‘Melt Thy Rifles Into Garden Tools’

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Patricia Brown, writing for the NYT Opinion section:

The venerable art of blacksmithing is not generally considered to be a radical act. But for Michael Martin, a 36-year-old Mennonite from Colorado Springs, the malleability of glowing metal from a forge’s inferno makes it the perfect vehicle for addressing gun violence.

Mr. Martin, a former youth pastor, was inspired to learn blacksmithing after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012, in which a deranged young man with an AR-15 assault rifle killed 20 children and six educators. Three months later, Mr. Martin started Raw Tools, a nonprofit organization dedicated to converting the “swords” of contemporary America — handguns, assault weapons and semiautomatic rifles — into garden tools, or erstwhile plowshares, at once fulfilling the Old Testament mandate and forging a new kind of public ritual for processing grief.

Raw Tools has been on my radar since its inception in 2012 (after the Sandy Hook massacre) because of Shane Claiborne. I was thrilled to see it pop up in the NYT (albeit in the Opinion section).

This project is hands down my favorite literal application of something from the Bible. Prophets like Isaiah (2:4) and Micah (4:3) from the Hebrew scriptures envision the world without war, where instruments of violence can be turned into garden tools. I would normally caution readers of the Bible before taking any specific section too literally, but this is beautiful and necessary.

As a Mennonite, Mr. Martin comes from a long tradition of nonviolence and considers his work a form of conscientious objection (“raw” is “war” spelled backward). The first gun he converted into a garden tool came from a friend in Colorado Springs who wanted to get rid of an AK-47 he had bought for protection after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Since then, Raw Tools has transformed several hundred guns, with help from a “disarming network” of volunteer blacksmiths around the country. With the exception of a tattoo on his arm in which “War No More” is scribbled on a fig, Mr. Martin resembles the tools he makes — simple, direct and without embellishment. He relies on small grants from local foundations and Mennonite organizations. “Our work,” he said, “is about a cultural shift, to get communities and neighborhoods to rethink the tools they use to keep themselves safe.”

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Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

I finally read Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. I say “finally” because I should’ve read the book six years ago when it was on the curriculum for a study abroad program in Zambia that I directed, but I was just too busy with grad school and directing the program that I put it off.

What a moving, inspiring story. Before reading the book, I knew very little about Nelson Mandela’s life, work, and cause. I hadn’t even read the wikipedia article. If you’re in the same boat, do yourself a favor and learn some about this man’s life. One of the most striking aspects is the sheer amount of time he was in prison—27 years.

Twenty. Seven. Years.

Talk about patience. He considered his entire time in prison as part of the struggle to end apartheid. Near the end of the book, after he’s released and he’s approaching the first multi-racial election in South Africa’s history, he encourages patience of those black South Africans who think everything might change quickly. This man knew patience.

Also near the end of the story:

I had cast the first vote of my life.

Having just had the mid-term elections in the US, that quote smacked me in the face.

The audio version was fantastic and only (ha!) 27 hours long. I haven’t yet watched the movie.

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‘A Delicious Layer of Jargon’

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Robin Sloan wrote his most recent PRIMES TinyLetter on the beauty of internet forums (fora? Ha!):

It is still, even in 2018, in the age of Facebook and YouTube, of leviathan platforms that seek to absorb all exchanges for all purposes, to be the one place for everyone and everything -- it is still an internet of forums.

There’s a forum all about lawnmower maintenance that has been, basically, my repair manual for the huge zero-turn Cub Cadet we use at the olive grove. I’ve never posted, don’t even have an account; I find its threads mainly via Google search, years worth of questions asked and answered. It’s a bare-bones installation of the venerable forum software phpBB, unchanged since the early 2000s, and it’s wonderful.

One that he highlighted is one I use often: WordReference. Here’s what he had to say about it:

First, there's WordReference, used mainly by translators. There are sub-forums for not just different language pairs but different directions: Italian into English presents a different set of questions than English into Italian.

