December 6, 2013

Roundup - Dec 6

Of interest from the last couple weeks...

Jeremy Smith - Fair Atheists, Religious Jerks and Clergy Taxes. I think in general there is a lot of misunderstanding about how clergy are taxed; because clergy are considered self-employed, and parsonages are treated as taxable income, clergy (at those who play by the rules), are often taxed at a slightly higher rate than most people. But the cause isn't helped by clergy (especially those like Rick Warren) who do take their income as a 100% housing allowance and then are able to purchase their own homes, effectively "double dipping" by deducing the interest on mortgages.

A quick note on parsonages - the "free housing" provided to clergy - it's good to remember that this is primarily a benefit to the congregation, not the pastor, who is missing the opportunity to build equity, receive tax credits for home ownership, and will face becoming a first-time home buyer retirement. In an itinerant system parsonages do make a degree of sense, and I appreciate being able to have lived in some very nice parsonages, but it should be made clear that this isn't some amazing benefit clergy get - most people in the secular world would not voluntarily choose to live in a situation where their employer was also their landlord (especially if the employer had a reputation of doing things as cheaply as possible).

Seth Godin: Is there a reason for the friction? I've actually written about this idea in terms of computer security recently, but it certainly also applies to church membership - there are points where a degree of friction is necessary to make people aware of their choices and to take it seriously.

Lifehack: The 7 Deadly Sins of Happiness.

Fred Clark: The American Legion demands that free citizens take a loyalty pledge written by a socialist. Also from Fred, check out: 'The rich rule over the poor': Dave Ramsey, McDonalds, and the personal salvation of personal finance (Part 1), and (Part 2).

It's always 10:10 in watch ads (via):

9 Things You Have Wrong About Introverts.

The Atlantic: When Trying to Rebut Criticism of Your Racial Politics, Try Not to Make Things Worse.

How Hull Inspired Paul Heaton. Love Hull & Heaton both. Despite Hull being the go-to joke in the UK about a town that's awful and boring, I remember my time there fondly and would love to make a return visit. (Of course I also love Des Moines and Detroit, so maybe I just love cities that frequently are treated like punchlines).

David Steindl-Rast: Want to be happy? Be grateful:

Thinking of Paul Heaton and Hull, here's an oldie from the Housemartins:

November 23, 2013

Roundup - Nov. 23

Of interest from the last few weeks:

Girl Talk sampled over 350 copyrighted songs - which then saw sales bumps.

Quit being nice.

By 2019 Lego minifigs will outnumber humans.

Wil Wheaton on depression: I Got Better.

Dearborn, Michigan is not under sharia law.

Dan Dick: Grace-free living.

J Dilla vs the Beach Boys. I did a poem a few weeks ago where I referenced J Dilla, and got a lot of shocked looks by people in the crowd that totally didn't expect an older white guy from the suburbs to know who he was. Good times.

How to Craft the Perfect Home Office. I'm still working on a finding a good set up for my home office; there are some good tips here.

Mapping Out My Future!

Everything wrong with Back to the Future:

With all the discussion related to the trail of Rev. Frank Shaefer, I found Jason Micheli's take to be particularly interesting.

Jeremy Smith: Fair Atheists, Religious Jerks and Clergy Taxes. I think Jeremy makes some good points here, especially if the eventual trade off is getting rid of the "self employed" designation.

How not to say the wrong thing to someone who is ill.

I challenged hackers to investigate me and what they found is chilling.

Johnny Marr - "How Soon Is Now" (not quite the same without Morrissey's vocals, but still pretty good).

October 21, 2013

Roundup - October 21

Some things that have caught my attention recently:

10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Return of the Jedi - #1 At the end, Luke would put on Vader's helmet and take control of the Empire. (Seriously!)

Tim O'Reilly: How I Failed

The Atlantic: Librarian Fired for Getting Kid to Read

Mashable: 'Modern Day Snail Mail' Project Bring Human Element Back to Texting. I love this idea, but I don't know if I'll every bring myself to try it.

Jason Micheli: Is Christian Nonviolence Unrealistic? Is it Un-Christian?

Everything is Samuel L. Jackson's Fault:

Donald Miller: Why People Will or Won't Remember You.

Seth Godin: Beyond Geography

The Atlantic: Malcolm Gladwell Admits to being a Troll.

