reading is FUNdamental

the other day i wrote about my top 5 worship songs. i like top 5 lists. top 10’s are very David Letterman, and top 20’s can be exhausting, besides a top 5 makes you really examine your favorites to get them down to the best.

so with or without fanfare, i present my top 5 books.

5. Fargo Rock City-Chuck Klosterman


i actually checked this book out of the library and it was my first exposure to the genius that is Chuck Klosterman. his sharp witted essays about his love of Motley Crüe and the bleakness of North Dakota are brilliantly written and connect with the teenagers of the 80’s. he loves this genre of music and you can feel that passion come out in the book.

4. High Fidelity-Nick Hornby


what? books about music that are my favorites? i wonder why? if you know me, then you know that i love all things English and this extends to my literature. Nick Hornby is as inventive a writer as i’ve read. his characters are so very flawed and very British that you can’t help but hurt with and pull for them. actually the idea for “top lists” comes from this book as it is a theme that weaves throughout. the main character, Rob, is an audiophile and has an extensive collection of vinyl and that makes me smile. he continually ascribes songs to feelings and ideas. music is rich throughout this book and Hornby writes from a level of expertise in a wonderfully relational style. side note, i like John Cusack in the movie version, but i hate it when Hollywood takes English novels and “Americanize” them.

3. No Country For Old Men-Cormac McCarthy


oh, how i love Cormac McCarthy. i actually read a few of his books from the library. i started with All The Pretty Horses.  i picked this one up on a return trip and was mesmerized from the title page. Anton Chigur is the embodiment of evil. the character was so scary in the book that i had to remember that i was reading a work of fiction and not a real crime novel. the inner dialogue that Sherriff Ed Tom Bell provides in the interludes of action are beautifully rough and simple. i grew up in the region that the book is set in which makes it all the more real to me. when he describes the sheriff’s office in Sonora, or the open range where the drug deal gone wrong takes place, i can truly see it. masterful prose from a reclusive genius.

2. Chasing Francis-Ian Morgan Cron


this book was recommended by Randy Elrod and i actually got to sit with the author at a SuperBowl party in Nashville in 2010 and talk about how awesome Led Zeppelin is. this book details the journey of a pastor named Chase who becomes disillusioned with his church and accepts an invite to visit his uncle in Italy where he has some supernatural experiences in the areas where St. Francis of Assisi lived and worked. it is a rich novel and Cron weaves beautiful ideas about life and God into the fictional story of this man who is struggling with who he thinks God is. you might also want to check out Cron’s book Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me (a memoir of sorts)

1. The Chronicles of Narnia-The Last Battle-C.S. Lewis


i fell in love with this series at a young age. there was an old linen bound collection at the Dublin Public Library, and i spent the summer between fourth and fifth grade becoming well accustomed to the wilds of Narnia. actually the whole series is precious to me, but this book especially has my heart. because in this book, Aslan, my favorite literary character of all time, reaches the culmination of who he really is throughout the series. don’t laugh, but i seriously cry when Aslan appears in the books. some of my favorite prose that Lewis wrote is in this book.

“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

so tell me your top 5. what do you like to read? and give me ideas for future top 5’s.

i’m reading again…

i had stopped. one of my friends told me it was because i was depressed.  i guess that could be true, but i really don’t know.  in the midst of moving and starting over, all the books were packed away and it was easier to just not read. but after buying a bookshelf and unboxing the library, i am slowly getting back into the desire to pick up a book and delve into the pages.

i’m definitely reading passages from the Bible.  i’m using The Voice of the Psalms.

where i used to read 4 or 5 books at a time, i’ve pared it down to two for now.  i’m working my way through Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus an amazing book about technology and how it has turned consumers into collaborators.  also on my nightstand is Ian Cron’s Jesus, My Father, and the CIA-a memoir of sorts.  Cron’s Chasing Francis is one of my all time favorite books. i wrote about it’s initial impact on me here.

so my prayer is that i will continue to read. to continue to pursue wisdom. and that in reading that my writing will explode and become what i dream it needs to be.

