In a perfect world, I would have a full-time job in some type of vocational ministry. It’s what I know I am called to do, and it’s what I spent 8 years in school for. And that’s not just my opinion, it’s Dallas Theological Seminary’s as well.

But, we don’t currently live in a perfect world. We live in a world that is being made new, but it hasn’t arrived. Because of that, what should be the case, is not always what is the case. Some of that is because the world is broken. Some of that is because I think God has had us on a different path.

If we rewind 6 years, Ali and I had just moved to Florida after I graduated. Rather than go to whatever church would hire a newly minted Th.M from Dallas to do pastoral ministry, we moved to be closer to her family. There was some restoration that needed to take place, and we felt that was what took first priority.

We also felt that it might be best to find a church in the area and be ministered to for a while before stepping into any kind of leadership role. And along those lines, we thought it might be better to find a church that would need pastoral help down the road and serve faithfully off the books until a need for staffing would arise.

That never actually panned out, in part because of leadership dynamics, and in part because of the church’s financial situation. I wasn’t too bummed at the time because it was becoming more and more obvious it was not a healthy church.

If we rewind to last fall, we had the opportunity to not only look for a new church, but potentially send my resume to churches looking to hire. We had done that back in 2013 and God didn’t open any doors. This time around, we didn’t feel any leading to pursue that option.

The main reason why is that since we’ve been here, we’ve really felt called to minister to students at ICS, the high school where I teach, and the university that’s across the street.

The school is on a university model, which means even though I have taught all the available periods (for the most part the past couple of years), it was only for 3 days a week. That means I am part time, as well as hourly, and only for 10 months out of the year.

Because of that, since 2013, I have had at least two additional jobs that have flexible scheduling (but not always available work). And because of that, Ali has always had to work full-time, which at Panera actually meant at least 40, but sometimes 50 or more hours a week.

While we might both feel this calling to minister to and disciple students, neither of us really had much spare time to do that. And often, the time that was available was more wisely spent on recovering since you need to minister out of an overflow not a deficit (something we learned the hard way a few years back).

This all started to change around this time last year when we first started raising support as missionaries to students in east Orlando. We are crossing a culture in legitimate ways, and are called to a people in a specific geographic location.

Over the past year, that calling has been clarified and refined, and back in March, the opportunity opened up to go on staff with SHIFT. Because of how it is financially structured, being on staff means raising support for income. Would we prefer to have a job that offered its own salary? Sure. But, we feel this is the opportunity that God that has put before us, and so we’re being faithful to what we’re called to do.

Now, there’s a few ways we could go about this. We could aim to raise enough money to quit every other job, and just focus on college ministry. In order to do that, we would need to raise at least $6,000 in monthly investments in our ministry.

That may seem like a lot. But when you factor in the administrative fees and our own personal giving, it actually leaves us with around $4,500 in spendable income. Without being too transparent in our budget, our monthly bills (which are 90% non-negotiable) are $3000. That leaves $1500 a month for food, gas, and anything else that comes up (like savings and incidentals like car repairs).

Trying to be both wise and realistic about this, we decided to not initially aim to raise the entire amount for at least two reasons. First, I want to continue teaching at ICS. We see what we’re doing in college ministry as on a continuum with high school ministry. Second, we would rather have a diversified stream of income, rather than everything coming from support. Getting to $6000 monthly would take several big donors. If they pull out down the road, it’s potentially devastating to the budget.

At present, we’ve also raised just over $1000 in monthly commitments. Since I can’t maintain three part time jobs, teach at ICS, and work with SHIFT in the fall, one of my part time jobs will fall off, and the other two will be reduced to five or less hours a week. That means I’ll be working right around 40 hours when you factor in work with SHIFT and a slightly reduced teaching load compared to previous years. Ali will have two part time jobs that entail about 11 days of work a month, and a third that will have flexible as needed scheduling.

That leaves us hoping to split the difference and raise between $2500-3000 in monthly support by this fall. If we raise less, we have to keep working our side jobs more. If we raise more, we can spend most of our energy reaching and discipling the next generation.

I realize that this is an impersonal call, but I’d like to prayerfully consider partnering with us on a monthly basis. You can do so at this link. Select 102 in the dropdown, fill everything in as requested, and let me know if you have any questions.

While you are supporting our budgetary needs, you are really investing in kingdom work that can be accomplished through two people that have a solid track record living on mission. You’re not helping us, you’re helping them, and we’re just the conduit. The conduit doesn’t need to be gold-plated, but to mix metaphors, it does need to pay the bills to keep the water running. Prayerfully consider whether God might lead you to be part of process of reaching these students in east Orlando.

