Category Archives: Books

Ecclesio.com and Grace Ji-Sun Kim in conversation

The blog Ecclesio.com has featured Grace Ji-Sun Kim  and her book, Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit this week.

The series features an excerpt from her book that focused on Consumerism and Overconsumption.

Related posts include a brief review of Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit by Cynthia Holder Rich of Ecclesio.com and two conversations between Cynthia and Grace:

A Conversation with Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Part I

A Conversation with Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Part II

Lots of good stuff here. Thanks to Cynthia and Grace for this series!

See you along the Trail.

 

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Grace Ji-Sun Kim on Consumerism and Overconsumption

Graces BookIn a post that originally appeared in Ecclesio.com and then on her own blog, Grace Ji-Sun Kim shares an excerpt from her book, Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit.

Here are some teasers that may inspire you to check out the blog and the the book:

One of the problems the Western world is facing today is how to live a life so that all of humanity can flourish and not just a select few wealthy people.

When one looks at the world today, an inescapable fact is the vastly unequal distribution of assets, wealth, affluence, and life prospects. We live in a world where a relatively small number of people, about one-sixth the world’s total population of approximately seven billion people, have a preponderant share of the planet’s wealth and resources, while a significant majority of the remaining six billion lead lives marked by insecurity, poverty, misery, disease, and death.

Today, as capitalism and consumerism drive the modern version of colonization known as globalism, the gap between the haves and have-nots widens beyond anything ever known in history. This unequal distribution of wealth is taking a toll on the fragile planet and ecosystems that we all belong to. What drives the rich to consume all the resources is understood to drive the economy, so many of the rich people’s practices are not challenged or even questioned.

After reflecting on the perils that the drive to consume pose to people and planet alike, Kim presents an alternative vision:

The real wealth of a nation is its people, and the purpose of development is to create an environment for people to enjoy long, healthy, and creative lives.  The good life is defined by the use of money to help people have decent, fulfilling lives. The good life is not having “more and more” but “enough” …

Kim addresses the tension within which humans live – a tension between freedom and limits – a tension expressed in Genesis 3. She goes on to explore the human role as a “steward.” She notes that too often humans chose to act, not as the stewards God intends us to be, but as bandits: cue Kurosawa and The Seven Samurai. 

The image of the steward intrigues me. Tolkien plays with the question of stewardship in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In 1992 – as the United States marked the 500th anniversary of the invasion by or arrival of (depending on one’s point of view) of the Europeans in what we now know as the Americas – I preached a sermon contrasting the role of conquistador with steward. As Kim notes,  “It is not easy being God’s stewards, living in a garden where so much more is possible than is beneficial.”

Kim notes the warnings we are receiving about the consequences of our current consumer lifestyle of overconsumption. And she wonders if we will heed the signs and examine and change our ways of “being and living.”

There is much to ponder in the post. There are many topics for conversation. I encourage you to check it out!

See you along the Trail.

 

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Bruce Reyes-Chow: “But I Don’t See You as Asian”

racecoversmallMy friend Bruce Reyes-Chow has written a book on race that I look forward to reading: But I Don’t See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race.

Bruce describes his reason for writing as:

If you’ve ever wanted to cultivate honest conversations about race, this book is my attempt at offering ways to help make that happen.

He reflects on his hope for the book in these words:

My hope is that by sharing my story – the joys and the struggles – this book will compel folk to enter a space where they can get at some of the assumptions, misunderstandings and intentions about race so that deeper connections and relationships can be had.

You can get a sense of his perspective as well as the flavor of his writing from some of his earlier articles:

Bruce notes that:

It is also my hope that you will find the time, faith and courage to jump into these conversations with an openness that challenges the expectations of the world around race.

I plan to take that jump. I assume that Bruce’s book will challenge my expectations around race. And I hope that I will be better equipped to engage in conversations that will help me challenge expectations around race and realities around racism. I will let you know.

Here’s how you can get a copy and learn more:

PURCHASE: [paperback $14.99] [kindle $9.99] [itunes $9.99] [nook $9.99] [signed gift copy $14.99]
CONNECT: [twitter] [facebook page] [reviews on Pinterest] [reviews on amazon]
AUTHORGRAPH: [Have your electronic copy signed]

See you along the Trail.

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Writing down words

An interchange from the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade remains with me. Indiana (Harrison Ford) and his father Professor Henry Jones (Sean Connery) seek the Holy Grail. Nazis have also joined the quest. Henry Jones has long sought the Grail, finding a map and compiling a diary. To keep them safe, Henry sent the materials to his son and colleague Marcus Brody. Learning that the Nazis have kidnapped Henry Jones, Brody set off with the map.  Indiana went to rescue his father. After a series of adventures, father and son escape. The following conversation occurs:

Professor Henry Jones: Stop, wait, stop! Stop! You’re going the wrong way. We have to get to Berlin.
Indiana Jones: Brody’s this way.
Professor Henry Jones: My diary’s in Berlin.
Indiana Jones: We don’t need the diary, dad; Marcus has the map.
Professor Henry Jones: There is more in the diary than just the map.
Indiana Jones: All right, Dad. Tell me.
Professor Henry Jones: Well, he who finds the Grail must face the final challenge.
Indiana Jones: What final challenge?
Professor Henry Jones: Three devices of lethal cunning.
Indiana Jones: Booby traps?
Professor Henry Jones: Oh, yes. But I found the clues that will safely take us through them in the Chronicles of St. Anselm.
Indiana Jones: Well, what are they? As his father sits silently, Indiana continues in an annoyed voice. Can’t you remember?
Professor Henry Jones: I wrote them down in my diary so that I wouldn’t have to remember.

I have always found wisdom in Henry Jones’ plan. I find more as I grow older. Redeeming the Pastby Father Michael Lapsley, is one of several books I am reading.

photo (7) (768x1024)An Anglican priest, Father Lapsley took an active role in the struggle against South Africa’s apartheid. In 1990, he opened a letter bomb that nearly killed him. The blast took his hands and one of his eyes. His book tells his story of the faith journey that led him to pursue justice, the explosion, his recovery, and how Father Lapsley has drawn on his experience of trauma to help his sisters and brothers in South Africa and around the world seek healing.

Many of his words bear repeating and remembering. I write down a few:

 As we who are disabled demand a place in the sun, we are not just asking people to be nice to us; we are saying, “Actually you can’t be a real community without us.” We don’t ask for pity; we ask for justice. We say, “Don’t just include us in your community. Instead, come, let’s create one together.” That’s a very different concept.

Profound, challenging, humbling, hopeful words. Words that apply in so many situations – in any situation of privilege and oppression and exclusion. Words to ponder, to remember, and to seek to live by.

We cannot be a real community until everyone is a part and we build that community together. May it be so.

See you along the Trail.

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My friend Bruce is writing a book

My friend Bruce is writing a book. I am supporting his effort. You can read why below or you can just take the plunge and become a supporter too.

No . . . where are you FROM?A Book on Race by Bruce Reyes-Chow

During a trip to San Francisco, when I served as the Presbyterian Church’s associate for antiracism training, I asked a number of friends, colleagues, and wise people who I should meet for conversations about race and racial justice. A number of individuals were named, but one individual was named on a regular basis.

Bruce Reyes-Chow.

I listened. I contacted Bruce. And, over coffee, we met for the first time.

Our conversation ranged across the landscape of the social construction of race and the deconstruction of the structures put into place by racism. We explored the different perceptions of race held by different generations … the different experiences of raced lived by different generations … the differences between racism as experienced on the West Coast and in the Mid West and in other parts of our county. And we experienced the commonalities interwoven within these distinctions.

In the short time we spent together, I developed a deep respect for Bruce, the seeds of friendship were planted, and I realized that he has a voice I and others need to hear on questions related to race. Of course, listening to each other applies to all people. The difference is that Bruce is writing a book.

Bruce will self-publish No … where are you FROM?  He is in the process of raising funds through Kickstarter. I am proud to be a backer – even though I will receive no Pittsburgh Steelers swag as a result – despite my many suggestions of how that would enhance the project to my San Francisco 49ers supporting friend (comments about the results of this weekend’s games will be deleted).

