Al Mohler's summer reading list

I always look forward to Dr. Al Mohler's yearly summer reading lists.

David McCullough once told of Teddy Roosevelt during his time in the Dakota Territory and before his arrival on the world scene. Two thieves who had been on something of a crime spree in the territory had stolen Roosevelt’s rowboat, and he was determined to chase them down and arrest them. He chased the thieves for 40 miles of rough landscape, through deep snow and in constant danger of attack, and indeed brought them to justice. McCullough then tells the reader: “But what makes it especially memorable is that during that time, he managed to read all of Anna Karenina. I often think of that when I hear people say they haven’t time to read.”

You can check the list here.

By the way, I love Anna Karenina!

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At the Senior Residents' Call Room I occupy two tables. My stack of reading material occupies an entire half.

Bedside table books. The sight of them comforts me.

Swallowed

An uncle very dear to me has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. This I learned after my brother called while I had a meeting. As with most news involving a sick family member, it hit me to the core—an unexpected assault, like a stab in the back when no one was watching. The symptoms were gradual: constipation, abdominal pain, weight loss. It could’ve been anything.

I called my uncle last night to ask him how he was doing. A surgery was going to take place. Maybe chemotherapy after that. Was he in pain? No, he felt comfortable.

During times like these, I turn to Scripture for comfort. Jonah, when he was swallowed by a big fish, cried to the Lord for help (Jonah 2:5–9).

The waters closed in over me to take my life;
the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped about my head
at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
whose bars closed upon me forever;
yet you brought up my life from the pit,
O Lord my God.
When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.
Those who pay regard to vain idols
forsake their hope of steadfast love.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the Lord!

We remember the Lord and what He has done for us. And we will hope in Him and rejoice.

John Calvin

I'VE BEEN reading John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. I'm using the translation by John Allen. Addressed to the King of France, the book is considered one of the best books ever written in Christendom.

John Calvin is an intelligent, deeply thoughtful man whose writing reflects his faith and convictions. It's a feast for the soul. I can't believe I'm only starting to actually read classic Christian literature now.

Calvin summarizes his work:

Man, created originally upright, being afterwards ruined, not partially, but totally, finds salvation out of himself, wholly in Christ; to whom being united by the Holy Spirit, freely bestowed, without any regard of future works, he enjoys in him a twofold benefit, the perfect imputation of righteousness, which attends him to the grave, and the commencement of sanctification, which he daily increases, till at length he completes it at the day of regeneration or resurrection of the body, so that in eternal life and the heavenly inheritance his praises are celebrated for such stupendous mercy.


Bo-Whole-New-World

Praise be to God for the wonderful time in Bohol with my IM family. Finally, after two years, we've managed to book cheap plane tickets to the Visayas. Lots of laughter, reminiscing, and planning for the future happened; lots of eating and swimming and basking under the sun, too. This is our last year as residents in Internal Medicine, and this trip was part of making the most out of it.

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Half of us spent the day lounging at the resort-hotel. Bellevue was reasonably priced and offered great amenities. The danggit was exceptionally tasty, especially when dipped in ulcer-inducing vinegar.

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Think about these things

Consider these things if you haven't come to a personal knowledge of Jesus.

Sit down sometimes, and well bethink you, what recompence the world or sin will make you, for your God, your souls, your hopes, and all, when they are lost and past recovery? Think what it will then avail or comfort you, that once you were honoured, and had a great estate; that once you fared of the best, and had your delicious cups, and merry hours, and sumptuous attire, and all such pleasures. Think whether this will abate the horrors of death, or put by the wrath of God, or the sentence of your condemnation; or whether it will ease a tormented soul in hell?
Dwell on the blessings of our salvation through Christ.
Think what it is, to have a purified, cleansed soul; to be free from the slavery of the flesh and its concupiscence; to have the sensitive appetite in subjection unto reason, and reason illuminated and rectified by faith; to be alive to God, and disposed and enabled to love and serve him; to have access to him in prayer, with boldness and assurance to be heard; to have a sealed pardon of all our sins, and an interest in Christ, who will answer for them all and justify us; to be the children of God, and the heirs of heaven; to have peace of conscience, and the joyful hopes of endless joys; to have communion with the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit, and to have that Spirit dwelling in us, and working to our further holiness and joy; to have communion with the saints; and the help and comfort of all God's ordinances, and to be under his many precious promises, and under his protection and provision in his family, and to cast all our care upon him; to delight ourselves daily in the remembrance and renewed experiences of his love, and in our too little knowledge of him, and to love him, and in the knowledge of his Son, and of the mysteries of the gospel; to have all things work together for our good, and to be able with joy to welcome death, and to live as in heaven in the foresight of our everlasting happiness. (Direct. XI)

