Stuff We Like

Choosing Church, Int'l Parents Say "Chill", Picasso, Movies to Share, and Evidence of the Fall – Stuff We Like #18

It’s been a while. That means there even more

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thank usual.…

Art I Like - The Blind Man’s Meal (Picasso, 1903)

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For those of us in the sighted world, we cannot imagine being unable to see. We are moved to pity for those who do not "see" the world in the way that we do. But Picasso's painting forces us to reconsider; his subject touches the pitcher of wine, and holds the bread, symbols of Christ's own life and death. The "blind" man may indeed "see" God far more deeply than those of us who are distracted by the busyness of the sighted world.

A Fun Article I Like

Movies Every Millennial Dad Should Introduce to His Kids

 I was super proud when I read this. I think Kathy and I have covered at least half of the list!

I was super proud when I read this. I think Kathy and I have covered at least half of the list!

Two Parenting Articles I Like

From Tokyo to Paris, Parents Tell Americans to Chill

Because we apparently have no chill.

Wise Parenting Dos and Don’ts from 1886

I like this one: “Explain the reason why. The child is a little walking interrogation point. To it all is new. Explain the reason. Your boy will some day repay this trouble by teaching some other child.”

Two Thought-Provoking Articles I Like

Choosing Church

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Best word of advice: “A healthy church will help you get over yourself.” Gold!

Private Dreams and Public Ideals in San Francisco

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To have grown up through San Francisco’s recent history is to be haunted by the visions of progressivism that did not end up where they were supposed to, that did not think far enough ahead and skidded past the better world they planned. It’s to be paranoid about second- and third-order social effects, to distrust endeavors that cheer on sensibility more than sense. It’s to have seen how swiftly righteous dreams turn into cloister gates; to notice how destructive it can be to shape a future on the premise of having found your people, rather than finding people who aren’t yours.

Two Articles as Evidence of the Fall

Black Man’s Fatal Encounter With Police Strikes Close to Home in Silicon Valley

This man is a modern saint. His ministry has had a tremendous influence in my life. He isn’t gone yet, but he will be sorely missed.

The Gospel Comes with a House Key, Ozark, Rent-A-Family - Stuff We Like #18

School is in which means more links coming out! You know you need them!

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Books I Like

The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield

Still not done with this book but easily the most challenging book I've read all year. It's one that makes you want to buy a whole box of them and pass them out to every church member. If you want to grow in hospitality, go deeper in what it means to welcome others into your life, or simply need a good spiritual kick in the pants, you need to read this book. When I read a book that makes my mind try to argue against it and then realize I'm just trying to justify selfish attitudes, I know I'm being convicted. This book has done it for me.

 

Shows I Like

Ozark (Netflix)

My wife and I are in the middle of this still but it doesn't let off at all. As with many shows in this period of high quality television, it's quite the exploration of what happens when we make questionable choices, the ramifications of justifying selfishness, and consistent failures to remember that everything done in the dark comes to the light. It's a fast pace show that still takes time to enjoy its setting.

Articles I Like

Japan's Rent-A-Family Industry

Courtesy of my wife, a reminder of how lonely our lives truly can be. There are countless articles out there about the loneliness epidemic that has hit Japan but is prevalent in many other countries. It's an interesting exploration of this plague and its intersection with the guilt/shame dynamic you often see in Asian cultures. The manner in which they've tried to overcome it is sad and a reminder of the precious gift that Christian community is. We do not simply attend the same church, we are brothers and sisters and family in Christ. We share both our joys and sufferings.

Now that I think of it though, maybe my wife is trying to tell me something by showing me this article......

Succession, Stamped from the Beginning, Mission:Impossible - Stuff We Like #16

Summer's going by too fast, feed your brain something that will last.

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Shows I Like

Succession (HBO)

An incredible show that explores power differentials that the ultra-wealthy enjoy, the cutthroat world of corporate power, and the soul-crushing hold fathers have over their children. Cynical but hilarious, dark but ridiculous, Succession both lampoons a world absolutely foreign to the 99% and challenges us why we try so hard to become the 1% in the rest of life. 

Books I Like

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi

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I'm no history buff and don't particularly enjoy reading history books. This however might be the most powerful book I've read this year thus far. Kendi tracks the foundations of the racial inequalities evident today. Not only does it point out political and socio-economic roots of these problems but how certain stereotypes and attitudes have developed in the course of our nation's existence. It's a hefty read but well worth the time invested.

Movies I Like

Mission: Impossible - Fallout

Look, I'm not keen on supporting Scientology either. But this is easily the most action-packed movie I've seen in awhile and I think the Fast and Furious movie franchise is the best series of movies ever made. Fun fact: Tom Cruise, when he made this movie, is a year older than the Quaker Oats guy when he made his commercial: 

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Yeah that guy. Also, my favorite past-time is watching Tom Cruise running.

Middle Child Extinction, George Lucas Is Crazy, LES BLEUS, and Black Dignity in a White World – Stuff We Like #15

My first post-paternity leave version of:

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Children I Like - Margot!!!

I mean, I like all of my children. But welcoming our fourth child into our family has been delightful in a way I couldn't have expected. She is a joy to all of us. I'm in love. 

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Books I Like

I'm Still Here, by Austin Channing Brown

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Our only change at dismantling racial injustice is being more curious about its origins than we are worried about our comfort. It's not a comfortable conversation for any of us. It is risky and messy. It is haunting work to recall the sins of our past. But is this not the work we have been called to anyway? Is this not the work of the Holy Spirit to illuminate truth and inspire transformation? It's haunting. But it's also holy.

