Breakfast Blend 11.21.14

6 Ideas from Creative Thinkers to Shake up Your Work Routine: “Every seven years, designer Stefan Sagmeister (TED Talk: The power of time off) closes his New York design studio for a year-long sabbatical. During each sabbatical, he pursues “little experiments, things that are always difficult to accomplish during the regular working year.” The effect on Sagmeister’s studio has been profound. “Basically everything we’ve done in the seven years following the first sabbatical came out of the thinking of that one single year,” he says.”

Tim Keller’s New Lectures on Preaching: “Tim Keller is currently writing a much anticipated book on preaching, planned for release sometime in 2015. Last week he offered a taste of what’s to come in four new lectures delivered at the 2014 John Reed Miller Lectures on Preaching at RTS Jackson (November 11–13).”

The Blueprint of an Optimal Blog Design: “From using snippets and placing images in the correct location to figuring out the optimal width of your design, there has to be a perfect formula, right? Well, there is. To show you how you can create the optimal design, I’ve created an infographic that breaks down what you need to do.”

“Who do you say that I am?”: “The greatness of God is most clearly displayed in his Son. And the glory of the gospel is only made evident in his Son. That’s why Jesus’ question to his disciples is so important: “Who do you say that I am?”

5 Rules of Writing from Pixar: “I love Pixar. There hasn’t been one movie they made that I didn’t like. My family goes to see the new Pixar movie every summer right after it comes out. So when I saw this picture on Pinterest sharing Pixar’s twenty-two rules of storytelling, I saved it right away, and I go back to it constantly for inspiration.”

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C.S. Lewis on Not Liking Heaven’s Pat-on-the-Back

“I can imagine someone saying that he dislikes my idea of heaven as a place where we are patted on the back.

But proud misunderstanding is behind that dislike.

In the end that Face which is the delight or the terror of the universe must be turned upon each of us either with one expression or with the other, either conferring glory inexpressible or inflicting shame that can never be cured or disguised.

I read in a periodical the other day that the fundamental thing is how we think of God. By God Himself, it is not! How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important. Indeed, how we think of Him is of no importance except insofar as it is related to how He thinks of us.

It is written that we shall “stand before” Him, shall appear, shall be inspected.

The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive the examination, shall find approval, shall please God.

To please God…to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness…to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son – it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain.

But so it is.”


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If You Only Have 10 Minutes Today…Do This.

The reality of life is, we don’t always get 100% on our devotional score for the day.

We wake up late.

Kids wake up early.

Meetings nudge into our daily routine.

And while I’m often tempted to go “all or nothing”, lately I’ve made sure to do the most beneficial part of my devotional time:

Reading a Psalm.

Here’s why Psalms are so integral to my devotions:

1. The Psalms meet us where we are. Something I’ve learned about myself, and in counseling others, is that often the first thing we need from the Bible is empathy. The Bible speaks to our human experience, unapologetically, clearly, and honestly.

And it doesn’t get more raw than the Psalms.

2. The Psalms teach us to pray. Maybe I’m not in the mood to pray today. Maybe I’m not even in the mood to believe. Because I have the Psalms, I don’t have to muster spiritual energy to create something out of thin air. I can pray the words already written – words perfect, and pure.

3. The Psalms center us on God’s character. David was a man after God’s own heart, and in the Psalms, it shows. Unlike the current repertoire of me-focused worship on Christian pop-radio stations, the Psalms focus on God – His works, His depth, His complexity, His mercy, and His coming redemption.

4. The Psalms warm our hearts. The Psalms are constantly calling us to “sing” and “rejoice” and “fear” the Lord. They are calling us to warm our hearts to God. John Owen once wrote “It is better that our affections exceed our light from the defect of our understandings, than that our light exceeds our affections from the corruption of our wills.”

In other words: It’s better to have theological knowledge and great affection for God. But if you have to choose one, choose affection.

The Psalms teach us the latter.

