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Body language: Body Language: An Amazing Infographic

“… your body language tells the world all about you.”

Church, communication, first impressions, guests, signage & welcome: Welcome to “No Church” – 4 Steps To Reversing Your Negative Church Messaging

“Negative messaging narrows your thought activity and focuses on actions related to the message. Positive messages on the other hand, broaden your thinking and create openness. … So the big question is what kind of brain patterns do you want to create for people as they enter your church an prepare to worship the all-powerful and all-present living God and creator of the universe? Let’s play this out for a guest coming to your church. What happens when they hit a cascade of messages like these …”

Creation, rest & sabbath: Sabbath and Wendell Berry

“By Sara Barton, chaplain at Pepperdine University and author A Woman Called.”

Faith, religion & spirituality: Bad Religion’s Alternative: No Religion or Good Religion?

“… a growing number of Americans are starving for an alternative to negative, closed-minded, judgmental, partisan, antiwomen, antiscience religion. Instead, they are searching for a positive, grace-filled, open-minded, gender-equal faith option.” Where are they finding this? Can they find this?”

Simplicity: 10 Images to Help Inspire Simplicity in Your Life

“If you are not content today, there is nothing you can buy this weekend to change that.”

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Alzheimer’s, communication, compassion, respect & sensitivity: 5 Things to Never Say to a Person With Alzheimer’s

“When relating to a person with Alzheimer’s, there are many guidelines to follow. I’m going to discuss five of the most basic ones here: (1) Don’t tell them they are wrong about something, (2) Don’t argue with them, (3) Don’t ask if they remember something, (4) Don’t remind them that their spouse, parent or other loved one is dead, and (5) Don’t bring up topics that may upset them.”

Attitude, admiration, behavior, character & emulation: Five People I Admire [required reading]

“1. I admire people who are respectful and gracious in their speech. … 2. I admire people who are quick to say ‘I’m sorry.’ … 3. I admire people who build up instead of destroy. … 4. I admire people who don’t have to be the center of attention. … 5. I admire people who spread joy instead of cynicism.”

Awkwardness, friendship, generations & vulnerability: The Silver Lining of Awkwardness [required reading]

“An opportunity is buried inside each of your awkward moments. … Awkwardness is an invitation to vulnerability. And vulnerability is where friendship is born.”

Hispanics & politics: Finding a Place: Hispanic Faith, Work and Identity

“It’s the middle of another election year. And while midterms historically draw a smaller crowd of voters, they bring to the forefront of political conversation a variety of issues intended to energize voter bases and solidify party candidates. Predictably, one of those issues is once again immigration.”

Maps: 40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World

“Hopefully some of these maps will surprise you and you’ll learn something new. A few are important to know, some interpret and display data in a beautiful or creative way, and a few may even make you chuckle or shake your head.”

Marriage & relationships: Eight Things Healthy Couples Don’t Do

“It’s often harder to see the good relationships, because they aren’t out slamming doors and stomping around and airing grievances on social media. Here are eight things healthy couples don’t do …”

Reflection, silence & spiritual growth: Screwtape and Silence

“Why we need times of quiet reflection — and why the devil hates them.”

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Care, communication, considerate, counsel, empathy, sensitivity & sympathy: The Semantics of Sympathy [essential reading]

“… by using ‘but,’ we invalidate them—we shrug them off as if the harm they’re causing isn’t worthy of our concern. We use the word carelessly in conversations that feel crucial to the suffering person, and we send the often unintentional message that ‘Hey, I know it hurts, but that’s not really meaningful because there’s this other happy stuff you should be thinking about.’”

Civility, kindness & social media: 12 Ways Christians Can Be Less Mean [essential reading]

“It seems to me, we’ve lost some of our civility when it comes to what we post on social media. … The web has made it much easier to be a critic. … It all has to hurt our witness as Christians.”

