Yes, your small church can set up a podcast—no knobs or whatsits required.
Some pastor friends and I got to talking recently about sermon podcasting. I’m always disappointed when gifted preachers I know, whose sermons I’d like to listen to, aren’t available as a podcast. Some congregations put their sermon audio on their church’s website, but that’s not the same as setting up a podcast that can be searched for and subscribed to via iTunes.
Many medium-sized and large congregations have folks to record the service and take care of this technical detail. But what about small congregations? Yes you can! We’ve been podcasting at Tiny Church for a few years now. (Search Idylwood Presbyterian on iTunes, or click here.)
In my experience with a small church, many decisions are inevitably weighed in terms of stewardship of time and resources. Or to put it crudely, a cost/benefit scale. Is it worth going through the effort of podcasting if only a couple of people will avail themselves of it?
It is absolutely worth the effort because it doesn’t take very much effort at all. It’s also an easy and important method of evangelism—a way of being in the world, exactly where people are searching for inspiration and ideas.
Thinking about setting up a sermon podcast but not sure where to start? Let me put on a very old hat of mine, that of technical writer.
There are three basic steps to podcasting: recording the sermon, converting the sound file, and uploading it to a podcast service. Here is how I handle those three steps in a small church without an A/V team.
1. Recording. I use iRecorder Pro, which is a $2.99 app for my iPhone. I put the phone on the pulpit and hit record when I start preaching and stop when I’m done. (Protip: Write start/stop reminders into your manuscript or notes.) The microphone works fine whether I’m using a microphone or not.
2. Converting to mp3. Most recorders I’m familiar with save the recording in some other format. Podcasts require mp3. I download the audio from my phone to my MacBook Air and use Switch to convert. It looks like there’s a paid version of Switch, but the version I use is/was free. There are a ton of audio converters out there.
3. Uploading the mp3 file to your podcast service. I use SermonDrop, which I’ve been very happy with. The free version keeps the 10 most recent sermons. If you want more than that, you can pay. You upload the file to their site, and there are places to type in scripture text, name of preacher, whether it’s part of a series, etc. You can even upload Here is IPC’s SermonDrop page.
You do those three steps every time. There’s also an intermediate step that you need to do once, which is to register your podcast with iTunes so it shows up in their listing. Here are some instructions. Basically you’re telling iTunes “hey, my podcast exists, here it is.” So anyone who searches for your church name will find it.
As a pastor of a small church, you could certainly find someone to take care of this each week. But honestly? It takes me 10 minutes per week, and that’s mainly waiting for the computer to convert and to upload. There is no reason not to do it.
Does your congregation podcast? What tools or suggestions do you have?
Have preached variations of this sermon recently in different venues, including last weekend at Tiny.
(Yes, I admit sheepishly, some sermons are retooled for different contexts. Fred Craddock said that if a sermon’s not good enough to preach twice, it wasn’t good enough to preach once. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! That said, this one’s done.)
I offer this in honor of my seminary professor Walter Brueggemann, whose book Sabbath as Resistancejust came out. Can’t wait to read it.
MaryAnn McKibben Dana
Idylwood Presbyterian Church
February 23, 2014
The Taskmaster’s Command
This morning’s text begins with the word “Afterwards”. Which leads us to ask, “after what?” To help locate us: the people of Israel are slaves in Egypt, captive to Pharaoh. Moses has been called by God through a burning bush, he has spent some time with his father-in-law Jethro, and Moses and Aaron have now united with people and given them the astonishing news that God has not forgotten them, God knows their misery and is about the work of liberation.
Now listen to this:
Afterwards Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “Let my people go, so that they may celebrate a festival to me in the wilderness.” ’ 2But Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the Lord, that I should heed him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and I will not let Israel go.’ 3Then they said, ‘The God of the Hebrews has revealed himself to us; let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to the Lord our God, or he will fall upon us with pestilence or sword.’ 4But the king of Egypt said to them, ‘Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their work? Get to your labours!’ 5Pharaoh continued, ‘Now they are more numerous than the people of the land * and yet you want them to stop working!’ 6That same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people, as well as their supervisors, 7‘You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8But you shall require of them the same quantity of bricks as they have made previously; do not diminish it, for they are lazy; that is why they cry, “Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.” 9Let heavier work be laid on them; then they will labour at it and pay no attention to deceptive words.’
10 So the taskmasters and the supervisors of the people went out and said to the people, ‘Thus says Pharaoh, “I will not give you straw. 11Go and get straw yourselves, wherever you can find it; but your work will not be lessened in the least.” ’ 12So the people scattered throughout the land of Egypt, to gather stubble for straw.
