#FridayFive: Five Books I Finished in January (2/8/2019)

Happy Friday, y’all! I’m back with five books that I finished reading (or listening to) in January. Hope you find something you might want to check out soon!

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Somewhere A Band is Playing, by Ray Bradbury

I’ve already written about this a bit. Technically, this was one of 2 novellas by Bradbury, published under the title Now and Forever (along with “Leviathan ’99,” a futuristic take on Moby Dick). After finishing Band, I wasn’t eager to keep reading Bradbury’s later work, so I stopped with the first novella. That said, if you like light science fiction, Somewhere a Band is Playing is a pleasant-enough diversion (though you could do better, especially with Bradbury).

The Tech-Wise Family, by Andy Crouch

This short hardcover volume by Andy Crouch is a must-buy if you have any concerns about how you and your family engage with technology. Crouch details ten commitments that he and his family seek to follow, so that they can learn to be more in control of their relationship with technology and social media. I appreciate that the author is also honest about how successful he and his family are at keeping those commitments. Using a large amount of research from the Barna Group, Crouch describes the typical family’s use of technology and helps the reader think through the potential dangers of its “easy, everywhere” promises. This is a book that I’m still thinking about, weeks after finishing it, and I encouraged my wife to read it as well, so that we can discuss how it may influence our household.

Them, by Senator Ben Sasse

In some ways, Senator Sasse’s book Them reminded me of Jonathan Leeman’s How the Nations Rage–a warning that life is more than politics and that we need connection and community to help address cultural issues as individual citizens. While Sasse is a professing Christian, what he proposes is not a theological solution as much as an ideological one: make the decision to see people who disagree with you politically as neighbors and fellow citizens, and work for their good as well. (Could you make the argument that you can’t do that well or effectively or for long without Christianity? I think so, but that’s not what he’s getting at in this book.) Sasse makes some pretty pointed observations about how our national conversation has become fragmented and fractured, and make suggestions about what we can do to try to shift course. I listened to the audiobook (read by the senator) and enjoyed it immensely. He gave me lots to think about and discuss with others. His chapter on political media and the monetization of outrage is stellar. He also suggests pulling back from overuse of technology by not only referencing Tony Reinke’s excellent book 12 Ways Your Smartphone is Changing You but also talking through Andy Crouch’s commitments from Tech-Wise Family. In other words, my favorite senator and I have a similar reading list. I wonder if he likes short stories…

All Things for Good, by Thomas Watson

This short-but-deep volume by Puritan pastor Thomas Watson is a 125-page meditation on one of the most misapplied verses in the Bible, Romans 8:28. However, in All Things for Good, Watson slowly considers each phrase (almost each word) and encourages the reader to meditate at length on God’s sovereignty and kindness. This was a rich and rewarding read, that I consumed a few paragraphs at a time before bed over several weeks. Just a page or so gave me enough to think about in the few minutes before I drifted off to sleep. As someone who struggles with nighttime anxiety, I can’t think of a better cordial (other than the Scriptures themselves) for soothing my worried heart.

Family Shepherds, by Voddie Baucham

I am reminded that there is no greater earthly role for me to take on than husband and father. Voddie Baucham’s excellent book Family Shepherds is a direct and bracing charge to men to be the spiritual leaders of their homes. In the book, Baucham looks at the man himself as a disciple, what it means to be a shepherd, the primacy of a man’s marriage in how he leads his home, how he should raise his children (with both formative and corrective discipline), and how he engages the world as a family shepherd. If you don’t know Voddie, I can’t recommend his preaching and speaking highly enough. Add this book to the list, especially if you are a Christian man who is or aspires to be a godly husband and father. In a culture that is currently debating the value and place of masculinity, it is imperative that Christian men seek to portray and exemplify Christlike leadership and care for their families, and so let their light shine.

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What have you read so far this year? Share your recommendations below in the comments!

#30ThankYous “Day 24”: Olivia.

Hey kiddo,

I’ve been looking forward to writing this one.

