Boston, Plymouth, and Cape Cod—Summer 2019

My wife and I were blessed to have the opportunity to travel to Boston this past week. We left early last Thursday, July 25. I sat by a man on the plane who lived in New Hampshire. He gave me some helpful advice on some places that we should check out. We had a short layover in D.C. at Reagan National Airport and ate at Smashburger.

Once we got in Boston, we took a cab to our hotel at Club Quarters on Devonshire. The room was small, but it was located within walking distance of the Freedom Trail and other sites of interest so it worked well for us. The staff was nice, but our television kept changing channels and turning off on its own. We weren’t in our room much, so it wasn’t a big deal. The view was obstructed by a building across the street. Other than coffee and fruit, the hotel didn’t provide breakfast in the mornings.

After we got settled, we walked to the Old South Meeting House where Ben Franklin was baptized. Outside, a vendor sold touristy things, and we bought a hat and some shirts. Then we made our way to Beacon Hill, saw the Massachusetts State House, and ate dinner at Cheers. The food was surprisingly good, and there were a lot of interesting items related to the show.

Next, we made our way to the Boston Public Garden and Boston Common. The gardens were beautiful. We finished up the night at the Quincy Market and Long Wharf. We got some ice cream at the market, sat down by the water, and watched the yachts on the water. As we sat on the bench, we could hear the riotous crowds at an outside bar.

On Friday, we took the T to Fenway Park for a tour of the stadium. The subway system in Boston has 4 color-coded lines. The Green one takes you to Fenway. We got off on the Kenmore exit and walked around a corner and across the bridge and Fenway was right there. We walked around the stadium and took pictures, and then we took a tour of Fenway Park that we had scheduled beforehand. It started in the team store across the street and then went into the stadium and through the stands. We got to go on the Green Wall and in the press box. Along the way our guide gave an interesting history of the park and the team. The tour ended in a museum within the stadium.

We then ate a quick bite for breakfast and got back on the subway and headed to the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum. We had prescheduled this tour online as well. We started out in a replica of the Old South Meeting House where a couple of colonial figures spoke with us, including Samuel Adams. The actors stayed in character and made us laugh. We then headed to a replica of the ship Eleanor. We were allowed to tour the ship and throw fake tea overboard. Another costumed actor told us about what exactly happened that night.

We then headed onto the dock and looked around for a few minutes before being led through the multi-media museum. The experience ended with a trip upstairs to Abigail’s Tea Room where you could have various kinds of tea and dessert. We tried Young Hyson Green Tea, a favorite of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and tried some Boston Cream Pie as we sat on the balcony, which overlooked Fort Point Channel.

We went back to the hotel for a few hours to rest until the Red Sox-Yankees game later that night. We took the T to Fenway again. We got some pizza and a hot dog inside the stadium for dinner and then made our way to our seats. We sat out in the corner of right field. The seats were the old wood and iron chairs. The sun was shining on us for the first few innings so it was pretty hot. The Red Sox hit multiple home runs over the Green Wall and basically dominated the Yankees the whole game. The T was crowded after the game, so we got back to the hotel late.

On Saturday morning we headed to the Boston Common to take a tour of the Freedom Trail. We had bought tickets beforehand online, but we left them at the hotel so we had to buy them again. Looking back, we should have just done a self-guided tour. We were disappointed that our tour guide spent nearly 45 minutes in the Boston Common slamming the Puritans and talking about glaciers. That’s only a slight exaggeration.

There are plenty of maps and books available around town for the Freedom Trail. These allow you to take the trail yourself–not to mention the red brick line in the sidewalk throughout downtown that delineates the trail for you. I would recommend setting aside most of the day for the Freedom Trail. We started about 9:30 a.m. and finished around 5:00 p.m. You have to cross the Charlestown Bridge to reach the last two stops–the USS Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument. We walked across the bridge to get to Charlestown. The Bunker Hill Monument has 295 steps, so if you want to go up it, be prepared for a strenuous circular climb. My two favorite stops on the trail were probably the Old North Church and the USS Constitution.

We ate lunch at an Italian restaurant around the corner from Paul Revere’s house, and for dinner we ate at the Hard Rock Cafe. We took the T after dinner to Harvard. We both were a little underwhelmed and thought the campus rather plain. We went in a local bookstore to look around, and I got some good ice cream at JP Licks. We then got back on the T and headed back to the hotel.

On Sunday morning we went to Tremont Temple Baptist Church, the first integrated church in America. The man I sat by on the plane had mentioned going to this church, and I had seen some good things online about it. The interior was beautiful, and we enjoyed singing the old hymns. The pastor gave a Biblically-sound sermon on Hebrews 3:1-6–Consider Jesus, Glorify Jesus, and Hold Fast to Jesus.

After church we took the T to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. A free shuttle bus took us from the subway stop to the library. The modern-looking building is set by the water, and we spent a few minutes walking the grounds and enjoying the waterfront views before going inside. The museum tour starts with a video of Kennedy’s military and political career leading up to his presidency. You can go through the museum in less than 2 hours. After we finished, we went to the cafe and got some clam chowder and blueberry pie. It was my first time to eat clam chowder. It was too fishy for me. It tasted like potato soup with a fishy aftertaste. The gift shop had some interesting things and was worth the look.

