Monday, March 26, 2012

Reading Jonah in Hebrew - by Duane Christensen

Reading Jonah in Hebrew - by Duane Christensen.pdf Download this file

A great resource! 

This book is designed as a stand-alone course - to teach Hebrew inductively by reading it - separate from constructing one's understanding grammatically and then reading.  Nice!

If you've ever had an interest in "taking the dive" into Hebrew - this book gives the material necessary to do just that - dive in!  [In fairness, I should note - that the book does assume some Alphabet (Consonant and Vowel) awareness in Hebrew, at the least!  And, I think this would be a hard way to learn Hebrew given the ways I have learned to read the language myself.  But, it is a fact that children do learn inductively!!]

The word-by-word descriptions for Jonah - among listings of all the verbs used, and other notes - are great resources for a 2nd Semester student in Hebrew to review - and learn the complexities, curiosities and enjoyment of reading Hebrew!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Leading Quietly - Beyond Expectations - Buber & Hasidic Wisdom

A few recent reads:

Leading Quietly:  An Unorthodox Guide to Doing the Right Thing by Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr.

An enjoyable read, framed around several “case studies” from life that Badaracco has discerned, including his review of great literature, engaged in the context of classrooms with learners at Harvard.  Having gleaned insight from Macbeth, Antigone, The Prince, Death of a Salesman and many others, Badaracco suggests that the characters who “set out to become great men ended up disappointed” while the minor characters who are “unassuming” with modest ambitions, careful and sensitive intentions, “simply trying to do their bit” are actually “responsible, thoughtful and successful [in their] efforts to lead.” (181-182).

The book is not a guide to the black-and-white issues of what every leader must do, in order to lead.  There are no “be this” or “do this” manifestos articulated in the context of the book that are framed as the context within which leaders lead.  Rather, the book explores the nuance and textures of leadership that are difficult to discern in complex contexts.  A single quote that helps frame this, that Badarraco takes from a manager involves what he calls the Paradox of Quiet Leaders (p. 88) while noting that Quiet Leaders have “the courage to prudently tackle tough situations” (89).  Courage and prudence, while tackling – but not tackling in ways that “stay and fight” nor “fight recklessly” but “consider and calculate” while “invest[ing] their political capital wisely” (90).

Badaracco does not, in his own words, “elaborate a theory, test hypotheses, or offer conclusive proofs.” Rather, he “raises questions, prompts reflection, and sketch[es] alternatives to familiar views about leadership and doing the right thing . . . [by]. . . offer[ing] practical advice in the forms of guidelines of action”  (181). 

Badaracco’s ideas have been shaped by Tolstoy, too, including War and Peace .  About leadership, Badarraco agrees with Tolstoy that “so-called great leaders were largely creatures of larger historical forces which they neither understood nor influenced, while ordinary individuals, going about their mundane affairs, cumulatively shape the world.”  (185)

While this ending note might sound a note of passive inactivity – the text asserts quite otherwise.  Active, engaged, thoughtful, patient, discerning leaders emerge from years of investing wisely, buying time, bending the rules, nudging, testing, crafting compromise, while restraining, being modest, and having tenacity.  A thoroughly enjoyable read – and one with great questions on pages 186 and 187 that I will use with future learners in Ethics courses that I teach, including thinking about the ethics of Rescuers in the contexts of situations of genocide.


Having noted this full text about leading quietly and leadership, I jump to a short blog entry from John Maxwell, where Maxwell writes,

No one wants to feel invisible as they pass through life, yet we often get the impression that others see us as little more than a statistic. Our resume ends up in a pile, our performance reviews goes into a file, and like everyone else we get a raise every once in a while. We’re referred to as applicants, employees, or human resources, and we sense our individuality being somewhat buried.

Jack Welch called this feeling of anonymity “being in the pile,” and he recommended thinking as the means of escape. Most people go with the flow, doing what’s asked of them but not much more. In Welch’s estimation, the key to elevating yourself in business is to go above and beyond expectations whenever you’re asked a question or given an assignment.

