by J.R.R. Tolkien

January 31, 2018

Part of the reason the previously mentioned The Three Musketeers took so long to read is that I was also slowly working my way through this with my son. When we started I was wondering if he was old enough to read it, and now he’s ready to move on to the next books all on his own. So yeah, it took a while. Still a pure delight to read and one of my favorites.

by Madeleine L’Engle

January 31, 2018

A thoughtful book by a thoughtful person on topics I myself hope to be thoughtful about. Not sure this one broke new ground for me in things I haven’t read or considered at other times. But still good to read something like this to bring a careful engagement of art and faith back into my day to day thinking.

January 31, 2018

Continuing our winter series on our newly articulated Methods as a church. One of my favorite stories in the Bible is Paul’s visit to Athens in Acts 17, and this may be the first time I’ve been able to teach on it at Mustard Seed. That…or my memory is fading with age.

January 27, 2018

After moving the site because of outgrowing traffic allowances on two different servers, and some code fixes along the way, I was way overdue for posting another Sermonsmith interview. But this one, like most, reminds me why I love doing this podcast. Getting two people together to talk shop about a shared passion is never tiresome.

by Jesmyn Ward

January 27, 2018

Books like this remind me that I have two hopes for what reading fiction will do for me:

  1. On the one hand, fiction offers a view into a different world, opening a little window of vacation in the midst of my usual day to day.
  2. On the other hand, fiction offers a view into a different world, opening a little window into how life might look and feel in usual day to day of others.

Sing, Unburied, Sing is the latter. I found it on just about every “Best of 2017” list I reviewed in the last month, and it’s justified. It was hard to read, but it did take me someplace. And I’m better for reading it.

January 27, 2018

Part two of our winter series on our community methods. This one focused on how we see the “organization” of the church primarily as a network of relationships. And I guess, like last week, I still had lots to say because I went over my target time by 10 minutes. Again. Oops. Again.

January 25, 2018

The first in our winter series on our methods — the actions we take as a church to help us with our mission to “form communities of Jesus”. I didn’t realize how much I was enjoying this one until I edited the next day and realized I went 10 minutes over my target sermon length. Oops. Thanks for being a kind audience, aMS…

by Alexandre Dumas

January 25, 2018

‘Twas a long long slog to read through this with my two youngest kids. We took it a few pages at a time before bed many (but not all!) nights, and I think we were in it for over a year.

Truth be told, we were glad to be done when we finished, and I think we struggled to remember some of the narrative arc after so long. But there was a certain level of reward to finish, and they were exposed to quite the classic English vocabulary, as well as some French words that they’ve started tossing in conversations within our family.

by Winn Collier

January 20, 2018

Look, I’m going to be completely biased on this one, because Winn is a friend — the kind of friend I wish I got to see and talk with more. So, by way of brief review, let me share the brief email I sent him the day I finished this one:

Finished your book earlier today … can I tell you how much I loved it? And I knew I would love every bit to come when I highlighted “my give-a-shit’s broken” in the first chapter. It felt like you took the good pieces of Wendell Berry and Eugene Peterson and channeled them through the best parts of Winn Collier!

Thanks for writing in a way that celebrates and elevates that heart and voice of a pastor who wants nothing less than to lead and walk alongside a people in a given time and place. I felt both seen for who I try to be and reminded of who I want to be.

January 16, 2018 10:18 am

When I am grappling with ideas which are radical enough to upset grownups, then I am likely to put these ideas in the story which will be marketed for children because children understand what their parents have rejected and forgot.

January 8, 2018

The first sermon to kick of a new series for a new season of Austin Mustard Seed. Excited to settle in for the five weeks to follow as we talk about our newly articulated Mission & Methods. Outline points (and sub sub sub points) included Jesus’ ideas about the church that didn’t yet exist, thoughts from Lesslie Newbigin, and super thick glasses as the ultimate author smack talk.

by Marie Lu

January 8, 2018

Another book that found it’s way to my list after being recommended at multiple young adult panels at the Texas Book Festival. (And probably the last YA I’ll read for a while…)

I call this kind of book a kinder, gentler dystopia. (And another new genre that I would include with Version Control.) It’s a near future book where there hasn’t been any kind of cataclysm, but slow change that has led to a not quite as ideal society.

The premise of this book is fun and interesting enough, with a clever overall premise. I can see why it was a popular recommendation at all the YA panels. But it was also YA, and I roughly imagined how the ending would go before I got there.

