links: this went thru my mind

 

Bias, criticism, open-mindedness & thinking: Why We Confuse The Onion for the News [essential reading]

“… we all have biases, and our efforts to rid ourselves of them through education and self-awareness don’t actually ‘fix’ the problem.”

Cell phones & etiquette: Cell Phone Funeral Etiquette

“Cell phones often go off when we least want them to. In church. In school. During sex. And at a funeral. As other funeral directors can attest, the oddest thing about a cell phone ringing during funerals is how many people will actually answer.”

Church attendance, faith, millennials, peace & unity: The Millennials Are Rejecting Fighting Churches and Christians [essential reading]

“… many of them are walking away from our churches, and more of them are not attending at all, when they witness or hear about negativity and divisiveness in those churches. They want to see unity among Christians, and they are often disappointed.”

Health: * Aging Well: Keeping Blood Sugar Low May Protect Memory; * Depression: Could Be Almost Depressed?

* “… even modest increases in blood sugar among people in their 50s, 60s and 70s can have a negative influence on memory.”

* “Research suggests that as many as 12 million people in the United States may be suffering from low-grade depression symptoms that are not severe enough to warrant clinical treatment. … In fact, on some of these measures, people who are almost depressed report feeling worse off than people who actually fall into the clinically depressed range. … There is also another more serious problem: Research indicates about 75% of cases of low-grade depression will devolve into full-blown major depression if they are not recognized and arrested.”

Grandparenting, parenting & prayer: How to Pray for Your Children & Grandchildren [required reading]

“Because there are 12 prayers in this list, you could concentrate on one prayer per month to concentrate on. Within a year you will have consistently prayed the entire list.”

Holy Spirit: The Kingdom’s Second Major Death

“Why has this gone on?  Why has the Holy Spirit been quenched in our circles? Control.  Man is obsessed with control; even in religion’s court. … The Kingdom’s second major death, after Jesus’ upon the cross, is that of the Holy Spirit within the hearts of men.  We have killed Him off and buried Him in our tombs of organization and control.”

Leisure, online & time management: What You Would Be Doing If You Spent Less Time Online

“More time online means less time socializing, studying, and sleeping.”

Faith & President Obama: * The President’s Devotional: What Obama ‘Did In Secret’ In Newtown; * The Man Behind the President’s Devotional

* “The president took a deep breath and steeled himself, and went into the first classroom. And what happened next I’ll never forget. … It must have been one of the defining moments of his presidency, quiet hours in solemn classrooms, extending as much healing as was in his power to extend. But he kept it to himself—never seeking to teach a lesson based on those mournful conversations, or opening them up to public view.”

* “Dubois has been sending devotionals to Obama every morning since the 2008 presidential campaign. A collection of these spiritual messages to the president has now been published Dubois’ new book, The President’s Devotional. Dubois started working for Obama shortly after he became a senator. A public policy and economics student at Princeton University, he was also ordained at a small Pentecostal church where he served as an associate pastor. It was this combination of skills that led him to become Obama’s faith outreach coordinator during his first presidential campaign and, later, to be appointed as the Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships during the president’s first term.”

this went thru my mind

 

Books, ministry, reading & thinking: Why Pastors Should Read Over Their Heads by Kevin DeYoung

“Very, very, very (did I say “very”) few pastors are called to engage in the highest levels of scholarship at the same time as pastoring a congregation. It’s just not possible, at least not for very long. But most pastors should still make it a point to jump into the deep end of the pool and get in over their heads once in awhile. Let me give you a few reasons why.”

Children, families, health & parenting: How ‘Crunch Time’ Between School And Sleep Shapes Kids’ Health

“‘It’s hard enough to get dinner on the table while trying to help them with homework,’ says Paige Pavlik of Raleigh, N.C. ‘Once we do everything, there is absolutely no time to go outside and take a walk or get any exercise. It’s simply come in, eat, sit down, do homework, go to bed.’ The relentlessness of it makes her emotional. Pavlik starts to cry as she talked about her family’s daily crunch time. ‘It’s really hard,’ she says. ‘This isn’t how I thought family life was going to be.’”

