Monthly Moment: January 2023

Another month has flown by. Take a moment with me to consider what I’ve engaged with this past month. Maybe you’ll find something you’d enjoy and benefit from as well!

  • The Intentional Father – This past Father’s Day, my wife gave me Jon Tyson’s 2021 book, The Intentional Father: A Practical Guide to Raising Sons of Courage and Character. Previously, I’d heard an interview with Tyson on the Gospelbound podcast (a podcast I heartily recommend), and I resonated with his approach to parenting and intentionally engaging our kids. In his book, he walks through his own relationship with his son and what he sought to do both personally and in community with other fathers and sons to raise his son intentionally, particularly between the ages of 13-18. Although I don’t think Tyson’s larger trips with his son to be something I can financially replicate (especially with the four sons I have), I did appreciate his desire to meet with his son regularly and study the Scriptures, read books, watch movies, etc. More than anything, Tyson’s book got the gears of my thinking and planning in motion for what I might want to do with my boys in just a few years’ time.
  • Marvel United – If you’re a regular reader of this inconsistently updated blog, you know I’m a big fan of games. I like sports. I like videogames. I like board games. I love temporarily entering the “magic circle” games create and learning, exploring, experimenting, strategizing and overcoming. I’m happy to do that by myself, but it’s always more fun to do it with others. One of the ways I’ve been doing that this past month is playing the board-game, Marvel United, with some of my boys. I picked this up soon after Christmas, and I’m so glad I did. The game is a cooperative card-based game where you assume the identities of various superheroes from the Marvel Universe (i.e. Iron Man, Spiderman, Dr. Strange, The Hulk, etc.) and seek to take down a villain and their henchmen before they can accomplish their master plan. Although the game is not easy (at least for us!), my boys and I have really enjoyed picking the different heroes and attempting to use their various abilities to beat the bad guys. We’ve already lost a handful of times, but in the times we’ve won, it’s been fist-pumping fun!
  • Be Thou My Vision – Not only is it the title of a favorite hymn of mine, but “Be Thou My Vision” is also the title of a helpful daily liturgy assembled by Jonathan Gibson and published by Crossway. I picked this book for the new year to provide a bit more structure and depth to my personal times with the Lord. By God’s grace, I was able to use it every day in January and after a month of use, I can easily say this is a thoughtful, well-developed resource. I really appreciated the variety of rich prayers present in the book (i.e. adoration, confession, illumination, etc.), but also the creedal and catechism readings as well. However, I didn’t always feel like I gave enough time to really consider what I was saying in the prayers or reading the catechism / creeds. Also, while there were helpful Scripture readings interwoven throughout, I longed to spend more time reading / meditating on Scripture and less on man-made prayers (as helpful as they are!). In the future, I would like to continue using this resource, but I will probably utilize it at a more measured pace and not worry about finishing the daily liturgy everyday.

Well, that’s all for this month! Take a moment to share what you’ve been engaging with lately!

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Monthly Moment: December 2022

With another month (and year!) in the books, take a moment with me to consider what I’ve engaged with this past month. Maybe you’ll find something you’d enjoy and benefit from as well!

  • Atomic Habits – This past month I finished listening to the audiobook version of James Clear’s Atomic Habits. The book focuses on how to approach habit formation and the little changes that lead to big results in the long run. It was an easy listen and one that has stirred thought about the kind of person I would like to be and what systems and small daily habits I need to have in place now to help me get there. I wish the author would have given an extended practical example of how one starts a new small habit and continues to develop it over the year(s), but he provided plenty of tools and ideas to get me started. If you’re interested in learning more, a nice summary of his book and its foundational principles can be found here.
  • Batman: The Telltale Series – Over the last month or two, I played through Telltale Games’ Batman series, both the first and second season (“The Enemy Within”). While the game essentially boils down to a gritty point & click adventure with moral/ethical choices that impact dialogue and the ending(s), I really enjoyed my time with these games. In these games, Bruce Wayne is presented less as a brooding vigilante of justice and more as a man who is coming to terms with his past, the impact of his ongoing choices and the difficulty of sticking to one’s convictions in the midst of dangerous, chaotic times. I didn’t always made the right choices – and sometimes the game felt like it was on rails and my choices didn’t really matter that much, but in the end, I found the story and characters compelling and well-acted – and I enjoyed it as much as (if not more than) other Batman media I’ve engaged in the past. Worth a pick-up if you’re into Batman, but please note the content advisories.
  • Behold the Lamb of God – In December, my wife and I were able to get away to celebrate our anniversary. As part of the trip, we attended for the second time Andrew Peterson’s annual “Behold the Lamb of God” Christmas concert. The concert is really two concerts in one. For the first hour or so, you are introduced to the various Christian musicians and some of their songs. Then for the second half of the show, these skilled music artists walk you song by song through some of the highlights of the Biblical story culminating in the first coming of Christ. The show is a rich tapestry of beautiful music, Biblical themes, captivating artwork and even a few laughs along the way, too. It’s truly a feast for the soul, and I would encourage every Christian reading this to try and make it out next year. Well worth the time, money and effort!

