Monday, February 22, 2010

Sermons on Creation - and John Wilkes Booth (?!)

I do not recommend reading sermon after sermon after sermon. But, this weekend I did precisely that.

I am garnering supplemental resources for students in classes that I teach associated with Biblical Theology and Global Stewardship. I am convinced that the Bible understands us to be stewards in God’s creation – but do not think the Bible has a distinct amount of significant textual space given to the issue. I do believe the Bible addresses it, for sure. But, in truth, the bulk of texts that address the issues of how we use space include principally the Pentateuch, the Psalms, some Wisdom Literature – references to justice and land in the Prophets – but very little directly in the NT – perhaps some parables, a few Pauline notes, and then Revelation. But, while a thread of themes are throughout – no coherent organzing ecological or stewardship “agenda” connects the whole of the corpus. Thus, it is nice to read reflections and ideas of others.

I read first the text: Earth and Word: Classic Sermons on Saving the Planet edited by David Rhoads. Most of the sermons were really quite good and several of them I will find a means to incorporate and use with students/persons I work with. In particular, I am certain I will use the sermons by: Peter Bakken, Tanya Marcovna Barnett, Diane Bergant, Wendell Berry (how can I not use Berry!?!), Sally Bingham, Margaret, Bullitt-Jonas, Theodore Hiebert, Bill McKibben, Ched Myers, Barbara Rossing, and H. Paul Santmire. Some excellent reflections, calls to consider, and just “good preaching” found here. Delightful reading and I look forward to re-reading with students in specific contexts where the reading is not so “tightly packed” for me!

I also read, The Best Preaching on Earth: Sermons on Caring for Creation edited by Stan L. LeQuire. I read and resourced this text a few years back – but of course went back to it in my new time of re-thinking some tools for teaching. I am glad I read Earth and Word first. There are good reflections and sermons in The Best Preaching on Earth, but not nearly as well done as Earth and Word. The only two specific sermons I will use for pedagogical practice from this text included the sermon written by Michael L. Blaine and then an article by Jim Wallis.


Who cares if it’s written for a youthful audience. I really enjoyed reading Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James Swanson. The text pieces together the historical record of what led John Wilkes Booth to participate in a larger series of attacks on the President and others on the night of April 14th. I, for example, had not taken time to consider other persons involved in “the plot” to assassinate the President – nor was I aware of the fact that there were other Cabinet level officials that were planned for attack and or attacked on the same night. We took our children to Ford Theater a few years back when we were in D.C. – so I knew that Lincoln had died in a house across the street from the Theater. We visited that house, as well. But, this delightfully constructed historical fiction allowed me to “get into the story” of John Wilkes Booth and learn more about “Washington City” as D.C. was referred to – and much more. If all books on history were written with this style and flair, there would be many more young people lining up to study history. A delightful read!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Travel to Israel, Jordan and Palestine with Dr. Michelson

Travel to Israel, Jordan, & Palestine – the “Holy Land”

What kind of trip is this?
While it is the case that this trip is offered most intentionally for Christian persons (students) who will participate in full-time ministry – there are political, archeological, social and cross-cultural components to this class that are intentionally constructed. Our primary focus is on Bible related sites and issues, but the class (for credit) is entitled “Ideology of Land: Jewish and Arab Perspectives” because there are contested ideas about who lives in these lands and why – and these contests date back in antiquity. The trip is not a pilgrimage, though spiritual contemplation is welcome. The trip is principally educational.

Is it safe?
Given the contemporary world, no one can ever assure anyone’s complete safety anywhere in the world. The Holy Land is no exception to this sad reality. However, travel to and within Jordan, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories does not place one at significantly greater risk of being a victim of violence than does travel to and within any major American city. In my own travel to the area no one with my group has felt threatened by violence.

What sites will the trip visit?
Sea of Galilee Dead Sea Jordan River Bethlehem
Jerusalem Mount of Olives Golan Heights Nazareth
Masada Jerash Caesarea Maratima Sepphoris
Madaba Mt. Nebo Mount of Olives
Mount of Beatitudes Church of Nativity Church of the Holy Sepulchre

What are the dates for the trip?
January 3 to 13, 2011 – with supplemental elective two days to Petra at supplemental cost.