Churches of Christ: Churches of Christ and the Myth of Excellence

“Let’s certainly look for ways to do things in our communal life better. But let’s not forget that the Gospel is not a call to improvement and proficiency but to suffering, obedience, humility, and sacrifice for the sake of the world. And when those things become the primary focus of our life together, the desire for success in the way that much of evangelicalism has pursued it will simply cease to be a concern.”

Congregational singing: A Personal Manifesto for Congregational Singing by Rob Hewell [required reading]

“When given the opportunity, I’ll speak to these issues; otherwise I will hold myself, and no one else, accountable for these standards.”

Control & relationships: Controlling Other People: This is a Heart Issue by John T. Willis [essential reading]

“A major problem in human life has always been the desire of people to attempt to control other people. This problem is pervasive in all aspects of life. …  For all who wish to be true Christians, Philippians 2:3-4 is very important. Put this on YOUR fridge and read it every day.”

Children, genetics & poverty: To Spot Kids Who Will Overcome Poverty, Look At Babies [very interesting]

“… while there’s always a difference between how much the heart beats when a person inhales and when he or she exhales, everyone has a different set point. Sometimes there’s a big difference, and sometimes it’s small. And in very young babies, researchers have noticed that there are different temperaments associated with these different set points.

“When there’s a big difference and the set point is high, babies tend to have great attention and can focus for long periods of time on the things in their environment. ‘When you’re presenting them with a new toy, they’re going to really look at it and inspect it,’ says Conradt. ‘But they also may be more irritable and fussy when parts of their environment are changing.’

“In contrast, babies with a low set point ‘might lose interest after a couple minutes, but they’re also not going to be as fussy or irritable,’ she says.

“Babies with a high set point seem to have a more sensitive nervous system, which makes them more sensitive to their environment, in both good and bad ways. Babies with a low set point seem to have a less sensitive nervous system, which makes them less sensitive to their environment.

“Conradt and her colleagues wondered if this simple measure could be used to predict how children in poverty would fare as they aged.”

PowerPoint: Better Powerpoint: What We Remember from PowerPoint Presentations, Part 2

“Participants in the study tended to remember the same slides even though those slides did not contain pictures. This may be because the text was highly visual, in the sense that it generated mental pictures. … high-imagery words are remembered a lot better than low-imagery or abstract words. … Dare to insert text-based slides in your presentation, with the condition that people can “picture” that text without much mental effort. … Slides with tight links are remembered more than slides with weak links. … if you want a presentation to attract attention, find out what your audience would consider novel. … Repetition was another trait shared by the four most recalled slides. … Another characteristic of the four popular slides is that they contained negative information …  Slides that reported a high recall in the study were slides that offered advice that made the viewers ‘look good.’”

Privacy & technology: Why Life Through Google Glass Should Be for Our Eyes Only

“… there’s something particularly troubling about Google Glass. When we put on these surveillance devices, we all become spies, or scrooglers, of everything and everyone around us. By getting us to wear their all seeing digital eyeglasses, Google are metamorphosing us into human versions of those Street View vans — now thankfully banned in Germany — which crawl, like giant cockroaches, around our cities documenting our homes. Neither Orwell nor Hitchcock at their most terrifyingly dystopian could have dreamt up Google Glass. According to Google co-founder Sergey Brin, quoted by tech website Mashable, ‘Glass will also have an automatic picture-taking mode, snapping pics at a preset intervals (such as every 5 seconds).’ Pics every 5 seconds! Gulp. So where will all that intimate data go?”

50 things I once believed (3)

 

So, how and why did I come to change my mind about these matters of my faith? I see at least seven steps common to virtually all of my change in belief.

