Book Review: A Way with Words

Book Review: A Way with Words

Every now and then I read a book and think, "Wow! This is exactly what I needed to read right now." And then, even more rarely, I read a book and think, "This is exactly what EVERYONE needs to read right now." That's how I feel about Dan Darling's new book, A Way with Words. It simply couldn't be more timely and needed for the current cultural moment we're in right now, and if I could put a copy in the hands of everyone I know, I absolutely would. Writing (and raving!) about it here is as close as I can get. =)

The subtitle of the book is "Using Our Online Conversations for Good." If you've spent any time on the internet lately, you know that many, many conversations are far from being used for good. Between the virus/lockdown concerns, racial strife, and our hideously divisive political landscape, social media in general often feels like a minefield (or cesspool, or dumpster fire. Take your pick of negative comparisons). Dan's approach to this problem is to use an abundance of Scripture and a call to civility, a return to gentleness and kindness  (fruits of the spirit! imagine!) and a commitment to truth-telling that is rooted in the authority of Christ, not our own flailing opinions.

For me personally, reading this book felt like a light shining right on my soul. The last few years have been incredibly disappointing and disorienting for me as I have watched Christian leaders and "church people" practically come to digital blows over everything from politics to worship songs. (Speaking of "coming to blows," Dan introduced me to a new word in the book, "pugilistic," which is perfectly accurate and more relevant than I wish were necessary.) But reading his words on the way we should interact online-- in fact, the way we are called to communicate with one another as believers-- was refreshing and encouraging. For example:

"Paul, like Peter was no shrinking violet. He was no squish. Both were martyred--put to death in the most inhumane and cruel ways by an unjust government--and yet called God's people to live out civility in every way possible. We, rage-tweeting on the internet, are not tougher or more courageous than the apostles."

Yes! I spent large portions of the book practically pumping my fist in the air in agreement. The chapter on conspiracy theories (is Dan prescient?) was equally timely. The last few months have proven that for whatever reason, Christians far too often abandon truth for lies ("conspiracy, half-truths, and tabloid-style clickbait) that "are harmful to a civil society." More than ever, these words are a needed warning and reminder that believers need to be committed to "the end of our pursuit of knowledge: Jesus, the wisdom of God."

Even though I did get caught up in the personal validation I found in so much of the book, there were many parts that deeply convicted me. Like so many of us, I seek affirmation from my online interactions far too often. This passage spoke to that so well:

"The answer to our fame-seeking is about more than unplugging. It's about recognizing that we are dissatisfied with the real version of who we are. We feel, deeply, the alienation from the One who made us. We know we are broken vessels, we see the mess in the mirror, we feel the weight of the fall. and yet the reality is that God has come down to us in Jesus, to both rescue us in our brokenness and join us to a new community of peers, where we are not measured by our wit or our perfectly crafted images but are approved as sons and daughters of the King."

What a blessing! As we seek God's face in our "real" lives, we are drawn less and less to the performative outrage, self-promotion, and other trappings of online interaction. Dan warns against confirmation bias, division, unkindness, and the variety of ways we fall into ungodliness in our conversations though social media. Finally, though, the most important reminder is his encouragement about our constant state of frenzy regarding, well, everything:

"We may be wringing our hands online about the future of the church, but God is not in heaven wringing his." (We could also insert the future of the country, community, political party, etc.)

Dan Darling is such a needed voice right now. This book is balanced, measured, kind, and truthful. It is undeniable that, for a host of reasons, many Christians have felt justified to lash out in anger, defensiveness, and downright ugliness online, usually in the name of "defending the faith" or "standing for what's right." While standing for right is needed, the way in which we do it is just as important, if not more so. We represent Christ to the world (and world wide web!) and need to use our words accordingly. Thanks to this book, we have a biblically sound blueprint for how to do just that.

I received an advance reader copy of A Way with Words from B&H Publishing. 

Amy Jane- 4 Months

Amy Jane- 4 Months

Well, in a turn of events that is zero percent shocking, I missed writing about Amy Jane at 3 months and am several days late on her four-month post (which should have been done on the 4th. Oops). But I am refusing to let another month pass, especially since I feel like she's changing so much! It's already been a busy summer and we've made a lot of memories (and had the BEST time this past week meeting her name twin, Auntie Amy... come back now, please and thank you), so I want to jot it all down before it escapes to the cobwebby corners of my forgetful brain.

