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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Holiday Hashtags

Here's some odds and ends floating around in my head....

First of all, this Duck Dynasty thing is maddening on so many levels. For some good commentary, here is a thoughtful link: The Duck Thing: Is There Another Way?

More importantly, as I saw one person note on Facebook, why can't we get more upset about the many people dying in Syria and Sudan and QUIT TALKING ABOUT IDIOTIC, MEDIA-CREATED GARBAGE LIKE THIS?? The persecuted silently suffer, as they have for 2,000 years. Years ago at the Urbana Missions Conference, these words burned in me as I heard them, seemingly for the first time:

Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. (Hebrews 13:3)

Join me in praying with and supporting the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission as you plan your year-end giving (and then continue year-round...) #wearlc1

Next... I'm continuing to read Long Walk to Freedom, the 1994 autobiography of Nelson Mandela, and also anticipating the release of the new movie of the same title coming out on Christmas Day. I'm well aware that Nelson Mandela was not perfect, but his life is still a remarkable inspiration to me. To be a reconciler and a peacemaker is very hard work, and more discouraging than encouraging. Examples like his are tremendously motivating. I smiled when I read this quote from one Mandela's mentors (Chief Luthuli) last night, pertaining to women joining the fight against apartheid in 1957: "When the women begin to take an active part in the struggle, no power on earth can stop us from achieving freedom in our lifetime." Currently, I am equally spurred on to continue through reading Christena Cleveland's blog. Her recent post titled "Christmas is Cross-Cultural" is especially good. #cscleve

Third, I can't deny I am super-encouraged by the partnership we are continuing to build as Free Methodists in So Cal with Azusa Pacific University. There are far too many projects to list individually, but from internships to admissions to diversity to field education, we are deeply involved with and connected to students, faculty and administration at APU. At right is the recent photo taken where we publicly celebrated the new covenant established between APU and the Free Methodist Church in Southern CA (FMCSC), contained in the Center for Transformational Leadership (CTL). Jon Wallace, the president of APU, is standing in the middle (directly to the left of me). He is a gifted, supportive and visionary leader. CTL is a big part of my work these days (OK, for the last two years), and you can always feel free to ask me about it. I am pumped. #fmcsc (and we're about to launch #fmcsc_ctl)

From the sublime to the mundane.... finish with a good laugh here. (Skip the ad before the cartoon). Yes, there are too many cat videos on the interweb, but THIS is a good one. #simonscat

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Portable Magic

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” C. S. Lewis

Despite all of the advances in technology, I still find that reading a book is my favorite way to pass the time. I chose to be an English major in college because I could not imagine how fun it would be to have my actual job be to read! I will admit that being an English major on the quarter system at UCSB (as opposed to semesters) is not something I would care to repeat -- I still have occasional flashbacks about the quarter when I took two lit classes and had to read 17 books in ten weeks. Even still, I reveled in my major, and am thankful for the strong foundation of reading in Milton, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Blake, Homer, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Austen, Chaucer (among so many others) that was instilled in me. Further classes introduced me to Dante, Cervantes, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Camus, Weil, Kafka, Neruda, Marquez, Sartre... ah, those were the days.

Though the working life does not allow for that amount of reading anymore, I developed the habit back then of always working on a 2-3 books at a time. I spent much of the Thanksgiving holiday buried in reading, and look forward to even more of the same during Christmas break. Here are the ones I'm currently working on:

  • A Thomas Merton Reader. I stumbled on this at a used bookstore (how few of those there are any longer... boooooooo.....) During a trip in Italy a few years ago I brought The Seven Storey Mountain and developed a taste for Merton. While some of his writing is a little raggedy and I don't always agree with him spiritually, I find him to be an exciting and raw writer who challenges me in many ways. I especially love his stuff on the contemplative life, and let's be honest, his own story is a crazy and fascinating tale. Favorite quote so far: Sincerity in the fullest sense is a divine gift, a clarity of spirit that comes only with grace. Unless we are made “new men,” created according to God “in justice and the holiness of truth,” we cannot avoid some of the lying and double dealing which have become instinctive in our natures, corrupted, as St. Paul says, “according to the desire of error.” (Eph. 4:22)
  • Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. I bought this years ago at one of those Borders liquidation sales and have been saving it as a special treasure since then (OK, little digression: does anyone like owning books as much as reading them?!) Once "Madiba" took gravely ill, I vowed to pick it up and had been planning on burrowing in with it over Christmas break in preparation for the film coming out. Upon the news of his passing I knew I couldn't wait any longer, and picked it up last night. Before I knew it I'd read 60 pages. Get this book. Favorite quote so far: “A leader. . .is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.” 
  • Radical Reconciliation by Curtiss DeYoung and Alan Boesak. I heard DeYoung speak at the Mosaix 2013 conference in November and wanted to learn more from him. In my own journey of learning and practice in the realm of reconciliation in and through the church, this book is proving to be a tremendous and thought-provoking resource. Given that Boesak participated in the anti-apartheid fight, I'm finding some fascinating themes coming together in reading Mandela at the same time. I just finished a section on the story of Zacchaeus from Luke 19 that blew me away. Stretch your heart and mind and pick this up. (P.S. I'm reading this one on my Kindle -- yes, I've caved in to having an e-reader... I cannot deny how convenient it is, and as a person who lives in a condo, I have officially run out of room for more books.) Favorite quote so far: When genuine reconciliation takes place, it brings more than just individual salvation.

Admittedly, this is a rather serious-sounding list. I'm not one who tends to pick up the latest beach read (nothing wrong with that, just not what keeps my attention...) Never fear, I also love my Sunset, Vegetarian Times and New Yorker magazines, and I'm hoping to get the latest Malcolm Gladwell book for Christmas (hint hint). 

As I write this I am looking at the pile of unread books that await me when I finish up these three. How thankful I am that I never tire of having that pile in front of me. As Stephen King said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” I have been transformed, transported, and enchanted by reading. Feel free to share what books you are enjoying these days. Onward and upward!