Bob and Weave

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The Weekend Is Here! 11-25-16

Posted by flyingbk on 11/18/2016

1. I’m not much of a movie guy anymore, but once in a while, a movie comes along that I know I need to see. The last one was The Hateful Eight simply because my favorite actor, the great Walton Goggins, played a prominent role. (As expected, he was excellent. Need a  TV show to binge watch this holiday season? I highly recommend The Shield and Justified. Goggins plays the main supporting actor in both, and he is brilliant.)

 

But now, I’ve found the movie I MUST watch this holiday season. That would be Martin Scorcese’s Silence, based on the seminal 1966 novel by Shusaku Endo. A friend of mine let me borrow his copy a couple years back, and it’s a book not to be missed. The plot follows two Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who travel to 17th century Japan to locate their mentor (Liam Neeson), but end up in the throes of persecution. Scorcese claims that he’s been trying to make this film for 28 years!

 

silence

 

Scorcese is actually planning on showing the film to 400 Jesuit priests in Rome. The movie will be given a limited release starting on Dec. 23 before going wide in January. I’ll be counting down the days till I get to see it.

 

silence-liam-neeson-slice-600x200

 

2. I believe that if you are a pastor in America who preached this past Sunday, there was an obligation to express balanced and biblical thoughts on the results of the presidential election. My pastor did, and I greatly appreciated his viewpoints. (Bonus: He was going through the book of Jonah, and Jonah 4 fit perfectly with his postmortem. Expository preaching FTW!) Also, Mark Dever, who preaches in the heart of Washington DC, eloquently expressed how we are not a Republican or Democratic church.

 

Also, props to the Harvard Crimson editorial board for encouraging more ideological diversity on campus. That was not a reaction I expected.

 

3. A few quick hits:
-I loved this story from The Guardian about “The Church of McDonald’s.” There’s a Wendy’s nearby where I live, and I recently went there alone to sit down and eat dinner. I was floored by how many older Koreans resided in that place; it was like their second home. Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised since I know that my mom likes to go and hang out there (senior discount on the coffee!). This piece reminds us of the power of simple social presence.

 

-Here’s an entertaining piece on the history of the cheese curl, which is basically repurposed animal feed. I’d have to think that a show featuring Chester Cheetah would be allowed and even popular today, given the variety of platforms available. Alas, it was an idea that was not fit for that era.

 

-Trevin Wax writes about two reminders he learned from observing the Church in South Korea. Both are important, but the second one was especially a good reminder about the need to pray more spontaneously, especially when I’m with others.

 

Have a great weekend everyone!

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The Weekend Is Here! 11-11-16

Posted by flyingbk on 11/11/2016

1. The older I get as a sports fan, the more I realize how much more nuance there is. Sports is a zero-sum game; there’s a winner and a loser. So it’s easy to make declarations like “that guy just wanted it more” or “that player’s just got no heart.” We rank players based on how many championship rings they have, even though it’s a team sport and there are a myriad of factors that go into one single title run. We make sweeping declarations based on a final score, when the game really could have gone either way.

It’s the same for politics. As Nate Silver notes: If Hillary Clinton had won, there would’ve been all these grandiose statements about how America was ready for its female president, how the Republican party is in complete shambles, and how Trump was justly handwaved away by the American public. If just 1 in every 100 voters had gone the other way…

My advice: Don’t ever believe the post-mortem hype, whether it be sports or politics. There’s always much, much more going on underneath the hood. And instead of just assuming, let’s seek to understand why people voted the way they did. Calling a basket of Trump voters racists isn’t helpful, and it’s also wrong because many of those voters opted for Obama in the past. Nate Cohn from the NY Times notes:

2. More election reactions: My favorite website, Mockingbird, nails it per usual. Thomas Frank writes, “Maybe it’s time to consider whether there’s something about shrill self-righteousness, shouted from a position of high social status, that turns people away.” I don’t agree with everything in Thabiti Anyabwile’s piece, but appreciated his perspective as a black Christian. Russell Moore, who’s been a key voice for me in this election cycle, also shared his post-mortem.

And Ernie Johnson’s perspective is rightly going viral:

Like Johnson, I also wrote in a candidate. I have to admit, it was quite exhilarating checking off a different column and using the small inset keyboard. But yes, let’s pray. Pray for President Trump, and pray for everyone (all demographics) in our already great nation.

