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Posts Tagged ‘notes from the tilt a whirl’

Books I briefly review in this post (click to jump to a specific book):

My Top 6

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl by N.D. Wilson

Future Men by Douglas Wilson

CrossTalk by Michael Emlet

The Cure of Melancholy by Richard Baxter

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

Dracula by Bram Stoker


Other Interesting Reads

ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Tipping Point/Blink/Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis


Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl by N.D. Wilson

Give me priests. Give me men with feathers in their hair or tall domed hats, female oracles in caves, servants of the python, smoking weed and reading palms. A gypsy fortune-teller with a foot-pedal Ouija board and a gold fishbowl for a crystal ball knows more about the world than many of the great thinkers of the West.

What more can I say about this book than what I’ve said in this post? This is easily the best book I’ve read all year, a profound read that has impacted my theology, how I view creation, how I trust God in hard circumstances, and the very vocabulary I use now. Wilson’s book is an absolute must-read that has blown away everyone I know who has read it.

Future Men by Douglas Wilson

Great lessons can be acquired by small boys in a small garden. A rich farmer was once rebuked for having his sons work in the fields when they didn’t have to. His reply was apropos to this discussion. He wasn’t raising corn, he explained, he was raising boys. Boys therefore should be learning to be patient, careful, and hard-working.

Doug Wilson, N.D. Wilson’s father, has tremendous thoughts here for dads of sons, as well as daughters. Wilson’s wit always cracks me up and it’s always directed with a purpose. I appreciated the amount that he has to say here but also how well Wilson simplifies things and doesn’t merely give a recipe. Wilson is centered on the gospel and the centrality of God’s glory and it taints all his writing here about guiding sons into becoming men.

The point of discipline with boys is to channel and direct their energy into an obedient response to the cultural mandate. It is not to squash that energy, destroying it or making it sullen.

CrossTalk by Michael Emlet

We confess that all of Scripture is helpful for all of life, but that’s not the way the Bible actually functions in our lives and ministries. The challenge is not just in moving from present-day problems to the Scriptures. Many modern-day struggles and problems don’t seem to be addressed in the Scriptures.

I’ve already written a review here but I’ll just say again not to be intimidated by a book that seems to be more geared towards being an effective counselor for others. The first 6 chapters are extremely helpful in understanding and studying the Bible and see the Word with new eyes.

The Cure of Melancholy by Richard Baxter

And so, if he[Satan] can cast you into melancholy, he can easily tempt you to overmuch sorrow and fear, and to distracting doubts and thoughts, and to murmur against God, and to despair, and still think that you are undone, undone;

This is an excellent book, written in the 1682, by Richard Baxter, in which Baxter shows remarkable understanding of depression and deep discouragement. Read my thoughts here and here.

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

What a fool, quoth he, am I, thus to lie in a stinking Dungeon, when I may as well walk at Liberty. I have a Key in my bosom called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any Lock in Doubting Castle.

I finally got around to reading this classic this past summer and I was not disappointed. Bunyan wrote the book in the mid 1600s and, through the help of John Owen, it was published in 1678. It is still one of the bestselling books of all time, second only to the Bible! Yes, the English is old and it starts a bit slow but give it a shot and you will find yourself encouraged by it. When you read it, remember that Bunyan likely wrote it while languishing in prison for 12 years because he refused to stop sharing the gospel.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

My friends, this is much, it is a terrible task that we undertake, and there may be consequence to make the brave shudder. For if we fail in this our fight he must surely win, and then where end we? Life is nothings, I heed him not. But to fail here, is not mere life or death. It is that we become as him, that we henceforward become foul things of the night like him, without heart or conscience, preying on the bodies and the souls of those we love best. To us forever are the gates of heaven shut, for who shall open them to us again? We go on for all time abhorred by all, a blot on the face of God’s sunshine, an arrow in the side of Him who died for man. But we are face to face with duty, and in such case must we shrink?

I wrote about this book not long ago here and here and I’ll say it again: I loved this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, loved the thrill, the characters and their love for one another, the masculinity and femininity displayed, Van Helsing, and theme of the sovereignty of God grounding everything. The last quarter of the book is such a ride.

Other Interesting Reads

ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Why don’t we just call plans what they really are: guesses. Start referring to your business plans as business guesses, your financial plans as financial guesses, and your strategic plans as strategic guesses. Now you can stop worrying about them as much. They just aren’t worth the stress.

I read this book most recently out of any of the books on this list and I’m still processing the paradigm shift Fried and Hansson present here. I don’t like most business philosophy “most effective people” leadership type books but I enjoyed and was stirred up by this one. From their thoughts on professionalism to changes in the workplace to trusting employees to encouraging inspiration, you will not be disappointed in taking the time to read this. I started reading this on a Friday afternoon and finished it about 24 hours later!

What is it about growth and business? Why is expansion always the goal? What’s the attraction of big besides ego? (You’ll need a better answer than “economies scale.”) What’s wrong with finding the right size and staying there?

The Tipping Point/Blink/Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Out of the Gladwell triumvirate, my favorite was Blink. Gladwell’s writing is very easy to read and the research he chooses to pull together is very fascinating. Why did I like “Blink?” The best thing that I took from this book is how we can transform our involuntary responses by training and by what we think about. This book is a demonstration of Romans 12:2 and power of our minds. We cannot overcome sin apart from the Holy Spirit’s power working in our hearts but the Holy Spirit will not work against us – we need to be diligent.

