This Looked Worse In My Head

chicken-littleI am the king of creating crises in my head. I like to blame my experience and education as an engineer, always looking for the worst case scenario and trying to protect and design for what’s feasible to expect. As much as I’d like to blame it on that, I’ve come to understand that it’s more of a character flaw than anything else.

While it’s good to always be prepared (can I get an “Amen” Boy Scouts?!), I think I’ve moved from preparing for the unexpected to bracing myself for the worst.

If I really sat and thought about it, I could probably come up with at least a page of examples of this very thing from just the past six months. How many times I’ve anticipated that things were going to be so much worse than they were only to find out that the dramatic portrayal in my head was significantly distorted from reality?! Over and over again, I go in expecting that a situation is going to result in something awful and I come out shaking my head, asking myself, “Why do I keep doing this?”

If I’m honest, I think it’s about self-defense and self-protection. It always feels so much better when I’ve planned for the worst, at least I won’t be disappointed or surprised. But more often than not, things don’t even come close to looking like what I had pictured in my mind.

I had this experience happen multiple times in the last week. As soon as I stepped up to deal with a situation, my mind began racing. The moment that I woke up in the morning, my brain immediately jumped to the situation. How would I deal with it? What would be the outcome? How would I survive? My heart began beating faster and faster, I could feel the beads of sweat begin to form on my brow, that sick-to-my-stomach feeling overtook me, and I could feel the butterflies or moths or whatever they were dancing in my stomach.

Then the moment came……

And all of my undue fears proved to be just that: undue. My worries were for naught, in vain, unfounded. What was even more astounding (or embarrassing, if I’m honest) is that reality and the picture in my head weren’t even close. It was like asking a kid to draw a dragon and he ends up with a cute little mouse. What I feared and what actually happened weren’t even in the same ballpark.

But I’m learning. I think some of my anticipation really does have to do with preparation and self-preservation. One of my biggest struggles in dealing with people is my own emotion, my own self-management, from an emotional intelligence standpoint. If I prepare myself for the worst, I can also prepare myself with the specific mechanisms and checkpoints that I need to put in place to ensure that I hold it together, that I don’t fly off the handle, and that I keep myself from saying something or doing something I’ll regret.

 I don’t know if I’ll ever stop anticipating the worst. I sure hope I do. In the meantime, I hope I learn from every situation that comes across my path, that I learn how to self-manage, that I learn to keep my emotions in check, and that I learn that thinking that the sky is falling and preparing for just such a scenario really does get old after a while!

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The Comeback – A Book Review

The ComebackComeback stories seem to draw a lot of attention. Some might call them “Cinderella Stories” and others might talk about the underdog, but when it comes to comeback stories, most people seem drawn to them. Maybe it’s the unlikelihood of the stories or the cast of characters that seem to litter the landscape of such stories. Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve all probably experienced a moment or a time in our lives when we’ve needed our own comeback and we’ve been the underdog or the “Cinderella” in the story.

Louie Giglio writes of our own need to experience this and be part of these stories in his book “The Comeback.” We all have come to a place when we’ve needed a comeback. Perhaps we’ve gotten our lives off track by ourselves. Perhaps we’ve just had a number of unfortunate events happen to us. Regardless of the cause of the turmoil in our lives, many of us have come to a place where it’s the bottom of the ninth and we are seemingly down by an impossible number of runs. When we come to that place, we need a comeback.

With his balance of wit, wisdom, and Biblical truth, Louie Giglio shares stories of others who have experienced comebacks in their lives. Some of the people of whom he shares are in the Bible and others are people he’s met along the way. All of them have experienced some kind of comeback in their lives, a second chance, an opportunity to get their heads above the water and begin swimming again. That comeback that we need to experience can only be experienced in Jesus Christ.

It can be easy for those of us who are in need of a comeback to get to a place where we don’t think we deserve another chance. We think, and sometimes the church tells us, that we need to have it all together. Giglio writes, “See, we don’t need to shine ourselves up and sit in a beautiful church sanctuary. We don’t need to gather our children and spouse together and figure out how to become the world’s most functional family. We don’t need to get well before we meet Jesus. That’s what he does for us.” Jesus is the one who provides the comeback for us, we don’t do it ourselves.

Giglio shares a lot of stories in this book. Some of them seem almost as if they came straight from a Hollywood script. In fact, it was hard for me to read a good portion of the first half of this book as there were so many stories of success and comeback that it was difficult to take considering some of the experiences that I’ve had myself. I began to ask myself, “What happens when there is no comeback?”

At just the right time, Giglio gets into that, talking about how comebacks don’t always look like we’d like them to look. Sometimes there is just no cure. Sometimes there is no repairing the relationship. Sometimes the child just doesn’t come home. When we come to that place in our lives when the comebacks don’t match what we had envisioned in our heads, we need to remember that Jesus experienced the ultimate comeback in order that we might experience the same.

There is a life beyond the temporary comeback, a salvation that is eternal, and we can’t lose sight of that. As difficult as it is to accept, the answer doesn’t always match up to our expectation. But just like Lazarus was raised from the dead and would still eventually experience death again, there was something beyond that physical death and we need to remember God’s faithfulness and love in the midst of those times. We need to remember that because of the ultimate comeback of Jesus, we too can experience the same.

“The Comeback” was full of inspiring stories. Louie Giglio is engaging as a storyteller. At times, he can seem to ramble on and maybe overshoot his point, maybe even to the point of ramming it into the ground rather than gently sticking the landing. He never comes across preachy so much as he might come across as wordy. “The Comeback” probably could have been at least twenty to thirty pages shorter.

At times, when it felt like Giglio was edging out into a prosperity gospel, he reeled it back in again and brought in biblical truths that showed just where he stood.

If you have been experiencing frustration and difficulty in your life and you need encouragement, “The Comeback” is for you. This book is geared towards those who are looking for answers and encouragement and Giglio provides both. They might not always be the answers you’re looking for, but they’re the ones you probably need to hear.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Booklook Bloggers. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

Play the Man – A Book Review

play the man“I fear we have forgotten how to make men.” That’s one of the lines in the introduction of Mark Batterson’s latest book “Play the Man.” We’ve lost something as a society with our inability to foster an adventurous and daring spirit in little boys and to help them grow up to be men. Just as animals within a zoo seem so much tamer than they would normally be in the wild, Batterson quips that perhaps churches do to people what zoos do to animals.

Batterson is a great storyteller and throughout “Play the Man” he tells stories, his own and the stories of others. He has a way of inspiring passion in his reader as he tells stories in such a compelling way that you’re ready to get up and go storm the gates of hell with a squirt gun when you’re done.

To make a case for raising men, Batterson suggests seven virtues that need to be instilled in young men in order that they might grow up well. These virtues are tough love, childlike wonder, will power, raw passion, true grit, clear vision, and moral courage. Mixing Scripture, personal anecdotes and stories, and real life accounts of people living out these virtues, Batterson makes a case for the importance of these virtues but the need to pass them on as well.

The most important part of this book, for me, was the last part where Batterson shares more personally about the various things that he has done with his own sons to instill these values into them. He never claims perfection, honestly admitting his own faults and laying out the things that he might have done differently had he had the chance. He shares from the experiences that he had with his own sons in their rites of passage that he helped to cater specifically to them.

Batterson has also set up a website where he shares resources. Specifically, he has copies of the discipleship covenants between fathers and sons that he talks about throughout the book. These covenants are set up to help fathers and sons move towards this rite of passage together.

I’ve read most of Batterson’s books. I am always inspired and filled at the conclusion of his books. He communicates in such a way that is simple and helps to make even the most unlikely of candidates believe that they too can embark on the journeys of which he writes.

“Play the Man” is an important book for our culture. In a day and age where kids are growing up faster than they ever have before, this book lays out some important ideas and virtues that require time and investment in order to instill them in the next generation of men. If you are a father, a grandfather, an uncle, or just a mentor to young men, you need to pick up a copy of this book to get some ideas as to how to successfully help young men to grow up to play the man!

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

5Q – A Book Review

5QIn the early days of the Christian church, the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus laying out the various roles of those in the church. He wrote in Ephesians 4:11-13, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors (shepherds) and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” This description has come to be known as the fivefold ministry of the church.

