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Ever since I was in seminary, I not only frequented the Dallas Seminary Bookstore, I made online orders to Westminster Bookstore in Philadelphia. Once I started posting about books more frequently, I entered their referral program and thanks to your clicks have gotten many gift certificates through the years.

Recently, they sent an e-mail to their partners about their financial situation (you can read more details here). The key ways you can help, if you’re so inclined, is to:

  • Pray for them
  • Order some great books (see below)
  • Donate your change at checkout
  • Spread the word about their ministry (watch the video below)

As for the books I mentioned, they have a list of great Christmas ideas. For a general list, click here, but they also have great Bible deals, books for children/teens, books for men, books for women, and obviously, books for pastors/theologians.

A few items of note in those are:

Obviously I gravitated toward a certain list but you get the idea. Their overall prices are competitve with other online retailers, but you’re helping a ministry sustain itself in this case. If you’re planning to purchase some books for friends and loved ones this Christmas, consider doing so through Westminster Bookstore

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Well, at this point, I’m gonna have to concede that I won’t complete the challenge. However, I might get close to 200 for the year, which would be a new PR. I didn’t add anything to the challenge this month, but I did enjoy what I read. The first three below are favorite authors, and several others I actually gave 5 stars to. You’ll hear more about them in the coming weeks. Until then, here’s what I read:

If you’re keeping score at home, I’m up to 75 books in the lists below, but I’ve read 162 new books total this year.

Here’s the whole list, in case you’re curious (and even if you’re not):

THE LIGHT READER (9 BOOKS)

THE AVID READER (12 BOOKS)

THE COMMITTED READER (17 BOOKS)

THE OBSESSED READER (37 BOOKS)

(image via challies)

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You may have noticed over the last week I kept posting pictures of the new ESV Reader’s Bible Six-Volume Set from Crossway. They were gracious enough to send a review set my way, and pictures seemed more apt to capture this Bible than my descriptions.

I implied in my posts that I was working through a reading plan. The particular approach, the Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers, was something I stumbled upon in Justin Taylor’s annual Bible reading post from last year. I modified it slightly by moving to a new volume each day and leaving Sunday open. Since we are talking about Bible reading rather than Bible study, Sunday might end up being a good study day. Or, Sunday could be a second round with a rotating volume each week.

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The first thing you notice when you crack open the Pentateuch volume is that there are periodic headings, but no chapter numbers. I was expecting no verse numbers and for the text to be laid out like a typical book. I wasn’t quite expecting uninterrupted text for page after page. Throughout Genesis at least, the toledot sections give you a good idea where the various headings show up in the text.

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This trend continues into the Historical Books. With both of these first two volumes, it really does feel like a more natural book reading experience. In the original version of the reading plan, you read back to back days in the Historical Books. However, I moved on to the next volume.

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In the poetry books, the Psalms are split up by actual psalm. There is also a move obvious division between the internal books of the Psalms. Job on the other hand is a little bit of a bear because the section with the friend’s dialogue runs without headings breaking it up. Both Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon seem much more readable in a single sitting in this format. Because you don’t necessarily have to start with the first book in each volume as part of this reading plan, I actually began with Proverbs (see previous point about Job).

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You’ll notice I did something similar in the Prophets by skipping ahead to the minor prophets. I’m going to try to read each in a single sitting on the days I read this volume. Then I’ll go back and pick up with Isaiah or Jeremiah most likely. That is part of the beauty of this plan, in that you don’t have to stick to consecutive books, you just are trying to read in different genres each day of the week so you are taking in the whole counsel of God over time. And if you miss a day, you just move on to the next volume.

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The headings return in the Gospels and make this volume the most user friendly for short reading times. Given the missing chapters and verses, you may notice more connections in the layout. For instance, the “sandwiches” in Mark might stick out a bit more when you read through with typical paragraph headings disrupting the text.