Last week, I posted a list of novels from Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Educated Mind. The next section in her book covers autobiography and memoir, which is a bit more complicated than you might think.

After giving a brief overview of the history of criticism of the genre, Bauer guides readers through the grammar, logic, and rhetoric stages of reading. Here are those questions:

Grammar-Stage Reading (129-132)

  • Look at the title, cover, and table of contents
  • What are the central events in the writer’s life?
  • What historical events coincide – or merge – with these personal events?
  • Who is the most important person (or people) in the writer’s life? What events form the outline of that story?
  • Give the book your own title and subtitle

Logic-Stage Reading (132-137)

  • What is the theme that ties the narrative together?
  • Where is the life’s turning point? Is there a “conversion”?
  • For what does the writer apologize? In apologizing, how does the writer justify?
  • What is the model – the ideal – for this person’s life?
  • What is the end of the life: the place where the writer has arrived, found closure, discovered rest?
  • Now, revisit your first question: What is the theme of this writer’s life?

Rhetoric-Stage Reading (137-141)

  • Is the writer writing for himself, or for a group?
  • What are the three moments, or time frames, of the autobiography? (When the events happened, when they were written down, when they were read)
  • Where does the writer’s judgment lie?
  • Do you reach a different conclusion from the writer about the pattern of his life?
  • What have you brought away from this story?

Armed with these questions, you’re now ready for Bauer’s annotated novel list. These lists are good reason enough to buy the book for yourself, but if you just want the list, I got you. I’m mostly linking to the editions she suggests. As a general rule, she guides readers to editions that are cheap and affordable, free of extraneous notes (i.e. critical editions) so you can focus on reading well on your own. It is however helpful in some cases (e.g. Gulliver’s Travels) to have some insights into what the author might be up to you that you’d otherwise miss.

I’ve gotten through the Augustine’s Confessions, Meditations, a good bit of Ecce Homo but I need to get back on track:

You might be surprised by what’s included and what’s not. Hopefully you’ll notice that many of the inclusions are from African-Americans. For those of us, like me, who are white and grew up in the South, some of these books might be more worth our time than others.

Also, I can’t think of a better way to have a better grip on where race relations are today than by reading some of these stories. I mean, yes, you can also talk to people, but I am speaking as an introvert who wants to do some helpful summer reading. If that’s you as well, why not select a few titles here and have at it?

Yesterday, I reflected on what it might look like to do college ministry different. In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m ripping off Apple by using an adjective when you “should” use an adverb (my views on grammar are somewhat philosophically radical).

After answering why and how, it’s time for what. As in, “what should the end goal of a college ministry be?”

The short answer is that we are shooting for helping produce mature disciples of Christ who are competent Christian adults. I think this target is actually more or less the same whether the college ministry is in a local church or in a parachurch ministry. The difference would be what part of the end goal you are helping produce.

For instance, SHIFT states its mission this way:

SHIFT’s Mission is to see college students

1.  respond and be transformed by the Gospel;

2.  engage in Biblical community through worshipping and serving with a local church in the area;

3.  share the Gospel with others in a way that’s relevant to their culture; and

4.  lead others to do the same.

Just to unpack this a bit, here’s what I see as required by this mission. In general, a student coming through SHIFT should:

  1. Respond in faith the gospel
  2. Join a local church
  3. Be involved in serving in the local church
  4. Show signs of growing in their faith (the “transformed” component above)
  5. Become equipped in sharing their faith
  6. Develop cultural awareness in several dimensions (pop culture, politics, prevailing philosophies, sports, etc.) in order to speak to the signs of the times
  7. Become a leader of others (peers, but preferably those a stage of life below, so college students able to lead high schoolers, young professionals able to lead college students).

Notice that I inserted the local church connection between “respond in faith” and “being transformed.” That’s because I think the primary arena of Christian discipleship is the local church and that’s where transformation more readily takes place as students are in multi-generational community, hearing the Word preached, and partaking in the Lord’s Supper. Then as they grow, they start to serve in the church and are well on their way to the other phases.

I might go so far as to say I don’t want students involved in a college ministry that aren’t willing to be part of a local church. I also wouldn’t want students who know tips and tricks in evangelism and apologetics, but aren’t developing the virtues in 1 Timothy 3. And I wouldn’t want students who are growing but not living out their faith in away that can connect with others, Christian and not.

In short, the mission all works together. It specifies an end goal, but it also divides the labor between the local church and SHIFT in a way that I think is helpful. It also puts a burden on us to work to facilitate the local church connections to properly outsource what we need to outsource (and vice versa).

