Years ago, I met a friend from out of town at our local Starbucks. We got our coffees, sat down at a table and began to catch up. At one point, my friend said, “It sure is sad about ______. I can’t believe he would get involved with another woman.” I was stunned. I had looked up to this minister. My mind immediately raced back to some years earlier, when I was a young minister. I had met this same preacher for lunch. Before our lunch, I had watched him interact with someone in his office that left me feeling very uncomfortable. At the time, I quickly discounted and dismissed this feeling, because after all, I looked up to this man. This couldn’t be true. That day at the Starbucks, I learned that it was true. Now, this preacher who at one time had a great deal of influence, had to leave his congregation and deal with the mess in his life.
I read several interesting articles this past week including “A Brief Process for More Enlightened Brainstorming” from Quartz by Sarah Kaplan and Mark Leung. This companion article by Sarah Kaplan was also helpful, “Combining the Two Routes to Creativity. You can find this in the Rotman Magazine (University of Toronto – Rotman School of Management).
The Hedgehog Review recently had a special issue devoted to “The Human and the Digital.” I read a very thoughtful article entitled “Expose Thyself! On the Digitally Revealed Life” by Christine Rosen.
The following paragraph is just a sampling of Rosen’s very fine article.
By contrast, the lives we live on Facebook, Instagram, Yik Yak, and Twitter are virtual, not visceral, and they favor immediacy, as well as encourage less productive feelings, such as envy. One study in Germany found a “rampant nature of envy” and other “invidious emotions” among people who were heavy users of Facebook, particularly those who tended to follow other people’s newsfeeds and check others’ profiles. They experienced Facebook as a “stressful environment” that affected their daily lives. “The spread of ubiquitous presence of envy on social networking sites is shown to undermine users’ life satisfaction,” the researchers found, creating a “self-promotion-envy spiral,” in which users were “reacting with even more self-promotional content to the self-promotional content of others.”16 We hear many stories about the positive effects of social networking (of which there are many); but new research also suggests that the effects are more complicated when it comes to our emotional responses to social media.
Recently, I listened to a recording of a class given by Sara Jackson and Emily Lemley in which they made reference to a discussion by James Bryan Smith on worry. (See The Good and Beautiful Life, pp. 171-182). In particular, I appreciated them pointing out these wonderful two sentences.
Worry keeps me focused on my own limited resources. Trust keeps my attention on God’s abundant resources. (p. 178)
(Is there anyone else besides me who needs to remember these two sentences?)
The following are some of the resources that I read, listened to, or skimmed last week. Maybe one or more will interest you.
This week I listened to several podcasts that were interesting. I listened to the Reveal podcast entitled “Institutions of Higher Learning.” (Reveal is from The Center for Investigative Reporting.) Much of this had to do regarding the discussion taking place across the country regarding financing an education. (This especially interested me since it opened with a story about The University of Texas, my home state).
I also listened to an interview with Andy Crouch on The Sacred Podcast (from Theos, a think tank in the U.K.). This was an excellent interview. Elizabeth Oldfield starts off each podcast with the question “What do you hold sacred?”
Finally, I listened to an interview with Molly Crockett, “The neuroscience of social media outrage” one of the Rad Awakenings with Khe Hy. Crockett is a assistant psychology professor at Yale.
So this is what interested me about the two podcasts that I just mentioned. Both Andy Crouch and Molly Crockett discussed the issue of social media and outrage. Social media seems to lend itself most naturally to those of us who are outraged at something. This is worth much thought!
This week I will begin reading Andrew Root’s new book, Faith Formation in a Secular Age: Responding to the Church’s Obsession with Youthfulness. Ordered this after Scot McKnight recommended it highly.
Don’t miss Lisa Whittle’s powerful article, “How to Lose a Pastor in Ten Years.” (First became aware of this on Scot McKnight’s blog). Very sobering.
Most Mondays, I post some resources that I think might interest you. If they don’t, this may just not be your week. However, perhaps at least one of these resources will be interesting. Of course, posting these links does not mean that I agree with every idea in the resource. I am simply sharing with you a few resources that interested me this week.
