Monthly Archives: December 2020

Setting Intentions and Goals for 2021

I want to do some goal setting for 2021.

2020 was a hot mess! I cannot change the world in 2021, but I can change my little corner of it - meaning I can set goals that will improve me.

Oola goal setting looks interesting and I think I'll use that as a starting point. I am *NOT* going to set a bunch of goals for January 1 and get overwhelmed. I'll pick a goal or two, and create a habit a week...we'll see.

Oola has 7 life areas that keep us centered: family, faith, friends, field (career), fitness, finance, fun. I suppose that when I was typing these from memory that the one I couldn't remember is the one that I "scored" the lowest on!

One caution, if you're a stay-at-home wife - one of the field questions is whether or not your job could support you. I work part time so my answer is near the bottom, individually. I answered the finance questions as a family unit, since my husband and I are a team, but the "field" questions are rigged for independence.

Fitness is my first goal areas. Exercise 5x/week.

There! Easy Peasy!

I have a couple of BIG goals for this year.

  1. hike to the top of Job's Peak - it's not as bad as it looks; the trail head is on the back side of the range. It's a strenuous hike and it has amazing views. I can see this peak from my office window, so to see my house from the top would be amazing.
Job's Peak, taken with my iPhone, at the corner by my house.

2. Make my weight goal (about 50 pounds to lose). I have the tools, now I need to strength.

3. Start logging miles on the Tahoe Rim Trail, with the longer terms goal of backpacking part of the Pacific Crest Trail.

About Deacon King Kong

James McBride wrote “Deacon King Kong” in third-person narration, hopping back and forth between characters.  Set in 1960’s New York City, the story begins with an act that makes so sense. The story ends about the same...making no sense.

As the book goes on, you do get the feel of the back story – living in Black New York City. You see the business of dealing or using drugs, getting “stuck” in this life with no way out. 

When I reached the halfway point in the book, I realized that I kept picking it up for no other reason other than I had committed to read it in a “reading challenge.”  After finishing the story, I still cannot discern the main message.  I can pick out several possibilities, but only one that has any sort of closure.

About the story

The basic story begins as the main character (Sportcoat) shoots a drug dealer and sets off a comical series of mishaps that ricochet throughout the book.  From undercover cops, to mob bosses, to drug distributors, to preacher’s wives…they all interact in some interesting and improbably ways.

This book received an astonishing number of outstanding reviews – including Oprah and Barack Obama. This does not leave me with much confidence in their tastes in books.  But so many recommendations leave me wondering if I wandered off into the twilight zone.

I read enough fiction books that keep me reading to find out where the characters end up and what their lives look like.  “Deacon King Kong” had so little character development that I had little or no interest in them.  What does Sportcoat like?  Other than King Kong (homemade adult beverage) I’m not sure what he wants.

Not Recommended

I did find that they book requires so little brain energy that if a reader wants “cotton candy for the brain” (not very filling with no nutritional value) – Deacon King Kong might fit those taste buds.

James McBride has written a number of other books (I have not read any of them so I can’t compare) and I don’t think I will read more of his works. 

Nor would I recommend Deacon King Kong. There’s just not enough character or plot development, no closure on the big story lines and too few interesting plots.


Once in a while you come across a book that you just cannot figure out why you still pick it up. I put "Deacon King Kong" in my "WHY?" category.

Some fiction books keep me reading to find out what happens with a particular character. Does he survive? Do they find love? Does she enjoy life?

None of the characters in this book catch my attention.

The main character is Sport Coat --AKA Deacon King Kong, as he says he is a deacon at a church and his adult beverage of choice is a homemade concoction called "King Kong"

Sport Coat talks to his dead wife (she talks back), shoots a local drug dealer, unknowingly acts as a gardener for a mob boss's mother, thwarts a hit man (three times) and drunkenly moves through life without a clue.

The story line moves between Sport Coat, a local drug supplier and the mob boss. I am not sure how they intertwine.

I'm 80% done with the book and I'm not sure where it's going and the only reason I pick it up is because I put it in my "published in 2020"

Barack Obama named it as one of his favorite books of the year...this does nothing for my estimation of Barack Obama.

