NEW POSTS: Apps for Organizing Your Seminary Study


I have a couple of new posts over at Going To Seminary on helpful apps for reading and studying while you’re going through school.

It won’t take you long upon your arrival at seminary how much things may have changed from previous generations of seminary educations. One of the biggest differences is just how digital everything is. Most seminaries have some sort of online class management system through which you will track grades, assignments, schedules, and get documents and readings necessary for your classwork. Lectures are on PowerPoints that are often shared online. Likely the very first official seminary swag you’ll get is an email address.

Things have changed, for sure. But luckily, we live in a time of unparalleled resources to help you engage all the more deeply in your seminary education; resources that help you focus on what you need to focus on while letting technology do much of the heavy lifting.

Read the rest:

Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.


My Day with Cornel West (or rather, his autobiography)

Cornel-WestIf you know who Cornel West is, I’m pretty confident in saying that what you think you know about him is probably wrong, or at best, dramatically incomplete. If you don’t know who he is, then you should.

For my current class on Leadership, I had to pick an autobiography of a leader whose perspective on faith and life is probably dramatically different than my own. The book I chose was Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud. 

My own anxiety and compulsivity make it difficult for me to read for long stretches of time. I can usually only read one thing for ten or fifteen minutes before having to bounce my mind to something else or change up what I’m reading. But, due to my own procrastination and inefficiency with time, I came to the day before my paper was due not having opened up the nearly-300-page tome.

And so I did what needed to be done. I left my electronics at home and brought nothing but the book to a nearby Starbucks. I got a cup of coffee, turned on a Jazz radio station on my phone, settled into a couch, and read the entire thing.

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Make Amazing Poetry on Google & Your Bookshelf [casual fri]


We’ve had an intense week on the blog. It was my first week back to blogging each day. We talked about everything from engagements to suffering, from NSA surveillance to harshing everyone’s 4th of July buzz.

So let’s have some fun.

I fully believe that poetry is one of the most powerful forces in our world today. When engaged with fully, it can get around our normal defenses and speak to our souls like few other things can. (It could even convert you to Christianity.) I also try my hand at it time to time.

Anyway, I just wanted to give you all two unexpected places you can find amazing poetry to brighten up your Friday and send you into the weekend right.
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Diving into Death


It’s always difficult to talk about one’s own fear of one’s own death. It usually comes across as a little melodramatic and seems to carry with it the appearance that somehow your fear of your death is somehow felt more deeply, analyzed more fully, or experienced more truly.

In short, when people start whining about their fear of death. It can be annoying. I acknowledge this. And yet, here I am, telling you all that I am really, really scared of death.

When I mention this to people that know me as the guy who writes a lot about faith and seems to believe these things pretty deeply, people are (for some reason) shocked to hear me explain just how deep my fear of death goes. I know it’s not logical, but I somehow find the past works of God more easily believable than the future acts of God. I know you can’t have one without the other, but the human heart is a storm of contradiction and paradox.

And for some reason, Death has occupied my thoughts of late. Sure, I’ve wrestle with it’s reality, thought through it’s theological origin, seen it in the faces of the hurting, wrote about how to live in spite of it, and even engaged it in poetry and in song, but something has really captured me recently. I’ve been sitting in the presence of this fear.
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Weekly Photo Challenge: Happy (multi-header!) [casual fri]

This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Happy“. The prompt they have offered us is to make a collage of those things that make us happy. So…here’s mine. Click on any of the pictures to bring up the full-size gallery.

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My annual beach business trip is here. So what’s changed?

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about how my job was paying me to accompany some clients to the beach at Ocean City, Maryland for the week to help them grow in socialization and relaxation skills. If you remember, I wrote about sex and insanity that week (and that post caused some interesting problems for me later). On the beach reading front, at the time, I posted this picture:

Well, we’re back there again right now, and just yesterday, I found myself taking this picture without much thought:

Haha. I’m ridiculous. But at least I have good taste in over-sized classic books, right?

