A Freshman in the School of Marriage

I don’t want to speculate for all husbands (feel free to confirm or deny), so I’ll just say that for me, this first year of marriage has been an education–a non-stop parade of personal reformation. It seems that I’m learning something new about living with my wife every day, and I keep having to tell myself, “Remember this. Don’t miss this next time. You should probably write this down.” (I don’t, but I need to start. Add this to the list, Dave.)

And it’s not that my wife is demanding or high-maintenance–very much the opposite. She’s incredibly gentle, easygoing, gracious. She doesn’t give full-vent to her frustrations with me. I can see God at work in her life and heart in a hundred ways every day. It’s gorgeous to behold.

But she, being a loving wife, makes sure to (again, gently) point out the rougher areas of my daily rituals and unconscious habits. (For example, hampers are better for dirty clothing storage than floors or furniture. Crazy.) She encourages me to refine these vestigal behaviors of my bachelorhood. And then it’s up to me to put these lessons into practice.

So this weekend, as I sat down with a glass of icewater to finish watching the Texans game (sidenote: gotta give mad props to Ryan Fitzpatricks mondo lumberjack beard–cheers, Fitz!), my wife says from across the room, “Sweetheart, did you get me water?”  For a moment, I panicked. But no–she had asked me to stir the soup, which I had done in short order (this being the extent of my trustworthiness when she’s at work in the kitchen). I answered in the negative. “You asked me to stir the soup, love.” “Ah. Okay. I thought i asked you for water, too.”  Crisis averted, I turned my attention back to the sweet, sweet Houston comeback win.

[Seasoned husbands, you should be chuckling at this point.]

Before bedtime, I got up and got myself another glass of icewater. Laid down on top of the bed on my stomach to check email and social media. And again, my lovely spouse asks, “Babe, did you get me some water?”  Puzzled, I said, “Uh, nope. You didn’t ask, sweetheart.”

H. walks over and puts her face right down next to mine. “Dave, it would really speak to my heart if you think of me when you do things like that. That would bless me.”

Aaaaaand then the light went on. “Really?  Oh. I’m sorry, sweetheart.”

She smiles. “That’s okay. Thanks for understanding.”

She walks into the next room. Pause.  I ask, “Would you like some icewater?”

She laughs. Her laugh is music. I love it.  “Yes, that’d be wonderful.”

“I’m on it!”

Another lesson in my education: completed.

In I Peter 3:7, Peter writes, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way…” Maybe part of this idea is, when we have a physical need (like hunger or thirst), we should remember that our spouses are human beings who need the same things. If I’m hungry or thirsty or tired, maybe she is too. Maybe I should ask. Something to consider.

Class dismissed, Dave.

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Your Turn: Have you learned something recently in your relationship/marriage that would benefit a newbie like me? Help me out–comment below!

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Book Recommendation: “The Pastor’s Justification,” by Jared Wilson

One of my struggles in the last nine years of doing small-group ministry is that I spend more time thinking like a teacher than a disciple. When I approach the Scriptures, I can easily fall into the trap of thinking, “How can I teach this?” rather than first thinking, “What is it teaching me?” This can be especially dangerous when I teach about the Gospel. I will call out in full voice how nothing a person can do will earn or deserve the free grace-gift of Jesus, but yet in my quiet moments, I find myself trying to work harder and do better so that God will be pleased with my soiled-rag righteousness.  I preach grace to others, and chastise myself for insufficient works. In other words, I need to apply the Gospel to my own heart and my own ministry as much as I apply it to the hearts of others in the work of ministry.

Enter Jared Wilson, a faithful minister and fantastic writer. Several year back, his book, Gospel Wakefulness, was a powerful tonic for my spiritual life. His book and blog writing moves and challenges me greatly, and I would put him on the short-list of living pastor-writers whose work is always a must-read for me.

I recently finished one of his latest books, The Pastor’s Justification, and can say with full conviction that every pastor should read this book. Fellow believer, buy it for your pastor. It will be an immense blessing to him. It was for me.