Well, that’s all for this month and this year! Take a moment to share what you’ve been engaging with lately!

Monthly Moment: November 2022

With another month in the books, take a moment with me to consider what I’ve engaged with this month. Maybe you’ll find something you’d enjoy and benefit from as well!

  • Skyward – I like to finish each day reading a good book in the white corner chair of our master bedroom. The book of choice lately has been Brandon Sanderson’s Skyward. As I await the next novel in Sanderson’s amazing Stormlight Archive series, the sci-fi nature of Skyward grabbed my attention a while back. The book started off a bit slow, but in typical Sanderson-fashion, the world-building is excellent, the characters nuanced and the story-line full of mystery, humanity and suspense. Sanderson is a master at his craft. It’s a pleasure to read another of his books.
  • Spirited – Recently, we signed up for a free trial of Apple TV+. Besides there being way too many TV streaming services available, I was nevertheless intrigued to see what Apple TV+ had to offer. I watched Greyhound, a WW2 movie where Tom Hanks plays a destroyer captain trying to protect a convoy from German U-Boats. The film was great, and I love the faithful devotion of Hanks’ character. However, the film on Apple TV+ that really got the gears of my thinking churning was Spirited. It’s an Apple Original musical starring Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds. The movie is a modern, lively, humorous (though somewhat crass) re-telling of Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol. The initial premise of the movie focuses on The Ghost of Christmas Present’s (Will Ferrell) quest to rescue an “unredeemable” modern Scrooge (Ryan Reynolds). On the surface, the movie features some great banter between Ferrell and Reynolds and some incredible choreography and musical numbers. It also posits interesting points on the nature of change and growth. However, by the end, it’s clearly pushing a humanistic, secular “gospel” of self-salvation where we redeem ourselves each day through doing good. How impossible and exhausting! What a better word the true Gospel speaks when it calls us to revel in God’s work of salvation through Jesus: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).
  • Deuteronomy – Besides Galatians, I’ve also been slowly reading through Deuteronomy. Recently, I read Deuteronomy 8 where Moses reminds the people of God who are poised to enter the Promised Land to “take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments…” (Deut. 8:11). Why would God’s people forget God and fail to keep His commandments? Moses goes on to say, “…lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…” (Deut. 8:12-14). Moses continues to recount amazing ways in which God had provided for His people. Moses then warns, “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth…” How we still need this word today! It’s all too easy to forget God amid all of the stuff we have, we want and hope to get. May we not forget God and His great salvation this holiday season!

Well, that’s all for this month. Take a moment to share what you’ve been engaging with lately!

Monthly Moment: October 2022

Crew team rowing in Lake Washington, 2002

With another month in the books, take a moment with me to consider what I’ve engaged with this month. Maybe you’ll find something you’d enjoy and benefit from as well!

