Spotlight begins with a short phrase on a black-and-white screen: “Based on actual events.” It ends with another black-and-white screen and an unrelenting list of cities: San Diego, California; Louisville, Kentucky; Santiago, Chile; Sydney, Australia—it keeps going. In every one of these few hundred places, Roman Catholic priests molested children.
There’s an entire movie between these black-and-white screens—and a mighty fine one at that—but these simple bookends stick with you. After all, the cities represent every victim and their unimaginable grief, every perpetrator and their unimaginable corruption, hubris, lust, turpitude, whatever. Sometimes words fail.
There could be reels of film made about each place and its stories. This one in particular is about an intrepid group of Boston Globe reporters (the “Spotlight” team) who over the course of several months uncover the systemic sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children at the—I tremble to finish the phrase—hands of 249 Boston-area priests. The abuse is heinous; the concomitant cover-up is, too—from lawyers just doing their job to cardinals just trying to protect their flock to family members saying what would people think and it can’t really be true. Tom McCarthy’s film is straightforward and even-handed, balancing carefully the weightiness of its content with the enjoyableness that’s inherent to any whodunit journalism movie, from All the President’s Men to the equally dark Zodiac.
The worst of what I’m dubbing “journalism movies” tend to unreflectively extol the Fourth Estate for its persistence in fact-finding, its never-give-up attitude, and its uncompromising pursuit of The Truth, even as it stands defiant before evil institutional giants. Spotlight surely looks like that kind of movie. But without giving too much away, it’s actually quite different, subtly subverting this institution-exalting trope and trading it in for something less black-and-white, where the heroes don’t wear a cape that’s one-size-fits-all.
For instance, the members of the “Spotlight” team are all lapsed Catholics with varying degrees of the so-called “Catholic guilt.” They’re spiritually inert and increasingly uneasy about how these allegations color their own religious upbringings. One laments: “I always thought I would go back [to church]. . . . But now I’m cracked.” Or later: “We all knew something was going on . . . and we did nothing.” There’s heroism and laudatory hard work here, to be sure, but it’s mixed with despondency, feelings of complicity, and a fear that what may be behind the curtain is a mirror.
Then there are the victims. Every one McCarthy introduces us to is beleaguered, hangdog, seemingly half-dead. One’s arm is dappled with destructive scars; another jumps when doors close and dishes clink. “He’s one of the lucky ones,” the victims’ lawyer says. “He’s still alive.”
The movie is agnostic as to the question of whether the lawyer is being hyperbolic. But even now, I remember the question one victim asks when recollecting his childhood: “When you’re a poor kid from a poor family and a priest pays attention to you, it’s a big deal. How do you say ‘no’ to God?” Forget forsaking fear of man and fostering a right fear of God. These poor kids lived every single day in trembling fear of God’s men. They felt crushed and exploited by him before they even had the chance to know him.
Spotlight isn’t a celebration of capital-J Journalism or human triumph or the tower-toppling capability of old-fashioned hard work. It’s a sober recapitulation of lots of terrible things, terrible things whose only silver linings were that they spurred revelations of more terrible things, all around the world, consequently bringing into light that which festered for so long in a shroud of darkness. But even still, the finale was far from final—and, if you see the movie, you’ll realize the phones never stop ringing.
In a word, Spotlight is an appropriately hopeless movie—which is precisely why it’s worth seeing.
Wait, what? That seems stridently non-Christian, you’re thinking. How can hopelessness be a virtue? Interestingly, a recent piece by The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates sought to answer that question. Coates argues the aim of the artist should be enlightenment, rather than a vague and vacuous “feel-goodism”:
But hope for hope’s sake, hope as tautology, hope because hope, hope because “I said so,” is the enemy of intelligence. One can say the same about the opposing pole of despair. Neither of these—hope or despair—are “wrong.” They each reflect human sentiment, much like anger, sadness, love, and joy. Art that uses any of these to say something larger interests me. Art that takes any of these as its aim does not.
Coates perhaps wouldn’t realize it, but this claim fits well with Christianity. Hope for hope’s sake is pointless, dishonest, potentially damning. It’s a snake with its tail in its mouth. Similarly, any piece of art that waves the flag of unqualified hope for this-or-that institution or political party or mindset or character trait is also pointless, dishonest, and potentially damning. Far better to survey the land and rightly find it hopeless than to elicit hope in the wrong directions, advertising “Peace! Truth!” when there is only derision and best wishes.