The book is divided into two sections: “The Pastor’s Heart” and “The Pastor’s Glory.”  In “The Pastor’s Heart,” Wilson uses I Peter 5:1-11 as a framework for talking about a pastor’s motivations, personal holiness, humility, and attitudes. In “The Pastor’s Glory,” he discusses the temptations that pastors face in terms of church growth strategies and message moderation. Pointing to the “Five Solas” of the Reformation, Wilson calls preachers back to Biblical faithfulness and ministry focus that gives all glory to God, instead of the efforts of “visionary leaders.”

Wilson’s ideas here aren’t new or innovative–and I mean that in the best way possible. He exhorts his brother-pastors to return to the foundations of true gospel ministry, the type of ministry that relies on God’s power to produce God’s work for God’s glory.

The Pastor’s Justification is a letter of encouragement to the overworked, overwhelmed, spiritually-exhausted pastor, the wounded shepherd, the weakened warrior. Wilson’s admonitions and exhortations are gentle yet direct, humble but forceful. As a fellow-laborer who has been through deep valleys himself, Wilson writes pastorally to pastors.

If you are in pastoral ministry, I’m telling you–you need to read this. It won’t double your church size or give you a shot at the conference-speaking circuit. But it will remind you of the true faith once delivered to all the saints. It will refresh you with a cool drink of Gospel waters. And it will point you to the infinite beauty of our King Jesus, the shepherd of all of our souls.

Who We Are Instead.

I’m becoming a bit of a productivity podcast junkie. I have been devouring the backlog of Michael Hyatt and Erik Fisher in particular. One of the ideas that both guys and their guests have discussed is that when you are creating a blog, you need to have a focus: a mission statement that guides your content.

As we have been slowly reviving this site (in fits and starts, admittedly), this is something we haven’t really addressed. What is the blog’s identity? What are we about?

SO, at this point, it’s high time we got specific.

The 4thDaveBlog’s focus/theme/motto/mission: Thinking about life, marriage, ministry, and story, to the glory of God.

I think that sums up nicely what I want to do here. I’m going to talk about current events or ideas, my experiences as a (newly) married man, observations about church life, and the power of story–all with an eye to the glory of God, revealed in all these things.

I haven’t talked to Web about it yet, but I’m sure he would agree. Shoot, his posts are more consistent to this theme than mine are.

So there you go. This is the direction we will seek to pursue. If this isn’t what you’re looking for, we will miss you.  Feel free to come back and visit anytime.

As for the rest of you, thanks for joining us on this road. I look forward to what’s in store.

Your turn:  What topics (along these themes) would you like us to talk about in upcoming posts?

Friday Film Review: “The Maze Runner”

You wake up on a freight elevator, hurtling upward through near-darkness. You don’t know who you are or how you got there, but as the doors open above you and blinding light pours in, you find yourself surrounded by a group of strangers, and you’re struck with a sudden urge to run.

Thus begins “The Maze Runner,” a film opening this weekend in wide release. It’s based on a series of young adult novels by James Dashner, and the film is “loosely” based on the first book. I haven’t read the book (yet), but based on this film, I’m definitely checking it out.

Here’s the set-up: The amnesiac protagonist is ushered into the world of “the Glade”–a large, semi-wooded hamlet surrounded on all sides by massive stone walls several stories high.  The inhabitants of the Glade are all boys ranging from pre-adolescent to older teens, who have set up a kind of communal society. They don’t know why they’re there, but they live in relative harmony. Their verdant prison has a giant door, which opens every day to allow access into a deadly and seemingly-limitless maze.

Some of the boys are tasked with running and mapping the maze to try to find escape, but they have to be back by sunset, when the doors close. Why? No one lives through the night in the maze.

There be monsters, ya see.

Once our nameless protagonist is deposited in the Glade, things start changing. The peaceful acceptance the “Gladers” have for their current situation is quickly disrupted. This new boy is driven by one thought: escape.

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I got to see a preview of this movie last week with the missus. We both really enjoyed it. It was intense and action-packed. For being a cast of mostly minors, it was rather well acted, on the whole. The set-up and payoff of certain plot-points was both familiar (if you’re verse in sci-fi/dystopian genre motifs) and still satisfying.

There’s also a really interesting subtext/theme about the idea of safety versus growth. You could easily make the “Glade-equals-childhood” analogy. Something fun to think through, there.

