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Showing posts from 2011

book report: No Simple Victory by Norman Davies (2006)

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I think Norman Davies has succeeded in his objective in this book, No Simple Victory, with this reader to show in this World War 2 tome that the western theater was a side show to the main theater in the USSR. Regarding Belarus and the western Ukraine he writes, They saw both the most intense warfare and the worst civilian horrors: the deportations, the Soviet and German occupations, the scourging of the Lebensraum and the Holocaust...They provided the ground over which the war's two biggest campaigns - Barbarossa and Bagration - were fought. It is no accident that Belarus lost a higher proportion of its civilian population than any other country in Europe, and that the Ukraine loast the highest absolute number. The history of these countries deserves to be better publicized. p. 20 Germany invaded the Ukraine years after Stalin committed genocide against that country with his induced famine there (my blog about that here). Germany also invaded after Stalin's great purge, when …

book report: D-Day: The Battle for Normandy by Beevor (2010)

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Anthony Beevor has given us WW2 history geeks another well-researched gift in Cover of D-Day: The Battle for NormandyD-Day: The Battle for Normandy. A few years ago, before I started writing these book reports I had read his tome, Stalingrad: The Fateful Seige, which was a tremendous read. Beevor has no kind words for the British General Bernard Montgomery. He is embarrassed with Monty's lack of initiative and decisiveness. He is frustrated with the fear of the landing craft captains who released their tanks and men too far from the shore in the rough surf resulting in unnecessary losses and deaths. He admires the American generals and respectful of the German generals who tried repeatedly to make Hitler's fantasy battle plans come true, despite their better judgment. The German army was the better army on the ground in Normandy. They had better weaponry, better soldiers, and better tactics but the Allies had more. They had more men, more bullets, more tanks, and more support …

enough with the Flat Earth myth

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This comes up so much, especially by people with an axe to grind against conservative Christianity, that I needed a link to permanently come back to, so I will point to the "Christianist" site, Wikipedia, Myth of the Flat Earth - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia . I appreciate the quote from the most belligerent "Christianist" Stephen J. Gould, "there never was a period of 'flat earth darkness' among scholars (regardless of how the public at large may have conceptualized our planet both then and now). Greek knowledge of sphericity never faded, and all major medieval scholars accepted the earth's roundness as an established fact of cosmology."

book report: December 1941 by Shirley (2011)

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Some people turn to fiction for a light literary snack, but my weakness is war history. and this book was just right for my sweet tooth. But this book is distinct from most of the other histories I read. Author Craig Shirley gives his readers the milieu of an historical event, in this book, the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th. For me anyway, it was fascinating to learn that the newspapers were still printing Hollywood gossip in addition to reporting on the battles raging around the world.
The book is organized simply, by each day of the month of December. Shirley brilliantly weaves the trivial and mundane with the politics and the sacrifices of soldiers and citizens alike. He provides sufficient background to the events on each day. The book ends before the war resolves, yet sets up all the obstacles and fear inducing losses in the Pacific. If one is unfamiliar with the 2nd World War, this book's focus on one month is a great foundation for understanding the Pacific Theate…

sex before marriage

Genesis 2:22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib and brought her to Adam. 23 "At last!" Adam exclaimed. "She is part of my own flesh and bone! She will be called 'woman,' because she was taken out of a man." 24 This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. 25 Now, although Adam and his wife were both naked, neither of them felt any shame. (NLT)
There is no proof text verse in the Bible that says "thou shalt not have pre-marital sex" although it does condemn extra-marital sex, AKA adultery, see the 10 commandments series and Exodus 20:14. Some contend that in the ancient near east, whoever you had intercourse with became, by default, your spouse. There are several examples of wedding ceremonies in Genesis that don't make it that simple, for God's people at least. I think it's because God's people knew this Garden of Eden story. The uniting is a gift from God. …

