links to 5+ helpful articles

1. Where Americans Find Meaning in Life

“… after family [69%], Americans mention a plethora of sources … from which they derive meaning and satisfaction: One-third bring up their career or job, nearly a quarter mention finances or money, and one-in-five cite their religious faith [20%], friendships, or various hobbies and activities.”

2. Do You Have a Healthy Personality? [required reading]

“A limitation of … early theories, however, is that many of them were not systematically tested. Recent research however, has begun to determine the personality profile that leads to optimal health and growth.”

3. New Jersey Teacher Wears Same Dress for 100 Days to Promote Sustainable Fashion

“… North Americans now are sending 12 million tons of textiles to landfills each year. … 95 percent of the discarded items could be recycled.”

4. A Man’s Last Letter Before Being Killed on a Forbidden Island

“Mr. Chau was trying to accomplish the impossible. The people on North Sentinel have not accepted anyone outside their society.”

5. Ichiran Ramen Is the World’s Best Restaurant for Eating Alone

“Guests are not only encouraged to eat alone — dining solo is required and enforced by Ichiran’s interior design.”

More. LOL

links to four helpful articles

1. The Art of Spiritual Grandparenting [essential reading]

“What role do we have, or does any older family member have, for children who are not our own but for whom we care deeply?”

2. Why Anger is a Wasted Emotion [essential reading]

“… the question I raise is this: When their fellow citizens are suffering on such a terrible scale, what are the most engaged, most resourced Americans doing with their lives?”

3. Gamla in the Galilee

“It was important for the Romans to destroy Gamla because it was the central Zealot stronghold east of the Sea of Galilee. The Zealots were among the most radical of the Jewish groups supporting the revolt. Moreover, since Gamla was near the main road connecting Israel to the great Jewish centers in Babylon, it was the natural entry point for any help the Zealots hoped for from their brethren in Mesopotamia. … Gamla is one of very few places in the Roman empire where a battle site was abandoned and never resettled.”

4. Advice for loud people on working with quiet people

“This is my advice for working with quieter people in workplaces, classrooms, or ministry settings. It is drawn from my own experience as someone who’s on the quiet side and from insights of people I know.”

links: this went thru my mind

Art & happiness: Why You Need More Art in Your Life (and 5 Ways to Get It) [required reading]

“If you want to find more creativity, satisfaction, and happiness, the single best solution I know is adding more art to your life.”

Christian movies, end times, Left Behind, rapture & second coming: Why ‘Left Behind’ Should Be … Left Behind

“… while Left Behind may prove itself to be a mediocre box office success, it represents a severe misinterpretation of what the Bible actually says about the topic. To put it bluntly, and perhaps to the chagrin of some readers, the idea of a ‘rapture’ is simply not biblically based (and that’s where I’ve lost a third of you!) It represents, instead, a theology based on escapism and in the process does damage to what the Bible really does say about ‘the last days.'”

Death, euthanasia, hospice & quality of life: Doctors Wanted to Extend Life. Instead They Extended Death.

“If you look at people who want euthanasia it’s not who we think it is. It’s not people writhing in pain. It’s not people who can’t breathe because of emphysema. It’s people who are depressed and hopeless and don’t see meaning in life. I don’t think the right answer to that question is, ‘let’s give them some pills to knock them off.’ They need meaning back in their life. They need therapy or medication. Euthanasia, I think the research shows, is much more like suicide than it is like a medical treatment.”

Discernment, moral blindness & power: How Can It Happen? [essential reading]

“… ‘every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with’ moral blindness. That is, as power increases moral blindness increases. Without it the power could not increase; without it the moral blindness would not increase. Instead of acting, the morally blind person is filled with stupor and quiescence.”

Introverts, ministry, preaching & relationships: The Introvert Behind the Pulpit

“For these preachers, devotion to ministry requires balancing need for solitude with passion for sharing God’s word.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Boys, children, introverts, masculinity, parenting, sexuality & socialization: * We’ve Preached Modesty to the Girls. Now, Let’s Talk to the Boys [required reading]; * In the Whirled: Socializing our Kids to Death

* “I think it’s high time — perhaps past time — that we talk to the boys. …  there are three myths of masculinity that permeate our society. I’ve been conditioned by them, and I’ve mistakenly conditioned you by some of them too.”

