George H.W. Bush & Ourselves

by Andrew Forrest

Although I vividly remember the 1992 Presidential Election, I was really too young to understand it or have an informed opinion about it, but the occasion of the death last week of 94 year-old President George H.W. Bush and the subsequent media commentary and coverage about the life and times of that first President Bush has been clarifying to me.  Not so much about then, as about now.  Three observations about our culture that the death of George H.W. Bush have made clear to me, and what I am going to do about it.

We Delight in Tearing Down; We Hold Others to an Impossible Standard

I found it ridiculous how many of the death announcements of President Bush began with some note about how he “only” was president for one term.  Here’s a representative example from the lede in The New York Times obituary:

George Bush, the 41st president of the United States and the father of the 43rd, who steered the nation through a tumultuous period in world affairs but was denied a second term after support for his presidency collapsed under the weight of an economic downturn and his seeming inattention to domestic affairs, died on Friday night at his home in Houston. He was 94.  [my emphasis]

Note: President Bush was “denied a second term.”  As if being elected to two terms is someone’s birthright, and as if being elected president of these United States only once is not good enough!?  Think how easily that opening sentence might have read

George Bush, the 41st president of the United States and the father of the 43rd, who, after a long career in public service, was elected to the presidency, from which office he steered the nation through a tumultuous period in world affairs and faced the challenge of an economic downturn and the public perception of his seeming inattention to domestic affairs, died on Friday night at his home in Houston. He was 94.

I’ll admit it’s not a very elegant sentence, but that’s because I was trying to preserve as much of the obit’s original language as possible, but you get the point: to imply that being elected president once is somehow falling short is outrageous.  The first sentence of the obituary shows that we delight in tearing down and pointing out how other people fail to meet the impossible standards of success we set for them.  Examples are everywhere.

Some sports examples: Aaron Rodgers has “only” won one Super Bowl; LeBron should have one more NBA Championships with Cleveland; Peyton Manning “only” won two Super Bowls.  Etc.  It used to frustrate me when Tony Romo played for the Cowboys how some fans used to talk about how he wasn’t good enough.  Here’s a guy who was undrafted when he signed with the Cowboys, and then went on to start at quarterback from 2006-2015.  He played at a level that only a few dozen people who have ever lived could have played at, for multiple years, and yet he’s a failure in many peoples’ opinions, because he didn’t win enough.

We set an impossible standard for other people–he didn’t do enough, she didn’t win enough, etc.–and we make sure to emphasize where other people fell short, rather than drawing attention to all that they did achieve.  I hate this tendency in our culture.

President Bush “only” served one term as president, “was denied a second term.”  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

So, what I am going to do about it? I am going to work hard to talk about the positive achievements of others first.

 

Our Media Commentators Are Totally Unaccountable

To his credit, Evan Thomas today regrets his editorial decision to imply, on the cover of Newsweek in October 1987, that George H.W. Bush was a “wimp”.  I find it amazing that someone would call a man who was shot down in the Pacific Ocean at age 20 as other men were trying to kill him a “wimp”.  But, there you are.  Taking our pervasive tendency to tear down (see above) and then publicizing it, our media does this kind of stuff all the time, and the mainly faceless and nameless hacks who do this kind of thing are seemingly immune from accountability.  To take a more recent example: on the same night that he won the Heisman Trophy as the best college football player in the country, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray had to apologize for what the USA Today called “several homophobic tweets more than six years old.”

Get this: Kyler Murray is currently 21 years-old, which means he posted the offending statements on Twitter when he was 15(!).  Other than yet more evidence that no teenagers should be on social media at all (I am not exaggerating), note the outrageous passive voice in the original USA Today story which “broke” the news:

Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray had a Saturday to remember. But the Oklahoma quarterback’s memorable night also helped resurface social media’s memory of several homophobic tweets more than six years old.  [my emphasis]

When Murray was 15 years old, he tweeted at his friends (via his since-verified Twitter account) using an anti-gay slur to defame them. Four offensive tweets remained active on his account late Saturday night but were eventually deleted by Sunday morning — when Murray apologized for his insensitive language in a tweet.

His “memorable night also helped resurface social media’s memory”?  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  These tweets did not “resurface” like a corpse washing ashore after a shipwreck several weeks before.  Tweets don’t “resurface”–they have no agency.  Instead, some nameless “reporters” at USA Today were running through a child’s tweets from 6 years ago, and then they publicized the results at exactly the moment that would cause a 21 year-old young man the most embarrassment and discomfort.  Instead of being able to celebrate one of the great nights of his life with his family and teammates, Kyler Murray had to enact a familiar routine: the humiliating public apology we have all come to accept.  Let me be clear: I do not approve of Mr. Murray’s comments.  But, it seems to me that the USA Today reporters were more interested in tearing down a public figure than they were in drawing attention to the casual way teenagers bully and humiliate others.