3. A few weeks ago, I heard Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train” blaring through the store’s speakers and it brought back fond memories. I love that song (I used to sing it as loud and emotionally as possible, usually in the privacy of my room), and I especially loved the accompanying music video:

So I was stoked to read this feature on “The Lost Children of Runaway Train.” The article explains how the idea for the video came about, and how the video had to be re-cut every single time one of the runaways was actually located. It also notes something I didn’t know about the missing-children-on-milk-cartons phenomenon:

The milk carton campaign, the origins of which are murky, fell by the wayside after Dr. Benjamin Spock and others suggested it needlessly scared children.

 

I always wondered why that campaign ended, and I guess that reasoning makes sense.

4. Quick hits:

-College basketball begins today! College hoops is my second favorite sport after baseball, and it’s perfect since the two sports combine to span the full calendar year. I’m a Georgetown Hoyas fan (you can follow me on Twitter to experience my agitated rants), and things may finally be looking up for us. Here’s a good primer on the college hoops landscape. Oh, and how about the sports year we’ve been having? An epic NCAA basketball final in April, an epic NBA finals in June, and an epic World Series just completed. Pretty awesome.

-Sad news in Met-land: The Braves, the purveyors of the worst cheer in professional sports, have signed BOTH R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon. Le sigh. Dickey has written my favorite sports memoir (his book is 1, while Andre Agassi’s is 1a). And of course, Colon is Mr. Big Sexy:

He will be sorely missed.

-Keith Law just released a new ranking of his top 100 board games. I’m way behind on trying out his top ten games, but I am a Dominion junkie and recently started playing Pandemic (great game!).

-A late congrats to the Cubs and their long-suffering fans. “Long-suffering” is one of those overused words, but it certainly applies here. This science piece notes why I started using “we” and “us” as a sports fan, oh, about 13 years ago. I used to be one who chortled and say, “WE?!?! What, are you a part of the team???” (You may have thought the same when I wrote “us” in regards to the Hoyas up above.) But the ‘we’ is poetic.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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The Weekend’s Here! 11-4-16

Posted by flyingbk on 11/04/2016

A reminder that you can subscribe to my weekly newsletter, which drops each Friday. This weekend’s links:

1. Let’s begin with NY Times columnist David Brooks’ piece on how we worry too much, especially during this election cycle. When we worry, we become more selfish. And the antidote is to get busy and involved in other people’s lives. Brooks writes:

Furthermore, action takes us out of ourselves. Worry, like drama, is all about the self. As [Francis] O’Gorman puts it, the worrier is the opposite of a lighthouse: “He doesn’t give out energy for the benefit of others. He absorbs energy at others’ cost.”

If you’re worrying, you’re spiraling into your own narcissistic pool. But concrete plans and actions thrust us into the daily fact of other people’s lives.

I’ve noticed this phenomenon at work in my life (including during this week, which was quite stressful): When I get stressed, I feel like doing nothing and vegging out. But that doesn’t usually get rid of the stress; it just pushes the stress to another day. However, if I take the time to create conversation, check up on how other people are doing, take a long prayer walk in which I pray for others more than myself, or get lost in a good book (which makes me more empathetic)… the worry dissipates. And yes, then we can become more carefree.

2. Billy Bob Thornton. William Hurt. Maria Bello. Olivia Thirby. Molly Parker. Even Dwight Yoakam! There hasn’t been such an ensemble of talent since [insert sports cliche i.e. the 1927 Yankees and 1995-96 Kentucky Wildcats]. And yet the show that features this group, the Amazon drama Goliath, is severely underwhelming. I finished it last night, and I couldn’t have been more disappointed in the last two episodes (a sentiment that TV critic Alan Sepinwall shares– spoiler alert).

I mean, it’s a courtroom drama, and you’ve got Billy Bob Thornton (I’d watch anything with him as a principal actor)! And yet when it’s time for him to give his rousing closing argument…complete and cliched flatness. So disappointing. The ending made no sense either and was definitely not earned, which made it fit well with the nonsensical romances and the shallow explorations of gender and sexuality and power. Goliath sought to be a hard-boiled legal thriller, but ended up as that disgusting undercooked and overly runny egg.

3. On a better note, I finished Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale this week. I was always amazed at how this book has over 30,000 reviews and still averages 5 stars. I don’t know of any other book that’s achieved such lofty status. But now I see why. I completed the novel around 1 a.m, splayed out diagonally on my bed with tears in my eyes, feeling a bittersweet mixture of sorrow, exhaustion, pride, and… peace.

Sure, there are plot contrivances and cliches. But Hannah writes gorgeous prose and conveys well the full spectrum of the emotions of wartime. The story also serves as a tribute to the French women who served behind the scenes in World War II- the strength they displayed, the risks they took, and the trauma they endured. A couple choice excerpts:

Isabelle glanced to her left and saw Gaëtan coming toward her. For the first time, she saw him clearly. He was lanky, wiry as an apostrophe mark, and dressed in clothes that appeared to have come from a beggar’s bin. Beneath a fraying cap, his face was scruffy and sharp, unshaven. He had a wide brow and a pronounced chin and deep-set gray eyes that were heavily lashed. The look in those eyes was as sharp as the point of his chin, and revealed a kind of clarified hunger. Last night she’d thought it was how he’d looked at her. Now she saw that it was how he looked at the world.

—–
“These yellow stars,” Rachel said, opening her fist, revealing the ugly little flower of ragged fabric, with its black marking. “We have to wear them on our clothes at all times now.”
Sarah [Rachel’s young daughter] frowned. “But … why?”
“We’re Jews,” Rachel said. “And we’re proud of that. You have to remember how proud we are of it, even if people—”
“Nazis,” Vianne [Rachel’s friend] said more sharply than intended.
“Nazis,” Rachel added, “want to make us feel … bad about it.”
“Will people make fun of me?” Sarah asked, her eyes widening.
“I will wear one, too,” Sophie [Vianne’s daughter] said.
Sarah looked pathetically hopeful at that.
Rachel reached out for her daughter’s hand and held it. “No, baby. This is one thing you and your best friend can’t do together.”
Vianne saw Sarah’s fear and embarrassment and confusion. She was trying her best to be a good girl, to smile and be strong even as tears glazed her eyes. “Oui,” she said at last.

It was the saddest sound Vianne had heard in nearly three years of sorrow.

4. A few quick links to close this out:

-The Mets’ minor league affiliate in Binghamton decided to change its time from the Mets to the…Rumble Ponies. I actually dig the name, and I really like the logo.
-Those of us who have frequented the NY/NJ area airports while spending time at others will not be surprised to learn that we have the three worst airports in all of America.

-You’ve probably already seen this video. If not, prepare to feel frustrated and unsatisfied:

Have a great weekend everyone!

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The Weekend Is Here! 10-28-16

Posted by flyingbk on 10/28/2016

A reminder that my weekly newsletter drops every Friday afternoon. You can sign up here!

1. The Christian cartoonist Jack Chick passed away on Sunday. I grew up in a semi-fundamentalist church, and we LOVED our Chick tracts. We passed them around like candy, we got excited every time someone surfaced with a new one, and I would rifle through and read the same pages over and over. The final page was always the same, imploring us to take the only way to heaven.

The one tract that sticks with me to this day is this one, titled “The Letter.” A woman has a dream in which her non-Christian friend writes her a letter from hell. The friend tells her that she’s residing in hell because she never told her about Jesus. The woman wakes up, startled, but with fresh resolve to evangelize to her friend. But since this is Chick, there’s a shock ending , albeit a predictable one, which you can read if you click…

RIP, Jack Chick. I agree with a quote in the Christianity Today piece linked above that he always meant well. See you in heaven.

Chick Publications lives on. They have a few ideas on how you can use their tracts this Halloween! #6 is my favorite 😉

2. There’s two phenomena on social media that always make me sigh in exasperation. First is those who think that writing legalese on a Facebook post will empower them to regain control of their online content and protect them from those goonish Facebook employees. People even use the disclaimer “Just in case:” as if that’s an excuse for being so gullible.

The second is the unwitting usage of false quotes. A point of advice: Before you post a quote that you haven’t read on your own, do a quick Google search and make sure that, you know, it’s a real quote. One that’s been making the rounds of late is this apocryphal C.S. Lewis excerpt from The Screwtape Letters:

I admit falling for this one too (by liking someone’s post). But I mean, just look at it. It’s way too on the nose. Aaron Earls writes about this fake quote, and explains why Lewis’ real words in Screwtape are still quite the warning for us today. The first real quote especially resonated with me. I was super political from 2000-2008, and I’ve been quite apolitical and frustrated since. Both extremes, of course, are wrong. Also, Andrew Walker writes about “The Impossibility of the Apolitical Church.” I greatly appreciate his thoughts, and they mirror what I’ve been thinking during this year’s presidential campaign.

