A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and a Great War microReview

Joseph laconte.pngGrowing up like a lot of boys, I liked to play at war with my friends. Limited access to toy guns did little to inhibit our imagination in many games of Nazis vs. Allies or Secret Agents vs. Terrorist. Seeing my first war film in high school didn’t prevent me from drawing isometric battlefields of tanks and artillery during drawing time in fourth grade.

In time, with exposure to films such as The Patriot or Saving Private Ryan, I witnessed more brutal portrayals of war. College and later university brought me to professors and fellow students who decried war, even as the events around September 11th, 2001 transpired and the fallout spread in nationalism and patriotism. Soon as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq dragged on, and articles appeared about lies and scandal surrounding our government’s reasons for engaging in these conflicts, I grew disillusioned.

J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis both fought in one of the most defining wars of history. In the early 1900s, a world, buoyed by staggering technological progress, strode toward conflict. Its confidence could be found in the idea that all these advancements in technological and scientific fields would ensure mankind was not only changing but improving irreversibly toward perfection.

The destruction of this myth in the cataclysm of World War I sent an entire generation of philosophers, writers, artists, etc. into a bleak agnosticism. Small wonder after voices from church pulpits on both sides urged the soldiers on in a holy struggle where God was on their side against the foe.

So what was so different about the experiences of Tolkien and Lewis? Both served and experienced horror and terror and witnessed some of the worst consequences of fallen human nature. Yet, their epics The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, as well as their other writings, contain strong Christian allegories, faith in the face of great odds, heroism from the average and unexpected individual, etc.

Joseph Laconte explores in brief how their war experiences affected their lives and relationships afterwards as well as their writing. His work is a taste, a summary, and in parts biography. He sets the scenes well and touches upon the relevant history and the social situations of the day with brevity. I first heard of this book on the Brant and Sherri Oddcast.

 A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-1918 was written by Joseph Loconte, published and printed by Nelson Books in 2015, and it contains 235 pages.

Miracles microReview


I confess I find it hard to believe in modern-day miracles. I suppose it’s because few of them happen to the people I know in real life. Trustworthy people with whom I have a personal relationship are more believable than the ones I read about.

I’m not saying miracles don’t happen, nor that they didn’t happen. The entirety of my faith hinges upon the greatest series of miracles leading to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These days, I subconsciously take the Jesus-works-in-subtle-ways road. As in, He’ll touch a heart here to send a check there and answer a prayer that way. As in, He’ll use someone’s pre-Christian experiences to minister to others in the best way, redeeming their past for the future He desires. Subtle.

But God isn’t always so subtle in his miracles even now, according to Eric Metaxas. In Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life, he explores the small and great, the old and the new in a variety of works of God which are deemed “miraculous.”

Metaxas writes with the non-believer and the theologian in mind. For those who say, “Life itself is a miracle,” he agrees and touches upon what makes it so. The first half of his book reads like a work by Lee Strobel, more in the vein of The Case for Creator or The Case for Christ. The rebuttals toward “the universe happened by chance” or “Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead” are familiar.

However, these arguments are a necessary foundation. Not only does he establish what a miracle is, but he also discusses what a miracle is supposed to achieve. Metaxas cannot do either without basing it on biblical narrative and analysis of miracles in scripture.

The second half of the book is divided into sections. Each section contains several stories of a type of miracle. The type of miracle is defined in a forward covering each separate section. Anything from miraculous healing to a staunch non-believer turning to Christianity in a conversion miracle to encountering angels obvious and angels disguised. It is a trove of anecdotes very much like those found in a Chicken Soup series book.

Overall, it is a solid exploration which left me with a lot to consider.

Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life was written by Eric Metaxas, published and reprinted by Penguin Books on October 13, 2015 and it contains 352 pages.


Blessed Are the Misfits microReview

Blast are the MessfitsGrowing up, my family and I would visit my Nana in Port Angeles. Sunday mornings, we trooped with her to church and I’d be the visitor from out of town in a Sunday School class. On one occasion, the teacher taught about Noah’s ark and how all those who accepted Jesus were basically on Noah’s ark.

Post lesson, one of the nice lady teachers asked me, “Do you feel like you’re on Noah’s ark?”

“No.” I said.

“Well, do you want to pray so you are?” She smiled a kind smile.

“No.” I looked around nervously.

Now, understand this: I was about seven years old. Let me project for you what literal seven-year-old me was thinking at the time.

“Lady, we’re in a class room. In a church. We’re not on a boat, much less Noah’s ark. So, no, I don’t feel like I’m on Noah’s ark. If I pray and ask to be on Noah’s ark, I believe you and I’ll be on Noah’s ark. I don’t like boats. So forget it.” Continue reading “Blessed Are the Misfits microReview”

Escape from Camp 14 microReview

51kyU734ymLEscape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West is the fascinating, raw story of a man born in captivity. Treated as worthless but for the hard labor he performed, Shin Dong-hyuk grew up in believing he had no worth. His life, his mind, his psychology were all formed into a twisted, feral persona.

It led to him falsely accusing his mother and brother of murder in exchange for more food. Believing Shin knew more than he was letting on, the guards hung him by his hands and feet from the ceiling. Then, they lit a fire beneath him. Demanding he reveal all that he knew, they let out the ropes that held him aloft until his back began to burn from the flames. He tried to shift out of the way. The guards plunged a steel hook into his torso to hold him still.

To this day, he bears the mental and physical scars.

Continue reading “Escape from Camp 14 microReview”