When it comes to the actual end goal, we would like to produce more Christian leaders. This is also how SHIFT will grow and develop more moving forward. And it is the one point that probably needs more sub-points unpacking just what a leader entails.

In a sense, in order to lead others, you have to lead yourself well. You have to be going somewhere and know where that is. Otherwise, no one will be interested in following you. This entails a range of competencies, although one shouldn’t think that it necessitates a person who has everything together and no struggles or weaknesses.

While we often tend to cast the qualities of leadership in Christian categories, I think a good bit of actual leadership involves competencies that aren’t distinctly Christian. This is perhaps why it is helpful to read business and leadership books alongside theology books if you want to be a solid Christian leader.

Recently, I saw this as I was reading Ben Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult a few weekends ago. According to his subtitle, he sees a crisis in our culture because of a lack of self-reliance. Now, you can tell in reading his book that he’s not thinking of self reliance in a strictly non-Christian sense. What he means is that young adults are often not able to take care of things themselves that a competent adult could. There is a kind of lapse in development that by its nature prohibits leadership development.

His solution to the problem covers a lot of ground and revolves around 5 themes he unpacks through the course of the book. He takes three chapters to set some context before spending a chapter each on these goals for young adults (8-10):

  1. Overcome peer culture and wrestle with other life stages
  2. Learn to work hard (he says suffering in our work is actually a character building virtue)
  3. Resist consumption (he says consumption is not the key to happiness, production is)
  4. Travel to experience the difference between “need” and “want”
  5. Become truly literate

Going off that last point, it probably goes without saying that leaders are readers, and Christian leaders are first and foremost Bible readers. But, most solid Christian leaders I know are also general readers and so end up being biblically as well as culturally literate. As a result, a big part of what we’d like to do with SHIFT is see an increase in both of those types of literacy.

As I mentioned yesterday, one way of doing this is through Bible studies aimed at developing biblical literacy. Another way may involve book clubs and the beginnings of a study center. Regarding the traveling component, that’s something we’d like to see happen through the student’s local churches as they take advantage of time during the summer to go on mission trips.

For the first three, I think that we will work to help students develop those areas through either monthly or bi-monthly large meetings. We are still thinking through the logistics of that at the moment, so hopefully I’ll have more to share later. But, when we do have larger gatherings (remember we’re staying de-centralized), we want them to be focused on developing cultural and leadership competencies, and so are focused on “adulting” rather than being something that could be confused for a church service.

It is also through these type of events that we can reach non-Christians. While we would want students to invite their non-Christian friends (that they are hopefully making in classes and around campus) to church, we’d also like to be a venue that they can invite them to something “secular” (which isn’t actually, but would be perceived that way).

I realize that’s vague, and so as you might guess, that means we need another post to unpack further. But, the main point is that we are hoping to help students grow into competent Christian adults, and that entails doing college ministry different, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

This is a question I’ve been thinking about for over 10 years. Ever since we’ve been in Florida, I’ve been involved with a college ministry at UCF called SHIFT. I’ve also been a high school teacher at a small private school about 20 minutes away.

As far as teaching, I’ve taught 3 classes now from freshmen to seniors. I’ve also seen two cycles of UCF students come in as freshmen, graduate, and adjust to life outside of the school schedule. I’ve seen students in both cycles flourish as well as flounder. And I’ve mostly wondered what could promote the former while diminishing the latter.

Generationally, I’m a millennial, but I prefer the label Generation Y. That’s probably because I like “why” as a question, and I actually think that’s a reason people don’t like millennials (sorry for the hot take there). Part of it is also my analytic personality type (INTJ) that leads me to question traditional methods, especially when they don’t seem effective.

So let’s ask some why questions.

First off, why do college ministry to begin with? Probably because college is a pivotal time in most people’s lives as they transition from adolescence to adulthood. Your identity tends to solidify in the 18-25 range, and for many people, a big chunk of that time is in college (or all of that time if you’re me). College is when teenagers become adults, for better or for worse.

I would like to see college ministry done in a way that helps young adults move through the sink of swim stage of their early 20’s. It can either be done through the local church, or through a parachurch. But, those two venues should have different aims.

So, with that in mind, how should you pursue college ministry?

This is where the different part comes in. The college ministry we are working with, SHIFT, is a parachurch organization. That means that what we do needs to be done alongside the local church (para means beside in Greek).

Too often, college ministries inadvertently replace the local church. If they create their own discipleship structure and have a weekly meeting that includes worship music and preaching, that’s effectively replacing the local church rather than working alongside it. We don’t want to do that.

A big part of that stems from taking a centralized approach, rather than a de-centralized one. In the former, it is about coming to a central location for a meeting that involves everyone in the ministry. It is a “come and see” sort of thing. The weekly meeting is the primary vehicle of engagement and all the activities flow from that central event.

