6 Academic Resolutions for the New Year (part 1)

When are we finally going to face the truth that we’ve all known since we were kids: no one cares about January 1. Really. It’s just an excuse to extend the holiday parties for another week, eat too much, stay up late, and wake up the next morning wondering why you did that yet again.

We all know the truth: the real New Year begins with the new school year. That’s a date that matters. Moving from December 31 to January 1 affects nothing other than remembering to change the last couple of numbers whenever you write the date. Starting a new school year, though, that’s big.

academic resolutions new year

(This is obviously true for students, teachers, and parents. But I’ve noticed that it’s even true for many people who don’t fall into any of those categories. I think it has to do with the formative impact of living with the school calendar through all your growing up years. Even after school, you still think Fall marks something truly new in a way that January never could.)

So I think it’s time that we just recognized the reality. It’s unlikely that we’ll get the government to change the calendars any time soon, though that would solve the problem of those awful hyphenated school years (the 2013-2014 school year…ugh). But we can still celebrate in our own way by realizing that now is the perfect time to make New Year’s resolutions that matter.

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Flotsam and jetsam (8/7)

How commonly misused words got started.

How commonly misused words got started.

Good Reads

  • Conversation: Rodney Stark: Stark offers some interesting thoughts on the modern church, including the fact that religious membership is at an all-time high.
  • Guard Your Flock…Even from Other Christians: It may seem ironic, but some of the people from whom you have to most tenaciously guard your church are other believers. If you don’t, the focus of the ministry is to respond to the special interests of customer Christians. And, that means your ministry (and its boundaries) will be focused on keeping customers happy—and no boundaries will exist.
  • Are You a Part-Time Churchgoer? You May Be Surprised: Recent statistics show that an increasing number of evangelicals who are firm in their faith are flabby in their practice of actually gathering with their brothers and sisters in worship. It’s the part-time syndrome, and it can sneak up on any of us.

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A New “Back to School” Series

back to school academics education teaching teacher teach learning study studying

It’s August. I’m not sure what that means for other people, but to me the beginning of August always represents the end of summer. I know that’s a depressing way of looking at things, but August always brings with it the realization that I only have a few weeks left to get ready for the fall semester. And, since I’ve almost always failed to accomplish what I’d hoped to in June and July, that’s never a happy thought.

Nonetheless, it’s August and it’s time to think about going back to school. So I thought it might be a good time to write a few posts on approaching school successfully. The idea is to highlight some key issues, share a few of my own thoughts, and call for suggestions from other students and teachers. Almost everything about “doing school” (reading, research, writing papers, preparing for exams, etc.) involves a fair amount of personal preference. It’s usually more about “what works for you” than “how you’re supposed to do it,” though I know that often it’s about “What do I need to do to keep Professor X happy?” So I’d love to get a variety of perspectives on each issue.

I’m still working out the details of the series, but here’s what I’m thinking so far:

  • Why everyone should start building a quality research database and how to do that.
  • How to read and take notes efficiently.
  • The most important things to keep in mind when writing a research paper.
  • How to start the school year off well.
  • Some tips on preparing for exams.
  • Why you need to connect with your teachers/professors and how to do that.

If you have any other suggestions for posts to include in the series, please let me know. Otherwise, I’ll just look forward to your input on the posts as we go along. And I’ll keep updating this page with links to the various posts in the series. So stay tuned.

How Much Caffeine Is in Your Favorite Coffee?

As someone who enjoys a good cup of coffee in the morning (afternoon, evening, late at night, etc.), I though this was interesting. Here are some of the top coffee brands ranked according to how much caffeine their coffee contains.

caffeine quantified


Thanks to Co.Create for the infographic.