Bruce describes his reason for writing as:

If you’ve ever wanted to cultivate honest conversations about race, this book is my attempt at offering ways to help make that happen.

He reflects on his hope for the book in these words:

My hope is that by sharing my story – the joys and the struggles – this book will compel folk to enter a space where they can get at some of the assumptions, misunderstandings and intentions about race so that deeper connections and relationships can be had.

You can get a sense of his perspective as well as the flavor of his writing from some of his earlier articles:

Bruce notes that:

it is also my hope that you will find the time, faith and courage to jump into these conversations with an openness that challenges the expectations of the world around race.

I plan to take that jump. I assume that Bruce’s book will challenge my expectations around race. And I hope that I will be better equipped to engage in conversations that will help me challenge expectations around race and realities around racism.

Thanks Bruce for writing this book (even if you are a heretic and you talk to your cat – it’s on the Internet, it must be true).

I’m a supporter and I urge others to become supporters as well!

See you along the Trail.

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Humiliation and diplomacy

The art of diplomacy is to avoid placing yourself in a position where you can be humiliated.
Sergio Vieira de Mello

The book of the moment is Chasing the Flame by Samantha Power – thanks Joe, Joel, and Ryan for the recommendation!

Power tells the story of Sergio Vieira de Mello and his career with the United Nations. Vieira de Mello joined the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in 1969 and found himself engaged in many of the most critical UN efforts from the birth of Bangladesh in 1971-72  until his death in Iraq in 2003. As she recounts his life, Power provides insight into the man and a fascinating view of the UN and how it works.

The quote above relates to a moment when UN officials were turned back at a checkpoint in Cambodia as they tried to exercise the free movement promised to the UN by the Paris peace agreement. In the agreement, Cambodia’s four main factions agreed to demilitarize, allow refugees to return, and hold free elections. The UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia, a peacekeeping mission began to arrive in March 1992.

Vieiera de Mello’s assessment of diplomacy resonates with experience. There is wisdom in refraining from asking questions when one knows the answer and does not want to hear it. There is also wisdom in silence when one knows what answers could be and knows that among those answers are some one does not want to hear.

But – does the time not come when for the sake of truth, for the sake of justice, for the sake of others, for the sake of solid relationships – we must move ahead, make ourselves vulnerable, and take the risk of humiliation and even worse? Perhaps the question is how we recognize those times and how we respond when we do?

It will be interesting to see if this concept is explored any further in the book – either directly or simply through the life of Vieira de Mello. There is much to ponder.

See you along the Trail.

 

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What’s your favorite book?

I no longer do so for pleasure as often as I would like, but I love to read. I am forever grateful to my parents, grandparents, and aunt for giving me that gift. On  World Book and Copyright Day, I give thanks for that gift and resolve to exercise it more often.

True confession. Before today I did not know this particular day existed. But it does. While everyday is a good day to read, UNESCO has designated 23 April as World Book and Copyright Day. As the UN News Centre reports:

UNESCO chose 23 April to celebrate World Book and Copyright Day as it also marks the day in 1616 that Britain’s William Shakespeare, Spain’s Miguel de Cervantes and the Peruvian writer “El Inca” Garcilaso de la Vega all died. The prominent writers Vladimir Nabokov, Halldór Laxness, Josep Pla, Maurice Druon and Manuel Mejía Vallejo were also either born or died on this day.

I have never joined the Professional Organization of English Majors, but my undergraduate degree was in English. I chose that major in large part because I like to read.

To celebrate World Book and Copyright Day (or at least the last 30 minutes or so of the day), I have pondered the question: what is my favorite book?

Of course I cannot answer that question, but I can list many favorites – almost all novels. Here are 10 – in the order they occur to me – which may say something about how much I like them or it may reflect more on how my mind is working this evening.

