Saturday, July 30, 2011

Travel to Jordan, Palestine, Israel and Egypt - January 2013

I am making plans to host a Holy Land Study Trip looking toward a 10-14 day travel experience  – on or about January 1 to January 20  in 2013.  (18 months away). 

This will be my 5th trip to Israel/Jordan/Palestine  and I have spent nearly 70 days traveling in and around the region.   

Each and all of the participants I have taken, always come home radically transformed to think about multiple issues from the Bible from hundreds of Biblical passages – with intentional awareness and learning about issues also including the current (and historical) politics of the land, current culture, and peacemaking issues.

 If have interest in traveling with me to the Holy Land - *mark* your calendars now!  

 From this link you can watch numerous video clips that demonstrate what my trips are like:


 Here is a link to a FAQ page which needs to be edited – but which is generally correct (minus dates/dollars).


 I expect my trip in January 2013 will *include* either (probably) Egypt or Petra – a $500 trip supplement to what I normally include (and this will be elective).  Including either Egypt or Petra – and total costs and fees for *all* issues – the trip should (by my educated guess) be slightly more than $4000.00 per person – domestic and international airlines, double-accommodation quality hotels, buses, tips, entrance fees, breakfast and dinner.   (Keep in mind, the international travel consumes as much as 35%-45% of the total trip cost! – You simply cannot get there for less than $1500 – and closer to $2000.00 is becoming the norm – another reason to travel now – it won’t get cheaper in the future.)

 Mark your calendars - formal details will be announced in 2012 for this 2013 travel opportunity.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Muslim teaching about Peace from the Buddha


What a privilege to spend the day with Chaiwat Satha-Anand while in Thailand.

Dr. Satha-Anand is Professor of Political Science – Thammasat University.  Among other titles, his is the Chairperson of the Strategic Non-Violence Commission.

There were many reasons it was interesting to hear and learn from Dr. Satha-Anand – and I learned much from the depth of his “moral” and “peace” experience, teaching, research and life. 

One of several interesting things that stood out to me about his story, though – had to do with his motivations and interests in studying peace.  Dr. Satha-Anand was educated in Thailand in the 1970s when Thailand experienced its own levels of political turmoil, including the fact that Dr. Satha-Anand was a student at Thammasat University in 1976 when the October 6th massacre took place.  As Dr. Satha-Anand said, “This event shaped my life.”  Dr. Satha-Anand went on to study at the University of Hawaii – gleaning from Dr. Glenn D. Paige from a course entitled “Non-Violent Political Alternatives” Dr. Satha-Anand stated, “I came to learn a little more about non-violence and wrote my dissertation on it.”  He returned to Thammastat university where he now teaches.  He quipped with a smile how, how later students told him that his dissertation on “Violence and Non-Violence in Politics” is published under "Military Studies."  With a laugh he said, “What a surprise they’ll get when they read my dissertation!”

What stood out to me about Dr. Satha-Anand personally has to do with the fact that in his own country, in his own culture, in his own circumstances and in his own situations, he has had to discern how to use and apply the practices of peace in conflict based situations.  For Dr. Satha-Anand, activism for peace need not be based on faith based convictions, but on reason – the moral ascendancy and higher value of peace!

Dr. Satha-Anand – a muslim, taught me about peace perspectives from the Buddha. 

“Fighting for peace in a world blinded by violence, weapons of light are needed. These "weapons" include wisdom to unlock the complexity of causes which give rise to violence and to make sound judgments valuing life; space where voices of victims with their tremendous moral authority could be heard; courage in an unyielding search for nonviolent alternatives; and sustained capability in the hearts of common people to feel tenderness and compassion both for loved ones and humanity in general.”  (From Chaiwat Satha-Anand – “9/11, 9/20 and Gandhi's Puzzle: Fighting Postmodern Terror/Modern Warfare with Peaceful Alternatives”)

Einstein's God Makes Me a Better Teacher


Learning about Einstein's God has made me a better teacher.

