(Un)Happy Warriors.

Hey, Christian friends–can we talk just a minute about social media?

*sound of stampeding feet*  GUYS, GUYS, WAIT, COME BACK!!!

Look, y’all–I enjoy using social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, just like most of you do. I’ve developed many great interactions and (I think) some genuine friendships with people around the country through this medium. But it would serve us well to take a step back and think once again about how we’re using these gifts.

Maybe it’s the intensified political climate, maybe it’s because the issues of race relations and abortion are always topics of discussion in January, but as I’ve pulled up Twitter and Facebook over the last few weeks, I’m constantly seeing my online friends–solid, grounded, fruit-bearing believers–engaged in social-media slapfights with either believers of other tribes or with non-believers. Argumentation bleeds over into insult. Blocks and bans are celebrated with high-fives.

Here’s the danger, y’all: We can’t let gamesmanship get in the way of the Gospel. “Jerks for Jesus” are still just jerks. 

I’m not saying that you can’t engage and debate online in a healthy way. I’ve seen some of my friends do that also, and do it well, in recent weeks. I want to learn from those examples.

But some of us?  We just enjoy pickin’ fights.

bh-fight

In my experience, we Reformed (or Reformed-ish) folk seem to fall into this trap regularly, as we take our stand as warriors of orthodoxy and defenders against heresy.

I’ll be the first to affirm that doctrine matters, and truth is worth fighting for. However, we must be ever so careful that our love of truth is not overwhelmed by our love for the scrum and skirmish of ideological battle. We happy theological warriors can quickly become hardened and bitter. We turn our blades on each other. I’ve seen it happen.

My brothers, this should not be.

Confession: I do it, too. (I am Captain Buzzkill, after all.) As I grow more and more aware of this tendency in myself, I am trying to dial that down, to recognize when I’m growing pugilistic in my interactions. Because it’s not becoming of a follower of Jesus to sling snark on a constant basis.

And frankly, gang? It makes Twitter less fun, because it turns Twitter into a perpetual outrage party.  No thanks.

Maybe you think I’m off base. Maybe you think I’ve gone soft. You know what, brother, sister? I can handle that.

But, if you would indulge me, please take a few moments and think over these reminders of how we ought to engage other people (who despite their sin are still made in the image of God) on social media. Then, let’s go and do likewise:

Colossians 4:5-6  “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt,so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

I Peter 3:14-16 “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respecthaving a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”

Titus 3:1-8  “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all peopleFor we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.”

[All translations are ESV; all emphases mine.]

The Insufficiency of Implicit Dignity.

[This is a long one, but I hope it’s useful to you. Thanks for reading. –d.]

On Sunday, I had the privilege of preaching the morning sermon at my church. It was “Sanctity of Life Sunday,” but rather than speaking just on abortion (per usual for that day), I sought to expand our focus. So we looked at what the Bible says about the dignity and value of human life as a whole, asking the question, “Why is human life sacred? What sets us apart from the rest of creation?”

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I won’t reprint my full manuscript here, but I’ll give you a summarized version:

Mankind was created especially by God. The language of Genesis 1 and 2 speak to a particular attention and direct interaction by God with the man and woman He made. He gave them the place of honor and responsibility over all creation (“a little lower than the angels,” as David would write in Psalm 8). They would represent Him throughout the earth and rule over it. But our first parents rebelled against their King, committing cosmic treason by breaking His commands and sinning against Him, as they sought to be His equals.

However, despite the entrance of sin and death into the world, God still affirmed the value of human life in Genesis 9, and the distinction of value between man and animals, because even as fallen creatures we are made in the image and likeness of God.  Human beings have dignity and value, not because of our abilities or capacities, but because of what God has done in choosing to have a special relationship with us.

I spoke about how there isn’t a clear teaching in Scripture about what constitutes being made “in the image of God,” but working off the idea of being created to glorify God all over the earth, I talked about how human beings have the singular ability of echoing (ever so faintly) some of the communicable characteristics of God. We can demonstrate love, mercy, justice, faithfulness, and other attributes of God, but in a diminished and creaturely way. However, the entrance of sin into the world corrupts even our best intentions and actions, so that we as a sinful creatures are only able to demonstrate these attributes, on our best day, in broken and distorted ways. We do not love God and each other as we ought, and our poor attempts at “righteousness” or “goodness” are mixed with self-interest.