3. The NBA season has begun, and ESPN writer extraordinaire Zach Lowe (who actually taught at my alma mater, Cresskill High School) preps us with this year’s tiers. Naturally, Golden State and Cleveland are 1-2 with quite the gap beneath them. All an NBA fan can hope for is this year is for health. I want to see a Warriors-Clippers playoff series with everyone at 100%, and the same for the likely Cavs-Warriors finals rematch.

I especially love what Lowe wrote about LeBron James:

What LeBron did to Golden State last June should give pause to anyone anointing this four-headed super team. His performances while facing elimination in Games 5 and 6 — a combined 82 points, 29 rebounds, 16 assists, and six aura-shattering blocks — stand as the greatest back-to-back in Finals history. He imagined a way to beat this specific opponent, and then made it happen.

He dragged Stephen Curry through an obstacle course of pick-and-rolls until he cracked just enough room for something — a thundering drive, those dripping soft lobs to Tristan Thompson, cross-court lasers to spot-up shooters. He hounded Draymond Green on defense, switched onto Curry, and vaporized the Curry-Green pick-and-roll that had been the launchpad to a thousand open 3-pointers.

Never has a player done everything humanly possible on a basketball court at such a mind-blowingly high level in two straight Finals against ultra premium competition. That’s one reason James is now officially the greatest player of all-time, and snuck past Michael Jordan this past June. But more on that another time…

Have a great weekend everyone!

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The Weekend Is Here! 10-21-16

Posted by flyingbk on 10/21/2016

The first edition of my newsletter will be going out this afternoon. Sign up now to get it! 

On Wednesday night, I was ensconced in my sofa, happily enjoying Game 4 of the NLCS between the Cubs and Dodgers. After the inning ended, I thought to myself, “Well, I might as well check out the presidential debate.” Big mistake. It’s like when you can’t turn away from a train wreck. I watched for a full hour until I couldn’t take it anymore. That’s an hour of my life that I can’t get back. Alas. On to this weekend’s links:

1. Last month, Andrew Sullivan wrote about his time at a meditation retreat, but the article is more about his addiction to technology. Gulp. Just like with blogging, I always tell myself that I need to practice a tech sabbath and it ends up happening only once. I know I’m addicted when a) I’m looking at my phone for the duration of a prayer walk, and b) I waste an hour on my phone while lying in bed with the intention of reading. So both have been happening regularly of late.

Since I’m taking a temporary break from ministry, my tech sabbath day should really be the same day as the Sabbath. But that’s fantasy football day (BK Flyers current record: 5-1. BK Flyers current place: 1st)! Still, I will try again this Sunday. So no usage of browsing on my smartphone on Sunday, at least until I snap photos and videos at the Red concert in Asbury Park (Countdown: TWO DAYS). And I’ll look for other pockets of time where I can practice this critically important discipline.

2.  A tremendous feature in the Washington Post on Derek Black, former white nationalist. So many layers in this one, but I especially love the part about how a college student’s weekly Shabbat dinner becomes the impetus for change in Black’s life. It’s a presidential election year, and therefore our charged rhetoric reaches supernova status; combine that with how en vogue it is to be outraged on social media, and you have a recipe for more vitriol and contempt than ever. Bu this piece reminds us of the importance of simply listening to others’ viewpoints instead of dismissing them out of hand.

Also while reading this article, I couldn’t help but think of the movie American History X, whose main character is a radicalized white supremacist and shares the first name as Derek Black. AHX is one of my favorite movies, but I freely acknowledge that the manner in which Derek Vinyard (played so well by Edward Norton) changes his views is way too breezy and convenient. And yet, if someone made a fictional movie about the story of Derek Black, we’d think it was too good to be true. Just a reminder that indeed the truth can be stranger than fiction!

3. I truly believe God dropped a life-giving encouragement on me this week. In my last post, I shared my favorite illustration of the gospel: a lemon sour. And although I used a picture of an Asian bag of candy, the main image in my mind was that of a lemon warhead.

I wrote that post on Wednesday morning, and I taught an essay writing class on Wednesday night. Right when class begins, my student in the back of the room asks me if I want a lemon warhead (!). I say yes, she throws one fiercely at me… and I snatch it out of mid-air. My kids were impressed that I caught it, as was I!

I feel like it was God saying that I’m on the right track with my blog. When I first re-launched this blog on September 12, rust pervaded my writing. But in the last week or two, I believe I’ve been regaining my writing voice.