She's a black woman with a white man's name. Her parents gave it to her on purpose so that she could get her foot in doors that are typically closed to people like her. This is a brutally honest, challenging book, written by a Christian woman learning to exist with dignity in the body God gave her in a world that constantly undermines that dignity. 

The Dark Tower, by C.S. Lewis

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This is a collection of short stories, many of which are available elsewhere. The whole reason to read this book is for ONE story, "The Man Born Blind."  It is genius and heartbreaking and opens your mind to things it should definitely open up to. Also, the title story will be interesting to anyone who has read Lewis's space trilogy. 

John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor, by W. Robert Godrey

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This is a short, readable biography of one of the greatest Reformation theologians, written by one of my old seminary professors. Calvin was a flawed man, but he had a glorious God and it was his deep understanding of God's Word that led him to be one of the most influential figures in Western history. 

Son of Laughter, by Fredrick Buechner

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Buechner is one of my new favorite novelists. This fictional retelling of the life of Jacob (son of Isaac, which means laughter) puts you in the ancient world and makes you feel the visceral earthiness of the life of the biblical patriarchs. 

Articles I Like

The Extinction of the Middle Child

Apparently, August 12 is Middle Child Day. Many of our most important national figures have been middle children (Abe Lincoln!). In the 1970s, 40% of mothers had 4 or more children. Today, nearly two-thirds of mothers have either 2 or 1 child.  The author claims we need middle children now more than ever. I don't know about that, but this is an interesting look at family dynamics in our culture.

George Lucas reveals his plan for Star Wars 7 through 9—and it was awful

 Jedi's inside a human body. Because, of course.

Jedi's inside a human body. Because, of course.

I never thought I'd say this, but here it goes: Thank God Disney owns Star Wars. We already knew that old George Lucas is bad at making movies (two words: Jar Jar). But somehow, he was going to take the franchise in an even worse direction. Mickey's corporate overlords have somehow saved us. 

Soccer Teams I Like - FRANCE!!!

The last time France was in the final, Kathy and I were on our honeymoon. And that game did not end nearly as well as this year's final against Croatia! 

 

What stuff do you like? Share in the comments below!

An Untouchable Day, The Esther Option, Gone But Not Deleted - Stuff We Like #14

Catch up on some reading. An articles-only edition.

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Articles I Like

An Untouchable Day by Neil Pasricha

It's becoming popular to advocate disconnecting at least one day a week from technology. The author advocates it as it's better for work, human relationships, and self-care. It's a great idea. But it's not a new idea. God's been commanding us to do this for awhile now. He calls it the Sabbath. It's for our good to observe it. ;)

The Esther Option by Mike Cosper

Cosper is always a thoughtful observer of areas where Christ and culture meet. This article wisely lays out what we hope to be as a church that desires to be a faithful witness to Alameda, Oakland, and the rest of the Bay Area. We are called to a present perseverance in the places and to the people God has called us to and surrounded us with. What does that look like for you? What does it look like to do this with your church community?

Gone but Not Deleted by Luke O'Neil

Technology has changed the way we do everything. Here's a look at how it affects loss and mourning over one's who are gone. How do we hold onto those that go? How might that which be a reminder of lives lost also become crushing reminders of guilt? Is this the best way we might remember those we love?

The Average Guy Who Spent 6,003 Hours Trying to Be a Professional Golfer by Stephen Phillips

Malcolm Gladwell popularized the notion that real expertise of any field only happens to those who put in at least 10,000 hours of practice. One man put into action this idea by taking up golf at 30, a sport where competitors come in all shapes and sizes but begin at early ages, and try to make the PGA tour. What he discovered are professionals don't just put in practice time but have intangible qualities of focus, passion, obsession, and drive that separate them from the rest. It's pretty much why I never made the NBA.

Don't Blink! The Hazards of Confidence by Daniel Kahneman

An article I used as a resource for my sermon self-confidence a couple of weeks ago. Confidence is a virtue we lift on high but the author points out how it also deceives and deludes us into thinking we're experts in things we actually aren't. It also fools those who are looking for experts into thinking they've found one. As they say, "Fake it 'til you make it."

Evil Genius, Killing Eve, Thinking - Stuff We Like #13

Grillin' and chillin' with some extra hot links.

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Movies I Like

Evil Genius

It was awhile back but there was a famous case of a man robbing a bank with a bomb strapped around his body. He had claimed that someone was forcing him to do it. This documentary uncovers the insane plot behind it all and the insidious mastermind who set it all in motion.

The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young

I usually have an interest in people and things that I know I have no plans on ever emulating or attempting. Everyone involved in this race are an example of that. A race that has people ascending and descending the equivalent of Mount Everest twice and stretches over 130 miles just isn't my thing. A testament to both how crazy the human mind is to think of a race like this and how strong the human body and mind can be to finish it.

Books I Like

 

 

 

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, by Rosario Butterfield

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An incredibly powerful story of the Spirit at work in a lesbian professor's life in revealing the truth of Christ and the importance of real, honest, intimate community. Her testimony is a reminder that God's grace works anywhere and everywhere, often in the most unexpected of places with the most unexpected of peoples. 

