Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Tom Oden, a mentor to my life, deceased

I received word on December 8th that a mentor in my life had ceased to live in this world,  Rev. Dr. Tomas C. Oden.

I've had the privilege to work with Tom the past several years in a few projects in Oklahoma City, connected to the Museum of the Bible.

When he would meet new people, he looked into their eyes, asked about their lives, paid attention to their stories and remembered them the next time he saw them.  These new people - on top of the thousands of people he knew over decades and in various regions of the world - became people he cared for.

I witnessed his endearing, gracious, pastoral care for others.

It was remarkable to me the way he looked at people and cared for them.  25 earlier in my life (1990-1991), I had read one of Dr. Oden's contributions to the pastoral and academic world, his book, Pastoral Theology: Essentials of Ministry.  It was in 2012, 2013, and through this year that I witnessed his deep care for persons lived out in his life not just on the pages of his books!

I had wanted my students to drive a few miles to Tom's home to meet him this semester.  I arranged tentative plans for the meeting with Tom's personal assistant. That meeting never came to pass as I got too busy with too many other semester projects.  Now I'm deeply sad for myself and for all future students of Pastoral and Christian Theology.

Several years ago our son was featured in the local newspaper.  This past year, Tom hired our son to work on a technology project for him.  (As an octogenarian, Tom was working on an App for the iPhone!)  When I shared with Tom that our son could help him on the project, Tom said, "Oh! Is this your son that I read about in the paper a few years ago!?!?"  Where I had forgotten the event, Tom remembered the news, and our son! He cared so much for people!

He was a consummate scholar, pastor, theologian and a friend.

I've just read his A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir.  Finishing it now, after his passing, makes me wish yet more that I wish I had made time to be with him.  He signed his copy to me, "with gratitude and admiration."  Even though I had nothing to offer him, I do believe he was grateful for our friendship and I do believe he admired me.  I deeply admired him, and in truth admire him yet more now in his passing.  His work inspires me to be more like him in how I live my life, even if I'll never match his oeuvre.

I've taken the time, too, to re-read his Pastoral Theology in these past days.  And, I anticipate I'll make an effort in early 2017 to read several other books he published that, due to my focus in Biblical Studies, I never took time to read.

For those who might read him in the future, I want to add my note of testimony to his life's legacy. He was a man who embodied the theology he published.

My life is changed for the better for having known Tom.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Months of reading, Volunteer with With Hospice, Cars, Graduation & a Funeral

I've returned too many library books to recall what I've read. I'm almost embarrassed to try to briefly capture my list here . . . though I'll do so as the goal of this has always been for my own review in the future, more so than for any other person to read.

A fair amount of travel and time with my lovely bride this summer.

I really enjoyed reading this after classes got out with a few students I have mentored, who have worked with me:  Sacred Treasure The Cairo Genizah The Amazing Discoveries of Forgotten Jewish History in an Egyptian Synagogue Attic by Mark Glickman.  Much was review to me, though I still learned a lot of new data.

This was also a good read:  Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza by Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole

The Wright Brothers, by David McCollough was so good I decided to read several others by McCollough.  Also read: The Path Between the Seas about the Panama Canal and Mornings On Horseback about Teddy Roosevelt and The Great Bridge about the Brooklyn Bridge. I'll hope to get to more of his books though the best thus far was the Wright Brothers.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis proved intriguing and insightful.

Quiet Mind: One Minute Mindfulness by David Kundtz

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi and Abraham Verhese is moving. I've recommended it to others.

Taming the Drunken Monkey: The Path to Mindfulness, Meditation, and Increased Concentration by William L Mikulas

The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues by Patrick Lencioni.  I don't think I have read anything by Lencioni I don't like.

Finding the Quiet by Paul Wilson

The Zen Leader: 10 Ways to Go from Barely Managing to Leading Fearlessly by Ginny Whitelaw. 

Healing Walks for Hard Times by Carolyn Scott Kortge

I Hate You--don't Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality by Hal Straus and Jerold Kay Kreisman

LeaderShift by Oliver DeMille and Orrin Woodward

Leading Change by John P. Kotter.