Who will lead the tour?
Dr. Marty Alan Michelson along with faculty from the Society of Biblical Studies.
( See more here: and )

Why do you lead trips to the Holy Land?
I lead trips to the Holy Land because I love the experience. I love introducing people to the traditional holy sites and to the lands of the Bible. Also, I love helping Americans to learn about the contemporary culture and struggles of the people who populate the lands of the Bible today. My trips actively engage questions of peace-making in the Middle East. I make no profit from the trips.

How much does it cost?
$2997 (plus airfare to/from Chicago!) which will cover some meals every day (breakfast & dinner,not snacks!), entrance fees, border fees, guide fees, taxes, tips. Students Loans CAN be applied! The two-day addition to Petra – if enough register to participate – is $525.

When is the money due?
Full payment with the registration will be due ten weeks before the departure date. To make it simple, full payment is due at the start of the Academic Semester per SNU’s calendar – late August.

Aren’t many similar trips to the Holy Land cheaper?
No. Many travel companies practice a “bait-and-switch” method of sales. They either advertise a price that is eventually either is unavailable or is later inflated with additional “fees” (like taxes, tips, entry fees, domestic air, oversea ground transportation, visa fees, meals, etc.). My pricing policy is realistic and does not inflate after you have committed to travel. I have, in the past, had the US Department of Travel add last minute fees for security excise fees, however.

What all is covered by the cost of the trip?
The price of the trip includes all transportation, lodging, taxes and governmental fees, all morning and evening meals (lunch is not included), admission to all sites, and tips. The price does not include the price of lunch each day or the price of keepsakes and a few personally chosen tips.

Is this trip sponsored by the university where you teach? And can I get college credit?
Yes, SNU, where I teach, is associated with this trip. Yes, college credit is available and ENCOURAGED. A BLT (Biblical Literature) class for Undergraduate or *Graduate* students will be offered in Fall 2010. The class can also be taken as Theology or History.

Who may go on this trip?
The trip is open primarily and intentionally to college age students associated with SNU. Other persons will be welcome as space is available for anyone who wishes to see the Holy Land. Parents or Senior adults are welcome to experience the travel together. The main ingredient is a gracious attitude, willing heart, studious mind, and ability to walk/hike or willingness to sit behind while others do their walking/hiking to/from locations.

Can I be baptized in the Jordan River?
Yes. Dr. Michelson will baptize anyone who has not been baptized before and who professes Christ as Lord. For those who have been baptized before, they may renew their baptismal vows at the Jordan River.

Will we celebrate the Lord’s Supper at any point?
Yes. For those who wish to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we will offer the sacrament while on the Mount of the Beatitudes (overlooking the Sea of Galilee).

Are there a limited number of places available on this trip?
Yes. The trip is limited to the number of people who can comfortably travel in a single bus on location.

Do I need a passport?
Yes. You will need a passport at least six months before we travel. You start the passport process at Do this early, NOW!

What kind of meals will be available?
Some meals will be served as buffets with traditional Arabic, Jewish, American dishes from which to choose. Other meals will be served in sit down style with service to your table. Lunch will be purchased at local restaurants (at the traveler’s expense). Meal portions will not be “all you can eat” but will be a full portion meal, often served in several “courses.”

How much cash should I take?
The answer to this question largely depends upon each individual’s personal spending habits. The only direct expenses that travelers will incur are lunch time meals and beverages (other than water) at meal times. (In the Middle East, hotels traditionally serve only water and charge a nominal fee [about $1] for any additional beverage.) I have traveled with people who spent less $100 on a fifteen day trip and with people who have spent more than $500 in the same length of time. (Most outlets take credit cards and ATMs are widely available, but I do NOT recommend traveler’s checks—many places will not accept traveler’s checks and many others add a surcharge to traveler’s checks). As a general guideline, I would recommend about $300 in cash for most travelers.