I’ve studied the “science” and “art” of pedagogy in many places – lectures, symposia, seminars, texts and the like.  One of the best places to capture something of the “mystery” (though that is too strong a word) of teaching comes from the writings and workshops/lectures of Parker Palmer and his Center for Courage and Renewal.

Earlier this week I listened to one of the most delightful interviews/podcasts.  Entitled Einstein’s God – I learned, I grew, I thought, I re-listened, I paused, I looked up highlights, I clicked through links, I thought some more, I wrote, I “rewound” (an odd verb for a podcast that is not “wound” like a tape used to be!), I toke more notes, and finally,  I finished the audio.  (You should read all of this as effusive praise for how much I enjoyed the podcast!)

But – when it was all over – I realized something elusive about great teaching – and great learning from good learners.

Great teaching and great teachers inspire learners to want to learn more – to think more – to read more – to study more. 

As I paused and replayed sections of the podcast – as I thought about its content and looked up links or connected ideas – I realized that the 50 minute interview, took me well over two hours to digest – and I was not yet through with digesting it all.  I still have more hyperlinks to read and more content to glean as I think about the extended issues that have emerged from this “single” lesson. 

I have long recognized that some of the people I most enjoy in life – are people who recommend good reading to me.  And, this podcast helped me realize – that good teaching – perhaps the best teaching – is the kind of teaching that propels us on the extended journey of continued learning, research and reading.  I “learned” as I listened to the podcast.  But, it compelled me to learn more – and read more – and think more as (and after) I listened.

I hope to be the kind of teacher delivers content worth “catching”  - data worth deciphering – information worth exploring. 

I am going to try harder to be a teacher who inspires learners (and learning)- and links and review and new exploration – as much (and more) than I deliver old data in ever-increasing-out-dated modes of technology driven content.


Two of the many wonderful insights from this particular podcast include – this quote from Einstein,

Why do we come, sometimes spontaneously, to wonder about something? I think that wondering to one's self occurs when an experience conflicts with our fixed ways of seeing the world. I had one such experience of wondering when I was a child of four or five and my father showed me a compass. This needle behaved in such a determined way and did not fit into the usual explanation of how the world works. That is that you must touch something to move it. I still remember now, or I believe that I remember, that this experience made a deep and lasting impression on me. There must be something deeply hidden behind everything.


And, this wonderful note from Einstein on John Calvin - [which I read, in part, as an indictment on how far religious traditions may have moved from their origin(s)(ators).]


Einstein's humor and humanity were revealed in his public appearances, but also in the vast correspondence he conducted with people of all walks of life. Here's a passage of a letter he wrote to one of his early biographers, who had asked Einstein to recall the details of receiving his first honorary degree. While still a patent examiner in 1909, four years after he discovered special relativity, Einstein was honored during the 350th anniversary of the founding of the University of Geneva by the Protestant reformer John Calvin.


Quote from Einstein: “So I traveled there on the appointed day, and in the evening in the restaurant of the inn where we were staying, met some Zurich professors. I had with me only my straw hat and my everyday suit. My proposal that I stay away was categorically rejected, and the festivities turned out to be quite funny, so far as my participation was concerned. The celebration ended with the most opulent banquet that I have ever attended in all my life. So I said to a Geneva patrician who sat next to me, "Do you know what Calvin would have done if he were still here?" Then he said, "No," and asked what I thought. I said, "He would have erected a large pyre and had us all burned because of sinful gluttony." The man uttered not another word. And with this ends my recollection of that memorable celebration.’