Many of us have been following the story of Southwest Flight 1380 and the emergency landing in Philadelphia (The plane had left New York bound for Dallas-Ft.Worth). This article, “Inside Southwest Flight 1380, 20 minutes of Chaos and Terror” was one of the best articles I read regarding this incident.
Are you familiar with Theos, a UK think tank? (Part of the British and Foreign Bible Society.) This week I read two papers published by Theos. One was by Ben Ryan, “Christian Funders and Grant-Making, an Analysis.” (Since a part of my work includes helping to raise money for Harding School of Theology, this interested me.) I also read a paper that might interest you by Nick Spencer, “Doing Good: A Future for Christianity in the 21st Century.
Ok, see this excellent article that I read this week regarding work habits, “3 Rules I Use to Stay Productive and Not Overwhelmed.” I read this twice and I may read it a third time! Like many of you (I suspect), I have much to do and sometimes get frustrated when I leave undone something that is important. Articles like this are helpful to me. Sometimes in reading an article like this one, it occurs to me an adjustment that I could make in the way I do my work that could really make a big difference both in my productivity and how I feel.
Right now I am reading two books. First I am reading Scott Sauls, From Weakness to Strength, 8 Vulnerabilities That Can Bring Out the Best in Your Leadership. This is an excellent book! This is a slow read because I often stop and reflect on what was said. The other book I am reading is Israel Galindo’s book, Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in Congregational Context. Helpful!
“Google’s astounding new search tool will answer any question by reading thousands of books” in Quartz (April 14, 2018) by Anne Quito. This is interesting. Try asking a few questions to Talk to Books. I have done a search or two using this technology and the results made me want to come back.
“World View” in Comment (March 1, 2018) by James K.A. Smith. This column is one reason why I subscribe to Comment. In this particular issue, he talks about his travels (most of these are apparently speaking engagements.) Some places are well known. Many others are not. In this particular issue, he speaks with such endearment and respect toward the locations that he has visited. I find this very engaging and refreshing. (Far too often, in my opinion, writers will speak of small, out of the way places almost condescendingly with little, if any, appreciation for what they offer.)
If you happen to read the above article by Smith, don’t miss his fine editorial in the same issue, “EDITORIAL: Is The University Worth Saving?”
“10 Ways to Prepare for a TED Style Talk” by Nancy Duarte. Let me tell you — I read everything Nancy Duarte writes about preparing talks, communication, etc. She is one of the finest communication professionals you will fine anywhere today. I have been reading her for a number of years.
For the last week, I have been reading Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context (edited by Israel Galindo). This is a fine book which you will probably enjoy if you enjoy the works of Edwin Friedman, Peter Steinke, and Margaret Marcuson.
Don’t miss this one! “Learn How to Fold a World-Record-Setting Paper Airplane” in Wired (March 30, 2018). Don’t miss the video!
I had been preaching in Waco, Texas for about a year. Of course, I had already had some difficult experiences in the fifteen years of preaching before that. At times, I was nervous before some meetings, particularly if I wasn’t quite sure what to do or say. On some occasions, I was nervous before counseling an individual or couple. So much was on the line. Would I say the right thing?
On this Sunday morning, I was particularly nervous. I had learned days before that I had a large tumor on my spine. I was to have surgery in the middle of June (1994). The surgery meant opening my chest. Never having had surgery before, all of this was a new experience. The doctor thought it was benign. Yet, that was little comfort to me. I wanted to know for sure.
That Sunday morning, I told the congregation that I was about to have surgery and that, according to the surgeon, I would be recovering much of the summer. I gave what information I had and then to them that I would appreciate their prayers and that Charlotte and I had already been praying about this for several weeks. I then said:
I am cautiously optimistic and scared to death.
The church was very gracious and supportive. That morning, they prayed for us and communicated their love for our family.
A former minister was present that morning. During lunch, he called our home and asked if we could meet that afternoon. Later in the afternoon, I met with him and was taken aback by what he said:
You shouldn’t have told the church that you were “scared to death.” They must not know this. They need to hear that you trust God.
I told him that I do trust God! I trust that he will be with me through the whole ordeal. I then told him that nevertheless, my emotions are raw and yes, I am afraid and nervous. Yet, I was trusting God regardless of these emotions.
What does it mean to move forward in your life? It means to trust God regardless of what your emotions may be telling you. It means to trust God when you face the unknown. It means to trust God even when there are obstacles and hurdles.
