links: this went thru my mind

Choices, depression, happiness, mental health & thankfulness: What Are the Three Ways to Train Your Brain to Be Happy? [think Philippians 4.8]

“You can train your mind to be unhappy and you can train it to be happy. … Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”). Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?””

Culture, grace & post-Christendom: Vanishing Grace

“Frankly, Christian faith is losing traction in society. It has lost traction in Europe and Canada where far fewer than half find religion a positive influence. And it will likely continue to lose traction in the US.”

Early Christianity, ingratitude, nonviolence, pacifism, perception & the state: Pacifism & Holy Ingratitude [essential reading; spot-on!]

“… the Romans considered the early Christians to be an ungrateful group of people. … Specifically, the Romans believed that Roman citizens owed a certain amount of gratitude toward the state. Romans lived in a great, prosperous and generally peaceful empire. Thus, Roman citizens owed the state gratitude. But the Christians seemed to differ. Confessing Jesus as ‘Lord of all’ and directing their gratitude toward God rather than toward the state the Christians busted up the cycles of gratitude that had kept Roman citizens bound to the state. One way that Christians expressed this holy ingratitude was in their refusal to kill for the state. This refusal struck the Romans as hugely ungrateful. Christians benefited as Roman citizens. Yet they refuse to participate in the fighting that created and maintained all those benefits. Non-violent Christians in their refusal to participate in the Roman military were non-patriotic slackers and free-riders.”

God & sovereignty: Does the “Sovereignty of God” Mean That God is Responsible for Everything That Happens?

“… some of what we encounter in life may be simple chance.”

Intimidation, involvement, lukewarmness & spiritual maturity: The Institutionalization of Lukewarmness

“What causes mediocrity in the church members? You take a stab with your best guess. Mine is cowardice. We want peace which interpreted can mean, ‘Leave me alone to serve where I want. Do not press me else I will bolt.’ Intimidation often rules.  This is why so many don’t sing. They don’t want to be heard. Others don’t serve. They don’t want to be seen. Yet, others sneak in and sneak out.  They don’t want to be in contact. Living in the kingdom is a scary, threatening, and risky walk. Institutionalization, however, has declared immunity to the timid. Following Jesus demands we take up our crosses; not sneaking about in dark alleys at night going undetected, but bravely moving about in the public square destined for ridicule and persecution.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

20′s, choices, decisions & wisdom: 10 Ways to Ruin Your Life in Your 20s [essential reading; spot-on]

“No one ever plans to ruin their life. … but it does happen. It happens far too often. And it happens because of the choices we make, even though that is not a result that anyone would ever willingly choose. Most of those choices take place when people are relatively young—old enough to be making important decisions about their life, but young enough for those decisions to snowball and grow to have disastrous consequences. … How can we avoid making such mistakes? Below are 10 things people can do to ruin their lives while still in their 20s. It is a list of what not to do, or things to stop doing immediately if you don’t want to suffer the results.”

Beauty: The Race We’re All Losing

“If beauty is fleeting, why do we chase it? … Our clay will never turn into the beautiful clear glass we are wanting because it is meant to clay.”

Change, development, spiritual growth & spiritual maturity: Bearing Fruit in Old Age

“If I am the same person today I was ten years ago, I have stagnated.”

Church & spiritual health: * Pain, Relationships, and the Body of Christ [essential reading]; * 5 Church-Types to Probably Avoid

* “It’s easy to say that I’d like to start a new church that will ‘do things right.’ Or choose to withdraw from the gathered body all together, focusing on my relationship with God outside the confines of organized religion. So here are some tempering thoughts, presented in no particular order …”

* “With all of those caveats aside, I want to share 5 different sorts of churches that I personally would avoid if I were moving to a new city and were not a pastor of a church.”

Doubt & outreach: 3 Things to Remember in Discussion with Doubters

“Saying your church is a safe place for doubters doesn’t make it so. … Doubting is never just intellectual. … Strengthened faith should lead to the strengthening of other people.”

