Sunday’s Best: What’s Your Bicycle?

Today’s classic Calvin and Hobbes strip was the best of the bunch.  Visually fun with simple dialogue that reconnects to Calvin’s dad’s “builds character” line from a number of earlier strips.

Calvin BikeWe all have a bike like Calvin, even if it doesn’t have two wheels.

(image from

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Seen and Believed

It’s crazy to me that it’s been three months since Apple TV+ dropped this teaser trailer for the third (and supposedly final) season of Ted Lasso.

It’s been three months, yes, and the background song hasn’t played a role in the actual show, which is unfortunate.  There’s one more chance this week, though.  It would be great if it did.  But even if it didn’t, I’m grateful that the trailer introduced me to the song playing in the background: “I Still Believe” by Frank Turner.  Here’s the music video from twelve years ago:

It’s an ode to the power of rock’n’roll.  But it’s also been something of a gateway song for me, which I’ll get into later this week.  Just wanted to post this before the final episode of Ted Lasso drops tomorrow night.

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Sunday’s Best: Breaking the Vicious Cycle

It’s impressive that Calvin can be onto two things at once: both our obsessions and the fact that relieving those obsessions closes the consumeristic loop (that he would ultimately benefit from).  Today’s classic Calvin and Hobbes:

Calvin Self-Help(image from

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Where Credit is Due

In more than one way and all at once, ChatGPT is all the rage.  Some school people love it; some school people hate it.  Most of us aren’t quite sure what to do with it (unless you’ve already been thinking through such things prior to just a few months ago).  So this WuMo is funny as it wonderfully captures this kind of moment.

WuMo ChatGPTI’ve already mentioned this smart piece by Brad East.  Alan Jacobs deals with it in a couple of different ways here and here.   It will be interesting to see how course syllabi change in the fall semester with the proliferation of this kind of AI.

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On the Remarkable Ordinary

Buechner Remarkable OrdinaryThese last couple of weeks, my morning reading has been a slow (mostly re-)read of Frederick Buechner’s The Remarkable Ordinary.  It was one of the last two books of Buechner’s to be published before his death last August.  I started the book back in 2017 when it was published, but I didn’t make it past the first few pieces.  Buechner has been a part of my story since college, when I found him through the liner notes of a Wes King album,  Since then, I’ve read most of his sermons but not enough of his fiction.  The Remarkable Ordinary, which I’m about to finish, includes some talks that he gave at Laity Lodge (one of my favorite places ever), back in 1990 (long before I had heard of either person or place).

The collection has a lot to say about faith, but mostly through the arts.  He says a good bit about his own life story, which always feels fresh no matter many times you have read similar pieces of his.  “Stop, Look, and Listen for God” is the title of the first part of the collection.  It’s a good summation of his approach to faith, too.  He wrote about attention long before it became an early 21st century buzzword.  And he often and effortlessly brings what he thinks of art or his own life back to the presence of God, to the God revealed in Scripture, and to Jesus.  And then, in the middle of it all, he reminds us:

Love each other knowing that you are loved.

Such a simple statement.  It’s a reworking of a key New Testament teaching that I’d not really heard that way (or that well) before.

Buechner is definitely a product of his time (or times, as the case may be).  The third part of the book is the most obviously biographical.  And he starts it with the assertion that “the twentieth century comprised three worlds”: pre-World War II, the world of the war, and the post-World War II world (which he still lived in when he penned the piece).  He brings those different eras to life well without indulging in nostalgia.  And he practices what he preaches: listening to God in the story of his life.

I really thought there’d be more quotes from the book in this piece, but they just didn’t materialize.  There are a number of lines that I marked in the book, but they make the most and best sense in the context of all the other words and phrases on the page.

Revisiting Buechner these last couple of weeks has been nice.  The times they are a-changing, with things happening both at Home and in the Neighborhood.  It is good to be reminded that God is at work around us, and more often than not in many less-obvious ways.  Still in the obvious, of course, but often the obvious gets lost in the mix.  Early in the book, Buechner writes about the reading of books:

You can escape the little world that’s inside your skin and live inside the world the writer produces for you.

That’s especially true for the world that Buechner wrote with his life.  It has so many little tributaries, too, with people like Lewis and Chesterton and other writers he has either led me to or helped me enjoy. It’s good to be reminded, every day really, of the remarkable ordinary of our lives.

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Lucy’s Communication Theory

Lucy was back at love again in this past Sunday’s classic Peanuts strip by Charles Schulz.  It’s a great picture of communication theory, in theory.  You’ve got message encoded but a decoding that just doesn’t line up.  That’s the way with goes with these two, I suppose.

