IVP - Andy Unedited

January 17, 2018

The Human Story of a Man-Made Disaster

I remember driving in the south and southwest during the late 1950s and early 1960s on family vacations. We'd see rows and rows of tall, narrow trees (many probably being tower poplar) planted between fields. "Why did they do that?" I asked my parents. They were windbreaks, they told me, used to stop the soil from blowing away like it did in the great black, rainless storms of twenty-five years before.

I Worst hard time.jpgnever quite understood why the Dust Bowl started and why it stopped--even after having read a full paragraph on them in my junior high history books! The answer becomes very clear in Timothy Egan's compelling tale of two towns in the center of the Dust Bowl--Boise City, OK, and Dalhart, TX. He follows the boom and bust of a half dozen families from the turn of the century to the end of the Depression. The hardships they face were immense and largely man made.

A combination of hubris, ignorance, and greed led thousands of farmers (encouraged by misguided government policy and high wheat prices) to plow up 100 million acres of prairie grass that had taken ten to twenty thousand years to build up. They ignored weather records showing there was rarely enough rain to sustain wheat crops.

When prices fell and rainfall returned to the more common lower levels, the farms were abandoned. With no wheat or prairie grass to hold the soil, huge massive black storms--sometimes two miles high and hundreds of miles wide--turned day into night. On average, a storm hit every three days for years. Thousands died of what doctors called dust pneumonia.

More than once a gigantic storm escaped the Great Plains and dumped thousands of tons of dirt on Chicago, New York, and Washington DC. Once the mid-day sky went dark during a Congressional hearing on proposed solutions from the Roosevelt Administration. The New Deal got its money.

With Tree planting depression.JPGthat appropriation they planted dozens of varieties of trees, a hundred million of them. They also "retired" millions of acres of farmland, helped resettle farmers in other parts of the country, and taught those who remained conservation techniques to hold the soil. The result has been to reduce the size and frequency of storms, but not eliminate them. I was wrong. The dust storms never entirely stopped.

When drought conditions hit again in the 1950s, so did dust storms, which still continue. In June 2017 one storm caused six deaths in a 25-car pile up. When I drive through New Mexico each year, I see signs warning me to pull over when dust storms hit. Millions of acres remain destroyed and barren. Some estimates say it takes a thousand years to restore one inch of top soil in such regions.

Egan skillfully weaves together the human stories along with the stories of social, economic, political, and cultural forces that created this man-made ecological disaster. At the end I was ready to agree--of all the hard times experienced in the Depression, these were the worst.

Photo Credit: National Park Service

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:01 AM | Comments

January 3, 2018

A New Spiritual Classic

Centuries ago Brother Lawrence wrote the spiritual classic The Practice of the Presence of God. There that monk taught us to be aware that God is with us in each moment, even when performing such mundane tasks as working in the kitchen or cleaning a floor. In Liturgy of the Ordinary Tish Warren has provided us with such a classic for our day.

From Practicing presence.jpgwaking to brushing teeth to making phone calls to getting into an argument to going to sleep at night, she opens to us how we live each moment in God's presence. These gifts of repeated patterns or recurring events in our lives offer us the opportunity to see God's grace in each moment and give thanks for his gifts when life is hard and when it is good.

The liturgy of the ordinary.jpgspirit this book creates is wise, warm, encouraging and at the same time very honest. It is neither sugarcoated nor moralistic. We don't find do's and don'ts. Rather, in this Christianity Today Book of the Year, we find a winsome invitation to join our day to God's.

While the book uses the motif of liturgy to frame the book, readers certainly don't need to come from or be familiar with the liturgical tradition to benefit from this. Instead it provides fresh dimensions for and expands our appreciation of Immanuel, God with us.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:58 AM | Comments

December 27, 2017

The Social Animal

"We are not who we think we are."

In The Social Animal, David Brooks tells the story of a composite American couple Erica and Harold, from their first moments of life to their last. Weaving in and out of this tale of their early childhood, high school years, career highs and lows, and the opportunities and challenges of aging, Brooks offers insights from recent research in a variety of fields which provide a new understanding ourselves.

Continue reading "The Social Animal"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:12 AM | Comments

December 19, 2017

"And Tell the Truth. Tell the Truth."

In a day of fake news, alternative facts, and politicians regularly not just massaging the truth but fabricating it to their own benefit, the work of George Orwell seems like it was written in response to today's news. The writer best known for 1984 and Animal Farm was adamant in his opposition to what he called newspeak--any doublespeak using convoluted and pretentious language to conceal the truth.

Continue reading ""And Tell the Truth. Tell the Truth.""
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:10 AM | Comments (2)

December 12, 2017

Why Doesn't Mark Tell the Christmas Story? (Part 2)

Isn't Mark a bit of a Scrooge for not including the story of Jesus' birth in his gospel? Really! No star in the east. No angels touching their harps of gold. No little town of Bethlehem. What a grump! And what's up with beginning with John the Baptist preaching repentance? Does that sound like Christmas? I submit that it does not!

Continue reading "Why Doesn't Mark Tell the Christmas Story? (Part 2)"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:18 AM | Comments

December 5, 2017

Why Doesn't Mark Tell the Christmas Story? (Part 1)

The gospel of Luke has a wonderful birth story of Jesus. Every year we even get to hear it read by Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas special. Matthew adds in the Wise Men but starts even further back, beginning his gospel with Abraham. Not to be outdone, John's gospel goes back even behind Genesis, before creation, to when the Word was with God.*

Continue reading "Why Doesn't Mark Tell the Christmas Story? (Part 1)"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:04 AM | Comments

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book cover"Some publishers tell you what to believe. Other publishers tell you what you already believe. But InterVarsity Press helps you believe," says J. I. Packer. Andy Le Peau and Linda Doll describe how this came to be a hallmark of InterVarsity Press in Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength, an anecdotal history spanning the sixty years from the founding of IVP in 1947 to the present day.