  • Boys in the Boat – I picked up this book by Daniel James Brown a few years ago, but never cracked it open. Boy, was I missing out! It follows the true story of the University of Washington rowing team who sought Olympic gold at the 1936 games in Berlin. I knew next to nothing about rowing coming in, but this book has opened my eyes to the beauty and rigor of the sport. It also does a fantastic job of introducing you to the tumultuous world of the early 1900s, particularly through the eyes of the central character, Joe Rantz. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!
  • Heroes of Normandie – Over the last year or so, I’ve dipped my toes in to tabletop wargaming with a local friend. I’m no Patton or Rommel, but I’ve enjoyed the mixture of WW2 history and tactical strategy. I’ve been itching to do something on my PC in this space, so I installed Cat Rabbit’s Heroes of Normandie, a PC adaptation (published by Slitherine) of a colorful entry-level wargame. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for – quick-playing, WW2 tactical, turn-based combat. The game even has a dash of unexpected, but welcome humor to it.
  • Galatians for You – When it comes to feeding my soul this month, I’ve continued using Tim Keller’s excellent Galatians For You commentary (published by The Good Book Company) as I slowly read through Galatians. Keller and my reading of Galatians has impressed upon me the gravity of getting the Gospel right. When we add to the Gospel, when we insinuate that others (or ourselves) need to do this or that to be righteous before God (i.e. Jesus+ theology), we’ve not only lost the Gospel, but we’re also in grave spiritual danger. However, what a joy to know that because of the true Gospel, we not only have all we need to be justified before God by faith in Christ alone, but we also have the Spirit alive within us helping us to cry out to our dear Father and experience His love daily (Gal. 4:6). Getting the Gospel right is more than just for theology nerds. It’s for every Christian, because God wants each of us to daily marinate in His love, so that we live confidently in it and make it known to others.

Well, that’s all for this month. Take a moment to share what you’ve been engaging with lately!

Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/seattlemunicipalarchives/2677155865/in/set-72157606051708780

Secular Age Serial: Fullness

Secular Age Serial is a series of short blog posts about interesting ideas raised in my slow reading of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age

This is the first of what I hope will be a series of short blog posts on Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age. I’ve been aware of this important book for some time, but only now getting around to read it. Taylor is a Canadian philosopher and professor at McGill University. In 1999, he presented some lectures in Edinburgh, Scotland entitled “Living in a Secular Age?” which he collected and expanded upon in his 2007 book, A Secular Age

In the introduction, Taylor makes the aim of his book clear. He wants to “define and trace” the dramatic change in the West where we’ve gone from  “a society in which it was virtually impossible not to believe in God, to one in which faith, even for the staunchest believer, is one human possibility among others” (3). As a Christ-follower living in an increasingly secular America, working in a largely secularized work environment and raising 4 children in a world where the things of God are often sidelined or opposed, I thought this might be a helpful book to better understand the times we’re living in and hopefully become a more thoughtful, faithful witness for Christ. Even if you don’t end up reading Taylor’s work for yourself, I hope you’ll be mentally and spiritually edified from this series of short posts.

To start off, the first striking concept hit me on the fifth page. Taylor speaks of something called “fullness.” He says, “We all see our lives, and/or the space wherein we live our lives, as having a certain moral/spiritual shape. Somewhere, in some activity, or condition, lies a fullness, a richness; that is, in that place (activity or condition), life is fuller, richer, deeper, more worth while, more admirable, more what it should be.” For much of human history, people have often pursued – and only ever considered pursuing – this fullness outside of themselves, largely in connection with some higher power or being. However, for modern unbelievers in a secular society, Taylor notes that the “power to reach fullness is within” (8). It’s not that the unbeliever doesn’t want to find and enjoy “fullness.” They very much do. Taylor notes, “The unbeliever wants to be the kind of person for whom this life is fully satisfying, in which all of him can rejoice, in which his whole sense of fullness can find an adequate object” (7). But in a secular age, where God is neither assumed or even included in the conversation, humans are left to look within, to oneself to find what makes one happy and what brings about a flourishing life.

Yet even there the modern unbeliever is left restless, for as Taylor notes, “Either he’s not really living the constitutive meanings in his life fully: he’s not really happy in his marriage, or fulfilled in his job, or confident that this job really conduces to the benefit of human kind. Or else he is reasonably confident that he has the bases of all these, but contrary to his express view, cannot find the fullness of peace and a sense of satisfaction and completeness in this life” (7).

From a Christian perspective, this makes complete sense. When you cut yourself from God, the source of all life and true joy, and curve in on yourself as a person and as a society, it makes sense that many would be clamoring for anything that temporarily dulls or distracts from a life that is far from full. Marketers feast off our restlessness. Surely, that next purchase will satisfy. Certainly that new workout equipment or program (and the promise of a more trim physique) will have us experiencing life to the fullest. Maybe checking our email or social media feed one more time will give us that sense of purpose or relief we long for. But it never does. We’re always left wanting more and saying, in the still relevant words of U2, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

Let’s Watch: The Tick

It is not every-day you meet someone without guile, someone who is truly an open book, who wears their noble heart on their sleeves at all times. We live in a world where there is so much pretension, play-acting and posturing. You’re never quite sure where some people really stand, because they’ve skillfully hidden themselves under years of polite, bland, social mascara. Even our fictional characters, like some superheroes, have to be “complex” and “nuanced.” Instead of just being straightforward, super-powered forces for good, they need to have intricate back-stories, dark pasts or mixed motives (i.e. Scarlet Witch, Wolverine, Bucky Barnes, etc.). And then … there’s The Tick.

