Category Archives: General

My Recent Reading List

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Every months or so, I like to let you (the Internet) know what I’ve been reading with a list and a quick synopsis or two. These aren’t proper reviews, mind you. Just a few sentences about each book and why I enjoyed it.

If you’re interested in the first two installments of this little exercise you can find them here and here. Here’s round three:

A Faith of Our Own by Jonathan Merritt — This book was always going to resonate with me. The author and I are about the same age, and we share several formative experiences related to politics and growing up Southern Baptist. Add to this the fact that A Faith of Our Own made for a timely read in the months leading up to the presidential election, and it’s no surprise that this book was one of my favorites of the year.

My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok — This is one of those classics I’d somehow missed out on. I struggled with the first quarter of the book, even as Asher struggled to make sense of the tragedies in his family and his artistic compulsion. But once I doubled down on reading My Name Is Asher Lev, I found I couldn’t stop. The story of a boy pulled apart by the irreconcilable differences between his giftedness and his religious community was, for me, both inspiring and heartbreaking.

Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon — This book was my first exposure to Hauerwas, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The focus of Resident Aliens is what it means to be the church community — “life in the Christian colony” to use the authors’ phrase. Even decades after this book was published, I found it undeniably relevant.

Sleepwalk With Me by Mike Birbiglia — Birbiglia is a talented comedian and storyteller, and in this memoir he shares his adventures in stand-up comedy, relationships, and sleep disorders. The book is an entertaining mix of hilarity and heart, so much so that Birbiglia teamed up with Ira Glass to make a movie out of it (which I also enjoyed).

Start With Why by Simon Sinek — This is Sinek’s refrain throughout his insightful book: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Sinek’s thesis is that great leaders start with WHY they’re going to do something, not WHAT they’re going to do or HOW they’re going to do it. The WHY is what truly moves people. I must say I was challenged and entertained by this book, and it has changed the way I think about communication and leadership.

The Alphabet of Grace by Frederick Buechner — What more is there to say about Buechner’s writing? The man was a genius, a romantic, and a pastor — and equal parts artist and architect at the typewriter, of course. Naturally, this book was deeper than I could handle, but I enjoyed it anyway.

The Crowd, the Critic, and the Muse by Michael Gungor — I find it ironic that one of “Christian” music’s most brilliant artists (Gungor) also seems to be its most reluctant. His first book is a meditation on what it means to create, what it means to relate to our Creator, and what it means to think outside the plastic container of the American Christian subculture. Gungor is both a deep thinker and a gifted writer, so read this book if you make things.

To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity In the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter — How about that title and subtitle? The heart of this book is to survey modern Christianity’s attempts at changing the world, to evaluate those attempts, and finally, to offer a different path. Hunter is an academic, and you’ll feel that in your reading of this book. But he expertly argues his case, and so this book is worthy of your attention.

Winning the Story Wars by Jonah Sachs — Sachs insists that compelling stories are the way organizations make meaningful connections. He explores this notion in both big-picture, philosophical terms and concrete, applicable terms. And for what it’s worth, Sachs writes from experience in helping organizations tell their stories, so he’s knows that of which he speaks.

After You Believe by N.T. Wright — The great Tom Wright’s take on the importance of character, as well as its development and expression.

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz — A critically-acclaimed string of short stories about a man’s ongoing romantic failures.

Community Wins by Bryan Allain — A quick, actionable book on building an online community by my friend Bryan.

That’s my list. What’s yours? What should I read in 2013?

(Note: This post contains affiliate links. Because I apparently can’t resist that 6 percent kick-back from Amazon if you buy something. So there.)

Catch Me On the WorshipHouse Video Blog

Dale, Tylor, and the rest of the WorshipHouse team were nice enough to have me as a guest on the latest episode of the WorshipHouse Video Blog. Dale wanted to know a little bit more about Echo 2012:

(Don’t be afraid to use Vimeo’s HD option so that you can see me converse in stunning high definition. On second thought … don’t.)