 

 

 

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

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This Nobel Prize winning professor sheds light on two different ways our brain receives, computes, and responds to information and what that looks like in everyday life. It's a fun way to help explain why you think the way you do and a sober way of easy it can be to manipulate other people. What this monster-sized book isn't is a summer, lay-out-on-the-beach read. 

Shows I Like

Killing Eve (BBC)

It's often easy to make shows and movies that turn strong female leads into Rosie the Riveter caricatures of empowerment and control (i.e. Mad Max: Fury Road, Jessica Jones). There is certainly space and some necessity for this to exist. What I appreciate about Killing Eve though is the show's cat and mouse game that could become that but doesn't. It goes deeper, with actresses that give performances that have more depth and nuance, leaving the viewer with less of a desire to "be like her" and more urge to feel the thrill of the chase. 

Klay’s Kisses, Parenting by Grace, and Loving Orphans – Stuff We Like #12

It's hard to know when to stop. There's so much…

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Moments I Like - Klay's Kiss

Klay is the best Warrior on the internet. First #ChinaKlay. Now this.

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After hitting a three in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals Monday, the normally quiet, reserved, most-likeable-because-he-never-speaks-up Klay Thompson blew a kiss to the Houston crowd. It was this glorious moment of competitive greatness and snark. It made my night.

Books I Like

Give Them Grace, by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

If you're going to read a book on how the gospel applies to parenting, there's no better book than this one. Here is an article-length distillation of the book's message, and below is Elyse discussing the ineffectiveness of rules to change our kids. 

This Letter to a Young Parent, by Jamie Smith, is in the same vein and speaks to our children's participation in the Christian community. Like Mariellyn said Sunday, "if it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes a church to raise a Christian!"

The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald

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This book has one of the most brilliant illustrations of what it means to live by faith that I have ever read!!! I read it to my kids last month and they thoroughly enjoyed it. There is bravery, adventure, monsters, battlers, and a fairy grandmother. I highly recommend it!

Book SALES I Like - The Alameda Library Used Book Sale

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Three days, thousands of titles, every six months at the officer's club on Alameda Point. The last day, you fill up a bag of books and pay $4 for it no matter how many you've got! All proceeds support the library. Next one is in October!

Podcasts I Like

Revolutions Podcast

This is a nerdy/guilty pleasure that Nate Puckett turned me on to (thanks Nate!). Starting in the 17th century, it tells the detailed story of the many revolutions that have taken place in modern history. I'm hooked. 

Stories I Like - Moses from Mcheneke

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Moses lived with his mother. She died when he turned 7. He and his little sister then moved in with their grandmother. She was weak and elderly, and struggled to provide basics like blankets and soap. He longed to go to school, but they couldn’t afford the minimal enrollment fee.

This was his situation until a Hands at Work care worker, Fanny, visited his home

Grace Alameda partners with our sister churches, Christ Church and Wellspring, to support 200 orphans in Moses’s community, Mcheneke, Malawi. Participate with us! (Be sure to select "Grace Alameda - Mcheneke" in the dropdown menu.) $20/month provides food security, health care, and education to children like Moses. 

 

What stuff do you like? Share in the comments below!

The Tyranny of Convenience - Stuff We Like #11

Link it up, link it up!

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As power and influence skews younger and younger, societies and cultures will have to reckon with their failure to care for those who are older. As we care more about building technological marvels, we will have to reckon with leaving behind human beings. This is not something unique to Western cultures but a worldwide problem. What happens when we stop caring for people as people?

The Tyranny of Convenience, by Tim Wu

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How we are the generation that comes closest to both having our cake and eating it too and how that's totally destroying us. Amazing how the more convenient life is, how much more difficult it ends up becoming.

Books I Like

Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance

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A glimpse into a world that is totally foreign to me in a lot of ways yet brings greater understanding on many different levels. An easy read that helped me see why it's so hard for the poor to get out of poverty, both because of pressure they place on their own as well as systemic oppression by others that keep them there. People in the Bay Area can often get myopic about America and this book reminds us there's a whole lotta country out there filled with very different people who are made in God's image.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua

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From a book I could not possibly understand to one that could've been my biography were I a girl. I didn't have a tiger mom but a tiger dad and so many of the experiences of the author's daughters are similar to my own. Some made me laugh, some came uncomfortably close. A reminder that so much of who we are is a product of how we're raised and a challenge that there are no magic bullets for being parents. What was missing though in this book and is necessary for all parents and children? Grace.

Movies I Like

Ready Player One

If you love nostalgia and you're a child who devoured pop culture in the '90s, this is your movie. It's a movie set in the far future that happens to be a time machine to the past. Not particularly deep, not a ton to think about, but great for grabbing a tub of popcorn and enjoying the ride. Of particular fun is the tie in to a classic horror movie! So well done.

Ben Franklin’s Birthday Suit, Duffle Bag Boys, NYC & the Liturgy Letter - Stuff We Like #10

God has made this world good. Which is why there's so much stuff we like!

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Books I Like

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Daily Rituals, by Mason Currey

This book is sheer gold! Want to know what Sartre at for breakfast? Want to know what Jonathan Edwards did on his walks? Want to know what Agatha Christie's desk looked like? You'll find all that and more in this account of the mundane life of hundreds of brilliant people. 

A few tidbits:

  • Benjamin Franklin would rather sit naked in the cold than take a bath. 
  • The novelist Marcel Proust wrote the entirety of In Search of Lost Time while lying in bed. And he hardly ever ate more in a day than café au lait and two croissants. 
  • The philosopher Soren Kirkegaard liked his sugar with coffee.
  • Jane Austen didn't have a private space of her own, but wrote her novels in the sitting room of her family cottage. 