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Finally, the main thing I noticed in the Epistle volume is that each is treated like a unit and so has no headings. This appears to suggest you should read each epistle in one sitting, which is honestly a great idea. Once again, you don’t necessarily have to start right off with Romans, but you certainly can.

In terms of an overall assessment, I think ESV Reader’s Bible Six-Volume Set ought to find its way under numerous Christmas trees in a month or so. The $100 price tag is obviously high, but because of the aesthetic appeal and potential impact to your Bible reading, for most people it might be worth it. I received this copy free from Crossway but if I hadn’t, this would probably be the only thing on my Christmas list.

You obviously don’t need this particular multi-volume Bible to do the reading plan I outlined above, but it certainly helps. If you’re looking to change things up in your daily (or semi-daily) reading, definitely check out (and by that I mean try) the plan. And then decide whether the multi-volume Bible is something you’d like to invest in. Or, you know what? Just decide whether to invest in this Bible for yourself or someone who you know would love it.

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In high school I drove my parents mini-Van when I needed to get somewhere. Well, realistically this was just for a 7 month period after I got my license but before I got my own car. That hunter green Camry would last until the December after Ali and I got married when I totaled it on the way to take a final exam in seminary. It was supposed to be a quick trip from the apartment to campus but the black ice had other plans. The impact to the back of a Toyota Highlander was enough to destroy the front end of my car but not set off the airbags. Somehow, the insurance check was well above the value of a 10 year old car with 285,000+ miles.

I’m now on my second Camry and still putting miles on it like there’s no tomorrow. Which is to say, I know a thing or two about road trips. For the past 13 years, I’ve regularly driven from central Florida to East Tennessee, so much so that I think I have I-75 memorized. I’m also pretty good with I-20 from Birmingham to Dallas, I-10 from Louisiana to Jacksonville, and I-81 through Virginia. Not to mention all of I-4.

What I was less familiar with is any driving in California. Or at least until recently. I awoke the first morning in San Fransisco and immediately struck out on my own. We were technically staying in a suburb called Burlingame. It has a small downtown square area which my senses (read: app) told me had a Starbucks. The whole trip took about 15 minutes, but it was my first solo excursion.

I returned to have the first of many continental breakfasts, and then through the process of natural selection, be paired with 6 high schoolers for the remainder of the trip. Ali went through this process as well, and end up paired with a mixed gender van. I had six 17-18 versions of myself, which is to say boys who liked my taste in music, could talk or just be fine staring out the window, and would spend a fair amount of time reading or thinking during our coming days of driving. I even had an INTJ riding shotgun most of the time.

Of all the mini-vans, mine was the only non-neutral color. Whereas everyone else had Kia’s, Nissans, or Toyotas of muted grays and blues, I had a red Dodge SXT. This would fortunately not prove problematic and I successfully logged many miles without a state trooper incident. It also meant I never lost the car in a parking garage. In contrast to the black 2003 Camry I drive, it was a nice change of pace. It was also, oddly like high school all over again, since that was the last time I consistently drove a van.

While I realize time travel is not technically possible (even if you allow for wormholes), this trip was certainly close. I was going back to places I had only been as a high schooler and was now doing so with other high schoolers who barely existed on my last trip.

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Zondervan has historically done a pretty stellar job of sending me various books for review. Although it has never involved a volume in their NIV Application Commentary series, those volumes are on sale in ebook format, this week only. You can see the deals here.

The volumes in this series that I use are mainly Old Testament and all in Logos. I have all the ones on the Pentatuech and the Prophets, as well as a few others. I’ve read several cover to cover and found them profitable. The basic format used moves seamlessly from interpretation to application and is very helpful in brainstorming applications during sermon prep.

A while back, I did a series on commentary recommendations for the entire Bible. Here’s the table of contents:

The post on Old Testament Backgrounds gives a good orientation to both the background of the Old Testament and how to select commentaries on it. After I finished the series, I collated my recommendations into a single post, which you can read here. That post also shows you how many of the NIVAC volumes I recommended. There isn’t a corresponding New Testament backgrounds post, but this is a similar type of post. Along with all of this, you can read my reviews of specific commentaries, although they are rarely very in depth.