Of course, the story remains half-told. Coates admits this himself when he writes:
If one observes the world and genuinely feels hopeful, and truly feels that the future is not chaos, but is in fact already written, then one has a responsibility to say so. Or, less grandly, if one can feel hopeful about a literal tomorrow and one’s individual prospects one should certainly say so.
After all this time, only now do McCarthy’s Spotlight and its Christian viewers reach an impasse. Following Coates’s perceptive rubric, the film was right to stay mum about where one finds hope in the face of unspeakable evil. We Christians, however, do not have that luxury, if that’s even the right word. We must, as Coates adjures, “say so.” And so we do, acknowledging that hope for hope’s sake, hope as tautology, hope because hope, hope because “we say so,” is not simply the enemy of intelligence, but of both certain peace in this life and secure salvation in the one to come.
As we work at something, we usually get better and better. Then you hit a plateau. For most of human history, people have been hitting this plateau, and they just kept working until death or retirement, whichever came first.
Today, if you ever reach the upper bound, chances are good that you should be moving to new work.
I do think, for example, that we should be investing more every year in health, education and research. And not just a bit more. However, these people have to do their part and grow their productivity.
If you have been teaching kids for ten years, on the same budget, and getting the same results… you have been short-changing all of us.
If you are treating medical conditions for the same cost and getting the same results for the last few years, you are stealing from all of us.
You have an obligation to improve your productivity with each passing year. And only if all of us keep on improving our productivity can we afford to grow everyone’s budget year after year.
If your students’ scores don’t improve year after year, if the survival rates of your patients don’t improve year after year, you should be troubled. And, ultimately, you should feel shame.
A Look Inside My Systems
I’m committed to the idea that deep work is the key to a successful and meaningful professional life. Not surprisingly, I back up this commitment with a complex set of battle-tested systems that ensure I spend a non-trivial amount of time in a state of intense depth each week.
At the moment, due to these systems, I average between 15 – 20 hours of deep work per week. I manage this even though I’m professor with a full course and service load, an active blogger and writer, a father of two young boys, and someone who rarely works in the evening.
Now I want to let (some of) you inside my world and explain exactly how I make this happen…
In more detail, I’m going to host an exclusive, invite-only webinar on Sunday, January 3rd where I will walk through the details of my deep work systems and answer any and all questions on this general topic from the webinar attendees.
Here’s the catch: invitations to the webinar will be limited to people who pre-order my new book DEEP WORK (which will be released on January 5th).
Once you’ve pre-ordered the book (of if you’ve already done so): simply click here to access an online form where you’ll be asked to enter your e-mail address and some order confirmation information.
Once we’ve confirmed all the entries, I’ll e-mail this pre-order list the information needed to access the webinar. After the webinar, I’ll also send this pre-order list a full recording of the event for those who cannot attend live.
Why am I limiting this event to people who pre-order the book?
Pre-orders carry a great weight in the modern book business. Major retailers such as Barnes & Noble, for example, now use pre-order numbers to determine how seriously to take a new release.
I’m using this event, therefore, for two reasons:
This offer will only be available for the next few weeks, as we’re planning on processing all the entries before the Christmas vacation. So if you’re thinking about taking advantage of this invitation, don’t procrastinate too much.
Enough about this. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…
It's that time of year, so I'm happy to present the 512 Pixels Holiday Gift Guide for People Like Me:
No scholar—or as far as that goes, not even a madman—predicted that at the end of the twentieth century Christianity would not be recognized even as a cultural factor in Europe by the nations that today compose the European Union.
No prognosticator predicted that more Christians would be worshiping each Sunday in China than in Europe or North America.
And, what might be surprising to us today, even the greatest mission leaders at the Edinburgh Missionary Conference in 1910 had pretty much given up on Christianity in Africa. Most of the missionary leaders, even in their most optimistic moments, thought Islam had the upper hand and believed Africa would become a Muslim continent. Fast-forward and we find that the opposite is true, for there are more Christians than Muslims in Africa today.
In his new book, The Unexpected Christian Century: The Reversal and Transformation of Global Christianity, 1900-2000, foreword by Mark Noll (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015), xvi-xvii, Sunquist identifies the 20th century as one of the three great transformations in Christianity in its two thousand years.