In the introduction of his new book “5Q” Alan Hirsch writes, “It is sobering to consider that, as far as we can tell, Christianity is on the decline in every Western setting…” This decline of which Hirsch speaks of is due, in his opinion, to the abandonment of the bulk of this fivefold ministry of which Paul wrote. He says, “As for the church’s ministry, the historical church has largely opted to exclude apostolic, prophetic, and evangelistic frameworks and has viewed ministry through the now severely reduced categories of the pastor (shepherd) and the teacher (theologian).” Using the acronym APEST to describe this fivefold ministry, Hirsch claims that the Western church has done a good job of eliminating the APE ministries and accentuating and even overemphasizing the ST ministries.

Hirsch asks his readers to read through this book with soft eyes, doing their best to let go of the ways that they’ve looked at things in the past in order to see more clearly what we’re missing by excluding these crucial elements of ministry for the body of Christ. Hirsch goes so far as to say that, “the fivefold ministry is the way, or mode, by which Jesus is actually present in the church, and by which he extends his own ministry through us.”

Hirsch proceeds to support the idea of fivefold ministry with a biblical foundation. As we live into our own gifting and encourage others into their gifting as well, we begin to fulfill the purpose for which Christ left the church on the earth as his ambassadors and representatives. We move towards the fullness of Christ as we live into this ministry. The church has been sorely lacking by not living into this paradigm and ideology. This lack has led to a “fatal and degenerative dis-ease into the body of Christ.”

Jesus epitomized this fivefold ministry in his own life and the church has been called to carry out and continue to use this paradigm to accomplish his work on the earth. The cultural mandate to which the Church has been called should fulfill this purpose through these ministries. This fivefold ministry of the church Hirsch terms 5Q. As Hirsch writes, “Once we have identified 5Q as perfectly exemplified in the life and ministry of Jesus, we can then see how he grafts these into the foundation of the church.”

Hirsch lays out the five ministries: Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, and Teacher. He gives descriptions of the various characteristics of each, also giving examples of how these gifts may manifest themselves in both sacred and secular environments. Hirsch says that these fivefold archetypes can actually be found throughout creation and history, giving them ontological weight.

Hirsch then moves from Christ to the church, describing just what it would look like if the church should embrace 5Q and live into this fivefold ministry and archetypes. He also describes just what happens when there is a deficit in these areas, giving examples of just what that would look like within the church. To live into this paradigm is to move towards a much more functional means of doing things. The apostle Paul described the church as a body and Hirsch agrees. Just as the parts of the body work together with their strengths and functions, so should the church follow suit. To neglect an area is to be deficient. “To remove one is to undermine all the others. We need all five to mature.”

Over and over again while reading “5Q” I found myself nodding my head in agreement with all that Hirsch lays out. The APEST model is something that he has spoken of in his other works as well, but not to this same depth. It makes sense. It’s logical. It’s biblical. In theory, it seems like it should be successful, in a biblical and spiritual sense, not necessarily in a worldly sense.

In order for the 5Q approach to really work, there needs to be a paradigm shift within the Western church. That shift may be easier for some local communities and harder for others. That shift may be easier for some congregations and harder for some pastors. Egos can’t get in the way because they will surely short circuit this approach in a heartbeat. The purpose of a body is shared ministry and experience, if personalities who can’t handle being the center of attention or the primary focus can’t step aside to embrace a fivefold ministry, we can expect that the Western church will continue the decline that we have already been experiencing.

5Q is not a new idea. It’s as old as Christianity itself, but the focus and shift within the church has moved away from a more balanced approach towards ministry and placed the emphasis and weight on a select few. Should we then be surprised when we see some of those crumble beneath the weight and when we see so many longing for something so much more significant than they have experienced? I think not.

I’ve been a fan of Alan Hirsch for years. I had the pleasure of sitting down with him in a little Irish pub in Long Beach, California a few years back. There was no pretense about him in person and his writing reflects the genuine personality that he possesses. He writes not with a pretentious confidence but with a loving desire to share the knowledge and wisdom that he has gained through his own experience, seen both personally and second hand.