No regrets though — my oldest daughter and I were able to have a number of conversations around it since she’d read it just before me.

by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

January 2, 2018

Two former Navy Seals have built a brand based on their lessons learned as commanders in wartime. The result is a book where each chapter tells how they learned a principle as commanders in wartime, a statement of the principle, and a follow-up scenario from their consulting for how the principle plays out in business. By the second or third chapter, I found myself skimming the wartime stories and business scenarios and just reading the section describing the principle.

I expected the book to be about how good leadership leads to ‘extreme ownership’ by those being led. But, it’s more about how a leader has to maintain extreme ownership of the project/business/organization they lead. I appreciated that there was a level of permission for me as a leader that came with that view, but also wondered, as I often do, if there is an expectation of leadership here that fits in wartime or a start-up culture but is less sustainable for long-term leadership in a maturing and developing organization.

by Jason Reynolds

December 30, 2017

I scrawled the names of many books in my iPhone during our annual family outing to the Texas Book Festival last month. Since I was with my kids, many of those books were Young Adult books, so this might be the first of a few YA that show up here in my recent reads.

Several authors raved about Long Way Down, and we went to two different panels that Jason Reynolds participated in, so here it is. Fit this in the category of books that take me totally outside my experience as it chronicles a minute in the life of a boy who is preparing to take revenge out on someone who he thinks murdered his older brother.

This “minute in the life” takes more than a minute to read, but I read it in one sitting. It’s a short read because it’s written in verse, but also because it keeps pulling your forward in the story.

December 30, 2017 10:38 am

At any rate, the creed is necessarily something we say together, something we can only truly believe together. … We’d have to keep asking each other whether or not we believe. I assume I’d hold you up on your weak days, and you’d hold me up on mine.

Just started reading this book by my friend Winn. I imagine there will be many passages I highlight as enthusiastically as I did this one.

December 28, 2017

I’ve been working with ShippingEasy since 2013, when the relocated to the United States and launched a massive update of their product. I was hired to create their marketing site in WordPress, merging a design that they provided with a Bootstrap template they liked. A year later, we rolled out a new site using a similar process, and it’s had many revisions along the way.

A few weeks ago, we launched an entire new design. They had a designer work up a new site from scratch, and then I built out the code on top of their existing site structure and content. A few of the interior pages are still getting facelifts, but it’s a fresh new look that was a lot of fun to build.

December 28, 2017 7:36 pm

The primary function of my blog when I began, oh so long ago, was to share thoughts about the many books I read. (Well…and also to get some Amazon Associate links going to help sustain my reading habit.) I’ve not kept up with that for the last few years, but I’m working my way back to that.

I created a new post format for my blog to post thoughts about some of the books I’ve read. I’m not intending to write reviews or even synopses, but just to capture some thoughts after I finish each book and it’s still fresh in my mind.

An example of the first post of this kind is below…

by Dexter Palmer

December 28, 2017

I’ve been loading up my library wish list with all the books I’m finding on all of the “Best of 2017” lists. All the while, I’m still working through the books that I added from all of the “Best of 2016” lists. Case in point… Version Control, by Dexter Palmer.

As science fiction goes, I hereby declare there is a sub-genre called Science Fiction Realism. Yes, it’s a close kin to Magical Realism. It’s the kind that takes place in our known world within history or the not too distant future. The setting is familiar, but events are introduced which are outside the usual reality.

I make this declaration in order to state that:

  1. This is my favorite kind of science fiction
    I don’t as much enjoy the labor of forming mental constructions of whole new worlds and alien races that science fiction often requires. But I like the idea of a story that stretches the boundaries of this known world in a way that I can identify with the story but also imagine a different reality.
  2. Version Control is this kind of science fiction.
    It’s a near future story that mixes elements of mild dystopia due to the reign of social media, broken relationships and racial tensions with mild elements of science fiction. It will be one I remember to recommend to others. In fact, I did earlier today.

December 19, 2017

I’ve had a tenuous relationship with the enneagram for 10 years or so. I’ve appreciated the framework of it more than any other ‘personality’ profile, yet I found myself often switching around how I thought I best fit within it. Most often, though, I came back to the Enneagram 5. This podcast conversation hosted by Ian Cron offered the most helpful explanation of 5 I’ve heard in a way that I can finally, and firmly, plant my 5 flag.

December 19, 2017

Had the pleasure of beta-testing Scrivener 3 over the last many months and it’s just right. Often, useful software bloats and complicates over time. Scrivener 3, while adding a bunch of improvements, is still Scrivener. When you open it, it looks better, but familiar. The core purpose that I’ve used it for is still what it does best — break down a writing project into maneagable pieces and reference material. My only gripe is that I don’t have any longer form projects going at the moment to use Scrivener with.