Help Jon Acuff with his next book about the "I'm, but generation" (via Stuff Christians Like)

Because we are becoming the “I’m, but generation.”

Whenever I travel and meet people or connect online with folks, our conversation inevitably drifts toward a simple question, “What do you do?” The most common answer I hear, from people of all ages, is simple:

“I’m a __________, but I want to be a ___________.”

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We seek redeeming AFTER the pit, God redeems us FROM the pit (via Jon Acuff @ Stuff Christians Like)

I know I can’t be perfect. Past failures have made that crystal clear, but I still try sometimes. I still try to hold my breath and white knuckle my way back into the father’s arms. Creating lists, manically measuring my quiet times, doing the yo-yo diet version of faith. I don’t want to fail. I want to be perfect.

I want to free myself from the mess, clean my act up and string together a good solid month, of good solid living before I return to the God. But I’m not sure that is how God sees my life. In Psalm 103: 3-4, God is described as he “who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with compassion.”

The word I love in that passage is “from.” On the surface it’s a transition word, but the reality is that “from” represents the difference between man and God. In the world, when you fall into a pit, you’re expected to get back out. You dug it yourself, you climb out of it yourself. Get yourself together. Straighten up. Don’t bring me a problem, bring me a solution. In every job you’ve ever had and most of the relationships you’ve been in, this verse would read, “who redeems your life after the pit.”

But in God’s world, He comes to the pit. He redeems us from the pit. Not once we’ve managed to get out of it, but from the middle of it. From the deepest part of the pit. He gets down with us in the pit and rescues us from it. Not after it.

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Hans Rosling powerful visuals of the global rise of health & wealth over the last 200 Years (via BBC)

Thanks for the reminder of "Six Things That Will Take You Out of Ministry" (via Case Bankord).

I was reminded recently of a 6 item checklist that Mike Breaux (@mikebreaux) walked our staff at Heartland Community Church through to determine whether or not we are in danger of some pitfalls that come with being in ministry.

Here are 6 things that will take you out of ministry (via Mike Breaux):

1. Life without boundaries
2. Calendars without Sabbath
3. Words without practice
4. Giftedness without humility
5. Relationships without discernment
6. Letting your identity get tied up in our title

This list is posted in my office. It should be in yours too!

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Our National Archives shows how "Thanksgiving is as American as apple pie" in moving from giving thanks to the start of Christmas shopping season.

Here, in short, are the documents that made Thanksgiving.

George Washington's proclamation to give thanks for the Constitution and the country (ARC Identifier 299956)

George Washington's proclamation to give thanks for the Constitution and the country (ARC Identifier 299956)

On October 3, 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789, as an official holiday of “sincere and humble thanks.” The nation then celebrated its first Thanksgiving under its new Constitution.


Page one of Lincoln's Thanksgiving Procalamation which set the holiday as the fourth Thursday in November (ARC 299960)

On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln made the traditional Thanksgiving celebration a nationwide holiday to be commemorated each year on the fourth Thursday of November. In the midst of a bloody Civil War, President Lincoln issued a Presidential Proclamation in which he enumerated the blessings of the American people and called upon his countrymen to “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.”

The House Joint Resolution Making the Last Thursday in November a Legal Holiday, Pearl Harbor had occured just over two weeks earlier (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives)

The House Joint Resolution Making the Last Thursday in November a Legal Holiday, Pearl Harbor had occured just over two weeks earlier (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives)

In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday to the third Thursday of November to lengthen the Christmas shopping season and boost the economy which was still recovering from the Depression. This move, which set off a national debate, was reversed in 1941 when Congress passed and President Roosevelt approved a joint house resolution establishing the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.

For more information, please read our related press release. Happy Thanksgiving!

I was asked last week about the origins of Thanksgiving as an American holiday. From a distant cousin arrives these original documents from the National Archives showing (1) George Washington's initiation of the holiday, (2) Abraham Lincoln's settling on the last Thursday of November as the date, (3) Franklin Roosevelt moving it the third Thursday in 1939 to increase the Christmas shopping season, and FDR and congress finally settling on the fourth Thursday in 1941.

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Seth Godin offers 20 often surprising thoughts about "Where ideas come from?" Which did he miss (via Seth's blog).

Where do ideas come from?

  1. Ideas don't come from watching television
  2. Ideas sometimes come from listening to a lecture
  3. Ideas often come while reading a book
  4. Good ideas come from bad ideas, but only if there are enough of them
  5. Ideas hate conference rooms, particularly conference rooms where there is a history of criticism, personal attacks or boredom
  6. Ideas occur when dissimilar universes collide
  7. Ideas often strive to meet expectations. If people expect them to appear, they do
  8. Ideas fear experts, but they adore beginner's mind. A little awareness is a good thing
  9. Ideas come in spurts, until you get frightened. Willie Nelson wrote three of his biggest hits in one week
  10. Ideas come from trouble
  11. Ideas come from our ego, and they do their best when they're generous and selfless
  12. Ideas come from nature
  13. Sometimes ideas come from fear (usually in movies) but often they come from confidence
  14. Useful ideas come from being awake, alert enough to actually notice
  15. Though sometimes ideas sneak in when we're asleep and too numb to be afraid
  16. Ideas come out of the corner of the eye, or in the shower, when we're not trying
  17. Mediocre ideas enjoy copying what happens to be working right this minute
  18. Bigger ideas leapfrog the mediocre ones
  19. Ideas don't need a passport, and often cross borders (of all kinds) with impunity
  20. An idea must come from somewhere, because if it merely stays where it is and doesn't join us here, it's hidden. And hidden ideas don't ship, have no influence, no intersection with the market. They die, alone.