It’s bad enough that the Internet means that any fool can say anything about anyone else and have other people listen to him; it’s that much worse that people in media can do the same thing and then use the amazing power of mass media to get millions of people to listen to them.

There are many many many more examples I could list of unaccountable media commentators doing this sort of thing, and precious few examples of those people ever being held accountable for what they say.  Burns me up.

So, what I am going to do about it?  If I have something difficult or controversial to say, whether publicly or in private relationship, I will put my name to it and stand by what I have said.  If I later change my mind, I’ll own that, too.

 

We Don’t Like to Acknowledge the Sufferings of the Rich & Famous

By any standard, George H.W. Bush was born into extreme privilege.  There is no question that his life was made easier because of wealth and connections, and that the things he achieved may have been impossible to someone with neither wealth nor connections.  However, one of the tendencies we have to is downplay the sufferings of wealthy people.  See, wealthy people suffer like the rest of us.  George Bush, for example, had to watch his 3 year-old daughter Robin die from leukemia.  Here’s a question for you: would you rather be rich and lose your little girl, or poor?  Trick question.  It doesn’t matter–losing a child will break your heart no matter how much money you have in the bank.  Sheryl Sandberg, billionaire and COO of Facebook, lost her husband from an undiagnosed heart condition; he was 47.  All the money in the world won’t bring him back.  Joe Biden has lost a wife, a daughter, and now a son.

You may dislike those peoples’ politics or positions, but you have to acknowledge that they have suffered.  I can tell you from personal experience that people with lots of money and power experience loss in the same way as the rest of us.

So, what I am going to do about it?  I want to be someone who is aware and acknowledges the sufferings of others, particularly the people I disagree with.  They are human, like me.

 

I said I had 3 observations, but here’s a fourth:

P.S.  It Was a Memorial Service For All of Us

This is totally unoriginal with me, but one of the striking things about the funeral services for President Bush was how it illustrated how far we’ve come from a national faith.  There was a time when most Americans would have had passing knowledge of the hymns, readings, and creeds that were part of President Bush’s services.  Today, I doubt that’s the case.  In some ways, the elements of the funeral service were as far removed from modern America as the elements of a royal wedding or the Queen’s coronation.  I found it interesting to see the living presidents all reciting The Apostles Creed together, with President Trump not taking part.  I doubt if Mr. Trump’s silence during the creed means anything at all, and I don’t really care, but I did find the moment symbolic: we modern Americans have less and less in common with our cultural past.  It’s very hard for a people to stay together when they don’t share the same fundamental beliefs about Reality.  I wonder how much longer we can sustain the American Experiment, now that we no longer believe the same things.  I hope I’m wrong.

 

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One More Year

by Andrew Forrest

One more year.  We’ve been spared to see another year.  Last Sunday, my wife and I knelt at the communion rail at our church and prayed and thanked the Lord for his provision over the previous twelve months.  Another year wasn’t promised to any of us, and yet we made it.  We thanked God for all the cool stuff that had happened since Christmas Commitment Sunday last year, and all the blessings we received, and all the joys we experienced, and we were grateful.  Thank you Jesus!  We then prayed for God’s blessing on our family and our work for the year to come.  We asked for his favor on our lives and for him to give us strength for today and a bright hope for tomorrow.

One more year.

Amen.

 

 

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My 2016 Reading List

by Andrew Forrest

I’m almost 2 years late with this post, but better late than never, right?  What follows is my 2016 reading list–some great stuff here.

My 2016 Reading Goal

I set a goal to read 50 books in 2016.  But, just as in 2013, 2014, and 2015, I fell short: I read 32 books in 2016.

My Rules

I only count books I read all the way through, cover to cover.  I read lots of journals and periodicals and online resources, and in my weekly sermon prep read parts of different books and commentaries, but for my reading goal, none of those count.  Why not?  I find that the concentration and focus required to read a book all the way through is different (and more valuable) than reading a magazine article or blog post or even part of a book, for example.  (Also, reading blog posts and articles isn’t life-giving to me the way reading a book is.)

A book that I keep thinking about months afterward, a book that adds enduring value to my life, that’s a book I’ll define as good.  Since I’m writing this post in 2018, books I rate well below are books that really stuck with me.

I use a 5 star system in my ratings to signify the following:

★★★★★  life-changing and unforgettable
★★★★  excellent
★★★  worth reading

Books getting less than 3 stars aren’t on my Best list, which doesn’t mean they were necessarily bad–just not books that I’d excitedly recommend to you.

★★  read other things first
  not recommended

 

The Best Books I Read in 2016 (in chronological order)

 

The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith, by Peter Hitchens

 

Peter Hitchens has become one of my favorite writers, and I try to read everything he publishes.  He writes a column for the “The Mail on Sunday” newspaper, and blogs regularly at that site.  (His blog is particularly entertaining and informative.)  Mr. Hitchens is the brother of the late Christopher Hitchens, a man well-known for his strident atheism.  Peter Hitchens, in contrast, had an adult conversion to conservative Anglicanism, and this book is partly a memoir of that journey.

