Why I Read [actual] Books

I didn’t grow up a reader. Surfer magazine was the only written word worth while (I promise, it wasn’t just the pictures…). I didn’t pick up a book for fun until I was nineteen. You’d think I’d be thrilled to be alive in a time where most people communicate with encrypted text messages, emoticons, 140 character tweets and youtube clips.

In many ways I love the tools at our finger tips. Other times I find myself wishing I lived during grandma and grandpa’s day when you needed pen and paper to record your thoughts and a bookstore to get a book.

No one ever walks into an Apple Store, picks up an iPad and says, “I love the way this thing smells.” And you don’t sit in front of your computer screen thinking, “It just feels so great in my hands.” I don’t have the best sense of smell, but I love the smell of old books. And my posture would be much better if I didn’t sit in front of a computer most of the day.

Contrary to what many in my parent’s generation think, the developed world isn’t digressing into an illiterate age. Instead, the definition of literate has changed. My good friend Jondou suggests that proper English has changed as well…Language evolves, but that’s a post for another day, possibly a discussion for our new blog). To quote Marshall McLuhan, the medium is the message. We can’t ignore today’s media or the way in which it has changed our language.

But books, those things made out of paper and comprised of complete sentences, bring us back to the basics of language. If we never learn the basics, today’s valuable tools will lead us down a path of frustration into a world of dull dreams and incomplete thought.

The last year I’ve read a lot of what Michael Hyatt has been writing. I’d recommend his stuff to anyone. As a the former CEO of Thomas Nelson, he get’s the whole book thing. He writes,

Contrary to what is often reported in the mainstream media, books are not dead. They are still valuable today. But we must contend for their existence against all other forms of media. Books do for people what movies, television, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and social media will never do—fundamentally alter their worldview and inspire them to greatness.

We need to allow books to inspire us and alter our worldview. Sometimes I read for an escape. Others,  I read to be challenged. Simply put, I can’t afford to stop. None of us can. But too many of us have. This year I’ve been doing something I haven’t done since high school; I’m keeping a reading log/journal.

Why do you read? And what are you reading?

Birthday Reflection: 31 (2012)

Last Friday I turned 31. I spent some of the day reflecting on where I had been in the last year and where Hailey and I seem to be going in the not-so-distant future. When I turned 30 I wrote this and gave myself six goals to accomplish by the time I turn 35.

One year down, four to go. Let’s see how I’m doing.

  1. Become a Father—Check. In two months my daughter should take her first breath. Hailey has been a champ during pregnancy. It’s kinda funny how people keep reminding us that we are in for a big change. And it’s not so much the words spoken that make me laugh, but the tone that is used (like Hailey hasn’t been slowly growing a person inside her for the last 7+ months, but all of a sudden has a belly that hiccups, punches and kicks). It’s as if we haven’t been thinking, planning, praying and hoping for this for years. We know it will be different. We know we won’t sleep. The new normal is coming fast and I’m terrified. Terrified and excited all at the same time.
  2. Get back to (and maintain) a healthy weight—Still have work to do. Last year I wrote, “I’ve been told that a healthy weight is within 5-10 lbs of what you weighed when you graduated high school-I need to drop 20 lbs.” I came back from Malawi as heavy as I had been in a long time, started riding and going to the gym routinely, and dropped 10 lbs pretty quick. I still sit 20 lbs heavier than what I weighed 13 years ago.
  3. Publish a Book—Ha, had a lot of thoughts but WAY LESS time to write than I did last year. Still a goal, but seems as far fetched as #6 below.
  4. Go to a game at Wrigley Field—Check (well, almost). My pops and I are heading out to the mid-west next weekend. The Padres are in town the same weekend as the Indy 500.
  5. Go to the Indy 500 with my dad—Check (almost again). See above. Dad’s turning 60 in
    birthday bike ride

    June this year. Having a bit of an eary celebration by returning to his roots.

  6. Cycle across a country—hahahahahaha. Still a dream. First I’ll have to get to the point
    where I’m riding multiple times a week again. Baby steps, right? In fact, looking at these goals has convinced me it’s time for a birthday ride…

Three out of six in just over a year isn’t bad, but I’ve got a ton of work to do (on top of being a pastor, learning to be a dad, etc…it should be easy right?).

 

The “me” blog (why I write)

Until recently, I hadn’t posted much in 2012. I’m not going to make some lame excuse about how busy I’ve been or how my priorities have changed. It’s not that I haven’t had any thoughts about ministry, culture, Malawi or bursts of creativity. It’s not even that I haven’t been writing.

To be honest a day hasn’t passed where I haven’t thought, “ahh, remember that blog you were gonna post?” I don’t let it beat me up, but it does bother me. So I will just come out and say it; I need to be more disciplined.

As self-serving as this may sound; blogging is good for me.

A few years ago a friend argued that Foursquare painted the perfect picture of how self-involved and focused our society has become. Become the Mayor! Get as many badges as you can!!! Checking in at the hippest hangouts gave individuals the chance to shout to the inter-webs, “Look at how cool I am!” Soon enough Facebook realized they were behind the curve on letting location determine your status on the social spectrum. And now there are a ton of ways you can post pictures, write reviews and tell everyone that you are the most important person in your own little world.

I wanted to argue her point, but I couldn’t. It hit me. The entire blog/twitter/facebook world is often less about connecting communities than about being a platform for personal projection.

A publicist who runs a blog for a band you love uses one of your flicker photos and, all of a sudden, you are Guns N’ Roses newest photographer. Former high-school athletes who never dabbled in journalism become “experts” in sports culture. A random person takes one online seminary class, starts a blog and they are a master theologian. Someone famous retweets a tweet and BAM, you know them.

There are, of course, exceptions to the network of narcissism. Social media has often been ahead of radio and news stations with disaster warnings, traffic updates and worthwhile news. And Facebook and Twitter help us to stay connected in a way email never did.

The honest truth is, in our world today—as a business, church or individual, if you’re not up to speed with where our culture has gone then you aren’t going to grow or meet new people. This is true whether you are keeping your information in the cloud or a Trapper Keeper.

But where do we draw the line?

Those who have thrived have figured ot how to walk it gracefully. They don’t post everything about their life, but enough to document their interests and connect with their friends and family. They feel they have something to say that others will want to hear, but have also learned that there is actually an appropriate etiquette to social media and blogging.

But why do I write? I can’t candy-coat it…it is good for me. It’s a discipline that helps me to reflect on where I am and what’s happening in the world. Words are something we often use without thinking; having a blog helps me to think before I speak (or write). I’d hope it’s a discipline that seeps into other ares of life. If, somewhere along the way, one of my online thoughts or rants sparks one for someone else then great. If not? I’ll keep writing.