I am going to share three of my favorite things of the moment with you today. We are kicking off a series that focuses on what is bringing us joy right now — this summer.
We are not simply ignoring the climate emergency, or forgetting the absolute need for racial justice, or how much the church needs to pay attention to being in a new era. All that and more matters so much to me and to the 3MMM Team. We will be keeping our eyes open for news. Our work to support and resource you for your ministry and teaching remains.
But the truth is: I can take myself too seriously. And by doing that I can also ask my family, my students, my 3MMM team mates to all take themselves all too seriously, too.
It’s time to step back a little and to notice what is bringing us joy and giving us life.
This summer the 3MMM team and I, and maybe a few guests, are going to share our favorite things each week through the summer. We hope it will inspire you to get in touch with whatever is joyful and life-giving in your life!
When you open the weekly 3MMM email each week, we want you to be looking forward to what new favorite things we’re sharing. We hope it will delight, encourage, and even make you smile.
Why focus on joy?
Here’s a little story about where the inspiration came for this series.
Last week my friend Pete Ward was in town for a conference with scholars who study country music. He presented a paper on his new project on Bluegrass and Religion. And he didn’t want to leave Nashville without seeing some live bluegrass music. In Nashville that means going to the Station Inn.
So one of my new favorites of the moment comes from that visit to the Station Inn this weekend. Unspoken Tradition has that classic bluegrass sound… but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
Before the band took the stage, (on a true piece of Nashville history, sitting in the Gulch and surrounded by steel and glass and hipster clothing stores), Pete and I chatted about having more fun with our research.
Pete said, “I’ve got a few more years of teaching and research and I want to spend some of it doing something that is just fun.”
“And why not?” I wondered aloud.
When he came back from the bar with another beer and Station Inn T-shirt, he said, “more T-shirts!” In fact by the time the live music was over, Pete had two T-shirts to take home.
“Less tweed and more T-shirts?” I asked.
“That’s right.” And he began to tell me about his summer plans for travel with his wife to a music festival and camping later this summer.
I told him I would be camping this summer as well and taking trips for both work and fun in the coming weeks.
Pete is right. We all need what is joyful, life-giving, fun in our lives. Not to be frivolous, but to be renewed. My long standing habit (since seminary) is to read fiction for a few minutes each night before sleep. It is a joyful and renewing practice.
My favorite things of the moment
So here are a few of my favorite things of the moment! Enjoy!
1) Fredrik Backman books and movies
I can’t believe I missed Fredrik Backman until the remake of the movie, “A Man called Otto.“ The movie starring Tom Hanks is based on the book A Man called Ove. I saw the movie on my birthday back in January. And then I started looking for Backman’s books. There are a shelf full.
The Swedish Backman is a master storyteller in the most quirky, curious, and engaging way. His stories slowly unravel mysteries of human behavior. He peels back onion-like layers of emotional and psychological defenses in his characters.
We go from seeing individuals who are odd, desperate, or feeling miserably out of place, to seeing humans who have suffered great loss or intense trauma. They are people who are doing the very best they can to stay in the world and not be overwhelmed by their feelings and past experiences. Backman deals with difficult themes such as suicide, personal losses, traumatic events, and addiction. Yet he approaches all of it in the most humane and compassionate way.
2) Unspoken Tradition
I love good bluegrass music. While I don’t listen to it on a daily basis, I like it most when I can hear it live. The Del McCoury band became a musical connecting point for me and Lynn when we moved to Nashville. We saw them perform at least a half dozen times in the early 2000s. Mostly at the Ryman. (Such perfect acoustics.) I was enamored by their tight and unmistakable sound, and I admired their deep and clear wells of wisdom as musicians, vocalists, and harmonizers. They have all the awards and chart topping sales to prove their love for bluegrass and their unmistakable sound.
I’ve explored plenty of other bluegrass groups. But this weekend I met a new group. I’ll add Unspoken Tradition to my short list of favorites of the moment — when it comes to the bluegrass sound. And Sav Sankaran plays a very cool (very compact) bass. Enjoy “Carolina and Tennessee” here.
3) Writing Inspiration
Summer is a time for writing. Writing inspiration comes from many different places and sources in my life. Today I want to share with you three places I get my writing inspiration. They are not just for the moment, but also the long term.
First I get inspiration from gathering daily with my friends at the Writing Table. You can join us for the summer, or get coaching with me, or join for any or all of three upcoming Mini Writing retreats (June 14, July 14, and August 18).
In the 3.5 hour Mini Writing Retreats, we will utilize a planning document, pomodoros to keep our focus, and time for debriefing strategies at the end. The purpose is for you to get your writing done. Butts in seats. Learning strategies to build writing habits. And overcoming resistance when writing is challenging, boring, overwhelming, etc. The camaraderie, accountability, shared strategies, and encouragement and coaching (from me and Traci Smith), is the glue that holds it together. Some people say it’s magic. I tend to agree.
The Porch is a place in Nashville and online for writers to gather, to learn the craft of writing, and discover ways to pitch for publication, to improve their writing, and often to receive feedback and encouragement in the classes from experienced authors and teachers. I’ll be taking a non-fiction class later this summer.
The Writers’ Bridge and NEW Craft Talks are another favorite of mine for writing inspiration. I began attending a weekly or biweekly meeting of the Writers’ Bridge sometime (timewarp – who knows when!) during the pandemic. For the second half of 2023 they are offering weekly “craft talks” at very reasonable prices. And bi-weekly gatherings to talk about one’s “bridge to writers” (the old idea of platform is OUT) is free! It’s fast-paced and I enjoy it each time I attend.
BONUS: My favorite question to ponder this summer…
What can I shift from decision to habit? In my self care, my work, and my connections with friends and family?