5. The Psalms clearly point to Christ. If you want to see how the Old Testament points to Christ, you couldn’t do much better than the Psalms.

David constantly reminds us of God’s past redemption reflecting His coming faithfulness.

He shows us what it’s like to have the heart of a shepherd-King.

He clearly and poignantly points to the necessity of a coming God-man, who will redeem heaven and earth under His reign (see Psalm 110, the most quoted Psalm in the NT).

I’d venture to guess the Psalms are the most quoted book in the New Testament, for this reason alone. If we want to warm our hearts daily with a blazing vision of our Savior, we need to familiarize ourselves with His prayer book.



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Breakfast Blend 11.20.14

The Snowflake Method for Designing a Novel:Writing a novel is easy. Writing a good novel is hard. That’s just life. If it were easy, we’d all be writing best-selling, prize-winning fiction.”

John Piper’s Most Famous 7 Minutes of Preaching – This is worth re-watching.

Honoring Complexity in Marilynne Robinson’s “Lila” – “In her New York Times review of Lila, Diane Johnson commends the book’s author, Marilynne Robinson, for writing about faith. It’s an act she describes as downright “courageous” given the violent and negative associations with religion today.”

An Infographic Translating Feedback into Graphic Design Principles for Websites: “We’ve all heard stories of people who look at a website mockup and say something like “It needs more pop!” or “Make it sleeker,” without being specific about what they’re looking for. It can be a pain, but this tongue-firmly-in-cheek graphic translates those phrases to language you can actually use.”

How a French Atheist Became a Christian: “If French atheists rarely become evangelical Christians, how much rarer it is for one to become an evangelical Christian theologian. So what happened?”

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Breakfast Blend 11.19.14

The 50 Best Christian Books of 2014: “Overall, 2014 was a pretty decent year for Christian books. Keep in mind that we are limited in our ability to read the many books published this year which means there were a significant number of books we did not read or have a chance to even glance at, so if your book is not listed here, do not be discouraged.”

7 Ways Christian Academics can Be Christian: “I love the life of the mind. I am immensely thankful for good scholarship, intellectual investigation, and the best of the academic enterprise. As a pastor and just as an intellectually curious sort of chap, I want Christian academics to flourish. I also want these Christian scholars to be thoroughly Christian.”

5 Things About Writing I Wish I’d Known 20 Years Ago: “The path is meandering because you will change, and the publishing world will change, and the things you want to write about will likely change as well.”

Going Deep With Your Story: “Stories driven by the big set piece extra-personal antagonisms of horror and action, however, are far less dependent on the internal content genres to work. In fact if you add too much internal hemming and hawing and “character development” in the pure action story or horror story, you may completely alienate your audience.”

Platt and Chan: Mission Isn’t God: “David Platt and Francis Chan are interviewed for the Verge Conference about the allure and danger of finding your identity in being on mission. They remind us that it’s easy to take good things, like mission and discipleship, and make them ultimate. They then call us back to keeping God at the center of everything, including being on mission.”


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3 Questions When You Don’t Know What to Write Next.

For the fiction writer, Steven James gives us three questions in his book, “Story Trumps Structure:”

What would the character naturally do in this situation? This question focuses on making the next part of your story believable, and that’s key. A novel is one giant cause-effect continuum.

How can I make things worse? Someone once said the job of a good writer is to get your character up a tree, then throw rocks at him. The story you’re writing needs to continually escalate: how can you make that happen?

How can I end this in a way that’s unexpected and inevitable? James makes a great point in his book: readers want to guess what’s going to happen, and they want to be wrong. But looking back, they want to see that the solution you gave was inevitable. How can you make that happen?

So, if you’re stuck – ask one, two, or all three. Brainstorm your ideas, jot them out, then come out with the best combination – that’s your story’s next move.

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Should Christians Be Optimistic?

We’re promised turmoil, suffering, cross-bearing pain.

So why should Christians be optimistic?

