links to 10 items worth your time

1. Can Israel and Jordan cooperate to save the dying Dead Sea

“… the Jordan River isn’t the only biblical-site-turned-environmental-disaster.”

2. America’s New Religions

“Seduced by scientism, distracted by materialism, insulated, like no humans before us, from the vicissitudes of sickness and the ubiquity of early death, the post-Christian West believes instead in something we have called progress — a gradual ascent of mankind toward reason, peace, and prosperity — as a substitute in many ways for our previous monotheism. We have constructed a capitalist system that turns individual selfishness into a collective asset and showers us with earthly goods; we have leveraged science for our own health and comfort. Our ability to extend this material bonanza to more and more people is how we define progress; and progress is what we call meaning.”

3. How N.T. Wright Stole Christmas

“As it turns out, Wright is no Grinch. He didn’t steal Christmas. What he stole was a false Christmas, a de-contextualized and apolitical Christmas. But we shouldn’t have bought that Christmas in the first place, and should have been embarrassed to display it so proudly on the mantle. Good riddance, and Bah humbug.”

4. Gun-shy About Committing to Church

“Surviving spiritual abuse means I’ve had to learn to balance my wariness (especially if I sense a leader is practicing those familiar old power games) with a commitment to remain vigilant about allowing bitterness to take root in my soul. I don’t try to silence my internal critic during a church service or gathering, as this voice serves an important role in helping me to remember where I’ve been and what I’ve learned. However, I work to listen for the things that harmonize with that critic by seeking to worship God in community, be present with others he’s placed in my path, and serve without feeling the compulsion I once did to say ‘yes’ to every request.”

5. Becoming Poor and Finding Friendship on the Margins

“We assume God’s friendship is enough as we seek to make friends with God’s people: the poor, the suffering, the lonely, and all those who cry out from their hearts for mercy. This is how we live out Christ’s good news on the margins.”

6. Resilient Kids Come From Parents Who Do These 8 Things

“… resilience is a behavior learned through explicit lessons and examples, one that teaches kids how to, among other things, better handle stress, understand that rejection is not a comment on their entire existence, and view setbacks as things that don’t need to sideline them for good.”

7. ‘A Witness That They Were Here’: Los Angeles Honors 1,457 of Its Unclaimed Dead

“They are the forgotten people of Los Angeles — 1,457 people, to be exact. Old, poor, homeless, babies born premature and abandoned. They may have died alone, but they were buried together, in a mass grave, and were honored together this week in an interfaith ceremony that has been an annual ritual in Los Angeles for more than a century.”

8. Attention is not a resource but a way of being alive to the world

“… conceiving of attention as a resource misses the fact that attention is not just useful. It’s more fundamental than that: attention is what joins us with the outside world. ‘Instrumentally’ attending is important, sure. But we also have the capacity to attend in a more ‘exploratory’ way: to be truly open to whatever we find before us, without any particular agenda. …

“So, as well as attention-as-resource, it’s important that we retain a clear sense of attention-as-experience.”

9. Millennials experience work-disrupting anxiety at twice the US average rate

“Nearly one in five US workers are debilitated by anxiety or depression, and the rate only climbs when you zoom in on younger generations.”

10. How Modern Technology is Bringing Ancient Writings to Light

“Powerful imaging tools are enabling researchers to see inside scrolls too fragile to unroll and recover texts too faint to see, making thousands of illegible manuscripts readable again.”

links to 5 helpful articles

1. Why Worship Services are So Boring by Mike Glenn [essential reading]

“They’re bored. I know that. Here’s what else I know – It’s not my fault. And why isn’t it my fault? Aren’t I the one who’s in charge of worship? No, I’m not.”

2. Refugee Politics and a Tale of Two Thanksgivings [essential reading; how quickly we forget … and how slowly we repent]

“One national Gallup poll conducted in May 1975, just one month after the fall of Saigon, found that only 36 per cent of Americans surveyed favored the resettlement of Southeast Asian refugees; 54 per cent of Americans surveyed opposed it. … Even a full decade after the end of the Vietnam War, a plurality of Americans believed that the United States had accepted too many refugees.”

3. How religious groups voted in the midterm elections

“White evangelical or born-again Christians backed Republican candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives at about the same rate they did in 2014.”

4. Let Your Internet Yes Be Your Real-Life Yes: The Problem with Online Persona

“The persona allows us to say and do whatever it is our desired audience desires, whatever it takes in fact to maintain the persona and — fingers crossed — turn the persona into a brand. Meanwhile, the person shrinks, and his or her soul along with it.”

5. Homelessness, Step by Step

“… homelessness step by step through the eyes of several families, over the final months of last year.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Bible interpretation & Romans 8.28: Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes: It’s All About Me [essential reading]

“It’s not uncommon in an American Christian Bible  study for this verse to be  interpreted to mean that God will make it all turn out okay for me – so that there really is no  cause for sadness or disappointment. God has a plan. … But we read our desires and self-importance into the text.”