* “We live in a day and age when working with others has never been more valued. We send kids to school at younger and younger ages so they can properly socialize. We encourage involvement in activities, lots of activities, for the same reason. … And yet, for roughly one-third of the population, solitude is just what they need.”

Betting, casinos, gambling, lotteries & wagers: 9 Things You Should Know about Casinos and Gambling

“This week the Council on Casinos, a group dedicated to fighting the spread of gambling in America, released a report on “Why Casinos Matter.” Here are nine things from the report on casinos and gambling that you should know.”

Church problems, leadership, ministry, power groups & relationships: Eight Types of Power Groups in Churches [required reading]

“The very thought of the presence of power groups seems contrary to the spirit and grace of the gospel. But power groups are very real in churches. … While a church may have more than one kind of group, only one of the groups will be the dominant power in the church.”

Churches, guests, greeting, hospitality & visitors: Welcome Visitors Tentatively Entering Your Church Doors

“Walking into a room where you know no one is not easy for many of us. … My hope is that the person, no matter the reason for coming, would find a gracious Christian community that is hospitable and lives and tells the story of God’s grace in Jesus Christ so people can experience the transformative story of the Gospel. Will you look for the unfamiliar person who is longing to be connected to our God?”

Funeral etiquette & manners: 10 Things You Should and Should Not Do at a Funeral

“…  some things should be non-negotiable when attending a funeral service …”

this went thru my mind

 

Affliction, faith, loss, pain, & suffering: There Really Is A Reason – 12 Benefits Of Afflictions

“God doesn’t afflict us or allow us to be afflicted for no reason. … in God’s plan, afflictions have great benefit to us, as painful as they are at times.  If we keep these benefits in mind when we suffer, they can help us endure joyfully.”

Archaeology: Roads of Arabia Exhibition: Update

“Here is the schedule for upcoming shows of the exhibition … The Museum of Fine Arts – Houston, TX – December 22, 2013 – March 9, 2014.”

Busyness & leadership: Busy is Killing Leadership

“If you’re not careful busyness will quietly take over your life without you even being aware of it.”

Children & Uganda: Launching Reunite Uganda in the US! [essential reading; the work of one of MoSt Church’s own: Darby Priest]

“Help us get Ugandan children out of orphanages and back to their families.”

Church, fear, ministry & the work of God: Francis Chan: Are You ‘Protecting’ Your Church from a Movement of God?  [10 min. video clip; required viewing]

“… it blew my mind that an older man would come alongside of me and believe in me.”

Church & intergenerational ministry: Congregations as Families of Faith: Beyond Age-Level Ministries

“…  research has continued to show that intergenerational relationships are like glue that makes faith sticky for young people. Age-level ministries are still important to create a community of peers for children, youth, and adults to belong to. But if we hope to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world, then we must develop intergenerational ministries that model the faith for our children and youth, and support our families as they seek to follow Christ. The research tells us that we need to be doing church differently.”

Communication, culture, demographics, social media, & society: Just Who Uses Social Media? A Demographic Breakdown

“You think you know social? How about who uses it? Well, you might not know it as well as you would have guessed. A new study from the Pew Research Center and Docstoc shed some light on just who uses social and on what platforms. Some of the findings seem in line with what you would probably guess, but others were surprising.”

Distribution of wealth: A Rise in Wealth for the Wealthy; Declines for the Lower 93%

“During the first two years of the nation’s economic recovery, the mean net worth of households in the upper 7% of the wealth distribution rose by an estimated 28%, while the mean net worth of households in the lower 93% dropped by 4%, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly released Census Bureau data.”

Employment, faith, jobs, & work: Why Tim Keller Wants You to Stay in That Job You Hate

“‘I hate my job. It’s not just like I don’t have a lot of power—I really can’t stand what I have to do every day.’ How would you pastor someone in that situation?”

