Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Few Favorites from 2007

It's the time of year that everyone comes out with their lists of top books, music, etc. Not wanting to be left out, here's a very quick look at a few of mine from the last year. Disclaimer, just because I read them in 2007 doesn't mean they were published this past year! It sometimes take me a bit to get around to all the books that I buy.

I didn't purchase much in the way of "new" music this year. I'm just not finding much that interests me these days. One CD that did find its way onto the regular "playlist" at our house was "An Other Cup" by Yusuf Islam (the artist formally known as Cat Stevens). It was actually released in 2006, but didn't find its way to our house until spring. It's a wonderful CD full of mystical and hope-filled lyrics (even if they are from a ... gasp ... a ... a ... Muslum!). "The Beloved" is a prayful song that I find a great lyric for contemplation/centering .... give it a try.

Three books found their way onto my "best of" list for 2007. Topping the list is "Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch" by Dan O'Brien. It's a wonderful story of a hard-luck biologist that takes a huge gamble to reintroduce bison to a ranch in South Dakota. It's a story that encompasses the natural history of the prairie, our totally screwed up agricultural system, sustainability, and determination. It's about life and death, predator and prey. O'Brien has brought a sustainable agribusiness to the Great Plains, you can read more about it at wild idea buffalo. This was my favorite book of the year.

The second pick was "The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country" by Steve Hendricks. At times this book made me sick to my stomach. It took me several months to finish it. There were times when I was so angry that I couldn't continue reading. Hendricks does a brilliant job digging through FBI and Department of Justice files and pieces together a revealing look at the political struggles on indian reservations, mainly in South Dakota. It's a story of bad government and even worse law enforcement. The names the pop up in investigations are amazing. I could never quite figure out why the FBI, ATF, CIA, (oh, yes the CIA and the Army were all involved with Wounded Knee II) and other government law enforcement agencies would bother native people. I still don't know. Although there is a great deal of blame to go around on both sides of the issue, it still amazes me what the government and their thugs got a way with. People should be in prison over many of the things found by Hendricks during his investigation.

Finally, a book that came out several years ago by Richard Louv entitled "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder". Louv does an excellent job linking a number of childhood trends: increases in obesity, depression, and ADD to a shift from nature-based play to a sedentary life-style. It is incredibly well researched and not only does Louv outline the problem well, he offers up solutions to getting kids back outside and active. There's a substantial section on "The Spiritual Necessity of Nature for the Young" that I wish were expanded. We all need to be reminded that we are God's creatures, we come from the Earth, return to the Earth and are integral the the well-being of God's creation.

That's the list for 2007. For those of you that happen upon my little blog I hope that your new year is full of good health, laughter, joy and blessings that are yet unseen.


Thursday, December 13, 2007


Music is a very important part of the day to day life in our household, there is always something or someone playing some form of music in the house. Christmas is my favorite time of year for music. We generally start cranking the Christmas tunes right after Halloween. I'm not a huge fan of popularized Christmas music and I think some of it is really done with out much regard for taste let alone out of praise and respect for the birth of Christ. In fact a lot of it just reinforces my thought that we should actually loose the mythical "war on Christmas"! I mean, Larry the Cable Guy has a Christmas album? I would hold that as a perfect example of why not to shop at a particular store rather than for the clerk saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas". But I digress from my original intent on this posting. I wanted to share a few of my favorite Christmas tunes with you. First comes "Light of Christmas Day" by Peter Mayer. This a cappella song (with background from the Brentwood UMC Choir) is very striking and the lack of accompaniant allows one to really focus on the message in Peter's lyrics. Perhaps my favorite Christmas sone is also one of Peter's. Sing Joy really speaks to me. It's about the dark, bleakness of winter being broken by the event of Christ's birth and the promise that his birth gives us. I can sing along (not very well mind you) with this song all year long. The Light of Christmas Day is on Peter's album "Echos of the Season" and "Sing Joy" can be found on "Stars and Promises".