After exploring the grounds some more, we then took the shuttle back to the T and arrived back in downtown Boston. We ate at The Replica Cheers in Quincy Market. We ordered the nachos as an appetizer, which were some of the best we’ve ever had. I got the chili in a bread bowl, and my wife got the hamburger. We then just kind of strolled around downtown Boston. We toured the Old State House, the site of the Boston Massacre and the public reading of the Declaration of Independence. Then we went back to the Boston Common and Boston Public Garden and relaxed. We saw quite a large crowd in the Boston Common watching an outdoor performance of a Shakespeare play. As it got dark, we headed back to the hotel.

On Monday morning, we made our way to the Enterprise Rental Car in Downtown Center. It was hard to find because it was on the ninth floor of a parking garage, which was under construction. The attendant was very nice, though, and he set us up with a black Nissan Rogue. Returning the car was somewhat difficult as we had to navigate the one-way streets to find the entrance into the parking garage, find somewhere to park the car since the Enterprise area was full, and then walk back to our hotel late at night.

Once we received the car, we drove to the town of Plymouth. It was a beautiful, serene oasis. The people were so friendly as we walked along the shore. After being in the frenetic atmosphere of Boston, it was like a breath of fresh air being in Plymouth. I felt so relaxed. We saw Plymouth Rock and then went into some shops and bought a few items. There were some great prices at Pilgrim’s Corner on jackets, hats, and t-shirts.

We made our way back to Plimouth Plantation (we had gone there first, but it wasn’t open yet so we decided to go to Plymouth Rock; and yes the two are spelled differently). We walked through the Wampanoag homesite, the craft center, and the 17th-century English Village. The village offered a beautiful view of the sea below. There were actors in the houses who answered our questions as if they were actual Pilgrims. We talked to them about bathing and swimming. The Pilgrims did not swim in the ocean or submerge themselves in water because they thought it would upset their bodily humors. We finished our tour of the Plimouth Plantation with a quick walk-thru of the exhibits inside and the gift shop.

Around lunchtime, we drove to Cape Cod. In order to get to the cape, we had to drive across a bridge which traverses a canal. So the cape is technically separated from the mainland. We hadn’t really planned out specifically where we wanted to go on the cape. We found a Chick-Fil-A and ate lunch. After that, we decided to go to a beach. I had looked online earlier for the best beaches on Cape Cod, and since we were fairly close to Seagull Beach, we headed there. On the way, we came across some downed power lines which were blowing in the breeze. We could see smoke and sparks, so we turned around. We decided to go to Coast Guard Beach instead. After a little bit of a drive, we arrived at the parking lot for Coast Guard Beach. We had to pay $20 to park and then take a shuttle to the beach. The beach was crowded, but I walked down the beach just a little ways and there were far fewer people. We walked into the water and enjoyed the refreshing waves. As we sat on the beach, we were harassed by biting horse flies. The ocean view was pretty, but the crowds and flies kept it from being relaxing.

After about an hour or so on the beach, we took the shuttle back to our car and drove to Provincetown. I thought the drive would be more scenic, but we couldn’t see much of the ocean until we neared the end of the cape. Provincetown was very picturesque and beautiful, but, in my mind, was marred by the fact that it seemed to be an LGBT headquarters. Gay pride flags were ubiquitous–the Pilgrim Monument even had a flagpole next to it with a rainbow flag underneath the American flag. The gift shop sold gay pride merchandise, and the museum mixed a gay exhibit in with those of the Pilgrims. Interestingly, they had a Somerset Bible opened to Romans 1. I wondered if I was the only one who saw the irony. It was “Family Week”, and sadly we saw kids walking around town at the same time as some kind of gay parade. The town itself was quaint, and we would have stayed longer, but I felt increasingly uneasy about all of the homosexual displays. Provincetown is definitely not a place for kids.

We climbed up the Pilgrim Monument, which didn’t have as many steps as the Bunker Hill Monument and also had ramps. It was still quite a climb, though. It was very windy at top, but there were beautiful views of both the town and the ocean. Sailboats and yachts dominated the shoreline.

Interestingly, the Pilgrims landed first at Provincetown before they sailed onto Plymouth. They also signed the Mayflower Compact aboard the ship just off the coast of Provincetown. It’s easy to assume that they landed first at Plymouth. I had known that they had anchored at Provincetown, but it wasn’t until my wife said something that I learned that they had gone ashore there too.

We left Provincetown and were planning on heading back to Boston, when my wife mentioned that she wanted to see a lighthouse since that is one of the things Cape Cod is known for. We looked up the closest one, and providentially it just happened to be Highland Light. I say providentially because Highland Light is the oldest lighthouse on Cape Cod and it was authorized by George Washington. It also had one of the most beautiful ocean views atop a cliff that I have ever seen. The lighthouse was set back from the water because it had been moved, but you could walk behind the lighthouse to the cliff overlooking the ocean. It was around 7:30 p.m. on Monday evening. I looked out at the ocean and saw a lone sailboat. It was so peaceful and serene. I found myself wanting to stay out there for a long while, bit we were quickly losing daylight and still had a two-hour drive ahead of us to get back to Boston, and we still had to eat dinner and get gas before we returned the rental car.

We stopped at Savory Pizza Grill on the way back for dinner. The food was excellent. They also had an ice cream shop attached to the restaurant, but we were in a hurry and full from the pizza, so we opted out of dessert. We drove back to Boston in the dark, hitting some construction on the Interstate. It was a late night, but we had gotten to see so much on our last full day in Massachusetts.

