Archives For Personal Adventures

It’s hard to believe we are already a month into 2017. Time flies when you’re having fun I guess.

Unlike last year, I’m not going to reproduce the entire list of the 2017 Reading Challenge each month. Instead, I’ll just offer a quick blurb on each book I read. I’ll also note whether the book came from a publisher, whether I might post a more complete review, and what category in the list it fits. Sound good? Alright, here we go…

The Righteous Mind (a book about a current issue)

This would have been one of the best books I read in 2016, but I didn’t complete it until the first week of January. Jonathan Haidt offers excellent psychological analysis of values. In doing so, he helps explain how people can disagree so sharply about politics and religion (hence the subtitle). I’ll probably need to go into more detail on this one at some point because it is definitely worth the time investment.

The 4-Hour Workweek (a book about productivity or time management)

I heard the hype of this Tim Ferriss book for a while, but finally decided to check it out. While I’m not necessarily trying to trim down to four hours of work a week so I can live anywhere and join the new rich, I do want to work smarter with my time. Ferriss’ book is good toward that end and you can implement some of the basics of his system regardless of your overall goals. See also the critique of his approach in What’s Best Next.

The Social Animal (a book about science)

David Brooks is one of my new favorite writers. I enjoyed this books which was basically a short story about a guy named Harold and his wife Erica that takes every opportunity to offer neuroscientific commentary on their unfolding lives, both together and apart. I really like Brooks writing style, and this book is basically an opportunity to gain the insights from many popular level psychology books, but with the information set in an engaging narrative frame.

A Quest for Godliness (a book about written by an author with initials in their name)

It’s J. I. Packer extolling the virtues of the Puritans. What more could you want? I’ve unfortunately not read much of Packer or the Puritans (directly) and I’m trying to remedy that here and there.

What About Free Will? Reconciling Our Choices and God’s Sovereignty (a book published by P&R)

Nothing seems to be more divisive in our junior Bible classes than discussing predestination and free will. Thankfully, this book came courtesy of P&R a while back. I finally got around to reading it before our section on election, and when I get to that post on recommended readings in this area later this week (hopefully), I’ll tell you more about this book.

None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different Than Us (a book targeted at the other gender)

This little gem from Jen Wilkin is both well-written and enjoyable to read. You can tell from the introduction it was written for women, but you should read this regardless of your gender. I was able to read this thanks to Crossway and can see immediately why it won awards. It is an excellent primer on the attributes of God that is theologically rich and accessible, a rare feat indeed.

Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There (a book of my choice)

More David Brooks goodness. I’m somewhat working in reverse chronological order since I read The Road to Character first, then The Social Animal, and then this. I’m working on Paradise Drive at the moment and then I’ll be caught up. In this particular volume, Brooks analyzes the sociological factors that shaped upper class America in the latter half of the 20th century in order to explain the tastes and customs of bobos (bourgeois bohemians). Would have been more interesting 10 years ago, but still relevant.

Unlimited Grace: The Heart Chemistry Frees From Sin and Fuels The Christian Life (a book about Christian living)

If you’ve had questions about how grace and law fit together in the Christian life, this book is for you. I’ve read quite a few on the subject, and this is the best introduction to the subject at a practical, lay level. I’m really glad Crossway sent me a review copy and I’ll have to tell you more soon.

Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 3: The Divine Essence and Attributes (a book used as a seminary textbook)

I’ve been working on Richard Muller’s four volume series for a while, and finally finished volume 3. I read a good bit of this last year and am hoping to finish up volume four by the end of the semester. This is not exactly riveting reading, but it is an important resource for people who want to be sharp theologically when it comes to this particular time period.

The Accidental Anglican: The Surprising Appeal of The Liturgical Church (a memoir)

This was an interesting read thanks to IVP. We left the church we had been at for the past five years and have been doing some ecclesiological exploring. I’ll have some blog posts on that in the near future and will mention a bit more about Anglicanism then. If you’d like to read an accessible conversion story from a former Charismatic, this book is for you.

His Love Endures Forever: Reflections on the Immeasurable Love of God (a book published by Crossway)

Similar to the book above by Jen Wilkin, this one by Garry Williams goes deep with attributes of God, but in an accessible way. They made for a great tandem read. Crossway did me a solid and sent both, so we’ll see about a further post in the coming weeks.

Introduction to World Christian History (a book about church history)

Thanks to IVP, I was able to read this introduction by Derek Cooper. I had taken several church history classes in seminary, but this focused more on the margins of the normal church history narrative. It’s a relatively short read, but is especially interesting if you like geography and learning about how Christian expanded and diversified through the centuries.

Union With Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God (a book about theology)

I only read this because Tim Keller blurbed it. And boy, was that a good choice! This is a pretty neglected doctrine, especially at the practical level. Yet, when one thinks of “in Christ” language in Scripture (especially in Paul), there could hardly be a more important subject. If you’d like to remedy the gap in your understand about what this doctrine is and why it’s relevant to you personally, this is the book for you.

Evangelism for Non-Evangelists: Sharing the Gospel Authentically (a book about evangelism)

This was an interesting read. Helpful as an overview to evangelism (it’s designed to be a textbook), but still relevant to someone who has taken classes on the subject (me). It’s part theology of evangelism and part how to do evangelism organically. Because it is designed to be used by a wide variety of Christian traditions (and some I wouldn’t consider actually Christian), readers might quibble with some of the analysis and application. But on the whole, it’s a fairly useful book on a semi-neglected subject.

One of the most influential books I read is Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to The Classical Education You Never Had.* It’s been about 10 years since I read the first edition, and now there’s a slightly updated and expanded version.** I decided to revisit this newer version and will post some lists from it in conjunction with the 2017 Reading Challenge.

As you might imagine, the path to a well-educated mind involves quite a bit of reading. But, it is reading in a certain mode. To explain, Bauer takes 4 introductory chapters just going over preparations one needs to make in order to succeed. It is here that she presents 4 steps to a well-educated mind. They are:

  1. Schedule regular reading and self-study time
  2. Practice the mechanics of reading
  3. Practice taking notes as you write and then summarizing
  4. Practice grammar-stage reading skills

It is worth noting that these are the same steps you need to take with reading for a Ph.D program. I’ve got the first two steps down, but habitually struggle with step 3. When it comes to step 4, I do about half of the six principles of grammar stage reading. I bet you were curious what that entailed, right? In order to read well at the grammar stage, you should (54-55):

  1. Plan on returning to each book more than once to reread sections and chapters.
  2. Underline or mark passages that you find interesting or confusing. Turn down the corners of difficult sections; jot your questions in the margin.
  3. Before you begin, read the title page, the copy on the back, and the table of contents.
  4. At the end of each chapter or section, write down a sentence or two that summarizes the content. Remember not to include details (this will come later)
  5. As you read, use your journal to jot down questions that come to your mind.
  6. Assemble your summary sentences into an informal outline, and then give the book a brief title and an extensive subtitle.

These steps could be applied to any books you seriously read. If you apply them to the books in the 2017 Reading Challenge, you’ll definitely read less books, but probably have a richer experience in your reading. It’s honestly what I would recommend, as well as keeping an eye out for my next post that will have her list of recommend novels that you can plug into the challenge.


*You owe it to yourself to check out her three volume (hopefully soon to be four!) history of the world:

**Because I hope you’re curious, the main expansion has to do with adding a list of science books. These come primarily from her other most recent book, The Story of Western Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory. Much of the rest of the material is more or less the same. I went page by page through it for comparison and since page numbers track very closely, there is little there is new other than the science section.

Saturdays can mean many things. Mine usually mean a day off to recharge and refresh in various ways. This is often through reading, which is what is mostly on tap for today.

It can also mean letting my body recover from the week, something I need after going back to a more strenuous workout routine. I posted on this a few times already (here and here), and can’t promise this won’t be the last diet and exercise related post. On the other hand, I’ll try to not turn this into a fitness blog. At this point, I figure if you do workout, it should be interesting. If you don’t, it is a New Year and sometimes that’s when people give the old gym membership a go.

Anyway, since what I did this week will be fairly stable, I’ll probably only update each week if what is listed below changes radically in terms of exercises or weights involved. Normally, I would either do what’s on Friday below in two separate days (shoulders Thursday, arms Friday), but for me, combining them wasn’t all that difficult. Here’s how the first week went, and I’m looking forward to two rest days before tackling the next!

Monday

  • Chest Press (100 each arm) 5×5
  • Incline Chest Press (100 each arm) 5×5
  • Machine Fly (190) 5×5
  • Triceps Press (140) 4×10
  • Decline Dumbbell Fly (50 each arm) 4×10

Tuesday

  • Underhand Row (100 each arm) 5×5
  • Lat Pulldown (165) 4×10
  • Bent Over Row (90) 4×10
  • Seated Row (150) 4×10
  • Hammer Grip Pulldown (170) 4×10

Wednesday

  • Leg Press (250) 4×10
  • Quad Extension (110) 4×10
  • Calf Extension (350) 5×5
  • Leg Curl (110) 4×10
  • Squats (90) 5×5

Friday

  • Barbell Curl (60) 2×21
  • Skullcrusher (60) 2×21
  • Hammer Curl (45 each arm) 5×5
  • Shoulder Press (120) 5×5
  • Chin Raise (90) 5×5
  • Arnold Press (60 each arm) 5×5
  • Shoulder Fly (35 each arm) 5×5
  • Triceps Pulldown (90) 5×5
  • Overhead Cable Curl (40 each arm) 4×10
  • Bent Over Shoulder Fly (25 each arm) 5×10

Earlier this month, I mentioned that I was doing the 2017 Reading Challenge. I should be clear that I think this time I’m approaching it as less a challenge and more a good categorical list that helps pick books to read. For me, reading 100 books isn’t that challenging, but reading wider is. Whether that’s you, or whether you’re just trying to read a bit more than usual this year, I have a suggestion.

If you look at the lists in the challenge (see here), you’ll notice this time around there are several “your choice” options. Nine of them to be exact. You’ll also notice several other categories get repeated:

  • Christian living (6)
  • Theology (5)
  • Church history (2)
  • History (2)

In addition, there are several other potentially overlapping categories, such as:

  • A book about holiness or sanctification
  • A book about spiritual disciplines
  • A book about prayer

Anything there would most likely also be considered a book on Christian living as well. So, there’s essentially 9 christian living options, 9 free picks, and 9 books potentially about theology (because of other categorical options, you’ll see them when you look at it). For the eager theological reader, you could always co-opt these and use my theological add-on from last year.

On the other hand, there are several missing categories. I would add these:

  • A book of philosophy
  • A book about philosophy
  • A book on sociology
  • A book on neuroscience
  • A book on psychology

In case you’re curious, the main distinction I have in mind between “of” and “about” would be that “of” refers to a primary source. So, a book by Kierkegaard rather than about Kierkegaard. Certainly there are other categories one could add, but these are what jumped out at me this time around.

In the coming months, I think we’ll find that books on sociology come in handy. I’ve been on a David Brooks kick (who is more popular) and have several sociological titles in my queue. I’m also hoping to do more reading in the science of decision making and other topics in neuroscience. And I shouldn’t forget psychology.

Also, I would suggest an “ad fontes” approach for the free picks in reading. That is, go back and read some primary sources. If you’re used to reading theology and biblical studies frequently, try to not read anything new for a change. Have you read any Aquinas? Start here. What about Augustine? Surely you’ve read his Confessions? I could go on, but you get the idea.

Basically, the way I think we get the most out of this challenge is to read outside of our normal drifts. If you tend to read more newer popular theology and biblical studies, still keep the categories, but go back to classics and sources that have stood the test of time. Pick some authors that have been around for centuries and proved their worth. I can’t promise that I’ll do this as much as I could this coming year, but I’d like to actually strive for it and encourage you to do the same!

When I posted about the TheoFit cut last week, I almost went on a tangent about workout routines. But, I realized it made sense as its own post. Hopefully, if you’re not doing the cut, some of what follows will still be of interest and/or help.

For a bit of history, I started working out regularly about 12 years ago. It was in response to going away to college for 2 years and coming back with a gut (it has made a comeback in recent years, btw). Once I moved to Dallas, I was able to start working out at a gym. This was thankfully because the powers at be at Dallas Seminary didn’t want to perpetuate the fat preacher stereotype so they gave us all a free membership to the Tom Landry Fitness Center at Baylor Hospital. It was a glorious 4 years.

During that time, I was fairly consistent at 3 days a week, mostly upper body (and abs) workouts. I tended to do 3 sets of 10 and maybe 7 or exercises (so 7x3x10). I also did these exercises in a circuit with as little rest as possible in lieu of cardio.

I continued this when we moved to Florida, but with some minor adjustments. I began to alternate pushing and pulling exercises in order to move through the routine faster. I still did roughly the same number of exercises and sets and reps. Then, I did a bulking phase and switched to heavier weights and did 4 sets of 5. After a few weeks, that would become 4 sets of 6, then 7, then 8. Then I would add weight and reduce back to 5 reps.

Then, in an unfortunate act of hubris, I ending up tearing my left pec and biceps tendon. That put all significant lifting to a halt for about 3 months, and then meant starting over with most basic exercises. I’ve just now regained that strength from 2 years ago.

During the rehab phase, I started doing an exercise routine that was similar to the one Paul suggests for the cut. It started as a 4 day split and then after 4 weeks moved up to 6 (two leg days). It also had 30 minutes of cardio tagged to the end (barf) and typically had you doing 4 sets of 8 for 7 exercises (7x4x8). You were also, by the time you got to weeks 5-8, supposed to be doing 80% of your max on those sets. If you’re trying to figure out your max, you can use this calculator. As an example, if you can curl 40 lbs for 10 reps, your max is 53, and 80% would be 42.

All that to say, you have some options in the lifting department. I think if you do the cut, and you’ve previously been lifting regularly, you should stick to the 5x5x5 setup (5 exercises in 5 sets of 5). Ideally, you do 5 days, but for time constraints might do 3.

If you want to do a variant, think in terms of total load. So for instance, I can do 5 sets of 5 Arnold Presses with 60 lbs dumbbells. That’s a load of 1,500 (insert appropriate unit of measurement here). If instead I did 3 sets of 10 with 50 lbs dumbbells, that’s technically the same load, but it works your muscles differently. Because of that, I’ll alternate every few weeks. The last few weeks I was doing 8x5x5 (or 7x5x5), but this past week I’ve been doing 5x3x10. Before I did that crazy day split workout, I was doing 10x4x10. You get the idea.

The goal, that I think is clear is that you have a plan and are consistent. I can do a 5x5x5 workout in about 30 mins, which means a 3 day a week plan is 90 mins in the gym. That’s not too bad. I’m gonna try to shoot for the 5 day deal as part of rebuilding my morning routine. Today is chest day, and I’m about to head over to Planet Fitness. I’m gonna try to hit it hard until the end of March because at that point, a trip to California will crash both the diet and the workout.

After that, not sure what I’ll shift to, but I’ll be sure and have some before and after pictures to post no matter what.

Over the years, I’ve actually written quite a bit about New Year’s Resolutions. I am generally a fan, although not in a completely uncritical sort of way. I find it helpful to use the break over Christmas to re-evaluate my life and make changes were it seems appropriate. I’ve realized that this involves habit building rather than rule making. In some cases, it may just be one resolution to rule them all (hint: get up earlier). In others it may involve adding integrating a new habit into an existing one (like adding the 7 minute workout to the end of lift session).

No matter what, it’s important to keep in mind what I’ve said elsewhere:

Remember that New Year’s resolutions are entirely optional. You’re not a bad person if you don’t make them, and perhaps more importantly, if you don’t keep them. I imagine many people have good motivations for making resolutions, have thought through a plan for keeping them, but then fail miserably. Failure can be instructive, but it can also be tempting to despair of guilt when this happens.

Such guilt is well-placed if your New Year’s resolutions are attempts to be your own Lord and Savior. If that really were the case, you would bear the sole responsibility of becoming a better you. Do more. Try harder. Resolutions become a means to an end. It may be too easy to get stuck in this cycle, longing for a verdict of “righteous” that never comes.

Thankfully, the gospel proclaims that our justification before God is grounded not in what we can do but in what God in Christ did. As we are constantly reminded of this, we should reorient our own resolutions away from self and social pressure to resolve from a place where we enjoy the justification that matters most.

We can glorify God in whatever we do, and New Years can be a time to examine if our life habits are doing just that and make adjustments accordingly. For me, this has led to New Year’s resolutions aimed at being a better steward rather than a better savior. When it comes to habits of health, if I’m approaching them as steward instead of savior, I’ll likely be more realistic about what I can accomplish. In addition, I’ll revisit my habits on a regular basis instead of only once a year (or even less).

With that helpful theological caveat in mind, here’s several things I’d like to enhance this New Year:

  • Bible reading
  • Prayer
  • Fitness
  • Writing
  • Discipleship

For each, there are already baseline habits in place that either need expansion or revision. I’ll post about each in the coming weeks, but one in particular that I wanted to draw your attention to is TheoFit. Paul Maxwell put it together and is running what’s called a “cut” starting January 15th. If you’re curious about what a “cut” is, here’s his short explanation:

If this is something you’re interested in, sign up and check out the rest of his videos.

I’ve already been doing something close to the workout that he talks about. On Monday, I’ll explain some variants I think are worth pursuing. I think the lifting is flexible, but the diet part is not. If you really want it to be a cut, then lower calorie and higher protein intake are key. Working out helps build muscles but also raises your daily caloric threshold. Because I workout regularly and am fairly muscular (but also have a gut), I can safely eat 3000+ calories a day and not gain weight, I know that from experience, but also from using this calculator (see Paul’s note). However, if I don’t reduce that, I shouldn’t expect to lose weight, no matter much I work out or how much cardio I might do (or think about doing).

That being said, if you’re looking to establish some better health habits in the next few months, consider joining us. You’re not necessarily making a New Year’s resolution, you’re making a 8-12 week commitment that might help you reshape your eating and exercise habits for the long term.

You may have seen my monthly posts throughout 2016 about Tim Challies Reading Challenge (see my year end post here). He made some changes to the overall plan to make it more flexible and is continuing it in 2017. You can download the plans here.

This time around, I’m planning to be a bit more strategic. I want to continue to read more broadly, but I also want to be more selective with the books I read in my usual genres. I am generally a completer when it comes to reading, so I’m trying to break that habit.

Along those lines, you may have wondered how I was able to read so many books last year (or in previous years). Part of the answer is found in Challies post on how to read 100 books in a year. I don’t typically set a goal for how much I want to read, but if you’re not in the habit, that’s a good idea. Also, his tips for constraining entertainment usage are helpful for time management.

Typically, I am able to read so much for a few reasons. First, I read 900 words per minute (on average). This comes in handy when reading so much within the biblical studies and theological studies genres. Often, you notice that many of these writers repeat themes and ideas. As an example, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across an explanation of creation-fall-redemption-consummation in biblical theology. It is rare that an author says anything that adds to the discussion of those topics, so reading through that section of his book goes quickly.

Second, and this goes with the quicker pace, I don’t read every word (that’s part of how you do 900). I am reading primarily for comprehension, not necessarily absorbing each and every word. In non-fiction, the prose isn’t always that great anyway, and unless you’re reading a book by Kevin Vanhoozer, you’re not missing any clever turns of phrase or literary allusions. I’ll adjust my pace to compensate based on who I’m reading, but many things are easier to plow through if you’re primarily after the argument and comprehension. An extension of this is learning when to not finish a book, but that’s a topic for another day.

Third, I set aside specific times to read. For me, this is first thing in the morning after Bible reading, and then for a good chunk on Saturdays. I have two established reading spots (one morning and one afternoon) and will resurrect a third in the coming weeks (the beach). Having specific places and times to go read helps prime you for the task. Also, I bribe myself with beverages on both occasions.

Fourth, I read multiple books simultaneously. I guess “concurrently” is better. I only read one book at any one time, but I cycle back and forth between several. One reason for this is that I like to jump around on tasks. Another is that you can actually read more if you switch out books between chapters. I use bookmarks and chapters as naturally stopping points. In a typical morning session, I might read 2 chapters in one book, and then one in another. Mentally, this is actually easier than trying to focus on one book until you finish it. If you can learn to have several books going at once, and switch between them when you read, you’ll actually be able to read for longer stretches of time.

Lastly, reading is something I enjoy doing, so it comes easily. That being said, a downside to reading so much last year is that it means there are other things (like writing) that I didn’t do with the available time that I had. I was also reading a lot to escape, which is not a good thing in the long run. I am hoping to be more engaged in my relationships this year, and so that means less reading. I would rather have a balance ultimately, so this isn’t something I am reluctant to do. Ironically perhaps, my New Year’s resolution is to read less and relate more. As the months of 2017 pass, I’ll be sure and let you know how it goes!

I did quite a bit of reading in 2016, just over 48,000 pages to be exact. I participated in Tim Challies 2016 Reading Challenge (see below for month by month lists) and will probably do so again in 2017. I didn’t complete it, but that’s because I didn’t feel totally constrained to read in the categories he offered. I liked the tweaks he offered for next year in that regard.

As I reflected on all that reading, I thought a “Best” list wasn’t the “best” way to recap things. “Best” can mean a lot of different things, and in some sense is an subjective judgment masquerading as an objective one. Tim Challies noticed that many of the same books appear on multiple lists, and he offers a roundup list of the lists. Often, “best” means “books I liked the most.” Occasionally, it means “books that are objectively speaking, the most well-written ones that I read,” but I don’t think that is often the case.

In that spirit, here are my end of the year lists that I think are better (not best) assessments of my 2016 reading.

Books I Most Enjoyed in 2016

Notice anything about this list? Mostly non-theological. But, in terms of pleasure reading, these were the books I couldn’t put down. These were not necessarily un-thought provoking, but mostly just really fun to read. You should perhaps notice the irony that these are my “most enjoyed book” but they are outside of the stream of books I normally read. The bulk of what I read is theology and biblical studies, yet they don’t feature in this list.

They do however feature prominently in this one:

Book That Most Influenced My Thinking in 2016

These are books that I felt I needed to discuss and process more than others. They either contribute to my own personal development or class discussions, or sometimes both. Some of them I still need to write on, so look forward to that.

An original iteration of this next list was “Most Important Books I Read in 2016,” but I quickly realized that is a difficult category to pin down. Instead, I opted for a list of books I’d recommend, but that didn’t appear in the previous two lists. These are books I think are important, and helpful, even if they didn’t make my most enjoyable or most beneficial list.

Books I Read in 2016 That You Should Too

All of these are books that I thought were interesting, and would be beneficial for many people that similar reading interests as I do. Some of them are already well known, others deserve wider recognition. Several of them I’ll hopefully post more about in the coming weeks. You may notice some themes embedded (e.g. books on the Trinity, apologetics), as well as recurring authors. In that vein, here’s a list of authors that I read multiple books by this year and am glad I did. I would say each is also an example of someone who not only communicates important thoughts in writing, but does so well. In other words, I’ll make a case that these are the best writers I read this year.

Authors I Most Benefited From in 2016

  • Andy Crouch
  • Eugene Peterson
  • Tim Keller
  • Peter Leithart
  • Kevin Vanhoozer
  • Oliver Crisp

I briefly contemplated ending this group of lists on a negative note (Most Disappointing Books I Read in 2016), but 2016 was enough of a downer for most people without me pointing out what books fell flat. There were several, some surprising, some not. A good chunk of 188 books I read were simply “blah.” Not horribly written, but not super interesting either. Maybe important and game changing for some readers, but either redundant or slightly boring for me. That list would be too long to include here. I’ll explore reasons why that happens in a post next week. I would say perhaps I should cut back on my reading, but we both know that probably won’t happen.

Oh, here’s the month by month list of reading:

Since 2003, I have regularly driven I-75 from east Tennessee to central Florida. I wish at this point I had kept an accurate count. I could probably crowd source that information, but as a guess, we’re looking at about 9 times between 2003-2007, and then from 2011 until now, at least twice a year (yesterday being the first half of one such trip). This of course isn’t counting times when I drove Dallas-Orlando-Knoxville-Dallas. So easily 20 times both ways, and maybe another half dozen one way or the other.

It is a 650 mile stretch of Interstate that I have mostly memorized in terms of exits and amenities. I’ve driven across Georgia early in the morning and late into the night. Occasionally, I’ve driven it through the middle of the night. My personal point to point record is 8.5 hrs, but on average we’re talking 10 plus whatever traffic in Atlanta adds to the time. I’ve done it in one stop once, but that was before I started drinking coffee (and you have to make at least one stop because you know, gas). Perhaps more remarkably, I have never been tagged for speeding (in Georgia at least).

As I was making this drive yesterday, I kept thinking of helpful tips and tricks I could share. The temptation was to tweet or put them on Facebook in the midst of driving. Instead, I’ve opted to collect them here for your reading enjoyment. Most of this applies to driving across Georgia, but you could use some of the principles for any all day road trip. I am somewhat serious, but mostly tongue-in-cheek. You’ll have to figure out the dividing line.

General driving tips

  • Plan stops ahead and stick to them. I aim for just inside Georgia at exit 5 going north, and then again in Kennesaw after beating Atlanta. Going south I try to make it to the Macon bypass.
  • Gas up on both stops and remember that gas in north Florida is considerably more expensive than most anywhere in Georgia.
  • Take the bypass around Macon. In all the times I’ve driven, I’ve always taken I-475. No need to see Macon unless you’re Nelson Muntz.
  • Turn Waze on, not for navigation, but for the audible notifications of “Police reported ahead” and “Hazard reported ahead.” Make sure it comes through your speakers so you don’t miss them.
  • Maintain awareness of your travelling companions. You should generally be aware of whether you can make a sudden lane change when you come upon that hazard that was reported ahead.
  • The drive time (if you’re not trying to break land speed records) is 9 hours. Whatever you stop adds to that. Aim for the middle of nowhere exits that have a lot on them. Easier in and out. It’s Georgia so there will either be a Zaxby’s or a Chick-fil-a almost anywhere you stop.
  • Check Google Maps frequently with the traffic layer turned on. Unless a wreck just happened or construction project just started, you’ll know where the backups are miles before you get there.
  • Unless a back-road runs mostly parallel to the Interstate, it is probably not faster to get off and try to get around traffic. But sometimes it is, and it is totally worth it. Also, scenic detours can be fun!
  • If you take videos or pictures while driving (not recommended, but I do it), make sure you do it blindly and hope for the best (see below). Eyes on the road, not on the screen.

On speeding (or not)

  • Go with the flow of traffic for the most part, especially through downtown Atlanta (speed limits don’t matter there). Your mantra is “neither impede nor exceed traffic.”
  • Along those lines, north Georgia and north Florida are essentially race tracks. South Georgia is a giant speed trap. Plan accordingly.
  • Constantly monitor your rear-view mirror. You should never be surprised if a state trooper breezes past you because you saw him already.
  • Know what state troopers and various county police look like throughout Georgia. Be able to recognize headlights in your rear-view if you drive in the early morning or late at night hours.
  • Observe the cars on an overpass as you approach and glance back at the on-ramp when you pass under. You’ll thank me when you spot the cop hiding there.
  • Remember that every blind curve and slight rise in the road provides a place for a state trooper to hide. Left off the gas as you crest hills. Don’t try to pass in the left lane if you’re approaching a bend in the road.
  • Generally avoid the left lane (but see below). Let other people appear to be the fastest car on the road. Also, drive a black nondescript sedan.
  • Realize that speeding tickets are incredibly expensive in Georgia if you are going over 70 (which is what you’ll be doing if you get one there), but you’re probably safe setting the cruise control on 75 through south Georgia and doing whatever the middle lane allows in the rest of the state (I still practice hyper vigilance out of habit).

On Atlanta

  • Drive straight through. Don’t use the bypass, same traffic, but more miles.
  • Leave early or late enough to avoid peak Atlanta traffic (7-9 am or 4-6 pm). I aim to drive through Atlanta between 10-12 (regardless of direction travelling).
  • Hug the left lane through downtown. HOV if you can (you need a buddy for that). It minimizes your potential to be caught in a lane changing fiasco.
  • If you’re going north though, you’ll need to be in the far right lanes to avoid accidentally ending up on I-85. I enjoy the challenge of having to change 5 lanes in heavy traffic in under a quarter mile. You do you.
  • Without fail, there will be an accident south of Atlanta in Macdonough. It’s worse if you’re going south, so plan accordingly.
  • If you’re doing it right, Atlanta is about the most excitement you’ll have on the whole drive, so savor it.

Certainly more could be said, but you get the idea. I hope that on Monday I maintain my streak of not being noticed speeding in Georgia. In the meantime, here is the aforementioned video I made yesterday, chronicling the trip. It is boring, but it takes 3 minutes instead of 9 hours to watch so it’s basically like time travel.

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Ever since I was in seminary, I not only frequented the Dallas Seminary Bookstore, I made online orders to Westminster Bookstore in Philadelphia. Once I started posting about books more frequently, I entered their referral program and thanks to your clicks have gotten many gift certificates through the years.

Recently, they sent an e-mail to their partners about their financial situation (you can read more details here). The key ways you can help, if you’re so inclined, is to:

  • Pray for them
  • Order some great books (see below)
  • Donate your change at checkout
  • Spread the word about their ministry (watch the video below)

As for the books I mentioned, they have a list of great Christmas ideas. For a general list, click here, but they also have great Bible deals, books for children/teens, books for men, books for women, and obviously, books for pastors/theologians.

A few items of note in those are:

Obviously I gravitated toward a certain list but you get the idea. Their overall prices are competitve with other online retailers, but you’re helping a ministry sustain itself in this case. If you’re planning to purchase some books for friends and loved ones this Christmas, consider doing so through Westminster Bookstore