Don’t Check Your Brains At the Door


Don’t Check Your Brains At the Door, by Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler. Originally published in 1992.

This book was marketed as a high school students’ apologetics book to help Christian teenagers more articulately express why they believe what they believe.

Unfortunately, a Christian teenager with any substance or firm foundation of faith in his life could check their brains at the door of this book and still understand the information presented just fine.

Don’t Check Your Brains At the Door contains 42 very short chapters divided into six sections:

  1. Myths About God
  2. Myths About Jesus
  3. Myths about the Bible
  4. Myths About the Resurrection
  5. Myths About Religion and Christianity
  6. Myths About Life and Happiness

Each chapter within the sections is devoted to debunking commonly heard myths and misconceptions about the Christian faith, The Bible, and Christians themselves.

By far, the best and most informative section, containing information many Christians have never been exposed to or considered, is the section Myths About the Bible, where McDowell and Hostetler do a decent job of supporting the authenticity and historical veracity of the Bible:

When you study Plato in school, does the teacher express skepticism about the reliability of The Republic?

When your ancient history teacher has you read aloud from the poetry of Catullus or Julius Caesar’s account of The Gallic Wars, does she warn you that what you are reading my be unreliable?

Do your instructors dismiss the writings of the Greek historian Thucydides or the philosopher Aristotle or the tragedian Sophocles and Euripides as being unworthy of serious consideration because off textual problems and variant readings? p. 51-51

Probably not.

After taking the time to document the rigorous and meticulous process required when both the Old and New Testaments were being copied and verified, they point out the two factors commonly accepted as the most important in determining the reliability of an historical document:

Two factors are most important in determining the reliability of an historical document: the number of manuscript copies in existence and the time between when it was first written and the oldest existing copy.

When you compare the New Testament with other ancient works, it’s reliability is immediately obvious. Not other ancient document even comes close.p. 52

He includes a chart there with the comparison of the Bible to other ancient works and as I said earlier, this is by far the most informative portion of the book.

This isn’t to say that this book isn’t useful to a new convert, because it most definitely cold be. I just approached it looking for more depth and intellectual rigor than I found within its pages. Perhaps I have overestimated the capacity of today’s typical Christian teenager.

Grade C-/D+




Quotable Literary Quotes #3

This one is courtesy of the ever profound and straightforward Zora Neale Hurston. I have included it before in a review of one of her books but the thought has been pushed to the forefront of my thinking of late. It’s worth sharing:

“I did not know then, as I know now, that people are prone to build a statue of the kind of person it pleases them to be. And few people want to be forced to ask themselves, ‘What if there is no me like my statue?’”

This era of Pinterest, Snap chat, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs makes it all too tempting and all too easy to build statues which draw viewers to admire as well as those who spend inordinate amounts of energy looking for the crack in the statue. It creates a perpetual and vicious cycle.

Enter this bit of wisdom from Voddie Baucham, which blessed me greatly:

“Whatever is the worst thing you think about me, I know something worse about me. Whatever the worse thing is that you could say about me is almost surely not the worst thing about me. I could no doubt do you one better.”

Pause and think about that and what it really means. Freedom perhaps?

In the spirit of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, I would call this one alternately the “Must-Have-Others-Think-Well-of-Me” cure.

Have a great weekend!


The whole idea behind reading The life changing magic of tidying up, then purging our book collection by roughly 80 books, was to cut down on the number of things in the house, including books. In fact, that was the thought behind my trip to our local Goodwill store today: to donate items.

Against my better judgement, after dropping off our delivery, I parked the car and along with our two youngest children ventured inside, and straight back to our local store’s rather large book section. Alas, I returned home with more stuff:



Because the apples don’t fall far from the tree, the kids found something that caught their eyes as well:


Grand total for the 6 books?  $3.77.

