You and I must never look at our past lives; we must never look at any sin in our past life in any way except that which leads us to praise God and to magnify His grace in Christ Jesus… When Paul looks at the past and sees his sin he does not stay in a corner and say, “I am not fit to be a Christian, I have done such terrible things.” Not at all. What it does to him, its effect upon him, is to make him praise God. He glories in grace and says, “And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.


Invest Time with God

You do not “spend” time with God. You “invest” it. Time alone with Him can be one of the greatest time savers of your life. It is in your time alone with the Lord that you can surrender the burden and the anxiety of the load to Him (Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Peter 5:7). You can also find the perspective to be delivered from the truly nonessential things that often seem important. You can find new energy and ideas as you “commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established (Proverbs 16:3).
 Bill Thrasher

Dead men

When a man’s heart is cold and unconcerned about religion [Christianity], when his hands are never employed in doing God’s work, when his feet are not familiar with God’s ways, when his tongue is seldom or never used in prayer and praise, when his ears are deaf to the voice of Christ in the Gospel, when his eyes are blind to the beauty of the kingdom of heaven, when his mind is full of the world, and has no room for spiritual things-when these marks are to be found in a man, the right word to use about him is the word ‘Dead.’
   – Martin Luther

My “new” restored vintage fountain pens

My grandmother on my mother’s side, Florence Smith, lived to the age of 100, and passed away in January, 2010. A few years before that Helen and I were helping my mother get Grandma’s house ready to be put up for sale. It was really a lot of work, since Grandma apparently did not throw out anything. Squirreled away in a desk drawer were a couple of old fountain pens and a mechanical pencil. They no longer worked and Mom said I might as well take them if I wanted. So we brought them home and I squirreled them away in my desk.

A year or so ago I began writing with a couple of modern fountain pens of my own. I began to wonder whether I could get the old pens working again. I did a little research on the pens, and I was able to identify the red pen as a Parker Duofold Jr. pen. With a little more research, based on the markings and trim of the pen I believe I can date the pen to 1926. The brown pen is a Sheaffer, but identifying and dating it was a little more difficult. At first I pegged it as a Sheaffer Balance from the 1940s, but I wasn’t sure.

I quickly determined that repairing them was beyond my ability, so I began to look online for a fountain pen repair specialist. Although there are a number of them to choose from, their work is in high demand, and the wait times can be quite long. I finally contacted Jeff Powers of Powers Pen Company and arranged for him to do the repairs. It was a genuine pleasure working with Jeff, who discussed just what I wanted to have done (full restoration or repair to working condition). He told me what could be accomplished based on their condition. Jeff expressed his appreciation that he was working on what were, for me, heirlooms. We decided that he would repair them to writing condition and do his standard cleaning and polishing. I would have two pens that I could write with, and any remaining cosmetic flaws would be a reminder of the person who originally owned them and wrote with them.

The pens came back to me two days ago, and I am delighted with both pens. I regret the photograph above doesn’t do justice to how nice they turned out. (I’ll try to put up something better). Although Jeff did not do a full cosmetic restore, his clean and polish job improved both pens nicely. And most importantly, they both are wonderful writers, especially the Sheaffer. I Inked up the Parker Duofold Jr. pen with blue Parker Quink, and in the photo above I wrote in my journal with Tomoe River paper (famous among fountain pen aficionados). I filled the Sheaffer with Waterman Absolute Brown ink, and it looks great on the Tomoe River paper.

I asked Jeff if he could identify the pen and, sure enough, he was able to identify it as a Sheaffer Statesman pen in “Burnt Umber Brown” from the late 1940s. He noted that my pen has a vacuum fill mechanism, whereas the Statesman model featured what was called a “Touchdown” mechanism. But while Sheaffer transitioned from the vacuum fill to the Touchdown, they would use up their supply of vacuum fill mechanisms.

It was great working with Jeff, and should anyone read this and have a fountain pen they would like to have worked on, I can recommend him without hesitation.

Brief Book Review: Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong


When I posted that I was reading Death of a Red Heroine , I stated that I would have the review up “in a week or so,” I really meant “in a year or so.” That’s just further evidence why I’m the world’s lamest blogger.

Death of a Red Heroine is the debut novel by Qiu Xiaolong, a native of Shanghai, but currently living in St. Louis. The story is set in Shanghai in 1990, where Detective Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Bureau is confronted with a murder case that will be difficult to solve particularly because of its political ramifications. In fact, the novel is as much a novel of politics in China as much as it is a detective or mystery novel. Indeed, the Wall Street Journal named it as one of the top 5 political novels of all time.

In the novel, Detective Cao, himself a product of Party patronage, must navigate among various factions, including aging senior party members who are attempting preserve the gains of the revolution in the face of economic reform and culture influence from the West, cautious survivors of the Cultural Revolution of the sixties, and an emerging entrepreneurial class. The mystery aspect of the novel is not what this story is about: we pretty much know who committed the murder well before the end. The question is, will Cao be able to get the case prosecuted when there are powerful forces who are threatened by what the crime will reveal about both the victim and the perpetrator?

Death of a Red Heroine is full of the flavor of life in a rapidly transforming China, both figuratively and literally, since a running theme through the novel is is Chinese cuisine. We first meet Cao as he prepares a dinner party for his close friends and at the end we see Cao watching a street peddler frying dumplings, with plenty of meals and snacks in between.

As of this writing, Qiu has written ten novels in the Inspector Cao series, and I definitely plan to read at least the second installment.



When Politics Becomes Your Idol – The New York Times

As Crouch puts it: “All idols begin by offering great things for a very small price. All idols then fail, more and more consistently, to deliver on their original promises, while ratcheting up their demands. … In the end they fail completely, even as they make categorical demands. In the memorable phrase of the psychiatrist Jeffrey Satinover, idols ask for more and more, while giving less and less, until eventually they demand everything and give nothing.”

Source: When Politics Becomes Your Idol – The New York Times

Human Depravity

Let us observe this. There are few things so little believed and realized as the corruption of human nature. Men imagine that if they saw a perfect person, they would love and admire him. They flatter themselves that it is the inconsistency of professing Christians which they dislike, and not their religion. They forget that when a really perfect man was on earth, in the person of the Son of God, He was hated and put to death. That single fact goes far to prove the truth of [Jonathan] Edwards’ remark – “unconverted men would kill God, if they could get at Him.”
J.C. Ryle