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

Could I really call this an enjoyable read? Not really, but I both identified with CS Lewis in how his grief is displayed as well as many places where his grief seems wholly his own. That’s why this book is so valuable and worth reading – CS Lewis’ processing of the death of his wife displays what a fog grief can be, how it is truly different for everyone and yet how there are commonalities for all of us who have deeply grieved. If grief is relatively foreign to you, read this book and immerse yourself in the chaos and process that Lewis goes through and so vulnerably displays. If grief is fresh for you, read this book and let Lewis help you walk through it.


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There can be no easily believable explanation for everything I’ve seen in this little ball-happy universe of ours. Occam’s well-worn razor will do us no good. There will be no “simplest” explanation. A single world combining galaxies, black holes, Jerry Seinfeld, over 300,000 varieties of beetle, Shakespeare, adrenal glands, professional bowling, and the bizarre reproductive patterns of wasps (along with teams of BBC cameramen to document them), precludes easily palatable explanations.

I have never read a book quite like “Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl” by N.D. Wilson. Wilson attempts to refresh our wonder in the world while crushing humanistic philosophy, the problem of evil, and the theory of evolution. He also managed to take a bite out of my own self-importance in the process. Wilson takes a look at ants having colossal battles on the sidewalk (and decapitating earwigs), wasps flying through underground tunnels, butterflies defying skepticism, sorority girls crashing their bikes, the beauty and yet lack of scarcity of snowflakes, and much more. Do I think about this crazy world I live in? Do I think about how I really shouldn’t be here? Do I think about the Narrator who speaking and holding all of it together by mere words from His mouth?

Ex Nihilo

In the Christian story, the material world came into existence at the point of speech, and that speech was ex nihilo, from nothing.

We live because He speaks. We breath because God gives us breath. That pile of dog poo that you just stepped in exists because God speaks it there ex nihilo. There are no accidents. There is nothing out of his hands. He speaks and gives live and gives children and barbecued steaks as well cancer and death ex nihilo.

Destroying my self-importance

Tell me what you want me to do, God. Speak to me (in English, please) and tell me if I should take this job in Des Moines or stay closer to my mother. Then, because their part in this story does not include cosmic voice-overs in English, they enter into an existential crisis. They begin to “doubt.”

What kind of story do you think this is? I have no problem with the pettiness of your Des Moines dilemma. The world spins on through space, bowled up by its Maker. The sun burns on, hot with His words, and yet He still crafts every snowflake without digital shortcuts. He knows that you want to move to Des Moines and yet you feel guilty. He wrote the story. He crafted your character.

How often do I get caught up in my own story, in my own life and struggles and disappointments and joys? How often do I try to craft my day around me and only me? I so often miss the context of this created world we live in and get in a rut simply because I woke up later than I wanted to or because the traffic is moving so unbelievably slow or even because my pizza was 1 degree too cold than I prefer. I need to wake up! I play a small part in a larger story! I live on a planet moving mach 86 around a massive flaming ball while also spinning a few hundred miles per hour around its own axis. Yet somehow I can walk around on it and breath and not fly off. Do I think about that? Do I think about God holding all things together by the mere power of His word? Ex nihilo.

The problem of evil

The existence of evil in Hamlet in no way implies that Shakespeare lacked control of his art, or that he was evil. The implication that Shakespeare didn’t exist is even more outlandish. No doubt he wept for Ophelia, and his tears were not false.

I appreciate how Wilson takes on the problem of evil in a way I’ve never seen before. The problem of evil is not a logical problem but a personal one. This world of wonder is both beautiful and terrifying, both delightful and dangerous. We view the incredible beauty of a mountainside at sunset only to then watch an avalanche crush everything and everyone in its path below it. But it is not random. The Narrator is not asleep at the typewriter or indifferent to His cast.

The problem of evil is a genuine problem, an enemy with sharp pointy teeth. But it is not a logical problem. It is an emotional one, an argument from Hamlet’s heartache and from ours. It appeals to our pride and our nerve endings. We do not want to hear an answer that puts us so low. But the answer is this: we are very small.

We are small but we are not ignored or forgotten and we have a Creator who not only speaks this world into existence ex nihilo but stepped into this world willingly, a lowering much more significant than even us going to the ants.

How much do I care for these ants? I think I care. I’ll stop to watch their wars. I’ll buy my children documentaries – insect tributes. I won’t crush them when I can help it. But if given the chance, would I be willing to become one of them? Would I be willing for them to drag me to the place of execution, taunt me, mock me, ridicule the gift I offered, a gift entirely beyond their comprehension? Would I be willing for the earwig, executed beside me, to add his insults to those of the ants? Would I be willing to die? Hell no. Never. I have more self-regard than God does. I have less love for the characters beneath me.

I could go quoting and discussing this book, but I’ll stop there. Read this book and be encouraged that there is God who made you, knows you, spoke this world into existence ex nihilo and is still speaking. Listen to Him.

UPDATE 4/22/11

They have put together a film based on the book that looks tremendous. They’re calling it a “bookumentary.” Check out the trailer: 

You can pre-order it now at http://www.notesfromthetiltawhirl.com/. I couldn’t help it – I ordered it as soon as I watched the trailer!

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