Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Every book I read in 2014


1. Dreadnaught by Robert K. Massie
2. A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin
3. Castles of Steel by Robert K. Massie
4. Holy War by Karen Armstrong
5. The Hollow Crown by Miri Rubin
6. The Rise of Rome by Anthony Everitt
7. The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan
8. The Restoration of Rome by Peter Heather
9. 1177 BC by Eric Cline
10. Genghis Kahn and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford
11. The Man Without a Face by Masha Gessen
12. The Norman Conquest by Marc Morris
13. The Platagenets by Dan Jone
14. The War of the Roses by Alison Weir
15. Tudors by Leandra de Lisle
16. Lost to the West by Lars Brownworth
17. Rome and Jerusalem by Martin Goodman
18. China by John King Fairbanks
19. Dividing the Spoils by Robin Wakefield
20. The March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman


21. Emily Climbs by LM Montgomery
22. Emily of New Moon by LM Montgomery
23. Rilla of Ingleside by LM Montgomery
24. Anne’s House of Dreams by LM Montgomery
25. Rainbow Valley by LM Montgomery
26. Anne of Windy Poplars by LM Montgomery
27. Emma by Jane Austen
28. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
29. The Lost World by Michael Crichton
30. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
31. Home by Marilynne Robinson

Current Events

32. Words Will Break Cement by Masha Gessen
34. Double Down by John Heliemann andMark Halperin
35. Putin’s Kleptocracy by Karen Dishawa


36. A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin
37. A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin
38. A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin
39. A Feast for Crows by George RR Martin
40. A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin
41. Brightness Reef by David Brin
42. Startide Rising by David Brin
43. Infinity’s Shore by David Brin
44. Heaven’s Reach by David Bring
45. Shards of Honor by Lois McMasters Bujold
46. Barrayar by Lois McMasters Bujold
47. The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMasters Bujold
48. The Vor Game by Lois McMasters Bujold
49. Cetaganda by Lois McMasters Bujold
50. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
51. Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
52. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
53. The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
54. Redshirts by John Scalzi
55. In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker
56. Sky Coyote by Kage Baker
57. Cibola Burn by James SA Corey
58. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
59. The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
60. Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
61. Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie
62. Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
63. The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
64. Red Country by Joe Abercrombie
65. The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham
66. The King’s Blood by Daniel Abraham
67. The Tyrant’s Law by Daniel Abraham
68. The Widow’s House by Daniel Abraham
69. The Lions of Al Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
70. Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay
71. Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay
72. Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
73. Last Light of the Sun by Guy Gavriel Kay
74. A Song For Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay
75. The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay
76. River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay
77. The Wandering Fire by Guy Gavriel Kay
78. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
79. City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennet
80. The Lies of Locke Lamorra by Scott Lynch
81. Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
82. Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
83. Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

84. Coming Home by Jack McDevitt

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Every book I read in 2013 (so far)

Russian Literature:

1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodr Dostoevsky
2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
3. Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Russian History/Current Events:

4. Russia Against Napolean by Dominic Lieven
5. Shattering Empires by Michael Reynolds
6. The Whisperers: Private Lives in Stalin's Russia by Orlando Figes
7. Stalin, Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore
8. Resurrection by David Remnick
9. The Oligarchs by Marshall Goldman
10. Empire by Dominic Lieven
11. Putin's Russia by Anna Politskovskaya
12. Is Journalism Worth Dying For? by Anna Politskovskaya
13. The Man Without a Face by Masha Gessin
14. Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier
15. Alone Together by Elena Bonner
16. Natasha's Dance by Orlando Figes
17. The Russian Revolution by Richard Pipes
18. Russia Under the Bolshlevik Regime by Richard Pipes


19. T4T by Steve Smith
20. Celebrating the Saving Work of God by JI Packer
21. Center Church by Tim Keller
22. Bruchko by Bruce Olson
23. The Person of Christ by John Owen
24. Centuries by Thomas Traherne
25. On Revival by Jonathan Edwards
26. Praying Together for True Revival by Jonathan Edwards

Other Literature:

27. Hangman's Holiday by Dorothy Sayers
28. Unnatural Death by Dorothy Sayers
29. Clouds of Witness by Dorothy Sayers
30. Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers
31. The Unpleasantness at the Belladonna Club by Dorothy Sayers
32. Guady Night by Dorothy Sayers
33. Have His Carcase by Dorothy Sayers
34. The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers
35. Paradise Lost by John Milton
36. Persuasion by Jane Austen
37. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
38. The Warden by Anthony Trollope

Science Fiction/Fantasy:

39. The Devil's Eye by Jack McDevitt
40. Matter by  Iain M. Banks
41. The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks
42. Abbadon's Gate by James S. A. Covey
43. The Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton
44. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
45. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
46. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
47. A Feast For Crows by George R. R. Martin
48. A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin
49. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
50. Vacuum Diagrams by Stephen Baxter
51. Fate of Worlds by David Niven
52. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
53. Seeds of Earth by Michael Cobley
54. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein
55. The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkein
56. The Two Towers by JRR Tolkein
57. The Return of the King by JRR Tolkein
58. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling
59. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling
60. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling
61. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling
62. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling


63. Strategy by Laurence Freedman
64. Double Down by Mark Halperin and John Heilman

Notes: I decided to go on an extended book buying freeze, so I reread a lot of books this year. It was a good experience rediscovering some old books that I loved, and some brilliant ones I had recently read. Rereading a book in a relatively short period of time can be really helpful!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Books I Read in 2012-- (so far)

Russian Literature

1. Anna Karenina--Leo Tolstoy
2. Demons--Fyodor Dostoevsky
3. The Adolescent--Fyodor Dostoevsky
4. The Brothers Karamazov--Fyodor Dostoevsky
5. The Brothers Karamazov--Fyodor Dostoevsky (read twice)
6. Life and Fate--Vasilly Grossman

