Archives For Personal Adventures

It was mid morning under a gray Kentucky sky. While almost spring it looked an awful lot like winter to me. I put on Copeland’s In Motion, one of my favorite albums from my college days. Around the time it came out, I have a very distinct memory of listening to it on a very different road trip along much of the same road.

The year was 2005. It was also spring break if I remember right. I was driving back form Chicago after seeing my girlfriend at the time who went to Moody Bible Institute. I had recently been accepted as well, but didn’t quite grasp that we were going to break up in about a month while I was standing in LaGuardia waiting to board a plane to Argentina. Good thing it was over the phone. And so I moved back to Knoxville in the fall instead of Chicago, ended up completing my degree through Liberty.

That trip ended up being the first and only time I did the Knoxville-Chicago road trip. Which is probably good because Indiana is supremely boring. Back to Friday though when I was listening to Aaron Marsh exhort Amanda to pin her wings down (if you know this reference, I’m glad we’re friends). This was the first road trip to Louisville since April of 2014 when I came up for Together 4 The Gospel (T4G) and to meet with my doctoral adviser for the program in Christian Philosophy at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

We had a great talk about postmodern philosophy, aesthetics, and presuppositional apologetics. Neither he nor I knew I would withdraw from the program before the year was out, but it was good time nonetheless. Along the way, I met up with Richard Clark and he agreed to let me write for Christ and Pop Culture, which I still do (and you should check out)

This time around, I presented a paper for regional ETS and had a much overdue catch up with my friend Todd. On the drive back, my mind was processing through it all. You know, all the road trips. All the journeys, some of which seem to be dead ends.

And it made me think that I needed to start writing down about the road that lead to here. Here currently being Knoxville, but by the time you read this, if it is shortly after posting, I’ll be on another road trip back to Florida. If it is no longer March 21st when you read it, I’ll be somewhere in Orlando, probably spending the rest of my spring break reading or writing. But if it’s after March 29th, I’ll be somewhere in California, keeping track of an assortment of high school seniors.

I get around, if you hadn’t picked up on that yet.

But in all that getting around, I’ve learned some important lessons. Some about myself, some about God, and some about the world we find ourselves. I also learned how to link those things together.

I’m also entering into a new season with Ali, we were actually both going to be able to devote much our time to ministry. It’s what we’ve both wanted and what we both trained for. Ali went to Liberty as well, but never finished. She did get a job at Panera and so happened to be working there when I stopped in during a road trip. If I had gone to Moody like I planned, that road trip wouldn’t have happened. If she hadn’t gone to Liberty, withdrawn but not moved back, she wouldn’t have been in Lynchburg. And we probably would have never started talking and then it would have made getting married a little over two years later a bit difficult to say the least.

And if I hadn’t gotten into that Ph.D program at Southern, gotten a Southwest card thinking I’d be flying to Louisville a lot, we wouldn’t have had the miles saved up when the opportunity to chaperone last year’s senior trip came around. Without that re-entry into a week of student ministry, Ali might not have felt the call re-ignited, and we wouldn’t have started raising support last fall. If God hadn’t moved people to be generous, we wouldn’t have raised enough money for her to quit Panera (after almost 11 years!) back in January.

While there are several different threads in the story I want to tease out, I think this gives it all a good theme. We’re all arriving somewhere, and the journey is part of the process. Rather than trusting the process, we trust the God who providentially guides our steps. Road trips are usually when I have time to reflect on all of this, but are also a pivotal part of the journey. Most of my important decisions have happened on road trips or shortly after. And all my important relationships are nurtured by them.

With that in mind, I want to use my road trips as a means to unpack several parts of the story of how Ali and I got here. Here as in raising support for full-time ministry this fall, but not knowing exactly how we’re gonna pay our bills in June. Here as in trusting God to step into ministry opportunities that weren’t necessarily what we planned or expected when we were younger and more idealistic. But opportunities and paths that make perfect sense once you’ve been down enough dead ends. And that’s the kind of stories I want to tell.

It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since I last made it to an ETS regional. Actually, looking at the timeline, I think I go every three years because my first one was in 2011. I also have presented at each one (you can read the previous papers here), and continue that tradition this year.

I re-worked a paper from my Romans class at Dallas. It need some revision and updating, both for newer resources and evolution in thought. The result is called New Perspectives on Paul: Reconciling Wright, Schreiner, and Thielman on Justification. Here is the intro:

The purpose of this paper is to offer an epistemological framework that is suitable for harmonizing differing positions on the nature of justification. The focus here is first, on introducing the framework, and then second, on demonstrating its usefulness in some recent dialogue, namely, the plenary addresses from the 2010 annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society Rather than a rigorous exegetical defense, this is a proposal using a tool of epistemology to attempt to solve a theological difficulty. While all the different perspectives are not completely resolvable, the three presented at the 2010 annual meeting just might be.

