Books I'm Reading

I haven't had a lot of time for extra reading over the past year, but I have started reading several books that are fascinating.  

I love history, and this book is about the Great Depression.  It's called The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression by Amity Shlaes.  It shows how both Hoover and Roosevelt mishandled the economic crises of the 1930s and probably prolonged the depression as a result.  The book drops a lot of names that are unfamiliar, but it's a fascinating account of how the government expanded and tried to micromanage the Great Depression.  If you don't like history, this probably is not the book for you, but it is an interesting story if you can get by all the people, lingo, and acronyms.  I am learning a great deal about cities and towns I have visited or known about, places like Yellow Springs, OH (near Cedarville) and Greenbelt, MD (within walking distance from us), which had various roles to play in the government's schemes to lift the country out of the Depression.  I am also learning more about the alphabet soup of government agencies like the WPA, the PWA, the TVA, and the RA, which were set up during the Great Depression. 

Another book I've just started is The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia -- and How It Died by Philip Jenkins.  This is historical account of the churches of the east and the south until the time of the Crusades.  Jenkins claims that most Christians lived in Africa and Asia (not Europe) until 1200 A.D.  This book documents the histories of what is often called the 'Nestorian' Church (which took the gospel all the way to China) and the churches of Nubia and Ethiopia, among other places.  Most of us have never heard of these churches (with the possible exception of Ethiopia), and many believe the church was extinguished by the waves of conquering Muslims that swept across North African and Asia in the eighth century.  We often assume church history concerns the church in Europe and North America and have forgotten the history of these other churches.  This book will provide a corrective to that narrow perspective.

I've read sections of Alan Hirsch's book The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church for my doctoral studies, and it has piqued my interest.  I want to read more, so I downloaded it onto my Kindle.   As the title suggests, it's about the missional church, a phrase that has been cropping up more and more in discussions about mission in the past decade.  I am teaching an introductory course on missions at the moment, and the subject of the missional church keeps arising.  I want to know more about what it means.

Another book that fascinates me is Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospel by Kenneth Bailey.  We Westerners often miss so much in the Bible because our culture is so different from the cultures of Bible times.  Many cultures of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa are a lot closer to the cultures of Bible times, and these modern cultures can give us beautiful insights into the Bible cultures.  That is what this book is about.

A final book I'm working on is Serving with Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions with Cultural Intelligence by David A. Livermore.  As a person who wants to encourage intelligent short-term missions and also mentor people in short-term experiences, this seems like a fairly balanced work, neither too preachy nor too negative about short-term missions.

That's what I'm currently reading.  A lot of my reading is tied to either my studies or my teaching.  I don't have a lot of time to break out of that mold.


The Proposal

I wanted to get in one last blog post for this year, so here it is.  This one concerns my studies.

I'm working toward a deadline next May.  At that point I have to submit my doctoral proposal to the University of Wales for approval.  Before that, however, my proposal has to be approved by the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS).  Sound confusing?  The UK system is different from the US, and it may be that OCMS is unique in the UK.  Here is how I understand the process.

I am not yet admitted to a doctoral program.  As I understand it, everyone in the UK has to go through probationary stages in order to get into a doctoral program.  My program may be more complicated than most.  First, in the UK, there are educational institutions which are not authorized to grant degrees but which are affiliated and accredited by universities which do grant degrees.  That is the case for OCMS.  While it is a top-notch Christian educational institution, it is not authorized to grant degrees.  It isn't even affiliated with Oxford University, although we are allowed to use the Oxford University library.  Instead, it is accredited with the University of Wales, and it is that university which grants the final degree.

Now, while I am enrolled in the program at OCMS, I am not yet registered at the University of Wales.  To do that I have to submit a 2,500-word research proposal (that's not a lot of words, by the way) accompanied by a 5,000-word essay and an extensive bibliography  (That's not long, either when you consider that the final dissertation will be 80,000-100,000 words long).  The deadline for submission is in May.  Before that, however, OCMS has to also approve the proposal.  The OCMS committee will meet in March to approve dissertation proposals.  So, I have to have all my work done by the end of February.  My OCMS advisor, however, wants to see a workable proposal by the end of January.  Yikes, that's one month away.

I have completed a first draft of both the proposal and the essay and sent them to my adviser.  While the research proposal seems to be mostly okay, I have some extensive revisions to make on the essay.  If you want to know more about the proposal or essay, write me.  I'm not going to reveal the title on the Internet because I want to be careful what I say and where, but if you want to know more, let me know.  