—Baxter, Richard. “A Christian Directory: Or, a Sum of Practical Theology, and Cases of Conscience"

So far, so good. I'm getting used to the "old" language; it's very poetic. A feast for the Christian soul!

Reading Baxter

The Christian mind must be trained in righteousness if one must glorify God in all aspects of life. I'm doing something ambitious with my reading and spiritual life: I'll be reading Richard Baxter's "A Christian Directory: Or, A Sum of Practical Theology and Cases of Conscience." Inspired largely by Tim Challies, who engages his readers to read Christian classics, I decided to slowly and meditatively take up this habit. It helps that my pastors are fans of the Puritan writers, quoting them a lot during preaching.

The book's subtitle is "Directing Christians How To Use Their Knowledge and Faith; How To Improve All Helps and Means, and To Perform All Duties; How To Overcome Temptations, and To Escape or Mortify Every Sin."

This is an ambitious project—the book comes in four volumes—and even Baxter himself had to write,
The book is so big that I must make no longer preface than to give you this necessary, short account, I. Of the quality; II. And the reasons of this work.
I'll be quoting and writing a few things about the book here and there. I don't expect to finish soon, with all the readings I need to do for work. But I'm quite excited.

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I've been having difficulties formatting the .txt document from Gutenberg. It turns out that it's better to use html as the base file in in Calibre, prior to converting it epub or mobi, so the formatting is still preserved.
If we provide a HTML file for the ebook you are interested in, it is best to convert that file, rahter than the TEXT file, to MOBI or EPUB format as required.

Words to spell

I was a pretty good speller when I was young. This is funny: Seven words I would have children S-P-E-L-L if I were running the National Spelling Bee.

1. MELANCHOLY (adjective)

Definition: A gloomy state of mind, especially when habitual or prolonged; depression.

Sentence: “The young boy sought to escape the MELANCHOLY of learning word origins for all 450,000 words in the Merriam-Webster dictionary by stress eating a bag of Oreos.”

More here.

Introductions

Umberto Eco's How To Travel With a Salmon & Other Essays

Umberto Eco, "How to Write an Introduction," in How To Travel With a Salmon & Other Essays, p. 172-175. So funny, this man.

My children have been a source of great comfort to me and have provided me with the affection, the energy, and the confidence to complete my self-imposed task. Thanks to their complete, Olympian detachment from my work, I have found strength to conclude this article after a daily struggle with the definition of the intellectual's role in postmodern society. I am indebted to them for inspiring an unshakable determination to withdraw into my study and write these pages, rather than encounter in the hall their best friends, whose hairdresser follows aesthetic criteria that revolt my sensibilities.

Mt. Matutum coffee

Mt. Matutum represent!

Mt. Matutum coffee is featured at a local café in Tomas Morato. Not surprising news, of course, given that Sultan Kudarat, which is just minutes away from where I live, is considered the country's top coffee producer, with the Mindanao region producing more than 70 percent of the country’s annual coffee output of approximately 98,000 metric tons. Yes, apparently. The coffee capital is no longer Batangas, or Alfonso, Cavite—although there are still choosy barako coffee drinkers in the area, like my patient at the Emergency Room, who was admitted for heart attack. "Puwede pa rin po bang uminom ng kape?" she asked because she did like her coffee black.