The Great War and Modern Memory, by Paul Fussell

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World War I ended one hundred years ago this November 11. This book is a study of the effect of the war on the psyche of Western civilization through the lens of its literature. And it is BRILLIANT.  Originally touted as "The War to End All Wars", it quickly became the war that many believed would never end. Edmund Blunden, writing of the catastrophic attack on the Somme, said this:

By the end of the day both sides had seen, in a sad scrawl of broken earth and murdered men, the answer to the question. No road. No thoroughfare. Neither race had won, nor could win, the War. The War had won, and would go on winning.

The modern world is, in many ways, a product of WWI. And this book reveals it expertly. 

 

Sites I Like

The Liturgy Letter

This site is excellent. It publishes a weekly newsletter with resources for Christian worship and prayer from both ancient and modern sources. It includes art, poetry, hymns, Spotify playlists, and links to various other resources. For example, I learned last week that Van Gogh preached (!!!) a sermon on October 29, 1876. And today I learned that it is the feast of St. Antipas of Pergamum (see Revelation 2:13). 

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Cities I Like - NEW YORK!!!

I love just being in New York City. It's where I moved for my first job out of college. It's where Kathy and I met. It's where God called me into ministry. It's the greatest city in the… United States of America (Paris is the greatest city in the world, guys).  

Kathy and I had the chance to take a (NOT babymoon) trip there last week, and I was reminded of three things I especially like about NYC:

Book Stores

 The Strand is incredible. 18 miles of books!

The Strand is incredible. 18 miles of books!

Old Bars

 Old Town Bar was founded in 1892 and was a speakeasy during Prohibition. 

Old Town Bar was founded in 1892 and was a speakeasy during Prohibition. 

Museums!!! 

 The Met is the best!!! 

The Met is the best!!! 

These are a few of my favorite things. 

Podcasts I Like

One Shining Podcast

The Duffle Bag Boys are the best. They break down the NCAA basketball scene as no one else can. They are funny, self-effacing, and entertaining as all get out. March Madness is done for now, but come next season, if you want to keep up with college hoops, you should subscribe. 

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What stuff do you like? Share in the comments below!

Annihilation, Wild Wild Country, How God Messed Up My Atheist Life - Stuff We Like #9

It's amazing what you find if you allow yourself to get lost.

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As we think about what it means to "come alive" this week, read a testimony of how God doesn't just meet us in our intellect but in our emotions. Jesus came for every part of us and the gospel renews all of us, not just parts of us. It's why faith is not limited to what we know but how we live and experience it in everyday life. It's also why being on mission isn't limited to passing out tracts and apologetic standoffs but involves real relational engagement and compassion.

Body Work, by Barbara Ehrenreich

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The landscape of physical fitness options that are out there today call for cult-like devotion. They demand a certain level of intensity with a common language and context to foster their community, in essence pursuing justification by exercise. At what point does "beating/disciplining our bodies" to honor God becomes "beating/disciplining our bodies" to become like Him?

Shows I Like

Wild Wild Country (Netflix)

Usually, a documentary about a cult is grossly tragic because of a mass suicide or showdown with the FBI and/or disturbing because of perverse acts of worship or oppressive practices to recruit and retain members. What makes this six-part series interesting is how quickly this cult took over a whole city in Oregon and how quietly the whole thing went away. It has tons of firsthand footage as well as current-day interviews with people integrally involved with the cult, some of whom are still strong adherents to the belief. You come away with a realization that these are real people who genuinely believe what they do and an empathy and brokenness for where they are led because of it.

Movies I Like

Annihilation

A visually pleasing sci-fi film, it explores the question of how we deal with suffering and/or self-destruction and our desire to escape it. For some, it's a deeper trek into the "heart of darkness" while others simply will find the quickest way out. The last 30 minutes were entrancing, confusing, and immersive all at the same time. 

Isle of Dogs

I'm including this movie not because I necessarily liked it (I didn't) but because it provoked complicated feelings in my heart. Putting aside my general apathy toward Wes Anderson movies, watching a movie set in an Asian country with large portions in an Asian dialogue where the heroine who rescues the day happens to be a foreign exchange student who speaks non-accented English was unsettling. By no means do I believe this movie owes me a different ending or different characters but it just felt off. Does it have cute dogs and fun dialogue? Absolutely! Incredible stop-motion? The sushi-making scene is immaculate! Will Hollywood ever accurately portray or understand my cultural purview, even when it's going for light-hearted, animated/stop-motion movies? Not going to bet on it.

Marriage + Kids = Hard, Emotion & Spirituality, and the Madness of March! - Stuff We Like #8

So much things to say right now… It's Stuff We Like!

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Books I Like

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality - After preaching on the Spirit and Emotion a couple weeks ago, I spoke with many of you about how to pursue a healthy emotional and spiritual life. Pete Scazzero's book is fantastic on this topic. He identifies the following ten symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality:

  1. Using God to run from God
  2. Ignoring the emotions of anger, sadness, and fear 
  3. Dying to the wrong things 
  4. Denying the past’s impact on the present 
  5. Dividing our lives into “secular” and “sacred” compartments 
  6. Doing for God instead of being with God 
  7. Spiritualizing away conflict 
  8. Covering over brokenness, weakness, and failure 
  9. Living without limits 
  10. Judging other people’s spiritual journey
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It's convicting. I don't agree with everything he says (who agrees with everything anyone says???), but the truth in this book will help open you up to areas of growth you may not be aware of and help you give them more and more to Jesus. 