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Recent reads - June & July 2011

Quick notes on several recent books read –

First They Killed My Father:  A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers – and the sequel Lucky Child:  A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the Sister She Left Behind – both by Loung Ung.  A third text,  When Broken Glass Floats:  Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge – A Memoir by Chanrithy Him


I was not required to read these books as part of field work that we are engaging as Peace Fellows in Southeast Asia – but I am glad I took the time to read all three.  Like the film, the Killing Fields (link to Trailer), that I have watched and used in class in the past – these stories recount the experiences of the authors (and their families) as they (but not many in their families) survived the turbulent years in the late 1970s to and through the 1980s as they lived in Kampuchea/Cambodia/Angkar.  I will be in Cambodia for 9 days in less than two weeks.  I have no doubt that my thoughtful and attentive empathetic and emotional reflections will be piqued for the experiences I will soon have.  Each story had value for my reading – though each story itself is full of tragedy, pain, and senseless death.

Lone Survivor by Ken Hodgson.  A cheap AmazonKindle purchase – one that I found “fun” in several intriguing ways.  Presented as a autobiographical report – that really is historical-fiction – the protagonist (Alferd Packer) explains how his quest for gold in the Colorado Rockies – coupled with a tragic winter storm – led him to cannibalize other potential gold prospectors.  An interesting exploration for the “mindset” and “lifestyle” of life, but not a text I’d recommend or read again.

Accidents Waiting to Happen by Simon Wood.  A cheap AmazonKindle purchase – used to kill some time on a long trip.  Not a book I would recommend – as numerous scenes, including some important scenes early in the narrative are improbable (spoiler alert – after an airplane accident in the story, the FAA/NTSB report came back within days – and these reports normally take months before they are reported!) 

And finally, Jane Eyre.  I hadn’t read it.  Now I have.   When it was all over I wondered why it was a classic.  So I read the Wikipedia page on it.  If I would have read the Wiki Summary – it would have saved quite a bit of time reading the extended story.  Alas, I was on the road and had the time.

With the final three books, though, I am reminded that good reading is better than just reading.  (I am sure there are some Lit. Experts who would challenge my ideas about Jane Eyre - and while I recognize it's importance for its time - when it was written - it didn't move me now.  In the history of literature, I am sure it was and is important.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Reflecting on how Americans often don't trust Bible Scholars

Recently I had a pleasant but confronting conversation with a person who had some family connection in her childhood with both Catholicism and Mormon faith and who claimed to believe in the Bible.  This person knew lines from Scripture and she had an awareness of things specifically pertaining to sayings of both Jesus and Paul.  She was informed but she chooses not to believe in the central claims of creedal/orthodox Christianity.

The conversation was meaningful and helpful for each as we discussed several specific issues.

It was particularly helpful for me as I continue to discern how non-believers think about Jesus and Christians and Christianity.   And I hope the conversation was helpful for her as she continues to think about how her own framework for thinking about the issue of God/Theism will develop.

What was curious to me about the conversation, though – that I find curious about many conversations with people who have some history with Christianity  – including persons who affirm Christian identity is this:

This mature woman had no idea I could cite to the chapter in the Bible (if not the verse) directly about the generic claims she sort of remembered.  When I re-framed the larger context of some of the general statements she was “quoting”  (mis-quoting really, but she was not stupid and had a sense of things)  she was surprised when I opened up my Bible program on my computer to read the context of the passages she was mis-interpreting. 

When I opened up my Bible program she said something like, “Wow.  That’s cool.  I mean . . . I guess I should have known the Bible can be on your computer . . . but, that makes sense.  I hadn’t thought of that.  It’s a book – it can be put on a computer.  Cool.”

I have been using an integrative, complex bible software program on my computer for almost 20 years!  I started reading the New Testament in its original language over 20 years ago!  And I have had ability to read the Bible in English, Biblical Greek and Biblical Hebrew – and I have had (at other times in my life better) ability to read the Bible in German, French –and the Aramaic portions, in Aramaic!  And I engage the Bible in some way – in significant ways most days – every-single-day-of-my-life.  This person clearly is not *that* connected to the Bible – as the Bible has been on the ipad and mobile devices like the old Palm Pilots for – well, decades!