Expectations & introverts: 7 False Assumptions Made About Introverts by Ron Edmonson

“There are a lot of false assumptions made when someone is introverted. Here are 7 false assumptions made of me as an introvert …”

Church finances, collection, contribution, electronic giving, & offering: What the Decline in Check Writing Will Mean for Your Church

“If we do not change our process for collecting the offering we will see our offerings decline. The reason is simple. The harder we make it for people to give the less likely they will give.”

Ego, Facebook, photography, pride, & vanity: Snap Judgments: Our Societal Obsession With Taking Pictures [required reading]

“Each day, we upload more than 5.2 million photos to Instragram and 100 million to Facebook, with no signs of slowing down our snapping and sharing. … In a sense, this is totally natural. Photographs speak to the age-old custom of physically marking spaces and moments in thanksgiving and remembrance. … The danger of using photos as markers is that images appeal to our vanity. We become quickly obsessed with accumulating experiences, capturing them in photos, and publicly displaying our photos as trophies. If we aren’t careful, our Facebook pages and blogs can become trophy cases of our own accomplishments: Me, on a church mission trip, lumped in with a group of smiling ethnic children.”

Grace: God at Work: Common Grace by Jonathan Storment [required reading]

“The bad guy in the Christian story isn’t someone, it’s the broken reality that Jesus calls sin. And because of common grace we can see God working through people outside of our tribe, our immediate community, or our faith. We can see the image of God in everyone.”

Hope, immigration, mercy, North Korea, pain, & suffering: Hyeonseo Lee: My Escape from North Korea [12 min. video clip; required viewing]

“… one day, in 1995, my Mom brought home a letter from a coworker’s sister. It read, ‘When you read this, all five family members will not exist in this world, because we haven’t eaten in the past two weeks. We are lying on the floor together, and our bodies are so week, we are ready to die.'”

Ministry, relationships, & time management: How Does a Pastor Interact With Those Who Seek to Monopolize His Time on Sunday?

“It is one of the great dilemmas every Sunday for the pastor.  Who do I speak with and for how long?  Most pastors stand at a doorway after the morning service to greet those who are leaving.  Others stay down front inviting folks to come and speak with the pastor to ask questions about the sermon.  It is a constant juggling match that most pastors feel they fail at most of the time. What adds to the madness is the person who aggressively hunts the pastor down after the service and feels entitled to his undivided attention for a long time.”

Worship: Your Worship Service is B-O-R-I-N-G!

“There’s a reason your church isn’t more creative. … most churches are boring because of The Olive Garden Problem.”

Americanism, culture, & politics: A Political Rant Born From a Deeper Theological Conviction than “Americanism”

“I’ve seen several posts on social media advocating a picture as a “way forward” in terms of political policy. It looks like this … What I want to do is interact with these ideas as a Christian who takes Scripture seriously and who is more committed to the kingdom of God than to a specific country/government. I intend to provide a ‘play by play’ through each of the statements …”

 

this went thru my mind

 

Awareness, focus, inattentional blindness, & thinking: Why Even Radiologists Can Miss A Gorilla Hiding In Plain Sight [required reading]

“… what we’re thinking about — what we’re focused on — filters the world around us so aggressively that it literally shapes what we see.”

Books & bookstores: Buying is a Hard Thing for Bookstores to Do Effectively, and That Becomes an Increasingly Important Reality for Publishers

“As the shelf space for books being managed by retailers that accept the high cost of managing book inventory and commit to doing it effectively continues to decline, publishers need to understand that it will be really hard for non-book retailers to replace them.”

Churches of Christ: “Why Churches of Christ are Shrinking” Blog – More Thoughts by Joshua Tucker

“Lord, help us not to be bound by personal preference, but by an overwhelming desire to please You and see Your Church grow. Help all of us to be selfless, full of Your Love, and the ability to judge things objectively.”

Civil War & Les Miserables: In Camp, Reading ‘Les Miserables’

“Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” was published in 1862 and English translations of the five parts that constitute the novel began to appear in America by year’s end. … While Hugo may not have had the Civil War in mind, American reviewers certainly did and many viewed the novel through the prism of the war.”