Courage is not about putting on a brave face or pretending that nothing fazes you. Courage is not bravado while you talk about how you’ve “been around the block.”
Courage is daring to trust God – regardless.
(I had the surgery and the tumor was benign. Yet through that experience, I learned so much about trusting God.)
The following are articles/books that I have recently read. Some of these are podcasts that I have listened to. You might find these interesting or helpful in some way. As you might have guessed, I am simply sharing some interesting resources. These are not necessarily recommendations or endorsements.
Recently, while traveling I finished Jack Deere’s new book Even in Our Darkness. This is an autobiographical account of this minister, author, former professor that is honest and transparent.
Also just finished Grace and Peace written by friends and colleagues of David Worley of Austin. I didn’t know David well but did have a few lengthy conversations with him in the last few years. So impressed with his heart and his generosity.
Recently in a Wednesday evening class, I saw video presentations by Dr. Monte Cox based on his new book Significant Others. The videos and book are all about understanding our non-Christian neighbors. I was so impressed with the content and the tone of these videos. You can find them here.
I try to keep up with a variety of podcasts. Each week, I will listen to a few of these. (Usually while in the car.) Recently I listened to podcast from Akimbo (Seth Godin), Amanpour (CNN’s Christiana Amanpour), The Faith Angle (Jonathan Merritt and Kirsten Powers), and Kingdom Roots (Scot McKnight).
Some of my favorite reading each week includes the Saturday edition of the Wall Street Journal; the series “How I Work” in Lifehacker, and “Sunday Routine” in The New York Times. I typically skim Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed and Jame K. A. Smith’s Comment.
Recently, I read Brad Lomenick’s, H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle. A fairly short book but full of some wonderful suggestions and a reminder of some important principles. I was glad I read it.
Graham Allcott has written a nice piece in Productive Magazine, “Morning Pages.”
You might enjoy this article by Kathy Keller (Tim Keller’s spouse) “Lessons Learned from Thirty Years in Ministry.” I have such great respect for Tim and Kathy Keller and always learn something from these kinds of reflections.
Maybe something here will be helpful or at least interesting.
Years ago, Charlotte and I moved to Dallas from Tennessee. This was a temporary move. Ultimately, we would move to Abilene, Texas where we would both go to graduate school. However, at this point, we were in Dallas trying to get our finances in order so that we could move. We lived in Dallas for about eight months where we worked and saved for the fall semester. During this time, I also took a few courses at Amberton University, as well as a satellite campus of ACU, where I took a wonderful class taught by Paul Faulkner, in which he said much about life and ministry.
I began preaching for a small church outside of Dallas on Sundays. This church was located close to Lake Ray Hubbard. I knew an older couple who were members there and they had recommended me to the elders.
I remember my first Sunday well. We were walking from our car into the church building when this same couple whom I had known for many years, saw us. The gentleman, about seventy years of age, said, “Let me encourage you to not speak real long. The old people here don’t like long sermons.”
The following resources have been helpful to me recently. (In mentioning these, I am not endorsing everything on the pages of an article or book or everything in the podcast. Only suggesting that something in the article/book/podcast made me think.)
You Might Consider
The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman. I enjoyed this book. Perhaps what was most helpful was simply having the opportunity to experience how someone like Norman thinks. His comments regarding the needs and psychology of people made me think.
Akimbo (podcast) by Seth Godin. I read most everything Seth Godin writes. He has a way of helping me think and feeding my curiosity. A brilliant marketing expert, he has launched this new podcast.
Just How Married Do You Want to Be by Jim and Sarah Sumner. A wonderful book about marriage that is biblical and theological and at the same time, very practical. I especially appreciated the very clear call to take Jesus seriously and for that to be reflected in one’s marriage.
“The Tyranny of Convenience” (New York Times, February 16, 2018). A very thoughtful article on the idea of convenience and the importance this culture has placed on this ideal. He raises some questions regarding “Today’s cult of convenience….”
A Few Others
I try to be aware of what some of my favorite authors who write more biblical and theological books are writing. These include people like J. Christopher Wright, Scot McKnight, N. T. Wright, John Dickson, and others.
Maybe some of this will be helpful.