Maxwell goes on to assert that this can be done by finding a place to think your thoughts, finding a place to stretch your thoughts, finding a place to land your thoughts, and finding a place to let your thoughts soar.

I needed to hear the words of the Leading Quietly text – and these words by Maxwell.  For many years I have felt as though I have been “going above and beyond expectations” – and these words encouraged me to continue to do this – because it is, in fact, a form of leading – even if it feels quiet and invisible.

Kenneth Paul Kramer is an expert on Martin Buber. 

I became familiar with Kramer when I started using his text on Martin Buber’s I & Thou:  Practicing Living Dialogue for a Graduate course I teach in psychology.  (The course engages how we think about human personhood, and is entitled “Philosophy of Interpersonal Relationships.) 

The text noted above is a great stand-alone text for discerning Buber’s I and Thou, though I would counsel any person to first work through I and Thou on their own – to struggle with it, before picking up Kramer’s great text.  Kramer is great, but, knowing the primary source and reading Buber in his own framework is urgent.


In this text, Martin Buber’s Spirituality:  Hasidic Wisdom for Everyday Living, takes Buber’s The Way of Man and extends the conceptual ideas addressed by Buber.  Like his former text on I and Thou, this text by Kramer does not seek to replace Buber’s ideas, but instead aims to enlarge the reader’s capacity to discern what Buber had said.  In this way, Kramer acts as a kind of guide, or mentor, or even perhaps translator of Buber in helping the reader “get” what Buber has said with supporting ideas and extended descriptions. 

It is hard to talk about what Kramer does without focusing on what Buber has already done, for this book is a direct, co-related extension of the former!  In these ways, though, Kramer wants the reader to be able to work through the issues that Buber has attempted to discern.  These issues include:  where persons find themselves in life, with respect to God and others, discerning one’s unique tasks in the world, becoming whole, dealing with personal and relational conflict, and discerning how to be fully human by being fully present with and to God in the fully realized here and now. 

This is an excellent – superior text, really – for discerning Buber’s The Way of Man.  It is much more than a “cliff-note” to the text – but a text that stands alongside the former, with equal capacity for sharing, expanding and enlarging the insight of the former.

If you want to discern Buber – or Buber’s ideas for thinking about personhood, relationality, and how God “fits” into this – you should read this text.

Two other notes: 

Kramer’s “Conclusion:  Practicing Buber’s Secret” is a single chapter worthy of its own deep reflection, that deals with the issue of prayer and praying dialogically.   Included there are these words:

“You know always in your heart that you need God more than everything; but do you not know too that God needs you – in the fullness of His eternity needs you?  How would man be, how would you be, if God did not need [humans], did not need you?  You need God, in order to be – and God needs you, for the very meaning of life.” (116)

“If we pray, Buber continued, ‘Thy will be done,’ we must in truth add ‘through me whom Thou needest.’  Impossible to understand yet necessary to imagine, God needs me for our partnership to flourish, needs me to accept God just as God is ever-ready to accept me, needs me to pray and to listen attentively for signs in daily life, and needs me to live dialogically and relationally.  Approaching prayer in this way, my role in praying is shifted.  I bear a new responsibility, and with this new responsibility comes a new attentiveness to everyday events, encounters, and exchanges in which the Voice speaks.” (116)
And, Kramer offers a wonderful “Dialogue Journal” in the Appendix, with questions that the reader can use with each chapter as they discern their own way in the world. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Better than the Hunger Games

A book about The Hunger Games that is better than The Hunger Games!

Yes,  I'll say that again,

"A book about the Hunger Games that is better than the Hunger Games!"

I read volumes 1 and 2 in the Trilogy of the Hunger games, December 2009 - over 2 years ago.  I was impressed by Katniss as the primary character, and I value the post-apocalyptic genre in general.  But did not think too much about the books overall, and I did not become a fanatic enough to need to read the 3rd book in the trilogy whenever it did come out.  (And, I still have not read the 3rd book.)  (In fact, while I blog about most of what I am reading, it appears The Hunger Games didn't even get a footnote in my blog.  I think probably because I did not think the books merited my public engagement - who knows.)