So thanks again to everyone who has supported me by reading this blog and encouraging me to write. And I love how this warhead was an “extreme sour” one. It only drives the point home even more that we need to bitterly repent to receive the sweet grace of God. My students certainly enjoyed the face I made when I initially tasted the warhead.

4. Since I’m seeing my favorite band for the 11th and 12th times in a few days, I wanted to share a ballad that has spoken so deeply to me. “If I Break” fits perfectly with my last post about coming with grips to our dark side. Each of our souls asks the gnawing question posed in the chorus:

If I break
If I fall
Will you still run to me when I call?
If I close my eyes
And I can’t find my way to you
Will you stay?
If I break
If I break

Hallelujah, that in Jesus Christ, the answer is ever an unequivocal Yes.

(It fascinates me how big Red is in Europe).

 

Have a great weekend everyone!

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The Weekend Is Here! 10-14-16

Posted by flyingbk on 10/14/2016

1. I loved this story about a church weekend getaway. This church has been doing God’s work, and helping bring the needy and addicted to Jesus. They faced a unique quandary: A man wanted to join the weekend trip to learn more about Christ. But he’s a severe alcoholic: “This is a person who needs 3 litres of Cider and a six-pack before he can even get out of bed in the morning!” Without any alcohol, his body would go into shock and he could even die. So the church had to decide: Do they tell him to stay away that weekend because he won’t be able to drink? Or do they have him come, and provide the beer that he needs to function?

Reading that story reminded me of another one from The Guardian about a homeless shelter that provides box wine to alcoholics. This place calculates just enough terrible-tasting wine each hour so that its residents don’t suffer “the shakes and sweats of detox.”It’s an example of a strategy called “harm reduction.” Certainly there are risks with this style of treatment (who can forget Tobias Funke’s love for the Method One Acting Clinic in Arrested Developement?), but I believe these stories are reminders of the power of simple acceptance. People do not change because we tell them or attempt to force them to change. But people may change if you just accept them with no preconditions.

Also, if you get a chance, I recommend listening to the July 1, 2016 podcast of Invisibilia titled “The Problem with the Solution.” It’s about a town in Belgium that accepts strangers with mental illnesses to live with them, and it’ll blow your mind.

2. “It’s not a partisan issue, it’s not a religious issue. It’s a human rights issue.” Slate published a revelatory piece on the promising future of the pro-life movement. Certainly, being pro-life is informed by my belief in the Bible being the inerrant, incontrovertible Word of God. But as this piece demonstrates, there are a myriad of other reasons to be pro-life and the various activists featured arrive from all over the religious and ideological spectrum.

Also promising is how more women are leading the movement. One activist, Aimee Murphy (her story is the first one told, and it’s a doozy) states:

“I see this movement going in a direction that is a lot more women-centered. What are we doing to help women in need? What are we doing to empower women? What are we doing to promote equality among all persons?” The fact that women are expected to bear the consequences of pregnancy alone, and that pregnancy often seems incompatible with success, is “a grave form of injustice that we are passing on to women,” she said.

Well put. It also gets fascinating near the end when it talks about our two political parties. The Democratic Party has only become more and more aggressively pro-abortion, which is why even those in the article who may favor a plethora of other liberal policies can’t get themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Along these lines, my buddy over at Beauty Beyond Bones recently penned a piece on the sanctity of human life.

3. Just an amazing baseball game last night in which the Dodgers topped the Nationals, 4-3, in the deciding game of the National League Division Series. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pushed all the right buttons, while Nationals manager Dusty Baker did the opposite. I especially loved Joc Pederson’s reaction when he hit a game-tying home run in the 7th inning.

Peak baseball was achieved when the best pitcher in the universe, Clayton Kerhshaw, came on in relief in the bottom of the 9th in to face former Met Daniel Murphy with runners on 1st and 2nd with 1 out. This is why baseball is simply the best: You do not get this level of tension and drama in any other sport. It’s just not possible. Every Mets fan who’s suffered through this Murphy MVP-level season in the services of our division rival thought for sure that he would come through with a big hit. Alas, he popped up on the 2nd pitch, and the Nationals lost. I admit that I thoroughly enjoyed a little schadenfreude towards Murphy and the Nats. (For crying out loud, Murphy was the Nats’ THIRD choice!)