In conclusion, I would definitely recommend this movie, with a handful of caveats.

First, from a story perspective, this is based on the first volume in a multi-book series, so like the LOTR films, there’s a bit of a cliff-hanger ending. That said, you get some small resolutions along the way. So be ready for that. All questions will not be answered, or will be answered with more questions.

Second, from a content perspective, this film is PG-13 for action/violence, suspense, and language. The language was a bit jarring, often because it comes out of the mouth of children and teens. On the positive side, there’s no sexual content or even innuendos. Small favors, I guess. (If you want a more detailed content guide, check out Plugged In’s review.) So, I would say, you shouldn’t bring any kiddos to this, unless they’re older teens.

[Maybe down the road, if you could rent this on DVD/BR and use the “family-friendly editing” player to clear out the language, it would make the movie that much better for family viewing.]

That’s all I have for now. Have a great weekend, folks. See you on Monday!

Web’s Wednesday Wisdom: “Of Pyros, Bloggers, and Local Members”

[Every Wednesday, we feature posts by Webster Hunt. You can find him on Twitter. If you don’t follow him on Twitter, you’re missing out. So don’t miss out.]

If you didn’t know, Frank Turk, infamous Menace Who Must Be Stopped according to careful, nuanced, and balanced blogs everywhere, has discontinued his (sorta) hiatus and has returned to blogging at TeamPyro AND begun blogging at Reformation 21 so that he can do all kinds of things “like ministry” now from two different fully operational battle stations. Read his fantastic piece at Ref21 here (http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2014/09/the-5th-horseman.php) and don’t forget to pop by TeamPyro today as he’s promised to bruise the raised, dainty pinkies of bloggers and readers alike and cause all types of hilarity to ensue. And all that is really a snarky metaphor to explain how he will be blogging like words actually mean things, and that the people reading your words will actually do something with them.

Some of the most profitable blogs I’ve read at TeamPyro have concerned the local church, and Dan Phillips rakes it in with this blog post (http://www.teampyro.blogspot.com/2014/09/a-word-of-advice-young-feller.html) about younguns listening to their elders, especially as it concerns things in the church, which coincidentally served a kind of one-two punch from those two.

Go ahead and read that one too. I’ll wait here.

Ok. So, assuming you’ve read at least Dan’s post at Pyro (extra credit for you go-getters who read Frank’s at Ref21 especially) let me get along with my post today so that I don’t look like some TeamPyro fanboy (which I am) trying to score some extra points with men I’ve never met in person to satisfy an unsavory substitution for real, actual, Godly relationships (which I’m not).

When I read Dan’s post, I thought of my friend Darin, an older man than me who is a member of the same local body that I am. We think a lot alike and get along together nicely. He totally gets my obsession with memes. He bikes often, which I started but stopped because he’s 20 years my senior and can fly past me like they’re a hyperdrive on that thing and all I’ve got is a Cuisinart.

But most importantly is what he’s been teaching to me by way of his own manner of life. Now, for reference, it’s no secret that I think highly of those men who write for TeamPyro. They’ve been heroes of mine for 8 years now, writing about things I’ve not heard a pastor talk about to his people until I joined this current local body. They contributed much to my growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ and becoming more like Him. But, as I’ve said before in another post, they’re not my pastor. THEY’VE said it before. But it didn’t affect me until Darin said it. Here’s how it went down:

I was over at his house, and we were probably about to go on, or come back from a biking expedition (hey, 14 miles pedaling on a bicycle is torture to a man so out of shape as I) and I mentioned something I read at some blog somewhere. He was really gracious about it, and didn’t respond much to it, so I asked him why. He let me know that he’d done the same for some years, following this and that blogger, this and that nearly-famous name, but that one day he considered the fact that he didn’t know any of these guys aside from what they decided to put on the internet. And anyone can be anything on the internet, right?

