links to 5 helpful articles

1. The Miracle of Jesus [required reading]

“… whatever your view of ‘miracles’ and the “’supernatural, I wonder whether it might not be possible to agree (as Jesus himself seems to have emphasized on occasion) that focusing on signs and wonders actually distracts from the most significant aspects of what was going on in his life and his interactions with other people.”

2. You Want to Feed the Hungry? Lovely. Let’s See Your Permit.

“… who is permitted to help the hungry and how they may do it.”

3. Levels of Literacy in the Ancient Christian World

“… ‘literacy’ was both more diverse and much more widely distributed than some earlier estimates.”

4. Why the Announcement of a Looming White Minority Makes Demographers Nervous

“In a nation preoccupied by race, the moment when white Americans will make up less than half the country’s population has become an object of fascination.”

5. A Biblical Spice Rack

“The Bible reflects an intimate knowledge of herbs and spices …”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Christian faith, compassion, empathy, love, poverty & wealth: * Rich People Just Care Less; * The Surplus Population [required reading]

* “A growing body of recent research shows that people with the most social power pay scant attention to those with little such power.”

* “God has chosen the poor. We do not. … Where in our churches today do we ever hear words like those James writes in 5:1-6?”

Christianity & politics: God’s Kingdom: The Concession Prize? [required reading]

“It seems like trusting God — for some of us, at least — becomes a viable option only after our candidate loses.”

Food stamps/SNAP: Six Myths About Food Stamps

“In the middle of the worst economy and job situation in decades Republicans in the House voted to cut $40 billion from food stamps. This will kick 3.8 million people out of the program by 2014, then 3 million more each year after. … In the months leading up to this vote … the … propaganda machine invented a number of justifications for cutting the program. Here is a take-down of some of those myths and lies.”

Race & racism: When White People Don’t Know They’re Being White [required reading]

“I could give example after example of ignorant cultural and racial blunders in the church, but for the white hands who hold the historical and institutional power, it basically boils down to this: We want to say that everything that happens in church is about Jesus, but it’s simply not. There’s a whole lot of culture and power and history and social structure in there as well. Until we acknowledge how these realities shape our thinking, we’re going nowhere. We say we want to be a ‘church of many nations’, and cheer on videos like the ones above, but sometimes our arrogance, ignorance, and unwillingness to listen communicate that we really view ‘the nations’ as our minions, not our partners. …

“I know, I know.  It all sounds a little harsh, right? I’ve been right there with you, defending myself, confident that my intentions are pure. However, regardless of our intentions in these endeavors, the fact stands that the impact of our actions can be isolating and downright hurtful to people of color.”

Wendell Berry: Full Show: Wendell Berry, Poet & Prophet [56 min. video]

“People who own the world outright for profit will have to be stopped; by influence, by power, by us.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Aging: 7 Keys to Aging Well

“No one wants to be that grumpy old man who is always complaining and no one wants to talk to. We want to age well. We want to age gracefully. Aging well is not something that just happens. It is something we must commit to, preferably at a young age.”

Bible interpretation & the OT: Dividing The Word

“We definitely need to know how to correctly handle the Word of God. … But we don’t need to divide the Word, not if it means neglecting inspired words of God.”

Culture, Miley Cyrus, MTV, sexuality & the VMAs: * What We Should Be Talking About When We Talk About Miley Cyrus; * Jesus Loves Miley Cyrus; * Sorry, Miley; * Miley Cyrus, the VMAs, Sex, and Moral Outrage

* “Don’t just stand there pointing out sin, obvious, and dangerous. Get involved. Fight. Help.”

* ” Part of me hates even acknowledging this event by writing about it—we’re giving MTV and Miley exactly what they want. But when people are talking, they’re also listening, and it’s important to think through what our response communicates about who we are. As Christians, when confronted with something offensive, we often condemn it on instinct. We want to make sure everyone knows how strongly we disagree, how completely we disapprove, how far we want to distance ourselves from such behavior. … but if all we do is shame Miley—a 20-year-old girl who grew up extremely privileged, extremely sheltered, and extremely publicly and is now in the process of discovering her adult identity—for her behavior, and bemoan one more nail in the coffin of this world, what are we communicating about a God who loves sinners and offers hope not just from them but to them?”