Several years ago, when Caroline was in first grade, our district made some changes to the bus schedule that meant that the children in our neighborhood were getting home later than they had been before. I didn’t think very much of it, but several of the other parents were bothered by it. Over time, the irritation grew into complaint, until the gaggle of parents decided that something simply had to be done. The children were getting home too late, these parents argued. They needed time to have a snack. They were going to be late to soccer practice, or violin lessons, or Cub Scouts. (Swim team. Language class. Art enrichment.) The change was simply unacceptable.
So these parents got together a petition. They made phone calls. They organized. Couldn’t something be done?, they asked Fairfax County Transportation Services. And then finally—success! The bus schedule was changed, the children started getting home earlier, and the bus stop moms—and a few dads—declared victory over the bureaucracy.
This change in schedule that had everyone celebrating?… resulted in the kids getting home four minutes earlier than they had before.
Now if Robert were here, he would have his head in his hands because when all this was going on, I talked his ear off about how silly I thought the whole thing was. It was almost all I could talk about for several weeks because it seemed so unnecessary, until finally he asked, “Why is this so important to you?”
It felt important to me, because I realized we were raising our kids in a culture that was so busy and time-obsessed that people would petition the county government for four measly minutes of extra time in the afternoon.
I cared, because I could feel the anxiety emanating from these parents. It’s good to want to give one’s kids opportunities to learn and grow. But that desire had tipped over into an almost frantic need to cram their lives full of activities and sports and enrichment.
And I also cared because I knew that while I personally didn’t care that much about the afternoon bus schedule, there were plenty of other ways in which that anxiety had begun adhering to me. I’m not sure what the dysfunction looks like in other households. But it’s been made very clear to me that there are so many young people from Northern Virginia trying to get into a good Virginia university that they’d better find a way to distinguish themselves from the pack. It’s never too early to start, I’m told by parents of elementary schoolers. A good foundation means a good college application, a good college means a good job, means success, means a good life, means I’ve done my job as a parent. That’s the message, and I’ve internalized it as much as anyone.
Now, living as we do in the suburbs of Washington DC, the type-A mentality is perhaps more acute there than other places. But as I travel around to other congregations and presbyteries and speak and lead retreats, I hear the same story. People are stressed and overworked. There never seems to be enough time. There’s always something more—something good, something worthwhile—that could and should be done.
And it’s not just a parent problem. The anxiety rans rampant in our culture. As we continue to claw our way out of this recession, there are still too many people looking for jobs and living in poverty.
And those who weren’t laid off, who have good jobs, are finding themselves expected to do the work of two or three people. Recently in the New Yorker, James Surowiecki wrote about the culture of overwork and said that thirty years ago, it was the low-paid workers who were working the longest hours, much longer than people at higher income levels. But “by 2006, the best paid were twice as likely to work long hours as the poorly paid, and the trend seems to be accelerating. And a survey of professionals found that ninety-four per cent worked fifty hours or more a week, and almost half worked in excess of sixty-five hours a week. Overwork has become a credential of prosperity.” But that overwork takes its toll.
Meanwhile young people feel anxieties of their own, worrying about their job prospects when they graduate, to say nothing of concerns over this warring and warming world that we have bequeathed them.
And how could we forget the internet and cable news, where bad news travels around the world before good news has even put on its shoes, where school shootings and natural disasters get their own logo and theme music, where a recent interview with a congresswoman about national security got interrupted to report on Justin Bieber’s arrest. We live in a media landscape where there’s more to read and learn than we could ever get to in a lifetime, in fact where 100 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. A culture so full of information I can’t even keep track of what’s supposed to be good to eat any more. (Have you heard? Now multivitamins are bad and bacon is health food.)
It’s no wonder that anxiety specialist Dr. Richard Leahy has said that “The average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950s.”
I have no way of verifying that statistically. It does make a good soundbite for a sermon. But I know that anxiety is rampant. Though it may not be unprecedented. Because as I read today’s story from the book of Exodus, I see a culture that positively reeks with anxiety.
It’s anxiety that goes all the way to the top, to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who has enslaved the people of Israel and has bound them to him in crippling servitude. For Pharaoh, there’s only one reason why the people would be asking for time off and that’s laziness. And the cure for laziness is more work. He tells his taskmasters: No more handouts. Let them gather their own straw and make brick upon brick upon brick until that is all they see. How dare they ask for three days to worship “God,” whoever that is!
Pharaoh is so captive to his own fear that he doesn’t know God, can’t know God, because he knows only the contours of his own power and his fear of losing that power. There is no place for God in an empire fueled by anxiety.
But the people of Israel are caught in their own anxiety too. There is no freedom, no relief—just the constant lashing of expectations: do more, produce more, build more. But they are also captive to a distorted view of God. Did you notice what Moses and Aaron say to Pharoah? “Please let us go observe our festival or else God will fall upon us with pestilence and sword.” Their despair is so great that it infects everything, even their view of God. They are so imprisoned by Pharaoh that they see God as just another taskmaster, threatening punishment if they don’t comply.
…I wonder if there’s an anxiety that is holding you captive today.
I wonder if the problems our world faces seem so insurmountable, like a wall built brick upon brick, a wall so high that you can’t possibly see around it, let alone break it down.
I wonder if the spiritual life has become just another thing to do, another obligation in an already overcrowded schedule.
I wonder if you are feeling high on stress and low on joy.
If you are, I urge you to read the rest of the story. Because it doesn’t end here. It ends with God bringing the people out of the land of Egypt, flinging aside the waters of the Red Sea and letting the people pass to safety, and then giving them a peculiar gift, tucked in the middle of the ten commandments: the gift of Sabbath. A day every week on which the people rest, slaves no longer. A day in which the people exclaim to the world,
We are not slaves to the empire anymore! We do not have to work, day after day after day without relief, We are free!
God is not just another taskmaster, saying “Worship me or else.” God is leading us out of our captivity with the gift of rest and renewal, with the gift of what Jesus called abundant life.
Our family has been on a journey of Sabbath-keeping for many years. I wrote a whole book about it, to try to make sense of this practice that seems so easy but turns out to be hard, to try to help people find ways to live the practice more fully. And there turns out to be a lot of practical tips that I can offer, and you can read about it those in the book, but here and now I want to say only this.
Sabbath starts to mess with you, because Sabbath comes from God, and God likes to mess with us.
Our family started observing a day of rest because we were tired and needed a little R&R each week. But the practice is more than that. It changes everything. You start to see the anxieties of the empire and in your own heart—the fear of not having enough, the despair that seems built into the system. And you realize, Sabbath isn’t about being well rested so you can go back to Pharaoh’s job site. Sabbath is about realizing that you don’t want to make Pharoah’s bricks anymore.
It’s interesting to me that Moses and Aaron are right about one thing. They’re right about God bringing pestilence down—the plagues are coming. But they’re not raining down on the Hebrew people, but on the entire sick system of too much work and not enough freedom, too much anxiety and not enough joy. Pharaoh’s empire cannot stand, it is too rotten at its core. It will go crashing into the sea. And good riddance.
Our God is one who is not content with personal self-improvement… though self-improvement has its place, that’s not what the gospel is about. Our God is about nothing less than the complete transformation of our lives and our world. Our God is about setting captives free.
I would be remiss in a sermon about our anxious culture if I didn’t say that some people are plagued with an anxiety that is diagnosable, and that God works through doctors and medications and treatment for that anxiety. But I’m also here to say that as followers of Jesus, we can be a voice of calm in an anxious culture.
The economic issues are real, the pressures are real. We have work to do. Important work. Kingdom-building work, and bill-paying work.
But the message of a Sabbath-gifting God is this:
We should not be content with captivity.
God has something deeper in mind for all of us than endless and joyless brick-making.
 “The Cult of Overwork”, James Surowiecki, The New Yorker, January 27, 2014.
We don’t have an actual photograph of Abraham Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address because the speech was over before the photographer had time to take one.
I’ve been talking about it on Facebook and Twitter for weeks, and here it is, today’s “Gettysburg sermon.” At 272 words, it is the same length as Lincoln’s masterful address, delivered 150 years ago on Tuesday.
Err… let’s just say he had a gift.
(Preacher nerds: you’ll notice I couldn’t resist trying a Lowry loop, even with so few words! Old habits die hard.)
MaryAnn McKibben Dana
Idylwood Presbyterian Church
November 17, 2013
O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory. The LORD has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD. Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the LORD, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.
Here is a psalm for the month of thanksgiving! It is infused with gratitude as the psalmist rhapsodizes about God’s glory, the wonders of creation, and the thankful songs of the people of God. We are sailing along on a swelling sea of words like joy, steadfast love, faithfulness.
And then, like a thud, or like a needle scratching across the record, we’re told:
God is coming to judge us. To judge.
What comes to mind when you hear that word?
Maybe you’re rubbing your hands together imagining “bad guys” getting what they deserve, and “good guys” getting their reward, courtesy of God’s perfect justice.
Maybe you’re making a mental tally of your secret transgressions, squirming, wondering what side of the ledger sheet you will come out on.
Maybe you’re disturbed by the idea of a judging God.
Note that, in the midst of God coming as judge, the psalmist doesn’t tell us to shape up…
or beg us to repent.
He doesn’t even urge us to get to work doing what God commands.
Instead, he asks us to sing.
God will come—God does come—among us. But we don’t worry or calculate. We don’t try to measure up or crack God’s code. We simply inhale deeply, breathing in God’s spirit, and sing—with our voices, with our lives, and here with this community.
Yesterday’s health fair, and last week’s CROP hunger walk, are more than mission activities. They are songs of praise, joyfully offered to a God who promises to be with us always, who calls us not to despair, but to offer a new song.
This is a slight adaptation of what I preached yesterday…
MaryAnn McKibben Dana
Idylwood Presbyterian Church
July 14, 2013
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
We’re going to start with a little quiz this morning. Now I know it’s summertime, and for those of us who follow the school schedule, we’re on a bit of a mental break… but let’s see how awake we are this morning, eh? I will give you a list of two items; your job is to fill in the third. We’ll start out easy:
Larry, Curly, __________
The Good, The Bad, _________
This one is too hot, this one is too cold, and ________
Who’s on first, What’s on second, __________________
Let’s kick it up slightly:
Can anyone name the three musketeers? (Athos, Porthos and Aramis)
How about the three races that make up the triple crown?
Now let’s get biblical:
Gold, frankincense and ___________
Father, Son, ______________
What we’re seeing here is the rule of threes, which is a basic structure used in literature, folktales, and yes, scripture. Master storytellers know this structure and use it either to provide a predictable pattern, or to disrupt the audience’s expectations… although good ones do that carefully and intentionally.
Here’s one more:
Priest, Levite, ________________.
We say Samaritan because that’s how the story goes that we’ve received. But that’s not what Jesus’ audience would have been expecting. According to Amy-Jill Levine, a professor of New Testament, the expected order at this time would have been Priest, Levite, Israelite.
So imagine Jesus spinning this yarn, as the lawyer and other people listen on. They know what’s coming. And they’re probably starting to feel pretty good about themselves, until:
Samaritan. Boom again.
“Samaritan” would have been a complete reversal of expectations. It’s the last thing they would have expected Jesus to say.
We often hear about the Samaritans as the down and out, the persecuted; but according to Levine, Samaritans were not just the downtrodden people. They were enemies of the people of Israel.
Imagine if I had disrupted the rule of three in our little test… if I’d said, “Larry, Curly, and Bubba.” Or “gold, frankincense, and paper towels.”
That would be a little uncomfortable. It would feel a bit wrong.
Now imagine if I stood up at the end of the service and blessed you all in the name of Father, and of the Son, and of the Prophet Muhammad. Boom.
Now, as I’ve said many times to you, I do not see Muslim people as our enemy. The problem is with fundamentalist radicals, regardless of their religion. Still… that benediction coming from me would be… concerning. That’s not what the Christian minister is expected to say. At best, you may wonder if I made a slip-up. Like you would question my theology and fitness for ministry.
That is the level of disruption that Jesus’ words would have elicited in his listeners.
How dare he elevate one of “those” people? How dare he make the priest and the Levite the villains and the Samaritan the hero of this story?
And yet there he is. The person who fulfilled the greatest commandment—to love God and love neighbor—is the last person you’d expect it to be.
* * *
Why do we not go and do likewise?
What keeps us from behaving as the Samaritan does in this parable?
In keeping with our rule of three, I’ll suggest that three things keep us from “showing mercy”:
The first is time. I’ve shared with you before about the Good Samaritan study at Princeton Seminary. Read about it here, but what the researchers found is that the primary predictor for whether someone will stop to help someone else is whether they think they have time to do so. The busier we get, the less likely we are to respond with compassion to someone in need. That’s not good news in our world of perpetual motion.
The second is the sheer immensity of the need. Who is our neighbor? Potentially everyone and anyone. We know that. Technology has connected us in amazing ways, but it also connects us to tragedy like never before. It gets to be too much sometimes. So we shut down, tune out, ignore. Pope Francis preached recently on the Good Samaritan story and lamented “the globalization of indifference,” which “makes us all ‘unnamed,’ responsible yet nameless and faceless.”
…The globalization of indifference.
The third is a sense that we can’t do anything. The needs of the world are great, and our abilities seem so small. And yet… take a look at the Samaritan’s response. He goes to the man, tends his wounds, takes him to a safe place…
…And then he leaves.