And now for something completely different. I've really been struck by the simple beauty of ancient music. I've really grown to appreciate the tradition that is part of Christianity. While some of our history is decidely very ugly, there are jewels such as the ancient music that groups like the Rose Ensemble are working to keep alive. (I had a difficult time linking into the mp3 samples, so you'll have to go to the Rose Ensemble site and skim through it on your own. It's well worth the effort.) First is from an album of Baroque period Christmas music from Mexico entitled Celebrmos el Nino. The song Convidando esta la noche is roughly translated to "inviting this the night"; as you can imagine, it's about the birth of the Christ child. From their album "Rosa Das Rosas: Cantigas de Santa Maria and other Spiritual Songs for the Virgin" another Rose Ensemble favorite is Pues que tu, Reyna del ciclo. I won't even pretend to know the translation but the entire album is full of songs about Mary.

So, there you have a sampling of songs that you probably won't hear at the mall. I hope you'll take a few minutes to listen to them. If you do, I'd love to hear what you think.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Everything Must Change

That's the name of a book from Rev. Brian Mclaren. I started to read it a while back but other readings for school have taken up much of my reading time and it, along with several others have found a place on the book shelf for the time being. I'm not going to get into the details of the book, but today Rev. Rory (see the link on the side bar) posted a blog about an article Mclaren had blogged. I too recommend the article, which pertains to the book. However, the interesting read for me were the comments from readers. I wasn't surprised by the attacks on the "religious right" but I was fascinated by many of the reasons people gave for not being active Christians. People had left the church for a number of reasons, the pointed fingers at various Christian faiths for ruining the Christian religion. The most surprising thing to me were those that left because, and this is my view on their comments - so I may be off base, which is absolutely possible! - there were certain things they didn't like. In other words the church they left wasn't perfect. Wow. Imagine that, a group of people doing something together that isn't perfect! The other thing that struck me was the "me" factor. Lot's of individualism that in my view totally misses the point of Christianity.

I'll be the first to admit that the Church isn't perfect. Most denominations are struggling with issues. I don't agree with everything the United Methodist Church does, but I don't run and hide from reality. I hope that things will change in our denomination someday and I hope to work constructively within the church to get that done. Taking my toys and going home isn't going to change anything. Change not only comes from within for individuality spiritual growth, it happens that way for the Church as well. As far as I know there's only One example of perfection on earth.

The individualism is also alarming. In another book that I was reading and hope to finish soon, Take this Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles the author makes a statement that "you can't be a Christian alone". The point being that to be truly Christian, to live in the example of Christ, you need to be part of the family of Christ; not just showing up on Sunday morning but being actively involved, part of the body, the community of Christ. I think the people that are looking for that perfect fit, are more worried about themselves are missing the point of Christianity. I feel sorry for them too.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007


I love it. I've always loved it, and I've missed it! I even like shoveling it (although my body is a little less fond of that aspect of the white stuff these days). Above all, I love gliding over it. Ever since my parents bought me a pair of wooden skis, bamboo poles, some ugly brown boots I've been a skier. The first year on skis I set up a 1/4 mile loop in our neighborhood and every night after supper and homework I skied. I skied so much that I logged over 300 miles that year. Except for some time in graduate school and when I first started work in MN, I've spent the majority of my winters doing something related to skiing.

There is something very unique about skiing towards evening that I really like. The woods are generally very quiet, add in a few flurries or light snow and I don't know if it really gets any better than that! I love the sting of the cold on my face, and how it moves into my lungs.

I also love going fast on skis. The last few years that's been a little difficult because a general lack of fitness on my part and this year won't be much different I'm afraid. I love twisting downhill trails, but greatly dislike big downhills. That's one of the great things about skiing, you can go as fast or slow as you like.

I may be singing a different song come March, but right now, I'm pretty fired up about this white stuff!