“Turn That Thing Up” Part 2 : Eclectic Boogaloo

Ready for another installment of great podcasts you should check out? Awesome!

(Thinking these are filler posts for when I’m behind schedule? Bosh.)

Here we go:

  1. The Art of Manliness Podcast: If you’re a guy and you’ve never checked out Brett McKay’s website, “The Art of Manliness,” you need to do so immediately.  If you’re a lady, and you’re worried that I’m recommending some sort of base, titillating, lad-mag type website, you should check it out, too, and prepare to be pleasantly surprised. The vibe behind AoM is more of a traditional, classic manliness with a modern twist. Virtues of responsibility, loyalty, hard work, and classic masculinity are lifted up throughout the content of the site. The podcast features McKay interviewing folks from various fields of interest that relate to AoM. Recent episodes include discussions of what it means to be “gifted,” the history of John Sullivan and boxing, discussions about fitness and health, and many other useful topics. Have I sold it enough? I really like AoM. You should too.
  2. The Dave Ramsey Show: Ramsey provides what every one of us needs–common sense advice about money, insurance, retirement, and debt. If you don’t know who Dave Ramsey is, just check him out. He’s sometimes often a bit snarky, and his advice will often go against the prevailing wisdom–but the “prevailing wisdom” is spread around by broke people with huge debt loads.  I wanna get debt-free, so Dave’s my guy.
  3. Quick and Dirty Tips: Despite the scandalous-sounding name, this network of podcasts provides a lot of useful information in bite-sized portions. I listen to the Get Fit Guy, the Nutrition Diva, and the Get-It-Done Guy, and have gained some useful stuff from each.
  4. This is Your Life: This podcast by NYT best-selling author Michael Hyatt is focused on leadership, personal growth, and building a “platform” for your writing/marketing. Sometimes his content is a little more inside-baseball than I need, but a lot of his general commentary on leadership and personal development has been good for me. If you’ve ever thought about growing in these areas, and especially if you want to grow your “brand” online, this is the guy to listen to.

That’s all I have time for now. Happy listening!

Water.

Some scattered threads about servant-leadership, self-knowledge, and satisfaction…

One: There’s a lot of buzz about Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church in North Carolina, and the apparent cult of personality that has arisen out of it. There’s a lot of talk about “uniting around the vision of the Leader” and “following the Visionary.” This is a mindset that is creeping up in some segments of the American Evangelical church–how leaders cast a “vision” for the future of the congregation, and people need to get in line and support that vision and that leader. Something about this has always made me really uncomfortable–not the least of which is that the role of pastor in the New Testament is most often described as “shepherd,” not CEO. In my very limited experience with the responsibility of soul care, my approach can’t be authoritarian and demanding; when it starts to get that way, people don’t follow.  Instead, when I love and serve well, people listen and respond well. (I’m reminded of Jesus’ words to His disciples about authority and leadership.)

I find myself a little frustrated this week with some of my church folks–particularly, my guys. I teach singles in their 20’s, and I’m noticing a particular spirit of passivity and inertia in a lot of my guys. To be honest, it upsets me–but like so many interpersonal struggles, I am upset in part because I recognize the same quality in myself. I’ve been struggling to overcome these tendencies in my own life for years. While I’m making progress, I still have a ways to go.  SO it’s most important for me to remember that, just as I needed grace AND a kick in the butt, so they need both motivation and gracious affirmation.  Yelling doesn’t work. But leading by serving does.

Two: I’m getting married in 106 days. This is both thrilling and terrifying. This week, I’ve really been thinking about the implications of that reality. I’m getting nervous. I’m fretting.  Not at all because of my bride-to-be; she’s amazing, and I’m ridiculously blessed to marry her. But I’m nervous about myself. I’m not sure how well I’m going to serve her, provide for her, care for her. I’m seeing my own natural selfishness and self-excuses in light of the prospect of bringing her deeper into my life. It’s like, when you invite people over, suddenly you can see all the messiness of your apartment that you would have been totally blind to by staying at home alone. That’s what’s happening; I’m really seeing the messiness of my life, and I’m suddenly frustrated with myself for not dealing with these things sooner.  Obviously, you can’t undo the past by worry.  But man, there’s more than a little chest-beating going on in my head and heart.

