Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How to Speed Read, Read a Book, and Annotate!


Recently I corresponded with a friend who asked me if "speed-reading" is a "hoax."  I shared with him that I believe speed reading is something that can be practiced and developed.  I shared this book with him, including this one star (yes, one star!) review of the same book that does summarize the content.  (And yes, you could just do what the reviewer says and not buy this book.)

I shared with this same friend, this great book on How to Read a Book.  Every person who reads, really must read this book.  (Buy it!)

Just yesterday, a brilliant scholar - & one of the nicest persons I've ever met,  James K.A. Smith, - posted a great blog entry about how to annotate a book - showing his methods & practices.  Check out his link for great insight on how to read like a genius (a.k.a. like him!

 (If you click to Jamie's  "research page" and then his Curriculum Vitae from his page above - his publishing/presentations accomplishments in his young 40s out-distance most  accomplished octogenarian Scholars!  That alone should cause serious students to consider gleaning insight from his annotation method!  Jamie is such a nice guy,  he's kind enough to be a friend to me, in addition to  being, very likely, the single smartest person I've ever known!)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Power of Lies

Many years ago I lived through divorce.  As with any person in any divorce, friends and family and acquaintances made decisions and drew up their ideas about who and why and how the divorce happened.   

Divorce is terribly complex - in myriad ways.  No Divorce is the same.  

Divorce is a terrible disruption to life and lives – to multiple layers of relationships -- for many years.

I continue – some 10 years later –to realize the depth of dislocation that extends from my unique divorce with the power of a lie – or the power of lies.

I’ve always had contact with the birthmother of my two adopted daughters.  In recent years, with the advent of new technologies and social media, I’ve been in more routine contact with my daughter’s birth-mother.  She’s always been a person I have had respect for in her decisions and choices – mitigating her own best options framed in light of other, perhaps less-than-perfect choices made.

A few months ago she inquired of me, “ . . .some time there is a question i would like to ask you, and it IS quite personal, and is about the divorce . . . .”

I told her she could ask anything she wanted, of course.

She went on to ask about how she had been told that I divorced because I had an “affair with a college girl.” 

Needless to say, since there is and was no fact  and no support to this claim – I was shocked to hear this  - some 10 years after my divorce!  

In the midst of my divorce, in order to attempt to strike at my credibility and integrity, some persons introduced many bodacious claims about me in several venues of lies regarding practices of parenting, being a husband, sexuality, and other in-credible (though credulous!) claims!  

Given the fact that the birthmother to my girls heard this claim, living many States away – and given the fact that there are only three other humans I know who know her – it seems quite likely I can trace the sources of her mis-information.

I write about this today – in 2012 – because in other conversations I’ve had over the years – and one this morning – the fact of the bogus claims of false data that was framed about my life – clearly still persist in some people’s eyes &  in some people’s perspectives.

It’s sad to me in many ways.  And, as it was unfair to me a decade ago - it remains unfair to me today - and I'm prepared to confront that unfairness today.

While I am far from perfect – and I have my own failings in mis-perceptions, mis-communication, and my own human frailty – I genuinely try to be the best person I can be.  I love my family, our kids – I enjoy my work and love the Church and the role of being Christian in our world today.

And, despite the fact that I have acted with credibility, integrity, and efforts to be a peacemaker and advocate for all that is good – I wonder how many other people, who were lied to about me, might believe those lies?

It’s hard for me to believe that some people could tell lies about me – that were believed by people – that still persist a decade later – in spite of all that I have done and lived-into to demonstrate the falsity of those lies.

I write today – not depressed or saddened.  My life is vibrant and full.  I feel a genuine sense of blessing and fruitfulness.  I’m wonderfully loved by a wife who has herself endured the stigma of my former partner’s choices – and together with my wife’s great love, forbearance and compassion – we’ve done our best in raising our children to be faithful and honest, kind and true, gracious and generous, people who reflect and embody the life of God’s Kingdom!  

Despite the dislocations of divorce, I’ve had wonderful persons believe in my pastoral abilities, my work in the classroom, and in the context of other professional opportunities.  While I do not understand the precisions of Divine Providence, I feel certain that God is at work in timely matters in our lives, somehow, opening opportunities uniquely for me.  

I am blessed.

And yet, the lies of some persons, from a decade ago, persist for a few.

I wish people would consider the depth of how much a lie can hurt – and for how long it can hurt.

I hope for a better future and better world - a world of genuine relationship with truth-telling at its core.

I commit to continue to work for that and hope for that.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer 2012 - in Review

At the end of summer, I haven’t had time to note my reading!