To sum up my thoughts on the trip–we had a wonderful time. There’s so much to see within Boston itself. Boston is a clean, walkable city. The people we talked to were friendly and helpful. When I think of Boston, I think of 3 H’s–history, honking, and homelessness. Obviously, with the Freedom Trail, there is so much history in the town. So if you love early American history, Boston is a must-see. One of the first things I noticed when we got to downtown Boston was all the honking. There were a lot of impatient drivers. And then sadly, we saw a lot of homelessness, especially in Boston Common and in the T. We ran across a lot of panhandlers, but I guess that is typical with any major metropolis.

I think I enjoyed Plymouth and Cape Cod even more than Boston. It was nice to get out of the city and enjoy a slower, quieter pace with spectacular ocean views. I think it would be nice to go back to Plymouth and stay at a bed and breakfast for a few days.

Early Tuesday morning we headed to the airport to go home. We were supposed to take an UBER, but they cancelled on us at the last minute. So we took an interesting cab ride. The cab driver was a veteran who was interested in history and politics. We had a great conversation. He said he listened to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and liked President Trump. He, not surprisingly, also talked about how he didn’t like UBER because of how they were putting him out of business. He probably got a kick out of my story about how they had cancelled our ride that morning.

We landed in Charlotte and were supposed to have about a two-hour layover, but then we got a surprise. We were bumped from our flight because it was overbooked. The only other flight to OKC wasn’t until 8:40 p.m., so we spent nearly ten hours sitting in the airport. It was a long and stressful day, but we did meet several interesting people. One woman was moving to Florida. Another lady had just come back from Montreal and had been whale-watching. And then I had an encouraging conversation with a lady who had just gotten back from a mission trip to Haiti. She said that she had led a woman to the Lord in the airport that day.

Our flight home offered beautiful views of the sunset and nighttime city views. I had never flown at night before, and it was a different experience from flying during the day.

I’m thankful to God that He blessed us with a wonderful vacation and got us home safely. I would recommend Boston to all those interested in history or baseball. And I would recommend Cape Cod to those who love beautiful ocean views. And isn’t that everyone? The only caveat I would add is that Provincetown, while beautiful, is not a place for kids.

Christians and College

Campus Renewal states that 70% of Christian freshman leave the faith in their first year of college. However, if a student unites with a church or a Christian student ministry, he is much more likely to keep his Christian faith.

I can attest to this finding from my own experience. I felt a little lost when I went off to college until I found a local church, which had a college ministry for students. The fellowship and teaching there provided me the support I needed to face a hostile environment on campus.

Even with that support, it wasn’t always easy being a Christian on a secular college campus. I remember being in a class on Intellectual History of 19th Century Europe–one day we were discussing Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species. I answered a question during our discussion in such a way that I made it clear that I believed in the Biblical account of Creation. I can remember laughter and snickering from the other students in the class.

I also wrote a biweekly opinion column for the student newspaper. One day the paper featured two opinion columns on the subject of gay marriage. I wrote the column against gay marriage and another columnist wrote the column for gay marriage. I received quite a bit of hate e-mails and letters to the editor from people who were upset with me for defending the Biblical position on marriage.

In a political science class, I was politely rebuked by the teacher with a lecture in red ink on my essay paper, again for a stance I took on the gay marriage debate.

Unfortunately, things are much worse today on college campuses for Christians, especially conservative ones. I was criticized and made fun of for my views, but I was allowed to express them. Students today are silenced and shut down if they do not tow the line on issues like homosexuality, climate change, transgenderism, or social justice.

In recent years at my alma mater, the University of Oklahoma, freshman have been required to take a mandatory freshman diversity course, full of left-wing propaganda. There are new departments, which were not there when I attended, designed to promote the LGBT agenda. New pronouns for transgender people have been invented that I didn’t even know existed when I was in college. Socialism is also on the rise among young people. I can’t imagine the vitriol a Trump supporter, or any conservative for that matter, would have to endure on campus these days.

I’m grateful that I was in college before things became too crazy–back when universities still valued the First Amendment. There was still the possibility of fruitful debate and discussion between opposing sides. Mutual respect was not an entirely forgotten concept.

If you or someone you know will be a college student soon, I would recommend five things to help you through this exciting but potentially difficult journey. 1) Find a local church where you can find support. 2) Join a biblical, Christian student ministry on campus, if available. 3) Read your Bible daily. 4) Know what you believe and why you believe it. 5) Pray. This is perhaps the most important one. You need the Lord’s strength to face the opposition you may encounter. Pray for boldness, wisdom, and protection.

Ephesians 6 talks about the spiritual battle that we are in as Christians. The college campus is one of the most intense battlefields in America today. You will need to put on the full armor of God daily. May God bless and protect you.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:10-12‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Napoleon’s Realistic View on Governance

Despite coming of age during the French Revolution and even supporting and defending it, Napoleon did not share many of the extreme idealistic tendencies of his contemporaries when it came to politics. Napoleon was a realist when it came to human nature and political power. It was exactly this moderate way of thinking that allowed him to be the logical choice to take the reins of power when the inept Directory floundered. At the time of the Coup of 18 Brumaire, the French people distrusted royalists and the Ancien Régime, but they also feared the neo-Jacobins and a return to the terror. In their estimation, Bonaparte was the man to preserve the gains of the Revolution while also being able to govern effectively and sensibly.

Napoleon built his empire upon what he called “masses of granite.” These were institutions–the Council of State, the Prefect, the Bank of France, the Civil Code, the Lycée, and the Concordat–that Bonaparte used to bring stability to the chaos which had beset France. This system depended upon a group of elites called notables. These were distinguished, property-owning men who were officially recognized by the French government. Napoleon would rely upon them to help him run the empire.

