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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sunspots 540

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:



Christianity: Benjamin L. Corey on how we should think about the people who wash our cars, check us out in Walmart, stand in line in front of us at McDonalds, etc. Revolutionary!

(and Sports) ESPN reports that two of the most successful quarterbacks in the NFL have sparred over the question of whether God cares about who wins, as opposed to God not caring much about who wins, but caring about the individual players.

Relevant has a post on whether Christians should use politically correct speech, or not. The article actually gives a definition of such speech, which is helpful.


Computing: Gizmo's Freeware reports on a freeware program for rotating video files.

Gizmo also tells you how to check (and change) your privacy settings for Microsoft and Google.

Education: (Or politics, or history) Insidegov has ranked US presidents by their net worth, in comparable dollar values.

Politics: (sort of) The New York Times reports on how the US government is exploring some inexpensive tweaks in how people interact with it, that don't cost much, can save taxpayer money, and can make government more effective.

National Public Radio examines recent proposals to simplify the tax code by having fewer brackets, and finds that that won't simplify much.

Science: Relevant links to a seven-minute video showing, dramatically, how the solar system's objects are really far apart.

Wired tells us that we are surrounded by a cloud of bacteria, that come off our skin, and out of us when we fart.

Audubon tells us why hawks keep hummingbirds safe.



Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Thomas à Kempis on the cross

Thomas à Kempis on the cross 
The above graphic is an attempt to set a quotation from Thomas à Kempis, in his classic The Imitation of Christ, into poster form. The quotation emphasizes the Cross -- the death of Christ. It is true, of course, that the resurrection of Christ is as, or more, important than His death, but His death, on the Cross, was crucial to our salvation, and to the possibility of living the Christian life.

Modified into current English, à Kempis said:
In the Cross is health, in the Cross is life, in the Cross is protection from enemies, in the Cross strength of mind, in the Cross joy of the spirit, in the Cross the height of virtue, in the Cross perfection of holiness. There is no health of the soul, no hope of eternal life, but in the Cross. Take up, therefore, your cross and follow Jesus, and you shall go into eternal life.

May it be so. Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Are there any nations you need to conquer? David and Psalm 18

Psalm 18:29 For by you, I advance through a troop.
By my God, I leap over a wall.
30 As for God, his way is perfect.
Yahweh’s word is tried.
He is a shield to all those who take refuge in him.
31 For who is God, except Yahweh?
Who is a rock, besides our God,
32 the God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect?
33 He makes my feet like deer’s feet,
and sets me on my high places.
34 He teaches my hands to war,
so that my arms bend a bow of bronze.
35 You have also given me the shield of your salvation.
Your right hand sustains me.
Your gentleness has made me great.
36 You have enlarged my steps under me,
My feet have not slipped.
37 I will pursue my enemies, and overtake them.
I won’t turn away until they are consumed.
38 I will strike them through, so that they will not be able to rise.
They shall fall under my feet.
39 For you have armed me with strength to the battle.
You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.
40 You have also made my enemies turn their backs to me,
that I might cut off those who hate me.
41 They cried, but there was no one to save;
even to Yahweh, but he didn’t answer them.

42 Then I beat them small as the dust before the wind.
I cast them out as the mire of the streets.
43 You have delivered me from the strivings of the people.
You have made me the head of the nations.
A people whom I have not known shall serve me.
44 As soon as they hear of me they shall obey me.
The foreigners shall submit themselves to me.
45 The foreigners shall fade away,
and shall come trembling out of their strongholds.
46 Yahweh lives; and blessed be my rock.
Exalted be the God of my salvation,
47 even the God who executes vengeance for me,
and subdues peoples under me.
48 He rescues me from my enemies.
Yes, you lift me up above those who rise up against me.
You deliver me from the violent man.
49 Therefore I will give thanks to you, Yahweh, among the nations,
and will sing praises to your name.
50 He gives great deliverance to his king,
and shows loving kindness to his anointed,
to David and to his offspring, forever more.
(World English Bible, public domain)


According to the Bible, Psalm 18 is "By David the servant of Yahweh, who spoke to Yahweh the words of this song in the day that Yahweh delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul."

I'm not exactly sure when, in his life, David wrote this Psalm. Perhaps he was a fugitive, leading an army of a few hundred loyal followers, while King Saul was trying to capture and kill him. Perhaps he had, as King David, captured some enemy country, and was reflecting on what God had done for him over a longer period of time. We don't know, and we don't need to know, because, in either case, the lessons are the same.

David mentions two related themes, over and over.
1) God has helped me be victorious and
2) I have been victorious.

Although it's pretty clear that some of this Psalm is poetic exaggeration -- David never really ground up his enemies so that they blew away as dust (verse 42), so far as we know, and perhaps he didn't literally leap over a wall or run through a troop (verse 29) -- it is also pretty clear that David is thanking God that he has been victorious over his enemies. And he should have thanked God for this. Some of his battles were won in miraculous ways, starting with his victory over Goliath, the well-armored champion of the Philistines.

So what does this have to do with you and me? I'm not fighting anyone. I don't expect to conquer any enemies, in a literal sense. You probably aren't and don't, either. But still ... 

If God could help David defeat his heathen enemies in battle, and escape King Saul, then God can help us. Raising our children, acting Christ-like on the job and in the neighborhood, standing up for the right, or those who are oppressed, defeating the temptations that beset us, all of these are battles that most of us are fighting, in the 21st century. And, in their way, they are just as difficult, and require just as much miraculous help, as David needed to escape Saul or kill Goliath.

I didn't quote the first part of the Psalm, but will now. It establishes conditions for victory: 
20 Yahweh has rewarded me according to my righteousness.
According to the cleanness of my hands, he has recompensed me.
21 For I have kept the ways of Yahweh,
and have not wickedly departed from my God.
22 For all his ordinances were before me.
I didn’t put away his statutes from me.
23 I was also blameless with him.
I kept myself from my iniquity.
24 Therefore Yahweh has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.
 


God helped David because He was pleased with David, and David knew it, and gave God credit. None of us are without sin -- we probably would think of ourselves, or our fellow believers, as unduly proud, if we called ourselves "blameless," and we realize that our salvation is not paid for "according to my righteousness." But God's grace gives us believers the power to take care of that sick relative, to work at a hard job with patience and humility, to minister, through the Holy Spirit, to those around us, to grow spiritually, to develop good habits and stop bad ones, to find God's will for our lives. These are our cities to conquer, our enemies to defeat. And, like David, by God's help, we can do this.

Thanks for reading. I thank my church Small Group leader for having us examine this Psalm, recently.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 40

Darwinism can be used to back up two mad moralities, but it cannot be used to back up a single sane one. The kinship and competition of all living creatures can be used as a reason for being insanely cruel or insanely sentimental; but not for a healthy love of animals. On the evolutionary basis you may be inhumane, or you may be absurdly humane; but you cannot be human. That you and a tiger are one may be a reason for being tender to a tiger. Or it may be a reason for being as cruel as the tiger. It is one way to train the tiger to imitate you, it is a shorter way to imitate the tiger. But in neither case does evolution tell you how to treat a tiger reasonably, that is, to admire his stripes while avoiding his claws. If you want to treat a tiger reasonably, you must go back to the garden of Eden. For the obstinate reminder continued to recur: only the supernatural has taken a sane view of Nature. The essence of all pantheism, evolutionism, and modern cosmic religion is really in this proposition: that Nature is our mother. Unfortunately, if you regard Nature as a mother, you discover that she is a step-mother. The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate. This gives to the typically Christian pleasure in this earth a strange touch of lightness that is almost frivolity. Nature was a solemn mother to the worshippers of Isis and Cybele. Nature was a solemn mother to Wordsworth or to Emerson. But Nature is not solemn to Francis of Assisi or to George Herbert. To St. Francis, Nature is a sister, and even a younger sister: a little, dancing sister, to be laughed at as well as loved.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Rest in peace, Yogi Berra

Lawrence Peter ("Yogi") Berra has passed away. Berra was a great baseball player, being on the winning side in 13 of 21 World Series appearances, as player, coach, and manager. Some consider him the greatest player, at his position, in baseball history. I'm old enough to remember number 8 of the New York Yankees, appearing, it seemed, every year, on TV, as the catcher for the Yankees.

In addition to his baseball prowess, Berra was also known for "Yogi-isms," which, as the Wikipedia says, were "either an apparently obvious tautology or a paradoxical contradiction." (Example: "Nobody goes there any more. It's too crowded." Here is a link to some of these sayings, and here is another, with some duplication. And here is a compilation of 50 Yogi-isms.

Berra was known for his work with youth, after his full-time baseball career was over. His wife preceded him in death. They had been married 65 years.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Sunspots 539

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:


Christianity: An orthodox Christian pastor says that many "conservative" Christians are not truly conservative enough.

Christianity Today reports that demographics, and male attitudes, prevent many single women from being able to find a suitable husband.


Education: Here's the difference between "whoever" and "whomever."

Health: National Public Radio says that research on fruit flies may help us treat insomnia.

NPR also reports that people on food stamps don't eat as healthily as other poor people, or the rest of us.

Politics: Two different essays, both brief, both good, and mostly different, giving 5 things Christians should remember during this election season.  Benjamin L. Corey wrote one, and here is Relevant Magazine's article.

Relevant also has a essay on reasons that Christians should welcome Muslim refugees.

Science:
National Public Radio reports that an artificial sternum (breast bone) and parts of ribs, made of Titanium, have been produced by a 3-D printer (a very expensive one), and used in treatment.

The New York Times summarizes the evidence that autism is NOT caused by vaccination.

The New York Times reports on carnivorous plants -- the article includes a short video of a snail being caught by a Venus' Flytrap. One kind of pitcher plant has developed a mutually beneficial arrangement with a small bat.

The Times also reports that mothers retain fetal cells after giving birth, and that sometimes, maybe often, these cells remain throughout the mother's life. It is possible that they may influence her behavior.

Inside Climate News reports, here and here, that Exxon was well aware of climate change due to increased Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere as early as 1977.

Wired tells us that giraffes do make sounds, contrary to what we have believed.

Relevant reports that an invisibility cloak may be possible.

 

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Some characteristics of God

some characteristics of God 
Some characteristics of God. God isn't in a hurry. The earth, and the universe, are very old. God put up with the unfaithfulness of the Israelites for centuries and generations. He is said to be coming back soon, but that has been said for nearly two millenia. God has His own time scale.

God can be trusted. He is faithful to keep His promises. His laws hold up -- gravity is going to work tomorrow.

God is in control. God the son holds all things together. See Colossians 1, quoted above.

God is extravagant! There are many organisms that we haven't even found, many galaxies that we haven't even seen.

Thanks for looking and reading. The graphic should serve as a link to a larger image.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 39

We constantly hear a particularly cosmic creed from the modern humanitarians; I use the word humanitarian in the ordinary sense, as meaning one who upholds the claims of all creatures against those of humanity. They suggest that through the ages we have been growing more and more humane, that is to say, that one after another, groups or sections of beings, slaves, children, women, cows, or what not, have been gradually admitted to mercy or to justice. They say that we once thought it right to eat men (we didn’t); but I am not here concerned with their history, which is highly unhistorical. As a fact, anthropophagy is certainly a decadent thing, not a primitive one. It is much more likely that modern men will eat human flesh out of affectation than that primitive man ever ate it out of ignorance. I am here only following the outlines of their argument, which consists in maintaining that man has been progressively more lenient, first to citizens, then to slaves, then to animals, and then (presumably) to plants. I think it wrong to sit on a man. Soon, I shall think it wrong to sit on a horse. Eventually (I suppose) I shall think it wrong to sit on a chair. That is the drive of the argument. And for this argument it can be said that it is possible to talk of it in terms of evolution or inevitable progress. A perpetual tendency to touch fewer and fewer things might—one feels, be a mere brute unconscious tendency, like that of a species to produce fewer and fewer children. This drift may be really evolutionary, because it is stupid.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Sunspots 538

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:
 


Computing: Jotti is an on-line site that lets you submit a possibly dangerous file for checking. The site checks with several malware detection processes, and gives you a report.

Education: Wired asks if speed reading is really possible.

Difference Between is a web site that posts -- what else -- the difference between lots of things, such as Greek and regular yogurt, Oxycodone and Oxycontin, after and afterward and a lot more. Searchable.

Politics: National Public Radio discusses why Donald Trump appeals to some on the religious right, even though he doesn't have evangelical Christian credentials.

Science: Christianity Today (!) has a splendid display of photos of plankton, near-microscopic organisms that are suspended in the ocean in vast numbers, and in a great variety of species.

Wired tells us that scientists are learning a lot about individual brain cells by making them light-sensitive. Really.

Wired also reports on cochineal, a substance derived from scale insects, which is an important food coloring.

And Wired reports on the largest insects in the world. They live in New Zealand.


Image source (public domain)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Ideas on how to love God


Ideas on How to Love God
Mark 12:28-31 tells us that the most important commandment is to love God.

In Luke’s description of what was probably the same event, Jesus explicitly affirmed that answer (World English Bible, public domain):
Luke 10:25 Behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; [Deuteronomy 6:5] and your neighbor as yourself. [Leviticus 19:18]” 28 He [Jesus] said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live.” [All these “loves” are agape love.]

So how do we love God?

One way, Jesus said, is to follow His teachings, or commandments. See John 14:15-24. Most of those teachings are in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7. See also the “Great Commission,” of Matthew 28:18-20.

An on-line search led to many articles on the subject. Here are some of their suggestions on how to Love God: 1) be thankful, including for things we don’t like. 2) trust God 3) put God first 4) be committed 5) be humble 6) spend time in prayer.

Some other ideas: If I really love someone, I will pay attention to what they say, even if I don’t like it, or it’s repetitive. If I really love someone, I want to be in their company. If I really love someone, I want the best for them -- I want them to be thought well of. May I feel that way about God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

George Croly expressed love for God in a great poem, “Spirit of God, Descend Upon my Heart”: The hymn says:
Hast Thou not bid me love Thee, God and King?
All, all Thine own, soul, heart and strength and mind.
I see Thy cross; there teach my heart to cling:
O let me seek Thee, and O let me find!

Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The kindling of the heaven descended Dove,
My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame.

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 38

Some people (as we have said) seem to believe in an automatic and impersonal progress in the nature of things. But it is clear that no political activity can be encouraged by saying that progress is natural and inevitable; that is not a reason for being active, but rather a reason for being lazy. If we are bound to improve, we need not trouble to improve. The pure doctrine of progress is the best of all reasons for not being a progressive. But it is to none of these obvious comments that I wish primarily to call attention. The only arresting point is this: that if we suppose improvement to be natural, it must be fairly simple. The world might conceivably be working towards one consummation, but hardly towards any particular arrangement of many qualities. To take our original simile: Nature by herself may be growing more blue; that is, a process so simple that it might be impersonal. But Nature cannot be making a careful picture made of many picked colours, unless Nature is personal. If the end of the world were mere darkness or mere light it might come as slowly and inevitably as dusk or dawn. But if the end of the world is to be a piece of elaborate and artistic chiaroscuro, then there must be design in it, either human or divine. The world, through mere time, might grow black like an old picture, or white like an old coat; but if it is turned into a particular piece of black and white art—then there is an artist.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Sunspots 537

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

The Arts: (or something) Lego-like blocks have been produced, only they are large enough to build real furniture and buildings.

Christianity: Relevant on "How Worry Warps Your View of God," and how to get the right view back.

Benjamin L. Corey gives 12 signs that you got your "Biblical" Worldview from Fox News (not the Bible).

Computing: Gizmo's Freeware reviews free Virtual Private Networks.

Finance: From the New York Times, an interactive web site that helps you decide whether to rent or purchase a home, based on your own data.

Health: Relevant wants to know "Why Don't Churches Ever Talk About Physical Health."

Politics: Benjamin L. Corey also thinks that some people go way too far in their defense of gun rights.

Science: In a report published this week in Nature, we learn that there are about three trillion trees on the earth.

Wired reports that royal jelly doesn't result in queen bees in the way we have thought it did.



Image source (public domain)

Monday, September 07, 2015

Once Beyond a Time, by Ann Tatlock

It was my privilege to recently read Ann Tatlock's Once Beyond a Time, which won the Christy Award (for books with a Christian worldview) for "visionary fiction." 

The book is unpretentious. It tells about a house, outside Black Mountain, North Carolina, and a family who moved there, mostly against their will -- the husband/father was a pastor who had an affair with his wife's cousin, and resigned the ministry, so the family, in some desperation, moved to this house. What about the house? People from different times can meet each other, and see and talk to each other, in the house. (They can't touch each other, or pass items between each other, or give away some kinds of information, between them,it turns out.) This is an unusual way of using fictional time travel.

I won't give away the plot -- there is one, believe me, and it will surprise you a few times.

The book is arranged as chapters, each one being the thoughts of one of the four people in the family. The chapters are dated, as events play out. All of the dates are in the 1960s, but sometimes a family member meets someone from 1916, or 2005, enough so that all of them come to believe that such cross-time conversations are possible.

The book portrays a gradual redemption, subtly shown, of the entire family. No one has a sudden conversion experience, or suddenly repents. It's more powerful for the subtlety. I believe that a non-believer might well enjoy the book without being turned off.

The setting is Black Mountain, a real place, and, I believe, one that the author is familiar with, but it could have been most any small town in 1960s America.

Thanks for reading. Read Tatlock.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by Gilbert K. Chesterton, 37

Now here comes in the whole collapse and huge blunder of our age. We have mixed up two different things, two opposite things. Progress should mean that we are always changing the world to suit the vision. Progress does mean (just now) that we are always changing the vision. It should mean that we are slow but sure in bringing justice and mercy among men: it does mean that we are very swift in doubting the desirability of justice and mercy: a wild page from any Prussian sophist makes men doubt it. Progress should mean that we are always walking towards the New Jerusalem. It does mean that the New Jerusalem is always walking away from us. We are not altering the real to suit the ideal. We are altering the ideal: it is easier.

As long as the vision of heaven is always changing, the vision of earth will be exactly the same. No ideal will remain long enough to be realized, or even partly realized. The modern young man will never change his environment; for he will always change his mind.


Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Sunspots 536

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

The Arts: Wired discusses producing fine musical instruments with 3-D printers. (They use the term, 3dvarius!)

Rebecca Luella Miller on Christianity and beauty. (She brings in Tim Tebow, too, amazingly enough.)

Christianity: Benjamin L. Corey on the type of people you should associate with (hint: see Galatians 5:22-23).

Relevant on how to guard against infidelity, especially on-line infidelity. "Married people don’t just suddenly stumble into affairs ... It’s usually the inevitable result of thousands of questionable decisions, all of which slowly, sometimes imperceptibly, lead people astray."

Relevant also lists "7 Sins the Church Ignores."


Computing: Gizmo's Freeware tells about a database that lets you know, immediately, if your e-mail address has been hacked.

Health: National Public Radio has a report on six communities, on at least three continents, where people live much longer than others, and suggests reasons for this, including some things that you and I can do individually -- but community action is more important.

Literature: (or something) NPR reports on new words added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Science: Wired tells us why we don't know enough yet (and may never) to preserve most endangered species by artificial insemination.

National Public Radio lets us listen in on, and explains, mate-attracting sounds in treehoppers and crickets.



Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Starflower, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Her Wikipedia page is pretty sparse, but Anne Elisabeth Stengl does have a blog. That blog gives more information about Stengl and her work, and shows you covers from the nine published items in her Goldstone Wood series.

Discussing nine volumes without giving away too much of the plot isn't going to be easy, so let's take a few specifics from the fourth volume, Starflower, without really summarizing it. (The first two books won Christy awards, and Starflower was nominated for one.)

What to say?
First, these works are fantastic literature. They are clearly fantasy -- there are fairies, dragons, and there is magic. The dragons can appear to be human, and the fairies, most of them, anyway, are also animals, such as a goat, a cat, a badger. Fairies live for a very long time. The setting is not an actual geography, or a specified time. There are no steam engines, no gunpowder, no printing presses, so it's something like the earth of long ago. But there is not an emphasis on swordplay, or magic. The emphasis is on character.

As in most fantastic sub-creations, there are rules. In Starflower, knowing someone's actual name gives some power over them. There are fairy paths that, if you can find them, and stay on them, let one travel very far in a very short time. There are barriers around various fairy realms. There is a near world, and a far one, but they intertwine. As N. T. Wright put it in his Revelation for Everyone, and in others of his works: "God’s sphere of being and operation (‘heaven’) and our sphere (‘earth’) are not after all separated by a great gulf. They meet and merge and meld into one another in all kinds of ways."

Second, (and see above) these are Christian books. Why do I say that? They are not preachy. No one goes to church. One reason I say that is that there is clearly conflict between good and evil. Fairies, and humans, are often drawn to the evil of the dragons. Another reason is redemption. Characters are forgiven. Even the most vile can be. Starflower is largely about the transformation of a self-centered, proud, character into one capable of selfless love and sacrifice. 

The books are often about that sort of love. In Starflower, the heroine loves three most unlovely dogs, and, in the process, transforms their behavior, through her unselfish love of them, seeing what is good in seemingly evil beasts.

One of the characters in Starflower is a hound. Stengl states, in the epilogue, that she was thinking about the Hound of Heaven, and quotes the first stanza:
I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;   
  I fled Him, down the arches of the years;   
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways   
    Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears   
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.      
      Up vistaed hopes I sped;   
      And shot, precipitated,   
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,   
  From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.   
      But with unhurrying chase,        
      And unperturbèd pace,   
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,   
      They beat—and a Voice beat   
      More instant than the Feet—   
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’ (Public domain. Source.)

Third, the structure of the books is interesting. The reader may be introduced to a character in one volume, and to episodes involving that character, and then, in another book, see the same episodes from the view of another character, or see a different view of a character. Starflower is said to be set centuries before any of the first three books, which are all set in the same time period. But some of the characters in Starflower were introduced in one or more of the previous books. A seemingly new main character is introduced at the beginning of the book.

The Goldstone Wood books do intermesh, but a reader should be able to read any of them profitably without having read the others.

Fourth, and unlike, say, Tolkien, who gives us little or none of what's going on in the mind of Sauron, Stengl spends lots of words on the thinking of the dragons.

Fifth, the books are well written. I have yet to see a grammatical error. The chapters make you want to read on, although they often change point of view from one to the next. Stengl is good at naming: Eanrin, Imraldera, Gleamdren, Iubdan, Glomar, Bebo, Wolftongue, Amarok. Stengl's descriptions of settings are well done. Her characters are easy to get to know. The plots are gripping. The books are not like any other fantastic literature that I have read, in atmosphere, characterization, setting, and plot, but many people who love fantastic literature should be able to enjoy them, whether the reader is Christian or not.

Sixth, the characters are ethnically diverse. The heroine of Starflower is described as having dark skin, and there is a dark-skinned woman on the cover of the book. Two of the other volumes feature females with oriental facial features on their covers.

I'm glad I read these books. I'm now going through them, some for the second or third time, and hope to enjoy them for years to come. Perhaps you can, too. I have previously posted on Stengl's Heartless and on her Veiled Rose.

Thanks for reading! Read Stengl.