Book Notes ~ July 2016

July was a rather poor month for me in terms of book reading, only finishing 2 books out of the needed 4 in order to stay on target to reach my goal of 50 books in 2016.  But I would particularly commend to you the second of the two books I read, about revival in Thailand.

The First Salute: A View of the American Revolution 

I have mixed feelings about this book because I started reading it in order to better understand the course of the American Revolution. And eventually, in the last third of the book, the author did delve into the final stage of the war where Washington defeated Cornwallis at Yorktown. However, the majority of the book consisted of a detailed account of the European conflicts and naval histories of the 17th and 18th century in order to set the context for the American conflict. I learned more than I ever intended to learn about the Dutch fight for independence from Spain and the internal politics of the British Royal Navy. I nearly put the book down before I got half way through but I kept hoping that the author would eventually get into the American Revolution in earnest. My patience was rewarded but I came away with the feeling that it was not necessary to get into such gory detail about the conflicts between the European nations in order to understand the American Revolution. In the end though, I learned that perhaps the primary reason why the Americans won the war was because the British were arrogant, lethargic, incompetent, and internally divided.

 

 

 

Furlough Fever

One of the odd phenomenon of missionary life is “furlough fever” or “home assignment fever.”   For missionaries who are away from their home countries for three or four years (or more) at a time, the symptoms of furlough fever often begin to appear in the last three to six months before their regularly scheduled return “home”.  
 
Symptoms of furlough fever are easy to detect if you know what to look for:

Book Notes ~ June 2016

The end of June marks the half way point in my goal to read 50 books in 2016.  So far I have completed 24 books, which is almost keeping pace to finish 50 by the end of December.  This past month, I enjoyed reading about procrastination, George Washington, the Solas of the Protestant Reformation, and expectations and burnout among women missionaries.

The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging, and Postponing, or, Getting Things Done by Putting Them Off

I know that procrastination is one of my weaknesses and I want to improve my ability to focus on what I should be doing, so I was intrigued by the whimsical title of this book which seems to promise to redeem my wasted time in some way.  Could there be any positive aspects about procrastination?    
The book is written by a philosophy teacher who found the time to write this book as a means of avoiding doing other things.  His main point is that some people are structured procrastinators, meaning they avoid doing what they should be doing by doing something else which is also productive.  For example, you should be writing an important email but instead you organize your files.  This book is largely anecdotal and is extremely fun.  My family and I listened to the audiobook version while driving to our vacation recently and were enjoying listening to it so much that we missed our turn and almost ran out of gas.   If you have a procrastination problem, read (or listen) to this short book to get a new perspective on your (mis)use of time and to help you stop feeling like a useless excuse for a human being when you have trouble staying on task.

 

 

The Idol of Busyness

If you ask many people today, “How are you doing?”, it is extremely common to get an answer along the lines of “I’m really busy.”  It seems that everybody is busy.  Everybody is tired.  In fact, it is almost expected that people will be busy and that any answer other than “I’m really busy” is unacceptable.

But is it socially acceptable to NOT be busy?

Imagine with me that someone asks you, “How are you doing?” and you reply, “I’m doing well. I don’t have a lot going on.”  Is that an acceptable answer?  If you answer like that, will people think you are lazy?  If we don’t claim to be busy, will people think we have no ambition and no goals in life?

Book Notes ~ May 2016

In May, I wrapped up a couple long books left over from April and "read" my first whole book from a Puritan author (besides John Bunyan).  I am still working on figuring out a research topic in Thai church history in order to apply for Ph.D studies, which is reflected in this month's titles.

How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity

This was a fascinating read from sociologist of religion Rodney Stark.  In short, he advances the thesis that there were distinctive factors that have contributed to the development and prosperity of Western nations that were not present in other cultures around the world.  The West, for example, developed democracy and modern science because of beliefs in progress and the value of innovation.  As in many of his other books, Stark seeks to overturn popular misconceptions and self-loathing critiques about Western civilization, namely that European nations gained ascendancy by merely being in the right place at the right time to take advantage of other cultures for their own advancement. He does not try to hide the flaws and evils of the West, but does want to bring balance to the overstated critiques of recent years.  The longer I live in Asia, and the longer I study history, the more I see that although there are many beautiful and worthy aspect of non-Western cultures, there are many aspects of Western culture that are better than other places in the world (commitments to democracy, equality, progress, and innovation).  That may sound like any old colonial attitude but I’d rather think of this position as a realistic view which finds a middle ground between white guilt and white man’s burden.  From this short description of the book, you may not be convinced of Stark’s thesis so I would encourage you to read the book for yourself.  It is well written and worth your time.

 

 

Introducing the Thai Christian Catechism

Thai Christian CatechismFor the past couple of years, I have been working together with Dr. Natee Tanchanpongs (pastor, Grace City Bangkok church) and Mr. Chaiyasit Suebthayat (elder, New City Fellowship Church in eastern Bangkok) to write a new catechism in Thai for Thai Christians.  The three of us have written a new Thai Christian Catechism from the ground up, borrowing from the Westminster Shorter Catechism at times, but organizing the catechism differently and covering slightly different ground in terms of what is included or not included, and how it is expressed.  

Why a New Catechism?

While Reformation era catechisms like Heidelberg and Westminster are superb for English speakers, especially for native speakers in a culturally Western context, translations of these catechisms end up sounding clunky and unnatural in Thai.  The truth in them is sound but it is difficult to maintain accuracy to the original without sacrificing readability.  Also, the questions and issues of Europeans hundreds of years ago are not always the same as contemporary Thai believers.  Surely there is a vast amount of overlap because the duty of all Christians is to preserve “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3).  However, we wanted a biblically faithful catechism that is readable and accessible for modern Thai Christians, addressing issues of faith that are both essential and current for Thai churches.  I hope we have accomplished that.

The catechism has been privately published with professional assistance in layout, design, and printing from Kanok Bannasan (OMF Publishers Thailand).  Dr. Natee will be teaching through the new catechism over the next several months at our church, Grace City Bangkok, and videos of each session to be posted on YouTube.  The catechism will also be available for purchase through Kanok Bannasan (OMF Publishers Thailand), and we hope that other churches will find it useful in giving their church members a solid foundation in the Christian faith.

In the remainder of this post, I want to give you a brief peak inside the catechism, share some question and answer pairs that show how we have written this for the Thai context, and provide a link for you to download a PDF of the introduction and first chapter.  Currently we do not have a full English translation of the catechism, but that will probably be coming eventually.

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