Category Archives: Friday Link Love

The List of Lists: The Best End-of-Year Lists for 2015

e2bea3ef389032a3b8df0afe7f7999c8I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s (and my birthday). So much end-of-the-year reflection! So many lists! (Not to mention Gate of the Year, my new workbook/playbook for you to do your own yearly review and dream about 2016. It went out this morning to my email subscribers. You can still get it here.)

Here are some of my favorite lists of 2015. I’ll be away from the blog until next week sometime, but here’s plenty of goodness to tide you over until then.

The List of Lists: The Best of the Best of 2015

A Colossal Year: The Top Articles of 2015

Colossal has wonderful stories about the arts. Here we have a solar system timelapse, moon lanterns, an overturned iceberg, and more.

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Brain Picking’s 15 Best Books from 2015

I read only 20 books in 2015 (assuming I finish the one I’m currently working on). I’m setting the intent to read at least 26 this year–one every two weeks–and this list provides some great suggestions.

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The Year in Pictures: New York Times

Take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly with this collection. What’s your assessment of 2015?

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28 Pictures That Prove 2015 Wasn’t a Completely Terrible Year

Yes, Buzzfeed made the list of lists. There are some heartening images here. I for one needed them.

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The Top Six Good-News Stories of 2015

Courtesy of the Gates Foundation. America is free of rubella, Africa had a year without polio, and Neil deGrasse Tyson rocks. (Duh.)

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National Geographic: Travel Photos of the Year

I haven’t been able to find the results of their general photo contest–maybe they haven’t been announced yet–but here are their most popular travel photos of the year. Click and daydream.

UPDATE: Here are the winners of the overall contest. Hot off the presses!

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The Most Popular Running Stories of 2015

A personal favorite. You don’t have to be a runner to appreciate these stories–there are some lovely, inspiring pieces here. A 570-pound man ran twenty 5K races this year (as well as a 10K and half a Tough Mudder). If that doesn’t get you off the couch, nothing will.

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And closer to home, here were the ten most read posts here at the Blue Room. Enjoy… and see you in 2016.

Two Christians Talk Faith on Network TeeVee… with No Sky Fairy in Sight: on Stephen Colbert and Joe Biden

On Caitlyn Jenner and Pastoring a Transgender Person

Three Reasons why “Because It’s 2015” Is So Brilliant: thank you Justin Trudeau.

Love All: A Sermon for Advent: this sermon is five years old but it’s consistently one of the top posts each year. Maybe it’s linked from somewhere? I don’t think it’s one of my best but I’m glad it speaks to people.

Question: Why must we still talk about race? Answer: Twelve.

Failure to Adult: this was also one of Christian Century’s top posts.

A Racist Atticus and a Mess of a Book? Bring it On: true confession time, Go Set a Watchman is NOT one of the 20 books I read this year. But here’s why I still hope to.

No, God Doesn’t Have a Plan. But That’s OK

The Parable of the Pizzas: MaryAnn at her most sardonic.

A Christian without a Church

 

Link Love: Rosetta Celebration Edition

Congratulations to everyone involved with the Philae probe! There have been some bumps and snafus with the landing, but that doesn’t diminish the achievement: a human-made object has made physical contact with a comet for the first time ever.

Say what you will about the Internet—and there’s plenty to critique—but it’s a wonderful tool for cultivating awe and wonder. Of course, there’s the ability to watch things like the Rosetta mission unfold in real time. But I’m a sucker for a good space video. Here are a few of my favorites.

(These two videos have soundtracks that detract, in my opinion—watch with the volume turned down, or put on your favorite musical accompaniment.)

Then there’s Neil deGrasse Tyson explaining the “cosmic calendar”: the entire timeline of the universe, mapped to one year on the Gregorian calendar. I can’t find a video that encapsulates the whole thing; here’s a short video that outlines the concept, plus a partial transcript. Spoiler alert: every person we’ve ever heard of occupies the last 14 seconds of the year.

And here’s one I just discovered this week—a page in which you can scroll to view composite photos from the International Space Station. Don’t miss the set of aurora borealis images.

I’m awed by that thin membrane of atmosphere that makes all of life possible:

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 12.22.09 PM

What’s your favorite image, page or video that helps you cultivate awe?

Monster Friday Link Love: Link Love’s Out for Summer!

Yes… I’ve decided to take a break from Friday Link Love through the summer, at least. I will still link to stuff at Twitter and Facebook, and will probably drop a link here and there occasionally. But this summer is too squirrelly to commit to a regular posting schedule, so I’m hanging out my Gone Fishin’ sign on this feature.

