10 Thoughts on the New U2 Album

For 30 years I’ve been actively listening to U2. But even before that the videos for “New Years Day” and “Pride” were capturing my attention. So when a new U2 album is released, it’s an event. In fact, since Rattle and Hum I can recall the events surrounding every one of their releases.

But I’ve been anxious about the new album. The pre-release reviews have been positive. Multiple said it was their best since Achtung Baby, which is my favorite U2 album. But I’m always worried. Do I love all their albums? Yes. But there is in all of us U2 fans the desire to be blown away. I want U2 albums that make me feel like I did when I skipped school to be the first in line to get Rattle and Hum and then listened to it over and over for weeks on end.

This past Friday we got Songs Of Experience, the long-awaited follow up to Songs of Innocence. The following are my thoughts after about 20-25 listens.

1. After two complete listens, I texted my two best friends and told them I thought it was better than anything since Achtung Baby. They were nonplussed. After more than 25 complete listens, I not only still stand by that assessment, I am more convinced of its truth. It will go down as one of the great U2 albums.

2. The refrain with the chorus at the end of “Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way” is one of the most powerful musical moments I’ve ever encountered. I cannot get it out of my head. Those lines are rolling around in my head constantly.

3. This album starts with a hymn and ends with a psalm. And everything in between feels like something out of the Psalms: injustice, mortality, repentance, confession, joy, hope, and thanksgiving.

4. Bono’s voice has never sounded better. Hard to believe, but it really is true. The space age auto-tuning used in the first song is not because he needs help. It’s for effect, almost as if he is looking back at the world from space.

5. At the end of “American Soul” Bono sings “For Refugees like you and me/A country to receive us/Will you be our sanctuary/Refu-Jesus. It’s a play on words, of course, that most people will find a little hokey. But the more I’ve thought it, the more I’ve appreciated that last word. Who is he referring to here? Is this a reference to America as a Savior to refugees and they are Refu-Jesus? Or at least, should be? Or is this a reference to the refugees as Jesus? “I was a stranger and you took me in.” Regardless, it deepens the entirety of the song’s message.

6. I joked the other day, that Songs of Experience is my favorite Christmas album. But maybe, I made more sense than I even knew. This is a dark album in many ways. The music and the lyrics deal with a darkness that pervades our culture and even worse lurks in our hearts. But it’s awfully hopeful too.

Darkness is the natural habitat for hope. I’m showing my students the movie, The Nativity Story in class right now. The movie makes clear the cultural and political world in which Christ was born. Their hope of his coming was always on their lips because the darkness was ever present in the specters of Rome, poverty, and a culture of death.

This album has no cynicism. No irony. All hope for the darkest of nights. But what it does that is a little different from the international situation we have now, is add ourselves into the mix of the guilty. The problem is not merely “out there.” Which, of course, is why he came.

7. “The Little Things That Give You Away” is as good as any song U2 has ever done. It’s “One” good.

8. “Red Flag Day” reminds me of War in the best possible way. It’s a perfect pop/rock song. And because it is a response to this, it’s just that much more of a great song.

9. The fact that my kids love these songs is important. Listening to U2 as a family is something we’ve enjoyed for a number of years now and if they didn’t like it or if we didn’t, there’d be trouble.

10. U2 albums are personal for me and have been for a long time. I’m not the kind of fan that dreams of meeting them. I don’t figure out how to see them on every tour. But they have shaped the way I think about myself and the world. And they’ve been doing that for 30 years. That’s no small thing.

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Christmas Is for Those Who Hate It Most

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Who is Christmas for?

We are now accustomed to hearing how Christmas is difficult for many people. The story of Scrooge and his problems with the season is no longer anecdotal. It is now par for the course. Maybe this has always been the case. Maybe the joy of the season has always been a thorn in the side of those who can scarcely imagine joy. Not too long ago, I heard from one of these people. They told me how difficult Christmas would be because of some heartbreak in their family. There was hopelessness and devastation in her voice. She was sure Christmas would be impossible to enjoy because of the freshness of the pain. It’s been a story hard to forget.

I get it. I mean, it makes sense. Christmas is a time in which there is a lot of heavily concentrated family time. The holidays can be tense in even the best of circumstances. Maneuvering through the landmines of various personalities can be hard even if there is no cancer, divorce or empty seat at the table. What makes it the most wonderful time of the year for one is also what makes it the most brutal time of the year for another. My own family has not been immune to this phenomenon.

