It’s time once again for six things I read/watched/listened to this week that I enjoyed and/or found thought-provoking. Before I get into those, I want make this note: I’m aware that I didn’t post an episode of New Music Friday yesterday. I’m going to begin waiting until Monday for those posts so as to give myself more time to really digest new music. But there are some new songs in the world that I’m really excited to tell you about. At any rate. Six for Saturday.
Stephen Altrogge published an article on The Blazing Center called Waiting Patiently When The Story Goes Dark. He concludes, “In the end, there is one great, bright light that shines in the blackness. Christ was abandoned by God and swallowed by the dark so I would never be separated from God. Jesus experienced the worst part of the story so I can be part of the glorious ending. You may be in the dark, but you’re not alone.” That, my friends, is the answer to the problem of pain and evil in a world made by a good God. When you really take it in, it changes your life. There also are some good thoughts earlier on in the article about what we should expect in our lives as we look at the lives of those who have gone before us in the faith.
On a very different note, one thing I’ve been enjoying in the past few days is a show called Arrested Development. It’s a sitcom from the early 2000s that follows the misadventures of the very wealthy and very dysfunctional Bluth family as they adjust to the family patriarch’s imprisonment for fraud. The main character, Michael Bluth (played by Jason Bateman who, fun fact, also voiced Nick Wilde in Zootopia), is a generally normal, stable, responsible guy who struggles to bring stability and responsibility to his family in spite of their relentless codependency and general awfulness. He is honestly (to me, at least) the most genuinely endearing main character from a sitcom I’ve watched. It’s the genuine sweetness of Michael Bluth as a character that makes the dark comedy of Arrested Development something you can swallow. And it is good comedy. I think Arrested Development is funnier (and on a deeper level, more mentally healthy) than The Office and Parks and Recreation, and I also find it easier to follow because there’s fewer main characters and more of an overarching story. Should probably close with the note that yes, like those other two shows, there is a fair amount of inappropriate humor along with some lifestyle content issues, so be aware of that if you choose to test the waters.
Circling back to more weighty and serious matters, lately I’ve really been enjoying the work of the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics. They describe themselves as “a Christian organization advancing a free and flourishing society by revolutionizing the way people view their work.” There’s a very Kuyperian, world-transforming thrust to their mission, but they’re very rooted in and aware of the finished work of Jesus Christ in a way that many Kuyperian movements and organizations simply aren’t. I want to highlight two articles from this past week that exemplify their terrific work: “Why Dishwashing Matters in God’s Kingdom” and “Why Relationships Are Key to Helping the Poor.”
Another great article for this week comes from Boundless: “Why You Need Friends Who Aren’t Your Age,” which is a plea for age-integrated community in the church, and an exhortation to young people to pursue connection with people in different seasons of life than their own. I’m a big believer in family-integrated worship (which is something that my Presbyterian denomination practices), and I’ve been blessed to develop strong relationships with older folks in my church. We need friendships that cross over the artificial social boundaries that our individualistic and youth-obsessed culture has created.
The Gospel Coalition featured in the past couple of days an article from earlier this year by a man named Scott Connell about what worship leaders can do or not do to encourage congregational participation. There are some good points here. A worship leader myself, I especially like his comments about keeping the volume down, the instrumental solos to a minimum, and the repertoire focused, simple, and familiar. I will make one additional comment, which is that in choosing songs to introduce as new to a congregation, I think it is important to make selections based on lyrical content, melodic quality, and singability, and to not put too much emphasis on popularity. Among our favorites right now at Crossroads Christian Youth Center (where I lead worship) are a deep cut from a 2004 Bebo Norman record that no one else has heard, a little-known song by John Mark McMillan called “Heart Runs,” and “Sovereign Over Us,” which is perhaps well-known in the neo-reformed world but hardly known at all outside. These are our songs, the songs that help us feel a sense of togetherness as a community. We sing them because of what they mean to us, and I think there’s something to that.
Last item for the week: I heard about this little Jerry Seinfeld interview on writing jokes on the Only the Good Stuff podcast that is hosted by the aforementioned Stephen Altrogge. The main reason I like it is that it reveals the serious craft involved in comedy, and how smart good comedy really is.
That’s all for now! Thanks for reading!