I noticed the "buzz" this month about the soon to be released film based on the books - The Hunger Games.  A few months back I noticed a wise friend, Joel-Doug-Harrison, had made a connection in a blog post to a certain Julie Clawson.  I popped over to Julie's blog entries and realized she's at least as brilliant as Doug, so started following her online.  Lucky for me, because it turns out my life is the better for the connection.  Julie blogged about her book, just published as a kindle ebook:  The Hunger Games and the Gospel: Bread, Circuses, and the Kingdom of God

I'm not a fan of the genre of books that are "The gospel according to . . . ." - the Simpsons or Star Wars or Harry Potter or whatever.    I've seen enough of them published at Society of Biblical Literature meetings over the years and they seem to be much more about marketing hype than anything.  And, I always prefer the Gospel, to a marketed-new-book-supposedly-with-a-connection-to-the Gospel-that-supposedly-better-explains-the-Gospel, than the Gospels!

Despite the fact that I have not been impressed with "the gospel according to . . ." genre over the past decade, in the past few weeks I was impressed with what I was reading from Julie's blog . . . so thought I'd give her book a chance.  (At kindle prices, too, I wouldn't be out too much $.)

Julie's brilliance duped me.  She has not written about the Gospel according to the Hunger Games - but rather - the Hunger Games and the Gospel.

Clawson uses the Hunger Games to actually - aghast - illustrate the Gospel.


Do. not. get. me. wrong.

Clawson's book is not a retelling of the Hunger Games - nor a pedantic "Betty-Lukens-Felt-Set" version of it where she uses the Hunger Games to tell the story of the Bible.  Rather, Clawson tells the story of the Hunger Games and allows connected themes (where they apply) to frame the ethic of Jesus made explicit in the Beatitudes that orient the Sermon on the Mount.

In doing this, Clawson tells the story of the Hunger Games - and - adeptly, astutely, and adroitly tells - not just the story of the Gospel - but the story of the Bible - found in the Gospel's summary in the Beatitudes.

I do not want to say too much more here - as you should read Clawsons' book! - and you should know her book needs "spoiler alerts."  But, her book is not a spoiler - it is the dessert!   Her book is better than the trilogy.

I started this blog more for me than for anyone - to track my own reading.  I imagine only a few people read this blog routinely - and all of these people are friends from years of shared university-parish work.  So, to those of you who know me - this is for you:

  • Clawson reads the Old Testament prophets correctly, including a keen discernment of things like the Exodus, the Exile and the Post-Exilic period - even citing and discerning even Ezra and Nehemiah (all too many Christian's don't even know these books are in the Bible!)
  • Clawson gets the Gospel - and the parables, for sure.  She discerns their social-economic-political "bite." 
  • Clawson frames the Gospels (and the Hunger Games) in light of an informed discernment of 1st Century BCE and CE Judaism in a Roman Imperial age. 
  • Clawson cites and uses with skill, Walter Brueggemann (gotta love that man), Walter Wink, Richard Horsley, Wes Howard-Brook, Jurgen Moltmann, Barbara Brown Taylor, and N.T. Wright!
  • Clawson incorporates an informed understanding of International and trans-global issues from Burma to Liberia to Syria (in as recent as 2011 issues) to U.S. policies with Native American Indians in American Colonial days. 
  • Clawson is the only person I know, besides my wife, who as a matter of fact, knows who Leymah Gbowee is  - and what the U.S. National Day of Mourning is! 
I don't really care if you read the Hunger Games.

I don't care if you go to see the movie.

You should know the basic issues of the Hunger Games "phenomena" right now - that is shaping the culture of many people - young and old - and with worldwide scope. 

And, because Clawson helps us discern the Gospel - and our place as Americans in the 21st Century in light of the Bible and the Gospel - you should read Clawson's book.

If you work in a University campus and want to get her in your chapel - I'm telling you, make your appointments now - she's going to fill up.