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Should you be "Checking Work E-Mail During the Holidays?" Hey you're not alone (via Mashable).

A new survey from Xobni and Harris Interactive says 59% of employed American adults check their e-mail during holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Of the 59%, more than half (55%) check their work e-mails at least once a day, while about 28% check their e-mails multiple times throughout the day.

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OUCH!! Bishop Suspended Over Facebook Comments About Royal Wedding (via Mashable)

A Church of England bishop has been suspended indefinitely after posting a series of negative comments on Facebook about Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement.

Pete Broadbent, the bishop of Willesden, wrote that their marriage would last a mere seven years and that their wedding day would be full of “nauseating tosh,” according to The Guardian.

“We need a party in Calais for all good republicans who can’t stand the nauseating tosh that surrounds this event,” he wrote.

The comments have since gone public, inciting the dismay of politicians and fellow members of the Church. Broadbent has since issued an apology, but it was not enough to save him from suspension.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Broadbent’s superior, the Bishop of London Richard Chartres, said, “I have now had an opportunity to discuss with Bishop Peter how his comments came to be made and I have noted his unreserved apology. Nevertheless, I have asked him to withdraw from public ministry until further notice.”

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Anne Jackson suggests we learn to appreciate this abundant resource in "My Toxic Bottle of Water" (via Anne Jackson).

I have a terrible habit of not finishing beverages.

Size doesn’t matter. Whether it’s a 16 oz bottle of water or an 8 oz tiny can of Diet Coke, I don’t finish it.

Bottled water for some reason takes the brunt of my compulsion. It’s embarrassing to admit, but there are times where I’ll just take a sip or two of a bottle of water and never touch it again.

Such was the case with the bottle of water in my car. It was the middle of August and on this particular day I grabbed a bottle of water on my way out to run errands. I took two sips and it had been boiling in my car ever since.

On my way home from visiting a friend a few days later, I realized I was extremely thirsty. I hadn’t had a bit of water all day.

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Pay attention to tradition and let the accretions go in "When Is a Pipe Organ Just a Pipe Organ?" (via Alban)

Why do churches like this one, and so many others today, fight so strenuously over tradition, only to give up their tradition a generation later? The answer is that they aren’t fighting over traditions. They are fighting over accretions. People confuse accretions with traditions, and this confusion leads to worship wars.

Adrian van Kaam, a Roman Catholic priest and spiritual writer with whom I studied in the early 1990s, describes a tradition as the body of wisdom and practices that the church passes down from age to age. It connects us to the Holy. It binds us in faith with all who have come before us. According to van Kaam, we cannot be intentional about connecting with the Holy through our practices until we are able to distinguish between what is accretional and what is foundational to a tradition.

In its original meaning, an accretion is a buildup of sediment atop a rock formation or within water or soil. The sediment is not the foundation. It is the dirt, sand, or eroded minerals that accumulate over time. We confuse this junk with a foundation because it often either surrounds a foundation or is infused in it. When it comes to religious and spiritual practices, accretions are practices that build up around a tradition and become the ways a tradition is embodied in any day and age. For example, singing to God in worship is a foundational tradition. The songs we sing, which change from era to era, are the accretions. So singing is foundational, but whether we sing classical hymns, gospel, Taizé chants, a cappella psalms, or contemporary songs, they are all accretions. Instrumental music in church is foundational, but the use of an organ is accretional. While pipe organs date back to the eighth century and have been used in cathedrals and churches for centuries, they really only came into widespread, common use in the United States between 1860 and 1920. Thus, they are part of our musical accretions, not our musical foundations.

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Some mornings you just need to laugh with Jon Achuff. Check out "Awkward moments with Ke$ha" (via Stuff Christians Like)

Awkward moments with Ke$ha.

November 22, 2010 in Uncategorized with 1 Comment

As an author, you have a pretty fantastical expectation of what a book signing event is going to be like. You imagine dozens, if not hundreds of people. You envision a scene like Wal-mart during Black Friday, people shoving each other, old ladies knocked askew or at the very least, akimbo.

The truth is, it’s never like that.

A book signing event can be wildly awkward.

You, as the author, essentially stand next to the creative project you’ve worked hardest on. It is the culmination of a lifelong dream. Then you watch as someone walks up, flips through it, shrugs in apathy and then walks away without the book.

It’s like a chef standing beside your table waiting anxiously for you to have a bite of what they just made you.

That’s exactly what happened to me at the National Youth Workers Convention. While talking with a girl, two of her friends walked up. In an exciting tone she said, “Hey! Have you guys ever read the blog Stuff Christians Like?” They looked at her with disdain and said, “No.” She continued, “It’s awesome and this book is hilarious, you should check it out.” They literally looked me over, stared at the book and then shrugged, refusing to even pick it up. We all then stood there for a few tense seconds, like a Mexican standoff that the most interesting man in the world didn’t show up for.

So I said, “Wow, we all just shared an awkward moment, didn’t we?” The two youth ministers looked at me and then walked away without saying a word.

That was awkward, but for some reason those kind of moments happen to me often. And once we’re in up to our knees, I figure we might as well dive all the way in. Don’t pretend it’s not awkward, let’s do the backstroke.

But awkward moments happen more in Christianity than I think we realize. Awkward conversations, awkward inter digit handholding at church with complete strangers and awkward brushes with pop culture.

I had one of the latter recently while listening to the radio.

