Johnny Cash, heroes, Citizens, YRRC, and why love protects us

In honor of this surprise winter attack (seriously, weather people, how could you NOT see this coming?), I’m going to link you up like a blitzkrieg. Get ready for some serious THIS & THAT comin’ atcha.

Today, February 26th is Johnny Cash’s birthday. Russell Moore has a great article, “Why Johnny Cash Still Matters,” about the unique role Cash played in culture for those in and outside the church.

This article, “Real Men & Real Women: Tough & Tender” by Lore Ferguson, writer at Sayable, is so very spot on. I can’t say it better than she did, so here is an excerpt,

One of the enemy’s favorite tactics is to take what God has not called ultimate and make it so. If he can confuse the Christians, get them to devour one another, well, he can call it a day. No need for the Crusades part deux, Jesus came to bring a sword, and by golly, the first people we’re gonna use it on is one another.

One particular area of glee the enemy is basking in these days is the division he’s bringing to the Church concerning gender roles. And he does it by making caricatures rampant.

I found this over at Mere Orthodoxy and really appreciated what it has to say about heroes. Our heroes reveal our vision of the good life. So, what does our culture say about our heroes and what do those heroes say about our vision of the good life? Read, “House of Cards: Kevin Spacey, Tolkien, and the Bible” to get the scoop.

“Love among Christians is a great protection against deception,” Piper says in this post, “Two Reasons Why Love Protects Us From Deception that expands on his sermon from the past Sunday at Bethlehem Baptist. What a beautiful truth – and Piper unpacks it from 2 John 1:5-7. Just a great meditation.

No big surprise here, but this research confirms that “Spiritual Maturity Comes Through Intentionality,” according to Lifeway. I appreciate it because it’s not some pastor’s opinion on a soapbox.

I’m not sure why the CEO of’s parent company had to pull Iowa into his single-and-40 confusion, but he did. And it’s the opening to this post on “More Choices, Less Commitment.” I’m not sure how I feel about it, but I appreciate it all the same.

This is just a great song by the band CITIZENS. It’ll help get your dance on while the snow keeps falling outside.

food & sex, doing work & undoing, the unaffiliated & the labeled, wondrous love & the lost

It’s been awhile since I posted “this & that.” Trust me, I’ve been just barely keeping up – a case of too many good things, I suppose. There are always so many things to read and see and do and be. Oh, goodness that sounds like a poem. Last night, I rapped a rhyme in the break room at the print shop… so many things.

Well, here are a few for you to read and think about. Please, friends, don’t read another word if you don’t intend to filter it through the Word. What good is any knowledge unless it is made to submit to God’s purposes? Even the wonderful, giddy things are useful tools in the hands of the Father – those things people tell me are silly and childish. I believe these things and the serious things and the sad things can all be used to tear back a few more layers of veneer we’ve haphazardly patched over the beauty of God’s redemptive story.

God Created Food and Sex for the Believer. Do I have your attention? I really appreciated what this article says about how both food and sex declare the glory of God and with great intentionality are meant to be enjoyed in the best and purest way.

What is the purpose of work? Are we all destined to toil with the aimlessness we read about in Ecclesiastes or is there something deeper at play? This article from the Gospel Coalition, “The Purpose of Work,” takes a look at the life of Luther and his understanding of work and vocation being primarily a “service to God.”

Sometimes it’s nice to read something that’s not news or theology or cultural critique, at least not overtly. I loved this article from Art House America, “The Order of Undoing,” because it’s beautiful. Just the meandering description of one woman’s overnight stay at a monastery in Kentucky, but somehow she made me feel like it was news and theology and culture as well.

There’s a new trend in spiritual identity that’s caused enough rumble to have itself considered a “category.” People now identify as “nones” – as in, they are unaffiliated, unattached, and unfettered to any sort of spiritual grounding. They mark “none” when there are multiple choice boxes about religion. This intrigues me and this article by Albert Mohler, “The Great Clarification: Fuzzy Fidelity and the Rise of the Nones” says beautiful things about how this means hope.

Do you know a prodigal? No, really… do you? Or maybe you are the prodigal in the parable about the son who wandered away with his inheritance to experience the world. What a beautiful story and what a beautifully mysterious ending! This song by Wilder Adkins (you can get his music for free at Noisetrade) invites me into that story in a new way and bids me marvel at the wondrous love of the Father.

John Adams, Mr. Bean’s Olympic debut, seeing the suffering of Latinos, and my re-introduction to Spurgeon

Hello, friends!

I am posting a this & that post today because my Sabbath is getting crowded with good things. I am learning to enjoy God as I walk through crowded days as much as when I sit through solitary ones – He is faithful either way.


I read this article, “Not Like Me,” over at The Curator magazine because I resonated with the opening anecdote of a new father with a notoriously bad driving record driving his first child home in the family car. I think I’ll have a similar moment someday. But, the article mostly focused on this father’s hope for his children – a hope that they would have the freedom to be teachers and artists and writers instead of a computer programmer. I’m not sure how I feel about this idea of progress producing generations more free to pursue less technical careers. He quotes John Adams in a letter he wrote in a letter to Abigail,

I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine. (John Adams to Abigail Adams, [post 12 May 1780])


Did you watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony? It was a production, to be sure. Danny Boyle‘s dramatic presentation drew 40.7 million people to tune in to NBC on Friday night. I was one of those 40.7 million and I think there were beautiful things and strange things and things I wouldn’t want my children to see (if I had children). This article from the Huffington Post, “NBC Sets Opening Ceremony Record with London 2012 Olympics.” I’m a sucker for good competition and the underdog stories that are so easy to dig up when there’s a world stage, so I’ll be tuning in this week in what will add up to more TV than I’ll watch all year.


I am so grateful for this article from the Gospel Coalition, “Do You See the Suffering? Our Mirror Eyes and U.S. Latinos” because it says what people aren’t talking about in the political arena: it talks about what we see when we look at people. Take away policies and papers and really look at our Latino population, without mirror eyes. What do you see?


I have been reading sermons from C.H. Spurgeon – a well-known preacher from England who became famous for his common (some said vulgar) style. I love what he says about studying God,

“There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subject we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold, I am wise.” But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with the solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God.”  (C.H. Spurgeon in his sermon, “The Immutability of God”)


let LOVE fly like cRaZy

Bible literacy, Must-see films, short-term missions, and Micah Project

Hey, friends! Here’s another short-list of things you should read/click/watch/do. I hope this Monday is anything but manac and everything wonderful!

  • This series on short-term mission trips from the Gospel Coalition is extremely helpful in giving some understanding to a really hard topic. Short-term missions is just something Western churches do, even if it doesn’t need doing. Read the first article, “Celebrating the Short-Term Missions Boom ” and then the second, “Why You Should Consider Canceling Your Short-Term Missions Trip .” There is a third on the way.
  • So, my favorite film critic Brett McCracken, has a list of Best Films of the first half of this year. Take a look and see what you think.
  • How many of you start books and never finish them? How many of you are “reading” 5 books at the moment and a few of those you’ve been “reading” for 5 years? This article, “Biblical Literacy Begins with Reading,” reveals a problem we may have thought little about. It’s not about getting the Bible into the hands of more people. It’s about teaching those people to obey (Matthew 28) by actually reading and understanding the Bible in a way that translates into life.  But not the kind of reading that we do haphazardly – intentional, focused reading with accountability.
  • There are a lot of Christian books out there about how to be radical today – how to live simply, be significant, make a difference, and all that jazz. Micah Project, an organization I worked with while I lived in Honduras, is not a tagline, but a transformational ministry. Take a look at this video to see their story (narrated by a boy who went from street kid to professional through the power of Jesus).
  • And, just because I don’t want your Monday to drag, check out this article on the “awe of God.” It puts theology and Mondays in their rightful places.
  • Here’s some background music for your morning:

Have a great day, my friends!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

Singing Dads, Social Media, and Simple Branding

The links have been piling up in my tabs like rush hour traffic in Chicago, so I hope you aren’t overwhelmed. Maybe read one or two and ask: How can my knowledge of God inform my obedience in a way that leads to actions full of love in reponse to these things?

I think there are probably too many prepositional phrases in that sentence, but it’s Friday and such things are allowed.

I am honestly intrigued by the way our culture simultaneously dismisses religion as a worldview and promotes an alternative that relies on metaphysical beliefs. As long as you keep “God” out of it, you can steal vocabulary, morals, and other concepts which seem to end up working pretty well for the people who practice them. This is a short post from Atlanta branding agency Matchstic (love their work!). The title should at least intrigue you, “Branding is Telling the Truth.”

This was such a beautiful post about a father showing his love for and pleasure in Christ by singing like he meant it in front of his kids. Dad’s, Sing Like You Mean it made me hope that I can make people wonder at the source of my joy – when it bursts out in all the wrong places. I pray they see Christ, like this young man saw in his dad.