Most of the work of Mr. Hitchens has an elegiac quality, a mournful look at the way the world used to be and will never be again.  He is too honest and too intelligent to believe that everything about the world of his boyhood is better than the modern world, but also too honest and intelligent to go along with the unthinking modern worship of Progress.

★★★★  The Rage Against God

 

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

What I remember most about this lovely novel about a blind French girl during the Second World War is the appreciation the author has for the thingness of things–old-fashioned keys, the oiled tumblers of a lock, the feel of braille on a page, worn carpet on rickety steps.  Just as Marie-Laure comes to know the world through senses other than sight, so do we, the readers, experience the reality of her world.

I loved this novel all the way up until the final few pages, which I felt were a betrayal of the hundreds of pages that had come before.  Still, the best novels create a world that you live within while you’re reading, and this one does it.

★★★★  All the Light We Cannot See

 

An Officer and a Spy, by Robert Harris

I’d heard about L’Affaire Dreyfus since high school, and I could have answered a trivia question that asked about Emile Zola and J’Accuse, but beyond that I didn’t know much of anything about it, other than it involved the French army and nasty anti-Semitism.  On a recommendation from Peter Hitchens (see above), I decided to try Robert Harris’s historical novel about the Dreyfus Affaire, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since I read it.

The most remarkable thing about this remarkable story is that virtually all of the major and minor characters in the novel were actual historical people.  The story is both thrilling, sickening, and fascinating.  And, to look back with hindsight and know that within 20 years of the original event France’s army would be decimated in the Great War gives the entire story a foreboding quality.

(I listened to the audio version of this novel, read by David Rintoul.  He is an EXCELLENT reader, and I cannot recommend the audiobook highly enough.)

★★★★  An Officer and a Spy

 

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport

Tim Ferriss has this great question he asks the guests on his podcast: “What is the one book you’ve most gifted–given to other people–in the last year?”  For me, one of the books (the other being Rocket Fuel, see below)  I’ve most gifted in the past couple of years is Deep Work.  I wrote in greater detail about this book in May 2016, so here I’ll just say that though I’m constantly surprised at how few people I know seem willing to do anything about the problems of distraction in our wireless world, maybe that unwillingness will give those of us who are trying to learn how to focus a competitive advantage.

★★★★  Deep Work

 

Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want From Your Business, by Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters

Reading this book permanently changed the way I think about my role as the leader of an organization.  The argument in Rocket Fuel is simple: at the top of any organization, there needs to be a partnership between the visionary–usually but not always the point leader–and an integrator, who implements the vision.

The book gives some helpful tips for finding out which role you are better suited for, and how to find your counterpart.  Very simple ideas, but powerful in practice.

★★★  Rocket Fuel

 

Voyage to Alpha Centauriby Michael D. O’Brien

Michael D. O’Brien has become one of my favorite novelists, and this long novel about a long journey to our nearest solar system set in the near future has been rattling around in my mind since I finished it over 2 years ago.  O’Brien is not a science-fiction novelist, and this isn’t really a science-fiction novel so much as a religious novel: in a secular future, a lonely, irascible scientist is invited to be a passenger aboard the first manned spaceship to leave our galaxy.  I found the description of the ship and the technological advances it contains as well as the bureaucratic rigidity and cruelty that the main character faces to be both believable and terrifying.  This isn’t a perfect novel, and though I’m inclined to agree with this reviewer’s criticism here, I actually think it stands up over time.  Of all the books I read in 2016, this is the one that has most haunted my thoughts 2 years later.

★★★★1/2  Voyage to Alpha Centauri

 

Advise and Consent: A Novel of Washington Politics, by Allen Drury

I read this 1959 novel over Thanksgiving break 2 years ago, but I found myself thinking about it constantly during the confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh earlier this fall.  Advise and Consent is a long novel about a national political controversy, not unlike the Kavanaugh controversy in that it brings political passions to boil over.  It’s about what men will do to gain power, and about how ideology causes people to congratulate themselves on their deceit.  The central act of the novel is a betrayal that is among the nastiest, cruelest things I’ve ever read, which has caused me to think about the Presidents in my lifetime–would these men resort to that kind of action?  I fear the answer is yes.  This is a book for anyone who loves politics (and you’d better love politics, since the book is over 700 pages long); along with Richard Ben Cramer’s nonfiction magnum opus What It Takes: The Way to the White Housewhich I wrote about here, Advise and Consent is one of the best political books I’ve ever read.

★1/2  Advise and Consent

 

The Rest of My 2014 Reading List (Some Great, Some Worthless–in Chronological Order)

Silence: A Novel, by Shusaku Endo

An historical novel about Jesuit missionaries to Japan during a time of great persecution in the 17th century, Silence asks the question, Is it right to deny Christ in order to alleviate suffering?  I think the novel gives one answer, whereas Martin Scorsese’s excellent film adaptation gives a contrary one.  I’d recommend both the book and the movie.