The gal with whom I was having this conversation had an operating premise – or so it seemed to me – that while I perhaps knew more about the Bible to cite it better than she . . . I sensed that she felt she had an equal and competent understanding of the Bible in order to know what or how Christians believe based on what the Bible says.

Her statements conveyed to me that she believed my knowledge and history with the Bible was not significantly enough more attuned and engaged and researched and deliberate that it should have any effect on shaping her understanding of the meaning of the Bible for Christians. 

In the conversation, her tone (while gracious) and the context for engagement (while conversational) operated as if to suggest to me an attitude of, “That’s cool, Marty – what you know about the Bible is cool.  But, of course, I know the Bible too.  So, while I like you, I know the Bible too so I can have my own positions on what the Bible means.”

What is so odd to me about this conversation – and what it frames for issues of faith – stems from the radical, individualized, singular and arrogant sense of “private” and “personal” belief that has been enculturated within what I see as particularly and uniquely American- Protestant- Christianity (and not Catholicism nor Orthodox Christianity – in my limited experiences.)

I do not claim to *know* all that faith entails. 

I am fully aware (all too fully aware) of the diverse interpretive options that emerge in a full-contextual (academically critical) reading of the Bible (in its various textual emendations/languages/nuance).  And, I am fully aware of how faith traditions and denominations and creedal formations and faith communities have interpreted various issues over the centuries of Christendom.  So, I am not claiming I know it all – nor am I claiming that belief and discernment of the Bible is simple and therefore someone needs me to understand it! 

But . . . I do believe American-Protestant-Christians have extended the claims of important zealous Protestant-Martin-Luther in sola scriptura –  to become something more like (and I don't know Latin) Solus ipse (“only onself”) or a kind of Biblical solipsism.  American Protestant Christians do not believe, it seems to me that it is the Bible alone that is needed - but, they now believe "my" "sole" view of the Bible is all that is needed.

American-Protestant-Christian claims to belief, I think, are not carefully bounded by what Scripture says or how experts nuance and discern the complexity of scripture. 

American-Protestant-Christians are concerned with how they (as autonomous, privatized individuals) *want* to read the Bible within their often radically uninformed, “personal” “belief” “system.”  (I think of many persons who say things now like, “I am a spiritual Christian, but not a religious Christian.”  Or, “I am Christian, but I don’t attend any Church, I read the Bible for myself.”  Or, another conversation I had with a person who claimed to be a devout Christian who articulated some non-Biblical idea of, and I quote, “Vibrations” that shape our lives.)

I will grant that anyone can believe anything they want. 

I am not opposed to this in the slightest.  I have frequent contact with and important friendships with humanists, Unitarian universalists, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikh and others.  I value the people I know who don’t believe – and who don’t believe as I do!

I am not afraid of people not believing.

I am not afraid of people that do not believe as I do.

I am afraid though – and find it utterly incomprehensible – how people claim to believe what the Bible means when they do not know what the Bible actually says (let alone understand the nuances of its historical, social, literary, grammatical contexts!)

When people have complex illness, they trust informed, educated health professionals – nurses and doctors to care for them.

When people are in complex forms of travel – be that automobiles or airlines – they trust engineers to safely construct the machinery and pilots, aviation control and conductors to safely guide the patterns of travel.

We don’t do our own orthodontia.

We don’t perform our own surgeries

We don’t build our own computers from the chip up!

We don’t disassemble and reassemble the entirety of our mobile devices when they fail.

We don’t construct our own refrigerators, air-conditioners, microwaves and the like!

We trust – in fact – that persons with years of experience and attentive expertise in these matters will think through these things correctly for us and create or perform tasks that inform our lives!

We trust others in so many things that are complex.

Why then, I wonder, do people who hardly read the Bible – who only occasionally hear its words in the context of a sermon – think that *they* know as much about the Bible as the persons (Theologians and Bible Scholars) who have spent their life attending to the Bible's nuance and complexity – discerning its beauty and integrity?

