Showing posts from March, 2012

current bike crush: Dynamic Runabout

Before Pinterest existed, I had (and still have) this place, the Umblog to post pictures of bikes I want. Look under the biking category. Here's one, the Dynamic step-through Runabout Easy Step 7. I like that it uses a drive shaft instead of a chain and that it's sold from Bristol, Rhode Island, not that far from me. BTW, this is not a women's bike, it's a "step through" for people who don't feel the need to swing a leg to prove their masculinity.

The UmBlog's 7th anniversary just came and went

It started March 24th, 2005 with a post on the purposes of this blog. Now at 2111 posts later, I'm one of the endurance bloggers, where are my big paychecks?

book response: Journeys of Faith by Plummer, Ed. 2012

I happen to follow Francis Beckwith's blog, Return to Rome, at Patheos, and he posted that a new book he contributed to was coming out, Journeys of Faith, an irenic dialog between those who switched from Baptistic, non-liturgical American Evangelicalism to a liturgical branch of Christianity and those who are firmly in the evangelistic quarter by personal conversion or transfer. I immediately asked Zondervan for a review copy, and they were kind enough to send me one.

The first story is Wilbur Ellsworth's journey to Eastern Orthodoxy. The second story is Beckwith's journey back to Roman Catholicism. The third story is Chris Castaldo's journey from Catholicism to evangelicalism. And the last story is Lyle Dorsett's into Anglicanism. Each writer tells their story, explaining and sometimes defending why they left their former group and entered their current place, then a response is made pointing to the complicated parts, typically not mentioned in the original story,…

book response: Growing up Amish by Wagler (2011)

Last year we took a family vacation in Lancaster County about the same time this book, Growing up Amish by Ira Wagler, came up as a pre-pub review option. I heartily recommend the Old Summer House we stayed at, and I was so intrigued by the culture we visited that I really wanted to get into this book back then. But I was too late, all available copies were claimed, and I put the book on my Amazon wish list. But I didn't get to it until it recently showed up on sale on Amazon's Top 100 Kindle titles. I'm glad I did.

Ira Wagler is not a Lancaster Amish but was born in Canada, to an Old Order Amish family that had relocated from an Indiana Amish town. He enjoyed his childhood, but not the religious cultural restrictions. His older siblings also had difficulties and left the community to the shame of his father, an influential writer in Amish circles. So he relocated the family again to another community in Iowa. But the change in scenery, did not address the heart issues. Ir…

book response: Ordinary Men by Browning (1992)

Christopher Browning sought to find out how the Germans turned into genocidal mass murderers in World War 2. He used as his sample set the post-war testimonies given by men of the Reserve Police Battalion 101 out of
Cover via AmazonHamburg and placed them against the back drop of official Nazi records of the time. These guys were "ordinary men," who had signed up as a reserve policeman either before the war or to stay out of the war. They just wanted to stick around Hamburg and work there, but like our National Guard, they were needed in Poland, behind the lines, not in combat with the Red Army, to prepare Poland for the expansion of Germany in it's blood purity. Eventually, over the next 16 months, all the men participated in mass murder, facilitating Himmler's Final Solution. Directly, the 500 men of this reserve police battalion, shot to death at least 38,000 Jews. (For all the Holocaust deniers out there, this number is from the Nazi's own records.) Indirectly…

book response: False Economy by Beattie (2009)

I know nothing about economics, but the topic floods the airwaves. I figured I need to learn something about this critical topic, so I went to the library and found this available for my Kindle. Alan Beattie is the
Cover via Amazon International Economy Editor of the Financial Times. I am finding that I really enjoy books written by journalists. The crucible of the daily deadline tends to refine the art of writing. I also enjoy books that are historical. The subtitle of False Economy is "A surprising economic history of the world."

I enjoyed the amoral perspective of an economist. Every social decision is viewed through the effect onto accounting. He only condemns poor business decisions, not human rights violations. I admit, I'm jealous of the liberation that perspective brings from melancholy. Of course, poor business decisions do diminish the quality of life of entire nations. Maybe the melancholy is over the collective instead of the individuals.