PTSD and the citizen soldier

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I watched Restrepo last night. It was very similar to the Danish documentary, Armadillo, Image via Wikipediawhich I watched last month. In between I read and reviewed here, What is it like to go to war by Karl Marlantes. I also witnessed a highway fatality for the first time in my life and my dear grandmother passed away. So I've been thinking about death lately. Restrepo got me writing on it.
Both films are the products of filmmakers embedded with squads in Afghanistan, caught in frequent firefights with the Taliban. Death visits both sides of the conflict and is documented on camera. One of the soldiers in Restrepo describes exactly the same phenomenom that Marlantes describes of the firefight "high", which Marlantes calls a transcendent state. The young soldier, without the decades of reflection afforded to the Vietnam veteran and author, can only say the firefight experience exceeds any other sensation one might have known. He doesn't quite grasp that his soul is …

bottle brick construction

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First Kelly Hart, at the earth bag building blog, posts a link to the bottle brick house in Africa. Then I found a BBC report on it. Eventually I ended up at Eco-Tec Soluciones Ambientales, which I think is the Latin American nexus of this technology. This video seems to explain how it started way back in 2000. My brain is exploding with excitement especially about applying this to Haiti, which has an abundance of trash water bottles all over Port-au-Prince.

book report: The Grace Effect by Taunton (2011)

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Larry Taunton's book, The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief (2011), sets in contrast his friendly conversations with New AtheistChristopher Hitchens about evil with his experience of evil as he tries to adopt a Ukrainian orphan with HIV. In a post-debate conversation with Hitchens about absolutes he posits Then it seems to me...that the question is this: which philosophies or religions restrain our darker impulses, and which ones exacerbate them? ... Christianity...begins with the premise that man is evil and that he needs to be saved from himself. Atheism, on the other hand, offers no compelling reason why I should not do precisely as I want to do. pp. 4, 5. I never thought about it from this angle so I was really intrigued how Taunton would develop this.
He tried to demonstrate it through his experience with the extremely corrupt Ukrainian government as he tried to adopt a young girl living in the awful conditions of an orphanage, whic…

instead of video campuses for growing churches...

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I am part of a growing church. Expansion on site might not result in much expansion after all. So the leaders are kicking around ideas on how to accommodate the growth. One idea that is in use with some mega churches is a multi-site model in which the sermon from the parent church is video recorded and either broadcast live or shown after a week's delay. It seems to work well for those big churches using it. My own experience is that of a regular attender to the overflow room where I watch a live video feed. Because I'm only a few footsteps away from the live venue, I don't feel disconnected from the main body, especially during the between service coffee and mingling time. But the overflow room is not too full, which is something I like. I also like I can get out of my seat without offending the speaker. So it works for me, but mostly because I enjoy less density and more freedom to move around, not really spiritual reasons.
A friend shared an article at the blog, the Gosp…

Perfectionism vs. Compassion in ministry

I don't know if my responses to the terrible experiences at Teen Mania described at Recovering Alumni deserve attention at their blog. But as I read Lacey's story I heard over and over again a focus on perfection, which is not realistic for a Christian group. Compassion, on the other hand, is. The prevailing culture based on one or the other can strengthen or devastate a believer, which honors or dishonors God. The following contrasts are in response to Lacey's experiences.
Perfectionism repeatedly tells people to suck it up. Compassion does not have a goal to be equally hard on all the kids.
Perfectionism demands attention from sleep deprived teens and humiliates them when they fall asleep by making them stand in their exhaustion. Compassion makes sure everyone has enough sleep and remains healthy. One beats the sheep, the other protects them.
Perfectionism demands rigid order: a tight line, the same pace, the same silence. Compassion is generous.
Perfectionism insists on one…

honoring marriage

I find a certain blogger provides good fodder to get my writing juices going. For some reason, Dr. Tony Jones, an adjunct theology professor at Fuller Seminary, who has demonstrated his dim view on marriage by refusing to legalize his union with his partner, quotes without comment, another culture watcher who asserts that marriage is not holy because quickie divorces desecrate the institution. The quotee may not be a Bible reader, but I expect Dr. Jones is. Here is what I read in Hebrews 13:4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Because some do not honor marriage, does not mean marriage is not honorable, nor sacred, for believers. In the same way, some gnu atheists have had fun desecrating communion hosts, sneaking into the service under the pretense of being a believer, then sneaking out, with the host, in order to post pictures of their attempt at desecration. This desecration did not …

if sexual ethics are not that big a deal...