Living in Peru, one of the greatest values I get from WordReference is the region-specific definitions and forum entries for Spanish. Peruvian Spanish is worlds apart from Chilean Spanish, even though I can drive to Chile in five hours.

He ends the letter with why he has such an affinity for forums. His first reason:

Their stunning specificity. This provides both a baseline of civility and a delicious layer of jargon.

The letter isn’t publicly available, but I’m happy to forward it to you. If this peaks your interest, here’s how Robin Sloan describes his newsletter:

Brief appreciations of interesting and durable media artifacts sent on some prime-numbered days.

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Vulture: “The Best Podcasts of 2017 (So Far)”

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Nicholas Quah, writing for Vulture:

A lot has happened in the upper echelons of podcasting this year, and I’ve been tasked with assembling a list of the best shows released so far. In the spirit of acknowledging how bonkers this task is — finding the cream of the crop in an ecosystem as young, relatively decentralized, and maddeningly chaotic as podcasting — I’d like to share my thought process in putting together the list. As a critic, I’m looking for a very specific thing: shows that say something about the medium, push the form forward, and exemplify the best qualities of what podcasts can do. Craft is a little more important to me than the stories themselves, which comes from a more general belief that as important as certain stories are, it’s even more important that they be told well. I’m also valuing podcasts that function well as stand-alone experiences, though I’m fully aware that puts comedy, conversational, and “after-show” programming at a disadvantage. Of course, this also means that more established shows have the additional burden of being ranked against themselves. And finally, all of this is couched within the tastes and preferences of myself, a lowly mortal human.

Alright, enough throat-clearing. Let’s jump in.

Not a single one makes my list, but that’s unsurprising. I like his emphasis on the craft of a podcast and meta-analysis of what pushes the medium forward.

It’s fascinating to see a list of podcasts on Vulture, a clear sign that Serial catapulted podcasting into the public eye. Curious, I clicked to see what the oldest Vulture piece is with the “Podcasts” tag, and it dates all the way to the end of 2007. But there wasn’t another until 2010—one article (!)—and then two in 2011, four in 2012, and six in 2013. Serial was announced in the middle of 2014, launched in the fall, and since there have been a whopping 147 Vulture pieces about podcasts.

In short, it only took ten years for podcasting to catch on.

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Two More Cents on Longevity for Religious Podcasts

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

From my post about my favorite religious podcasts over a year ago:

I worry that these podcasts aren’t sponsored enough. Everything I listen to in the tech world is sponsored and a good business for those who host the podcast. It ensures it’s worth their time to keep making a great podcast. Luke Norsworthy has had a monthly sponsor most months this year. The Liturgists have just launched a Patreon campaign to fund more episodes like the one they put together on LGBTQ. Of all the episodes I’ve listened to of Nomad, they’ve never hinted at trying to make some money, except joking about raising money to interview Christian thinkers and practitioners in US America.

I hope that some of these folks can find a sponsorship model that works for them and is sustainable, so they can continue to produce great content. It takes a lot of work to produce a really good show. Their work deserves to be compensated.

Not much has changed. Of all the podcasts in the Religion and Spirituality category I listen to, Luke Norsworthy’s is still the only one I ever hear ads on. The Liturgists have a hugely successful Patreon (bringing in almost $16,000/month). Nomad has also gone that route, and are bringing in enough to pay some of the bills (though I don’t think they’re anywhere near the scale of The Liturgists). Following this trend, Peter Enns and Jared Byas have have just kicked off their Patreon campaign for the Bible for Normal People, as have the DeConstructionists.

My question is: why won’t more podcasts do advertising? The medium is proven to work well for ads. Is the scale not there yet? Are advertisers not interested in this demographic? Not likely—advertisers are interested in everyone with a pulse and a wallet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that guys like Tim and Dave (we’ll miss you on the show every other week, Dave!) of Nomad are finally getting some compensation for the incredible product they’ve shipped consistently for 8+ years. I’d just like to see the Patreon campaigns alongside some simple ad reads, so that those who can’t or don’t want to pay $12-60/year to listen to podcasts can, in some way, support the creators. The Talk Show, ATP, and Hello Internet know how to do ads—really well. Their podcasts are a significant part of their income, and I don’t have to pay anything to enjoy it or to feel like I’m supporting them. I suspect the hosts of these religious podcasts have rarely listened to shows outside of their genre. They may not know that independent podcasters can advertise, that there is a classy way to advertise on podcasts, and that Squarespace, Hover, and Audible will sponsor just about anyone with a big enough audience.

Back to this emerging Patreon phenomenon. $1/month isn’t a lot, but $5/month for one podcast is. To compare, Netflix gives you access to a tremendous catalog of entertainment for only $8/month. Apple Music gives you access to almost all of the music, ever, in the history of the universe, for $10/month. $5/month for one show—even the best show—is pricey in comparison. I realize that people who pay that much do so to support the creators of the podcast directly, or to access bonus content that isn’t otherwise available. I just worry, again, that it’s not sustainable, given that these podcasters are now having to do even more work to make their Patreon more appealing to their patrons.

And while we’re talking about leaving money on the table, what about Amazon affiliate links? With all of these interview shows with authors, surely some percentage of listeners buys the book. As far as I can tell, Nomad, Newsworthy with Norsworthy, the DeConstructionists—whose whole format depends on interviews—aren’t using affiliate links to the books that they link to. It may not have a big impact on their bottom line, but why not get a small kickback, especially since they’re doing free advertising by interviewing the book’s author. Even The Bible for Normal People, who aren’t just interviewing people coming out with new books, speak with authors and link to a book or two of theirs in the show notes. Let your audience know that buying the book through your link will give you a small kickback. We’re thrilled to help.

I’m interested in longevity because I love these shows and want them to be sustainable. They’re a tremendous resource and should be compensated. Direct listener support through sites like Patreon is an important piece of the puzzle. But the vast majority of listeners will never pay to listen to podcasts. I bet they would listen to a 60-second ad read though, and maybe even benefit from it.

Who is going to connect these podcasters to companies wanting to advertise to new audiences? If I had the time, I’d give it a go.

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The Art of Changing your Mind

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Maria Popova at Brain Pickings:

The fact that we humans have such a notoriously hard time changing our minds undoubtedly has to do with the notion that “human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished,” which belies the great robbery of the human experience — by calling ourselves beings, we deny our ever-unfolding becomings. Only in childhood are we afforded the luxury of inhabiting our becoming, but once forced to figure out who we want to be in life, most of us are so anxious about planting that stake of being that we bury the alive, active process of our becoming. In our rush to arrive at who we want to be, we flee from the ceaseless mystery of our becoming.

To show up wholeheartedly for our becoming requires doing one of the hardest things in life — allow the possibility of being wrong and incur the anguish of admitting that error. It requires that we grieve every earlier version of ourselves and endure the implicit accusation that if the way we do a certain thing now is better than before, then the way we did it before is not only worse but possibly — and this is invariably crushing — even wrong. The uncomfortable luxury of changing our mind is thus central to the courage of facing our becoming with our whole being.

This gem from Steinbeck himself:

Again I’m sorry. But I’m not ready to be a hack yet. Maybe later.

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Greg McKinzie’s “The Hermeneutics of Incarnational Evangelism” (i.e. Reading the Gospel with Peruvians)

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Greg McKinzie, in a great piece for Fuller Studio connecting his 6+ years in Arequipa reading Mark with Peruvians to what he's studying now at Fuller:

I have to confess that, as far as the struggle to live in solidarity went, I failed far more than I succeeded. Yet there were moments when, reading Mark with my Peruvian friends and neighbors, their struggles, their wisdom, and their wonderful culture gave me eyes to see. What follows is one example of the ways that reading Mark in solidarity with Peruvians shaped me as an interpreter.