Ke$ha, who is from where I live, has a new song. In it, she mentions that she wears a “Jesus necklace.” Awww, isn’t that great? Jesus got a shout out? Every rapper on the planet name drops God, but Ke$ha actually mentioned Jesus. That’s great.

But then you start to listen to the other lyrics and realize it’s a little awkward.

Here are the lyrics:

“And no you don’t want to mess with us, got Jesus on my necklace.”

That’s not so bad. I mean it seems a little violent, but doesn’t Matthew 11:12 say, From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” Maybe Ke$ha is quoting the book of Matthew. What are the next lyrics?

“I’ve got that glitter on my eyes.”

Hey, that’s good. Vacation Bible School is all about the glitter! This song is a great VBS song! What’s the next line?

“Stocking ripped all up the side.”

Ohh, not going to be able to use that one at VBS after all. My bad, I jumped the gun. Let’s give the lyrics one more try. Maybe she ends with a shout out to the Holy Ghost. Nobody does that.

“Looking sick and sexy-fied.”

Is that how you spell that word? I know I before E and other rules but I always forget if you drop the Y to an I when writing sexified. I’d ask Ke$ha, but one of the rules my grandfather always told me was, “Never take grammar lessons from someone who spells their name with a dollar sign.” I can’t ask her. I’m sorry, that’s just how I was raised.

Turns out the Jesus line was just used to for the rhyme. She needed words that fit. Maybe we can help her out today. Let’s give Kesha (I can’t keep spelling that with a $) some alternative lyrics for that Jesus line.

You have to rhyme it to the preceding line. I’ll give you a few of my own ideas:

“And no you don’t want to mess with us,”

Alternative lyrics:

1. The Kardashian credit card is ridiculous

2. And no I’m not going to say a cuss

3. The Acuff girls don’t eat their crust

4. Buying Jon’s new book is a must

5. Oxidation is fancy talk for rust

Your turn, what lyric would you write instead of “got Jesus on my necklace.”

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A leader looks for the hard stuff and does not hide from it. Check out "Sure, but what's the hard part?" (via Seth Godin)

Hard is not about sweat or time, hard is about finishing the rare, valuable, risky task that few complete.

Don't tell me you want to launch a line of spices but don't want to make sales calls to supermarket buyers. That's the hard part.

Don't tell me you are a great chef but can't deal with cranky customers. That's the hard part.

Don't tell me you have a good heart but don't want to raise money. That's the hard part.

Identifying which part of your project is hard is, paradoxically, not so easy, because we work to hide the hard parts. They frighten us.

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Record Coasters? Check out the RELEVANT Gift Guide | Creative, Sustainable, Unique & Fair Trade Gift Ideas (via RELEVANT Magazine)

The opening items on the list of the "50 Things the Holy Spirit Does" via Frank Viola @ Reimagining Church

1.      He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).

2.      He guides us into all truth (John 16:13).

3.      He regenerates us (John 3:5-8; Titus 3:5).

4.      He glorifies and testifies of Christ (John 15:26; 16:14).

5.      He reveals Christ to us and in us (John 16:14-15).

6.      He leads us (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18; Matt. 4:1; Luke 4:1).

7.      He sanctifies us (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 5:16).

8.      He empowers us (Luke 4:14; 24:49; Rom. 15:19; Acts 1:8).

9.      He fills us (Eph. 5:18; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17).

10.   He teaches us to pray (Rom. 8:26-27; Jude 1:20).

11.    He bears witness in us that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16).

12.    He produces in us the fruit or evidence of His work and presence (Gal. 5:22-23).

13.    He distributes spiritual gifts and manifestations (the outshining) of His presence to and through the body (1 Cor.     12:4, 8-10; Heb. 2:4).

14.    He anoints us for ministry (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38).

15.    He washes and renews us (1 Tim. 3:5).

16.    He brings unity and oneness to the body (Eph. 4:3; 2:14-18). Here He plays the same role that He plays in the Godhead. The Spirit is the life that unites Father and Son. He plays the same role in the church. When He is operating in a group of people, He unites them in love. Therefore, a sure evidence of the Holy Spirit working in a group is Love and Unity. Not signs and wonders (those are seasonal and can be counterfeited).

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50 Things the Holy Spirit Does « Reimagining Church

1.      He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).

2.      He guides us into all truth (John 16:13).

3.      He regenerates us (John 3:5-8; Titus 3:5).

4.      He glorifies and testifies of Christ (John 15:26; 16:14).

5.      He reveals Christ to us and in us (John 16:14-15).

6.      He leads us (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18; Matt. 4:1; Luke 4:1).

7.      He sanctifies us (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 5:16).

8.      He empowers us (Luke 4:14; 24:49; Rom. 15:19; Acts 1:8).

9.      He fills us (Eph. 5:18; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17).

10.   He teaches us to pray (Rom. 8:26-27; Jude 1:20).

11.    He bears witness in us that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16).

12.    He produces in us the fruit or evidence of His work and presence (Gal. 5:22-23).

13.    He distributes spiritual gifts and manifestations (the outshining) of His presence to and through the body (1 Cor.     12:4, 8-10; Heb. 2:4).

14.    He anoints us for ministry (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38).

15.    He washes and renews us (1 Tim. 3:5).

16.    He brings unity and oneness to the body (Eph. 4:3; 2:14-18). Here He plays the same role that He plays in the Godhead. The Spirit is the life that unites Father and Son. He plays the same role in the church. When He is operating in a group of people, He unites them in love. Therefore, a sure evidence of the Holy Spirit working in a group is Love and Unity. Not signs and wonders (those are seasonal and can be counterfeited).

