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Category Archives: Books

what I’m reading: Moonwalking with Einstein

Once upon a time, memory was at the root of all culture, but over the last thirty millennia since humans began painting their memories on cave walls, we’ve gradually supplanted our own natural memory with a vast superstructure of external memory aids – a process that has sped up exponentially in recent years. 

Imagine waking up tomorrow and discovering that all the world’s ink had become invisible and all our bytes had disappeared. Our world would immediately crumble. Literature, music, law, politics, science, math:
Our culture is an edifice built of externalized memories.

So good, this.

O for the rebuilding of the internalized palace of living, breathing memory! Before the bytes disappear…

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Posted by on December 4, 2015 in Books, Quotes, Uncategorized

 

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palate touching moments

Go for a slow and mindful walk.the-parents-tao-te-ching-ancient-advice-for-modern-parents-a-new-interpretation_2816976
Show them every little thing that catches your
eye.
Notice every little thing that catches theirs.
Don’t look for lessons or seek to teach great
things.
Just notice.
The lesson will teach itself.

Love this piece of parenting advice from The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents by William Martin.

Yes.
I was far too fast as a parent.
Far too fast.
Lessons, I think, were too much like frontal assaults. They tended to suffer from the same sledgehammer effect that afflicts most attempts at movie-making by Christians.
We’re far too explicit, far too direct.
It’s the art of the oblique, the indirect. Ehud parenting. Left-handed, minus the dagger.

“Train up a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

More proverbial, ancient eastern wisdom – though our English translation conceals the beauty and simplicity.

“Train” conjures up the instruction regarding facts and procedures; external principles being transferred through classroom impartations, when the metaphor employed by the proverb is much more primal and intimate. It is the mother touching the palate of the child she would wean by sharing whatever she happens to be chewing. There was no “Weaning 101” class where the child was taught the value and necessity of leaving the breast for the brisket. There was only the seeking out and utilizing of natural palate touching moments, of sharing what was being chewed and in so doing shaping tastes that would not only draw the child from teat to table, but would shape appetites that would last a lifetime.

This extends far beyond the weaning of a child. It reaches all meaningful relationships. It informs (or should inform) all mentoring walks, for they should be just that, mentoring walks. Slow and mindful. No desire to teach great things is here. The best mentor is the one who isn’t trying to be one. The best mentoring sessions are the ones that are anything but that.

Palate touching.

This is at the heart of parenting, of mentoring, of friendship.
The sharing of what I happen to be chewing upon at the moment, of the little things that are catching my eye.

This, of course, implies that we are, in fact, chewing on something – and that it’s something worth sharing.
It implies that we are walking slowly enough to notice the little things.

And that we are moving slowly enough, and closely enough, to do the sharing…

courtesy of Henry Moore

courtesy of Henry Moore

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2015 in Books, haverings

 

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in praise of slow

A friend shared this from Rabbi David Wolpe (and I do believe I have a crush on the rabbi) on the Jewish holiday Sukkot:

All of us acknowledge how we rush the moments. If the computer lags for seconds, it feels endless as an insomniac waiting vainly for sleep. If our flight, traversing thousands and thousands of miles, is an hour late, we complain as if the sun refused to rise. We are not even minute men, but nanosecond men and women, splitting the day into innumerable microdrops of time. We do not merely fail to look at things under the aspect of eternity, we can rarely stretch our vision past the next moment.

Thankfully, there is Sukkot. During this holiday we read the book of Kohelet, Ecclesiastes. Kohelet reminds us that there is a “time for everything under heaven.” In the famous third chapter we are told that there is a time for living, for dying, for laughing, for weeping. We think ourselves masters of time but the true artistry of life is to live fully in time’s passing.

You would do well to read the whole article.
I was struck by two things.
First, that a Jewish rabbi gets it.
Okay, it shouldn’t be an epiphany that a Jewish rabbi gets it, especially when it comes to getting his own holiday. It’s just that the contrast with so much of the hysteria in Christian circles with the convergence of Sukkot, blood moons, and papal visits has been astounding. A holiday that leads too many to frenzied fears of what might happen at any moment as they look away to the uncertain future leads another to an embracing of the simple rhythms of life in which we find the “true artistry of living fully in time’s passing.”

It makes me want to convert to Judaism. Oy!