Because God is just and holy, He must rightly punish sin and destroy evil, and thus we would be doomed. But God (who is rich in mercy) sent His son, Jesus the Christ, whom the Scriptures repeatedly call “the image of God” (Col. 1:15) and “the radiance of His Glory, the exact imprint of His nature” (Heb. 1:3). In short, Jesus the God-man is the perfect template of what mankind was supposed to be but could not be, because of sin.

Jesus lived a human life of perfect righteousness, died in the place of sinners, taking our guilt and the just penalty of divine wrath upon Himself, and then was raised again, giving us the guarantee of our own resurrection for all who turn from their sins and trust in His saving work as our sacrificial substitute. Those who trust in Jesus are “made new” and then begin to be remade, reshaped, into the image of Jesus (sanctification). Several passages in the New Testament affirm that we who have been born again are being remolded to look like Jesus (Rom. 8:28-30; Eph. 4:17-24; Col. 3:9-10), and when we are finally resurrected, we will be finally and fully restored (II Cor. 3:18).

Thus, my appeal to believers in Jesus (in light of these truths) is to recognize that all human life has dignity and deserves respect, regardless of that person’s actions or circumstances, because God has made them in His image. We are thus commanded to see all people through the eyes of the Spirit and not through the eyes of the flesh–and we are compelled to make our appeals to all to be reconciled to God (II Cor. 5:14-21).

In the sermon, I mentioned several classes of people who deserve dignity and respect but are sometimes passed over in our culture: the unborn, the orphan, unwed mothers in crisis, the sick and dying, the disabled, the poor. Since I feared the sermon was running long, I mentioned also a mixed-bag category of “people who are different than us”–including people who look different, speak a different language, were born in a different country, or even worship a different god. All these, I argued, have dignity and should be shown love and respect because all these are made in the image of God and need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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I finished the sermon and actually felt pretty okay about it. After the service ended, I was approached by a few of the brothers, including an African-American brother in our church family who’s a friend of mine. He hugged me and thanked me for the sermon, but then he said, “You know, at the end, I was expecting you to talk about race a little more. But that’s okay.”

For a moment, I was struck.  It seems so obvious.  On a day when I’m affirming the value of all human life–on MLK weekend, of all things–I missed a chance to make an explicit reference to one of the most divisive issues in our culture.

It’s not that I didn’t think of it at all. It was implicit in my comments throughout the sermon. I said more than once, “all people, no matter who they are, have dignity as being made in God’s image.”  But I missed the chance to say it more clearly.

All I could do was apologize. I told him it was there in the subtext, but I confessed that I could have and should have taken an extra moment to underline it.  My friend graciously shrugged and shook my hand again, “I’m not offended, man. I know what you meant.”

Even so, the more I considered it, the more I was a bit bothered by it. What should have been underlined in my outline became a footnote.  If you had asked me directly, I would have affirmed unequivocally that all people of all races are made in the image of God and are deserving of respect and dignity. But I’m not forced to think about race that often. I don’t have to rub up against that issue every day. It can slip into the background for me. Maybe that’s a privilege I’ve been afforded.

“But Dave, your job as the preacher was to herald the Gospel, not push a social message.”  Yes and amen, and I pray I did that clearly. But: there is nothing unbiblical or inappropriate about speaking prophetically from Scripture to a specific issue facing our community, especially when it is practically set up on a tee for me to take a swing at it. We were talking about human dignity and value and the way we as Christians should affirm the value of all human life. I don’t need to promote or support any specific political interest group in order to say what the Bible says–that all people are made in God’s image, that God is no respecter of persons, and that we as the Church are called to proclaim reconciliation to ALL people, including those who are of a different race, background, or class than we are.

And maybe I shouldn’t have to single out race and ethnicity as one of those issues, but we live in a country that seems to be growing more divided around race.

Here’s what I’m getting at: I don’t think it was enough simply to imply that people of other races have equal dignity with mine. This is worth speaking directly to, even at the risk of possibly over-emphasizing it. The Gospel is the answer to racism, and the Church needs to repeat that over and over until the world gets tired of hearing us saying it!

I’m frustrated that I missed the easy opportunity to do just that. By God’s grace, I hope my listeners heard what I didn’t say explicitly but should have. I am thankful that the Holy Spirit is the one who applies the Word to our hearts. And I pray that my church family hears His voice today.

My 2016 Reading List and Top-Five Reads of the Year!

It’s an annual tradition for me to provide my reading list and recommendations, and I’m happy to oblige again this year.