These men who had written good things were not part of his local body. So I guess he had the same experience that I did with “paper pastors” – I’d read a very good and needful thing, and it resonated in my memory banks, but it didn’t quite flesh out until I was looking into the eyeballs of another man who was graciously letting me know that I’d gotten it wrong. The men in those blogs, some of them good, functioning members of local bodies, some of them good, Christ-exalting pastors of local bodies, weren’t the flesh-and-blood men and women that would see me inside and outside of normal congregational worship times. They weren’t the ones that God has installed into the Christ-exalting, gospel-preaching local body that I’d decided to join in the whole orb of the function of the local body. When I read a blog, I consume it, I chew on it, it bounces around in my brain, but can I make the argument that it’s anywhere near the same as my pastor laboring to teach the bit of people he’s in charge of the ins and outs of Scripture, laboring to present Christ in His word in all of his unchanging glory? Of course not! And in the defense of good bloggers everywhere, they would (and few have) said the very same thing.

And so my friend instructed me on a point that I now try to labor in the time that Dave gives me to write here at this blog: You don’t know that disembodied blogger – or perhaps even this one. You know your local members. Put more weight in those members whose life and words reflect the holiness that Christ perfects in His saints that are in your local body than the blogger who writes for your edification, to the end that you do that very thing. I thank God that he has given a place for bloggers in the Kingdom to do things “like ministry” for those who are in a lukewarm body, for those deceived into heresy, for those still immature who need a blogger they look up to to tell them to pay more attention to their local pastors. But they don’t take the place of those pastors – as Frank pointed out, the church that Jesus was talking about in Matthew 16 was an actual assembly of people, not a theoretical, disembodied one. A disembodied body – have we covered that oxymoron yet?

I’m thankful for Darin, and men like him, for taking the time to make important things clear, for living those things out, for inviting young men like me to be your friend, and (Darin specifically) praise God that you honor Christ with your way of life. Such love! Wow leadership! Very discipling! (He’ll get that).

Some Brief Comments.

Good afternoon!

  1. The management regrets the lack of consistent posting. Those responsible for the lack of posts have been sacked.
  2. But seriously, yes. I’m breaking one of the cardinal rules of blogging by not posting consistently. I’ll be getting this sorted out shortly.
  3. We’re abandoning the day-of-the-week alliteration in the post titles, because it’s too restrictive. However, I’m keeping “Web’s Wednesday Wit/Wisdom” because I just like it.
  4. Speaking of which, that will be coming sometime tomorrow. Looking forward to that.
  5. As for the rest of the week, I think I’m going to have something posted both Thursday and Friday, if I can find time to finish a few things before then. Dare we hope that this is so? (I think we dare.)
  6. One of the things I will post will be a few thoughts about the direction of the blog. A theme, if you will.
  7. The other of the things may be a book review of something I’ve been reading and benefiting greatly from, this week.
  8. In the meantime, I would invite you to post below in the comments if there’s something you’d like to talk about in the next week or two.
  9. You should in no way interpret that last request as evidence that I’ve run out of things to talk about, and that a lack of inspiration is the real reason for the lack of consistent posting.
  10. Though if you did interpret that request in such a way, well, you wouldn’t be far from the truth.
  11. I wonder if this numbered list is getting tedious yet.
  12. Is it getting tedious? Would you tell me if it was? Were? Should it be “was” or “were” in that sentence?
  13. I’m leaning toward “were,” based on the proper usage “if I were.” But I could be wrong about that.
  14. You should go check out “The Maze Runner,” in theaters this Friday. I got to see a sneak preview. It was really good.
  15. Are you still reading this? If so, please post random letters and numbers followed by the word “Bonzai!” in the comments below.
  16. Don’t forget the exclamation point. That’s how you prove you’re not a robot.
  17. Do you ever laugh when you get that verification text on a website? Prove you’re human–type these random letters and numbers.
  18. I always imagine there’s some sad robot somewhere who just wants to surf the internet and share his little robot thoughts and feelings on various blogs, and never gets the chance to.
  19. The official policy position of the 4thDaveBlog is that we are against the disenfranchisement of blog-reading robots.
  20. Unless they have red eyes. Never trust the red-eyed robots. The red eye stands for “evil.”
  21. This list has reached the twenties. If you have made it this far, follow-up your previous comment with another comment that lists the title of your favorite song from the nineties.
  22. Why the nineties? Because… I don’t know. The logic worked in my head but I’m having a hard time explaining it now.
  23. I wasn’t even in my twenties, in the nineties.
  24. Maybe it’s my deeply-held wish to be part of Generation X.
  25. Did you ever see the movie “Reality Bites”? Good flick. Kind of a time capsule of Hollywood’s version of Gen-X.
  26. Did you ever read the book “Generation X” by Douglas Coupland? I remember reading it in college and liking it quite a bit.
  27. There are lots of things I liked in college and in my twenties that I find I pretty much can’t stand now.
  28. “Garden State”? Can’t stand that movie now. Not even the soundtrack.
  29. Of course, some things remain over the years. For example, I still love 90’s music.
  30. Oh yeah, we were talking about 90’s music, weren’t we?
  31. If you don’t have a favorite song from the nineties, you should type “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt in the comments section below.
  32. I’m convinced that “Don’t Speak” is one of the most perfect pop songs from the nineties. So many layers of instrumentation.
  33. What’s that? You want to bring Nirvana into this conversation? I said “POP” song.
  34. You weren’t thinking of Nirvana at all? Ugh. Nevermind.
  35. If you laughed at me for thinking the No Doubt song is the best pop song of the nineties, don’t tell me–cuz it hurts.
  36. Okay. I think I’ve driven this bit into the ground. Stay tuned tomorrow for something much more useful and edifying.
  37. Or impactful and contextifying.
  38. Or something and something else.
  39. It looks like it’s about to rain. Hmm.
  40. Okay, I’m going now. Bye.