I hope Julie accepts my Facebook Friend request - and I hope I get to meet her sometime in person.  We have tons in common - and I could learn from her writing skill, for sure. She is way more articulate than I am.  Imaginative, insightful.  Fantastic.

Thanks Julie! 

Perhaps sometime we can explore further the themes of a Girardian Hermeneutic connected to the power of nonviolence in the Gospel - as the ultimate form of victory.  Adam Ericksen at the Raven Foundation has captured this important nuance.

Meta-Maus - by Art Spiegelman


I read Meta-Maus.

My review as posted to - 5.0 out of 5 stars

This review is from: MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic, Maus (Book + DVD-R) (Hardcover)

Will recommend for my University course - at the end of the semester.
, March 21, 2012

I first developed a course on Antisemitism and Holocaust/Shoah studies as a University Professor in the 1990s.

Learners have questioned why we read MAUS - "a comic book" - for university work! By the end of the course, nearly every learner knows why. MAUS, with Spiegelman's compelling artistic skill in this graphic novel, discerns the before-during-and-after of holocaust experience in important ways. MAUS explores textures of the story in images that no traditional "type-set-page" can capture.

I recently ordered and received Meta-Maus - and I could not be more delighted with what it does!

The book (and DVD/CD) give answers to many varied questions learners in my course (and I) have had! Meta-Maus gives supplemental biography, details about family matters, explanatory historical issues, explanation of images on multiple pages, personal insight, other images of Spiegelman's other art that frame his maturation as an artist, book reception reviews, copies of draft versions of individual strips of comics, and so much more.

Several reviews on Amazon note the failure of the DVD/CD. My DVD/CD arrived March 2012 and I had no problems on my PC. Regardless, if the DVD/CD had not worked, the book itself is great. Having read it, I would have paid twice the purchase price for the book alone. (Don't tell Pantheon Books, the publisher!)

At this time I do not believe I will use Meta-Maus as a required course-textbook. I will encourage every learner to get Meta-Maus *after* they have read and discerned the nuance of MAUS.

Meta-Maus, in my opinion, should be read only after carefully discerning the complexity and genius and artistic importance of MAUS.

If you did not appreciate or can not discern the complexity, genius, and artistic importance of MAUS, and you hope the DVD/CD will be a "cliff-notes-version" for a quick substitute to engaging MAUS, you have missed out already.

If you appreciate MAUS, I can not conceivably imagine how you could be disappointed with Meta-Maus - the book alone! And the DVD/CD is exceptional, too!

Monday, March 19, 2012

If you pray

Do not pray for stuff or things.

Instead . . .

Pray to be a worthy steward of that which is entrusted to your care.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Johannes factotum - Reflecting & Embodying the Life of God's Kingdom


For quite a few years I've used the label for myself of "Johannes factotum" - an intentionally erudite way to suggest I'm more than a simple "jack-of-all-trades" - but not so uppity or arrogant to make the claim that I'm a "Renaissance Man."  (One of my colleagues a few years ago said I was a Renaissance Man . . . I laughed! ha!)

I do, though, try to work at developing new skills, always reading, always thinking, always trying to do something I've not done.

I was thinking about my past week in this way.  Among the daily pursuits of my week from the past seven days I have done all of the following:
  • Proctored Oral exams over the Deuteronomistic History - including learner engagement with my book discerning issues about Kingship in Ancient Israel.
  • Helped a former student and now life-long friend fix the leak under her sink, using my PEX line plumbing tools (and experience) that her dad didn't have to finish the job. 
  • Proctored oral exams for competence in sight reading passages from the Hebrew Bible - including Jonah in Hebrew, specifically.
  • Stitched and repaired holes in a denim chair we own (minor upholstery work) - and, sewed on my new sewing machine, from scratch (a single yard of fabric) a skirt for my lovely bride.  (Cost:  40 cents of fabric bought at Goodwill and $1.29 worth of elastic from Hobby Lobby.)
  • Read Kenneth Paul Kramer's excellent text:  Martin Buber's Spirituality.  (Review forthcoming.)
  • Facilitated team meetings with two separate proteges who want to engage more in shared collaborative work that puts solidarity in action - Josiah and Joseph - through the Eupan Global Initiative.
  • Helped my neighbor, with my tools, to disassemble the blade from his lawnmower and attach the replacement blade.
  • Participated in and engaged the Ladd Lectures (and lecturer) on "Why is it so hard to behave ethically?"
  • Helped our son learn how to complete a Lube-Oil-Filter on a vehicle, including completing the job on my 1993 GMC pick-up.
  • Engaged an Emerging Leaders meeting with Faculty Colleagues at SNU.
  • Announced via my employer, great collaborative work in partnered engagement with pastors engaging life-long learning and pastoral excellence.
  • Planted my Tomato plants (Small garden this year, again -  for numerous reasons - trying a new gardening method - Straw Bale Gardening.)
  • Engaged with Faculty in an Academic Council meeting at SNU, determining numerous issues of course curriculum with faculty colleagues across departments.
  • Taught online in the field of Psychology and Counseling for Indiana Wesleyan University, through their Parish Nursing Certificate.
  • Peeled potatoes while working with my lovely bride in our kitchen as she prepared home-made Potato Soup - and used the peels to fertilize the garden.
  • Met with a young, developing Graduate student to engage his ability, at his request, to think about being more productive in life.  I shared what I know (and try to practice) from David Allen's - Getting Things Done - including numerous links from Lifehack.   And, a great podcast I had engaged on GTD and Tribal Leadership - connected to other work I'm doing with Cultural Architecture
  • Took each of our girls (and a school friend) out for an individual lunch-date with Dad.
  • Taught each of my scheduled courses and engaged learners - Old Testament Literature & Life, Biblical Hebrew, The Former Prophets, and Methods in Biblical Study.
  • We made an offer to purchase some additional rental properties, to add to the ones we already own and manage in the Oklahoma City area.
  • Blogged about events shaping our world through efforts connected with the Eupan Global Initiative
  • Met individually in counsel with a young Theology and Ministry major who is trying to discern his life's pastoral direction, as he engages his own experiences of lament.
  • Read several entries from great scholars and friends in the Nazarene world - through Didache:  Faithful Teaching.  Thanks especially to great articles by David Ackerman, Laura Felleman, and Gift Mtukwa.
  • Helped a close friend walk through a house she wants to buy - pointing out issues to be mindful of with what I do know about plumbing, electrical, tile work, painting, drywall.
  • Engaged (and will blog later about) a fantastic program on Faith and String Theory - from the On Being Public Radio Podcast - entitled Uncovering the Codes of Reality with Physicist James Gates.
  • I walked on my office-self-created-Treadmill desk nearly everyday while replying to emails or blogging or working, getting my exercise as I work.
  • Rode my bike to school each day - and took my Dad's 1966 Mustang Convertible for an evening ride!
It's Saturday as I write.  Robyn and I have dinner plans with a faculty colleague at a great Mexican restaurant tonight.  I have quite a bit of sorting, organizing to do.
  • This next week I'm editing the book I'm writing on Deuteronomy 6 - over the importance of the Shema for discerning life.  
With all these things, I realize how busy my days are - and how full they are in so many ways. 

In some ways, though - I wish I had less varied things going on - and a few other "bigger" projects and bigger goals that I could commit my life's work to!  I continue to develop multiple skills and read, write, and think intentionally.  And, I continue to hope and pray that all this work will come together and synthesize for the Church - the focus of my life's call.

With each book I read, every exam I proctor, each pipe I fix, every moment with family, each conversation I engage, and every seed I plant, my daily prayer has been for many years - and continues to be . . .

"Lord, help me to be a person who is faithful and honest, kind and true, gracious and generous - a person who reflects and embodies the life of God's Kingdom."

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cooperative, Imaginative Education!

According to this Book Review published at - educators in America have much that they can learn from Finnish paradigms for education.
Excerpts include:
Sahlberg attributes the improvement of Finnish schools to bold decisions made in the 1960s and 1970s. Finland’s story is important, he writes, because “it gives hope to those who are losing their faith in public education.”

