Book 1 for 2017: O Jerusalem!

My modest goal for the year is to read six books. Here is an update: I finished the first one on March 19. This may put me behind schedule but it is not as bad as it sounds. Collins and Lapierre’s O Jerusalem! is a 500+ page tome that was fascinating but not especially easy to read. It traces the events that led to the declaration of Israel as a state in 1948.

I have little hope that peace will come to Jerusalem any time soon. I do not have insight into the contemporary struggle, but this history illustrates the ancient and deep-seated claims that both the Jews and Arabs have to the land. Their mutual willingness to fight to the death makes perpetual conflict likely.

Next up: Understanding Gender Dysphoria by Mark Yarhouse.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nine Whole30 Observations

I’m 2+ weeks into Whole30 which, if you’re not up on the latest diets is a paleo-like one that allows basically meats, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. No grains, no dairy, no added sugar. It’s more for gut health than weight loss. Amy and I are doing it together.

Here are some thoughts and observations.

1. You can eat as much as you reasonably want, and the lack of hunger makes it possible to maintain the diet, which I consider extreme. My colleagues think I’m a cookie monster, but it hasn’t been too hard to avoid them, because I’m not usually hungry when I’m around them.

2. My life has a little less sparkle without the anticipation of my favorite foods.

3. But I feel great, because it is almost impossible to overeat on the foods they allow you to have.

4. I haven’t noticed anything with regards to gut health or energy or allergies.

5. Amy says Whole30 is trendy, which is weird because I’m usually a late adopter. Just ask Randy or my mom about cargo pants. I think I was late on cell phones too.

6. I better understand why people that often try new diets talk about them so much – it is so interesting to talk about the new challenge and what it is doing to your body.

7. I’ve actually broken the diet once (maybe twice). Balsamic vinegarette evidently is often no good, because it has added sugar. One evening I found myself at home with the kids and no obvious food to eat. I put vinegarette on the salad I came up with and Amy told me it was a no-no.

8. One of the main purposes of this diet is to clean you out, which I think is why it is so important to keep all of these potentially inflammatory foods out of your body for a month.

9. I would not want to eat like this for more than 30 days, but I hope there are a few good habits I can pick up. Like finding the balance between going into a meal really hungry (bad, because you’ll end up eating too much or too much junk) and being full all the time (bad, because you’ll eat when you really don’t need to. Somehow this diet threads that needle: I eat the approved snacks when I’m hungry, but by the time a meal rolls around I’m hungry.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2017 Reading List

Following up on my last post and to keep me accountable, here are some books I’ll try to read this year:

1. O Jerusalem! by Collins and Lapierre, to learn about the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
2. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by Vance, to better understand white working-class America
3. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Alexander, to become more informed about issues of race
4. The Naked Anabaptist: The Bare Essentials of a Radical Faith by Murray, to learn more about Anabaptism as a movement and theological stream
5. 1913 to 2013 in 13 Miles: The Hamilton, Ohio 1913 Flood Then and Now by Lenihan, to learn more about Hamilton and its history
6. Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture by Yarhouse, to learn more about this issue and how to think about it in a Christian way.

Two additional titles to read if possible: How Children Fail and How Children Learn by Holt, the guru of unschooling

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Start of a Reading List for 2017

This year, I am making the modest goal of reading six books that expound on or illuminate current events or other topics relevant to me. Here are some possible categories and possible books.

Anabaptism (The Naked Anabaptist: The Bare Essentials of a Radical Faith by Murray)

Church Planting

Hamilton, OH (1913 to 2013 in 13 Miles: The Hamilton, Ohio 1913 Flood Then and Now by Lenihan)


Israeli-Palestinian conflict (O Jerusalem! by Collins and Lapierre)

Race in America (The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Alexander)

Transgenderism (Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture by Yarhouse)

Trump and the white working-class (Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by Vance)

My list will be longer than I can handle, but I want a rich one from which to choose. Any suggestions for other topics or books?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Anthony Hertzler on Anabaptism, Politics, and Christian Discipleship

I’m not big on politics. Actually, that might not exactly be true because I follow them somewhat closely. But I don’t align myself with a particular party or with state or national candidates. There are several reasons for this, but one of the most powerful has to do with my Anabaptist understanding of Christian discipleship. Recently, I was involved in a Facebook discussion and an old friend (a very old friend – unless I’m forgetting an encounter, we last saw each other when we were maybe 8 or 10) articulated some of these things so well that I wanted to share them, with his permission.

Anthony Hertzler:

[The Anabaptists] drew their moral code from the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Mainstream society didn’t, and still does not, have a place for people like that, so they defined a brand-new category. They stood apart from all the other ideologies of their time, “Christian” or otherwise, and witnessed to the invasion of a new kingdom they believed was destined ultimately to sweep away all others, not through violence and force, but through the power of love and a pure conscience.

That’s why Anabaptists were viewed as anarchists in sixteenth-century Europe. They stood outside all the systems and spoke truth into them. They denied that the government had any business serving as a handmaiden of the church to legislate anyone’s version of Christianity on people who didn’t want to serve Christ.

One of the most influential early Anabaptist leaders, Michael Sattler, stated publicly, and repeated under questioning in court, that if he believed violence to be right, he would sooner bear the sword for the Muslim Turks threatening Europe from the east than for any of Europe’s “Christian” rulers. The Turks, he said, were at least true to their own claimed beliefs, whereas Europeans claimed to follow the Prince of Peace while acting just like the Turks. Is that right wing, or left wing? You tell me.

