March 2, 2018

For the season of Lent, we’re doing a series on habits for living a life more like Jesus. Each week, we teach on a practice and then invite people to try it out and discuss their experience in their community group. I’ve taught on fasting a number of times in a classroom type setting, but this is the first time in a sermon. I see a sermon as being more about big picture and calling rather than practical workshop type teaching, so I tried to find the right balance. Definitely left out a few things I wish I would have said, but mostly felt happy with the result after listening back to this one.

by Christena Cleveland

March 2, 2018

I read this to help prepare for my Seek Opportunities sermon last month. I used two quotes from the book in the sermon, but the ideas from this book were present from start to finish.

I can’t say I’ve read shelves and shelves of books on race, difference, and bias, but I’ve read some. This one is a stand out. It’s based on her scholarly work, but written at a popular level which results in a good mix of both thoughtfulness and accessibility. It stretches thinking but also offers ideas for a reasonable way forward.

by Jürgen Moltmann

February 21, 2018

I always try to have one thick book in my current reading pile. By thick, I mean thick with dense ideas to stretch or fill gaps in my thinking. Usually, it’s in the area of theology. And yes, it’s usually thick in terms of pages and heft too.

All of Jürgen Moltmann’s books fit in this category, and I return to him at least once a year to read a new one. He’s written so many.

It’s been a number of years since I read God in Creation. In it, he explores God’s relationship with creation, and dismantles views that might purely see earth a corrupt place we need to escape. It’s still my favorite of his and informs my thinking a great deal today.

The Coming of God was good to read in that it carries along that same understanding to how we often hear called “end times”. (Such a gross term.) The focus here is much more on the true hope for what “New Creation” should be — in every way, that’s language for an idea much more consistent with the writings of the New Testament.

by Yuval Noah Harari

February 20, 2018

January 31, 2018 at 07:51PM Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Homo Deus is the Yuval Noah Harari’s follow-up to Sapiens. The latter is his broad take on the history of humanity, while this newer tackles his projected future.

I read both via audiobook, which somewhat breaks a personal rule. I find that I do best with audiobooks that have a narrative structure, like history or biography. Listening to more conceptual books like these, I find, leads me to getting more the breadth of the book than the depth of it.

I got enough out of my auditory reading of this to appreciate the overall ideas and be left wanting more. There is much I’d like to return to in the print version and engage his work through my Christian understanding…but golly there’s a lot of competition in my reading queue.

February 13, 2018

The final in our series to name the methods that define what we value in the life of our church. This one: We raise leaders who have the capacity to form communities of Jesus.

by Andy Crouch

February 12, 2018

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place

I briefly met Andy Crouch a number of years ago at the Q Conference here in Austin. he was wearing a Daring Fireball t-shirt, so he has some street cred as a fellow nerd when it comes to talking about tech.

I’ve also read each of Andy Crouch’s prior books, and found value in each. So, when I saw this book released, I figured I’d be reading it sooner or later. I wish it had been sooner.

Andy offers much more that just rules for how to engage technology. He starts with some broader philosophy of what the purpose of a family should be. It’s not comprehensive, of course, but at least enough to set the tone and direction of this book. But those few chapters alone could merit healthy discussion for any family.

But going on from there, he offers an intentioned and realistic picture of how technology might best be utilized toward those ends. He offers a measured view of the value and the disruption that technology can offer relationships, especially among those who live alongside one another.

The one critique of the book is the title. Not that it doesn’t represent well the content of the book. But there is helpful stuff in here for anyone, not just families with kids at home. I’d hope the title doesn’t cause people without young ‘uns to avoid it.

February 6, 2018

The fourth of our newly developed Methods: We seek opportunities to expand beyond a fellowship of sameness to reflect the breadth of God’s kingdom. As a whole, I think our church has a lot of agreement on this topic, but a long way to go in making it a reality. A sermon that was as challenging to me as any other I’ve preached.

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.