Conflict Resolution by Daniel Dana.
You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living An Awesome Life by Jen Sincero has coarse language and portraits/portrayals of God outside of orthodoxy, and yet, offers keen insight in how to plan a good life consistent with much that is affirmed in current "coaching" and "popularly psychology" perspectives.

The Next Generation of Women Leaders: What You Need to Lead But Won't by Selena Rezvani  

While commuting this summer on bicycle, I enjoyed the largely believable characters in my audioreading of Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy, Book 1) by Ken Follett.  Definitely "R" rated though, if anyone cares to read this and see my reviews, they should know this.

I spent a week with Walter Brueggemann so in preparation I re-read his Journey to the Common Good - and - added to my collection and read his 2nd volume of collected sermons! The Collected Sermons of Walter Brueggemann, Volume 2

You Are Not Your Pain: Using Mindfulness to Relieve Pain, Reduce Stress, and Restore Well-Being---An Eight-Week Program by Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman. This book was particularly good for me to share with a few others in need.

Outlaw Christian: Finding Authentic Faith by Breaking the "Rules" by Jacqueline A. Bussie.

The Fate of Saul's Progeny in the Reign of David by Cephas Tushima.

The Biblical Saga of King David by Van Seters

A Son To Me by Peter Leithart

Making Good Habits, Breaking Bad Habits by Joyce Meyer.

13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence by Rick Hanson.

The Wily O'Reilly: Irish Country Stories by Patrick Taylor.  I loved these stories.

Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick.  So many missed opportunities. Too much imprisonment.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.  This was a re-read, but I love Bryson.

The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball. Loved this.

NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman. 
Magna Carta: The Birth of Liberty by Dan Jones. Great book!  Humanized history and democracy.

For the Love of Physics: From the End of the Rainbow to the Edge Of Time - A Journey Through the Wonders of Physics by Walter Lewin and Warren Goldstein.  Loved this book. Saddened to study the author after reading the book. :( 
Yes, My Accent Is Real: And Some Other Things I Haven't Told You by Kunal Nayyar.

Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation by Elaine Pagels

The Name of God Is Mercy by Pope Francis and Oonagh Stransky

I trained with Crossroads Hospice to become a Volunteer Chaplain with them. This engaged more than 30 hours of training and then the start of volunteer engagement with two chaplains currently working with this specific hospice. 

Specific courses included: 
Hospice101: Orienting to Hospice Care
I Don't Know What to Say: Compassionate Conversations About Crisis & Care
Is It Time? Symptoms of Dying
Pain Hurts Everyone: Managing and Understanding Pain
Cultural Competence
Everyday Ethics for Hospice and Palliative Professionals and Volunteers
HIPAA: The Basics
Patient's Rights
The Impact of Grief: Ours and Those We Serve
Workplace Safety: The Basics, Infection Control
Preventing, Recognizing, and Reporting Abuse

Personal notes for my memory:
I spent most everyday after school in the Spring of 2016 helping our youngest manage her H.S. homework, to catch up by a year, and graduate by a year early - with work accomplished from 2015 to 2016.

My 95 year old Granma Z (mother's mother) passed away in February. I officiated her funeral.

I've sold 3 cars in 2016, and replaced only one with the purchase of a used car for our daughter in 2016.   I've purchased bikes in 2016 as I am commuting by bike to work daily for the 2016-2017 school year.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Insights into mental (dis)order - Personality Disorders - Diversions, too.

Trying to gain some insight exploring relationships with persons who are mentally unstable in "normal" relationships.

Worked through these in the past weeks:

Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book about Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson.

Both were biographical satire about being unstable, anxious, depressed, suicidal.  They helped me peer through life through the eyes of an other.

These three books were most helpful from my small pile:

Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life by Mark Goulston.  The book offered page after page of insight and practices that can be implemented to pause for poise and DNR (Do Not Resuscitate).

Psychopath Free (Expanded Edition): Recovering from Emotionally Abusive Relationships with Narcissists, Sociopaths, and other Toxic People by Jackson MacKenzie.  With many good insights, particularly several lists and the description of The Black Hole.

In Sheep's Clothing (Revised Edition): Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People by George Simon, Jr., Ph.D.

Other reads - in no particular order though each was less insightful (or said the same things) as the former.

Character Disturbance: The Phenomenon of Our Age by George K. Simon, Jr. Ph.D.

Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us by Robert D. Hare, Ph.D.

The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey Into the Dark Side of the Brain by James Fallon.

Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight by M.E. Thomas.

The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those Without Conscience by Kent A. Kiehl, Ph.D.

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ironson.

To break up the reading above, 

I was delighted to engage Simone Weil in a collection of writings pulled together by Eric O. Springsted.  I'll come back to read more from Weil.  I don't know her well enough.

Putting God Second:  How to Save Religion from Itself was sent to me - by I don't know who.  The author needs to read Rene' Girard.

A delightful tale of relationship:  A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Mentoring Future Ministers

This is a slightly edited email I sent to Ministry Majors in my "Methods in Biblical Study" class.  

In addition to mentoring young people in the academic practices and the discipline of critical methodologies for Bible Study, I find that it is important to mentor them in "life skills" and "ministry skills" that can shape their future lives.

I hope they learn from me in the classroom context and in life skills.  These things will make their lives "more productive" and "less stressful."
The first major assignment contains multiple steps and perhaps 20 hours of work (or more?) on the Inductive Study.  It "due"in just a few weeks.  There is nothing that prevents you from starting work on it "now" if you like!   
The way you structure your time for all of your projects at the University and in all future work in your life as a pastor, really is for you to determine.  Though, all major projects are made easier with diligent work in chunks of time - spread out over larger periods of time!  (30 minutes a day for a week is a great way to do more than 3 hours of work!)
In our class, and in probably in life, there is nothing preventing you from working ahead on class projects, on sermon ideas, and preparing Bible study lessons from work you are doing now in your University courses!
In addition to teaching my classes at the University, I try to serve as a mentor in many ways to every student!  One thing I note is that many people (even many adults) need help with time-management, procrastination, and skills in accomplishing projects.  Here's a blog entry I've shared with many about some resources to help you.  http://metier.blogspot.com/2012/09/getting-things-done.html 
There are many great things about being a pastor!  Many, many great things! One thing that is true about being a pastor compared with many professional opportunities is that you have to manage your schedule more than most.  You have more "say" in how your "9-5" work day is scheduled than many other professions. Let me encourage you now to learn to use your time wisely and plan well!
In addition to what I shared above, here's another idea on how to be effective in the use of your time, on projects like the Inductive Study for this class, the worksheets in this class, and ALL OF YOUR future sermon preparation and exegetical work which you'll complete in every week for the rest of your life!  
Set down good practices now so that you can be a success for your lifetime! 
I believe in you! 
The "tomato timer method" - the pomodoro technique: http://lifehacker.com/productivity-101-a-primer-to-the-pomodoro-technique-1598992730 
Your friend, mentor, guide and the grader of your "A" level exegetical projects you're going to work to achieve ~ 
~ marty

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Mindful Minute & Prayerful Pause - Shaping My 2016

Last year I worked diligently to become the best me I could be and the best we within family and personal/professional connections.

I diligently (but not manically) pursued a series of questions most evenings to focus my attention. (Last year's blog entry.)

It was a great year for thinking - even while January to June was the worst single six-month period of my life. The next months, June through November were as bad as only a few other periods in my life. I am so very, very thankful for a loving spouse who I connect with and a few important friends to serve as mentors, guides, and wise-counsel to me in the year.

That being said, I'm shifting up my focus in this new year, and I like it so far!

Instead of thinking hard about many questions at the end of the day, I'm starting my day with a single minute(!) to be mindful and focused, to be grateful and to be calm.

Next to my vehicle and office keys, I've got a simple Kitchen timer.  Before I pick up my keys to walk out the door, I set the timer for 2 minutes and use the first few seconds to sit and relax.

And then, for 60 seconds I pause to be thankful for who I am and who I'm with and where I am and what is going on in my life and what good new things will emerge, even as I can not stop the bad!

It's liberating for the 60 seconds and I've found that I carry it with me in many moments throughout the day.

As I'm driving, I remember to be mindful for a minute, prayerful in an intentional pause and I celebrate that moment.

As I'm walking or biking, I do the same  . . . and you get the idea!

The inspiration for this is rooted in lots of psychology/meditation/spiritual practice, though it comes in my life in three primary ways.