Old habits truly do die hard…

El’s Rabbit Trails: Lost in the World

One of my kids showed this to me yesterday. Feel free to press mute while you look at it. You might like it better that way. I did, and I think it’s worth sharing:


True confession: I’m a little too old to be as bad as portrayed here (I still appreciate the pleasure of actually getting together with people and talking!) but I often use my phone as a quick way to pop online and off without the time draining hassle of of sitting in front of a computer.

This was a good reminder to be a little more cognizant of that becoming too much of a habit.

The Wind in the Willows


The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame. Originally published in 1908. 197 pages.

One of the biggest delights of homeschooling has been the opportunity to read classic books with my children that I never read -nor had read to me- when I was a child. One book that we recently used as a bedtime read aloud is this Kenneth Grahame classic. This is one of those timeless books that captures the imaginations of children across generational divides.

Our children thoroughly enjoyed the adventures of Mole, Rat, and Toad in this fantastical tale that often made you forget that you were reading about the antics of animals. That is, until those few moments when they have interaction within the human world.

The richness of the language made the book both refreshing and educational. I was occasionally stopped and asked for the definition of this word or the meaning of that turn of phrase. Overall, the adventures and lives of the characters was continuously riveting for both my girls and me.  There really isn’t much I can add here that hasn’t been offered again and again about this wonderful book, so I’ll wrap this up with a few quotes for the sake of those of you who haven’t read it. It is my hope that as you take in the rich and captivating writing, you might be inclined to pick it up, even if your kids are all grown up. Recall the words of C.S. Lewis.

This brought laughter:

“Secrets had an immense attraction to him, because he never could keep one, and he enjoyed the sort of unhallowed thrill he experienced when he went and told another animal, after having faithfully promised not to.”

This sparked conversations of winter:

“No animal, according to the rules of animal-etiquette, is ever expected to do anything strenuous, or heroic, or even moderately active during the off-season of winter.”

And this reminds of the importance of hospitality:

“There he got out the luncheon-basket and packed a simple meal, in which, remembering the stranger’s origin and preferences, he took care to include a yard of long French bread, a sausage out of which the garlic sang, some cheese which lay down and cried, and a long-necked straw-covered flask wherein lay bottled sunshine shed and garnered on far Southern slopes.”

Grade: A

Seriously, read it. The adventures of the characters within, Toad perhaps most of all, are offered with humor, wit, and lessons of life woven between every interaction.



Thoughts Worth Considering…

Every adult in our house appreciated this video. Totally worth the 5 minutes if for no other reason than you get to laugh:

Hat tip: CC.

Y’all, have a joy filled weekend. Seriously, at the risk of sounding excruciatingly cliche: Live, Laugh, Love.

There was no risk was there? That was just plain ol’ cliche…

I’m No Angel


I’m No Angel: From Victoria’s Secret Model to Role Model, by Kylie Bisutti. Originally published in 2014. 304 pages.

Recent events, both public and not so public, set my mind to becoming curious about what books have been written on the subject of modesty. I don’t mean the kind of dogmatic, rigid approach that presupposes any bit of attractive femininity is sinful. I was looking to see what was written about the convergence of true modesty and feminine beauty in the context of a walk with Christ in the real world.

So I went to my local library’s website for the express purpose of checking out Wendy Shalit’s book, which I have read much about but never read. Somewhere along the way as I clicked, clicked and clicked some more, I ran across Kylie Bisutti’s book recounting her journey from child model to winner of the Victoria’s Secret Angel competition as a young bride of 19, to deciding less than a year later to walk away from it all as she began to realize how her career as a lingerie model dishonored both God and her husband.

I first encountered Mrs. Bisutti’s story in 2012, and even blogged about her at the time, so I was slightly familiar with it. I expected the book to be slog to get through,  but as I was embarking on a project of sorts, I was willing to tough it out even if it turned out to be horrible. Thankfully, it was not horrible and I read through it in three nights online via hoopla since our library system did not have access to a hard copy.

The book was surprisingly interesting. High brow it is not, and I was a little bugged by Kylie Bissuti’s dependence on the teaching’s of Joyce Meyer as she struggled emotionally through an industry that she both loved and felt increasingly out of sorts with.  Nevertheless, she told a compelling story.

