January 31, 2011

this week's round-up (january 31)

Malcolm Gladwell - "Speaking is not an act of extroversion"

Jay Voorheess points to a blog by Roger E Olson who does a really great job of explaining and unpacking Arminian theology (which is the primary theological viewpoint behind Methodism).  I've just started skimming through Olson's blog, but there is some really great stuff in there. Even though I think I do a pretty good job of being able to "think Methodist" and have a Methodist theology, I'll admit that I never really got into many of the issues of how and why Arminianism is distinct from Calvinism (I'm not sure if this wasn't really covered in my seminary classes, or if I just wasn't paying attention when it was). Looking at this stuff, plus reading Will Willimon's book United Methodist Beliefs has me wondering if we do need some sort of revival in reclaiming our theological heritage, and letting that guide us into the future.

Lifehacker: Everything You Need to Know About the Verizon iPhone and Making the Switch. I'm still under contact with T-Mobile for about 60 days (not that I'm counting), but need to switch because they don't have coverage in the town where I work. I'm not sure if going with the iPhone (either on AT&T or Verizon) makes much sense financially, but I'm exploring my options.

Jeremy Smith points to a small controversy surrounding an  article in Marie Claire about a United Methodist Pastor's struggle around being single and in ministry. Jeremy makes some great points, and there good discussion in the comments section, too. As I read it, I was reminded of the Donald Miller article I posted last week on the Wisdom of Honesty and how some people have a gift for just being able to tell it like it is, regardless of consequences, and others hold their tongue when they feel the raw truth do more harm than good. While I certainly wouldn't have made the choice to be quite so bold about my relationship struggles in a national magazine (I frequently censor and second-guess myself even on this blog), I can't condemn Rev. Miller's candor and honesty; I hope her words will help others understand that pastor's struggle with work and relationships just like everyone else.

Seth Godin on The Shell Game of Delight - create environments where people feel appreciated, valued, have have a chance to "win". Seth also writes (via the Domino Project), about the broken pricing model of e-books in Compared to What? I haven't gotten on the e-book bandwagon, in part, because I want the tactile experience of holding a real book and turning pages, but also (as Seth points out) because the price seems way to high for what I'm getting.

David Crumm talks with Jay Bakker. I frequently listen to Jay's podcast from Revolution Church and continue to be fascinated about his transition from the son of two of the most prominent televanelists, through his personal struggles, to this guy who's reading Borg and Tillich and doing interesting ministry in New York.

Donald Miller - A Creator Must Believe He Has the Authority to Create. Good reminder to "take thou authority". Also from Miller: Commit to the Work, Not the Goals.

Wil Wheaton says Librarians are Awesome. I agree. In addition, last week, Wil shared some thoughts on the anniversary of the Challenger explosion. I, too, was home sick that day and remember it well.

I've posted a live version of this song before, but I just found an official video on MTV's website. It's a little "poppy" for my own personal taste, but it has a good message, and it's really interesting that it's getting mainstream attention from a place like MTV.

January 24, 2011

this week's round-up (january 23)

A couple clergy friends have taken to blogging, both starting off strong, check out Bri and Mike

Inspired by my friend, Eric, I've also started a photo-a-day blog thing (and added a tab at the top of this blog to take you there).

Great video from Steven Furtick on how you're not Francis Chan; I think I even gave a sermon in the summer that made some reference to how cool I thought Chan was for making this leap of faith, and I can confess that all too often I evaluate my calling by what others have done or are doing, instead of just trusting, celebrating, and finding contentment in where God has called me:

Wil Wheaton has a wonderful reminder on how technology makes us stupid.

Rick Dake reminds us of the importance of the Wesley Questions for evaluating and centering our spiritual lives. (I like the idea of making them into a sermon series, too).

TED talks throughout history. The link is humor, so if you are unfamiliar what what TED Talks are it won't make much sense; but if you are unfamiliar with what TED talks are, I'd encourage you to get familiar - there are some really interesting presentations out there. Just go to www.ted.com and start exploring. As I remember, J.J. Abrams' talk on the Mystery Box is pretty good, as is Malcolm Gladwell's talk on spaghetti sauce.