* “Adults are supposed to protect young people. Adults are supposed to refuse to treat young people like little gods, put them on pedestals, and parade them on stages. But adults do it, anyway, and our culture is just dumb, and just numb, enough to act like it’s perfectly normal. Turns out, as we’ve always known, celebrity messes with people’s heads, particularly the young. … Kids don’t need more kids. They know plenty of them. Kids need adults, actual adults, adults adult enough to reject a culture that is so bored, so dead, that it can only feel alive if given one more jolt, one more shock. And it’s hard to shock, anymore, but Miley hit that mark.”

* “If we are honest, we will admit that Miley isn’t much different than the rest of us. Whether positive or negative, we all crave attention, which is exactly what Miley is getting from us right now. Here we see that scandals are always relational and we are each responsible for our role in them: They create a co-dependent relationship between the offender and the offended. Miley needs our attention and we need her scandals to feel morally superior. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. I hope that Miley and Robin will take responsibility for their actions, but we all need to take responsibility for a culture that breeds these kinds of scandals.”

Culture, demographics, race & segregation: Racial Segregation in America

“The map displays the population distribution, using the 2010 census data, of every person in America broken down by ethnicity. The map has 308,745,538 dots, each representing a single person. Caucasians are blue dots, African-Americans are green dots, Hispanics are orange dots, Asians are red dots, and other groups are brown dots. From a bird’s eye view this is what America looks like …”

Gossip: The End of Gossip [required reading]

“Leadership is relational. Plans and programs shrivel compared to the relationships you create, nurture, or tolerate. Organizations are only as strong as the relationships that hold them together. Gossip weakens and destroys relationships. Gossip is about power. Those without power, gossip to get power. Manipulation, twisting truths, and speculation are symptoms of feeling powerless.”

I Have a Dream, March on Washington, MLK, politics & racism: * Has Dr. King’s Dream Come True?; * Something Was Missing From The March On Washington Anniversary [required reading]

* “For many, Dr. King’s dream has come true. Unfortunately for many more, the dream has not come true. …  May we be a people who rise up and carry on Dr. King’s dream and make those crooked places straight for the glory of the Lord and the good of His people. All His people.”

* “…  the absence of any prominent past or present Republican official in a speaking role at the commemoration …

“So instead of a bipartisan celebration of one of the 20th century’s greatest speeches and one of the most significant demonstrations in U.S. history, the event sometimes took on the feel of a Democratic National Convention. It seemed like just one more stop on the polarization express.”

Gospel, justice & mercy: A Better Story: How Our Understanding of Justice is Radically Re-defined by the Gospel [essential reading]

“The tragic irony is that inflicting violence and harm in the name of justice does not in fact stop violence at all; it perpetuates it.”

Introverts: 23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert [apparently someone took a long stroll around the inside of my head, took a lot of pictures along the way, and then, summarizing their observations, wrote this article about me, because except for #11 and #17, they ID’ed me perfectly]

“Think you can spot an introvert in a crowd? Think again. … ‘Introversion is a basic temperament, so the social aspect — which is what people focus on — is really a small part of being an introvert,’ Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, psychotherapist and author of The Introvert Advantage, said in a Mensa discussion. ‘It affects everything in your life.'”

