Books · C.S. Lewis · Calvin & Hobbes · Christianity · Dear Mr. Watterson · Faith · Star Wars · Television · Tullian Tchividjian

Owl Post 10-11-13

Owl Post 2-17-12

Click the Title for Full Article

For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov:

the_essential_tales_of_chekhov.largeSay you are getting ready for a blind date or a job interview. What should you do? Besides shower and shave, of course, it turns out you should read — but not just anything. Something by Chekhov or Alice Munro will help you navigate new social territory better than a potboiler by Danielle Steel.

That is the conclusion of a study published Thursday in the journal Science. It found that after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence — skills that come in especially handy when you are trying to read someone’s body language or gauge what they might be thinking.

You Can’t Exhaust It:

photoWhy do you think the news of God’s inexhaustible grace for an exhausted world has “never been more urgent”?

There’s a quotation that astonishes me every time I see it: Dr. Richard Leahy, a prominent psychologist and anxiety specialist, said a couple of years ago that “the average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950s.” Wow. There’s also a statistic The New York Times reported in 2007, showing that 30 percent of American women admit to taking sleeping pills before bed most nights. And that’s just the ones who admit it!

The news of God’s inexhaustible grace has never been more urgent because the world has never been more exhausted.

The Thirtysomething Teen: An Adult YA Addict Comes Clean:

420-size-mature-adult-reading-hunger-games-bed.imgcache.rev1330105769988As a full-grown adult, I’ve gotten my fair share of dubious looks and halfhearted utterances regarding my young-adult reading habits—“Oh, yeah, you like Harry Potter? So does my 8-year-old nephew!” “Sisterhood of the Traveling … ha-ha-ha-ha.” I’ve heard the behind-the-back jibes as well as the to-my-face criticisms that adult fans of YA are stuck in some sad adolescent existence and, quite possibly, bringing down the collective IQ of our nation by reading below our grade level. Or that we’re just weird.

Is ‘Star Wars’ Without George Lucas Still ‘Star Wars’?

george-lucas-jj-abramsThanks to a video interview that Jett Lucas gave to Flicks In the City, the Internet is now abuzz with the idea that his father, George Lucas, will still be involved on some level withDisney‘s new series of Star Wars movies. The newsworthy bits are that George Lucas had actually been working on expanding the franchise a year before the Disney sale, and that Mr. Lucas is in constant contact with new director J. J. Abrams. We obviously don’t know to what extent Lucas will be hands-on or hands-off in regards to the next series of movies, nor do we know to what extent Lucas’s prior ideas, both the aforementioned work he did as well as the rumored already-written scripts for Episodes 7-12 that he had already compiled, will be utilized in the new series. But the question becomes, is a Star Wars film franchise without George Lucas’s involvement really Star Wars, or is it just a generic science-fiction franchise with familiar names and locales?

Lewis on Disordered Desire to Enter the Inner Ring:

Inner-Ring-Photo-300x202One of the most memorable of C. S. Lewis’s essays is entitled “The Inner Ring.” It describes our common desire to be accepted within the “inner ring” of whatever group matters to us at the time.

To feel “excluded” or “out of it” is miserable. Yet the desire to be “in” can make you say things you would not otherwise say or not say things you should say. This desire to be on the inside of whatever group you aspire to join can affect your relationships at work, in the community, and in the church.

Netflix and On-Demand Aren’t Killing ‘Water-Cooler TV’—They’re Saving It:

WatercoolerJust a few months ago, the concept of water-cooler television—where weekly episodes become communal, must-see live events that dominate workplace conversations—had become something of an anachronism, at least to those working behind the scenes.

In The New York Times’ August showrunner roundtable, Netflix’s House of Cards creator Beau Willimon declared the end of the singular, common viewing experience, which he argued had been replaced by smaller, “concentric circles” of conversation that better reflected how time-shifting technologies and on-demand options have fragmented audiences. (The rise of second-screen viewing, where audiences live-tweet Scandal, Pretty Little Liars, and more on mobile devices during the show, was said to be the new home for the collective experience.) Later that month, The Guardian excerpted a lecture from Cards‘ Kevin Spacey that touted the success of the Netflix original series as “kill[ing] the watercooler moment.”

