my #EatThisBook 2012 Twitter habit

This year, the church I attend with my family has been encouraging biblical literacy and spiritual formation through a daily habit of Bible reading. The Eat This Book discipline is a bold initiative, even for evangelicals. Bolder still is the Eat This Book challenge to read through the Bible in 360 days. The Advent issue of the church magazine included a number of cool stories from the experience. Mine’s not there, not typical and definitely more geeky than most. But who aspires to be average?

My family and I are relatively new to Blackhawk, though we’ve lived in Madison six years. Dy and I are both on staff with InterVarsity and have served together on campus, in a field office, at a retreat and training center and now at the organization’s National Service Center. We’ve enjoyed comparing notes as we Eat This Book.

I’ve read through the Bible before a couple of different ways and looked forward to doing it again, especially with such a large community. I appreciate the posted resources related to the initiative, and it’s been exciting to hear of 38,000+ using the plan on YouVersion (not my favorite Bible app). I’ve not participated in much of the online interaction, though. It seems to me that platform is still in its infancy compared to its potential for promoting biblical literacy through genuinely personal interaction.

To make time and space for digesting the daily text and meditating on it throughout the day, I adopted the practice of tweeting a summary of the non-psalm chapters. For example, one of this fall’s tweets was:

Luke 8-9: Jesus leads and sends a mixed, missional community. They recognize Messiah, but not the path he pursues. +Ps 120 #EatThisBook #fb

A few others use the #EatThisBook hashtag on Twitter; evidently there’s an unrelated Bible study course by that title. A few of the most recent tweets are visible. Mine appear for Facebook friends and are backed up online and offline.

It’s helpful when studying shorter passages to title natural paragraphs in scripture with a few words arising from the text, as part of observing their main features. It’s more challenging to puzzle through the connections within a couple of chapters or more – not always naturally divided – to a summary that fits in 100 characters. But it’s also been tremendously fruitful when God’s Spirit brings insight as things begin to add up. It often takes until evening to sufficiently mull over the collection of themes, characters, actions read or heard in the morning.

As with any spiritual discipline or new habit, it’s most doable when it connects with multiple parts of our personalities and experiences. This one has hooks in my problem-solving bent, enjoyment of complex systems (and text) analysis, amateur wordsmithing, and (borderline Asperger’s) symbiosis with a smartphone. It also helps me practice brevity – not one of my strengths, as you can tell from the length of this post. Thus a daily opportunity to aim for what my team director describes as “crispness” while trying to avoid sounding terse.

I also read aloud the psalm most mornings while some of our family drives to school or work. There are sometimes shared themes between the psalm and the other texts, if I’m alert. Between those times and the tweets, I’ve sensed the Lord renewing my thinking about both the big themes of scripture and the particulars that don’t seem to fit very neatly.

For example, it’s been instructive for me to hear in some of Jesus’ sayings not-so-faint echoes of the prophets’ occasionally harsh words of stinging rebuke. Feeling something of the emotional life of God has been a fresh theme that’s stood out in many passages that I can no longer read without a more whole and human response.

All this to say that I’m grateful for the opportunity to bring more of myself to scripture, reinforce the daily pattern of meeting God in his Word, give space for the Spirit to speak, exercise summarizing skills, and in a bite-sized way sharing the insights God gives. Eat This Book has built my awareness of the overall arc of scripture’s Story. I’m being better equipped to live into and communicate the rich texture and content of God’s whole, living Word.

Thanks for reading, and let me know if any of this is worth further interaction for you.

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The meaning of a (dot)name

In response to a commenter’s question, jdata stands for our household’s initials.

The dot-com sounding acronym was created when registering a license plate a couple of states ago, soon after the birth of our youngest member. Illinois allows free customization as long as you include a number, so we came up with JDATA 5 – and it stuck for a while. Other states are not so generous, we’ve discovered.

It also turns out to be a simple way to somewhat anonymize ourselves on the wooly, wild web. (That’s what www stands for, right?) And it’s much easier for others to remember and spell than our last name! (We’re all used to it, finally.)

Maybe we should say this at jdata.name too. – j

on purpose, and things found when moving

My initial idea for a blog was for facilitating on among our coworkers at the training center where we’ve lived and worked the past couple years. Captured in a journal entry tapped out a year ago tomorrow in the Detroit airport awaiting what I thot would be the last leg of a journey home from St. Louis (that’s another story):

“Maybe it should be an unblog – voices from the near-wilderness, not glued to the tube or wired to the blogosphere, but hearing God in the scriptures and serving in community.”

This is not that blog; we’re now transitioning to a different team (actually, at least two teams). But I’d still read anything written by these hardy camp staff and spouses. As we’ll continue to exchange newsletters and more, I look forward to hearing how things go beyond our stint here.

So what’s this unblog to be?

I’m aiming for:

  • a household-wide sounding board, with entries written by (or dictated, or at least about) members other than me
  • absorbed neither with individuality nor ideology, but attentive to the works and words of the I AM

– the same who interrupted ancient Moses’ quiet exile, and who leaves fingerprints all across our contemporary lives.

Back to content philosophy later. It’s getting late for old married folks like us.

With help from her mother, A.’s putting together a percentage-based paper budget to steward her net worth, which has been increasing lately due to a custom jewelry hobby-turned-enterprise. Dy’s great at the practical level of this process.

Meanwhile (able multitasker that she is) the near-emptied kitchen cabinets are getting dusted. The boxes are piled up on every side…tried to get a photo in here, but the service didn’t cooperate. (I’m sure it wasn’t me.)

The budgeting forms date back almost two decades to a packet her IV staff walked thru with her as she graduated. Now in Word, those should be on jdata.name for others to enjoy – along with a couple of decision-making grids our moving process helped us sharpen. [They’re going soon onto ministryexchange.org under our money label.]

Oooh! Dy’s sweeping beneath the pulled-out fridge yields an unopened packet of Smarties – but not for long. A. dusts them off, unwraps the bunch and declares, “They taste okay.” Maybe I’ll try one too.

If I post again from the land of the living, you’ll know those things were just as fine as they tasted – j

moving over

Our first spot is being abandoned in favor of this more nearly ad-free space. The initial post follows. Thanks to the one neighbor who commented, and the friend who linked to it (and who may now change that link to jdataunblog.blogspot.com). – j


10:32pm Monday the 2nd of January 2006

Mood: (spinning happy face – meant to relay dizziness)
Music: (naught but the wood stove tinking)
Author: j

Okay, all systems seem nominal.

Here launches an unblog – a moniker not nearly as original as when I first coined it over a year ago.

I’ll get back soon to define what’s meant by “unblog” in this case, at least.

Now I’m also headed off to test for gravity waves, those ubiquitous but difficult to detect entities Einstein projected must exist. Oddly, they seem to manifest themselves in the movements of a certain untuckable comforter, which tends to migrate toward the opposite side of the bed than I would wish. As I am the densest and most massive member of the couple (not to mention the family), we’re seeing counter-intutive behavior – which is what leads us to suspect gravity waves.

No other explanation I can think of.

What a great way to end a first entry, dangling preposition and all.


Well, the aforementioned definition of this unblog is still coming soon, along with possible further gravity wave research notes and less related observations. Fact is, we’re a little consumed right now with transitioning our household from Michigan’s U.P. to “Mad City.” Stay tuned…