Narcissism & self: Being True to Yourself is Living a Lie [essential reading]

“Disney doctrine can be summed up in a simple phrase: Be true to yourself. If you live according to this maxim, all your dreams will come true. … Now, I’m not a Disney hater, and I enjoy watching good movies with my kids and passing on these memorable stories. Still, there are two assumptions behind the Disney formula that we ought to be aware of: * You are what you feel. * Embrace what you feel no matter what others say. …

“Here’s where Christianity opposes the ‘follow your heart’ mentality of much of the Western world. … The truly courageous are those who crucify the self the world tells us to be true to. And then we are raised with Christ to become the person God always intended us to be.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Children & parenting: How to Raise a Kid Who Isn’t Whiny and Annoying

“I’m raising children in a privileged world. We have food. Money to save for an education. At 2, my daughter has a room that is bigger than any room I’ve ever occupied in my life. We can afford the fancy Easter dress. When we have a bad day, we can afford to get a special treat. I’m glad I’m raising a child in this environment. … But now that we are here, I wonder if we really are doing things the right way … I do know that as a parent, it begins with me. I set the limits. …

“This is where we begin. My refusal to compare myself with the other mother I see on the Internet and to build a life that embraces the important and repels the petty. And I only hope that lesson extends. If not, I am building a backlog of ‘Oh, you want to see not fair?’ lectures. Just in case.”

Christianity, church, class, race & social distinctions: The Race Card of the Early Christians – What They Can Teach Us Today [essential reading]

“For the first two hundred years, the Christians only addressed each other by their first names. The reason? Because their last names indicated their social position in society.

“Here was a classless, raceless society where all social distinctions were erased.

“To their minds, Jew and Gentile, slave and free, rich and poor no longer existed. The early believers saw themselves as part of the same family . They were a new race . . . a colony from another realm, not of or from this earth. Yet for this earth.”

Church, discipleship, ministry, & success: Maybe Our Churches Need Less of ‘More’ [essential reading]

“… what if God’s metric for “good” has very little to do with ‘more?’ … Instead, I’m talking about all of the insidious ways we succumb to the pressure to do and have more.”

Doubt, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, & Mormons: Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt

“A survey of more than 3,300 Mormon disbelievers, released last year, found that more than half of the men and four in 10 of the women had served in leadership positions in the church.”

Poverty & upward mobility: In Climbing Income Ladder, Location Matters [consider the map, even if you don’t read the article]

“A study finds the odds of rising to another income level are notably low in certain cities … The study — based on millions of anonymous earnings records and being released this week by a team of top academic economists — is the first with enough data to compare upward mobility across metropolitan areas. These comparisons provide some of the most powerful evidence so far about the factors that seem to drive people’s chances of rising beyond the station of their birth, including education, family structure and the economic layout of metropolitan areas. … ‘Where you grow up matters. … There is tremendous variation across the U.S. in the extent to which kids can rise out of poverty.'”

this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

V-for-violenceChild abuse: When the Abuser is Your Parent

“Karly, however, our guest blogger suffered at the hands of her own father. Such is the case for many children whose parents abuse them, or allow them to be abused, creating forever a complicated relationship. Toss into that mix the expectation that an abused child is thus ‘obligated’ by their own theological leanings or social mores to  forgive their abusers and life grows even more hair-pulling complex.”

Faith, music, peace, violence & weapons: Imagine There’s No Weapons by Ben Witherington

“Over 1,057,000 people have been killed by guns in the U.S.A. since John Lennon was shot and killed on December 8, 1980. … Here’s a little lyrical tribute I’ve written to John [Lennon], to be sung to the tune of his classic hit— Imagine.”

Fear, Jesus, Mark’s Gospel, retribution & vengeance: Easter Shouldn’t Be Good News [essential reading]

“Why is there fear on Easter Sunday? The oldest gospel we have, the gospel of Mark, ends in the most curious of ways … Why is there fear on Easter Sunday? … Easter is not Good News for the guilty. It is not Good News to find out that your victim is alive. We know what’s coming. We’ve seen the Hollywood movies where the victim comes back from the dead to seek revenge. So if Jesus is alive, if the victim has come back, we had better hide in fear. Judgment day is coming. That is how we expect the story to go. As did, it seems, those who first encountered or heard about the resurrection. And we can understand why they jumped to this conclusion. Every story we know works this way. The victim comes back, kills the bad guys and the moral calculus of the Cosmos is balanced again. This is the Hollywood Ending.”