Who hasn’t heard of Hunger Games? Another in a growing number of Young Adult fantasy books that has captured all audiences, this was the “it” series after Twilight (can’t say I minded the switch). I have yet to read them, but my sister zoomed through the books in a couple days, so I think I could finish them before the movie. I’m more interested in the books after reading this post at Redeemed Reader. Read “Hungry” for yourself and then watch the movie with your eyes wide open to what it says about our culture and worldview.


I guess I’ll add myself to the crazy number bloggers who have something to say about Kony 2012. Actually, I’d rather just point you to some others who have gathered helpful resources and let you decide for yourself.  Here are the straight up stats from Denny Burk, “Measuring ‘Kony 2012’ Viral Impact.” This video is the most viral of all time. There is definitely something to learn about our culture, communication, and what stirs our collective heart. Here’s a helpful response from Matt Papa on Kony, injustice and creativity. Here’s an opinion piece by Nicholas Kristof in the NYTimes, “Viral Video, Vicious Warlord” that gives both praise and constructive criticism. Lastly, here’s an article at Relevant by Rachel Held Evans, “Is Kony 2012 Good or Bad?”

Presuppositionalism is a big word, which is why I think we should all say it at least three times before this Friday gets any older.  “What is Presuppositionalism” by William Edgar, professor  at Westminster Theological Seminary, has got some theological jargon that tastes a little like three espresso shots (just so you’re prepared). More and more people are coming to the round table called “apologetics” and wanting to have a conversation. If you’re one of those people who would like to engage in intelligent discussion where you are ready to “give an answer to anyone who asks to give a reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15), then take a look. Here’s an excerpt:

An unbeliever knows God. Not just about him, but God himself in his many attributes. Certainly an unbeliever seeks to process that knowledge in a wrong direction, to his advantage (Rom. 1:18-23). But the knowledge is there, in the heart. Second, assuming this innate knowledge-cum-suppression, we move over onto the ground of our unbelieving friend. From there we attempt to show, on his own grounds, that there is a disconnect between the presuppositions and the claims. If this is God’s world, then we cannot succeed living in it if we deny him. Third, we invite our friend to “taste and see” how good the Lord is. As C. S. Lewis put it, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

Blue Like Jazz
is a book that somehow became both a study guide for Bible studies and the religious road map for the seeker. Donald Miller‘s clever writing style refused to be pigeon-holed, but that meant a questionable rise to a position of authority on doctrinal issues. I liked the book, but I like the Bible better. Working with Steve Taylor (edgy Christian musician and now film producer), Miller hopes to bring religious questions into the mainstream. Read about how they hope to, “Blow up the Theatre Real Good.” Also this article from the Gospel Coalition, “Blue Like Jazz the Movie,” which shares my thoughts exactly on the whole phenomenon.

Left to ourselves, we are completely disinterested in coming to Jesus. —R.C. Sproul

this & that

It’s been awhile. Have you missed the linkage?
Don’t answer that.
Here are some things for you to click on, look up, read about, and ponder. Enjoy!

This post over at Gospel Coalition, “Searching for Paradise in The Descendants makes me realize how out of touch I am with the film industry these days. Unless it shows up in blog posts I follow, I probably don’t know about it. After reading this description, I’m at least interested (although they do warn about spoilers) in seeing this film.

I really appreciated this post by Tim Challies, “Empty Minds, Empty Hearts, Empty Lives,” though it is depressing to step back and look at how we live dependent on manmade tools. After looking at several research studies, he writes, “It’s not just that we are no longer remembering things, but we are entrusting to our tools the things we used to entrust to ourselves.”

Learning Worship from Idolaters is a good reminder as we all get together and get crazy about sports this weekend. Honestly, I kind of forgot the Super Bowl was happening this Sunday until a new friend asked if I wanted to come to their party. I was so relieved she asked because I probably would’ve wondered where everyone went on Sunday afternoon.

My cousin Vince and I are kind of in a band – we sing for the walls in the basement and we’re working on two covers right now – Bob Dylan’s, “It ain’t me, babe” and John Mayer’s, “Daughters.”

This book by Russell Moore is on my list of “need to read.” This book trailer gives you an idea of what, “Tempted and Tried” is all about.