Context and Voice

My friend Vince Marotte is always talking about conversations and community. He is serious about it. From twitter to his blog, he wants to engage people in conversation, which is why I was very excited to read his new book Context and Voice.

I read the book over the course of a few days.  It’s not a difficult read and Vince and I have had these conversations.  I’m glad he put these ideas in book form to convey them to others.

For me the book breaks down to this one idea.

“Is that interaction moving anyone closer to God?”

In other words are the conversations and the content we are creating using online tools or in our interactions with people moving them further along in their spiritual journey?  The internet and social media are powerful tools.  Are we using them effectively?  Vince makes so many good points about the fact that the internet is not a “community”, but a vehicle to reach communities.

One of my favorite analogies in the book is the idea of Front Door.  He talks about how our Front Door is a welcoming place at our home.  How we paint it, we put the best landscaping near it, the entry way into our home is an inviting special place.  Yet in the church we have misplaced the Front Door and expect people to jump through hoops to gain entry.

“The church greatly underestimates this aspect of front door content. Our tendency is to think that the only virtue that can be had, based on content, is for someone to accept Christ or otherwise move in a direction that puts them in the pew of our church. We have been taught that we haven’t presented the Gospel until we proposition the people consuming our content.”

Vince also does a great job of contrasting content and relational content.  Content is anything that communicates a message. Relational content exists best within the context of a relationship to help the intended message to be understood.  In other words, our content can be insider language at times.

We need to learn how to understand what content is best served inside relationship and identify what content can live outside of relationship and allow people to move in a direction in their spiritual journey toward God.  We need to have a solid understanding of relational content to see where our current content fits in and where content we intend to create will fit.

This book caused me to really sit down and contemplate how I interact with people in general.  The context in which we are interacting and the content that I’m creating to either educate or interact. Vince challenges communities to move from being consumers to content creators  I think the book has great virtue in asking wonderful questions and causing us to think about how we communicate the greatest message ever.

I’ll leave you with Vince’s simple, linear idea of the book.

Culture>Front Door Content>Relationship>Relational Content>Action

Is the story that you are crafting moving people in culture to relationship and ultimately to action?

from the Shattered Lantern

When we are unreflective, invariably it is because our restlessness lacks a proper asceticism and propels us into a flurry of activity that keeps us preoccupied and consumed with the surface of life–with the business of making a living, with doing things, and entertaining ourselves.  It is then that our actions no longer issue from a center within us, but instead are projects of compulsion.  We do things and we no longer know why.  We feel chronically pressured, victimized, and hyper-driven.  We overwork, but are bored; socialize excessively, but are lonely; work to the point of exhaustion, but feel like our lives are a waste.

i’m a huge fan of Chuck Klosterman…

and will probably use my Border’s rewards points to get his new book.

i was first exposed to his work when i checked Fargo Rock City out of the library.  i quickly purchased other books of his.  i liken him to a modern day Jonathan Swift when it comes to the art of the satirical essay.  his essays range in topic from Britney Spears to why he hates soccer.  he delves into the racial and socio economic implications of the Lakers/Celtics battles of the 1980’s.  then sometimes he just writes about the fact that he has a drinking problem.

this however is why i like Chuck Klosterman.  no matter what he writes about….it’s always painstakingly authentic and as true as he can be.  he doesn’t hold back to give us nice saccharine overloaded stories.  he gets to the dirty, bottom of the the facts.  i think that’s what i enjoy.  he wants you to be shocked, to disagree with him, to write him angry letters telling him how you feel (well he may not like angry letters, but in my imagination i picture him getting hate mail).

so i invite you to check out Fargo Rock City, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, or IV, and if you disagree with me, well….we can still be friends.  i think that’s how Chuck would like it.