Jeremy Smith: Abusers of Confidentiality and Ambiguity in the UMC

McSweeney's: Christopher Robin Friend Requests the Residents of the Hundred Acre Wood.

Jamie the Very Worst Missionary: Better When

Had trouble finding music that really appealed to me, but this new one from Mazzy Star is pretty good:

September 29, 2013

Book Review: Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks

 As part of my involvement in Speakeasy, I had a chance to review Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks by August Turak.

As the title suggests, in this great little book, August draws upon the wisdom of the Trappist community at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina and blends it with his own insights from working in corporate environments like MTV, as well as two software companies he founded - Raleigh Group International and Elsinore Technologies.

As I started to read the book, I found myself needing to adjust my initial expectations. I was hoping for a book that would really unpack some of the theology behind Trappist practice, as well as apply that wisdom to workplace ethics in a very analytic way. Instead, as the book's subtitle revels, this book is a much more personal and largely anecdotal account of "one CEO's quest for meaning and authenticity." This is one person's account of discovering and applying spiritual insight into the workplace, instead of a "how to" manual of how it might be done everywhere. Of course, this isn't to say that the knowledge and wisdom isn't practical or applicable to other situations; it most certainly is, but the book is more about embracing the conversation of how it might happen instead of dictating "5 Simple Steps to Implementing Trappist Business Practices."

Turak identifies three core components of Trappist identity - mission, personal transformation and community, and does a great job of identifying how he has developed them in his life, and seen them practices in other businesses and organizations. There were times in the book where I questioned Turak's examples, such as using the movie The Devil Wears Prada to illustrate the notion of the hero's journey, it works, I just think it was an odd choice for an illustration. There were also times, when I wished he would go deeper into his analysis, especially in his discussion of Truliant Federal Credit Union and their approach to customer service. But overall, I found this to be a quick read that was personal, relevant, and easy to follow. The last four chapters of the book, in particular, are outstanding in their honesty and inspiration and I'd recommend this book simply for those pages alone.

[Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for the purposes of review, my review and recommendation is not in anyway influenced by this. Thanks to Speakeasy, Columbia Business School Publishing and August Turak, for letting me add this wonderful little book to my library].

September 5, 2013

I hate music, what's it worth?

Trying hard and failing hard to get back into a regular routine with this blog. Anyway, here's what I've found interesting over the last few weeks:

The EduPunks' Atlas of Lifelong Learning sorts a wide variety of online, offline, and hybrid learning opportunities. A couple I'd recommend include Codeacademy and Academic Earth.

42 Amazingly Free Things That Will Make You Smile

The Smiths lyrics + Peanuts cartoons = This Charming Charlie (via AV Club)

The Beloit Mindset List for the class of 2017 (this year's college freshmen) has been released. Among the highlights:
  • GM means food that is Genetically Modified.
  • Having a chat has seldom involved talking.
  • Rites of passage have more to do with having their own cell phone and Skype accounts than with getting a driver’s license and car.
  • Captain Janeway has always taken the USS Voyager where no woman or man has ever gone before.
  • As they slept safely in their cribs, the Oklahoma City bomber and the Unabomber were doing their deadly work.
  • Their parents’ car CD player is soooooo ancient and embarrassing.
  • They have always been able to plug into USB ports.
Not only does that list make me feel old, it also reminds me that whether I realize it or not, I do have to face a significant generation gap as I go back to school for another master's degree. (At least my professors will hopefully get my references to Gary Coleman, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, and using Pine to access e-mail).

ESPN has a fascinating story on Dan Gable.

What You Never Realized While Reading a Postcard. I've had this fantasy of turning a bunch of my photos into postcards, and then developing a weekly discipline of sending a card with a personal note on it to a different friend every week. Maybe this will help push me to make that happen.

Jason Micheli is looking at some of the "top" heresies on his blog, I especially liked his thoughts on fundamentalism.

Friend and colleague in ministry, Bri, offers a powerful reflection on Luke 13:10-17 in her post Why not here? Why not now?

Jeremy Smith: Preacher or Performer? The Crying Baby Test.

Borrowed Light:

This isn't my "official" music selection of the week, but it's something you've got to see (as it blows up all over the internet). Ylvis - "The Fox":

And just so you don't have "what does the fox say" stuck in your head the rest of the day, here's a new song from Superchunk, off their album, I Hate Music, called "Me and You and Jackie Mittoo":

August 1, 2013

I Was Wrong, I'm Sorry & I Love You...