Other Literature

7. Les Miserables--Victor Hugo
8. A Tale of Two Cities--Charles Dickens
9. The Great Gatsby--F. Scott Fitzgerald
10. Back to Blood--Tom Wolfe
11. Snowdrops--AD Miller

Russian History

12. Red Victory: A History of the Russian Civil War--W. Bruce Lincoln
13. Stalin: The History of a Dictator--Montgomery Hyde
14. Lenin's Tomb--David Remnick
15. The Russian Origins of the First World War--Sean McKeen
16. Ivan the Terrible--Isabel De Madariaga
17. Catherine the Great--Robert K. Massie
18. Peter the Great--Robert K. Massie
19. The Great Game--Peter Hopkirk
20. Empires Apart: A History of American and Russian Imperialism--Brian Landers

Other History

21. The Rise and Fall of the British Empire--Lawrence James
22. Jerusalem: A Biography--Simon Sebag Montefiore
23. Modern Times--Paul Johnson
24. From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life--Jacques Barzun
25. The Civil War: Fort Sumter to Perryville--Shelby Foote
26. The Civil War: Fredricksburg to Meridian--Shelby Foote
27. The Civil War: Red River to Appomattox--Shelby Foote
28. Fredrick the Great: The Magnificent Enigma--Robert Asprey
29. The Ascent of Money--Niall Ferguson

Christian Books

30. Complete Works, Vol. 2--Richard Baxter
31. Complete Works, Vol. 3--Richard Baxter
32. Complete Works, Vol. 4--Richard Baxter
33. The Glory of Christ--John Owen
34. Communion with God--John Owen
35. A Quest for Godliness--J.I. Packer
36. Honoring the Written Word of God--J.I. Packer
37. A Guide to Listening and Inner Healing Prayer--Rusty Rustenbach
38. Letters--Samuel Rutherford

Science Fiction, etc

39. The Dragon Reborn--Robert Jordan
40. The Shadow Rising--Robert Jordan
41. The Fires of Heaven--Robert Jordan
42. Lord of Chaos--Robert Jordan
43. Elric of Melniborne--Michael Moorcock
44. Chindi--Jack McDevitt
45. Echo--Jack McDevitt
46. Caliban's War--James S. A. Corey
47. Summertide--Charles Sheffield
48. Quartershare--Mike Lowell
49. Fleet of Worlds--Larry Niven and Edward Lerner
50. Juggler of Worlds--Larry Niven and Edward Lerner
51. Destroyer of Worlds--Larry Niven and Edward Lerner
52. Betrayer of Worlds--Larry Niven and Edward Lerner

So sadly I did not make a running list this year, so I had to sit down and look through my books to try to remember everything I read. I don't think I got them all.

Monday, October 15, 2012

New Year's Wisdom (repost from Facebook)

Most of you know that around this time of year, people begin to make long lists of things that they want to change about themselves during the next calendar year. Perhaps you also participate in this tradition. If so, you know that most people have already broken their so-called resolutions five minutes after they wake up on January 1st, OR SOMETIMES EVEN SOONER!

Why is this true? Because these people, you included, have never learned the POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING!

Let me give you an example. Maybe your resolution is to lose a little weight (and let's be honest, you probably could stand to lose a few pounds). You put it down on a piece of paper and maybe hang it near your desk. But then the next day when someone says, want an extra piece of pie, you say "Yes!" and stuff your fat face with it because you love food so much you stupid fatty fat...

Did you see what I did there? I trapped you into negative thinking by insulting you. YOU DIDN"T EVEN KNOW IT WAS HAPPENING! But with the power of positive thinking, you can lose all the weight you want, and maybe even develop an eating disorder! IF YOU REALLY BELIEVE IT!

Did you know that dreams are not just perturbations of your sleeping subconscious but MESSAGES FROM THE FUTURE? It's true. Metaphysical somnotologists have known for CENTURIES that when asleep the energies of the mind can transcend matter via string theory and center upon alternate energies in future universes THAT HAVE NOT YET BEEN! By this simple pathway, the power of positive thinking can center your waking energies so that the resonance frequency aligns exactly with the previously dreamed future/alternate pathways, thus implanting two universes upon one. The union of these two meta-worlds creates a true reality! THIS IS SCIENCE!

Can you believe that in 1986 I dreamed of a world where computers were linked up into large networks of immense computing power in which information and ideas could be exchanged in a kind of virtual commons? You should believe it BECAUSE I DID! And by the power of positive thinking, this nascent internet was willed into existance! And that is the internet upon which I am writing this very note!

Yes, the secret to a successful 2012 will be in POSITIVE THINKING! Let me give you a glimpse into my own resolutions, which I am confident will occur IN THE NEXT TWELVE MONTHS!

1. Run a marathon....WHILE HOLDING MY BREATH!

2. Become very popular...AMONG JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES!

3. Do 200 pushups in a row...WHILE IN ORBIT AROUND THE EARTH!

Can you believe it?

You too can spice up your pathetic resolutions with the power of positive thinking. Trying to get up the courage to talk to that cute blonde in the next cubicle? YOU'RE THINKING TOO SMALL! With the power of positive thinking, you'll be SECRETLY STALKING HER WITHIN TWO MONTHS!

Yes, this proven method is guaranteed to improve your life. But you may be thinking, "Of course dreams are a gateway to parallel universes. That's somnotology 101! How can I stack universes upon universes without harming myself?" I'M GLAD YOU ASKED!

The secret to positive thinking is VISUALIZATION. Let me break it down.

