Monday, February 25, 2013

Do Americans uniquely distance themselves from one another?

A new word for today - Nacirema.

It is the word, "American", backwards.  The term was first used in 1956 and I've never heard of it until now!

The idea is that sociologists and anthropologists are finding that Americans are uniquely dis-connecting one from another.  Connecting, perhaps through social media or online - but not one with another.  And, even online engagement is a form of disconnection and lack of full-presentation, as it is most easily manipulated.

I'm intrigued by the idea of it as I hope for myself, my family, and those that I engage in learning and social contexts to be engaged and empathetic and fully alive one with another!

What if we're teaching people to become experts, the best in their class, but, in the process they don't learn how to be creative & imaginative - and they don't grow and they don't become full persons?

Here's the perspective of one Class Valedictorian:

The full text of her insightful words - available as a full transcript!

Thoughtful young lady!

Friday, February 22, 2013

MLK Jr. - Power of His Oration

I posted this to my Facebook page in January 2013 - and want to archive here.

My students are always surprised when I tell them that the power of MLK's I Have A Dream speech, in part, emerged from the fact that it was a polished sermon, preached many times before.

Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered  at the 28 August 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, synthesized portions of his previous sermons and speeches, with selected statements by other prominent public figures.

I use this as an appeal to Minister's to merge their religious proclamation - with deliberate actions & responsible social & politic policy that include the Bible's central themes of love, justice & peace!

More from Stanford University here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The unfolding mystery of new heaven & new earth

It turns out, the "discovery" of the Higgs-Boson creates some interesting new complexities.

"Since detecting the particle in their accelerator experiments, researchers at the Geneva lab and at related institutions around the world have begun to theorise on the Higgs' implications for physics."

"One idea that it throws up is the possibility of a cyclical universe, in which every so often all of space is renewed."

I don't know if this is what the Bible means when it talks about "new heaven and new earth"  - and don't think the human writers of the Bible had any notion of atomic particles, let alone the Higgs-Boson . . . but it's a curiousity that makes me smile. 

Oh . . . it may be "billions" of years away - so don't get too excited for the "end to be near" just yet! =)

 Read more from the BBC article:  Cosmos may be 'inherently unstable'

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Climate & Culture of Growth in Life & Mentorship

When I garden, I don't "make" the seed grow - I give it the conditions to allow it to grow.

The seed has in it the encoded genetic ingenuity to produce fruit, quite apart from my "giving" it something in the seed itself.  I only manage conditions to optimize sun times, shade, water prevention (in floods) and water providence (in drought).

It seems to me this is true of human persons too.  I know it is true of faculty I work with, and the learners I engage.

Persons have their own encoded genetic ingenuity - skills, talents, and abilities.

The role of great institutions, great companies, great universities, and great mentors is to create the conditions within which, that which is already embedded in persons, can flourish.

Great institutions and great mentors that create the right culture - that shape the right climate - can unlock the fruit-bearing, productivity of employees & young people.

Great institutions and great mentors need to discern how to allow for the maximum exposure to elements that produce growth while inhibiting exposure to elements that flood or scorch the seeds of each persons unique,creative genius.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Considering a call to Pastoral Ministry?

I'm sharing a few posts that could be helpful for anyone discerning a call to pastoral ministry.

I might have said a few things differently - and, I certainly would have included gender-inclusive language for women being called to ministry!  And yet, the sense of discerning a call, as examined through the qualities listed, the qualifications hoped for, and the questions for discernment provided give insightful perspective. 
I hope these links are helpful to you - in your journey of obedience to God's call in your life.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I'd like to meet Dan Cathy

I don't know Dan Cathy - president of Chick-fil-A.

This considerate and gracious post, from an openly gay activist, about Dan's kindness, makes me wish I could meet Dan someday. 

From his "enemy," Dan is presented as intensely caring, intentional and kind.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Grading & Podcasts

On days I schedule grading, I'm often able to listen to podcasts, lectures, or sermons "in the background."

Today I listened to this powerful sermon from the Assemblies of God World Mission Summit, December 2012.

The speaker, Dick Brogdon, begins and ends his sermon with the single hymn that is most dear to my heart and most near to my own sense of call to ministry, "I Surrender All."

I was drawn in to the compelling vision - and I love the theme of the conference for all Christians to consider:  "Give a year, pray about a lifetime!"

Oh! that all Christians would do that!