Nadia Bolz-Weber on How To Say Defiantly, "I am Baptized". I love this part at the end:

"And when the forces that seek to defy God whisper if in your ear — “If God really loved you you wouldn’t feel like this; If you really are beloved then you should have everything you want” — remember that you, all of you, have been marked with the cross of Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit. God has named you and claimed you as God’s own in the waters of your baptism. You, like our Lord, have been given identity and purpose, so when what seems to be depression orcompulsive eating or narcissism or despair or discouragement or resentment or isolation takes over, try picturing it as a vulnerable and desperate force seeking to defy God’s grace and mercy in your life, and then tell it to piss off, and say defiantly to it, “I am baptized!” Because the water that covered you in God’s promises in your baptism is simply the only thing that gets to tell you who you are.
And this is not a matter of having high self-esteem. This is about nothing less than God’s redeeming purpose in the world, and that purpose will prevail. Indeed it has already prevailed."
 Donald Miller writes on the Wisdom of Honesty asking us to wrestle with the question of when to speak and when to turn the other cheek.

Will Willimon takes at look at the recent comment by Governor Bentley on being brothers and sisters in Christ:

"Christians don’t regard others as our brothers and sisters because they are members of our church, they affirm our creed, or because they are nice people. We relate to others as Jesus has related to us – making us brothers and sisters, not by virtue of who we are but on the basis of who he is."
Seth Godin on the Reassurance of New Words. He puts it so simply:
"It's a lot easier for an organization to adopt new words than it is to actually change anything.
"Real change is uncomfortable. If it's not feeling that way, you've probably just adopted new words."
I think there is a little more nuance in reality - sometimes changing language can play a part in creating change, but often we do get caught up with just changing a few words and being satisfied with that, instead of making any real change.

Oldie, but a goodie, R.E.M. "Talk About the Passion"

January 16, 2011

this week's round-up (january 16)

Of interest:

Scott Hodge on Leaving Church (via Eric)

I know you'll find all sorts of spelling and grammatical errors in my writing, but I am a one-spacer and proud of it.

Who does CNN call when birds fall from the sky? Kirk Cameron! (Who actually has a decent response: "Maybe you should call a veterinarian instead of me").

Spider-Man speaks at career day.

What went wrong at Borders.

From Donald Miller: Is Church Life Stifling Your Creativity?

Seth Godin on Soles:
"There's a sign on most squash courts encouraging players to wear only sneakers with non-marking soles. I'm not sure there's such a thing. If you're going to do anything worthy, you're going to leave a mark."
God also has some thoughts on raising expectations and how you shouldn't advertise something you can't deliver COUGH(rethink church)COUGH

Lifehacker: Five Things You Should Make Time For This Year and Learn How to Code this Weekend (which I didn't spend my weekend doing).

Slactivist has some thoughts on imaginary enemies - he targets extreme elements in the tea party, but I think you get a similar phenomena in elements of the liberal side, too.  Also from Slactivist a great post on mourning with those who mourn.

January 13, 2011

Willimon on using our brains

In preparation for a confirmation class I'm teaching, I've been skimming through Will Willmon's book United Methodist Beliefs: A Brief Introduction. I was struck by this great passage in the introduction:

I've had it with people who understand computer programming, French cooking, or molecular biology but assume that they can think like a Christian on the basis of simple, sappy truisms they picked up while flipping channels on their TV. The Gospels depict Jesus as calling people to grow, not turn off their brains and settle into a life forever fixed at age seven.
What passes for atheism ("There is no God") or agnosticism ("I don't know whether or not there is a God") is sometimes simple cerebral sloth, intellectual sluggishness. Some people act as if their disbelief is an intellectual achievement when in reality it's a failure to think deeply about the Good News of Jesus Christ. The modern world is officially agnostic, contending that no truth is greater than any other truth, that it's fine to be a believer as long as you promise your believing will never be more than a personal preference without political or economic implications. "I don't believe" sometimes means that disbelievers lack the intellectual chutzpa to think outside the bod that the modern world has forced on them. We are a culture that loves shortcuts, slogans, facile definitions, and quick, easy, instant answers. One of John Wesley's favorite biblical texts was, "Work our your own faith with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12). Even though our salvation in Jesus Christ is free, it is not cheap. Jesus demands a lifetime of willingness to keep at the intellectual journey. (pgs. xv-xvi)

January 3, 2011

best of (sort of) for 2010

For the past couple years I've thought about one of those big "best of" lists that could recommend all these amazing books, albums, etc., but I never feel like I read enough or have enough of a critical ear to make a fair judgement/recommendation to anyone who actually reads this thing. I've finally decided to give it a shot, with the disclaimer that this is just what came across my radar this year, with money and free time limiting my scope.

On the music side here's stuff released in 2010 that I gave a good listen to (listing isn't based on ranking):

OK Go - Of the Blue Colour of the Sky - decent album, it's their videos that put them over the top, though.

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists - The Brutalist Bricks - has it's moments, but overall not quite what I was hoping for.

She and Him - Volume Two

The Hold Steady - Heaven Is Whenever - I'm afraid the Hold Steady has fallen into that category where I fell so deeply in love with their first couple albums, that anything "new" won't compare; it's unfair to the band because it doesn't allow them to grow as artists. This is a good album, and I suspect it will continue to grow on me down the road.

Eels - Tomorrow Morning - I've been on an Eels kick recently, and this one in particular, where Mark Oliver Everett takes a more optimistic turn hits me in the right place.

Belle & Sebastian - Write About Love - B&S fall into the same category as the Hold Steady for me, my opinion is always too deeply influenced by their previous work. In this case however, this feels like a more natural progression from their previous work and Stuart Murdoch's God Help the Girl project. This one is growing on me and is among my favorites for the year.

Jonsi - Go - Great album, another favorite... if you are into mainstream pop/rock this will probably be a little too "out there" for you, this is a nice counterpoint to what he's been doing with Sigur Ros.

Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record - I know this is one all the hip music bloggers are supposed to love. It has it's moments, but overall just isn't quite my thing.

David Bazan - Curse Your Branches - Interesting reflection on one man's fall from faith.

Vampire Weekend - Contra - Good alterna-pop, even if you've never heard of the band, you've probably heard their music in a TV commercial.

Girl Talk  - All Day - Gregg Gillis does the mashup thing so well, and it's fun to listen just to play the "name that sample" game, but part of me wishes this could be something that it isn't - a Negativland-esque critique of pop culture and politics.

For a broader take on the music of 2010, check out my friend Rudy, he's got the critical ear and depth of knowledge I respect.

In terms of books my my two absolute favorites that I read this year are Seth Godin's Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? and Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life. While Godin writes from a primarily a business-marketing perspective and Miller writes from a Christian-memoir one, they both seem to be on a similar tangent, about living life as artists/telling a better story to add meaning in your personal life and to make a difference in the larger world.

I also read Leonard Sweet's book Nudge and Dwight Friesen's Thy Kingdom Connected as part of Ooze Viral Bloggers, reviews are here and here - each book had it's moments, but neither was extraordinary. Malcolm Gladwell's What the Dog Saw,  World War Z by Max Brooks, and Under the Dome by Stephen King, were also among the 2010 reads - all 3 are good, but I felt King's could have been better. I know there are other books that should be on this list, but it's getting late and I haven't kept good track of what I've read.

I know there are other media I could add to the list: movies, blogs, magazines, but I'll give that a pass this time out.

[Just as a disclaimer, all the links (except for Girl Talk) are Amazon Associate links so I do get a small percentage if you click and buy].

last month's round-up (jan 3)

Playing catch-up again, but as I look at the list not a whole lot to report... here's what's caught my attention over the last few weeks.

Seth Godin on How to organize a retreat an advance. Also from Seth, Bigger or smaller, which contains this gem of wisdom:
"It's so tempting to shut people down, to limit the upside, to ostracize, select and demonize. It makes things a lot simpler. Not seeing means you don't have to take action. Not opening means it's easier to announce that you're done. And not raising the bar means you're less likely to fail."
Scot McKnight on A Christmas Pledge to Courtesy. He shares this powerful quote from Gina Dalfanzo:
"Christian courtesy is rooted and grounded in the idea that every person—however much we may dislike him or her—is made in the image of God and precious in his sight. It is an ideal that we may struggle to live up to, but the struggle makes us better people; it reminds us to show kindness when every impulse and instinct is urging us to do the opposite. It requires of us something deeper than a rally or a video, something more than the obligatory apology that follows most celebrity catfights. It’s a lifestyle that has to be consciously lived every day."
In music news, for classic Celtic-punk fans, The Pogues are coming to town.