>Losing Mum and Pup is Christopher Buckley’s retrospective on the life and death of his famous parents, the iconic conservative intellectual William F. Buckley Jr. and his socialite wife, Pat Buckley.
I found the book interesting because it is a poignant and well-written study in the changing of generations and because it provides a glimpse into the personal lives of an iconic American family.
While the book communicates a number of unflattering details about Buckley’s parents, he avoids the self-pitying plea for the reader to agree that his parents did him wrong. His motive for writing seems to be (a) that he’s a writer himself and processes life on paper and (b) his parents were intensely interesting people and his relationship with them, particularly his father, is the stuff of an interesting book. How many people, for example, had friendships with Ronald Reagan, David Niven, Barry Goldwater, George McGovern, Gordon Liddy, and, well, nearly everybody whose name appeared in headlines from 1970 to 2009.
Christopher Buckley is a political satirist and can’t help but find the ironic moments in the tragic year in which both his parents died. For example, the phone call from the mortician saying, “Your dad is looking much better now.” The writing is often humorous, thought not so hilarious as his novels.
Buckley does reveal a number of negative things about his parents and himself, including Mum’s penchant for telling whoppers (she invented at least 8 different reasons for her leaving college after two years) and Pup’s self-medication with Ritalin and sleeping pills, and Buckley’s own dilemma about whether to assist his father in suicide (he didn’t and he didn’t).
This book is a poignant read for baby boomers–and perhaps others–who are dealing with passing of their parents’ generation. It’s humorous, revealing, poignant, and very well written. Fans of either Buckley will enjoy it.
>This week I’ve been reflecting of Abraham, that great man of faith whose life raises as many questions as it provides answers. In particular, I’ve been thinking about Gen. 22 and his great test of faith, the sacrifice of Isaac.
When I envision God asking me to sacrifice, it plays like a scene from Saving Private Ryan. “Sure, Lord, I’ll go out in a blaze of glory for you. Count on me to become the next martyr/legend in our great cause.” Then I rush off to throw my body in front of some orphans who are being gunned down by rebels. Heather weeps silently, yet manages to say, “He was a good man, my husband.” Others nod in sad agreement.
Abraham’s final test of faith was nothing like that. He was called not to sacrifice himself but something dear to him. Abraham, if he were to commit the deed, would not die and be memorialized in legend. He would survive but be left without his greatest source of comfort, his hope for the future.
I wonder how I would respond if God asked me to sacrifice that which is dearest to me. (My bicycle, as I’m sure everyone knows.)
We conceive of faith as believing that God exists, and it is that. And we think of faith as believing that God is great, that he can perform miracles (such as the conception of Isaac), and it is that too.
Yet there is more to it. Faith is the absolute belief that God is good, that his way is best, and that wherever he directs you to go is a better place than where you are now. Faith is willingness to say “yes” to God, regardless of the question.
Abraham said yes without hesitation, and he did indeed become a man of legend.
I think of another man, a rich ruler who asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life.” Jesus said, “Sell you possessions, give everything to the poor, then come follow me.” He walked away sadly, the Bible says, because he was very wealthy. We never hear of him again.
I’m praying that I may see my test of faith, when it comes, not as a sacrifice but as an opportunity that will lead me to a better place.
How would you define faith?
This book is somewhat interesting but by no means compelling. The central point–that our lives would be better if we showed greater respect to others–is worth hearing again, though it may have made a better magazine article than hardcover book.
Deboarah Norville, best known as a television personality, currently the host of Inside Edition, has collected an array of anecdotes and statistics that support her thesis. She applies the theme to six arenas:
One strength of the book is the practical tips offered for cultivating respect in these areas of life; for example: Define rules for your children; Brag about your partner in front of others; and Give employees a voice in the workplace.
The weakness of the book is that there seems to be nothing new or uniquely insightful. The thesis itself is the book.
Also, the font size is particularly small making it a bit difficult to read.
I hope Norville’s message succeeds, yet I rate the book itself is a so-so read. Buy it if you want a helpful reminder of our need for civility in relationships. If you’re looking for a more in-depth study or a highly practical manual for relationships or leadership, take a pass.
Halloween observance is avoided by some devout people because of its origin in the ancient festival Samhain, which was celebrated mainly in Ireland and Scotland. It was believed that the separation between the lands of the living and the dead was especially thin on this night so that spirits could pass from one world to the next. Scary masks and costumes were used to ward off evil spirits.
Halloween is also the eve of All Saints Day, a Christian holiday that commemorates the lives of godly people who have died.
Personally, I think we need a time to reflect on death and the life after. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the whole world seems to be dying at this time of year. The weather grows cold, leaves wither, and we realize that the warm days of summer are gone–as our lives will someday be.
And while they may have been wrong about many things, the ancient Gaelic people got this right–one way of dealing with the terror of death is to make light of it. It seems that we should be able to acknowledge that both good and evil spiritual beings roam the earth without being dragged into spiritism.
The older I grow, the more people I know who are now on the other side. I think it’s important to acknowledge that from time to time. There is a great chasm between us and many unknown and frightening things to come. There is life there as well.
Happy Halloween, everybody.
>Why is temptation so hard to resist? Why is it that normally strong, disciplined people may occasionally be enticed to overindulge, lie, commit some sexual indiscretion or do something else that seems totally out of character for them?
Is anyone immune from temptation? Will we ever be rid of it?
This week I’ve been looking for answers to those questions in the ultimate self-help book on human behavior—Genesis. By examining the first recorded case study on temptation, that of Eve and Adam, here’s are six insights into how temptation works and how to avoid it.
1. Recognize the deception within every temptation and assert the truth.
The serpent was the first vehicle for delivering temptation because it was “crafty.” Temptation is an adversarial process in which Satan aims to convince you to do something you know is wrong. Deception is the primary tactic, which he introduced by asking, “Did God really say. . . ?”
To overcome temptation, recognize it for what it is–and attempt by Satan to manipulate you. When you start asking questions like these, realize that you’re being deceived.
- Is it really cheating if you don’t actually have sex?
- How can it be gossip if what you’re saying is true?
- Are you sure it’s stealing if it’s just office supplies?
Defeat temptation by recognizing it for what it is–a false promise–and assert the truth.
2. Minimize temptation by meeting your deepest needs in healthy ways.
Temptation is powerful because it appeals to the deepest needs we have as human beings: love, security, self-esteem, happiness, freedom. The kicker for Eve was the desire to gain knowledge. Who doesn’t want to be smart, powerful, and in control?
The promise was false, of course. The essence of temptation is the belief that doing what you know to be wrong will somehow make you feel better.
What is your deepest unmet need? This is precisely where you will be most vulnerable to temptation. Recognize that need in yourself and see that it is met in healthy ways. If you do not feel important, lying about your achievements will not fill that need; creating close friendships will. If your marriage lacks intimacy, an affair will not leave you feeling valued; a deeper relationship with God will.
3. Don’t rationalize.
If temptation is to become sin, your will must become involved at some point. For awhile, all Eve did was listen to the serpent. But after awhile, she too began to play the what-if game. It sure looks good, she thought. And it is getting close to lunchtime. That was the point where she lost control–when she also began listing reasons why disobedience might be a good idea.
Don’t cooperate with the devil by creating a rationalization for sin, entertaining thoughts like these:
- I guess one time would be okay.
- I’ve had a tough week; I deserve this!
- Actually, this might wind up helping our marriage.
4. Expose temptation by revealing it to someone.
Eve was tempted when alone. Together, they might have withstood temptation by reinforcing the truth to one another. Alone, she was easier prey. The same is always true for us. So one effective way to weaken temptation is to say it aloud. Inside your head, nearly any bizarre action can begin to sound right. In the company of others, temptation sounds more like what it is–a self-justifying rationalization to do something you know to be wrong.
Ask your wife if it’s okay to cheat at golf, and see how silly it sounds. Tell your best friend you’re thinking of stealing from your company and you’ll be less likely to do it.
5. Walk away.
Eve could have ended this conversation after the first exchange. She knew the truth and said it aloud. But she hung around, giving the tempter another shot. The best way to overcome temptation is to avoid it entirely by making yourself absent from the people, places, and things that tempt you.
- If you’re tempted to overeat, stay away from the fridge.
- If you have a problem with racking up debt, cut up your credit card.
- If you keep drinking too much, don’t drink at all.
Temptation is not an opportunity to prove yourself. It’s an atom bomb sitting on your doorstep. Get the heck away from it!
6. If you fail, confess it and start again.
If you’ve fallen for a particular temptation repeatedly, you may have concluded that you’re helpless in this area and will always fail. That’s just who I am, you may think. I guess I’ll never change.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Bible says that if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9). Don’t allow your failure to become permanent.
God does not intend for you to live a helpless, powerless life, constantly repeating the same mistakes. He wants you to live a victorious, holy life, growing more like Jesus every day. The Bible promises this:
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure (1 Cor. 10:13).
Is it possible to overcome temptation? Yes, with God’s help, you can.
What about you? What have you found effective in battling temptation?