Once OCMS approves the proposal in March it will be sent to the University for approval in May.  From that point I will be registered at the University of Wales, but I will only be at a master's level.  It's kind of probationary period to see if you can cut it at the doctoral level.  After two years of research and writing, I will be reevaluated, and then I will apply for an upgrade to a doctoral level.   Up until then I can make adjustments to my proposal and my research.  After I get upgraded to the doctoral level, the real fun begins as I work on my dissertation in earnest.  I expect it will take about three years to finish my studies after the upgrade to the doctoral level.  Remember I'm only working on it 'half-time'.  That will make it around 2016 before I finish!    'And miles to go before I sleep....' 


Thanksgiving Day Traditions

Thanksgiving has always been the holiday that my family got together, even more so than Christmas.  Ever since I went away to college, my parents have lived in Manchester, CT, and we have gathered there for a family reunion and meal on Thanksgiving Day. This was the first Thanksgiving that my dad was not with us, and it hit me harder than I thought it would.  But, for the first time, we also had two special guests, Kelly Hammond (Daniel's girlfriend) and Theophilus Hines (Suzanne's boyfriend).  It was great to be together as a family and make some memories.  Here are photos of Suzanne and Theophilus:

and Daniel and Kelly:

One of the traditions on Thanksgiving Day in Manchester is the Road Race.  It has been held on Thanksgiving for the past 74 years (the second oldest race in New England next to the Boston Marathon).  It's not a long race (just 4.78 miles), but it's one of the most fun races I've ever run.  I didn't run in it this year (although I have run it in the past), but it's always a great community and social event, bringing people closer together.  Some of the top runners in the world compete, and there are so many who want to run, they have had to  limit the number of runners to 15,000! In past years, my brother twice came in 11th in the race.  Here are some of the leaders near the beginning of the race.

Many people run in costumes, and there is a contest to see who is wearing the best costume.  This year there were some dazzling costumes.  Of course, there were the many who ran in turkey costumes.  One person ran as a Christmas tree.  

Three young men jogged by dressed only in Speedos painted from head to toe in red, white, and blue and carrying an American flag.  

Another family ran by dressed as Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.

What makes the race great, though, is not just the runners, but the spectators.  Rain, sun, or snow, there are at least as many spectators as there are runners, and they line up along the entire route.   This year there were around 20,000 spectators, including us.  They are there cheering on the runners.  I have never been in a race like that where so many people are cheering me on.  The following two pictures give you a small glimpse of the thousands of cheering spectators, some on roofs of buildings:

It makes me think of the cloud of witnesses cheering us on as we run our race.  Dad is now part of that crowd of spectators.  He's run his race and finished the course.  Now he's up there cheering us on, cheering me on, as I struggle up 'Heartbreak Hill' and stumble down the other side.  He will be there as I approach the finish line waiting to greet me as I finish my race.  Most important, Christ will be there to give me my prize.

The Thanksgiving Day Road Race has a special place in my heart.  Some of my extended family members ran the race this year.  A Moroccan man won it.  I can't remember his name.  It doesn't really matter.  It was enough to be there again and take in the spectacle.  Take a look at the runners coming in to the finish down Main Street, though.

Even though I was only a spectator this year, cheering others on, I'm still in the race of life, and I push on toward the goal for the prize.  Bravo!  Keep up the pace.  Let's keep our eyes on the goal and on Jesus.




As part of my research, I'm getting to know two of the world's most famous libraries, the Bodleian in Oxford, England and the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.  I have consulted resources in both of these libraries and have reader's cards for both of them.  I will continue to get to know both of them better in the weeks and years ahead.

The Bodleian is the main library for the University of Oxford.  It was founded in 1602 and today holds over 9 million items in its collection.  There are three main buildings for the Central Bodleian, but there are lots of smaller libraries associated with the different colleges of the University of Oxford, and they all cooperate with the Bodleian.  Here is a photo of the most interesting architectural building of the Bodleian, the Radcliffe Camera:

The Library of Congress was founded in 1800, nearly 200 years after the Bodleian, but it contains the largest collection of any library in the world: over 144 million items, including 32+ million books and 62+ million manuscripts. There are three massive buildings located right across the street from the Capitol Building in Washington, DC.  Each building is named after one of the three US presidents that followed George Washington: Adams, Jefferson, and Madison.  On display in the Jefferson building is one of only three extent original copies of the Gutenburg Bible, one of the first books ever printed (in the 1400s).  Here is a picture of the Jefferson Building with me in front of it:

Both the Bodleian and the LOC are copyright depository libraries.  That means that they have a copy of every item published in the country in which they were established.  So the Bodleian has a copy of every item published in the UK and the LOC has a copy of everything published in the US.