God, perception, understanding & worship: The Myth of Worshipping an Identical God

“… we worship our individual projection of God, not a perfectly identical God. And this projection is formed by hundreds, if not thousands, of individual experiences, lessons, traditions, people, and revelations we each have had. In a sense, our personal view of God is like a thumbprint. It’s that unique.”

Nonviolence: At Gunpoint

“Daniel told us he’d kill anyone who tried to come in and take his family away from him.”

Parenting: Teen Spirit

“Helicopter parenting has crippled American teenagers. Here’s how to fix it.”

Oral interpretation & Philemon: David Rhoads Performing Philemon [5 min. video; outstanding!]

“David Rhoads performing Philemon at SBL 2103 in Baltimore, MD.”

Teachers & teaching: What Can You Do?

“Do at least one thing really well, and that will mean doing at least a few other things barely adequately. As the saying goes, ‘If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly,’ and a lot of duties imposed upon many of us nowadays are worth doing … but just barely.

“If, instead, we try to do everything asked of us reasonably well–say, at a ‘B-’ level–we’ll feel ‘B-’ about it all. And exhausted in the process. And that’s a lousy way to live.

“Work at something, at least one thing, at an ‘A’ level. It might be small. It might not even be noticed by others. But you’ll know you did a great job of it, and the feeling of excellence you draw from that task will inspire you in the rest of what you do.

“Meanwhile, practice ‘prudent neglect’ of the stuff that doesn’t matter much.”

this went thru my mind

 

Christian perception & persecution: * The Difference Between Persecution and Being Corrected by Robert Cargill; * Christians and Persecution, Then and Now by James McGrath [required reading]

* “Just because you didn’t get what you want doesn’t mean that you are ‘persecuted.’ It means you can’t have everything.”

* “American Christians have no idea what they are talking about when they cry persecution. And as someone married to a Romanian, and thus who experienced something which, if still not like Nero’s time, was far more truly persecution than what most Americans have ever experienced, I do not find it merely inaccurate. I find it offensive. It is cheapening the term and thereby minimizing the plight of those who really do face persecution.”

Confrontation, courage & fear: Courage is Not the Absence of Fear by Michael Hyatt

“Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the willingness to act in spite of my fear.”

Facebook: Facebook’s Privacy Settings

“With the latest privacy update, however, Facebook has made it easier to find some of the most important privacy settings. When you’re logged into Facebook, you’ll notice a new lock icon with three horizontal lines in the top toolbar.”

Noise, silence, silent retreats & stress: The Buzz on Silent Retreats

“If you feel bombarded by emails, phone calls, text messages and the daily stress that comes with them, there could be a solution for you. Some people have found relief in perfect silence.”

Prayer: Why Some Prayers are Answered and Some Aren’t?

“If every petitionary prayer were answered on the time specified by the petitioner, God might even be thought of as an instrument or tool for earthly benefits.”

imagine you, on food stamps (6)

 

Let me ask you a question. I’ve asked it of a number of people through the years. It has two parts. Let me encourage you to be very specific in your answer. Don’t think your answer very long, just blurt out what first comes to your mind. What we’re aiming for here to reveal your first reaction; your gut instinct. Here’s the question:

Whenever someone says the phrase “food stamps” (here in Texas, it’s known as SNAP benefits), (1) what mental images or words immediately pop to your mind and (2) what do those images or words have in common?

Have you got your answers fixed in your mind? Good. Now are you curious as to what sort of answers I’ve received to that question? Let me share with you some of the most common responses I’ve received:

Part one: lazy people, bums, the guy on the corner who stands there all day long with a sign in his hand that says “Hungry and will work for food,” illegals, blacks and Mexicans, people who live off of others and who know how to work the system, dope heads, crooks, hookers.

Part two: they’re beggars and users.

Now without commenting at all on any of the preceding or its perceived connecting point, let me present you with another list, this one composed of answers I hear relatively rarely in response to my question.

Part one: broke, children, disabled, elderly, homeless, illiterate, migrant, sick, under-employed, unemployed.

Part two: they’re people who are vulnerable now and vulnerable to all sorts of further troubles and harm.

Which gives rise to two more questions in my mind:

(1) Am I missing something or are we missing seeing people in need?

(2) What would Jesus make of all of this; what might he say?