Because these crosses etch their marks in us for their own purpose: to conform us into the joy-abundant image of the Cross-Bearer, Christ. And that is – hear this – our greatest good.

There is nothing better than being like Jesus. No amount of money is better than sharing in his riches. No amount of pleasure compares with his tender grace. No number of relationships can compete with entering the inner-circle of the trinity. Every success pales in comparison to Christ’s victory on the cross.

The Christian life keeps getting better and better, because we are becoming more and more like Christ. I am happier now than I was last year, and I was happier last year than I was the year before.

And it will keep getting that way, even into eternity.  Why? Because we are finite creatures feasting on God’s infinite goodness, one course at a time.

Further up, and further in.

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Breakfast Blend 11.18.14

Living Faithfully in a Pluralistic Society: “Gerson tells us to commit, to care, to believe—acts that when driven by mere moralism will inevitably lead to failure, frustration, and exhaustion. If we want the freedom and courage to serve, not condemn others in a pluralistic culture, we need more than advice calling us to pursue the common good. We need the power to lay down our lives.”

Top 6 Shortcuts for Writers:  “As content writers, we rely on the functional features of Microsoft Word to produce engaging content that is error-free. There are a number of customizable features and shortcuts that you can use to write faster and more efficiently. There is no better time than the present to learn a few!”

Finding the Right Metaphor for Your Presentation: “When trying to persuade people to think and act differently, we study their wants and needs, what they care about, what keeps them up at night. Sometimes we reach them by making clear, concise arguments that address those concern”s. But often it takes a little something more to engage an audience.”

Thoreau on the Spirit of Sauntering: “Go out and walk. That is the glory of life,” Maira Kalman exhorted in her glorious visual memoir. A century and a half earlier, another remarkable mind made a beautiful and timeless case for that basic, infinitely rewarding, yet presently endangered human activity.”

Jackhammers and Your Circadian Rhythm:  “Here’s the dirty little secret of freelancing and working remotely — you still have to have structure; you just get the opportunity to create it yourself, and that’s easier said than done.”

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5 Steps to Creating a Plot You Love.

This is from James Scott Bell’s “Plot and Structure”, and I’ve been following his advice. It’s time-consuming, but also BRILLIANT:

1. Choose 6-7 of your favorite books from your genre.

2. Read each through once, for pleasure.

3. Read each through again, this time writing out the different scenes on index cards. Scenes are places where the narrative changes in location or time.

4. Separate the cards into “Act I” (the introduction to the character in their normal world, with their desires and beliefs intact). “Act II” (the first “plot-point”, where the conflict is elevated). The midpoint (the point where the character needs to embrace new beliefs about in himself or the world to continue). And “Act III”, or “the second point of no return” (or, the ‘final chase’).

5. Read through the cards in rapid fashion, until the you’ve memorized the feel of the plot.

Bell says if you’re willing to put in the time, doing this will get you ahead of 99% of beginning writers.

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Breakfast Blend 11.17.14

10 Steps to Conquering Information Overload: “We’ve all heard the phrase “information overload.” It reminds us of tweets, texts, emails, the endless stream of interesting articles on Facebook, those viral videos we can’t help but click on, the numerous phone photos and videos we take, Secret posts, fleeting Snapchat photos and more.”

Four Dangers for Complementarians: I am not ashamed to be complementarian. It has never been a dirty word for me, because I’ve grown up seeing godly expressions of it in my family, and hearing compelling arguments for it from my ministry heroes. More than anything, C. S. Lewis books like Perelandra have shaped my thinking about gender. (For anyone curious, I’ve summed up why I’m complementarian here.)

How to Create a WordPress Blog in 5 Minutes: In case you haven’t, yet.

How to Make Your Imaginary World Real: I think it means “realistic”, but if your imaginary world DOES become real, let me know. I’d love to visit.

Can Scientists and Evangelical Leaders Work Together? “The intersection of science and religion clearly has the power to capture the public’s attention, but collisions can happen at that intersection. Is there a way for scientific and religious communities to work together more productively?”

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