“Being indistractable means striving to do what you say you will do.” That’s a good, stipulative definition.
What’s good about this book is that it urges personal responsibility rather than whining. Eyal reminds the reader that most of our distractions are chosen by us as a way to “relieve discomfort.” That may hurt, but it helps to get to the root. Eyal also works from a position of opportunity instead of fear. Email, tech, the Internet, etc., are tools, and don’t need to be treated as monsters. As he says, “Techno-panics are nothing new,” and I’m thankful he is not one of them.
Much of the book follows more expected productivity presentation, and I’d recommend Atomic Habits instead.
I’ve been plodding through this book since the middle of last November when a friend recommended it to me after I made noise about having an interest in starting a local newspaper. It’s the only book about journalism I can remember reading, and I’m satisfied with my time spent in it. I can’t imagine ever rereading it, and it would take a special case for me to recommend it.
Some of the observations were edifying, such as the goal of journalism to “create a public square with common facts.” Later, “Community creation has always been at the heart of the news.” And, “Journalism is our modern cartography. It creates a map for citizens to navigate society.” I do see news as “more of a service–a means for providing social connection and knowledge–then a fixed product.” The news is “the literature of civic life.”
But when it comes to recommended journalistic elements such as “disinterested pursuit of truth,” “loyalty” to citizens, and a journalist’s “conscience,” those sound good, sure, but what are the first principles for right and wrong, for faithfulness, and where do they come from? They can’t come from within the sphere of journalism, nor can they come from the citizens themselves. There must be a higher standard or there can be no ultimate answers.
Anyway, I’m thankful to have had the challenge to think through some of these issues.
The gospel is the news about One man, but in that One, many. Rather than e pluribus unum, “out of many, one,” the gospel is in uno, multis, “in one, many.” The lede in the story is that in the death of Christ many men died.
One has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14b–15, ESV)
The historical facts are the bookends: one “has died” and “was raised.” The sacrificial importance: one died “for all” and “for their sake.” The spiritual union: in one “all have died.” The saving consequence: “those who live” by the one. The new orientation: “no longer live for themselves but for” the one.
The newness is reiterated a couple verses later.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)
We are baptized with Him into death (Romans 6:3). And as often “as we eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death” (1 Corinthians 11:26). This means we have every reason to think of our union with Him in communion. We can’t think about His death without ours. We rejoice that the bread and the wine are for our newness of life.
Charles Spurgeon once said that illustrations are like windows, they let light into the understanding. I’d add that like windows, illustrations are also easy to throw bricks through.
One of our favorite illustrations for church priorities is trellis and vine. It comes from a book by that name, and we employ the analogy. The church is the Christians is the vine, the living part, and the trellis is the programs and activities for the church, the visible parts that are passing away (see 2 Corinthians 4:18). Trellis is helpful as it serves the growth and health and fruitfulness of the vine. Trellis is a distraction when it becomes the focus, and in the worst case could cause damage to the vine.
Buying and owning (and fixing and maintaining) our own building is not really trellis, it’s like the plot of garden, or maybe the wall the trellis leans on. But especially during the days of preparation and the early days of transplanting, it’s easy to imagine how the vine itself could be neglected.
There’s no reason to throw out all the things we’ve learned. We’re not planning a return to dualism or pietism. If Jesus is Lord of it, then He cares about it, and if He cares about, then we can care about it. Jesus is Lord of loans and lighting, of parking lots and pews and paint colors, of sidewalks and sprinkler systems that cover every square inch. Jesus is also Head of the Body, and His provisions are for the building up of the body, and He has arranged the body so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16).
As the Sabbath was made for man, and home improvement projects are made for our people, so let us not lose sight of what the trellis is for: one another.
How do we know that Christ loved His bride like Adam didn’t? We know because the Bible makes the connection.
Husbands must love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). The human relationship should be patterned after the gospel. But it turns out that the human relationship was a pattern to point to the gospel in the first place.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31)
Adam and Eve didn’t know it, but their relationship, and every marriage after them, was an example of a greater union. Paul likens the marital bond to the husband’s own body; of course he would take care of his body. And this is in the pattern of Christ and the church, “because we are members of His body” (5:30).
The church doesn’t have physical intimacy with Christ but it is spiritual union; we share communion. Through Christ’s death we have an abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness causes us to reign in live with the one man, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17, 21).
Paul used the language of purposefully provoking others to jealousy in Romans (10:19; 11:11; 11:13-14). I’ve talked about it as an adjective: we want the saved to be jealousable. You don’t need to use the language, the point is about having the life. A jealousable Christian recognizes God’s blessings and rejoices in those blessings in such a way that others would want them. At the college we schedule “jealousable events.” It reminds us that by God’s grace, from salvation on out, we have it good. Thankfulness is right and it is strategic. Joy is a gift of God that has gravity.
In practice it’s not always a smooth experience. As Christians we are not glorified yet so we don’t always rejoice with rejoicers. Comparison can compel us to go to God for blessing and it can also create conflict, provoking a sort of jealousy that annoys and irritates rather than attracts.