Sports I Like

The Madness of March!!! - This year's NCAA tournament has been CRAZY! My favorite moment so far (besides the historic upset of #16 UMBC defeating #1 overall UVA) was the Michigan buzzer beater to beat Houston, advancing them to the Sweet 16. Love it!

Articles I Like

Decolonized Discipleship, by Ekemini Uwan. Please proceed into this article with extreme caution. It is intense. It is written to people of color. It digs deep to apply the gospel to the challenges of the American church, particularly the theologically conservative, Reformed tribe from which many of us hail. White supremacy gets called out. It's serious, applied theology that is not for the faint of heart. 

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Key quote:

[W]e need to evaluate whether or not the theology we subscribe to in our churches derives from the Kingdom or the Empire. Here are a few questions to ask yourself: Does this theology call me to a deep love for God that causes me to pursue holiness and radical love for my neighbor? Does this theology benefit the privileged at the expense of the marginalized? Is this theology good news for everyone, regardless of their racial and socioeconomic status? Does this theology cause me to look in the mirror and marvel at God’s handiwork instead of despising my reflection…? Your answer to each of these questions will indicate whether or not you have been indoctrinated by Kingdom or Empire theology.

Satan colonizes the human race, enslaving us in sin. Jesus is the Liberator of peoples colonized by sin and systems of oppression. Needless to say, this article has prompted me to reflect a lot.

Esther Perel on Why Marriage After Kids is So Hard (and How to Fix It), by Haley Nahman - There is a lot of great, common grace wisdom in this article. I appreciate the way Perel wisely tells parents that they have the right to be human. And that, in fact, the more fully human we are as parents, the better parents we'll be for our kids. Also, she says one of the best things that mom and dad can do for our kids is to have more sex, which is something I am 100% in favor of. 

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Shows I Like

Atlanta - We're only 3 episodes in, but season 2 of Atlanta is just as funny, offbeat, and weird as the first one. It's Robbin' Season, and I love it.

What about you? What stuff do you like? Share in the comments below!

James Cleveland, Ugly Delicious, Sanctification Through Song - Stuff We Like #7

It's what we do when we do what we do.

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Songs I Like

You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened, by James Cleveland

Gospel music gets into your soul a certain way that no other genre can. It's not necessarily one that comes natural to me but it sure does resonate in a way that other genres of music simply don't. Now make it a live recording and you've got pure Holy Spirit fire. Check out the 2:02 mark when people wild out at the chorus and tell me you don't get caught up in glory. It's amazing how saying "Jesus is the best thing" comes across so vastly different than when James Cleveland sings it. A further reminder that song and praise matters to our spiritual health.

Live at the Harlem Square Club, by Sam Cooke

Since we're on the live performance tip, this might be my favorite of all time. You can just feel the beads of sweat forming on your head as one of the greatest soul singers gets the club jumping. A good album will make you want to see the artist live in concert at any point in the future. This album makes me wish I was packed inside this Miami hotspot in January 1963 just this one time. It's one of the few reasons why I think we someone should build a time machine.

Shows I Like

Ugly Delicious (Netflix)

I love food television because I really love food. There is great appeal for me in watching an Asian-American chef work who wants to believe in the unifying power of food while navigating the complexities of race and class that are thoroughly intertwined with cuisine. David Chang can be abrasive but he has the courage to ask questions and at least explore and listen, even if he doesn't agree. There's an air of confession and therapy in this show that makes it vastly different from most food and travel shows out there. The "fried chicken" and "fried rice" episodes alone make for thought-provoking television.

Bojack Horseman (Netflix)

Animated shows are typically meant to tickle your funny bone and not do much else. What sets Bojack Horseman apart from the Simpsons and Bob's Burgers of television is that not only is it ridiculous (a pseudo-Mr.Ed in a world of anthropomorphic animals who dwell alongside humans) but it poignantly and thoughtfully explores issues of mental health, addiction, and self-destruction in ways you don't see in the entertainment industry. If anything, it's an advantage for this show to be animated as it allows viewers to enter into these worlds and thinking about these issues without being so visceral that they get lost in them. But even if that sounds heavy, it's also hilarious, fun, and worth watching.

Articles I Like

Sanctification Through Song, by Ann Lowrey Forster

We talked about this last week in Grace Academy, how singing aloud is part and parcel of worship that is incarnated and embodied. Our engagement in this singing praise with God's people on a day set aside for His worship is not because He needs us to do it but because we need to do it so we might know Him better. Our faith is strengthened, our countenance is changed, our hope is renewed not just by what we say but by what we sing. 

Chris Rock, Disney's Dark Side, The Boss, & MJ > LeBron - Stuff We Like #6

The interwebs are full of things. Here are a few worth your time.

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Basketball Players I Like

Michael Jordan was the greatest player to ever lace up his sneakers. LeBron James is pretty good. In recent years, some people have been comparing them, wondering if LeBron is the greatest of all time. That is dumb. 

But The Ringer did a Jordan vs. LeBron week at the end of February that was chock full of great content. From a profile of Luc Longley, to Jordan's greatest plays, to imagining how LeBron could end his career on a better note than MJ, the content was top-notch in general. My favorite: 5 Jordans vs. 5 LeBrons on NBA 2K. 