Despite a great game (which naturally made me gush forth with praise to a couple friends this morning), one major problem reared its ugly head. Due to SIX total pitching changes (five by the Nats), the 7th innings took a whopping 66 MINUTES. And this nine-inning contest (read: NO extra innings) tallied a not-so-crisp FOUR HOURS AND THIRTY-TWO MINUTES. Ridiculous.

There’s a simple fix, but one that Major League Baseball will never implement. The great baseball historian Bill James once suggested a rule change: A 2nd reliever in the same inning may only enter when the 1st reliever has allowed a run. This alteration would greatly cut down on the number of pitching changes in late game situations, and keep the tension at a fever pitch. But yeah, it won’t happen.

4. Finally, this looks really cool and I’m hoping to check it out one coming weekend. Anyone wanna join?

Have a great weekend everyone!

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The Weekend Is Here 10-6-16

Posted by flyingbk on 10/07/2016

1. Let’s start on a heavier note: Tullian Tchividjian recently penned a piece titled The Freedom of Losing It All over at expastors.com. (Yes, such a site exists; I just found out myself and I’m digging its mission.) Tchividjian was a well-known pastor who lost his marriage and his job and calling last summer. I enjoyed his book One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World and quoted him liberally in my own sermons. I’m always admired him as a champion of God’s free and prodigious grace.

The details of his divorce and having to step down from his church are saddening. (Perhaps even more sad are Christians who enjoy piling on a man’s failures.) He writes about how he contemplated suicide. But in an awkward sense, he’s the perfect guy to write the piece linked above because of the main message he preached. Here are a couple quotes:

I was known for saying that God loves bad people because bad people are all that there are. So I knew I was bad. I just didn’t know I was THAT bad.
The truth is, though, that we are very good lawyers when it comes to our own mistakes, but very good judges when it comes to the mistakes of others.

[God] is the light at the end of your dark tunnel. And He’s not going anywhere. Others may leave, but He will stay. As Winston Churchill famously said, “When you’re going through hell, keep walking.”

We only truly grasp the gospel when we learn to judge only ourselves and lawyer up on behalf of the ones we consider the least of these.

2. Speaking of Churchill, I’m still working through Candice Millard’s latest. I’m about to get into the meat of the book where Churchill is now a prisoner of war and must figure out a way to escape. Should be good.

A new month means Amazon releases its best books of the month. Each month can be hit or miss. But the ones for October look quite enticing; first on my list is the new novel by Maria Semple. I loved her previous novel, Where’d You Go, Bernadette. The former writer for Arrested Development (certainly atop the pantheon of great TV comedies, but let’s not talk about the Netflix season…) has a zany writing style that cracks me up.

A favorite podcast of mine, The Mortification of Spin (Carl Trueman is on my list of heroes), just did an episode titled Reader’s Block. If you’ve been struggling to read while knowing that you ought to, give it a listen and heed their advice. It’s only about 20 minutes long.

My first piece of advice would be to go and buy the Kindle Paperwhite, which is only $89.99 for Amazon Prime members. Let me be clear: This is a freakin’ amazing deal for a freakin’ amazing e-reader. Or if you have more money to burn, get the Kindle Voyage, which is only $149.99. Of course, I’m the sucker who always buys Kindles at full price when they first come out. (I have both the Voyage and Paperwhite; I’m a total Kindle fanboy.)

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Due to Wednesday’s heartbreaking loss, I will have more time and emotional energy to read:

3. Finally, a couple bloggers recently took time to write about Christians and their video games. Tim Challies began the conversation, and Drew Dixon continued it. If you’re someone who wants to defend your gaming habit (I’m not a gamer, but it’s more because I know that my obsessive personality is a bad fit for it), those two entries will provide ammo.

Reading about video games reminded me of what I’ve read before regarding the game That Dragon, Cancer. I used this game as a sermon illustration once. Here’s what I said:

Ryan and Amy Green, a Christian couple from Colorado, created a video game. The name of the game is “That Dragon, Cancer.” It’s a game people are calling the most profound video game ever.

This game was being created as their son Joel was undergoing treatment for brain cancer. He was diagnosed at 12 months old, and while he was 4 years old, the Greens had hoped that their son would survive. So this game was created with him as the main subject, and the hope was, the game would have a happy ending. That dragon, cancer, would be slain. And then in that sense, it would be like most video games: defeat a boss, complete levels, until you win.

But Joel didn’t make it. He died while they were still working on the game. He died 2 years ago at the age of 5.

