twice (years I-III, then again for years IV-VI).

When we started to tell people what we were getting into, a number of adults at our church wanted in, too. What a great problem. So we decided to invite those who were interested to audit the class. For six years, every Thursday morning of school for two class periods, adults who had read (as much as they were able) of the assigned reading came and participated in the class.

I believe the number of books in the Primary reading (there is a Secondary track as well, but we didn’t utilize that much among the auditors) is 104, plus the introductory articles in the textbooks, along with some additional essays on subjects such as philosophy, art, sociology, and more.

I still remember a conversation I had with Jonathan in his living room in July or August of 2012, trying to decide if I should do the auditing or not. I wondered what effect it would have on my sermon prep. It has taken a toll, and I described it in class today as brutally glorious. I am not the same person as I was six years ago and, though Omnibus isn’t the only ingredient, it has flavored and complemented a lot of other inputs. I’ve referred to it here at my blog many times.

Some standouts for me are Beowulf, The Odyssey and The Aeneid, The Divine Comedy, and Moby Dick. Even 1984 and Brave New World made me appreciate That Hideous Strength more. Add in the likes of Augustine, Bede, Burke, Calvin, Chaucer, Dickens, Livy, Luther, Plato, Shakespeare, Sophecles, Toqueville, and Twain, and it has been quite some ride down the river of Western Civilization. Thanks to Jonathan for leading us, and congrats to him along with the other five auditors who finished the course.

The Enthusiasm Industry

I was listening to a podcast episode recently, I can’t remember which one even though I don’t actually listen to a bunch, and the hosts referred to the “enthusiasm industry.” They were talking about people who write and talk about apps (mobile, desktop, whatever). These aren’t necessarily the developers or even marketing employees of a company, these are people who make their living trying out and reviewing apps and services. They are professional buzz makers, stoking enthusiasm that sustains the creation/consumption cycle.

Some of these enthusiasts are helpful, even trustworthy over time. Many of them, though, are just making noise. How are consumers being prepped to distinguish?

It made me think of Dorothy Sayers’ warning about propaganda.

Has it ever struck you as odd, or unfortunate, that today, when the proportion of literacy throughout Western Europe is higher than it has ever been, people should have become susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass propaganda to an extent hitherto unheard of and unimagined? (The Lost Tools of Learning)

The enthusiasm industry, including (especially?) those who promote productivity apps, may keep us distracted from doing work rather than helping us find the right tool for work.

It’s similar to this argument about why so many of us like sports: then we don’t have to think about how awful our lives are.

We are far too easily enthused. And distracted.

The Government of Stability

We’ve been reading Brave New World in Omnibus the last couple weeks, and eww, and ouch, and it’s provoked some thoughts for our communion mediation. The goal of the gospel is more than stability, it is unity. While it’s true that those who fear the Lord will be like well-rooted trees, ready for both storms and dry seasons, salvation establishes more than individual calm.

The State wants control in order to (attempt to) enforce stability. But this is built on the false image of the State as savior. And even if such salvation was possible, the savior is only one kind. This is a form of unitarian monotheism (one god in one person, though it doesn’t require a king or president, just the belief in The Government), and that god always reigns by power and coercion.

What God the Father Almighty wants, and His Son Jesus Christ purchased, and the Holy Spirit applies, is our unity. As we worship the Three-in-One, we learn to enjoy communion with them and like them. This is supernatural. It cannot be manipulated. And it is driven by not by fear or by distraction but by eyes-wide-open love. We were weak, ungodly, rebellious, and unlovely. God didn’t deny our condition. His work of reconciliation is more glorious because He didn’t.

Let us not be satisfied with less than communion purchased by the God-man through His bloody death on the cross. At this table we are reminded yet again of the goal, as well as the grace. We are being built into one body, not because we are the same, or because we lose our identity, but because our identity includes being united with a bigger body in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Empire of Bones

5 of 5 starts to Empire of Bones by N.D. Wilson

2018: What Lewis’ That Hideous Strength is to The Abolition of Man, so N.D.’s Empire of Bones is to Death by Living. I reread this along with the Capstone class at our school for sake of leadership training. Great truths enfleshed in great characters. Makes you want to sing while they cut your heart out. You have a life. The time to spend it is now.

And I forgot how much I really am interested in the fourth volume hopefully coming soon.


2013: If you’re looking for a stout, fictional story to complement the philosophy and autobiography in Death by Living, then look here. In other words, this book will fire up your laughing and life-spending cylinders.

The Vanishing American Adult

5 of 5 stars to The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis—and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance by Ben Sasse

Reread this again with the ECS Board. Fantastic all the way through.


This book is fantastic in almost every way. If the Senator would have used BC and AD instead of BCE and CE, and not capitulated on the age of the earth, then it would have been amazing. As it is, I still give it five stars, will be giving copies of it away as gifts, and encouraging everyone I know to read it. Really, really, good all the way to the end.

Brave New World

3 of 5 stars to Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Huxley portrays how brutishly selfish mankind is, and it is shameful. As Lewis would later say, we are far too easily pleased. While Orwell shows in 1984 how capably the State can control it’s subjects through power, punishment, and fear, Huxley demonstrates how the State can enslave us by our own passions.