Flotsam and jetsam (8/5)


Good Reads

  • Return of the Jesus Wars: The irony is that Aslan’s succès de scandale would be more deserved if he had actually written in defense of the Islamic view of Jesus. That would have been something provocative and — to Western readers — relatively new.
  • At Christian Companies, Religious Principles Complement Business Practices:  Focusing on particular practices, like quotes on fry boats or gospel music, can obscure deep philosophical divisions among Christians who think about business ethics. For some, the Bible is a kind of business manual you’d buy in an airport bookstore, offering timeless precepts that happen to maximize profits.

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Saturday Morning Fun…Old Sayings Updated

I think I will definitely start using “Hell hath no fury like a troll.”

sayings 2.0 (550x707)







Flotsam and jetsam (8/2)

driving carefully

Good Reads

  • How to keep Millennials in the church? Let’s keep church un-cool: I’m a Millennial, but I am weary of everyone caring so much about why Millennials do this or don’t do that. I’m sorry Millennials, but I’m going to have to throw us under the bus here: we do not have everything figured out. And if we expect older generations and well-established institutions to morph to fit our every fickle desire, we do so at our peril.
  • Pope Francis is right: It’s time for a theology of women: The role of women doesn’t end just with being a mother and with housework …we don’t yet have a truly deep theology of women in the church. We talk about whether they can do this or that, can they be altar boys, can they be lectors, about a woman as president of Caritas, but we don’t have a deep theology of women in the Church.
  • Does Anglicanism have a future? The parish is the ecclesial form that has tied the church to place. Yet it seems that form of the church may not have the resources to respond to an increasingly mobile population that is no longer tied to place.
  • Why Fewer Churches Offer Vacation Bible School: The biggest change: busyness. “In 2001, only 5% of churches who did not offer VBS stated their reason as not having enough time, or wanting to devote such time to more pressing needs,” writes Barna. “In 2005, this number of time-pressed churches more than doubled (13%), and nearly quadrupled just last summer (19%).”

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4 Reasons You Preach on Poverty at Your Own Risk

Some topics intimidate preachers. And that’s actually a good thing. When preachers realize they’re handling a difficult issue, they know to be careful, aware of the hazards on every side. The problem comes when someone launches confidently into a sermon without realizing the complexities of their topic. That’s like boldly flying your spaceship into an asteroid field, blissfully unaware that your odds of survival are only 3,720 to 1.

poverty poor homeless wealth money economics

In the last few weeks, I’ve heard several people do this with sermons on poverty. It’s as though we think poverty is a relatively simple topic, something that you can handle in a single, 30-minute sermon. Just offer some thoughts on the importance of hard work, make sure you point out that we’re supposed to be nice to poor people, and you’re good to go. After a clever introduction, several amusing anecdotes, and some interesting asides, you should be able to handle the issue of poverty in the twenty minutes you have left.

At that point, you’re not just flying through an asteroid field, but you’re doing it at the fastest possible speed. Don’t be surprised when you get crushed into oblivion.

Here are four reasons that preachers should include poverty on their list of topics to handle with extreme caution. I’m not suggesting that we avoid the topic, quite the opposite. I think we should preach on poverty regularly. After all, God has a lot to say about the subject. But it’s far from a simple topic.

This is the beginning of my most recent post over at Christianity.com. Please head over there to read the rest.

Top Posts for July

top5-200x200I spent most of July packing, driving, and getting set up in our new home and my new office. So things were a little quiet around here. But here were the most popular posts of the month anyway. Enjoy!

Does Money Make People Unethical Jerks?

According to some recent studies, richer people are more likely to behave unethically and rudely than poorer people. Indeed, some of the studies suggest that arbitrarily assigning some privilege to a person causes him or her to begin acting as though they deserve to be treated better.

Check out this short video from NPR summarizing the results of the studies. As the video notes, the studies have come under some criticism, with a few arguing that they simply reflect the liberal bias of the researchers. But the results of the studies are still quite interesting, suggesting that wealth produces a certain pattern:

  1. receiving privilege
  2. leads to expecting privilege
  3. culminating in taking privilege