(BTW, i was going to devote a post today to how HORRID Taylor Swift performed on the Grammy Awards Show last night, but decided i’d rather write about something that i like.)

i was reading…

The Difference Between Average and Mediocre

Management often works to maintain the status quo, to deliver average products to average people.  In a stable environment, this is exactly the right strategy.  Build reliability and predictability, cut costs, and make a profit.

Traditional marketing, the  marketing of push, understands this.  The most stable thing to do is push a standard product to a standard audience and succeed with discounts or distribution.

But for tribes, average can mean mediocre.  Not worth seeking out.  Boring.

Life’s too short to fight the forces of change.  Life’s too short to hate what you do all day.  Life’s way too short to make mediocre stuff.  And almost everything that’s standard is now viewed as mediocre.

Is there a difference between average and mediocre?  Not so much.  Average stuff is taken for granted, not talked about, and certainly not sought out.

The end result of this is that many people (many really good people) spend all day trying to defend what they do, trying to sell what they’ve always sold, and trying to prevent their organizations from being devoured by the forces of the new.  It must be wearing them out.  Defending mediocrity is exhausting.

Seth Godin from TRIBES

Are you a coward?

This is not for you.  We badly need brave men.  He must be 23-25 years old, in perfect health, at least six feet tall, weigh about 190 pounds, fluent in English with some French, proficient with all weapons, some knowledge of engineering and mathematics essential, willing to travel, no family or emotional ties, indomitably courageous and handsome of face and figure.  Permanent employment, very high pay, glorious adventure, great danger, You must apply in person, 17, rue Dante, Nice, 2me etage, appt. D.

Robert A. Heinlein Glory Road

would you sign up?  do you have what it takes? i can’t say that i would. but oh how i wish that i could take the skills and passions i have and run with no fear, full speed into my destiny.

what is it that continually holds me back?

we humans are most alive when we passionately pursue our dreams, live with a purpose, and have a sense of destiny!

Erwin McManus

so those of you who know me well…

know that i read alot.  i’ll read three to five books at a time.  with the move and the new job, i’m not reading as much, but soon i’ll be back in my rhythm.  i love all books.  i read fiction, biographies, how-to books.  you name it, i’ll read it, unless it’s instructions or an operation manual. 


i really like books that kick me in the gut.  Barbarian Way by Erwin McManus.  Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  Jesus Wants to Save Christians by Rob Bell & Don Golden.  etc…

i’ve been reading The Divine Commodity by Skye Jethani and i have to say, he really kicks hard.

i struggle quite often with myself and the things that i possess.  i mean i like my iphone and my Macbook.  i’m thankful for my home, cars, clothes.  i then remember the people in the earth that live in abject poverty and feel great sadness that they have nothing.  then i roll back over to, well i went to college, and i’ve worked hard for these things.  then i think wow, these are just things and i don’t deserve any of this.  you hopefully get my meaning.

i have tried on many occasions not to be a “consumer”, but i keep falling back into over consumption.  i look too much like everyone else. 

Jethani talks consumerism as it relates to Christians, if i take my “lack of purchasing control” to the  Christian bookstore, i feel a little better about myself than if i buy it at WalMart. 

“If being a Christian is not marked by a life of increasing righteousness, holiness, faithfulness, love, or justice, what remains to differentiate a follower of Christ from other people?  Perhaps that is the point.  If being a Christian involves no internal transformation, then an external transformation will have to suffice….Approaching Christianity as a brand explains why the majority of people who identify themselves as Christians live no differently than other Americans yet spend enormous amounts of money on Christian products.  Rather than adopting a biblical worldview, they have simply added a Jesus fish onto the bumper of their consumer identities.  And like the products they purchase, the branded Christian’s identity will always be more about image than substance.”

well i guess it’s time to go throw out all of my Tommy Hellfighter & got Jesus shirts. (if you really know me, you know that i don’t have any of those shirts)