Random Thoughts for the Weekend

the-good-samaritan-after-delacroix-1890

1.  The above piece of art is Van Gogh’s “The Good Samaritan – After Delacroix.” It is stunning for the eye and the heart. I have no taste for politics and I do not like any politicians. But, if it is true our current President did not categorically repudiate the white-supremicists carrying Nazi flags that marched in Charlottesville last weekend, any defense of this by those who follow Jesus is not merely a political issue but a gospel issue at it’s deepest level. This is not controversial in the least. The teachings of Jesus and his Apostles are clear on how we treat other people – we love them even if it feels like a cross to bear. We love them regardless of their race. We love even if they want to kill us. There is no getting around this. There may be a thousand issues swirling around all the issues of race and protest and politics, but for the one who places all their hope in the mercy and grace of the gospel of Christ, there is no other way to live besides love for our neighbor regardless of what they look like, what they believe, and whether or not they mean us harm. Again, this is not politics, this is theology.

2. The Glass Castle may be the craziest memoir I have ever read. It is certainly some of the best writing I have enjoyed.

3. Speaking of broken records, my truck overheated again and the plan is to not let the day end without buying a new vehicle.  (raises fist in defiance)

4. Someone asked me the other day if I missed anything about my last job. I miss nothing about working for the bank. I worked with some good people but we were so frantically overworked that you could never really get to know them anyway.

5. I keep trying to listen to albums other than Isbell’s The Nashville Sound, but none of them are near as good. Not a one.

6. Relax, we still have more than two months of baseball left.

7. I am barely into my third day of taking a rest day – a day when I do no work for my job(s). As much as I look forward to this day, it is hard work to not work. But because there is always something that can be done when teaching, it is tempting to open the computer and begin working or do some related reading. Plus, I *really* enjoy getting ready for classes. But I get the feeling this rest day is good for me on a level I cannot pin down just yet.

8.  When I got my first paycheck from the school, my first thought was “Which record do I want to buy?”

9. Me: Everything I know about teaching I learned from School of Rock.

8th Grade Boys: What is School of Rock?

10. I think it’s in The Message version of Proverbs 31 that it says, “She rises early and drives a school bus so her family can enjoy good insurance.”

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

bethany bus

1. What a week. I started teaching. My wife started driving a school bus. My daughter started High School. My son started Middle School. And now all three kids are at three different schools.

2.  Love your (political) enemies.

3. When I was in college, for a number of years (it takes awhile when you pay for it yourself) I was a secondary education major. But then I decided to pursue a call to ministry. Now I do both of those. This all feels like I’ve been guided along.

4.  One sign that you may need to try a new place is when the waitress knows which sushi roll you ordered the week before.

5. Related to the first point above, I am learning the value of Sabbath rest in a fresh way.

6. The last time the Cardinals had a run like this was 2011. The last time they had a rally animal was 2011. The last time I quit a job and started a new career was 2011. They won it all in 2011.

7. (Waits for new War on Drugs album impatiently)

8. Yesterday I told Bethany that I could not believe I get paid to do this. She asked if I felt like that when I was doing youth ministry. I don’t think I ever thought that way back then because I had not yet walked through the valley of the shadow of banking for six years. Being thankful for those six years will take time and effort, but I can catch a whiff of what that thanksgiving looks like.

9. After watching the video of Tim Tebow making that autistic kid’s day (year?), he may be my favorite ballplayer. Some things go beyond stats and success.

10. I am so proud of my wife. She is seriously the most competent person I know. There were zero doubts she would be able to get through all the training to drive a school bus. I had no doubt she would do a good job driving it. But what you need to hear is how she talks about the kids. If she was your kid’s driver, you’d be very fortunate.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend


1. For what you communicate in your vocation to be your only comfort in life and death is no small thing. I am not sure I realized this before. Far too often “success” is the comfort…was the comfort.

2. Mozart’s clarinet concerto.

3. Side goal with my students: Expose them to the magisterial thinking of Calvin.

4. My daughter starts high school in a few days. How is this even possible? She is only 7 and just yesterday she could fit in my lap and asked me  to carry her because she was tired.

5. This week I talked with a fellow new faculty member about Shawshank Redemption. We talked about being “institutionalized” and the fear. I am about to describe something many of you understand about the workplace even if you never had words for it. 