First, someone challenged my thinking. In essence, they dared to say to me, “I respectfully disagree, and here’s why.” It wasn’t a matter of confrontation or debate, simply a clear and respectful challenge (let me underscore the word “respectful”). Someone dared to ask me why I believed what I believed, patiently listened to my response, and then either deliberately tried to set up a checkpoint of thought in my path or tried to plant in my mind the seed of a differing view.

In a few words, they disagreed with me without being disagreeable about it. As a result, I learned, and continue to learn, to welcome, rather than resent, questions about my faith.

Second, I dared to truly consider what the person had said or written. Actually “consider” isn’t a strong enough word; “ponder” is more accurate. But we’re talking baby steps here; consider, then ponder! This is often no easy thing to do, particularly given the speed at which we live our lives today and how so very much competes for our attention every minute of every day. Distractions are about us like the air; they’re everywhere. But unless a thought, especially a challenging thought, has time to settle deep into our mind, we will never open ourselves up to the chance of changing our mind.

If I changed my mind about something, it was because I didn’t let things go in one ear and straight out the other. This could very well be the most personally challenging of all the steps I’ll list here, for a full and busy life is not a friend to reflection.

Third, I talked with God about these things with faith. I prayed for God to shed his light on the matter. I asked him to show me if I was wrong, where I was mistaken, and what path to take. I trusted him to lead me to a better understanding and practice of his will. I believed he would cross my path with the people, places, things, and experiences that would answer my requests of him.

I believe he did. And I believe he does.

Fourth, I sought more information from the person who planted the seed. This rarely happened at the time of the question or challenge, but came about instead after pondering the matter a bit. It was as simple as saying to the person who had differed with me, “I’ve been thinking about what you said the other day. Tell me more. I’m here to listen and learn, not debate or argue. I want to know more about what you believe and why for your view intrigues me.” Significantly, it was in this listening that I often discovered that some, or even all, of my conceptions as to what exactly others believed, or why they believed what they did, were often skewed mistaken.

How very embarrassing, but, oh, how enlightening is this step! In this I continue to learn that embarrassment is more often than not, a necessary part of learning. If I will not risk shame, I will not grow. It’s as simple as that.

Fifth, I investigated matters for myself. That is, I started reading and digging into the subject at hand and as I did so, I deliberately read outside of my comfort zone. I read things that challenged my views and differed from my understandings. I read the other person’s mail, so to speak. I tried to walk a mile in their moccasins. And as I did so, I deliberately tried to keep an open mind and to not engage the material in a combative spirit. And then, having read the other person’s mail, I’d go back and examine my beliefs in light of what I had encountered.

I have grown to relish this step, for it is here that I hear the cogs of my mind turning most clearly.

Sixth, I began to look more closely at the fruit of my beliefs and the fruit of the beliefs of others. Ideas have consequences and as I traced the trail of various beliefs to their logical ends and began to pay attention to how they were commonly and outwardly expressed, I discovered much more about the real “stuff” of these beliefs. I found that sometimes a belief that sounded reasonable in my head and didn’t meet strong resistance when expressed in words, actually made little sense at all, or was contradictory to the facts at hand, when put into practice. Typically, what I learned from these observations came as a complete surprise to me. I had expected one thing, but witnessed another. I believed that practice is the acid test of faith, but I came to realize that if I didn’t hang around long enough to see what happens to the belief when it was put into the acid, I’d never really know what my beliefs, or the beliefs of others, were made of.

I can’t begin to say how immensely powerful this single step was to opening my eyes up to my change in belief on some matters (for example, #6 on my list). Some of the most humbling experiences in my life have come from taking this step quite seriously. I believe it is one of the most commonly overlooked and least often practiced of the disciplines mentioned here. May this change.