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Scot McKnight suggests we stop "Secularizing the Kingdom" that is to take place within the community of faith(via Jesus Creed)

Sit down some afternoon — maybe today — and look up all the “kingdom” references in the New Testament and you will see the following major ideas:

First, kingdom refers to a redemptive society. Second, one must “enter” this redemptive kingdom society by repentance and faith and obedience to Jesus. Third, kingdom society and Jesus are so closely connected one has to say that there is no such thing as “kingdom” apart from relationship to Jesus. Fourth, no one uses the word “kingdom” in the NT for “social” justice that is not connected to kingdom people of Jesus or connected to the fellowship of his followers — the Church.

The best example of “kingdom” work in the entire Bible is Acts 2:42-47, and there the kingdom people, in the context of a local fellowship (church), were making the kingdom manifest. The place to begin with kingdom work is to take care of the society of Jesus’ followers.

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Donald Miller laments how many of us are "Living From Our Squirrel Brain" and this is driving him (and me) nuts. (via Donald Miller)

I was recently troubled to learn I think like a squirrel.

A friend told me a story a while back about a squirrel he saw on the deck of his condo. He put a couple nuts out one day, and the squirrel came back the next day looking for more nuts. So he opened his sliding door, and placed a nut just inside. The squirrel studied the distance he’d have to run to get in and out of the house, then took the chance, grabbed the nut and escaped back to his tree. Each day my friend would bring the squirrel further inside the house, until, after a few weeks, he could feed the squirrel from his hand. Awesome story. Except for what happened next.

My friend decided to stop feeding the squirrel. And the squirrel went nuts. The squirrel put it’s paws (whatever they are) on the glass door and shook it, chirping and squelching at my friend to let it in to get it’s nut. My friend tried to scare it off, but the animal only hissed at my friend. My friend now hates squirrels. He thinks they are spoiled animals and essentially slightly cuter than rats, though less friendly and human like.

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Jake Kircher asks "Is the Church Lost?" and suggests others ways of evaluating good churches. (via RELEVANT Magazine)

The fact is, the questions we use to assess our churches are not the same questions that God wants us to ask.

In Crazy Love, Francis Chan writes, “God's definition of what matters is pretty straightforward. He measures our lives by how we love.”

This love is uncomfortable and it means sometimes listening to music that’s not your style or understanding a sermon that didn’t do much for you might have helped someone else that Sunday. It means that sometimes church isn’t big and cutting edge, but small and simple. More so, it means not coming to a church focused on consuming but instead coming to give and serve.

Christians must understand that God does not define “good” churches by the quality of their programs, the size of membership or the look and feel of a facility. Focusing on those things can cause us to completely miss the point of what God actually wants of His Church. God has called us to draw near to Him, share the freedom and life of Jesus, and to love and serve others. Everything else must come second to these goals.

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If unreasonable stuff is succeeding, then is being unreasonable the new reasonable? (via Seth Godin)

The paradox of an instant, worldwide, connected marketplace for all goods and services:

All that succeeds is the unreasonable.

You can get my attention if your product is unreasonably well designed, if your preparation is unreasonably over the top, if your customer service is unreasonably attentive and generous and honest. You can earn my business or my recommendation if the build quality is unreasonable for the intended use, if the pricing is unreasonably low or if the experience is unreasonably over-the-top irresistible given the competition.

Want to get into a famous college? You'll need to have unreasonably high grades, impossibly positive recommendations and yes, a life that's balanced. That's totally unreasonable.

The market now expects and demands an unreasonable effort and investment on your part. You don't have to like it for it to be true.

In fact, unreasonable is the new reasonable.

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I am happy with my opposable thumbs, just not the keyboards they get to work on. The Evolution of Mobile (via Mashable)

You can do more, you can go faster. How about do it better? (via Seth Godin)

The easiest form of management is to encourage or demand that people do more. The other translation of this phrase is to go faster.

The most important and difficult form of management (verging on leadership) is to encourage people to do better.

Better is trickier than more because people have trouble visualizing themselves doing better. It requires education and coaching and patience to create a team of people who are better.

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You have to risk alienating the 2% in order to please the 98%, btw they will be alienated anyway (via Seth Godin)

When a popular rock group comes to town, some of their fans won't get great tickets. Not enough room in the front row. Now they're annoyed. 2% of them are angry enough to speak up or badmouth or write an angry letter.

When Disney changes a policy and offers a great new feature or benefit to the most dedicated fans, 2% of them won't be able to use it... timing or transport or resources or whatever. They're angry and they let the brand know it.

Do the math. Every time Apple delights 10,000 people, they hear from 200 angry customers, people who don't like the change or the opportunity or the risk it represents.

If you have fans or followers or customers, no matter what you do, you'll annoy or disappoint two percent of them. And you'll probably hear a lot more from the unhappy 2% than from the delighted 98.

It seems as though there are only two ways to deal with this: Stop innovating, just stagnate. Or go ahead and delight the vast majority.

Sure, you can try to minimize the cost of change, and you might even get the number to 1%. But if you try to delight everyone, all the time, you'll just make yourself crazy. Or become boring.

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Learn 4 ways to be positive in the midst of a world gone mad from Tony Swartz (via Fast Company)

If there is anything this nasty, fear-driven, dispiriting political season has demonstrated, it's that no politician--Democrat, Republican, or otherwise--has any compelling solutions to what ails us. Even as partisan a figure as Jeb Bush is suggesting voters are feeling "disgust with the political class."

We live in a world that has grown increasingly complex and contradictory, angry and fearful, polarized but utterly interdependent.

How, then, to feel more control over our destiny amid so many daunting challenges and so few clear answers?