In the meantime, make sure you take advantage of the opportunity to get some of these volumes for just under $5 a piece. If you’re studying a specific book, either for teaching or personal growth, these volumes will help you understand the text and think through relevant applications to your own life. If you’ve got specific questions about them, hit me up in the comments or shoot me an e-mail!

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In a way, this made up for the previous four years. I try to not count my first year teaching, but if we start the chronology my second year, when I actually began teaching Bible, this was my first class. Not technically since 1st and 2nd period were 11th graders. But, they were freshmen and I had them before and after lunch. And they were the worst.

They weren’t all bad. But they were a nightmare for an introvert that just wanted everyone to sit quietly while he talked about the Bible. Also, the introvert was homeschooled, grew up basically an only child, and was generally calm, cool, and collected throughout much of his own high school experience (minus church trips).

They, on the other hand, wanted to almost literally bounce off the walls, which was a bad idea since the back wall was technically just a partition. Midway through the school year we’d move to our own building. It was on a property that had ironically been my wife’s elementary school, where she was taught by my current principal. Because of that, they were Facebook friends and to make a long story short, that was how I ended up getting hired at the school in the first place. This all happened a couple of months after relocating from Dallas, but technically before I graduated. I started out teaching science, but then the Bible teacher left and we all breathed a sigh of relief as I took up his mantle instead.

Freshmen start out with Old Testament, before moving to New Testament the sophomore year, then Theology (with a capital T), before finishing up with Apologetics/Ethics. I taught the first three for my first two years as a Bible teacher, before only teaching OT and Theology the following year. This current year I replaced the out-going senior Bible teacher. Though I have never taught all four years of Bible simultaneously, I did teach this current senior class all four years of their time in high school. And, as a bonus, I actually had every kid in the high school in one class or another this past year. Neither feat will likely happen again.

This particular class and I have always had a kind of love/hate relationship. Hate is probably a strong word, but I guess so is love if you really mean it. I like them all individually, but they have an oft putting corporate character. That is, unless you’re on a road trip in California for a week. Then they’re a blast.

Given my history with them, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into the trip. I was definitely stoked about getting to basically go to California for a week for free, crazy kids or not. I asked about Ali going, and it turned out she could, but we’d have to buy her ticket on our own. Or rather, we’d have to use our Southwest points to get a ticket for $11. Checkmate atheists.

April is Ali’s birthday month and her twin sister was coming in town and I had two concerts to go to, but hey let’s go to California for a week if we can, ok? And so we did. On the 7th, I finished up a semi-normal day of classes (except for the afternoon ones which were deserted because those are the senior Bible classes), went home, changed, and then a student’s mom picked us up and got us to the airport in the nick of time. Actually, several people were late and we were all getting there super early so it didn’t really matter.

My pit stains were out of control before we even got in line for security so I knew it was going to be a great night. I had a bag of protein powder in my backpack so obviously I got searched. We then rode the train to our terminal so we could buy some over-priced Asian fusion before making the final trek to our gate.

We boarded around 6:30 pm. Or at least, boarding group A started at 6:30. We were all C except for Ali, since her ticket had been purchased separately. She was able to snag a window seat and saved it for me (best wife ever). The rest of the unfortunate high school souls on this first flight had to pick which middle seat they wanted. Now they know the true value of a loving spouse.

We flew to Denver and landed around 9:00 pm local time. Which is to say 11:00 pm in East Coast mind time. This worked out well though because pretty much all the shops were closed for the night so the kids couldn’t buy any pot. Unfortunately it meant I couldn’t buy that Denver Broncos Super Bowl champion shirt either. But, as Ali always says, “You don’t need any more t-shirts.” Little does she know at this point that I won’t rest until I’ve bought about 10 on this trip. The last of which I technically ordered on Amazon somewhere airborne over Texas and it was delivered before I unpacked my suitcase so it technically counts. But she was right. I didn’t need a single one.