★  Silence

 

The New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating, by Andy Stanley

The sermon series on which this book was based was excellent, the book less so.

★  The New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating

 

Tortured for Christ, by Richard Wurmbrand

A famous memoir about the evils of Communism and the horrors of Ceaucescu’s rule in Romania.

★  Tortured for Christ

 

Moonfleetby J. Meade Faulkner

This is an adventure story along the lines of Treasure Island or Kidnapped–though not as good as either–written at the end of the 19thcentury about the south coast of England during the 1750s.  A recommendation from Peter Hitchens (see above), it had me reaching for the dictionary, but I loved the antiquated speech of the characters.

★1/2  Moonfleet

 

Arts and Entertainments: A Novel, by Christopher Beha

This novel made me queasy the whole time I was reading it, and I had to make a commitment finish it.  It’s about a guy who sells a sex-tape that contains a scene with a now-famous ex-girlfriend.  What made me queasy was not the sex-tape (no details are given), but the nauseating sense of celebrity culture and reality television that pervades the novel, and, of course, everyday life.  This novel is a satire, and Mr. Beha clearly does not think that reality television is a good thing; nonetheless, I still disliked reading about it.

★  Arts and Entertainments

 

Discovering the Shepherd: a Study of Psalm 23, by G.E. Johnson

★  Discovering the Shepherd

 

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, by Michael Lewis

Infuriating, because the people who did the wrong thing got away with it.  Interesting portraits of the sort of people who saw what no one else actually wanted to see, even though the evidence was there the entire time.

★  The Big Short

 

Fight for the Forgotten: How a Mixed Martial Artist Stopped Fighting for Himself and Started Fighting for Others, by Justin Wren & Loretta Hunt

Justin is a friend of mine; the story of his conversion to Christianity and his subsequent adoption by a Pygmy tribe in the Congo Rainforest is one of the more amazing stories I’ve heard.  I’d rate this book higher, but hearing “the Big Pygmy” speak in person has spoiled it for me.

★  Fight for the Forgotten

 

Reflections on the Psalms, by C.S. Lewis

Great chapters on the violent psalms and on the use of scripture.  Really insightful book.  Recommended.

★  Reflections on the Psalms

 

Dictator: A Novel, by Robert Harris

3rd and final novel in a trilogy about the ancient Roman statesman Cicero.  Very creative.  Gave me a lot of perspective on ancient Rome, and the fall of the Roman Republic.  I liked this, but not as much as An Officer and a Spy by the same author (see above).  Certainly worth reading, though.

★1/2  Dictator

 

Fifth Business, by Robertson Davies

A very strange novel about the life of a Canadian bachelor.  Don’t really know if I liked it or not.

★  Fifth Business

 

Spirituality of Gratitude: The Unexpected Blessings of Thankfulness, by Joshua Choonmin Kang

Simple, holy reflections on gratitude.

★★  Spirituality of Gratitude

 

Unleashing Opportunity: Why Escaping Poverty Requires a Shared Vision of Justice, by Michael Gerson, Stephanie Summers, and Katie Thompson

This is the kind of book in which the authors say things like “Government and church should work together to help children.” Okay…. But what does that mean?  The only part of the book I found interesting was the chapter on payday lending.  Banks usually lend money to people that can pay it back; in payday lending, the whole point is to lend money so that people will never pay it back.

★  Unleashing Opportunity

 

The Power of TED* (The Empowerment Dynamic), by David Emerald

The drama triangle stuff is worth the price of the book, though the little fable is a bit much for me.

★  The Power of TED*

 

Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind (99U)

Simple little book.  Worth reading for those who are in the creative professions and struggle with distraction.  I really liked the ideas of routine.  Reminded me of what I already knew (which is not a bad thing).

★  Manage Your Day-to-Day

 

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, by General Stanley McChrystal, Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell

I previously reviewed this book.  From that review:

Team of Teams is an interesting, thorough book (I’ve only referenced a very small part of its content here), but I’m not totally convinced by its argument.  General McChrystal and his co-authors argue that in our complex world, a great team or team of teams is a greater strategic advantage than a great leader.  I agree with that, as far as it goes, and I think the insights in the book about how to create an organizational culture that is adaptable and resilient are helpful.  But, I can’t help thinking that part of the story of the book is also that it takes a great leader to create that kind of organizational culture.  Maybe the kind of leader who could lead that kind of change would end up thriving in any situation, complex or not.  The Admiral Nelsons of the world might just make any team successful.  A team is important, but a team requires a leader.  As Bill Hybels likes to say, ‘Everything rises and falls on leadership.’  As I said, the more I read General McChrystal‘s book, the more I thought, ‘This guy is impressive.’

  Team of Teams

 

If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty, by Eric Metaxas

When asked by a passerby in 1787 what the Framers of the Constitution had been creating on behalf of the American people, Ben Franklin replied “A republic, if you can keep it.”  I strongly dislike both the Bonhoeffer and Luther biographies by Metaxas–I can’t stand his writing style–but I really liked this little book about America.  Highly recommended.