Web’s Wednesday Wit: “There’s a Lady I Know”

[On Wednesday’s, I get to share the platform with Webster Hunt. This is always the most popular post of the week, and for good reason. If you don’t know Web, follow him on Twitter.]

 

Yesterday my wife had a doctor’s appointment. It was your standard “go over bloodwork, symptoms, and possible meds to help this illness along” that she has once every month or so. It was on the tail-end of a hospital stay gone less good than it could have, so we were both anxious to hear what the her autonomic doctor had to say. I was waiting on her phone call.

On the other end, her end, things were going like they normally did. One of the ladies from our local body had arranged to drive her to and from the appointment, and though she arrived later than she usually does, her doctor came to her before her appointment and asked if she’d speak to her previous patient in a support kind of way – which my wife gladly agreed to. The doctor wheeled her back to the room and brought the patient and her mother in, where Sheena shared about the severity of her illness, how the doctor had been so diligent and, at times, successful in her treatments, and even about our daughters and what we had to do because of her illness.

The call I got from her was excited – she was honored to have been considered by her doctor to encourage another patient with a less severe form of dysautonomia. She always has that attitude when it comes to helping others that way.

There’s something to the way she suffers with her illness so well. She’s content to say and believe that her illness is the will of God for her – because, as she says, she’s obviously sick, so it’s obviously what He wants – and though it is evil, and it destroys her body, that He means it for good, and she says as much to Christians and non-Christians. Understanding her illness this way has allowed her to speak more firmly about the Gospel and about Jesus to people who would likely not otherwise hear her. There’s just something about affirming the goodness of God in the midst of suffering that gets people’s attention.

Another way she suffers well is that she continues to be Christlike wife to me. She seldom complains though she hurts all the time, and when I need to talk with her about some trouble on my heart, she listens and helps me work through it. When I sin, she rebukes me and expects me to repent from those things. In whatever ways she is limited, she finds other ways to show her love for me to me. Like tonight – she’s letting me do something I like doing when she could claim her rights to my time and energy. I justify it to myself by saying “Well, I’m blogging about you” and continue on. I digress.

There are so many ways that her own sanctification has affected mine. She has been a constant means of grace to spur me on toward Christ, toward holiness. Especially in her illness.

So I blogged about my wife today because she impresses me. And to quote the great philosopher Dana Carvey (I joke) “There’s a lady I know/And if I didn’t know her/Then she’d be the lady/I didn’t know.”

I don’t want to have not known her. I can’t imagine it.

Tuesday Top-Five (Times Two!): Tempting Treats and Tasty Tidbits

My wife and I are about a month into a new eating plan. It’s kind of a modified Paleo-ish thing… Point is, we stay away from refined flour and sugar in all its sundry forms, and things like white potatoes, etc., for 5 days out of seven. We get to have these items on Fridays (because that’s usually Date Night) and either Saturday OR Sunday (not both).