You are standing on the head of a pin and you are realizing there are an infinite number of ways to fall off. And daily you are shown new ways of falling off. The head of that pin is never expanded. That would cost money. It is always contracting. And fear is all around you. 

Even though I am no longer standing on the head of a pin, it is hard to not stand as if I am.

6. It is hard to watch the Cardinals right now. Easy to not.

7.  Yesterday I was cut off by someone getting off at the same exit I was. It was an unnecessarily dangerous piece of driving. And then I thought how funny it would be if we were going to the same place. And that got me thinking about how followers of Jesus talk about each other and deal with each other and we are all headed to the same place.

8. People say there is no magic but I disagree because of coffee.

9. That moment in the roadhouse when Jayber sees Troy Chatham with another woman.

10. Have you ever not feared?/To stand there in all that mercy,/if only for a split second, with/nothing to fear, is heaven itself.

Random Thoughts After Quitting My Job

ShawshankRedempt_184Pyxurz

1.  If you write a book about how your work is significant in the eyes of God, even when you hate it and it seems small and miserable, there is a good chance you will have to go through that for about six years, if you have not already done so. God will be faithful, though. And the gospel will taste sweeter at the journey’s end.

2. On Monday I will start working with people that care about poetry.

3. Someone should do some serious writing about “vocational shame.” I talked about it in Sunday School one week for about 10 minutes and I still hear from men who struggle with this. It is real and deadly. There is gospel hope but it’s a hard road to walk. In the main, it is hard because most men have trouble admitting it.

4. If anyone tells you that working in a bank is a lot like ministry, go directly to target.com/careers.

5.  There is wisdom in knowing that even in a business you have struggled to respect, there are good people working there. And there are some like my best friend, Sean, who are living out the kindness of the gospel with the people they oversee.

6.  Yesterday I was listening to all these songs which had been anchors for me along the way and when I got to “Every Breaking Wave” and I heard “Drowning is no sin” I had to stop what I was doing and excuse myself. Some of you will understand.

7. Almost my whole time at the bank, I kept a copy of Wendell Berry’s Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front pinned up just to the right of my right-most monitor (I had three monitors). As I clocked out yesterday, I unpinned it and left it lying on my keyboard in hopes it would be read. Not a lot of hope, though…

8. I’ve been thinking about Shawshank Redemption a lot over the past couple of weeks. It’s been maybe 20 years since I have seen that film but I saw a clip not long ago that reminded me of so many scenes from the movie. Working for the Bank is nothing like prison. Know that. But metaphors are only meaningful if what is not similar can converge at a point and then help us see something true. Plus, the fact that Andy was a banker is not lost on me.

9. One of the great struggles has been knowing that other people struggle far more than I do. Either because of tragedy or poverty or disease. I know this to be true. But I also had to recognize there is something intrinsic to the way we were created regarding the vocations we are engaged in. It is never just “work.” Our whole souls are involved. And when the only consolation is that you can pay your bills (no small thing) the soul shrivels. I am glad we were able to pay our bills. But that was never enough. Some may think this is a weakness. But I think it is a strength developed over time as I understood more and more what it meant to “work” as one created in the image of God.

10. You need to know my wife is as excited about my new job as I am. This is no exaggeration. She had to keep reminding herself it was me quitting and not her, because she had taken on all the joy. No wonder since she has had to shoulder a lot of the darkness and anxiety I’ve been through. She never quit holding my hand, though. Not even once.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend


1. It is good to be part of a “me too” church culture. There, you can not only be honest, but you can know you do not repent, believe, or fight alone.

2. Reading a book about Mozart will make you hate the movie, Amadeus, in retrospect.

3. I have one week left at the Bank and my parting shot is only this:

Where angels might dance/there are an infinite number of directions/for the rest of us to fall.

4. Social media is destroying confidence in parenting. You only see the perfectly matching outfits on the beach because of the professional photographer. You do not see the abject fear. Or everyday frustrations. You do not see the kids fighting and complaining between shots.

5. When a friend tragically loses their only child, you look at your children differently. You can’t help it.

6. I think I expected Crime and Punishment to be a window. Instead, it was a mirror.

7. My middle son doesn’t like watching videos with animals killing other animals. It truly bothers him. After the boys went to bed and while Bethany was picking Emma up from band camp, I started to watch No Country for Old Men. Now as I rule, I am not one to just start a movie. But I loved the book and there it was on Netflix. But after the first scene ,I couldn’t handle it. I turned it off. I’m too much like my son.

