Monday, August 27, 2018

End of Summer 2018

It’s the end of the Summer and as I have too many projects approaching with the start of the school  year - - the next comments will be too brief, and yet will capture the reading completed.


The Stranger: Barack Obama in the Whitehouse by Chuck Todd.  As Todd notes, it’s too early to write about the lasting effects of the Obama Presidency.  Still, this book pointed me to consider new aspects of the “person” of Obama and how who he is who he is, shaped his decisions, speeches, advocacy and  - ultimately in time we’ll fully discern, the legacy of his Presidency.

Thirteen Moons: A Novel by Charles Frazier.  I enjoyed this fiction.  It made me think about indigenous persons from America in new ways.  I’m not sure how to think on fiction, really.  It seems to me that I rarely read deeply compelling fiction (like that of Wendell Berry, for example.)  This was good, not great.  

Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart: A Buddhist Perspective on Wholeness by Mark Epstein.  I almost think I’ve read this before.  (I had to look, to be honest.)  The book follows the scope of what the publisher states. Epstein "shows us that happiness doesn't come from any kind of acquisitiveness, be it material or psychological. Happiness comes from letting go. Weaving together the accumulated wisdom of his two worlds--Buddhism and Western psychotherapy--Epstein shows how 'the happiness that we seek depends on our ability to balance the ego's need to do with our inherent capacity to be.' He encourages us to relax the ever-vigilant mind in order to experience the freedom that comes only from relinquishing control. Drawing on events in his own life and stories from his patients, Going to Pieces  Without Falling Apart teaches us that only by letting go can we start on the path to a more peaceful and spiritually satisfying life." (From Amazon listing.) It was a good read.  I’m 50/50 on whether or not I should read it again, though I think I will recommend it to others.

The AUDIO lecture - Grasping God’s Word: A Hands On Approach to Reading, Intepreting and Applying God's Word by  J. Scott Duvall.  It was the early 2000's that ‘Grasping God’s Word” was emerging as “the book” “all Baptists” (in my experience) were using in every church.   Squarely within my metier, and that is likely the reason I found the content dull and boring - it was ‘too basic’ for me and simply was not “lively” nor entertaining” nor “compelling” in what it presented.

Short Stories: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi by Jesus by Amy Jill-Levine.  I very much enjoyed the depth of engagement the Jewish-Christian Scholar gave to the parables (and other proclamation) of Jesus.  One of the most significant classes I took in all my Masters or Ph.D. work was a class entitled The Parables of Jesus.  It is a specific class where I remember nearly every class session, including my class colleagues.  This book reminded me of that class, contained some of the same data, and yet provoked me to consider yet other interpretive perspectives from and in the Parables.  I started it - and had to return it to the library before I had time to finish it.   I considered purchasing it - and then checked it out again from the library to finish it, instead.  I may yet purchase it and re-read it.  I rarely do that with library books though, of course, routinely read within OT/Hebrew Bible and some Peace or Psychology texts.  This one, I’ll likely own soon - and use/read again - for preaching.

The Only Girl in the World: A Memoir by Maude Julien.  When I started reading this book, I had not remembered where/how it had come to my awareness.  I was several chapters in when I found things too unbelievable to be worth finishing the fiction.  And yet, I decided I needed to remember why I had picked up this book - and I was astounded to be reminded (told?) that it was not fiction - and this was an auto-biographical account.  I re-read book reviews on the book - much to the praise of the book.  I opted not to finish it.  Perhaps - and so it seems - it seemed fictional to me as the over-bearing-tyrannical and abusive rule (role) of her father seemed unbelievable.  I do acknowledge that I can not understand that and it seems, it “felt” too unreal to me - and yet, I’ll note that I still think there were unbelievable (inconsistent) aspects to the abusive father  - and - a few phrases used by Julien to narrate her story were, in fact, anachronistic I double checked some phrases she used and this led me to think the story must certainly be fictional.  The book is popular - I did not find it worth reading through to it’s end.

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Having read a powerful and compelling work by Coates in recent months - I was intrigued to read this.  I found some of the chapters compelling, but overall, not enough of them were compelling to keep my interest.

I don’t remember how many years ago (was I a teen?) when I read about Shackleton and his epic antarctic journey. This book picked up with stories of Shackleton and others - as they tried to discern their way across the arctic.  An Empire of Ice:  Scott, Shackleton and the Heroine Age of Antarctic Science by Edward J. Larson.  The story weaved science and history, narratives of exploration and the persons who were behind the exploits.  The book gave attention to persons  though it also framed their exploits and discoveries and progress rooted in the scientific discoveries and social and geographical contexts of their lives.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

101 Tips for Your Productivity!

Different persons find that they need to organize their lives differently.