Health insurance & Medicare: * Why I’m Jealous of My Dog’s Insurance; * Medicare: A Quiet Sea Change in Medicare

* “I was envious. My 11-year-old brown Labrador was getting the kind of treatment that I could only dream of. I wanted to go to PetCare. I wanted pet insurance.”

* “The change may have the most far-reaching impact on seniors who want to avoid institutional care. People with chronic conditions may be able to get the care they need to live in their own homes for as long as they need it … if they otherwise qualify for coverage.”

Hobby Lobby & the Supreme Court: Church of Christ Member Serves as Counsel for Hobby Lobby

“Lori Windham, a member of the Fairfax Church of Christ in Virginia and a graduate of Abilene Christian University in Texas, serves as counsel for Hobby Lobby in a closely watched religious freedom case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.”

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Attitude, church & cynicism: The Most Damaging Attitude in Our Churches [required reading]

“Subtly, without even realizing it, we had become cynics. … cynicism doesn’t always present itself in the sweeping, broad negativity we see on TV. In the day-to-day, it looks more like quick, unwarranted, ‘constructive’ criticism. I’m not talking about the critical thinking required for success as an adult. I’m referring to the way we constantly evaluate and critique people and what they do.”

Computers, privacy & rights: Judge: Feds Can Snatch Your Laptop – for No Reason

“Meet New York federal Judge Edward Korman. On New Year’s Eve, he ruled that if you’re at the U.S. border, the federal government can confiscate your laptop, smartphone or tablet for any reason. No probable cause is needed.

“‘Well,’ you might say, ‘that’s worrying, but I don’t travel outside the U.S. so it isn’t my problem.’ You’ll want to keep reading anyway, because “border” in this ruling doesn’t mean what you think it does.

“In fact, the so-called ‘border exemption’ extends 100 miles inland from the actual border. That includes everyone on the Eastern Seaboard, the West Coast, the Gulf or the Great Lakes.”

Creation & evolution: What We Learned From the Ken Ham/Bill Nye Debate

“Whatever value there might be in a public debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye, there’s a lot more value in Christians loving their neighbors, whatever their beliefs about life’s origins.”

Marriage: * 7 Ways a Husband Injures a Wife Without Even Knowing It; * 7 Ways a Wife Injures a Husband Without Even Knowing It

* “You can’t address what you do not know.”

* “She’s a precious gift, guys. Let’s treat her well.”

Miracles: Wait, No Miracles … Wright On!

“… when people say can we believe in miracles I say no, because the word miracle gives us this sense of a normally absent God sometimes reaching in, that’s not the God of the Bible. … the thing about what we call the miracles, is not … wow! there seem to be radical abnormalities within the old world. No. The point is that these are the things that are starting to be normal in the new world which we see close up and personal with Jesus and then which, through the ministry of the gospel thereafter, start to happen in different ways in the wider world. It’s about the launching of new creation not about an invasion into the old creation.”

Parenting: How to Raise a Pagan Kid in a Christian Home [essential reading]

“Do you teach your kids “be good because the Bible tells you to” or do you teach your kids that they will never be good without Christ’s offer of grace? There is a huge difference. One leads to moralism; the other leads to brokenness. One leads to self-righteousness; the other leads to a life that realizes that Christ is everything and that nothing else matters.”

Philip Seymour Hoffman: Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Thoughts on Christ

“The idea that a young person could be sane, generous, intelligent and Christian held out great appeal for him.”

Racism: What Does Racism Have to Do With Gridlock?: In Atlanta, Everything

“The way forward is complicated, to say the least—but it’s hard to know where you’re going without a clear idea of where you’ve been. Southerners are notoriously poor at understanding our own history—there’s so much of it, and so much is painful—but here, today, is a really good place to start.”

Reading Scripture: Cultivating the Practice of Reading Scripture [required reading]

“This is a journey in which we discover that the work of scriptural reading is not about transforming an ancient message into a modern application but the transformation of our lives though Scripture. The Bible does not present us with texts to be mastered, then, but with a Word intent on shaping our lives, on mastering us.”