All the hurt and pain and disappointment with the expectation of joy and excitement make it hard for people to love Christmas. In fact, some hate it.

But I’d like to push back against this idea a little. Gently. I think we have it all backwards. We have it sunk deep into our collective cultural consciousness that Christmas is for the happy people. You know, those with idyllic family situations enjoyed around stocking-strewn hearth dreams. Christmas is for healthy people who laugh easily and at all the right times, right? The successful and the beautiful, who live in suburban bliss.  And we imagine how they can easily enjoy the holidays. They are beaming after watching a Christmas classic curled up on the couch as a family in front of their ginormous flat-screen, drinking perfectly mixed hot cocoa. Admit it, we live and act as if this is who should be enjoying Christmas.

But this is so damnably backwards. Christmas – the great story of the incarnation of the Rescuer – is for everyone, especially those who need a rescue. Jesus was born as a baby to know the pain and sympathize with our weaknesses. Jesus was made to be like us so that in his resurrection we can be made like him; free from the fear of death and the pain of loss. Jesus’ first recorded worshipers were not of the beautiful privileged class. They were poor and most-likely ugly shepherds, beat down by life and labor.

But Jesus came for those who look in the mirror and see ugliness. Jesus came for daughters whose fathers never told them they were beautiful. Christmas is for those who go to “wing night” alone. Christmas is for those whose lives have been wrecked by cancer and the thought of another Christmas seems like an impossible dream. Christmas is for those who would be nothing but lonely if not for social media. Christmas is for those whose marriages have careened against the retaining wall and are threatening to flip over the edge. Christmas is for the son, whose father keeps giving him hunting gear when the son wants art materials. Christmas is for smokers who cannot quit even in the face of a death sentence. Christmas is for whores, adulterers and porn stars who long for love in every wrong place. Christmas is for college students who are sitting in the midst of family and already cannot wait to get out for another drink. Christmas is for those who traffic in failed dreams. Christmas is for all those who have squandered the family name and fortune, prodigals who want ‘home’ but cannot imagine a gracious reception. Christmas is for parents watching their children’s marriage fall into disarray. Christmas is for every family with an empty seat at the table.

Christmas is really about the gospel of grace for those who need it. Because of all that Christ has done on the cross, the manger becomes the most hopeful place in a Universe darkened with hopelessness. In the irony of all ironies, Christmas is for those who will find it the hardest to enjoy. It really is for those who hate it the most.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

bill evans

It’s been awhile…

1. In the kingdom of God, under the rule of our Lord and King, Jesus, there is no option of stepping over the hurting and vulnerable so as to achieve a virtuous end. By sheer logic, it cannot be done and remain within the kingdom. It cannot be done in name of tax cuts. It cannot be done in the name of the unborn.

2. The irony is how blind we are to our captivity because of our high definition televisions.

3. Having a whole week off from a job you love at Thanksgiving…, well, there’s no category for that.

4. Yesterday I drove through two SEC college towns and you could actually see the tail wagging the dog.

5. Bill Evans sounds like rain falling in the night.

6. I actually believe what the church needs now more than ever is a robust pastoral theology rooted in the history of the church. The therapy-driven discipleship models and the thin “I just think” practices we have adopted need to be replaced with thick thoughts about God and who we are before God that have been around longer than the current news cycle.

7. There are also a lot of evangelicals not supporting Roy Moore. Actually, I have yet to see one Roy Moore yard sign. But signs for his opponent are everywhere.

8. It dawned on me the other night, during a miserable experience at McDonald’s (for the sake of my children) how I expect employees there to act happy working in a job I would never do. Their misery at work should require my compassion instead of contempt.

9. I am weary of my phone. Not because I want a new and better one like *they* want me to. I am weary of “needing” one and carrying one.

10. My wife standing beside a perfectly browned turkey on Thanksgiving Day…happy Thanksgiving to me, indeed.

The God of All My Tomorrows, Part 2

Part One is here.

The following is a true story.

“You have been scheduled for Remedial Credit Card Training. You will need to report to room 501 at the downtown tower at 1PM on…”

That was in a stomach plunging and chest tightening email. I should have been used to these emails. My numbers were consistently low and if I remember correctly, I was on probation because I had not met the required minimum of sales dollars in a given quarter.

