Rabbit Trails 7.10.19


Each of us have it, and handling it well is a daily challenge.

Here’s a few podcasts and a book to help you think through it:

§ Gravity Leadership has been running a series on power that is worth listening to. I’ve taken in two episodes: Chuck DeGroat on Why We Love Narcissistic Leaders, and another with Rich Villodas on Cruciform Power and the Contemplative Life.

Chuck has a work coming out in the next year entitled When Narcissism comes to Church. I’m looking forward to reading it. This episode had me stewing for a few days around the question of why we trust the uber-confident, and how my stability and security seeking self can at times be tempted to look for earthly confidence to trust in before I settle my anxious thoughts and look for the stability of Christ.

Rich Villodas was a great listen, and he described an exercise over a period of a few weeks where when he noticed himself having a reaction to something, he took the time to identify the story he was telling himself, why he was upset, and then think through the true story the Gospel tells him in response to the situation. Rich said after a few weeks he began to notice patterns and see a decrease in the negative power of his reactions. This was a good listen.

§ Pete Scazzero is expounding upon his book, The Emotionally Healthy Leader, via podcast. Recently he covered Dual Relationships and Power. This podcast hit home, as in the last decade I’ve had to navigate lots of crossover in relationships. The combined roles of friend, coworker, manager, and pastor can bring complications into relationships if you are not aware of them and willing to address it. Scazzero’s point is that we all have power to steward, and you need to do an inventory of it to know what you could potentially be wielding when you’re not meaning to – or when you are tempted to use it for ill. Kind of wish I had heard this podcast five years ago.

§ One of the most impactful books on the concept of power that I’ve read is The Way of the Dragon or The Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that has Abandoned It, by Kyle Strobel and Jamin Goggin. I think I highlighted, bracketed or underlined at least half of this book. There are interviews dripping with wisdom and cultural insight toward evangelicalism. Here’s a brief list of 20 truths from the book. Get the book, read the interviews. Notice the age, disciplines, and demeanor of the people they’re talking to. Look at the type of power that we need and juxtapose that with the type of power we want when our longing to be part of something special lands in having a uniquely gifted pastor, rather than living into the cruciform way of weakness.


Newsletters. They’re Back.

Newsletters went away, and now they’re back. You could say this series is my attempt at a newsletter, but without the inbox. I subscribe to a few, and have come to really enjoy their appearance in my inbox.

Here are four I look forward to:

§ John Starke (Lead Pastor, Apostles NYC). John has a thoughtful offering that has recently been engaging how to think about secular culture. It’s fun, varied, and helpful. He’s on issue #6, so you can still jump in and say you got in on the ground floor.

§ Thomas S. Kidd (Baylor Distinguished Professor of History). Kidd writes about habits, his new works, alongside professional and family life hacks. He’s a great writer, and these are fairly to the point. I’ve been subscribing for a while. He writes at TGC, and has numerous biographical works to consider. I have really enjoyed his written works.

§ Alan Jacobs (Baylor Distinguished Professor of Humanities).  This is an eclectic and fun newsletter that can cover what Jacobs had for dinner, to his latest book, and then an obscure work of art that suddenly you realize you needed in your life. I read his work, How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds, and have been following along ever since. There is something refreshing about his approach, and I kinda like that he has an open letter to his students about how to attend and conduct oneself during his lectures.

§ David Murray and The Christian Man Academy. David has put together something pretty special. This newsletter is a weekly call toward Christian maturity, resourced with diverse readings and media. Each week there is a “required reading” section full of links, and there are themed discussions and videos that David produces. I’ve been thankful for this new endeavor of his, and hope to see it flourish.


Books I’m Into / Need to Finish / In the Queue

More reading would have happened, but Stranger Things happened.

The Fabric of Theology -Richard Lints
Hearers and Doers: A Pastor’s Guide to Making Disciples through Scripture and Doctrine – Kevin Vanhoozer
The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart – Harold L. Senkbeil
Plugged In: Connecting your faith with what you watch, read, and play (Live Different)- Daniel Strange


Holy Baptism – George Herbert

One of my favorite books is The Complete English Works of George Herbert. It’s a bit of a poetic anchor for me. Here’s one I enjoyed this week.