In a de-centralized approach, you may never have a big meeting. SHIFT took this approach last year and rather than relying on a weekly meeting, had three small groups that met in various locations on campus. One was more apologetics based and dug into why Christianity is true. Another wrestled with the dynamics of integrating your faith into your work. And the other was a more traditional girls discipleship Bible study. Here and there all the groups would converge, but the primary avenue of engagement was the small group.

This is what we anticipate continuing into this coming school year. Not those exact groups per se, but the basic commitment to go small and mobile rather than large and inert.

We also want to work to get students plugged into local churches as their primary outlet for growing and serving. In other words, if students have time to volunteer for outreach and mission, we want them doing that in a local church, not through SHIFT.

As far as discipleship goes, I think that is something that takes multiple mentors to accomplish. For that reason, we still see Bible study as something should happen through a college ministry. But, we would see it as not just teaching about the Bible but as about learning to study it for yourself. While this can be caught through quality preaching, sometimes it is better to hash it out in a discussion based format.

As an example, for our summer Bible study in Ruth, it is part teaching Ruth and part learning to ask good questions when you’re reading the Old Testament. It is also a good test case for reading the Old Testament in light of the New since Boaz is literally called a redeemer. Learning to read the Bible well is both science and art, and college is a great time to start the journey.

A last, but not least question is, “what’s the target?”

Imagine a basketball team that used practices exclusively for conditioning drills. Everyone would be in really good shape, but wouldn’t know what to do in an actual game. On the other hand, if you had a team that only did shooting drills all practice, they might all be the next Steph Curry, but they wouldn’t have the endurance to get through a real game. And what if a team just did defensive drills all practice, without any explanation of how they fit into the flow of a game?

College ministries, and even local churches, can make similar mistakes. All the activities that take place as part of a college ministry need to have an end goal in mind. College ministry can’t just be youth group 2.0 (and no offense if your youth group is solid). It can’t feel like its church for your college years. And it can’t waste a bunch of time keeping people busy doing all kinds of “ministry” activities that don’t really lead to seeing people grow in Christ.

So what’s the target?

I’ll tell you tomorrow.

Now that it’s officially summer reading season, I thought I’d give you more of a rundown on the lists in The Well-Educated Mind. You may vaguely remember the overview I gave of the opening section. If not, here it is again.

Chapter 5 is “The Story of People: Reading through History with the Novel.” Bauer gives a 10 minutes history of the novel, which you’ll have to actually buy the book to read.

She then proceeds to tell you how to read a novel (beyond merely going from one word to the next in succession until the final page). She gives you tips and questions to guide you through reading at the grammar, logic, and rhetoric stage. Because I don’t want to deprive you of the joy layered reading, I’ll reproduce those below (parentheticals refer to pagination).

Grammar Stage Reading (71-73)

  • Look at the title, cover, and table of contents
  • Keep a list of characters as you read
  • Briefly note the main event of each chapter
  • Make initial notes on passages that seem interesting
  • Give the book your own title and subtitle

Logic-Stage Reading (73-81)

  • Is this novel a “fable” or a “chronicle”?
  • What does the central character (or characters) want? What is standing in his (or her) way? And what strategy does he (or she) pursue in order to overcome this block?
  • Who is telling this story?
  • Where is the story set?
  • What style does the writer employ?
  • What images and metaphors get repeated?
  • Pay close attention to beginnings and endings

Rhetoric-stage Reading (82-86)

  • Do you sympathize with the characters? Which ones, and why?
  • Does the writer’s technique give you a clue as to her “argument” – her take on the human condition?
  • Is the novel self-reflective?
  • Did the writer’s times affect him?
  • Is there an argument in this book?
  • Do you agree?

Bauer then offers an annotated novel list. That is good reason enough to buy the book for yourself, but if you just want the list, I got you. I’m mostly linking to the editions she suggests. As a general rule, she guides readers to editions that are cheap and affordable, free of extraneous notes (i.e. critical editions) so you can focus on reading well on your own. It is however helpful in some cases (e.g. Gulliver’s Travels) to have some insights into what the author might be up to you that you’d otherwise miss.

I’m still stuck on Don Quixote, but I think I’ll remedy that this summer and move on to the next. Here’s her chronological list:

I don’t know enough about modern novels to comment on the additions past 1900, but I think it’s a pretty solid list. I’m sure we could add or subtract some, but if you’re looking to deepen your understanding of quality literature, this is a good place to start.