To an American observer, the most remarkable fact about Finnish education is that students do not take any standardized tests until the end of high school. They do take tests, but the tests are drawn up by their own teachers, not by a multinational testing corporation. The Finnish nine-year comprehensive school is a “standardized testing-free zone,” where children are encouraged “to know, to create, and to sustain natural curiosity.”

Every candidate prepares to teach all kinds of students, including students with disabilities and other special needs. Every teacher must complete an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in education.Because entry into teaching is difficult and the training is rigorous, teaching is a respected and prestigious profession in Finland.

Sahlberg recognizes that Finland stands outside what he refers to as the “Global Education Reform Movement,” to which he appends the apt acronym “GERM.” GERM, he notes, is a virus that has infected not only the United States, but the United Kingdom, Australia, and many other nations. President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law and President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program are examples of the global education reform movement. Both promote standardized testing as the most reliable measure of success for students, teachers, and schools; privatization in the form of schools being transferred to private management; standardization of curriculum; and test-based accountability such as merit pay for high scores, closing schools with low scores, and firing educators for low scores.

In contrast, the central aim of Finnish education is the development of each child as a thinking, active, creative person, not the attainment of higher test scores, and the primary strategy of Finnish education is cooperation, not competition.

Since I teach at the University, the dynamics of the educational issues listed here may seem far removed from my work.  I do not think so.  

Over the past decade of teaching, I have found students less capable of thinking with imagination and insight and creative vibrancy than in the past.  

Students want to know "what the answer" is - without wanting to explore the complexities of questions and the nuance of possible alternative responses to situations.  

I wonder what a better world we could create, if we focused not on competition, but cooperation!

Book Review by:  Diane Ravitch over the Book: Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?Description: <a href=  By Pasi Sahlberg, with a foreword by Andy Hargreaves   Teachers College Press, 167 pp., $34.95 (paper) 

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Are you familiar with the Fetzer Institute?


I've been aware of the Fetzer Institute for quite a number of years . . . but realized that perhaps some persons I know might not be aware of their work.

I'd encourage you to click through their links and become aware of who they are - as they seek: 

To foster awareness of the power of love and forgiveness in the emerging global community.

In collaboration with our Fetzer Advisory Councils, we seek to understand the motivations and preconditions of exemplary cases of love and forgiveness in the world. From these examples, we develop projects to grow an even greater awareness of love and forgiveness in action in individual and community life.

Toward eupan ~

~ marty alan michelson, ph.d.

Friday, March 02, 2012

My Jansport Backpack is coming home!


This is going to sound so silly! 

I sent in my Jansport bag for lifetime warranty. 

They can't fix it - so wanted to advise me to pick new one from website, etcetera.  (Great Jansport Customer service, btw - and Jansport honors their lifetime warranty! - I've sent my bag in 2x before.) 

I actually had moment of emotional loss as I thought they had disposed of my bag!  (I've carried it since high school - nearly every day for the past 8000 days, to every University, on most of my trips, all over the world!!) 

I asked them to do their best at repairing it "as is" and told the Jansport service representative that the bag was "too sentimental" to me to have them not send it back!

The agent assured me, "That's all you need to say, Sir - we'll insure you get your bag back as best we can fix it." 

I am genuinely emotional about it. 

It's a curious thing what "stuff" is important to us and why! 

Thanks Jansport!

(Pictured here with my Jansport Backpack - while teaching in Jerusalem - at the Lithostrotos / Gabbatha)

Thursday, March 01, 2012

A simpler calendar for a better world!

Imagine a future in which you always know the date of baseball's opening day. Or that your birthday is always on a Tuesday (sorry). Or that New Year's Eve is always on a Saturday.

I'd go for this - for sure!  I wonder what it would take to get this implemented - for real!

“This is a no-brainer,” said reformer Richard Conn Henry, a professor of astrophysics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “It’s going to save everybody money, trouble and time.”
He and colleague Steve Hanke, an economist and Hopkins professor, have created some buzz by proposing the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar (

How to remake the Calendar

Faith in a new calendar

Calendar Overhaul