The best parts of the book were without question, the behind the scenes glimpses of what life is really like in the modeling industry. After the release of her book, Victoria’s Secret fired back numerous accusations concerning the facts of her story, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from them.

I felt a bit of compassion for 17-year-old Kylie when at 5’9″, 1115 pounds, her agent called her a cow in front of an office full of people and demanded that she come back from her holiday break 8 pounds lighter. I found this particularly shocking, as she realized that her 36-inch hips was relegating her to the designation of curvy, and not it a complimentary way:

Not big hips, mind you- just hips. In the modeling industry, anything over 30 inches is considered curvy, and curvy does not play well on the runway- especially in high fashion, where being rail thin is considered the ideal. Horrifying as it may sound, some models even go so far as to have their hip bones surgically shaved down to reach that precious 30-inch mark. Others have their bottom ribs removed so that they look ultra thin. It just felt like part of the industry to me when I was starting out, but now it breaks my heart to think of girls and young women using surgery to deform the beautiful way that God created them.

With a recounting of her childhood, teenage years, and the very brief courtship she shared with her husband Mike, Kylie Bissuti makes a run at presenting a well rounded recounting of her life. Interwoven within all of it were the numerous moments of nagging doubt that she felt the urge to walk away and didn’t- starting with her HS boyfriend all the way up to the very uncomfortable party after winning the Victoria’s Secret modeling competition.

In the end this turned out not to be a book about modesty as much as it was about one young woman’s struggle to do the right thing. I didn’t come away from it feeling as if it had been a total waste of four and a half hours of my life, so that’s something.

Grade: C

Getting This Out of My System

This is my first and last rabbit trail post on anything concerning the 2016 election. However, given that I have three books on modesty in the queue, this latest Trump debacle has my wheels turning.This is actually a rehash of a comment I left elsewhere, with additional commentary.

The whole “Donald Trump is a misogynist!” thing is reaching a fever pitch now. Unnamed people are clamoring for the studio which produces the reality show The Apprentice to release any offensive outtake tapes they might have. I can’t figure out why this is being treated as if it is some kind of legal issue. Whatever I think about the things Trump said, no laws have been broken here. He still has a right of free speech.

As for “locker room talk”, my husband says he hasn’t engaged in a conversation of that nature in over two decades. He’s 43 years old.  Trump was in his 60’s sounding like a randy juvenile. I’m not buying that “all men” talk this way even as I completely am completely unperturbed by any of what was said. If anyone should be offended here, it’s Melania. The ink was barely dry on their marriage license and here he was going on about screwing other women. Talk about a short honeymoon phase! As for the electorate writ large, why all the pearl clutching about a crude man with a history of  womanizing saying crude things about women?

How hypocritical is it that the party of free love, female sex positivism and slut walks is now concerned about the dignity of women and girls? More than that, people are taking this nonsense seriously!

Heather MacDonald can get her grubby politics off my high heels and red lipstick thankyouverymuch, but besides that, she makes some excellent points here. Even if this sinks Trump, for those who don’t believe he’s a Clinton shill to begin with, we still end up with a disgusting old horn dog in the White House either way. That’s my take on the Trump tape scandal. A big ol’ yawn.

Side bar: We listen to local news for about an hour every morning at our house. All the campaign ads being run on air by Democrat candidates center 100% around the “facts” that GOP candidates are “anti-woman”, “Anti-choice”, and one chick is even running an ad that her GOP opponent “says marital rape should be legal”. Mind you, these ads were running before this latest confirmation of Trump crudeness surfaced.

Leaves me wondering what to make of all this. The entire Dem strategy is based around appealing to women, their sense of dignity and desire for power and acknowledgement of their “worth”. For example:


Now just you watch. Even after Hillary gets in there, we’ll still be hearing ad nauseum about the “oppression of women”. Hillary is to women what Obama is to blacks what George W. was to Christians. They poach them for votes but deliver zero goods.