Holy Baptism (I)

As he that sees a dark and shady grove,
Stays not, but looks beyond it on the sky
So when I view my sins, mine eyes remove

More backward still, and to that water fly,
Which is above the heav’ns, whose spring and rent
Is in my dear Redeemer’s pierced side.

O blessed streams! either ye do prevent
And stop our sins from growing thick and wide,
Or else give tears to drown them, as they grow.

In you Redemption measures all my time,
And spreads the plaster equal to the crime:
You taught the book of life my name, that so,
Whatever future sins should me miscall,
Your first acquaintance might discredit all.

rabbit trails 6.12

Things have been pretty full the last few months. All our environments in TVCI wrapped for the year, I graduated with my DMIN from SBTS, and then we got out of Texas and saw some real mountains in Alaska for a few days. I’ve been setting aside links and interesting bits, I hope something below is of service to you. – MK


The Life of the Pastor: Zack Eswine

I’ve been watching a series of lectures from Zack Eswine on the life of the pastor at Grace Theological College in New Zealand. Eswine’s work, The Imperfect Pastor, is on my personal yearly read list.

In these videos, what you need to watch for (beyond the excellent content) is Zack’s way of being with those in the room. He’s an incredibly present person. He hits on the discipleship we receive and have to unlearn as we come to Jesus, the way he trains elders, and how to restore dignity to those you minister to as you recognize their image bearing along the way. There were many moments I rewound to listen, and am planning on finishing up the series soon.

A Godfather on Humility:

Just wrapped Stanley Hauerwas’ book, The Character of Virtue, which felt like a modern cousin to Lewis’ Letters to Malcom. With each chapter, he addressed a virtue with his godson. Here are a few quotes:

Those that are genuinely humble often don’t call attention to themselves because their humility doesn’t allow them to do so .They don’t mind not being singled out for their humility because they’re at home with who they are. They live in a manner that suggests they have nothing to prove. After all, humility is a virtue that makes it possible for us to rest easy with ourselves. This doesn’t mean that humble people are self-satisfied. It means they live by acknowledging the gifts that have made them who they are.  (148-9)

I hope that the accounts of the virtues in these letters will help you be at home in the truth, which is no easy accomplishment. We often “shade the truth” because we fear losing the love or regard of those who mean much to us. To be at home in the truth is also a demanding business because so often we lie first and foremost to ourselves, insce we fear facing what we can only acknowledge as a failure. In short, we lie to ourselves and others not because we’re corrupt but because we want to be good. (197)

Living in the truth may give you a life that’s difficult, but it will be one that will make it possible for you to look back and want no other life than the one you’ve lived. (198)


On Big Words and Feeling Stupid

Ever been in a classroom and felt slightly ashamed of wanting to ask for the definition of a five dollar word?

I spent a good deal of time in seminary trying to learn what the big words meant, and then figure out how to communicate the idea without wielding my SAT vocab skills. Now that I lecture on a weekly basis, I am continually reminded of the desire to keep my hand down and not ask the obvious question: Can you explain that word please?

Enter Justo Gonzalez’ work, Essential Theological Terms. There’s stuff in here that I haven’t studied, and I’m brushing up on concise definitions of stuff I’ve forgotten after our three children entered into the world.


Bruner on John and Vainglory:

This last year at church we have been working through the Gospel of John, and in conversation with our pastor, he recommended a commentary by Frederick Bruner, primarily based around the humanity that Bruner brought to the text which at times can be really challenging. I’ve found this to be true every time I’ve sat with the work, and recommend it as an addition to your library.
I was reading in John 5 this week, where Christ engages the reality that men trust those who come in their own name, but won’t trust Him who comes in the name of the Father and who is witnessed to by the Father. He speaks of how men seek glory from each other, but won’t seek the glory that comes from God.
Here’s Jesus:

[37] And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, [38] and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. [39] You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, [40] yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. [41] I do not receive glory from people. [42] But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. [43] I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. [44] How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? [45] Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. [46] For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. [47] But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