Film & violence: The Ends of Violence: The Conclusions of Clint Eastwood [a very interesting (and surprising to you?) 18 min. video; too bad it doesn’t include Gran Torino]

Unforgiven gave me a chance to to sum up what I think violence does to the human soul. … In A Perfect World … violence wipes out the possibility of forgiveness, because it wipes out the possibility of meaning.”

Gun violence & race: Juan Williams: Race and the Gun Debate

“One thing you don’t hear much about in the discussions of guns: race. That is an astonishing omission, because race ought to be an inescapable part of the debate. Gun-related violence and murders are concentrated among blacks and Latinos in big cities. Murders with guns are the No. 1 cause of death for African-American men between the ages of 15 and 34. But talking about race in the context of guns would also mean taking on a subject that can’t be addressed by passing a law: the family-breakdown issues that lead too many minority children to find social status and power in guns. … The statistics are staggering. In 2009, for example, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 54% of all murders committed, overwhelmingly with guns, are murders of black people. Black people are about 13% of the population. The Justice Department reports that between 1980 and 2008, “blacks were six times more likely than whites to be homicide victims and seven times more likely than whites to commit homicide.”

War: Experts Defuse Unexploded WWII Bomb in Central Berlin

“It happens more often than you might think: Streets cordoned off and bomb disposal experts called in to deal with unexploded bombs that were dropped on Germany nearly 70 years ago.”

this went thru my mind

 

Apologizing: Courageous Leaders Don’t Make Excuses…They Apologize

“Because so many of us have a hard time apologizing, I thought it might be helpful to have an ‘apology primer.’  Here you go …”

Church, parenting & sports: Are You Skipping Church for Your Kids’ Sports? by Joy Fisher [required reading]

“Each year, 35 million children (ages 5 to 18) suit up for organized sports. When they suit up is sometimes a gray area for Christian families. Regular church attendance is a must for parents who want their kids to put God first in their lives. So what impact does skipping church for sports have on that worthy goal?”

Courage & sacrifice: Ajith Fernando: On the Anvil of Suffering by Tim Stafford

“Offered his dream job in the United States, Fernando opted to stay in war-torn Sri Lanka, a decision that has made all the difference for the cause of Christ.”

Jesus, race & the U.S.: Deconstructing the Whiteness of Christ

“When we see the traditional images of Jesus as a blondish, blue-eyed European, where do those depictions stem from historically? … these images were not present in British America. Only after the United States became a new nation did Americans begin producing images of Jesus. He was not blue eyed at first, and his hair was brown. He was made white in this form at exactly the moment Americans were buying and selling more slaves and justifying the expropriation of Native American lands in the Southwest. In many ways, making Jesus white was an effort to sanctify these goals for land, power, and authority. … Jesus was first mass-produced in the United States in the early 1800s, but it was not until after the Civil War that his being white became an object of widespread discussion.”

Prayer & understanding your Bible: The Role of Prayer in Bible Interpretation

“For a man solemnly to undertake the interpretation of any portion of Scripture without invocation of God, to be taught and instructed by his Spirit, is a high provocation of him; nor shall I expect the discovery of truth from any one who thus proudly engages in a work so much above his ability.”

Reflection & wonder: What I Found in My Pocket by G.K. Chesterton [required reading]

“… I deny most energetically that anything is, or can be, uninteresting.”

this went thru my mind

 

Church welcome: I Wish Every Church Said What This Church Says in Their Bulletin by Jon Acuff [required reading]

“We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds.

“We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism.

“We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too.

“If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.

“We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts … and you!”

Forgiveness: Forgiveness

“Here are two videos on forgiveness that I found helpful. Lewis Smedes and Miroslav Volf …”

Grace & legalism: * Max Lucado Goes Overboard on Grace an interview by Mark Galli [required reading]; * The Attraction to Legalism by Matthew Olson

* “… [let me speak regarding] this tendency we have to fall back into legalism though we have been saved by grace. There are a few reasons for this. First, everything else in the world is based on legalism. If I have to pay money to buy bread, then surely at some point I have to pay for my eternal bread with some type of work. Second, down deep within us, we believe grace is too good to be true, and we feel better if we make some kind of contribution. Third, teachers fear what people will do with grace: ‘If I really teach grace, is that couple in the fourth pew who are living together—are they really going to get out of that relationship and get married?'”