In 1802, Napoleon established an order of merit system called the Legion of Honor. It replaced the nobility with a merit-based system. It was meant to recognize both military and civil service to the state. Recipients were awarded a medal star attached to a ribbon, a title, and a pension.

Napoleon received much criticism for instituting the Legion of Honor since to some it seemed to be a return to a system of privilege that existed before the Revolution. However, this new institution was based on talent and service, not on birth and hereditary considerations.

The First Consul defended his new order of merit by saying:

“You tell me that class distinctions are baubles used by monarchs. I defy you to show me a republic, ancient or modern, in which distinctions have not existed. You call these medals and ribbons baubles; well, it is with such baubles that men are led.

Napoleon later said that his motto had “always been a career open to all talents, without distinctions of birth.

In Napoleon’s Civil Code, he eliminated some of the more radical notions of the Revolution such as women’s rights and reintroduced a patriarchal hierarchy into the law. Napoleon was realistic about the importance of family to the stability of the state. He pressed the members of the Council of State and the jurists who were writing the Civil Code to give back more power to the father when it came to control over children, inheritance, marriage, and divorce. The Civil Code did codify many of the principles of the Revolution, but it also took France in a more conservative direction.

One can see from the examples above that Napoleon placed great importance on three fairly conservative ideas as the major building blocks of a stable society: a property-based, land-owning class, a merit based system of rewards and distinctions, and a traditional family structure.

In our day, many have a naive view of what government should look like. Support for socialism, equality, free college, and even the abolition of the traditional family abound. These people would do well to study history so that they might realize what Napoleon knew early on–you can’t rule based on fantasies. When establishing a government, certain realities will restrain us whether we like it or not.

“We have finished the romance of the Revolution. We must now begin its history–only seeking for what is real and practicable in the application of its principles, and not what is speculative and hypothetical.”–Napoleon

Brave New World vs. 1984

Are we living in a Brave New World or in 1984? That seems to be the frequent subject of discussion these days. The answer is that we can see aspects of both novels playing out in our society today.

Nineteen-Eighty Four, written by George Orwell, is a dystopian novel about a totalitarian state that echos Stalinist Russia. Winston Smith is a worker in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth. Winston secretly rebels against Big Brother and falls in love with a woman named Julia. Eventually, the pair are captured, and they are tortured until they betray one another and express allegiance to Big Brother.

So what parts of 1984 appear in our present society? The constant surveillance is an obvious example. In 1984, telescreens monitor Winston even in his apartment. In our society, we have smart phones, smart TV’s, ubiquitous security cameras, and of course Alexis. But the government hasn’t forced this on the people; people have willingly given up their privacy to these things. And it’s not always government doing the surveillance. It’s often huge corporations.

Orwell’s Newspeak bears remarkable similarities to today’s political correctness enforced at universities and in the media. In 1984, language was limited to prevent independent, undesired thoughts. Big Brother also used nonsense slogans such as War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength in order to brainwash the populace and make them more docile. It reminds one of the Left’s Orwellian language on abortion rights, which is couched in terms of personal liberty and autonomy, and transgenderism (a man can be a woman and vice versa). Though not always government enforced, incredible social and economic pressures are brought to bear upon those who dare to deviate from the liberal orthodoxy of the elites, especially when it concerns the LGBT or abortion rights agendas.

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (BNW) is a dystopian novel about a society where people are genetically engineered in artificial wombs. The people are sedated with a drug called soma and by hedonistic pleasure. Bernard Marx, a psychologist, and Lenina Crowne, who works in the hatchery, take a trip to the Savage Reservation and meet John, who grew up reading only two books, one of which is Shakespeare. John is brought back to World State and finds it difficult to fit into the scientifically advanced, hedonistic society.

Whereas in 1984 the public is prevented from hearing the truth, in Huxley’s dystopia, the people are indifferent to it. They are too busy chasing after pleasure. The dependence upon the drug Soma is reminiscent of recent trends in our society–increasing use of recreational marijuana, addiction to online pornography, and an obsession with sports and celebrity culture. Many people in our day know more about the Kardashians than they do about the Founding Fathers.

The social elite in BNW are scientists and intellectuals. Likewise, we also have an elite intellectual class in academia and media, which dictate to the rest of society not only what to think, but also what is morally right and wrong.

The character of John, who does not fit into the World State because of his traditional values, represents a stark contrast to the elitist social hierarchy found at the beginning of the novel. In a way he resembles a Rousseau-like vision of the noble savage unspoiled by civilization. He is physically attracted to the woman Lenina but is turned off by her immoral lifestyle. He represents the old-fashion values of an earlier period, which is contrasted with the modernist, sophisticated, amoral notions of World State. One does not have to strain very hard to see the correlation to our own day.

It could be said that neither writer’s predictions were entirely correct, but when combined together these two books paint a fairly accurate portrait of the world we live in. One usually thinks of 1984 in the context of warnings against totalitarian governments–which seek to crush freedom and control people’s lives. And such warnings are relevant to us, especially when we hear about those kind of tactics being used in countries like China and North Korea. However, we must also be vigilant against the apathy and indulgence we see in Huxley’s vision of the future. In this regard, the enemy may not be Big Brother, but ourselves. We would do well to remember what Huxley said in a letter to Orwell in 1949:

“The lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.”