On coffee shops

Starbucks Matalino

Near my brother’s apartment is the Starbucks where I used to spend most afternoons studying for the board exam. The branch is called Starbucks Matalino. Matalino is Filipino for intelligent. Why would I study anywhere else? I liked its proximity from where I had lived. Its air-conditioning system was consistently cold and extremely indefatigable. I preferred to stay indoors, donning my jacket and embracing the coffee mug with my palms to help me cope with the cold, rather than staying outside in the sweltering tropical heat. I still think summer is highly overrated, and would rather prefer cloudy, melancholic climates.

To navigate through my readings, I had to forgo my afternoon naps. Then I discovered coffee. I started ordering americano—one espresso shot diluted in hot water to make a cup—and was amazed at the jolt it gave me. I had an adrenaline rush of sorts, and my brain was getting sense of concepts in rapid-fire succession. Two weeks of an almost-daily intake of coffee beans allegedly imported from artisanal farms in Africa—I really didn’t care much at the time—my palpitations disappeared. I was liking the bitter taste in my mouth, and I started drinking my coffee without coffee or cream. I liked it best with a slice of cheesecake, which I treated myself with once in a blue moon because I didn’t have any money, and coffee itself was a big assault on my no-longer-a-student-not-yet-employed budget.

Since then I’ve been brewing my own coffee, but I would visit coffee shops to kill time or to finish a report. I prefer places with wide tables that don’t wobble. It’s a plus if the table is rectangular and is made of varnished wood. It’s exponentially better if the place is devoid of teenagers or whining children—why bring your kids to coffee shops, anyway?

I’ve been ordering espresso, too: I like how so much caffeine is packed in the demitasse. I’m still amused that whenever I order it, I often get advised by the highly concerned barista, “Maliit lang po ‘yun, Sir, ha?,” to which I would reply, “Oo, okay lang,” instead of getting irritated. The barista, after all, doesn’t presume I know anything about coffee, and I still probably don’t. I still have so much to learn about the wonderful bean that keeps me up all day.

The scene in this Viennese Kaffeehaus reminded me of John Piper's The Trellis and The Vine.
At Café Restaurant Palmenhaus, Buggarten GmbH, 1010, Vienna, Austria

Christ is All

My prayer today. It reminds me a lot about the song "Give Me Jesus" by Fernando Ortega (1999). And don't you love the Puritans?


O Lover to the uttermost,
May I read the meltings of Thy heart to me
in the manger of Thy birth,
in the garden of Thy agony,
in the cross of Thy suffering,
in the tomb of Thy resurrection,
in the heaven of Thy intercession.

Bold in this thought I defy my adversary,
tread down his temptations,
resist his schemings,
renounce the world,
am valiant for truth.

Deepen in me a sense of my holy relationship to Thee,
as spiritual bridegroom,
as Jehovah's fellow,
as sinners' friend.

I think of Thy glory and my vileness,
Thy majesty and my meanness,
Thy beauty and my deformity,
Thy purity and my filth,
Thy righteouness and my iniquity.

Thou has loved me everlastingly, unchangeably,
may I love Thee as I am loved;
Thou hast given Thyself for me,
may I give myself to Thee.
Thou hast died for me,
may I live to Thee
in every moment of time,
in every movement of my mind,
in every pulse of my heart.

May I never dally with the world and its allurements,
but walk by Thy side,
listen to Thy voice,
be clothed with Thy grace,
and adorned with Thy righteousness.
Taken from the collection of Puritan prayers by Arthur Bennett, ed. Valley of Vision (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), 18.

A complicated past: Walter White in Albuquerque


I miss Breaking Bad. Stephen Wood's essay, Tearing down this statue of Walter White would erase an important piece of Albuquerque's unique heritage, just perked me up.
I’ll be the first to admit this town has a complicated past. But that’s just the point — it’s our past. And I’m sorry, but I’m not going to let the Political Correctness Enforcement Agency just swoop in and erase it. For all his flaws, Walter “Heisenberg” White was an important figure in this community. Tearing down our beloved statue of him would be an attack on Albuquerque’s unique heritage.