We're being "pretty safe" - masks everywhere, no crowded places, social distancing, just a little socializing. But writing about COVID-19 and me...the emotions are all over the place

The Explosion of COVID-19

We went to church on November 1, and have not been back since. We were planning on having some vulnerable people for Thanksgiving dinner, so we planned on being as safe as possible for their sake. Our church is doing church God's way - and nobody is turned away so there's little opportunity for "social distancing". Masks are a matter of conscience so there's no guarantee that those who have the virus are not spreading it.

COVID has exploded in our county. Since we only had 35(ish) cases in our county since the beginning, we didn't feel as though we were risking others to go. I checked our county's counter on Thanksgiving Day and there were 346 active cases...and 30 in our church...yikes! In the space of three weeks, we were over 900. At that point we felt really okay with our choice to not be in church.

The Current Situation

New cases in our county are starting to decrease. One next door neighbor (a couple) both had it. A local nurse lives on the other side and said that it's as bad as they say (our local hospital only has 32 beds)

The Emotional Impact of COVID

I miss going to church. I miss hearing the voices of the saints gathered around me in worship. Live-streaming is not the same and I can't listen to the music or I just sit there and cry.

The wise thing to do is to stay home for now. My kids are coming into town on Christmas Day and will be in three different airports. I don't want to add an extra layer of exposure.

Processing the "why"

My dad told my husband, about five weeks before he died, "take care of my little girl." Part of doing that is keeping me safe, even when it's hard to be safe. Honoring my husband and my father means being content and helping Phil keep me safe.

Our pastor put out a video-devotional and asked, "do we need to be afraid of COVID? No."

The first reason is that for a Christian, there are worse things that dying. True, but I have a hard time making a life or death decision for somebody else, especially those family members who are not believers.

The second reason is that COVID really has a pretty low death rate. True, but the long-term affects can be pretty bad. We saw a man at the gas station who could barely walk...he said that it was neurological side-effects of COVID. So even with a low death rate, *NOT* dying could leave me being a burden on my husband, and more.

The third reason is that we should trust God. But...there is a line between trusting God and testing God and I want to be on the right side of that line. Asking God to protect us when we doing what we can to protect ourselves is one thing. Asking God to change the nature of how a virus works so that we don't have to do what we can to keep ourselves safe...that's another thing.

**NOTE: the line where people trust God or test God will be in different places for different people. Maybe it's a lack of trust that has me feeling that I'm testing Him. I have no judgement whatever (and perhaps feel a bit envious) toward those who are attending church services.

So...For Now

We're planning on socializing with families that we know are doing their best to be as safe as they can be, all things considered.

We're going to enjoy time with my kids, without going to crowded places.

After the holidays, we're going to stay away from church for the 10 days and revisit how we feel at that point, taking into consideration what the county numbers are.

At this point, I think that we're honoring God with out bodies by keeping our loved ones as safe as we can.

About the "reset"

I started to process, for my own benefit, Communion with God, using the "IEW" method, but it just wasn't working for me. So I "hit the reset" on it

People with reading disabilities should be able to have access to meaningful texts. I've self-published a book of Aesop's Fables that have been brought into alignment with the program that I use for tutoring, and I'm working on another.

I have decided to tackle a huge project - Communion With God.

Problems with the text

John Owen is difficult for me - there is archaic language, odd sentence structure, and complex words. Two of the "readability factors" are the number of words in a sentence, and the number of sentences that use the "passive voice". Owens loses on both.

Owen loves run on sentences and paragraphs that last for several pages.

He sometimes doesn't just say what he wants to say, he alludes to what he wants to say and then says it three sentences later.

Snippet of the Day

The manifestation of grace and pardoning mercy, which is the only door of entrance into any such communion, is not committed unto any but unto him alone in whom it is, by whom that grace and mercy was purchased, through whom it is dispensed, who reveals it from the bosom of the Father. Hence this communion and fellowship with God is not in express terms mentioned in the Old Testament. The thing itself is found there; but the clear light of it, and the boldness of faith in it, is discovered in the gospel, and by the Spirit administered therein.