I remember attending a conference before our mission team moved to Arequipa. A man who had been a missionary kid in Peru spoke about the work that remained unfinished a generation after his parents had returned to the United States. He interpreted the perpetually unfinished houses of Peruvian barrios as an analogy for the problem—the unsightly image of rebar sticking up from nearly every rooftop. Yet after I had lived in a few of those unfinished houses, hung laundry on their flat roofs bristling with rebar, and watched the families around me build additions poco a poco (little by little), rebar jutting toward the sky became a symbol of hope. Faced with the impossibility of building multiple stories at once but committed to making space for multiple generations of the family, Peruvians leave the rebar sticking out of the roof level so they can tie into the existing structure when they add the next floor of the house. This is a long-term proposition that often becomes the inheritance of the next generation. I can’t see rebar now without thinking of the tenacious hope of the working poor who make up the vast majority of Peru’s population.

I’m coming up on 3 years in Arequipa, in large part thanks to Greg.

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Brueggemann’s “Resistance to Multitasking”

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

I just finished Walter Brueggemann’s book Sabbath as Resistance. It’s thin and, as is the custom for Brueggemann, packed. Two lines from the book’s penultimate chapter, titled “Resistance to Multitasking”:

Multitasking is the drive to be more than we are, to control more than we do, to extend our power and our effectiveness. Such practice yields a divided self, with full attention given to nothing.

Brueggemann was just interviewed about this book and his short book on money in back-to-back episodes of the Nomad podcast. Here’s the Overcast link.

It’s common to equate multitasking with productivity, one of our highest held values in US American culture. Brueggemann isn’t arguing against productivity itself, just the idolatry of productivity. Practicing sabbath is supposed to make me as an individual more human, and us as a society more just.

One more bit:

Sabbath is a big no for both; it is no to the worship of commodity; it is no to the pursuit of commodity. But it is more than no. Sabbath is the regular, disciplined, visible, concrete yes to the neighborly reality of the community beloved by God. We used to sing the hymn “Take Time to Be Holy.” But perhaps we should be singing, “Take time to be human.” Or finally, “Take time.” Sabbath is taking time…time to be holy…time to be human.


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On Margins 001

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Craig Mod interviews Jan Chipchase, creator of the Field Study Handbook, in the pilot episode of his podcast, On Margins:

The world is very fuzzy.

If you've ever traveled—even just across the neighborhood—and been struck by the experience of similarities and differences, you'll find this interview interesting.

The tagline for The Field Study Handbook:

Travel anywhere, make sense of the world, and make a difference.


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Rowan Williams on Prayer

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Another fascinating interview from the folks at Nomad, this one with Rowan Williams (Overcast). From the episode description:

What actually is prayer? What happens when we do it? What difference can it make, if any, to the events and circumstances we find ourselves in? Should we expect to sense God in prayer, or perhaps even hear him communicate to us? And if so, why do so few of us ever seem to have these sorts of experiences?

For many of us, these questions, and others like them, have led us to a place of disillusionment and prayerlessness. And yet we still yearn for the deep, rooted, holistic connectedness that prayer promises.

The episode is called “The Problem of Prayer” but I think of it more as “Prayer after Faith.” It was fascinating to hear a whole episode on a practice so basic (my one year-old daughter bows her head and says “Amen!”) yet so enigmatic to many of us who have moved beyond the faith of our childhood. Tim states it well when he says: many of us go through some sort of faith deconstruction and, while we may come back around on a number of things, prayer can be left out. There's a lot here to address that. Namely, allowing the Divine to work on you in silent contemplation.

I listened to this three times over the last couple of months before linking to it, just to make sure it was as good as I thought it was on my first listen.

Two more bits that stood out to me:

You don’t go to prayer saying “come on, tell me something.” You go and you say, “Ok, this time is yours. I’m going to try to clear my mind and let you be you for a bit.” And I hope when I get up from that, some balance will have shifted a bit…my judgment, my perception will be that little bit less selfish, that little bit less stupid than when I started (18:45).

On what difference prayer might make to personal circumstances:

First of all, blindingly obviously, it changes you…

The other thing is much harder to get clear. We don’t fully understand how God brings about anything in the world…Now God has made a world in which there are free and fairly intelligent people as us. We can make a difference of a different order. And what if part of the difference we can make is praying. Here’s a situation…(25:29).

He also goes on to talk about being close to the twin towers on 11 September 2001 and seeing the first responders at work, as well as a good bit on the practice of silent contemplation.

Postscript on Nomad 3.0

Nomad is one of my favorite podcasts of all time. Once again, it’s undergoing some change: one Dave (Ward) for another (David Blower). The banter was still good. David talks about his face hurting after the interview with Rowan Williams. And Dave Ward will be coming back occasionally. It seems like it’s only good news for the future of Nomad.


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Tiny Kindnesses

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

The Awl’s newsletter this week:

You had a mission this week: to notice people doing tiny kindnesses for each other.

The responses are ordinary and fantastic. I loved the service information sign outside the Tube station:

Thought for the day: in a world where you can be anything, be kind.

I love that the mission was to notice. These things are always around us, but we have to practice seeing them.

(Via Kottke)

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Rob Bell Interviews Krista Tippett

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

The great interviewer gets interviewed (Overcast)! This is from April of last year.

Topics include:

  • Rob Bell asking Krista Tippett about her own religious upbringing (for those who don’t listen to On Being, that’s how Krista Tippett always starts off her interviews).
  • Incredible quotes from her book Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living.
  • The interaction between science and faith.
  • Favorite tv shows and storytelling as a human need.
  • The process of writing a book.


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“Alternative Wisdom: Good News About Nothing”

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

As I mentioned in my recent post, I now listen to Rob Bell’s podcast. It’s consistently good, challenging, and timely. I still like his interviews the best but now I listen to his solo episodes too. Rob started a series at the beginning of April on what he calls alternative wisdom. It’s the “wisdom after wisdom,” or counterintuitive wisdom. Part 1 was particularly good (Overcast).

Alternative wisdom for this episode:

Sit in the waiting. In the silence. In the absence.

In the moment when things have fallen apart, be present, because something important is happening.

This is probably the hardest advice for someone who is currently there. Sure, in hindsight it can seem helpful. But really be there, live in it, and you just might see something you didn’t see before.

Wisdom is being stripped of your identity and waiting. It's in the nothingness that something new will be born.

Depending on how you’re doing right now, this definition of wisdom might be easy to accept. Or you might want to punch Rob in the face. Either way, I hope you’ll enjoy the episode.


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My Favorite Podcasts — Religious and Otherwise

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

I love spoken-word audio. Audiobooks. Podcasts. iTunes U lectures. It all started with Jim Dale reading aloud the Harry Potter books on family road trips from Arkansas to Maine and back, first on cassette tapes and then on compact discs. Now I live in a city in southern Peru and most days I have a 30-60 minute commute, and I get to listen. We handwash our dishes and hang our clothes on the rooftop to dry, so I get to listen.

In early 2015, I started dabbling in podcasts that touched on questions of faith, the Bible, spirituality, and what it means to be human. I had already been listening to a lot of podcasts at that point, but they were almost exclusively tech podcasts. A year in on my little project I wrote about my favorite religious podcasts. At that point, the Smart Speed feature on my favorite podcast listening app, Overcast, had saved me 35 hours of listening time. It has now saved me 143 hours. Did I mention I love spoken-word audio?

I’m still going strong with Newsworthy with Norsworthy, the Liturgists, and Nomad, though I’ve tinkered with my podcast app so that The Bible for Normal People, Rob Bell’s podcast, and the Bible Project now play before the other three.