Disappointed, I headed back to the gate, had a brief conversation with a local pothead, who must have noticed my bloodshot eyes and thought he’d found a kindred spirit. I informed him of my chaperone status on a senior class trip, and he said the token “woah dude” a few times. Thankfully, this conversation lasted about the same time a vape cloud does, and boarding started. We would land around midnight local time. We all disembarked in a daze (not a haze) and made our way through an empty airport to the rental car counter. Seven mini-vans later we on the way 5 minutes south to our Holiday Inn Express. It was somewhere between 1:30-2:00 when I finally went to bed, which is to say it was when I would normally be getting up on a Friday morning. Thus began an uneasy relationship with Pacific Time that would last about 10 days.

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October was a month about getting back in the groove. It took the better part of the month, but I think I’ve finally gotten into a good flow. In a rare turn of events, I even had an entire weekend where I was mostly at home and mostly reading. It was also almost fall for central Florida (i.e. 50’s overnight and clear skies and under 80 during the day).

I’m starting to achieve more focus on my reading and will maybe have a post or two about some new strategies I’m implementing. For now, here’s what I read in October for Challies Reading Challenge:

If you’re keeping score at home, I’m up to 75 books in the lists below, but I’ve read 147 new books total this year.

Here’s the whole list, in case you’re curious (and even if you’re not):

THE LIGHT READER (9 BOOKS)

THE AVID READER (12 BOOKS)

THE COMMITTED READER (17 BOOKS)

THE OBSESSED READER (37 BOOKS)

(image via challies)

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With Reformation Day upon us, I thought I’d do a reading roundup on several relevant books. As promised, I’m keeping to 7 at a time. For more explanation, see last week’s post. Unlike last week, 2 of these books (the bottom two pictured) are my purchases. The rest, I have to thank Zondervan, IVP Academic, Crossway, and Baker Academic for the hookup!

God’s Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture (Zondervan)

First off, I was able to read the next volume in The 5 Solas Series (I also enjoyed this one). Matthew Barrett is not only the author of this volume, but the editor of the series as a whole. So far, this is the largest entry by far, and that’s because Barrett covers quite a bit of ground. The first part offers a historical survey of the attacks on the doctrine of Scripture from the Reformation to now. Then, in the second part of the book he presents a biblical theology of Scripture, from a mostly covenantal point of view. This might be the most distinctive part of the book. In the final section he takes up the typical topics related to the doctrine of Scripture (authority, inerrancy, clarity, and sufficiency) and clarifies what they mean and don’t mean, and then also deals with a modern objection (or two). Having just covered this section a few weeks back in our systematic class, I found this a useful read and look forward to the final two entries in this particular series.

Saving The Bible From Ourselves: Learning to Read & Live the Bible Well (IVP Academic)

Glenn Paauw’s book turns from doctrine to practice. Here, he is specifically interested in how we go about reading the Bible, and takes a publisher’s eye to it as well. The chapters are paired up to present, first a problem, and second, his vision for a solution. The chapters as a whole are arranged chiastically, which let me tell you, makes it attractive before you even start reading. To give one example of an issue Paauw sees, his opening chapters deal with how our published Bible tend to make the actual process of reading more difficult. There is quite a bit of clutter on a typical page of Scripture, especially in a study Bible. He proposes we give more attention to how this influences reading, something I’ll have more to say about later this week or next. To give an idea how the chiasm works, his final two chapters get even more focused on how the print within the Bible is laid out, so that it’s beauty is more evident.

This was a thought provoking and engaging read. My only complaint is that his underlying doctrine of Scripture seemed a little too friendly with Christian Smith, N. T. Wright, and Pete Enns. Might not be a problem for you, and overall doesn’t take too much away from his proposals. But if you’ve seen Smith’s Bible Made Impossible devastated in a review, you don’t necessarily like seeing anyone rely on it too heavily.