Here are four very personal behaviors to consider, offered in a spirit of hopefulness and humility:

1. Practice Realistic Optimism.

There is a powerful principle in psychology called "bad is stronger than good." We're quicker to notice threats to our well-being than we are to focus on what's working well. ...

2. Build More Bridges

In an era marked by fractiousness and extremes, what connects us rather than divides us? Where can we find common ground? Certainly, there are universal desires we all share: a safe and secure world, people we can love and who love us, a hopeful future for our children. ...

3. Add Value Every Day

After three years of a recession that shows all too few signs of abating, it's no surprise that people are feeling the full range of negative emotions from terror to rage. But to what end? ...

4. Give Yourself a Break

The greater the performance demand, the greater the need for recovery. As the world speeds up, we need to keep a balance between doing and not doing. By building in a true renewal break at least every 90 minutes, you'll feel better, think more clearly, be less reactive and ultimately you'll get better, more considered results. ...

Reprinted from

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They tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat. Sharing a meal as an important dimension to the spiritual life (via On Being).

Ms. Tippett: Where does the body come in to all of this? Where does the body come in to happiness? It can sound like we're having a discussion about happiness. It's very cerebral, very mental. You, for example, Bishop Schori, have spoken about running as body meditation. Let's talk a little bit about our physical selves in this condition of happiness.

Lord Sacks: Well, obviously, Judaism has a certain approach to the physical dimension of the spiritual life. It's called food. [laugh] In fact, somebody once said, you know, if you want a crash course in understanding all the Jewish festivals, they can all be summed up in three sentences: They tried to kill us. We survived. Let's eat. [laugh] But I think that is part of our faith that God is to be found down here in this world that God created and seven times pronounced good. And I find one of the most striking sentences in Judaism — it is in the Jerusalem Talmud — is the statement of Rav that in the world to come, a person will have to give an account of every legitimate pleasure he or she deprived themselves of in this life. Because God gave us this world to enjoy.

I must say that quite apart — and I mean, absolutely, Judaism has taken — I think we share this, but Judaism has said there are three approaches to physical pleasure. Number one is hedonism, the worship of pleasure. The number two is asceticism, the denial of pleasure. And number three is the biblical way for sanctification of pleasure. And that, I think, is important and very profound. And I must say that, you know, sometimes the best kind of interfaith gatherance — I mean, theology is extremely wonderful. It's very cognitive. That is a very polite English way of saying boring. [laugh] And sometimes the best form of interfaith is you just sit together, you eat together, you drink together, you share one another's songs. You listen to one another's stories and just enjoy the pleasures of this world with people of another faith. That is beautiful.

I would add just one other thing. If there is one thing I find beautiful beyond measures — there in my own tradition in what we call hakhnasat orhim, hospitality, very real element of Christianity and Islam and Buddhism — it's a super element in Sikhism, what's called langar. You know, it's not just my physical pleasures. It's giving physical pleasure to those who have all too little. One very great Hasidic teacher once said, "Somebody else's material needs are my spiritual duties." And that, I think, is where we join in sharing our pleasures with others.

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Rabbi Jonathan Sacks suggests that Sabbath-keeping (stopping) is a means of pursuing of happiness (via On Being).

Ms. Tippett: I'm Krista Tippett, on Being — conversation about meaning, faith, ethics, and ideas. Today, Pursuing Happiness — our broadcast of a live conversation between the Dalai Lama, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks of Great Britain, Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, and Muslim scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr.

I've noticed in some of what you've all written in preparation for this conference — the monotheists among us here and the panel — that there is a lot of attention to defining happiness and to the many words that are used in our different traditions and in our languages, in our traditions' original language. It makes me think that, in this culture in particular, if we are going to take happiness seriously in a whole new way as I think many of us want to, we do have to wrestle a bit with that word. That also leads me to wonder if American culture has somehow been fundamentally led astray from the outset by defining happiness as a right. Your Holiness, I wonder how you react to happiness being defined as a right?


Lord Sacks: I'd like just to reflect on one other word, which is "pursuit." Finding happiness doesn't necessarily follow from pursuing it. Sometimes the deepest happiness comes when you're least expecting it. And there is a wonderful story about an 18th-century rabbi, Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, who is looking at people rushing to and fro in the town square. And he wonders why they're all running so frenetically. He stops one and he says, "Why are you running?" and the man says, "I'm running to make a living." And the rabbi says to him, "How come you're so sure that the living is in front of you and you have to run to catch it up. Maybe it's behind you and you got to stop and let it catch up with you." Now which bits of contemporary culture do we stop and let our blessings catch up with us? Now that is called the Sabbath, which we all share.

The Sabbath is when we celebrate the things that are important, but not urgent. And I remember once taking, you know, an atheist — I think an atheist who's the premier child care specialist in Britain to see a little Jewish primary school and some of the stuff they do there. And she saw on Friday, you know, the little children preparing for the Sabbath, the little five-year-old mother and father blessing the five-year-old children and welcoming the five-year-old guests. She's fascinated by this Sabbath, which she has never experienced. And she asked one five-year-old boy, "What do you like most about the Sabbath?" and he says — or "What don't you like?" And the five-year-old boy, being an Orthodox child, says, "You can't watch television. It's terrible." [laughter] And then she said, "What do you like about the Sabbath?" and he said, "It's the only time daddy doesn't have to rush away." Sometimes we don't need to pursue happiness. We just need to pause and let it catch up with us.

