Random Thoughts for the Weekend

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1. I think much of the genius of Paul and the NT writers is found in their realization that they were their own biggest problem. Not Rome. Not the Empire. Not the over-sexualized culture. Not the secular institutions with which the early church had to surely compete for attention. It was themselves. That’s something.

2. I had an epiphany this past week. Really, over the past couple of days. I’ve been squeamish about writing for a few years. My experience with book-writing and Christian publishing made me squeamish about the whole business. This is no one person’s fault so do not try to read anything into this about my own publisher or anyone else. Experience made me squeamish. But here is thing. I love books. I love books written by Christians. Is it okay to admit I even love my own book still? On the same day I write this, while at a conference, I bought a book I fully expect to enjoy and learn from even though I’ve never thought much of the author. (His presence on social media is not always becoming.) And I bought this book assuming the best intentions of the writer, the publisher (who I bought the book from directly at their book table), and I fully expect God will use this book for my good and His glory. So, what am I so squeamish about again?

3. Everyone needs a place safe from marketing. The church should be this place.

4. I almost quit Facebook last week. The question in my mind was, “Can I just limit my intake to a very limited amount or do I need to quit it altogether?” Alyosha was the filter through which I was asking myself this. For writers there is more at stake. But then at a conference this week, hosted by the school where I teach, I was able to sit down with Stephen Williams for almost two hours. We have been friends on Facebook for about 6 years or more but had never met in person. We have had two very important things in common outside of our fellowship with the King. We both pull for the St Louis Cardinals. And we both love The Gaslight Anthem. That two hours was so enjoyable, I am rethinking the question.

5. Outside of the book of Revelation, there is nowhere in the New Testament where the flexing of muscle by believers is commended. Weakness is always the order of the day.

6. Yes, the blog has a new look. It has been about four years since I made any changes. And at that point I only added the Townes Van Zandt lyric. The ads should be gone for good. My goal is a Random Thoughts post once a week and then a short piece of writing once a week just like the good old days. Maybe more. If you have anything you would like to read about, feel free to leave those ideas in the comments.

7. Isn’t is strange how Christian institutions can describe themselves with confidence in laudatory pronouncements it would be seen as presumptuous for individuals to use?

8. I bought Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever on vinyl this week. That is all.

9. Another reason I’ve been thinking about writing more is a conversation I had with a missionary this week. He had just finished my book and wanted to talk with me about the book and what he is doing. I’m not sure how helpful I was in that first of hopefully many video chats but he got me thinking about writing more. He was in a country my wife and I once discussed as a possibility for missions. He told me he is now recommending my book to pastors over there. So in a way, I am getting to realize a small dream or desire I had about ministering in that country through my book. Second, he said the book was right on time. That struck me. There was a small window when my book was being read by a number of people and I was hearing about it from all over the world. On Thanksgiving day in 2013, The God of the Mundane went all the way to #467 of all print books. That was a crazy day. That was a great day. But I have to reckon with the Providence of God as a writer who claims to read and write in the knowledge that the King is all wise and that when someone reads the book, that is the right time for them to read the book.  Which is more significant the providential reading years later when the book has been shelved into obscurity or the #467?

10. Though we, Americans, do not have a category for this line of thinking. It is not unwise to be thankful for the country we live in while at the same time harboring the concern it is those very things we are thankful for that obscures our vision of the King.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

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1. One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most about being off this summer is the conversations I get to have with my kids. Such as the following after talking about a song that was playing while the kids were in the car. We were in the Target parking lot.

Dylan: Is this another Bible lesson?

Me: Actually, everything is a Bible lesson when you get down to it.

Dylan: Huh?

Me: Every word in the Bible is pointing to the King, Jesus. And every thing in this world is about Jesus. So everything is a Bible lesson if you think about it.

Dylan: Okaaaayyyyy

2.  I have found the following to be true. For every thing I wish was different about one of my kids, there is someone I admire who has that trait or disposition in common with them.

3. I have been listening to a lot of Andrew Peterson. It started when we went to his concert, the last of his most recent tour. My wife and I had no desire to go. The day of the concert had not been a good day. Disappointing news had come and I was frustrated – alternating between sadness and anger. But we already had tickets and we were going with friends and the concert was literally just down the street. Going was one of the best decisions we’ve made in a long time. It didn’t feel like church…how do I say this?…it felt better. Like those gathered.. huddled in hope mixed with despair and fear, waiting for the return of the King, who will wipe away every tear. My friend, David, said that Peterson is truly unique in what he does. The more I listen, the more I agree.

4. We seem to equate caring about what is going on in politics with caring.

5. It is very interesting to watch an Anthony Bourdain episode after he took his own life. I quit watching his shows a while back but I decided to watch at least one this week. I always felt like his bad boy antics were desperate acts of insecurity. He seemed to need to project an image of being “bad.” It’s possible much of it all was marketing. So much the worse. But I admit, there was always something likable about him. And his shows were always interesting, to be sure.

6. The problems with American evangelicalism are diverse and myriad. But the fact that you cannot buy Dostoyevsky at the Christian bookstores is symptomatic of most of those problems.

7. Parenting is hard. But one thing I’m learning – though not yet doing well – the secret is to love them and make sure they know it deeply. It’s not the silver bullet to kill all the fears we have, but it is a leaning into how we were meant to live. They will soon enough enter this world that will deal with them based on their usefulness and how they measure up.

8. As the one who authored The God of the Mundane, I cannot recommend Every Moment Holy high enough. It deserves all the praise it is getting.

9. I have been thinking a lot about the Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain suicides. And other suicides too. I find my position as a pastor to be one now of little interest for those who would seek any understanding. Maybe there would be some. But I find myself in a cultural milieu in which the thoughts of a pastor are of little consequence. Even among those who confess Christ. For we have now relegated suicide and the desperation and darkness that precedes it, as the expertise of mental health professionals. Only. It is a disease after all, like cancer. And it must be treated as such. This is a job for chemists, not those who study the soul and the God, Who created all things and through whom all things are held together. But if I cannot speak to despair, what then can I speak to?

10. On Friday morning, my wife had already left for work when I woke up. I sent her a text and when she responded, she asked if I had checked on the kittens. (We have new kittens, by the way.) She told me she had not checked in on them because if she had, leaving for work would have been impossible. There is something uniquely beautiful in watching someone you love enjoy something so much.