Recently, my wife and I were introduced to this mysterious, blue-suited, super-strong gentlemen through the 2 season Amazon show (note content advisory). Created as a comic-book cartoon in 1986 by Ben Edlund, The Tick has breathed new life into the super-hero genre for me. Instead of making The Tick a deeply nuanced or troubled character, the show deftly interweaves humor, action and dialogue to present The Tick as a verbose, noble, loyal amnesiac. He doesn’t know who he is or where he came from, but he’s unswervingly dedicated to answering “destiny’s call” and being a force for good in the city where he finds himself. Though the show certainly has some dark and tense moments, The Tick is a ray of blue sunshine in an otherwise bleak and bizarre world. He puts great faith in his mostly unremarkable side-kick, Arthur, an ordinary accountant who gets caught up into the wacky and dangerous world of superheroes and supervillains when he comes in possession of a foreign-made moth suit (I told you it was bizarre!). Again and again, The Tick goes out of his way to value the little guy (sometimes literally!) and is committed to fighting with honor and not succumbing to the murderous tactics of others.

The Tick reminds me of Nathanial in the Bible who upon first meeting Jesus is declared to be “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit” (John 1:47). While there were plenty of nuanced and interesting characters in the show, (i.e. the self-centered, social media addicted Superman, the murdering vigilante with a soft heart and sentient boat, the double-minded crime lord with an annoying scalp issue, etc.), the character who commands center-stage by sheer force of his relentless positivity, goodness and selflessness is none other than The Tick. And sometimes it’s just nice to meet someone who is what they appear to be. Sometimes it’s nice when super-heroes are just … well, super.

Let’s Play: Signs of the Sojourner

  • What is it?– Card-driven adventure game by Echodog Games (released 2020). You play as a young entrepreneur who goes on a series of journeys to learn more about your family’s past, build new connections and preserve old ones, and hopefully, save the family store.
  • What did I like?Signs of the Sojourner has a bevy of interesting characters (including a dog and robots!) scattered across its towns. Each of them have their own conversation style and successful conversations with various characters open up new options and even new towns to explore. Speaking of conversations, the game has an excellent card-based conversation mechanic. As you go from conversation to conversation, you gather various cards with different symbols and even abilities. Like an actual conversation, the goal is to skillfully weave your way through the conversation, playing the right cards at the right time to have a successful, mutually beneficial conversation. I’ve never quite seen a mechanic like this, but I like it so much, I decided to play the game a second time (something I rarely do).
  • What did I not like? – While I love the card conversation mechanic, sometimes I am so interested in the story and the characters that not being able to progress down a certain thread because I don’t have the right symbols gets a little frustrating. However, the more I play the Signs of the Sojourner, the more I realize that you have to prepare for the conversations you’re going to have. Moreover, as the game hints to you, you can’t please everyone in every conversation. Ultimately, if you want the whole story, you’re probably need to buckle down and play this game a few times.
  • How did it get me thinking? – While you can certainly approach this game like a puzzle to be solved or a strategy to be figured out, I think the game is best enjoyed when you simply journey around and see where the conversations lead you (or not). Ultimately, this is a game is about the art of conversation and relationships and the impact it can have on people over time. In fact, as your journey deepens, you begin to realize through the clever mechanics of the game that your character is changing. When you come back to your home town, you’re not the same person you once were. You’ve been places, you’ve met others, you’ve explored the wider world. And your cards reflect that. The same is true in life. Each person comes into each conversation with a unique history and perspective – and has the potential to shape and be shaped by others they converse with. Instead of viewing some of our daily conversations as chores to get through, we should instead view them as God-given opportunities to explore, to learn and to connect with other image-bearers, sinful and imperfect as they may be. In the end, Signs of the Sojourner was an adventure worth taking, because it was about conversations worth having with each person we meet!