Peanuts Communication Theory(image from

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“Because We Are Written”

Brad East has been blogging a bit more recently.  His take on academics and AI is pretty genius (and something I’ve shared with a number of co-workers).  He also recently posted a piece on fantasy literature, comedy, and the question of God’s existence (and His allowance of evil).  His reference is a series I’ve not heard of anywhere else except in one or two of his posts.  But he says something about (fantasy) literature in general that I really like, the middle paragraph in particular:

For modern fantasy to avoid theodicy, it would have to embrace tragedy. Not darkness, not “grittiness,” not violence and sadism and gratuitous sex and playing footsie with nihilism. Actual, bona fide tragedy. I’ve not encountered fantasy that does that. And even then, if there’s a human author doing the tragedy-writing, there’s a case to be made that it can’t fully escape the pull of theodicy. It seems to me you’d have to go full Sartre and write a fantasy akin to La Nausée. But what world-building fantasist wants to do that? Is even capable of stomaching it?

We write because we are written. We make because we are made. We work providence in our stories because providence works in ours. We give the final word to the Good because the Good has the final word in our world—or will, at least; we hope, at least.

This is why every fantasy is a theodicy. Because every fantasy is a comedy. And comedy is a witness to our trust, howsoever we deny it or mask it, of our trust that God is, that God is good, and that God will right all wrongs in the End.

It reminds me of a quote from Anthony Thiselton that I fear I have totally misremembered but love anyway: history reminds us of what is possible; fiction reminds us of what is necessary.

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“Waiting is Our Friend”

When the Church Stops WorkingProbably the thinker who has influenced me most these last five years when it comes to faith and church life is Andrew Root.  His writing on church life in a secular age has been a vital way for me to orient myself in my understanding of the way the world of today works.  Part of what resonates with me from his work is that he doesn’t simply restate the party line of “church growth.”

He just released a shorter book that brings together various threads from his work from the last few years.  Co-authored with Blair Bertrand, When Church Stops Working revisits the ideas of secularity, acceleration, resonance, and even the “watchword” concept from Root’s most recent book.  Root and Bertrand attempt to help readers understand that the problem of decline is not the thing the church should be worried about.  It’s not about speeding up and doing more to keep up with our always-accelerating culture.  Instead, the one thing the local church can and should do is learn how to wait.  An excerpt:

But waiting is our friend. The only way we can survive is by waiting. Waiting puts our attention in the right place. When we forget to wait, we become too distracted, too impatient, too angry to see God’s action. The stories that form the church are about God’s actions. Attention ought not to be on the church but on the God who moves, the Jesus who lives, bringing life out of death. The church is the witness, the narrator, to the bigger story of God’s action to save the world.

We know of very few churches that intentionally turn away from God. They don’t do it on purpose. It happens because our attention is directed somewhere else and our secular imaginations don’t let us see that. With our attention on the anxiety to survive and the rush to do something, God is inevitably replaced as the star of the church’s story. It becomes so easy, particularly in our secular age, for God to be just a subplot of our congregational life. We’re so anxious that this becomes inevitable.

Root and Bertrand make suggest a handful of good “moves” that the church would be wise to take, but they are the kind of moves that have to be made intentionally and at the right place/right time.  The key move is to think about Acts chapter one before jumping into Acts chapter two.  Many churches, at least those you hear about the most, will likely keep moving faster and faster, trying to grow larger and larger, applying one corrective or new program after another to keep the ball in the air.  For the rest of us, though, the word to wait is good and right and definitely worth considering.

You can read more of the excerpt here.  And while Root’s longer books are better, this one reads well (and is almost a nice bookend to Jamie Smith’s book on secularity from almost a decade ago).

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Sunday’s Best: The Source and the Solution (Exam Edition)

This weeks FoxTrot shows one way to celebrate the season: by providing the solution to a problem for which you can also be the source.  I suppose this is a kind of innovation?

FoxTrot ExamsI gave my last exam a couple of days ago.  Now it’s getting in a few missing assignments and hitting the “submit” button.  In some ways, I’m already thinking and working ahead for next year, which is nice.  Either way, Year 20 is coming to an end.  It’s definitely been an interesting one, in a way.

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Sunday’s Best: Flight of the May Bee

Not a lot of Mother’s Day humor in the funny pages today, but there was a nice “picture” of the beauty of the month of May in today’s Frazz.

Frazz May BeeOf course in Tennessee, June bugs don’t show up until early July . . .

(image from

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