Into the Woods: Conasauga Lake and Grassy Mountain

Location is everything.

Chattanooga is where it is because of the conveniences of transportation. It’s where the Tennessee River cuts through the wall of the Cumberland Plateau, and the city built up around this natural intersection between boats and rails during the early industrial era. That made it quite the prize during the war between the states, and it’s the crossroads of the South even still—a 2.5 hour drive or less from Atlanta, Knoxville, Birmingham, and Nashville. Much of the traffic between the Southeast and the Midwest passes through here, giving us more traffic woes than a city of this size warrants. Two of the top 10 largest trucking corporations in the U.S. are headquartered here, and we’re still known around the world for a catchy tune about a train ride.

All of that to say, living here makes getting other places a fairly easy proposition, so much so that a drive over to the western edge of the Appalachians for a day hike isn’t much trouble at all. On clear days from certain vantage points around town, you can make out the profile of Big Frog, Cowpen Mountain, and Grassy Mountain shooting up from the valley floor about 40 miles to the east. They are the westernmost “real mountains” (+/- 4,000 ft. above sea level) in the country until you get to the Black Hills.  Continue reading


Deleted Scene: Brutus Bemoans

Every month, it so happens, has an Ides.
Each one’s days come and go just like tides.
Why, among all, do we act as though March
Alone has a keystone in its arch?
Of course! Blame Caesar’s untimely demise,
Or smarmy  Antony’s over-dramatic cries.
I don’t buy for a moment
That filthy soothsayers foment.
For me, this foul murder is chalked up to boredom;
That late winter tedium was what floored him.
Before spring had found its full greenth,
We made quite a mess on the fifteenth.
Now he’s the hero, his death Rome’s acme,
While I hang my head, waiting for someone to whack me.

Caesar's Ghost

Whose Home, Whose History?

I’ve spent a good deal of time in recent years contemplating the bloodguilt of America’s treatment of her native people, from wars to removal and beyond. In Chattanooga, this ought to be impossible to ignore. So many of our place names (Chattanooga itself, Chickamauga, Ooltewah, Sequatchie, Catoosa, even Tennessee) were given before a white foot ever came to this area.

And yet, we do a good job of ignoring it.

I live five minutes from the home of the last Cherokee chief before removal. A scant hundred yards from the library branch where I’m typing right now is an historic cemetery, all that remains from a huge mission (named in honor of the great David Brainerd) to the Cherokee that was shuttered in 1838 at the start of the Trail of Tears. Both of these sites are in limited repair, at best, and neither is visited by more than a handful of people any given week. The numerous Civil War sites around here are incredible to behold, with impressive monuments and reenactments to keep the past ever alive before us. We’d rather not remember the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, and others we so unceremoniously evicted, though.

This is just a musing, but I have to believe examining our past in this regard will come up in my work in a big way. And its something I want to be sure my children understand and wrestle with (growing up, as they are, on land obtained by high legal crimes).

For now, here are a few pictures of the Brainerd Mission Cemetery I took just a couple of hours ago. What are we losing when we forget. Certainly less than the Cherokee lost, and therein is the problem.

Continue reading

Martin and Me

Yes, work and life intertwine often when you’re employed at an organization that reflects your beliefs and values. I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review in Disciple, but I found it so refreshing and encouraging, that I am posting it here too.

Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom, Carl R. Trueman, 2015, Crossway, Wheaton, Ill., ISBN 9781433525025, 214 pages, $17.99, softcover.

In the realm of Christian biography, we often look to those who have done great deeds in obedience to Christ—missionaries, martyrs, and evangelists—for inspiration and encouragement as we follow Him. Less often, perhaps, do we consider theologians as role models for our Christian walk. We read their work and their ideas impact us, but the Theologians on the Christian Life series from Crossway is taking this to another level. Each book in this series explores the great thinkers of the faith in their personal life and the development of their theology, mining it for wisdom for today’s Christians.

The latest installment in the series is Carl Trueman’s work on The Great Reformer, Martin Luther. Trueman, a professor of church history at Westminster Seminary, has studied Luther for the better part of his career and writes about him with affection and admiration (without sugar-coating his sins and shortcomings). As a scholar, he draws on thorough reading of Luther’s works, and as a Presbyterian standing apart from Luther’s tradition, he provides an instructive introduction to his life and thought from an outsider’s perspective.

This short volume is richly packed with scriptural and practical insight. Trueman begins by briefly summarizing Luther’s biography, illuminating the personal and cultural contexts that influenced his study, teaching, and actions. In this, he reminds us that theology never happens in a vacuum, and that there are very real consequences to our belief and our choices. Notably, Trueman urges readers to consider all of Luther’s life and work, not just his exuberant, bold pre-1525 writings (before which he had not had to wrestle extensively with the need for liturgical and ecclesiological precision in order to protect church order, among other things).

Over seven other chapters, Trueman unpacks several key concepts in Luther’s thought. The first is his distinction between theologians of glory (who see God’s character as a reflection of the way the world works) and theologians of the cross (who see God working in ways the world deems foolish, subverting the sinful order). Importantly, Trueman points out that these are not “theologies” but “theologians”, that is, attitudes of approaching God and His Word rather than organized systems of thought.

Trueman also spends a great deal of time exploring Luther’s views of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, pointing out that he would have viewed most modern evangelicals as outside the bounds of orthodoxy for seeing these sacraments as symbols only (rather than understanding baptism as a seal of grace and communion as containing the real, physical presence of Christ). Instead of explaining away these differences as unreformed holdovers from Luther’s medieval Catholic theology, Trueman endeavors to show how Luther came to these positions through careful study of the Word and a fervent commitment to justification by faith. In this way Luther reckoned the sacraments as tangible gifts from God to remind His people that their salvation came wholly from outside themselves.

On justification, Trueman delves into Luther’s statement that “The Love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it.” In this idea and the reasoning behind it, we see a radical departure from the worldly view that we love that which pleases us, and, by implication, that we must somehow make ourselves acceptable to God before He will love us. In this, as in every area of his theology, Luther is adamant that man is helpless to save himself, thus magnifying God’s glory in the work of salvation.

In all, this book was a tremendous blessing to me. Trueman’s winsome writing style brings depth of content to bear on the reader with application as the goal. The result is a historically enlightening, theologically challenging, and profoundly pastoral work. Martin Luther has clearly been used by God to advance the spread of His truth, and Trueman engages him “as one of us,” a man whose “strengths were his weaknesses” but who was faithful to strive after humble obedience to his Heavenly Father.

Tolle lege et benedicentur.