★  If You Can Keep It

 

The Chimera Sequenceby Elliott Garber

Look up “Beach Read” in the dictionary, and this novel about mountain gorillas and terrorists and heroic scientists would be pictured.

★  The Chimera Sequence

 

Laurus, by Eugene Vodolazkin, trans. by Lisa C. Hayden

After reading Rod Dreher’s rhapsodic review of this modern Russian novel, I wanted to like it…but I just didn’t.  I thought it was okay and interesting, but nothing close to as good as he seems to think.

★ Laurus

 

Streamline: How to Create Healthy Church Systemsby Michael Lukaszewski

★ Streamline

 

Leadership Axiomsby Bill Hybels

One of the many sad parts of the Bill Hybels situation this year is that Bill was someone with good stuff to say…if only he would have applied it to himself.  This is a good book, regardless of its author’s hypocrisy and failings.

★★  Leadership Axioms

 

With: A Practical Guide to Informal Mentoring and Intentional Disciple-Making, by George G. Robinson and Alvin L. Reid

I remember literally nothing about this book.

★  With

 

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Rightby Atul Gawande

Really interesting case studies (aviation, surgery, etc.) of the usefulness of checklists.

★  The Checklist Manifesto

 

Werewolf Cop: A Novel, by Andrew Klavan

Yes, I actually read this.  And no, I have no idea why.

★  Werewolf Cop

 

Red Moon Rising: Rediscover the Power of Prayer, by Pete Grief and Dave Roberts

I heard Pete Grieg give a talk at a conference, and so I bought this book.  Wasn’t particularly helpful to me, though I was struck by the 24-7 Prayer emphasis.

★  Red Moon Rising

 

 

The Simple Technique Anyone Can Use To Become a Better Communicator (Immediately)

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2018 Xmas Commitment Parody Video

by Andrew Forrest

It’s now a tradition: our staff films a parody video in anticipation for Christmas Commitment Sunday each year. There are many gems in this year’s version, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t draw your attention to the amazing choreography. (My colleague Amanda Pedigo wrote, directed, wardrobed, choreographed, filmed, and edited this. She’d probably say “starred” as well, but I don’t know ’bout that.) 123

This coming Sunday is Christmas Commitment Sunday at our church. It‘s like our 21st century urban version of what used to be called Harvest Sunday in rural, agricultural churches: we thank God for his provision toward us in the 12 months past, and ask for his protection and provision in the year to come. Folks come forward and kneel and make a gift to finish strong in their current year giving toward the church, and make a commitment to give back a portion of God‘s blessings in the year to come. It‘s a powerful moment to see hundreds of households come forward and kneel and pray.

Someone took this picture of my family kneeling at last year’s Christmas Commitment Sunday. (I wrote about why last year was particularly meaningful for us.)

Can’t wait.

 

 

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Thanksgiving Hymn

by Andrew Forrest

The children at my son’s school sang this beautiful hymn at chapel a few weeks ago; it’s been in my head ever since.

“Let All Things Now Living”

Let all things now living a song of thanksgiving
To God the creator triumphantly raise.
Who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us,
Who still guides us on to the end of our days.
His banners are o’er us, His light goes before us,
A pillar of fire shining forth in the night.
Till shadows have vanished and darkness is banished
As forward we travel from light into light.

His law he enforces, the stars in their courses
And sun in its orbit obediently shine;
The hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains,
The deeps of the ocean proclaim him divine.
We too should be voicing our love and rejoicing;
With glad adoration a song let us raise
Till all things now living unite in thanksgiving:
“To God in the highest, Hosanna and praise!”

(Dr. Michael Hawn has a good, brief essay on the hymn here.)

I particularly like the opening sentence of the second verse:

His law he enforces, the stars in their courses
And sun in its orbit obediently shine;
The hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains,
The deeps of the ocean proclaim him divine.

The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof. Creation itself testifies to the meticulous majesty of its Creator.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

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If The House Burns Down Tonight

by Andrew Forrest

Can you imagine what it must be like to hear police pounding on your door at 3 in the morning telling you that if you don’t leave immediately you will be burned alive? You grab–what?–your kids, jump in the car, and drive away as fast as you can.

That happened to Jon Foreman of the band Switchfoot a few years ago, and he wrote a song about it?called “If?The House Burns Down Tonight”[the link has since been taken down]:

A few months back, a fire was raging through our home-town of San Diego. And when an unstoppable fire is barrelling down towards your part of town, you realize just how small you really are. The smoke blocks out the sun, the ash is falling from the sky, and your lungs begin to burn. So you run through the house and make a quick grab of the stuff you can carry, make sure that your family is safe in the car, and you make your escape.

It’s a bracing thought: what if everything you had was about to burn?