For those of you who think women “have it made” in 2016 America, I beg to differ. No matter how many degrees we acquire, jobs we get or glass ceilings we shatter, a system which makes landing a good man to build a family with a Herculean task with low levels of success has failed its women right along with its men.

That’s my first and last post election 2016.

One Thousand Gifts


One Thousand Gifts: A dare to live fully right where you are, by Ann VosKamp. Originally published in 2011. 240 pages.

This is an updated and edited review from 2011. I took some time to re-read this book (re-skim is more accurate) since I find so often that my ways of viewing some things evolve as I grow older and, for lack of a better word, wiser.

Ann VosKamp’s grateful heart is evident on her blog which I  used to occasionally read. Because of that I decided to read her book when I usually run screaming from “Christian” books which make it onto the New York Times’ best seller list. I don’t do well with the most popular Christian works because the poor handling of Scripture makes me cringe.

However since this was a book about being thankful, one of my many weak areas, I gave it a go. I often struggled to be thankful, but have grown exponentially in this area since I first read this book 5 years ago.

 I’m not much of a poet, preferring to cut to the chase while skipping around in politically incorrect minefields despite my best efforts to be graceful when I write. I sometimes enjoy poetic language though, and Ann Voskamp  definitely has a poetic way of expressing her thoughts.  I admire her penchant for seeing the beauty in every little detail of her days.

Still, I questioned whether I could appreciate her flowery writing style in a book. Poetic language and extensive use of literary device is tolerable, even enjoyable in her blog posts broken up by pretty photographs, but I wasn’t sure I could do 200+ pages of it! With no pictures! If that wasn’t enough, before her book reached my doorstep I stumbled onto a controversy concerning the theology within it. I am thankful that I embarked on a reduction of Internet time just as I began to read it because I don’t know that I could have fully appreciated it if I was still sifting through the critiques it sparked. We’ll get to my thoughts on all that in a bit, because I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have some.

As I began to read the book,  I related to Mrs. VosKamp a bit. I, a city girl and fledgling gardener who kills more seedlings than I harvest every spring, who’s never even seen a snowflake, found that I liked this Canadian homeschooling mother and  farmer’s wife as I read One Thousand Gifts.

Throughout my life I have come to sense people who know what it is to experience a ripping away of the veil of innocence and beauty in life at an age too tender to absorb it, all while being taught that we are being cared for by a God who is infinitely good. There are times in my life, in my Christian walk, when I’ve wondered if this would be easier had I heard the name of Jesus for the first time as an adult, from the booming voice of some random street preacher. If I were more like my husband, whose faith has always been rooted in a certainty.

Would the Good News have been better received by me had it not been News I’d heard preach as far back as I can remember? Would the goodness of God seem more real if it wasn’t competing with the questions that inevitably rest in the heart of every child whose life is marked by the stinging pain of loss?   More importantly, I used to wonder if there was any other person who “gets” it. Ann Voskamp got it:

For years of mornings, I have woken wanting to die. Life itself twists into nightmares. For years, I have pulled the covers up over my head, dreading to begin another day I’d be bound to wreck. Years, I lie listening to the taunt of names ringing off my interior walls, ones from the past that never drifted far away: Loser. Mess. Failure. They are signs nailed overhead, nailed through me, naming me.

Funny, this. Yesterday morning, the morning before, all these mornings, I wake to the discontent of life in my skin. I wake to self-hatred. To the wrestle to get t all done, the relentless anxiety that I am failing. Always,  the failing. I yell at children, fester with bitterness, forget doctor appointments, lose library books, live selfishly, skip prayer, complain, go to bed too late, neglect cleaning the toilets. I lived tired. Afraid. Anxious. Weary. Years, I feel it in the veins, the pulsing of ruptured hopes. Would I ever be enough, do enough?   (Excerpted from pages 26-27 of One Thousand Gifts)

I could’ve written those words myself. Actually, I couldn’t have written those words because I don’t write that way, but they resonate. Living every day desperately grasping for the illusion of control produced in me the very symptoms Ann penned above. We type A’s don’t particularly fancy the idea that we have no control over what happens to us. Despite the flowery language which I did eventually weary of, I read on to see how Mrs. VosKamp went from that level of dysfunction onto the NYT Bestseller list for writing a book about joyfully giving God thanks every day.

