July. That is the last time an RSS feed crawler discovered new content, posts or podcasts, around here. Some plugins needed updating. I am in talks with my advisor on a new banner, photo, and maybe even a new logo.
My friend Tayor Mertins invited me for another couple of episodes of Strangely Warmed, his lectionary podcast a month or two ago. In the meantime, I have been keeping content up to date on our church’s weekday podcast on the Scriptures from the Revised Common Lectionary, Coffee on the Hill: A Morning Devotional with Pastor Todd.
When new content becomes sparse on a site there could be any number of reasons. I won’t forget when a young friend’s blog went dark only to learn that he had been diagnosed with Stage-serious cancer. Other times we hit a dry period. Schedules of desired guests for the podcast don’t align with my available time slots. Still, other downtimes mean the writer or podcaster may be weighing the value of their own content.
This last long silent spell around here, the reason for the dust collecting on the Scarlet 2i2, is a combination of a couple of these common causes. What has spurred Fall cleaning around here? Books. If you have followed along you know that I am quite the bibliophile. My friend Tripp Fuller announced a 27-volume Kierkegaard library giveaway. Both my daughters saw that I had entered to win.
Girls: “Dad, you don’t have room.”
My response: Of course, I do!
Over this year there have been a number of books I have enjoyed all or parts. Those of us who read multiple books at once may lose interest if it is clear the author hit all the high notes before the ending. (Here I suggest the classic, How to Read a Book.) Three books have been published in the last couple of months that will likely become my top three for the year. It’s not because they are the most recent books I have read. I am currently juggling severa
l more good ones. I do hope to land all three for podcasts to discuss their work. It may take my friend Marty to see this through.
What books? First up, You Are Not Alone by O. Alan Noble. Christianity Today posits that Alan’s new book to be among the best of the year. You Are Not Alone follows what I consider to be a great first book by Alan, D
isruptive Witness. (If you are a new reader/listener, you may find my conversation with Alan over Disruptive Witness here,) In his new book, Alan presents quite the diagnosis of the idolatry of the self, my description. I find this a deeper foray into the themes and analysis given by David Zhal in his 2019 book, Seculosity. (You may find my conversation with David here.) I will be looking to schedule Alan soon for a conversation where we will talk about You Are Not Alone.
Second, Where the Light Fell. I have not read many memoirs. But, when I found out Philip Yancey had published his, I ordered it immediately. There is a backstory. Long before the Matrix, there was, The Jesus I Never Knew. My friend Hance, who has now gone on to become the President of Guidestone, p
astored in our local association of churches. We were talking on the phone one day and he asked what I was reading. After responding, I asked him. He told me he was reading Philip Yancey’s, The Jesus I Never Knew. Red pill alert. When I read The Jesus I Never Knew, many of the thoughts that had been rolling around in my head found had shown up on the pages of Philip’s book. After The Jesus I Never Knew, I followed him further down his rabbit hold reading, What’s So Amazing About Grace. The old line from the hymn began playing in my head, “No turning back.” We gave both books out as appreciation gifts to our Bible Study leaders.
Those of you, or those you know, who are (re)considering their faith convictions have many more voices and perspectives available than it seemed in the late 1990s. Halfway through Yancey’s memoir, I now realized why he was so resonant back then. The details of our experiences are not the same. We do share the form of the faith handed to us by our respective faith communities, even if Yancey is more than ten years my senior.
I am part of an online reading group of pastors. We Zoom on Monday mornings. I am the oldest member of the group. I am also the only Southern Baptist. When I got through the first couple of chapters in Where the Light Fell, I posted to our Messenger Chat that if they wanted to understand where I was coming from, they would find it in the pages of Where the Light Fell.
Finally, When Everything’s On Fire. If Robert Webber found the Canterbury Trail before he died, Brian Zhand has found a different form of the Faith than when he planted Word of Life Church. Reading When Evyerhing’s On Fire left me thinking Brain has been reading my mail, or at least my mind. It was deja vu. When he published Water to Wine (2016), something of his own memoir, I felt like I was reading about myself. Uncanny. Brian has done it again. In When Everything Is On Fire, Brian writes what I would have written to a number of friends who wrestled with the form of the faith they were given and left the ring altogether. They are still my friends. These friends may be my adjacent others. Honestly, and I hope some will read this post, I would consider When Everything Is On Fire something of my love letter to them.
I once had a conversation with a friend who wondered about the time I spend still caring about those friends who left the building for another or nothing at all. Beyond friendship, which is enough, it may have something to do with my own questions I feared asking all those years ago. When I took Yancey’s Red Pill and ventured down the road toward what Webber describes as the third stage of faith, the development of my *faith*, as in my convictions, I found a gracious group of new friends who helped me think carefully and critically without the need to leave Jesus behind. I want to be that kind of friend. (And, to be clear, I am not so sure some or all of the friends I have in mind have left Jesus, even if they protest. Enter Queen Gertrude stage right, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”)
Zhand’s project is not new. It is timely. Others have looked for ways to convey to their target audience that it has become easy to lose Jesus when deciding to play a game in which Jesus does not seem to have any interest. Philip Clayton and Steven Knapp’s, Predicament of Belief, wrestle with similar issues writing to a different group of readers..
Next Sunday, at Snow Hill, we conclude a late summer/early fall series through James’ letter. Commentators puzzle over James’ organization of his letter. Addison Hart in his recent, The Letter of James: A Pastoral Commentary, suggests the last two verses of the letter may well be the underlying aim of the whole project. James writes of those on the brink of wandering away from the faith/community, or who have wandered away. He writes to those who yet remain in the community, what Scot McKnight refers to as the messianic community, we might say ‘church.’ His aim: bring them back.
Zhand, like others, hopes readers who are considering or who may have wandered away may hear the Good News that there was no need to walk away from Jesus, even if we must let go of a form of faith that seemed/seems often to obscure what is beautiful, good, and true about the human God who came to find us hiding in his garden.
Kicking off the return of the podcast will feature a conversation with Dr. Kevin Driver. After a conversation with a friend about healthcare and healthcare costs I Tweeted:
Kevin replied and offered to have a conversation around a theological-ethical framework for healthcare. Who could turn that down? I didn’t.
To those who have read and listened here for quite a while, even back to the Edge of the Inside days: Thank you! Many of you have emailed or commented about posts or episodes. Your interactions continue to be helpful. For those newer readers/listeners, I am always up for a Guest Request or a topic/theme to be explored. To all: leaving a Review and Rating in iTunes is always helpful as well as sharing the content.
Now to get back to dusting . . .