Saturday, November 28, 2020

Tiny Devotional for Saturday, 11-28-2020

A great good morning to my friends and neighbors in Internet Land! And to family members who have dropped by, I hope you have had the right amounts of food, company and rest.

One who conceals his wrongdoings will not prosper,
But one who confesses and abandons them will find compassion.
Proverbs 28:13, NASB

You can find goodness in all sorts of things; this morning, I dropped my pie on the floor, and, after I muttered, I was GLAD the floor was clean. Yes, I ate the pie.

Some goodness is better than others. The goodness I’ve found in confessing and abandoning my wrong-doing is nothing short of magnificent.  If this was an autobiography of more than 300 words, I could provide many examples, but let me just give one from this week.

Tuesday morning, we went for our drive-through  COVID-19 tests. It was COLD and windy, but we stayed in the truck. A young lady came to record our info; I provided mine, but when she asked 16-year-old Kenneth for his, he had spaced out. I smacked him upside the head (lightly), and called him a moron for not paying attention to the lady standing in the windy cold. 

He didn’t say anything, but I could see I had embarrassed him. So, when we arrived home, I sent Alicia inside, and I apologized to him for treating him that way in front of others.

He cheered up immediately; he thanked ME for my apology! 

I told him of a boss who dressed me down in public, so he knew I understood. Then, I gave him permission to jack ME up, if I ever humiliated him in front of others again. 

And that’s how Papa found compassion. 

Peace be on your household.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Tiny Devotional for RED and BLACK Friday, 11-27-2020

A great good UGA (RED and BLACK) Friday to all my friends and neighbors out there in Internet Land! And to family members who have dropped by, GO YELLOW JACKETS!

One who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning,
It will be considered a curse to him.

Proverbs 27:14, NASB

Startled Awake

Meditate on this verse. If you don’t see both humor and wisdom, meditate some more. 

If a proverb is funny AND wise, how do you apply it?

On a cherished spiritual-renewal retreat, it is a tradition that workers wake participants on Sunday  by parading through the sleeping areas, singing loudly. 

I am not a person who wakes up sweetly. I didn’t like the tradition when I was a participant; I didn’t like it on those occasions when I was blessed to serve as a worker. 
I murmured mild protest, until a retreat in April of 2001, when I was vociferous in my criticism of the practice. 
The leaders didn’t comprehend my objection, even after I cited this verse, but told me that I didn’t have to participate.

I woke before dawn, with a high fever,  in intense pain. Scar tissue had strangled my intestines, as it turned out, but we didn’t know that. 
At first, the leaders thought I was still objecting to the morning singing, until they took my temp.
With hands-on prayer from my friend David, my symptoms eased. I was able to finish the retreat. 
(A week later, emergency surgery fixed the strangulation.)
Those are facts; do they contain wisdom?
Today, I realized that a wise, humorous truth must be implemented with humor. It’s not a club to beat people with, or prove your virtue. 
I make no further claim linking facts with wisdom.

Peace be on your household.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Tiny Devotional for Thanksgiving Day, 11/26/2020

A HAPPY THANKSGIVING DAY to all my friends and neighbors in Internet Land! And to family members who have dropped by, we have four home-made sweet potato pies, and if I had these when I was little, I never would have looked at pumpkin pie.

Do not answer a fool according to his foolishness,
Or you will also be like him.
Answer a fool as his foolishness deserves,
So that he will not be wise in his own eyes.

Proverbs 26:4-5, NASB

Concerning questions and answers:
Some questions are traps, often more sinister than “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

“Does this dress make me look fat?” 

Gentlemen, the best response to that question is to fake a heart attack. Or actually have one, if you can’t fake it, but that may be taking it a bit too far. It’s up to you.

Questions that are asked by people who are really seeking answers deserve the best you have. Sometimes, the best you have is “I don’t know.” If you can refer the person to someone who MIGHT know, do that.

Fools ask questions, and then answer them.  It’s to “prove” some obscure point no one is interested in, or to deflect attention away from some personal short-coming:
“Well, what about…” followed by some inane exception to a common principle. 

Context matters, and it’s context which tells you whether you are dealing with a fool or a truth-seeker.  For fools, I think the best response is "purple." True, it's a non-sequitur, but the fool isn't interested in wisdom anyway, and "purple" is more fun to say than most words. 
It will also demonstrate that you aren’t interested in engaging at that level, and it saves words and time.
It's up to you.