Here’s the crazy thing: I think she knows I’m a mess in some areas. She obviously knows I have a weight problem. I’ve told her about my undisciplined finances. She’s seen most of my apartment (I still haven’t let her see into my massively cluttered bedroom–that day is coming).  And repeatedly, like a living vessel of God’s gentle grace, she tells me she loves me, she’s praying for me, and she will walk with me through all of the mess as I keep growing in discipline and wisdom.  I do not doubt her love. But I still hate myself a little bit for not being more put together and mature and capable.

Three: In the desert, the people of Israel wandered. As they wandered, they grew thirsty, and complained to Moses, accusing him (and God, by extension) of being unable to care for them or unwilling to meet their needs. God told Moses to strike a rock with his staff, and from that rock flowed fresh water for the people to drink.  Hundreds of years later, Paul wrote that this Rock was Christ–God was their source of refreshment and life.  

Centuries after the desert wandering, and centuries before the life of Jesus or Paul, the prophet Jeremiah called out a rebellious and idolatrous Israel for digging cisterns (underground water tanks) that were cracked and corrupted.  Rather than drinking deeply of the fresh spiritual water that comes from knowing and following the true God, they have pursued counterfeit gods; in so doing, they traded “fresh water” from the living God for the spiritual sludge at the bottom of broken, nasty cisterns. The prophet called the people to forego their idolatry and repent, so that they may drink deeply of a life-giving relationship with their God.  

Centuries later, a Jewish rabbi from Nazareth sits by Jacob’s Well in Samaria. A woman with a bad reputation walks up to draw water. He asks her for a drink (breaking many cultural taboos) and when she hesitates, he says that if she knew who He was, she would ask Him and He would give her water that would satisfy her deepest thirst forever.

Not much longer after that, Jesus then stood up on the last day of the Feast of Booths–a feast commemorating the time when the people of Israel were wanderers in the desert, living in tents, trusting God to provide for their needs–and he called out with a loud voice that if anyone is thirsty, they should come to Him and He would give them a spring of living water within them.

I bring all of this up to say: we’re all driven by our needs, our soul’s hunger and our heart’s thirst. And we’re tempted to try to satisfy those needs with all sorts of self-made solutions, but like the woman at the well, we will still get thirsty and still need to draw more and more to try to ease our ragged throats and parched tongues.  The Living Water is right here, offered to us every day, but even those of us who grew up following the old time religion (and it’s still good enough for us) can forget that the life within our litany comes from the fountain of living water in our hearts. 

As I sit here, on a brilliant-bright Friday morning, my heart is a bit dry, and my fingers are stained by cistern sludge.  Yet the River is still there, still flowing, still full of love and refreshment, still inviting me to come, wash, drink.

Summation: The common element here? Love.  Love that leads by serving and motivates by modeling grace; love that frees us from fear, that gives security and leads to openness; love that finds its home in knowing Jesus and being known by Him, that finds refreshment in who He is and not in the substitute sludge-water saviors of the world around me.

Lord, give me love to quench the desert-bones of my dusty heart.  Like an errant lamb, make me stop and drink, for I’m too foolish to remember where my refreshment is found. 

“Turn that thing up louder so i can hear it in my headphone.” (Part 1)

I commute for 2-3 hours every day, round-trip. This is the downside of living in the suburbs of a major metropolitan area. I used to listen to the radio, but I had to stop; sports radio is too inane, and political talk radio is designed to make the listener frightened and/or angry, which is not useful when you’re trying to stifle road rage. (Incidentally, the manipulative nature of conservative talk radio is a big reason why i don’t watch Fox News either. It’s not worth the anger.)

Of course, on the FM dial, the DJ’s are obnoxious and the music isn’t really great.  So what’s a commuter to do?

“Podcasts, Benjamin. Podcasts.”

What do I listen to on a regular basis? I’m so glad you asked. Here are a few recommendations from The4thDave to you:

  1. Anything by Steve Glosson. This guy is my favorite podcaster ever. Pretty much everything he does, I enjoy. He currently does a daily show on Mixlr called “The Big Honkin Show,” in which he goes through bizarre news and light-hearted topics of conversation, interspersed with hilarious fake commercials and great 80’s music. And no lie, the dude has the most infectious laugh I’ve ever heard.  One great thing about listening live to BHS on Mixlr (when you’re not driving, of course) is that you can take part in the chat (as part of the “Mixlr Zoo Crew”) and interact with other listeners and Steve. Great times.
  2. Steve also has a couple other podcasts in the “Geek Out Loud” podcasting network: the flagship “Geek Out Loud,” where he is joined by Derek Russell (these two have been podcasting together for years, in different formats); “Know What I’m Sayin’ ” with Karl LaClaire; “Mark Out Loud,” a wrestling podcast; and some new projects coming down the pike.
  3. If you like books (and you should), you need to check out the Book Riot podcast. Jeff O’Neal and Rebecca Schinsky talk about what’s new in the publishing world, books that are coming out or have been released, and other awesome bookish news.  Another podcast from the BookRiot family is the newly-started “Dear Book Nerd,” which is kind of a Dear Abby for bibliophiles. Lots of fun listening here.
  4. A few NPR podcasts I’ve really been enjoying lately are Ask Me Another (a fun live quiz show that features great trivia challenges and the musical stylings of the brilliant Jonathan Coulton) and Radiolab (an audio odyssey of the weird and fascinating).
  5. Wanna look at the world from a slightly different perspective? Try Freakanomics Radio. These economists have a unique take on things. I don’t always agree, but I do enjoy their discussions.
  6. If you’re into comics and you don’t mind salty language, you should try my friend Trentus Magnus’s awesome show, “Trentus Magnus Punches Reality.” The man knows comics, he always has something interesting to add to the conversation, and his sometimes gruff and grouchy approach is a hoot.  But I say again: this is only for those who don’t mind foul language. Consider this your headphones-warning.
  7. If you’ve seen any BlimeyCow videos, you know these guys are funny. Turns out, their podcast is just as fun to listen to.  Also, if you like board games, or want to find out about games you have never heard of or have never played before, they also do a boardgames podcast call “The Fellowship Gamer.”  These are shorter podcasts, too. While most of the ones I’ve listed run about 30-60 minutes, The Blimey Cow Podcast runs 15-20 at most, and The Fellowship Gamer is usually under 10 minutes, so they’re great for quick trips.

So there you go.  I listen to all these shows pretty much as soon as they are released.

I’ll have more to share next week, but you should check these guys out. If you like what you hear, let them know I said hi.

For the person who needs Nothing.

So this actually happened: Pim de Graaf, a freelance copywriter in the Netherlands, is selling plain blocks of wood (handmade!) for about $50. They’re called “Nothings.”

The idea here is that giving a Nothing is an “ironic” way of “taking a stand” against consumerism, by highlighting the silliness of buying and owning another material object. So having a Nothing on your mantle or shelf is supposed to signify, in some sort of dadaist fashion, a self-recognition of hyperconsumerism and a critique of the culture of stuff in which you live…

Which is all well and good if it weren’t for the fact that the Nothing becomes, almost instantaneously, the very thing it’s meant to critique.  Consider the following imaginary but inevitable commentary: “Oh this? This is a Nothing. I got it for my birthday last year. Isn’t it great? What a statement against consumerism. Oh, you don’t have one? You need to get one, they’re all the rage. Super rare, but definitely worth the price. I got mine on eBay for $450 dollars…”

In other words, cultural critique is instantly co-opted into product, price-tagged and shelved next to Che Guevara shirts at your local Hot Topic. I’m calling it now: within a year or two, there will be knock-off Nothing’s floating around. Cagey entrepreneurs will hustle to get in on the anti-consumerist-statement market.

Look: Good for Pim, getting an idea, seeing it through, and making it profitable. I appreciate the idea, and even like it on some kind of ideological level. We are a people drowning in stuff–I’m just as guilty as the next man.  But the answer to the problem of too much stuff IS. NOT. MORE. STUFF.

Buying a Nothing doesn’t make a bold statement about your opposition to consumerism. It is the wooden equivalent of an “I Recycle!” bumper sticker–an appeal for hand-claps.

You want to simplify your lifestyle, and live with fewer material possessions? Go for it. God bless you. But don’t advertise it.

And if you REALLY want to own your very own Nothing?  Give me a few months, and I’ll be able to hook you up. I’ll even give you a good deal on it.

Name them one by one.