I don’t pretend to think it solves all the problems associated with interpreting Paul’s theology. I do however think that John Frame’s triperspectivalism is a useful tool for navigating the different emphases and integrating various conclusions into a coherent whole. As to whether anyone agrees, I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

I write about a books quite a bit. Often, I link to either Amazon or Westminster Bookstore when I make my posts because I get kickbacks to do so (I’ve disclosed that elsewhere).

Well, until Friday, I can get a kickback and you can save $5 and get free shipping if you check out their new website. They explained that they’ve made five improvements they think customers will like:

  • Fully Responsive Design: In this age of smartphones, we’ve worked hard to build a site that is functional, intuitive, and useful on any size screen.
  • Streamlined Browsing: Using browsing sliders and improved search functionality, you’ll be able to discover books more easily than before.
  • Revamped Categories: We are especially hopeful that our refreshed and “re-curated” categories will go far in directly advancing our mission of equipping the church with biblically faithful content.
  • Easy Checkout Flow: We’ve consolidated our checkout page into 3 easy and intuitive steps.
  • A Work in Progress: This is the feature we’re most excited about – our new site gives us an entirely customizable foundation that we can constantly improve upon.

It’s definitely worth checking out, as the bookstore is not just a store but a ministry. I’ve benefited greatly from sales they’ve had through the years, as well as titles that were harder to find. If you haven’t really taken advantage of this online bookstore, now is the time to do so!

A couple of weeks back my father in-law Tim Kaufman published his first book, Singing Hallelujah When You Feel Like Hell. The title plays on both his gifting as a singer and his experience with clinical depression. Though the subtitle is “a true life story of how to triumph through depression,” it is not a typical self-help book. It is also not prosperity gospel nonsense that may promise that if you just believe enough or follow these steps your depression will go away. But it is the story of how Tim lived through periods of time when darkness was nearly his only companion. And it is an example of how a variety of factors work together in helping someone through the valley.

I was glad to read through the book when it was still in the editing stages. Here is the blurb that I submitted:

Singing Hallelujah When You Feel Like Hell isn’t just a book with a clever title. It is a firsthand account of someone who has been through the darkness and lived to tell about it. Tim is not just my father-in-law, he is also a wise and godly man who is willing to be vulnerable with his own story in order to reach out and minister to the many friends and loved ones we have who deal with depression. Odds are that even if you haven’t struggled with it, you love someone who has or does and they would benefit from reading this book.

While I don’t have firsthand struggles with depression, I did have a period of about 6 months of burnout where I had many of the same symptoms. In retrospect, I’m glad because I think I am able to be more sensitive now to advice people give that isn’t particularly helpful. Part of the issue with struggling through depression is that you just don’t have the will to do much of anything. Because of that, advice, while possibly true and godly, isn’t necessarily what you might need. It is true that you need to believe the gospel, pray, and search the Scriptures. But when you’re really depressed, it is hard to even get out of bed, much less focus on anything of value.

Since Tim has struggled with that, and been in ministry for decades, he is able to tell his story from between two worlds so to speak. Depression is a spiritual issue, but it is not only a spiritual issue and Tim is more than aware of that. I tend to think of things like depression triperspectivally (not a surprise if you know me well). As such it has normative dimensions which are the spiritual components. But, it also situational factors that are usually life stories that have left scars resulting in shame and perhaps internalized anger. And there is also the existential components of brain chemistry and dietary and exercise habits (or lack thereof).

To treat any of these in isolation is to miss part of what’s going on. What’s good about Tim’s book is that though he doesn’t use this terminology, he is aware of how all those issues have come into play in his story of the triumph of grace in his life. And if that is something you’d like to read more about it, you ought to make sure you pick up a copy of his book for yourself!

I know you’ve waited with baited breath for my update on what I read in February. Or maybe just regular breathing, I’m not actually clear on the difference. Either way, the day has come and here’s the rundown on what I finished up this past month. If you’re keeping score at home, I had 14 books last month, and 14 again this month. So, cheers to consistency. Also, so far everything has hit a category on the 2017 Reading Challenge, so also convenience.

Meet Generation Z (a book published in 2017)

It’s perhaps no secret I spend several days a week hanging out with Generation Z, otherwise known as high schoolers. I thought I’d see what James Emery White had to say about them, and I’ll let you know more about it when I post a longer review.