Here's what has caught my eye over the last few weeks:
Seth Godin: The Lab or the Factory?

Fast Company: Why This Vintage He-Man Action Figure Still Smells Bad 30 Years Later. Somewhere in my parent's basement, Stinkor still lives, next time I'm back in Iowa, I'll have to give him a smell.

Justin Zoradi (via Donald Miller): You Don't Have to Be Radical, Just a Little Different. Good reminder for me, that the key isn't evaluating myself by the credentials and accomplishments of others, but by claiming and celebrating my own gifts and abilities.

Great, short post by Wil Wheaton on anxiety and depression: You Are Not Alone in This Fight

Jeremy Smith: Yes, We ARE your Grandmother's Church.

Gizmodo: Government Destroys $170k of Hardware in Absurd Effort to Stop Malware.

David Byrne (formerly of the Talking Heads) came to Des Moines earlier this summer and had some nice things to say on his blog: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. I love the fact that he recognizes and even visits some of the great bike trails in the area. I found myself particularly drawn to his idea about growing up in the area:
"The town isn’t particularly hip, but I sort of counted that as a factor in its favor—kids would have to discover what they thought was cool for themselves. Or make it up. Or come to the conclusion that trends does not a life make."
While I get the thought behind it, having grown up in Des Moines, my sense was we didn't really get that chance to "discover what [we] thought was cool for themselves" - because we were still connected to the larger culture (through things like MTV), instead it felt like all this "cool" stuff was happening around us, but we were missing out. While many musicians seem to make regular stops in Des Moines now, back in the late '80s and early '90s it felt a little like a wasteland. Unfortunately we (or maybe just I) lacked the wisdom and foresight to discover what was cool, or just make it up myself... victims of a consumer (vs. creative) culture, I guess.

Lifehack: 20 Books Everyone Should Read Before Age 40. Guess I need to get busy reading; I have covered a little less that 1/2 of the titles, but unless I get really really focused in the next couple of months, I'm not going to cover all of them.

The Daily Show on news of Detroit's bankruptcy:

For a better look at what Detroit has to offer and the opportunities it has to present, I loved this video from Campbell Ewald:

Fred Clark: It's Corporations, Not Killer Robots.

If you are following any of the news concerning the NSA and their ability to intercept traffic on the internet, and you wonder about ways to better protect your privacy, check out the website - it provides a good overview of better software alternatives that can help you maintain your internet security. Even if you aren't worried about government intrusion, these are good products (and practices) to keep your information from being compromised, in general. Just to cover the basics, I'd recommend using Firefox and your web-browser with the "HTTPS Everywhere" extension, and using Thunderbird for e-mail with the GPG encryption. I have hopes to get my own VPN (Virtual Private Network) set up sometime this summer, but I haven't gotten that done, yet.

Lots of good music on the horizon, including this one from Derek Webb called "I Was Wrong, I'm Sorry & I Love You":

June 21, 2013

"I'll find a way to make my poetry build a roof over our heads..."

Business Insider did a piece on a friend from college, Scott Heiferman, who is the founder and CEO of on rightsizing your company. Here is the video of it:

I've also been reading The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath and the listening to the audiobook More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity which all have gotten me thinking back to these ideas of simplicity, and what it the appropriate size of institutions (business, governmental, religious) - do we sometimes embrace growth for the sake of growth, when keeping things small might make more sense. (I would recommend both books, disclaimer: they are affiliate links).

David Gibson: Pope Francis - "God Redeemed Everyone, Not Just Catholics" While I've never been "anti-pope" there's never been one that I felt like I should pay close attention to; Pope Francis has my attention (in a good way).

7 Homemade Dishwasher Detergents. Haven't tried it, but it seems like an interesting idea.

Lifehacker: Get your bike ready with a 10-point checklist.

Mashable: Traveling Motorcycle Tests Security of Wi-Fi Networks. Note to self: buy motorcycle, tell Amy I need it as part of my master's degree in network security.