Articles I Like

I have forgotten how to read, by Michael Harris - The ability to become immersed in text that demands our attention, imagination and focus is a quickly fading skill in our culture. The author worries that, "In a very real way, to lose old styles of reading is to lose a part of ourselves."

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By Day, a Sunny Smile for Disney Visitors. By Night, an Uneasy Sleep in a Car, by Jennifer Medina - In a sermon illustration a while back, I imagined what the life of a young woman who plays Cinderella at Disneyland would be like. In my imagination, it was pretty bleak.

As it turns out, my aunt and uncle are her next door neighbors! Her life isn't so bad. 

But this NYT article looks at the lives of many workers at the happiest place on earth and discovers that the happiness often doesn't translate to employees.

Music I Like

Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run

From the first beats of the record to the heights and depths of the title track, this is one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time. It gets me every time. 

Books I Like

Presence in the Modern World, by Jacques Ellul

This is the best book I've read this year so far. It is not an easy book. But it is full of truth that I desperately want to learn. Ellul was a 20th century scholar who wrote dozens of books and served as a lay leader in the Reformed church in France. Presence unveils realities about the modern world that otherwise remain hidden, and helps Christians to live faithfully in light of these realities.

He says that we have a tendency to "turn the living person of Jesus Christ into an abstraction." But, he writes, God became incarnate; it is not our job to disincarnate him." In much of the book, his goal is to show the way for Christians to live incarnate, fully human lives to the glory of God in a dehumanizing, materialistic world. Highly, highly recommended. 

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Shows I Like

Tambourine, Chris Rock [VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED]

Chris Rock is rich. Famous. Successful. And divorced. Following on his divorce, he gets intensely personal in this 1 hour Netflix special. If you can handle the often crass humor and foul language, there is deep truth about marriage and relationships that every married person should digest. 

Loneliness, Phantom Thread, The Good Place - Stuff We Like #5

Straight kickin' game with a capital G. Get your learn on!

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Articles I Like

In Solitude What Happiness?, by Maggie Fergusson

“What does loneliness feel like?” “It’s like being offered a full meal, and not being able to eat it.”

If you struggle with loneliness, please read this article. As someone who has dealt with this in different parts of my life, this resonated with me on so many levels. There is an overwhelming, silent shame that people who struggle with loneliness often drown in that is often hard to describe. This article doesn't necessarily offer answers. What I hope it does is put words to describe what your loneliness feels like.

You are not alone in your loneliness. Don't be afraid to admit it and talk to others about it. More importantly, in Christ, you are neither defined by your loneliness, your solitude, or your shame. Your God will never leave you nor forsake you for He is always with you by the Spirit and your life is hidden in Christ. And if you want someone to talk to about it, I'm here. kai@gracealameda.org.

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In Defense of Thoughts and Prayers, by Scott Jones

Amidst the constant politicizing of a tragic situation, one of the most common refrains that regularly gets mocked by people of all cultural stripes is how useless "thoughts and prayers" are in dark times. There are a whole host of reasons why people might be right to criticize those that carelessly toss out the phrase but there are very good Christian reasons for why believers should be lifting up their thoughts and prayers after dark tragedy. This article gives us a few important ones.

Movies I Like

Phantom Thread

A movie where every camera angle is masterfully shot and each word spoken with intent and conviction. Paul Thomas Anderson has churned out some of the most engrossing movies of this century such as "There Will Be Blood" and "The Master". Teaming with Daniel Day-Lewis again meant I was going to watch this film. Not only does DDL display primal intensity and precision, actress Vicky Krieps more than holds her own. It's a unique and thought-provoking dive into moral depravity, heart idolatry, and self-justification. The plot twist aggravates, titillates, and shocks you into plunging deeper with the film.

Black Panther

The hype train has arrived at its station and it is for real. I can't help myself to most comic book movies but the incredible track record of director Ryan Coogler and actor Michael B. Jordan's partnership (Fruitvale Station, Creed) made this a no-brainer. Not often do Marvel movies explore new fantasy worlds this richly yet still manage to tie it into our current world (Oakland specifically!) in a meaningful manner. Most movies get clunky attempting to address systemic racism, how minorities should engage the world around them, and how one overcomes oppression. You certainly don't expect a Marvel movie to do it yet it does it thoughtfully and carefully. Then you add a Kendrick Lamar curated soundtrack, amazing outfits, and green screen panoramic views that take your breath away. I know it doesn't exist but my goodness I would love to live in Wakanda.

Shows I Like

The Good Place (Netflix)

A thoughtful comedy where Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristin Bell) dies and finds herself in the Good Place, where everyone has a soul mate and her attempts to cuss always come out as "bullshirt". The problem is that deep down inside, she knows she's there by mistake and doesn't belong. She's surrounded by a whole cast of crazy characters and hilarity ensues. What makes this show so great isn't just the armchair moral philosophy references they run through in every episode (regular mentions of Kant, Kierkegaard, utilitarianism, etc.) but how they put their philosophies into the plot of the show. Are you good based on what you do or why you do it? Is an afterlife where you get whatever you want, whenever you want, truly a good place? 

It's a fun, light-hearted, silly show but still gets you thinking. Start from episode one because it's got a great twist near the end. Check out the first season on Netflix. They just finished their second season on NBC.

