September 18, 2018

Continuing our journey, and my final series, through the life of Nehemiah. Getting a little more personal in this one, as I think circumstances dictate. Also, many apologies to all for three points that formed the acrostic H-I-P. They really were the best words to use.

by Robert Nye

September 18, 2018

The quest continues to work through some classics with my kids. In this case Beowulf, which I’d never read myself.

This is more of a paraphrase of the original, so I hope it isn’t considering cheating. It was very readable though, so I think we made a good choice.

by Robert Lustig

September 16, 2018

Super duper likely this will end up being one of the most influential books I read this year. A collection of themes that have been on my mind in recent years, but presented in a way that pulls them all together.

So much of what happens in our marketing saturated culture is corporations hooking us into something that’s not healthy for us and keeps pulling us back. He explores the addictive and toxic effects of sugar and social media, among other things. But it’s not all a diatribe, as he ends the book with several thoughtful chapters on exploring a better way for individuals to live.

I read the audiobook and got more out of it than I normally do an audiobook. But I’ll be returning soon to the words on page version — there’s more for me to take away from this book, I’m sure.

September 13, 2018

The beginning of what is to be my final series of teaching at Austin Mustard Seed. A look at the life of Nehemiah that’s not focused on how to be a great leader or entrepreneur, as Nehemiah is often taught. But it is about how to prepare ourselves and partner with others to join in God’s work of rebuilding and repairing rather than settling into the cynicism and despair that is mor prevalent in our day.

by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

September 13, 2018

A book I’ve been interested in for a long time. The idea of flow is that all of us are capable of achieving some kind of optimal working condition where attention is tuned and effort seems streamlined. It’s an idea that’s common often for me both in conversations and inner ponderings.

Yet, it’s a challenging book to read, and one you almost have to feel like you’re already in Flow to engage. It’s a deep dive. I appreciate that it’s not a simple how-to manual constructed for quick sales, but almost requiring one to achieve levels of flow to stay engaged and read it. Yet, for others (and me at times), that depth might be a challenge to read through at a time when so many of us would benefit from why the engaged levels of attention of flow are worth regaining.

by Robin Sloan

September 13, 2018

I don’t even recall where I found this one — pretty sure it was another from the Best of 2017 lists. Curious and entertaining with some veiled deeper themes, but I don’t think it will be first to come to mind in conversations I might have about recent books I read.

September 13, 2018

The first time I’ve ever taught on Zacchaeus at Austin Mustard Seed, I think? And certainly the first time I ever used the story of Zacchaeus as a calling to participate in small groups of any kind. But I’d do it again.

by Marguerite de Angeli

September 13, 2018

Much of the recent reading I’ve with my kids has been historically based fiction that we’ve pulled from the recommended reading lists in The Well-Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer.

Most of those books, we’re really enjoyed. Considering this one was a Newbury winner, it didn’t stand out like others we’ve read. Reads as somewhat dated, but I guess that’s because it is!

September 9, 2018

Sheesh. I’m way overdue posting this one. Listen in, and you’ll get the impression that Tim could have talked another two hours about the creative process of sermon prep. And I would have gladly listened.

by Dan Barber

September 9, 2018

I went on a reading binge about eating and the food industry several years ago, working through some mainstream books by Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman, alongside some deeper theological reads by Wendell Berry, Ellen Davis and Norman Wirzba.

It all changed the way I view food, though it probably didn’t change my own eating habits enough.

I still have interest in the topic, and I’m especially aware of Dan Barber after he was featured in one of my favorite episodes of Chef’s Table.

The Third Place was a good addition to my prior reading, though some of it was lost on me as we talked a lot about fish. I’ve never liked fish. Yet another area of food for me to be challenged in because, as I understand it, fish should clearly be a growing part of our diets for sustainability sake.