Theologians You Should Know: An Introduction: From The Apostolic Fathers to the 21st Century (Crossway)

This was a great beach read over the summer from Michael Reeves. It is also an excellent introduction to key theologians in a readable and semi-concise format. The first half of the book begins a brief overview of the Apostolic Fathers, and then chapters on Justin Martyr/Irenaeus, Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas. One almost suspects a theme towards the end there. The second half starts with Luther, then moves to Calvin, Owen, Edwards, Schleiermacher, Barth, and J. I. Packer. In each chapter, Reeves offers a mini biography and background for each theologian. He then touches on their theology, which he says will “amount to a fast job through each theologian’s major work(s)” (16). So, not only to get a idea of the context of each of these theologians, you are better prepared to read at least some of their most important writings, which is something you should certainly do.

The Voice of God in The Text of Scripture: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics (Zondervan)

Once again, you can have the privilege of reading the papers presented at the annual Los Angeles Theology Conference. This time, it’s from the Fourth Annual installment and the topic is the doctrine of Scripture. Previously, topics were Christology, the Trinity, and Atonement. Once again, a solid lineup of speakers with papers in hand. Daniel Treier kicks it off with an essay on an evangelical dogmatics of Scripture before Stephen Fowl does some theological interpretation of Scripture about Scripture in Hebrews. Elsewhere, Hebrews plays a key part in Myk Habets essay about reading retroactively. A pair of essays deal with historical biblical criticism, asking whether the voice of God can be found there in one, and a response to Plantinga’s critique of Troeltsch in another. All in all, I worked through this one pretty quickly the last two weekends and enjoyed myself immensely.

Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation: The Mediation of The Gospel through Church and Scripture (Baker Academic)

This volume by Matthew Levering is something I’ll need to come back to in due time. While this is a Reformation themed post, notice that in Levering’s subtitle, he speaks of revelation mediated through the church as well as Scripture. And well he should since he’s Catholic (of the capital C variety). As such, he and I would disagree here and there, but he seems to be reading all my favorite authors (including the two mentioned below) and writing copious footnotes interacting with their works so as to not clutter up the main text too much. I include it hear with the hearty recommendation that it is the work to engage (no pun intended) if you want to see a Catholic writer working with the fruits of evangelical scholarship, agreeing for the most part, but then putting their work in dialogue with Dei Verbum. I wasn’t able to critically interact with it at the depth I think the book deserves, but should a dissertation topic go this way, I know this will come in handy.

The End of Protestantism: Pursuing Unity in a Fragmented Church (Brazos Press)

This most recent book by Peter Leithart, as well as the following by Kevin Vanhoozer and two books I’m currently reading and enjoy. I have tried to read pretty much everything I can by both authors. With Leithart, I’m sure I’ll be provoked to deeper though, but if I’m reading well, will also not quite agree with everything. As I’m starting to gather more intersted in ecclesiology (for reasons I’ll explain later), this will hopefully prove to be a key conversation partner.

Biblical Authority After Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity (Brazos Press)

This latest by Kevin Vanhoozer is based on a set of lectures given at Moore Theological College last year. It’s Vanhoozer offering a chapter on each sola, giving historical context and contemporary expression. He sprinkles in theses on what a mere protestant Christianity should look like. What more could you ask for?

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Tim Challies used to introduce his New Books of Note posts with a brief disclaimer about receiving many books from publishers and not having time to review them all. Consider this a similar intro, and will probably appear at the beginning of each post in this series. I decided I’m going to do these in batches of 7, since that seems biblical and all. By “these” I mean those previously mentioned “books I won’t/can/t review.” As was noted, this still somewhat counts as a “review” but only in the loosest sense of “publicly writing my thoughts about books received for free from publishers.” It should also be noted that just because a book appears here, it doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. I just don’t want to write more than a few sentences about it, and from those you can actually glean quite a bit. Sound good? Ok, so here’s what we have this time:

The Unfinished Reformation: What Unites and Divides Catholics and Protestants after 500 Years (Zondervan)

The subtitle tells you exactly what this little (under 150pp) book by Gregg Allison and Chris Castaldo is about. If you want a more in-depth treatment, grab Allison’s larger one. Topics covered here include: basic divisions between Catholics and Protestants, 10 commonalities that unite us, and the 9 key areas where we differ. The book is charitable and clear, and for me at least, was an easy weekend read. If you want a concise treatment of how Catholics and Protestants relate to one another theologically, I think this is a good place to start.