On Sunday, I dropped my car off for a much needed oil change. Since it’s on high-mileage now (just under 250,000), I try to space them out as much as possible (within the guidelines). This is tricky because as the car has aged it has acquired a taste for oil. I can’t actually make it between oil changes without adding a quart or two along the way.

I usually have my fingers crossed when I drop it off because it seems just about every summer there is some sort of repair needed. My original Camry was good to me, and only needed routine maintenance until I totaled it just shy of 285,000 miles. This car has been a different story. Lemon is probably a strong word, but whoever had it before me got it off on the wrong trajectory.

During church, in fleeting moment of service, I noticed voicemails from the mechanic. As it was too soon to be ready, I knew this meant something need fixin.

Sure enough, my radiator was leaking. Not being entirely sure if this is a thing you can just ignore (probably not), and having an afternoon to take care of it, I drop the $500 to get it done.

All is well and good until I notice Monday morning that the car is leaking coolant. On a return trip to the mechanic to get the coolant topped back off, I set an appointment to come back Tuesday and see if it might be the water pump (spolier: it is).

Apparently, when the pressure is stabilized by replacing the radiator, other weak spots might give. In this case, it was the water pump, and as is my car’s custom, it couldn’t be replaced without fixing another broken mechanical part (a tensioner that had to be removed to get to the pump). Bottom line: another $500.

On Wednesday, I took a break from visiting the mechanic. But, I noticed the car was now leaking oil instead of its usual habit of burning it internally. Not knowing what that might entail, I decide to wait and see if it is still doing tomorrow (now today). Sure enough it was, and when I called they said they could check it out right away.

Luckily I did because a crankshaft pulley had lost a seal and the metal was scraping through the housing of the timing belt, leading to the oil leak. Had this continued on, it would have eventually ruptured, all the oil would have drained out, and the car would have been dead. An unfortunate third repair this week, and another $700 (I am rounding numbers for your convenience).

Now, would I have noticed this leak if I hadn’t been already vigilant because of the previous repairs?

Probably not.

It is inconvenient (and expensive!) to have to deal with car repairs by the quarter dozen?

Absolutely.

But, better this week, when school is over and I have a work project that I can do in a waiting room. And, better now, when we could go down to one car, rather than earlier in the spring when we couldn’t or later in the fall when that isn’t feasible again.

The bottom line is that after spending more than the value of my car to keep it running, I need to find a new one. But, in God’s providence, I’ve got a couple of months to work all the details out, instead of having a dead car on my hands and need to do something ASAP.

And, as is custom, I can look to how God has taken care of my recent past as a blueprint and promise for how we will take care of our future. Although with the caveat that God is too creative to do the same thing the same way twice.

If you could though, pray for wisdom for us, and for provision. Since Ali quit Panera back in January, she hasn’t drawn a paycheck since early March (her last bonus). I just got my last paycheck for school last week. On paper, we don’t like we have steady income, although that will be different in a couple of months. If we rely on how our support has been payed out, that helps, but it is also coming from a source that has only been paying me for 6 months. We got a great deal on Ali’s car, but that was at the height of her Panera income, so it’ll have to be a different route this time.

In God’s providence, we have time to sort this out, but pray that we’ll be wise with our options and that God will bring the right car at the right time. He’s done it for us twice before, so it’ll be interesting to see how it comes about this time!

One of the most helpful books I read last month was Andy Crouch’s The Tech-Wise Family. It’s a short read, but offers valuable insights into the role technology plays in your life. I found much the same to be true of Crouch’s previous book, Strong and Weak, but as it pertains to leadership. At a larger cultural level, his book Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power was a nice compliment to his first book, Culture Making. Because IVP sent me review copies of Playing God and Strong and Weak, and Baker sent me The Tech-Wise Family, I’m just going to focus on those.

Tech-Wise Family

The book is a three part exposition of the Ten Tech-Wise Commitments (41-42):

  1. We develop wisdom and courage together as a family
  2. We want to create more than we consume. So we fill the center of our home with things that reward skill and active engagement
  3. We are designed for a rhythm of work and rest. So one hour a day, one day a week, and one week a year, we turn off our devices and worship, feast, and play, and rest together.
  4. We wake up before our devices do, and they “go to bed” before we do.
  5. We aim for “no screens before double digits” at school and at home.
  6. We use screens for a purpose, and we use them together, rather than using them aimlessly and alone.
  7. Car time is conversation time.
  8. Spouses have one another’s passwords, and parents have total access to children’s devices.
  9. We learn to sing together, rather than letting recorded and amplified music take over our lives and worship.
  10. We show up in person for the big events of life. We learn how to be human by being fully present at our moments of greatest vulnerability. We hope to die in one another’s arms.