The Dynamic Heart: Connecting Christ to Human Experience (a book about Christian living)

I’ve recently felt like I needed to read more practical theology, and this from Jeremy Pierre hit the spot. It is also a book I’ll need to elaborate on in a different post. But, it’s something you should check out if you’re interested in the basics of thinking through how the gospel relates to your everyday experiences (and might want to reflect a little deeper on those as well)

Signposts to God: How Modern Physics and Astronomy Point the Way to Belief (a book about the natural world)

While technical at times, this was an enjoyable dip back into cosmology as it relates to Christian belief. It contains a nice primer on modern physics and very clear apologetic thinking on how science actually helps support belief rather than undermine it.

The Brewer’s Tale: The History of the World According to Beer (a book about history)

This is one part history, one part technology. And the technology in question is the art and science of making beer. If you enjoy craft beer (I realize being a Calvinist, I’m stereotyping myself here), you’ll definitely enjoy this. But even if not, the way that brewing interfaces with the development of civilization is fascinating.

Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior (a book with a great cover)

I think the title oversells it a bit (and that’s even with the cool graphic design that is more subtle on a physical copy). However, Mlodinow is what a good science writer should be: clear, witty, and practical. Having majored in psychology, this wasn’t particularly mind blowing, but was a good refresher nonetheless.

On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) In the Future Tense (a humorous book)

This, for now, completes my trek through David Brooks books. I think I liked this one the least, but there is still enough snark and cultural commentary to keep it a 4 star rating. Come for the opening chapter surveying America’s suburban landscape. Stay for the closer that ties it altogether into a trenchant commendation and critique.

The Spirituality of Wine (a book by a female author)

I’m not the biggest fan of wine, but I am interested in spirituality. The author of this particular volume grew up on a winery in Germany and also has a Ph.D in theology. Her book is part history of wine making, part biblical theology of wine, and part theological reflections on its use (and a chapter on potential abuse). I’ll have more to say in my full review.

The Selected Shorter Writings of John Frame, Vol. 2 (a book by your favorite author)

I’m slotting this into the favorite author category, although realistically I could put about 10 different authors there. Frame has a special place though because of his lucidity and the intriguing nature of his thought. I was reminded in reading this how much I need to keep reading his stuff. I also need to RSVP to his retirement chapel and lunch. I’ve got Vol. 3 to work through as well and a post highlighting why you need to know him as a theologian. Of the three volumes, this does the most work on Van Til, and Frame, I think, is his best interpreter and critic.

Comfort Detox: Finding Freedom From Habits That Bind You (a book about Christian living)

This one from Erin Straza (full disclosure, my managing editor at Christ and Pop Culture) came just in time. My wife and I are both wrestling with our comfort idols in different ways and I think Erin’s book is just the thing we needed. I finished it over the weekend and Ali took it with her to West Palm while she’s house sitting this week.

The Theology of the Christian Life in J.I. Packer’s Thought: Theological Anthropology, Theological Method, and the Doctrine of Salvation (a book about theology)

While an interesting doctoral dissertation on the theology of the Christian life in J. I. Packer’s thought, the book is ultimately a critique of it. I’ll have more to say in my post on Packer, but the short version is that in the author’s view, Packer’s theology is quite good enough for the new postmodern condition we find ourselves in.

American Girls: Social Media and The Secret Lives of Teenagers (a book about sexuality)

As I said above, I spend a fair amount of time with teenager every week. This book caught my eye because it is about their so-called secret lives, and focuses on the experiences of girls via exhaustive interviews the author conducted. The result is a haunting look at the ways social media has changed the social and moral landscape for many teenagers in Generation Z. It is graphic and disturbing, but an important read if you have teenagers or work with them in ministry context.

Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification (a book by Sinclair Ferguson)

This is Sinclair Ferguson doing what he does best: explain theology so ordinary people can understand it. The premise of the book is that several key passages provide “blueprints” for what growing in Christ (sanctification) looks like. Ferguson then works topically through the material, but draws extensively on exegesis of the passages in question. If you’re looking for a solid read on Christian growth, look no farther.

The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence (a book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with)

If you like false dichotomies and appeals to emotion, you’ll probably like this book. A constant refrain is the author not “being able to see” how a loving God could do something. Love is never particularly defined in biblical categories, and so much of what follows is based on what the author thinks love is and so his account of providence is molded into that frame. He also commits the fallacy of making God’s love his master attribute that takes logical priority, a move not substantiated by Scripture or tradition. At the same time, I think you should read this book if you’re interested in the debate on sovereignty, free will, and providence, and I’ll explain why in a separate post.

Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (a book about theology)

Not the most riveting read, but it does have the virtue of pitting Paul Helm against William Lane “Cosmological Middle Knowledge” Craig, as well as Greg Boyd and Dave Hunt. Boyd does much of what the previous author did, and Craig doesn’t make molinism any more compelling though he is pretty sophisticated when it comes to this sort of debate. In the end, I was just looking forward to Muller’s book later this spring.

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.