Deliverance and Restoration in 1 Samuel 7

“Restore us, O God of our salvation, And cause Your anger toward us to cease.” -Psalms‬ ‭85:4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

At the beginning of the seventh chapter of 1 Samuel, we read about the men of Kirjath-jearim going to fetch the Ark of the Lord. They bring it into the house of Abinadab, where it stays for twenty years. The Ark had been taken by Israel’s enemy, the Philistines, and it had stayed in their land for seven months.

In verse three, Samuel pleads with Israel and urges them to RETURN to the Lord with all of their hearts. During the period of the judges, Israel had gone off into sin and apostasy, and now God’s prophet calls them to repent.

Samuel commands Israel to put away or REMOVE the idols from among themselves and prepare their hearts to serve the Lord only. If they obey in this, Samuel says that God will deliver them out of the hand of the Philistines.

They then gather at Mizpeh and pour out water before the Lord, fast, and confess that, “We have sinned against the Lord.” The children of Israel RECOGNIZE AND CONFESS THEIR SIN to the Lord.

When the Philistines hear that the children of Israel are at Mizpeh, they go up to attack Israel. Afraid, the children of Israel REQUEST PRAYER from Samuel. They tell Samuel not to cease crying out to the Lord so that God will save them from the Philistines. Samuel then takes a suckling lamb and makes a burnt offering to the Lord, and cries out to the Lord.

The Lord then thunders upon the Philistines, and God ROUTS THE ENEMY. Israel pursues the Philistines and smites them all the way to Beth-car. Samuel takes a stone called Ebenezer (literally Stone of Help), and sets it up between Mizpeh and Shen to help Israel to REMEMBER how God had delivered them.

God also RESTORES to Israel the cities– from Ekron to Gath–that the Philistines had taken from them. The Philistines are subdued and no longer come into the coasts of Israel. So God relieves Israel from the oppression of their enemy.

Here we have a great pattern for us to follow. When we have sinned against the Lord, we should return to Him, remove the idols, confess our sins, pray for restoration, and then let God fight our battles. When God delivers us, we should remember what He has done for us and give Him thanks.

What a gracious and merciful God we serve that He would be so kind and forgiving toward us! It is because of what Jesus did on the cross, when He paid for our sins, that God shows us mercy. The risen Savior offers us deliverance from sin, death, and hell; He offers us new life and the ultimate restoration–eternal life with Him in heaven. Praise the Lord, our great Deliverer.

Symbolism and Second Chances in the Film, The Natural

 

Iris Gaines: You know, I believe we have two lives.
Roy Hobbs: How… what do you mean?
Iris Gaines: The life we learn with and the life we live with after that.

The well-known baseball movie, The Natural, is based upon the 1952 book of the same name by Bernard Malamud. It has a star-studded cast which includes Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Robert Duvall, Kim Basinger, Wilford Brimley, and Barbara Hershey. The movie and the book differ in several ways. The ending of the movie diverges notably from the book, and the character of Iris is also changed. In addition, the protagonist in the novel is a much less likeable character than in the film. Thus, the movie’s optimistic and inspiring tone contrasts sharply with the cynical outlook of the book.

 
The Natural is a story of a gifted baseball player, Roy Hobbs, who after having lost his prime years from being shot by a deranged woman, arrives in New York to play for Pop Fisher’s Knights. Roy is very talented–a natural at baseball–yet also very flawed. After sixteen years away from the game, he is given a long-shot opportunity to make a comeback. And he doesn’t disappoint. He begins to shine, and the fans love him. As he becomes successful, his old demons haunt him, however, and he begins to make some of the same mistakes as before. In order for Pop to be able to keep ownership of the team, the Knights must win the Pennant. In the race to bring the team out of the cellar, Roy and Pop face opposition from the Judge, who wants to ensure that the Knights remain a losing ballclub.

 
It has been said that when it comes to mythology in The Natural, Malamud threw in the kitchen sink and then some. Malamud seems to have drawn inspiration from several sources—the legends of King Arthur, the Fisher King and Percival, as well as Homer’s Odyssey. The first name of the main character, Roy Hobbs, is derived from the Latin root of king. The bat that Hobbs uses is called Wonderboy, and it is made from a tree that was struck by lightning– much like King Arthur’s sword, Excalibur, drawn from the stone. Pop Fisher’s name is an obvious reference to the Fisher King. Pop is a “wounded” manager who is about to lose the ballclub unless Percival (Hobbs) can help the Knights (again see the obvious Arthurian reference) win the Pennant (the Holy Grail).

 
Roy wears the number 9 on his jersey like Ted Williams. Williams’ goal in baseball was for people to say, “There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived.” Likewise, Roy Hobbs says on more than one occasion in the movie that he wants people to see him on the street and say, “There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was in this game.” This statement continues another Homeric theme—hubris. Right before Roy is shot by Harriet Bird, he tells her on the train that he plans to break all the records and be known as the best player to ever play the game. When Roy arrives in Chicago, Harriet calls and invites him to her room.  When he arrives she asks him whether he will be the best to ever play the game, and when he responds in the affirmative,  she proceeds to shoot him and then herself. From a classic point of view, Roy’s hubris, or excessive pride, led to his downfall.

 
It is interesting to note that Malamud based the shooting incident on a real-life situation between Eddie Waitkus and Ruth Ann Steinhagen. Waitkus, who was traded from the Cubs to the Phillies, was shot by Steinhagen at a Chicago hotel room in the summer of 1949. Steinhagen had become obsessed with Waitkus and had begun stalking him. Waitkus, who nearly died on the operating table, eventually recovered and was able to return to baseball.