But we’re going out with a bang! TON of stuff today. A couple of gleanings from social media and some other random stuff. Away we go:

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Here We Are Now Entertain Us — Running Chicken

This week Jan blogged about TED Talks, the Moth, and sermons and said, “one of these is not like the other”. Why are sermons viewed as boring? she asks. How can we sharpen our proclamation by listening to these other forms of communication? As a huge fan of The Moth, and a semi fan of TED, this is a great question and one to explore. Good discussion in the comments of her blog.

But I am also compelled by this post, which questions the rise of edutainment:

Most importantly, is the central claim [by Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, in a recent interview] that the test of education is whether or not it’s entertaining. Wales asks, “why wouldn’t you have the most entertaining professor, the one with the proven track record of getting knowledge into people’s heads?” Is there evidence that the most entertaining lecture is the one that gets “knowledge into people’s heads”? Again, I’m not suggesting that a boring lecture is going to do the trick, but I’m arguing that entertaining students doesn’t necessarily equate with teaching them something.

When I lecture on Kant, I don’t think I’m really entertaining my students. In my opinion, Kant’s Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals doesn’t lend itself to entertainment; it’s a dense text that needs some serious explication. Now, I don’t speak in a monotone and I try to find relevant examples to help them make sense of the material, but I’m not standing in front of the class hoping that they’ll all have a great time; I’m standing there with the express purpose of teaching them about Kant.

At the risk of a “get off my lawn” moment… Yes.

I read a New Yorker profile about TED not long ago and came away a bit soured. TED talks are very formulaic—not necessarily a bad thing, I’ll admit—but the organizers work with presenters to make their content fit their rigorous. This includes dumbing down some material. Do we really want to go down that road?

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Why Rituals Work — Scientific American

Recent research suggests that rituals may be more rational than they appear. Why? Because even simple rituals can be extremely effective. Rituals performed after experiencing losses – from loved ones to lotteries – do alleviate grief, and rituals performed before high-pressure tasks – like singing in public – do in fact reduce anxiety and increase people’s confidence. What’s more, rituals appear to benefit even people who claim not to believe that rituals work.

A nice argument for living “as if.” Which is what I see in a lot of church work.

…We found that people who wrote about engaging in a ritual reported feeling less grief than did those who only wrote about the loss.

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Arts and Faith — Loyola Press

This site is just getting going but looks very promising: “Explore stories about musicians, crafters, dancers, painters, and more, who demonstrate the many inspiring (and surprising) ways art can deepen your relationship with God.”

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Orchestra Hidden Camera Prank — YouTube

Somebody asked me recently where I get all my links for FLL. The fun thing is that people have started sending me stuff. Here’s one example. Pretty cute:

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Keep Your ‘Someday’ List from Being Clutter — David Caolo, Unclutterer

A little bit of Getting Things Done jiu jitsu—this is good advice even if you’re not a disciple of David Allen as I am:

In GTD, “visit Japan” is not a task, it’s a project. Fortunately, my old job helped me get good at breaking complex behaviors (or in this case, projects) down into very small, observable, concrete actions. Perhaps “discuss life in Japan with uncle who used to live there” is a doable first step. Maybe “research seasonal weather in Japan” or “find a well-written book on Japanese customs or food” could be other first steps. In breaking down the project, two things happen.

First, I feel like I’m making progress on this huge task, rather than letting it stagnate. Second, I’ll get a true measure of my willingness to go through with completing the project completely. If my interest wanes, I can safely remove it from the list as Merlin suggested. If I have an increase in interest that will suggest motivation, and I’ll continue to devise small steps that move me closer to completing the project.

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Photo Series of a Young Girl Dressed Up as Great Women Throughout History — Peta Pixel

A photographer wanted to commemorate her daughter’s fifth birthday:

My daughter wasn’t born into royalty, but she was born into a country where she can now vote, become a doctor, a pilot, an astronaut, or even President if she wants and that’s what REALLY matters.

The resulting photo series has Emma dressed and posed as five influential women from the history books, with a presidential photo thrown in at the end. Click the link to see.

H/t Facebook friend Jeanny House.

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While we’re on photography:

The Art of Being at the Right Place at the Right Time — Colossal

If you’ve seen Dewitt Jones’s now-classic DVD, Everyday Creativity, you know he talks about putting yourself in the place of most potential. This photographer has clearly done that—as Christopher notes on Colossal, she must never be without a camera, because she’s able to capture amazing images.

Tons at the link.

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The Threat of Literalism — Ken Kovacs

A friend and colleague pens this:

James Hollis, Jungian analyst and writer, suggests that literalism is actually a form of religious blasphemy because it seeks to concretize (nail down, define) and absolutize the core experience of the Holy, of God – a God, if God, who cannot be controlled or defined; a God, as theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) insisted, who was Wholly Other, a God who remains ultimately a mystery.  And a mystery is not the same thing as a puzzle (which can be solved); a mystery is always enigmatic and is therefore inherently unknowable.  The German theologian Gerhard Tersteegen (1697-1769) reminded us, “A God comprehended is no God.”

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How about closing with two links from my alma mater, Rice University?

Neil deGrasse Tyson to Grads: Future of Exploration in Your Hands — Rice.edu

HOW LUCKY IS THE CLASS OF 2013 TO GET NdGT AS COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER?!?

We got Elizabeth Dole, which… eh.

Tyson, whose wife, Alice Young, is a Rice alumna, challenged the new graduates to become part of the new drive to discover. “There is no solution to a problem that does not embrace all we have created as a species,” he said. “The original seeds of the space program were planted right here on this campus, and I can tell you that in the years since we have landed on the moon, America has lost its exploratory compass.

Also: some straight talk about what motivates humanity to explore:

War, money and the praise of royalty and deity. He noted Kennedy’s speech at Rice that laid out the plan to go to the moon followed one a year earlier to Congress that first proposed the adventure.

“We haven’t been honest with ourselves about that,” he said, reciting the part of JFK’s 1962 speech to Congress that appears in a monument at the Kennedy Space Center. What’s missing, he said, is a reference to the war driver: in this case, Yuri Gagarin’s orbital mission for the Soviet Union six weeks earlier.

“No one has ever spent big money just to explore,” he said. “No one has ever done that. I wish they did, but they don’t. We went to the moon on a war driver.”

(And in case you missed it, here’s a bonus link that had a lot of social media buzz: John Green’s commencement speech to Butler. Top-notch.

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Shimmering Chain-link Fence Installation by Soo Sunny Park — Colossal

How exciting to see the Rice Art Gallery featured on Colossal! Wish I could see this in person. Plexi-glass and chain link.

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Peace be with you, friends.

Friday Link Love: Online Slacktivism, Be a Poet, and Everest Gear Then and Now

Hello friends!

It’s Thursday evening and I am just back from Birmingham, where I had a book event and also preached at the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley. I’ll post that sermon to the NEXT Church website early next week and link to it here. It was a fun trip—got to hang out with Elizabeth, one of my favorite seminary peeps and a dear friend. So I’m happy, but tired.

But… the Link Love must go on! 

Climbing Everest, Then and Now — National Geographic

A comparison of the tools used to climb the world’s tallest peak. Boots and oxygen systems, then and now.

Let’s be honest: P90X or no, I’m pretty sure our forebears could take us.

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Does Online “Slacktivism” Reduce Charitable Giving? — New Scientist

Looks like it’s a hybrid effect. Click the link for a study relating to attitudes about gun control.

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Collected Wisdom of Great Writers — Brain Pickings

Maria Popova has compiled advice from several writers she’s highlighted on her blog, so it’s all accessible in one place. Vonnegut, King, Allende, Sontag and more.

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Cook Dinner, Save the World — Dinner, a Love Story

Love this quote from Michael Pollan:

To cook or not to cook thus becomes a consequential question. Though I realize that is putting the matter a bit too bluntly. Cooking means different things at different times to different people; seldom is it an all-or-nothing proposition. Yet even to cook a few more nights a week than you already do, or to devote a Sunday to make a few meals for the week, or perhaps to try every now and again to make something you only ever expected to buy — even these modest acts will constitute a kind of vote. A vote for what exactly? Well, in a world where so few of us are obliged to cook at all anymore, to choose to do so is to lodge a protest against specialization — against the total rationalization of life. Against the infiltration of commercial interests into every last cranny of our lives. To cook for the pleasure of it, devote a portion of our leisure to it, is to declare our independence from the corporations seeking to organize our every waking moment into yet another occasion for consumption. (Come to think of it, our non waking moments as well: Ambien anyone?) It is to reject the debilitation notion that, at least while we’re at home, production is work done by someone else, and the only legitimate form of leisure is consumption. This dependence marketers call “freedom.”