(John 5:37–47 ESV, bold formatting mine addition)

While reading Bruner on this section, I felt my need for deliverance from this “all-too-human” idol of being extraordinary in the world’s terms – in whatever facet it comes about: from the mundane to the professional.  Here’s two quotes from Bruner that I’ve been sitting with:

The Gospel of John says our reorientation begins when Jesus is trusted, and in a hundred different ways and from as many different angles, every paragraph in our Gospel seeks to elicit this trust. The service of this verse is the unmasking of our major idol. Perhaps we can only pray, “Dear Lord, please free me from seeking to receive glory from others and instead to seek and to receive glory from you and you only. Please, you alone be God to me and to your people in the world.” The first hindrance to believing in Jesus’ divinity, then, is our all-too-human egomania.  (350)

And, as my friend says, “there’s no burn quite like a poetry burn”:

All of us who work in biblical studies and who seek the judgment and respect of our peers must be very careful. Strachan in Morris, 333 n. 124, amplifies: “ ‘Scripture study had become a world in which men sought fame by showing their intellectual prowess.… where men sought honour of one another, ’citing, tellingly, John Masefield (The Everlasting Mercy):

The trained mind outs the upright soul,
As Jesus said the trained mind might,
Being wiser than the sons of light,
But trained men’s minds are spread so thin
They let all sorts of darkness in;
Whatever light man finds they doubt it,
They love not light, but talk about it.


Those are the big buckets. A few quick hits:

  • Recently I discovered that one of my favorite instrumental bands, Balmorhea, has a slew of albums that I’ve been unaware of.
  • I’m listening to J.P. Moreland’s work, Finding Quiet: My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and the Practices that Brought Peace. Here is a recent interview between him and Eric L. Johnson.
  • Here’s a pic from our Alaska trip. It is easy to see why people flee the concrete jungle to live in such beauty. I keep saying to myself, “but the people are so nice in Texas.” That makes up for the lack of this, right?

Rabbit Trails 4.1.18

Strains of Thought:

I recently finished Alan Jacob’s How to Think, and in looking at his other work I came across this article, which centers around the theme of technology and formation. I think you should read it. He labels our computers and cell phones ‘ecosystems of interruption technologies’ (let that sink in for a second), and then draws some lines that are important to notice:

Our “ecosystem of interruption technologies” affects our spiritual and moral lives in every aspect. By our immersion in that ecosystem we are radically impeded from achieving a “right understanding of ourselves” and of God’s disposition toward us. We will not understand ourselves as sinners, or as people made in God’s image, or as people spiritually endangered by wandering far from God, or as people made to live in communion with God, or as people whom God has come to a far country in order to seek and to save, if we cannot cease for a few moments from an endless procession of stimuli that shock us out of thought.

It has of course always been hard for people to come to God, to have a right knowledge of ourselves and of God’s threats and promises. I don’t believe it’s harder to be a Christian today than it has been at any other time in history. But I think in different periods and places the common impediments are different. The threat of persecution is one kind of impediment; constant technological distraction is another. Who’s to say which is worse?—even if it’s obvious which is more painful. But I really do think we are in new and uniquely challenging territory in our culture today, and I don’t believe that, in general, churches have been fully aware of the challenges—indeed, in many cases churches have made things worse.
When George Whitefield and John Wesley were preaching sermons that created the First Great Awakening, they almost always started by trying to arouse in their hearers a conviction of sin. The typical sequence of their sermons looked like this:
1. You are a sinner, though no more, or less, of a sinner than anyone else.

2. We sinners cannot rescue ourselves.

3. But God in his grace and love has come to rescue us.

4. So we need only to accept that grace and love, in penitence, to be reconciled to God.

But I don’t believe we can readily reach people today with the same sequence. The very idea that I am a sinner sends me groping for my smartphone to avoid unpleasant emotions. I think this will be especially true for the majority of North Americans whose basic default theology is what the sociologist of religion Christian Smith and his colleagues call Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. For such people an awareness of sin is going to be hard to achieve—certainly at the earlier stages of their Christian lives.

