Monthly Archives: October 2011

Friday Link Love

Here we go:


See-Through Church – Belgium

I ran across this on Andrew Sullivan’s blog, who said, “that’s one way to get more transparency in the church.” Visually arresting; see the link for more photos:


Applying Sentiment Analysis to the Bible – OpenBible

An interesting image and idea, and something one could sit and study for quite some time… although I notice that the resurrection is listed as a negative event. Yeah, I guess Mark could be read that way…


The Roots of Religion – Big Questions Online

Myth, story, practice…

 I have found that the very mention of the words “religion” and “evolution” sets off a kind of reflex reaction among some, but fortunately not all, contemporary Americans. Among both religious fundamentalists and what might be called atheistic fundamentalists these terms set off a war to the death, with abusive language directed toward the supposed opposition. In that kind of atmosphere any rational discussion becomes impossible. What unites these two groups is the idea that religion and science are essentially the same thing:  sets of propositional truths that can be judged in terms of argument and evidence.

What surprised me when I began to read the work of leading scientists in the fields of cosmology and evolution is how many of them rejected this idea and argued instead that science and religion are really two different spheres that may at points overlap but that operate in accordance with different logics. Science operates with scientific method in terms of which different theories can be tested and proved or disproved, though if Karl Popper is right, proof is always problematic and we are safer to stick to disproof. Religion on the other hand is a way of life more than a theory. It is based on beliefs that science can neither prove nor disprove. Its “proof” is the kind of person the religious way of life produces.


Dying and Dinner Parties – Vimeo

Linked from the Improvised Life blog, this is a delightfully matter-of-fact take on the last adventure of life.

Dying and Dinner Parties from ThinPlace Pictures on Vimeo.


An Interview with David Eagleman – BoingBoing

David and I were at Rice University at the same time, though I did not know him there. He’s made the rounds on some of my favorite podcasts, including Radiolab, and his book Sum: Forty Tales of the Afterlives is really interesting. In this interview he tackles near-death experiences, déjà vu and more. When asked what advice he’d have for young aspiring scientists and thinkers, he says:

Watch TED talks: smart people will distill their life’s work down to 20 minutes for you. Follow links through infinite trajectories of Wikipedia. Watch educational videos on topics that resonate with you.

There are a million ways to waste time on the net; reject those in favor of ways that teach you exactly what you want to know. Never before have we enjoyed such an opportunity for tailored, individualized education.

And be sure to get off-line often, to take digital sabbaths. As much as the net provides a platter of mankind’s learning, there is a different kind of learning to be had from a hike in the woods, the climbing of a tree, an afternoon building a dam in a stream.


Are We Teaching Our Kids to be Dysfunctional about Time?

Prison Countdown Clock. Because it's not too soon to start that Christmas shopping.

The book writing is coming along, which means I’ve got Sabbath on the brain all the time. (Too bad I haven’t taken one in a couple of weeks. Oops.)

I’m finding that the book is really not about Sabbath. It is about Time: how we understand it, measure it, spend it. Time is a great leveler because we all have a finite amount of it. Even the CEO of a Fortune 500 company cannot cheat death (though admittedly, top-notch health care doesn’t hurt).

So here’s something I’ve been kicking around about time, and I don’t have an answer. I’ve always heard that with kids, it’s beneficial to give them some warning when it’s time to transition from one activity to the next—especially if the first activity is something fun that they aren’t going to want to stop doing. Parenting experts advocate a countdown, e.g. “five minutes and then we need to leave the playground,” or “we leave for the bus in ten minutes.”

We are practitioners of this method, mainly because it makes life easier: more warning means fewer tantrums because they wanted to go down the slide One! More! Time!, and fewer frantic searches for shoes when we need to walk out the door. But we also do it because it respects our children as people. I don’t like being yanked around without warning and wouldn’t like it if it were done to me.

