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Clear Language and Respect

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Another enduring post by Seth Godin:

If the agreement starts with “whereas” and continues along with, “notwithstanding the foregoing,” and when it must be decoded by a lawyer on the other side, something has gone wrong. These codewords, and the dense language that frequently appears in legal agreements, are symptoms of a system out of whack. It’s possible to be precise without being obtuse.

There’s actually no legal requirement that an agreement not be in specific, clear, everyday English. To do otherwise disrespects the person you’re hoping to engage with. There’s no legal requirement that even the terms of service for a website can’t be clear and easy to understand. In fact, if the goal is to avoid confusion and the costs of the legal system when conflicts occur, the more clear, the better.

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N.T. Wright on Resurrection and Postmodernity’s Inevitability

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

N.T. Wright:

Faced with this situation, many have tried—some are still trying—to deny the presence of postmodernity, to retain the modern world in which we felt so comfortable and in which (whether we realize it or not) we preached a modernist gospel. Many want to turn the clock back, culturally and theologically.

It cannot be done.

My proposal to you is that we should not be frightened of the postmodern critique. It had to come. It is, I believe, a necessary judgment on the arrogance of modernity, and it is essentially a judgment from within. Our task is to reflect on this moment of despair within our culture and, reflecting biblically and Christianly, to see our way through the moment of despair and out the other side. That is why I want to talk to you about the resurrection and about the Emmaus Road story; that is why I want to do so through the lens of the poem that we call Psalms 42 and 43.

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‘Sometimes We Should Do What We Hate’

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Compelling piece by Gordon Marino in the NYT Opinion Pages:

Perhaps you relish running marathons. Perhaps you even think of your exercise regimen as a form of self-improvement. But if your “something higher” is, say, justice and equality, those ideals might behoove you to delegate some of the many hours spent pounding the track on tutoring kids at the youth center. Our desires should not be the ultimate arbiters of vocation. Sometimes we should do what we hate, or what most needs doing, and do it as best we can.

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How to Be Polite

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Paul Ford over on Medium’s The Message:

Real politeness, I reasoned, was invisible. It adapted itself to the situation.

This is the best piece you’ll read today if you care about showing grace to other humans.

But then, suddenly — it mattered. My ability to go to a party and speak to anyone about anything, to natter and ask questions, to turn the conversation relentlessly towards the speaker, meant that I was gathering huge amounts of information about other people.

Here’s a polite person’s trick, one that has never failed me. I will share it with you because I like and respect you, and it is clear to me that you’ll know how to apply it wisely: When you are at a party and are thrust into conversation with someone, see how long you can hold off before talking about what they do for a living. And when that painful lull arrives, be the master of it. I have come to revel in that agonizing first pause, because I know that I can push a conversation through. Just ask the other person what they do, and right after they tell you, say: “Wow. That sounds hard.”

Because nearly everyone in the world believes their job to be difficult.

Don’t miss the conclusion. It’s the best part.

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Interviewing the Inventor of the Aeropress

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Steven Levy scored an interview with Alan Adler, inventor of the Aerobie flying disc and my go-to coffee maker: the Aeropress. Here’s Levy’s intro from Medium’s Backchannel:

So I recently ventured to the small suite towards the back of a tiny industrial complex near 101 in Palo Alto, the home of the Aerobie company and its unsung master maker, Alan Adler. At 75, he is still at it, the canonical independent inventor, digging in file drawers for blueprints, shuffling to a storage space to locate an early version of his long-flying disk, lining up AeroPress prototypes like the iconic illustration of Darwin’s vision of the evolution of man. Across the room is his granddaughter, who does his PR. If the Maker Movement needs someone to put on its postage stamp, Adler would be perfect. He agreed to speak to Backchannel about coffee, flying saucers and invention. The interview is edited for length and clarity.

Adler’s line about the Aerobie stuck with me:

I set about trying to come up with a disk that was stable at all speeds. By this time Parker Brothers had made a million Skyros and returned the rights to me. Eventually I developed a little ridge on the perimeter, [like an airfoil]. The effect of that was just absolutely magical.

Regarding the self-cleaning nature of the Aeropress, which I thought was always part of the design, Adler says:

Total good luck. It was what I call serendipity.

He says that the popular method of inverting the Aeropress with a longer brew time (which I use) contradicts the philosophy of the Aeropress. For a long time I used the out-of-the-box instructions, but have been doing inverted brewing for a while (following the basic recipe of the folks at the late Tonx). I may have to give the regular method another shot—especially if it’s won the last couple U.S. Aeropress Championships.