Mr Jones, Tear Up Your Plans

The planned Qur'an burning on the 9th anniversary of 9/11 by the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida is making headlines this morning.  While I don't understand the motives and plans of this church, and I am concerned about the threat of government interference in free speech issues, I want to voice my firm opposition to the plan.  

I am a conservative evangelical Christian who has worked amongst Muslims and has lived in Muslim countries for many years.  I have read a translation of the Qur'an (in English and French) and respect the many people who sincerely and faithfully follow a faith that has many parallels to my own.  I have many Muslim friends, and even though I don't share their faith, I have learned a lot from them.  I disagree with many aspects of Islam, but I see many who live with integrity.

In any case, this is not a way to go about winning an argument with Islam.  It is, instead, pouring fuel on an already hot fire.  It is inflaming passions in a world that is already a tinderbox.  Mr. Jones says he and his church are trying to highlight the evils of Islam and stand up for something.  I do not believe that this will help anyone. I do believe it will cause harm and damage to the cause of Christ.  I believe these kinds of actions are motivated more by fear and ignorance than by love and knowledge.

One unintended byproduct of this book burning will be the blackening of the reputation of Christians all over the world.  Whether you like it or not, many Muslims paint Christians with one brush, and even though many know that you are just one individual, one church, they will inevitably associate all Christians with you and your actions.  This will bring disdain on Christians and on the church around the world.  

The leaders of the US are expressing their concern for US troops if this burning goes ahead.  While it is impossible to say what could happen, and I am concerned for the troops, I am more concerned about Christians around the world living in Muslim-majority areas.  What is going to happen to believers in places like Iran, Nigerian, and Indonesia on Sept 11 and the days following?  Will believers be killed and more churches burned?  Tensions are already high in some of these countries.  If any are martyred for their faith, their blood will be on your head, Mr. Jones. And do you realize that this burning comes on the heels of the great religious festival of Ramadan?  Muslims are often more spiritually aware and sensitive during this time.

No matter how you look at it, burning anything these days, whether flags, books, or buildings, is seen as an act of violence, of hate, of anger, even of racism and prejudice.  Now that this has gone public with all the world watching, that is how it will inevitably be seen.  You say you love Muslims, Mr. Jones.  Prove it.  How do you love them?  How will you show that love?  This act will be interpreted no other way than as hate.  Where is the love your faith requires?

Even worse, I am concerned that the name of our God will be profaned amongst the nations as the result of the actions of the Dove World Outreach.  You do not need to defend God's honor, Mr. Jones.  He is fully capable of doing that Himself.  And if you read your Bible, you will know that He is fully aware of the world situation and is Himself in control of it.  He will have His way in this world.   

While Jesus vigorously challenged the religious authorities of his day and was very angry with them, he was an insider to the culture.  He knew their thinking in and out.  He was one of them.  Mr Jones, you know nothing about Islam.  How can you challenge what you do not know or understand?

For the sake of His name, I plead with you, Mr. Jones, tear up your plans.


The Lake

There was a place in my childhood my family often visited and which sticks in my memory as one of those timeless places, a place where I loved to go and relax in my busy life.  I have been there only four times in my adult life, but the place always communicates to me serenity and peace, one of God's special places where I could lay down my burdens and the cares of the world for a while.  We affectionately referred to that place as 'the Lake' with no qualifier needed to further identify it.

Actually, it is a piece of property on Summit Lake, about eight miles west of Olympia, WA.  My grandparents (on my mom's side) bought the property shortly after I was born.  It was a place where the family (my mom and her four sisters and all their families) often gathered for picnics, a swim, a day of rest, or just to hang out together. Here I am on the dock at the lake when I was two.

Over the years the place has changed, and the other properties on the lake have become more built up, but it remains a place of serenity and peace. Here's a photo of my family in 1968 at the back of the cabin.  I'm the oldest boy in the picture. You can see the lake through the window in the background.