Will the trip offer time for personal prayer and spiritual reflection?
Yes. Most days will include a few hours in the evening when travelers can engage in unstructured activities ranging from personal prayer and meditation to walks along the Sea of Galilee.

What are the hotel accommodations like?
Our accommodations are generally in three and four hotels, comparable to moderately priced American hotels. All are clean, safe and professionally staffed. Some have pools, saunas, hot tubs and exercise. All have private bathrooms and comfortable beds.

Will we meet with any local people?
Yes. We will organize evening programs with people who represent the diversity of political and religious opinions in the Middle East. The programs allow the travelers to meet local Christians, Jews and Muslims from both Israel and Palestinians. Travelers will be able to dialogue with a wide spectrum of opinion.

How do I register for the trip?
Nothing can be done to register for the trip now. But, in March/April 2010 you should plan to schedule for the course for Fall 2010. Plan now to “not take” a BLT credit in your major – and take this course for credit! Contact Dr. Marty Michelson,

Bread for the World - Patterns and Hopes for My Life

I knew I would love this book as I read it's first four words: "My birth in Eugene, Oregon." I had already expected I would have much to learn from this text, but I have to be honest in noting my internal sympathy and sense of connection to the author for simply having been born in the same city where I was born. (Of course, he was born several decades before I.)

The Rising of Bread for the World: An Outcry of Citizens Against Hunger
by Arthur Simon.

I hoped this text would give me perspective not just on Bread for the World or other stories/narratives of hungry people, which Arthur Simon has addressed in numerous other publications (see his other books!) - but I hoped this text would give me perspective on how Arthur himself was shaped and directed to lead Bread for the World. I was not the least bit disappointed and was in fact, very thankful for this text.

I read this text as I flew home from advocacy and training meetings with the Genocide intervention network in Washington D.C. Without telling the story of GI-NET, I can summarize it's content in a few words - a few young persons teamed together and with a worthy cause and some "chance" encounters - along with due diligence - they have moved in a few short years to have a multi-million dollar budget, with D.C. offices, staff and thousands of active (and passive) agents for social change. Some of their situation has been "lucky" or "chance" as I noted above (not that the cause is not worthy of luck!) - and of course modern technologies and ways of being connected have driven their ability to move and shape change.

This text by Arthur Simon, tells his autobiographical and autoestablishment perspective on how his life and his calling merged with the decadal long shaping and growth of Bread for the World. I note this alongside GI-NET because it was important for me to remember that meteoric growth is not typical for any business, institution, political movement (and so on.) Bread for the World is about steady, long term, disciplined connection and advocacy that was not meteoric - but has been substantial and influential for millions of people and hundreds of programs/policies.

There were many things that stood out to me in this text by Arthur Simon - his grace and charity - his "stick-to-it-iveness" in things. Their willingness to take modest salaries to push the agenda. His writing. The fact that he took the time to write and that his writing was an important part of his being known and having influence, that was important. His passing notes on Oregonian life. His coming to terms with his Lutheran perspectives to be more willing to embrace a larger view of faith. His divorce and remarriage. His political advocacy that teamed with many persons, including his Congressional brother. His discipline. His steady, consistent willingness to work year-in and year-out to build advance the Kingdom by feeding the hungry. His notes on staff relationships. His adopted children. The connections between his life and mine are not "the same" - but there are many things about his life that are already similar to my life - and I hope to establish - for the sake of the good for the all - a kind of evangelical extension of a more peaceable and harmonious and "full" (i.e. not hungry) world for our future!

This book was inspirational and transformational for my perspective on where I am not in my own life.

A solid read.

Food Rules and Food of a Younger Land

My wife picked up the new eater's manual published by Michael Pollan titled, FOOD RULES. It is a simple and easy to follow, almost organized in proverbial short pages, perspective on how to follow the wisdom discerned in his previous book In Defense of Food. Since I so enjoyed reading In Defense of Food last year - I knew I'd likely enjoy FOOD RULES, and I did. The book is an easy read - though it's proverbial wisdom needs to be lived out to be worth any real value. Thankfully I am married to a conscientious and attentive woman who, by the normal choices of our relationship, takes care of all food decisions (when, where, how we eat). While I enjoyed the book and think it's wisdom is clear - I am equally thankful to have the opportunity to live into it's wisdom with a caring spouse and good kids. We have the book on our dining room table for conversation and practical insight. Let's hope it makes a difference.