Ross Douthat: a new hero of mine

Look at that face. If I saw him walking down the street, I would think he was just another guy; I’d have no idea the kindred spirit that lay in this man’s mind.

Ross Douthat (don’t ask how to say his last name), like myself, seems to be a man that life has continually thrown from one-extreme to the other: born in San Francisco, and then transplanted to New Haven, Connecticut; attended Harvard and then turned around three years later and wrote a book denouncing the Privileged culture there; started out as a Pentecostal, then converted to Catholicism; wrote for his college newspaper and is now the youngest-ever Op-Ed columnist at the New York Times.

These extremes seem to have helped him settle in nicely with a well-informed and balanced view, able to to comfortably exist, engage, and critique in a world of poly-everything.

Over the past year or so, I’ve seen (and been sent), a few of his articles and blog posts, but I think I was missing something. All I knew of him was that he was a Catholic writer with a sharp mind, and I didn’t pay him much proactive attention.

And this was to my great detriment.

Somehow I stumbled upon this set of exchanges on Slate, where Will Saletan, one of the most thoughtful secular liberals I’ve ever read, engages Douthat on some issues raised in Douthat’s newest book Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. This exchange cemented Douthat’s stature in my mind, as well as his place in my reading repertoire. It’s great. You all need to read it.

I’ve started to read the book, and it’s definitely going to be a personal classic for me and a turning point in my development as a solidly religious person firmly engaged in the body politic. I also have the privilege of attending a book talk/signing with him next week here in Philly.

I have much more I could say and commend about him (including the fact that he’s a Catholic who fully-embraces praying in tongues–kindred spirit indeed!), but to do so would steal precious time from you, the gracious reader of this blog post, that could be spent reading Douthat’s work itself. Here’s a representative piece to get you started.

Oh. And you’re welcome.

a profound insight on cities & those that love them

But cities were not simply condemned because they were big or ill tuned for the industrial expansion that had seized them. What was wonderful and exciting about them–the spontaneity, the togetherness of community, the creativity that comes from getting along and not getting along, the endless characters populating the streets, the chaos–never found a natural place in the American soul. The frontier spirit that was so intrinsic to the psyche of the country, the creed of individualism and ruggedness and privacy, of staking out your own piece of land and building your own house, hardly lent itself to the culture and spirit of the city.

— Buzz Bissinger, A Prayer for the City
(see the other books I’m reading here)

Weekly Must-Reads {03.21.11}

I will be spending most of this week at a conference in St. Louis (see below). Blogging might be a little light. I may try and sneak away at some point, but I can’t make any promises. For that reason, this week’s Weekly Must-Reads list is a little longer than usual. In it, we have articles about fat Christians, single Christians, disagreeing “liberal” Christians, and other writings about business and the media. People really seemed to enjoy the last list I posted. I hope this one also serves you all well. And remember: comment, comment, comment!

Liturgy, Music, & Space | Bifrost Arts

This is the conference that I will be attending this week (Facebook page). It’s being put on by an artist’s collective known as Bifrost Arts. They have some amazing music that you should all check out, including one of the most beautiful Christmas album I’ve ever heard. Also check out this video of some of the things they are doing.

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REVIEW: “Outlive Your Life” by Max Lucado

Max Lucado-Outlive Your Life

Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference
by Max Lucado
Thomas Nelson, 2010
My Rating: 3/5
Purchase at Amazon


“Social Justice” is all the rage right now. The swaths of American twentysomethings serious about their faith who have found Evangelicalism to have a heart inflamed for the wrong things, a head stuck in the wrong places, and absolutely no legs at all have tried to wrestle with and take seriously the call for God’s people to be not simply his “ambassadors” or “proclaimers”, but rather his very Hands, Feet, and Presence. Movements like Shane Claibourne’s The Simple Way here in Philadelphia and New Monasticism have shaken many from the fog of an (ultimately inadequate) purely intellectual faith into a faith that is firmly rooted in life. As Calvin put it, “For we cannot with propriety say, there is any knowledge of God, where there is no religion or piety.” In other words, the truest knowledge of God and His Gospel is found in its practice just as much (if not more) than in its content.
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“Information Overload, Social Darwinism, Linguistics, & Nuclear Forensics”-Patrol

Look at that picture above.  Click on it to make it bigger.  That’s my iTunes.  As you can see, I listen to a LOT of podcasts.  And no, this isn’t just a  narcissistic  moment  to seem smart.  You see all those blue numbers above each podcast?  Well, those are just the episodes I haven’t listened to.  Also notice the 320 iTunesU lectures that have also been neglected.

