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Flotsam and jetsam (10/29)

super whale

Good Reads

  • Watching TV can make you a better person: New research provides tentative evidence that it can—but only if viewers take time to reflect on the personal implications of what they have just watched. (Salon)
  • Of Gods and Cubicles: Religion, the Office and the Law: issues of religion in the workplace are becoming more fraught and complex. Experts cite immigration, more frank conversations about faith and spirituality and growing assertiveness among workers as reasons for the number of complaints. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Neuroscience Behind How Sleep Cleans Your Brain: We know that getting even a measly extra hour of sleep a night can have major benefits for us–like more memories, less anxiety, and happier genes. But scientists have tested another hypothesis for why we need to spend so much time horizontal: Sleep cleans our brains. (Fast Company)

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10 Steps to Productive Procrastination

To do lists are daunting. It’s easy to arrive at your desk in the morning already overwhelmed by everything that needs to get done. So productivity experts suggest spending a little time every morning identifying the most important thing you need to do that day. At least then you’ll make sure that the most important stuff gets done.

That’s a great idea. But, as I found out today, there’s one thing that can make sure even this doesn’t work: productive procrastination.

procrastination productivity getting things done

If you’re not familiar with that phrase, it’s a good one. Everyone needs to know about it, but I find it particularly important for students everywhere. It’s the one thing most likely to keep you from finishing your research paper.

According to the  urban dictionary productive procrastination is:

n. Doing stuff to keep busy while avoiding what really needs doing. When all is said and done, your room is clean, your laundry is folded — but you haven’t started your English paper. (via )

Productivity experts say you can defeat this problem by identifying your most important goal first thing in the morning. Today I realized that this isn’t enough. Here’s why.

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Flotsam and jetsam (10/28)

bear lake

Good Reads

  • The 50 Greatest Breakthroughs Since the Wheel: This article is fascinating not just for the list, but for an excellent discussion of the logic behind the list, the difficulty of assessing technological breakthroughs, and its taxonomy of innovation. (The Atlantic)
  • Excesses of the Wahoo Brethren: In short, I believe that cessationists usually understand the Bible better than do continuationists, not to mention the logic of the thing….I believe the continuationists often understand the personal nature of the world better than do cessationists. (Doug Wilson)
  • Dumbing Religion in the New York Times: Prayer without a plausible metaphysics is just me. In such circumstances, the cosmological picture is a cosmological fantasy; and fantasy provides pleasure, not certainty. It trivializes an attempt to change the world, which prayer is, when it suffices with the good feelings that are generated by the attempt. (The New Republic)
  • Practicing Biblical Hospitality: True hospitality is sacrificial, uncomfortable, and does not seek to impress others. Hospitality flows from a hospitable heart. It is more about your open heart and home, not your impressive entertaining skills. (Resurgence)

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A Prayer for Sunday (Desiderius Erasmus)

ErasmusDesiderius Erasmus was one of the great reformers of the 1500s. Protestants tend not to think of him as a reformer, of course, because he remained a committed Catholic throughout the Protestant Reformation, and famously disagreed Luther on the nature of human free will. But Erasmus was also an outspoken critic of the late medieval church, and one of the key voices calling for institutional, clerical, educational, and moral reform. As such, he should definitely be regarded as one of the most important of the early reformers.

Erasmus was born on October 27 (give or take a day), 1466. In honor of his amazing life and ministry, this morning’s prayer comes from him.

O God of love,
true light and radiance of our world,
shine into our hearts like the rising sun,
and banish the darkness of sin and the mists of error.

May we, this day and all our life,
walk without stumbling
along the way which you have set before us;
through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord

How to Get Admitted to an Insane Asylum (in the 1800s)

asylum entrance (250x385)

click to embiggen

Apparently it’s not that difficult. According to this list of reasons for admitting people to the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane in the late 1800s, you could get locked up for anything from living an immoral life to egotism, even laziness. I think that covers just about all of us.

But a few of these are particularly hilarious.

  • Imprisonment: Really? You’re locking me up for having been locked up? That makes perfect sense. 
  • Novel Reading: I know people who don’t think much of fiction, but this is going a tad far.
  • Over action of the mind and over taxing of mental powers: Apparently lots of people got locked up back then for thinking too hard. As a matter of fact, hard study alone could get you locked up.
  • Religious enthusiasm: Anyone who gets excited about their religion should clearly be confined. And if you’re so messed up that you combined this with the previous one and end up in over study of religion, then you’re hopeless.
  • Bad whiskey: Ha! If anything could get you locked up for a while, this would be it.
  • Women trouble: Enough said.
  • Time of Life: This is one of my favorites. Why are you in here? I don’t know, it’s just that time of life.
  • Snuff eating for two years: Yep, seems like that would do the trick.
  • Asthma: Oh right, a little stay in a mental institution will clear that right up.
  • Masturbation: The list has a real issue with this one as it pops up no less than five times. As far as I can tell, the following are dangerous: mixing it with tobacco, doing it while having syphilis, doing it for 30 years or more, and doing it in a “deranged” manner, whatever that means. But whatever you do, don’t “suppress” it either. No mixed messages there.