1. What do you want to accomplish? Trying to lose a few pounds? Write it down on a small yellow post-it note.

2. Get a picture of yourself at your "target" weight. That is the weight that you are "targeting." Don't have a picture of yourself at your "target" weight? Just find one of when you used to be skinny. You probably were never skinny though, which is why you have such a problem with positive thinking.

3. Find a baby picture of yourself, unless you were a very fat baby. If you were a fat baby, simply find a normal picture of yourself and use the software program "photoshop" to make yourself look like you have arrived at your "target" weight. Also, try to remove some of your acne scars while you are at it.

4. Stop eating for two months.

Before you know it, you'll be svelte and beautiful, ALL BECAUSE OF POSITIVE THINKING!!

Birthday Wisdom (repost from Facebook)

Many people have asked me, "Steven, your birthday speeches are near mythical. Every year my friends who are lucky enough to get invited to your birthday party talk about them for HOURS, NAY...DAYS!" To which I reply, "Yes that is true." But I have come to realize a basic flaw in my birthday speeches. Yes, I said "flaw," a word you probably never though would be mentioned in the same sentence with "birthday speech" unless it was in the sentence "Steven's birthday speeches are WITHOUT FLAW!"

What is that flaw? Because I ban all recording devices from parties, indeed, from within five feet of my physical presence, the only people privileged enough to hear my priceless nuggets of wisdom are those who are close enough to me to be invited. And that is admitedly a select few. This year, after much reflection, I have decided to make MY ENTIRE BIRTHDAY SPEECH AVAILABLE IN ELECTRONIC FORMAT! That's right. Rather than merely hearing ABOUT my speech, you can hear it for yourself, provided you find some poor sap to read this out loud to you. Which I recommend doing. Without further ado:

Dear American friends, and foreign companions. You all gathered here for one simple purpose: to celebrate a life worth celebrating. That life is mine. You have chosen well.

But in many ways, can one truly celebrate a life?

Yes, one can. And that life is mine.

This year, I turn 34. Many people are surprised at my advanced age, not realizing that I spent the first five years of my life in a statis chamber. My body may look 29, or even 25, but my soul is 34. And soul age is the most important age.

WHAT IS LIFE? I am glad you asked me. But you didn't ask me, I merely asked myself rhetorically. But many of you would ask me, if you weren't so afraid of me. Sometimes I despise you as mere sycophants. But can one despise another FOR MERELY ACKNOWLEDGING THE TRUTH? No, and so I love you. And that, my friends, is life.

Yes, you heard me right. Friends.

It was hard to make it to age 29. I faced many "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." That's Shakespeare for all you illiterate slobs. Many times I found myself asking myself "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow?" And my answer, inevitably, was "Today." But I am not a quitter. I have never quit once in my life except once, when someone told me to not quit. So I quit not quitting, which when you think about it, is actually not really quitting at all. IT IS AMAZING WHAT PERSPECTIVE WILL DO FOR YOU!

Look at my accomplishments. Which of them can I say with pride, that is truly mine? All of them.

Here is some advice for you. If you were smart, you would write this down. Is that a camera? Someone stop that man. Break his camera. Sorry for the interruption. Kill him. No, with the rope. That's fine. Just make it quick.

Sorry about that everyone.

Here is some advice for you. If you were smart, you would...why is he still making those noises? Someone kill the man who just did a terrible job of killing the other man. This time just use the gun. Thank you.

Here is some advice for you. If you were smart, you would write this down. I will give you three pieces of advice and then I am going to turn the music back on and we are all going to dance.

1. Never underestimate the power of a strong name. Think about name. Steven Charles Crawford. Its the name of an aristocrat. That name opens doors. What's your name? Jim, or Frank or something? Terrible. Change it.

2. Do you want to know the real reason I never wear deodorant? It isn't for my health, as I have told many of you. I can't believe that believed me! WHY WOULD IT BE FOR MY HEALTH? People wear deodorant ALL THE TIME without any health problems. HAHAHA! The real reasons is that it takes too long to open the cap, plus I always forget and put my shirt on first.

3. Finally, live for the moment. Or something like that.

O my dear dear friends! Listen to your heart. It is infallible. If you heart says, do it, then DON'T EVEN THINK JUST DO IT! That is the mantra I live by. And you are all my friends, which means my heart MUST BE RIGHT. That was a compliment, if you missed it. What's this? Cake? O thank you Danny Boy, thank you! Yes I will blow out the candles right now. DON'T SING. STOP SINGING RIGHT NOW. STOP! Thank you. I hate that song. This cake looks delicious!

Well, there you have it. I hope that it will be of use to you. FEEL FREE TO MAKE IT GO "VIRAL"


I thirst for life and thirsting drink its end
Poor mites received for all my talents spent 
My pitcher down the well again is sent
These husks my food while dirtied sty I tend
Where is the life I want with every urge
Of gods which live within my body's frame?
Shall I with will or culture try to tame
These willing things which deep within me surge?
Or harness them and eating all and all
And thirsting drink with mind submerged beneath?
'Til every shard  has passed between my teeth 
And waters gone the earth all bare to fall
I never ate but soon I ate again
Insatiable I mourn what might have been

Friday, October 12, 2012

Let us go with him

Fight against me world, and I will show you
All the fight I have left still inside me
Kneeled and bowed in crimson now I vow to
Run in courage where they yet will hide me
Thus my fight is hiding in the gaps of fear
Which left from love which binds the fight and fills
And is there fear in love which cannot clear
A mind which cannot stand but a word stills
My fight and flight are one
 In perfect rhythm broken by the sun
A wounded grace to never stop the run
O world, you may be in me yet and I can’t stop
To fight and I will never stop and never run
I will fight until with broken knees I cease
To fight and in this ceasing now I fight again
O world, what will you have me do?
Let us go with him, go out to be burned
Outside the camp where fire never turned
A man to black but silvers him instead
Disturbing disgrace left upon his head
A crown which one day he will have to trade
A crown which human art could not have made
This death to death the fight insists displayed
O camp, I’ll leave you, world you have been paid
Fight against me now, O world, my knees are silver
Slivered with the wounds they never earned
And burnt with fire that never left a mark
The contrast which is severed stark
And rough, crucified, defied, not retied
The strings are cut and fight against me now!
I’ll have you see me, say you are no more
But streaming from the wounds the waters pour
Life! They call it life! And yet we all die
Worlds! We earned our worlds! And yet we never die
Chains! They have their chains! And yet they cannot die
Fire! We never tasted fire! And yet consuming it consumes and we do not die
Hope! We have not yet hoped! And yet with all I see I will have to die
Death! We cannot escape death! And yet we will not die
Go with him, go outside the camp and burning bear
The disgrace that he bore. And fight against the world
This is the fight against the world.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Kiss the Earth

We used to live in perfect unity
You and I in perfect unity
And dirt was in our eyes
A living being

In perfect unity the earth was ours
And you and I we kissed the earth
And knelt and felt the earth
Our hands on flat expanse
And all the earth was mine

We lived in perfect unity
In love which is that unity
All love is unity

Kiss the earth! we sang
Put your lips on dirt and breath in dust
This is what we are
And it is good. The earth is good.

We lived and kissed and broke the earth
This corner street a woman stood and cried
Another knelt and died
The earth before us was defied
The kiss refused, denied
We broke the earth

We used to live in perfect unity
In love which was that unity
And now with thoughtful gross impunity
That Jewess pagan Jezebel with ax and arms outstretched
A love she set in temple ground
No love could help nor e'en be found
The earth was hers and our great enemy
Not woman, man was there, Ahab
With houses built and made pre-fab
And who has heard the sound!

Return and kiss the earth, she isn't finished yet
But take new heart and put into the sea your net
The fish will leap into that silken net
He speaks! The earth is his!

We used to live in perfect unity
I thought like you and you like me
Each thing was just as it was meant to be
I'll walk again I'll know again I'll fish again
Again I'll see
But now what man will let me know that unity?

O Kiss her, man, that earth was yours
Let lips which cannot move, which froze
Linger on her tilted woven toes
And taste the sap of trees which flows
And hate those old and spoiled clothes
Which covered bare and broken woes
I moved, each hour and cannot

We used to live in
We used to live in perfect unity
And now we cannot love or hate
We stand above the two
We used to live

Envelope breeze into your hands and let
your eyes be watered by the
strands of goodness which they
meet and feel the earth which
speaks a broken language without
meaning sense or rhyme and
mourn the face of sea that
will not meet your eyes and kiss
the earth and you will feel her
once again.

We used to live in perfect unity
You and I in perfect unity
In love which was that perfect unity
One kiss will bring that unity
She is yours

Monday, March 19, 2012


Let me just say that Spring Break trips are worth the work. They are hard work and a lot of work and kind of a bummer to plan and execute, but if you are a wise master builder and you work in campus ministry you will ALWAYS plan a Spring Break trip if you can. It just doesn't make sense not to. There is NO DOWNSIDE to a Spring Break trip unless someone gets eaten by a shark. If you are debating, stop debating and plan a Spring Break trip.

A short explanation for why I haven't been writing much lately...

First of all...All of the sudden my job got really quite busy. As it turns out, running a ministry that people actually attend is a big job. So this is good news, but leaves rather less time for blogging.

Second of all...I find I have less to say. That is not true, actually, since I am still bristling with opinions. But I think I need to say fewer of them. I want to use this to post some of the talks that I have been giving week by week, but don't ever seem to get around to it.

Third of all...I mostly want to write poetry on here, and poetry just kinda comes and goes for me.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Love is not the same

The Christian cannot hate, he must not hate,
This violent strain of human hearts is not
A part of him.
And all the world is hate except his heart
And all the hate of worlds was in this heart
And took from worlds of hate and made him part
Of worlds not seen or worlds between
This wood and earth which groans and moans; impart
That part of him.

This wood and earth which groans and moans beneath
his hate, which is a stage for every lust
For every broken must, for every trust
That giv'n in hate from hearts that seethe
And words again come quickly from the foaming waters where the mountains fell
Deep down to hell, I stood on rock.

On rock which in that spacious place I felt
And his heart too was hated when I knelt
And prayed with luminescent wings of fire and incense
Which with stony lips spilled forth in nonsense
Helped by hands which knew each corner of my skin
And every thing within
I prayed to him who seas obeyed, Leviathan.

No, love is not a word I knew,
I never could discern it as I flew,
I never saw a man whose mouth could spell it out
Or mind without a shadow of a doubt.
I prayed for love.

O Love! Who knew your ways when water fell from empty skies?
Who knew you when the flood obscured the desperate cries?
Who knew you lurked in Abel's blood?
Who knew this thing which went from blood and flood?
Who saw her empty son of man?

Pale rainbowed love you reign above the throne
And hold back hands which tremble with each groan
Of wood and earth until the martyred souls
Complete their circled walk.
Then shudder at the power of love!
When stones which marked with chalk
Confess a name to strangulate him like a frock
And he is.

O love! You are my unfamiliar name,
Which I bow down and strangulate my heart
All joy is here complete and not in part
I do not quite know how or where to start
But you are not the same.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On Love

What love is this so distant love
That cannot penetrate my love
Nor quite harm me

O harm me love not harmed not loved
But far from me what soul is shoved
In churning sea

What sight I have to see my love
Too far to harm and be my love
What cannot be

Love quit my soul that churning sea
When sleepless hearts alone can see
My only love

Stay far from love come near my love
And heave and shove and churn my love
It now shall be

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Richard Baxter on Pride

This is a long post based on my analysis of a part of Baxter's massive Christian Directory.

