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Flotsam and jetsam (8/21)

you may be cool

Good Reads

  • The Pope’s Theology of Sin: True Christian mercy presupposes a strong moral order with clearly defined teachings on good and evil: It is not an open-ended, amorphous, free-floating concept; nor is it a prelude to changing moral doctrines rooted in eternal truth. (First Things)
  • A True Leader is an Aggressive Listener: What experience and maturity has taught me is it’s actually more valuable to have the right questions and an ability to listen and work collaboratively than it is to try to hold yourself out as the person with all of the answers. (Big Think)
  • How Your Biased Brain Makes You a Jerk Online (and How to Stop It): Haters gonna hate, and you can’t change them by learning why. Fortunately, you can use this understanding of our overactive biases to understand where the trolls and…get their steam. You can feel smarter for not engaging, know exactly why, and move on with your life. (Lifehacker)

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Can God Love You If He Doesn’t Need You?

barbed heart (550x366)

Did you know that it’s possible to destroy a relationship with just four simple words? Some longer sentence swill do the trick as well: “I’d like to have twenty-three children,” “I once dated my brother,” and “I like the new Star Wars movies better,” would all do the trick for me. But one simple sentence should suffice to kill any meaningful relationship:

I don’t need you.

Can you image what it would be like for me to find out that my wife doesn’t need me? Devastating. I certainly need her: not in the sense that I’m one of those needy, clingy people that everyone tries to avoid. (People certainly avoid me, just not for that.) I need her in the sense that she’s a part of me, I rely on her, without her, I’d be less.

If I found out she didn’t need me, I’d question our whole relationship. Can she truly love me if she doesn’t need me in any way? Wouldn’t that make me like some random person she passes on the street, someone who contributes nothing to her life? If she doesn’t need me, can she truly love me?

I think most of us would say no. Real love, deep love, lasting love, requires reciprocity. Both people need, both people risk. Otherwise, one of you isn’t in the game.

But here’s the problem: God doesn’t need us.  Continue Reading…

Read the Contract Before You Sign (Start Strong #3)

You’d think that only an idiot would agree to a contract without reading it. But students do it all the time.

contract (550x367)

My wife and I recently purchased a house. If you’ve ever done that, you know they make you sign an insane number of documents in the process. And, like most people, we didn’t read them. Sure I skimmed a few to make it look like I meant business, but for the the most part, I simply scrawled my name at the bottom and hoped I hadn’t just agreed to trade my youngest child for a worn-out llama.

I’m sure it’s no problem, after all, they’re standard contracts that everyone signs when they buy a house–which, of course, is just another form of the “But everyone’s doing it” defense. But still, I’ve just agreed to something and I don’t know what. That can’t be a good idea.

But every semester I see students do the same thing. They sign up for a class and launch into the semester without reading the contract. Then they get frustrated when their grades don’t turn out the way that they expect. If you don’t bother to read the contract, you shouldn’t be surprised when things don’t work out the way you expect.

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Flotsam and jetsam (8/19)

answering questions

Good Reads

  • Why We Talk in Tongues: Last month I was in Accra, Ghana, to learn more about the African version of the new charismatic Christian churches that have become so popular in the United States and are now proliferating in sub-Saharan Africa….What struck me was how much people spoke in tongues: language-like sounds…thought by those who use them to be a language God knows but the speaker does not. (New York Times)
  • Six Ideas on How to Lead Congregations to Integrate Work and Discipleship: Most Christians do not have a theological framework that accommodates the integration of faith and vocation. Many are even hostile to the idea. They are more comfortable with a life that is not integrated, compartmentalizing work and discipleship. Any attempts at integration feel like intrusions into their private lives. (The High Calling)
  • Before You Hit Send, Read This: While email can sometimes be a quick and convenient way to gauge interest or disseminate information, it’s often not the best tool for the job, he said. About 20% of the time, we’re using email correctly – leveraging it to communicate across time zones or answer a well-defined question. But 80% of email traffic is “waste,”…stuff that’s useless or really requires a phone call or face-to-face discussion. (The Wall Street Journal)

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A Prayer for Sunday (Blaise Pascal)

blaise pascalA famous theologian, philosopher, mathematician, inventor, and writer, Blaise Pascal was a polymath who explored virtually every aspect of human life. But he is probably best known among Christians for his Pensées, a defense of Christianity, and his famous wager on the existence of God.

Pascal died on August 19, 1662. In honor of his amazing life and ministry, this Sunday’s prayer comes from him.

Perfect, O my God, the good impulses that thou givest me. Be their end as thou art their principle. Crown thy own gifts, for I recognize that they are from thee. Yes, my God, and far from pretending that my prayers may have some merit that forces thee to accord them of necessity, I humbly acknowledge that, having given to created things my heart, which thou hadst formed only for thyself, and not for the world, nor for myself, I can expect no grace except from thy mercy, since I have nothing in me that can oblige thee to it, and since all the natural impulses of my heart, whether tending towards created things, or towards myself, can only irritate thee. I, therefore, render thee thanks, my God, for the good impulses which thou givest me, and for the very one that thou hast given me to render thanks for them.