Russell Moore also wrote, The Humanity of Christ Matters recently and it reminded me of some of my reflections around Christmastime – how we always view Christ in a manger with rosy lenses. Moore asked his seminary students if they thought Jesus had ever vomited, they didn’t know how to respond. He writes, “The answer to this question has to do, first of all, with the one-dimensional picture of Jesus so many of us have been taught, or have assumed. Many of us see Jesus either as the ghostly friend in the corner of our hearts, promising us heaven and guiding us through difficulty, or we see him simply in terms of his sovereignty and power, in terms of his distance from us. No matter how orthodox our doctrine, we all tend to think of Jesus as a strange and ghostly figure.”

I loved reading Eric Metaxas‘ biography of Bonhoeffer, so I was interested to see what he would say at the National Prayer Breakfast. You should probably read this article, “Pious Baloney” … it might surprise you. I’m also interested to know what you think.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got because I have some serious homework to do today for Perspectives, in addition to a meeting with a monster called taxes. I’m considering writing a letter to the IRS with a white flag enclosed, “I have no idea what I’m doing so if I make mistakes it’s not because I’m trying to cheat you out of money, but because I just really have no idea what I’m doing.”


this & that

What a week.

So many thoughts. So many reasons to give thanks.

Here are some links for laughter and thinking and love.

Senior Citizen Flash Mob This is a group of elderly folks who think they can have fun, too. I gotta give ’em props for the effort. It reminds me of the documentary Young at Heart – but less cool. You should definitely watch the documentary if you haven’t seen it!

As sad as it sounds, how we googled in 2011 is an interesting litmus test of our priorities and it turns out we are all mixed up (big surprise).

Christopher Hitchens died. This outspoken atheist passed away from cancer in Houston and it just might be the perfect time to reflect on some of the beliefs (yes, atheists have beliefs too) he held onto so tightly.

Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens

The Gospel Coalition calls the Coming Catholic Ad Blitz “among the largest religious media blitzes in U.S. history.” This campaign is one calling Catholics to come “back home” – to find their local parish and learn (or re-learn) what it means to be Catholic. This fascinates me. I wonder what your thoughts are?

Its been said, “If you don’t expose your secret, your secret will expose you.” This article by Rebekah Lyons called, “What’s Your Secret?” is refreshing as it looks at the secrets we bury down deep and the relief when they are uncovered.

Well, it’s a short list and I’m processing so much these days – taking in the beauty of everyday, reading about grace and gratitude and moments. I’m trying to step in to every moment thankful, as I read through One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.

It’s painting the world in beautiful hues.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

this & that

Well, happy Monday to you all!

This is kind of a heavy “this & that” post, but I’ll try to throw something lighter in the mix.

  • This article over at The Gospel Coalition caught my eye for two reason – it’s about apologetics (which I love) and it’s for “the rest of us” (which is definitely referring to my layman-trained mind). Appropriately titled, “Apologetics for the Rest of Us,” it’s worth your time.
  • Remember what I was going nutso over last Spring? I’ll give you a hint: The Gospel Coalition National Conference. That’s not really a hint, it’s the whole answer. If I’d been there, I would have heard this message by Mike Bullmore. I’m so thankful I wasn’t, because I was in Honduras watching the Lord work like crazy.
  • I’m a little (A LOT) obsessed with this post, “Fiction for the Common Good,” at Qideas. I willingly followed the little rabbit trail that led me to “wish listing” a whole bunch of books on Amazon. If you like fiction, but are snobby and must always qualify it by saying, “I like good fiction,” then please read this article. And then conspire with me about how we can inspire classic book clubs.
  • Although I think qualifiers like nominal and mediocre are unnecessary to put in front of our identity as Christians, I do think we can benefit from skillfully re-packaged Biblical truth. I think that will be the case with Jared Wilson’s idea of gospel wakefulness. Go ahead and read this little plug over at Desiring God and let me know what you think.
  • Thanks to Tim Challies, I found this little collection of Jonathan Edwards‘ quotes, True Excellency. Not an Edwards fan? Read ’em anyway and see what you think! 🙂
  • Something lighter… Well, you know I like rap, right? I wonder if rap will have this effect on my kids someday. 🙂

That’s a wrap, my friends. I hope you don’t have the case of the Mahndays as you read this. The tried and true solution I’ve always found is to

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

so maybe try that! 🙂 

this & that

I was wondering why I had so many tabs open on my browser, but then I realized it’s because I haven’t done a “this & that” post recently. So, here it is, folks. I hope you enjoy and at least click on ONE interesting thing that pops out at you.