Second. The dovetailing of this article with the book I’m   s l o w l y   reading: In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honoré. The book was written ten years ago, but is more relevant than ever. Honoré observes:US-cover-200x300

As we go on accelerating, our relationship with time grows ever more fraught and dysfunctional. Any medical textbook will tell you that a microscopic obsession with detail is a classic symptom of neurosis. The relentless drive to shave time into ever smaller pieces – it takes five hundred nanoseconds to snap your fingers, by the way – makes us more aware of its passage, more eager to make the most of it, more neurotic.

The very nature of time seems to have changed, too. In the old days, the Bible taught that “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven” – a time to be born, to die, to heal, to weep, to laugh, to love and so on. In Don Quixote, Cervantes noted that “Que no son todos los tiempos unos” – not all times are the same. In a 24/7 world, however, all time is the same; we pay bills on Saturday, shop on Sunday, take the laptop to bed, work through the night, tuck into all-day breakfasts. We mock the seasons by eating imported strawberries in the middle of winter and hot cross buns, once an Easter treat, all year round. With cellphones, Blackberrys, pagers, and the Internet, everyone and everything is now permanently available.

Honoré’s evaluation of Christianity’s effect on us, our time, and our acceleration?

“Christianity piles on pressure to put every moment to good use.”

How sad.

Followers of Jesus should be at the forefront of a counterculture “in praise of slowness,” but all we seem to manage to do is to spin the not-so-merry-go-round that everyone else is riding, pushing faster and faster. Time is short, after all. Behold the blood moons…

But maybe, just maybe, this is not what “redeem the time” means.

“Make it your ambition to be quiet,” says Paul.
Quiet = sedate, tranquil, restful – used of those not running hither and thither.

Methinks we have some rethinking to do…

Courtesy fatboyke (Luc)

Courtesy fatboyke (Luc)

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2015 in Books, haverings

 

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Strange Glory (a book review, of sorts)

My latest read.Strange Glory
Charles Marsh’s A Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

It was Eric Metaxas’ tome that served as my first real introduction to the story of Bonhoeffer, so I hadn’t imagined needing to read another biography, Metaxas covered the ground so well, his book almost reading like a devotional for me at times.

But then I saw this title and Speakeasy sent me a copy to read and review.

Yes. There is room for another biography.

I still love Metaxas’ work, but Marsh in his lively and meticulously researched book showed me refracted views of Bonhoeffer’s story and character that I hadn’t seen. In many ways I felt as if I was meeting Bonhoeffer anew, and he’s always worth meeting, so the book richly repaid each moment spent. And as a bonus, Marsh sent me frequently to the dictionary to dig into words that are either new acquaintances or ones that I’ve met and quite forgotten. I know this may not be a selling point for all too many of us. But it should be. We need a rekindled love affair with words!

Musing on the refracted views I mentioned – I was reminded of this comment by Joshua Shenk about histories and biographies and how when we tell the truth of them we invariably “tell it slant” to use Dickinson’s phrase:

Historians must choose interpretative frameworks. And in this they are inexorably subject to the fancies and suppositions of the times they live in. As times change, so do popular dogmas and curiosities. Therefore our approach to history changes as well. This is not to say that history is merely subjective, but that objective and subjective realities interact to create a foundation of accepted truth. “What happens over and over,” J. G. Randall wrote in 1945, introducing the first volume of his biography Lincoln the President, “is that a certain idea gets started in association with an event or figure. It is repeated by speakers and editors. It soon becomes a part of that superficial aggregation of concepts that goes under the heading ‘what everybody knows.’ It may take decades before a stock picture is even questioned as to its validity.”

Joshua Wolf Shenk, Lincoln’s Melancholy

I suppose what I feel Marsh has done with Bonhoeffer is taking what for me was a bit of a stock picture and giving it some helpful dimensions that have helped me to better “behold the man.”

And with such a man and story as Bonhoeffer, that is a true gift.

Take and read.

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Posted by on August 8, 2015 in Books

 

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book review (of sorts): A More Christlike God by Brad Jersak

A More Christlike God SnippetIs it that I’m just getting lazy, or am I pasting a picture of highlighted text rather than transcribing it because I want to lure you into picking up a copy of Brad Jersak’s book A More Christlike God and marking it up like I have been doing? When I saw A More Christlike God come up on Speakeasy’s menu of books inviting me to read and review, I just couldn’t resist the title.

Normally I don’t bite at such offers of “we’ll send you a free copy and you review in x number of days” because, well, I like to read what I want to read when I want to read just because I do. But the title got me. Then Jersak’s bio got me. The book did not disappoint.