I know the last few years have been tough. High school and college are tough, anyway; having to learn as much as you can, as quickly as you can, so that you can make these really huge decisions about the direction of your life. No pressure, right?

On top of that common level of stress, you have had to deal with some really ugly situations and cruel people–people who used their words and actions to slash at your heart and try to cripple your joy. At times, I know the shadows have threatened to creep in at the edges, choking out the light and hope you cling to. Yet through it all, you have fought to keep your heart open. Instead of growing more cynical and defensive, you haven’t given up on looking for the best in others, offering them friendship and welcome.

Some might argue that this kind of attitude is naive and recklessly optimistic. But do you know what I think? I think compassion and empathy are your superpowers. 

But like super strength and flight and any other superpower, these must be used carefully. You have to train yourself to know when and how to use them wisely, for the ultimate good of others, and when to pull back a bit and recognize danger–sometimes love demands you do battle against the darkness. But I hope you never lock these qualities away completely. You are stronger than you realize. You are braver than you can even admit to yourself. Your love for people is how you make a difference. You can take the grace you have received and extend it to others.

Thank you for not giving in to cynicism, and for holding on to hope. You bring so much joy and light into my life and the life of my family. You matter, sis. You are seen and loved. And I am deeply proud of you. As far as I’m concerned, you’re an all-star.

–d.

#30ThankYous Day “23”: Whitney

Hey sis,

Of course, I’m not going to leave you out of this.

I’m about to do something reckless: I’m gonna blow your cover. See, you have this “tough girl” persona you’ve cultivated over the years–the no-nonsense, take-charge, no-prisoners, tough-nosed woman who will stare down a charging bull just to make him flinch. Not for nothin’ either–you are indeed a tough cookie, and no one can argue that.

But see, I know the truth. I know that underneath all that armor and all that swagger, you’re a big softie. A softie who may threaten to punch your lights out from time to time, but a softie nonetheless. Like our mother, you have a generous heart and you love your family deeply, no matter how frustrated you may be with some of us from time to time. And you will bend over backwards to help out a friend in need, even at great cost to yourself.

I’m proud of the woman you have become. The way you are not afraid to be yourself, to take charge in times of uncertainty, to expect others to live up to the standard of excellence you yourself strive to achieve. Yet you can also be patient and tender, especially with children. That mix of strength and tenderness is sometimes confusing to those who don’t know you well, but it is a blessing to those who do.

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you better as an adult. Growing up, you were sometimes challenging for me, especially when I was reminded by dad that I (as the older child) had no excuse for losing my cool when you pushed my buttons. I’m glad we’re past that phase. (I hope we’re past it!) Now, I just enjoy getting to hang out with you. Turns out, you’re a pretty cool person. It’s a bummer that we’re now a bit too far away to see each other that often.

Thank you for loving me and my family well, for being an encouragement, and for sharing your generous heart. Thank you for bringing your equally-excellent husband into our family. (I didn’t want to leave him out of this–I love you, bro!)

You often joke about how you’re obviously the greatest of the three siblings. Well, I do think you’re pretty great, so I won’t bother arguing the point. (Besides, it may get me punched in the arm.)

Love you, sis,

David

#30ThankYous: Mom.

Mom,

You are irreplaceable and precious. I know I haven’t done a good job of consistently reminding you of this. There have been times and seasons where I have pushed you away or kept you at a distance as I tried to figure out how to stand on my own feet as an adult. I’m sorry for every time I ever made you think you didn’t matter to me. You always have. I just haven’t always known how best to demonstrate it.

Anyone who spends five minutes with you can tell that the thing you value and fight for above all else is family. There is nothing you wouldn’t do for your family, and especially for your children. And even when maintaining relationships with difficult family members can be a challenge (and a painful one), you still try to do so, because family is what matters to you. Family is what lasts. You don’t give up on it.