I admit, I was not very good at being a banker.

Once, I was struggling to help a young lady, who was having an issue with her account. In the midst of the struggle, she stopped and asked me a question…

“What did you do before banking?” 

“I was a pastor.”

“You need to go back to that.”

The context for receiving the email was a huge push for credit card sales. Obviously, credit cards are a huge moneymaker for banks. So that was part of the reason for the emphasis. But what I remember the most was all the talk about The Golden Boy.

The Golden Boy (not his real name) was a fairly new employee, who within a few months had achieved unheard of sales numbers and they were almost all credit cards. Those sales numbers were determined by the credit limit of the credit card. He was in the hundreds of thousands. Keep in mind the average credit card is about $10,000. We would have a branch meeting or a meeting with the regional manager and in each meeting there was a shaming. The Golden Boy’s numbers would be given and we would be made to feel awful because none of us had numbers anywhere near his. We listened and then left the meeting with the assumption he was doing something not quite above aboard.

You only got a “Remedial Credit Card Training” scheduled for you if they thought you were not selling enough credit cards. And by their standard, I most certainly was not. Part of the problem was I did not want to sell credit cards. That sounded awful in and of itself. Going to additional training because they want you to do more of the thing you have no desire to do was depressing. Trying to sell credit cards sounds painful for one reason. It is painful.

When I took the job at the bank, I had no idea how much active sales there would be. I assumed I would sit at a desk and wait for people to come in and open accounts. But I began to see very quickly, not only was I expected to get as many sales whenever someone came in the bank, but I was expected to drum up business by making sales calls over the phone. We had “call lists” we had to work through. We had to call “clients” who were already banking with us and the goal was to make a sale depending on the offer for a given list. The goal was to get more accounts open. You have a checking account? How about another? You have a home? How about a mortgage?

You get the idea. If I had known this, I would have never took the job.

Once I was in another meeting that was also remedial. This meeting was attended by those of us who were struggling in all the sales areas. This meeting was led by my regional manager and his boss. This meeting is easy to remember for two reasons. I was sick with a fever but did
 not realize how bad I was till that meeting. Second, and related, my boss’ boss said, “Your job is basically retail with better hours.”

Banking is not what it once was and was certainly nothing like what I had in mind when I took the job. When anyone walks into a bank, they are walking into a retail shop that sells debt and other lesser products.

When I got to the Remedial Credit Card Training, I was glad to see familiar faces. Some had been around longer than myself and a few were even in management. Let me set the stage.

The training was downtown at “the tower.” The room we were in was long and narrow with a table at the front and about 12 tables for for the trainees. There were six on each side of the room with an aisle down the middle of the room, and two people were to sit at each table facing the front. There was a phone on each of the tables, which could only mean one thing… we would be calling customers while being observed by either the person beside or by a trainer. So I looked for someone I knew to sit with. Seeing all this took only a moment and I thought this would be the worst thing about remedial credit card training. But then I saw the Golden Boy sitting at the front of the room with our regional manager and one other man I did not know.

The man I did not know was from the credit card department and he started the meeting by going over all the benefits of our bank’s credit card to use as sales pitches. After he was done, our regional manger began to tell the amazing story of The Golden Boy. After extolling his sales numbers, he was very explicit about how he’d done this with integrity. In other words, he was aware of our suspicions. Then he explained we could all learn from him and his sales skills. He did not imply we should be as successful as the The Golden Boy.

He said it.

The Golden Boy was then asked to demonstrate why he was so successful by doing a role play of a phone call with a client. The client would be chosen because they were on a list of clients to be called with a credit card offer. That may sound obvious but you need to understand this simple fact to make sense of what you’re about to read.

The following is an example of a role play with my regional manager:

“Hello Mr. Smith, this is The Golden Boy with ____________ bank. How are you doing?”

“I’m fine, is anything wrong?”

“No, we just like to periodically check in with our clients to see how things are going and to see if there is anything we can do for you.”

“Thank you for calling but everything is fine.”

“Okay good! OH WOW! There is something I need to make sure you know about!”

“What is that?”

“Wow! You have a credit card offer of 0% for 12 months and if you spend $500 in the first 60 days, we will deposit $100 in your checking account!”

The Golden Boy then explained to us the how important the “OH WOW!” was.