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...then why do liberal Christians keep talking about it. Scott Paeth, a professor of religious studies at DePaul University, in a post called "sex for Christians", written in response to Tim Dalrymple's observations of carnality among Princeton seminarians, has a few things he wants Tim and his conservative ilk to know...sex is not a big dealconservative Christian ethics are irrelevantthere are bigger fish to fry (see #1)sex is a splinter that plank-eyed conservatives are picking atevery Christian is "of this world" in some way or otherit's too hard, good thing God has grace on us
Well, it's weird to discuss Christian ethics with a Christian who doesn't interact with the particulars of the Bible. I was thinking of the general reluctance to hearken to Paul among liberals when I read 2 Timothy a few weeks ago, and Paul tells him, Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel b…

book report: The end of Sexual Identity by Paris (2011)

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If you are straight and think gay people just need to get over it, this book might be for you. Dr. Jennell Williams Paris is an anthropology professor at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. She's straight, married, mother of 3, and teaches at a conservative Christian college BUT she's learned some things, like "it's complicated." More than that, she argues, the labels of gay and straight or hetero- and homo- don't convey the complication.Just because it's complicated does not mean that the author is arguing for gay marriage. Don't jump to conclusions. She doesn't, but do read this short book from IVP to get you thinking.

book reports: two memoirs by Vietnam veterans

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This summer I read Loon: A Marine Story by Jack McLean, when I went on a war history bender. Last week, when I brought my kids to the library, I have a bad habit of sitting on the floor in front of the history section of the "New Arrivals" and checked out What is it like to go to War by the fellow marine Karl Marlantes. I no longer have the books in hand, so I won't have long quotes, but both are terrifying and heart wrenching tales that point to the primary battlefield in a soldier's soul. Nate Self's account of his battle experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan in Two Wars, which I reviewed in the spring, also has many of the same overlapping themes. The biggest theme is the ongoing injury of the soul called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Both men suffered through it, as did their families. Both Vietnam vets are highly educated, McLean went to Harvard after his tour of duty (the first Vietnam vet). Marlantes left Oxford to go on his tour of duty. They write…

a better house than an earthship

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I think about many odd things on my bike ride. Yesterday, I was thinking about North Dakota. It's economy is smoking right now because of it's petroleum reserves. As a result, many people are moving there but are not finding enough housing. However, the climate is tough there. A good house there would be 1) quick to build, 2) easy to keep warm, 3) light filled in those long winters and 4) strong for tornadoes and blizzards and floods, (bonus points for no/low cost mortgage).

Earthbags could do all but 1, unless there was a big team of helpers. A Corganix shipping container/earthbag hybrid also suffers from slowness except for the utilities which come pre-installed. Earthships would also be slow. The earthships are low slung though which helps with high winds. They also are built with south facing green houses to capture passive solar heating and provide light. But this modified version, called the high thermal mass (HTM) home is even faster to build and promises even more ease …

If you don’t get married, it’s hard to get a divorce

This article If you don’t get married, it’s hard to get a divorce at The Washington Post highlights the very issues I've tried to raise in light of the concept of sacramental marriage recently practiced and promoted by emerging church ecclesiologist Dr. Tony Jones. As I argued before, and this article presents real life examples, that since he knows the fragility of the marriage relationship, the built in legalese of the marriage contract is a big help for the possible break up. Without the legal contract language of marriage, those in sacramental marriages could end up in awful situations like these after 20 years of unwedded bliss...

Luxenberg recalls one client who lived with her partner for 20 years. They’d had a child and built a home together. The woman’s income was about $50,000, Luxenberg says, and her boyfriend’s was “six or seven times that.” When the couple split, the woman hired Luxenberg to see what recourse she had. The answer: not much.