8. There is a lot of “positive thinking” about vocation. Some of it is palatable. Most is unconscionable. You see, what so many of the punchy quotes miss is this: If it is true someone can find their groove in vocation – that sweet spot where desire and skill and training and experience come together for their good and other’s good – then is it not also possible the very opposite can happen with varying degrees between? It is possible.

9. I don’t think the technology of a book has been surpassed yet.

10. Did I mention I only have one more week at the bank?

Random Thoughts for the Weekend


1.  One of the things studying the New Testament will do, is train you to not assume. For example, our culture – even Christians – assume we should honor God and fear what the president will do (or not do). But Peter turns that paradigm on its head and says fear God and honor the Emperor, who was not very honorable. To enter the NT is to enter another world altogether, where assumptions are daily challenged.

2.  I finished reading The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings while on vacation. And it reminded me of when I was young and being so moved by what I read (Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Canterbury Tales, The Odyssey) in my literature classes that I wanted to tell someone and not really knowing who. I often wonder if those who made all A’s in those classes care about those stories now. Do they still know those first few lines of the prologue of Canterbury Tales in Middle English and carry them around like hoarded treasure?

3. The grace and mercy given to me through the cross saves me from the wrath of God. Also, it saves me from my insecure need to be angry about everything there is to be angry about.

4. How Christians talk about those they disagree with is infinitely more important than what politicians talk about.

5. I have now seen two posts on social media conflating the liberty we have in Christ with our nation’s independence. They are nothing alike. And for those who follow Christ, one of those freedoms is so treasured, the other is but a wistful rumor.

6. The difference between a very crowded beach and one that is not, makes all the difference. The beauty is obscured by the amount of commotion. But first thing in the morning? When no one is out there? Magic.

7. I have this theory: If you talk about a relational problem between two people (or two groups of people) too much, you actually do more harm than good. I think it’s a fairly sound theory for a couple reasons. First, generally the talk involves and naturally tends toward offenses and hurts. And the law will eventually push one party away. And second, I believe there is grace in silence. This stands in opposition to modern thinking that does not believe you can talk about anything too much.

8. I miss sitting out on the balcony in the morning with Bethany, looking out over the Gulf, eating half a biscuit and sausage topped with pimento cheese and a fried egg.

9. There are many  moments in Dante’s Inferno where my breath is taken away. And then there are other times where I’m glad there are notes and commentary for my second reading.

10. There is always more grace and mercy enjoyed, than we can see.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend 


1. How do you raise a kid to live in a culture that is increasingly hostile to our faith? All cliches and trite answers are excluded from discussion.

2. It dawned on me that because of my familiarity with the Scriptures and theology, I need to read them more to keep me awake to their importance and to stay in fellowship with God. My temptation is to do the opposite. 
3. I don’t wanna brag but The Avett Brothers are coming to my hometown.
4. On Tuesday as I drove to work, I was thinking about the Isbell song, “Hope the High Road.” Its a great song with a true kindness behind it. However, it’s sad too. The line, “Last year was a son of a b____ for nearly everyone we know…” is a sad line. He has said this relates to the election of Trump. It’s not sad because I have a different political take on the event. I find it sad because of the misplaced hope people put in politics and politicians. But really if you have no meta narrative higher than that, it makes complete sense that an election would ruin your year. That fills the hole left when Christ is not supreme. I was thinking about all of this as I drove to work and for some reason I turned on NPR for the first time in years. An author was being interviewed about the rise of Isis and other extreme Muslim groups. He basically said in America it is becoming hard for us to understand because the gap created by secularism has placed politics at the center of our being and not religion. Whoa.
5. My wife recently took a test and the only person that knows her, who was worried if she would do well, was her.
6. It has always been a gracious fact that the depth of my sins are not all seen at once.
7. Really looking forward to going on vacation with the family. We’ll spend a lot of money, someone will probably get sunburned, and we’ll be living in a smaller space. Not sure where I was going with this…
8. One of the great scandals of the NT is Paul’s veritable silence about the injustice he was surrounded by and in fact suffered from. His outrage seems consistently reserved for his own sin and the Judaizers. This is not to suggest we should not care about it. But he literally was surrounded by injustice. Not just tweets about it. Why so silent?
9. I’ve been reading Knowing God by Packer again and remembering what it was like back in the mid ’90s for me to encounter depth of theological thought for the first time in a book.
10. Whoever invented the DVD player for the minivan so that my wife and I can talk for a couple hours on a trip, is a hero.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend


1. With so many issues to distract the church, Paul’s resolve to know nothing but Christ and him crucified is a good “issue” to be distracted with.