If the Western church were to shift back towards this fivefold ministry which Hirsch is encouraging, I think we would see a significant change in effectiveness and in staying power. Of course, if we instead choose to embrace the things that we have always done, we shouldn’t be surprised if we see history repeating itself.

There are plenty of resources in this book for local communities to use to help more towards 5Q. I look forward to exploring them myself to see just how the community of which I am a part can move back towards ministry the way that Christ intended.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from 100 Movements. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

Traveling Light

I guess I should have known what kind of trip it was going to be when I forgot my underwear. Not just a pair or two, mind you, but the whole supply. I had everything else with me: shirts, shorts, pants, swimsuit, socks, etc. and somehow I managed to forget my underwear.

My forgetfulness was followed up with an extra lengthy drive that would normally take about six and a half hours lengthened to ten hours. Thankfully, the kids behaved and the traffic wasn’t due to major accidents, just congestion.

A pleasant shuttle driver made the trip to one of the busiest airports in the country fairly innocuous. We arrived a considerable time before our flight, made it through security with little incident, and hunkered down to wait the nearly six hours until our flight.

That’s when we found out that the thunderstorms we’d been hearing about in the New York City area were forecast for right around the time of our departure. Before a rain drop could even leave the sky, our flight was delayed an hour. The hour delay became two which became about two and a half and it stayed that way until we were finally on our plane, taxiing to the runway.

And then we were off on our coast to coast trip.

Well, the excitement would just continue. Rolling into the airport about 3 or 4 hours after our original scheduled arrival, discovering my wife’s brand new bag was destroyed by a careless passenger’s baby oil leaking all over, arriving at the rental car place to discover that “we’ll track your plane’s progress and wait until it arrives” is just a statement of empty words

When we rolled into our hotel room at 4AM Pacific Time, I think we may have both retorted in stereo that we would not plan on traveling again for a very long time, at least not by air. But time always has a way of changing your mind but also bringing some clarity and perspective that seems quite elusive in the midst of the storm.

The next day, we made our way back to the airport to pick up a rental car, thanks to the kindness of someone who was part of the conference we were at. As we rolled out of the parking lot, I noticed the air pressure on the rear tire was low, which seemed odd considering we had just picked up the car.

We drove it back, left it with a woman who said she’d have it back in ten minutes. Ten minutes turned to twenty minutes. Twenty minutes turned to thirty minutes, and I began to panic. Had someone stolen our rental car? Did I just get hustled? I had images of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” running through my mind when the parking attendant took Cameron’s dad’s Ferrari on a joy ride.

As I frantically asked multiple employees about the whereabouts of my car, the car came around the car. The young woman got out and reported that there had been a nail in the tire. Wow!

My wife and I put our heads together and prayed. We’d had enough. My energy was shot. My nerves were shot. I just wanted to go somewhere other than the conference I had come out to California to attend.

On day three, we experienced a neat God sighting when I realized that a woman to whom my wife had introduced me was from a church that had given me a scholarship while in seminary. That made my day, and maybe even the whole trip. If nothing else had happened that was encouraging that week, I think it would have all been worth it just to see this man and woman’s faces light up when they discovered that their little church had helped me out financially during seminary.

It was sure a lesson to me. I think the more obstacles I hit on the way to something, the more encouragement I should expect once I get there. It’s hard to keep that in mind, but I’m trying my best.

I’m flying to Cincinnati next month, and hoping that it’s an uneventful trip! But if it’s not, I guess I can expect great things!

Looking for Luther?

Martin Luther in His Own WordsWhen it comes to some of the giants of the faith, there are some whose catalog of written works is condensed enough that the task of determining just where to start reading does not seem such an ominous one. Take for instance the Apostle Paul. His letters are found within the New Testament and even if you didn’t know where to start, the works are brief enough that one could potentially tackle them within a month’s (or less) period of time.

At the same time, there are theologians across the centuries whose works are so many that to determine a starting point can seem like such a monumental task that one chooses instead not to dive into those works at all. In cases like the reformer John Calvin, or more modern theologians such as Charles Hodge, Karl Barth, and N.T. Wright, it would be incredibly helpful to have a tool that would be useful to find that starting point.