We can all benefit from "tips and tricks" to be more efficient and intentional with our time!  This is true for scheduling assignments in courses - and is true for all kinds of professional (and pastoral !) work.

In my experience, pastors are some of the most inefficient persons I have worked with.  (Mind you, I realize some pastoral work, by it's very nature, is "not efficient"  - as a pastor does not want to rush a hospital call and a pastor should not hurry a grief counseling sessions!!)

This 101 Time Management is excellent.  I have used several of these in different times of my life.  I DO use a few of these (everyday!!).  And a few were new to me.

You *can't* use every one of these! Though, you could find one or two to try - and then another one or two to try - until you can find better ways to structure your days and your weeks for your success in coursework, pastoral work, and any professional pursuits you seek to accomplish.

  • "Scheduling around your time" ( #5 on this list) is something I learned personally more than 15 years ago and when I realized I should do work when *I* am at my best, and not when societal norms and conventions tell me I should be "busy," I was able to finish my dissertation and then write my first book.
  • The "Pomodoro Technique" ( #26 on this list)  is one I use and have shared for years  with students who are engaging research on library projects! 

I could list other examples from this list that have decisively and directly impacted my productivity by giving me a tool and "method" to achieve greater success.  

I am 100% confident a few of these practices 
will help you to be more productive. 

Private link to archived DUPLICATE data.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Troubling reading in 2018

Many of my my readings in late 2017 and now 2018 have left me deeply troubled.  The framework within which early settlers in America and the government cheated, lied to and annihilated indigenous persons has been deeply troubling to me.  Certainly, I’d read of it in the past - but the detailed descriptions in the books below left me astounded by the treachery of advancing white men - their lies and genocide.

Equally, I thought often on MLK’s “I have a Dream” Speech where he noted that it was “our labour that made cotton King” as I read yet more on the historical trauma and capitalistic gains - for some - on the backs of Blacks brought forcibly to America (and much of the rest of the world.)

These accounts are deeply, deeply troubling to me.

I feel the need to repent of them and seek restitution, even though I did nothing wrong, I am the recipient of the privilege that was created.  I am thankful for my deeply intentional and abiding intentional love for black persons in my life - our daughter and my intentional commitment to worship with the Black congregation of a former student and deeply loved friend in his Black Church . . . and yet, it is not enough - not even close to enough to make right the wrongs wrought on the backs of his forebears.  

Additionally, a few accounts of forced Christianization of persons, has left me disgruntled with past practices of forced cultural assimilation and supercessionism, given under the guise of Christian evangelical care.

Separately -in late 2017 and now 2018 I have read a few astounding books in and on the sciences.  One I’ll recount here makes me want to, quite literally, seek a degree in Quantum Physics.  Fascinating.

I’ll note here, too - I’m beginning to wonder if I should create a list of books I started - and intentionally stopped reading.  My blog record here is mainly to capture things so I have some recollection of names of books for when I want to share ideas with someone - or remember a few key issues for books I want to come back to read.  However, I’ve had many books in the past months that I have started - that were “worthless” and I made it just pages or chapters in before opting to stop reading.  Perhaps I should list these merely as “Throw-Aways” or something - simply as archival record, too


The Heathen School:  A story of hope and betrayal in the age of the early republic by John Demos.  Well worth reading and almost ranks as a book worthy of a 2nd read, but not quite.  The book calls the reader to learn about and then question any faithful (whether or not is was faithful) work of persons in the 1800s and 1900s to establish “education” and “mission” (forced evangelical education) on persons of many indigenous people groups around the world, by White American and British persons. Some intriguing history of the Sandwich Islands, Hawaii, in particular.

Life on the Edge: The Coming Age of Quantum Biology by Johnjoe McFadden.  Absolutely stunning in its clear descriptions and connections for what we know about - and can and can not understand - about the Quantam world and how it shapes everything.  Numerous analogies and ways of explaining complex features were made accessible for persons like me (and I consider myself well-versed in Science).  I am astounded, truly, about what I learned - about what we (Scientists) do and do not know and the mystery of the world in which we live. That live exists - that species/animals/DNA/photosynthesis/Quantam Plants works and with such intricacy - is truly, nothing short of amazing.  Amazing. Amazing.  A GREAT read.

Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazi's in Vichy France by Caroline Moorehead.  I did not like the way this book started, as Caroline spoke ill of one of the books in my, perhaps Top 20, for shaping my life.  She starts by downplaying the roles of Andre & Magda Trocme’, Eduard Theiss, and the people of Le Chambon Sur Lignon as not being “that important” (my words) and many others were involved in saving Jews in France during WWII.  That aside, this book was a wonderful addition to my awareness of innumerable events and persons that shaped the resistance and peace-love-care of Jews in France doing WWII and the Vichy Republic in ways that was illuminating.  I learned much and valued the book greatly.

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward Baptist.  This book was deeply significant to me.  Very, very important.  Noting that, I wish it would have been condensed and contained fewer facts.  I wish there were an abbreviated version of the book both for me - and FOR OTHERS - who may not want (be able/willing) to read the depth of research engaged here by Baptist.  I learned so much - about persons, dates, history, times, names - and the experience of Black persons during their enslavements.  Historical accounts and quotes flavored the book  - actual data of the registers/account books and tracking of financial data in many ways, with many persons were listed.  One particular chapter that started with the use of f**king the mud and others was “awful” and yet, I will not forget for what is recounted.  This book has shaped me to be a different person - as I was deeply troubled by so many features of what I learned.  I must read it again, though I wish for some more accessible book - both for me and for others - as I will recommend this book, certainly will do so.  And yet, I wish I did not know that which I know from this book.  My sense of who I am and why America is troubled and why race issues are urgent and complex is deeply shaped in new ways after reading this book.

An Indigenous People’s History of the United States:  by Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz.    I started this book late in 2017 - had to return it to the library and wait weeks to get it again - though I had to finish it. The last few chapters that moved on to other places of American colonization not in North America was “less interesting” to me and “felt a bit off topic” to the many other chapters, though I agree with the author that they were fitting to the overall scope of the books topic.  In the chapters, Dunbar-Ortiz narrates how early American settlers and then the American Government and various persons and numerous failed treaties and explicit exploitation and theft/deceit/lies laid siege to the lands of the indigenous persons of America/Mexico.  I am embarrassed and ashamed by what I learned about the history of political exploitation.  The Doctrine of Discovery astounds and upsets me in ways I can not quite fully articulate.  I am the recipient of its privilege, no doubt, and yet, I’m not entirely sure how to repent now of the - nor disjoint myself from - who I am and where I have been.  We annihilated indigenous persons - their culture, their ways of life, their history, their beauty.  It’s deeply, deeply troubling.  

Carnegie’s Maid: A Novel by Marie Benedict.  Enjoyable Historical Fiction.  Captivating *enough* to keep me invested . . . though I had to ponder the probability of many of the imagined scenes/plotlines.  It did cause me to think new about the emerging Victorian class of wealth in America - and - pause to consider new realities about the Carnegie family that I’d never considered (as the Carnegies were not that intriguing to me.)  I wished it were closer on par to Empty Mansions which I still find intriguing from reading 1-2 years ago.

Losing Our Way: An intimate portrait of troubled America by Bob Herbert.  Good. Not great.  Given that this book was in the same thought space as other recent books I’ve read  - especially (though this was different from) Fantasyland, this book was important to me.  Nothing profound.

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% happier How-To Book  by Dan Harris.  Another good “introductory book” for those wanting to think about and explore meditation/mindfulness.  A good “primer” with good stories and “invitational” in great ways.  Well done.  

Empire of the Summer Moon:  Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne.  This book was in harmony with others I’ve read in the past year or two - chronicling not just the life of Quanah, yet more, his “white” kidnapped in her childhood mother. So many tales and geographic issues from the region of Texas, portions of Oklahoma, New Mexico and Colorado.  Palo Duro Canyon figured into the story several times - and I was audio reading the book as I drove to/from Oklahoma and Colorado.  I remain appalled at the depravity with which Whites dealt with the first Americans, though, this story narrated the equally appalling actions of the Indians.  Historical data about Buffalo hunting, ethnographic details about persons, families, winters, animal tanning, hunting and many features permeated the narrative.  A great book though one that makes me sad, too.

Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire by Andrea Stuart. The author combined her family story of many generations both slaves, owners, and mulatto from Barbados - tracking as well the history of the rise “and fall” of sugar cane. Horrible stories of control of slaves, and yet intriguing tales of the financial issues involved in the rise of sugar as a marketable product. The means by which Sugar Cane was harvested, itself, prove intriguing to me.  The means by which the author was able to tell uniquely *her* family history - and trace her genealogy - while also narrating the industry, trade, power and wealth engaged with sugar provided a compelling read.