If you’re curious about the first one, it relates to how technology makes things easier, which undercuts wrestling with issues on your own sometimes. That commitment, along with the next two are the foundation. Notice they have to do with space and time (and our stewardship and proper use of both). The next five relate to daily activities and rhythms. The final two almost function as a kind of eschatology of technology.

In terms of argumentation, the statistics scattered throughout help build the case that Crouch makes. In terms of application, I’m implementing #4 as a reminder that I own my device, not the other way around. I wouldn’t say that I am over-tethered to my iPhone, but it has definitely changed me in ways I don’t like. I’m hoping over the summer I can detox on not just the school year, but technology to some extent as well.

I would strongly recommend this book for your summer reading, especially in tandem with a book I wrote about at Christ and Pop Culture and will have more thoughts here soon.

Strong and Weak

You’re going to have to participate a bit with this one. Take out some paper and a pen. Draw a horizontal line and intersect it with a vertical line. Label the top right quadrant 1, and then move clockwise labeling the other three. On the horizontal axis, write vulnerability. On the vertical axis write authority. Label the quadrants as follows:

  1. Flourishing
  2. Suffering
  3. Withdrawing
  4. Exploiting

Alternatively, you could label the horizontal warmth and the vertical firmness. Then the quadrants would become:

  1. Kind
  2. Indulgent
  3. Absent
  4. Authoritarian

Those, you might represent as parenting styles, the former are styles of leadership that lead to the labels of the quadrants. This is the essence of Crouch’s Strong and Weak. We are not presented with a false choice between quadrant 4 or 2 (which is what it might feel like). Instead, we can aspire to be a deft combination of strength and vulnerability, something modeled for us in the Gospel.

I found this book prescient when I read it. It helped articulate a tension I had wrestled with in my own approach to the classroom and student ministry. Although I tend to sometimes err toward indulgent, I aspire to be firm, yet warm. I have made sure that I am an appropriate level of vulnerable with students in order to be authentic. Yet at the same time, I have to exert some level of authority. I let this play out often intellectually. by being authoritative with what I think, but also vulnerable enough to consider other ideas respectfully. Hopefully I’ve modeled this well in the classroom.

Playing God

Although you can’t tell from Amazon, this book is probably as long if not longer than the other two combined. It is a “normal” size book, while the other two are smaller hardbacks. As such, it is more of a sustained argument that does several things at once. First, it offers a kind of biblical theology of power. Second, it traces those dynamics into our modern world and deals with topics like privilege and institutional brokenness. The book was published in 2013, but seems like it could have been written in the last six months.

The book itself is split into four parts. The first explains the origins of power, how it was a gift given to humanity by God, and how it quickly became a tool for idolatry. The second part begins the exploration of the misuse of power and opens up the discussion of privilege, which is essentially power you don’t realize you have.

We saw this played out humorously last night in an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Sergeant Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews, who is African American) had a run in with a police officer who didn’t think he belonged in his own neighborhood. He didn’t have his badge on him and so it quickly escalated and ended up being very traumatic for him. He laments this to Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg), who kind of initially blows it off saying he’s done crazy stuff all the time. We see a flash back of a cop yelling at him as he climbs into a window wearing a Jason-style hockey mask. Jake explains it’s for a prank and the officer just says, ok!

That’s privilege. When you have the power to do something looks shady and those with the authority to do something about aren’t the least bit suspicious, you are privileged. If you are considered suspicious simply for being somewhere, that’s a lack of privilege, which when it comes in contact with power causes problems.

I should probably make a separate post about all this, but you get the initial idea (hopefully). From here, parts 3 and 4 of Crouch’s book cover the institutional nature of power as well as the telos of powers. If you want a theology of power, in its original intended form and current corrupted version, this book is for you. It’s not necessarily easy reading, but it is biblical and cultural in a way that few writers seem able to pull off. Crouch does it pretty consistently.

While the last day of school was May 25th, it feels like summer only really started this week. We did have our end of the year teacher workday last Tuesday, so this is the first week without any school obligations. Although, I am not without a bit of prep and planning to do for the next year.

This completes my 7th year teaching at International Community School, so I’d like to announce that next year I am taking my sabbatical. Just kidding, although my teaching neighbor for the last few years is doing just that, but to focus on being a stay at home mom (and after 11 years, so she’s earned it more than I have).

For me, I’m gonna shift focus away from school for several weeks and do some decompressing. May always takes a bit out of me, socially at least. I’m pretty caught up on reading, so I’m actually gonna catch up on writing instead over the next few weeks. Ali and I are in a new workout routine and will probably make some theme park runs in the near future.