I also audio-read this book a few days ago: The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food--Before the National Highway System, Before Chain Restaurants, and Before Frozen Food, When the Nation's Food Was Seasonal by Mark Kurlansky. Essentially, after the Depression in the 1920's - the New Deal put into motion all kinds of new and creative jobs for Americans. Numerous persons or send out on writing projects across the United States for various reasons. One set of projects involved a host of authors/writers who scoured the U.S. to get stories about how and what and when people eat. The book served as a fascinating perspective on the diversity not just of food eaten - but also the celebrations and events that were so characteristic of meals and events in the 1930's. I learned much about crawfish and unique forms of canning - and even learned about food types and festivals in the Northwest cultures of Native American Indians in America. The book covered a wide diversity - in fact, diversity and breadth and scope were at the core of the total variety that was/is offered in the book. When I flew into New Orleans a few weeks ago, I noted to my wife how every city in America has become something like the same city. You drive down the main roads and it is the same few chain pharmacies, fast food restaurants, big box stores - and it feels like you have not even left home. We ship goods and resources (perishable foods) in all seasons from all parts of the globe using refrigeration/heating/salination systems that make it possible to do so - but, in the process, we've "neutralized" or "sterilized" or "genericized" the diversities of our cultural fabric - even from less than 100 years ago. And I wonder what all we have lost. Certainly we have gained much - no doubt - but it seems to me we have lost so much, too.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Christianity and the way of Witness

“Christianity is something to do, not a philosophical puzzle. It comes about not when someone affirms a creedal proposition, but when someone does something. It is a way to be witnessed, not a proposition to be proven.”
John D. Caputo, How to Read Kierkegaard

Friday, February 05, 2010

D.C. Reading

Some light reading at the William Penn House.

While I lodged at the William Penn House in Washington D.C., I was able to pick up a few books from their library to read in the evening. I perused numerous back issues of Quaker Life magazine and the Friends Journal. Of course I will not try to detail the various perspectives I gleaned – more than read – but I was intrigued by so much of what I read. I have long had an affiliation with Quaker thinkers – going back to my neighbors on Princeton Dr. in Eugene, Oregon where I grew up. And, despite my Nazarene roots and connection for all of my life to and through the Church of the Nazarene, I identify my call to ministry to have taken place because of the local Friends church while I was engaged in contemplative prayer at that location when I was a teen. Over the years I have been influenced in significant ways by the works of John Howard Yoder (I may go back and review the specific titles on another occasion.)

In addition to the numerous things I gleaned from reading Quaker Life and the Friends Journal, I was also able to have delightful conversation with several of the person who worked at the William Penn House, Byron in particular, who gave me insight into the various branches of the Quaker Tradition as it is dominantly practiced in the United States – as per his description. Byron specifically gave me his perspective on the Friends General Conference, the Friends United Meeting, and Evangelical Friends. In any branch, the friends have dominantly been characterized by their inclusion and embrace of others (abolition of slavery), by their practices of non-violence and pacificism, and their active social engagement. There is so much to befriend about the Friends!

I picked up and read If Grace Is True Why God will Save Everyone. I viewed this as casual reading so did not plan to argue nor agree with the thesis. Which, in fact, made for an enjoyable read. I have read elsewhere about issues of Universalism, of course. (Last summer, also in a casual way I read The Evangelical Universalist published then by Wipf and Stock, written under the pseudonym, ~ Gregory MacDonald) Since I read the book casually, I will only say that it proved a delightful casual read. As should be obvious, the authors (two adherents of the more liberal perspectives within the Society of Friends), tell stories and express their hopes and belief that God will ultimately save everyone. The book is not a grounded logical argument, nor is the book an exegetical perspective of Biblical texts – and, in fact, the authors seem to tell experiential stories more than anything, alongside a berth of quotes suggesting universalistic tendencies from various persons in history. Idea about exegesis or salvation aside, a Christian must finally affirm that her own salvation is from the grace of God. That is a clear fact of discerning Orthodox faith. That being the case, the idea that God could and should (and would ? and will ?) extend that grace freely to all people can be the idea of wonderful hope or perturbing frustration! For the past number of years I have told students the following clear affirmations of Scripture as plainly as I can see them across the texts of the Bible. “There will be judgment. There will be grace. How either of those get worked out in ultimate categories are finally and fully the response-ability of the Judge.”