Enter Jack Kilcrease and Erwin Lutzer. Kilcrease and Lutzer have edited Luther’s writings and compiled and arranged them in a very approachable way in their work “Martin Luther In His Own Words.”

In the introduction, Lutzer writes, “We can neither forget Luther nor ignore him.” Through his words, we can see the reformer’s theology as well as his influence that continues to reach far beyond his lifetime because of the availability of his writings and works.

Appropriately, the book is divided into five sections based on the Five Solas of the Reformation: Sola Fide (Faith Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Solus Christus (Christ Alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone be the Glory). Each section contains two or three separate excerpts from Luther’s writings.

The sections are well-footnoted with helpful content. Context and word definitions that are specific to Luther and his time are explained so as to assist the reader, especially those with limited knowledge of the Reformation and church history. With the addition of these footnotes, there is no background information required prior to reading this book. It is a work that can stand on its own.

Lutzer begins the introduction by saying, “This is a book you will want to read more than once.” He is right. The works of Luther that are excerpted and cited are rich and deep, requiring multiple readings to fully drink in all that he expounds upon and shares. All of the specific source material is cited at the end of the book so as to ensure the reader knows just which translations of Luther’s works were used.

Whether you are already familiar with Luther’s works or if you are seeking to venture into them for the first time, this book is a great primer that might act as an appetizer and compass to know just where to start in digging deeper into Luther’s expansive works. While it may seem dry and even too scholarly at first hearing of it, this book gave me new insights into Luther and also helped me to realize that his works are approachable and more easily understood than I initially expected.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

The Most Misused Stories in the Bible – A Book Review

most misused storiesIt’s not uncommon for people who have grown up within the church to have heard many of the stories in the Bible time after time during their days in Sunday school. Some of us who were raised in that vein didn’t fully realize just what some of those stories were about until later on in life when we opened up our Bibles and actually read the stories for ourselves. We realized that some of the stories had only been told in part while others had been somewhat whitewashed and sterilized to take out the more mature elements of them.

There are many stories in the Bible that take on a life of their own depending on who gets a hold of them. These stories are the stories that Eric Bargerhuff focuses on in his book “The Most Misused Stories in the Bible.” Bargerhuff picks a select number of stories from the Bible that seem to have been hijacked for uses other than for what they were intended.

David and Goliath. Jonah and the big fish. Zacchaeus. The wise men. Cain and Abel and more. These stories have been used and abused to make points other than what they were originally intended to make. The main points and lessons that were to be gleaned from them seem to have taken a back seat for secondary lessons that have been elevated as more important.

Bargerhuff does an adequate job going through each of the stories on which he chooses to focus. This is not a book for biblical scholars, but I think that scholars would appreciate Bargerhuff’s focus here. His main intention is for people to be reading the Bible with an intelligent lens, one which thoughtfully approaches the Bible. He encourages the reader to dig deeper into these and other stories to study and determine what they are all about, leaving preconceived notions and prior experience behind.

Context. Biases. The overall big picture of the entire Bible. Bargerhuff does just enough exegetical and hermeneutical work to give a teaser to the reader who may be interested in going further into the study of the Bible. That is the best part of this book to me. Bargerhuff is encouraging people to dig in deeper to the Bible.

While he is promoting the idea of not reading our own agendas into our reading of the Bible, I never got a sense that he was being honest about his own. Each and every one of us bring a certain bias with us when we come the Bible. We will hopefully do our best to make sure that we do our best to remove those, but it is impossible to be completely objective in our readings. With that in mind, Bargerhuff encourages the reader to do all possible to study and bring new light to our readings of the Bible that we cannot arrive at on our own, without the aid of other resources.

It would have been helpful to have had a list of helpful resources at the end of this book in an appendix. Although Bargerhuff includes a Notes section that is extensive and which includes the resource that he used in the writing of this book, a separate section pointing the reader to helpful resources would have been a great addition to this book.