Christian outreach, evangelism, influence, insensitivity, politics, witness & words: Politics, Social Media, and More Important Things [essential reading]

“All those political rants may be hindering your Christian witness. … Christians are often unnecessarily burning bridges on the altar of political partisanship. … You can complain on Facebook about who shut down the government but you might just shut down a more important conversation. … “

Culture & society: Barbarians at the Gates? [required reading]

“The recent government shutdown, frustrating as it is, should not really come as all that big of a surprise. In Western culture – and particularly in the United States – we have been cultivating habits for many decades that are dissolving our capacity to talk civilly and live peaceably with our neighbors, and especially our neighbors who differ from us in prominent ways: politics, economic status, race, sexual identity, etc.”

Faith & Malcom Gladwell: Malcolm Gladwell on His Return to Faith While Writing ‘David and Goliath’

“Author Malcolm Gladwell may not be known for writing on religion.”

Homeless: Homelessness, a Personal Response …

“When it comes to relating to and moving alongside a person or persons who are homeless, what can be done practically?”

Marriage: Five Ways a Marriage Can Become Stuck

“As married people who walk with Christ, we have resources that will help us as we share our lives together.”

this went thru my mind

 

Belonging, connection, self-worth & vulnerability: The Power of Vulnerability [20 min. TED Talk by Brené Brown]

“… the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees.”

Church dropouts, evangelism, outreach & restoration: An Open Letter to the Church: How to Love the Cynics [required reading]

“We left for a hundred different reasons, none less real or important than the other.”

Film: The Bible Series from Mark Burnett and Roma Downey- A Sneak Peak

“… brand new epic Bible Series … starts this Sunday evening on the History Channel (channel 269 on Directv).”

Homeless & homelessness: 10 Ideas For Helping Homeless People

“There is no template, one-size-fits-all plan that works for what we think of as ‘giving a cup of cold water’ to our friends on the street.”

Nationalism: Is the Pledge Good for Our Kids?

“Please stop and consider how we evangelicals have been conditioned not to see any conflict with nationalism and Christian discipleship. Will we allow another generation of our children to be taught that America is the hope of the world, or will we tell them the truth about a King whose Kingdom is not of this world, but is for this world?”

Quotes: Knowing Christ with Dallas Willard and John Ortberg

“In our world, relationships are based on attack and withdrawal. In the love of God, we don’t attack people. We don’t withdraw from them. We accept them.”

Sequester & tax cuts: * Today’s 3 ‘Should-Read’ Stories About The Sequester; * Impact of March 1st Cuts on Middle Class Families, Jobs and Economic Security: Texas [wow!]

“… get ready for “the sequester” — the $85 billion worth of across-the-board cuts in federal spending that would begin to kick in that day if lawmakers don’t strike some sort of deal before then.”

“If sequestration were to take effect, some examples of the impacts on Texas this year alone are …”

this went thru my mind

 

Conflict & relationships: Sometimes Fault Really Is on Only One Side by John Stackhouse

“Jesus ran into conflicts all the time. Was there fault on both sides?”

Homeless: * Learning to See Homeless People by Jeremy Myers; * Homeless People: Your Neighbors With No Address by Jeremy Myers

* “I don’t know any poor or homeless people, do I?”

* “How can I help people like these? Should I even be helping them?”

Ecology & technology: The Periodic Table of iPhones [infographic]

“Right now, more that 90% of rare-earth minerals come from China, mostly because mining for rare-earth metals has been an environmental nightmare. But new processes are reviving rare-earth mining in the United States and elsewhere.”

Listening: How to Listen by Seth Godin

“The listener has nearly as big a responsibility as the speaker does … The hardest step in better listening is the first one: do it on purpose. Make the effort to actually be good at it.”

Marriage: Everyday Idolatry: The (Wrong) One by Jonathan Storment

“We always marry the wrong person. We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.” [Stanley Hauerwas]

Pharisees: Pharisees: Revisiting an Old Problem by Scot McKnight

“…  I am asking for the many who are still using “Pharisee” in the old-fashioned ‘religious bigot’ sense to be much more careful.”

Super Bowl: * Super Bowl 2013 Commercials; * 7 Life Misconceptions Portrayed in the Super Bowl Ads by Joshua Becker

* [Links to the Super Bowl Commercials on one page]

* “… as somebody who has developed great frustration over the consumer-driven culture that we live in, I observe marketing with a skeptical eye. I often seek to determine the underlying promise of any advertisement and uncover what else, other than the product itself, marketers are trying to sell me. Far too often, I discover their underlying message promotes foolish misconceptions about life. We would be wise to recognize and intentionally reject each of them. Consider just a few misconceptions on display during Sunday night’s Super Bowl.”

this went thru my mind

 

Church: Connoisseurs Of Fine Churches by Brian Jones [required reading]

“In the New Testament there are dozens and dozens of things Christians are told to do. Leaving one another is not one of them. In fact, we’re told to do the exact opposite.

“Is there someone at your church you can’t stand? First John 3:11 tells us to ‘Love one another.’ Did the pastor at your fellowship hurt your feelings? Colossians 3:13 says, ‘Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.’  Do the attitudes of the people in your church family need to change? James 5:16 says, ‘Pray for each other.’