Today, there are many of us who are appalled by the mass slaughter of unborn children, and equally appalled by our government’s slaughter, displacement, and starvation of innocent men, women, and children in other nations, mostly with the vocal support of so-called born-again Christians. Is that right-wing or left-wing?

Many of us believe homosexual relationships are sinful, but have no interest in giving the government veto power over the marriages of consenting adults – a power, incidentally, that’s been used by Christian governments against people like us in the past. Is that right-wing or left-wing?

I think Soviet communism has been a failure everywhere it is tried, and I much prefer the freedoms we have in the USA. But I have spent much of my adult life living in and promoting common-purse Christian community. Am I right-wing or left-wing?

What if the whole left-right polar choice is a clever deception of the devil (or, if you prefer … a sneaky manifestation of Murphy’s law) to prevent critical thought, divide us up into tribes, and exclude the real solutions from respectable conversation altogether?

More from Anthony:

Ultimately, I suspect that the constant increase in Federal Government power is going to lead to a total collapse of the union, as ever-larger numbers of people give up hope that their own interests and values will ever be represented by the national government. One could argue, in fact, that this process is already underway with the Trump phenomenon and its virulent counter-protests. The collapse of an empire is an unpleasant experience for those inside it, and the only hope for this society is that those of us who really are committed to human decency and definite moral principles will hold the fort of decency and civility until the tide of barbarism ebbs again and we can rebuild something new from whatever is left.

That’s why I focus my efforts on inviting people into another kingdom. I think all the world’s power structures are ultimately doomed by the laws of history and human nature, and that a new society, build from the ground up on a whole different premise, is the one way forward for humanity.

And finally:

Mainstream “born-again” Christianity has a pretty poor track record on [showing that their moral system produces better real-life results than the one they are attempting to disprove]; which is why I don’t really have much to say in defense of it. However, I do believe that in the rare instances where Jesus’ teachings are actually lived and practiced by groups of people, they produce the nearest thing to an ideal human society that this world can boast. Among the members of these families of faith are intellectuals, including atheists and agnostics; and in almost all cases I have heard of, it was not a cleverly-formed argument that first opened their minds to the truth of Jesus’ message, but the unprecedented love and grace they observed and experienced among the members of Jesus’ family.

If Jesus’ message is to be taken seriously by atheists, agnostics, and people of other religions, then those of us who claim to be his followers need to demonstrate the power and superiority of his teachings by being world leaders in justice, equality, fidelity, honesty, grace toward enemies, and all the other virtues we claim Jesus produces in the life of believers.

As a religion, I’m afraid we’ve largely flunked this test. But if you’re interested, I could introduce you to pockets of people here and there, historically and in the present, who try to live radically by the teachings of Jesus and are contributing to human thriving in important, perhaps unparallelled ways.

Forgive us Christians for our failings, and keep challenging us; we are broken like everyone else, and we need Jesus as much as any atheist.

One essential step for any curious unbeliever – that doesn’t require adopting any new intellectual propositions, recanting one’s existing philosophy, or praying the “sinner’s prayer” – is to simply study the historical record of Jesus of Nazareth, listen to what he is said to have taught and done, ponder his influence on humanity, and try, with an open mind, to come to definite conclusion regarding the significance and meaning of his life. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are, without any overstatement, some of the best-attested, most thoroughly documented events in ancient history; and in my view, that extraordinary life forms the single most potent argument for the existence of a truth that transcends human intellect and a Father who would love to have us to pull up a chair and get acquainted.

Posted in Anabaptism | Leave a comment

Professor scared of being scooped on research project no one else cares about

OXFORD, OH–In an exclusive interview with an obscure academic statistician, new details have emerged regarding the imminent publication of an arcane research article. “This is groundbreaking work that we’re certain at least two people will read,” said lead author Dr. Bryan J. Sucker. When pressed, he admitted that the two readers would “likely be journal reviewers”. Nevertheless, the researcher was terrified of a potential leak. “We ask urgently that you don’t publish any details of our work until it has appeared in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. I’m absolutely certain there are a large number of people across the country that are eagerly waiting to hear any tidbit about this work, and as soon as they do they will be able to replicate it, rush it to print, and claim it as their own intellectual contribution.” Dr. Sucker declined to comment further, citing concerns about a hidden camera.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Folgers in your cup

Last month, Folgers chose to feature Michael Logen in their Summer Olympics commercial. Michael is my wife’s relative, and writes songs for a living in Nashville while moonlighting as an Americana singer/songwriter. At least that’s what I think the setup is. He can correct me if I’m wrong. All of this means he’s really good at what he does and his success is really exciting. Billboard even noticed.


So Michael has joined the pantheon of artists to sing in a Folgers commercial. Actually, the only part of that pantheon I know about is Rockapella, who did a Folgers jingle back in the day. It is a delightful earworm.

Since Folgers commercials had reentered my consciousness, and since it is such an addictive ditty I started singing it around the house for fun, enough so the kids picked it up. Once, when Amy was gone and we could get a little loud, we sang it together.

Eat your heart out Michael.

And did you know that Folgers is owned by the J.M. Smucker Company? But, Amy is much more closely related to Michael Logen than I am to those Smuckers. Furthermore, for the record, I don’t like coffee.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment