Archives For Personal Adventures

2018 is in full swing it seems. We’re one week down, and this is usually when the rubber meets the road on resolutions. If you’ve never read through Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions, now’s a good time to do so. But, I’m not going to be talking about them, or that I’m reading The Religious Affections and got the whole set of his collected works for a steal at Logos a few months back (but do look for a review of this book soon).

Well over a month ago, I wrote about how far behind I was on posting reviews. I’d like to say that’s changed since then, but the holidays came and went and now here we are. At least you know the best books I read in 2017, and that I have numerous piles of unread books.

You also might remember I mentioned a TheoFit challenge back at the beginning of December. That didn’t go particularly well. However, I’ve lost 6 pounds since January 1st, so I’d say the current 12-week cut is going well.

I mention these together because I realized the failure related to both was connected. It’ll take me a minute to tie it all together to bear with me…

In essence, I look at accumulating extra weight and having books that I’ve read but not commented on as the same. They are both types of either over consumption, or consumption without proper exercise. When it comes to dieting, it’s not that I haven’t been exercising for the past few years, it’s that I’ve just been eating too much. Likewise, the reason I haven’t been posting reviews isn’t because I haven’t been reading. I’ve just been over consuming.

Moving forward, I decided that I need better sustainable healthy habits. This in terms of both eating and exercise, and the mental version of those, reading and writing. I wouldn’t say this is a New Year’s resolution, although I am fond of those (read this from last year, and this from an earlier year).

I like the opportunity to reflect and refresh each year around Christmas and New Years. As a teacher, there is a natural break that occurs around this time. And as someone living in a state different than where I grew up, I usually have a road trip on my horizon sometime in November/December to sort out thoughts and hit the reset button on life.

My recent trip up to Knoxville to see my parents did just that. Ali wasn’t able to go because of work conflicts, so I had 10 hours in my car twice and the better part of the week in a new/old environment. I spent a good bit of the mornings at the Starbucks I used to work at, tying up end of the year loose ends and thinking ahead.

It proved helpful to evaluate goals and routines and think about how I could tweak the current one and establish a better rhythm. I’ve been thinking as well in terms of a “rule of life” ever since I read Mike Cosper’s Recapturing the Wonder. I’ll unpack that in a different post, but the short version is that a rule of life is kind of a manifesto for how you’re going to divide up the time you’ve been given. Because of that it has concentric circles that cover hourly, daily, weekly, and annual rhythms. I’m still working out the details on that, but here’s I’ve at least gotten the outer framework together.

Which brings us back to TheoFit. I realized that I didn’t need a diet per se, but a new rhythm of life when it came to eating and exercising. The best way to get in lean muscular shape is to alternate between a cut and a bulk every 12 weeks. That’s to say 12 weeks you’re aiming for a 20% calorie deficit, and then the next 12 weeks you’re in a 10% calorie surplus.

I realized that this rhythm would work well if I framed it in terms of months rather than weeks and started the cut January 1st. So, for January, February, and March I’m a cutting phase. This means consuming less, and so I thought I’d import that mentality into other areas. This would mean practicing frugality in terms of spending, and focusing on writing more than reading. I’m also thinking of it in terms of working harder and longer hours on projects like support raising, as well as house projects that have been overlooked.

The next three months, April, May, and June, would be a bulk and so I could focus on consuming more and relaxing a bit more than a single Sabbath. This works out well since it encompasses Ali’s birthday month, as well as the end of the school year when life is rather hectic on its own and maintaining a cut is more difficult.

Then, in July, I’d switch back to a cut, which will helpfully overlap with the beginning of the school, which means after a bit of a break in June, I’d be re-focused and leaning (get it?) into a new school year. Finally, the year would end with a bulk, which is helpful since the last three months include Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This also works well if we think of cutting and bulking in terms of pouring out and being filled. I tend to think of social activities, especially as related to ministry, in this way. So, in this scheme I’m “pouring out” on the front end of semesters, which is when students have more time on their hands anyway. It’s also when it’s more important to establish and build relationships. During the beginnings of breaks, I’ll naturally be back on a “being filled” time, which will help me recharge in order to be more available by the start of the next semester. In the midst of that, I’ll be able to be present for graduations and holidays, but it’ll be in a season of renewal.

In terms of practicality then, this all means that up until Easter, I’m eating less and moving more. I’m reading less and catching up on reviews and other article ideas. And I’m meeting up with students and trying to be more intentionally social. We’ll see how it all goes, but I’m excited to work into this rhythm and see how God works in the process.

As I sit and write, this is generally my view. I could of course look out the window to my right, which I often do in anticipation of the mail coming. That’s usually because the mail brings books, which at this point overflow their shelves. Thankfully, those books are most often provided by gracious publishers.

In one sense, this helps build my library. But, in another sense it more often than not contributes to my anti-library. This is a phrase I came across in an article on Inc the other day. Several people shared it, and so maybe you’ve already read Jessica Stillman explain why you should surround yourself with more books than you’ll ever have time to read.

It’s always gratifying to read an article urging you to do something you’ve been doing for over a decade. For a variety of reasons, I’ve built quite the antilibrary. To be clear, these are books you have that you haven’t read. At the end of the day, it should be a

powerful reminder of your limitations – the vast quantity of things you don’t know, half know, or will one day realize you’re wrong about. By living with that reminder daily you can nudge yourself towards the kind of intellectual humility that improves decision-making and drives learning.

Bookshelves should in a certain sense be monuments of your ignorance. I pointed to them and called them that once during a Bible study. When people come over for the first time they will often ask if I’ve read “all those books.” The short is of course no, and I probably never will. I’ve read a good bit of them, but just for realism sake, in the picture above, there are just over 100 books that I haven’t read. And that’s one of 6 bookshelves I have (not all that big). And that’t not counting the thousands of books in my Logos library that I’ll never touch.

This all reminds of an illustration I learned in seminary and why second and third year seminary students are often the worst. I should probably start by defending that statement. In general, a first year seminary student knows in some sense that they don’t know much. But ah, after that first year, they realize how much more they know than their peers back home or in small group at church.

That is when the danger starts because it often leads to “cage stage,” where they are out to correct any and every person who they think is “off track” or “heretical.” This tends to last through the third year, and in some cases into the fourth. Mine was corrected sometime during the third year and it was because I became more focused on what I didn’t know and less focused on using what I did know as a weapon.

A big part of that, I think, is having unread books around me. One of my professors explained this phenomenon by drawing a small circle on the board and then a very large circle. He said hypothetically speaking, the small circle represents how much you know, and the large circle represents how much I know. What does the edge represent?

The edge of course represents the boundary between your knowledge and ignorance. The more you know, the larger that boundary is. As you grow in knowledge you should also grow in recognition of the edge, which is where your ignorance starts. In other words, a thirst to read and learn more can actually lead to intellectual humility if you’re constantly reminded of how much you don’t know. And what better way to remind yourself than to constantly see books you don’t have time to read?

I have found this generally speaking to be true in my own life. I graduated seminary knowing that I knew a lot, but also being painfully aware of all that I didn’t know and had yet to learn. In Stephen Covey speak, what I didn’t know I didn’t know had shrunk considerably.

Along those lines, this is also a round about case for why pastors should go to seminary and not just be self-learners. It obviously won’t always avoid this issue, but I’ve found that seminary trained pastors both know more and are more aware of what they don’t know. Pastors with marginal training so they could plant a church faster, or with shortcut training usually end up landing in a place where they don’t know what they don’t know and it proves dangerous to their congregations and staff. That can and will probably be another post entirely.

At the end of the day, you obviously shouldn’t waste money stockpiling books you’ll never read. But, if you do find yourself with too many books and not enough time, it sounds like you’re probably in good company, if you think of it in the right sort of way. That is to say, the sooner you can admit ignorance, the quicker you can truly begin to learn.

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!

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.

When I was in school geography was one of my favorite subjects. I actually went to the state geography bee when I was in middle school because the spelling bee was too mainstream.

I like to know the lay of the land and often that involves reading maps. Or, taking aerial photographs when the opportunity presents itself. Because you’re curious, that is the mouth of Tampa Bay when viewed from above and the thin line across it is the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Anyway, you may be (rightly) wondering what this has to do with the title of the post. Well, I’ve been thinking for a while that it might be helpful to do a little cartography when it comes to Christian publishers and authors. I’ll tie this into the semi-abandoned series on book reviewing by explaining how to connect with the various publishers if that’s what your’e into. But, mainly I’ll focus on differentiating the publishers out there and giving you some authors to know.

If I were to imagine a table of contents it might look like this:

  • Publishers
    • Baker/Baker Academic
    • B&H/B&H Academic
    • Brazos
    • Crossway
    • Eerdmans
    • Fortress Press
    • IVP/IVP Academic
    • Moody
    • P&R Publishers
    • Wipf & Stock
    • Zondervan/Zondervan Academic
  • Book Series
    • NSBT
    • NET
    • SIET
    • Counterpoints
    • Spectrum
    • PTMS
    • TCL
  • Authors
    • Vern Poythress
    • John Frame
    • Oliver Crisp
    • J. I. Packer
    • Matthew Levering
    • Michael Bird
    • John Walton
    • Cornelius Van Til

Now, that’s just a start as far as authors. And, if I’m being honest, it is a list mostly related to books I need to review. But, pro-tip, this is part of making reviews more interesting than book reports. I’m sure I’ll add authors as well. And, if you’re not clear on what the abbreviations in the book series list stand for, that’s perfect because then I can explain it.

I’ll probably get the ball rolling on this series some time next month. I’m open to suggestions to be added to any of the above lists. At the end of the day, I want to provide a general overview of publishers, authors, and series to keep an eye out for if you’re serious about biblical and theological reading. Hopefully, I can do better at that than I did at the state geography bee.

I joked earlier on Instagram that I had been taking this supplement and now I can’t find my phone. The truth is, I’ve been doing some summer reading that’s reshaping how I think about technology in general, and phones in particular.

It all started back in April when I did a brief review of Tony Reinke’s 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You. In my conclusion, I said,

My main takeaway from reading the book is that it starts a conversation we should all be having. I know that my life has changed radically since I purchased my first iPhone in 2009. Whether for advances in productivity (thanks to apps like Things and Evernote) or the pull of imminent distraction (thanks to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter being accessible at all times), my daily life is no longer the same. Rather than treating technological advances as givens, we ought to think about the good as well as the potential bad they bring.

You can read the whole thing here, and I think still get a free copy if you join Christ & Pop Culture.

Around this same time, I also read Andy Crouch’s The Tech-Wise Family. My biggest take-away from that book is that I own my iPhone, not the other way around. It should go to bed before I do, and I should rise and shine before it does. I’ve slowly adapted toward this, but I still need to get an actual alarm clock for it to work.

Since then, I’ve been reading various books on technology, productivity, and social media. I mentioned this already, but after reading Deep Work, I deleted social media (minus Instagram) from my phone. I’ve actually since deleted my mail app (Inbox and the native Apple one).

Because I’m still sitting at the computer more than usual this summer, I still have access to the social media sites, and still probably check them more than I should. But, when I’m away from the computer, I’m more or less away from the computer.

And you know what?

Life actually goes on. Nothing has happened that made me reconsider the decision, and my thoughts have been clearing up so much I’m not particularly tempted to go back.

When I’m at the gym in the morning, I tend to catch up on blogs I read and even outline article ideas instead of scrolling aimlessly through Twitter and Facebook. It ends up being a great time to sort out my thoughts at the beginning of each day. It’s also before I’ve checked e-mail or anything, and shortly after I’ve gotten up. If you’re looking for a way to start the day with clarity, I’d highly recommend it.

In the midst of this, I’ve been thinking through how social media and technology use relates to ministry and teaching. There are a couple of resources I’d recommend on the subject, but I’m going to save them for our newsletter. In our next update, I’m going to how this summer reading is hopefully going to change what student ministry looks like in the fall.

If you’d like to read more about that, use the form below to sign up for the newsletter. In it, I’ll be sharing insights from my reading that I won’t cross-post here. I also go into detail about future plans for the college ministry as well as our prayer requests and needs.

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