That’s right, I now listen to Rob Bell’s podcast and I really like it. His updates on his book tour and speaking appearances can be a bit laborious at the beginning of every episode, but it’s a free podcast and his platform is how he makes his living so I respect the self-promotion. The actual content of the episodes is phenomenal and accessible. And, as was the case two years ago, his interview episodes are incredible (e.g. this one where he interviews Pete Holmes about his HBO show Crashing or this one where he interviews Krista Tippett). I still can‘t bring myself to say “the RobCast” though.

The Bible Project is a non-profit that creates videos and podcasts to explore biblical themes and the literary structure of the Bible. Their mission is to show that “the Bible is a unified narrative that leads to Jesus and has profound wisdom for the modern world.” Even though the YouTube channel their main product, I haven’t watched many of their videos. Instead, I listen to the podcast, where they might spend three or four or five episodes talking through what will eventually become a 5-minute video. The creators, Tim Mackie and Jon Collins, are fun and easy to listen to and have a great dynamic. My good friend Jake Blair has used their video series quite a bit here in Arequipa and turned me onto their podcast.

The Bible for Normal People is just a few months old but has quickly become a favorite. Pete Enns and Jared Byas interview brilliant guests and try to make their scholarship and experience accessible to a broader audience. I’ve enjoyed every one of the first eleven episodes, though some episodes may not pass the “Bible for normal people” test.

I’ll link to some favorite episodes from these three new (to me) podcasts soon.

My favorite tech and Apple-focused podcasts are still The Talk Show and Accidental Tech Podcast. I also listened through the entire backlog of Hello Internet and am now current with it. I love On Being with Krista Tippett (though I can’t stay subscribed because the current feed publishes both the main interview and an unedited version of the same interview, so I just pick the episodes I want to listen to when I run out of other things I want to listen to). I occasionally listen to an episode of You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes. He’s a tremendous interviewer, has amazing guests (I don’t know half of them, but they’re famous, so you probably know them), and the backlog is an endless archive of hilarious and fascinating conversations. And I’ve found Personality Hacker to be fun and enlightening (thanks to Michael Daniel for the recommendation).

Here’s a screenshot of my primary playlist in Overcast, organized by priority (that means that as new episodes are published from any of these podcasts, the playlist sorts them based on my preference).

You’ll notice that my love for tech podcasts still rules, but the spiritual/religious world wins out in quantity. Then again, if we count by sheer runtime, The Talk Show might win single-handedly with episodes like this massive, 3-hour extravaganza. Have no fear—I listen to all of these at 2x speed with Smart Speed turned on, so a 3-hour episode only takes me about an hour and 20 minutes to get through. It would be impossible to listen to as much as I do at 1x, and 1x now sounds unnaturally slow.

(My thanks to Steven Hovater for challenging me to greater listening speeds. He was recently seen praising Overcast for it's new 3x speed feature. It‘s official, Steven. You‘re nuts.)

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Pete Holmes Interviews Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

This is one of the best conversations I’ve listened to in a really long time (Overcast). Partially because Pete Holmes is a great interviewer, and partially because I’ve been listening to the lead singer of Jimmy Eat World piped through my headphones and speakers (and direct to my ears once, live!) for the last 15 years. It’s fun to think about my journey from when I first heard Bleed American to now, and hear Jim talk about his own journey during that same time, eventually creating Integrity Blues just last year.

Topics for the show include:

  • The beginnings of Jimmy Eat World (and their big break)
  • Drinking alcohol and Jim embracing recovery
  • Life’s goal: “Don’t be an asshole”
  • Punk rock, acceptance, and The Middle
  • Growing up in a church with Zach Lind
  • The meaning of life

Two bits that stuck out to me:

Finding yourself arriving at a place that you didn’t expect is exciting…Chasing your ideal expectation is actually a very limiting way to live.