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Bible reading: 3 Biggest Reasons Bible Reading is Down

“Bible reading is down because people read it in fragments, a-historically, and in isolation.”

Christianity, communication, disagreement, influence, love, relationships & words: Civil Religion Can We Talk? [essential reading]

“… we need to assume goodwill and generosity on the part of others, no matter how wrong we might thing they are. For the sake of having better conversations, and for the pursuit of truth, we have to be able to admit we don’t have it all, After all, if we want to be heard, we have to learn how to listen. So what do you say, Can we talk?”

Culture, history & the United States: I Hope We Never Become a ‘Christian Nation’ Again

* “In reality, Christianity in America may not have the same political, social, and corporate authority it did in the past, but Jesus never intended to spread the gospel message through political strength or domineering control. The problem with people claiming that America used to be a Christian nation is that, well, it never was.”

Creation, nature & stewardship: Stewardship: Being in and Working with Creation

“We use the world’s resources, but the trick is to use them wisely, and with a careful, conservative sense of balance. That’s the difficulty of stewardship. When we use up resources — the resources God gave us — with abandon and without care, the results aren’t pretty. We can never really grow it back. That’s the thing about nature; we can manage it well, but we can’t create it from scratch. Only God can do that. Stewardship is the balanced middle way — it’s not ‘use it up and move on to the next,’ but it’s also not untouched nature for nature’s sake.”

Discouragement, encouragement, ministry & support: 5 Ways to Discourage Your Pastor

“As a pastor of a local church for over twenty-five years, I had my share of buildups and letdowns. Sometimes I recall the discouraging times more. I know that I was not supposed to get down because of people and circumstances, but it happens. I also know that the people who discouraged me did not always mean to do so. But it happened. The purpose of this post is to let you in on a few things to avoid (unless you want to discourage your pastor). If you are bent on discouraging him or her, here are 5 surefire ways of doing so.”

God, suffering, tests, and trials: God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle. I Guarantee It. [essential reading]

“There’s a certain phrase I’ve come to really dislike. … ‘God will never give you more than you can handle’ is the phrase I’m referring to.”

Parenting: Top Ten Mistakes Christian Parents of Teens Make

“It might be difficult for some parents to read through, but here’s a top ten list that I’ve been wanting to write for a while.”

Parenting & social media: Destroying Your Child’s Heart – One FB Picture At A Time

“Public shaming is awful and is nothing less than societally sanctioned parental bullying. Especially harmful to the young people against whom it is used as a weapon, the ramifications will resonate throughout their lives. They aren’t as tough as we pretend we are.”

Social media: 5 Reasons Social Media is Dangerous For Me [required reading]

“I went on an internet fast recently – I spent 40 days without logging on to anything. Here is what I learned about how I had allowed social media to change me over the years.”

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Anger & offense: Choosing Not To Be Offended [essential reading]

“… there are many opportunities to be offended. … Offense is always a matter of perspective. … What kind of spirit are you trying to foster in your own heart? … What is the higher road that you can walk when offended? … Decide ahead of time to show love when love has not been shown to you.”

Appreciation, love, respect & value: The Most Ignored and Undervalued People Within Churches Today

“Churches are supposed to be communities that represent Christ’s infinite love — and many of them do — but certain groups of people seem to be continually ignored, alienated, undervalued, and simply lost within American churches. … Below are categories of people that I’ve repeatedly witnessed being underappreciated within various church environments …”

Children & parenting: * The Important Thing About Yelling; * Imprint the Image of a Godly Man on Your Daughter’s Heart; * Are You Raising Entitled Kids?

* “Let me tell you what had become of me. My distractions. Excessive phone use, commitment overload, multiple page to-do lists, and the pursuit of perfection consumed me. And yelling at the people I loved was a direct result of the loss of control I was feeling in my life.”

* “Perhaps the greatest gift a father can give his daughter, outside of leading her to salvation, is to imprint the image of a Godly man on her heart. One day we will be walking our daughter down the aisle, and the choice she made for a husband will likely hinge more on our actions than hers.”

* “Breaking the chains of entitlement begins at home. As you live out gratitude and graciousness, your children will see these values as worthy. You teach them by how you live, what you say, and how you allow them to struggle and work their own way toward responsibility. You can raise kids who live with humility and thankfulness, who see and appreciate what they’re given daily by the Giver of all good gifts.”

Church: * Why People are Staying in Churches [required reading]; 10 Reasons Why We Must Love Unlovable Church Members

* “If you still attend a Christian worship assembly, what is it that keeps you coming back? Here are some reasons I see that people are staying with it …”

* “I would be lying to say I never struggle now, but I’ve learned something about loving others.”

Communication, evangelism & outreach: * 5 Churchy Phrases That are Scaring Off Millenials; * 5 Things Mistaken for Evangelism

* “… let’s examine these terrorizing and terrifying words to see if we should drop them, modify them, or indeed say them more …”

* “The Christian call to evangelism is a call not simply to persuade people to make decisions but rather to proclaim to them the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversion. We don’t fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not converted; we fail only if we don’t faithfully tell the gospel at all. Evangelism itself isn’t converting people; it’s telling them that they need to be converted and telling them how they can be.”

Early Christianity: Where did Earliest Christians Meet?

“For some time now, the general view has been that earliest Christians met (e.g., for group worship) in houses, at least mainly. In a newly-published study, Dr. Edward Adams (Kings College London) queries this, contending that the evidence for this view isn’t as solid and consistent as commonly thought, and that the extant evidence suggests instead a variety of settings.”

Evil, disaster relief, natural disasters & the Philippines: * Philippines Disaster Draws Limited Interest, Donations; * Typhoon Haiyan and “Natural” Evil

* “About one-in-three Americans (32%) say they are very closely following news about the deadly typhoon that struck the Philippines on Nov. 8. By comparison, 55% of the public closely followed the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami in Japan, 58% followed the tsunami that struck coastlines around the Indian Ocean at the end of 2004, and 60% followed the 2010 Haiti earthquake.”

* “… on Typhoon Haiyan and the reality of “natural” evil that’s not really natural at all. “This an enemy has done.” (Matthew 13:28)”

Grief: 10 Suggestions for Healthy Grieving

“The Scripture is clear. We do grieve. We simply don’t grieve like the rest of the world.”

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Anger, communication & relationships: What to Do When You’ve Made Someone Angry

“… this battle — intention vs. consequences — was the root cause of so much interpersonal discord. … it’s not the thought that counts or even the action that counts. That’s because the other person doesn’t experience your thought or your action. They experience the consequences of your action.”

Arrogance, learning, listening, tribes & understanding: Pastoral Traps: Tribal Arrogance

“The deeper and more entrenched I became in the tribe, the less time and desire I had learn from other tribes. … One of the great blunders of having tribal arrogance is missing out on the wisdom and skills of others. … I do not want to display tribal arrogance. I am grateful for my tribe. I am grateful for how much I have grown in my love for God because of my tribe. But I need to have the ears to hear from the voice of others.”

Baptism: Water of Division

“By the way, the best book ever, ever on baptism is by Everett Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church.”

Ministers & ministry: Eleven Things You Might Not Understand About Your Minister

“… here’s what your minister wishes you understood.”

Parenting, school & teaching: What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents

“Today, new teachers remain in our profession an average of just 4.5 years, and many of them list “issues with parents” as one of their reasons for throwing in the towel. Word is spreading, and the more negativity teachers receive from parents, the harder it becomes to recruit the best and the brightest out of colleges. So, what can we do to stem the tide? What do teachers really need parents to understand?”