The complexity & nuance of Biblical Hebrew

While viewing a great set of DVD lectures presented by Walter Brueggemann on how to read the Psalms, he said these words,

"if you're trying to learn Hebrew, as I'm always trying to do . . ."
Of course, he was being deferential and polite - as he is arguably the World's leading Christian scholar on reading and discerning Hebrew Scripture!  (Certainly he's in the top five most influential - with 58+ books to his credit, not including numerous other papers, lecturships and more!)

His words were refreshing for me.

I teach Hebrew to University learners - and I translate and use Hebrew in my coursework, preaching, teaching and life engagement.  While I love the playfulness of Hebrew, (first introduced to me by Robert Alter - and hugely important in shaping my life), I sometimes wonder if I'll ever be "good" at reading Hebrew.  It's nice to know that Dr. Brueggemann is still "trying" to "learn Hebrew!"

The next time you need to find . . .

The next time you need to find the 100 Most Important Cuneiform Objects, now you'll know where to look!

Thursday, February 07, 2013

There is so much to discover!

Today's headlines include: 2000 year old Pyramids found in Sudan - and the possibility of billions of "earths" in the Milky Way.

From the planet we inhabit directly under our feet - to the depths of the seas, expanse of the atmosphere, and scope of the Universe - we still have so much yet to discover!

A wonderful, big world!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

So much life left to live . . .

I spent the day with an 82 year old, retired pastor & professor. 

A well-respected, important figure in the Christian Academy, who is active in life and a prolific writer to this day.

I am half his age.

The sum total of my life - childhood, teen years, college, graduate work, first jobs, marriage, child-rearing, trying to establish myself professionally - all so much work - is just half of all the life that might be before me.

A delightful thought.

I have so much more time to live - so many more people to meet - so much more to encounter!

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Building a Theological Library - Some Reflections

It is expensive to build a library!

Oftentimes, young students in Bible & Theology are overwhelmed with the number of books that exist in this subject area, and rightly so.

Normally young persons develop their library over time - as they take classes and develop competence, little by little with each class they take at the University or Seminary.  And, of course, persons in pastoral ministry acquire (or are given as gifts!) books as they work in the practice of ministry, preaching & proclamation.

New ministers are often tempted to "buy" lots of books - and amass a library of good resources.  While it would be great to build a great library - the costs prohibit it as a reasonable reality for most pastors.  And, what is more, most pastors amass libraries that are larger than their competence, beyond the scope of their actual use, more than what they have actually read!  [Yes, pastors buy books to put on the shelf, which they have never read, which they may never read!]

I would rather pastors invest in only the books they (1) actually read and/or (2) will actually use.

Case in point - years ago, I owned numerous commentaries on the New Testament epistles.  I spent hard earned money on those commentaries.  In the course of time (my work as a Scholar and my engagement on University campuses), I realized I rarely read from or used the commentaries I owned on the New Testament epistles.  And, on the infrequent occasion that I needed good commentary material, I had a University library easily at my disposal.  My hard earned money on those commentaries was, to an extent, wasted.  

As a result, I have learned to discourage new ministers from rapidly buying many books or commentaries - and instead, encourage them to buy books and commentaries they will use.  I typically advise something like this:

"Instead of buying an entire Commentary Series on the New Testament, consider buying five to seven, maybe eight of the best commentaries on, let's say, Luke's Gospel.  Instead of owning 26 commentaries that you're not using on the other Gospels, Epistles, Acts and Revelation - build your library book-by-book instead of series-by-series, with resources you actively & deliberately use.  I would rather you own five to eight well-read and deliberately used commentaries on Luke, than a shelf full of commentaries you've never read! And, this is better stewardship of your finances - and shelf space!  [And, owning books you read is easier to justify when you move and have to box them all up - compared with owning books you might-or-might-not one day read!]"

Of course, you have to buy textbooks for courses you take.  Hopefully you will have been encouraged to read and own great books.  [Professors that I know genuinely and intentionally decide on the best texts to use in the classroom.]

As you think about building your library though - let me encourage you to be a wise steward - in your purchases - both at the point of the cash involved - and at the point of real reading and extended future use. 

Also, be mindful that theological commentaries have take up positions on matters specific to religious discourse.  Said another way, you should know that Mary-Knoll-Orbis, a great publisher, is a Roman Catholic publisher and therefore espouses views and uses ideas more akin to Roman Catholic concern.  Abingdon Press is a Wesleyan publisher.  Inter-Varsity Press is generally evangelical, but not tied to any one denomination.  These things matter, and there are lots of different publishers.  In time, you'll learn how to discern these issues.