These short snippets will have to do – as I move on to too many other great projects.
The Inductive Bible Study – by David R. Bauer and Robert A Traina is an excellent, and most thorough resource for thinking about the task of doing precisely as the title says, Inductive Study of the Bible.  It lays out a proper methodology/philosophy – and gives practical aid in how to do the work itself.  The book could easily “stand alone” as a textbook in a class designed to work learners through Inductive Study and active engagement of the Bible.  I’ve picked this up for my personal library and will come back to it for supplemental teaching ideas in a class I teach on Methods in Biblical Study.

Perhaps the best read of my Summer, Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in World that Can’t Stop Talking.  I audio-read the book two times on one road trip – then came back to a few chapters.  I will be picking up a paper copy of the book to glean a few specific quotes and highlights for future use.  I didn’t like that fact that the book on introverts, spends too long and too much time in the opening chapters talking about extroverts – but alas, she set the stage – just took too long.  The power of this book in my own life is important.  I have, no doubt, misinterpreted introverts for years.  Pastors should read this book to understand people in their congregations.  Leaders should read this book to understand how to lead (and get out of the way) of certain people.  Teachers should discern it’s insight and parents should glean from it for those in their charge.  In short, if you work with large groups of people, there will be introverts and this book will give insight into how to better work with them, “for” them, and get them to be productive in families, teams, churches – based on their unique abilities and contributions.  A must read, I would say.

Transfiguration by John Dear provided solid reflections on how to think about “transforming ourselves and our world” -  a portion of the subtitle.  I was happy to get more acquainted (via reading!)  with the author, a committed peace activist whose work with the Fellowship of Reconciliation has been active for years.  Since I read their blog posts and updates, it was nice to read this single work by John Dear.  The work gave insight into his journey, told stories of others in the journey of transformation to peacemaking, and incorporated discernment about how to “come down from the mountaintop” to get involved with the business of working for peace and justice among the people.  A meditative study.

I appreciated John Wenham’s Easter Enigma:  Are the Resurrection accounts in conflict.  A straight forward presentation, reviewing (as it notes) conflicts in the stories as recorded in the Gospels, attempting to make sense of them in light of the geography, topography, practices, customs, and characters invested in the story as the story is told.  Differences in stories, he attributes to independent reporting from multiple witnesses, but still accurate in their detail. 

The Snowball:  Warren Buffett and the Business Life.  An interesting audio read from my summer.  I learned much from it – but not sure that it was “worth it” in any major sense.  After finishing the book on a road trip, I came back to review some facts on other websites, etc.  In truth, every core story line found in this book, can be found on the Wikipedia page for Warren Buffett!  No joke!  Of course the book has tons more detail.  I’m not sure the book was worth it, though.  Explores his life.  Doesn’t offer advice, other than to think, be diligent, frugal, and thoughtful.  In other news, he’s clearly an introvert, see Quiet above!

Even with several earned degrees, I’m an advocate for self-study, auto-didactic work!  I’ll never forget being forced (by my own choices/calendar) to learn French on my own in Graduate Study.  I did it – and have long since thought in that respect and in many others – we don’t “need” teachers in all cases and “classrooms” and “formal” education should not replace personal study and self-education!  In that regard, I’ve thought about doing an MBA for years.  I don’t think I will – especially after reading, The Personal MBA:  Master the Art of Business.  I’ve discerned the MBA is not for me – for many reasons, but I think I’m convinced that in most ways, the author in this simple book – with hundreds of tags to his posts online, has, in fact, created an accessible, way to summarize (cliff-note-version) the MBA into what he has gleaned.  Note:  I don’t have an MBA, so I can not objectively evaluate this claim I am making!  I am only making the claim that from my perspective, he seems to “be on to something” in discerning that the core principlies are at the heart of a good education – and then, anyone has to figure out how to live into those.  I enjoyed the book.  I’ll come back to it, I’m sure. 

I literally have no idea how or why I picked up We Learn Nothing:  Essays and Cartoons by Tim Kreider.  I do ample browsing at the Public Library, but do not know why I picked this one up.  Sitting in a Mall one day this Summer, with internet down, waiting on kids to shop, I read it.  I’m not sure what to make of it.  I have a few ‘take-aways’ from some keen statements made at points – but in other ways, the book was a ‘rant’ on some issues, and clearly just personal commentary on other issues, by Kreider.   I certainly would not recommend the book, it was crass at points.  And yet, I might come back and re-read it. 

My Summer included extensive review of several teaching resources for Biblical Hebrew, again this summer.  I continue to try to hone my practice in teaching and develop supplemental resources for learners.  I’ll still plan to use the same textbook I’ve used in the past, by Page Kelley.  I was surprised to find several new PDF versions of texts, self-published by young scholars who are trying to overcome the pedagogical dilemmas associated with teaching this ancient language, with its curiosities and aware of different learning styles and practices.  I’ll be posting those to a link associated with the Biblical Hebrew Class I teach – for learners there and for my work with learners into the future.

I loved the audio version of:  A Carpenter’s Life, As Told by Houses.  In a style reminiscent of Bill Bryson, who I love in most of his works, the author narrates homes and his experiences with homes – and growing up in Nebraska, and his life in many homes around the world.  Retiring in Oregon, and singing praises of this paradise (! Ha! My words!) – I couldn’t help but appreciate the book.  I’ll be honest, I’m biased in several ways.  The author and I hold several presuppositions from the outset – on the need for moderation, sustainable practices, and awareness of living within our means and within our local environment.  So, my review is prejudice!  I liked the book, I’ll listen to it again, I’m sure.

My public library loaned me the audio book for Martin Luther King Jr’s landmark speeches.  A Call To Conscience:  the Landmark Speeches of MLK.  How could I pass on that!  Listening to his epoch shaping rhetoric – in preaching and speaking!  A great series of lectures I listened to at different points in the summer, before having to return the resources.

I read again, Getting Things Done:  the Art of Stress Free Living – and for the past several years my wife and I, and our family, have been putting into practice the idea of “next action” – which I call “naction.”  It helps us accomplish more, reasonably, thoughtfully – and with a track-record of success.  I’ll be coming back to the principles in this book and in many web-friendly GTD sites, for years.

I’ve got some future Australian hopes – so spent ample time doing some research on travel and study programs there – with DVDs and books resources.  Let’s hope!

Finally, I read, re-read, re-read, and re-read drafts of my own book – which, after first publication is still not perfect!  Alas!  That is me!  I’m very proud of it.  It’s simple, small, short – and accessible – but I hope offers insight that really will matter for life.  The Greatest Commandment:  The LORD’s Invitation to Love.

Friday, August 03, 2012

The Religion of the Olympics - Salvation by Sport


The extended post by Peter J. Leithart is a bit dense, if you never read theological arguments or posts.    Salvation by Sport

His final few lines are at the core of deep questions that need to be asked in our Sports Fan-atic world.

He concludes:

Our calendars are marked by athletic holy days (Super Bowl Sunday), seasons (March Madness), and bi-annual cycles (Olympics). We identify ourselves by our tribal clothing, our totem mascot, our war paint, and our chants around the field of play. The passions of an age with neither patriotism nor piety can still be roused by a close game.

Working out Christianity’s relation to sports raises tricky ethical and pastoral questions. But we can’t hope to untangle those issues without starting from the baseline recognition that Olympism was created to be, and remains, one of the church’s most formidable rivals.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

I'm squelching Facebook

I’m squelching Facebook.

As a kid, my family took road trips up and down I-5 – from Oregon, going to Washington or California.   

When we traveled with friends, we had a CB-Radio to communicate between vehicles.  

CB- Radios were imperfect – and a significant amount of “noise” – rattling-rustling-screeching noises -often came through the CB Radio speaker.  I didn’t understand how it worked, but I remember how my dad would dial the “squelch” button back & forth and the chaotic noise would dissipate, at least a little bit.

I’ve thought about this “squelch” feature with a growing angst I’ve had about how I engage Facebook – and how my friends engage Facebook.

The “squelch” feature on a radio transmitter adjusts the level at which the radio responds to a signal.  If the squelch is turned down, all the noises come through – and it sounds like chaos.  If the squelch is turned up, only the strongest, clearest signals come through.  “Breaker, breaker, this is M&M .”  (M&M was my “handle” – for Marty Michelson, of course!)

Over the next few weeks I’m going to work on adjusting my “squelch” feature on Facebook.  (No, this is not a real feature !)  I’m going to be adjusting what I tune-in – and what I tune-out – and how I turn on Facebook entirely.

Squelching Facebook -

I’m going to refreshingly tune in to many things I love about Facebook:

I love reading about joys and sorrows in the lives of friends.  I’ll tune in for that.

I love updates on life that give insight into maturity, achievements, growth, development, weddings, graduations, trips – and festive occasions or situations of grief.  I’ll tune in for that.

I like pictures.  I’ll tune in for those!  I'd prefer a few pictures - I won't go through your entire album.  I'd sure like to see the highlights!

I like being able to stay in touch with extended family.  I’ll tune in for that.

I like knowing specifically about what is going on in the lives of former students.  I’ll tune in for that.

I enjoy connection with persons I’ve gone to school with, been in conferences with, or parishioners or other friends from over the years.  I like knowing how people are doing.  I’ll stay tuned in for existential connection to meaningful events and maturity in life!

I enjoy reading about specific and deliberate causes that people are invested in with their time  - the specific events of solidarity and activism that engage people’s lives.  I’ll tune in for that.

If you blog, and write something cool in an extended way – or if you know of someone who has written something important – and you send a short clip or summary of it – more than likely I’ll click on your link and tune in for that.  I care about what personal friends think, feel and share.
I’ll tune in for the funny in life.  The silly things your kids say.  The fact that you spilled your coffee and left an awkward stain before your job interview.  The quirky conversation you have with your boss.  I love these things.  Share your life’s humor.  I’ll like it!

If you have life-shaping-personally engaging religious views – I’d like to read about them.

I'll come by to wish you a Happy Birthday or Happy Anniversary!  Days to celebrate for sure!

And, I’m going to tune out a bunch of other things.

If you’re posting any of what I call the “generated” pictures or images designed for use in social media.  I’ll tune that out.

I read News from around the Globe, daily, from a variety of world sources.  But, I don’t come to Facebook for politics (unless it’s about or from an individual I know who is actively engaged and invested with their life – then I’ll read with enthusiasm.)  I particularly don’t tune in for personal assessments on party politics, in the U.S.  There are lots of other things to read about in the news - on news websites, not Facebook. I’m tuning that out.

I’m happy that many of my friends like this-or-that type of sport – or this-or-that specific team.  But, I don’t tune in for updates on your favorite players, the recent scores of any game, nor do I need to know that any friends (in Oklahoma City, in particular) are “Thundering Up!”  If you go to a game, post a pic of yourself, I’ll like it.  If you (and every other fan) is tweeting about refs, scores, rebounds, touchdowns, time-outs, or goals,- and that’s all you have to say -  I’ll tune that out.  I don’t come to Facebook for ESPN commentary.

If you have a narrow religious bigotry – or if you Facebook is a “tool” for you to push your beliefs on others (outside of the side-linked blog entry that I can elect to read  - or not), I’ll probably tune you out.  I’m a Christian myself.  My life is bound up in that as my identity, but I don’t come to Facebook to convert others – nor do I want others to criticize or ostracize my religious commitments.

If you direct message me on Facebook – or invite me to an event – I may or may not tune in – I’m not sure.  I come to see what it’s going on in people’s lives – and to share the things going on in my life, so some evites are helpful!  If you need me for something in a work or deliberate way – send me an email.  If you want to send me a ‘status update’  direct note to me on my wall – super!  If you need me for an appointment or review or work – I’ll tune that out.  Facebook is not work.  No work gets done there!  (Trust me, I see the evidence of the lack of work on Facebook in University classrooms!)

If you've read a unique book - or seen a great movie - and want to sing it's praise.  I'll probably check it out.  If you've just read the same book that every other person is reading on the New York Times Best-Seller list - or seen the same movie that just took in millions on the most recent opening night of whatever year - I'm not sure that your post will inspire me that something remarkable is happening.  Maybe. 

If you’re into a cause you support, faithfully – you genuinely might make me a believer with you.  I believe in causes that promote Good – the good for the all!  If you’re posting about the latest trending subject that everyone else is posting about in the trending need to supposedly support this trend, I’ll probably tune it out.  I believe Kony should be stopped and peace should be fostered – but I don’t think it does much good to jump on the latest bandwagon of tweets &updates . . . while months later, Kony still isn’t stopped no matter how many people tweeted it, status updated it, or shared the video!  Facebook is a rallying place for a bunch of nothing when it comes to actually changing things or making the world better or different.  If you’re just commenting on the latest trending subject or cause – I’ll probably tune you out.  If you’re rallying around the latest cause with a venomous “shout” that ostracizes or hurts others, I might unfriend you.  The world needs more generosity and kindness, not another place for bullying or belittling.

And, I’m going to turn-off Facebook, too.

As I monitor my squelch on Facebook, I’ll also be turning it off more than I’m turning it on!  Some days, I might come to connect for an hour or more.  Most days, I’ll just be here to share birthday wishes and like your latest pictures – for a few minutes.  

As I squelch out much of the chaotic noise of Facebook – I’m going to tune in my signal to other great things in my life!  I’ll share that in due time!

“Breaker-breaker.  This is M&M.  We gone.”