Compared to the ones you love, what is ownership? What is property? Stuff? Possessions? In moments of life and death, these obsessions are meaningless. Think about what you would save from the fire. What would you fight for? Or maybe the real question is who- who would you risk your life for? And what about your things, all of that stuff that you paid so much for?? In the crucible of the fire, it becomes crystal clear: you let the rest burn.

I love that: the thought that everything is about to burn makes it clear what really matters–those are the things you’d be willing to fight for or risk your life for.

What are those things for you today? Friends–all the rest: it doesn’t matter.

Let the rest burn.*


Crank up the volume, put down your windows, and drive: this is a great song.

 

Ashes from the flames
The truth is what remains
The truth is what you save
From the fire
And you fight for what you love
Don’t matter if it hurts
You find out what it’s worth
And you let the rest burn
The sunset burns like gasoline
Touch me and make sure that I’m not dreaming
I see her face and my heart skips beats
But I still get the feeling that we’re half asleep and
There’s a spark in the corner of my baby’s eye
Like a distant star that won’t burn quiet
And I might not know what I want from this life
But I know I want more than the starting line
So give me the fire
I can hear the motor running down the interstate
And all the distractions fade away
And if the house burns down tonight
I got everything I need with you by my side
I see the smoke piling up in the rear view mirror
Yeah but I ain’t ever seen it any clearer
If the house burns down tonight
I got everything I need when I got you by my side
And let the rest burn
And let the rest burn
And let the rest burn
I’ve given too much of my heart away
My soul‘s holding on like a house divided
Like a match it burns down like a masquerade
And I had to let it go when the fire ignited
One heart, two hands, your life is all you hold
(your life is all you hold)
To hold, hold tight and let the bitter go
Yeah let it go, and give me the fire
The smoke tries choking the pacific sun
We rocket down the road like we’re shot out of guns
And if the house burns down tonight
I got everything I need with you by my side
Holding you and the wheel and it occurs to me
We’re driving down the edge of eternity
And if the house burns down tonight
I got everything I need when I got you by my side
And let the rest burn
And let the rest burn
Put your hand in mine and
Put your heart in driving
We got everything we need yeah
We got everything we need yeah
Left it all behind us
What we need will find us
We got everything we need yeah
We got everything we need yeah
Can you hear that motor running
Can you hear that motor running
There ain‘t no stopping us now
There ain‘t no slowing us down
Can you hear that motor running
Can you hear that motor run, run, run
And all those lies that mattered most to me
Were draining me dry making a ghost of me
And if the house burns down tonight
I got everything I need, everything I need
There‘s a fire coming that we all will go through
You possess your possessions or they possess you
And if the house burns down tonight
I got everything I need when I got you by my side
And let the rest burn
Ashes from the flames, the truth is what remains

Have you seen this terrifying video? The most shocking part is the final few seconds when you realize that the entire time they’ve been driving has been in?daylight.

*Of course I’m not making light of what must be tremendous loss for these families–I’m making a larger, metaphorical point. Christ have mercy on these poor people who have lost everything.

 

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I think the concept of Daylight Saving Time is one of those bureaucratic and ubiquitous aspects of modern life which everyone more or less accepts but which is actually pointless when you consider it for more than 5 minutes. But, since my ranting won’t do anything to end the practice, let’s do this instead: let’s make this ridiculous time change work for us.

Early Mornings Are Everything

“Morning” is my word for 2018. If you win the morning, you win the day. But, it is hard to get up early. Fortunately, the time change?offers you the perfect opportunity to revise your morning routine. With the change back to standard time, the extra hour you?ll gain could be exactly what you need to start a new morning routine. Here are 4 steps to take so you can start getting that early worm.

1. Go to Bed Early This Saturday Evening.

Don‘t make the mistake of thinking that the extra hour means you can stay up later. Head to bed at your normal time (or even better, a bit earlier) on Saturday.

2. Don‘t Sleep In on Sunday Morning

Set your alarm for the new early time you?d like to get up on Monday morning.

3. Begin An Evening Routine

The key to getting up early is preparing the night before. Set out your clothes for the next morning. Shut down your email. Lay out your workout gear. Put out your coffee cup. I find that I need to begin shutting down around an hour before I want to be in bed.

4. When the Alarm Goes Off, Get Your Feet on the Floor ASAP

Once you get your feet on the floor, you‘ve already won. Resist the urge to hit snooze and say I’ll get up in a few minutes.? If you roll back over, you?re toast; get up immediately on your alarm. I’ve found that putting my alarm/phone beyond arm’s reach–thereby forcing me to put my feet on the floor in order to silence it–ensures that I actually get up when my alarm goes off.

 

Make Early our Watchword

Greatness starts early in the morning. Anyone can learn to get up early, and this weekend offers you the perfect opportunity. Don‘t miss it.

