Archive for January, 2008

My good friend Kelly Liebengood ran off to Costa Rica shortly after recording this 2003 album. Then, when he had done all the damage he could in that Central American nation, he fled to Scotland, where he is presently jousting at becoming a biblical scholar, to the general consternation of an otherwise splendid old University that lies next to the world’s most famous golf courses.

It is difficult to say with certainty how the world might have been different had Mr. Liebengood continued to devote himself to recording music rather than, say, missionary pursuits in Latin America or a high-fallutin’ academic career across the pond. There are moments in these thirteen tracks that are so raw one is reminded of a train running off the rails and burying an unsuspecting village in its load of cabbage or, say, malt. (more…)

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At first or early encounter, Gregorian Chant is a bit like a large, quality cigar.

It goes on rather longer than one anticipated, it provides moments for wondering how-did-I-get-myself-into-this, it opens the shutters to glimpses of true beauty, and in the end leaves one longing for the next one. (more…)

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In Jesus’ teaching, blessing is a deep paradox. It does not come to those who seem most likely to have achieved it. Its credentials are counter-intuitive. Blessing descends in sharp contradiction to the appearances of candidacy. (more…)

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With their feet newly planted on dry ground, the survivors of the biblical flood story learn from YHWH himself that the experience will never be repeated. Indeed, dependable regularity will mark the future rather than the systematic dismantling of creation that brought the floodwaters surging up from below and pounding down as incessant rain.

As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night,
shall not cease.

So reads the versed section of twin divine promises not to wipe the earth free of living creatures as he had done in the wake of humanity’s filling up the earth with nothing but bloodshed and violence. The rainbow is identified as YHWH’s covenantal sign that such destruction is not to be feared when the rains come down. (more…)

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The gospel according to Matthew, one of the four canonical literary glimpses of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that are afforded us, peers attentively into Israel’s past. Indeed, this portrait of Jesus and his way in this world finds its guiding framework in the Old Testament. Matthew will frequently refer to a word or action of Jesus with a ‘this is that’ formula that anchors the thing to some fixed point in the witness of the Hebrew Bible. (more…)

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This is a book of which the appendices are capable of making their reader weep.

And weep, one should.

Irene Nemirovsky’s stories and the almost incredible story of how this lost manuscript only recently came to light after the author was murdered in Auschwitz in 1942 (her husband died a similar death at the hands of the same villains a bit later) thrust one into the deepest, most senseless excesses of Europe’s twentieth-century self-mutilations. (more…)

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Edited by two British academics, this superb reference tool has quickly found pride of place near my elbow at the location where I think and write. Smallish but crystal-clear fontwork allows hundreds of concise, well-edited articles to fill up just over six hundred pages in complement with a rather full bibliography.

An intense cross-referencing system leads the reader productively from article to related article, allowing for either a quick dip into the material or an extended foray.

I withhold the fifth star in this review not because of any intrinsic defect in the book but rather because events since 1999 make an update almost obligatory.

Although intended as a single-consult reference dictionary, this work actually makes for an enjoyable extended read.

Kudos to Penguin for producing an eminently useful small dictionary.

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Although this reviewer’s background and education were scant preparation for it, my work brings me into regular contact with (mostly American) entrepeneurs whose lives are testimony to the power that possibility still holds in this country. One of them is the chairman of the board I serve with Overseas Council, Norm Miller.

Norm’s 1996 self-told story is a thrilling read for me because of the honesty with which he describes his pilgrimage and the angle that experience has given to me from which to corroborate his narrative. It’s the real thing. (more…)

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