So at the end of this game, you enter a cathedral and the lights are going out. You try to solve a puzzle. You try to push certain organ keys, light candles, hoping that through this solving, Joel would survive.

But nothing works. The lights go out. A final prayer is spoken, and Joel is dead.

After that, in the final scene of the game, you cross a lake and you see Joel. And he’s happy. You blow bubbles and he laughs. He shows you his dog, and his favorite food: pancakes. That’s how the game ends.

The Green family wanted to show that even in devastation, there is hope. Even in tragedy and death, there can be joy.

They even told everyone on the game’s release date this past January, to celebrate… by eating pancakes.

that-dragon-cancer-has-not-yet-seen-a-single-dollar-from-sales-145893661224

And in researching for this blog post, I just read that this game is now available on the iPhone and iPad. Wow, look what happens when I blog! OK, I’m definitely gonna check it out. Have a great weekend everyone!

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The Weekend Is Here 9-30-16

Posted by flyingbk on 09/30/2016

Let’s go:


1. This Tim Challies post about David Boudia serves as a nice coda to my 3-part series. David Boudia, a four-time Olympic medalist diver, writes about the struggle for athletes to live “normal lives” after reaching the mountaintop in his career (cue what happened with O.J. Simpson). The five life lessons in this post are very helpful, and very applicable to our own lives. Sadly, the post-Olympic blues phenomenon is all too real (really pulling for Michael Phelps now that his career is over).

2. Because I was still under the weather on Monday night, I had to cancel my dinner plans. This unfortunately meant that I ended up watching the first debate. All I want to say for now is that my heart sank while watching it. It saddens me that we are at this current level of political discourse in our country. I’ve felt like Lester Holt when I’m trying to calm down my 8th grade students. I don’t think it was fair to blame him; we should have political candidates who don’t need to be told to wait their turn.

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What’s also noteworthy to me is how we can all watch the same thing and form drastically different opinions. Here’s one example, and here’s another. This phenomenon reminds me of another Revisionist History episode: The Satire Paradox. The problem with satire is that people will interpret it whichever way their bias points. The same can be said about the reaction to this first debate, and of course, the media and our politically active friends on social media.

3. Last night, there was a ridiculous ending to the Cardinals-Reds game. Basically, the game winning hit for the Cards should’ve been ruled a ground-rule double, which would put runners at 2nd and 3rd base with the score remaining tied. But according to the umpires, Reds manager Bryan Price was not quick enough to challenge it. And Price stated that it was too loud for him to hear the dugout phone.

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What an embarrassment for Major League Baseball. The umpires were more interested in getting off the field and enjoying a post-game meal rather than actually, you know, getting the call right. And in the middle of a playoff race to boot (LGM). The antidote is simple: Get rid of the challenge system in all sports.

4. We have to end on a sad note: RIP Jose Fernandez. Words fail me; it’s just such an utter shame. Sadly, tragedy can also bring out the best writing. It’s definitely worth reading Jeff Passan and Joe Posnanski. You will be deeply missed, and baseball is much, much worse off without you.

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The Weekend Is Here! 9-23-16

Posted by flyingbk on 09/23/2016

I’ve been under the weather this week. So I’m pushing Part 2 of the series that started on Monday to this coming Monday. I’m very excited to write this post, and I look forward to having you check it out. For now, here’s a few links for the weekend:


1. Unless you live under a rock, or have chosen to care as little as possible about this year’s presidential election, you know that the first debate is set for this Monday. Honestly, I haven’t watched a single speech or news broadcast during this entire cycle. And I already have dinner plans on Monday, and we’ll be watching Monday Night Football.

I do have some thoughts on the election, and the state of American politics, but I’m not sure if I’ll write them. For now, I strongly encourage you to read Mockingbird’s guide to Surviving November. Mockingbird is my favorite blog on the interwebs; nothing else I read online does more to stimulate my mind and freshly appreciate the gospel. Do yourself a favor and bookmark it.

This post draws heavily from Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous MindIn short, we’re all hopelessly biased, whether we realize it or not. We think we’re all logical beings, but we’re most certainly not. Part III of this post, which focuses on how we ask ourselves “Can I believe it?” and/or “Must I believe it?” is especially insightful.