On the other hand, I wonder whether there is a downside, in the sense of making the awareness of time a little too prominent a feature of our kids’ lives. Childhood is great kairos time (holy time, time outside of time) in a lot of ways. Kids get what it means to be immersed in an activity, enjoying it for its own sake, not worrying about the clock. Does the warning system take them outside of this immersiveness and condition them to be aware of time in ways that aren’t helpful? And is there a cost to them in terms of their development or their enjoyment of childhood?

What do you think?

Beyond Shepherd

I was given a great gift on Saturday. It’s the kind of gift that makes a person feel humble, blessed and profoundly grateful. (I’m not even talking about the wonderful meal Robert cooked for me—it was our anniversary—although that was fantastic too.)

As a fun opening to last Saturday’s transformation training, the teams from the four participating congregations were given a list of fanciful titles (Empress, Chief) and were asked to give each other titles, which we wrote on name tags for one another. Our team’s names included Charioteer, Scribe, Sprite, Sage and Attaché. I’ve bragged before about the team from Tiny Church, how open they are to new ideas, how willing they are to ask difficult questions, to pray for each other and to go the extra mile with the work they’re doing. They’re also delightfully creative.

The other teams that were present gave their pastors the title “Shepherd.” It’s a perfectly good title, and not one I disparage. It’s biblical, and suggested right there in the name “pastor.” One group embellished the title and added “Sheepdog trainer.” I know that pastor was proud! That’s a huge part of transformation work—for churches to see the pastor not as someone who does the ministry for the congregation, but who trains other leaders to do ministry too.

My team gave me a different title. I looked it up later because it was intriguing to me. It has philosophical and mythological overtones. It speaks of a person who brings about transformation of something ordinary into something extraordinary. And it resonated with me because part of my work has been to help Tiny Church see, or remember, that though they are small, and their building is showing its age, and they never have quite as much money as they’d like to, they are mighty people indeed.

It should be said that the title they gave me, like shepherd, is not really mine. It actually belongs to Jesus, who’s the one who does the work; as pastors, we simply bear witness. We notice and name what God is doing.

The title is Alchemist.

Again… it is God’s work that I hope I am doing. But I am happy to be a part of it and to be given such a winsome title.

“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.”

Image: Nicholas Flamel, alchemist.

The Wonderful Wooden Board

Tiny Church has a large sheet of plywood on a base, which makes it a movable wall with great flexibility of use. One side is covered in cork… actually, it’s partially covered in cork. Someone ran out of cork sheets, so the bottom has a ragged look to it.

But the other side is painted a pale yellow. When I first arrived I thought This is a little weird but I’ve used it in worship as a prayer wall, and for other random things.

Right now it’s our CROP Hunger Walk commitment board. Our CROP walk coordinator and I were talking about how hard it is to come up with new ways to inspire participation. It tends to be the same folks every year. But realistically, the number of folks who can do the walk is pretty limited.

So this year we’re using the board as a place to encourage alternate means of support. We’re posting one flyer for each walker with the person’s name at the top. On that sheet are places for people to sign up to do other tasks to support that person. Of course people can sponsor a walker with $$, but we’ve also added the opportunity to be a prayer partner for a walker, or to provide lunch for a walker on the day of the walk. (We’ve always found it a challenge to get ourselves fed between church and the walk.) I’m hoping this means that everyone from the homebound nonagenarian to the busy mother of twins plus an infant can be involved in some way.

Wooden board =  tool for ministry.

At any rate… a friend posted the following image on Facebook last night. Something like this will definitely make an appearance on the board:

What do you need today?

By the way, you can sponsor our family for the CROP walk here.

I’m in iTunes

After a lot of hemming and hawing and playing around with the technology, Tiny Church is podcasting my sermons, as well as those of any guest preachers who want to record themselves preaching…

Here is our page at SermonDrop. In the next few days we’ll have a link from our website to this site, but you can always go there directly.

We are also listed in iTunes. Search for “Idylwood Presbyterian Church.”

So far, SermonDrop has been easy to use, and I like the features. Right now we’re using the free version which means only the 10 most recent sermons are available. We might upgrade at some point, but honestly… how much preaching can a person take?