  • If you’ve mailed something funny (or wanted to) you should check out this collection! Here is an example: this is fishing line!!
  • I thought this article over at Tim Challies blog was interesting. Taken from R.C. Sproul’s book, Now, That’s a Good Question, this excerpt brings up some things that have been the topic of several conversations lately. I like what he says here, “If a person is in Christ and Christ is in that person, it is impossible for the Christian not to move, to grow.” Read the rest here.
  • This is … interesting. It’s a video clip where author David Dark interviews musician David Bazan. My friend calls it “The Bazan Syndrome,” characterized by the obsession of asking without really wanting to arrive at any particular answer. What do you think? Watch the video (it’s short) and see if you are encouraged, frustrated, or just confused.
  •  I unintentionally got into a funny little comment war recently. One of my favorite blogs posted a link to an article about Christian singles/dating/blind dates and I wrote something in the comments about disliking what feminism did for my chances and then, “I wish I could just send a memo to theologically sound males: I’m not looking for a stay-at-home dad or someone who takes orders. I’m looking for someone who I can support as he passionately pursues the Lord.” A guy wrote back about how all girls want these days is someone with “a sense of humor” and a gal-pal type who would be a co-wife. Yeah, he said that. Anyway, I didn’t realize this was happening until I checked back and saw there were a slew of comments following mine. All of that to say, this article, “Mentoring Future Leaders: A Priority for Your To-Do List” gets EXACTLY at what I wish was happening more often. I have felt for a long time (I even spoke with my childhood pastor while I was still in college) a passion for men to rise up and lead the church. My heart is that I would be part of the encouragement to make that happen.
  • Have you heard of Adultolescence? It is as lame as it sounds. Listen to this message by John Piper that he gave to college students recently. Maybe it will, as my History teacher used to always say, “put a fire in their bellies.”
  • Last… this is a good one. I love Andreé Seu and her style of writing. Read this article from yesterday about apathy. You might relate to this scenario – there is an invitation to stay after church to hear such-and-such missionary. You decide those ham balls you made sound so much more enticing. Check it out here. Here’s a sneak peek:

But then I thought about Judges, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Haggai. Do you know what sin God inveighs against in all these books? Yep, the sin of apathy. The sin of indifference. The sin of losing interest in God’s work, and slacking off. We are not talking about murder or adultery here, or even grumbling or complaining.

In Judges, the Israelite juggernaut that was so vital in Joshua’s day grinds to a trickle by the end of the chapter one. The various tribes assigned to take out the Canaanites on their respective parcels of land find excuses for defeat.

So, that’s about it. Let me know what you think. Meanwhile, I’ll be letting

LOVE fly like cRaZy

stuffing peppers and bellies

I grew up in the country. When October 31 came around, we would get dressed up and take a tour of the countryside, stopping at neighbors’ and relatives houses who were all ready for the “Nichols kids.” I never knew that other kids went to houses where they didn’t personally know the people inside. Sometimes, we even sang a song or sat on the sofa for a while Because we were getting candy and popcorn balls, but we were also giving … a little time for them to treasure.

Well, I didn’t go out to trick, treat, or sing at houses last night… but I did stuff something other than a candy bag – PEPPERS! I used this recipe, but made some serious changes. I didn’t measure anything, for starters. I used fresh tomatoes and brown rice. I threw in some extra spices and (probably the biggest change) I used some peppers we got from my neighbor and I couldn’t tell you exactly which kind they were.
Something funny happened in the middle of making these little guys… I realized it was 3 pm and I hadn’t eaten lunch! Good thing I had a BUNCH of rice mixture left over! I threw some on a corn tortilla, added cheddar and salsa… and 5 minutes later there was lunch!
And then the peppers came out 🙂

I decided to get my community on and head over to my friends’ place to share these peppers and finally watch Tree of Life (terrence malick’s new flim). We ended up putting the rice mixture on top of this baked goodness and then throwing it in for a second baking to melt some cheese on top and dinner happened accompanied by some delightful conversation!

Then we watched Tree of Life.
(more on the Nature vs. Grace discussion in the film to come!)

So, what did you stuff last night? A candy bag? Your belly?

Did anyone stuff their brain on the Reformation in honor of the anniversary? I spent a bit of time reading this article at the Gospel Coalition, “Abandon the Reformation, Abandon the Gospel” and thinking about how history remind us of God’s faithfulness and our responsibility.

What thoughts have you, dear friends?

Tomorrow, I will write about the Tree of Life. Oh my, is there ever much to say!