 
As previously mentioned, the film contains many references to Homer’s Odyssey. The character of Harriet Byrd even asks Roy at the beginning of the film if he has read Homer. Like Odysseus, Roy is on a journey to get “home” after being gone for many years. The judge could be seen as Hades, the Greek god of the underworld. The judge is clearly the main villain in the movie. He hates the light, and his office is always dark. Throughout the movie, he works to sabotage Roy Hobbs, Pop Fisher, and the Knights. The symbolism for Memo Paris works on multiple levels. Memo could be short for memory. In a way she is a second Harriet Byrd. They both dress in black, and they both work for Gus Sands. Both are femme fatales who tempt Roy to throw away his success in baseball. Her last name of Paris represents distraction, fun and excitement. Memo could also be seen as the nymph Calypso, who tempted Odysseus and detained him from going home. Iris Gaines then is Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, who stayed at home and raised their son while Odysseus was away.

 
Iris stands up at the game in Chicago because she doesn’t want to see Roy fail. She appears as an angel–the sun hits her translucent hat and gives the impression of a halo around her head. She is dressed in white, which contrasts with the black dresses of Harriet Bird and Memo Paris. Roy, after seeing Iris stand up, hits a monstrous home run which smashes the clock on the scoreboard. After years of being apart, time is “stopped” momentarily as Roy and Iris meet after the game. Now Roy is on his way “home” as he will eventually reunite with Iris after being sidetracked by Memo.

 
The conversation at the top of this article takes place at a critical point in the movie when Roy is in the hospital after having been poisoned by Memo. He has to make some serious decisions. His original injury from the shooting comes back to haunt him. The doctor tells him that he shouldn’t play in the last game, which will decide whether the Knights win the Pennant and go to the World Series. He tells Iris as he lay in the hospital, “Some mistakes I guess we never stop paying for.” Memo and the Judge stop by to visit him to try to persuade Roy to accept a bribe and sit out the game. Has Roy learned anything from the past?

 
Just as Roy faced the temptation of Harriet Bird years before, now he must again decide what to do. Here is a second round of tests, and here is a second chance to do the right thing. Will he choose Memo or Iris? Will he help Pop or the Judge? Will he play to win or for money? Will he be selfish or play for Pop and his teammates? The inspiring thing about The Natural is that it’s a movie about the hope of a second chance, of redemption after failure. But Roy’s second chance is predicated upon whether or not Roy has learned anything from his past mistakes. It’s a movie that appeals to us because we can all relate to Roy blowing it when he makes unwise decisions. We all crave the chance to learn from our mistakes and do better the next time. So we see that The Natural is not just a movie about baseball. It’s a movie about life—of failure and victory, of second chances, and of hope.

Why Doctrine Matters

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:1, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” And Colossians 3:14 seems to indicate that love is the supreme virtue that binds all the other ones together. Love indeed is supremely important because Jesus Himself said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” As important as love is, doctrine and truth are also important. It is popular today to focus entirely on love and act as though truth or doctrine does not matter much, but we need both love and truth to be healthy, well-balanced Christians.

What is doctrine? Our word doctrine comes from the Latin doctrina, and it literally means teaching or instruction. In a Christian context, doctrine is the body or system of teachings taught by Jesus and the Apostles as laid out in the Bible.

In 1 Timothy 4:16, the Apostle Paul warned his young protege, Timothy, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” In 2 Timothy 4:3, Paul brings up the subject of doctrine again to Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”

So first, we see that doctrine saves us from deception and false teaching. True teaching gives life. Jesus said in John 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Jesus had much to say about false teachers. When we know sound doctrine, we can spot false doctrine pretty quickly. Conversely, if we are ignorant of the truth, we can be easily led astray.

Doctrine stabilizes us and gives our belief system structure. Ephesians 4:13-14 talks about becoming mature in Christ so that we won’t be like children “carried about with every wind of doctrine.” A skyscraper needs a strong frame of steel in order to support its weight and withstand high winds. Doctrine is like that steel framework in our lives. It gives us stability and support. Chuck Swindoll once gave a great illustration about the balance between truth and love. He said love is like a river and truth is like the banks of the river. If there were no banks the river would overflow and cause damage and destruction.

It is also important that we know sound doctrine so we can pass it on to the next generation. The Apostle John said in 3 John 1:4, ““I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” John was talking about his spiritual children (Gaius), but I think the application can certainly be made to our literal descendants. If we do not know sound doctrine, how can we pass it on?

Back in 1 Corinthians 13:6, Paul says that love “does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.” Part of loving is loving the truth. And how can you love something that you don’t know? Doctrine may not be popular these days, but it is vitally important. Doctrine does indeed matter. But like Paul said in Ephesians 4:15, we need to speak “the truth in love.” If we aren’t loving when we teach and share our doctrine, few will want to hear it.

Apostasy and Lawlessness

We live in interesting and scary times. It seems with each passing day, a once sound Christian institution or leader, capitulates to the secular humanists’ moral and religious revolution, or to put it another way, the postmodern zeitgeist.

 

In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, the Apostle Paul warned the Thessalonians to not be deceived about the return of the Lord. He said that two things must happen before the Second Coming of Jesus. First, there will be a falling away or apostasy. Second, the man of sin, or the Antichrist, will be revealed. In verse 7, Paul goes on to talk about the mystery of iniquity or lawlessness that is already working in the world.