You want to talk cosmic? Think about the cosmic odds than any of us exist. That’s sacred.

So good. 🎧

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Surprise the World

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

If you call yourself a follower of Jesus and are looking for ways to be more open and conversational about your faith without being a jerk, Surprise the World is a good place to start.

The author, Australian theologian Mike Frost, shares five habits that can help you find a better rhythm of connecting your faith and your everyday life. The premise is that Christians should live in a way that provokes questions, and then be ready to share why we live the way we do. It’s all about being open, hospitable, willing to listen, and always ready to learn. If more Christians lived this way I think it would indeed be a surprise to the world.

It’s short, sweet, and easy to read, packed with practical suggestions, interesting stories and theological tidbits. If you read it and try out any of his suggestions, I’d love to hear how it goes.


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On Being with Krista Tippett: Richard Rohr — Living in Deep Time

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

One of the best interviewers of our time, Krista Tippett, interviews one of the great thinkers our time, Richard Rohr. The result is well worth 52 minutes of your time (Overcast).

Everything Rohr says about non-dualistic thinking is thought-provoking. I also loved the bit about asking God for one good humiliation a day (and when he gets it, analyzing his own response to it). Finally this, on what it means to be human:

The ‘truly human’ is always experienced in vulnerability, in mutuality, in reciprocity.

Vulnerability transforms you. You can't be in the presence of a truly vulnerable honestly vulnerable person and not be affected. I think that's the way we were meant to be in the presence of one another.


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How to Be Here

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Do you see your life as something you create? Or do you see your life as something that is happening to you?

How much of our lives do we live somewhere else? We live the week for the weekend. We live the month thinking about our next trip. We work this job for the next job, as a step-stool or stop-gap. We go back to school, because after that we’ll finally do what we were made to do.

Dream big. Make plans. But if we live only in the future, we’re missing it.

Sometimes it’s not the future that drags us away, but the augmented present. It’s a present space distorted by a constant drive to refresh our feeds. Social media are another harmless aspect of our lives—important and powerful, even—until we let them consume our every waking moment. We no longer live here, but are living there, thoughtlessly, constantly in that world. And we fail to recognize that there is something divine about this breath.

How to Be Here is a mindfulness book, not about withdrawing but about being radically present. It’s an easy read with lots of one-line paragraphs and 3-page chapters (i.e. classic Rob Bell). I actually read this book on paper!

The book is about embracing your God-given capacity to reflect God into the world in ordinary, everyday work. You can call it God’s image. Call it divine breath you breathe. In the midst of suffering and joy, work and recreation, we are spiritual beings who, by being present, can experience God and people and life in life-giving ways.

Here are a few bits I underlined, circled, highlighted or otherwise defaced the sacred page for the sake of remembering:

All work is ultimately creative work because all of us are taking part in the ongoing creation of the world.

Not the creative type, you say? You’re just a mom? Cool. On moms:

Could anything be more connected to the ongoing creation of the world than literally, physically bringing new human beings into existence and then nurturing that new life as it’s shaped and formed?

To my accountant friends, he talks about accountants as creatives, too.

Four spirit-affecting diseases:

Boredom. Cynicism. Despair. Comparison.

Think about your day yesterday. Do you suffer from any of these?

Then there’s your ikigai—what gets you up in the morning:

To be here is to embrace the spiritual challenge of your ikigai, doing the hard work of figuring out who you are and what you have to give the world.

Nothing like a Japanese word to get you thinking about why you’re here. I love that he helps you think through dropping everything to do that thing you love full time versus doing what you love as a hobby.

Not convinced? Listen to Luke Norsworthy talk to Rob Bell about the book. You don’t read books? Rob Bell will read it to you.

Even if you don’t read it, take a week or two to think about how you can be more present—at work, in traffic, in your relationships, doing what’s difficult, and doing what you love.