Saturday Morning Fun…What Are People Looking For?

search (300x300)Every now and then it’s fun to check out the “search terms” that led people to this blog. Some are encouraging, some discouraging, some funny, and some just confusing. Here are some of my favorites among the most popular search terms that led people here.

At least some of the search terms make sense and lead me to believe that some people who find there way here might actually be happy with the results: Thomas Aquinas, religion, god, thinking, Karl Barth, theology, etc. These are encouraging signs.

Others searches, though, make me laugh, wonder, and cringe:

  • “great porn,” “powerful sex video,” and other porn related searches. I should have known that writing posts like this would result in lots of unexpected traffic. I suppose it’s too much to hope that they worked through the disappointment and actually read the post.
  • tırnak işareti – I don’t even know what this means, but lots of people are looking for it.
  • “confused” – I don’t know why, but it makes me happy to know that lots of people who search for “confused” end up on this blog.

I could keep going. But those were some of the more common search terms that made me smile. I hope they did the same for you.

Individualism, Urbanism, and Our Changing Psychology

If the books we write mirror the people we are and the societies we create, then analyzing the books we’ve written over the last two centuries should reveal some interesting insights about how we’ve changed and who we’ve become. And that’s exactly what we find in a recent article from the Atlantic: “200 Years of Books Prove That City-Living Changes Our Psychology.”

books (550x367)

The article looks at new research that used Google’s technology to analyze the words in books written over the last 200 years. Check out the article for some fascinating graphs on how changing vocabulary correlates to the rise of urbanism over that same time. (The title of the article, though, suggests that urbanism caused these changes in how we talk about ourselves, when it appears that the research itself demonstrates mere correlation. A common mistake.)

Among the more interesting findings:

  • We’ve seen a notable increase in the language of choice and decision, corresponding to a marked decrease in words like “duty” and “obligation.”
  • “Give” is on the decline, while “get” is much more popular.
  • Words denoting obedience, authority, and religion have declined steadily.

None of this is terribly surprising, but it’s interesting to see it demonstrated through a quantitative analysis of our own literature.

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Flotsam and jetsam (8/16)

HT Jim West

HT Jim West

Good Reads

  •  What Is the Unforgivable Sin? So when troubled souls come to us anxious about having committed the unpardonable sin, what shall we say? (The Gospel Coalition)
  • Are We Letting Kids Online Too Early? The biggest problem experts like Toyama see in the implementation of educational technology is that it is often viewed as an end unto itself and not a tool through which to achieve broader learning goals. (Daily Dot) 

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Avoid Bulimia Academosa (Start Strong #2)

Have you ever thought about how many of our metaphors for learning have something to do with eating? You consume knowledge. Teachers plant ideas and nurture minds. An interesting concept is food for thought, and a good book feeds the soul. I could keep going, but you get the point. Learning is a lot like eating.

studying learning cramming test preparation

So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that you can also draw some interesting connections between unhealthy eating and unhealthy learning. You should avoid a steady diet of junk food in each, although the occasional treat is just fine. You need to use what you take in or you’ll end up being fat and lazy. And, of course, I recommend avoiding starvation if at all possible.

But the unhealthy analogy I want to focus on is the classic binge and purge approach to learning.

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Start Strong #1: Find Your Sweet Spot

I used to play a lot of tennis. I wasn’t very good, but I could hit the ball. Kind of. Sometimes I’d hit it with the frame of the racket, which usually resulted in the ball careening over the fence and getting lost in the nearby bushes. Or I’d hit it with the strings at the very edge of the racket, spinning the racket in my hand and bouncing the ball straight into in the net. Every now and then, I’d even hit it with the handle of the racket, which is a real accomplishment. But every once in a long while, I’d hit it dead center, flinging the ball back at my opponent with incredible force and just the right amount of spin. For one moment, I’d feel like Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer. I’d found it: the sweet spot.

When you hit the sweet spot, you get things done.

tennis (500x364)

Every student needs a sweet spot: that place where you just get things done. They’re hard to explain and they’re different for everyone. Over the years, I’ve had quite a few: a local diner, a spare bedroom, a coffee shop, and even an airplane. Right now, my sweet spot is my backyard. My wife bought some sweet Adirondack chairs, it’s far enough from the house that I don’t have wifi, so it’s perfect as a distraction-free workplace, and the weather has been fabulous. Of course, that’s not going to work long-term, so I’ll need to come up with something else soon. The point is: sweet spots come in all different flavors. Don’t assume that it’s an office or a library somewhere. If that works for you, terrific. If not, find something else.

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