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How to Read Stuff You Don’t Agree With

sad face (250x460)We’ve all faced the challenge. You see the link, and you know it’s going to take you to that blog, written by that person, about that stuff. And you’re going to hate it. What should you do?

When you face that situation next time, Derek Rishmawy has some great advice. His article is actually about handling Christian Celebrity Derangement Syndrome, and he has some terrific comments about how hard it is to say anything sane about people like John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and Rachel Held Evans. So make sure you head over there and read his whole post.

But I particularly enjoyed his advice for reading things you don’t agree with. Here’s what you do.

  1. Before you read the article, breathe.
  2. Count to 10.
  3. Read the article slowly noting key nouns, verbs, modifiers, and transition clauses.
  4. Count to 10 again.
  5. Read it slower.
  6. Pray.
  7. Now go ahead and tweet it out with the appropriate commentary.


  1. Don’t read the article.

Brilliant. I can just hear a mom whispering to her child, “If you can’t read anything nicely, don’t read anything at all.”

Obviously there’s a bit more involved, but you get the point. If you race into an article with your adrenaline receptors on high, your reticular activator going full blast, and your flux capacitor in overdrive, you’re in trouble (especially since that last one is going to land you in the middle of a gunfight in 1885). So slow down. If you’re not going to read the article carefully, prayerfully, and productively, walk away.

Flotsam and jetsam (10/25)

friend's password

Good Reads

  • Don’t be that dude: Handy tips for the male academic: There is a plethora of research on the causes of hostile environments for women in academia….These initiatives are important, but here’s the thing: gender equality has to be a collaborative venture. (Tenure, She Wrote)
  • I’m Done Fixing the Church: Turning the Future Over to God: If you have fallen into the trap of trying to “fix” the church, I don’t write this article to make you feel guilty or to encourage you to beat yourself up. At best, we are all stumbling along on the journey of faith in need of God’s grace….The time is ripe for us to confuse our human needs with God’s desires for the church. In addition to confusion over God’s desires, I believe a major reason for our misguided attempts to fix the church is a misunderstanding of our role as clergy. (Ministry Matters)
  • The Secret Women’s Porn Problem: It’s difficult to find concrete numbers on women’s pornography viewership. We shouldn’t be surprised; adult entertainment has always been designated as the “man problem.” But the little research on the topic, plus anecdotal evidence, reveals otherwise. (Hermeneutics)

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It Really Is Better with Bacon…Usually

I find it hard to believe that bacon wouldn’t make even pasta taste better, but I’d definitely think twice before wrapping bacon around my favorite desserts. Of course, my favorite dessert is a cup of coffee. So I’ll just take my bacon on the side.

better with baconvia Wired


Flotsam and jetsam (10/23)

french kiss

Good Reads

  • The Bible Paradox: Nearly 80 percent of all Americans think the Bible is either literally true or is the inspired word of God. And yet, most Americans have no idea what is actually in the Bible. (The Big Think)
  • How does a pastor wisely seek change in his church? Pastors who walk into existing churches are quickly burdened by needed changes to improve the church.  Where the challenge is for most of us is when and how those changes need to be brought.  If you are wondering how to choose those battles wisely, first receive this most excellent counsel I received as I entered my first Senior Pastor position at a church clearly needing change and revitalization. (Practical Shepherding)

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11 Reasons You Should Drink Coffee Every Day

I don’t need an excuse to drink coffee. But I certainly won’t object if someone hands me one. Or eleven.

coffee2 (500x334)

But if you need a little extra convincing, here’s a post offering eleven reasons to imbibe the divine beverage every day. Check out the post for all the data, but here are the highlights.

  • Americans get more antioxidants from coffee than anything else. I’m not convinced that antioxidants are all that, but they sure sound healthy.
  • Just smelling coffee could make you less stressed. Even my daughters agree that coffee smells good. And they think it tastes like boiled dingo.
  • Coffee could lessen the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. We have some family members who struggle with Parkinson’s, so I’ll take any advantage I can get.
  • Coffee is great for your liver (especially if you drink alcohol). Um, no comment.
  • Coffee can make you feel happier. Duh.
  • Coffee consumption has been linked to lower levels of suicide. See the previous point.
  • Coffee could reduce your chances of getting skin cancer (if you’re a woman). I’m not, but I’ll err on the side of caution.
  • Coffee can make you a better athlete. Since I’m not much of an athlete, that’s not saying a whole lot. But I’ll take it.
  • Coffee could reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. I think that means I can eat more chocolate.
  • Drinking coffee could help keep your brain healthier for longer. Sweet.
  • Coffee may make you more intelligent. This might be a correlation/causation problem. It’s entirely possible that smarter people drink coffee, rather than that coffee makes you smarter. But I’ll stick with coffee either way.

So, if you want to be healthy, happy, and smart, grab a cup of coffee this morning. That’s what I’m doing.