Does being here scare you? That’s fine, take your time. We’ll be here when you’re ready.

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The Bible That Borrows

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Chris McNeal, introducing the first installment of an eight-part series on the Bible and faith:

In the summer of 2012, I had to face the Bible class I had taught for two years and announce that I wasn’t sure if I believed in God anymore. In fact, I was basically sure I didn’t. I’ve always tried to be transparent with people, and I wasn’t going to pretend to believe in something I knew I really didn’t.

What it came down to was the Bible.

No book in history has been as consequential or influential, but I could no longer get behind it. Either my view of God was correct or my view of the Bible was correct.

But not both.

It took me three years from that summer to arrive at what I now believe. And once I figured out what I believed (and I did), it took me another year just to figure out how to talk about it. Today, I believe in God more strongly than I ever have in my life, and, in the interest of remaining transparent, I want to spend the next several weeks talking about where I’m at.

Because I really, really like it.

Chris is a friend of mine and I respect his thinking. I’m glad he’s able to share this as his perspective is essential for the church. He’s a lawyer by trade, which makes him a non-professional theologian who has gone deep because of his own questioning and pursuit of truth. That doesn't diminish his contribution. If anything we ought to pay even closer attention because he doesn't get paid to do this.

He’s also just fun to read. Take this section, for example:

The fossil record is more clear on this score than my early theologically trained but not biologically trained religious mentors had me to believe. Inerrancy alienated me and continues to alienate many from people who for decades of their lives personally have carried on the quiet and meticulous investigation of difficult scientific questions. In a desperate effort to cling to what we’ve always known, we fall victim to the pseudo-scientific word salads that evangelical leaders employ to keep us within their orbit.

This often takes the form of folksy soundbites that, to people with no background in these subject matters, make scientists seem out of touch and too big for their britches.

He’s halfway done with the series, so it’s a perfect time to dive in. After this, you can read parts 2, 3, and 4.

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Mexico City, Parched and Sinking, Faces a Water Crisis

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

The harrowing tale by Michael Kimmelman at the NYT:

When the Grand Canal was completed, at the end of the 1800s, it was Mexico City’s Brooklyn Bridge, a major feat of engineering and a symbol of civic pride: 29 miles long, with the ability to move tens of thousands of gallons of wastewater per second. It promised to solve the flooding and sewage problems that had plagued the city for centuries.

Only it didn’t, pretty much from the start. The canal was based on gravity. And Mexico City, a mile and a half above sea level, was sinking, collapsing in on itself.

It still is, faster and faster, and the canal is just one victim of what has become a vicious cycle. Always short of water, Mexico City keeps drilling deeper for more, weakening the ancient clay lake beds on which the Aztecs first built much of the city, causing it to crumble even further.

When he says faster and faster, he means it. Some parts of the city are sinking at a rate of 9 inches/year. And this is what happens over time:

An element of magical realism plays into Mexico City’s sinking. At a roundabout along the Paseo de la Reforma, the city’s wide downtown boulevard, the gilded Angel of Independence, a symbol of Mexican pride, looks over a sea of traffic from the top of a tall Corinthian column.

Tourists snap pictures without realizing that when Mexico’s president cut the ribbon for the column in 1910, the monument sat on a sculptured base reached by climbing nine shallow steps. But over the decades, the whole neighborhood around the monument sank, like a receding ocean at low tide, gradually marooning the Angel. Fourteen large steps eventually had to be added to the base so that the monument still connected to the street.

The city’s sinking is connected to an ongoing water emergency. How Mexico City residents get clean water is an engineering marvel. But any given day there is 20% of the population that can’t count on it. And when the city’s population is over 20 million, 20% is immense.

We’re only starting to see the effects of the last several decades of urbanization. There are bound to be many more stories like this in the near future. This is a new type of water crisis. I can’t help but wonder what role non-profits like Charity: Water, who have made it their mission to give access to clean water to rural populations, will play in addressing it.

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