If you start groping for your smartphone at the hint of existential pain, then true knowledge of God is at danger of being pushed out of your waking moments. In her work, By the Renewing of Your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine, Ellen Charry joins Jacobs’ reasoning:

Knowing God is the key to self-knowledge, and self-knowledge is the key to self-despair, and self-despair is the entry point for a sanctified life with God. (p232)

Self-despair is the entry point for a sanctified life with God. When you wake up to the false story of self-sufficiency and see yourself rightly – who you are in light of who God is – then you see God rightly, and you find yourself at the beginning of wisdom.

Things I’m listening to:

I’ve rekindled my relationship with Mars Hill Audio Journal. Man alive, this is a great thing. Well worth the investment of subscription.

James Bryan Smith hosts a podcast called Things Above, which he calls a podcast for ‘mind discipleship’ (e.g. setting your mind on *things above*). I’ve listened to just a few episodes, and appreciate the tone and trajectory of what I’m hearing.

Books I’ve been in contact with the last few weeks:

Kevin Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Doctrine
Dru Johnson, Human Rites: The Powers of Rituals, Habits, and Sacaments
Ellen Charry, By the Renewing of Your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine

Quotes I’ve enjoyed:
Blessed, plainly, is that life which is not valued at the estimation of others, but is known, as judge of itself, by its own inner feelings. -Ambrose

I count myself as one of those who write as they learn and learn as they write. – Augustine

In the self-assured world of modernity people seek to make sense of the Scriptures, instead of hoping, with the aid of the Scriptures, to make sense of themselves. – Nicholas Lash

*This type of digest is proving to be a place for me to consolidate things I would normally put on social media. I’m trying to be better about doing it here than there, and I like how it gives space for thoughts to breathe some before they’re shared. I hope for shorter articles in-between, perhaps when summer is upon us.

rabbit trails – 3.8.19


I do a lot of reading, writing, and researching these days. I come across things I keep, things I want to share, and things I think others need to know about. These are often outside of the trail I’m on, but things I want to chase anyway. I’m still trying to write actual pieces and articles for this blog, this is a simply place to share the trails with you, and maybe you’ll find one to chase on your own, or together.  Enjoy. – MK


The Present-ness of Poetry

I think you should read poetry, and so does Meg Kelley. Her article, How Poetry Taught Me Presence, is a helpful push toward the settling nature of the verse, and why working through a stanza or two actually helps you re-enter your world. Kelley writes, “On the other side of the poem is an expanded appreciation of what simply is, including the simplicity in who we are, enabling us to walk out of the poem as someone else: the person who pays attention.”

If you want to work on paying better attention, the season of Lent that started this week is a great space for you to engage with poetry and focus your mind on the journey Jesus took toward his death. George Herbert, a faithful 17th century Welsh priest, wrote about the crux of Christian hope through the Savior’s vantage point in his work, The Sacrifice. If you had to start somewhere with poetry, start here.

 @danwhitejr on pastoral pain: 


Look at the stats on that tweet. Over two thousand likes, two hundred plus responses. I’ve found myself returning to this tweet several times over the last week because it has been hanging on the fringes of my mind. I read the comments. All of them. I read the threads around some of the retweets.

The pain of pastoral ministry is multifaceted and real. The loss of relationship when your vocation is treated as a commodity for relief from pain or help in crisis leaves indelible marks when things end in the type of ghosting Dan talks about here. It hurts to care for people. We are people with short memories and long records of caring for ourselves first. Dan struck a nerve with this, and then he spent time following up with people in the comments. He encouraged them toward getting professional help to sort through the emotional wounds incurred in the service of the people wounding them. It is a disorienting pain, because it doesn’t effect the pastor alone, but his wife, his children all feel the ripple effects of trying to sort the pain. As Dan recommends, and for more issues than this alone, spending time with a counselor on a routine basis is a healthy move for those in pastoral ministry.

@marksayers on spiritual ferment and breakthrough

My podcast library is pretty eclectic and ecumenical. A recent subscription is the Pattern Podcast out of Kings Cross church in London. It’s a podcast about the spiritual patterns of living that Christians are called toward in daily life. Mark Sayers joined them to talk about the practice of joy, and ended up giving a brief overview about why the patterns/habits/disciplines are necessary and needful for the Christian life.