Peace be on your household.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Academic Magic. Book One, by Becky R Jones

A great good evening to all my friends and neighbors in Internet Land! And to family members who have dropped by, DON’T PANIC! Yes, the LIBRARY is closed, but there are still lots of things to read online.

The cover art, and an Amazon Associates link. Click it, buy something, and I get a referral fee.

Zoe O’Brien, Ph.D., is a relatively new hire in the history department at Summerfield College, a smallish liberal arts institution located in metro Philadelphia. As such, she has the standard concerns of junior faculty everywhere: committee assignments (boring, tedious); teaching freshman level survey courses (boring, tedious); cranking out research papers (varies); living without tenure (moderately terrifying, in a diffuse sense); no romantic life (although that one guy is cute); caring for two obnoxious and demanding (but I am redundant) cats; hallucinating squirrel behavior (disturbing).

That last bit is new, and it is occurring exactly in the same manner as the other items don’t. Everything else is simply a slightly accelerated and enhanced (as in the cats) version of her life as a graduate student. Not the squirrels! Not only does she see them sitting in a circle, but one of them persists in waving at her. 
If only she didn’t have obligations! She could just leave, or check into an asylum, or something. However, she had not been able to resist buying a house near the school; thus, she is tied down. A bit. So, she resists engaging the squirrels, and she DEFINITELY resists talking to her colleagues about it.

Zoe is not ignorant of strange events (and she is no stranger to ignorant events), at least not of  historical strange events. Her concentration in Medieval European history gave her a strong foundation in the types of behaviors termed magical, as well as the reaction of surrounding societies. However, scholarly skepticism and a modern view of Life, The Universe, and Everything gave her confidence that what one age termed "witchcraft" was simply…something else. Her confidence already shaken by what she THINKS she saw, she is further challenged by the conviction of her closest friend Mark, and his husband David, that just because the belief is medieval, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Thus, when she discovers two squirrels waiting for her when she goes to work the next day, she braves the unknown, and speaks politely to them. And they return the courtesy, and make arrangements to meet with her, in her office. 
This is unbelievable! NONE of the squirrels I have experience with have EVER shown consideration for office hours!

I’m not going to tell you that her cats talk to her that evening, but her cats talk to her that evening.

All of this inter-species communication has a point: there is something that feels nasty about the main administration building, and the squirrels need her help. And so they come to a junior member of the faculty, non-tenured, and ask her to speak to her department head, and mentor, on their behalf; a person who will certainly have a significant role to play on whether she is offered a tenured position. So, she pulls out a double-barreled shotgun, and blasts them both into Squirrel Heaven, figuring that a firearms charge will have less impact on her future than interceding for tree rats with a senior faculty member
(No, she doesn’t do that. This story has no shotguns.)

What it does have is a lovely fantasy, spread over a very true-to-life depiction of a college campus. This happens to be something I know about, having worked in higher education for over seven years. Jones is spot-on with her descriptions of mind-numbing committee meetings and office politics. I think I may have even worked with one or more of the characters she describes. Thus, the story has a special charm for me.
Even those who haven’t spent much time in the ivory towers can find much to appreciate about this tale of an intelligent young prof, confronted by the impossible. Her conversations with her cats alone make it worth the read. Add in wicked witches, winos, wise wizards, and a whining woman-parent, and the alliteration will take you home.

Peace be on your household.

Tiny Devotional for Wednesday, 11/25/2020

A great GOOD MORNING BEFORE THANKSGIVING DAY to all my friends and neighbors out there in Internet Land! And, to family members who have dropped by, the feast will be prepared. 

Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar on soda,
Is one who sings songs to a troubled heart.

Proverbs 25:20, NASB

Shocking wisdom! Utterly contrary to popular culture, for the VAST majority of my life.

In approximate order, the wisdom of my age is:

Make love, not war.
Give peace a chance.
Everybody get together, try to love one another.
Have a nice day.
Have a Coke and a smile!
I’m okay, you’re okay.
Don’t worry, be happy.

Movies and TV programs condensed great tales of loss and passion into a few moments, so that the hero could love, lose, and love again, presented in bite-sized chunks interposed between Words From Our Sponsor. 