Reading List

January
>>Wayward — Blake Crouch (started 12/31)
>>The Last Town — Blake Crouch
>>Avatar, the Last Airbender: The Search — Gene Luen Yang (3 vols.)
>>Written in Fire — Marcus Sakey
>>Red Harvest — Dashiell Hammett

February 
>>Do More Better — Tim Challies
>>A Wrinkle in Time — Madeleine L’Engle
>>Slave — John Macarthur
>>The Pastor Theologian — Hiestand and Wilson

March
>>Animal Farm – George Orwell
>>Gates of Fire – Steven Pressfield
>>The Silence of Our Friends — Mark Long
>>Captain America: Civil War — Brubaker/Perkins/Weeks
>>Jelly Roll — Kevin Young
>>Captain America: America First — Knauf/Chaykin/Breitweiser/Higgins/Siegel/Padilla
>>Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America — Loeb etc.

April
>>Essentialism – Greg McKeown
>>Captain America, Reborn – Brubaker etc.
>>The Trial of Captain America – Brubaker  etc.
>>Dad is Fat – Jim Gaffigan (audio)
>>Biggest Brother: The Life of Major Dick Winters, the Man Who Led the Band of Brothers – Larry Alexander
>>Inheritance of Tears – Jessalyn Hutto
>>Amusing Ourselves to Death – Neil Postman

May
>>The Hole in Our Holiness – Kevin DeYoung
>>Too Dumb to Fail – Matt Lewis
>>Smarter, Faster, Better – Charles Duhigg
>>It Can’t Happen Here – Sinclair Lewis
>>Hawkeye, vol. 2 – Fraction/Aja

June

>>From Eden to the New Jerusalem – T. Desmond Alexander
>>Kill Devil – Mike Dellosso

July
>>Getting the Message – Daniel Doriani

>>40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible – Robert Plummer
>>No Hero – Mark Owen (audio)
>>A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan

 

August

>>Star Wars:Bloodline – Claudia Gray
>>Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
>>Nobody Wants to Read Your S–t – Steven Pressfield
>>The Wright Brothers – David McCullough
September
>>Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs (audio)
>>Persuasion – Jane Austen (audio)
>>A Guide to Adoption and Orphan Care – Russell Moore
>>The Winter’s Tale – Shakespeare
>>The Innocence of Father Brown – GK Chesterton
>>Orphan Justice – Johnny Carr
>>Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus – Nabeel Quereshi (audio)
>>The Joy Project – Tony Reinke
October
>>Reviving New England – Nate Pickowicz
>>Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls – Scott Snyder / Bryan Capullo
>>Batman Vol. 2: The City of Owls – Snyder/Capullo
>>Hollow City – Ransom Riggs (audio)
November 
>>Batman: Dark Victory – Jeph Loeb; Tim Sale
>>Library of Souls – Ransom Riggs (audio)
>>On Bowie – Rob Sheffield
December
>>Armada – Ernest Cline (audio)
>>And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie (audio)
>>Love Your Life, Not Theirs – Rachel Cruze
>>Fat2Fit2Fat – Drew Manning
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Final Tally: 57 books. I think that’s a new personal record.
The big takeaways from this year’s list? 1) Graphic novels, 2) audio books, and 3) the public library.
  • As a palate-cleanser (and, frankly, mental “recess”) from the serious reading I did this year, I read a lot of graphic novels (mostly Captain America and Batman). Some of them were quite good (and may even crack my top-five!). But a solid fifth (11) of my reads this year were graphic novels, which I argue can be just as challenging and moving as regular print books. (Admittedly, some of them weren’t; they were cotton candy for my over-taxed brain.)
  • I also started “reading” more audio books (9 this year), partly due to the realization that they are quite useful for roadtrips. My wife and I started a new practice of picking at least one audiobook to enjoy together. I look forward to continuing this tradition in the future.
  • I have become a major proponent of the public library. Where I live, there are 2 fantastic library systems, and I’ve been the beneficiary of these all year long. Of the 56 books I read this year, fewer than 20 were from my own shelves. The rest were courtesy of the public library. Gang, if you haven’t checked out your local library lately, you need to get on that. There’s some fantastic stuff available, whether it’s paper or e-books, audio materials, movies on disc or via digital download, and a whole lot more.
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The4thDave’s Top Five Reads of 2016 (in no particular order):
  • Do More, Better by Tim Challies: At the start of the year, I read this productivity book by one of the most famous bloggers in Evangelical Christianity today. I even incorporated his system and reported on it a month later (resulting in the most-read post in 4DB history, thanks to the “Challies bump”). Since then?  I’m afraid my compliance has been hit-or-miss, and my personal productivity has suffered. That said, this weekend, I’m going to dive back into a refresher on the system. It’s pretty simple to adopt, and when I’ve used it as prescribed, it has been very effective for me.
  • Gates of Fire, by Steven Pressfield: From a pure “fun” standpoint, this is one of the best novels I’ve read in a while. Gates of Fire takes place during the years leading up to the Battle of Thermopylae and the final stand of the 300 Spartans, and it follows a handful of inter-connected characters through the story. Pressfield’s writing is crisp, his characterization is effective, and his dialogue pops on the page. However, there is a significant enough level of crude language and “barracks-talk” that I can’t recommend it widely. For those who aren’t offended by such things, this tale of warriors and honor is worth a look.
  • Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America, by Jeph Loeb and a bunch of other folks: Yes, I’m including a graphic novel on my top-five for this year, because this particular collection is one of the most memorable comics compilations I’ve read in years. The writers use 5 stories, each focusing on a different superhero’s reaction to the death of Cap, as a means of exploring the five stages of grief. The book culminates in Tony Stark eulogizing Captain America both publically and privately, and I found it to be surprisingly moving. This short collection is really well-done.
  • Biggest Brother…, by Larry Alexander: If you are familiar with the hit HBO miniseries Band of Brothers (and if you’re not, you should be!), then you would remember the main character, Dick Winters, who rose to the rank of Major as he led those brave men through the battles of the European front of WWII. Alexander’s biography fills in the gaps, as he explores the man behind the story. Alexander spent time with Winters, getting his own perspective on events from his past. The reader also gets a glimpse of Winters’ civilian life and retirement years, including his perspective on the TV miniseries that made him “famous.” Biggest Brother was a fascinating and valuable look at the life of an American hero.
  • Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates: It wasn’t one of my favorite books of the year, but it was an important book for me to read. I disagreed with several parts of it, was sometimes (often) provoked by the author, but in the end, I needed this voice in my head for a little while, because I haven’t been exposed to many other voices like it. Reading Coates’ “open letter” to his young son forced me to see the world through his eyes for a while. I question some of his perceptions and assumptions; but I also was forced to reconsider some of my own. That’s a sign of a profitable reading experience.
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Your turn: What was your favorite book or books that you read this year? Let me know in the comments!