There would be child support, “…

a day to remember the european destruction of native americans

I keep telling my kids that today is not a holiday but an Italian pride day. Italians are proud of their brave sailor, Columbus, who found the new world. But I can't join in the celebration of the destruction of entire nations. I came across this article today about the process of reconciliation between white Christians and tribal nations in British Columbia and was moved deeply by this pastor's confession. "It must be hard for you," I said to the First Nations people, "to believe that salvation has come to my house when I refuse to repent of behavior that's harmed you deeply. It must be hard to believe the Bible and its Good News when white people have had it for so long but don't seem any better for it." If your self-righteous patriotism gets in the way of this confession please read up on information from my book reports on the book Mayflower (Indian enslavement and casualties) or on The last days of the Incas (uprising), or this report on 1491, …

book report: Moby Dick by Herman Melville

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This summer I came across a blog post suggesting that Moby Dick is an allegory of Herman Melville's struggle with God. I read Moby Dick over twenty years ago in high school and hardly remembered it. But it did fit into a different tack I'm taking on book selection. I want to read the older books, the longer books, the harder books and abstain from the conversation of the newer books. I want to read great books. Moby Dick is certainly old, long and hard, but I'm not sure it's great. Maybe I need to be older to see it's greatness. But I was intrigued by Sproul's blog post.
Sproul writes, If the whale embodies everything that is symbolized by whiteness — that which is terrifying; that which is pure; that which is excellent; that which is horrible and ghastly; that which is mysterious and incomprehensible — does he not embody those traits that are found in the fullness of the perfections in the being of God Himself?

Who can survive the pursuit of such a being if the …

Geoff's photobooth

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Geoff Gordon and I go way back, even many years before we were roommates in the infamous North campus dorm of UConn, aka the "Jungle" (queue up Axl Rose). He's done so many cool jobs since graduation and his current one is really cool. He owns 3 photobooths which he rents out for events like weddings. I was able to help him set up one of these beasts this summer. These are not camera and shower curtain gizmos. These are real steel. He, or one of his staff, stay at the booth making sure the equipment works well the entire time and helps guests glue their duplicate 3-photo strip into a memory book with their personal comments. I wish we had one of these at our wedding 17 years ago. Check out his business on facebook or at his blog, Photobooth Planet.

song lyrics to live by

I have a friend in California who is a singer and song writer. He's been releasing new music lately and explaining the back story to his songs. All these stories touch me, and push the lyrics deeper into my soul. So this is a shout out to Justin McRoberts and his music. But you need to go to his blog to read these stories. The one that absolutely slayed me was the one about his father. I only know a tiny bit more about the back story, but even without my extra knowledge, this song, 33, is so strong. How can it not be strong when it's about his personal overcoming of the dark shadow of his own father's suicide? It gives me so much hope.
Thanks Justin.
I've included the song video below.


33 from Justin McRoberts on Vimeo.

two books about narcissistic personality disorder

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I grew up in the orbits of close family members with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and developed abnormal views and expectations about relationships. I knew something was wrong, but could not figure out for decades what that thing was. I've sought counseling to figure out what was wrong with me or with my family members. The ethics of Christ, including his emphasis on forgiveness and forbearance, probably hindered my quest and my counselors input. But as serendipity would have it, while killing time in the local library, the cover story of a recent Psychology Today was about spotting a narcissist. I had explored the topic a bit before this article and had found information on this topic, but I still had not been empowered as a victim of narcissists. Narcissism is everywhere, and all of us have narcissistic tendencies, but I learned that someone who has NPD has no ability to distinguish between their selves and others. To someone with NPD, everyone around them is an exten…

book report: Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal about Spiritual Growth (2011)

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"Our work as leaders in the church is to help catalyze spiritual movement."
If you don't share this presupposition about church ministry, you might not benefit from this book. I presume this is the ministry philosophy of the pastors at Willow Creek, who commissioned this sociological study of a thousand (mostly in the United States) churches. The authors categorize church attenders in four buckets: those exploring Christ, those growing in Christ, those close to Christ, and those who are Christ-centered. This is a continuum of maturity or a progression of sanctification. The issues they look at in this most recent book in the Reveal series are about the values of each group, and what churches have found successful in catalyzing people along the continuum, and not letting people stay stuck in one bucket. Can the spiritual be easily reduced to formulas? Of course not, but there are common threads in churches full of people progressing to maturity as seen by their love for G…