Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Books: Two Little Gems

I'm about twenty books behind in posting about books I've been reading. I'll be trying to catch up in the next couple weeks. I'll prime the pump today with a mention of two little book gems I enjoyed in recent months.

The first is an old devotional classic by Henry Drummond entitled The Greatest Thing in the World. The book is really more like a long essay--only 55 tiny pages in all. Drummond was a 19th century Scottish preacher, and the book reads like a sermon from those days. It's really a collection of sermons on the preeminence of love. I found it to be a beautiful and inspiring reminder and I would encourage everyone to read it. Thanks to my friend, Kelli Fredin, a fellow book lover who was nice enough to give me a copy of the book for my library.

The second is a book of essays (and one short story) by Joey Earl Horstman entitled Praise, Anxiety, and Other Symptoms of Grace. Joey Horstman is a professor of English at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. More importantly to me, he is the son of my good friend Jerry Horstman who serves as an elder in the church I pastor.

The book is a collection of entertaining and insightful essays and stories that first appeared in The Other Side magazine. Horstman has a wry sense of humor--think Dave Barry--and a keen, no-nonsense approach to faith. Many of the cultural references are a bit dated by now (the book was published in 2000), but the insights he wrestles out of everyday experiences are timeless.

My favorite part of the book was the short story, "Pete's Dig." Putting aside the demeanor of a witty columnist, Horstman demonstrates he is a first-rate storyteller (move over Dave Barry and make room for Flannery). That story alone was worth the price of the whole book. I say this with absolute conviction even though I didn't have to pay it because, as I said, I mooched my signed copy from the author's dad.

Bottom line: I want an entire book of short stories from Horstman. I'm sure you've written them, Joey. I hope you're trying to publish them. I'm ready to buy, unless I can get your dad to get me a free copy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan!

Bob Dylan celebrates his 69th birthday today. He was born in Duluth, MN in 1941. When Bruce Springsteen inducted Dylan into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 1988, he said, "Elvis freed your body, Bob freed your mind."

While neither of those proclamations is true for me, I will say that Dylan has delighted and intrigued my mind and my ears for many a year. It's hard for me to imagine a world without Bob.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Dylan.

Monday, May 10, 2010

AVHS - Les Miserables

The Apple Valley High School Theater did a fantastic job with their production of Les Miserables. You don't have to take my word for it; read Gary Sankary's review that appeared on the MinnPost news site. The whole production was a wonderful testimony to the quality of the AVHS program, the wonderful teaching staff, and the fantastic kids who worked so hard. Bravo!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Quirky and Brilliant

Thanks to Jad Abumrad and the good people of the Radio Lab podcast, I've been introduced to Buke and Gass, a quirky and brilliant band.

Hailing from Brooklyn, the musical collaboration of duo, Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez, is named for the hodgepodged instruments they've invented and mastered--the Buke, a bass ukelele, and a Gass (pronounced "gase"), a stringed instrument equal parts bass and electric guitar. Throw in an array of drums, shakers, sleigh bells, and other percussion instruments played by feet and legs, and you have the latest incarnation of the one-man band. In this case, a one-woman-and-one-man band.

Buke + Gase both woo and assault my ears with music that is one part power pop and one part car crash. Their complex layering of meters and polyrhythms delights my inner geek to no end. The sharp turns and twists make ADD an asset, but the colorful and bumpy ride makes me hang on for the whole trip.

Listen and get a free download of their song Medulla Oblongata here.

Saturday, May 01, 2010


I just completed two days of conversation and fellowship at the TransFORM East Coast Gathering in Washington DC. The conference was well organized and seemed to go very smoothly, which is good news for my friend, Steve Knight, who headed up the conference planning team. I thought the host site, Wesley Theological Seminary, was just perfect for the event. Even the weather was picture perfect.

As I expected, the conference provided much to think about, much that provoked, and much to question. I saw a lot of angst and frustration at work in many of the participants, much of it there for good reasons. I heard a lot of good questions, most of them very important. And yes, I saw some disturbing assumptions and some misguided thinking I would say is as simplistic as the wrong-headed modernistic certainty it is reacting against. But I also saw a lot of soul searching and a great deal of desire for finding and living a Christianity worth believing--one that engages real issues and makes a real difference in the lives of real people in the real world.

My favorite workshop leaders were: Samir Selmanovic (Learning to Love the Other in God, Self, and Society), Russell Rathbun (Sustainable Faith: Telling Stories that Compost), and Mark Van Steenwyk (Cultivating Liberated Spaces).

Of course, one of the best parts of any conference is the opportunity to meet and talk with people. I met a lot of new friends and had some great conversations. I was also able to renew friendships with some of my old CSF friends--Steve & Becky Knight (who worked at the conference), Josh Hunt, and Juan & Chloe Sole (who all live in the DC area).