 

The Greek word apostasia in verse 3 means a defection from the truth, or a standing away from. The word was used as a revolt staged by a military commander. In the last days, Paul indicates that there will be many people who will depart from the truth. This agrees with what he said in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (KJV): “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

 
In Matthew 24:12, in the Olivet Discourse, Jesus says, “And because iniquity (lawlessness) shall abound, the love of many shall wax (grow) cold.” Here we have the word lawlessness that was used in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 (mystery of iniquity). It is the Greek word, anomia, which derives from the word anomos, which is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 to describe the Wicked or Lawless one, the Antichrist. These words carry the idea of illegality or a violation of the law, or wickedness.

 
That same word, anomia, or lawlessness, is found again in 1 John 3:4: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law (commits lawlessness): for sin is the transgression of the law (lawlessness).” So, John here equates sin with lawlessness. It is a violation of the law.

 
The same word pops up again in 2 Corinthians 6:14: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness (lawlessness)? And what communion hath light with darkness?” Here Paul is telling us to have nothing to do with lawlessness. Believers and unbelievers have no fellowship together. He goes on to say in verses 17 and 18, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”

 
Paul uses the word again as he quotes from Psalm 32 in Romans 4:7, “Saying, ‘Blessed are they whose iniquities (lawless deeds) are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.’” Paul also uses the word in Titus 2:14, “Who (Jesus Christ) gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity (lawlessness), and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Here we see the Gospel’s offer of forgiveness of our lawless deeds or sins through faith in the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

 
As we think about the lawlessness of our age, our minds probably are directed to the normalization of immorality, such as homosexuality. We might think about the increase in violence and disregard for human life. We see the lawlessness increasing in our society almost every day. And this is taking place not just in secular society, but sadly in major Christian denominations and churches. So could this be the falling away or apostasy that Paul was talking about in 2 Thessalonians? Only God knows for sure.

 
One thing is clear from these passages, though. We are to have nothing to do with sin and lawlessness. We live in a time when even many Christian teachers seem to imply that you can be a Christian and live like the world. But as we see from the verses mentioned above, that is just not the case. Christ wants us to depart from iniquity. We are not to live lawless lives but instead lives of love and light.

 
In these uncertain times, let us hold to the anchor of God’s Word. We need to develop a love for the truth and hold fast to sound doctrine. We must live pure and blameless in a wicked and lawless world. May we be found ready for the appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Gift of Books

Whenever you finish reading a book, a gift has been given to you–the gift of personal growth. You are no longer the same person you were when you started that book. You have learned things that you did not know before. Your worldview, your way of looking at the world, may have changed. Your curiosity has likely been piqued, and you may now want to read other books and investigate other topics that before you did not even know existed.

I would like to share three books which I’ve read, two recently and one not so recently, that have changed my outlook and view on things. I love books for several reasons. They bring joy to me as they transport me to other times and places. They spark my imagination. As I discussed before, they also change me and cause me to grow as a person. And there’s one that has changed millions of people’s lives, and that is the Supreme Book–the Bible.

I first read the Bible completely from Genesis to Revelation during my college years. No other book has affected me the way the Bible has. I became a Christian at a young age when my mother shared the Gospel with me, and I put my faith in Jesus as my Lord and Savior. My knowledge of most of the Bible, however, was fairly limited to the basics until I got older. After I went off to college, I wanted to know for myself what the Bible said and why I believed what I believed.

Reading the Bible did at least three things for me. First, it helped me to grow as a Christian and learn about what God’s will was for my life. Many people when they read the Bible get bogged down in Numbers and Leviticus. Let me say, though, that the Old Testament is full of action and interesting stories. Far from being boring, it relates the lives of Biblical heroes, such as Abraham, Joseph, David, and Jeremiah, but more importantly it shows how God worked through His chosen people, Israel, to establish the Davidic Line, from which the Messiah would come. I was perhaps most excited when I saw Christ prefigured and prophesied about in the Old Testament in multiple passages.

Moving to the New Testament, one finds Jesus’ ministry, the Crucifixion and Resurrection, the early Church, and the Epistles. In Matthew 5-7, you will find the famous Sermon on the Mount. One of the things I learned from the Sermon on the Mount was the importance of mercy and forgiveness. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” I discovered in Romans 12:9 that my love was to be sincere and I was to hate evil and love what is good. I learned from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 that I was to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and be thankful in everything.

The second thing that the Bible did for me was that it confirmed to me what I believed and why I believed it. I became more confident in my faith and my worldview. When debates on current issues arose, I could look back on the Bible as my foundation for what I believed on any certain topic. I guess you could say it grounded me in a society which had a very uncertain moral compass.

Third and finally, reading the Bible helped me to appreciate all the allusions and references to it in Western literature. You can’t read The Scarlet Letter or speeches from Abraham Lincoln and fully understand them without knowing the Bible. Much of Western literature refers back to either the Bible or Shakespeare.

The second book, which I just read in the last few months, is All Quiet on the Western Front. It, of course, is the fictionalized account of a German soldier in WWI, based upon Erich Maria Remarque’s actual experience in the war. The book describes in graphic detail the physical and emotional horrors of trench warfare. One of the themes of the book is the difficulty that the soldiers face in readjusting to civilian life and the psychological devastation the war inflicts upon them.

