Checking In and Blog Records

The blog has remained relatively silent recently. Yes, I’m aware of this. I am finishing up my last semester at seminary, working, preaching, etc. I’m also working on my writing craft at the moment. I’m planning to submit some short stories for publication eventually, but not until after I graduate in May.

As the blog has been semi-dormant, the traffic on the site has actually increased substantially. In the past two weeks, the blog has seen three days at near-record levels of traffic (one of those days tying the highest traffic ever, the others coming within five hits of the record). The average traffic on non-record setting days has been up a good bit as well. January and March were the biggest months traffic-wise in the history of the blog. It’s always seemed like a pattern that the less I write, the more traffic the blog gets.

Anyway, I have quite a bit of stuff sitting in the queue that will need some work before I can post it. We’ll get there eventually, d.v.

The Mark of Hell

Milton’s devils, by their grandeur and high poetry, have done great harm, and his angels owe too much to Homer and Raphael. But the really pernicious image is Goethe’s Mephistopheles. It is Faust, not he, who really exhibits the ruthless, sleepless, unsmiling concentration upon self which is the mark of hell. The humorous, civilized, sensible, adaptable Mephistopheles has helped to strengthen the illusion that evil is liberating.

-C.S. Lewis, from the original preface to The Screwtape Letters

And that’s as good a definition of pride as I’ve seen: “…the ruthless, sleepless, unsmiling concentration upon self…”

How to Shut Up

I had a teacher in 6th grade that banned the phrase, “Shut up.” She called it the S word. The penalty was a trip to the croakery. Listen to find out what that means.

In Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 Solomon breaks the rule and tells us to shut up. Solomon looks at mankind and says the dreaded S word. Shut up and listen. Shut up and obey. Our mouths are constantly writing checks our bodies can’t cash. Jesus pays our debt. The gospel re-frames the meaning of “shut your mouth.”

You can listen to the latest sermon in my series on Ecclesiastes by clicking HERE.

Under the Bleachers

A lot of people sit back in life and have their overview, compared to my underview, where I scout, under the bleachers, for what life has dropped.

-Barry Hannah, Boomerang

I picked up this book at the library. I’m growing to appreciate Barry Hannah. For starters, he grew up in the town in which I’ve lived for the past 10 years. But that’s not important. He’s a compelling writer, that’s what’s important. He once wrote an interesting introduction to the Gospel of Mark, by the way.

Hannah was great at observation. Almost great writers are. Why was he so great? He lived life under the bleachers, looking for what life drops – the non-significant events, the pain, the ugliness, the trash, the dregs.

I’ve likened Solomon’s observations in Ecclesiastes – life ‘under the sun’ – to Hannah’s idea of life ‘under the bleachers.’ You have to open your eyes to see it. You have to get under the bleachers and live life there. You have to at least imagine life without God in the world. If you were converted as an adult (like me, at 19), then that shouldn’t be too difficult. Don’t forget the underview.

 

Be Interesting, Be Interested

Stop worrying about how many people follow you online and start worrying about the quality of people who follow you. Don’t waste your time reading articles about how to get more followers. Don’t waste time following people online just because you think it’ll get you somewhere. Don’t talk to people you don’t want to talk to, and don’t talk about stuff you don’t want to talk about.

If you want followers, be someone worth following. Donald Barthelme supposedly said to one of is students, ‘Have you tried making yourself a more interesting person?’ This seems like a really mean thing to say, unless you think of the word interesting the way writer Lawrence Weschler does: For him, to be ‘interest-ing’ is to be curious and attentive, and to practice ‘the continual projection of interest.’ To put it more simply: If you want to be interesting, you have to be interested (pp. 129, 131).

-Austin Kleon, Show Your Work, pp. 129, 131

I also happen to be reading Barry Hannah’s book, Boomerang, right now. The foreword actually mentions that it was Hannah who made this comment to one of his students. Interestingly, Hannah grew up in the town I now live in, and I happened to have been in contact with Barthelme’s brother just this week. Small world.

If you want to be interesting, be interested. And not just in people like you. Be interested in people, and stuff, that you aren’t naturally interested in.

Sermon: The Triumph of Sympathy

You can listen by clicking HERE. To download the mp3, hover over the media menu under the player and click ‘download.’

My latest Ecclesiastes sermon is up. I am now working through Ecclesiastes 4, in a mini-section I am calling Life Under the Bleachers (which is a nod to Barry Hannah). In this sermon we deal with Ecclesiastes 4:1-3.

Solomon looks at the world and sees a bunch of people hunched over bearing burdens on their backs with no one to pity them or come alongside to help carry the burden. In the gospel, rather than giving us pat answers, Christ gives us the best thing he can give us – true empathy and sympathy. He lives life under the sun for us.

Learn how the sympathy of Christ can empower you to change.