In responding to a question about the historical nature of spiritual patterns/disciplines, Mark states a central question, then goes on to answer it: How do I use what the people of God have used throughout history to actually shape my life to one that reflects God’s kingdom, one that flourishes in how God wants it to flourish?

The people of God from the early church followed certains patterns which enabled them to exist in a way that was in sync with what God was doing in the between, where the kingdom is here but not here fully yet. So we still need to be formed. From the earliest times they prayed together, read the Scriptures together, they didn’t give up meeting together, they had times of solitude, times of sabbath. They’ve always been there since the times of the early church. There’s always a temptation to fall back on religiosity and often practices are good, but practices must have the presence. Practices without the presence become problematic, but also presence without practices can go loopy sometimes. So they work in synergy together.

He’s then asked about the interplay between spiritual disciplines and life in the Spirit: So there have been moments in the charismatic church where we’ve been a bit nervous of religiosity of ‘oh- spiritual disciplines’ – be careful – talk about how these disciplines and patterns actually release us into greater freedom.

Mark: The sort of image I’ve used recently for charismatics, for those of us who want to push into the Spirit’s power —I thought about this as I was opening a jat of pickles. I have been buying these expensive probiotics and then I was reading that I could just buy a cheap bottle of pickles. What’s interesting about the pickles is that they sit in this still space, and as they ferment they actually gain in power. So I started to think about it more, and for charismatics there is this time where the Spirit sends us out, we’re released and stuff happens—and we desire those times. There are other times where God has us fermenting, where nothing seems to be happening. But in those quieter times we’re actually going deeper in Christ, in a sense we ferment and the good bacteria goes deeper in us to be released into our system. So I see practices working like that – they are a discipline which teach us patience, and I think patience and relying on God speaking to us through these pattern ways balances out beautifully those moments of release by the Spirit.    

The ferment of habits, forming our character by the ordinary and patient means of the Spirit, joining the apostolic church in their daily practice of being recreated into the image of Christ. Dallas Willard calls these patterns something you do that over time enables you to become the kind of person for whom it is increasingly easier to do the things that Christ calls us to.

You can hear the whole interview here.



rabbit trails – 22.2.19

I do a lot of reading, writing, and researching these days. I come across things I keep, things I want to share, and things I think others need to know about. These are often outside of the trail I’m on, but things I want to chase anyway. I’m still trying to write actual pieces and articles for this blog, this is a simply place to share the trails with you, and maybe you’ll find one to chase on your own, or together.  Enjoy. – MK


Things I’m reading:

I’ve been waiting for Justin Earley’s book, The Common Rule to release for about six months, so to get a hard copy in the mail this week was a real treat.

The book is a work around habits, which according to Justin, ‘shape you more than you shape them.’ I’ve long been a fan of intentional habits, identity formation, and thoughtful living (Dallas Willard caught me young with The Divine Conspiracy) and Justin’s work is a standout addition to this genre of work.

The crux of the book centers around 4 daily habits, and 4 weekly habits – both of which are rhythms of embrace and resistance.

If I’m following what he’s suggesting, it means that each day I’m taking a moment to kneel in prayer 3x a day, I’m in the Word before I’m on my phone, I’m eating one meal with other people (engaged in conversation), and I’m spending an hour a day with my phone off (which enough reports tell you makes a significant mental difference in your presence with those around you).

On a weekly basis, I’m spending one hour a week in conversation with a friend, cultivating relationships (which is most preferable in person, fully present), I’m fasting from something for 24 hours, I’m taking a sabbath (to remind myself of being a creature with limits who should rejoice in their Creator), and I’m saving all the passive use of media (scrolling, surfing, binging) for a scheduled block of time rather than all the snippets of time, presence, and focus that I hand over between lights, pauses in conversation, or pings from my phone.

And the end of these habits is the formation of a person who is present, growing in love for God and love of our neighbors.

Justin’s voice is engaging and helpful as he shares what he’s wrestled through to make these thoughts clear. I have found myself thankful for a lot of sentences in this book that I can tell are the fruit of sustained thought. In fact, I have been using a nighttime blessing he wrote as part of our bedtime routine for the last eight months or so, and it is sowing the truth of God’s love into our children with succinct language that I’m thankful for.

Might just be something to what he’s saying.

In the same vein, when I first read Deep Work, I realized Cal Newport was a disruptive thinker within a social media generation. I’ve had his latest work, Digital Minimalism for about a week and a half, and I’m in the final chapter. Newport’s call is to reduce passive use of technology for the sake of re-instilling high quality leisure and activity to our lives – which is outside of our screens and in the real world with real people. There is better life, better habits, and greater work for us outside of the digital kingdoms we have been lured to control through companies monetizing our attention and neurobiology.

If you think that’s a dumb paragraph, then leave facebook, twitter, or instagram on your phone and try to stay away for more than four days. Little hits of dopamine are effective pulls back into technology.

Sherry Turkle wrote a brilliant work on this topic called Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. I was sobered, and chilled, by her work. Cal’s book is having the same effect. In fact, this Rabbit Trails series of posts is a way to thoughtfully put his directives into place. I can share with you what I’m enjoying in a controlled fashion without the pull of likes, hearts, double taps or messages to endlessly cycle back to. If you like anything or want to engage – you can email me and we get to move toward a real conversation.


One other:

If you haven’t heard or seen me reference Klyne Snodgrass’ work, Who God Says You Are: A Christian Understanding of Identity, then I owe you this: *you should read this book*. I’ve spent the last two years on somewhat of a dive into emotional health, relationships, dealing with shame, and christian identity and Klyne’s book is one I keep coming back to read again (the other is Curt Thompson’s The Soul of Shame).

What I like about Klyne’s book is that he handles the ordinary aspects of our life that we inherited, that we experience, and that we live out—then he shows how the gospel of Christ impacts and renovates all of these parts of life. The final chapter, An Appeal to be a Whole Person, is worth the price of the book.

My friend Lore Ferguson recently read it and said it is a contender for her book of the year, and being that is February, I feel like that is a strong rec.  Read it. Thank me later.


Things I’m enjoying:

The Bible Project‘s app Read Scripture has been the missing link in a yearly reading plan that I didn’t know I needed, but am thankful for. Their videos are worked into each book, giving you an overview of major themes and content, then leading you into a few chapters at a time and a psalm. Try it out! It’s free, and awesome.

The Leader’s Journey Podcast has been something I’ve been sure to catch the last six months or so. They have done a helpful series on emotional intelligence, and are in the middle of one on trauma informed leadership. Not sure I need to say much else than you should spend a minute and look at their lineup.

Lastly, my colleagues run a podcast called Knowing Faith, and I think it is wonderful. Hearing three friends (and guests!) talk through topics of faith and help make hard things a bit clearer is a real treat—and help—to the church. I’m thankful Kyle had the vision, and I’m thankful this is something our church supports. I have met people from all over the country who listen to and are benefitting from the meat of this podcast. Give it a listen.

Things I need to remember: 

The evening is a time of vulnerability. (Earley)

Opening the household table on a regular basis creates an undercurrent of the Christian life that mimics the adoption ethic. The table is open, not closed. (Earley)

Leave good evidence of yourself. Do good work. (Gary Rogowski via Newport)

Lastly, as I am trying to turn towards lent and Easter, I found myself listening (once again) to Andrew Peterson and shedding tears on the way to work after three little words: His heart beats.

Easter is coming, friends.

Shame on us.

Shame gets on us from the inside. Wielded like a sword by sin, it separates us from our own selves, from others, and from God.

As you head into another year, may this be a space for you to sit still enough to begin to hear where shame drives you apart – from yourself, from others, and from God.

These two songs have been ringing around in my head about the battle of this voice, and the struggle to hear true words in the middle of wishing I’d done, I’d been better.

Beloved in Christ, shame’s story isn’t the end for you.
May we hear the voice of the Father louder each day.




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