What are you enjoying right now?
Sometimes, we need to step back and ask a question like that.
Philippians 4:8 challenges believers to think and dwell on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable.” So the Facts & Trends staff would like to regularly share our “Favorites” at the moment.
It might be a new book or podcast we’re enjoying or something going on in our lives we want to share. Hopefully, you’ll think about things that are your favorites right now and maybe find something else to add to that list.
Aaron Earls (@WardrobeDoor), online editor: With all the negative news it can be easy to assume every human being is selfish. We can lose sight of the image of God in humanity and forget that Christ is still at work redeeming people. A recent story from Wisconsin may help you recover those truths.
First-grader Natasha Fuller had to move away from her parents and twin sister in Oklahoma to Wisconsin to live with her grandparents because she needed specialized care for her kidney disease in Milwaukee. As she waited on a transplant, her positive spirit touched the heart of her teacher, Jodi Schmidt.
She and her husband have three kids of their own. After praying about it, Schmidt decided to undergo testing to see if she would be a match for Natasha. The test came back positive and Schmidt is set to give one of her kidneys to Natasha. Here’s the video of Schmidt surprising Natasha’s grandmother with the news.
Carol Pipes (@CarolPipes), editor: This week I’ve been reading Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk & True Flourishing, the latest book from Andy Crouch. Using Jesus as an example, Crouch says true flourishing comes from being both strong and weak. While we often see them as opposites, Crouch makes the case that they are meant to complement one another. He offers a simple framework for understanding the relationship between authority (strength) and vulnerability (weakness).
He also examines what happens when we choose one over the other: “The pursuit of authority without vulnerability always comes at the price of causing others to live with vulnerability without authority.” All authority without vulnerability leads to exploitation of others. And all vulnerability without authority leads to suffering.
As Christ’s followers, not only should we flourish, but we should find ways to help those around us flourish. Crouch’s book has challenged me to look at the world and the culture I live in differently and to ask the questions: Am I truly flourishing and am I helping others to flourish?
Lisa Green (@lisaccgreen), managing editor: In 2010, a doctor told 51-year-old Eric O’Grey he’d be dead within five years. He weighed 340 pounds and had diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. His medications cost $1,000 a month.
Then he went to an animal shelter and adopted a dog.
“I remember telling the lady, ‘I would like an obese middle-aged dog,’ so I would have something in common with him,” O’Grey says in a touching video about his life-changing experience with his dog Peety.
By changing his diet and walking with Peety, O’Grey lost about 140 pounds and regained his health, eventually running a full marathon. Peety lost about 25 pounds too.
“Beyond unconditional love, Peety taught me absolute loyalty,” O’Grey says. “He looked at me in every sense as though I was the greatest person on the planet. I decided that I wanted to be the person who he thought I was.”
Peety had been a neglected dog before the adoption, but O’Grey says, “I think about it now—who rescued whom? I mean, did I rescue him or did he rescue me?”
Bob Smietana (@BobSmietana), senior writer: Recently, my son’s been letting me listen to his playlist during our rides back and forth to school. His latest discovery: the Beach Boys.
Our rides have brought back memories of sitting around a stereo with my younger brother, listening to those songs back in the 1970s. As the recent documentary “The Wrecking Crew” points out, some of those songs were masterpieces—written and recorded by troubled genius Brian Wilson with the help of a group of A-list session players and the sweet harmonies of Wilson’s fellow Beach Boys.
So it was a treat to see a short video this week of Wilson along with Sir George Martin, the famed Beatles producer who died this week. Wilson and Martin sit around the piano and later, in a recording studio, and talk shop. At one point, Martin begins to remix the original masters recordings of “God Only Knows,” one of Wilson’s signature recordings.
“For students of pop songwriting, the next four minutes are a lesson on artistic inspiration and technical agility,” writes Randall Roberts of the Los Angeles Times. “Martin quizzes Wilson on those essential Beach Boys melodies while the songwriter dots out the notes on a piano. Soon Wilson is pouring forth the chords to ‘God Only Knows.’”
Almost as striking was how Martin described what he heard in those few moments in the recording studio.
“What Brian had done was to write a beautiful song full of unusual changes, and then devise a tapestry of sounds to enhance it,” he says in the video. “To me it was fascinating, being a musical detective looking at the song structure back in the sort of studio in which I’d spent most of my working life.”
What has made you smile so far this week? What would be your favorite today?