Dear-Mr-Watterson-550x309
Books · Coffee · Government · Mumford and Sons · Music · Politics · Star Wars · The Clone Wars · Tullian Tchividjian

Owl Post 10-12-12

Confusing Strength With Aggression:

The vice presidential debate was uniquely important because if Paul Ryan won it or did well, the Romney-Ryan ticket’s momentum would be continued or speed up. If he did not, that momentum would slow or stop. So the night carried implications.

New Music: Mumford and Sons’ Babel:

Everyone’s favorite British folk band, Mumford and Sons, and their latest album, Babel, have been a hot news item since the album was released a couple of weeks ago. Depending on who you ask, the band’s music is heartfelt and refreshing, beautifully expressing the human desire for love and grace or maudlin and mediocre, only created to prey on the sentimentality of the general population. Two recent articles on the band illustrate the variety of opinions that have been voiced about Babel and the obvious religious symbolism in the group’s music: the first, “Mumford & Sons Preaches to Masses”, from NPR’s Ann Powers (which DZ mentioned on Friday), speaks to the band’s power to bring religious ideas to the public; and the second,“Mumford & Sons and the Death of Church Music”, comes from The American Conservative’s Jordan Bloom, in a direct reply to Powers’ article, where he connects the vapid sentimentality he sees in contemporary worship music to Mumford and their music. Both of these articles are interesting reads, and they address what I see as the central theme of Mumford and Sons’ music: their incredible ability to introduce Christian and religious symbols to a large audience, imparting grace and hope to their listeners.

Our Glorious Ruin: Tullian Tchividjian on the Suffering that Sets You Free:

Ever since the revolt in Eden, suffering has been inescapable. All of us live and move and have our being amid the wreckage of the Fall. Pain—universal as it is real—haunts us, stalks us, plagues us.

In his new book, Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free (David C. Cook), Tullian Tchividjian offers a unique angle on this perennially vexing subject. Rather than focusing on the why or the how of suffering, Tchividjian zooms in on the who, demonstrating that the answer to our pain isn’t finally found in a syllogism but in a Savior—a suffering Savior. If your faith is stirred by this interview and the book, come to Orlando next April to hear Tchividjian lead a workshop at The Gospel Coalition 2013 National Conference on “How Suffering Sets You Free.”

I corresponded with Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, about why we need another suffering book, the importance of pressing past why, how the gospel informs our pain, and more.

‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ brings the Dark Side to Saturdays:

When animator Dave Filoni was handed the reins of George Lucas’ computer animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” back in 2006, he thought he knew what to expect.

Lucas, the creator and mastermind of the entire multibillion-dollar “Star Wars” operation, would give some initial guidance, notes and feedback and quickly fade away, moving on to tend to other aspects of his Lucasfilm empire. After all, it was a cartoon series aimed a kids, airing on Cartoon Network and regarded by many of the franchise’s older hardcore fans as a nice, but hardly essential, extension of the “Star Wars” experience.

Eat, Pray, Love Like a Badass: Cheryl Strayed, the Oprah Author 2.0:

Cheryl Strayed shifted uncomfortably in her chair onstage at the New York Public Library last week when host Paul Holdengraber mentioned the name “Elizabeth Gilbert.” Knitting her brow, she cocked her head to one side as if to inquire, “Where is this conversation going?” Holdengraber read a piece from the Eat, Pray, Love author that echoed advice Strayed gives readers under her nom de plume Sugar in herbeloved advice column on The Rumpus.

What Drinking Coffee Does to You:

The chances are that you saw the title of this article and winced a little. Usually, things which are enjoyable bring negative side effects to our bodies. Alcohol, chocolate and fast-food are all fine examples of things which are enjoyable at the time but have negative long-term side effects on your health. So how does coffee compete with these ‘naughty’ foods and drink?

Books · Christianity · Culture · ebooks · Gender · Government · Politics · social media · Tullian Tchividjian

Owl Post 6-22-12

The Religious Right Turns 33: What Have We Learned?

Many historians say the modern religious right was birthed in June of 1979. That was the month when the Rev. Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority, an organization tasked with saving the American public from the threat of moral decline. Not coincidentally, Concerned Women for America was formed the same month.