What blessings to another might we get bent out of shape about? It could be any blessing. Maybe they worked their field and saw a sixtyfold return and you only saw thirtyfold (think Matthew ). Maybe they’ve taken more responsibility and more authority has flowed to them because of it. Maybe they’ve been given a greater measure of faith and giftedness (Romans 12:3-8). Maybe they are being used like a clay pot and all sorts of life is growing up around the grace spilled from their pot (2 Corinthians 4:7-15). “Death is at work in us, but life in you” (verse 12). Maybe you want to see similar glorious life growing around you but aren’t willing to put in the deaths.
It appears that God is blessing our assembly with property and building. More than that, He is blessing us with an opportunity of increased responsibilities—there is more to do, not less—and a way to love a place into greater loveliness. It is a way to increase the footprint of the assembly’s jealousability.
This exhortation is going to be on the nose: don’t be wrongfully jealous. We will not be jealousable if we are jealous of one another. If we envy or boast, if we insist on our own way, if we are irritable or resentful, if we are suspicious and discontent and competitive over drawer space, this is not love (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). One way or another we will be a witness to Marysville. We’ll either do it in a way that makes others want in, or that provides confirmation to them about how petty church people can be.
Husbands, pay attention to the complaints of your wives. Many of our ladies are around more because they aren’t committed to another place for employment. Maybe the men are less involved, less concerned about the ways the space is used or the colors on the walls; you have your own responsibilities and property. Don’t let your household tear down the house (Proverbs 14:1), spiritual (1 Peter 2:5) or physical.
We are clearly being jostled, hearts and the assembly. But this is an opportunity to be more jealousable, and it has to start with thanks in our hearts for the eternal and tangible blessings.
As sons of Adam we have his sin. We don’t need to learn sin. As one of our poets, Lady Gaga, has said better than she knows, we are born this way. Being born this way, where every intention of the thoughts of our hearts is only evil continually, is not an excuse for sin, like the pseudo Lady intended, but it is the reason we need a savior from sin.
When God saves us He doesn’t just pull up the weeds. He brings in new soil. Because He died and rose again He both forgives us and makes us different.
In 1 John 1:9 God forgives our sins, a plural noun, and cleanses us from all unrighteousness, or “wrongdoing,” which is singular. The plural refers to the acts of active and passive rebellion. There are many weeds to deal with.
But the singular unrighteousness refers to our nature. He is cleansing the soil, treating it so that less weeds and moss will grow. He really is making us different people, and this internal work must be done otherwise we can only ever deal with the surface.
When we eat and drink at the Lord’s Table we do it in remembrance of Him. We remember Christ’s obedience, His love, His death and resurrection. We also should remember His aim, to save and sanctify a people for His own possession. As Christians, we have been crucified with Christ, we no longer live. When we remember what He has done, we remember that we also died and rose again in Him by faith.
These past Sundays have been well spent remembering some parental purposes and priorities. We could go on indefinitely, but let me not set a bad example for fathers who don’t know when to stop lecturing. After today we’ll move on to some exhortations regarding temptations as we prepare to move on to our own property; we’d like to avoid being surprised by rot or mold under the carpet of our hearts.
Which provides an illustration of sphere sovereignty. The lender decides if we are creditable, not us. The fire marshal determines if our fire alarm is up to code. The color-blind can choose paint for their own living rooms, but they shouldn’t expect an equal vote for the group. There are, in fact, separate lanes.
So with parents. You are accountable for your family and for your own kids directly to God. Most of the time the rest of us can’t seen what you’re doing with them anyway; discipline is your call. The family is a sphere established by God.
But what about when you see another family in the wild, and something doesn’t look right? Should you say something? If someone says something to you, do you have to listen? What happens when spheres cross?
There has never been a set of perfect parents. All parents need to learn and grow. Isolated parents are foolish parents with Proverbs 18:1 applied. And if you won’t listen, it would be surprising if your kids do. As always, you’ve got to decide if you want to do good or look good.
Does no one talk to you because you’re doing it perfectly, or because you’re perfectly defensive? Are you easy to edify, or easy to offend? When you don’t say something to another parent, are you holding your tongue for their blessing? When you do say something, is it seasoned with grace?
The Golden Rule of parenting is just the Golden Rule applied to parenting. “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12). If you’re still not sure, ask your heavenly Father for wisdom and courage (Matthew 7:11); He gives good things to His children.
I am one of the founders of ECS. Being a founder is interesting, because founders aren’t the past tense of finders. A founder doesn’t find something that was there, a founder lays down a foundation for something that could become. The only thing that existed about ECS eleven years ago was an idea. But look around. The wine and steak and laughter and songs and relationships are real.
This is our ninth fundraising feast, and this is the ninth time that I’ve spoken. Someday there will be another speaker (and the people rejoiced). Debatable statistics say that most people would rather drown than speak in public, but even if the task doesn’t seem fun to you, you can certainly imagine that it is a privilege. Year by year I ask Jonathan if he would like me to speak, and he keeps including me because I’m connected as a founder, a board member, a parent of raggants, a teacher, and now a grandpa to a future raggant!