Things have been difficult, but the results are good. This new approach to food, combined with exercise, has resulted in both of us losing weight in the last two months.

That being said, I still find I’m regularly tempted to cheat and eat or drink something on the restricted list during the week. So to bring my snack temptations out into the open, here’s my current Top-Five Tempting Treats:

  1. Dr. Pepper. I love Dr. Pepper, y’all. (I am a Texan.) Some call it the “nectar of the gods.” Some call it “Baptist beer.” I call it my biggest food-based weakness. Oh, Doctor–your soda’s like bad medicine, and bad medicine is what i need.
  2. Pop-tarts. Why are they so good? They should be terrible, and yet there’s some kind of voodoo magic that makes them amazing. Even when they’re bad, they’re amazing.
  3. Biscuits. Warm, fluffy, straight-from-the-oven goodness. Oh, biscuits, get in my belly. You can be from Chick-fil-A, Whataburger–heck, even nasty ol’ McDonalds. Crumbly, crusty, steamy biscuits. My, aren’t they tasty.
  4. Sweets in the break room. Cookies. Cake. Pie. Leftover from weekly meetings and group lunches, or sent over by kind-hearted departments as appreciation for what we do in my office. It’s becoming a regular event for there to be some sort of sweet treat available. And when you’re one of the last people in the office, it calls your name.
  5. Peanut butter. Apparently, peanuts (which are “legumes”) aren’t part of the Paleo diet. Man, cavemen must have been depressed. (Until they died in the Flood–BOOM! Young-Earth-Creationist’d!)  So even the “healthy” snack of apples dipped in good ol’ PB is off-limits Monday-through-Thursday. Driving home Sunday night, I said to my wife, “You know what I miss? Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on soft bread. How messed up is that?”

But that’s not all I’ve discovered in the last three months. I’ve also found that I’m beginning to like some healthy food as well. Thanks to the genius culinary skill of my wife, I’m discovering all sorts of delicious food combinations and ingredients. So, to keep this post well-balanced, here are my Top-Five Tasty (and healthy!) Tidbits:

  1. Quinoa. Pronounced “keen-wah” (not “queen-o”), it’s become a favorite around our house. It’s amazingly nutritious, and quite tasty. We rock some stuffed peppers for dinner sometimes, filling the pepper with a mixture of quinoa, chicken, onion, and other veggies. Super tasty. If you haven’t tried quinoa, you should check it out. Good stuff.
  2. Zucchini. Did you know, zucchini can be shaved into long strands and used as “spaghetti”? True story. And tasty. I never ate zucchini before, because it looked too much like the vile and poisonous cucumber. But it’s become a staple in my diet.
  3. Curry. I’ve slowly become more experienced with Indian cuisine in recent years, but the more I eat curry, the more I dig it. I’m not often big into really spicy foods that don’t include jalapeno, but I’m definitely on board with this curry business.
  4. Hummus. Okay, okay, technically not part of the Paleo diet, but we’re making allowances from some things, like hummus (and brown rice in moderation).  Seriously though–hummus? More like YUMMUS. (Dip it to my thummus!)
  5. So. Many. Vegetables. For years, I was a meat eater. My plate was all like “MEEEEEEEEEAT, CAAAAAAAAARBS, and a wee little bit of veggies.” But now? Man oh man. It’s just the opposite. All kinds of crazy veggies. And for the most part, I’m on board. (I still hate kale. Hate it. But we’re working through that.)

Don’t get me wrong, we still get some good stuff. Bacon. Ribs. Steak.  Lesser animal flesh. (Okay, more often than not, it’s chicken or fish.) The point is, these changes? They’re worth it. My cholesterol is for the most part going way down. I’m more than 30 pounds lighter. Things are happening, man. I’m digging this.

Doesn’t mean I don’t crave a DP every day, still. But it’s okay. This water, it’s, uh, just as good. Sure it is. Sure.

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YOUR TURN! 

What are your favorite tasty temptations? What about your favorite healthy snacks? Suggestions? Questions? Comment below!

