I have this app on my phone called Blinkist. It’s one I actually pay for. It’s an app where someone reads a non-fiction book and then puts together a 15 minute summary of its key insights that you can either read or listen to. These modern day cliff notes are available on books covering psychology, personal growth, management and leadership, biography, science, history, and many more categories. The summaries are long enough to make you feel like you get the gist of the book but short enough to embarrass yourself at a dinner party should you claim to have read it.
At this point, I have way more advice on better living than I have time to put into practice. And, a few - bless the effort - books that feel repetitive even in brief summary. It’s led me to buy a handful of the books in full and it’s been a way better use of my time now that I took the FB app off my phone.
People have been dishing out good advice with an aim to improve individual lives and public life, for thousands of years. As CS Lewis remarked, “There’s no shortage of good ideas.” But I was realizing recently that my early Christian life (where CS Lewis featured heavily) taught me that Jesus’ advice was all I needed. Full stop. I was taught to be suspicious of influences - moral guidance in particular - that didn’t originate from the church. My interpretation was that I was supposed to put my fingers in my ears and say “la, la, la.”
I carried around that suspicion — with a sense of danger for rock musicians, yogis, and democrats. Ironically, Purple Rain was my first R rated movie and I did marry a democrat at 21 years old. Yoga remains a stretch. My first job out of college - a litigation consultant for Arthur Andersen - forced me to confront other people whose advice might be questionable: lawyers and people who worked on Sundays.
Over time, my misgivings mellowed. And morphed. My fingers came out of my ears but mostly to politely listen, still cautious. If Jesus didn’t say it or say something similar, it still wasn’t worth much thoughtful consideration. I continued to seek the buzz words I’d been trained to hear as they related to peace, joy, love, forgiveness, purpose, wisdom, etc. It was like signing up for Spotify but only listening to three playlists. For a middle aged white woman, that’s an intolerable amount of Ed Sheeran.
In this last decade, however, I’ve become fascinated in what other people - different than me - have to say. It’s maybe why I love my Blinkist app. I have this hunch that Jesus has actually pushed me in that direction.
On reflection, Jesus wasn’t pounding his chest claiming to be the best moral teacher, dishing out helpful advice. Instead, he talked about a new kingdom where all things are made new. His challenge was much bigger. He said Follow Me. You would “stay and listen” to a great speaker but his invitation was “come and see.” As in, let’s go on an adventure. And adventures always involve food and music and big ideas and leaving buildings.
And when I focused on following Jesus - not just reciting his words - I started to notice all these other tracks and new artists. Which makes sense because if he is truly God and the embodiment of love and goodness - the church walls and even the scriptures (which incidentally I read now with more enthusiasm than ever) have no power to contain him. So today when I read a full book or a packaged up summary of one, or listen to a podcast, or enjoy a great meal, or experience creation, or have a conversation — I listen more closely as I expect that Jesus will be collaborating with truth wherever it is found.
Thanks for listening.