That’s what we were to learn that day in Remedial Credit Card Training. We had to practice it over and over right then and there with a partner while being observed and then call customers and use that technique in hopes we would get enough information to then go back to the branch and enter the credit card application.

Do you see it? All of us saw it. 

Usually a bait and switch comes in the form of advertising what looks like a good deal and then substituting it with an inferior product or something more expensive. The problem with the bait and switch is a dishonest means is used for a sale. You use one thing to sell something else entirely.

We were being asked to pretend we were not calling about a credit card offer when that is exactly why we were calling and then we were to pretend we were surprised about the offer in order to get them pleasantly surprised.

That was the first time I considered walking out for good.

The God of All My Tomorrows: Part 1

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What surprised me was the timing, not the location.

At the bottom of the little mountain we live on is a large used bookstore. Big and slightly unorganized, it also sells vinyl records and I love them for it. The poetry section is small but usually has something I’m willing to spend a couple of dollars on. You can almost always find some Buechner in the fiction section.

On Sunday Nights, we meet with our small group from church. Because of my son’s baseball game, I would have to go by myself. However, I did not want to go by myself and this may be critical information.

Really, without much effort I could have talked myself out of going. After all, there was a good chance he would pitch in a game for the first time ever. But there were a few thoughts swirling around in my head throughout the day that pushed me to go. First, I was looking forward to discussing the sermon we heard in the morning service. Also, I was frustrated with the ballpark forcing us to choose between a church activity and them. But really, the driving force behind it all is I get paid to lead this small group. It’s part of my job description.

I work part time at my church and full time at the school, which is a ministry of the church. At the church, I minister to young parents and I teach Bible and theology classes full-time at the school. Once a week I teach an elective on “The Gospel According to U2” to high school students.

And that’s why I was at the used bookstore. I left for small group a few minutes early so I could stop and see if there were any books about U2 to use for my class. I’ve been listening to them for 30 or more years but I love U2 and I love books. Plus, the school gives me some funds to spend on such things.

Feel free to think about how wonderful that is.

They did not have the book I wanted but they did have a DVD of the show at The Rose Bowl on the 360 tour. That was the show we all watched live on Youtube. I can remember lying on the couch in our living room in Wichita, KS and Bethany telling me she could not stay up any longer. They also had a book I’d read before. Fascinating but not what I was looking for. I thought long and hard about whether to get these or not and then decided to sleep on it. They could be helpful, but again, they were not what I was looking for.

Pun unintended.

I walked over to the poetry section to see if there was any Collins or Heaney. They only had volumes I already owned. Time was running out and I needed to go if I wanted to take the scenic route and avoid the interstate with the windows down and sunroof open. So I walked out with the same amount of money I had when walking in.

Turning left out of the parking lot, I headed south with Achtung Baby, my favorite U2 album, playing fairly loud. I can remember thinking about how listening to that album was actually class prep and I had quite possibly the best job ever. Dusk settled and the more I drove south, the thinner the traffic. Grace upon grace.

I cannot remember if I realized I was passing the turn to my previous job before or after my chest tightened, the world started to spin and my limbs felt weak. That all too familiar electric feeling surged through my nerves. Misery and terror flew at me from the inside.

When you’ve had panic attacks off and on for three years, you know the signs. Like a known enemy, whose scent is smelt on the wind, you just know. It’s coming. And you cannot stop it. You can only hope to minimize the damage. So I turned on the a.c. in the car, put up the windows, closed the sunroof, changed the music, and took deep breaths in through the mouth and out through the nose.

Or is it the other way around?

“What is real?”

You don’t work there anymore

You don’t work there anymore

You don’t work there anymore. 

You have a job you love and you have no complaints about that job and you look forward to going to work everyday and you get to talk about theology with students and poetry with colleagues and you love it more than you could ever imagine and you never thought you would ever have a job like that.

It worked. Kinda. The weight on my chest lessened. The air cleared and the terror lifted, only leaving behind a thin shadow. All that remained was the usual jittery feeling that sticks around for at least an hour.

Oh, and the nauseous tightness in my stomach. That stuck around too.

Small group was lost in a fog. There had been no panic attacks since I was offered and took my new positions. I tried to eat something. The group noticed how little I was eating and made a joke about it because anyone who knows me knows my love of all that is edible. So I told them what happened and they were just as surprised as I was.