(1) I wanted to start my days with reflection and not simply end my day with reflection!
(2) I wanted something really simple.  A simple mindful minute and prayerful pause.
(3) In this simple practice, I am reminded of Providence & Mystery, Thankfulness, Hallowing the Day.

Of course, ancient spiritual practices couple with this very simple idea - in many traditions, though in my life the main impetus for this idea is rooted in the work of Matt Killingsworth, Ph.D.
Ideas to spur the notion come from these great TED Radio Hour Podcasts, too.

TED Radio Hour: Simply Happy
TED Radio Hour: Quiet
TED Radio Hour: Headspace

And, I'm apparently not the first to think of the idea of a Mindful Minute(s) - here's a website I just found . . . though I'm going to keep it simple.

Monday, January 11, 2016

End of 2015 reading.

Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity and Thrive by Barbara Fredrickson  I read a ton of books in paperback and this was an audio read for me. As such, it is one that I will come back to as a paperback soon.  Of the many books I read on issues of “happiness” this one was ground in the single work of a single researcher, sharing her work.  As such, it was different from the collected work of others books I read and this one I would benefit from reading in paper form. It is harder for me to track details of books I audio read, as I’m a visual learner, but a good “read” that I’ll come back to.

The Secret Chord: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks.  King David of Hebrew Scripture is important to my scholarship and professional life and I knew this “historical fiction” would not be “perfect” as it would have to take liberties.  That being said, I did not like it.  Of course, persons can make their own choices about how to discern and characterize the life of David! It is clear to me that my sense of who David was among the characters of the Bible, is different than Ms. Brooks.

Good Mourning by Elizabeth Meyer.  An enjoyable light read about a girl coming to terms with her life, and the lives (deaths) of very wealthy persons dying.  I learned some insider information about the funeral industry, though nothing too surprising.  In a trite way, I enjoyed this book.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in theCivil War by Karen Abbott.  I love books that cause me to rethink things/situations I “thought I knew.”  I’ve never claimed to be any kind of expert on the Civil War, though this book opened up my perspectives on how some women played truly key roles in ways I had simply never thought of before! Delightful to rethink and reframe my sense of history, and include new persons in the drama of what took place.

Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician bySandeep Jauhar.  Part biography, part critique of the systems in place for American M.D.s.  Of course I learned some new data, though I found the biographical aspects to be overbearing for what I was hoping to find in the book.

Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World'sStolen Treasures by Robert K. Wittman.  I enjoyed this book very much.  Again, perhaps because it caused me to think about entire groups of people who have lives I had never given really thought about.  I mean, in theory I know there are persons who are expert art thieves and in theory I know there are detectives who work these cases, but now I know so much more!

Forgiven: The Amish School Shooting, a Mother's Love, and aStory of Remarkable Grace  by TerriRoberts.  Terri’s son is the person who entrapped and then shot the Amish school children – primarily girl’s.  This is her story of forgiveness. While important and I’m “for” stories of forgiveness to move us . . . this one focused too much on Terri, was too redundant, and in a silly way, gave too much emphasis to her sun room. 

The Way of the Wise: Simple Truths for Living Well by Dr.Kevin Leman.  Trite stories that illustrate Biblical Wisdom.  The reviews by others far outweigh my sense of the importance of this book.

The Valley of the Shadow of Death: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption by Kermit Alexander.  This was an audio-book for me, as I covered quite a few hundred miles in the middle of the night.  For that purpose, it was fine.  I enjoyed the story overall, though the book could be 1/3 if not 1/ 2 shorter if redundancies were faithfully edited.  It was “too long.”

Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy byDonald Miller. I do not understand why people think Donald Miller is important and what he has to offer.  This book is about his needing to come to terms with his own failures in intimacy and his bedwetting childhood.  Really.

Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a PolygamousSect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs by ElissaWall.  Just about everything about polygamy and sister wives astounds me. Yet more, I am confounded by men marrying teens! Book was too long with redundancies, though intriguing to me in several ways.  I did not like and found it quite painful to read about the suffering and family problems Elissa and her family endured.

Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook inAmerica by Susan Campbell Bartoletti.  This book was simply intriguing.  I’d never given any thought to Typhoid Mary and I learned a lot about public health and health policy – and Typhoid fever and a slice of American history in this tale.