Note, because of space constraints, I have not included the list of signs of pride. Sorry!

Richard Baxter on pride

A special warning concerning pride: Unlike many sins, pride is also generally abhorred by the world. It is not usually a compliment to be called a proud person. So the name and general idea of pride is spoken against by all. But the true nature of pride is so little known, and so commonly cherished in the hearts of men, that it is more dangerous a sin than those which are more obvious. We all learn, consciously or unconsciously, to hide our pride. But hiding it is not the same as killing it. For this reason, Baxter first lays out a careful definition of pride and its opposite, humility. Then he extensively lays out signs of pride, both external and internal. The list is exhaustive and is appended at the end. From there he moves into directions for putting this sin to death.

Defining pride and humility

The simple definition that Baxter presents for pride is inordinate self-exalting, or lifting ourselves above the state appointed to us. In this way, pride is a direct attack upon the sovereignty and wisdom of God, indeed the very love of God is assaulted. Because pride is a matter of degree, it can be present in every man no matter is situation, though certainly it is a greater snare to those in what is already a lofty position. Humility is the opposite, a resting content in the state assigned to us by God.

This is the simple definition, but Baxter goes on to find five parts in pride, along with their corresponding opposite. (1) Pride is a will to be greater than God would have us be, whereas humility is content in the station God has left us. (2) Pride therefore is an overvaluing of the self at the expense of others, while humility is an accurate self-assessment. (3) Pride desires that others think more highly of us than we deserve, while humility desires that others have an accurate idea of us. (4) Pride endeavors to rise above our appointed place, while humility devotes itself to our assigned task, even the meanest works of our own place. (5) Finally, pride displays itself in inordinate self-esteem in our speech and actions (read: pride is boastful), while humility avoids all false shows of greatness.

We can see from this definition that pride strikes against the greatest commandments, hating both God, against whom it strives, and our neighbor, whom it seeks to dominate.
Baxter is also careful to delineate what is not pride. A common attack on Christians by the world is to accuse them of pride for things which are not pride. In general, things which set the Christian apart from either worldly professors (Christians in name only) or outright unbelievers are not pride. For example, an insistence on a high degree of holiness is often attacked as legalism when it is no more than what God demands. Insistence on the truth, courage in being willing not to please men, obeying God over men, being earnest in preaching the Word of God, opposing false doctrine. None of these are pride in themselves.

Finally, having identified counterfeit pride, he indentifies counterfeit humility. Some of these are quite insightful. For example, he identifies the confession of sin at times and places when such confession is not a disgrace, but rather praised as humility. How true this is! Sometimes to confess sin causes us to increase in other people’s estimation. Refraining from boasting is also not humility, indeed, one could take pride in the reputation for humility that such refraining produces. A kind of shame towards public applause is not humility. Also, affirming humbling doctrines is not humility unless those doctrines are thoroughly applied to the heart.

Signs of pride

Here is where Baxter shows is utter mastery of the human heart. How thoroughly does he understand the pathways of sin! And this section is VERY thorough. As said above, I have appended all these signs below. I will discuss some themes here.

The signs are divided into several categories, moving from most obvious to most subtle. The first one, for example, is a man glorying in his perceived greatness, as a strong man boasting of his strength, and a wise man of his learning. There are four sections. In the first, he lists the signs of pride against God that are the most overt and obvious. In the second, he lists those that are more subtle, but still against God. In the third, he lists signs of pride in religious duties. And in the last and longest, he lists the signs of pride in normal life.

The most overt signs of pride are those which displace God in our lives and make us Lord and Master over ourselves and those around us. Thus pride sets us up in competition with God. The proud man lives only for his pleasure and joy, depending on himself and giving himself the credit for everything. Pride causes man to question God’s wisdom, love and justice (as revealed in the Scriptures). The proud man always wants more recognition and praise than he has, and prefers the praise of men to the pleasure of God.

The less overt signs of pride generally deal with our understanding of our sinfulness. He does not feel the full weight of his sin, nor does he feel the need for any diligence in opposing and mortifying the flesh. He is quick to believe the best about himself and his motives, and doesn’t fear temptation. He is ungrateful for the mercy he has received. All these things can exist side-by-side with orthodox confessions of sinfulness and natural depravity. A man may acknowledge with his mind his need for a savior without feeling it in his heart. These signs of pride often lay hidden in the heart, because men love to think well of themselves and are quick to forgive themselves.

The main effect of pride in religious duties is a greater concern for outward appearances in religion than for true communion with God. A prideful man prefers public prayers and worship to private prayer and worship. Proud men are threatened by those with greater gifts (administration, teaching, prayer) than them, rather than rejoicing in the use of these gifts for their edification. Proud men hate church discipline unless they are exercising it.

The final group of signs concerns normal life, or the pride which is seen in the way we interact with society. Here Baxter delivers conviction with a sharp sword. I urge you to carefully read these signs, but the main theme here is how subtle pride is and how much it is exposed by our lack of love for others. The proud man is hard to please, quick to judge others, quick to forgive his faults. He thinks that he can do everything better than anyone else, wants precedence, and loves to hear himself praised. He is always seeking to dominate, impatient if contradicted, unwilling to admit his wrong, eager to revenge slights. He loves to hear himself speak, he always seeks to justify himself if he is rebuked, and is in love with his own significance.

In reading these lists, it is important to remember that only the most proud man would see ALL of these signs in himself. But the presence of even one is like dashboard indicator light of the presence of pride in your heart. If allowed to grow, it will take over.