Charlie Hopper/McSweeney's: Christian Rock Can Only Ever Be About One Thing. The whole thing is worth reading, but as a United Methodist pastor, this section especially hit me:
"When I’m at the Methodist Church where my sons are going through confirmation, I hear all kinds of music.Some gets me closer to the mystery, mostly when I’m obliged to stand and sing along with old-fashioned hymns—the tenderness of “This Is My Father’s World;” the hushed tension and unexpected chords of “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind;” or the musical invention of the third stanza of “Rejoice the Lord is King” where Charles Wesley (the Dr. Luke/John Rich-ish songmeister of his day) arrives from three centuries ago to stir our blood with unexpected half notes in “Lift up— your— heart—” which release back to an unrelenting major-chord quarter note progression rising, rising: “Lift up your voice, rejoice, again I say, Rejoice!”Oy. Hard to resist.Unless… well, our church has a traditional, red-synthetic-robed choir with sopranos, altos, tenors and basses who often shoo away the mysticism like a stray dog.Sometimes they get at joy. Sometimes they evoke triumph o’er the grave.Still, marketing forces within the church recognize that the choir isn’t for everybody. So they have an 11:00 o’clock rock service now.My eldest son was paired with the nicest guy in the world for a confirmation counselor. This guy plays guitar in the rock combo each Sunday. They sound great.But they play “Christian rock.” 
 Why do I find Christian rock sooooooooo tedious?
I like rock. I like hymns. I’ve opened myself to a sense of spirituality—I’m not an atheist anymore. My son’s counselor plays that guitar like ringing a church bell.But I can hardly endure it.It’s always, always the same story.It’s always the same words even.We thank Jesus, admit sin and guilt, confess amazement at how receptive He is under the awkward circumstances of us having killed Him, and compare Him to a bloody lamb. We ask forgiveness. When we receive forgiveness, we praise Him and The Father.Often we praise not just Him but His Name.(pause while I hope no Methodists are reading this)It all just irritates me. This is not rock: Rawk!—that primordial stew that can combine elements with electricity and create life.Sanctioned phrases and predictable endings are the wrong elements."
He hits the problem with contemporary Christian music so well - no passion, no mystery, no depth. Bumper sticker slogans set to poor imitations of contemporary music doesn't do much to advance art, culture, or add meaning to our lives. I know it works for some people, but I'm with Charlie in confessing that much of the time it doesn't really do much for me. I think it raises the question that sometimes in our efforts to "conform" and become "relevant" we may actually be making ourselves more irrelevant in some people's lives.

Donald Miller: Four Words That Changed My Career.

Related: LaRae Quy: 5 Reasons Why It's Important to Fail.

Dan Dick: The Contentment Decision.

Bill Nye: When Rush Limbaugh Says I'm Not a Scientist, I'm Charmed.

Seth Godin: Tried and False.

Good: Turn an Empty Space into a Pop-up Community Hub. While there are obvious unused spaces in places like Flint and Detroit, I've been noticing the abundance of office space and strip mall spaces in the suburbs and found myself wondering how they might be creatively used.

Planet Money: How a 1911 Methodist song book plays a role in a copyright battle over "Happy Birthday".

Also from Planet Money, a few weeks ago I heard their podcast on a "patent troll" who is trying to claim a patent on all podcasts (the episode is here). In this case, the "inventor" simply documented a way audio theoretically might be shared over the internet back in 1996; he never did anything with this idea and only now is trying to claim royalties from his "invention." What struck me most is the piece at the end where it talks about the Electronic Frontier Foundation challenging this patent and looking for examples of "prior use" - I immediately recalled that in college my friends and I were experimenting with sharing audio over the internet, and actually had a functional implementation in place back in 1994. While bandwidth issues and limits to technology kept us from sharing complete episodes, we had enough of a functional system in place that could be seen as a real precursor to podcasting. (Note: I really can't claim credit for this, this was Scott Heiferman's radio show and idea).

One more thought - if you don't listen to the Planet Money podcast, you really should, they do such a great job of presenting serious economic issues is easy to understand ways.

Roger Grimes: It's Over - All Private Data is Public. Grimes argues that we should no longer assume any of our data (bank, hospital, education, etc.) is private, because security breaches are so rampent that if someone really wants it they can (and probably will) have it. That's a hard reality to face, but I suspect he is right.

I love this song and video from Billy Bragg - "Handyman Blues"... this is a 12-step group I might have to join.

If you like that one and have some time for more Billy Bragg bliss, check out this Tiny Desk Concert from NPR:

May 29, 2013

"People were mean to you, but I always thought you were cool..."

Of interest from the past couple of weeks...

