F&T Favorites: June 10, 2016

F&T favorites

What are you enjoying right now?

Sometimes, we need to step back and ask a question like that.

Philippians 4:8 challenges believers to think and dwell on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable.” So the Facts & Trends staff would like to regularly share our “Favorites” at the moment.

It might be a new book or podcast we’re enjoying or something going on in our lives we want to share. Hopefully, you’ll think about things that are your favorites right now and maybe find something else to add to that list.

Aaron Earls (@WardrobeDoor), online editor: I recently started James K.A. Smith’s You Are What You Love and have already been extensively challenged in how I think about discipleship and growth as a believer.

Drawing from both ancient voices like Augustine and modern science, Smith describes the impact our habits and our unconscious (shaped by our habits) have on our life and Christian walk. Too often church leaders merely seek to alter the way people think and are surprised when the change doesn’t stick.

Smith argues that happens because they never go after the unexamined habits and unacknowledged rituals of our lives. We try to change our brain, but our heart stays the same. That’s never going to work. In an interview with Justin Taylor, he explains, “You are more defined by what you love than what you think or know or believe.”

It’s not about thinking less about our beliefs, but about thinking deeper and going beyond merely thinking to the loves we have cultivated, often unintentionally, in our lives. When we work with the Holy Spirit to change those innermost desires, You Are What You Love says we will have much more success in our efforts to grow in Christlikeness.

Carol Pipes (@CarolPipes), editor: This week I’m going to brag on one of our own. The latest cover story for Christianity Today,  “Charleston One Year Later,” was written by our own Bob Smietana. It’s a beautiful portrait of the lives of those forever changed by the shooting at Charleston’s AME Church last June.

Smietana interviewed almost a dozen survivors—family members of those who lost their lives, as well as members of the church. The writing is beautiful and and provides a powerful view into their lives as they continue to grieve the loss of loved ones.

You will not want to miss the beautiful photography and reporting in this piece.

Lisa Green (@lisaccgreen), managing editor: Living next door to an historic wedding venue, I get frequent glimpses of young love. In a rustic barn or flowering meadow, fresh-faced couples pledge to cherish each other all the days of their lives. Sadly, statistics predict many of them will land in divorce court within a few years.

What separates those who stay together from those who eventually split? Simple kindness can make all the difference, research shows. In marriages without kindness, even ordinary interaction triggers a physical fight-or-flight response. Bodies react to mundane conversation as if threatened by a saber-toothed tiger. Kindness, on the other hand, makes couples feel calm and connected. Their blood flow and heart rates behave accordingly.

Kindness is a time-honored concept, one I remember learning in Vacation Bible School as a young child: “And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ” (Ephesians 4:32). It’s a verse all brides and grooms should take to heart.

Bob Smietana (@BobSmietana), senior writer: Not many performers start their shows by having the audience sing the Doxology in four-part harmony. But it’s a familiar habit for Lee Camp, the host of the Tokens show, a Prairie Home Companion-style experience with a Bible belt twist, combining witty banter with in-depth interviews and plenty of great music.

The show, whose episodes are performed four or five times a year, are always a treat. Last night’s was no exception, with performances by Christian music legend Ashley Cleveland singing Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Going to Come,” instrumentals from the house band known as the “Most Outstanding Horeb Mountain Boys” (all A-list session players), and a heartfelt musical tribute—composed by Camp—to the son of one of the performers, who had died earlier in the year.

There aren’t many shows that can start with the Doxology, rock out to Merle Haggard’s “Working Man Blues,” dance a gig with the World Fiddle Ensemble, ponder the words of the Old Testament prophets Amos and Micah, and close out with a Woody Guthrie sing-along.  Next time you’re in Nashville, check it out. You’ll leave with a smile on your face, joy in your heart, and plenty to ponder on the ride home.

Katie Shull (@KShull), graphic designer: My favorite this week is not necessarily a nice thought—it’s dealing with the Stanford rape case in the news this week—but I do think is a godly response to an evil series of events. Ann Voskamp wrote a great letter to her sons. Her words remind us, “Real Manhood knows the heart of God for the daughters of His heart.” We need to look to Jesus and how He related to people, then respond accordingly. As parents we need to teach our children, both boys and girls, what that truly means.

What has made you smile so far this week? What would be your favorite today?

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