As far as life in general, we just had a new roommate move in, who is starting at RTS in the fall. He’s one of Ali’s brother’s best friends and is a pretty cool guy. In some ways, he reminds me of me 10 years ago: in a new place and about to start seminary. We also had another new roommate move in back in March that graduated from Liberty and is looking to find work at a church in youth ministry. He’s also pretty cool, and we’ve already a few good theological discussions.

Our other roommate Matt, one of my best friends from back in the day in Tennessee, is still living with us as he goes through a divorce. Up until last May, we had been living with him and his wife and a teenage girl they were fostering (not through the system though, long story). We are renting a large house and had been easily able to split the living quarters (upstairs and downstairs) as well as rent.

Relationally, things began deteriorating between the three of them last February, and it culminated in the girl getting kicked out, and the wife abandoning to go be with her the following week. She left without warning and we haven’t seen her since (although Matt has, but only after over 6 months). Obviously, there is a lot more to the story, and it’s still brewing in the background. Matt had lost his dad unexpectedly earlier that year, so it was two back to back losses and he’s had a pretty hard time dealing with it. The trauma we experienced pales in comparison to his.

I only mention all that because it explains what things have been like inside our home for the past year. I don’t often post personal updates, and I don’t want to spend too much time talking about someone else’s story. At the same time, because we lived together, it is part of our story now too. Peace was a struggle but it has come gradually and we are thankful. Matt’s not out of the woods yet, but God’s brought people into his life to share his burdens and be the body of Christ.

In the midst of all this, the decision Ali and I made last summer to start the support raising process and see where God would lead us has culminated in formally coming on staff with a college ministry at UCF. I am still continuing to teach my normal schedule, although without any electives (besides sports journalism, and possibly weightlifting). I plan to continue doing that for the foreseeable future.

Because Ali quit Panera (after almost 11 years) back in January, we’ve been in the process of raising support. We are covered for the summer, but the fall is a question mark. We are a good ways along, but have quite a bit more to go in order to not have side jobs. That means at this point, Ali will be working a couple of part time jobs moving into the fall, and I’ll continue teaching at the school, as well as minimal private music lessons and the editing and research work I do.

We are hoping to take advantage of the two less busy months and spend as much time planning for the fall as we can. Planning in the financial sense (raise monthly support), as well as missional sense (how SHIFT will do para-church ministry in the fall). We are also trying out a summer Bible study to see if that’s helpful for students that are incoming freshmen as well as those still around in the summer. And, we need to solidify leadership and other back-end things that I won’t bore you with right now (but might if you ask later).

I’m looking forward to the change of pace, but am also not kidding myself about how much juggling is in our future. There is less of that the sooner we meet our August 1st goal of monthly support. In the coming days, I’m going to be processing some thoughts about our ministry on here. We are taking a step of faith by losing a primary source of income in order to pursue our calling. If that’s something you’d like to invest in, do not hesitate to contact me (and I might contact you before you know it).

In the meantime, I hope to get back in the writing groove, live without an alarm for a few weeks, and enjoy some much needed rain here in central Florida.

Well, school’s out for summer, so I’m gonna start blogging again. About the only thing I consistently did through the spring was update you on reading, so let’s pick back up with that.

I read 17 books in May, which brings the year up to 67. Because of a line I read in a book I already finished in June, I’d like to tip the scales in June/July from consumption back to production. Expect more review posts instead of roundups like this. But for now, here’s the eclectic mix from May:

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place (a book about parenting)

This might be one of the most important books I read over the spring, so I’ll try to get my actual review (I’ll start doing those again) out soon. Anything by Andy Crouch is worth your time, but this one especially so if you have kids or technology, or both.

Reformation Anglicanism: A Vision for Today’s Global Communion (a book about the Reformation – sort of)

Was not particularly impressed by this one, although the series it kicks off could be promising.

Weaponized Lies: How to Think Critically in the Post-Truth Era 

If you read things on the internet, you should probably read this. I’m debating whether or not to craft an article about this, or just do a review. The short version is that it covers how to read statistics, charts, and graphs correctly, and gives a rundown on how basic logical fallacies. He is certainly not a-political, but he points out errors on both sides of the spectrum throughout.

Reconsidering John Calvin

This is a collection of essays based on lectures Randall Zachman gave. It is also part of Cambridge’s Current Issues in Theology series. The opening essay on Calvin’s views on astronomy is worth the price of admission alone (spoiler: he had very progressive views on Genesis and science in the Bible in general).