Francis and the Lights, The Ragamuffin Gospel, The Lost Art of Staying Put, and more - Stuff We Like #4

Helping you find something to pass the time with so you don't have to pick one for yourself. Since January 2018.

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Music I Like

Francis and the Lights - May I Have This Dance (Remix) [Feat. Chance the Rapper]

Nothing like a song with a wistful 80s feel. And Chance on any track is a cherry on top.

The Horrible Crowes - Behold the Hurricane

The loneliness of a lost heart brought to life where both song and video coalesce. When was the last time you were haunted by the weariness and sadness in a person's eyes like in the video?

Books I Like

The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up and Burnt Out, by Brennan Manning

There's nothing like a book that makes grace beautiful. That has the ability to pull you to one side and see Jesus anew, then yank you to another side and see him shine in a different light, like looking on each side of a diamond. This book leads me to worship, celebrate, and dance every time I go back to it.

Articles I Like

The Lost Art of Staying Put, by Lucy Ellmann

I inherited my father's wanderlust and love dreaming of places to go, sights to see, and things to eat. In an age where travel is the easiest it's ever been, more accessible in so many ways, and encouraged through so many avenues, Anthony Bourdain has my dream job. 

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But when I actually get to the airport, things become a little different. I get herded like cattle, pawed over by a gloved stranger, and forced to become an Olympic sprinter to make it to the gate. Then I have the lovely privilege of being uncomfortable in a gigantic metal tube and praying for protection against engine failure, food poisoning, and a toddler's inability to cover their mouth when sneezing. Oh and I get to link arms with my seat neighbors like marching for civil rights. It's unifying in all the wrong ways.

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This article reminded me home ain't too bad after all. Read for a reminder of why travel isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Stay for the last sentence which made me chuckle and choke on my morning coffee.

The Invasion of the German Board Games, by Jonathan Kay

There is a dark underbelly at Grace Alameda of board gamers. No, we're not talking about Candyland or Sorry! I'm talking the serious stuff, where intensity and competition are ratcheted up to unforeseen levels and explanation of the rules takes as long as actual game play. Where you'll be lucky to get more than one round of the game in before it's time to go home.  

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The Germans have finally landed on American soil and they have brought their board games with them. It's amazing how fast this market has expanded over the past decade. ($75 million in 2013 to $305 million industry by 2016!) They're fun to play because they do engage the mind, require some strategy, but allow for a lot of conversation and community building so long as you tie up and duct tape the mouths of the uber-aggressive competitive personalities. Anybody willing to part with a sheep for an ore?

Scouts' Honor: All Thin Mints are Not Created Equal, by Kara Baskin

This is the kind of hard-hitting journalism I would love to do. This would be me doing research for the article:

Aziz Ansari, Mississippi Delta, Sci-Fi, and Forgiveness as Spiritual Warfare - Stuff We Like #3

There's some fun and a LOT of heavy stuff this week. Because that's how I roll. 

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Messages I Like

Kai and I went to the Reconciliation and Justice Conference in St. Louis last week. We heard a lot of solid, challenging teaching from a variety of pastors and speakers. 

Our Struggle Is Not Against Flesh & Blood: Forgiveness as Spiritual Warfare

Pastor Tony Myles speaks powerfully to the nature of Christian forgiveness in the context of relationships. I was challenged and encouraged by this message (and it's only 20 minutes)!

Defeating Injustice in the Church through Forgiveness

Suzanne Bates is a Christian counselor and professor at Covenant Theological Seminary. Her talk is long but chalk full of brilliant content. 

Books I Like

Out of the Silent Planet, by C.S. Lewis - This is one of my all-time favorites. Lewis takes the sci-fi genre and puts a brilliant Christian twist on it. Interplanetary travel becomes the vehicle for unique spiritual encounter. Angels long to look into these things—so will you!

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Music I Like

Sufjan Stevens: Tanya Harding (Single)

Only Sufjan get away with writing a song about Tanya Harding that is beautiful, funny, empathetic and true. 

LCD Soundsystem: American Dream

They supposedly called it quits in 2011. So glad they didn't. This record is full of 80s electronic rhythm, catchy hooks, and amusing (and sometimes poignant) insight.

Articles I Like

Turns Out Sex Is Still a Big Deal, by Sarah Condon

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The #MeToo movement has thrust sexual harassment and abuse into the cultural limelight. The case of Aziz Ansari's regrettable encounter with "Grace," has been the subject of much debate and led many to ask "where is the line" between consent and abuse. As a man who has never suffered anything close to what so many women have, I'm reticent to even have an opinion. (Kind of like them:)

That's why I appreciate this article. It takes a great big step back from the particular event and gets back to the nature of sex, sin, and what it means to be humans created in God's image. I don't agree with everything the author writes, but it is a helpful conversation starter to help us get thinking Christianly about sex.

Movies I Like

Mudbound (a Netflix film)

This movie takes on so many issues—race, gender, White supremacy, the brokenness of war veterans, the healing power of friendship—and weaves them into a beautifully told story of 1940s life in the Mississippi Delta post-WWII. It was a tough watch for me on a number of levels. But it is a compelling story of our nation's past and raises issues that are very relevant to our nation's future. 

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Tonya Harding, Premium Mediocre, The Underground Railroad - Stuff We Like #2

Because you're just too busy to comb through culture on your own, so your pastors do it for you. ;) 

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Articles I Like

Tonya Harding Would Like Her Apology Now

I saw "I, Tonya" in the theaters and stumbled on the above NYT interview with her. I've only known this woman as a dark stain on American Olympic history, hyper-competitiveness gone horribly wrong. Yet as with most things, reality is more complicated than that. No happy ending here but the revelation that most people's life stories are a lot more complex and messier than we often realize.