Regarding an alternat…

book response: The Kindness of Strangers by McIntyre (1996)

Sometimes readers who spend too much time learning about genocides need a break with something light, humorous, quick but also well-written. Mike McIntyre's travelogue fits the bill. In fact, the bill was even better because it was on the Kindle's free list, though not anymore, sorry. This isn't the meatier cross country travelogue like Steinbeck's, but an enjoyable one nevertheless. McIntyre is a journalist, a profession that usually delivers good writing, and he doesn't fail to deliver. He has a mid-life crisis near 40, and decides to hitchhike across the country from San Francisco to Cape Fear, NC without a penny (or plastic or cell phone) in his pocket. It's in flyover country that he meets his most interesting and generous patrons. This Christian blogger was fascinated with his repeated encounters with born again Christians who kept trying to ensure he was on his way to heaven by believing in Jesus. Those weren't the only people he met, but there were …

book response: Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Marquez (1981)

Gabriel Garcia Marquez won the Noble Prize in Literature in 1982 for the sum of his works only a year after his novella Chronicle of a Death Foretold. In my limited experience with fiction, I heard echoes of Edgar Allen Poe's first person narrative horror mysteries. There is no mystery in this story though, but there is horror. One of the horrors is the small town hypocrisy that permits young men to fulfill their lusts, but any young women who do likewise bring shame on their family, a shame that seeks retribution by honor killing. One of the many ironies in the book is that it is the Latins who perform the honor killing against an Arab. The author also condemns the rash decision to murder by contrasting the findings of the narrator over a decade later, finding that the accusation by one woman, was enough to bring judgment, though the victim was known for his Romeo ways. Most of the town served as a jury in Santiago Nasar's "trial," also agreeing with the decision of…

the American church's anti-creedal creed

When I read this statement of faith, I felt I stumbled upon the "creed" my more liberal Christian siblings seem to believe in deed if not in creed,
Historically, ******** has always taught that deeds matter more than creeds; that the quality of our lives counts for more than the “correctness” of our beliefs. In keeping with these principles the ***** states that “integrity of life” and “free thought” shall be the Society’s first aim, as together we seek to promote “truth, righteousness, reverence and charity among all.” Although ******** in general and First ******* in particular have changed a great deal since the late 19th century, these principles still are central to our identity. We are a freedom loving, justice seeking people with wide-ranging interests and universal sympathies. We draw from many sources -- ancient and modern, East and West – for inspiration, and we trust that inner harmony will lead to ethical action. There is so much that is nice in this church&…

book response: Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder (2010)

If you are not a melancholic person like myself, you might not “enjoy” this book, because only a 
Image via Wikipediamelancholic person can “enjoy” the depression brought on by a history of Eastern European genocide. Timothy Snyder writes Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, about the hyperbolic topic of the murder of fourteen million people without supplementing the inherent tragedy of the history sensationalistic writing. Although he weaves the story together with deftness, bringing clarity and, at times, poignancy, he stays out of the story’s way. Only a fool would try to bring attention to himself before something already so immense. Snyder is no such fool.

In my recent reading on the 2nd World War I’ve been stepping out of my America first perspective on it, and looking at the Eastern Front, where we provided materiel, but not the bodies. This book looks back a decade before the German invasion of the USSR to examine the horror Stalin previously wrought there. He writes,


not every tool in the toolbox is a hammer

Tonight, in the high school Bible reading group, we read John 16.
v.12 "I still have many things to tell you, but you can't handle them now."
Out of the 12 guys Jesus had been investing in for 3 years, one betrays him, and three leave written messages for the future of the church, Matthew, Peter, and John. The other eight guys end up dying for the faith as they spread it around the world, but they weren't the theologians of the crew. Peter and John are practically snuggled up with Jesus, but the other guys might have been acting like my group of ten students tonight. Some of them might have still been adolescents. My group tonight was very distracted , but I couldn't get upset, because they weren't any worse than Jesus's crew in John 16. By verse 17 they realize they are missing something important,
17 That stirred up a hornet's nest of questions among the disciples: "What's he talking about: 'In a day or so you're not going to see me…