Fighting Against Pride

Pride is a difficult sin to fight against because by its very nature it seeks to hide itself. Pride makes a man think the best of himself that he can, and no man wants to think himself proud. So the first, and most important step in fighting pride is to repent of it, for the best sign that it is in you is your inability to see it. The next is to carefully search for its presence in your life, that you may see it and hate it. If you do not look for it, you will not see it, and if you do not see it, it will lie hidden in your heart until disaster strikes.

Baxter cautiously recommends spiritual disciplines designed to fight against pride. The reason he does it cautiously is that in his day such exercises had been much abused and had themselves become causes for pride. But studying the law of God, searching for and confessing your sin to God, together with moderate, seasonal fastings can be of much use. But do not mistake self-violence for humility. Those that punish themselves the most severely can be the most filled with pride.

So how does one fight against pride? The most powerful means against is surely to bring your soul before God and consider how he opposes the proud but lifts up the humble. Think of Isaiah before the throne of God, how he immediately cries out, “Woe is me!” There is no room for pride before the unveiled presence of God.

To this, Baxter adds several helpful points of meditation. Look at the example of Christ. Consider the characteristics of a disciple as laid out in the gospels. Think of how worthless are the things that you take pride in. Think about the greatness of your sins and the weakness of your obedience. These and others tend to create in us an accurate self-assessment.

My Thoughts

1. The most dangerous tendency of pride is how it makes us quick to extenuate our sins. How quick we are to defend ourselves and our motives! We must be absolutely ruthless with ourselves, assuming that pride and sin is present to some degree in all of the motions of our heart.

2. The two biggest signs of pride seem to be lack of love in the way we treat others, and a quickness to extenuate or ignore our sin. Conflict arises out of pride. We should be quick to forgive others and quick to suspect ourselves. Instead, we are the reverse.

3. Points of particular conviction are the way we think about the utilization of our gifts. Do we long for the praise of men, especially the kind of praise that sets us apart from others with similar gifts?

4. Contentment seems to be the jewel of the humble man. He accepts from God what he gives without demanding more. He considers that he has received more than he deserves if he is rescued from hell, and so anything beyond that is sheer grace.

5. These signs should be carefully studied, and the most convicting especially meditated on.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

A Christmas Tradition

Or better...a Steven Crawford's blog tradition.

That's right. It is time for the 2011 Christmas list. What wonders will I ask for this year? Probably mostly books.

1. Books

Richard Baxter complete works
Vol 3
Vol 4
Vol 7

Actually, any volumes except for 2, 5, 6, and 10 would be great!

Russian literature
Lectures on Russian Literature
Biography of Dostoevsky

To prepare for the arrival of my marimba

Other books you think I might like

2. Other things

I need some comfy brown dress shoes

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

2011 Book Awards

1. Best New Author

China Mieville

2. Best Science Fiction

Leviathan Awakes by James RA Covey

3. Best Decision

To try to read as much Russian literature as possible

4. Most Helpful

Christian Ethics by Richard Baxter

5. Best Sequel

A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin

6. Best YA Series

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

7. Best Book About Two Cities that Share the Same Physical Space but Different Psychological Space

The City and the City by China Mieville

8. Best Biography

Peter the Great by Robert Massie

9. Best Suicide

Kirilov in Demons

10. Best Book of the Year (tie)

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Demons by Fyodr Dostoevsky

11. Worst Book of the Year

[Redacted] by [Redacted]

Books I have read in 2011 (so far)

Books are listed chronologically

Russian literature

I read Demons for the first time during my trip to St. Petersburg this summer, and immediately went on a bender that lasted until October. Most of the following works were translated by the peerless team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

31. Demons by Fyodr Dostoevsky
32. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
34. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
36. The Idiot by Fyodr Dostoevsky
41. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
45. Crime and Punishment by Fyodr Dostoevsky
47. Notes from Underground by Fyodr Dostoevsky
51. Everything Flows by Vasily Grossman
52. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
54. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Other Literature (and literature like substances)

4. Emma by Jane Austen
14. Freaky Deaky by Elmore Leonard
39. Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Russian related works and history

Another passion of mine.

18. Sashenka by Simon Sebag Montefiore
26. The Possessed by Elif Batuman
33. The Crimean War by Orlando Figes
44. Russia: Experiment with a People by Robert Service
45. Peter the Great by Robert Massie
57. The Siege of Leningrad by Anna Reid
59. Ostkrieg by Stephen K. Fritz
67. Passage Through Armageddon by Bruce W. Lincoln

Other History

2. Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy
6. The Inheritance of Rome by Chris Wickham
9. God's War by Christopher Tyerman
20.The English Revolution by Diane Parkiss
24. World 3.0 by Pankaj Ghemewat
53. Hope and Memory by Tsvetan Toderov

Christian Books

3. Theirs is the Kingdom by Robert Lupton
5. Institutes, Book III by John Calvin
10. Christ's Last Disclosure of Himself by William Greenhill
16. Christian Ethics by Richard Baxter
17. On the Song of Songs by Bernard of Clairvaux
21. Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan
25. Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton
28. The Great Exchange by Philip Everson
30. The Greatest Thing in the World by Henry Drummond
42. William Carey by Walter Bruce Davis
43. The Navigator by Bob Foster
46. If I Perish, I Perish by W. Ian Thomas

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Weird Fiction

1. Conventions of War by Walter John Williams
7. Prador Moon by Neil Asher
8. Echo by Jack McDevitt
11. The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe
13. Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks
15. Manifold Space by Stephen Baxter
22. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
23. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
27. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
29. A Feast of Crows by George R. R. Martin
35. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
37. A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
38. Coyote Destiny by Allen Steele
40. Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
48. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
49. The Peace War by Vernor Vinge
55. The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan
56. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
58. Leviathan Awakes by James R. A. Covey
60. A Fire Upon Deep by Vernor Vinge
61. Firebird by Jack McDevitt
62. The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge
63. The City and the City by China Mieville
64. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
65. The Scar by China Mieville
66. The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
68. Embassytown by China Mieville