It’s a thinking book, but not overly chewy. But it’s chewy enough that I didn’t want to plow through it to meet a deadline. I wanted to savor. And I have. Which is why this review is two days late. I just couldn’t rush the read for the simple reason I didn’t want to. But then I’m a theology geek.
Theology/Philosophy geeks, meet Brad Jersak. Take a spin through his latest book.

If you wonder about the seeming disparity between the Father and the Son when it comes to anger issues;
If you struggle with the theme and graphic instances of Divine violence in either part of the Book;
If you’re turned off by a weak Jesus that anyone can beat up in favor of the conquering, William Wallace* kind of Christ – or vice versa;
If you’ve spent more than your share of time grappling with the idea of God and the fact of suffering in this world;
If you’re a thinker who can handle some alternative ways of looking at God and Scripture to alternately stretch and/or infuriate/delight you;
If you’re a major theology geek and “too much theology” is simply not a phrase that would ever be heard passing through your lips;

Then you should be right at home with A More Christlike God.more Christlike God

“Behold the kindness and the severity of God,” says Paul. It seems we tend to lean either into the one or the other, emphasizing kindness while downplaying the severity, or vice versa. Yet while we can call attention to Divine violence glimpsed in Christ in the Gospels (after all, he did curse a barren fig tree and drown a thousand pigs!), such incidents provide a curious counterpoint to what is clearly on display front and center in Jesus: he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil. Yes, he overturned tables in the temple once. Okay, maybe twice. Yes, he cursed a tree. Yes, he decried the religious elite of the day as hypocrites and the temple as a den of thieves. But it is his merciful touch and presence that dominates the landscape – all under the shadow of the cross that serves as the focal point of his life and of the Gospel that he birthed through it. This is Jersak territory.

Clearly, God has layers. And so does Christ.
Oniony God.
Thank you, Brad, for your refreshing A More Christlike God exploration through the layers.

Take and read.

how-to-write-a-book-report

* Years ago after returning from a mission trip to Scotland, someone asked me if I thought God approved of William Wallace’s approach to dealing with injustice. “It depends…” I said, adding after a profound pause, “…on which Testament you happen to be leaning into.” I also could have said it depends on which Joshua we are trying to follow: the one in the Old Testament book of the same name who went about wiping out the Canaanites by Divine fiat, or the one we read about in the Gospels who shared some crumbs of mercy from the Divine table with a desperate Canaanite woman. Yeah. Jersak’s book is kinda like that

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2015 in Books

 

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a book review (of sorts)…David: The Divided Heart

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 4.24.24 PMMy friend Gina shot me a link to Rabbi David Wolpe’s latest book David: The Divided Heart. I’ve read snippets from Rabbi Wolpe, but never followed his thought through a book.

Glad I listened to Gina.

There’s something to be said for reading outside the lines of our faith and fellowship, outside of our cultural, social and political orbits. One way of doing that is reading old books. Another is reading books by someone coming from a truly different perspective. Perhaps the best of both worlds is occasionally reading something that is both! (Which is perhaps why I spend so much time in Jewish Scripture, ha!)

In this case, considering a Jewish Rabbi writing about a pivotal Jewish ancestor, one might think his perspective might indeed shed some light on that of relative newbie Christian observers looking over their Jewish neighbor’s fence. And so it does.

At any rate, I read half the book in one afternoon’s brief sitting.
It floweth…

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yes! within me. within others. yes.

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you know any book using the word “tendentiousness” is going to be awesome.

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this one left my mouth agape. what an observation!

There will be things that you’ve seen and heard before, sure, but there were enough fresh insights from the biblical text to make me giddy – and to keep going. Perhaps one of the best compliments that can be extended to any book is that you’re sorry when it’s over.

And so I was.

Take and read.

how-to-write-a-book-report

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2015 in Books

 

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alternative medicine

Brought this in for a friend.alternative medicine
Can’t carry it in the bookstore.
Language issues, among other things,
the kind you hear in hospital corridors
and church parking lots
or wherever else
I find people leaking
pain.

Alternative Medicine by “celebrated physician-poet” Rafael Campo.
His sixth collection of poetry.
Examining the primal relationship between language, empathy
and healing;
the balm of song
the salve of imagination.

Good medicine. Hard medicine.
Who would have thought:
Poetry can hurt and heal at the same time.

Primary Care

the-book-thief-1

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2015 in Books, Poetry

 

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