Theology of the home

John Tweedale starts his essay:

Whether you are a child learning to read, a freshman in a dormitory, newlyweds settling into a first apartment, an upstart launching a career, a family with a quiver full of children, or a widow navigating life without a spouse, the comfort of home is a stabilizing reality of life.
He writes about the theology of home—a beautiful essay. Praise God for Christian homes!

The home is not a neutral zone for acting upon baseless desires, nor is it simply a bastion for maintaining traditional values. One of the primary purposes of the home is to cultivate Christlike virtues that animate who we are in private and facilitate what we do in public. When the Apostle Paul addressed the households in the church of Colossae, he instructed wives, husbands, children, masters, and servants alike to put to death the exploits of the flesh, put on the qualities of Christ, and do everything in word and deed for the glory of God (Col. 3:1–4:1). In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul sandwiches his instructions to households between teaching on devotion and worship (Eph. 5:1–21) and spiritual warfare (6:1–20). And the Apostle Peter prefaces his comments to families with an extended discussion on the church (1 Peter 2:1–11; 2:12–3:8), an important reminder that home life can never be isolated from church life. 
This side of heaven, home should be a place where faith, hope, and love flourish. Faith in the sure work of Christ crucified and resurrected. Hope in the power of the gospel to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. And love for a triune God whose glory and beauty knows no end. The Christian home in a fallen world is a place of rooted optimism. Rooted in the place where God has called us and optimistic about a far greater place He is preparing for us. The home front is the forlorn battlefield of the cultural wars. In our strivings to defend the gospel against doctrinal decline in the church and increasing secularism in the culture, we must not forget the importance of cultivating virtue in the home. For the church to remain a city on the hill, the light of the gospel must shine brightly in the home.

Where's the moon?

1. PAG–ASA PAGASA hasn’t declared that it’s the rainy season yet, but the afternoon downpours we’ve had for the past days have been welcome treats from the summer heat. But “summer” is a Western construct and should technically not apply to us, a country with only two seasons: tag-ulan (rainy) and tag-init (sunny). Nevertheless we’ve called our month-long breaks from school “summer breaks.” TV commercials have done the same.

[Before the rainy season is officially declared, there should be at least 25 millimeters of accumulated rain in three consecutive days, and there should be at least one millimeter of rain in a day.  (Dr. Jun Galang of PAG–ASA  PAGASA).]

2. I’ve spent much time taking naps. It’s almost surreal—napping in the afternoon, while it’s raining. I find that most pleasurable. I’ve been dreaming but couldn’t remember what I’ve been dreaming about, except that it had felt like being chased and stressed. I dream of so many things, but I end up forgetting about them. Sleep experts say that’s natural.

3. I decided to spend the rest of the day at home and catch up on reading. I’m on the second chapter of Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, which I took up because Bill Gates and President Obama recommended it, and Jason Kottke highly recommended it, too. It starts with the moon disappearing, with everyone wondering why that happened, even the astronomers on board the International Space Station fondly called “Izzy.” (My friends Wegs Pedroso and Dianne Deauna called me just that in college, while we were making sure our PCRs were going well.)

4. My daily Bible reading (thanks to the ESV Read the Bible in a Year plan) takes me today to Psalm 94.

“If the Lord had not been my help,
my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
When I thought, “My foot slips,”
your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul.”—Psalm 94: 17–19 

Psalm 92

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We sing a song patterned after Psalm 92 in church. With the flute, keyboard, and the excellent singing of our church’s worship team; I can’t help but be overwhelmed. It is a beautiful song. It is a beautiful psalm, full of gratefulness and joy.

The Psalmist exclaims, “How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep!” (Psalm 92:5). It comforts the Psalmist that although he doesn’t understand everything that’s going on, he knows that the God he worships does great work and is great! He is so full of awe that he wants to “declare [God’s]steadfast love in the morning and [His]steadfast love by night” (verse 2).

That the righteous are rewarded by the Lord in the end also brings comfort to the Psalmist. The righteous “flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (verse 12). “They still bear fruit in old age; they are every full of sap and green” (verse 14).

I often wonder what will become of me when I grow old, if the Lord allows it. But I surely hope I’ll become fruitful, my lips forever praising my God, my heart bursting with thanksgiving and joy.