 

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It’s been a long week or so–lots of bad news. Here are five fun things to cheer up your Friday as you head into the weekend:

 

Chuck

 

10 years ago my wife and I enjoyed watching the NBC dramedy (comedrama?)?Chuck. I recently saw it was on Amazon Prime and watched a few episodes. I’d forgotten how much I liked it. I need to write up?Chuck?in a separate post, but if you want to watch something fun and funny and endearing,?Chuck should be your first choice. (The video below is the Australian(!) promo.)

 

 

 

Nickel Creek at the Tiny Desk

I used to love seeing the band Nickel Creek play, and so was delighted to stumble across their 2014 reunion concert at NPR Music’s Tiny Desk. So great.

 

“The Wrestling Pastor”

There is a Twitter account run by a small-town pastor who takes gifs from pro wrestling and overlays captions that relate to local church life. I LOVE THIS ACCOUNT.

Some examples:

 

 

 

 

 

“Africa” by Peter Bence

People are amazing. If there is one thing the internet is good for, it’s showing us how amazing some people are. Take this example: the Hungarian pianist Peter Bence covers the 1980’s Toto hit “Africa.” He’s obviously a virtuoso, but you have to see him play to get the full effect. (My kids were really impressed when I showed them this.)

 

“Kings and Queens” by Mat Kearney

My baby girl was dancing around the house this morning as I was playing this song. I first saw Mat Kearney in Richmond, VA in 2006 or so, in a little club with about 20 other people. I wasn’t yet married. 12 years later and happily married, as we head into the weekend I know firsthand how right he is:

I don’t need much with you my love
‘Cause the champagne drains and the airplane fame turns into rust
I don’t need much with you my love
‘Cause the Hollywood hills won’t ever make me feel as good as us
(You got me singin’)
We don’t need no bankroll make us feel alive
We don’t need no benzo to feel like we can ride
Richer than Solomon with you by my side
We’ll be kings and queens in our own mind
We don’t need no jet plane feel like we can fly
We don’t need no cold chain just to watch it shine
Twenty four carat lies we don’t got the time
We’ll be kings and queens in our own mind
I got everything I’ll ever need
You can cash every check try to buy a respect that’s incomplete
I got everything I’ll ever need
Don’t gotta make it to the top yeah to know what I got
With you and me
(You got me singin’)

 

Happy Friday.

 

 

 

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Our church is launching at 5 PM service on Sundays, starting this week. Here’s why we are doing this, in increasing levels of importance:

 

We Can’t Grow Any More on Sunday Morning

It’s not the case that literally every single seat is taken at every service on every Sunday, but it?is the case that our church is full on Sunday mornings. If we want to reach new people, we’re going to have to do something new. And NOT reaching new people is NOT an option. Because:

 

Like a Shark: If We Stay Still, We Will Die

Sharks have to keep moving in the water–they can’t just stay still. Churches (and all other organizations) are the same: either you are growing,?or you are dying. There is no staying put. Businesses and churches fail when‘they decide to‘stay put and preserve the status quo. Why? Because decline is inevitable: people move, people die, etc. Do you know how many churches were FULL in 1960 and are empty today? I don’t know either, but it’s a lot. People like things to stay as they are, but if things stay as they are, things will inevitably change. Either you are growing, or you are dying: there is no staying put.

 

It Is Not Possible to Be Good and NOT Grow

If what God is doing through our church is helpful and healing to folks, then new people will want to be a part of it. You can’t have a great, non-busy restaurant: if your restaurant is good, business will grow. Healthy things grow. It is antithetical to the gospel to say, “Our church is great, but new people aren’t welcome.”

 

There are THOUSANDS More People to Reach

Every single church in Dallas could be crammed full of people on Sunday mornings, and there would still be thousands upon thousands of people in our city without a church home. Jesus was very clear: the mission of the church is to go everywhere, seek everybody, and teach them everything that Jesus taught. It is a literal command from God.

 

New Things Reach New People

If you want to reach new people, you have to do new things. We think Sundays at 5 PM is the right time to reach new folks in our neighborhood. Sunday evenings work for people who don’t want to get up early on Sunday mornings, or have Sunday morning sports commitments; and unlike Saturday evenings, Sunday evenings also allows the college-football-tailgating/we-have-an-out-of-town-wedding/let’s-drive-down-to-the-Hill-Country-to-see-the-bluebonnets crowd make it to church on the weekend.

 

Being in Church Every Sunday Will Totally Change Your Life

I feel so strongly about the importance of being in church every Sunday that I want to make it as easy as possible for folks to join us at Munger. Sunday mornings work for you? Great. You are welcome at our church on Sunday mornings. But:

Your kid plays soccer? Come in the evening. You will be out of town? See you Sunday at 5 PM. Getting up early on Sunday just isn’t going to happen? Buddy, do we have a deal for you.

Can’t wait.

 

 

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Happy Halloween

by Andrew Forrest

It’s Halloween, and even though the weatherman is calling for rain, the “soldier” in our house is planning on braving the elements and trick-or-treating tonight (though he is worried that his Nerf darts will get wet). Mrs. F. and I are raising our kids to be faithful young people, which raises the question: Do I as a pastor see a problem with our kids’ participating in Halloween? The short answer is, “No.” Some further thoughts below.