In reaction to the clich̩ of years spent in psychoanalysis, pop psychology emerged. It popped. A few decades later , insurance companies clamped down on mental health benefits. Counselors in training were prepared for Brief Therapy, intended to run no more than 4 Р6 sessions. Consider it as drive-through food for the heart and soul.

 Solomon says: Nope.

A troubled heart needs time; it doesn’t need to be cheered up. 
The first, best thing Job’s friends did: they sat in silence with him, seven days and nights. (Job 3:13)

I know of two (bad) reasons that people try to cheer up the grieving:

1. They don’t know WHAT to do.
2. The other’s grief makes them uncomfortable.

So, they sing songs to the troubled heart, and say, ”Cheer up!”

Don’t do that; just be silent and available. You WILL be needed. Later.

Peace be on your household.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Tiny Devotional for Tuesday, 11/24/2020

A great good morning to my friends and neighbors in Internet Land! And to family members who have dropped by: we got our COVID test this morning.

Prepare your work outside,
And make it ready for yourself in the field;
Afterward, then, build your house.

Proverb 24:27, NASB

The proverb speaks of fields and outside work, but it translates perfectly to a day in which few of us make our living via agriculture. I was programmed by my family to go to college, which was a pretty lofty goal for a child of a single mom, living on a dirt road in the 1950s. It’s might be their second greatest gift, only surpassed by the examples they set of a Christian life. 

I don’t know that I ever seriously considered entering the world of work right out of high school. I worked, of course, starting at age 13, shining shoes in a barber shop. At first, it was a fun diversion from homework, but it was mandatory after my 16th birthday, for reasons (third greatest gift?). But always, I knew that whatever my career turned out to be, I had to get the prep for it by going to college, which I started in 1971.
It didn’t work out QUITE the way we planned, which was four years to get a degree, then become a teacher. That path WOULD have worked, though, and with some EXTREME modifications, it DID work. Twenty years later, I started my career.

Today, a four-year liberal arts degree isn’t The Golden Ticket it was for my generation. Technical training opportunities are both available and attractive. Regardless, the wisdom of the proverb endures: make sure you have means to support a family, before you have one.

Peace be on your household.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Under the Earthline (Sons of Martha #3), by Laura Montgomery

Good evening, to all my friends and neighbors in Internet Land! And, to family members who have dropped by: “How could anyone ever be cross, with turkey and dressing and cranberry sauce?” 
I’d answer that, but since I’m already known as a GRINCH, never mind.

What follows is the cover art, AND an Amazon Associates link. Click it and buy something, and I get a few pennies.

Let me give you a small illustration of how I feel about this book:  A short while ago, I discovered that the latest episode of “The Mandalorian” had been released. I chose to review the book, instead of heading to the Disney Channel.

Four Preliminaries.

1. Background. This is the THIRD book in the “Sons of Martha” series, and to be properly understood, you must have read volumes 1 and 2. Let me put that in perspective for you: before I can properly enjoy the third kiss with my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, I must first give her the first and second kisses. Montgomery’s words are kisses for the reader, lovely invitations to get to know the characters, and understand HOW and WHY they do the things they do. Trust me on this: you will not want to miss the first two books.

Now, PRIOR to the Sons of Martha, Montgomery published the three-volume Waking Late series, which is set on the same world. I don’t really think that you MUST read that series first, but it’s likely you will have to play some catch-up. The world of both series is referred to as NWWWLF, and acronym: Not What We Were Looking For. There are MAJOR difficulties with turning NWWWLF into a place that will support humans, and most of the explanation is in the first series. I’d recommend that you read that series, without a doubt, but you don’t HAVE to read it first.

2. Foreknowledge. Coming into this third book, second series, I quickly became aware of just how much more I knew about the situation than all of the characters, most particularly Thaddeus, the protagonist. Nothing for it; it’s like knowing that Anakin Skywalker is going to grow up to be Darth Vader. Even so, I wanted to reach into the world described, grab certain of the characters, and INSIST that they not go there and do that.

3. Suspense. Montgomery does not treat her readers to the draining experiences favored by an elderly gent with too many initials; namely to make a habit of creating compelling characters, and then defenestrating or decapitating them casually and frequently. However, she HAS killed mainline characters JUST enough that you can’t follow the story without some edge-of-your-seat time. It’s a feature; it’s not a bug. This is not the kind of suspense found in a cheap slasher movie, with cheap thrills provided by killers leaping out from behind the door. This suspense comes from not knowing whether the hero can pull his plan off, or will end the book incarcerated, alone, dead, or sent into exile without a towel.

4. The Bible and Rudyard Kipling. The series title, “Sons of Martha,” is taken from the Rudyard Kipling poem of the same name. It addresses the hard workers of the world, the engineers and grease-knuckled doers, who devote their lives to making sure that the powerful forces of nature and industry are harnessed. Kipling took his inspiration from an incident presented in the 10th chapter of the Gospel According to Saint Luke, in which the hard-working Martha chastises Jesus for allowing her younger sister to ignore all the dinner preparations. Kipling pretends that all who serve others in dark, dirty jobs are the spiritual children of Martha, condemned to labor while others play.


The characters. All of the players on the planet are descended from people from Earth, but there has been some differentiation. The ruling class is descended from settlers on Mars, an outcome not anticipated by the folks who set out on the mission. Beneath them are the people who came from Earth, and that class is further divided into those with Earth-normal physiology, and those with enhanced strength and senses, distinguished by a pair of horns growing from their heads; these are called ‘pan’. 

Further divisions have been created based on where the characters live, with a mostly-urban class, the WestHem farmers, those who split off and started a second settlement, and the unfortunate Sleepers. This last division consists of the original colonists, who are kept in suspended animation, and revived one at a time, solely to provide their skill-set to further the work of the settled classes. Think of them as frozen yogurt; except without the power.

The story. In previous installments, Peter Dawes, a young pan farmer, grows more resentful of the government men who invaded WestHem, and disarmed the population. He develops a plan to steal the blasters back, but is forced by his tyrannical father to take his nasty-but-charming-to-some brother Simon with him. Simon is killed on the otherwise successful expedition, and Peter is labeled an outlaw by the oppressive governor and his cadre. To avoid capture and prevent reprisals against his family, Peter flees to the outskirts of settled land, where his oldest brother has a farm. Things happen, but the event of primary significance is the discovery of a new territory being developed by some of the more adventurous settlers. 

As the story opens, Peter’s older brother Thaddeus must respond to a request/demand by Dietrich Bainbridge, the governor’s chief agricultural officer. Ostensibly, Bainbridge wants Thaddeus to come advise him on agricultural policy, but the threatening tone used shows that he will be used in some way to atone for Peter’s actions, or at least be punished for them.

Maxwell, a friend and imitator of the deceased nasty-but-charming-to-some Simon, will also be going to the palace, where they will have contact with the beautiful Harriet, Maxwell’s cousin and target of Dietrich’s affections.

Despite my muttering “Do Not Go To That Treacherous Man, He Hates You And Has A Horrible Plan For Your Life,” Thaddeus proceeds, as he has managed to extract a promise from Dietrich that he can access the library, as well as the computer network.

And things develop.



Conflicts over class distinctions, and access to technology, provide the structure for the story, but the individual players do all the driving. This is NOT a gadget story; it’s a people story. The main characters become alive, as Montgomery gives us access to their thoughts, and thus, WE never have any confusion about the reasons for their actions. Sometimes they are confused about each other, a truth of human nature. It makes them real.


Again unlike the hyper-initialed gent, Montgomery ONLY leaves the overall story development unresolved, while closing out, quite nicely, the human interest conflicts and alliances that are the primary allure of these works. 

My conclusion.

I often find myself disgusted by the paucity of interest in the work of a gifted author, and that is DEFINITELY the case with Montgomery’s work. Her works should be on best-seller lists! It is probably an unavoidable consequence of the open field made possible by indie status and Amazon publication practices. In a field of hundreds of books, it’s tough to get noticed, even if a majority of the other works are dreck written by silly people who don’t know how to use punctuation, much less write a coherent and compelling story. 
I console myself somewhat by recalling that in decades past, when publishing houses had a stranglehold on what reached the consumer, an artist like Montgomery might have had nothing more than a few boxes of rejected manuscripts. At LEAST, her work is available, and I can but hope that at some point, she, and other talented writers like her, will get the recognition they deserve. It’s ONE of the reasons I write reviews.

Peace be on your household.