With this in mind, let me also link you to this well-reviewed, collegial and refereed perspective of the "Best Commentaries" to use.  As you will note in life and in scholarship, the specific publishers and the specific authors have presuppositional theological commitments, but this website, with the vast array of contributors and perspectives, seems to give a truly excellent, balanced review on "the" Best Commentaries.

Blessings to you and your work in the libraries that shape our discernment of the Bible & Theology!

Saturday, February 02, 2013

3 books - Quitter, Emotional Equations & a novel

The Quitter – by Jon Acuff.

I read the first chapter of this book and thought I’d give it up.  But, then chapter 2 got me hooked.
Much of the insight is similar to stuff I routinely read (as I read the same blogs and same books that Jon reads – Michael Hyatt, Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell)  And while I don’t read Dave Ramsey’s stuff, I was raised with the same financial and stewardship ethic in my childhood home, so I get it.

Given what I have read elsewhere – there was not much new for me in this book – but I will definitely be sharing this book with young people that I work with – pre-college and those at University.  The premise of the book is about lining up your dreams with your life – working your ideal job – not a “nowhere” job that leaves you unfulfilled.  In some ways, nothing new here compared to many other resources – but the stories are witty – and the questions that Acuff asks for persons to think about – are excellent.  Even the simple issue of filling in the following blanks, “I’m a . . . but I want to be a . . . .” 

Acuff operates from the perspective of faith, and asks good questions.  I’ll have my kids read this – and I’m telling my wife to look over it too!  That says a lot from me.  The book does not offer so much in the way of “how to” pursue your dream – as much as it offers the questions needed to help consider your dream.  But, all good stuff.  Tons of reviews on to get perspective from others.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

I found this on the new books shelf and the book-jacket’s description caught my eye

Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack of quotidian minutiae is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn’t seen or heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye.

Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then, as happens in the very best works of fiction, Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. And thus begins the unlikely pilgrimage at the heart of Rachel Joyce’s remarkable debut. Harold Fry is determined to walk six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie Hennessey will live. . . .
I had time while taking care of a few “manual labor” projects to audio-read the book.  I enjoyed it.  I felt like I missed a few things, so I got the hardback and re-read several sections.  I wish I would have read the book instead of audio-reading it. I’m not sure why, just a sense that I have. I won’t offer much in the way of comment here, except the note that I enjoyed the story. It was not compelling in profound ways, but the characters were “human” in many profound ways, trying to find themselves and discern life – or at least, Harold was. I liked the notion that the story was a “pilgrimage” – a kind of religious trip – even though it was no a traditional pilgrimage, for Harold his journey across England became a spiritual thing.  Enjoyable novel.

Emotional Equations: Simple Truths for Creating Happiness + Success by Chip Conley

The publisher’s statement about this book is an apt summary:  
“Using brilliantly simple math that illuminates universal emotional truths, Emotional Equations crystallizes some of life’s toughest challenges into manageable facets that readers can see clearly—and bits they can control. . . . When Conley, dynamic author of the bestselling Peak, suffered a series of tragedies, he began using what he came to call “Emotional Equations” (like Joy = Love – Fear) to help him focus on the variables in life that he could deal with, rather than ruminating on the unchangeable constants he couldn’t, like the bad economy, death, and taxes. . . .”
Despite lots of reading and much study over the years, I’d never read before about Plutchik’s  Wheels of Emotions.  (Page 19) The author talks about “emotional GPS” – which I found interesting as I’ve used the idea of the need to have a “relational GPS” in other frameworks of counsel I’ve provided to people.  Where the author talks about the need to get off the “hedonic treadmill” – he expresses ideas I’ve shared for years in the need to lower expectations toward a more fulfilling life.  Not because expectations are bad, but because realistic expectations that can be attained are, in their ability to be realized, fulfilling. 

Nothing “new” for me in the book – given much other reading – and there was much good in this book!  The simplicity of his equations, are, in fact, over-simplified – and yet, they allow a person to think about the simple portions/parts that make up life.  It is not simply true that Joy equal Love minus Fear . . . but there is a portion of truth embedded in this – and the other equations that Conley cites.  Each equation has an insight in them – worth considering.