Fred Clark: Blade Runner, Terminator, Minority Report and the sabotage of the Postal Service.

WiseBread: 9 LinkedIn Changes Every Job Hunter Should Make.

The Atlantic: The War on Free School Breakfast.

Lifehacker: The Best Chrome Apps You Are (Probably) Not Using. I'm not a die-hard devotee of any particular web browser, but I do use chrome as my default - this is a pretty good list of tools you can use within your browser for doing things like editing audio, video and pictures; I haven't personally tried them (other than the basic google apps), but the seems like they are worth checking out.

Gizmodo: The International Space Station has Ditched Windows for Linux. Like with browsers, I try not to be an OS snob (my old Macbook is set up to triple book Mac OS 10.6, Windows 8 and Ubuntu), but I think it is pretty cool the ISS is switching to Linux. (I've wondered about trying to do a custom Linux build, specific that would provide churches and nonprofits with a basic, easy to use OS that would be more cost effective for the low end, older computers churches typically use).

Related: This made the rounds a couple weeks ago, but it still awesome - Chris Hadfield singing David Bowie's "Space Oddity" on the ISS:

More space-nerd stuff from Gizmodo: Barns Are Red Because of How Stars Explode.

Good: Bike Lanes Are Really Good for Local Businesses.

Jason Micheli: Clergy Robes and Anonymous Notes.

Jeremy Smith: UMReporter & Cokesbury - The Splintering of Methodism. Download High Quality Vintage Posters. I've touched on my thoughts around intellectual property and public domain before, but I love sites like this, which not only highlight, but make public domain works easily accessible. Take a look, especially if you are in need of some office decoration (or even wallpaper for your computer desktop):

Adam Ericksen: God, a Tornado and John Pieper's 'Satanic Theology'.

One of my favorite bands of the recent years, The Mountain Goats, are coming to Detroit on June 12.
"You Were Cool"

May 9, 2013

"I started out so starry eyed, full of hope and wonder..."

Links of interest from this past week...

Wil Wheaton: Being a nerd is not about what you love, but how you love it.

Anne Marie Miller: Are Forgiveness and Reconciliation the Same?

Seth Godin: The Critic Stumbles.

Good: How to Hack Energy Savings with a Simple Sign and a Revolving Door.

Jason Micheli: Don't Call Me Reverend.

Lifehacker: Build Your Own Hidden Lair with this Secret Bookshelf. What Trustee do I need to talk to to make this happen?

Fred Clark: The Sabotage of the Postal Service. This has bothered me for a while now, all the talk about the US Postal Service running deficits isn't only because of this accounting trick, that no other business has to observe.

The Atlantic Wire: The War on Free School Breakfast is Beyond Wrong.

Fast Company: If You Graduated After 1976, You are Getting Screwed by the Economy.

Rachel Held Evans: Why Progressive Christians Should Care About Abortion.

Joel Watts: The UMC Itinerant System is Evil. (No it's not, as Joel concludes, but it can be hard, and I appreciate the way he articulates this from the perspective of a lay person).

Music from Bob Mould - The Descent - off his most recent album,Silver Age:

April 29, 2013

"I've been starting over for a long time..."

Once again, apologies to handful of you who actually follow this thing for my lack of updates. Anyway, here's some of the things that have caught my attention over the last few weeks, it's not a long list, but hopefully you'll find a few worthwhile nuggets in there:

Fred Clark on Christianity and anti-depressants: Mourning with those who Mourn.

Jason Micheli: Going to Hell on an Airplane. Found this via Scot McKnight's blog, and I love, not just this post, but scanning through the rest of the blog, it's clear Jason is a great Methodist blogger, be sure to check it out.

Donald Miller: How to get along with an introvert... also Donald Miller manages to blow my mind revealing that Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree was a response to Brennan Manning's question about what God's love is like.

Accidental Racists and More. It's funny to post this link today - just last night I had this dream about delivering the very moving slam poem to a large group of students about racism and the causal use of racist language. Unfortunately, I can't remember a word of that poem - even though in the middle of the dream I did have the realization, "Wow! This is really good stuff, too bad I can't right it down right now."

Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary: What Would Jesus... Blog?

Paton Oswalt's response the the Boston bombing - if you haven't read it, you should.

Rev Momma: Inch by Inch.

Seth Godin: Getting Picked (the need to vs. the want to).

New music from Mikal Cronin. Honestly I don't know much about this artist, just happened to stumble across this song and love the sweet summer-time power-pop of this song, not to mention that opening line, "I've been starting over for a long time..."

March 28, 2013

my whole life is a delicate cycle...

Fred Clark: It's Not Your Stance, But Who You Are Standing With

50 Common Misconceptions:

It's a conspiracy! The destruction of the Death Star was an inside job!

DIY Cadbury Cream Eggs (via Lifehacker).

Springtime DIY - Bike Tune-up Guide.

Adam Walker Cleveland: Amanda Palmer The Art of Asking and Stewardship.

Mashable: Why Introverts Have All The Fun. I just finished reading Susan Cain's book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking - and would HIGHLY recommend it, both for introverts who feel like all to often they struggle to fit in and for extroverts who really do want to understand what it going on in our heads. (Disclosure: the link to the book is an Amazon Associates link, meaning I would get a very small % of the sale of you click and buy).

The Atlantic: How the Maker of Turbo Tax Fought to Keep Taxes Complicated.

Since I've been doing these round-ups I've been using Google Reader as my primary way of reading, tracking and marking blogs to link here. With the recent announcement that Google is going to discontinue Reader, I have made the switch to Feedly and have really enjoyed it - it has a nice interface (especially on my Nexus 7), and it equally as easy to mark articles of interest. If you use a feed reader to keep track of blogs (like mine), I'd encourage you to check it out.

Aesop Rock and Kimya Dawson have formed a new band called the Uncluded, this is their song called "Delicate Cycle":

March 9, 2013

Another roundup...

Another post with the too familiar chorus, "I really am going to get better about regular updates..." Anyway, here's some of the things catching my interest over the last few weeks:

Seth Godin writes on Destabilizing the Bully Power Structure, noting that:
"Bullying persists when bureaucracies and hierarchies permit it to continue. It's easier to keep order in an environment where bullying can thrive (and vice versa), because the very things that permit a few to control the rest also permit bullies to do their work. The bully uses the organization's desire for conformity to his own ends."
It is interesting to think of this in the context of the church. I've always assumed that bullies who find their way into churches (and church leadership) do so, because it can be an environment where it can be easy to assume power, and it is filled with people who will tend to tolerate or excuse "bad" behavior in the name of "Christian love" and "forgiveness."  But what if there is something else happening at a deeper systematic level that helps foster an environment where bullies are welcomed and protected into the life of the church?

Semi-related - Shane Koyczan doing his poem "To This Day"... for the bullied and beautiful.

Wil Wheaton: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace Failure.

Fred Clark: I Do, In Fact, Care Who Started It. Make sure you read the whole article, but I'll share the xkcd cartoon Fred included that really made the point for me:

Hugh MacLeod: All Art Is Religious Art.

Scot McKnight put this up on his blog, I'm not sure what it says about me given that I like the "geek" movies, but the "hipster" bands.
Geeks vs Hipsters

Dan Dick: Vital Is As Vital Does.

Ta-Nehisi Coates: The World that Hip Hop Made.

Elizabeth Evans Hagen: I left the church. Don't hate me. Wonderful reflection on making the choice to leave pastoral ministry in search of a more faithful calling.

I just discovered this odd video this afternoon, by one of those "hipster bands" I'm so fond of; Beach House "Wishes":

February 18, 2013

Lent 3: See

The word for day 3 was "see" so I just went for the straightforward image of my glasses which have been helping me to see for about 27 years now. Last summer, I (foolishly) wore my glasses into a wave pool at an amusement park in Iowa, and promptly lost them when the first large wave hit me. I spent the rest of the day (and part of the next) in full blur mode. It's amazing how something as simple as a piece of plastic shaped in just the right way to refract light, can make the difference between seeing the world and being effectively blind.

There are lots of ways to turn that metaphor into a sermon, but I'll spare you that, at least for this time...

Lent 2: Return

This is the second image from the Lenten Photo-a-day project in which I'm participating. The word was "return" and while the first thought of "return" for me was the story of the Prodigal Son (and I sort-of had an idea of how to capture that), I guess I was still in an Ash Wednesday mood Thursday morning when I was ready to work on the project, and instead went with the scripture "to dust you will return."

