“Despite hand-wringing about the institution of marriage, marriages in this country are stronger today than they have been in a long time. The divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the three decades since. About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce …”
Economics, the middle class & wages: This is Why the Middle Class Can’t Get Ahead
“When’s the last time you worked overtime? How about the last time you worked overtime and got paid for it? If you’re in the middle class, probably not recently. Only Americans who make less than $23,660 a year are automatically eligible for time-and-a-half pay after working 40 hours a week. Today, that’s only 11 percent of salaried workers. It didn’t used to be this way …”
Noise, quiet & silence: We Need More Silence in Our Lives [essential reading]
“Face it. We are afraid of what will happen if we turn off all the noise.”
Pride, self & self-righteousness: Our Moral Compass Is Turned Toward Self-Righteousness [essential reading]
“… what if we’re so used to seeing self-righteousness on the right that we’re blinded to the self-righteousness of the left? And what if we are so good at smelling self-righteousness in others that we miss the stench coming from ourselves?”
Youth ministry: Youth Ministry and Culture
“The Youth Ministry Initiative recently posted a series of videos from their Summer of Study program. The Center’s Skip Masback interviews participating scholars on the topic of culture and youth ministry.”
Bibles & translation: Lost in Translation: A Surprising Gain in English Translations by John Byron
“… while we are only getting about 80% of the meaning of the text, it is taking us anywhere from 33% to 65% more to get to that 80%.”
Church: 10 Hard Questions Every Planter Needs to Ask by Tim Stevens
“Every current poll I’ve seen indicates the American church is in decline. Yes, the number of large churches is increasing, but overall church attendance continues to go down. The way we do church—the model of Christendom that has been followed for the past 1,700 years—is working with fewer people all the time. Most people reading this are the product of the type of church that is, as a whole, becoming less and less effective. Just about every church in America can be described by three words: ‘Come to us.’ That is it.”
Communication, speech, words & writing: Why Clarence Thomas Uses Simple Words in His Opinions
“… there are simple ways to put important things in language that’s accessible. … the beauty, the genius is not to write a 5 cent idea in a ten dollar sentence. It’s to put a ten dollar idea in a 5 cent sentence.”
Evangelism & outreach: Evangelism & the Church by Tim Gombis
“In various settings over the years, I’ve heard evangelical leaders and pastors claim that the church’s main task is evangelism. All sorts of evangelism initiatives have been kicked into gear based on this assumed obvious fact regarding the purpose of the church. Many people raised in evangelical churches can tell tales of guilt-motivated canvassing efforts involving humiliating encounters with complete strangers or forced “gospel presentations” to friends and relatives. But is it obvious that evangelism is the main task of the church, or even a task of the church?”
Humor: Grumpy Cat Meets the Funeral Industry by Caleb Wilde
“I was channeling my inner grumpy cat and this is what I came up with. Yes, some are extremely cheesy, others in bad taste, others are for those inside the industry, but maybe there’s one that makes you laugh.”
Noise & quiet: Exercising Sans Noise by Joshua Becker
“… eventually, after a long period of trial and error, I turned off noise altogether during my workouts. I immediately fell in love with the refreshing workout environment of silence. It was peaceful. It was calming. And I began taking note of the numerous benefits.”
“#13. Keep it down (and rediscover silence). … Noise is among the most pervasive and frustrating sources of everyday annoyance – and sometimes a veritable pain. Careful management of noise is a must for those who want to be civil. Why is noise pollution so prevalent? Because many don’t seem to see (or hear) the problem at all and many of those who do don’t care enough to correct it. …
“Don’t pummel those who live with and around you with loud sounds coming from your television, computer, and CD player. Make sure you don’t schedule noisy lawn mowing and leaf blowing before nine o’clock in the morning. … In a restaurant, keep your voice down, just like at the office. … Before entering houses of worship, libraries, restaurants, and theaters, turn off your cellular phone.”
Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct by P.M. Forni (St. Martin’s Press, 2002); pp. 93,94
Just as a highway has an on ramp, the book of Psalms, a book of prayer, has Psalm 1. We can no more enter well into prayer quickly than we can merge well onto the freeway without first paying attention to the traffic, calculating our timing, and going with the flow. Time and attention are required.
The first Psalm is the product of time and attention. It expects, and deserves, the same courtesy from us. It’s the product of someone who made the time to truly pay close attention to life.
The author of Psalm 1 noticed things. Things as mundane as dust and fruit, streams and trees, wind and leaves.
They pondered people; all kinds of people. Happy people and wicked people. Righteous people and disrespectful people. Loving people and sinning people.
They noticed what goes on with people, inside and out. What they hear and what they say. How they feel and how they love. What they intend and what they do.
They meditated on how life works out for people in all sorts of settings. On the farm. In the court. On the road. By the water. In an assembly.
They even paid attention to how people pay attention and how they spend their time. When they sat. When they stood. When they walked.
Time and attention. Two things we’re not, to our spirit’s poverty and our shame, quick to spend.
So quiet your spirit now and pay attention to this Psalm. Not in haste or superficially. Read it several times in succession, varying your speed and emphasis as you do so. If possible, read it aloud. Let the words of God’s Spirit spoken through the spirit of this psalm’s author carry your thoughts where they will.
The truly happy person
doesn’t follow wicked advice,
doesn’t stand on the road of sinners,
and doesn’t sit with the disrespectful.
Instead of doing those things,
love the LORD’s Instruction,
and they recite God’s Instruction
day and night!
They are like a tree
replanted by streams of water,
which bears fruit at just the right time
and whose leaves don’t fade.
Whatever they do succeeds.
That’s not true for the wicked!
They are like dust
that the wind blows away.
And that’s why the wicked
will have no standing
in the court of justice—
neither will sinners
in the assembly of the righteous.
The LORD is intimately acquainted
with the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked is destroyed. (Psalm 1 CEB)
Question: what does this Psalm seem to say if you view it as a preface to a book about how to pray?
Heavenly Father, I confess to you that I’m often “in a hurry to get things done” and “rushin’, rushin’ ’til life’s no fun.” Forgive me. Today, in midst of all that I’ve “gotta do,” may I give you my time and attention, to truly live and die for you. Amen.