1. The 4th Century
The first took place early in the fourth century, when Christianity began to get imperial recognition in three small nations and one empire: Osrhoene, Armenia, Ethiopia, and the Roman Empire. Royal conversions not only ensured that the religion would not be wiped out by belligerent rulers spreading other religions but also that Christianity would begin to develop differently with the support of kings and queens. Christian buildings began to look very nice. Christian life was no longer threatened. It was possible to fit into the larger culture very comfortably with little need for sacrifice or compromise. Christianity in these kingdoms and empires had moved from being a persecuted minority to being a favored faith. This changed everything.
2. The 15th and 16th Centuries
The second great transformation occurred in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. This was the period of the European Reformation, but that was not the supremely important transformation that I am thinking of. From about the 1450s to the 1550s Christianity broke out of its small enclaves of Western Europe, South India, and Ethiopia and became a truly worldwide religion. It didn’t have to happen that way, but it did. Muslim rulers, or certainly the Chinese, could have dominated the world. Instead, and very much for theological reasons, it was the Christians from Iberia who spread the Christian faith to places as far away as the Moluccas, the Kongo (Congo), Peru, and even Japan and China. As late as 1492 it was still not clear whether Christianity would devolve into a tribal faith of Western Europe.
3. The 20th Century
The third great transformation took place in the twentieth century, a great reversal . . . .
It was certainly a reversal in that the majority of Christians—or the global center—moved from the North Atlantic to the Southern Hemisphere and Asia.
But it was also a reversal in that Christianity moved from being centered in Christian nations to being centered in non-Christian nations. Christendom, that remarkable condition of churches supporting states and states supporting Christianity, died. The idea of Christian privilege in society was all but killed. And yet the religion seemed stronger than ever at the end of the twentieth century.
Sunquist cites the following the following global statistics—which I’ve put into a little chart—to show the dramatic change that took place in Christianity over the past 100 years:
You can read Noll’s foreword, along with Sunquist’s preface and introduction, online for free.
*spend the rest of class today working towards the goal you have written up on the board or emailed to a coach! If you are unsure of how to work towards that goal, ask the coach on hand or send a message to a coach to get some ideas.
10am-Noon Open Gym
I was looking for a Latin verb conjugation drill similar to these ones for and nouns and pronouns. I liked the instant feedback and the ability to quickly get hints. I couldn’t find an online drill I liked, though, so I made my own with Emacs and Org. (Because… why not?)
I wrote some code that would take a table like this:
|present – 1st sing. – ago / agere||agO|
|present – 2nd sing. – ago / agere||agis|
|present – 3rd sing. – ago / agere||agit|
|present – 1st plu. – ago / agere||agimus|
|present – 2nd plu. – ago / agere||agitis|
|present – 3rd plu. – ago / agere||agunt|
|imperfect – 1st sing. – ago / agere||agEbam|
|imperfect – 2nd sing. – ago / agere||agEbAs|
|imperfect – 3rd sing. – ago / agere||agEbat|
|imperfect – 1st plu. – ago / agere||agEbAmus|
|imperfect – 2nd plu. – ago / agere||agEbAtis|
|imperfect – 3rd plu. – ago / agere||agEbant|
|future – 1st sing. – ago / agere||agam|
|future – 2nd sing. – ago / agere||agEs|
|future – 3rd sing. – ago / agere||agEt|
|future – 1st plu. – ago / agere||agEmus|
|future – 2nd plu. – ago / agere||agEtis|
|future – 3rd plu. – ago / agere||agent|
I can call
my/make-fill-in-quiz to get a quiz buffer that looks like this. If I get stuck,
? shows me a hint in the echo area.
To make it easier, I’ve left
case-fold-search set to
nil so that I don’t have to match the case (uppercase vowels = macrons), but I can set
t if I want to make sure I’ve got the macrons in the right places.
Here’s the code to display the quiz buffer.
(require 'widget) (defun my/check-widget-value (widget &rest ignore) "Provide visual feedback for WIDGET." (cond ((string= (widget-value widget) "?") ;; Asking for hint (message "%s" (widget-get widget :correct)) (widget-value-set widget "")) ;; Use string-match to obey case-fold-search ((string-match (concat "^" (regexp-quote (widget-get widget :correct)) "$") (widget-value widget)) (message "Correct") (goto-char (widget-field-start widget)) (goto-char (line-end-position)) (insert "✓") (widget-forward 1) ))) (defun my/make-fill-in-quiz (&optional quiz-table) "Create an fill-in quiz for the Org table at point. The Org table's first column should have the questions and the second column should have the answers." (interactive (list (org-babel-read-table))) (with-current-buffer (get-buffer-create "*Quiz*") (kill-all-local-variables) (let ((inhibit-read-only t)) (erase-buffer)) (remove-overlays) (mapc (lambda (row) (widget-insert (car row)) (widget-insert "\t") (widget-create 'editable-field :size 15 :correct (cadr row) :notify 'my/check-widget-value) (widget-insert "\n")) quiz-table) (widget-create 'push-button :table quiz-table :notify (lambda (widget &rest ignore) (my/make-fill-in-quiz (widget-get widget :table))) "Reset") (use-local-map widget-keymap) (widget-setup) (goto-char (point-min)) (widget-forward 1) (switch-to-buffer (current-buffer))))
Incidentally, I generated the table above from a larger table of Latin verb conjugations in the appendix of Wheelock’s Latin, specified like this:
| laudO | moneO | agO | audiO | capiO | | laudAs | monEs | agis | audIs | capis | | laudat | monet | agit | audit | capit | | laudAmus | monEmus | agimus | audImus | capimus | | laudAtis | monEtis | agitis | audItis | capitis | | laudant | monent | agunt | audiunt | capiunt | | laudAbam | monEbam | agEbam | audiEbam | capiEbam | | laudAbas | monEbas | agEbAs | audiEbAs | capiEbas | | laudAbat | monEbat | agEbat | audiEbat | capiEbat | | laudAbAmus | monEbAmus | agEbAmus | audiEbAmus | capiEbAmus | | laudAbAtis | monEbAtis | agEbAtis | audiEbAtis | capiEbAtis | | laudAbant | monEbant | agEbant | audiEbant | capiEbant | | laudAbO | monEbO | agam | audiam | capiam | | laudAbis | monEbis | agEs | audiEs | capiEs | | laudAbit | monEbit | agEt | audiet | capiet | | laudAbimus | monEbimus | agEmus | audiEmus | capiEmus | | laudAbitis | monEbitis | agEtis | audiEtis | capiEtis | | laudAbunt | monEbunt | agent | audient | capient |
with the code:
#+begin_src emacs-lisp :var present=present-indicative-active :var imperfect=imperfect-indicative-active :var future=future-indicative-active (defun my/label-latin-with-verbs (table verbs persons tense) (apply 'append (-zip-with (lambda (row person) (-zip-with (lambda (word verb) (list word (format "%s - %s - %s" tense person verb))) row verbs)) table (-cycle persons)))) (apply 'append (mapcar (lambda (tense) (my/label-latin-with-verbs (symbol-value tense) '("laudo / laudare" "moneo / monEre" "ago / agere" "audiO / audIre" "capiO / capere") '("1st sing." "2nd sing." "3rd sing." "1st plu." "2nd plu." "3rd plu.") (symbol-name tense))) '(present imperfect future))) #+end_src
dash.el for the
-cycle functions. There’s probably a much better way to process the lists, but I’m still getting the hang of thinking properly functionally… =)
Anyway, I’m sure it will be handy for a number of other quiz-like things. org-drill and org-drill-table will probably come in handy for flashcards, too!
The post Org Mode tables and fill-in quizzes – Latin verb conjugation drills in Emacs appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.
At The Gospel Coalition, we normally highlight books and articles for you to explore and read. This is right and good because we believe that truth matters.
But we also believe that God is working in areas beyond literature, academia, and journalism. In fact, as our Theological Vision for Ministry makes clear, we have a vision for a church that equips its people to think out the implications of the gospel on how we do everything—from teaching to plumbing to accounting. “Such a church will not only support Christians’ engagement with culture, but will also help them work with distinctiveness, excellence, and accountability in their trades and professions.”
This Christmas, our faith and work channel—Every Square Inch—wants to celebrate products made by companies founded by Christian entrepreneurs. As entrepreneurs, they created something from nothing and, along the way, have given people jobs, contributed to the economy, engaged in ethical business practices, been generous with their neighbors, and expressed the creativity of God.
This guide isn’t comprehensive. There are thousands of outstanding Christian-led companies, and I welcome your suggestions in the comments. Also, each company featured makes many products, not just the ones below, so I encourage you to explore. These items are simply “my favorite things.” I hope you that enjoy the guide and—even if you don’t find anything in it—that you’re encouraged to see God at work.
I’m tall, so finding a throw that can cover me from head to toe isn’t easy. But this weighty one is the perfect length. It’s also soft, stylish, organic, and fair trade. Made in India, a portion of every purchase goes to Not For Sale to fight human trafficking. The company’s fine craft and unique mission has even caught the attention of Forbes and Entrepreneur.