I also delightfully read Christopher Buckley’s Washington Schlepped Here. With a wonderful satirical wit, Buckley “guides” a person through the city of Washington D.C. to both “see” the sites and to fictionalize and humorize (is that a word!?!) the events that a tourist would see. Several of the locations that Buckley offers stories about – are places I have not or have not yet visited. The locations he described that I have visited were a delight to read about. Buckley has the ability to both tell you about the site or location – but also point out the odd/unique/ambiguous/disjointed features of a location to cause the reader/tourist to rethink the location. I would not recommend the book for someone as a true “guide” to D.C. – but as a humorous perspective on being guided around D.C.!

Thy Kingdom Connected

A book I received as a participant with The Ooze Viral Bloggers -

They Kingdom Connected by Dwight J. Friesen is a book that I will be recommending to the two professors who teach with me who specialize in “Practical Theology.”

There was very much to appreciate about this book. Having said that to get started, let me point out a few critiques before I sing praise.

The book’s subtitle is poorly framed: “What the Church Can Learn from Facebook, the Internet, and Other Networks.” I anticipated reading a sort of “how to” use these networks for developing and working with the church. Instead, this book has very little to offer about “how to” use networks in the computer/internet spectrum. (More on what this text does say about networks in a few paragraphs.)

Second, I thought the book could have been much more deeply connected and structured with Biblical support for the claims that are offered. And, for a few of the claims, I was left wanting to ask, Dwight what Biblical text supported his characterization of the church. For example, on page 41 Dwight finishes an analogy of the church built, in part, on the parable of the yeast from Jesus. But, the analogy wherein the yeast is seen as a positive issue of expanding the networks of the kingdom might be well out of line with Jewish understanding and frameworks within the Hebrew Bible because of the clear implications of yeast’s impurity. Not that Dwight thereby could not have used this as an example, but it could have been better parsed out with a fuller reading of Biblical texts, and specifically of the Hebrew Scripture.

That being the case – and fully cognizant of the fact that I would likely not agree with “every claim” of any author, I value and appreciate what Dwight has constructed. I think his organization of the text and examples including modern networks – both computer and biological – are creative and inventive. I found his work to be grounded in a clear articulation of Trinitarian theology that understands God to be relational and thus, God’s intention for the kingdom is intended to be relational as well.

At several points in the text Dwight creatively recycles language to cause his readers to (re)think perspectives. For example, “Failure to see the interconnections of the world created by God can only result in ‘di-vision’” (page 19). And, much later in the text, he provides an appropriate Calvin and Hobbes cartoon to bear on his creative (re)use of language in his chapter on “And’ing.”
The book was not difficult to read, and it offered some intriguing analogies and images to re-think – including the image and idea of the lighthouse – but it was neither a simple read. Dwight engages early the work of Martin Buber (page 49ff) and then appropriately comes back to Buber later in the final few pages of his text (page 169ff.) His conception of the Christ-commons and the idea of cultivating fertile soil for new life were helpful.

A few places along the way I would suggest that Dwight might want to rethink a few analogies or metaphors – but in the end, the book comes together in a clear, wholistic way. His final few chapters, especially the one on Network Ecologies, were a delight to read. I am certain that the students I have taught over the years – if they were empowered to see the Church in the way Dwight outlines – they would be greater empowered to be in ministry for the long-haul. Not to become pastors that “grow” or meet denominational expectations to be a certain size – but churches that “build and steward sustainable communities in which we can satisfy our needs and aspirations without diminishing the same for future generations” (page 149).