Death & fear: America’s Culture of Death by Ben Witherington [required reading]

“When a culture replaces the value of everlasting life, with the value of this life extended as far as possible, the culture has become totally myopic, unable to see beyond the immediate, the tangible, the empirical. And oddly enough when the lie that ‘this life is all there is’ is believed, it makes it much easier to allow death to rule one’s mind, one’s fears, one’s behavior. Death simply becomes the price of doing business, or surviving. A culture becomes fear based and makes decisions on the basis of fear, rather than faith and a belief in the life to come.”

Millenials: FactChecker: Are Millennials More Self-Sacrificing and Community-Minded Than Previous Generations?

“For those who pay attention to the different opinions and declarations on how the various generations are different than the ones that came before, you have no doubt heard that while Generation X was the slacker generation, Gen Y, or the Millennials, are very different, the most community service-minded, action-oriented, let’s change-the-world-generation alive today, perhaps in the history of our nation. Generation We. It’s taken as a nearly uncontested reality. Except it’s not true. The best research on this topic, relying on nationally representative research by the leading scholars on the issue comes to essentially the very opposite conclusion.”

Small groups: Small Groups for the Rest of Us by Chris Surratt

Parts one [introverts], two [guys] & three [anyone].

Submission: The Most Offensive Word in America [required reading]

“The most offensive word to Americans is a simple, two-syllable word that insults our beliefs and violates our value system: submit. We inherently believe no one has the right to tell us how to live, where to go or what to do. We are our own masters.”

this went thru my mind

 

Art: Lego-Brücke

“[Pictured] here [is the result of a] four week transformation [of] a 250 square meter [area of a] bridge with … ​​Lego bricks.”

Bible translation: C.S. Lewis on the Nature of Scripture

“The same divine humility which decreed that God should become a baby at a peasant-woman’s breast, and later an arrested field-preacher in the hands of the Roman police, decreed also that He should be preached in a vulgar, prosaic and unliterary language. If you can stomach the one, you can stomach the other. The Incarnation is in that sense an irreverent doctrine: Christianity, in that sense, an incurably irreverent religion. When we expect that it should have come before the World in all the beauty that we now feel in the Authorised Version we are as wide of the mark as the Jews were in expecting that the Messiah would come as a great earthly King. The real sanctity, the real beauty and sublimity of the New Testament (as of Christ’s life) are of a different sort: miles deeper or further in.”

Chik-Fil-A, LGBT & the culture wars: * Christian Resources for Thinking About Homosexuality; * What Exactly Did Dan Cathy Say to Land Chic-fil-a in Hot Water?; * Five Reasons the Church Failed Yesterday; * Learning to Speak: Chick-fil-A & our Inability to Dialogue; * Do Corporations Have Souls?

* “My basic question is ‘What attitude should Christians adopt as we consider our interaction with the LGBT community?'”

* “‘We don’t claim to be a Christian business,’ Cathy told the Biblical Recorder in a recent visit to North Carolina. He attended a business leadership conference many years ago where he heard Christian businessman Fred Roach say, ‘There is no such thing as a Christian business.’ ‘That got my attention,’ Cathy said. Roach went on to say, ‘Christ never died for a corporation. He died for you and me.’ ‘In that spirit … [Christianity] is about a personal relationship. Companies are not lost or saved, but certainly individuals are,’ Cathy added.”

* “Yesterday’s campaign, while I don’t think it should be considered or called ‘hate,’ neither can it be called love. … People felt hate and we ignored that. … By rallying behind CFA, Christians put an issue above people. … Once again, the mass actions of Christians built another wall of distrust between the Church and the GLBTQ communities. … Yesterday’s hoopla surrounding CFA did nothing to prove that Christians don’t hate gay people.”