Weight/Length: She is 23.5 inches long and 11.5 pounds (#stringbean) and actually the NP we saw at her last checkup wants her to gain weight so we're doing an extra feeding. Personally, I think she's just going to be tall and skinny like her daddy so I'm pretty sure she's fine. =) Alice was definitely a chunky monkey already at this age so it's funny to have a more petite baby this time around!

Nicknames: Sisert is still going strong (even though Alice has started pronouncing "sister" correctly which breaks my heart). Bean. Little Bean. Beanie Baby/Baby Bean. Toot Sweets. Toodles. And Alice calls her "my baby" which is adorable.

Sleep: still getting a solid 10-11 hours a night (praise) but is an intermittent napper at best. We're working on that. I've never seen such a tiny baby fight sleep so much during the day! I mean, I wouldn't trade her nighttime sleep schedule, but we still need to find a happy medium with her naps. Alice was the exact same way!

Eating: She eats about every 3 hours except for her bedtime feeding which is usually a little under 2 hours from the last one. She's doing great with nursing and bottles as needed (but starting to spit up a little more. Bleh).

Clothing: This poor child... she's so long that her legs need the room in 3-6 or even 6 month clothes (particularly sleepers), but her waist is so tiny that she's still wearing newborn shorts. Alice had the opposite problem of short legs and a long torso, but the issue of sizing in separates remains. Ha!

Mood: Oh, she's the sweetest. She really only cries if she's hungry (or, occasionally, if she's fighting sleep). She is so smiley (reserving her biggest smiles and best giggles for her sister) and her giant eyes get even bigger when she's in a new environment or Alice is acting crazy (guess which thing happens more often). She's also extremely active and is always kicking her legs and trying to stand up straight when we hold her hands. (I've called Jonathan the Energizer Bunny for years... there's a reason he and Amy Jane both burn so many calories, apparently!)

Loves: riding in the carrier with her daddy
any attention from Alice
her paci
being outside

Doesn't Love: being hungry or wet
the pool (she has the grumpiest look the whole time)
being hot (sorry, kid... kinda unavoidable here, and at odds with your desire to be outside)
naps (whose child is this??)
her carseat

What I Want to Remember/Milestones: meeting friends and family in North Carolina last month (my oldest niece holding my baby, the youngest grandchild? I die. Same with the picture of her and my 90-year-old Mamaw. Priceless). Lots and lots of family walks. Rolling over. Grabbing her toes. The way she dramatically covers her eyes with her arm as if the weight of the world is just too much. My sister meeting her namesake this week (all the feels). How happy she is when she wakes up. How happy we all are to have her around.

What I'm Looking Forward To: hmmm, can I change this section to what I'm dreading?? (jk but serious.) I am NOT looking forward to Jonathan going back to work (whatever that's going to look like) and disturbing the idyllic little setup I've got going here (as in having both of us home 24/7 since the day she was born). I will be the first to say I've been incredibly spoiled and as difficult as all this Covid stuff has been, I've benefited from it in a big way in terms of our home situation. So, we'll see how this fall goes, but I'm fully planning on savoring these last few weeks of all four of us at home!

Me: I spent most of the month of June and parts of July in a pretty big funk, honestly. I've had some totally unexpected professional opportunities come up (and then mysteriously disappear) and the roller coaster of those experiences has left me with a bit of mental and emotional whiplash that I certainly didn't go looking for (who does?). I'm in a different place with this baby than I was with Alice in that I am looking for employment (rather passively, but still) but the responsibilities and concerns of a baby (and 4-year-old) don't change just because I need to find a job. Addition, not subtraction. Actually, multiplication. I think. (I am not a mathematically-minded person which I'm sure comes as a surprise to no one.) Anyway, I just feel like I'm in a weird transition phase and that the ground is kind of shifting beneath me, which is not my preferred state of being on any level. But if there's anything I've learned over the last few months it's that we might as well commit to being flexible because it's really all we can do. (Again, this is not my preferred mantra. Does this mean I'm growing? =)

There you go, everyone. The four-month update on my second child, the content you are HERE FOR. Honestly, though, I get that this is mainly for my own memories and I'm okay with that. But if you did happen to slog through to the end of this glorified baby book/journal entry, I thank you. Stay safe, everybody!