Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Break Reading - Thus Far

I’ve had a great start to my break from the semester’s routine to get in some leisure and “other” kind of reading.

I wish I had more time to commit to comments – but only started this blog to “capture” thoughts – and have never intended to give full reviews.  I have to remind myself of that as I sometimes want to do in-depth reviews and then realize – at this stage in my life – I barely have time to do the reading – let alone provide space for significant commentary.  And, what is more – this is intended more for archival record/tracking – and quick review for myself.  Someday I’ll have more time to write more commentaries/review.  And, this is more about my “leisure” and “enjoyable” reading.  Though it does connect with who I am and how I think – it is not my “professional” review – just “readings and reflections.”

I enjoyed reading Blue Gold:  The Fight To Stop the Corporate Theft of Water.   I am not convinced with some of the general affirmations in the text (mainly because they were unsupported as presented) that we are running out of water.  Perhaps I have a greater trust in the largeness and scope of the “water cycle” that I was taught as a child.  BUT!  I was intrigued and alarmed by reading about the corporate levels of waste that take place with water – in irrigation and agriculture settings.  And, I never took the time to reflect on who “owns” the water that gets piped to my house.  I did not realize many places have “corporate” water that is not “owned”  - and I really never thought about my water being “owned” anyway.  May sound silly – of course I pay for it to get piped to my home – but I always thought about paying for the service, not the water itself!  In my short (!) lifetime – and really in just the past 15 years – we have gone from a culture that drinks water from the tap – to spending exponentially more $$$ on bottled water, etc.  Interesting.  And, made me miss the pure(r) taste of water I remember from my childhood days in Oregon.

$20 Per Gallon:  How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better.  I liked the text for a variety of reasons.  For one, ever since reading The World Without Us a few years ago, I have enjoyed the idea of a “thought experiment” for imagining/predicting the future.  Using reasonable suggestions from current knowledge – we can make reasonable predictions about the future. I liked that the book was optimistic about how our lives can get better once “peak oil” changes everything.  I valued the ideas that were gleaned and do agree that it is inevitable that our use of oil will become more tumultuous, expensive, and limited.  It is a limited resource.  No matter how well we dig/find/explore for it – there is a limit.  The best thing about this book is that presents options to think about how we’ll live in more sensible ways – and I hope for a more sensible future!  I do think the book’s optimism is framed in line with the fact that the book posits a more or less gradual shift toward rising oil prices.  I tend to think it will be more tumultuous – with surprises of new discoveries to help us with alternate energy – and with fomenting political unrest that will cause for more discontinuous and troubling issues as well.  (BTW – the book caused me to recall the hopes of President Jimmy Carter for America – that have never been realized. Sad.  A great snippet from 1979 – July – The Crisis of Confidence.)  I liked the optimism of the book – compared with the more “apocalyptic” kind of texts I’ve read – which make me reasonable fearful though not afraid.  Books that have tended toward making me afraid – and I think they are overzealous – include those by James Howard Kunstler – including The World Made by Hand, The Geography of Nowhere and The Long Emergency.  I love the title of the second, the long emergency, because I do tend to think we are in an emergency in our world –we use too much, we do not think about the future, we kill too much – and it’s a “long” haul if we don’t change our ways.  Admittedly, humans have been killing humans for millennia – and we’ve been both exploiting and resourcing the worlds resources, too – so perhaps we’re not doomed . . . unless we are in the long emergency.  Reminded me that I enjoyed reading The City of Ember texts with my girls quite a few years back.

I don’t recommend Frozen:  My Journey Into the World of Cyronics, Deception and Death – but it made for an interesting “audio read” as we crossed Texas.  (And Texas is a long enough drive to read an entire book in audio – easily!)  The thing I found most intriguing about the book was/is the “belief” systems that the persons have – a fully Modern belief – that science will advance to the point of being able to resuscitate people to new-life.  Intriguing.  The book, I would note, has quite a few unfavorable and questionable reviews that I have discovered after my “read” of the book.  So, not sure how accurate or fair it is as a text – but it was intriguing.  Colourful and odd beliefs, experiences, and stories.