But as I said, it won’t be me up here forever, and not just when I’m dead. If we fulfill our mission, it definitely won’t be. My comments so far are a personal angle on our institutional vision. I have the perspective of a founder with a purpose to make more of them, and from my perspective it’s working.
Consider how different things are than two years ago, when we didn’t even host a fundraising feast because we were all ordered to stay home. But more than that, think about how different your life, your family, your weekly schedule, your budget, your relationships, your expectations, are now compared to before you got connected to ECS. The influence isn’t only one way, and it’s not always immediately positive I suppose. But all of us are changed (and/or challenged) by one another. Every new teacher and student and family adds to the foundation.
I am one of the first founders, but we are all ongoing founders. This is our school’s mission. We aren’t interested in making graduates as much as we are interested in graduating founders. By that I don’t mean that every young man or woman has to start a brand new school or business, though some will. I mean that every young man or woman will carry and advance the foundation.
That foundation is our confession that Jesus is Lord. He cares about everything He created, and if we are to please Him and grow in likeness to Him, we must grow in our care for everything He created. The works of the Lord are the foundation, and we commend them to another generation (Psalm 145:4). So we are always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58), reading books and translating Latin and laughing at tyrants and stacking chairs again in and for Jesus’ name.
We are doing this so that we’ll be more than a “read-only” culture. If the government keeps down its current path, we’re going to see the increase of a “can’t-read” generation, which I suppose will at least keep them from being as irritated someday when they have to buy gas. Read-only is better than unread-only. But we’re aiming for more than literacy. We’re aiming higher than knowing history. Let’s make history.
A “read-only” people have “the ability to repeat what an ancestor has handed down – but not recreate it from first principles” (Balaji). In the model of classical education that we follow at ECS, the first stage is the Grammar stage, and it necessarily includes learning about and learning to appreciate all that we’ve been given. We repeat vocabulary words and multiplication tables and parts in songs because repetition is a tool in education. But it’s not the telos of education.
Repeating isn’t enough, and neither is knowing more so that we can have more informed complaints. We live in a day, or at least in a streaming news-cycle, where resentment is triumphing over vision. Algorithms are written to engage our attention with anger. We don’t know for sure what’s happening, but we know for sure someone needs to be damned. The cultural foundations around us aren’t just deteriorating on their own, they are being actively destroyed. Did we expect anything different from a system starting with deconstruction?
We have to learn what is better, and then commit to trying to build something better. That is the part we put on repeat, not just parroting what a founder said, but what a founder did. Keep founding.
Tonight will end, but it is not the end, right? When the dishes are done and the donations counted, we have a lot more to do. We will have school on Monday, four more weeks of this school year, graduation for our seniors, and a final assembly, then we start again in the fall. It’s just a little over 16 weeks away from the first day of school. Ha!
You also have only so many weeks have left. I read a book titled Four Thousand Weeks, which is rounded for how many weeks there are in 77 years of life. What are you doing with those? What foundation are you building up (or tearing down) for your family? For your city?
“The world is bursting with wonder, and yet it’s the rare productivity guru who seems to have considered the possibility that the ultimate point of all our frenetic doing might be to experience more of that wonder.”
—Oliver Burkeman, Loc. 55
The point of tonight is not to raise the most money we’ve ever raised. That’s not the end of the game. The point is to give thanks and raise money for the purpose of continuing the wonder, and the work of helping others see the wonder.
I’m not so starry-eyed as to think everyone gets the wonder in the works of the Lord at the same level. Not all of our current students see what they’re being given. Do any of us? But, wow, how kind the Lord has been to us these last ten years. What fruit has come from so many late nights and caffeinated mornings. It’s totally costly, and yet what a foundation of laughter and feasting do we dance on. Even when God has said “No” to particular prayers, He has worked in ways we can easily commend to one another.
No person has worked harder than our Headmaster to find us a place to root our work. At the direction of the Board he asked a local church if we could rent their space, and we sent him back at least two more times after they said no. As it turns out, had that church, or the other alternatives we pursued said yes, we probably would not have been able to open our doors in the fall of 2020. Not only that, we wouldn’t be in the position that we are now to pursue purchasing the Reclamation Church campus.
For the first time in our history we are about to have our own property on which to build more foundation. We also have the opportunity to honor our city and protect our investment from burning down by installing a sprinkler system. This is not a distraction, this is the spoils of founding something that God has made so fruitful. A number of people have observed that the building isn’t as bright as they’d like. That’s okay, neither are we, and fixing the former is easier than the latter. The same is true for Marysville. Paint is cheap compared to the cost of bringing light to the darkness, and yet it’s exactly the foundation we’ve been working on.
We have joy in a work that we are only starting. We laugh because we can’t finish it. The work is that big, that glorious. We are doing this because an idea turned into 370 people having a feast. Imagine what it could be just ten more years from now?
Keep rejoicing in the works of the Lord and keep founding.