Why Women Still Can’t Have It All:

EIGHTEEN MONTHS INTO my job as the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department, a foreign-policy dream job that traces its origins back to George Kennan, I found myself in New York, at the United Nations’ annual assemblage of every foreign minister and head of state in the world. On a Wednesday evening, President and Mrs. Obama hosted a glamorous reception at the American Museum of Natural History. I sipped champagne, greeted foreign dignitaries, and mingled. But I could not stop thinking about my 14-year-old son, who had started eighth grade three weeks earlier and was already resuming what had become his pattern of skipping homework, disrupting classes, failing math, and tuning out any adult who tried to reach him. Over the summer, we had barely spoken to each other—or, more accurately, he had barely spoken to me. And the previous spring I had received several urgent phone calls—invariably on the day of an important meeting—that required me to take the first train from Washington, D.C., where I worked, back to Princeton, New Jersey, where he lived. My husband, who has always done everything possible to support my career, took care of him and his 12-year-old brother during the week; outside of those midweek emergencies, I came home only on weekends.

What Sanctification Is and Is Not:

J.C. Ryle’s Holiness is a classic work that bears repeated readings. Recently I returned to his chapter on sanctification, a term that he defines as “an inward spiritual work which the Lord Jesus Christ works in a man by the Holy Ghost, when He calls him to be a true believer.” After defining the term, he lays out the differences between true and false sanctification, first saying what it is not and then saying what it is.

Off The eBook Shelf:

Readers are voting with their wallets: The eBook is winning. In the US, eBooks sales are now topping hardcovers for the first time (story in TechCrunch). Not everywhere of course. According to the Bowker Global eBook Research, the global market for eBooks is driven — in that order — by India, Australia, the UK and the United States. The laggards are Japan and (no surprise) France. The chart below shows the percentage of internet population reporting the purchase of a digital book over the last six months prior to the survey.

Reality Check: Most Internet trolls are probably trolls in real life, too:

One of the biggest myths about the Internet goes like this: people who are perfectly pleasant and reasonable in real life become total jerkfaces when they get online. It conjures up the image of a mild-mannered office clerk, who talks courteously and sweetly to everyone, and then goes home and spews venom on comment sections and web forums for hours. Like the Secret Trolling Life of Walter Mitty. And I’m sure this does happen. But, I’m guessing, most people who troll on the internet actually are trolls in real life, too.

Why You Should Consider Cancelling Your Short-Term Mission Trips:

I have seen with my own eyes or know of houses in Latin America that have been painted 20 times by 20 different short-term teams; fake orphanages in Uganda erected to get Westerners to give money; internet centers in India whose primary purpose is to ask Westerners for money; children in African countries purposefully mutilated by their parents so they would solicit sympathy while they beg; a New England-style church built by a Western team in Cameroon that is never used except when the team comes to visit; and slums filled with big-screen TVs and cell phone towers.

Books · Jesus+Nothing=Everything · Tullian Tchividjian

Jesus+Nothing=Everything – Review


Tullian Tchividjian
Wheaton: Crossway, 2011 220 pages$18.99

To follow Jesus and grow as aChristian, to give up all the world offers us, we must see the overwhelming value of the gospel and what God hasdone through Christ. We cannot truly change unless we understand the weight of the gospel in our lives. This is the focused message of Jesus+Nothing=Everything.
Tchividjian uses this formula as the backbone of the book; looking at each part, starting with everything and working to Jesus, then backtracking to talk through it all again. This means that he drives home his point effectively by giving us the time to digest what he is saying because we hear it again and again. The main thrust of the book is that our lives need to be gospel focused and centered and that it is only by gaining a deeper and richer understanding of what Christ has done that one can truly grow.

“The hard work of Christian growth, therefore, is to think less of ourselves and our performance and more of Jesus and hisperformance for us. Ironically, when we focus mostly on our need to get better,we actually get worse. We become neurotic and self absorbed. Preoccupation with our effort instead of with God’s effort for us makes us increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective.”(95)

It is only when we believe and trust in the new identity that God has given us, through the life and work of Christ, that we can let go of our self and actually grow.
The natural question that arises from all this talk of grace is, “What about the law and the commands of God?” Tchividjian answers this way:

“Therefore, it’s the gospel (what Jesus has done) that alone can give God-honoring animation to our obedience. The power to obey comes from being moved and motivated by the complete work of Jesus for us. The fuel to do good flows from what’s already been done. So again, while the law directs us, only the gospel can drive us.”(192)

Considering this topic is foundational to the Christian faith, the author doesn’t expect hisbook to be exhaustive on the topic. He provides a list of twenty-six books on the gospel for further study. At the end of the book Tchividjian says, “So relax and rejoice. Jesus plus nothing equals everything; everything minus Jesus equals nothing.” This reminds us of what Jesus said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”(Matthew10:39 ESV)