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Antonia Larroux — Obituary

Not since Hugh Gallagher’s infamous college essay for NYU (the laws of physics do not apply to me) have we have such an exuberant accounting of a life! This part really clinched it though:

The funeral will be led by Rev. Curt Moore of Orlando, Florida, a questionable choice for any spiritual event, but one the family felt would be appropriate due to the fact that every time Toni heard Curt preach she prayed for Jesus to return at that very moment.

On a last but serious note, the woman who loved life and taught her children to ‘laugh at the days to come’ is now safely in the arms of Jesus and dancing at the wedding feast of the Lamb. She will be missed as a mother, friend and grandmother. Anyone wearing black will not be admitted to the memorial. She is not dead. She is alive.

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Smart Cities: Sustainable Solutions for Urban Living — BBC

H/t The Dish, which highlighted this piece that I found astounding:

How a group of 12-year-olds in a Calcutta slum improved their community:

Like so many slum neighborhoods, the notorious Nehru Colony doesn’t officially exist, meaning it has no access to government services such as sanitation and electricity. The youngsters set out to literally put themselves on the map. They went door to door, taking photos with their mobile phones, registering residents and detailing each child born in the colony. Information is then sent by SMS text to a database that links the data to a map hand-drawn by the kids, which is overlaid to GPS coordinates. By registering their existence on Google Maps the group has doubled the rate of polio vaccination from 40% to 80%, decreased diarrhea and malaria rates in the slum, and is lobbying for electricity.

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This Ad Has a Secret Anti-Abuse Message That Only Kids Can See — Gizmodo

This made the rounds, and rightly so. The billboard displays a different message depending on how tall you are:

The secret behind the ad’s wizardry is a lenticular top layer, which shows different images at varying angles. So when an adult—or anyone taller than four feet, five inches—looks at it they only see the image of a sad child and the message: “sometimes, child abuse is only visible to the child suffering it.” But when a child looks at the ad, they see bruises on the boy’s face and a different message: “if somebody hurts you, phone us and we’ll help you” alongside the foundation’s phone number.

The ad is designed to empower kids, particularly if their abuser happens to be standing right next to them.

What the kids see:

anar-lenticular-02

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How Can You Become a Poet — David Lose

Or a theologian:

Eve Mirriam, a native of Philadelphia, captures something of the beauty of not just poetry but also, I think, creativity itself.

She invites us to consider making two moves: the first is attentiveness. Trace it’s shape, pay attention to its movement, follow its life, chew and smell and see and feel all you can about that thing that fascinates you.

The second move is courage, fearlessness…

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Friday Link Love: Doubt, Virginia Woolf, and a Real-Life Lord of the Flies

A couple of quick me-links:

Last minute, preachers, I’m at The Hardest Question this week with pieces on the gospel and Acts.

I also did a webinar on Sabbath for the Presbyterian Outlook this week. I covered some stuff that’s in the book but a lot that’s not, including how to get congregations thinking about and practicing Sabbath. You can order a DVD here.

Enough about me. Here we go!

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The Politics of Play — Orion

A plea for a little more free-range parenting:

Some schools forbid children to play in the snow for fear of legal action in the event of an accident. We live in a litigious age, but this is about far more than that: it is about the kind of children we are creating.

By insidiously demanding that children always seek permission for the most trivial of actions, that they must obey the commands of others at every turn, we ensure that children today are not so much beaten into obedience as eroded into it. A risk-averse society creates a docility and loss of autonomy that has a horrible political shadow: a populace malleable, commandable, and blindly obedient.

The author also talks about a real-life Lord of the Flies incident… that didn’t end like Lord of the Flies:

One day, in 1977, six boys set out from Tonga on a fishing trip. They left safe harbor, and fate befell them. Badly. Caught in a huge storm, the boys were shipwrecked on a deserted island. What do they do, this little tribe?

They made a pact never to quarrel, because they could see that arguing could lead to mutually assured destruction. They promised each other that wherever they went on the island, they would go in twos, in case they got lost or had an accident. They agreed to have a rotation of being on guard, night and day, to watch out for anything that might harm them or anything that might help. And they kept their promises—for a day that became a week, a month, a year. After fifteen months, two boys, on watch as they had agreed, saw a speck of a boat on the horizon. The boys were found and rescued, all of them, grace intact and promises held.

If anyone knows more about this story, please let me know. I would love to read more. Google didn’t turn up much.

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Principal Fires Security Guards to Hire Art Teachers–and Transforms Elementary School — NBC

Thanks to Marci Glass, who said, “This is what it means to live the future you envision.” Yes:

In a school notorious for its lack of discipline, where backpacks were prohibited for fear the students would use them to carry weapons, Bott’s bold decision to replace the security guards with art teachers was met with skepticism by those who also questioned why he would choose to lead the troubled school.

“A lot of my colleagues really questioned the decision,” he said. “A lot of people actually would say to me, ‘You realize that Orchard Gardens is a career killer? You know, you don’t want to go to Orchard Gardens.’”

But now, three years later, the school is almost unrecognizable. Brightly colored paintings, essays of achievement, and motivational posters line the halls. The dance studio has been resurrected, along with the band room, and an artists’ studio.

Swords into ploughshares.

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How Not to Die — Atlantic

My friend Shala linked to this article on her Caterpickles blog. Not a happy topic, but an important one.

Dr. Angelo Volandes is making a film that he believes will change the way you die. The studio is his living room in Newton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston; the control panel is his laptop; the camera crew is a 24-year-old guy named Jake; the star is his wife, Aretha Delight Davis. Volandes, a thickening mesomorph with straight brown hair that is graying at his temples, is wearing a T-shirt and shorts and looks like he belongs at a football game. Davis, a beautiful woman of Guyanese extraction with richly braided hair, is dressed in a white lab coat over a black shirt and stands before a plain gray backdrop.

“Remember: always slow,” Volandes says.

“Sure, hon,” Davis says, annoyed. She has done this many times.

Volandes claps to sync the sound. “Take one: Goals of Care, Dementia.”

As a pastor I would love to get my hands on the video series Dr. Volandes is creating.

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A Prayer for Children of All Ages — Ashley-Anne Masters

Mother’s Day is coming up, and then Father’s Day. Both of these days can be very hard for folks; Ashley-Anne offers a prayer for use in worship:

God our perfect parent, we pray:

For those who will send flowers to their mom and those who will put flowers on their mom’s grave

For those who wish their children could have met their grandparents and those who will tell their parents that they will soon be grandparents

For those who will make new memories and those who will carry on old traditions

For sons named after their fathers and for those who don’t know their father’s name . . .

More at the link.

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On Craftsmanship: The Only Surviving Recording of Virginia Woolf’s Voice — Brain Pickings

True confession: I didn’t listen to the whole thing. But it’s very moving to hear her voice.

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Speaking of writing:

A Backwards Pitch — Ruth Everhart

I highlighted Ruth’s book, Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land, a few weeks ago on Link Love; I like how she puts into practice Seth Godin’s advice to “say it backwards”:

 My book about pilgrimage is not for everyone.

~ If you venerate icons you may find this book to be irreverent, even off-putting.

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And a few things I posted on social media earlier this week, but they bear repeating:

9 Questions to Ask about Social Media — 99U

  • Is it necessary to share this? Will it add value to my life and for other people?
  • Can I share this experience later so I can focus on living it now?
  • Am I looking for validation? Is there something I could do to validate myself?

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The Pain When Children Fly the Nest — Adam Gopnik, the Guardian

I’ll read just about any topic, so long as Gopnik writes it. And we are years away from kids leaving the nest, but this still spoke to me.

I suspect he will return one Christmas soon with an icy, exquisite, intelligent young woman in black clothes, with a single odd piercing somewhere elegant – ear or nose or lip – who will, when I am almost out of earshot, issue a gentle warning: “Listen, with the wedding toasts – could you make sure your father doesn’t get, you know, all boozy and damp and weepy?” My son will nod at the warning.

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And this one was posted to the church’s Facebook page:

To Doubt Is Christian — The Dish

The Dish quotes Christopher Hutton:

Doubt is a thing which many Christians see as opposing their faith. Many have fought it and its prevalence in the modern minds of man. 19th century pastor Robert Turnbull once  stated that “Doubt, indeed, is the disease of this inquisitive, restless age.” Many people react negatively towards any feelings of doubt that they may have, fearing that this doubt means that they aren’t fully committed to God.

However, this fear of doubt is dreadfully dangerous. Not every man who doubts his faith loses it. And if they look at most human lives, they’ll find that if one doesn’t doubt, then one isn’t human. It is a necessary idea for any believer, for it acts as the catalyst and tool for a man or woman to grow.

Then a quote from Tim Keller:

A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection. Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts—not only their own but their friends’ and neighbors’.

Would be interesting to have a church group study on doubt.

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And finally… there’s this!

rundisney 2013 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon Female Winner Renee High_0

M-I-C… see you in January!

K-E-Y… why? Because I’m running the Disney Marathon!

I’m sure there will be much weeping and consternation on this blog over the next several months, but for now… yeah. Inhale. Exhale.

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Have a great weekend, everyone.