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Rabbi Jonathan Sacks talks with Krista Tippett on not letting go of the struggle until one finds the blessing (via On Being)

Ms. Tippett: ... I wonder — and I pose this to you, Rabbi Sacks, it seems to me that the Hebrew Bible, let's say the Psalms, really wallow in sadness and suffering and anger as a way through those human experiences. So I wonder how do you respond to this idea [pursuing happiness] and how might you see it differently or what might you add to that approach to sadness? And, Rabbi Sacks, I know that you have just finished sitting shiva at the death of your mother. So you've been in a period of grief and mourning, which is very much lived and embodied.

Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: Yeah. It is true that if you read the Jewish literature and you read Jewish history, happiness is not the first word that comes to mind [laugh]. We do degrees in misery, post-graduate angst, and advanced guilt, and we do all this stuff, you know. And yet somehow or other when all of that is at an end, we get together and we celebrate. And where I love what His Holiness has just said, how he himself has lived a story that I resonate with, the story of suffering and exile, and yet he has come through it still smiling. And that to me is how I have always defined my faith as a Jew. The definition of a Jew, Israel is at it says in Genesis 34, one who struggles, wrestles, with God and with humanity and prevails. And Jacob says something very profound to the angel. He says, "I will not let you go until you bless me." And that I feel about suffering. When something bad happens, I will not let go of that bad thing until I have discovered the blessing that lies within it.

When my late father died — now I'm in mourning for my late mother — that sense of grief and bereavement suddenly taught me that so many things that I thought were important, externals, etc., all of that is irrelevant. You lose a parent, you suddenly realize what a slender thing life is, how easily you can lose those you love. Then out of that comes a new simplicity and that is why sometimes all the pain and the tears lift you to a much higher and deeper joy when you say to the bad times, "I will not let you go until you bless me."

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Xavier Le Pichon talks with Krista Tippett about fragility and the evolution of humanity (via On Being)

Fragility and the Evolution of Our Humanity

Xavier Le Pichon is one of the world's leading geophysicists, and his pioneering research on plate tectonics revolutionized our understanding of how the Earth works. He has also spent decades living in community with people and families facing disability and has emerged with a rare perspective on the meaning of humanity — a perspective equally informed by his scientific and personal encounters with fragility as a fundament of vital, evolving systems.

From Le Pichon conversations we should pay attention to the how materials closer to the core of the earth deform and slide along each other easily. On the other hand, material at the crust is cooler and often only move violently. This is a great metaphor for talking about organizational change. When we are close to the core (vision and mission) change is made easier by our warmth of purpose. When systems become cooler (and the way we have always done it) then the change may be violent and revolutionary.

Ms. Tippett: I think that also you draw analogies between how a whole community works, which is incorporating that fragility as part of its living being and even what you know about how the earth works.

Mr. Le Pichon: Yeah. It's true that I was very, very impressed by one of these things, which is the way earthquakes are fabricated, which is in the lower layer of the earth where the temperature is high. Then the defaults that are within the rocks are activated, and the rocks are able to deform without fracture, become what we call ductile. You know, they flow.

Ms. Tippett: Right.

Mr. Le Pichon: But when the temperature is low and cold — it's cold like in the upper few miles of the earth — then they are rigid. These weaknesses cannot be expressed, and as a result the rocks are much resistant, much more rigid, and they react by reaching their limit of resistance and suddenly, bing, you have a major commotion and an earthquake.

Ms. Tippett: Right.

Mr. Le Pichon: And so the difference is that in one case, the defaults play a role in putting weakness in that and making things much more smooth, you know?

Ms. Tippett: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Le Pichon: And in the other case, it's very rigid. And I find in the society it's very often the same thing in the community. Communities which are very strong, very rigid, that do not take into account the weak points of the community, the people who are in difficulty and so on, tends to be communities that do not evolve. And when they evolve, it's generally by a very strong commotion, a revolution, I would call them in French.

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Several untold stories from Doris Taylor's stem cell research shared with Krista Tippett (via On Being)

Stem Cells, Untold Stories

Using stem cells, Doris Taylor brought the heart of a dead animal back to life and might one day revolutionize human organ transplantation. She takes us beyond lightning rod issues and into an unfolding frontier where science is learning how stem cells work reparatively in every body at every age.

Buried in this marvelous interview is the following conversation:

Dr. Taylor: Finally, our knowledge has caught up with — or is catching up with biology. We don't understand it all yet. We don't understand what makes them decrease but we know we can begin to move people backwards. And can I tell you some cool stuff? We believe that things that decrease stress actually increase the number of stem cells that you have in your body and in your blood. And we know that men and women have different numbers and different kinds of stem cells. And so for the first time, we think we can begin to understand why it is that men develop heart disease earlier than women — because they lose their stem cells faster.

So wouldn't it be fabulous if we could say, "Wait a minute. We can move you backwards on that continuum of disease." And I think that's the future. The future is really using nature's tools to promote our body's ability to heal itself, whether we do that with traditional medical approaches, giving you cells, giving you molecules that increase the number of stem cells in a controlled way, or whether it's about teaching you tools that let your body do that.

Ms. Tippett: Right.

Dr. Taylor: Meditation, whatever.

Ms. Tippett: Yeah. And in that context — so here's a paradox that strikes me in your work when I read a description of your laboratory where you have a number of hearts beating, right? So there's something about this idea of disembodied hearts that then starts to make me worry about then how we define what we are.

Dr. Taylor: Absolutely.

Ms. Tippett: Right? But then the irony is that one of the things you're discovering is that one of the ways our whole organism has to increase this capacity, this efficiency of stem cells, are through what I call these spiritual technologies like meditation. So, in fact, you take the things apart and then see how they fit together again.