  • The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (yes, that’s three, but I am counting them as one) – Tolkien
  • The Plague – Camus
  • Possessing the Secret of Joy – Walker
  • Lonesome Dove – McMurtry
  • A Pen Warmed up in Hell – Twain (many of his collections of essays or short stories could be added)
  • Moby Dick – Melville
  • A Lesson before Dying – Gaines
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Solzhenitsyn
  • The Grapes of Wrath – Steinbeck
  • To Kill A Mockingbird – Lee
  • Things Fall Apart – Achebe
  • The Brothers Karamazov – Dostoevsky

Yes. That’s twelve, not ten. And that demonstrates the challenge, because even as I exceed my stated number, I think of other marvelous works by other wonderful writers (think Joyce or Faulkner or Garcia Marquez or Morrison or Thurston or Silko or Dickens – and the list goes on).

And so I ask: what books would you add?

And so I say: thanks be for all who write and all who read – thanks be for my family who inspired my love of reading.

See you along the Trail.

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A bit of love

Be like the old fool here. Grab yourself a bit of love and wait for Armageddon.

  • Connie Sachs, Smiley’s People

Intriguing advice for Valentine’s Day.

While waiting to see the new version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, I decided to go back to the past and revisit Alec Guiness‘ take on George Smiley. I added the two series to my Netflix queue.

Smiley’s People arrived first. Episodes One through Four filled last evening. Tonight brings the conclusion: Episodes Five and Six. It does not disappoint: a great story, well done with a fine cast leads to fine entertainment.

As he tracks Karla down, Smiley interacts with many of his past associates. He visits Connie Sachs, played by Beryl Reid in a Bafta TV Award winning performance, famed in the Circus for her memory.

Sachs and Smiley spar as he seeks to learn what she remembers. At one point in the conversation, she encourages him to give up the pursuit and: “Be like the old fool here. Grab yourself a bit of love and wait for Armageddon.”

It remains unclear how seriously she means that advice. She does not take it herself: she does not simply wait, but she engages in the hunt as she combs her memory for the bits of information that might help Smiley.

Perhaps it work in part – when we find love – or when love finds us – in whatever form that love comes –  taking hold as well as we are able.

May it be so for all people.

See you along the Trail.

 

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Two cities, Dickens, and me

English: Detail from photographic portrait of ...

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It was three years of drudgery; it was thirty-six months of joy.

It started in a small city; it involved a metropolitan area.

Yes. I have read my share of novels by Charles Dickens. And I enjoyed them.

I was … an English major!

I have fond memories of reading Dickens and even fonder memories of the classes taught by Dr. Sells and Dr. Bleasby in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.

In London with the college choir, several of us broke away from the guided tour to visit the Dickens Museum.

A smile comes over my face and a mist covers my eyes.

Happy 200th, Mr. Dickens.

I wonder what you would write today?

See you along the Trail.

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Children’s books of Huguenot Memorial Church

I have always liked books. English major. Children’s books have held a special appeal to me. Books written for children can be amazing: in words and images they may carry profound truth. The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program makes good use of children’s books. Intergenerational conferences often included a time of bed-time stories in which staff read books of peace and justice.

Why this focus on children’s books?

On Friday, September 2, I visited Huguenot Memorial Church (Presbyterian) in Pelham, New York. We were planning a seminar for the church at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations.We might not be able to come to you, but we would love to help plan a seminar for your congregation or other group. Contact us.

My visit involved a tour and conversations with Rev. Jacob Bolton, Rev. Stephen Michie, Mr. Floyd Tolliver, and Ms. Teisha Hickman, all of whom told me about the church and its ministry. I learned of children’s programming, mission trips, ministries to people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, efforts to address hunger, support for Big Brothers and Big Sisters, participation in Habitat for Humanity and more. I saw the chapel, the stained glass in the sanctuary, the chapel that can be used in a variety of ways, the columbarium, an incredible triptych proclaiming the birth of Jesus, and the the gymnasium where cabarets, gymnastics, and basketball take place (not necessarily at the same time). All testaments to faithful disciples of Jesus.

Things really clicked when we entered the library. I checked the shelves and suddenly the corner that houses the children’s library caught my eye. Bright colors. New books. Diverse titles. Some I knew; some I recognized; some new to me; some in the pictures; some on a list of books for families living in a multifaith world.

I have already started to look for some of the books in the pictures. I invite you to do the same.

See you along the Trail.

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