Trapped: Getting Free from People, Patterns, and Problems (New Growth Press)

Andy Farmer’s book focuses on key traps that enslave people into patterns of living that inhibit Christian growth. He identifies four key traps: approval, laziness, secret escape, and addiction. He also discusses feeling trapped in a troubled marriage (chapter 9) and how we can experience true freedom and redemption from these traps. If you read many CCEF books, you won’t be surprised by much of the material here. However, it is a fairly fresh look at these key problems and is a concise treatment of them (roughly 170pp).

Hostile Environment: Understanding and Responding to Anti-Christian Bias (IVP Books)

This book by George Yancey (prof of sociology at UNT) is likely to prove more and more timely. Yancey is not only a Christian teaching in a public university, he is also an African American, and recounts how he has not only experienced anti Christian bias, but racism as well. Here, he deals with the roots of what he calls Christianophobia (in a delightful chapter titled Haters Gonna Hate). He then notes that you can’t please everyone, and in some instances, Christian behavior leads to anti-Christian bias (though this isn’t always the case). He then helpfully unpacks how to best respond and deal with Christianophobia (hence his book’s subtitle). It won’t take you long to work through this book, but I expect it to repay your time in the coming months and years.

The Temple and The Tabernacle: A Study of God’s Dwelling Places from Genesis to Revelation (Baker Books)

A potential upside of this book by J. Daniel Hays is that is a more accessible version of G. K. Beale’s The Temple and The Church’s Mission. While Beale has his own more accessible version, this book includes pictures and such. However, that leads to a potential downside in that it is printed on glossy paper and so not conducive to note taking or marking within. But, if you’re a more visually oriented person, and perhaps never interacted with Beale’s biblical theology of God’s dwelling place, maybe start here for an introduction and then move into Beale’s more in-depth and technical treatment.

Pursuing Moral Faithfulness: Ethics and Christian Discipleship (IVP Academic)

I started off strong with this one by Gary Tyra, but then ran out of steam. Not entirely sure why, because this should be a very useful book to anyone teaching practical theology or ethics. Since that’s part of what I do, it seemed like it should be a good fit. Tyra’s first section gives a lay of the moral land and explains the key approaches to ethics out there. The second part of his book is more “how-to” and explains the importance of responsibility for making good ethical decision, but also leaves space for the Spirit to guide and direct our steps. He comes from what I think is a Charismatic background, and so the interesting angle of this book is seeing how that plays into practical theology. In the coming weeks and months, I am actually hoping to revisit this one for a little more analysis.

Impossible People: Christian Courage and The Struggle for The Soul of Civilization (IVP Books)

I didn’t like this book by Os Guinness, which was a bit surprising as well as obviously disappointing. I just couldn’t get into it. Unlike Fool’s Talk, this one seemed less helpful, at least to me. These books are loosely related, and I think this is meant to be the more theoretical underpinning to that one. Maybe because of that, it ended up being less interesting, but it may have also just been the season of life in which I was reading it (which was a hard one to focus on much of anything in my reading, so do with that what you will)

Modern Art and The Life of a Culture: The Religious Impulses of Modernism (IVP Academic)

