Friday Likes

I thought I’d try something new, and we’ll see how it goes …

Here’s a quick list of things I enjoyed this week, and I bet you’ll enjoy them too.

1. Everyone’s kindness and support this week. 

I made a big announcement about my new job, and I was blown away by how generous people were with there responses. On Facebook, Twitter, email, and here on this blog, people were just so encouraging. That meant so much to me as I get ready for this new role.

2. Sidebar design links

Sidebar‘s value proposition is simple: “the best design links, every day.” Either stop by the site as often as you like or sign up for an email, and Sidebar takes care of the rest — quality design reading and resources.

3. The Lone Bellow

A month ago, NPR made a declaration: “You’ll know this band in 2013.” They were right. I grabbed The Lone Bellow’s debut album from AmazonMP3, and it’s fantastic. No surprise that the great Charlie Peacock lent his considerable producing talents to the record. Check out “Two Sides of Lonely”:

4. Tim Keller’s Center Church

I’m about to start working for a church, so I figured I should start in on this one. I assumed it’d be practical and all that, but I wasn’t prepared for it to be the most convicting book I’ve read in quite some time. More on that another day.

5. Joshua Blankenship’s self-reflection

Joshua is a gifted designer and writer — that much we know — but I was impressed by this post (and the others it links to) in particular. He demonstrates an unusual level of perspective about where he is and how he got there. That much perspective doesn’t just happen, so it’s obvious Joshua has done the work. Sorry, I just appreciate that. It challenges me, and that’s one of the best gifts a writer can give a reader.

That’s my list for the week. Here’s hoping you enjoy at least three out of the five. Otherwise, I don’t see us being friends.

Kidding.

Kind of.

Have a great weekend.

Next

Two weeks ago I announced a fairly significant transition — after almost 8 years, my time at RT Creative Group has come to an end. If you can spare a minute, read that post for a few of my thoughts on the move.

Today it’s my great pleasure to share what’s next for me. On February 1st I’ll report for work as the new Communications Pastor at Irving Bible Church, the local church my wife and I have been a part of for more than nine years.

I’m excited about the move for a number of reasons — I’m passionate about the work, I love the church, I have several friends on staff, I get to collaborate with a talented team, I get to support the work of more than a dozen wonderful ministries, and so on.

So that’s what is next for me. In the meantime I’m getting some things projects done around the house, getting caught up on Downton Abbey, spending extra time with my girls, having lunch with friends, and trying to get ready for the impending release of my book.

Thanks for checking in on me. If you think about it, will you pray for me as I step into this new role? And if you’d like to point me toward any people or resources you think would serve me well, you’re welcome to do that too.

A Way I Want To Be

Here’s Brian Bailey reflecting on the start of a new year in the latest Uncommon dispatch:

I realized at that moment that what I want out of a new year can’t be measured. It isn’t an achievement I want to unlock. It isn’t something I want to do, it’s simply a way I want to be; immutable priorities lived out slowly and peacefully in the company of quality people like you.

Well said, sir. Here’s to a year of being.

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.)

I Am The Man You Know I’m Not

I-Am-The-Man-You-Know-Im-Now

I Am The Man You Know I’m Not — that’s the brilliant and confusing title of my friend Ronnie Fauss‘s debut album. The album is full of what No Depression called “hook-filled twangy tunes” influenced by legends like John Prine, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, and Gram Parsons. I’ve been enjoying this record since it came out a few weeks ago, though I’m admittedly biased.

The songs are alternately raucous, clever, thoughtful, and heart-wrenching — a great combination in my book. And you need more fiddle and pedal steel in your life, don’t you? Of course you do.

I Am The Man You Know I’m Not is available on iTunes and Amazon, so grab it. If you need more convincing, YouTube has you covered:

Like I said, grab it.

I Wrote Some Things

I’ve been writing up a storm on Echo Hub, per usual, but I wrote pieces for two other outlets recently:

I’m proud of both, so check ’em out. If you want to email them to your entire address book, or share them on Google+ and stuff, go right ahead!

What It’s Like To Hit Your Stride As A Writer

I spent seven months of this year working on the manuscript for Tell Me a Story. Throughout that stretch there were good times and bad times, creative feasts and creative famines. As a writer, there’s nothing quite like those good times, when the words flow and the ideas take shape on the page.

When I stumbled on this video today, I knew I’d found a fitting visual representation of what it feels like to hit your stride:

Do you thing. Do the work.

(Analogy guide: swordsman = writer; blade = brain and/or laptop; plastic bottles = word counts, deadlines, and Resistance.)

Tapestry Conference and Two Misconceptions About Story

In a few weeks I’m teaching a session at Tapestry Conference (Saturday, October 27) titled, Story. I’m hoping to convey the power of story for adoptive and foster families, but we’ll see.

Anyway, on the Tapestry blog I was asked three questions about the topic of story, and I thought I’d share this one with you:

Are there common misconceptions about story?

I think maybe there are two. The first is that many people associate story with fiction, and so they don’t take it seriously. Perhaps they assume that story is make believe or child’s play. Or perhaps they think story is just for artists and dreamers. Obviously, I disagree. 

The other misconception is that story is about wish fulfillment, as though we’re guaranteed any outcome we can imagine. If I decide the story of my life is that I’m going to be a professional basketball player, well, I’m still going to come up short (even though I’m 6’6”). 

Somewhere in the middle — and we’ll talk about this in my session — is the power of narrative in the life of your family.

Of course, I have a lot of thoughts on story these days because of the book, so keep an eye out for that. Oh, and if you can make it to Tapestry Conference (it’s FREE), you absolutely should.

Relationship and Transformation

John Sowers is the president of The Mentoring Project, an organization I proudly support. This morning John tweeted an insight likely related to his work at TMP, but which I’ve found to be true in all facets of life:

Many of us, myself included tend to get that backwards. We see relationship as the reward for transformation.

Clean up your life first, then approach God.

Make yourself cool/smart/attractive, then you’ll be surrounded by dear friends. 

Get your act together, then you’ll be worth my time. 

John’s observation calls us out of that trap. The truth is that meaningful relationships come first, so that’s where we ought to invest ourselves.

(If you’d like to find out more about The Mentoring Project, just click here.)

Communications Pastor and author of Tell Me a Story