That’s what the book is; at least that’s how I read it. It is a testimony, the story of one woman’s journey from a life marred by pain and loss to a life full of gratitude for all the gifts God graciously bestows upon her each day, starting with the precious gift of His Son’s precious blood as a sacrifice for our sins. It is not an exploration of doctrinal teaching, though the gospel is woven throughout it for those who dare to look.

It was not an attempt to convince any other person to see the world through the eyes of the author, although I was certainly challenged to open my eyes to the blessings I take for granted every day.  It is a testimony of Ann Voskamp’s struggle to live a life of gratitude in a world where we are constantly receiving invitations to discontent. I know I have to shrug off the whispers that invade my consciousness, tempting me to gaze at the greener grass on the other side. The other side always beckons us to neglect the abundant blessings God has given us today. This book did exactly what the subtitle says. It dared me to live fully right where I am by practicing the Scriptural command to give thanks in everything.

As for the controversy concerning a particular use of terminology near the end of One Thousand Gifts: I can appreciate the discomfort some bloggers have expressed with the phraseology.  Mrs. Voskamp appears to conflate our spiritual relationship to God into what can be interpreted as a sexual relationship with expressions such as “making love to God” , “intercourse of the soul”, and “climax of joy.”  I wouldn’t have put it that way, to be sure, seeing that my perception of God tends to revolve around my relationship to Him as a beloved daughter to a merciful Father and less from the perspective of the bride of Christ. That’s because I think of the bride of Christ as the church universal rather than a personal connection between myself and God alone.

Is the intimacy Ann Voskamp referred to Scripturally sound? I’ll let the critics continue  to hash that one out. I can only speak for myself and say that I never got the impression that Mrs. Voskamp was saying that she experienced intimacy with God in a carnal way. When I put the book down after reading the last page, the thing that stayed with me was the challenge to give thanks in everything, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us.I wasn’t so offended by the metaphors used in that particular chapter that I couldn’t appreciate the book’s central theme.

I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to see a bowl of cheese or bubbles in dishwater the way Ann does.  I am either too “grounded” or too fearful of a theology that appears flaky to allow myself to view laundry as something to get giddy about. Life is sometimes hard, tears are warranted, and sometimes even anger is warranted. I still feel a burden to use my small platform to speak about hard things and yes, rock the boat.

However, I have begun occasionally to write the things I am grateful for at the start and close of the day. I recently took notice of the pink wildflowers growing in the median of a 6-lane highway. I hate 6 lane highways. I’m usually too focused on where I’m going to notice things like that. I’m amazed at how little I desire as I focus on what I have. And for that I am thankful. Thankful that God used Ann Voskamp’s journey to remind me that no matter how badly I’ve been hurt or how much I’ve lost in my life, God has given me so much more.

Grade: B-



El’s Rabbit Trails:Don’t believe the hype.

This is why we Floridians don’t heed warnings to evacuate from the hype master ratings chasers known as the news media.

Beach dwellers took a hit, which is to be expected. However given that our local news said Matthew would be “worse than Charley“, who tore off our roof, uprooted our oak tree, and tore apart our fencing, this turned out to be equivalent to an extended version of the typical Florida afternoon thunderstorm.

Our 10-year-old called this the “lamest hurricane ever”. Her parents on the other hand, are very thankful for the preservation of life, health and property. We are probably most grateful for the fact that we do not need to contact our homeowner’s insurance company.

It sucks that we have to go un-board everything, but we are more thankful than anything else.

Thanks for the prayers and well wishes.