Here's another photo from when I visited as an adult, in 1984, just before I went to Niger.  This was a morning shot, and you can see how calm the water is.

When my grandparents died, my aunt and uncle bought the place and built onto the back of the old red cabin, putting a second story on the addition.  They added heat and a few other amenities that we didn't have in the old days, and now live there permanently.  Today the lake looks like this from the renovated cabin.  Note the houses on the other side of the lake.

And here is what the cabin looks like today from the dock.

Just over a week ago, I had another chance to visit 'the Lake.' We went to Washington state to visit family, friends, and supporters, and speak at a church (Lake City Community Church).  Since my mom was born and raised there, we took her along, since she can no longer travel by herself.  We had the chance to spend six days at the lake with my aunt and uncle and enjoy the peace and quiet.  We also attended a family reunion at the Lake on Sat, Aug 7.  It was the annual Keller family picnic at the lake.  About 50 relatives showed up from all different branches of the family, and though it was cloudy, cool, and showery, we all had a great time catching up on each other's lives.  

Sadly, this may be the last time I will see the lake.  My aunt and uncle aren't sure they can live there much longer.  They themselves may not live much longer, and since it could be a while before we get out there, I may not see them again this side of heaven.  That goes for the other aunts and uncles.  And it may be the last time this side of heaven that my mom will get to see the lake and her earthly home.

When I think of my mansion in heaven, I want it to be the lake.  I'm looking forward to seeing all my family there one day.


A Memorial to My Dad

Today I'm posting on my blog twice.  This one is a memorial to my dad.

You are probably aware that my dad was cremated after his death in January of this year.  This is not something most Latinos, Catholics, or Muslims do very much, but it is very common in Europe where land is at a premium and many cemeteries are full.  It is becoming more common in the US although I'm not sure it is the most common form of burial yet.

Anyway, it was dad's wish to be cremated.  He was more concerned about cost and not burdening his family with the excessive funeral expenses that our government requires than anything else.  But he may well have had environmental and space concerns on his mind.  There is no plot in a cemetery and no stone to remember him by.  These aren't important.  His body will one day rise again, anyway, whatever form of decay or deterioration it is in. 

Dad's ashes were buried behind the church in Manchester, CT, where he had long served as pastor of missions and mentoring and as part of the care team.  There is a playground back there and a nice little tree.  The day after the memorial service we put his ashes in a hole next to the tree.  It was a windy, cold, bright day, but it wasn't very pretty in the middle of winter.  

Mom had the bright idea of erecting a memorial to dad over the site of his burial.  But this is no gravestone.  It is a bench.  And it is really comfortable.  Inscribed on the bacak of the bench is Psalm 23.6: 
'Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.'

There is no inscription on the bench marking it as the place of dad's burial.  We want people to move beyond dad and remember the God he served.  We want this to be a place of rest and reflection, a place where people can stop for a minute and think about God's goodness and mercy.  Here are some of the family members around the bench.

We dedicated the bench with a few friends, family, and church staff on Thursday evening, July 8, on a beautiful, sunny day.  The trees spread their branches over the bench and gave it shade.  The scenery is lush and beautiful.  May all who pass this way find God and find rest in Him. 

A Day Off

In our busy lives, it's often hard to squeeze in a vacation or even find a day off.  That's why it's nice when our friend Mark offers to take us sailing on Long Island Sound, off the coast of Connecticut.  We get a real day off.  Last week we managed to squeeze a day in between a dedication of a memorial bench for my dad (July 8) and a family wedding (July 10) to get down to the sound to catch some wind and some waves. 

Mark's boat isn't large like some huge yachts we saw, but it was so nice to get away from the pressure and difficulties of life and simply relax.  The day was warm and sunny, so even though the breeze wasn't strong, we managed to get in some real sailing.  I like to hold the tiller and steer the boat, but I'm not an expert sailor, just a green first mate.


Unfortunately, Daniel and Suzanne couldn't be with us this time as they had work.  We missed them, but we got to see something we had not seen on previous trips: seals basking on Fisher's Island just across the inlet from Mystic.  This may be the best-kept secret on Long Island Sound.  Normally, they swim north by this time of year, but there they were.

Another highlight was rounding the small rocky outcrop with a pretty lighthouse.  The lighthouse used to be inhabited, but now it is automated and emits a rather jarring 'ping'...'ping' every few minutes to warn ships away.


All in all, it was a good day. Thanks, Mark.