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 4 items worth your time

1. Robert Alter completes his monumental translation of the Hebrew Bible

“There are two common approaches to the Bible: It’s either a sacred revelation whose existence is to be taken at face value, or a historical artifact to be dissected and contextualized. … Alter proposed a third way: analyze the Bible as an interconnected series of works of literature using the tools of literary analysis … At the time it was revolutionary. He looked at the Bible not as sacred, not as historical, but as artistic.”

2. The Triune God of the Bible: Seeing the Trinity in Scripture by Fred Sanders [75 min. video; required viewing]

“Where exactly in Scripture is the doctrine of the Trinity?”

3. Social Security helped slash elderly poverty to 9.2 percent in the 20th century – that triumph is now in jeopardy

“In 1959, more than a third of all elderly Americans lived in poverty.”

4. Everything Is for Sale Now. Even Us.

“Economists predict that by 2027, gig workers of varying descriptions will make up more than half of the work force. An estimated 47 percent of millennials already work in this way.”

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 to 5+ helpful articles

1. At Least Try Not to Say ‘At Least’ by Virgil Fry [essential reading]

“Ever been in crisis, and some genuinely caring soul tries to lessen your pain with ‘at least …’?”

2. “Who Gets to Live in Victimville?”: Why I Participated in a New DocuSeries on the Clinton Affair by Monica Lewinsky

“Victim or vixen? That’s a question as old as time immemorial: Madonna or Whore? Predator or Prey? Dressed scantily or appropriately? Is she telling the truth or lying? … And it’s a question that is still debated about women in general. And about me. … Maybe, in 2018, it’s a question we should no longer be asking.”

3. Poor in Spirit and Poor in America

“I had been assuming that poverty – including poverty of spirit – is the poor person’s fault.”

4. What is the Word of God? [essential reading]

“Have we really replaced God with the word of God?”

More. “… the Bible incapable of doing what only God can do.”

5. From bicycle to social movements, the changing role of chaplains in the US

“Why is chaplaincy growing when institutional religious affiliation is on the decline?”

links: this went thru my mind

Action, application, relevance, theology & thinking: 4 Ways Theology Is Practical for Everyday Life [required reading]

“Teach theology long enough and you’ll face countless forms of the same basic question: What does this have to do with real life? Will it affect the way we do ministry, how we share the gospel, or what we do every day? How is it relevant to the problems and challenges the average person faces? You know, is it practical? And the deep suspicion lying behind such questions is that most theology is rather impractical. “

Church attendance, corporate worship, duty, sacrament & worship: The Lord’s Day as a Sacrament [required reading]

“So here’s the crazy thing. I’ve found my way back to seeing the wisdom of church as duty. But less as a duty and more as a sacrament.”

Courtesy, etiquette, manners & respect: Church Conference Etiquette

“… here’s a rundown of some folks you’ll find at every conference and hopefully how not to become one.”

Income inequality, money, poverty & wealth: 40 Years Of Income Inequality In America, In Graphs

“Hover over each line to identify household income, and click through to see the percentage growth over the past 40 years.”

Ministry & the preacher’s wife: Behind the Smile: 6 Things Every Church Needs to Know About the Preacher’s Wife

“I want to love you. Please don’t make it harder. … I wish you saw the man I see.”