If you want more, don’t miss The Invention of the Aeropress from Priceonomics just over a year ago.

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Tweeting the Psalms

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Ben Myers has been tweeting through the Psalms. Now, obviously something of the Psalms’ intended purpose is lost in reducing poetry to a tweet. But of course I love the project, since I love both Twitter and the Psalms.

Some of his #psalmtweets are outright poetic:

Psalm 43: O Joy of my joy, with hands lifted high I drag my heavy heart into Your presence.

Others are modernized for effect:

Psalm 45: Faster than a typewriter, as fluent as a twitter timeline, my tongue pours out praises to Your Messiah.

Some are downright theological:

Psalm 8: The stars are a minor achievement (Your finger-painting). Humanity is Your masterwork; the stars gaze down admiringly.

He’s compiled his tweets into posts for Book I and Book II, respectively. I assume Book III will hit the press soon, since he tweeted Psalm 89 back in February.

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Inside the Mad, Mad World of TripAdvisor

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Tim Vanderbilt, writing at Outside:

Leaving the cave tour at the cenote-and-zip-line complex Aktun Chen, where the guide’s joke-filled patter was as smooth and gently worn by time as the stalactites, we saw a huge sign, decorated in TripAdvisor green, with the brand’s signature owl, imploring visitors to post reviews. Spotting the owl became a game for my daughter: at the palateria in town, on the gate at Don Diego. By the time we were at the Cancún airport, passing by a small room that a TripAdvisor sign claimed was the best “fish spa” in Mexico (the fish nibble at your feet, offering a unique sort of pedicure), I began to feel a rash desire to partake in some activity that was not on TripAdvisor, an experience that had not already been mediated by the leveling winds of mass opinion—a rathole restaurant or fleabag hotel where I didn’t already know the front-desk clerk’s name. I wanted to have no expectations, either exceeded or unmet.

But all this was my young backpacker self speaking; as a harried dad, I needed some assurance that things would work out. I’d been wise to give in to the crowd.

This is a fascinating piece. Just eight years ago I studied abroad in Italy and traveled through Europe for a semester, all without this now-indispensable resource of instantly accessible information and recommendations. Part of it is that I didn’t plan ahead enough to take advantage of it. Another part of it is I didn’t yet default to “just Google it.” Now when you Google any type of travel question, you’re bound to get a TripAdvisor result somewhere on the first page—usually at the top. Its rise to the top of every search query is astounding. But the first search result is only the beginning.

What begins as a simple search-engine query becomes an epic fact-finding mission that leaves no moldy shower curtain unturned, a labyrinthine choose-your-own-adventure—do you read the one-bubble rant?—in which the perfect hotel always seems just one more click away. For all the power of the service, it raises deep questions about travel itself, including, most pressingly, who do we want—who do we trust—to tell us where to go? “The future,” Don DeLillo once wrote, “belongs to crowds.” Are we there yet?

The problem that TripAdvisor is working to solve is not yet solved. Questions remain regarding who you should trust for your travel decisions. Super-human complainers are a dime-a-dozen, which is why we reserve a grain of salt for each review we read. At the end of the trip, the best story may very well be the experience that no one recommended but the one you just stumbled into.

(Via The Loop)

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Sharing at Its Best

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Seth Godin:

The fear of being judged is palpable, and the digital trail we leave behind makes it feel more real and more permanent. We live in an ever-changing culture, and that culture is changed precisely by the ideas we engage with and the ones we choose to share.

Sharing an idea you care about is a generous way to change your world for the better.

The culture we will live in next month is a direct result of what people like us share today. The things we share and don’t share determine what happens next.

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The Very Worst Missionary Deconstructs ‘#Blessed’

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Jamie Wright, aka The Very Worst Missionary, on why she hates the hashtag #blessed phenomenon:

We've created a culture in which we measure God's “blessings” in terms of dollars and cents, comfort and pleasure, wealth and well-being. So, if we're happy and healthy and have everything we need, then we're blessed, and we should thank God on social media. We tend to ignore the secondary message this sends to those who are unhappy or unhealthy, or for whom things are just generally crappy. Too bad, so sad, if your life sucks, you're #NotBlessed. The third unintended takeaway we get when we slap the word "blessed" on every aspect of our own upward mobility is that God's blessings obviously belongs to the rich, and must be doled out to the poor as the rich see fit. The richer, the #Blesseder.

It’s a pet peeve of mine too. While she focuses on deconstructing the concept of blessing, I couldn’t agree more with her conclusion for what blessing actually is.

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Dillon on Mexico

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

6 year-old Dillon, responding to allegations that he doesn’t like Mexican food:

I like Mexicans, and I like their food.

Well said.

‘*Except for Espresso’

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Speaking of espresso, I’d be remiss not to link to this knockout article by Tony Konecny, cofounder of the late Tonx Coffee (now part of Blue Bottle):

The big premise behind many of our brew guides and videos is that it is helpful to think of coffee making as a just-add-water scenario. All the contraptions and fussiness that comprise the many machines and methods of preparation are essentially just different ways of combining ground coffee with hot water and separating out the resulting brew. Brewing coffee isn’t hard and shouldn’t feel intimidating.

And for the most part, this is true. Coffee-to-water ratios, the relationship between grind size and dwell time, and the considerations of filtering are not hard to wrap your head around once you start looking past the surface differences of the various methods and see what’s really happening to the coffee grounds.

But espresso is a bit of a different beast.

Seth and I both loved Tonx, and wish them all the best in their partnership with Blue Bottle. The Tonx-inspiration filtering into Blue Bottle is already noticeable. This article typifies Tony’s love for coffee and his campaign to bring good coffee into the common kitchen. It’s also exemplary of his good writing and passion for demythologizing all things coffee.

It’s time to pour one out for the Tonx folks (an espresso, of course).

The little details matter in espresso. Very small changes in inputs result in dramatic changes in outcomes. A gram of coffee more or less, a minuscule drop in water temperature, an imperceptible drift in the size and uniformity of the grind – many things can thwart getting a great cup. Even using the most state-of-the-art commercial gear, it can still feel like tightrope walking on dental floss. Maybe there’s a good reason why professional baristas take themselves so seriously!

And it is because of espresso’s notorious stubbornness, complexity, and its requirement for serious and expensive gear that the Tonx message of brewing made simple is often met with skepticism from some self-confessed coffee snobs. Espresso lovers know how rare a truly great cup of this elixir is and will often travel far to be served by the serious practitioners. The cult of the barista has a small but fanatical following. Our propaganda that you can easily have great coffee in your kitchen comes with unstated “except for espresso” fine print.

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Paying It Forward with the Elixir of Life (Espresso, of Course)

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Gaia Pianigiani, for the New York Times:

Many bartenders attribute a soul to the coffee-making process and take pride in knowing their customers’ preferences, even before they lay an elbow on the counter and start talking about the sun — or lack thereof — or complaining about the government.

“Coffee consumption predated the unification of Italy by more than 200 years, so the rituals and traditions around it are very ancient,” Andrea Illy, chairman of Illy, said in a phone interview. “In Naples, coffee is a world in itself, both culturally and socially. Coffee is a ritual carried out in solidarity.”

That solidarity is spreading.

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Providence and Suffering Followup

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Back in the summer of 2013 I was already taking two intensive courses, so I only audited John Mark Hicks’s class. It was phenomenal. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to have gotten to learn from him and the others in the class. They were gracious to let me participate.

In lieu of the class’s required readings, writing assignments, and exams, I assigned myself the task of summarizing each day of class. Giving a whole new meaning to the word “procrastination,” 594 days passed between my introduction to the series and the final Day Five post. I would’ve loved to have finished this back in July 2013, but it sure was fun to work back through the material a good while after the fact.

Below are some resources on John Mark Hicks’s website regarding the topic of suffering and God’s place in the midst of it. Of course my entire series on Providence and Suffering leans heavily on Dr. Hicks, since he taught the class. But I’ve sifted through a good bit of this treasure-trove and tried to point you toward what will be most useful.

First of all, here is the Providence and Suffering course syllabus and course audio (recorded on my phone, so not professional quality).

Now, on to John Mark Hicks Ministries.

Providence and Suffering

From part 12 of a 17-part series on “Systematic Biblical Doctrine” in which Hicks limits himself to 2000 words on some significant topics:

Defending God is not my job. Good thing because I would be awful at it. However, my faith does seek understanding; it looks for answers even when I cannot find them. Exploring the mysteries of divine providence and human suffering is a journey into the recesses of the divine mind and most of it is inaccessible to humans. So, the real question of providence and evil is not can we explain it but can God be trusted with the answer even when that answer is inexplicable or incomprehensible to us or when our best efforts ultimately just don’t make sense. I think the answer to that question is “Yes”.

Comforting Sufferers - Various Posts

Dare We Doubt Together:

Can faith doubt and question? The doubts and questions are real, but it is faith nonetheless. Genuine faith perseveres and is sustained through faithful lament. Without lament emotional doubt would eat away faith like a cancer, but through lament faith speaks to the one who alone can heal that emotional pain and close the distance. God, we are confident, will hear us and comfort us through our lament. God will draw near even as we at times feel so distant from him. He will carry us when we cannot walk and he will be present even when we are angry.

Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief.

Comforting the Suffering (like the “rules of thumb” from Day Five. This one is my favorite):

Do something. Don’t say, “If there’s anything, anything I can do, call me.” Why not? Because this places on the sufferer the responsibility to do something, to figure out something for the person to do for them and make a call. This is a time when the sufferer doesn’t need more burdens. Have you ever really been called by someone who is suffering after you told them this? Most likely, you’ve been called rarely, if ever. The sufferer may not want to inconvenience someone nor decide who to inconvenience. Statements like, “Call me if there’s anything I can do” only extend the suffering rather than helping. What needs done? In some cases, everything needs to be done. Do something for the sufferer that you perceive they need. Mow their lawn, take them some food, help them clean their house, change the oil in their car. Show up and do.

The whole list of eight posts can be found in the “Pastoral Care” category of the Serial Index.

Job

Hicks has blogged through the entire book of Job. This series works as an excellent reading guide to study your way through the book. I recommend taking three weeks and reading through a post per day, along with the corresponding passage from Job. Start with his intro posts on Authorship, Date, and Composition and the Structural Guide, then jump right into the most famous part of the book, the (surprisingly misunderstood) prologue.

From Hicks’s post on Job’s prologue:

The function of the Prologue is similar to the way narrations (in words or audibly narrated) precede the classic movies Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The narrations are not themselves part of the action/play of the movie, but they provide a hermeneutical lens for viewing the film. In the same way, the Prologue gives the hearer (reader) a particular world in which to understand the coming Acts. We know how to hear the dialogue because the Prologue has given us some hermeneutical keys. Our reading of the poems is guided by the world the narrator has given us. The poems must be read within the narrative frame provided by the final author/editor just as the The Lord of the Rings can only be understood in the framework of the introductory narration.

Pastoral Review of The Shack

This five-part review of William P. Young’s The Shack is also listed under “Pastoral Care” in the Serial Index.

From part one, Meeting God at the Shack I: Introduction

I read the book last January. Moved to tears several times, I was emotionally and intellectually engaged by Young’s storytelling. This modern parable addresses some of the most perplexing topics of Christian theology as well as some of the most gut-wrenching experiences believers can have. Writing about Trinity, atonement, providence, suffering, theodicy, death of children, parental abuse, forgiving murderers, forgiving self, incarnation, etc. is difficult prose to pursue, even more difficult to describe parabolically. Such an ambitious task is either foolhardy or courageous but nevertheless at least interesting and intriguing. I found it rather compelling.

This series would eventually develop into a book, Meeting God at the Shack. As can be inferred by Hicks’s description of this review as “pastoral,” he doesn’t deal with the theological controversy that surrounds the book in this series. He deals with the underlying theology of The Shack elsewhere, under the “Theology” subcategory, starting here.

Articles, Outlines, and Slide Decks

Under his General tab you can access various articles and lectures, of which I recommend:

  • Providence – Providence: Contemporary Options
  • Theodicy – A Rational Theodicy?
  • Job – Powerpoints for Faithful Lament Lectures and Faithful Lament: Job’s Response to Suffering

On his site, those titles link straight to their corresponding downloadable files, which is why I do not link to them here.

Under Classes, I recommend:

  • Suffering – Anchors for the Soul-Trusting God in the Storms of Life: Teaching Outlines
  • Suffering – Powerpoints for Anchors for the Soul: Helping Suffering Families

Again, I don’t link to these here because he provides direct access to downloads of these files.

If you find something else that I’ve neglected to link to, do let me know.

How to Access the Most Valuable Information in the World: Read

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

M.G. Siegler, in a post that’s part of his excellent 500 Words series over on Medium:

It has taken me a while to realize it, but the single most important thing I do each day isn’t taking meetings, sending emails, or even writing — it’s reading. Whether it’s news, tweets, books, or any other form of written word, reading remains the most efficient way of consuming and capturing information. And information is the most valuable asset in the world.

But setting aside time to read takes discipline.

I couldn’t agree more. In the living room, the easiest thing to do is turn on the TV. In almost any other situation, the easiest thing to do is to pull out your phone and check Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. If you want to read anything that takes more than three minutes, you need to set aside dedicated time to do that. There’s a balance that goes into appreciating longer form pieces and books—old and modern—alongside the steady flow of “the latest.” There’s value in both, but so often what is happening now is the only thing that warrants our attention. And so the scales are out of balance.

For the last six years, my reflex during any down time has been to open up Twitter on my phone. Granted, I take a lot of pride in who I’m following on Twitter and the collective value I get from my timeline. I do a lot of reading, because the people I follow are pointing me to what’s worth reading.

But it was time to try something new. I’m now twenty days into a 40-day break from Twitter, my goal being simply to develop some new, possibly better habits for that down time. I’m trying to get to a place where the reading I do is not dictated by my Twitter feed. I have other options on my phone: the Kindle app, Instapaper, the thirty Safari tabs that I’ve kept open, thinking “I’ll read that sometime.”

Good writing offers ongoing value, beyond the 15 minutes after a piece is published. That’s the type of reading—and writing—I want in on.

Taking The Lead in Developing New Sexual Ethics

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Dianna Anderson talks about her new book, Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity, in a guest post on Rachel Held Evans’s blog:

We, as the church, must take the lead in correcting our mistakes. We must teach consent, communication, grace, love, and healthy boundaries in talking about sex. Simply saying “no” until the wedding day isn’t enough to equip people with the tools to live out their sexuality in a healthy, God-honoring way. We need to learn how to be sexually mature adults before we can talk about what it means [to] say yes or no.

Richard Beck: ‘The Psalms are Liberation Theology’

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Richard Beck:

The thing that strikes you about the psalms when you read them straight through is how oppressed and beleaguered is the psalmist. Enemies, hecklers, back-stabbers, two-faced friends, violent oppressors and economic exploiters abound.

This goes to the source of lament in the psalms. Rarely is the lament about, say, the death of a loved one. The lament is generally about oppression, about the victory of the oppressor.

The lament is about the bad guys winning and the good guys being trampled underfoot.

Only in the last couple of years have I started to value the lament psalms alongside the psalms of praise. What I realized reading Beck’s post, though, is that even within the praise/lament matrix, I can easily read the psalms individualistically.

When you frame the psalter in terms of liberation from the oppressor, as Beck is suggesting, you get one step closer to how the psalms were intended to be read: communally.

I’m not convinced it’s an “either/or” decision, nor is Beck arguing that. Rather, these two frameworks for the psalter complement each other.

(Beck is using The Paraclete Psalter as a guide for working through the Psalms on a 4-week cycle—only $2.99 on Kindle.)

‘Words’

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

John Mark Hicks on Psalm 19:

Words.

Some are voiceless, some form a narrative, and others offer a response.

Psalm 19 is a meditative response to words that make no sound and words that shape the life of Israel. The Psalmist offers a meditation on how God encounters Israel through creation and Torah and how believers respond to such gracious revelation.

A great take on one of my favorite psalms.

Write for Yourself, Edit for Your Reader

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Shawn Blanc:

To pull the curtain back just a little, oftentimes the thing which most keeps me from writing is a fear of putting my own narcissism out on display for all to see. So often my first draft is little more than my own self-centered view of the world — a world where I sit at the center. This is not the world I am trying to build up, but when writing, how can any of us write about anything else but what we know and what we have heard? We write about what we know and what we feel. We write from our own soul and our own heart and we share what we’ve seen through our own eyes and what we’ve heard through our own ears. We write from the inside out.

The turn:

When the first draft is done, then the work of editing begins. It’s time to edit not just for flow and grammar and clarity, but edit for the reader. It is time to take this story that was once built with the author at the center and to instead put the reader at the center.

ISIS, the Crusades, and Obama

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Greg Boyd deconstructs the response of some Christians in the wake of comments President Obama made back in February about ISIS.

People say ridiculous things on the internet. I’m no longer surprised by that. In this case, though, I wonder if these comments were sincere or if they were just sensational click-bait and/or retweet candy.

I’m with Boyd on this one. Followers of Jesus should be first “to denounce in the strongest terms possible” the evil that has been carried out in Jesus’s name.