Check out the WorshipHouse post for a few show notes and a special Echo offer.

On Jeans

Is this what we’re doing with jeans now? Is this the cool thing? Apparently so.

If I’m honest, my concern is that by the time I’m ready to do this with my jeans (and yes, it’s going to take some time) it won’t be the cool thing anymore.

As an aside, because I remember this exact style from the fourth grade at Woodway Elementary (20 years ago?), I’m somewhat wary of it. You know, like it’s a trick or something.

Let’s say I’m ready to get my roll on in late 2012 or early 2013, but let’s say the sartorialists have moved on by then. Do I stick with it so I’m ahead of the game when it comes back around in 2030?

This is a big deal, and not trivial in the least, so to be continued

A Thought On Non-Violence

I was thinking about Martin Luther King today, which led me to think a little about non-violence. That led me to this passage from Miroslav Volf’s Exclusion and Embrace:

My thesis that the practice of nonviolence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many Christians, especially theologians in the West. To the person who is inclined to dismiss it, I suggest imagining that you are delivering a lecture in a war zone (which is where a paper that underlies this chapter was originally delivered). Among your listeners are people whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit. The topic of the lecture: a Christian attitude toward violence. The thesis: we should not retaliate since God is perfect noncoercive love. Soon you would discover that it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence corresponds to God’s refusal to judge. In a scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die. And as one watches it die, one will do well to reflect about many other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.

Thought-provoking, eh?

If you’re curious about Volf and what he might know of violence, I found this article helpful.

Me and Bill Simmons

For years, Bill Simmons has been one of my favorite writers. When his new site, Grantland.com, launched a few months ago I decided I’d like my byline to appear there at least once. So imagine my delight when an email I sent to Mr. Simmons (I never do that) ended up in his column on Friday. Here’s the excerpt:

Scott from Dallas summed it up even better a few hours after the Jets’ collapse: “I’d like to propose a new statistic: It seems unfair that all interceptions, fumbles, drops, and mistakes are equally weighted, when clearly some are more costly than others. Why not identify the most boneheaded or disastrous offensive play of each NFL game and dub it ‘The Romo?’ This might give us a better picture of the win/loss contributions of a player. So when someone says a quarterback threw for 4,200 yards and 24 touchdowns last season, you can counter with, ‘Yeah, but he led the league in Romos!'”

It’s a great idea for multiple reasons …

Bill Simmons called my idea great. Awesome.

Bill, let’s co-write a column again soon.

Oh, and I almost forgot … sorry, Tony.

I’m Dadequate

My friend Jason Boyett has himself a fatherhood blog called Dadequate, and he was kind enough to feature me yesterday.

Do I mention this to toot my own horn? Heavens no. I mention it to spread the word about Dadequate — a cool venture for men who are at least partially responsible for the tiny humans living under their roofs.

In the Dadequate post I share my “it’s temporary” philosophy on parenting (and really, life in general):

This might sound weird, but I’ve found it really helpful to view everything my daughter does as temporary. If she has been sleeping really well for a few weeks, I’m thankful, but I don’t get too excited — it’s temporary. Sooner or later, she’ll go through a stretch where she doesn’t sleep well. If she has a week where she has a bad attitude, I don’t despair — it’s temporary. Sooner or later, we’ll work through it together. Whether it’s general behavior, eating habits, minor illnesses, following instructions, etc., I’ve found that the “it’s temporary” outlook keeps me from getting too high or too low. In fact, it keeps me on my toes. Regardless of how things are going right now, something else is just around the corner.

I’ve already heard from a couple people that they like/share that outlook. And the more I think about it, the more it works for me.

There is, however, one struggle for me in embracing the “it’s temporary” philosophy: remembering that while the majority of circumstances are temporary, some things in life are meant to be permanent. I’m convinced that the better I get at treating temporary things as temporary and permanent things as permanent, the better off I’ll be.