The Sampler (3-31-20)

We have an Invisible Coat Rack at our church. People see it only when they need it. After they deposit their coat, the rack disappears. The coat is forgotten forever. The rack never has less than four coats at a time.

As I meander through books, magazines, and the vast expanse of the internet, I go back for the coats I left hanging for later. A well-written article is worth the effort. Assuming I have plenty of shallow stuff in my life, I look for things that are deep and demand another look. I graze to find things worth digesting.

I’m rarely able to give these things the attention they deserve at first glance, so I save them for times that I stop for reading and reflection. So, here’s the stuff I can’t let go. I’ll send posts like this with the following things in mind: articles, essays, blog posts, books, podcasts, sermons, lectures, and other tools or sites that I keep revisiting. What are you enjoying lately?

Articles

Cal Newport writes on the Deep Life, as good an argument as any for reading Digital Minimalism. I’m on my third trip through that book this year.

Seth Godin asks: Is everything is going to be okay? That depends.

Greg Morse of Desiring God compels me to sing my loved ones home.

Listen Up

I’ve been listening to a political podcast called The Argument. It has all the heat but plenty of light. Short, irenic debate amongst these New York Times writers: Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg, and David Leonhardt.

Books!

I’ve already mentioned Digital Minimalism, but an easy second is Made to Stick by the Brothers Heath. These guys are to writing what Anthony Fauci is to COVID-19. When they speak, you listen.

My Psalter for all occasions, I carry it with me wherever I go. Crossway knows how to creatively print Bibles:

IMG_20200328_163948

BL

Life has never been normal

Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure the search would never have begun. We are mistaken when we compare war with “normal life”. Life has never been normal. 

~CS Lewis, Learning in Wartime

 

Pandemic Intensity

I re-injured my right hamstring on a glacial Tuesday evening while running almost two months ago. My recovery plan was regrettably clear: I had to shut everything down. Rest, no running, no stretching. I blush to remember how discouraged I was. That weekend, after a few feeble attempts at light jogging I accepted my fate. I brought my 22 mile per week regimen to a complete stop. Running had become key for me, so I warned my wife that my life would soon be falling apart. One reputable source suggested that I should avoid running for 8 weeks.

During an episode on dealing with injuries, Running Rogue host Chris McClung recommended looking to the broken training cycles as an opportunity to challenge myself. Every injury is a chance to anchor myself and gain new skills. He gave examples of famous athletes who made breakthroughs during injury cycles. He was urgent- don’t mope, don’t get complacent, don’t waste your injury.

I took this to heart. I started getting up at 4:30 am to make time to swim laps at my local YMCA. Realizing that I had no idea what I was doing did nothing to diminish my intensity. I spent my lunch breaks watching Youtube tutorials and learned how to breathe and to freestyle. I was baptized. My three lap near-death experiences became regular ½ mile workouts. That’s thirty-two laps, in case you were wondering. After a month, swimming laps restored the familiar rhythms of prayer and reflection. I also began walking two to three miles a day.

I began to observe that life is full of similar opportunities to pivot and I often waste them. Consider the current COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone is facing their own private stash of anxieties. We can’t waste our God-given chance to see into the life of things.

I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Psalm 16:8

Instead of manically scanning the news for hourly (!) updates, we will say: “O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.”

James K.A. Smith reminds us: “Your deepest desire is the one manifested by your daily life and habits.” What is your current crisis revealing about your deepest desires? Don’t go with the flow, don’t keep pace with social media. Don’t mope, don’t get complacent. Rather, with God-earnest intensity and prayer-saturated effort learn something new, read that book, get down on your knees and pray. Don’t waste your pandemic.

BL

Rules of Parenting

In a recent newsletter, Comment magazine senior editor Brian Dijkema shared the following rules of parenting, and I heartily approve:

  1. Always be reading.
  2. Let your children know that you will ignore them by ignoring them in favour of what you are reading. Why? See 1. For exceptions, see 3 below.
  3. Unless they want to read with you. Then always read with them. Why? See 1. But also, allows you to exhibit the infinite nature of love. Yes, you love reading. Yes you love your children. Don’t choose. Read to your children because you love them as persons, but also because you love books. (Infinite love of children) (infinite love of reading) = more love. Does this make any sense? See 4 below. Any special instructions? See 5 below.
  4. Maybe not, but who cares? I’m still reading.
  5. No need for instruction (with one caveat, see 6 below): children are by nature drawn to a reading adult like a moth to a flame. At some point they will lean against you to the degree that you will tip over. Embrace this.
  6. Read good books, and be absolutely ruthless in not reading bad books. Isn’t this elitist? See 7 below. Also: read with some modicum of expression, please. Does this mean you need to do voices? See 9 below.
  7. No. The world wants you to attend to slop. Find the pearls. How will you find them? See 8 below.
  8. Start with Glady Hunt’s Honey for a Child’s Heart. She’ll train your eyes and ears. Sarah Mackenzie’s The Read-Aloud Family isn’t bad either.
  9. Of course, poppets! When else will you get to mimic a totally unreliable and catastrophic Toad without being taken in for questioning?
  10. Don’t let the age of your children force you to stop reading aloud. Apply rule 1 to rule 3.
  11. All of the above applies to you if you’re single or without kids. Find someone to read aloud to. They will love you for it. See rule 1.

BL