Students training for ministry and pastors in ministry could learn from Dwight. “It is very difficult, maybe impossible, to determine a network’s relative health by looking at a smaller set within the ecosystem. It's best to look at a larger set. . . . How is your local and community participating with God and God dream for the re-creation of heaven and earth? How is it your church participating in the flourishing of God dream of abundant life for all?” (page 156-157.)

Dwight’s vision would help the church look to the larger life of expanding God’s Kingdom, advancing the good for all, announcing and enacting good news.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Some January 2010 reading - mixed variety

The Book of Genesis, illustrated by R. Crumb. I had been made aware of this book several months before it was published. What a delight to happen upon it at the local public library a few days ago. I had not planned to purchase the book, and was not even sure if I would enjoy it - but I certainly did. I did not read the book precisely - as it covers verbatim the book of Genesis and, more or less, I have a sense of what is going on in the story. But, I did spend numerous hours over a few days reviewing key stories from Genesis.

I think one of the issues that was most apparent to me, has to do with the realization that in this illustrated story I could see "for real" how R. Crumb imagines and pictures the story. Some of the stories were pictured by Crumb in ways similar to other "Children's stories" of the Bible. Of course, certain familiar stories make it into children's books more often than other stories - creation, Noah's flood, the Akedah, etc. But what was intriguing in particular were the stories that I have no seen illustrated elsewhere. Even small things like how much Adam and Eve looked alike in Crumb's pictures - compared to other stories I have seen where they look so male/female gender specific. In one illustration by Crumb, I could not tell who was the male and who was the female. Crumb did an excellent job, too, of "correctly" illustrating Ancient Near Easter parallel cultures when the images were appropriate. The book inspired me to think about teaching Genesis from the perspective of illustrations/art/movies. To lay side by side the narratives of the Bible alongside images/portrayals of the stories that both get the story correct - and offer their own (mis)reading of the text based on interpretive bias/position. Intriguing read and study. I will need to pick up this book to put on my personal shelf.

Daniel Berrigan: No Gods But One. Berrigan has been a popular agitator, and intriguing reader of the Bible for a number of years, even for decades. In this book, like other books I have read and reviewed by Berrigan, he offers a unique form of running commentary on a text of the Bible. In this book, Berrigan offers reflections/quotes/anecdotes/thoughts on the Book of Deuteronomy. Characteristic of his style, the anecdotes and quotes read as a series of disjointed thoughts on various texts and/or verses in their sequential order. It does not read like a "normal" commentary and I am not sure it would even prove helpful in a casual study of Deuteronomy. However, if a person were working through Deuteronomy with other resources and a close reading, I am certain that Berrigan's work would offer tantalizing and fresh perspectives for the interpreter to consider. Since I am not now studying Deuteronomy, I did not read Berrigan's work in its entirety. In fact, I probably read less than 20% of the text while I had it in my hand - as I flipped through important passages that stand out in my mind from the book of Deuteronomy. I was much more influenced by Dennis T. Olson's reading of Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy and the Death of Moses, from several years back, that reads and understands the book of Deuteronomy from the perspective of catechesis. Nevertheless, the next time I teach Deuteronomy, I will need to insure I own a copy of Berrigan's work for perspective as I teach and read.

Daniel R. Heischman, Good Influence: Teaching the Wisdom of Adulthood. This book caught my attention because it seemed to connect principles of biblical wisdom with the practice of raising children. In fact, in some ways the author does this. Heschman tells stories of students/families he has mentored over the past numerous decades as a school administrator. He lines up this experiential wisdom with reflections on how to better raise children into adulthood. Central to Daniel's thesis is the idea that children need responsible adult influence to nurture their response-ability into adulthood. (That is my language, not his. But I like my language!) In the context of his central chapter he offers the following proverbs, which he then reflects upon: Adult's serve as what might be called a "speed bumps" to younger people. Adults serve as a deep sea divers. Adults need to be willing to be unpopular. Adults need to be willing to seem "old."