2016 Reading Challenge: December Update and End-of-Year Round-up!

Time for the final 2016 Reading Challenge update!

This month, I only read one more book from the list:

A Book About Money: Love Your Life, Not Theirs, by Rachel Cruze. This volume by the daughter of Dave Ramsey (and heir-apparent of his financial-counseling empire) is a lighter version of the core Dave Ramsey principles, with some extra material thrown in. In the book, Cruze lists 7 principles for finding contentment, which includes things like “avoid debt,” “save money,” and “use a budget.” Essentially, if you are familiar with Dave Ramsey’s “Baby Steps,” there’s nothing groundbreaking or useful here. The only addition Cruze makes is some discussion of the dangers of comparing yourself to others. However, the book mostly avoids the spiritual aspects of contentment and jealousy, so the reader is left with a bland, faith-lite exhortation toward gratitude and generosity as a solution for envy and discontentment. In the end, this book is fluff: watered-down, non-challenging, non-offensive. It seems like she’s trying to move away from the brusqueness associated with Dad, but it’s weak tea, so don’t bother.

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Final tally for the 2016 Reading Challenge: 33/52. I’m a bit disappointed I didn’t do better, but honestly, it’s a good run, considering how many additional books I read this year. All in all, I’m pretty satisfied with the experience. As you can see by the list below, the challenge successfully broadened my typical reading, and took me out of my  comfort zone. While I don’t plan on tackling another reading list in 2017, I will certainly give it a go down the road.

Reading Challenge Categories completed:

A book about Christian living
A biography
A classic novel
A book more than 100 years old
A book for children
A mystery or detective novel
A book published in 2016
A book about a current issue
A novel that won the Pulitzer Prize
A book with at least 400 pages
A book with a great cover
A book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers
A graphic novel
A book of poetry
A book that won a ECPA Christian Book Award
A play by William Shakespeare
A humorous book
A book based on a true story
A book written by Jane Austen
A book with 100 pages or less
A book with a one-word title
A book about money or finance
A novel set in a country that is not your own
A book about music
A memoir
A book about joy or happiness
A book by a female author
A self-improvement book
A book by David McCullough
A book you own but have never read
A book targeted at the other gender
A book by a speaker at a conference you have attended
A book written by someone of a different ethnicity than you
Check back tomorrow for my full 2016 reading list, and my top-five favorite books of the year!