Books so Terrible I Can't Believe I Finished Them, Let Alone Decided to Read the Sequel

12. Hidden Empire by Kevin J. Anderson
19. A Feast of Stars by Kevin J. Anderson


Some Asides


4, 41, 45, 60

Books I read to research a speaker at our national conference


Books which offered political insight that was out-of-date (but still of some use):

2, 53

Series which I read completely or in some part

Alex Benedict series (8, 61)
A Song of Fire and Ice (22, 23, 27, 29, 37)
The Hunger Games series (48, 56, 64)
Wheels of Time (35, 55)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How to Have an Awesome Christmas Break

So...for our last NavNight last night I gave a little mini-talk on how to have a good Christmas break. It wasn't exegetical or anything...indeed I mentioned the Word only in passing. It was just some practical advice.

1. Have a plan

No one goes on Christmas break and says, "I hope I have a terrible time and accomplish nothing." Most people want to have a relaxing and productive break where they grow closer to God. Yes? What is the difference between desiring this and attaining it? A plan!

Some time before finals are over, carve out 2 hours and sit down and plan out your Christmas break. What do you want to do? How do you want to grow? I always make a list of personal goals (read some books, see some people, organize bookshelf) and spiritual goals (prayer, the Word, memorization).

2. Spend time in the Word everyday

Best way to have a bad break: disconnect from God. Even on Christmas day and New Year's, get into the Word. Try to spend more time in the Word than you normally would. If you normally spend 30 minutes with Jesus, try and get an hour.

3. Serve your family

View going home as an opportunity to serve your family. Do the dishes. Help your dad with a project. Clean up the family room. Try to spend some time every day serving.

4. Try to engage spiritually with your family

For some people this is easier with others. Some ways to do this:
--Ask your parents about their spiritual heritage
--Ask your parents their experience with God during college
--Do a quiet time with a sibling
--Share some things you've been learning with your parents

Asking questions and listening is the best way to do this!

5. Share the gospel with one person

A family member? An old friend? This is a great goal and can be an object of prayer over the course of your break.

6. Disconnect from technology

Nothing will hinder you more from accomplishing what you want to accomplish than excessive time on the internet, watching TV and movies, or glued to your phone! Don't complete disengage, and obviously sometimes TV and movies are involved in our family traditions. But try to limit the time you spend on these things and instead seek to engage with God and with your friends and family.

7. Make a list of New Year's Resolutions

I started this practice several years ago and have found it to be a great discipline. On New Year's Eve I take about four hours to think back over the year. I ask myself three questions:

--What did God teach me this year?
--What hindered my spiritual growth?
--What helped my spiritual growth?

Then I apply these questions to the future:

--What do I want God to do in my life next year?
--What will help that?
--What will hinder that?

From that I draw a list of New Year's Resolutions.


There you have it. To these seven, I will mention one more which I wish I had said at the time...

8. Find someone to help you!

Share your plan with someone else and keep each other accountable!

Monday, November 28, 2011

No more fear

Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation
Who shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life
Of whom shall I be afraid?


1. The Lord guides our path so that we may be led to a sure salvation.
2. The Lord secures this salvation from all external powers.


In both the attaining and the securing of our salvation, we are led and empowered by the strong hand of God working in us by his Holy Spirit.

No external power can threaten our future because the Lord has secured it.


1. You should not be held back from any act of obedience by fear.

2. All powers that inspire fear in us are counterfeits.

3. If God has called us to an action, he will guarantee our safety in the performance of it.


Some few personal notes:

1. Here is what I wrote on my 28th birthday post:

Fear is the great enemy! Fear holds me back from so much, from so much depth of fellowship, so many moments of potential joy and pleasure! I look forward to the day when fear will be no more.

Sadly, it is still true.

2. I want to let this question address me, to buffet me, to strike me in the chest like a fist. Whom shall I fear? God is on his heavenly throne, how can I fear men?

3. Later in the Psalm, David says, "One thing I ask of the Lord, and this is what I seek/that I may dwell in the house of the Lord forever/And there behold your beauty." What causes us to fear? That we cannot say that "one thing" I seek. We say, I seek this, but I also seek other things, and those things must be secured by my own strength, and I prefer them to your presence.

4. I seek approval of man, success in what I do, the respect of those around me, a reputation for competence. I seek this insatiably. God has never guaranteed these things to me, and so I must find them in my own strength, and finding my own strength inadequate, I fear that which can deny me these things.

5. But one thing is all I need, his presence. I find it in obedience, in the Word, in prayer, in turning from the World and to his presence. One other place where I must seek it Paul writes about: I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering. You will know Christ in entering fear.

6. But sometimes I feel so helpless, so paralyzed by it, so thrown about by my fear. I need help in conquering fear.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sorry I haven't posted in a while

Inspiration hasn't hit.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Honest thoughts and self-observations from recruiting

1. When you ask a freshman if they are interested in something, you have to learn how to properly interpret his response. Here is some sample dialogue:

Me: Hey, are you interested in a Christian Leadership Training course to help you grow as a Christian?

What he says: Yeah! That sounds amazing! Can I have a few of your fliers to pass out to some of my friends that I also think might be interested?

What he means: No.

2. Sometimes it is really hard for me to respond when people tell me they will go to something but then don't. I think the reason is that I am really excited about the things we're doing, and so it is easy for me to assume that other people are to. It is hard for me to conceive of a Christian not being excited about growth, leadership, etc. Also, although I am not surprised at non-Christians being insincere or outright lying, it is harder for me when professing Christians do. I want to say, "Dude, I don't care if you are involved with the Navs! I just want you to grow! I want you to be changed by God! I want you to reach the people around you! You can do that in other groups or if you don't want to, that is fine too! But you got my hopes up, and this is my job and the disappointments in it hurt me!"