* “The issue is not homosexuality. We do the same with Muslims and Hindus, with Atheists and Agnostics. We do it with Christians that think differently regarding heaven and hell, baptism or remarriage, or those who get a little too charismatic when their favorite worship song is played. We do it with anyone who we view as ‘the Other.’ The real issue is us. We struggle to ‘put skin’ on the words and message of Christ with anyone who thinks differently than us. Too often, we demand conformity prior to connection.”

* “In light of the Chick-Fil-A ‘Appreciation Day’ I’m wondering, ‘When did corporations become moral guardians for our society?'”

Communication, ministry & relationships: Conversations Skills that Transform by Kevin A. Miller

“… they have scores of digital ‘friends,’ but what’s missing is analog—a slow, listening, face-to-face presence.”

Death & the hereafter: Immediately after Death, What Happens?

“Following a sermon one day a person waited around until everyone had left and he asked me this: ‘My father was a Christian; he died last week; we buried him Monday. Where is he now?’ And pastor after pastor has told me this is a very common — monthly — question they get from the grieving. Matthew Levering … explores how three representative scholars — N.T. Wright, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Aquinas — explain the so-called intermediate state.”

Drugs: Houston Area ‘Major Player’ in Synthetic Drug Market

“… the Houston area is the No. 1 spot in Texas when it comes to people getting poisoned by synthetic compounds designed to mimic the effects of marijuana and methamphetamines.”

Illegal alines & immigration: Immigration: Justice, Mercy, and the Great Commission by J. Lance Conklin

“…  are those entering the U.S. illegally breaking into a house to steal a T.V., or are they stealing a loaf of bread to feed their family?”

Introverts: Eight Things to Help You Understand Introverts by Thom Rainer

“I am an introvert. … I hope these eight statements will help you understand us a little bit better.”

Knife-sharpening: * Testing a Knife’s Sharpness;  * Stoning Your Knife;  * Honing Your Knife

Three brief videos by Bob Kramer, master bladesmith.

Olympics: Eric Liddell – A True Champion

“Eric Liddell is best known as ‘the man from Chariots of Fire’ (cue slow running) but there was much more to him than that!”

Parenting & texting: Control Your Kids’ Texting

“My kids are glued to their smartphones. … Is there a way I can turn off texting on their phones during a certain time?”

Politics & faith: A Third Party Candidate by Scott Elliott

“… many Christians have fallen into [a] … political trap. They ‘treat their religion as a kind of politics and their politics as a kind of religion.’ Politics becomes an idol, and hope rises or falls based on the outcome of the coming election. Christians on both sides of the aisle are guilty of bowing to an elephant or a donkey, thinking they have the answers to their problems. The truth is neither the Republicans nor the Democrats possess the solutions to that which plagues humanity, but there is a third option.”

Preaching: * Preaching: Raiding or Reading?; * It’s Not About You – Or Is It?

* “Bible Raiding. This sort goes to the Bible to find support for an already-decided-upon idea, to get answers from the Bible on the basis of a surface reading of the Bible … and lets what the preacher wants to say and what the preacher believes establish what is to be preached. … Bible Reading. This sort goes to the Bible to see what it says and what it says shapes what the preacher preaches and teaches. …”

* “Whether we like it or not, therefore, it is ‘about us’ – which raises all the more intensely the question of how we can also be certain that it is not only and primarily about us, but ultimately about the God we worship in and through Jesus Christ.”

Self-righteousness: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

“The really insidious part about this condition is that the more I go on as a Christian: the more I grow in knowledge, the more I become integrated into the Christian community, the more my lifestyle conforms to the expectations of my particular Christian group, the more separated I get from “the world” and its ways, the more I learn to act, speak, dress, and think like a Christian, the more my capacity for self-righteousness increases.”

Taxes & demographics: Study: Romney Tax Plan Would Shift Burden Toward Poor

“Mitt Romney’s tax plan would provide large tax cuts to the very wealthy, while increasing the tax burden on the lower and middle classes, according to a study … produced by researchers at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center …”

United States: Is America a Secular Nation? by Ben Witherington

“It would be nearer the truth to say that America is a narcissistic ‘who cares’ society when it comes to politics than to say it is a secular society.”