When I became a father, I began to understand just a bit of what you’ve been saying for so many years about how deeply you love us kids. I adore and delight in my daughter. I want to protect her and provide for her. I want her to grow up to be a wise and strong woman of God who loves and serves her family and her Lord. I know that Heidi and I won’t parent her perfectly, but we will do the best we can and trust that God is sovereign over our baby’s future. I dare not think of the day when she strikes off on her own; even though it seems so far away, I know it will be here in what feels like no time, and I already ache from the thought of it.

What I’m getting at is this: No matter what else was going on in your life, whatever challenges you and dad faced, you have loved your children deeply, and you have done your very best for us. I know it hasn’t been easy on you, either. We can be an ornery group, and difficult to know how to love. And these days, I know it can be challenging to  navigate how best to relate to us as adults. Like you say, we will always be “your babies.” I’m asking you not to give up when we’re frustrating, but to keep fighting to love us, as you always have. Because we really do appreciate it–all of us.

And I definitely know that as E. grows up, she will begin to beg for more visits to “Gramma and Grandpa’s house”! I look forward to watching your relationship with her continue to blossom and grow, along with any more kiddos God may choose to give us. (In case you were wondering, no, that’s not an announcement; we will let you know if/when the time comes!)

Thank you, mom, for your sacrifices, your love, and your desire to stay connected and be part of our lives.

I love you,

David

The irony isn’t lost on me.

My last post, over a month ago, was talking about waiting. Since then, gentle readers, you have patiently waited for more content (or, more likely, forgot about the blog and moved on to other things).

I’m not “back” yet. But I’m coming back to this…sometime. Still trying to figure out what the new normal looks like. Nevertheless, I’ve got some stories, lemme tell ya.

Here’s the bare bones version: We had a baby! And she’s great. And I miss what a “full night’s sleep” feels like. And there was a hurricane, but we’re okay. And now it’s mid-September, and the year has flown by, and there are pumpkin-flavored things being sold, and I can’t quite keep up with life. So. Blogging was bumped down below the cut-off line for “things claiming time and attention” (sorry).

Back soon-ish.

All growns up.

[Note: Expect the Monday/Friday posts to be up no later than noon, going forward. So there’s probably no need to check much earlier in the day than that.]

Other than the four years I was away at college, I’ve lived in the same town as my folks all my life. I’ve been out of their house for over 10 years, but we’re still a very close-knit bunch. Frequent (weekly) weekend meals shared, checking in by phone or in person during the week, sitting in adjacent rows at church every Sunday.

But I’m in my thirties, and planning to go to seminary and probably move away from my hometown permanently. This will be a difficult transition for my family, so I’ve tried, in fits and starts over the last few years, to begin that separation process. I have to admit–I haven’t always handled it well. I’m still learning how to be an adult son of parents who still have a teenager in the house. Sometimes, I find myself acting like a teenager as well, pulling back from the closeness of the family that raised me with pointless little acts of defiant independence.  I have, on more than one occasion, caused hurt feelings and even maternal tears. That’s never my goal, really, but it happens, and I feel awful about it.

Of course, they have hurt my feelings, too. My parents, God bless ’em, are sinners, and they have sinned against me a time or two as well. There’s room for blame on both sides of these arguments, but blame accomplishes nothing, resolves nothing. The way forward, the way of peace, always starts with humility. Confession. Repentance.

This past week, I learned that I had been thoughtless and insensitive toward my parents. The exact circumstances are not that important, except to say that I didn’t give them enough credit to be as supportive as they later proved themselves to be. So last night, I sat down with my folks, and I apologized for giving them the stiff-arm and not letting them take more of a role in what’s going on in this season of my life.  Then I stayed for dinner and the “big game.”

We’re still figuring out this new phase of the relationship. There will surely be more instances where I’ll need to pull away and redraw some boundaries, but I’m learning that my folks are willing to work through this transition with me. I’m very thankful for that.

 

Question: How do you relate to your parents, as an adult?  Have you been able to balance maintaining boundaries with preserving a good relationship?