I was my son’s age 30 years ago, and I’ve been thinking about the differences between his experience of trick-or-treating and mine. I think there is a lot about America that we can learn from Halloween, and sadly, most of the changes that have taken place these past 30 years have been for the worse.

As in so many areas of childhood, most of the fun of Halloween was in the expectation: what would I be, and how much loot could I get from my neighbors’ largesse? As soon as the calendar turned to October, I’d begin thinking about my costume. When I was a kid, I seem to remember that most kids made their costumes, not bought them from the store. Making your costume was part of the fun. There is no question that Halloween has become much more manufactured and commercialized over the past 30 years. As in many other areas of American life, our obsessive desire to express ourselves as individuals has meant that we have become more like everyone else: everyone just wears the same mass-produced junk made in China. (What do these millions of Chinese people toiling in factories think about us? How stupid and frivolous must they think we are.)

There was an unwritten rule in my neighborhood that teenagers were too old to trick-or-treat: Halloween was supposed to be for elementary age children and younger. These days, Halloween seems to be more and more about adults, and this is a change I don’t welcome. I remember last year walking with my children up to some houses and feeling really uncomfortable: many of the adult costumes seemed to be as sexualized and violent as possible.

I think that’s another change I have sadly noticed: for me, trick-or-treating was mainly about kids running around the neighborhood in the twilight, and that was certainly the large part of the fun: you were?by yourself, with no parents!? But today, like most American parents of our class and background, the idea of letting our kids roam free in the dark in our community seems crazy to me and my wife. Maybe American life is more dangerous now than it was 30 years ago, but I liked it better when parents felt fine letting their kids roam by themselves.

Don’t get me wrong: not all the changes have been for the worse. For example, these days the candy has definitely gotten better. My brothers and I would eat a heaping pile of candy when we got home from trick-or-treating–against our mom’s protestations–and then store the rest in those round Christmas cookie tins, which we kept under our beds. For the next few days, our school lunches would have much more sugar than usual, but after that the same thing would happen every year:?we’d eat all the good stuff that first week of November, only to dig out the cans from under our beds months later and find within them forlorn Charleston Chews and Tootie Rolls and other worse candies (if that’s possible) that weren’t even dignified enough to have been given names. What I would have given for a full-size Milky Way bar!

I know folks who object to Halloween on the grounds that the day celebrates evil and the occult. Though I certainly understand their concerns, I personally don’t have any problem with the silly and fun aspects of trick-or-treating and dressing up. For me, this is a 1 Corinthians 8 issue: I don’t find any problem per se with my children participating in the silly aspects of Halloween, though if other Christians have concluded otherwise for their families, I certainly support them and understand that point of view. And, though Halloween is crassly commercial, frankly in my household it seems to be much less damaging than just basic tv and internet consumption anyway. So, in our family we have fun trick-or-treating, and Halloween is not something I find to be spiritually and morally dangerous for my children.

Which is not to say there aren’t elements of Halloween that I do in fact find spiritually and morally dangerous.

There’s that scene in the movie?Mean Girls where the protagonist, who has grown up in Africa, finds herself in her first high school Halloween party back in America, and is shocked to see how all the other girls have used the occasion to dress up in as slutty and provocative a way as possible. Here’s what she says:

In the regular world, Halloween is when children dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In Girl World, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress up like a total slut and no other girls can say anything else about it.

I think the scene is (unintentionally) instructive: we have come to accept the sexualization of everything as normal, and what we have come to accept as normal is shocking and strange to people who haven’t been indoctrinated in Western culture. We are obsessed with sex, and even though the miserable results of this obsession are all around us, we persist in worshipping at Aphrodite’s temple. The same is true for the way we deliberately embrace evil on Halloween. I was listening to The Ticket this morning as I drove home from working out; Gordo and Junior were talking about serial killers and prison beatings, etc., and so I turned off the radio–I don’t want to fill my mind with evil. Because, let’s be clear: dismemberment and murder and the like are evil actions. I’ll go further–they are manifestations of the demonic. Do those things occur? Of course–this is a fallen world–but they don’t need to be celebrated.

I think it is spiritually foolish and morally problematic to celebrate evil and violence in costume and decoration, much less to investigate the occult. We should flee from such things, and not deliberately welcome them into our homes.

So, I understand why some people strongly dislike Halloween. There will be some houses tonight which we will quickly walk past and avoid. My children are only children once, and they will encounter the violence and sexualization of our world soon enough. When they do, I want them to be discerning enough to discriminate between harmless fun and harmful evil, and Halloween can be a way for them to learn how to do so.

So, tonight, I look forward to taking my kids out in the rain and letting them eat way more sugar than is good for them, to welcome the coming change of season and enjoy something fun about being an American child. And then, I hope to teach them one last Halloween lesson: how to discern good candy from Tootsie Rolls.

Happy Halloween.

 

 

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