Looking for a good book

I went into a Barnes & Nobles recently and found no book that I wanted to read! Maybe you could help me. I’m not looking for serious, interesting, or edifying books. I have plenty of those. What I need is something light, something suited for reading on airplanes. It needs to be a novel. Not fantasy or science fiction. I like well-researched, immersive historical fiction. Contemporary settings are fine, but no depressing family sagas. Mysteries are OK, preferably mixed with the above. Due to my literary studies, I have trouble putting up with a poor prose style, so the book has to be well-written. I like to feel like I’m learning something. I like complicated plots.

The gold standard of what I’m looking for would be Patrick O’Brian’s sea-faring novels, a genre I have drunk to the lees and so am rather tired of.

So do you know of anything that meets these criteria? I’d be much obliged for your suggestions.

Elizabeth’s Baptism

We’ll be taking off today to travel to Ft.Wayne for our new grand-daughter Elizabeth’s baptism. In honor of the occasion, I post here a link toLuther’s Sermon on Infant Baptism, wherein he shows that babies too can have faith in Jesus Christ, which is never the same as mere head knowledge that adults sometimes assume but a gift of God; that in baptism a child is brought to Christ and Christ comes to the child; and that infant baptism is thus a believer’s baptism (in the sense that the baptized child believes in Christ).

Meeting your parents

I was speaking at the Texas Confessional Lutheran conference over the weekend, so I missed the visit of Tropical Storm Hanna. I’m kind of sorry I wasn’t there, but my wife battened down the hatches for what amounted to just a really heavy rain. But at the conference, imagine my surprise when I met the parents of some of you readers! There was the mother of Lisa. And the parents of constant commenter tODD! I did not realize that tODD grew up in Faith Lutheran church in Plano, TX, a fine congregation that I’ve spoken at before. tODD is a good reminder to us all of the Two Kingdoms truth that one can be conservative theologically while being liberal politically.

We have a grand-daughter!

Our youngest daughter, Mary, had her baby! Her name is Elizabeth:


So fair! So delicate!

Latin in a Week: Ave, magistra!

My daughter Joanna recently taught an online class for Veritas Press entitled “Latin in a Week.” She crammed an entire introductory Latin course, using the classic Wheelock text, into a single week of intensive instruction. And yes, it is possible. Blogger Tim Nichols at Full Contact Christianity took her class and reports on the experience. Please excuse me as I quote his praise of his teacher:

Speaking of our teacher, she put in a stunning performance. Folks, I teach Greek for a living, and on a couple of occasions I’ve taught concentrated modules as well as the regular, year-long courses. I know a few things about teaching a language, and let me tell you, crashing through a year’s worth of grammar in a week is quite a feat. It takes a well-designed curriculum, which we had, but it takes more than that: specifically, it takes a fearless and skillful teacher. Joanna Hensley filled that role magnificently. Unfailingly upbeat, uniformly encouraging and at times very funny, Joanna cheerfully escorted us where angels fear to tread.

In order to understand what a job that was, there are a few things you need to know about language classes.

(1) It’s possible to get through a year’s worth of grammar in a week, but there’s no way normal adults with spouses and kids will memorize a year’s worth of vocabulary in a week.
In order to do translation exercises, students have to understand both the grammar and the vocabulary.

(2) One of the most important considerations in a first-year language course is that the students must see success. If they don’t, they become discouraged, and in that state they get overwhelmed by the slightest difficulty.

(3) Bring those three things together, and it causes a huge problem for a concentrated course like this. The teacher has to find a way to let the students do as much of the heavy lifting as they can and slip them the necessary help to get them the rest of the way, preferably without them really noticing. Done right, the net result is that the student finishes the translation exercise and thinks, “Hey! I just translated Cicero!” while only dimly aware that the teacher provided a little help. This takes a very deft touch.

On the other hand, there comes a time, especially late in the week, that the vocabulary deficit is just too much, and the teacher must respectfully and firmly shove the students through the translations, as if dragging them face-first down a buffet table. A good teacher has to be able to do both. Joanna did, and made it look easy. Ave, magistra!

Out of the woods

Well, we are back from our vacation. I will report on our adventures by means of a list of words and phrases: near death experience; backroads; family; reconnecting with an old classmate; worshipping at Grace Lutheran, a great church in Tulsa; BBQ galore; canoes; rafts; beautiful scenery; sublime scenery; relatives; getting soaked; poison ivy; Broken Arrow; hasty bake factory; Mexican cuisine; lots of driving; “The Children of Hurin”; quality and quantity time with my wife.

I have never, as an English teacher, assigned my students to write about their summer vacations, but if you want to offer a similar collage of words, you are welcome to.

The vocation of vacation

Friends, we’re en route to Oklahoma, where much of the time we will be at beautiful Lake Tenkiller, far away from the internet and probably even cell phone coverage. So I’ll be taking a break from blogging, though I’ll be back a week from Monday. We’ve had a big jump in readership, with the “vocation of the movie critic” bringing us lots of new readers. For you, don’t lose your new habit of checking in with this blog. Explore the archives, which store many fine discussions that you will still enjoy. I’ve left you a few topics to keep you busy. Do monitor the “Testimony of an Atheist” post, which is featuring some deep, honest, and insightful discussions. I will really be incommunicado out at the lake, so if anything happens in the world that I should know about, tell me about it in a comment here. God’s blessings until we meet again!

My former students?

In the “secret identity” post, “Cindy” outed herself as the former Cindy Evers, one of my former students. Others have shown up from time to time. Are any of you readers former students of mine? I realize that I passed so few of you that it is hardly likely. And yet, I’d love to hear if any of you have become contributing members of society. Have you, despite your fears at the time, found VOCATIONS into families, workplaces, the church, and the culture? Do you still remember anything at all that you learned in my classes?

Seriously, identify yourselves and tell me what you are doing these days. I’d be glad to hear from you.

The greatness of American democracy

In most countries through history, the people have had to grovel to their rulers. In the U.S.A., the rulers have to grove to their people.

Where else could eight ordinary folks from a small town in Oklahoma–one of whom (whose identity I will not reveal to preserve our family honor–my brother) was wearing an Aloha shirt and short pants–walk right up to the office of their elected Congressman (Dan Boren), who pulls an intern (Benjamin) from important duties of state to give these ragtag constituents a tour of the Capitol building?

If you go to Washington, D.C., instead of waiting in line and taking the mass tour of the Capitol building, be sure to contact the office of your Congressional representative or senator a few weeks before your visit to arrange for the staff led tour. It will remind you of the glory of democracy, which, far more than these sublime buildings, is really what America is all about.

(More on what I learned next time.)

Back in the USA

Got in just after midnight from my time in Canada. It’s a good country. I was impressed with what I saw of the Lutheran Church of Canada. Here is a helpful account of the convention from Alex Klages, a blogger I’ve long followed at A Beggar at the Table. I met him there, though missing his wife Kelly, another blogger of note, also an artist and satirical cartoonist. I didn’t even know they were Canadians!