Communion With God, John Owen, page 15.

The words I have the most problem with are manifestation (sounds like a ghost), dispensation (sounds like the rapture and tribulation) and administered (sounds like a school principal).

All of these words have a modern meaning and then they have the meaning that Owen used.

Owen is saying is that the saints of the Old Testament didn't enjoy the clear fellowship and full communion with God. Jesus had not yet been made incarnate and the church had not yet been given the Holy Spirit.

Communion and fellowship are there (in the Old Testament saints) but they are not clear and bold. This boldness and clear access to God is discovered in the gospel and it is shown to us by the Holy Spirit.

My writing above is a paraphrase, not a decoding.

The decoded version:

The only path into communion with God comes by the gift of grace and forgiving mercy. This gift is not given to everyone, but only those who whom grace and mercy are purchased. They come through Jesus Christ - the One the gifts flow through, and through the Holy Spirit - the One who reveals it from the heart of the Father.

This communion and fellowship with God is not found in plain terms in the Old Testament. Communion and fellowship are found there, but the clear language of them, and the boldness of faith are both discovered in the gospel and by the Spirit delivered in that gospel.

Quite a title, right? The image at the bottom of the post was put on facebook by a person I know, about atheists doing good works.

There's a lot packed in there...the image hints that

  • God created atheists as an object lesson
  • The good works of atheists are somehow more moral than the good works of believers
  • "True compassion" can only come from atheists, and good works in Christ are not "true compassion"
  • The Bible does have things to say about the good works of believers
  • The lesson of "true compassion" is the most important lesson of all.
  • When somebody turns to us for help, we should pretend there is no God
  • Believers don't help, they only pray.

Did God "create" atheists?

Human beings rebelled against God all by themselves.

Not only that, there are no true atheists, only those who lie to themselves and tell themselves they are atheists

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.

So they are without excuse.

Romans 1:17-20

Are the good works of atheists "moral"?

Here's where the difference between "total depravity" vs "utter depravity" comes in, and why that difference matters.

Utter depravity would mean that man is as bad, as corrupt, as he possibly could be. I don’t think that there’s a human being in this world who is utterly corrupt, but that’s only by the grace of God and by the restraining power of His common grace…….Total depravity, then, does not mean that men are as bad as they conceivably could be.

When the Protestant Reformers talked about total depravity, they meant that sin—its power, its influence, its inclination—affects the whole person. Our bodies are fallen, our hearts are fallen, and our minds are fallen—there’s no part of us that escapes the ravages of our sinful human nature. Sin affects our behavior, our thought life, and even our conversation. The whole person is fallen.

from Ligonier Ministries

The Bible tells us about the good works of the ungodly

For all of us have become like one who is unclean,

And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garments

Isaiah 64:6


For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin

Romans 14:23

What is "true compassion"?

The Greek that is translated "compassion" is σπλαγχνίζομαι (splagchnizomai) and it's a verb. You cannot feel compassion without doing compassion.

or...what good is compassion without works?

The Greeks evidently believed the bowels to be the seat of love and pity (I guess, when you're anxious, where do you feel it?) so the gist of this word is to be moved to action from your bowels with love and pity.

The Hebrew רָחַם (racham) is also a verb and means pretty much the same thing (without the bowel part)

True compassion is an action word, fueled by love and pity.

You don't need to be in rebellion to God to have true compassion.

What does the Bible say about the good works of believers?

The image hints that believers do good works because we're commanded to (no choice) whereas the atheist only does good works because of his higher morality (choice)

Christians do believe that we're commanded to good works. (1 Timothy 6:18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share)

We believe that these good works are waiting for us (Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.)

Question: Is it more or less "moral" to do good works to please God, or to please man?

What does the Bible say about the "most important lesson?

1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures

The lesson of God's love and redemption is the most important lesson in the Bible.

Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:29-31

(in order)

the lesson of first importance is that Christ died for our sins

The second lesson (teaching) is love God

After that, love your neighbor.