Monthly Moment: April 2021

With another month in the books, take a moment with me to consider what I’ve been engaging with lately. Maybe you’ll find something you’d enjoy and benefit from as well!

  • Marine Memoir – Recently finished reading Elliot Ackerman’s 2019 book, Places and Names: On War, Revolution, and Returning. Here’s my brief Goodreads review: “A vivid, but sometimes meandering reflection by a decorated Marine on wars in the Middle East. Ends with a powerful chapter where the author interweaves personal insights amidst the official summary of the battle which led to his Silver Star.”
  • Ethically Interesting Detective Game – Recently finished playing Clifftop Games / Faravid Interactive’s 2019 game, Whispers of a Machine. Here’s my GG app review: “Futuristic, point-and-click detective game. While I don’t always have a great deal of patience with puzzle or point-and-click games, I enjoyed exploring the town, getting to know the interesting characters and unraveling the mystery. Game has good pacing and kept me coming back to figure out how it all worked out. Ended with an interesting choice that made me pause and consider the consequences of my decision.”
  • Fascinating WW2 Drama – My wife and I have been watching a new Masterpiece show entitled Atlantic Crossing. This “inspired by a true story” show chronicles some of the experiences of the Norwegian Cross Princess Martha of Sweden who had to flee to America after Germany invaded their country. We haven’t seen all of the episodes yet, but already this show is opening my eyes to parts of WW2 history I haven’t spent much time thinking about (invasion of Norway) and making me reconsider prominent figures I thought I knew something about (President Roosevelt). Nevertheless, I do wonder if some of the character portrayals accurately reflect history or if they’re just extra fictional seasoning to spice up the show.

Well, that’s all of for this month. Take a moment to share what you’ve been engaging with lately!

Image Credit: https://andystravelblog.com/2015/10/30/scenes-side-road-norway/

Let’s Watch: Knives Out

There is something immensely satisfying about unjust people getting their just deserts. In the 2019 murder mystery, Knives Out, written and directed by Rian Johnson (content advisory; spoilers ahead!), we are introduced to the largely reprehensible Thrombey family. Harlan Thrombey, a respectable, self-made murder mystery novelist, is tragically found dead the morning after an eventful evening party with his family. After some initial interviews with the family, the local detectives believe the millionaire’s death is a straightforward, albeit dramatic, suicide. However, private investigator, Benoit Blanc, mysteriously present to assist the police, believes “something is afoot with this whole affair.”

As the story unfurls, we learn that Harlan’s sweet, good-hearted nurse, Marta Cabrera, knows way more than she’s letting on. In fact, Marta believes she accidently killed her millionaire friend by giving him too much of the wrong medicine. However, at the reading of Harlan’s will, a bombshell is dropped. Harlan decided to give all of his resources – house, money and publishing company – to Marta! The Thrombey family which has previously spoken well of Marta and viewed her as “part of the family” suddenly turn like a pack of ravenous wolves on Marta. With their inheritance on the line, the spoiled, selfish Thrombey’s show where their true affections lie – their pocketbooks. Their only hope is the “slayer rule” which indicates that if someone is convicted of murdering a person they cannot receive their inheritance. Suddenly, all eyes fall on Inspector Blanc. Since he suspects foul play, perhaps Marta did it! If so, their fortunes would be restored. But the Thrombey’s prefer the more direct route. Through repeated attempts by different members of the family, the Thrombey’s heartlessly try to coax Marta into renouncing the inheritance. Marta doesn’t budge, but she also doesn’t stop trying to clumsily clear her own name.

In the end, Inspector Blanc puts it all together and solves the case just in the nick of time. Marta isn’t guilty of Harlan’s murder. A disgruntled grandson, Ransom, tried to frame her and ended up killing the housekeeper to cover his tracks. Despite her initial horror, Marta didn’t actually kill Harlan, but instead gave him the correct medication. Tragically, it appears Harlan died by unintentional (or was it intentional?) suicide. As the movie closes, Marta looks out over the front balcony as Ransom is taken away in handcuffs and the dejected Thrombey clan look up to Marta to see what their fate will be. Marta, sipping from Harlan’s old cup, brings it to her mouth and on the cup is written the words, “My house, my rules, my coffee.” Poetic justice indeed!

As previously mentioned, there is something immensely satisfying about seeing unjust people get what they deserve. The Thrombey family, save Harlan and possibly his granddaughter, Meg, got what they had coming to them. Their selfish, greedy, ruthless ways should not have been rewarded with a grand inheritance and it wasn’t. Though not perfect, Marta’s kindness and sacrificial love should have been rewarded and it was. When we see justice served like this, there is something deep in the human psyche, in the human heart which cries out, “Yes!” Proverbs 21:15 says, “When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” Knives Out echoes this truth vividly.

Yet as I thought about the movie and its characters more, I realized that Biblically speaking, you and I are more like the Thrombey’s than we’d care to admit. Despite first appearances, each of us is naturally rotten to the core with sin (see Romans 3:10-18). Though we delude ourselves into thinking we deserve the riches of a heavenly inheritance on our own merit, each of us is morally bankrupt in God’s sight. We don’t have a shred of righteousness to our names. As the Thrombey’s experienced, our just lot is to be cast out – out of God’s presence and place. Too often, when I watch movies, I want to put myself in the shoes of the hero. I want to be the Marta or the Inspector Blanc of the story. Yet when I read the Bible, I am anything but the hero. Left to myself, I am the selfish, greedy slave to sin. My knife is out, and I want to take God off His throne, so that I can get all the riches and glory for myself.

But praise be to God that He didn’t leave me that way! Instead, the Bible tells us that the real Hero of the story, Jesus, stepped down from the balcony of heaven to bear my just punishment for me. As 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…”  Instead of being cast out of God’s family, Jesus warmly welcomes me into God’s family. But not only that, He also makes me new. A chapter before, the Apostle Peter says about Christ, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). No longer do I have to be a slave to sin like the Thrombey’s. I am a beloved heir, a slave to righteousness (Rom. 6:19).

So, as movies go, Knives Out ends in a very satisfying way. Justice is served to the unjust. Yet, the Bible tells an even better story. Injustice was served to the just Jesus, so that unjust like you and me might experience the lavish riches of God’s inheritance as new people, new creations in Christ. And one day, Jesus will return to enact a faultless final justice on the unrepentant and make all things new for His forgiven family. Surely, for God’s people, beleaguered and weary as we may be in this life, that is an ending well worth waiting for.  

In My Web: “Church Small Talk Was More Important Than I Thought”

In My Web is a series of short blog posts about articles that stuck out to me online.

Article“Church Small Talk Was More Important Than I Thought” by Megan Hill for The Gospel Coalition

After almost a year of life in a COVID world, it’s good to step back and consider what has changed in our lives and what is still missing. While I’m so grateful to have been able to gather with my church family in-person for months now, Megan Hill’s recent Gospel Coalition article reminded me that not everything is as it once was. It seems one of the chief casualties in church life is the sometimes awkward, but often humanizing art of small talk. Hill laments the dearth of this in the church in a pandemic-laden world:

I may be an introvert, but I miss talking to the little kids who used to swarm my pew after the service and now worship with their parents in a kid-friendly overflow room and leave by a separate door. I miss joking with the teens in their pre-pandemic back-row huddle. I miss the dozens of casual relationships that were refreshed, five minutes at a time, over coffee in the pink-carpeted fellowship hall.

Hill believes that casual relationships, the ones often comprised of snippets of small talk, are not only psychologically healthful, but also Biblically encouraged. In fact, she states: “It might be impossible to imagine Jesus without his beloved disciple John, or Paul without his beloved son Timothy, but it would also be wrong to think of them without dozens of looser bonds that supported their ministries and refreshed their hearts.”

In the end, Hill contends that small talk is more than just “useless chatter.” In fact, it’s part of the process by which we establish and reaffirm mutual trust in our relationships. She says:

We may love to dismiss small talk as useless chatter, but by demonstrating interest in others’ seemingly insignificant matters, we establish the trust to care for them in bigger trials too. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15) and “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2) are commands for the small events as well as the large.

Hill’s perspective is refreshing. While there is certainly a missed opportunity in never moving beyond small talk, especially for those we’ve known for some time, I think it’s also unwise to downplay the vital trust-building that takes place when we ask each other about school, work, the kids, hobbies or the local sports team. If God is sovereign over all things, then even mundane conversations about the weather or work are valuable opportunities to connect with another image-bearer and glorify the God who made us both.