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Book Review: Upside, by Bradley R. E. Wright

  • Bethany House
  • July 1
  • 256 pp.

As a teacher in America, I’m intimately aware of today’s bad news about education. “We’re falling behind other nations! We’re teaching the wrong things and with the wrong methods! We are standards crazy! We don’t have enough standards!” Indeed, I need only join a conversation with colleagues in the hallway to hear some hint of negative landscape of education news today.

Because of this, I found Bradley Wright’s Upside: Surprising Good News about the State of Our World refreshing. In this book, Wright illustrates the easily-forgotten difference between the way things are and the way things ought to be. On his chapter on education (titled “Are We Dumber than We Used to Be?”), Wright’s treatment of his topic is typical for what occurs throughout the book: despite common perception, things are getting better for more people. The chapter also includes several snapshots (“Christians Making a Difference”) of people and organization that have helped to bring these trends about.

Wright treats the following topics in Chapters 2 through 9:

  • Why we have such a negative view on the way things are (here he discusses the impact of advocates, anecdotes, short-term fluctuations, bad statistics, nostalgia, unrealistic expectations, the media, and Christians)
  • Are we worse off financially than we used to be?
  • Are we dumber than we used to be? (mentioned above)
  • Are we sicker than we used to be?
  • Are we stressed and unhappy?
  • Are crime and war on the rise while freedom and faith decline?
  • Are marriages and families declining?
  • Is the environment doomed?
I appreciate the overall message of this book: that we often confuse our idea of the way things ought to be with the way things actually are. Wright never makes the claim that things are perfect–even a lower starvation rate is still a starvation rate–but he does a great job at pointing at that, on the whole, things are improving. This book will encourage you to continue pursuing the way things ought to be while giving thanks for the work God is doing around the world.

Buy it at Amazon.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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How to be a Foolish Husband

I could write a book on this topic, and I don’t say that lugubriously. Thanks to the gospel, I am free to confess my failings as a husband with the hopes that it will help others. Christians often feel like they have to project these perfect marriages out to the world, because that will win people to Christ. And while we do want our marriages to be re-enactments of the gospel for the world to see–a lover dies for his bride, while the bride joyfully submits to her self-sacrificing groom–we can’t fake it. People are won over by reality, not projections. When we try faking the funk, people smell it. They’re not dumb. While we strive to strengthen our marriages in a world where things constantly fall apart, we need to be open about where we’re struggling (without being mindless about our audience).

One way to be a foolish husband is to be unwilling to endure discomfort for the sake of showing your wife love. Let’s say that your wife likes it when you wear certain types of clothing for certain occasions, but one day you wake up on one of those occasions and you don’t feel like wearing the clothing. And let’s say that you’re wife, being very sweet, gently asks you to wear that clothing she likes when she sees that you’ve got other intentions.

A lot is shooting through your head in moments like these: Why can’t she just be happy that I’m comfortable? Why do I need to do something that my buddy’s wife never expects him to do? The thoughts we have in times like these are, essentially: 1) Why can’t she change for me, and 2) Why do I have to change for her? (See how foolish we can be?)

But a wise man in these situations senses this hypocritical gibberish for what it is and instead reflects on reality. A wise man knows what he has. In these situations, as Christians, we know that we have 1) exactly the wife God wants us to have, because we’re married to her! and 2) unsearchable riches in the gospel.

When we choose to think on these excellent things, we find that wearing some uncomfortable clothing for the day is a pittance of a sacrifice next to that which Christ has made for us. Because we are so loved by Him, we no longer need to look after our own rights, making a stand against the perceived “wrongs” that our wives do us by caring about things that we may not care about. Because Jesus was willing to completely enter into our world for our sake, we can make the sacrifice of entering into the worlds of our wives and beginning to care about what they care about.

This is just the beginning of how the gospel can change our marriages.

God’s Gift of a Google Cr-48 Chrome Notebook

A couple of weeks ago, I received a message from my wife while I was at work. It said, “What the heck?!? You just got something from Chrome. Do you know anything about that?”

When I came home, I found a strange box, and, inside, a brand new (and very free) Google Chrome Cr-48 — I had been selected for the Chrome OS Pilot Program. The idea behind Chrome OS (Operating System) is that those who do most of their computing online–from “the cloud”– could actually have computers that run entirely from the web. If you use a lot of online applications–for example, Google Docs, an online calendar, social networking sites, online photo albums and photo editing, etc.–I encourage you to check out the Pilot Program — it only takes 15 minutes to apply.

This notebook came at an opportune time for our family, as our prior laptop had been taken out by a virus. It serves as a reminder of God’s constant provision for us — every breath we take, every meal we eat, every task we undertake: all of these are from Him. And, infinitely greater, the basis of our relationship with him–Jesus Christ–is his exorbitant expenditure to provide eternal life for us, now and forever. May we give thanks to God in all things.

(For a video overview of the notebook, check out a bit of the detailed video below):