I found the book interesting and readable. Full of stories and reflections that offering meaning in their context - and I enjoyed the read. But, I am not sure that it *really* offers anything new to the ancient practices and perspectives of Wisdom as reflected in numerous Wisdom writings, the Bible included.

Don't ask me why, except a weird curiosity, but I also recently read Madoff's Other Secret: Love, Money, Bernie and Me by Sheryl Weinstein. I suppose I am like so many other people, and want to know more about how Madoff pulled off his ponzi scheme (swindle!) for so long. It is intriguing to me in several ways how people can be as animated and well loved as Bernie was - while "underneath" or even out in the open - they are villains who thieve away the money of others. As is likely expected from this story, Sheryl, who lost all of her own finances to Madoff, as well as other family members etc - had a personal and romantic affair with Bernie. Another curious fact to me is how influential people have time/opportunity to hide their dalliances! Anyway. Certainly a casual, light read - but intriguing as well. I think the "best" part of the story was reading her comments to the judge - she was one of the few who were allowed to address the judge regarding Bernie's punishment. The reading was at least as enjoyable as anything I could have watched on T.V. for the afternoon!

There is so much going on with the economy right now, that I decided I ought to pick up a few books to give me some "economic" perspective. I did not read entirely, but perhaps read 30-40% from each of the following two books these past few days. Charles Goyette's The Dollar Meltdown: Surviving the Impending Currency Crisis with Gold, Oil, and Other Unconventional Investments. And, separately, Crash Proof 2.0: How to Profit from the Economic Collapse by Peter D. Schiff with John Downes. Several reflections that I would offer: both authors are convinced that the future state of the economy will change drastically, and wealth will transfer from the "fiat" system of paper money that we now have - (citing various issues including the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 and the 1934 Gold Reserve Act, and the 1944 Bretton Woods event, and issues in the 1960's and 1970's including Nixon closing the Gold window.) The authors, of course, are writing to an audience that is seeking to save and or establish wealth into the possible (unpredictable ?) future, asserting of course that their systems of wealth management and success will give perspective and hope to their readers. Among other things, as could be implied by the title of the text, natural resources and international economic industry are heralded as the authors of the means to a better financial future. The authors explain the problem with current credit for personal use, and for international economies in international trade that suggest impending problems at micro and macro economic levels. The authors offer various perspectives on "staying liquid" in the midst of our "coming years of economic uncertainty."

I guess I am a bit of a skeptic about all of it. Oh, I understand money - at least at some personal level. We live on a budget. We plan, save, build equity, spend, use credit wisely and invest. But, I am not convinced that we are in an uncertain future - I think every future is always uncertain! That is, I think the past was as uncertain as the future. I want to read books like these two and learn how to better have the cash for the future, but after I read them I will confess to feeling a sense of being overwhelmed, I confess to feeling like I do not have enough "liquid" capital to make a difference, and I assume that I simply won't be the one who takes all the time to figure all the various systems to make the cash that supposedly out there to be made. So, I will live responsibly and as safely as I can into the future - but I think I'll manage my gardening skills as well as my stock portfolios. If its *that* uncertain, I think my time will be well spent. But, one never knows.

50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists by Wiley-Blackwell. I with a philosopher colleague who has a particular interest in the ideas of atheism/agnosticism. I suppose I have picked up some of his interests over the years, as colleagues are prone to do. Additionally, I have been in relationship with enough students over the years, that I realize they are prone to ponder and wander through their own patterns or perspectives of belief. It was enjoyable to take the time to peruse the perspectives offered in this collection, though I only took the time to read 10 of the 50 collected essays - each about 3-6 pages in length. I read perspectives from a variety of positions, logical arguments to "unanswered prayers." In my quick read of on a few essays, I did not encounter any particular position that I had not experienced in the past, from other persons. I think this book would be very helpful though, to persons who have faith figured out. To those persons for whom faith is simple and unambiguous. This collection of essays offers an interesting perspective on the "good" "reasons" and "good" "experiences" why many do not believe. And that offers opportunity to rethink ones own perspective and even how one engages and converses with others toward advancing positive, shared, edifying dialogue that is beneficial and maybe even brings good news for all.