3. Sometimes there is bitterness (and perhaps by sometimes, I mean, generally, but I repent of it and take it to Jesus) when I am rejected. When I invite a guy to something and he flakes. I want to say to him "You will regret this one day!" Then I imagination some ridiculous scenario where this student looks back his senior year and realizes he has wasted it and he mourns and comes to me and says, "Steven if only I had joined the Navs during that first week when you asked me! My life would be different! O how I regret the callousness with which I treated you, so willfully neglecting the brilliant spiritual insights which I treated as nothing more than chaff." And then I will gently forgive him, with beautiful compassion.

Yes, that scene is completely ridiculous, since in my heart there is a secret desire for this individual, this human being, this person made by God, to have a terrible four years unless he is in MY ministry! Why not just walk around campus with a sandwich board proclaiming "Salvation is found nowhere else but in the ministry of Steven Crawford."

4. Ah pride. Pride is an ugly, ugly thing when displayed like this? Perhaps I am the only minister of the gospel ever to struggle with such things. But recruitment is a wonderful time for my pride to be exposed, so that I can crucify it and repent of it! God doesn't need me. But he wants me. I have a plan which I have sought the Lord on, and taken before him and prayed over, and which I will work towards and labor in, and which I hope God blesses to the extent he desires. But shouldn't I allow a person to be a person, and love them? Shouldn't I desire that a student who doesn't come into my ministry to still grow ferociously? Yes.

5. But nonetheless, I do wish that freshmen were honest. I wish that if a student looks at me and tells me something, he would mean it.

6. Recruitment is hard. But it is necessary.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A few thoughts from the last few weeks

1. This is the time of year when I have to remember the great patience with which my Savior bore my long neglect, my apathy, my casual disregard for his great service and love. If I do not remember his patience, then the comparatively small slights I must endure from ignored calls and flaked appointments will be met with compassion and forgiveness.

2. I told a friend that we are all divided into two camps. Either we are Dostoevsky people, or we are Tolstoy people. I have for a long time felt myself firmly belonging to Fyodr, but having immersed myself in War and Peace, I am having second thoughts.

3. Did you notice my poetry binge, which seems to have left as swiftly as it came? I don't know what that was all about.

4. Every year I say to myself, "Why care about football?" And then every year I remember, "Oh yeah, because it is awesome."

5. Here is a rejected Facebook status from a couple of days ago. It seemed to self-indulgent and long:

Today somebody got me so riled up when I was driving by cutting me off. I said to myself, "You idiot! How could you do something so stupid!" But then I said, "You hypocrite! You do that all the time to people!" Then I said, "A hippogriff? What is that?" Then I said, "It is a mythical beast, but that isn't what I said."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A short excerpt from Tolstoy

There was one thing he loved--merrymaking and women--and since, to his mind, there was nothing ignoble in these tastes, and since he was unable to reflect on the consequences that the satisfaction of these tastes had for other people, at heart he considered himself an irreproachable man, sincerely despised scoundrels and bad people, and with an easy conscience carried his head high.

A description of Anatole Kuragin, seducer of Natasha Rostov and the cause for a great deal of anguish and despair.

Such a description could be used for many young Christian men, who give themselves small and easy pleasures, while being unable to contemplate the consequences.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Who is Willow Creek trying to please?

The mega-church Willow Creek has some sort of leadership conference everywhere year, at which bizarrely the non-Christian CEO of Starbucks was scheduled to speak. Why? Who knows?

However, an online gay-rights advocacy group created a petition pressuring him not to speak, claiming that Willow Creek is anti-gay. After a whopping 717 people signed this petition, Howard Schultz withdrew from the conference. The senior pastor of Willow Creek issued the following statement (excerpt):

First, if the organizers of this petition had simply taken the time to call us, we would have explained to them (as we have to many others ) that not only is Willow not anti-gay, Willow not anti-anybody.

Our church was founded on the idea that people matter to God. All people. All people of all backgrounds, all colors, ethnicities, and sexual orientation. The mat at every door on this campus has always read “Welcome.” And for over 35 years we have flung the doors of this campus open to the widest array of humanity I have ever witnessed in the global church. And thousands--tens of thousands--have come to learn the teachings of Jesus. So to suggest that we check sexual orientation or any other kind of issue at our doors is simply not true. Just ask the hundreds of people with same-sex attraction who attend our church every week.

Now what is true is that we challenge homosexuals and heterosexuals to live out the sexual ethics taught in the Scriptures--which encourages full sexual expression between a man and a woman in the context of marriage and prescribes sexual abstinence and purity for everybody else.

But even as we challenge all of our people to these biblical standards, we do so with grace-filled spirits, knowing the confusion and brokenness that is rampant in our fallen world. And at Willow we honor the journey of everyone who is sincerely attempting to follow Christ. So it’s unfortunate that we could not have explained this to those called us anti-gay and started this petition.

Some thoughts:

1. Why have a leadership conference with non-Christian speakers?

2. Are you seriously trying to convince the world that you are not anti-gay? I suppose Hybels means that they don't despise homosexuals. But this will not convince the world of anything. If they are faithful to the Bible, then they are against homosexuality. The world is not asking them, "Do you allow people struggling with same sex attraction to attend your church and receive help being transformed out of these attractions?" The world is saying, "Do you place any hindrance on following every sexual desire that occurs to anyone at anytime, so long as it is consensual?" Saying no to this equates to being anti-gay.

3. This attempts to placate, to give ground in the name of love, to please those who cannot and will not be pleased, will only lead to a fatal compromising of the Word, to detriment of those struggling with the power of homosexual attraction.