Getting old by the day

MY FATHER complained he wasn't feeling too well. Days ago, he let himself be dragged by my two other brothers to a bowling match. Of course I didn't care to join; I was sleepy, having just left the hospital after a 24-hour shift. My brothers thought I just didn't want to end up the lowest pointer. They were all insistent that I join. My father even volunteered to be on the same team with me. Tatay's first shot was a strike. When we got home, he complained of back pains.

"Your Tatay is getting old," confessed my mother. "I shouldn't overwork him."

"Yes, Nay. You make all sorts of demands," we said.

My mother smiled.

The fact is that my parents now carry their senior citizen card, a badge of distinction for them, an excuse to buy that extra dessert or watch that new movie. They're getting older by the day.

How do I encourage them, as well as the rest of the old people I work with?

R. Paul Stevens writes:

Aging people experience progressive losses: parents, friends, colleagues, career, driver’s license, and perfect health. Then life-threatening health challenges are encountered, usually heart disease or cancer. And finally, there is the certainty of death.

In these realities, though, there are implicit spiritual incentives to grow. Here are three ways to encourage and exhort the aging.
It's summarized in three points:
Experience intensification
Embrace simplification
Cultivate (practical) heavenly-mindedness
Read the rest of the article here.

Ash turned to diamond



The quiet was disturbed by the sound of chisels striking stone. The gravediggers removed a metal plaque, then a cement wall, and, finally, a brick façade. More than an hour later, they hit what they were looking for: an oxidized copper urn, filled with the ashes of Luis Barragán, one of Mexico’s greatest architects, who died in 1988. They removed the urn from the cavity, brushing off dust and ants. Then they opened the vessel and presented it to Magid, who scooped out half a kilo of what looked like dirt and transferred it to a plastic bag, which she then put into a box. The next day, with the box in her carry-on, she flew home to New York.
The famous architect, Luis Barragán, was turned into a diamond. This created a lot of talk regarding morality, ethics, and such. The plan was to exchange the diamond for the precious archives of the architect's work, now heavily guarded by a private entity based in Switzerland. This is an excellent piece by Alice Gregory in The New Yorker.

Social media fast, and you miss nothing much

One of my web heroes, Jason Kottke, writes about his social media fast.

"Last week (approx. May 7-14), I stopped using social media for an entire week. I logged out of all the sites and deleted the apps from my phone. I didn’t so much as peek at Instagram, which is, with Twitter and old-school Flickr, probably my favorite online service of all time. I used Twitter as minimally as I could, for work only. I didn’t check in anywhere on Swarm. No Facebook. As much as I could, I didn’t use my phone. I left it at home when I went to the grocery store. I didn’t play any games on it. I left it across the room when I went to bed and when I worked."
He continues, as a footnote:
"Still one of my favorite tweets is from Scott Simpson: “My new standard of cool: when I’m hanging out with you, I never see your phone ever ever ever.”"
He concludes:
"After the week was up, I greedily checked in on Instagram and Facebook to see what I had missed. Nothing much, of course. Since then, I’ve been checking them a bit less. When I am on, I’ve been faving and commenting more in an attempt to be a little more active in connecting."

On memory

Memory is a mutable element, fickle in its suggestibility. It can be tricked to expand far beyond its true bounds, and yet, if overburdened, is liable to shut down altogether.—Alexandra Schwartz, "The Unforgotten: Patrick Modiano's Mysteries"

I'm reading Honeymoon by Patrick Modiano. I'm almost halfway through the book. The sentences are clear; it's quite an easy read. Jean B. tricks his wife and colleagues into thinking he's going to Brazil; but he stays put and hides in Paris, planning to uncover the mysteries of a woman named Ingrid, who, years before, had committed suicide in a hotel in Milan.



I was reading about Patrick Modiano and found the quote about how memory is mutable and trick-able. Who was it who said that pen and paper is better than sharpest memory? That's the reason why I blog and write on journals, too. The same reason that God ordered the Israelites to make memorial stones, lest His people forget Him.