September 8, 2018

Longtime Austin residents tend to hate a shopping/living/workspace development called the Domain — so they might be happy to know I likened it to voodoo in this one. Sort of. But I also talked about Paul and Barnabas’ time in ancient Philippi being pestered by a little girl (well, an evil spirit in truth) and singing in prison.

by Larry Hurtado

September 8, 2018

My personality likes to take it all in and try to learn a little something about lots of things. And, as that plays out, I also tend to get bored with subjects and want to move on quickly to the next idea that’s out there to be explored.

One of the subjects, though, that I never tire of is early Christian history. Anything around the first and early second century holds my interest, and I can even tolerate a lot of repeat information to glean out those unique factoids and perspectives different writers might offer.

I picked this up after a glowing recommendation in one of the conversations on the Bible Project podcast. Based on what I named, I was a little surprised that I wasn’t familiar with Larry Hurtado. I am now, and I’m sure more of his writing will make it’s way through my reading list.

by Walter Brueggemann

August 17, 2018

I don’t often like to go back and re-read books…and I consider this a fault, more than a strength. But sheesh, there are just so many I want to read.

But I do have a list of books that I have intentions to get back to. Either because they were really good and deserved further thought even years later. Or because I wonder how much more I could get out of them in a new season of life.

The Prophetic Imagination has long been a stand out for me, and it was as valuable last month as it was 8 years ago. (And why, oh why, don’t I have any notes from my first reading of it in my blog archives?) There may not be many books I can compel myself to read again, but I’m glad this was one of them.

August 17, 2018

Quite possibly, in all my years of preaching and Bible teaching, my first reference to the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. Some meaningful and life important stuff to be found in here too, of course.

August 17, 2018

A sermon recycled from Mustard Seed for our friends at Vox Veniae. This one has stuck with me in mind, practice and other conversations, ever since I preached it for Austin Mustard Seed. I was glad to be able to have another go at it for my friends at Vox.

by John Boyne

August 17, 2018

Welp, I’m lagging to posting books I finished two months ago. And yes this is also a book pulled from the Best of 2017 lists. Other than that, had no idea what I was getting myself into. But I was yanked in hard with the opening chapter.

One of the things I appreciate about literary fiction, if written well, is that I feel like it helps me identify with people who have a very different life experience than mine. That’s the case here. Hard to read at times, but of course that’s also an invitation to identify with and root for the characters.

July 9, 2018 7:18 am

We have seen how people describe the common characteristics of optimal experience: a sense that one’s skills are adequate to cope with the challenges at hand, in a goal-directed, rule-bound action system that provides clear clues as to how well one is performing. Concentration is so intense that there is no attention left over to think about anything irrelevant, or to worry about problems. Self-consciousness disappears, and the sense of time becomes distorted. An activity that produces such experiences is so gratifying that people are willing to do it for its own sake, with little concern for what they will get out of it, even when it is difficult, or dangerous.

Been aware of this book for a quite a long time, and finally reading it. That paragraph above describes an elusive way of working that I get to once or twice a week, but always hope for more of.

by Elizabeth George Spears

June 29, 2018

Read this one with two of my kids after we culled it from a history reading list for homeschooling by Susan Wise Bauer. The book offers helpful historical context for first century Galilee and the tensions between Jewish hopes and Roman oppression.

The book is 50 years old — reminding me that much of this history was around but lost to me in my own childhood and early theological learnings. Glad to be able to remedy that with my own kids.

by Michael Green

June 29, 2018

As we were preparing to go through Acts, I saw a respected friend had this in his Goodreads updates. We were preparing to through Acts this summer, and I thought it would be helpful to read something besides commentaries. It’s also thoughtfully charismatic and evangelical in a way that is outside my normal theological stream, or at least my more recent theological stream. I needed that push in some other directions, and I hope our church community is benefiting from it.

June 28, 2018

Like so many Sermonsmith interviews, I could help but get caught up in JR’s energy and passion. And like so many, I’m left hoping for a chance to meet in person someday. Maybe this one we can pull of since he’s only a couple of hours away!