My Beer Year: Adventures with Hop Farmers, Craft Brewers, Chefs, Beer Sommeliers, and Fanatical Drinkers as a Beer Master in Training

You may have noticed a theme with books on beer. I’ve tried to add more hobby reading, but I’m also curious to start writing about beer in theological perspective, something I don’t think many have dared to do. I think could list reasons for this, but I’ll save it for a post. This particular book traced the author’s journey toward becoming a certified Cicerone, which is the beer version of Sommelier (which is the wine version of a your local Starbucks Coffee Master, except leveled up several times).

The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together (a book about Christian living)

If Jared Wilson writes a book, you should probably read it. And if it’s a grace soaked manual on being a less than perfect disciple, you should read it and share too. I’ll do that in a review soon.

Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (a book by John Piper)

This might be John Piper’s most important book. Well, that’s possibly a stretch. It’s a bit longer than it needs to be, but it is one of the best book I’ve read on how to read the Bible. The reason is that is address both method and posture. Most of it actually about posture, and I think that’s its most valuable contribution. I’ll explain a bit more when I post about it and his other recent book.

Bigger Leaner Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Male Body (a self improvement book)

I’ve started a new workout and diet routine, and it is thanks to Paul Maxwell pointing me to this guy’s resources. If you’re interested in a solid explanation of dieting and workout that is no gimmicks, you’ll want to check this out.

The Most Misused Stories in the Bible: Surprising Ways Popular Bible Stories Are Misunderstood

This was a great followup to the author’s previous book on the most misused verses in the Bible. I have to do a review soon, so I’ll explain more then.

Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World

This was a kind of follow up to The Benedict Option. Written by the archbishop of Philadelphia, it isn’t so much a Catholic answer to or version of the Benedict Option. It is rather a wise leader’s reflections on how culture has changed and how to remain a faithful presence within it.

Getting Jesus Wrong: Giving Up Spiritual Vitamins and Checklist Christianity (a book about Christian living)

You might have seen that recent TGC article about the fallout from Mars Hill. If you’d like a more in-depth perspective, as part of a book that’s about something else, you’ll want to read this book from a drummer in several Tooth & Nail bands, but also a former member of Mars Hill.

Chuck Klosterman X: A Highly Specific, Defiantly Incomplete History of the Early 21st Century

If Chuck Klosterman writes it, you should read it. This was his collection of essays from the past 10 years, mostly published elsewhere, but collected here with his introductions that give historical context.

How Does Sanctification Work? (a book about sanctification)

I did a write up on this for Christ and Pop Culture, you should go read that, and see how you can get it for free!

I Told Me So: The Role of Self-deception in Christian Living

I had higher hopes for this, but it’s a useful primer on how self-deception works. More importantly, the author gives constructive advice for how it relates to the Christian life and growth (see previous book).

The Juvenilization of American Christianity (a book about church history)

This wasn’t a particularly enjoyable read, but is important to see how the efforts to reach youth culture have weakened American Christianity. To add insult to injury, we don’t actually do that well at reaching youth. This book helps explain part of the mess.

A History of the World in 6 Glasses

If you ever wanted a history of the world traced through beer, wine, rum, coffee, tea, and soda, this book is for you. I’ve moved on to his history of food, and hope to also get his book on the history of social media.

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child

This book is a satire, and it is biting. Obviously, the take away is that the opposite of the ten things is what will help your child’s imagination flourish. I was pleased that I was already doing some of these things in the classroom. Adding a few more will be part of my summer goals.

 

Just in time for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Zondervan’s Five Solas Series is complete. What’s more, you can get a sweet deal on the bundle from Westminster Bookstore.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading thanks to the generosity of Zondervan. My favorite so far has been Thomas Schreiner’s Faith Alone. It was the first to be published and I think represents the goals of the series best. God’s Word Alone is a bit lengthy, though to be fair, Matthew Barrett tries to cover quite a bit of ground. But, for comparison sake, you can see how it stacks up against the other titles in the series.

I posted a few thoughts on God’s Glory Alone, and I’m just getting into Christ Alone and Grace Alone. For the former, I’m interested to see how it compares to Stephen Wellum’s also recently published God The Son Incarnate. For the latter, I’m looking forward to Carl Trueman’s exposition of grace, especially after he changed my mind about Luther.

On the whole, I think this is an important series to track with, although it is certainly not for everyone. If you’re interested in issues related to justification and the New Perspective on Paul, you’ll want to grab Faith Alone. If you’re interested in protecting or defending inerrancy, and historical views on the subject, you’ll want to snag God’s Word Alone. If you’d like a more accessible Christology than Wellum’s more thorough volume, then grab Christ Alone. And if you some classic Trueman, grab Grace Alone.

The whole set might not be for everyone, but it is for me, and thankfully Zondervan agreed and I’ll be finishing it out over the summer and preparing to party like it’s 1517 come October.