The bible is complex – in numerous ways.

I do not claim to *know* all there is to know about the Bible, God, Faith, and the like – but I certainly do not understand why American Protestant Christians, by in large, do not trust that I know at least some things significantly more than they know based on hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours of extended engagement and expertise.

This is a curious thing to me.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Advocacy and Learning in Northern Thailand

My week in Northern Thailand - included a full-schedule! 


No wonder I returned to Chulalongkorn University Campus exhausted!

Here's what we did as part of our Rotary Peace Fellows Field Study Experience:

1 Day Seminar on location in Northern Thailand @ the Baan Pang Saa Village - Briefing by former Senator Tuenjai Deetes on the topic: Ethnic minorities, citizenship and social inclusion with Thailand’s northern hill tribes

1 Day Seminar in Northern Thailand @ Mae Ai, including on-site engagement in villages hosted by the Law Clinic led by Ms. Boon Pongma, Legal Aid.

½  Day Seminar in Northern Thailand at the  DEPDC:  Development and Education Program for Daughters and Communities (DEPDC). TOPIC: Roles of Organization on Human Trafficking

½ Day Seminar on the role of Drug Trafficking in the world, via the Golden Triangle, hosted at the Hall of Opium, developed by the Mae Fah Luang Foundation.  Chiang Rai, Thailand

1 Day Seminar on Human Trafficking – at the Operation Center on Prevention & Suppression of Human Trafficking, Mae Sai – and the Mae Sai Immigration, Office.  Thailand.

1 Day Seminar on the role of Buddhist Communities in developing initiatives to care for the stateless, hosted at the Sangha Metta Project.

½ Day Seminar on the role of sex-trafficking and rescue, hosted at the New Life Center

½ Day Panel Discussion with the topic:  The Suppression of Human Trafficking in Chiang Mai (Hosted by two organizations: TRAFCORD and Commander of Crime Investigation Division Police Region 5) at Chiang Mai Gate hotel.

½ Day Seminar on the role of the Arts and Theatre in educating and informing villagers about the effects of trafficking in humans.  Hosted by the Gab Fai Community Theatre Project.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Gardening and The Christian Calendar


If you like to Garden (or would like to begin to garden) - and if you have any interest in reflecting on the Christian Year (Liturgy, Easter, Lent) - then you will find much to ponder in this excellent podcast from "On Being."  (Made me miss my garden this year - and look forward to my next gardens in the future!)

Entitled:  Restoring the Senses:  Gardening and Orthodox Easter

Some excerpts include:

Mr. Guroian: And think about throughout the Old Testament, from Genesis through the prophets, the creation itself is, is really depicted as a great temple in which worship is to be done. God sets the foundations. God stretches the heavens as a canopy. And we're here to make the song of creation, the liturgy of creation, and new creation manifest, visible, audible in the world.


Mr. Guroian: Human beings are not simply oriented by one sense or two senses. They're, they're oriented by several senses. And so in order for the human being to be wholly engaged, all of those senses ought to be at work. One of the jobs of a Christian is to, in point of fact, hone the senses, reform the senses, make them holy. And that process can take place within a church, certainly, where everything is focused on God.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

While among the Hill people in Thailand

I love being among indigenous people for many reasons.

Today I watched children play - and ate home-made meals, packed in the tribal "ziploc" bag!  Super!

Clips here:

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Part of My Day


Part of my day included more than an hour spent on this website - wow!  I will be back!

That was what I did to "chill" after I had spent a larger portion of my day studying the most recent issues of statelessness and human-trafficking - per reading provided to me - and per the following couple of links.

I'll be in Thailand - on the borders with Burman/Myanmar and Laos for the next 8 days.

We live in a complex world - I hope to do more with my life to ameliorate and lessen the suffering.