First off, I want to explain something. The three of you who viewed Saturday’s post may have noticed that it said “Weekend Edition #1″…but there was no #2. (Heh. Sorry.) I was planning on doing a fun post to follow-up the serious one, after I got home from church and lunch yesterday afternoon. That post was never written because my plans for a productive Sunday evening fell through.

I’m sick. Nothing major. Just one of those bugs that goes around and produces uncomfortable and impolite-to-discuss symptoms. I should be back on my feet tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest.  Today, I’m working from home (three cheers for the IT department figuring out how to fix my remote-access issues!) and trying to keep still.

This kind of minor illness is usually just a nuisance. I can rest, do a little online work, take some OTC meds and water, and recover fairly easily. But once in a while, getting sick should make me stop and take stock of how blessed I am, too.  For example:

  • I have a job that a) I can do over a computer; and b) I won’t lose by not physically showing up today.
  • Hey! I have a computer! And an apartment! And internet access!
  • I have access to (what I consider) basic medicines and clean water.
  • I’m in no danger of life-threatening illness, violence due to civil unrest, or malnutrition.
  • I have food in the pantry and refrigerator (not to mention having *a* pantry and refrigerator) for when I’m feeling better and can, um, process it properly.
  • I have a compassionate fiancee who is bringing me soup later. I love her deeply. I love her soup almost as much. It’s so good, y’all.

The point is, I need to be grateful and not grumble about feeling a little less than okay. God’s been too gracious to me for me to dwell on that. And when I get back to feeling 100%, I need to be thankful for that as well. [I’m suddenly struck with the feeling that I’ve written something very similar to this post before. Weird. Maybe it’s just because I still need to learn this lesson.]

So there’s your challenge on this second Monday morning in February. Do what that old hymn says to do: Count your blessings. Name them one by one. Even if it’s not #ThankfulThursday, you can still take a minute to be grateful for God’s provision.

Your Turn:  What do you have to be thankful for today? Share it in the comments below.  

Coming Friday: Either a post about Don Miller and the importance of church community; or just some book reviews, if I don’t feel like ticking people off with that first post.

Weekend Edition #1: Teaching the World to Sing.

So, as you likely know, this has been the cause of much angst and teeth-grinding this week:

If you listen to conservative talk radio, you likely heard that Coke has undermined the American “Melting Pot” by highlighting the diversity of these United States.  If you listen to some quarters of religious talk radio, you may also have heard some grumbling about the apparent same-sex couple near the end of the spot.  If you listen to progressive/liberal talking heads, you would hear paeans of praise for this diverse and forward-thinking ad, with an added kick that those racists on the right probably hate it.

(It should probably be noted that Coke has a history of this type of holding-hands-around-the-world advertisement. I don’t think this latest piece is anything more than another in a long line of such concepts. It’s actually more nationalistic than it could have been.)

If you’ll permit me authorial privilege, I’m going to ignore the “English-only” folks and the SSM debate folks and the diversity-champion folks, and provide a few disconnected observations:

I actually thought the ad was quite nice. It highlighted the fact that America is a place where people from very different backgrounds can live together within a common nation, and all recognize that this imperfect, scarred, scared America is in fact quite beautiful. That was the extent to which I “read” the ad. If you find this position naive, that’s fine. I don’t hold that against you.

I didn’t notice the same-sex couple on my first viewing, and don’t feel much like addressing it now. You’re free to interpret it through your personal ideological grid and come to the conclusions you wish. If you know me, you know where I stand on the issue, and if you don’t know me, well, I figure you’ll eventually figure it out based on the context clues.

Rather than addressing the diversity issue or the SSM issue, I want to mention the interesting (and providential) serendipity–is that a contradictory statement?–of my Bible reading this week:

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come,let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. (Genesis 11:1-9, ESV)

If you haven’t read the Book yet, here are the highlights thusfar: God made the great big universe, including a perfect spinning ball of blue, upon which he made all living things, including a man and a woman. God had a special relationship with these creatures, and gave them dominion over the perfect planet, with one rule: there was a tree in their garden, the fruit of which they should never eat, fruit that would supernaturally give them understanding of good and evil. The crafty Serpent (a fallen angel in a snake suit) tempted them to sin by appealing to their pride, and they disobeyed their Creator, bringing sin and pain and death into the world. God declared a curse on the ground (thorns and thistles) and the Serpent (that He would one day be crushed by the Offspring of the Woman). The fallout of their rebellion was immediate: one of their 2 sons killed the other one. Several generations passed, full of so much wickedness and murder and sin that God punished the whole of humanity, wiping out almost all of them in a worldwide flood. But God kept His promise by preserving a remnant of humanity and animalkind in a big boat. Then, several generations after the flood, here we are in Genesis 11.