Finally, I made it a point to not stop looking at, thinking about, listening to, and seriously considering, the minority view on matters. This didn’t come naturally for me, nor did it come easily or quickly. It was something I had to work hard at developing. What influenced me strongly then was the fact that there were people around me, or people to whom I frequently exposed my mind, who believed the same way I believed. They were “the majority,” in my mind, because they were my circle of influence. What slowly dawned on me across the years is that “the minority” view on a matter needed to be given extra attention in my mind if their perspective was to ever get a fair hearing. How so? Because the influence of “the majority” was so strong in my mind that it tended to filter out any real chance of detailed consideration of differing views. And so, I made up my mind to no longer be capable of being a mere bobble-head doll, nodding in near automatic agreement with those in my circle of greatest influence. I deliberately chose to allow other perspectives to go against the flow and challenge my thinking.

This is a huge, significant step for it strongly calls out what I actually believe about God. None of us hold our beliefs alone, but majorities and minorities don’t factor into the mind of God. As a Christian, I live under his sovereignty, not my democracy.

Without a doubt, I remain a very long, long way from where God would have me to be in terms of my walk with him, and my being shaped into his Son’s likeness. But this shaping must occur, inside and out, and must not ever stop. If by sharing these things with you, you find you’ve been helped in some small way, then I know that I have been helped as well.

God have mercy and give more of his light to us all as we can see it. And may he smile on all of us as we seek to become and reflect his ways. Amen.

50 things I once believed (2)

 

Halt! You have reached an accountability checkpoint. Did you make your list of things you once believed in regard to faith, but now no longer believe? If not, stop, drop, and write. If so, proceed.

No doubt you’re wondering: “Why on earth did you ever believe some (or all) of those things?” I could name more reasons, but I’ll limit myself here to enumerating and commenting on six.

First, I came to hold the vast majority of those beliefs because someone taught them to me. If not by declaring them to me with their words, they trained me to hold them by their actions. I know of no one who willfully tried to deceive me into believing anything. Quite the opposite; they sincerely thought they were following the will of God and, perhaps even deliberately trying to enlighten me. But the fact remains that as I look back on such now I think: “My foolish heart was darkened and I didn’t even realize it at the time. As was their mind, too.”

Second, I believed many of these things because I thought they made sense to me in the moment and because I thought they helped me make sense of the people and situations around me. We humans will live without many things, but truly few of us will live without answers. And where no explanations are obvious, explanations will be created. This is just part of the stuff that makes us tick; we simply must believe something and that something must explain something going on in our head, going on around us, or both.

Third, some of these things I believed simply because I had never considered otherwise. They were things I had simply “always believed,” or so I thought. Holding such convictions was something akin to breathing; it was just something I did without need of ever giving it thought. Quite literally, some things I believed (and no doubt believe, present tense) without thinking. This, perhaps more so than all of my reflections on my beliefs, gives me great pause. To hold convictions of great consequence without thinking about them; I don’t even want to think about that! But think, I must.

Fourth, some of those matters I held as faith, but no longer do, I held because I wanted to be accepted by those around me. Now that may come as a shock to some of you who know me, and know me well. I am an independent spirit, to say the least. Perhaps my memory fails me, but I don’t recall ever choosing any conviction in my life because I thought it would gain me some inroad or standing with another. Such a mentality is nauseous to me, more nauseous than some of my former beliefs. However, just because I consciously shun such thinking, I would be a fool to think that such doesn’t work on my psyche and influence me in subtle, and unconscious (or subconscious) ways. Such is true for all of us. We are, in part, a product of our environment and we all, to one degree or another, want to fit in with our environment.

Fifth, I surely held some of those matters of faith in reaction to other beliefs. I saw what I perceived to be a great ditch on one side of the road and so I swerved hard to the other side to distance myself as far as possible from the perceived danger of the ditch … only to steer right into an equally deep, if not even more dangerous, ditch. I left the road because I feared leaving the road. No, such a position makes no sense at all, but whoever said all we humans believe springs from good sense? And so, some things I believed, no doubt came from well-intentioned, but nevertheless fatal, over-correction.