I will never, never, never eat fish (or "seafood") the same way again – in the best way – after reading Four Fish:  The Future of the Last Wild Fish  The book was so good.  It combines stories, biography, technology, science, knowledge of aquaculture in so many ways – from global and oceanic issues, to microbial issues in fish – to ethics and profound issues of stewardship and sustainability.  I could too easily write too much about this book – so I will trust any interested person to do their own research on the text and what it has to offer elsewhere on the internet – or by reading it yourself!  The book was great.  I have literally spent many, many extra minutes in the grocery store LOOKING at fish and realizing that “seafood” is way, way, way too generic a term to describe the vast diversity and complexity of fish in their cycles of life to describe “seafood.”  Wow!  I am not sure I will ever eat fish/seafood again – and not remember this book.  Great!

I’ve been reading John Maxwell stuff since the early 1990’s and I still think he’s on top of his game.  Additinoally – his books are “easy reads” as they provide simple summaries of ideas – then fleshed out with perhaps too much In the way of story/examples.  In Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently – Maxwell sets out key ways to insure I can better connect with people.   The book in summary - 1. Connecting Increases Your Influence in Every Situation  2. Connecting Is All About Others 3. Connecting Goes Beyond Words 4. Connecting Always Requires Energy 5. Connecting Is More Skill Than Natural Talent 6. Connectors Connect on Common Ground 7. Connectors Do the Difficult Work of Keeping It Simple 8. Connectors Create an Experience Everyone Enjoys 9. Connectors Inspire People 10. Connectors Live What They Communicate.  One thing I like about Maxell is how “obvious” he is.  Which reminds me of this great text of simple “proverbs” about what is obvious – that I still enjoy re-reading on occasion.  Obvious:  All You Need to Know In Business. Period.  I love the opening chapter’s opening sentence.  Work is a verb.  That’s simple, but people need to remember it!

I enjoyed Picking Cotton:  Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption.   Another great audio read as I drove back and forth to the beaches in Texas!  The story is simple and straightforward.  And can be summarized in this simple way.  Jennifer gets raped.  She identifies RonaldCotton.  Ronald gets wrongfully convicted and then exonerated 11 years later – the 23rd person to be exonerated using DNA.  They meet later in life and become friends.  That’s it!  Now, along the way there are details (of course!) – and Ronald proves a generous man!  The story gives perspective on issues of justice an injustice, fair and unfair trials, the post-life of a female after rape, and the life of an inmate before, during, and after conviction and incarceration and exoneration.  A good story.  Not complex.  Nothing unexpected.

Picking Cotton made it enjoyable to read many of the excerpts found in Last Words of the Executed by Robert Elder.  The book contains hundreds and hundreds of quotes from the “last words” of persons who were executed – followed by a paragraph or two description of the “facts” involved in the case.  One man was executed after two trials claiming his innocence.  Four years later the person he supposedly killed, showed up in town expressing that he had no ill feeling to the man who was executed – and he certainly did not kill him!  The book’s author notes that he has no agenda with the collected quotes – which appear in chronological order.  But he notes that the sense of the quotes change as executions used to be public (town square!) events, then became private – and have only recently again become pseudo-public – at least by means of media – and, btw, more political too.  Many attest their innocence, many attest to having been changed, some admit their fault and plead mercy or seek forgiveness. 

I plan to finish Hold Tight by Harlan Coben before I depart for Israel, Palestine and Jordan in a few days.  I have got so many OTHER things to do in the next few days – too – too – too – too – too many other things.  Enjoyable fiction.  A bit unrealistic in several ways – but enjoyable all the same.

Oh – on a final note, I picked up and plan to take with me to read/review while in the “Holy Land” - Where Jesus Walked: A Spiritual Journey Through the Holy Land.  It looks to be a nice mix of site specific information with credible scholarly data and compilation, alongside thoughtful spiritual reflections for the specific sites as well – believable reading – belief-able!  =)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Reclaiming the Mission » “Youth Groups Destroy Children’s Lives”

I read this blog (see below) about how youth groups destroy children's lives - and was reminded of the fact that I have had my students read John Westerhoff's Will Our Children Have Faith for more than a decade in the classroom. I think Jamie articulates similar issues of concern in his great text, James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation.

I learned the language many years ago from Westerhoff - and it permeates much of what I teach - we have to think about forming persons lives - not just "teaching" them something. In this way, the work of the Christian body (not just the church or teachers or pastors) - but the work of the Christian community in all of its activities is about enculturation!

I think there are many aspects of Christian tradition that "get this" better (or worse) than others. In that regard, I would note that it seems to me the classic Radical Reformation (Anabaptist)traditions (think Amish or Bruderhof) have discerned well (though not without their own pitfalls, I am sure) that life is lived together in the fullness of all activities in forming Christian persons - not just in the "Sunday School Class."