Notice a few things from this account: The people wanted to build a tower that reached “the heavens” to make a name for themselves. They wanted to stay in one place, as part of a unified kingdom. God had other plans, and confused their languages, so that they could not work together and complete the name-making project.

Now, there are a few different ways that this passage can be read, I guess. (I heard one recently that i’d never heard before, arguing that the confusion of languages was a divine blessing to promote diversity… Okaaay.)  But the traditional reading of this text is that the confusion of languages was God’s means of thwarting the pride of a unified, sinful humanity. God didn’t want Babel to be built. Why? Because the glory of Babel would be the name of the builders. It was an act of defiance against the glory of God. (“I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God, I will set my throne on high…”) So God confused the language to humble the people. He will not share His glory with another.

Now rather than trying to draw a crooked line to our current cultural argument, let’s draw a straight line to a future hope:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice,“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 7:9-12, ESV)

See here, in the great hall of heaven, a reverse of Babel, surrounding not a tower of man’s glory, but a throne, as all of the diverse peoples of the world who have been rescued from the effects of sin and the rage of the Serpent by our risen Champion, our Shepherd-King, our slain-but-living Lamb, Jesus.  People of all tribes and tongues and nations, in one voice, praising God.

You want diversity? See the millions of faces around the throne, of all different shapes, colors, variations.  You want cultural identity and unity? See their bond as one family, with one Spirit, one Savior, one faith, one baptism, and one Father and Lord who is over all  and through all and in all.

Observe the throng of the redeemed, singing in perfect harmony.

 

Well, this is a poor way to begin.

It seems that “every Monday and Friday” lasted all of… Monday. Shoot.

Reader, I need to beg your indulgence for 24 hours. Until I get a few posts in the hopper, this regular posting business is a bit tricky. I’ll have something fun for tomorrow, by noon. Pinky-swear.

In the comments below, feel free to vent your disappointment, hurl derision, or let me know you’re never coming back to this blog again. I think it’s only fair.

All growns up.

[Note: Expect the Monday/Friday posts to be up no later than noon, going forward. So there’s probably no need to check much earlier in the day than that.]

Other than the four years I was away at college, I’ve lived in the same town as my folks all my life. I’ve been out of their house for over 10 years, but we’re still a very close-knit bunch. Frequent (weekly) weekend meals shared, checking in by phone or in person during the week, sitting in adjacent rows at church every Sunday.

But I’m in my thirties, and planning to go to seminary and probably move away from my hometown permanently. This will be a difficult transition for my family, so I’ve tried, in fits and starts over the last few years, to begin that separation process. I have to admit–I haven’t always handled it well. I’m still learning how to be an adult son of parents who still have a teenager in the house. Sometimes, I find myself acting like a teenager as well, pulling back from the closeness of the family that raised me with pointless little acts of defiant independence.  I have, on more than one occasion, caused hurt feelings and even maternal tears. That’s never my goal, really, but it happens, and I feel awful about it.

Of course, they have hurt my feelings, too. My parents, God bless ’em, are sinners, and they have sinned against me a time or two as well. There’s room for blame on both sides of these arguments, but blame accomplishes nothing, resolves nothing. The way forward, the way of peace, always starts with humility. Confession. Repentance.

This past week, I learned that I had been thoughtless and insensitive toward my parents. The exact circumstances are not that important, except to say that I didn’t give them enough credit to be as supportive as they later proved themselves to be. So last night, I sat down with my folks, and I apologized for giving them the stiff-arm and not letting them take more of a role in what’s going on in this season of my life.  Then I stayed for dinner and the “big game.”

We’re still figuring out this new phase of the relationship. There will surely be more instances where I’ll need to pull away and redraw some boundaries, but I’m learning that my folks are willing to work through this transition with me. I’m very thankful for that.

 

Question: How do you relate to your parents, as an adult?  Have you been able to balance maintaining boundaries with preserving a good relationship?