Dr. Taylor: You know, it's interesting because when we were first doing the guys in the lab would sleep in the lab to check on these hearts every half-hour or hour and a half. And when one of my folks who's in my lab now came into the lab and was learning this process, Thomas — who was in the lab before — said, "You've just got to love it enough to keep it going."

Ms. Tippett: Was he talking about the hearts?

Dr. Taylor: He was talking about the hearts …

Ms. Tippett: Right.

Dr. Taylor: … that we were growing in a dish. And, you know, we joke about that but at the same time, I think part of what we're doing is learning about regenerating heart at a lot of different levels. And I think as we learn more about transplanting these hearts, what makes what we're doing a little bit different than what exists out there already is we would — if we wanted to build you a heart, we would take a cadaver scaffold from a pig or from a human that couldn't otherwise be used as a transplant. But we would take your stem cells, and we would use your cells to grow that heart. So it's really about putting your body's ability to heal you back in place.

Ms. Tippett: And then the way I understand it is you also see part of what you would want me to learn in terms of nurturing …

Dr. Taylor: Right.

Ms. Tippett: … that repair forward would also — there would also be a spiritual component to that.

Dr. Taylor: I mean, I personally have to believe that there's a spiritual component to all of this. What we think impacts who we are. We know that. We know that, whether it's what we think makes us grumpy or what we think makes us happy. And we're learning that those have an impact on our physical body. Stress ages your stem cells. There's science out there from some of the best laboratories in the world showing that the way a cell knows how old it is, is it has a little piece of DNA, chromosome, right? On the end of that chromosome is a little piece of DNA called a telomere. And every time your cell divides, that gets shorter. And when it reaches a certain point, it says, "Oops. I'm old. Time to die." Well, stress makes that piece of DNA get shorter. So stress literally ages your stem cells. If you believe that's true, and it is, it also ought to be possible to reverse stress and make your cells younger.

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Richard Mouw discusses political civility from an evangelical perspective with Krista Tippett (via On Being0

I especially appreciate Mouw's invitation to see other people as an exercise in art appreciation.

Ms. Tippett: So here's another statement from you about just an essential Christian truth, which is, "In affirming the stranger, we are honoring the image of God."

Mr. Mouw: Yeah, yeah. That's right. I mean, going back to that Aristotle idea that, you know, we all understand kinship and then we understand friendship, but then there's this person who is neither kin nor friend, but we have encountered them. And what is it that links me to them if it isn't just a lot of good feelings that I have about people like that? What the Bible teaches is that every human being is created in a divine image. And this means that every human being is — you know, this is where I've been thinking more about this lately — is a work of art.

Seeing other people is a kind of exercise in art appreciation. I find that very powerful. I come across a person who isn't just a stranger, but maybe represents a strangeness to me that initially I might feel very alienated from that person, and then to think this is a work of art by the God whom I worship, that God created that person. And it doesn't come easy. I'm kind of aesthetically deprived, so I have to work at it, but it's a very important exercise to engage in.

Restoring Political Civility: An Evangelical View

Richard Mouw challenges his fellow conservative Christians to civility in public discourse. He offers historical as well as spiritual perspective on American Evangelicals' navigation of disagreement, fear, and truth.

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Change: the fearful loudly resist, the hopeful quietly disbelieve, inertia results (via Seth Godin)

People who fear they will be hurt by a change speak up immediately, loudly and without regard for the odds or reality.

People who will benefit from a change don't believe it (until it happens), so they sit quietly.

And that's why change in an organization is difficult.

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Ed Stetzer reminds Christians that the world does not need our moral arrogance. The world needs Jesus.

Eric Bryant recently wrote Not Like Me and Ed Stetzer contributed the insights below. Learning humility before the world and engaging unbelievers as people in relationship and not objects to be won is our work.

The past few decades have seen American Christians going in two different directions. One group in the church regularly pits scorched-earth, "come out and be separate" teaching against another group proposing the "love your neighbor as yourself" command of Jesus as paramount. Some what to save America, while others want to save Americans. Many believers have been taught that we should shun nonbelievers, since any friendship with them might cause us to stumble and fall into sin ourselves. The response is to construct a protective boundary that keeps us at a safe distance from those "living in sin." It results in a subculture of churched people who are the equivalent of evangelical Amish.

While it is important for Christians to have and proclaim the moral standards as we have received them in God's Word, our challenge is to avoid arrogance. Becoming prideful of our standards can have the inadvertent side-effect of us thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.

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Steven Johnson reminds us that hunches and collaboration is where good ideas come from

Sharon Hodde Miller shares her sense that the overshare on social networks is not God-honoring.

I am grateful for persons who state better something I have been thinking. I am trying these days to share the learning adventures I have without airing the family laundry (both biological and church family). Read the full post at and follow Sharon at SheWorships

I want to examine a particular "abuse" of tweeting/posting status updates. It is the practice of posting at (what I would consider to be) inappropriate times. No, I'm not trying to be the Emily Post of social media etiquette here to lecture you on the rudeness of tweeting during a meeting or meal. The kind of "inappropriate" I'm referring to is one that not only impacts the quality of Christian discipleship but the authenticity of our church leaders.

I began to notice this misuse of social networking when friends updated their statuses while on dates with their spouses, or even on their wedding nights. Such an anti-social by-product of social media is ironic, to say the least. Yet out of those habits emerged a more troubling one: Tweeting about deeply personal, intimate moments. Although I understand the desire to share one's life with community, Twitter has gradually become a window into private moments and experiences that, in the past, would have been reserved for God and family.