Wait a minute–I have a blog, don’t I?

[No posts for more than 3 weeks? Wowsa.]

A few words to update you on what’s been going on with me:

At the moment, I’m at the tail end of a pernicious head cold. So I’m a little foggy-headed today, but I wanted to post something new.

Honestly, things are pretty good. December was a good month for me. Some exciting things are happening in my offline life that I can’t quite talk about yet. Work is keeping me busy. A few weeks ago, I took a roadtrip with my wife up to my old college town to pick up my sister at the end of her first college semester. We enjoyed Christmas in-town with the family. It was a good end to a challenging year.

As for the radio silence: I honestly just haven’t had much to say, or at least much that was worth saying. I hit a point when I just didn’t care enough to write regular posts. Part of that blogging drought may be that I also haven’t been reading regularly this month (so as you will see soon, I only added one more “reading challenge” title to my final count).

The end of the year is always a time of introspection and reflection, and a reassessment of where I am and where I want to go. Maybe that’s a cliched approach, but there it is. The point is, I’m taking some time this week to take stock of my priorities and agenda, so that I’m spending my life on things that I care about most. (No, that doesn’t mean we’re breaking up–but I do want to consider how much time I’m ready to invest into this project.)

Here’s the deal, gang: My blogging mojo is in a bit of a trough, and I don’t just want to blather for the sake of posting new content. If you’re taking the time to read what I write, then what I write should be worth your time. I have had a few ideas in the past couple of weeks, but I wasn’t sure if I had enough new to say to justify 700 or so words about it.

What does that mean, moving forward into 2017? It means that when I have something new that’s worth saying, I’ll say it. I may adapt some of my Sunday School materials into short posts here, if I think it would be profitable. If I gather enough items for a Friday Five, I’ll post that here on Fridays.

The next Federalist post will go up on the “4thDavePapers” blog next Tuesday, and I hope to throw some new content up there once or twice a week, because the read-and-respond approach will keep me thinking and producing material.

But I’m not going to post just for posting’s sake, out of some sense of obligation to vomit up internet content. I’m not going to offer up half-baked hot takes on current events because everyone else is doing it. There’s enough of that going around.

The best way for you to keep up with my blogging in 2017 is to subscribe. You can subscribe by email at the bottom of the page, or follow my blog through WordPress, so that you get notifications when I have new content available. And I’ll do my best to make sure that any new content is worth your while.

Thanks for subscribing, thanks for reading, thanks for sticking around. My hope is that my 2017 writing, however inconsistent, will become more and more beneficial to you.

Happy New Year, friends!
–d.

 

2016 Reading Challenge Update: October/November

Time for another update on my Challies 2016 Reading Challenge progress!

You may be thinking, “Wait, Dave’s still doing this thing?” And the answer is…kind of?

I’m not sure why, but October and November were just not very bookish for me. Personal reasons aside, I just didn’t make reading a priority like I had in previous months. Also, as I noted previously, my limited reading was often occupied with non-Reading-Challenge materials.

That said, I did finish one short book from the Reading Challenge list:

A book about music: On Bowie, by Rob Sheffield. I mentioned in an earlier Friday Five post that I was slowly working my way through this one, with mixed feelings. While I definitely love Sheffield’s writing, I realized that my understanding and appreciation of David Bowie was very shallow. In a sense, “my” Bowie was the elder-statesman Bowie–more subdued, less sexually-charged, singing about love and loss. Sheffield’s short but adoring biography of David Bowie gave me a fuller understanding of the artist’s long and turbulent career. And to be honest, I find I’m starting to distance myself from him as a result. I can’t explain it other than to say I’m seeing in a new way how out there Bowie often was, and it’s turning me off a bit. I still recognize his immense talent–I’d never argue that. I guess I’m just seeing that Bowie isn’t my bag anymore, if he ever was. (I’m pretty sure Sheffield would be horrified and/or outraged by this response.)

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There’s one month left in the 2016 Reading Challenge. Guess what? I’m not going to make it.

Right now, the tally sits at 32 out of 52. A respectable number, especially given how many extra books I threw into the mix this year.

