Archives For Nate

From time to time, I like to read a book or two. Earlier in the year, I tracked my progress by posting monthly updates. Those fell by the wayside, but if you’re interested (and even if you aren’t), they can be found here:

The reason the posting went by the wayside is that I stopped trying to complete the challenge and reverted to a longstanding habit of just reading what I want. Or, in many cases, reading what I think will be useful for ministry to millennials in a post-Christian culture. If you keep up with our ministry to students at UCF, you’ll have read in our last newsletter how this paid off toward the end of the semester.

Seeing as how it is December though, and people are posting “Best Books of 2017” lists and whatnot, I decided I’d follow suit. I’m more or less on track to complete my Goodreads challenge of reading 175 books. That is actually less than last year (188), but more than in previous years. I’m currently at my 2015 total (you can see my stats here).

Because I’m also a bit behind on reviews, this is going to be more or less a table of contents for posts over the next several weeks. Rather than try to crank out a 1500 word post with something substantial on each book, I’ll actually try to post a reviews and articles on why I liked and found these books valuable. Although you can see them in the picture, here’s a bullet list:

  • The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt
  • None Like Him by Jen Wilkin
  • The Spirituality of Wine by Gisela Kreglinger
  • American Girls by Nancy Jo Sales
  • Summa Philosophica by Peter Kreeft
  • Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
  • The Crucifixion by Fleming Rutledge
  • Chuck Klosterman X by Chuck Klosterman
  • Deep Work by Cal Newport
  • Movies are Prayers by Josh Larsen
  • The Imperfect Disciple by Jared Wilson
  • The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest by John Walton & J. Harvey Walton
  • When Your Twenties are Darker Than You Expected by Paul Maxwell
  • Political Visions and Illusions by David Koyzis
  • Was the Reformation a Mistake by Matthew Levering
  • Recapturing the Wonder by Mike Cosper
  • Beauty, Order, and Mystery edited by Todd Wilson and Gerald Hiestand
  • Free of Me by Sharon Hodde Miller
  • The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing by Jonathan Pennington
  • God Is and Faith. Hope. Love by Mark Jones
  • One by One by Gina Dalfonzo
  • The Vanishing American Adult by Ben Sasse
  • 12 Ways you Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke

Bear in mind these are books that I enjoyed this year, not necessarily the best books that came out this year. Some of these are a few years old, and a few are even older. Because of how reading is and should work, many of your “best books I read this year” will be books that didn’t come out in 2017. Yet, because I make some many requests for reviews, most of the books that come across my desk are newer.

I usually compensate for that over the summer break by reading older and/or non-theological works. There were several threads like this over the year that I should mention. First, I read several books related to beer and thoroughly enjoyed several of them. Standouts are:

Second, I finished working my way through David Brooks’ books and really enjoyed The Social Animal, Bobos in Paradise, and On Paradise Drive. The first is the standout in the list and is an intriguing fictional narrative approach to explaining neuroscience. The second is a critique of some millennial tendencies before I think they were associated with millennials as a generational category. The last is an historical look at American surburbia expansion.

Third, I read several books related to physics and geology:

In conjunction with this, I read several books on matters related to the earlier chapters of Genesis. Somewhere down the road, I’ll have to tell you all about it. The short version is that dinosaurs are real, but I’m pretty sure they were killed by a comet millions of years ago and I’m trying to figure out how that interfaces with a semi-traditional reading of Genesis. Should be fun right?

It might be a tad too late to post about this, but better late than never.

Tomorrow, December 1st, my friend Paul Maxwell is starting a 31 Day Fitness Challenge for his TheoFit website. The challenge has 3 components to it:

  • 20% calorie deficit in your diet
  • 4-5 days a week of resistance training (he gives three options here)
  • Eat 1 gram of protein per lean pound of body weight

I’m already pretty on board with the last 2 elements. But I kind of just eat and drink what I want, and so have packed on the pounds over the years. If you’re in a similar boat, this could be a good way to jump start those New Year’s Resolutions (which I’ll have more to say about soon).

Since this is last minute, if you’re gonna jump start the challenge, you’ll really just need to get the diet pieces sorted out tomorrow and over the weekend. You can start the workout routine later next week.

I’m fond of using this calculator to figure out what a calorie deficit looks like. In my case, I weigh 235, am 6’2, and have about 20% body fat. I’m in the moderate exercise category, but I’m going to level up by adding more cardio over the next 31 days. When I plug those numbers into the calculator, here’s what I get:

  • Maintenance calories: 3400ish
  • Cutting calories (25% deficit): 2500ish
  • Protein goal: 190 g per day

A pound of fat is roughly 3500 calories, so if I maintain the deficit over the course of the 31 days, I should expect to lost around 8 lbs. If I move more and eat less, I’ll lose more. But, if I just stick to the stated deficit, I’ll be lucky to drop 10 lbs. Ultimately, I’d like to lose a little more than 20, so I might maintain the cut for a couple of months. But, at the very least, I’m going to do it in December, and if this is something you’re interested in, you should join me!

If you become a TheoFit member, you’ll be able to join the Facebook group for support and Q/A. I’ll be in there posting, and I’ll also be on the podcast later in December.

Between now and then, I’ll explain what I do for workouts, and what I’ve found is necessary for my lifestyle and blood type in order to lose weight. Obviously knowing what to do is only part of the problem. The other part is motivation and execution, and thankfully, that’s what Paul is trying to help people out with. If you’ve known what to do but just find you can’t bring yourself to do it, maybe the TheoFit community is what you need. At this point, can’t hurt to give it a try, and now’s a good time to leverage motivation to make some habit changes!

Sometimes a blog post like this is a shot in the dark. But, it is Giving Tuesday after all, and as we all know, it can’t hurt to ask! At the very least, it’ll be a good primer to get you up to speed on what we’re up to in college ministry.

To not bury the lede (yes, that’s how you spell it), Ali and I have slowly but surely been raising monthly support in order to devote more time and energy to the calling for student ministry we feel God has placed on our lives. We don’t anticipate being entirely financially dependent on support, but would like to find a balance that involves not both working multiple jobs in order to make our budget work (I explain that a bit more here).

At present, our average in monthly support was just under $1500 for the fall semester. We would like to gradually double that over the course of the spring semester to be closer to $3000. At the very least, we’d like to be able have doubled it by the start of next school year. The hope is that by then we can mostly focus on doing student ministry and not juggling it with the vague anxiety that we should be spending spare time trying to raise monthly donations.

If you feel this would be a worthy cause to donate to, you can give to the non-profit ministry we work under in one of two ways:

1. You can send a check to:

SHIFT Ministries

12472 Lake Underhill Rd. #428

Orlando, FL 32828

Address the check to SHIFT Ministries and In the FOR section, write Account 102 (do not address it to me)

2. You can visit this link and give online.

Select an amount (e.g. $50, $100)

On the drop down menu, select my name (102 – Nate Claiborne)

Enter your card info (or at the very bottom, select “Bank Account”)

Select whether to cover card fees (it’s 3% we don’t get otherwise)

Select whether to setup automated giving and whether to give weekly, every other week, or monthly

By doing this, you are enabling us to do more with the on-campus ministry at UCF that we stepped into leading at the beginning of this past semester.

To give a little background, this is all related to our role as associates with SHIFT Ministries. The college portion is known as SHIFT at UCF. SHIFT is a registered student organization that meets once a week during the semester, and typically does various outreach activities. This is including but not limited to tabling at the student union during the week in order to engage Christian and skeptic students alike.

Earlier in the summer, I explained a bit of our philosophy of ministry and some of what we hope to accomplish in our work with college students at one of the largest universities in America. I explain what our target is here.

In addition, we see our role with SHIFT extending in both directions generationally. This is because we would like to add some initiatives with the high school students as an outreach of SHIFT, as well as some work with the young professionals at our church. We want to reach our generation as well as the next as a means to reaching our city, which is one of the more post-Christian ones in the nation (#25 in this list for instance).

For a brief history of how we got here, you read my earlier posts here and here, as well as our initial support letter. In the other direction, you can read our most recent life update here.

We have been grateful for all the support we have received to date and wouldn’t have been able to get to where we are without it. We are realizing in retrospect that we underestimated how much of a transition we were taking on this past year. Ali went from one crazy job to two part times that are less so (and even together are still probably less than half what Panera was). I added a long term project at an existing job and reactivated an older job that had gone dormant. To add to this, we also changed churches and tried to get plugged in. Oh, and I got sick at the beginning of the semester right before it looked like a hurricane was going to wipe us off the map.

Things have calmed down, just in time for the holidays. Hopefully we can use the time over the break to plan out the spring semester and began expanding some of our on-campus initiatives. To keep up with that, you’ll need to subscribe to our newsletter. I post about it on here from time to time, but you’ll get more info through that channel.

I appreciate your consideration of supporting us and would also welcome your prayer that God continues to provide for us in the coming weeks and months!

As Thanksgiving break approached, I had made mental plans to start the update process. After several years post-seminary of aggressive book reviewing, I needed a break. But, over time, the break became the new normal, while the reading habits stayed pretty much the same.

In all likelihood, I won’t completely catch up on reviewing books I received and read for review. However, you’ve got to start somewhere, so here we are.

Initially, I had planned to start up around the time of ETS national conference (week before Thanksgiving). But then I realized that most of the people who cared would be there and not really paying attention to blogs. Last week I had hoped to do a complete inventory of what needed to reviewed and/or read and then reviewed. However, the virus that had been lurking the last week of class decided to fully activate on Monday. Thankfully, my immune system came through in the clutch and after stumbling through two days of low grade fever (99-100ish), I finally sweated the virus out the night before Thanksgiving. Just in time for a food coma.

Post food coma I remembered that I was on break and so decided to just embrace it. Which brings us to today, when break is officially over.

With all this interim build up, I thought it might be helpful to at least start the review process later this week and review the top 17 or so books that I’m due to write about. Think of it as a kind of “what to buy that book lover for Christmas” list.

I am hoping that I can break out of what has been a kind of extended writers block. Some of it was no doubt due to over-thinking how to approach the book reviewing task in a way that is still relevant. At the end of the day, I realized I should just keep doing what I was doing because I received a fair amount of positive feedback about it, and it worked pretty well when I was doing it before. I’m not particularly worried about SEO or leveraging the blog for monetary gain. I just want to read well and write well about what I’ve read. There’s books out there you should know about, and as long as publishers are willing to send them to me, I’m willing to tell you about them.

So, in that vein, I’ll need to come up with a list of books to start with. Hopefully, I can put that together tomorrow or Wednesday and then start producing the goods later this week. And hopefully narrowing the pile down doesn’t itself become a Herculean task. So far I’ve read 150 books this year so you never know. If by chance there are books you know I’ve read that you want to make the initial list, be sure and say so!

Last week we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Also, some of us sort of celebrated Halloween on the same night. I dressed up as an Astros fan and that proved providential the following evening.

Anyway, as with most parties, there is a sort of after party that could go on for who knows how long. The lead up to the 500th anniversary lasted several years, so I can only imagine that the post-party goes on for at least a couple more. It will certainly linger into next week when ETS meets and everyone theologically nerds out for a few days before Thanksgiving break.

In light of that, I thought it would be a good time to catch up on book reviews. And this is especially so as they pertain to the Reformation. The obvious place to start is with a volume that Crossway sent me and I finally managed to finish over the weekend. Reformation Theology: A Systematic Summary is hefty (just under 800 pages) and features quite the list of contributors. There are 20 to be exact, and 21 if you count the lengthy prologue by Michael Horton.

Matthew Barrett is both editor and contributes the introduction as well as a later chapter on the bondage and liberation of the will. If you’re keeping score at home, that means he’s the editor of several Reformation related works in the past couple of years (The Five Solas Series). Not to mention his work as co-author on John Owen and The Christian Life. Makes you wonder how many college football games he manages to watch each weekend and how far along he is in Destiny 2.

After the introduction, the rest of the chapters proceed, get this, systematically. That’s not entirely true though. The first two chapters after the introduction involve Gerald Bray telling us about medieval context and Carl Trueman and a Ph.D student/TA of his giving us the rundown on the Reformers and their different reformations.

From there, it actually does proceed systematically starting with Scripture, and then moving to doctrine of God and through the rest of the doctrinal topics just like a systematic theology would. Since it is a work of Reformation theology, the authors primarily focus on the theology of Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, and few other heavy hitters from that era. Each chapter ends with a short bibliography of primary and secondary resources so that interested readers can dig a little deeper.

One thing I was struck by while reading (although I did not cry out to St. Anne) is that this book almost had to be a team effort. Because of the level of detail in each of the essays on their particular doctrinal and historical context, it is hard to imagine any one scholar could have pulled it off. This is exactly what you want in a book like this. While it could have easily been a bunch of chapters that Barrett probably could have written himself on the weekends, it is instead a group of scholars brought together to flex their expertise muscles.

Because of that, I think the book fills a bit of a gap in available resources. If I wanted a snapshot of Reformation teaching on sanctification for instance, I could grab Gregg Allison’s Historical Theology. But, the section on that in there isn’t going to into much detail. If I really want to get a solid overview, but not quite a book length treatment, I probably can’t do much better than Mike Allen’s chapter in this volume (and then if I want more, I could read his new book, or see if he can grab Chipotle later this month).

In other words, this is a book that stands before you, justified by the works put into it. It doesn’t seem to have just been thrown together to take advantage of the Reformation party. Instead, it is a useful resource and entry point for anyone who wants to dig into the theology of the Reformation. The chapters are well organized and the bibliographies can take you further up and further in if that’s what you want. I’m glad I was able to read through this in the lead-up to the 500th anniversary, and I’m sure I’ll consult it more in the future as the need arises.

This time last year, we left the church we had been attending since moving to Florida. It was something we had considered the previous fall, and loosely the fall before that. We had actively tried to sever ties the summer before that. If you’re keeping score, that means our relationship with that local church had been uneasy since 2013.

This time ten years ago, I packed up most all of my belongings and moved to Dallas. I had just finished my undergrad and was about to start working on a Th.M at Dallas Seminary. In a sense, my complicated relationship with the local church started then. This was both because I would for the first time be able to actively find my own church home, and also because I would leave Texas with some fairly well developed ideas about what a healthy church looks like.

I would come find out later that Mark Dever had similar ideas and I hadn’t really done anything to reinvent the wheel. This was of course a relief, but didn’t help the situation we found ourselves in from 2013-2016. It also didn’t help that while we were in Dallas (I became a we in 2009), we were covenant members of The Village Church, a little Baptist church in Flower Mound that set the bar pretty high for wherever came next.

Ironically, it was because we went to The Village that we were both destined to end up at the church we did and also to have an ultimately negative experience there. Maybe “destined” is too strong of a word, but there was a certainly a trajectory set.

The Village of course wasn’t a perfect church, because that church doesn’t exist. But it was a church that sought to make the manifold wisdom of God evident through the way they did church (see Ephesians 3-4). It was also part of the Acts 29 network, which led us to search for a church in that network when we moved to Florida. At the time there was only one with a weird hybrid sort of multi-site thing going on. At the advice of the connections pastor at the main campus, we ended up at the campus closest to the University of Central Florida.

This was mid 2011. If you’re familiar with evangelical timelines, this is before the fall of Mark Driscoll and Tullian Tchividjian. One of those pastors directly mentored our church and pastor, and the other moved here while he was still on his downward trajectory. Both of them exerted a significant influence on the tone and theology of the sermons we sat under for several years. And this was in ways overt and covert.

In retrospect, this time period in American evangelicalism was weird. I suppose it is still weird, but I think it was the decline of the pastor as personality. Obviously there are still churches where this is the case, but with Driscoll and Tchividjian having been disgraced and trying to be re-graced, we find ourselves in uncertain ecclesial waters.

And in that light, I wanted to pick back up my adventures in ecclesiology series, but try to tie in some reflections of seminary ten years later. Not entirely sure what this will look like, but I need some processing space, and time has elapsed enough to start doing that I think. It might be messy, but so is church life. I will do my best to offer some level of anonymity.

I’ve intentionally not mentioned the name of the church or any staff so far. If you know the situation, then you know names and such. If you don’t, you don’t need to. I’ll try to be sensitive, but I’m also telling my story and my experience. My interpretation can be disputed, but I’ll try to stick to narrative details that are open to verification. And hopefully, along the way I can add some wisdom to both the seminary discussion and thinking through life in the local church.

But, there’s only one way to find out, and that’s to try and be consistent about putting thought to pixel.

The mountains are often lovely this time of year in Florida. However, this mountain is fake, and our only access to it is because we have Disney passes and it’s a ride in Animal Kingdom. Not this past weekend, but the weekend before that we celebrated our 8 year anniversary by a little getaway down to Disney. We essentially re-allocate our date night budget to maintain passes and take budget getaways in the off-season.

I’ve neglected blogging the past few months for a variety of reasons. Ever since Ali quit Panera back in February, we’ve been transitioning into some new phase almost every month. At this point though, I think we’re adjusted and starting to build some momentum. To give you an idea, here’s the lay of the land right now:

I’m still teaching like I have for the past 6 years. This year I just have Bible classes and a lone once a week elective called Sports Journalism which is kind of a way to trick boys into taking a writing class, but also an excuse to talk sports for an hour each week for credit. I’m also the team leader and editor for an extended research project for Docent Research Group, and I still teach private piano lessons every Wednesday.

On top of that, we’ve stepped into leading an on-campus ministry at the University of Central Florida called SHIFT. Because of hurricane and other logistical setbacks, we got a late start, but we’ve been meeting regularly on-campus for the past month. December will be a time of planning and preparing for the next semester and as things come together I’ll tell you more.

Ali has been working at our local World of Beer, which in addition to being a place for me to read and decompress on the weekends, has been a place for missional engagement. We’re focusing on connecting with her co-workers and building relationships in order to love on people better. Ali has also been working twice a week at our herbalist, who is the mom of one of Ali’s high school friends. She’s who we go to when we have routine sickness and stress. Ali is getting over being sick at the moment, and I was sick at the beginning of September, but we both recovered quite nicely via natural remedies rather than antibiotics.

While it would be ideal for Ali to not work, what she’s been doing has paled in comparison to Panera, both in time and stress levels. And, like I said, it’s provided a good opportunity to get to know some people in our area that aren’t in the Christian bubble. As we continue to raise support (you can sign up to support us monthly here), we may plan to keep this in the mix.

In addition, Ali and I are in the membership process at a new church called NewCity Orlando. After our last experience, it has been an almost 180. I haven’t fully told the story of that, but I’ll probably start soon. But for now, after checking out a few places, we felt at home at NewCity primarily because of the solid worship and preaching. It has also helped that the pastor has told me that they want to be a church known for hospitality and spiritual formation, two things that are passions of ours, but mostly absent in our previous experience.

As far as blogging has gone, I’ve been allocating time elsewhere. I’m horribly behind on reviews, but am planning to start the catch up process soon (as in now). Part of the delay has been deciding how to divide reviews between here and potentially blogging through our on-campus ministry website. I finally realized I just need to keep them on here for now, but also add more non-review type posts. I’m hoping to ramp up consistency going into the new year.

We’ll continue to focus on more ministry initiatives related to SHIFT and pray that support comes in. But, I’d like to consider what I do on here as part of our ministry and plan accordingly. We’ll see how that goes in the next few months!

Before I really tell the story of the last week here in Orlando, a couple of caveats are in order. First, I’m writing this from my intact house that has power, water, and wifi. Second, what we lived through was not on the same level as say my friend Steven in the Bahamas during Hurricane Andrew (i.e. in a bathtub under a mattress watching the roof separate from the walls). Nor is like what those in Houston and the rest of Texas endured with Harvey. Rather, I’ve just been reflecting on what it’s like to live in the shadow of impending doom for the better part of a week.

About this time last week (Tuesday), I was at school and began to realize that the strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic was headed our way. This was helpful in order to prepare, but also meant anxious limbo for at least another 5 days.

Actually, it was almost too late to prepare. Apparently I was late to the party and everyone else realized on Monday that we might be screwed in a week’s time. Wal-Marts and Publixes gradually ran out of canned goods, bread, and bottled water. It was however a great time to buy perishables.

By Wednesday, we were looking at a landfall from a Category 4 storm somewhere a bit south, or worst case scenario, an extended coastal brush that would mean Cat 2 or 3 winds here in Orlando for 10-12 hours. At one point, we were projected to have sustained winds of 80-90 mph all night on Sunday in the best version the models had to offer.

Now, people outside the state need to realize that because of the aforementioned Hurricane Andrew, houses built when ours was (2005) had to be built to code that meant that could withstand winds in the 110-120 mph range. So, there is no need to evacuate for fear that the big bad hurricane is going to blow our house down. Shingles gone and roof leaks are on the table, but structural integrity is more or less assured in our case at least (if it wasn’t, we would have evacuated even though Orlando is one of the last places that would have a mandatory order like that).

But, while the house might stand, that doesn’t eliminate the possibility that the storm whips up winds strong enough to throw a projectile through one or more of our windows. They may be double-paned and rated for winds up to 120 mph, but that doesn’t help if the wind throws someone’s garden gnome through a bedroom window at 3am.

Of course, this is why some people board up their windows. I inquired earlier in the week if our landlord wanted this done, and the answer was no. This was helpful, in that it meant he was willing to take financial responsibility for any damage. Also, I was off the hook for doing something I was ill-equipped and under-resourced to perform (plywood was basically gone by mid-week).

However, that meant living the rest of the week with the uneasy “what am I going to do at 3am if a window is busted in by a garden gnome or a random coconut and it rains into whatever room that is for the next 6 hours” feeling. We have a rather large house with some rather large windows that actually couldn’t be boarded up even if I had been able to do so.

There was also the vague anxiety that comes from seeing the recommended hurricane prep lists and knowing that even 4 days out, you can’t get everything on the list before the storm comes because everyone freaked out after Harvey and got to the resources first. Once I came to terms with the fact that we would have flashlights, food and water for 3 days, contractor grade trash bags to throw stuff into if a window broke and that was it, the anxiety subsided a bit.

But, that meant we were still 72 hours out or so, and there was nothing to do but wait. I spoke in chapel on Thursday for a bit about the fact that the most frequent command in Scripture is “do not fear,” and we worship a God who calms storms and walks on water. At the end of the day, I encouraged the students to avoid pics of destruction on social media and size comparisons to Andrew since neither of those things were likely to make anyone feel better. And we talked about God’s omnipresence and the fact that he already sees the bright sunny day on Tuesday and knows the outcome of the storm better than we even know ourselves. Whoever said theology wasn’t practical has never really studied it.

By Friday afternoon, we were in the 48 hour window where everything was starting to shut down. By Saturday afternoon, pretty much everything was closed and you either had the resources you needed or you didn’t. The course of the storm kept changing, but as you’ll notice in the picture, being on the edge still meant a Category 4 Hurricane could come straight through Orlando. When Hurricane Charley in 2004 came through our part of town (as a Cat 3), it looked like a bomb was dropped, because as you may or may not know, if you live in inland, you get the hurricane and any tornadoes it decides to spawn. So there was that reality to live with.

Sunday was the day the storm was coming, it was just a question of when and how strong. To cut to the chase, it ended up being something less than a Category 1 in our part of Orlando. We had a ton of tree debris in our backyard and we lost power for about 36 hours, but thankfully that was it. The rest of our city, and the state as a whole didn’t necessarily fare as well. For many, normal life won’t resume until next week. For some, it won’t really resume at all in a form similar to what was lost over the weekend.

Even worse is some of the devastation in the Caribbean. While I can’t fully imagine what that’s like, a lesser version of it was something I had to come to terms with earlier in the week because it was a live option. At the end of the day, Floridians often scoff at hurricanes and host parties when they’re supposed to come because they almost always fail to deliver a direct hit (especially here inland). This time around everyone seemed to be taking things seriously. And while we dodged the proverbial bullet in our part of town, not everyone had that same outcome. Once you’re on this side of the storm, it’s time to figure out who needs help and spread the resources around to help rebuild. I’m not sure what that looks like for the rest of our week, but I’m hopeful that this will be a time we can come together and extend the helping hand when it’s needed most. At the very least, I’ve got a trunk full of junk food to return to Wal-Mart tomorrow, and an entry to put in my gratitude journal about missing the brunt of a hurricane two years in row now.


You may have noticed I accidentally posted this last week with only three book titles. Obviously, that was a few days worth of reading, not entire month. And actually, this month ended up being the peak of the year so far. Rather than blurb each of the 20 books, I’m going to list them and then offer brief summary comments. I’m trying to ease back into regular blogging after starting strong in June and then realizing I needed a production break before school started.

If you’re keeping score at home, the 20 books in July brings me to 99 for the year. Well, actually, it’s at 101 now because we’re a ways into August. Anyway, here’s the list of what I read in July:

While there are still a considerable amount of theological and biblical studies in this mix, I think I diversified pretty well. Of the books listed, only 6 were specifically for reviews, which should start rolling out more frequently this fall. Chasing Contentment was for a member offering at Christ and Pop Culture, and you can read my write up here. The rest were primarily pleasure reads, although there are still a few “I feel like I read should read this book because it’s important to what I teach.” You can probably spot those with a quick glance.

The books that I care about on here (i.e. really liked), I’ll be thinking about ways to write about them in the coming weeks and months. My reading will slow considerably now that it’s August and there is prep to be done for both school and SHIFT. I need to get some systems in place and need to do so in the next week or so, but once they’re there, I should be back in a reading routine going into the fall.


Over at Christ and Pop Culture, you can read my article on Larry Wilmore’s Black on the Air. After listening to a few episodes this summer, I knew I wanted to write something on the podcast. There’s actually several that I’d like to do something similar for, but this was the place to start.

Initially, I wanted to take the article in a more political direction. Wilmore clearly doesn’t like Trump, but he’s able to make light of it. Probably helps that he’s a comedian. Beyond that, his political commentary is mostly irenic toward those he disagrees with. Unless you really like Trump, and then you’d probably feel like Wilmore secretly works for CNN or something.

I also thought about commenting on Wilmore’s takes on race relations. However, I don’t feel particularly qualified to jump into that other than to say, if you are, how we say, “white,” you might want to get Wilmore’s perspective on some things.

As for the actual article I wrote, it focused mainly on two episodes from the podcast. In both, Wilmore ends up having theological discussions with Charlamagne tha God and Neil deGrasse Tyson. I won’t recount that here, but here’s some of my conclusion:

While I can’t vouch for all of Wilmore’s theology, I enjoyed his willingness to engage Tyson and not be afraid to ask hard questions. Because he seems to be operating from a place of faith, he wasn’t shaken when Tyson brought up the problem of evil. In an unexpected place, he provided a good model of apologetic dialogue, even if one disagrees with the content of what he was defending. Wilmore certainly didn’t argue with Tyson, but he didn’t let him escape some level of critique and thoughtful interaction. They both seemed to enjoy their conversation, and I’m looking forward to the next time he’s on as a guest.

If you’re curious about what the apologetic dialogue was like, read the rest of the article. And better yet, check out the episodes I alluded to. As a warning though, the podcasts contain language that isn’t safe for the little ears. That’s probably a different article entirely, but I should at least let you know that the F-word isn’t a stranger in the discussion. I don’t think the conversation itself took any inappropriate or crude directions from what I remember. But, if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing, you might not enjoy the podcasts as much as I do.