“In other words, roll up your sleeves and do the hard work of building community where you are. Don’t go spiritually AWOL. Stick it out, through exciting times and boring times. Pray, serve, love, forgive, sacrifice, and resolve like authentic followers of Jesus. Christian community isn’t something that happens instantaneously. Real community is forged on the anvils of time and struggle. If you jump ship when things get tough, you’ll condemn yourself to one long journey of spiritual superficiality.”

Computing & smartphones: Evernote Hello 2.0 for iPhone is Here: Remember Everything About the People You Meet

“We’ve all felt that twinge of envy towards people with the uncanny ability to remember people. They’re the ones that can instantly recall a name or an event years after it’s happened. Most of us simply aren’t wired to be able to do this. That’s why we created Evernote Hello, our app that’s designed to give you that same supernatural ability to easily remember everything about the people that you meet.”

Encouragement, ministry & support: 7 Ways to Support Your Pastor on Sunday by Ron Edmonson

“I … know most people who love their church…and love their pastor…want to help any way they can to make the Sunday morning experience the best it can be. That’s what this post is about. Here are 7 ways you can help your pastor on Sunday.”

Homelessness: The Catholic Agitator [I like it!]

“… the City of LA was cracking down on the homeless by confiscating the shopping carts they used to hold and transport their belongings. The City found these carts to be an eyesore so, to preserve appearances, they started taking the carts away. How could they legally do this? The City claimed that the shopping carts were stolen property, taken from local grocery stores.

“Of course that wasn’t the real reason for taking the carts away. The real reason had to do with the fact that the shopping carts made the homeless visible. That was the real crime of the homeless. Being seen. And taking away the carts would help vanish the poor on the streets of LA. Without shopping carts people could drive around the city and not see poor people. Shopping carts broke the illusion by making the homeless visible.

“Knowing what was going on the LACW decided to help their friends. They bought their friends their own personal shopping carts. No longer stolen property the City couldn’t take the carts away. But that didn’t stop them from trying. What ensued was The Shopping Cart War between the City of LA and the LA Catholic Worker.”

Parenting: Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail

“The stories teachers exchange these days reveal a whole new level of overprotectiveness: parents who raise their children in a state of helplessness and powerlessness, children destined to an anxious adulthood, lacking the emotional resources they will need to cope with inevitable setback and failure.”

this went thru my mind

 

Election: What Election? by Ted Gossard

“… the politics with which I’m concerned and want to be about is that of the kingdom of God come in Jesus.”

Health care: * Romney’s Sick Joke; * 5 Things to Know About Health Care Post-Debate

* “‘No. 1,’ declared Mitt Romney in Wednesday’s debate, ‘pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan.’ No, they aren’t — as Mr. Romney’s own advisers have conceded in the past, and did again after the debate. … What Mr. Romney actually proposes is that Americans with pre-existing conditions who already have health coverage be allowed to keep that coverage even if they lose their job — as long as they keep paying the premiums. As it happens, this is already the law of the land. But it’s not what anyone in real life means by having a health plan that covers pre-existing conditions, because it applies only to those who manage to land a job with health insurance in the first place (and are able to maintain their payments despite losing that job). Did I mention that the number of jobs that come with health insurance has been steadily declining over the past decade?”

* “In the debate, Romney said 10 times that Obama was paying for his health care package by taking the money from Medicare recipients’ pockets, cutting $716 billion out of the program. … Dozens of bipartisan fact-checkers say that number, often repeated by the Romney/Ryan campaign, is misleading. … Obama’s health legislation does not mean people will see cuts to their benefits. Hospitals and health care providers will, but that’s what they agreed to in exchange for the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that people have health insurance. If more people have health insurance, hospitals will have to care for fewer of the uninsured. Uninsured patients cost significantly more to care for than patients who are insured.”

Homelessness: Homeless Are Fighting Back Against Panhandling Bans

“According to a report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty that examined 188 cities, there was a 7 percent increase in prohibitions on begging or panhandling between 2009 and 2011. ‘Our sense is that cities are responding to the increasing number of chronically or visibly homeless people due to the economic crisis,’ said Heather Maria Johnson, a civil rights lawyer for the group. ‘Rather than addressing the issue of homelessness, they are adapting measures that move homeless people out of downtowns, tourist areas or even out of a city.'”

Hospital visitation: Hospital Visits by Ben Siburt [required reading]

“Always remember we are there as vessels of God’s Presence and not to justify our own. Our justification and calling comes from God and from the power of the gospel working through our gifts as well as our weakness. The hospital room is not about you.”

Reading: Want to Read Faster? Stop Saying The Words in Your Head As You Read by Melanie Pinola

“When you read, do you hear the words in your mind or even subconsciously say them under your breath? Break this one habit, called subvocalization, and you can double or even triple your reading speed. … One simple way is to preoccupy your mouth. … So chew some gum, hum, or eat lunch while reading and you may find yourself going through a ton of reading material like never before.”