My whole life with this story, I’ve always wondered where he goes. Isn’t he supposed to drop everything and devote himself to this man’s full-time care and healing? He’s the Good Samaritan, after all!
Well, apparently not. The Samaritan helps him, he pays for the man’s care, and then he goes about his business. His part in this drama, important as it is, is over.
What does this suggest about our call in such situations? What does it suggest about God’s ability to work through the lives of many, many people, neighbors to one another? We respond as we are called and able, and we do what is ours to do. But we don’t do it all. We cannot be God… and we do this work together.
We think we have to do everything, which too often keeps us from doing anything.
* * *
About 12 hours ago, a jury reached its verdict in the George Zimmerman case in Florida. As you’ve no doubt heard, Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder (and a possible verdict of manslaughter) of Trayvon Martin. It’s very hard to comment on the case itself, because only two people know what really happened that night, and one can no longer speak for himself. It’s also hard because I was not in the courtroom and I did not hear every last bit of evidence offered.
What I can comment on—and as a minister of Jesus’ gospel, I feel I must comment on—is the reaction, and the emotions and pain this case has unleashed. Many people I know are heartbroken, or downright irate, at what looks like a travesty of justice. And I also know people feel satisfied with the decision was made. So what do we do now?
My friend Ashley-Anne Masters, a pastor and a writer, wrote late last night about an experience of being called a racial slur. Ashley-Anne is white. Her husband, Reggie Weaver, also a pastor and a friend of mine, is black. She wove together her experience with that of the Zimmerman verdict and spoke directly to this business of feeling overwhelmed and indifferent to our neighbor, of going something rather than nothing:
Choosing to raise children teaching them that all faces are equal and valued regardless of color can change something. Not standing for being called a racial slur, or calling out others when they use one in our presence, can change something. Not categorizing every person in any given race as the same as one particular person of that race can change something. Not being afraid of each other can promote equality among races. Killing negative stereotypes and racial profiling would change something. Not killing each other would change a lot.
My face is white. My husband’s face is the same color as Trayvon Martin’s. Our future children’s faces will likely be some shade of mocha or khaki similar to George Zimmerman’s biracial coloring. One day they will hear about the verdict in George Zimmerman’s trial and ask us about it. We will be aware that how we respond as representatives of two races will directly impact our children’s view of multiple races. And that changes everything.
* * *
About a month ago, a woman named Eliza Webb found her car ransacked near her home in Seattle. The car had been left unlocked—no windows broken—so at first she thought her husband must have been looking for something. Then she saw the unfamiliar cellphone on the seat and discovered that her gym bag had been rifled through, and her running shoes and sunglasses were missing.
She opened the phone and began going through text messages and phone contacts. She pushed the contact listed as “Mom” and reached the prowler’s mother. The owner of the cell phone was 19 years old and of course, had left it behind by accident.
At that moment, Eliza faced a choice. The normal course of action would be to call the police, but something stopped her. Instead, she showed the boy mercy. She asked the woman whether she might meet with him, ask him to acknowledge what he’d done, and seek some kind of alternate resolution. The mother said she would support whatever Eliza decided.
When she arrived at the house, she met the teen, who quickly and tearfully confessed. He said his actions had been fueled by alcohol and boredom, and he apologized.
Webb’s husband, who had come along with Eliza, then told the teen his own story.
When he was 20, Blake Webb was charged and convicted of underage drinking after he went out partying with friends. Now, 12 years later, that stupid mistake follows him on every job application, rental and school application. The Webbs wanted to spare the boy that outcome.
But there were consequences for the boy. He had ransacked many cars and had lots of items to return to their owners. So the Webbs went with him, house by house, to explain what he’d done and ask for forgiveness. At the neighborhood block party, he and his friends who’d been involved read a letter of apology to the neighborhood.
The boy later said, “It felt terrible to hear that people are worried and feel like they have to lock the door because of what I did. In a funny way, I feel closer to my neighbors and kind of look forward to seeing them around in different circumstances.”
His mother said, “I’m deeply grateful to Eliza for taking the time to become personally involved with my son and giving him the chance to go face-to-face with the people he victimized and make amends. Kids need somebody besides their own parents looking at them and holding them accountable. She did a beautiful thing.”
A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
A teenage boy was shot in Florida.
A young man in Seattle made a very stupid mistake.
A holy man walked by.
A lawyer threw the book at him.
And then a follower of Jesus showed up.
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:
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?
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.
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.”
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.
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 things like 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.”
How about closing with two links from my alma mater, Rice University?
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.”