I used to be that guy who couldn’t believe the viewpoints of the other side, and got all riled up by their seemingly fallacious and utterly ridiculous arguments. I engaged in a heated political argument with a friend a few months back, and in retrospect, all we did was spew out our respective party’s talking points. But reading a post like the one on Mockingbird is most helpful in understanding why we are the way we are. If we all truly understood our own inherent biases and tendencies to construct narratives, we would be more humble about our opinions, and political discourse in this country would be so much better.

2.  Along those lines comes yesterday’s NYT editorial by J.D. Vance. I’m currently reading his memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, which everyone says is a must-read to understand the Donald Trump phenomenon. To be honest, this book is reminding me why I don’t like memoirs, but more on that another time.

In this piece, Vance notes how we’re so quick to throw people into baskets and buckets; it’s just so much easier and tidier that way. But the truth, of course, is that we’re usually much more complicated than that. Again, it’s very helpful if we first acknowledge how deeply flawed each of us are, and then we’ll be less likely to stereotype.

This story reminded me of the Woodrow Wilson protests at Princeton University. Wilson was clearly a racist, and students wanted his name removed from the institution. It’s easy to be cynical about Princeton’s response, but there is a lot of truth in what the administration stated:

We owe a great deal to people who are deeply flawed, and not many people can transcend the prejudices of the times they lived in… We assess ourselves with great humility because we, too, are flawed, and it’s likely that we will also be guilty of sins and prejudices that to future generations who look back on our own legacies will be very obvious.

3. The NYT also reviewed the book I alluded to on Tuesday. I started it this week, and finished Part I. Excellent writing by Millard as usual, and I agree with the reviewer that she has an uncanny eye for specific newspaper quotes. She mentions her favorite one, which also caught my attention from Part I:

Ms. Millard also shows, as she has in her previous work, that she has a great ear for quotes — an underrated virtue in writers of history. (Favorite example: The British ambassador to Berlin wrote that Churchill’s mother had “more of the panther than of the woman in her look.”)

4. Now, the lighter stuff. I’ll definitely be checking out the new FOX TV series, Pitch, which is about a female major league baseball pitcher.

After I watch it, I’ll read the A.V. Club’s review. I already read the review from two Baseball Prospectus writers (!), which only makes me want to watch it more.

And if you’re a baseball nerd like me, you’ll enjoy Jeff Passan’s 25 things you didn’t know about baseball. and the new Statcast metric.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone. Let’s Go Mets, and thank you AsCab. Best bat flip ever.

 

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The Weekend Is Here! 9-16-16

Posted by flyingbk on 09/16/2016

Each Friday, I’ll include various links that I enjoyed and sprinkle in some commentary along the way. Let’s do this.

  1. I wrote extensively this week about how foolish it is to punt in certain situations (certainly be on the lookout all football weekend: pro, college, even high school). In his wonderful podcast, Malcolm Gladwell touches briefly on this topic. Episode 3: The Big Man Can’t Shoot is a must-listen not just for the sports angle, but because it’ll really make you think about why we don’t (and sometimes do) stand up for the things we actually believe to be true. After listening, I now want to be more like Rick Barry.
  2. I spent a lot of time earlier this week meditating on this Tim Challies piece on what God does with our sin. I had the privilege of hanging out a couple days at Long Beach Island two weeks ago, and I actually imagined the crashing waves washing over all my sin. I also visited Barnegat Lighthouse at the north end of the island, and was immediately struck by its color scheme.

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    This pattern vividly reminded me of Isaiah 1:18 (NIV):

    “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord.
    “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
    though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

    Hallelujah for what God does with my deep scarlet, my utterly despicable thoughts and acts.

  3. I’m heading to the Mets game tonight. This will be my 10th game at Citi Field this year (sad but true: Record is 4-5). It’s the homestretch for the good guys, with 16 games left against bad opponents. I’m still uneasy, but hopefully they’ll win tonight with Big Sexy on the mound.

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    One important note: James Loney is freakin’ terrible. There’s actually a cadre of Mets fans who like Loney, and think he’s better than Lucas Duda. Talk about fans gone wild and completely insane. Loney is basically a left-handed version of Eric Campbell, with less speed and less defensive flexibility. Lucas Duda is actually a very good defensive first baseman (I know, I know, that throw in the World Series…). And he was ione of the top 20 hitters in the baseball the last two years.

  4. The 15th anniversary of 9/11 has passed, but I wanted to share this inspiring story. I’m forever floored by the heroism displayed on that tragic day.

    Have a wonder-filled weekend, everyone! The weather (esp. today and tomorrow in NY/NJ) should be out of sight!

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