Sixth, I held all of those beliefs because I chose to believe them. I’m the one ultimately responsible for having held them, just as I’m the one finally responsible for having changed them. The buck stops here; I’m the one to blame. For all that could be said as to the influence of people, places, and things, I remain the captain of my soul, so to speak. No one forced me to believe any of these things. However I chose to embrace them, ignorantly or reflectively, I am the one who chose them.

So, why change? Hopefully there’s only one reason: because I’ve learned better. I want to believe it’s because I’ve gravitated more toward the center of God’s will. “I can see clearly now, the rain has gone.” And the clearing of the clouds, that is the owning up to the fact that a great many of my firm, religious beliefs have significantly changed through time (and will, no doubt, continue to change in years to come if God grants me life and sense), affords me, as well as others, great gain. For when I acknowledge my changes in faith:

  • I more truly own the faith I have,
  • I open my mind to more of God’s light,
  • I guard myself from merely “following the herd,”
  • I call myself afresh to sharpen my critical thinking skills,
  • I break down some of the walls that hinder those yet to believe,
  • I cultivate the soil of my heart for the growth of honest humility,
  • I make it easier for others to change and/or admit their changes,
  • I pick up off the ground some of the stumbling stones for the next generation,
  • I am stirred to be more deliberate toward keeping the unity of the Spirit among believers,
  • and I find myself moved to be more patient with, and merciful toward, those with whom I differ.

And having said that, once again you have homework: pray about these things, the things on your list. How you arrived at them and how you came to leave them behind. Your prayers will be solid preparation for the conclusion of this series in tomorrow’s post.

this went thru my mind

 

Attitude & thinking: A Critical Mind vs. A Critical Spirit by Trevin Wax

“… it’s common to hear pastors and scholars bemoan the lack of critical thinking in many evangelical churches today.”

Church: Seven Things in the Church That Will Not Change by Thom Rainer

” I can tell you seven things in the church that will not change. In the fast pace of change in local congregations, these seven constants are good reminders of what really matters. … The Bible is still the Word of God. … The gospel still changes lives. … Small groups are still vital. … The mission field still needs workers. … Prayer is still powerful. … Hurting people still need ministry. … God is still in control.”

Parable: A Lost Parable: The Sugar of the Earth by Chaplain Mike

“And Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘You are the powdered sugar of the earth.’”

Parenting: * Having ‘The Talk’ With Your Teen by Kim Komando; * Why Should a Mother Pray for Her Children with Her Children? by Brian Croft

* ” No, I don’t mean that talk. But there’s another one that is almost as important these days. I’m referring to the talk about staying safe with smartphones and social-media activity. Haven’t done that yet? If you’ve been putting it off because you don’t know what to cover, I’m here to help. … It’s never too early to bring up the subject of online safety. As a parent, you no doubt realize that kids do far more texting than talking. What you might not know is that kids are also doing a lot more mobile messaging through online social platforms, and this often includes sharing their location with friends.”

* “… here is a word of encouragement to all Christian mothers to press on in your daily tasks to serve you families; to remain steadfast in those spiritual disciplines with your children that appear to have little effect. This word of encouragement comes from the great Charles Spurgeon as he reflects on the impact his praying mother had on him as an unconverted boy …”

Same sex marriage: The Church and Politics: Responding to Gay Marriage Proposals by Jay Guin

“I’ve not really had much time to ponder the profundities of President Obama’s decision to support gay marriage. … However, others have, and I thought it might be worthwhile to point out some thoughtful — though disagreeing — posts on the subject.”

Self-designation: 51% – ‘Hispanic’ and ‘Latino’: When Labels Don’t Fit [PewResearch survery results]

“When asked whether they prefer either “Latino” or “Hispanic,” half (51%) of the respondents say they have no preference for either term. When a preference is expressed, “Hispanic” is preferred over “Latino” by more than a two-to-one margin — 33% versus 14%.”

Shopping: Amazon Strikes Deal to Collect Texas Sales Tax

“Come July, Texans will start paying state sales tax at Amazon.com.”