2. The new poet laureate, Tracy K. Smith, is worth your attention.

3. How is that fight on social media working out for you?

4. Our kids had Papa John’s pizza for the first time last night and gushed like they were eating from the tree of life.

5. A bad meal with good friends is better than a feast with kings.

6. “Does anyone ever point out that you have same name as…”

“Eight times this week.”

7. Unless you care deeply about poetry, you cannot know the importance of spending time with someone who cares deeply about it.

8. The lack of time between reading and reaction that is felt is far too quick for true engagement with subject matter, these days.

9. The location is irrelevant as long as Bethany is there.

10. The new Jason Isbell album is so good I didn’t even ask for records for Father’s Day. I don’t want to listen to anything else.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend


1. The gospel of grace will always refresh us the most when our souls are the most parched.

2. I don’t watch a whole lot of movies because none of them are like Paterson.

3. We should be heartened when politicians like Bernie Sanders think poorly of us who believe the gospel. For our Lord was also thought poorly of for the same reasons.

4. Many think the country is going down the tubes because of politicians. I think it’s because we advertise cheap divorce on billboards just like fast food. 

5. Hi, my name is Matt and I’m addicted to Palmetto Cheese from Costco.

6. I see a lot of arguments on Twitter among Pastors and church leaders and it’s rarely about the gospel. Even if it was, it would still be like watching a fight in a room full of people without much regard for each other or those watching.

7. I read an article about Paterson and the filmmaker decried how poetry has disappeared from public life. He’s right. And now it’s relegated to the back corners of all the bookstores and the libraries. That’s how you get Kenny Chesney and Joel Osteen, both.

8. What’s really amazing to me is Jason Isbell recorded the new album in a couple of weeks. And it’s a masterpiece. Why is it taking U2 so dadgum long?

9. The other day I told my middle son that in heaven every day will be like Saturday and I didn’t realize how much I needed to hear this myself till I choked it out.

10. The kindness of my wife is museum-quality rare. Rarely seen. Heard of, like news from distant lands. But everyday for me.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend


1. The New Testament becomes what it was originally meant to be when we understand those letters were written to a people in “exile” needing to be reminded of the grace of God in Christ.

2. I don’t know if “beauty will save the world.” But I do feel the creeping ugliness in our culture. And in my own heart, often.

3. How about this? I’ll listen to the alarm about climate change when we can have a rational discussion acknowledging gender is not fluid. 

4. I don’t think I ever saw friendship rightly until my special needs kid starting making friends. And it happened at the beginning of her teenage years, which sweetened the deal.

5. I often hear something or read something about an artist – maybe an artist I’ve never heard of – that disappoints me so much, I end up reacting to it in a completely opposite way. Usually, it’s by reading or listening to something beautiful. Like Chopin. Or Monk.

6. Err on the side of being too gracious, I think. Still hold onto your convictions but let grace be the chief one.

7. Jason Isbell released a new song from his forthcoming album a couple of days ago. The song is titled “White Man’s World.” I assumed I would cringe a little about the lyrics but still enjoy the melody and sound. Actually, the reverse is true. It may be my least favorite track by him yet. I apppreciate what he’s saying, especially knowing what’s behind the words. But after listening to it a few times, I’m just not enjoying the song. Which is odd, if you me.

8. When asked about my favorite author, I’ve realized how untruthful I am sometimes. Not sure why. But I should always answer “C.S. Lewis” since I have more books by him and about him, than anyone else. It’s not even close. I also read him more often than anyone else.

9. “The thought occurred to me that the crisis for Christians is not that we are politically homeless, but that we ever thought we could be at home in politics at all.”

10. Last week I pointed out how incredulous I was at any Christian support of our President. One of those reasons is his objectification of women through strip clubs and pornography. I also pointed out in a later “random thought” that I enjoyed summer because I get to see my wife in a bathing suit. There were those who thought I was being inconsistent. Of course, the comment about my wife, while true, was a joke because I see her in far less every day. And in all seriousness, me enjoying seeing my wife in anything or nothing at all is a holy thing. If this is considered objectification of her or women, we have lost the ability to see other things clearly  in our sensitivity on a particular issue. The focus has rendered the context blurry and distorted.