The book affected me on an emotional and a philosophical level. As I read it, the narrative brought sadness to my heart as I thought about the suffering of the soldiers in the trenches on both sides. I had studied WWI before, but this novel helped me to get a more complete picture of how horrific the war was on a human level.

Philosophically, it caused me to ponder the moral ambiguity of the war. Soldiers from the Allied and Central powers were killing each other, not because the soldiers had anything against the other, but because their respective countries were at war with each other. This moral uncertainty is captured perfectly in a scene in the novel where the main character finds himself in a hole in No Man’s Land with an enemy soldier. He has to kill the man to save himself, but then he feels guilty for doing it when he realizes that this man is just like him and has a family, too. Remarque does a superb job of exploring the human element in a very inhumane and mechanized war.

The most recent book that I’ve read (in fact I just finished it before writing this) is The Only Woman in the Room, a surprisingly delightful book that I did not even know was out there and had no intention of reading before I saw it advertised on Facebook as the Barnes and Noble book of the month. It was written by Marie Benedict, and it is a historical fiction novel based on the life of Hedy Lemarr.

The book traces her life from a Jewish girl in Austria to her career as an actress and inventor in Los Angeles. I learned a lot about Austrian culture in pre-WWII days as well as the abuse that Lemarr faced in her marriage; as well as the sexism she dealt with in her endeavors as an actress and an inventor. I’m not one to subscribe to notions of feminism and chauvinism, but Benedict really makes the reader, even male readers, feel compassion for Lemarr over the mistreatment she faced as a female who refused to let herself be powerless in the face of oppression.

These three books are very different, yet they all impacted me, and when I finished them, I was changed in some way for the better. Now, let me say that I’m not trying to equate the latter two books with the Bible. I believe the Bible stands above all books because it was written and inspired by God. My point in writing this blog post is that no matter what book you read, if it is a good one, it will change you in some way. Books are powerful forces. They can change lives; they can change the world. And we would be remiss if we did not take advantage of what they have to offer us. So, grab a good book, snuggle up in your favorite chair, and start your new adventure. You won’t be the same after you’ve finished it.

Weekend Getaway

Last Friday night as we were headed to the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center near Sulphur, Oklahoma, I wondered where my wife had booked us to stay for the weekend. I didn’t know anything about the hotel. We were out in the middle of nowhere, and I thought maybe we were going to a shack in the woods.

 
I was pleasantly surprised when we drove up to the conference center and it was all lit up. “This place looks pretty nice,” I thought. The empty parking lot made the place look deserted. There were hardly any other cars around. We had the place virtually to ourselves.

 
The hotel was very stylish and modern. There was even Bedre chocolate waiting for us in our rooms. We went swimming in the pool after checking in. There we saw a few other guests already in the pool. The water was warm, and the pool was 3 to 4 feet deep. The kids had a great time in the water. After swimming, we went back to the room and watched the Brewers beat the Dodgers in Game 6 of the NLCS.

 
The next morning, after eating breakfast, we drove to the Chickasaw Cultural Center, which was hosting a pumpkin patch for the kids along with crafts. We also enjoyed free corn on the cob. It was perfect, fall weather—sunny and mild. We went across the sky bridge and looked out over a recreated Chickasaw village. Then we went down the stairs and walked through the town and over the Ikana suspension bridge.

 
We spent the afternoon exploring the Chickasaw National Recreational Area. First, we drove to Little Niagara. We walked across the rocks of the falls and enjoyed the serene sound of the running water. A word of caution—the rocks are slick, and if you have kids be careful because they could easily slip and fall into the rushing water.  Next, we hiked a mile or two to Buffalo Springs. It was a peaceful, secluded spot that included a fresh-water spring surrounded by a circular rock enclosure. The Civilian Conservation Corps built many of the rock structures in the park during the Great Depression. I dipped my hand in the cool water. The water was clear, but the algae and moss made it look green when you looked at it from a distance. Leaves gently fell around us as we walked back through the woods; it was an idyllic, peaceful scene. I breathed in deeply the fresh air, and I thanked God for time with family, beautiful weather, and the wonderful scenery.

 
We hiked back the way we had come…to Travertine Island. Then we spent a few more moments at Little Niagara, enjoying the relaxing ambience before heading to downtown Sulphur to see the Artesian Hotel. We walked through several shops around the Artesian. We really enjoyed Sweet Swirlz, a candy store. I don’t know who was more excited—the kids or me. We walked out of there with five or six bags of candy.   We were hungry and tired, so we called it a day and went to eat dinner at Las Abuelitas. On Saturday night, we spent the night in and around the hotel—walking the grounds, swimming, watching more baseball, and reading.

 
We took our time getting around on Sunday morning. My wife wanted to go see the Lake of the Arbuckles. Because of all the recent rains, the water was high enough to partially cover picnic tables and trees. After standing on the edge of the lake for a few minutes, we headed back home. After getting a treat in Davis at Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies, we drove to Sonny’s Café in Purcell to eat lunch. We enjoyed it very much. My wife got a huge chicken fried steak, and I had the Western Hamburger Steak covered in green chilies, tomatoes, cheese, and bacon. The kids had chicken tenders and fries. The fries were extra tasty as well. It was a great way to wrap up the trip.

 
I was very pleasantly surprised by Sulphur and the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Surprisingly, even though I was born and raised in Oklahoma, I had never been to Sulphur that I can recall. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it ended up being a wonderful weekend getaway. We got to enjoy nature and relax. The kids had a fun time, too. I would recommend it to others who haven’t been.