As I drove home under the canopy of a young autumn evening, I resolved to write it all down.

How could just driving by the turn to my previous workplace cause the beginnings of a panic attack? This made no sense to me. For more than two months I have been a teacher. I am a pastor again. I love all of it. I love the schedule. I love the kids. I love the teachers I work with and my bosses too. I love it when it’s hard and busy.

That’s why the timing surprised me.

But not the location. The location made complete sense to me. I was driving the same route to work just like when I worked there.

Graham Greene wrote,“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”

Writing is also cheaper than therapy.

I have never written down what made me so miserable about working at the bank.  In my next post I will begin telling that story.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend


1. I don’t have a whole lot of thoughts about the NFL and the anthem. But one person summed up what I could not put into words. He said, “We are watching two false religions have a worship war.”

2. If Marilynne Robinson wrote a review of a phone book, I would recommend it.

3. I’ve been listening to Serial and I’m not sure a jury of peers is always a good idea.

4. Followers of Jesus should hurt whenever and wherever we see others hurt.

5. “Do not resist an evil person” is in the sermon on the mount.

6. I never dislike baseball more than when the Cubs win. Working on this.

7. Maybe part of the admonition to “count the cost” is if you teach people about the sovereignty of God over all things – including the bad things – you just may have to replace your AC unit within 24 hours.

8. Just as we want to model our theological convictions to our children, we need to understand we are modeling our preferences for the things we consume. What am I consuming entertainment-wise and what does that model to my kids? I’m not just thinking about the moral aspect of entertainment. We live in a culture in which no one bats an eye about a “poo emoji.” To question that may be seen as snobbery. But we got to this point somehow. We now communicate with “poo emojis” and our entertainment bears this out. A piece of poetry is no longer seen as a viable piece of entertainment. Funny and cool are the standards. Is it entertaining? Does it keep my attention is what we are really after. If I do not choose the good, true and beautiful, there is a good chance my kids won’t either. They will only choose what keeps their attention and the rest will be described with a poo emoji.

9. It seems a skill of teaching is to be aware when a student learns something even if they do not yet see the value of it. But not just that, you have to be okay with that in a culture of immediate satisfaction.

10. Dylan: How come we don’t eat out lots?

Me: Because your mom can cook better than most restaurants. And she’s better looking.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend


1. I have a theory. After thinking about the Nashville Statement and all the virulent reaction to its being released, I think the primary issue around sexuality and same sex issues is suffering. Not being able to indulge involves suffering. Saying “no” involves suffering. And we live in a culture where suffering is to be avoided at all costs. It’s the theologically liberal version of the prosperity gospel that says, “God does not want you to suffer, so be whatever you want to be.” There are other issues to be sure, but this I have yet to hear much about.

2. Politics aside, I now prefer corn tortillas over flour.

3. Yesterday, while my students worked on an assignment, I sat outside and talked with another teacher about Blues and Jazz records. It was the polar opposite of my previous job.

4. Coffee on a clear cool September Saturday morning with nowhere to be.

5. A desire to be seen as edgy or cool will eventually lead to error. 

6. I need a good fiction book. Please leave recommendations in comments.

7. A couple weeks ago, it got really hot and there was talk of climate change. Now it’s unseasonably cool in Alabama and the same thing is being said. If any argument is rigged, it’s this one.

8. Every now and then a band shows up on your radar and they are so unlikely. Unlikely to hold your attention. Unlikely to be a hit. But even so, you cannot stop listening along with many others. That’s what it was like with The War On Drugs last album, Lost In A Dream. It’s a desert-island disc. So I thought there was no way their newest offering would measure up. But it has and then some. A Deeper Understanding is the long-awaited follow up. There is an orchestration to these songs that may have as much in common with symphonies as with Dylan, who Adam Granducial sounds like and Springsteen, who he is inspired by. From beginning to end, I have no complaint.

9. Do you remember that scene in Pride and Prejudice where Jane is telling Lizzy about her joy in getting engaged. She says she wishes everyone could experience the joy she is experiencing. One of the effects of loving my job is wishing others could also experience that. It is now very hard to hear others talk of the misery they experience in their work.

10. Last weekend, the wife and I drove to the beach to be with good friends. No offense to my friends but the best part was riding down and back with her alone.

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.