For those who are seeking to dig deeper into the Bible and study more on their own, this might be a good spring board to encourage that. This is a helpful book for those who are just starting out in their journey of studying the Bible. If you are already one who has a fairly well=proven method by which to engage the Bible, this may very well be a book that you can skip.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Bethany House Publishers. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

The Imperfect Disciple – A Book Review

The Imperfect DiscipleOn the last page of “The Imperfect Disciple” Jared Wilson writes, “I wrote this book for all who are tired of being tired. I wrote this book for all who read the typical discipleship manuals and wonder who they could possibly be written for, the ones that makes us feel overly burdened and overly tasked and, because of all that, overly shamed.” And if we start with the ending, reading this page first, it really gives us a synopsis of “The Imperfect Disciple.”

Wilson’s sub-title for the book is, “Grace for people who can’t get their act together.” He reminds the reader throughout the book that discipleship is not just working harder, better, or more efficiently. We can only get to where we need to go through Jesus, not through our own efforts. Jesus is not looking for people who have it all together, Jesus is actually looking for people who can’t get their act together. It is those of us who don’t seem to be able to get our acts together that understand better that we are unable to get to where we need to get on our own.

Jared Wilson shares stories from his own experiences in ministry as he walks through what discipleship really can look like. We cannot simply manage our sin and think that’s enough to make us good disciples. In fact, if all we are doing is sin management, then we’ve missed the gospel and the essence of discipleship as it goes so much further than simply outward appearance and action. The essence of discipleship and the gospel penetrates to our hearts and souls, changing us from the inside out. That kind of change is not something that we are able to achieve on our own and the harder we try, the more frustrated we will become.

We cannot think that discipleship is all about us fitting God into the nooks and crannies of our lives. But Wilson says, “…God owns all of life, and worshiping God means we must revolve around him, not us. So God shouldn’t be confined to his own compartment in our schedule. Jesus does not abide in his assigned time slot; we abide in him.”

Wilson explores sabbath rest, worship, and other key areas of the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ. He challenges those of us who think we can achieve and encourages those of us who feel like we will never measure up. While there was nothing here that was earth shattering to me, Wilson’s writing style and delivery made this book a worthwhile read. If you’re looking for encouragement after having tried to measure up to impossible standards, the message of grace that is presented here could be salve for your soul and encouragement for the way forward.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

God Is Still There

As I drove home from spending the day with good friends yesterday, my phone began buzzing, indicating that there was a message for me. Someone wanted to get in touch with me.

I checked the message to find that tragedy had struck my community in the loss of a young man. A message had gone out from the principal of the school alerting parents of the situation and letting them know that the school would do whatever they could in the midst of this tragedy to accommodate and care for students.

I looked in the rearview mirror at my three kids. These situations always feel close to home when I look into their eyes. My wife and I carried on our conversation, injecting questions and thoughts as we went. It was hard to wrap my head around this kind of news. When tragic news strikes, I’ve always felt like there are more questions than answers. Who? What? Where? Why?

Why?

Three simple letters that seem to be as invasive as the surgeon’s scalpel. They cut deep but unlike the scalpel, they don’t always get to the heart of the issue. There is pain. There is sorrow. There is anger. The emotions run rampant and wild as we wrestle with a new reality as it begins to set in.

Late last night, I got a text from someone struggling with the news. Words of comfort seem trite to me in times like this. Even as a man of deep faith who has experienced his own losses, the freshness and newness of loss demands something so much more than words can offer.

This morning, I was reminded of the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” The context is important here. Jesus’ friend, Lazarus, has died. His sisters insist that if Jesus had been there, he would not have died. Jesus comforts Mary and Martha with words. He tells them that their brother will rise again and reminds them that he (Jesus) is the resurrection and the life, that whoever believes in him, even though they die, will live. Then Jesus asks where his friend has been laid. When he reaches the tomb, he is greatly moved by the mourners and by the heartfelt pain of these sisters, and Jesus weeps himself.

Jesus’ response in the midst of this tragedy speaks deeply to me. He knew that he was going to heal Lazarus and raise him from the dead. He knew that death would be averted for a little while. Yet he still wept.

Sure, Jesus pointed them towards truth in the beginning, but then he simply wept with his friends. Jesus didn’t get on his soapbox and begin to preach. He said what he needed to say and then he got onto the task at hand: mourning and weeping.

