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Welcome to GOOD SOIL.

Nutrients for your spiritual life. An essay newsletter on spiritual formation, community, and culture
Welcome to GOOD SOIL.
By Jeremy Linneman • Issue #1 • View online
Nutrients for your spiritual life. An essay newsletter on spiritual formation, community, and culture.

Not long ago, on a mid-morning date, my wife and I visited our favorite local bookstore in downtown Columbia. As Jessie browsed the new novels, I gravitated toward non-fiction, and one book caught my attention: Good Soil: Manure, Compost and Nourishment for Your Garden. It’s the most gorgeous book about manure I’ve ever seen.
And it really is about manure—more than 250 pages on its chemistry, fertilization, and use in gardening. The point of the book: Plants need nutrients to grow, flourish, and bear fruit, and whether we like it or not, manure is an essential source of these nutrients.
What’s unlovely, even unwanted, is the secret to good soil, healthy plants, and tasty food. 
The Scriptures are full of references to gardening, farming, and the agricultural life. Psalm One envisions the godly person as a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.
When our roots grow deep into good soil near hidden streams of life-giving water, we have no fear of drought or storm, and our fruit will endure. 
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus turns our attention toward the flowers—look how they grow without hard labor or busy spinning. Worry not: God clothes them, and if he clothes the flowers in unparalleled majesty, how much more will our needs be met with abundant provision. 
On the night before his death, Jesus invited his followers to abide in him—he is the true vine, our Father is the gardener, and we are the branches. The invitation to abide is to remain in the vital union between vine (Christ) and branch (us). Apart from the vine, we are like a flower pulled out of ground and lying on the concrete—as good as dead. But in him, in the union described with words like “love” and “joy,” we remain grounded, nourished, and secure. 
The Christian life is about being planted in good soil, remaining vitally connected to Christ, drawing on his resources, and bearing fruit to the Father’s good pleasure. 
So what’s in that soil? 
Manure. Sort of. If I can press the illustration, the good soil we cultivate is the less-than-glorious, not-instagram-worthy dirt of life. It’s messy, brown, smelly; you get the idea. But it contains the hidden nutrients for our growth, flourishing, and fruit-bearing. 
GOOD SOIL is a twice-monthly meditation on spiritual formation, community, soul care, church planting, and anything else that relates to earthy living.
My writing over the years has focused on these areas, but this is a place to explore new ideas, reflect on the slow, hard way of Christ, and build community around this theme. 
Welcome to GOOD SOIL.
The Search for True Belonging
Our society has been described as a swipe right culture—a reference to approving of a potential date on a popular dating app. When we like something at first glance, swipe right. The moment something, whether a person, relationship, job, or community, loses its appeal, swipe left. Swipe right culture promises freedom and autonomy: The moment you’re not satisfied, find something new. Probably by using your iPhone. 
In a new essay for The Gospel Coalition, I explore the biblical theme of belonging, the collapse of the self-esteem movement, important research from Brene Brown and other sociologists, and how to belong in our lonely world.
When we’re secure in Christ, we’ll be established and rooted in how he has made us, and we will belong to him and—in a sense—to ourselves. We can become who we were meant to be—fully adopted and secure children of God. We “come home” to ourselves in this significant sense. The layers of protection that have surrounded us like shells can begin to fall away, and true spiritual transformation can begin.
I hope you enjoy it!
Three Good Reads
I’m often asked what I’ve been reading lately, and for whatever reason, I can never remember on the spot. Story of my life. So this a spot for me to drop my favorite reads on a particular topic (or, today, to share what I’m currently reading).
I’ve been enjoying Jen Pollock Michel’s new book Surprised by Paradox; she has become one of my favorite Christian writers. She writes:
Paradox has promise for forming humility in us all. Paradox… is about spiritual posture: the posture of kneeling under God’s great big sky and admitting that mystery is inherent to the nature of God. As soon as we think we have God figured out, we will have ceased to worship him as he is. God, in his very being, is inscrutable and unsearchable.
I am also reading Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bollinger, a longtime pastor and now professor at Fuller. He uses the Lewis and Clark Expedition as an illustration for leading in uncharted territory. He writes:
Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery were looking for a water route, but now they had run out of water. How do you canoe over mountains? You don’t. If you want to continue forward, you change. You adapt. You let go, you learn as you go, and you keep going, no matter what.
And lastly, my poolside summer read is Wright Thompson’s The Cost of These Dreams. Thompson, a longtime senior writer at ESPN, is one of the great living storytellers. Reflecting on the “two lives” of greats like DiMaggio, Ali, Jordan, and Tiger, he writes:
From [these superstars] we learn the benefits and the toll of a man constructing himself into the perfect machine to manage the first 40 years of his life while creating a version of himself completely unsuited for the next 40. That’s a universal truth: The tools required to gain greatness often prevent someone from enjoying it.
Trinity Update: Enjoying God
Do you know the top three reasons to plant a church in a college town? May, June, and July.
Life slows down in Columbia as the university schedule wraps up the second week of May. Our forty thousand university students leave town for their internships and summer jobs, and we get our restaurants and coffee shops back. Summer in Columbia is a wonderful thing, and it gives us an opportunity to slow down, pay attention, and remember the seamless connection between enjoying God and enjoying our lives.
From June to mid-August, our theme is Enjoying God. In our Sunday gatherings and community groups, we’re asking: How do we cultivate an enjoyment of God in everyday life? By meditating on God’s attributes, ways, and presence, we can discover the fullness of joy and peace in him, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You can follow along with our sermons here, and as always, keep praying for Young Trinity.
Fidelity Sports Is Back!
That’s right! Twice a month, you’ll get one or two paragraphs of sports commentary, because, well, I love sports. If you’re not a sports fan, just skip this part. At your own risk. It might end up being the best part. (Actually, if you’re not a sports fan, let me first try to convince you: We Are All Participants.)
In the NBA world, this will henceforth be remembered as the Summer of Kawhi. Kawhi Leonard aka The Claw, aka The Kawhiet Assassin, aka Draymond Green’s Legal Guardian, just singlehandedly ended the Warriors’ dynasty. The question now is: Where will the mysterious, soft-spoken Kawhi go next? He’s an unrestricted free agent, and he’s been linked to the Raptors, Clippers, and Lakers. Since free agency opened last weekend, sports addicts have been tracking his movements: On Saturday, he bought tacos in San Diego, and on Monday, someone who looked like Kawhi was spotted in San Francisco. On Wednesday, a helicopter video showed him stepping out of a private plane in Toronto, and they followed him as they drove to their destination. It was O.J.-style breaking news on ESPN: A helicopter flying above an SUV as it drove down the freeway, panic everywhere.
My guess is as good as anyone’s, but I’ll think he’ll sign a two-year deal in Toronto. Until then, this sure is fun.
Benediction: A Blessing for the Road
From N. T. Wright, in After You Believe:
Virtue, in this strict sense, is what happens when someone has made a thousand small choices, requiring effort and concentration, to something which is good and right but which doesn’t “come naturally”—and then, on the thousand and first time, when it really matters, they find that they do what’s required “automatically.“ [Virtue] doesn’t come by accident. It comes through the self-discipline required to do anything in life really well—to learn a musical instrument, to mend a tractor, to give a lecture, to run an orphanage. Or, indeed, to live as a wise human being. 

I recently celebrated my 35th birthday. I’m not a big birthday guy, but this one feels significant. It feels like the end of a decade: We had Joseph at 25, and since then, we had Jude and Jack, moved to Louisville (and back), I finished seminary and became a pastor, and we planted Trinity. It’s been a busy "decade,” and I’m desperately hoping that 35-45 feels a bit more chill.
I have been thinking for a while, What is an appropriate thing to give my time to this year? I settled on this.
I hope GOOD SOIL is a blessing and joy to you. I promise it will be worthwhile, and I promise at least one year of this manure. 
Thanks for reading GOOD SOIL. Peace be with you. 
JSL 

Next time (Friday, July 19th)—A Vision for Spiritual Maturity, Three Good Reads on Creativity, a Father/Son Trip to New York City, and (More) NBA Free Agency. 
Did you enjoy this issue?
Jeremy Linneman

Nutrients for your spiritual life. An essay newsletter on spiritual formation, community, and culture.

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