* “Why is legalism so attractive? It is attractive because it feeds the sinful flesh. … The problem is that we can’t see it. … What makes our own legalism hard to see is that on the surface we can be doing a lot of things right.”

Humility: 7 Ways To Put On Humility by Mark Altrogge

“We must put humility on. This doesn’t mean we fake it, but that we begin to do it, even though it takes effort. Putting on humility isn’t easy. After all, it’s not easy to be humble when we’re as great as we are.  But it can be done.”

Internet addiction: * Silicon Valley Says Step Away From the Device by Matt Richtel; * What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Michael Hyatt

* “Stuart Crabb, a director in the executive offices of Facebook, naturally likes to extol the extraordinary benefits of computers and smartphones. But like a growing number of technology leaders, he offers a warning: log off once in a while, and put them down.”

* “On average, Americans stare at some type of computer screen for eight hours a day.”

Lord’s Supper: A Lord’s Supper Home Meal — A Method by John Mark Hicks

“On many different occasions, and some recently, I have been asked about how I conceive or conduct the Lord’s supper as a home meal. … In my small group, several of my classes and other occasions I have led or participated in group meals as the ‘Lord’s supper.'”

Leadership: * 4 Words of Advice for a Newbie Leader by Ron Edmonson; * How I Coach People into True Missional Leadership by Hugh Halter

* “Learn the people first … Go slow to change … Think intentionally in all you do … Pace your leadership for the long-term.”

* “I am giving you four key aspects of a leaders life that must be coached for a true missionally incarnational leader must be:
Deep in Character, Clear in Calling, Culturally Savvy, and Able to Lead Inclusive Community.”

Parenting: If You Are Not Praying for Your Children by Jim Martin

“If you as a parent are not praying for your children, then who is?”

Skype & privacy: Can Skype ‘Wiretap’ Video Calls? by John Sutter

“The video calling service Skype recently made a change to how it routes calls. Yawn, right? But here’s where it get a little juicier … the changes, which push some of the video calling process onto Skype’s own computers instead of onto random machines on the Internet, could help the app spy on users’ calls, presumably at the request of a court or government.”

Texting while driving: Driving While Intexticated [infographic]

“In the 5 seconds you read a text at 55 mph, you travel the length of a football field.”

Violence: * The Myth of Redemptive Violence by Shane Claiborne [required reading]; * Gleanings in Pacifism by J. Daniel Kirk; * Gun Laws, None Dare Call it Time by Sandy Levinson; * Assault Deaths within the United States; * Mark 15:1-20 – The Crowd Chooses Violent Revolution Rather than Jesus by John Mark Hicks [required reading]

* “I had a veteran friend once tell me, ‘The biggest lie I have ever been told is that violence is evil, except in war.’ He went on, ‘My government told me that. My church told me that. My family told me that … I came back from war and told them the truth – ‘Violence is not evil, except in war… Violence is evil – period’.”

* “… Christians must actively work for peace: blessed are the peacemakers. That should typify kingdom people.”

* “The GOP is in bed with the NRA; the Dems learned from Al Gore’s opposition to gun laws, which many Dems supported, that they can’t win elections with that platform. So today no party is willing to re-examine our gun laws.”

* “… it’s well-known that there are strong regional differences in the assault death rate in the U.S. by state and region. Here’s what the patterns look like by state from 1999 to 2009. … As is well known, the South is more violent than the rest of the country, by some distance. … Despite their large differences, all of the U.S. regions have higher average rates of death from assault than any of the 24 OECD countries we looked at previously.”

* “The crowd chose violent revolution rather than the nonviolent revolution of Jesus. … What do we choose?”