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It's like putting lipstick on a pig but only if that pig has taken a nice bath and received a nice massage first. A hilarious way to look at the by-product of gentrification and corporations trying to keep it classy for the faceless masses. As one who goes to Crossfit classes (premium mediocre fitness) and swears by Chipotle (premium mediocre fast food), I'm quite a fine consumer of this lifestyle and perhaps more millennial than I confess to be.

Books I Like

The Underground Railroad - Colson Whitehead

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Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner but more importantly, 2016 selection to Oprah's Book Club. (As Jeff Locke often says, "If it's good enough for Oprah, it's good enough for me." Or not.) A fictional book written so realistically that it felt biographical. A literal interpretation of an actual underground railroad system, it follows the plight of Cora, a slave outcast by her own people, who flees a plantation. Engrossing for the vivid pictures of pre-Civil War slavery and glimpses of what it means to be African-American today. It's a book that magnetically pulls you in by how uncomfortable it makes you. 

Jesus, Continued - J.D. Greear (available at the book table!)

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I know Jeff already shared this. But let me just say how complete and yet accessible a book this is for those who want to understand the third person of the Trinity. It didn't just instruct but led my heart to worship at certain points in light of new and fresh realizations that I've ignored or not known for too long.

Music I Like

Since I'm writing a sermon this week, this is a little of what's on rotation.

Explosions in the Sky - Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place

Not feeling too motivated? Feeling like what you're doing doesn't matter? Just play this album in the background. Never has dish-washing or data entry been so heroic.

Nujabes - Aruarian Dance

They finally put his stuff on YouTube. Mellow beats for smooth afternoon. Won't let you sleep but keeps you from getting too hyped.

Poetry I Like

W.H. Auden, For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio

Amid the craziness of American and world politics, a helpful reminder of what matters and where our allegiances ultimately lie. Come Lord Jesus come.

 

Let's do this in community! If you have suggestions, feedback or want to share stuff you like too, please comment below! We would love to hear from you!

Jail Time for Flower Picking, MLK, a Picture Book, and More - Stuff We Like #1

There is more information available in the world than ever before. And it's easy to get overwhelmed. Just think:

  • There 455,000 tweets posted per minute
  • Netflix users streamed 69,444 hours of video
  • Google conducts 3.6 million searches
  • And 90% of the data on the internet has been created since 2016!

It's easy to get overwhelmed. That's why, in 2018, we're going to point you to a few things that are worth your consideration in a series called Stuff We Like.

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Kai and I will switch off each week, sharing with you the books, music, video, and audio we are enjoying, in hopes of encouraging you to enjoy with us and hopefully spark conversation about following Jesus in an age of infinite content. 

It won't all be about Jesus. But we'll do our best to make the connections. :)

Video I Like

Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday was Monday. To celebrate, I sat down with Kathy and our kids to watch the "I Have a Dream" speech. It isn't long—it only runs to about 15 minutes. But it is some of the most powerful oratory in American history, is peppered with Scripture and founded upon biblical truth. It is worth watching and offering gratitude to God for MLK. 

Books I Like

The Garden, the Curtain, and the Cross - by Carl Laferton, illustrated by Catalina Echeverri

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I LOVE this book!!! It is an incredible biblical theology that is simple enough for a preschooler to understand and truth-filled enough to bring the grown-up believer to tears. I regularly explain the gravity of disobedience to Emma by saying, "Because of our sin…" to which she then responds, "…we can't come in!" If you are a parent and want your kids to understand what the gospel at their level, GET THIS BOOK! 

Jesus, Continued - J.D. Greear (available at the book table!)

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This is the best, practical book on the Holy Spirit I have read. It is biblical, balanced, helpful, and clear. You can't do better for a practical guide to the work of God's Spirit!

Surprised by Joy - C.S. Lewis

This is his spiritual autobiography and the first book I read this year. Kathy and I want to grow in joy and gratitude in 2018, and I thought Lewis's reflections on the ways that "joy" led him to faith in Christ would be a help to me in that. As a dad, I was humbled by his gracious-but-critical approach to his father. It is full of insight, deep reflections, wit, and beauty. 

Music I Like

This could take forever. But I will discipline myself and only mention two albums.

The Sing Team: Sing On!

This band has no pretension and makes no attempts to be cool. They are about singing God's praises, they do it beautifully, and they exude joy in the process. We sing their song "Oh Great Is Our God" in worship. This new album has some great music to praise Jesus with, whether redone hymns or brand new songs. I love it and so do my kids!

Philip Glass: The Complete Piano Etudes, Performed by Anton Bagatov Live in Moscow

The music is beautiful, thought-provoking, at times haunting (Etude No. 5 is especially so!). I can't get enough of this record right now. And you can watch the whole performance on YouTube! 

Podcasts I Like

Growing up in California, I have developed a fear of the golden poppy. I'm not generally afraid of flowers. But I was always told you could go to jail if you picked our state flower out of the ground.

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Is it true??? QUED's Bay Curious Podcast answered the question, Can You Go to Jail for Picking a California Poppy?

 

That concludes the first edition of Stuff We Like! If you have suggestions, feedback or want to share stuff you like too, please comment below! We would love to hear from you!