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Jesus told us to make disciples and often as leaders we take the easy way out.

Heather Zempel, the discipleship person at National Community Church, shares an important reminder about making disciples. We have to work at making disciples just like a farmer has to work to bring forth a crop. Grabbing a "pre-ripened" disciple and showing others the fruit of your efforts is a short-cut. Do the hard work!

The last command Jesus gave his disciples was "go make disciples." There are many things we focus on in church leadership- vision, communication, relevance, preaching, programming, etc. But if there is anything we must get right, it's discipleship. The problem is that it's often easier to focus on other things because discipleship is so stinking hard.


We often look for disciples. We look for a potential leader. We hope to find someone with maturity and gifts that we can raise up. We forget that Jesus told us to go make them. Not find them. If you can't find a potential leader in your group, in your ministry, or on your team, it's not their fault. Don't blame them for being immature or needing to grow. It's your fault. It's my fault. We are supposed to make disciples. And making disciples is long, hard work.

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Bill McKibben speaks with Krista Tippett about the moral math of climate change (via Speaking of Faith)

» Six Americas
The Six Americas of Climate Change

A Yale study identified "six Americas" when it comes to climate change. Where are you on the spectrum?

I am grateful to Dave Graybeal, Drew Theological Seminary professor, for introducing me to Bill's book, The End of Nature. He still writes with great passion about the gift of the earth upon which we live.

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Neuseway Nature Center ranked 18th most popular field trip destination in NC (via Kinston Free Press).

One of the state’s best field trip destinations is in our own backyard.

The Neuseway Nature Center was recently honored as one of the top field trip destinations for the 2009-2010 school year. According to the annual survey conducted by Carolina Field Trips Magazine, the park ranked No. 18 in its list of the top 25 locations in North Carolina.

The park, which began its 15th year of operation in June, has evolved from just a campground and nature center to a destination for nearly 30,000 North Carolina students.

The Nature Center beat out destinations including Linville Caverns, Battleship North Carolina and the N.C. Museum of Art in the number of students visiting on field trips. Dan Nicholas Park in Salisbury ranked No. 1 last year with over 126,000 field trip visitors.

Bobby Cox has been Neuseway’s naturalist since 1996. He said the park offers a lot of different things for field trips, including an inexpensive learning experience.

“We’re one of the cheapest planetariums in (North Carolina) you can go to,” Cox said. “Our cave exhibit downstairs in the nature center is pretty much one of a kind. We’re constantly adding exhibits.”

The park charges $1 per child for each activity during the field trip. Park officials said teachers are allowed in free and the average price is only $3 per child per trip.

The planetarium offers shows designed to follow the state’s curriculum guidelines for the third, sixth and ninth grades, as well as custom shows.   

In addition to the planetarium and cave exhibit, the park includes a train ride — the Big Daddy Express — and playground, as well as several science exhibits. A campground is also available for overnight guests.

Planetarium Director Cindy Bingham said schools have to sign up pretty early in order to reserve a date to visit the nature park — the park is already booked for October and most of November. She added every second grade student in Lenoir County will visit at some point during the school year.

“Teachers have to have a purpose for their trips. They have to meet objectives. Our site allows them fulfill those,” Bingham said. “I think we draw a lot of folks in Eastern North Carolina, especially with budget cutbacks, because we’re closer than Raleigh.”

Bingham said the park is busy with field trips year round. She added summer can be one of the busiest times of the year, with several summer camps visiting each week.

Nature center staff can handle between 70 and 80 children at a time. But Cox said there were days where over 250 people would cycle through.

Park officials reported 8,200 groups visited the park from 13 counties last year — from as far away as Greensboro.

Plans to continue expanding the nature park include an exhibit on fossils found in Eastern N.C.

“It’s probably going to be an impulsive thing,” Cox said of the park’s growth. “When we come up with an idea, if our director approves it, then we go with it.”


Justin Hill can be reached at 252-559-1078 or


Breakout box:

Neuseway Nature Park hours

Tuesday – Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sunday – 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Planetarium Shows

Tuesday – Friday 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Saturday – 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Sunday – 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Call 252-939-3302 for more information

Kudos to Bobby Cox and Cindy Bingham (my wife!) for their work at putting this 15 year old park on the map!

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Steven Colbert announces his "March to Keep Fear Alive" hoping to take it up a scotch across America.

Jon Steward announces his Rally to Restore Sanity on the mall in DC. Take It Down a Notch America (via The Daily Show)

Where will you be on 10/30/10 ... the 36th anniversary of the Thriller in Manila! Join the million moderate march!

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Chargrill did not make the list, so you know its wrong! Consumer Reports weighs in with its Fast Food Burger Rankings (Really!) via HuffPost

Consumer Reports' October issue runs the results of their fast food burger survey, taken by 28,000 of their online subscribers. The respondents ranked 18 fast food burgers on a scale of 1 to 10, and the final results of the survey, along with a photo of each candidate, is below.

In-N-Out Burger and Five Guys shared the top honors, each earning an average score of 7.9. You may remember this same burger duo from last month's Zagat fast food survey, where Five Guys edged out In-N-Out for their best fast food burger crown.

The mega-chain trio of McDonald's, Jack in the Box, and Burger King rounded out the very bottom of Consumer Report's list, lending some credibility to this set of burger rankings (though we can't speak for some of the smaller chains in the middle -- Back Yard Burgers, Checkers, Krystal anyone?).

Below are the complete rankings from first to last, with the overall score (on a scale of 1-10) they each received. How do these burgers stack up for you?

In-N-Out Burger: 7.9

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