Lastly, this book by Jonathan Anderson and William Dyrness is the first in a new series called Studies in Theology and the Arts. It looks like it is off to a promising start with this retelling of the recent history of modern art that is more sentence to positive religious impulses than evangelicals have typically been. The title of the book is a play on the classic by Hans Rookmaaker, Modern Art and The Death of a Culture, which as you can imagine, is not very effusive in its assessment of modern art. In this book though, Anderson and Dyrness take five chapters, each devoted to a different geographical locale, to re-examine some icons and artists associated with modern art (I may have used “icon” wrong just there). This of course is after two opening chapters establishing the critical context, both in general, and related to Rookmaaker’s work. I’m not particularly qualified to comment in-depth on art history (although I did once date an art history major), but the authors seem to give a good overview and demonstrate charitable re-readings of some important artists’ work. Overall, it is good example of astute cultural analysis that seeks to put the accent on potential commendations instead of criticisms and be in a better position to dialogue further with those outside the evangelical camp.

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April 13th was a big night for sports. Just ask Anna, she’ll tell you. It was also the night before our last full day in California. The following night would mark a week, as well as the end of the trip.

I had been before. Twice actually, both times when I was in high school myself. Now, I’m married and all grown up and chaperoning a senior class trip. My wife and I, along with 4 of the other 7 chaperones, have a van full of kids to keep track of. You might think this was no easy task, but surprisingly, you’d be wrong.

By April 13th, we were neither worn out, nor entirely ready to fly back across the country and resume normalcy. Instead, we were watching Kobe Bryant play his last game against the Washington Generals (deftly played by the Utah Jazz) and rack up 60 points in the process (which you can easily do if you take 50 shots in a game). On an iPad, thanks to Watch ESPN, we were also watching the Golden State Warriors beat the Chicago Bulls’ single season win total.

Like I said, big night for sports.

We’re in Monterrey, in a Hampton Inn just off Pacific Coast 1. We’re within walking distance of Monterrey State Beach, a Starbucks, and more importantly, an In-n-Out Burger. I would take advantage of this shortly after the games ended. I am, how you say, a fan of burgers. They put an In-n-Out in Dallas right before we moved. It was my last lunch in Texas. It was my first lunch on this trip to California. And it was glorious.

It seemed like we were always eating. Lunches happened later in the day. Dinners had fixed reservations. Continental breakfasts were at almost every stop. And yet, no weight was gained, though far too many sodas were consumed. It was probably due to walking 5-9 miles every day. Love will find a way.

Earlier that day I had logged just under 9 miles. This was conveniently split up between a walk to Starbucks, up and down Cannery Row, inside the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, and then all over Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Don’t be deceived by the name, there are no actual “Lobos.” Rather, there are seals (lobos marinos in Spanish) and in our case, a very active couple of otters in a cove. For the better part of an hour, and realistically their entire life, they were busy doing otter stuff. You know, diving for a clam or something similar, and then using a rock to crush it on your belly before eating it. Enjoy. Repeat.

There weren’t as many seals as we had seen earlier in the trip. Our first encounter was on Pier 39 in San Fransisco. Then at Moonstone Beach. Then again just up the road at San Simeon. And now here. Although, it was baby seal season, or something like that and so you couldn’t get too close (according to Federal Law at least).

This had not stopped me back at Moonstone Beach when I noticed a mom and baby seal out on a rock and realized I could get within 20 feet. I successfully made my way out there and took several pictures and videos before promptly falling in the water on my trek back.

I imagine the Pacific Ocean is pretty cold when it’s only about 65 degrees outside. I don’t know for sure though because I didn’t feel much of anything during the 15 seconds I was in the water before clamoring out to begin resuscitating my phone. All the bottom ports had been sucked dry before I made it back to the beach to retrieve my flip flops where I was told I was bleeding profusely from the knee by some observant high school girls. I said “oh,” followed quickly by a “can you dry my phone off?”

The upside was that we didn’t really have cell service at that point of the trip anyway (AT&T users at least). The downside was that the sunset that evening was amazing and my phone was stuck in a bag of rice. It is the one gap in my fastidious chronicling of the trip from start to finish. Guess I’ll have to go back next year.