Should we EVER pretend there is no God?

For a Christian, that's just stupid on the face of it.

It ranks right up there is "Caesar is Lord"

All you have to do is deny God (or pretend He doesn't exist" and all will be right with the world.


So...what do we do when somebody asks for help?

The image hints that Christians pray that God will help the needy person but they don't do anything.

The image flat-out says that in order to help, you need to be an atheist.

Praying vs helping is a false dichotomy. There is no tension between praying for a person and helping a person.

The Bible tells us:

and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

James 2:16

So the idea that you have to be an atheist to help people is...stupid and anti-biblical.

My conclusion

The image/article had the purpose of making those in rebellion to God feel better about the things that they do.


an image from facebook

Call to worship, Psalms 102

a Psalm of lament - quite long...

 Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me
    in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me;
    answer me speedily in the day when I call!

Sermon Quote

"Man's maker was made man that he, Ruler of the starts, might nurse at Him mother's breast, that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey; that Truth might be accused of false witness the Teacher beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood, that Strength might grow weak, that the Healer might be wounded, that Life might die

Augustine of Hippo

This reading challenge helps organize reading patterns and introduce new books and genres that you might not ordinarily read.

Here are the "rules" - how it works.

I'll get a bit of a jump on it, I'll start with the light reading list and move on from there.

The light list:

  • a book published in 2020 0r 2021
  • a memoir or biography
  • a classic novel
  • a book by or about a pastor or a pastor's wife
  • a book about a book of the Bible
  • a book published by Zondervan
  • a book with the word "gospel" in the title or subtitle
  • a book about a current social issue
  • a book for children or teens
  • a book about theology
  • a book about Christian living
  • a book of your choice

the first book I'm planning was published on March 3, 2020, "Deacon King Kong"

The year is 1969. In a housing project in south Brooklyn, a shambling old church deacon called Sportcoat shoots - for no apparent reason - the local drug-dealer who used to be part of the church's baseball team. The repercussions of that moment draw in the whole community, from Sportcoat's best friend - Hot Sausage - to the local Italian mobsters, the police (corrupt and otherwise), and the stalwart ladies of the Five Ends Baptist Church.

DEACON KING KONG is a book about a community under threat, about the ways people pull together in an age when the old rules are being rewritten. It is very funny in places, and heartbreaking in others. From a prize-winning storyteller, this New York Times bestseller shows us that not all secrets are meant to be hidden, and that the communities we build are fragile but vital.

After that, "The Things We Couldn't Say"

Things We Couldn't Say is the true story of Diet Eman, a young Dutch woman, who, with her fiance, Hein Sietsma, risked everything to rescue imperiled Jews in Nazi-occupied Holland during World War II. Throughout the years that Diet and Hein aided the Resistance--work that would cost Diet her freedom and Hein his life--their courageous effort ultimately saved hundreds of Dutch Jews.

Here's the link to the post by Politichicks.

We (Phil and I) have been talking about changes in the future and thought that these changes were a few years away, but COVID-19 radically changed the time frame.

Key Phrase: The Great Reset

The promise is that this reset will bring us to a place that will "correct the world's economic ails" in a sustainable way.

from the website: The changes we have already seen in response to COVID-19 prove that a reset of our economic and social foundations is possible.

In short, we need a “Great Reset” of capitalism.

there are three main components:

  • "fairer outcomes" - NOT equal opportunities...equal outcomes.
  • Equality and sustainability - using "green" urban infrastructure, social and governance metrics.
  • harness the Fourth Industrial Revolution to support the "public good" *especially by addressing health and social challenges.

The main Great Reset "microsite"

Tony Marsh (politichicks) says the time frame has narrowed to 24 months.

The details of this Great Reset are vague but the direction is clear.

  • massive government intervention
  • wealth taxes (punish success)
  • Green New Deal programs
  • all (yes, ALL) aspects of our societies must be revamped
  • redistribution of wealth from the world's most successful economy to...everybody else.
  • "rebalancing economies"

They don't call it "socialism" but the definition fits. "a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole."

twentyfour months.