And so begins my newest article in Patrol Magazine.  It’s about our culture’s (and my own) addiction to information consumption, how we should think about it, and where our hope is that something good may come of it.  I know, it’s some light reading, right?  Here’s the link:

“Information Overload, Social Darwinism, Linguistics, & Nuclear Forensics”

For all my previous articles at Patrol, click here.

On Christian Books & Marriage (and a great 48-hour book sale)

trippI’m not married.  I don’t even see it on the imminent horizon for myself. But it’s something I’ve waited for, have tried to prepare myself for, and have written my fair share of poetry about throughout the years (here’s a sampling of my passion for it, my confusion about it, my fears about it, and my desire for it).  The Westminster Bookstore is having a 48 hour sale ending at 3pm on Friday, April 16th.

There are two books that this sale affects, but there are three books I’m mainly talking about in this post, so don’t stop reading until I get to the third.  The main book being promoted in this sale here is Paul Tripp‘s new book, What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage.  The second book is not a new one, but it is one of WTSbooks’ “favorite books on marriage”, and that is John Piper‘s This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence.

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A Great Deal from the Westminster Bookstore

Just wanted to drop a quick note to let everyone about a great deal I saw at I’ve long said that Westminster Theological Seminary’s Bookstore is the best bookstore I know of.  Between classes, it where we’d go to have fun.  It was like a candy store for all those theologically-inclined individuals.  They’re dirt-cheap (more often than not cheaper than Amazon) and usually have some good deal going on.  And this one is no exception.  Two brand new books.  $14.49.  Here’s the link:

You Can Change/ What Is The Gospel (Two Pack)-

I’m most excited about this first book, You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions by Tim Chester.  A little while back I read a book he wrote with Steve Timmis, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community.  That book changed my entire perspective on the Church, the Gospel, preaching, and simply living life as a Christian.  It put many of the pieces together in my mind concerning the Church and spirituality and their place in society.  I became convinced that these guys “get it”.  They have such a full understanding of the Gospel in a corporate context, so I’m so pumped to see Chester’s thoughts on the Gospel on an individual level.  Here’s the trailer for the book:

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Dostoevsky on the Tensions of the Christian Life

I’m currently reading through The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Early in the book, there is a scene where the entire Karamzov clan goes to meet with this elder priest to solve some disputes amongst themselves. Of course, being a Russian novel, before they can get to the actual disputes they engage in various forms of political and theological philosophizing for a few chapters. One of the brothers, Ivan, has one of his ideas brought up concerning moral differences between Christians and Non-christians. The elder hears this and immediately identifies it for what it is: an over-intellectualization to help explain away tensions and mysteries existing in Ivan’s heart that he can’t stop wrestling.

As any reader of my writings knows, in the past year or so I have been absolutely taken captive by the truth that Christianity, and therefore the Christian life itself, is fundamentally an exercise in holding tensions and living within mysteries that have no real answer in this life. As Peter Rollins says in the amazing book The Fidelity of Betrayal: “doubt is intimately tied up with faith, because the deep truth of faith gives birth to doubt.” In other words, only the true believer has experienced something in their heart that they can doubt in the first place. Unbelievers don’t doubt, they just don’t believe. But we Christians follow our forefather Jacob whose blessing was to wrestle with God and receive the very name Israel, which means “He wrestles with God”.

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What an Ex-Seminarian gets for Christmas

In order from left-to-right: