James: Gotta Trust Somebody

Samuel James made a couple excellent points yesterday about our intake of the newsmedia over at Mere Orthodoxy.

The problem for all of us is simple: You gotta trust somebody. No human being can function as their own all self-sufficient filter… To make suspicion and distrust toward established, respected, and accountable sources of information your default orientation is to either put yourself at the mercy of other sources of information–which are probably just as biased and ideological as the sources you eschew, but biased in a direction you’re more OK with–or, even worse, it’s to make intuition and assumption your primary means of knowledge.

Right enough so far, yeah? Then he goes here, which may be a more squirmy point for a lot of evangelical Republicans:

So what? Let’s assume you’re right that every CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, etc etc, news feature is commissioned, written, edited, and disseminated by progressives who sincerely hope I will inch further to the left after reading their coverage. So what? Do their eschatological hopes for people like me actually determine whether the information they present is valid or not?

Here’s where it gets interesting. If the answer to that last question is, “Yes,” then it seems to me that conservatives have adopted a kind of philosophical identity politics. Liberals make liberal news, because they’re liberals. I don’t know for sure, but I could have sworn conservatives were suspicious of worldviews that reduced individuals to the sum total of their sociological groupings.

Yes, this. While we as evangelicals have been told for decades that we can’t trust anything from “the liberal news media”, we need to exercise better discernment than that.

This past year I’ve ponied up for online subscriptions to both the New York Times and the Washington Post. While they’re clearly never without an angle (and no source is), they’ve provided very good and worthwhile reporting on current events. While not perfect, their expertise in reporting provides a good baseline of facts from which to start to understand world events. I’m planning on maintaining my subscriptions to both.

Read widely, think critically, don’t discount the concept of experts… a good word for today.

Rands: Assume they have something to teach you

A brilliant post from Rands today that has broad applicability beyond managing in the tech industry.

When stuck with “marginal” meetings that don’t have apparent value going into them, Rands says he takes this approach:

The marginal meeting. It needs to be there, so I must figure out an angle to increase the value. I’ve got one hack that works consistently: assume they have something to teach you.

We would all be better off to take such a gracious, humble approach with those that we meet.

It is my personal and professional responsibility to bring as much enthusiasm, curiosity, and forward momentum to every single minute of my day. When I find myself in a situation where the value is not obvious, I seek it because it’s always there.

“Hi, Cathy. How do you know Ray? Interesting. How’d you two end up working together in such different parts of the company? No way. I never imagined that legal and engineering would end up working together on that? Tell me that story.”

With three questions, I’ve found a story that will teach a lesson.

A wonderful saint I used to serve on a deacon board with (who has since gone on to glory) modeled this principle for me. Even as a senior citizen, he daily approached young people (as our local director of Youth for Christ) and drew them in with this same approach. Ask questions. “Tell me your story.” Listen intently. Care.

Whether you’re a tech manager or just a person meeting other people on a daily basis, there’s a lot here to be learned.

Rands in Repose: Assume They Have Something to Teach You

Finished reading: another compendium

Finished reading:

Since I can’t seem to get individual posts written…

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan

A short history of the world as viewed with the Persia / India / China Silk Road corridor as the center of the action. Interesting in parts, though was far more of an overview than I was expecting. Now I need to go back and read some Persian and Chinese history.

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

An autobiography by the famed rock-and-roller. An enjoyable read that sure seems to have his sense of style… no ghost writing here. I’ve never followed Springsteen’s music closely but it was fascinating to read his story.

Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty: An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother by Kate Hennessy

A portrait of Catholic radical Dorothy Day as written by her granddaughter. While this book might add a lot of color for someone already very familiar with Day’s story and importance, to somebody like me who wasn’t familiar with her at all, it focused far more on their bizarre (and usually bleak) living and family arrangements. Could’ve been more accurately subtitled A Family Picture from the Perspective of Day’s Daughter, Who Was (Rightly) Put Off by Most of It.

Boeing Versus Airbus: The Inside Story of the Greatest International Competition in Business by John Newhouse

Interesting to me primarily because I work in the industry. The book is 10 years old – would be interesting to read an update now that Boeing’s 787 has made it to the field.

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren

Now this is a lovely little book. Warren, an Anglican priest from Austin, Texas, looks at how our mundane daily practices can make us mindful of God in our lives and how spiritual disciplines include mindfulness of the little things in life. An encouraging read that was over far too quickly.

Pavarotti, Moscow, 1964

So I’m not really an opera guy but this video of Luciano Pavarotti singing in Moscow in 1964 is amazing nevertheless.

It’s a little odd seeing him so young (age 29 or so), with no beard, and his eyebrow action is, well, non-trivial, but the level of vocal control is ridiculously impressive.

Worth the 3 minutes to watch.

Matthew 6, a modern paraphrase

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you do your good deeds, do not announce them with hashtags, as the hypocrites do on Instagram and on Facebook, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you do your good deeds, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your doing may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

And when you have your Bible study and quiet time, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to do this with Twitter pictures of coffee and their Bible, and on Facebook statuses to “encourage” others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Inspired by nothing in particular and many things in general.

An open letter of apology to my wife, to be reused as necessary

Dear Becky,

Tomorrow the postman will drop off an Amazon package in the mailbox. Yes, it’s another book. Yes, I know the last one I ordered just showed up a couple days ago. And the one last week before that.

I managed to justify them all to myself in one way or another. Last week was a book about major players in my industry, and I figured it’d be good history for me to know. Early this week was one about leadership that a bunch of people have been raving about. Having been in a leadership position at work for almost two years, it’s probably worth reading. Tomorrow is a two-volume (sigh) book of theology.