To be honest, I don’t really think that we do that well. I’ve experienced it on both ends of the situation, as the one who is seeking to comfort another and as the one who is seeking to be comforted.

On the day that my father died, I had two friends with me. As I loved on my father and spoke gentle words to him, one of my friends began to weep. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t offer any words. He simply wept.

Sometimes the best thing for us to do is to simply come alongside those who are suffering and experiencing loss and not provide answers, but weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. There will be a time for asking questions and a time for seeking answers.  

The great Scottish author George MacDonald wrote, “The Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.” While we weep, we are not alone. In the pain, in the tragedy, in the heartbreak, God is still there. His voice might not always seem decipherable in the loudness of death, but his presence can be felt as he weeps with us. We are not alone.

 Yes, there will be a time for questions and answers, but in the freshness of loss, the best thing that we can do is to weep alongside those who are weeping. There may be a time when the answers that we’ve arrived at are appropriate to share, but that time is not now. May we practice the presence of Jesus alongside those who are grieving and mourning.

The Tech-Wise Family – A Book Review

techwise familyUnless you’re living in a bubble, you’re aware of the vast influence of technology on our society and culture (and if you’re living in a bubble, you’re most likely not reading this review). Like so many other tools, technology can simplify our tasks and make things easier for us, but it can also present challenges and pitfalls that we need to be aware of and for which we need to create boundaries. As Andy Crouch says, “If there’s one thing I’ve discovered about technology, it’s that it doesn’t stay in its proper place on its own…”

In his book “The Tech-Wise Family,” Andy Crouch lays out his top ten tech-wise commitments for families. He divides them, more practically, into three separate sections: the three key decision of a tech-wise family, daily life, and what matters most. Crouch leads the reader through each section, pointing to data from the Barna Group to bring some levity and reality to just how serious the technological situation is among families in our culture.

Crouch doesn’t call for a straight boycott and abandonment of technology, just a means and method by which it can be held in check. Either we get it under control or it will control us. Technology has a way of creating a culture where we see “easy everywhere.” In other words, we’ve simplified tasks and other things to the point that all that is required is a screen swipe or a button push, tasks that once required much more brainpower than they now require.

Andy Crouch pushes for creating spaces where we live “tech-free,” once a day, once a week, and once a year. How do we create Sabbath from everything, including technology? The challenge that this presents to families is that our kids might try to lead an uprising and a revolution, but Crouch suggests that, like his family, we need to make sure that the phrase “our family is different” becomes a regular part of our vocabulary.

Crouch pushes for the need to build family who are about wisdom and courage, which is not always easy, but so worth it. Are we instilling good values into our kids? Though he doesn’t explicitly say it, he certainly implies that if we aren’t instilling good values in our kids, values will come at them by whatever is at arm length, like their devices. I don’t think that’s an alternative that many of us who are parents would gladly choose.

While the tendency for parents might be to overreact at the potential pitfalls and dangers of technology, Crouch doesn’t advocate for isolating our children, just doing things differently with them. He writes, – “The path to health is not encasing our children in some kind of germ-free sterile environment that they will inevitably try to flee; rather, it is having healthy immune systems that equip us to resist and reject things that do not lead to health.” Using technology wisely isn’t an abandonment of it but a call to be more strategic in just how we use it.

At the end of each chapter, Crouch includes a “Reality Check” section where he talks about his family’s experience with the tech-wise commitment covered within that chapter. He is honest, not candy-coating the struggles that he and his family have had with some of these commitments. The honesty and candor here is a draw, especially for those families who will have to implement guidelines and commitments after having little to no boundaries around technology.

As I look at technology and its development, it seems that it might be easily compared to a high-speed train. Parents can’t simply sit back and hope for the best, there needs to be intentionality in a family’s approach to technology. Andy Crouch offers a clear, thoughtful, and thorough approach. He never claims that it’s easy, but he does say that it’s effective. For any parent wanting to navigate these waters for their family, “The Tech-Wise Family” is a helpful resource. It’s not foolproof but it offers a good place to start.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)