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: In a faith and the arts class at seminary, I was introduced to the works of Makoto Fujimura. Recently, I rediscovered him in an interview with Eric Metaxas and appreciate the perspective he brought on the role art plays in our contemplation of Christ and His creation.
In his art, he utilizes a traditional Japanese painting technique called Nihonga to express his faith and sense of beauty. His mentor and professor said it was really when Fujimura became a Christian “that the world of his paintings began to change and increase in depth and profoundness.”
President George W. Bush appointed him to the National Council on the Arts in 2003 and NPR named his commencement speech at Belhaven University in 2011 as one of the best ever. In that speech, he said, “The best of the arts also point to, or even redeﬁne, the World to come, causing us to rise up, like Lazarus, from the dark tomb of cynicism and despair.”
I’m thankful for Christians involved in the arts who remind us of our creative God and challenge us to spend more time dwelling on the good and beautiful in His creation.
Carol Pipes (@CarolPipes), editor: This time of year I am reminded of the tremendous blessing of friends and family, far and near. Last week my husband, Keith, and I visited his family in Texas for Thanksgiving, and we spent time with close friends we only see a few times a year. Around tables filled with turkey and potatoes, we shared stories from past and present and caught up on the lives of these loved ones. In the days and weeks ahead, as we anticipate the celebration of our coming Savior King, I look forward to the family gatherings, each meal a reminder of the great feast when Jesus comes again!
I also plan to enjoy every ordinary moment this season—a favorite Christmas song on the radio, the neighbors’ lawn decorations, and heartfelt messages from friends penned on pretty cards. In this article by Angie Smith, she reminds us of the simple, yet extraordinary events surrounding the birth of Jesus. “Even the most ordinary of moments can be blessed by the sacred,” writes Smith. I pray this Christmas you experience wonder at the miraculous birth of Jesus, and that you find joy in the simple, ordinary moments of the season.
Matt Erickson (@_Matt_Erickson), managing editor: I’ve been working my way through a new book by Moody Bible Institute professor John Koessler called The Radical Pursuit of Rest: Escaping the Productivity Trap. It is, as you might expect, refreshing.
Pursuing rest really is a radical objective in our culture. Stress and busyness are killing us physically and depleting us emotionally and spiritually. To just go with the flow of our culture is to get on a treadmill that never stops, emptying life of meaning and enjoyment.
So, what solutions does Koessler propose? Sabbath-keeping (in a live-giving, non-legalistic way), engaging in other spiritual “disciplines” like silence and solitude, worship, Scripture reading and so on. None of that is particularly new, of course, but Koessler does a great job of explaining how they help fight against our out-of-control ambition, fear, and fatigue. He’s able to see and explain the problem clearly, and present hopeful solutions in a fresh way.
Lisa Green (@lisaccgreen), senior writer: This week I’ve been reading Tim Townsend’s Mission at Nuremberg, the story of a U.S. Army chaplain tasked with ministering to top Nazi leaders as they awaited trial for crimes against humanity. The chaplain, Henry Gerecke, comes face to face with the atrocities of Dachau yet offers compassion and prayer to those responsible. He witnesses their final visits with their families and walks beside the men all the way up the steps to the gallows. Some rebuff the chaplain and disparage the Christian faith until the end. Others, Gerecke reports, “died as penitent sinners trusting God’s mercy for forgiveness.”
Townsend’s book raises many thought-provoking questions about morality, empathy, and forgiveness. “Could Christians really believe that their God was crucified to forgive those who conceived of the gas showers at Auschwitz?” he writes. The answer appears in the actions of Gerecke and fellow chaplain Sixtus O’Connor, as they treat the Nazi war criminals “in ways that honored their deepest understanding of humanity, and its relationship to God.”
Katie Shull (@KShull), graphic designer: Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. I love reflecting on the gift of Jesus to the world. I love cookies, Christmas songs, and decorating. One thing I do not love is the influx of commercials trying to persuade you into a shopping frenzy.
Occasionally though, stores put out some uplifting and heart-warming ads. I recently saw an ad from Ikea that was great. It is a good reminder to prioritize family time. Especially now, when everything seems busy and hectic, stop and remember Christmas is about Jesus, not stuff. Make sure your family doesn’t miss that.
What has made you smile so far this week? What would be your favorite today?