I know, as a matter of fact, when I think about what it means for me personally to be a person of faith today, I do not think back to my "youth pastor" or "ski trips" or going to the Oregon coast (okay, so I remember them!). I think about the Oldaker's - an elderly couple in my home church who, despite their age and unique life situations, spent more than 30 years caring for their disabled grandchild. I think of the Oleson and Olson families - with whom we spent time and from whom I learned about Christian leadership. I think about my persons who I can not name - family names - and even a pastor - who made decisions that were morally problematic, but, from whom, never-the-less, I learned how to live. I think about one woman, whose name is lost to me, but I remember she would artistically paint her morphine-pain-bottles - as she lay dying of cancer. Oh, and I remember the teachers in my classes from my childhood - and my pastors - but I am not sure I recall many (if any) of their lessons. Instead - I remember their lives and remember that through innumerable experiences in various settings I was "taught" about faith - but it was much more - oh, so much more than a classroom!

And their lives - models of enculturated faith - shaped my life - and so I try to model life and faith for others.

Every single day I pray with my family, "Lord, help us to be people who are faithful and honest, kind and true, gracious and generous, people who embody and reflect the life of God's Kingdom." And that part about embodying - taking it in - and reflecting - demonstrating it out - in real ways - is so important if we are going to model a generational faith that lead a LEGACY - when we Lead Each Generation by Affirming Children adn Youth. Otherwise, it seems the said demise of Judges 2:9-10 will be our reality.

The post that spurred my thoughts here - is here: Reclaiming the Mission » “Youth Groups Destroy Children’s Lives”

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Not so much reading - only some reflection - but a day in my life

I was up before 7:00 a.m.

By 10:00 a.m. I had used my 12 ton jack to lift a porch and shore it up with 4x4's I'd cut and prepared.

By Noon I had used my 60' cable to clear the roots out of the sewer line on a house.

I came home to a wonderful wife.  I cleaned up and we spent the day together - just to be together.  She shopped.  I sat in chairs and watched people and ate food.

We went to an early dinner together.

I bought enough Ice Cream to bring home to make me happy for weeks.

We toyed with the idea of watching movies or reading in the evening - and we did a bit of both.

She went off to sleep before me.  I stayed up to watch a documentary on the Appalachian Trail.

I determined in 1997 that wanted to hike the AT (or sections of it) in 2007.  I had estimated that by then I'd be done with my dissertation and well along enough in life to hike it with the "kids" who had been in my Children's Ministry in 1997 - who would by 2007 be "old enough" to hike it with me.  I have yet to hike the AT - but I stay in touch with the "kids" of Colorado and someday, we may yet do it.  I hope so.  I was delighted that in the National Geographic documentary I viewed - a 70 year old man was completing his "through hike" (the entire 2000+ mile journey) - and he happened to be using the exact same Osprey backpack I own.  Ah!  At least by the time I'm 70 I'll be able to do it!  Somewhere around 1999 or 2000 I read Bill Bryson's experience of hiking portions of the AT, which still amuses and inspires me.

I then watched the movie 180 South.  I had never "met" Yvon Chouinard nor Douglas Thompkins - and I had forgotten to read this text, which I have yet to read - Collapse:  How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. I read the author's other text, Guns, Germs, Steel - a few years back. The Film 180 South was inspirational and motivational - providing images along the way in the Film - and the lives of the persons listed here.

I was reminded of the themes of Deep Ecology which come up in the Biblical Theology and Global Stewardship class that I teach - and went back for a quick review of this text, which I consider important relating ideas of Deep Ecology and Christian themes, though I am not convinced it renders correctly all issues.

And, as I wrap up this review on this great day and note these "Old Testament" concerns - I'm reminded that I received an email today - from a former student.  I encouraged her to seek a fellowship in D.C. many months ago - working with Bread for the World.   She wrote, and I quote:  "I received this e-mail from Bread today about some of the pieces of legislation I lobbied for this summer. I was so overjoyed I cried. I wanted to share the good news with you and once again thank you for sharing the Hunger Justice Leaders opportunity with me. My experience in DC changed my life, the way I think about how citizens can speak to people in places of power, and my framework for what it means to be a social justice advocate. Thank you so much."

What a great day I have had.  What a great day to work and enjoy and sit and think and remember what is important.