Had I been able to arrange the delivery date for tomorrow’s book, I would’ve spaced it out a little bit better, but I ordered it back in January and it just dropped this week. But hey, Amazon tells me I saved $5 by preordering, so that makes it worth it, right?

And yeah, I know I’ve got a pile of books as long as my arm stacked next to the bed. And another pile as long as my other arm stacked behind that. And full bookshelves everywhere we have bookshelves. But is it really my fault that N.T. Wright is such a prodigious author? Heck, the last time I bought a book of his I spent $4.99 on sale for the Kindle version. That saves bookshelf space!

(On second thought, let’s not get into how many unread books I still have on the Kindle…)

I have at various times in the past made a resolution that I won’t buy any more books until I whittle down the unread pile next to the bed. It’s probably time to make that resolution again. (Well, maybe after I use that Half Price Books gift card I was just given.)

At this point my unread book collection probably outnumbers your cast iron collection, though by weight the cast iron still wins… but maybe not for long. I think we get similar amounts of enjoyment out of our own respective collections, but to be fair I’m sure I get far more benefit from all the yummy stuff you cook in the cast iron than you get from all the rambling I do in conversation with you after reading.

Thanks for nearly 20 years of putting up with my bad habits. As much as I try to improve, maybe sometimes buying another bookshelf would just be the easier solution. (If we only had room…)


Fr. Boules George: A Message to Those Who Kill Us

The priest at one of the Coptic Orthodox churches that was bombed on Palm Sunday responding to the bombings with a message to their killers.

If your church had been bombed and your people killed, would your reaction be ‘Thank You’ and ‘We Love You’? Yeah, probably not. So it’s worth reading.

Finished reading: The Madame Curie Complex by Julie Des Jardins

Picked this one up from the library on a whim. The Madame Curie Complex is a relatively short volume covering the history of a dozen or so women scientists starting with the archetypal Marie Curie and running through the 20th century up to Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey.

Des Jardins consistently hits the themes that these brilliant women were underappreciated, underpaid, and had uneven expectations levied on them – circumstances that continue for women across the workforce today. While each chapter provides a nice summary of each woman’s achievements, there’s not a compelling through line or narrative arc to the book to pull it together as a cohesive whole. Nevertheless, this is a good bit of history to read up on.

The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science

Stop Trying to be a Man – Start Trying to be a Good Man

Brad Williams with a fantastic piece on Christ and Pop Culture today, saying things that desperately need to be said:

Culture tells us that certain things are “manly” and certain things are “unmanly.” But we must take that with a grain of salt. Most of the time, those around us in the culture have no idea who or what they are — so taking our cues from them doesn’t make any sense. Down deep, many people are quite insecure about themselves, and so they stick to silly things like “pink is for girls” because they have no better way to define what it is to be masculine. As a good man, you must take note of these things. Such markers might be alright for immature boys, but a good man will feel some grief for adults who continue to define themselves so narrowly.

Back in 2001, John Eldredge wrote a book titled Wild at Heart. In it, he argued that every man’s desire is for “a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.” This does sound very romantic perhaps, but that’s all it is. After all, many women have these same desires — and some men may hardly desire such things at all.

A good man does not have, in his heart, a grand desire for conquest. A good man’s heart desires only peace. A good man doesn’t desire war with his neighbor in order to take what isn’t his. The prophet Micah, when teaching of the day when God’s Kingdom would finally come to Earth, wrote, “they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid” (Micah 4:4). A good man loves the peace of his own vineyard. He desires a time when there’s nothing out there to make anyone afraid. This doesn’t mean he’ll always live in peace because seeking peace can still lead to conflict, but peace should always be the end goal. Your dream of peace may lead you to a different place of contentment than a vineyard or a fig tree, but Micah’s verse reveals that a man’s proper goal is desiring the opposite of fighting battles.

Maybe the Christian manliness bro culture has dissipated a little bit since Mark Driscoll left the helm of Acts29 and Mars Hill, but it’s still far too prevalent. Williams provides a great corrective here that those bought into the “real manhood” circus.

Christ and Pop Culture: Stop Trying to Be a Man and Start Trying to Be a Good Man

Finished reading: Faithful Presence by David Fitch

I’ve kept up with David Fitch for a while now via his blog and twitter. Fitch is a professor of theology at Northern Seminary in suburban Chicago, and has led church plants that reflect his focus on community, mutual leadership and submission, and reconciliation. Faithful Presence seeks to capture those ideas in a short, practical volume for church leaders.

Fitch outlines three areas of presence that Christians should occupy: the “close circle” (presence with other Christians around the Lord’s Supper), the “dotted circle” (still a fellowship of believers, but open to non-believers, typically in the context of a believer’s home), and the “half circle” (extending Christian presence into the neighborhood).

He then spends short chapters on each of seven disciplines he outlines as critical to a faithful presence. They are:

  • The Lord’s Table
  • Reconciliation
  • Proclaiming the Gospel
  • Being with the “Least of These”
  • Being with Children
  • The Fivefold gifting (roles in church leadership)
  • Kingdom Prayer

I really like Fitch’s focus on neighborhood and community presence; this is a welcome redirection from the big evangelical church as social hub. I found resonance there with an end note from Nadia Bolz-Weber’s Accidental Saints, where (if memory serves) she says essentially “do you want what we have? Don’t move here and come to my church – instead, start having a weekly dinner in your home with other believers, and let it grow from there.”

There’s a lot here to consider in an easy, small volume. Worth the read.

Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church for Mission