Fantastic Friday Fiction: A Capsule Review of the “Brilliance” saga

Imagine a world in which 1% of the population is born with incredible abilities–superhuman pattern recognition, intuition, organization. Imagine living in such a world where your classmate or coworker or competitor has an innate advantage over you, based on mere genetics.  Or a world where, through no choice of your own, you interact with reality a bit differently than the people around you, and their response is to isolate, mistrust, even openly discriminate against you. This tense social environment is the setting of Marcus Sakey’s thrilling series of novels, called The “Brilliance” Saga. The series begins with Brilliance, and continues with A Better World. (Both are available as an e-book on Kindle for $4.99, at the time of this writing.)

The protagonist of the series, Nick Cooper, is a Brilliant, someone who was born with a special ability. Cooper can read non-verbal cues and anticipate how people are feeling or what they’re about to do. The smallest shift in posture or strain of a tiny muscle will tell him if a person will attack or flee. The twitch of an eyebrow can reveal that a person is lying. Cooper works as a government agent tasked with apprehending or taking out any “abnormals” who use their abilities to break the law. His agency is hunting John Smith, the alleged leader of a domestic terrorist group that has perpetrated gruesome attacks on “normals.”

As the series unfolds, Cooper has to face a host of fascinating and terrifying characters, including a beautiful assassin who seems to walk through walls, and a billionaire genius who may not be what he seems. The stakes are raised higher and higher, as allegiances are challenged and secrets are revealed. Government intrigue, thrilling chases, and surprising twists keep the pages turning.

If I had to classify the Brilliance Saga by genre, I would say it’s a kind of “real-world” science fiction. This isn’t a superhero story–it’s more like “X-men” by way of Tom Clancy. There are no capes or spandex or far-flung planets. These characters live in our world, but in a different version of our world–a world that was altered dramatically by the discovery of this genetic anomaly in 1986.

[In terms of objectionable content, readers should note that the books are definitely PG-13 in terms of violence and sexuality (I remember there are a few steamy scenes, but they are blessedly short and more is implied than described). The bad language pushes the PG-13/R boundary, if I recall. So I wouldn’t recommend for kids or teens, or for folks who are sensitive to this kind of content. Use your discernment about whether or not to give this one a shot.]

Final Analysis: I have to tell you, I seriously enjoyed these books–couldn’t put them down. This is a gripping story with fascinating characters. Anyone looking for a thrill-ride of a page turner should definitely give The Brilliance Saga a shot.

Thinky Thursday: Many Are the Plans…

I have a tendency to view the passage of time in terms of events. For example: this year, my life has been dominated by the long shadow of two events–I got married in June, and we moved into a new apartment in August.  Big moments, requiring lots of planning, effort, and time.  

This is pretty common, I think. When we’re in school, we’re conditioned to see life in terms of semesters, and the semesters in terms of quarters and tests and projects.  When we are done with school (at whatever level we finish), we look forward to the big milestones of adulthood: marriage, job, house, kids, retirement.

As soon as my wife and I finished moving in, about a week ago (praise Jesus), I immediately started getting nervous. I find there’s always this lull, this doldrum period that follows a big event. I get lazy and shift into neutral and, before i know it, weeks or months pass.  I didn’t want that to happen this time. I’m appreciating now (as I creep up on the middle part of my 30’s) how precious time is.

So yesterday, I started making a list.

I thought about all the things I want to get done in the next three months, between now and December 1. Not just the big projects, but the important-yet-mundane daily check-boxes that need to be marked off.  Three months. 90(ish) days.

The list grew and grew. While it seemed a bit intimidating, I slowly realized that I have the time to do it all, or very nearly. I get the same 168 hours every week; it’s up to me to use them wisely. In order to knock out the list, what I need to develop is the discipline to choose the better over the good, the best over the better.  

But there’s a big HOWEVER to insert here: no matter how many plans I have, I must always remember what James says: 

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’.” (James 4:14-15)

So, as I plan, I must always put in big, bold letters at the top of the list “IF THE LORD WILLS.”  But I’ll still plan. And as He gives me strength, I’ll get to December 1 and be satisfied with what has been accomplished.

2014 is tick-tick-ticking away. I want to have a plan to finish the year well.

What about you?

Do you have any plans for the next 3 months? Projects you want to start or finish? Personal challenges to take on?  Talk about them below!