At the same time I was preparing this image, I was also working on a poem that was part of a larger piece with 6 other poets on the seven last words of Jesus. The phrase I had was "it is finished", and so that idea of mortality, and in particular how we, as modern-day Christians, I believe, really shield ourselves from the painful reality of death was on my mind. (I'll probably get the poem posted on the site closer to Good Friday).

On this same general theme, I was reminded again just this week, just how amazing Leonard Cohen's song, "Going Home" is, (one day I hope to write, and even sing like this)...

February 17, 2013

Lent 4: Injustice

The theme for this day was "injustice." The day before, I had spent time both in Flint and Detroit, and there were opportunities to take pictures of the "obvious" images of injustice - urban blight, abandoned homes, "pay-day loan" stores, but none of those really appealed to me, and the idea of photographing abandoned homes felt a little like it could be perceived as "ruin porn," so I thought it more appropriate to just write out one of my favorite verses from scripture.

Until that day comes, I'll just keep singing (out of tune) with Billy Bragg...

When the world stops making sense, I need a new alphabet...

Once again, here I am trying to get caught up. The addition of a couple classes has really thrown off my blogging routine. Here's what's been of interest from the past few weeks:

Donald Miller: What is Self-Righteousness and Why is it Annoying?

Fred Clark: Secrets and lies and the deeper scandal of the evangelical mind.

Dan Dick: The Hegemony of How.

Seth Godin: Those People. (really, if you are just going to click one link today, click this one, it's really a must read).

Julie Clawson: Celebrating the Flesh.

New York Times: Even if It Enrages Your Boss, Social Net Speech is Protected (Sometimes)

File under things that are awesome: White House Announces National Day of Civil Hacking.

A couple interesting pieces from Fast Company: Can Creative Companies Save Detroit? and Rebuilding Detroit by Hand.

New music from Eels that came out a week or two ago; this video is a little odd, but I enjoy it...

February 14, 2013

Lent 1: Who am I?

In this season of Lent I'm attempting the UMC's Rethink Church Photo-a-day Challenge where I am posting a photo each day related to a specific word (or words). My hope is in addition to posting the photos on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, I would also try to add them to my blog with a litte explanation behind my thinking.

For the first day, "Who am I?" - I decided to keep it pretty simply. Just start writing out words and phrases that would describe me. What I found interesting about the exercise was a commitment to try and keep it fairly honest - especially with it being Ash Wednesday I didn't want to write only positive things, I felt like some measure of confession and self-reflection was due, but I also refused to write only the negative things (which is where I often go, internally, already). So I found myself pairing off words that describe me, but also speak of contradiction - things like "fearful" and "brave"; "healing" and "hurting"; "myself" and "fake".

We all have these contradictions, we all live in the grey in-between area of vice and virtue, between saint and sinner, but all too often, I suspect, we gravitate towards the easy labels. We force ourselves to choose one or the other. Especially when it comes to other people - we tend to judge them in very black-and-white ways, forgetting that we are all multifaceted beings.

What would it mean if we were to finally come to peace with our contradictions, to laugh at our imperfections and see the amazing complexity in all those people around us?

Hopefully that will be one of my aims this Lent.   

January 22, 2013

Back at it...

The long-neglected round-up of interesting links is back again; hopefully I'll get back on track with a regular routine with this. Here is what I've found to be interesting over the past month or so...

Donald Miller: What Makes a Happy Life?

Jeremy Smith responds to some of the bad theology that surrounded the Sandy Hook shootings in "If God is invited in, all is well?"

Semi-related - Mike Todd - The Question of the Age. See also Don Miller's What is the Real Problem in the World?

Fred Clark: Hobby Lobby takes human biology to court; also be sure to read a follow-up from Fred on how Christianity Today wants to bring back the company town.

My friend, Rudy, offers his 2012 music round-up.

Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary - speaks to the experience of depression in Jesus or Zoloft?

Dan Dick continues to challenge the United Methodist Church - Time For A New Mission?

In just a few sentences Seth Godin writes a powerful (and personally convicting) meditation, The Cost of Neutral. Another powerful one from Godin that speaks to the church, and especially Annual Conference for United Methodists, When A Conference Works (And Doesn't).

Hugh MacLeod: The Web We Lost.

I know there's more but I think I'll call that good for now...

I found this song (and video) on NPR's All Songs Considered blog listing some of the most stylish videos of 2012 - the band is Explosions in the Sky and the song is called "Postcards from 1952":