For this final month of the year, I’m going to focus primarily on books that I have committed to reviewing on the blog. (I’m already about halfway through one more book from the reading list on money/finance, but that shouldn’t take long.) Some of these books for review can be applied to reading list categories, but most will not. However, I want to make sure I take care of these commitments I have made (some of them, months ago).

So my expectation is that I will reach at least 35 out of 52 before year’s end. As for the books and reviews coming up this month (hopefully): selections by Jared Wilson, RC Sproul, Tom Schreiner, Kevin Van Hooser, and others. Some tough sledding, but what better time for that than winter, right?

As for next year, who knows? I may decide to finish out this list before doing anything else. Or I may chuck the rest of this list and tackle something else. Tim Challies has already posted a 2017 Reading Challenge list, but I don’t think I’ll attempt that one next year. I have piles of unread books (both physical copies and Kindle books) that I would like to work through, so I may decide to do just that, and post little capsule reviews on this page from time to time (similar to these monthly updates).

Until then, thanks for reading.

Your Turn: Reading anything good lately? Let me know in the comments below!

The 4thDave Friday Five! (12/2/16)

Hey gang!  Thanks for hanging in there with me as I’m trying to figure out a workable posting schedule in the midst of some other big life stuff (more on that in the coming weeks/months).

In the meantime, I have 4 neat videos and a blog post to share with you for your Friday enjoyment.

One:  The new OK GO video is amazing. OK GO has a history of elevating the music video genre to the level of insane, real-life Rube Goldberg machine footage. Well, this latest entry is no different! Love it.

Two: Another good video from Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness. Here, he challenges the phrase “I don’t have time to ___.” (Hm. So I guess I should have said earlier that more frequent blogging “wasn’t a priority” at the moment. *shrug*)

Three: A Bad Lip Reading video of Yoda from The Empire Strikes Back. Oh man, this song will be stuck in your “coconut,” like the poking of seagulls.

Four: A theory about the Dark Secrets behind the fate of the Rogue One main characters. The Film Theorists have some crazy ideas about what happens to the crew of the Rogue One after the events of the upcoming movie. (Note: There is a little bit of language in this video, but nothing extreme. Also, please note that I am not vouching for the other videos from FT, which can get inappropriate sometimes. There, we good? Use your discernment.)

Five: It’s Christmastime, which means it’s “‘Christmas Shoes’ Survival Season.” While I am on the record as being wildly opposed to “Christmas Shoes”(my least-favorite Christmas song of all time, no contest), I appreciated Jon Acuff’s more…measured tone, as he prepares us for this dangerous scenario.

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That’s what I’ve got for you today. Look for a new 4thDavePapers post this afternoon, and hopefully a little more content on this page in the early part of next week. (I have a little time this weekend, so I’m going to work through some post ideas I’ve been kicking around.)

Your turn: Any cool videos you want to share? Cool new discoveries you want to talk about? Do you have a blog/website you want to promote?  Comment below!

The4thDave’s Friday Five: Thanksgiving Week Edition (11/25/16)

Good evening, friends! I hope you are happily digesting your Thanksgiving meal and/or leftovers, as I am. I apologize for the lateness of the hour, but my family has some specific Thanksgiving Day (and day-after) traditions that needed to be taken care of.

So here’s a list of fun things for your weekend enjoyment:

  1. This short interview clip of Lin-Manuel Miranda: Obviously, Miranda and his hit musical Hamilton have generated some, let’s say, strong feelings lately. I just think it’s fantastic that when asked which celebrity turned Lin into a bit of a fanboy when he met him, this is his first response.
  2. The books of Rob Sheffield. Sheffield is a Rolling Stone writer whose work I have come to appreciate over the years. His first book, Love is a Mixtape, was brutal and gorgeous, as he used the mixtapes he made for his late wife as a framework for talking about their relationship and the aftermath of her death. His second book, Talking to Girls about Duran Duran, provided a fascinating look at how music shaped Sheffield’s formative years. His third book, Turn Around Bright Eyes, is my favorite, in which he describes the power of karaoke and the part it played in his meeting and wooing his second wife. I’m reading his latest, On Bowie, and I have to admit I’m struggling with it, but that’s more due to the subject matter than Sheffield’s writing. (I think I was naive about how sexualized Bowie’s early career really was. *shrug*)  Sheffield’s style is earnest and clever, full of subtle lyrical allusions and wordplay. If you are interested in reading some easily-accessible rock writing, Sheffield’s work is worth checking out, especially his first book.
  3. The4thDave Papers. Here’s where I plug my newest little project: an essay-by-essay examination and interaction with The Federalist Papers. My hope with each post is to summarize the main ideas in each essay (or group of essays, if there’s a continuous series), and address if those ideas have any application here at the end of 2016. I’m sorry to say I’m already a bit behind my desired output schedule, but I’m hoping the longer weekend will allow me a little time to get ahead. Currently, I have a couple of introductory essays and a post on Federalist #1. Look for Federalist #2 no later than Tuesday.
  4. It’s a Wonderful Life. Okay, folks, I’m going to make my yearly appeal on behalf of one of my top-five favorite films of all time. (Not just one of my favorite Christmas films, mind you; one of my favorite films of all time.) The fact that this movie is considered a Christmas movie is incidental; about 80% of the movie doesn’t take place during Christmas. It’s a Wonderful Life is the story of George Bailey, a man who spends his entire life sacrificing his own dreams and ambitions for the good of others. He gives and gives, and when he is faced with the possibility that he could be jailed for a crime he didn’t commit, he questions whether or not his life had any meaning. It’s only through a bit of angelic intervention that George sees just how many lives he affected by his selflessness and sacrifice. (Yes, this movie has some goofy theology. Fine.) This movie touches my heart in a way few modern pictures do. If this is a movie you have always written off as boring or hokey, my request is that you give it another chance during this Christmas season. I usually watch it at least once or twice, starting with Thanksgiving weekend, so I’ll be popping it in the player tomorrow.
  5. Turkey Hash. One of my favorite Thanksgiving foods isn’t part of the meal itself (which is great). I love making turkey hash with some of the leftover meat. It’s nothing fancy, but here’s what I do:  1) Dice up a good mix of light and dark meat [but more dark], some white onions, and some potatoes (enough to where you have a 1:1 ratio of turkey to potato). 2) In a skillet, heat up some oil to a simmer, and throw in some minced garlic and the onions, and fry them up until the onions are translucent. 3) Then add the potatoes, and fry until the potatoes start getting a little soft. 4) Then, stir in your turkey to warm it up.  5) Add black pepper (fresh ground, if possible) to taste, but don’t be afraid to be generous with the pepper. If you didn’t have minced garlic, you may want to throw in some garlic powder at this point. 6) Keep stirring to keep the potatoes from burning. Once the turkey is hot, pull it off the stove, dish it up, and enjoy. You can thank me later. It’s not a fancy dish by any means, but its simplicity is its strength, I think. You could add some diced bell peppers or zucchini or something, but I like keeping it simple.

That’s all I’ve got tonight, folks. Have a great rest of your Thanksgiving weekend.

And, to paraphrase Andrew Klavan from Wednesday’s podcast: Remember that “thank” is a transitive verb, which means it’s an action word that is directed toward something or someone. It’s not just a vague feeling. “Giving thanks” means there is Someone to which we are being thankful. So take a moment, take stock of your blessings, and remember that all good gifts come from God. He’s the One you need to be thanking (and not just on the last Thursday of November).

The4thDave’s Friday Five (11/18/16)

Hey friends! Sorry for missing last week’s Five, but I hope this week’s bit of awesomeness will make up for it!

This video about being terrible. I appreciate Steve Kamb’s work on Nerd Fitness (you should check it out, it’s pretty fun). He’s recently starting to post more regularly on the NF Youtube account. For some reason, this video was really encouraging to me. I mean, what he’s saying may seem basic/obvious, but it’s good to hear once in a while. (Content Note: He uses a few swear words in the second half of the vid. I guess they’re “TV swears.” For what it’s worth.)

The Magnificent Seven (2016). I was listening to the Gut Check Podcast, and the hosts were talking about how much they enjoyed this summer’s remake of The Magnificent Seven. I don’t remember how much I’ve talked about that movie online, but as I was listening to their discussion, it reminded me how much I really, really enjoyed the flick. It’s been ages since I’ve seen the original, so I can’t really compare the two. I’ll say this, though: even with Rogue One and a few others still on the horizon, The Magnificent Seven is easily one of my top-five movies of 2016. It is a “classic” Western in all the best ways, and I expect it will be joining my video collection at some point.

Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI). Part of our training as foster parents involves learning TBRI as a method for disciplining “children from hard places” who have endured trauma. While I will freely admit that I was suspicious when I was first exposed to TBRI as a parenting method (I assumed it was “hippie parenting”), I’m coming to appreciate its strengths. I look forward to learning it, using it, and infusing it with as much Gospel as possible. This may not interest you in the least, but if it does, you should check out this site that features videos by the late Dr. Karen Purvis, who helped develop this method of ministering to wounded children.

“The Show Must Go On.” I randomly happened to catch a recent episode of The Voice on NBC, and I heard this performance from one-time-child-music-star Billy Gilman. While he’s not the most dynamic performer, I don’t think you can deny he’s got some pipes.

The Federalist Papers. Inspired by some college friends on Twitter, I started rereading this fundamental work of American political writing (something I’ve been toying with for a few months). It’s available here on Kindle for free, and I would recommend downloading a copy.

Why? Because starting Monday (hopefully), I’ll be writing at least weekly blog posts with observations/applications about all 85 treatises in the lead-up to the inauguration of our next president. Sometimes, I’ll focus on a specific “paper” and other times, I’ll sum up a group of them. I’m not promising hard-hitting analysis or rhetorical brilliance–just the ordinary thoughts of some conservative, nobody blogger on one of the most important collections of writings in United States history.

Probably while humming something from Hamilton.

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So that’s my Friday Five. What about you? Anything cool you’re enjoying lately? Share in the comments!

Why *don’t* I write like I’m running out of time?

Quick update on life ‘n stuff:

New Year? Nah.
The “new year” approach isn’t really working for me. Anyone else? (I won’t wait for you to respond, but please do so in the comments.) Like so many things, I think I haven’t really locked in on a strong enough “want to” to drive action. So I will confess to you, my friends, that I have been busy (or busy-ish) and have used that as an excuse not to write.

I hit one of those moments yesterday in which I realized I was feeling guilty for tasks and responsibilities I had placed upon myself. Not writing enough. Not reading enough on the 2016 Reading Challenge. Strangely, I wasn’t feeling as guilty about things that ultimately mean more. I still haven’t gotten back on track with food like I wanted to. I’m still not taking in Scripture consistently.

SO HERE’S MY GRAND RESOLUTION:  …I’m gonna stop with the resolutions. For the rest of the year, I’m just going to work on getting a little bit better. Better choices, linked end to end. And when I miss, I’ll keep going. I’m not giving up on myself.

Reading List? More like Reading Missed
My 2016 Reading Challenge progress has pretty much stopped. You may have noticed that I didn’t post an October update. Well, here it is, my October Reading Challenge Update:  

Nothing. I read Nate Pickowicz’s great book, Reviving New England. I read a few Batman trade-paperback collections (the “Court of Owls” storyline, and a Loeb/Sale story). I listened to the audiobooks of the last two Miss Peregrine books (those were pretty good!).  But other than that, nothing of note. Not for lack of trying, but I just haven’t found anything that has grabbed me, from that list. I will post an update at the end of November if I make any progress, and then a year-ending post in December with the full list. But I think I’m going to let myself off the hook on this reading list thing. Part of the reason is because of all the other stuff we have going on.

Not-quite-Dad
My wife and I have talked for a while about becoming foster parents, but in early October, we finally started taking steps. Now, we’re in the midst of training and learning and filling out reams of paperwork. It’s exciting. It’s terrifying. I’ll have a lot more to say about it in the coming months. But it’s really taken up a lot of mental and emotional space in my life. I’m not saying it’s a good reason for not doing the daily stuff I had tried to commit to doing. But it’s part of the mix.

Back to (Sunday) School
I’m teaching adult Sunday School again! I’m on a rotation with another teacher, so I’ll be teaching for the next 3 months. We started a series this week on the attributes of God. I may throw some posts up with my lesson prep/notes, if you guys want. But that is also going to soak up some time an energy in the near term.

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So what’s next?

I’m not giving up on the weight issue. My wife and I are probably going to go back to ketogenic eating (which is an AWESOME thing to do, six weeks before CHRISTMAS). But it was working for both of us, so we want to go with what works. I’m going back to Weight Watchers on Saturday to face up to the scale (and all the weight I’ve gained in the last month). I’m going to the gym tonight. So yeah. Still fighting.

I still want to increase my writing output. One idea for that came from a couple of college friends of mine on Facebook. I’ll fill in the details of that tomorrow, but I’ll say this: the post title is a clue.

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I’ve got a Friday Five ready to go for tomorrow, so come back and check it out.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for sticking around.

If you’re on Twitter, follow me at @the4thdave