The End of the Rainbow: How Educating for Happiness—NotMoney—Would Transform Our Schools by Susan Engel.  A good read for persons engaged in Education, though the aim of this book is at the Elementary Level - and perhaps some Secondary schooling.  Engel tells stories of schools she has visited while offering some studies that validate her claims.  

The Power of Patience: How to Slow the Rush and Enjoy MoreHappiness, Success, and Peace of Mind Every Day by M.J. Ryan.  I barely had the patience to read this "book."  I probably skipped some chapters.  It's 2-3 page story after story about learning to be patient.  That's it.  Here's my summary.  Be Patient - sometimes stories prove it is a good thing.

Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar: How Self-Education and thePursuit of Passion Can Lead to a Lifetime by James Marcus Bach.  A high school drop-out who signed on early with Apple gives his principles on why education is not necessary and how you can let your own passion guide your life.  Perhaps this is a testimonial to what Dr. Ken Robinson would say is most urgent (?).  Not much here.

The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life YouWant by Sonja Lyubomirsky.  This book would be on par with the Positivity book I audio-read as "most compelling" for how it offered actual case studies and commentary on those to validate claims about how we can be happy.  With deliberate and clearly focused practices, undergirded by studies that validate each claim, this book offers practical ways to "be happy" in the life you lead. Of the many books I read on happiness in the past weeks, this is "the one" I'd come back to.  Though, as noted, I need to get my hands on the paper version of Positivity.

The Law of Happiness: How Spiritual Wisdom and ModernScience Can Change Your Life (The Secret Things of God) by Dr. Henry Cloud.  Read the Amazon.com reviews, and save yourself the time of reading the book.  I honestly have no idea why this book has so many 5 star reviews.  It was simple, and not scientifically based, truisms.

Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris. An atheist writes about the need for spirituality and mindfulness.  I was a bit taken back by some of Sam's observations and trite statements about religions, though, it was intriguing to read, too.  "In my view, the realistic goal to be attained through spiritual practice is not some permanent state of enlightenment that admits of no further efforts but a capacity to be free in this moment, in the midst of whatever is happening.  If you can do that, you have already solved most of the problems you will encounter in life" (page 49). Good, but this will not transform the social order unless we can get everyone to at peace in the hear-and-now, while also sharing the wealth of the world for all.

What Happy People Know: How the New Science of Happiness CanChange Your Life for the Better by Dan Baker & Cameron Stauth. Flip to page 256-257 and review their chart.  Anything that doesn't make sense to you, read about in the book, skip the rest.  It's "all" in the two page chart. If you've read anything on the study of happiness and the exploration of social/neuro-science issues with mindfulness/happiness/gratitude, this book will not be compelling.

How We Choose to Be Happy: The 9 Choices of Extremely HappyPeople--Their Secrets, Their Stories by Rick Foster & Greg Hicks.  I enjoyed the book.  A quick read overall.  A good mix of some research (little, but some) and some stories. The format of the book made for quick reading, as well as the simple concepts. `

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam M. Grant.  This book had inspiring stories, though I'm not sure that they demonstrate that they can be replicated. No real research backs up the claims that Mr. Grant makes, only some stories of experiences he has collected.  The book felt like a re-working of other concepts that could be read (and substantiated) elsewhere. Not compelling.

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson.  I had read this before, and of course, have come back to it.  Robinson's premise "rings true" with me, though it seems impractical and perhaps impossible for *every human.*  I love the idea that we should discover our passion and work within the frame of what drives us.  Unless you meet and read Robinson's work in your mid-teens to early 20's though . . . resetting one's life to find what he articulates can not be easy.  Further, some people (many people) may not be exceptionally good at anything, and many people may simply lack any passion whatsoever.

What Happy Companies Know: How the New Science of HappinessCan Change Your Company for the Better by Dan Baker.  I'm not sure I can faithfully say that I read this book, as much as I reviewed it.  The authors have essentially packaged a plethora of other studies on the themes of happiness and business.  There is no central "do this" but rather an encyclopedic collection of "any of these things" have worked for some companies.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink.  The central section of this book, Part Two: The Three Elements was good.  Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose are integral to our drive, our motivation, or ability to thrive.  People are no longer working in environment that help them to thrive, and they need more Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. Agreed.