“Thanks to good looks, eco-friendly filters, and a savvy business model,” reports Fast Company, “the Soma water filter is everything your Brita isn’t.” Its lid doesn’t fall off when poured. It’s shatter-resistant and the perfect size for refrigerators and sinks. Plus, a portion of every sale goes to Charity: Water to help end the global water crisis.
My home-decorating friend will love this wreath from Magnolia Market, the brick-and-mortar store of Chip and Joanna Gaines. Their popular HGTV show Fixer Upper captures them remodeling homes, running real estate businesses, raising their children, and keeping their faith in focus. Its most recent season attracted 24 million viewers.
I love the scents of the Christmas season, which is why I love these candles—balsam fir, holiday spice, and lavendar. Thistle Farms is a community of women in Nashville, Tennessee, who have survived prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. Its work, which serves 700 women annually, has been featured in both The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.
These two 12-ounce bags of direct-trade coffee beans come from Honduras and Ecuador. The Honduras Finca el Pantanel beans have tasting notes of orange blossom, honey, and pomegranate. The Hacienda la Papaya comes from a single grower in southern Ecuador and has tasting notes of rose petals, orange juice, and baking spices.
My brother will love using this on camping trips with his family. Men’s Journal is “smitten” with this “lightweight, tear-resistant, highly packable hammock that’s quick to sling and dismantle.” Backpacker says it’s “the best” two-person hammock they’ve seen. To boot, a portion of its sales goes to Ubuntu, a nonprofit building sustainable businesses in Africa.
These toothbrushes with antibacterial bristles come in four different colors, each packaged individually. S2 was started when its founder volunteered in dental clinics in Guatemala, where he saw kids with preventable and severe dental problems. (He and his wife also adopted one of these kids.) For each toothbrush you buy, S2 gives one away.
Most of us take soap for granted. We even leave partially unused bars in our hotel rooms. But for millions of our global neighbors, not having soap means being susceptible to disease and death. Through our everyday purchases, though, we can make a difference. When you buy this holiday bundle, Soapbox will donate four bars of soap to communities in need.
My sister-in-law is going to love this classic and simple necklace because it can be worn on date nights or play dates. Plus, Akola gives 100% of its sales and donations to its mission—training, empowering, and employing more than 400 women in extreme poverty, giving them the resources to provide for more than 3,000 disadvantaged children and neighbors.
I wanted to give this tote to my sister-in-law, but now I’m not sure I can part with it. Handcrafted in Ethiopia, it’s durable, spacious, and gorgeous. Plus, its proceeds help women, both locally and globally, who have overcome challenges ranging from prostitution to addiction to lack of opportunity. FashionABLE has been featured in InStyle and Fox Business.
I love these simple, clean studs you can wear every day. They’re versatile and sophisticated. Each piece is handcrafted by Olivia Terrell, who lives in New York City. “The beauty of handmade objects,” she says, “is that there are never two identical pieces: there are always imperfections. I believe it’s a sign of life and a gift: from the maker to the wearer.”
These sandals are great for anyone who wants options. Made by talented young women in Uganda who work to attend university, each sandal includes a pair of sandal bases and your choice of ribbons, which allows you to tie and style your sandals as you please. Sseko’s work has been highlighted by The Huffington Post and Fortune.
It’s hard to find shoe soles that can endure the streets of New York City, but these are strong and thick. Though the flats run a bit small, their kelly green color is fashionable and fun. Plus, each handcrafted shoe is made from handwoven textiles by makers in Guatemala, who are paid fairly. Also, a portion of each sale goes to local nonprofits.
This isn’t just another beautiful silver-colored necklace. By using recycled nickel, copper, and bronze melted down from previous war weapons, the Ethiopian artisans who created these pieces—most of whom are HIV positive—have produced beauty from ashes. Proceeds go to literacy classes, job training, and healthcare.
This sweater is more like a sweatshirt, and it’s incredibly soft. Made in Peru, its label tells you who made it. Interestingly, Krochet Kids is a nonprofit clothing company since its bottom line is impact. Employing hundreds of women in Uganda and Peru, its work has been featured in Fast Company and The New York Times Magazine.
I have two brothers and never know what to buy them. Now I do. This belt is durable, fashionable, and unpretentious. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and founded by a graduate of The King’s College, Brothers Leather supports a variety of local and global nonprofits and even has an I Am Second Collection.
My nephew will love this set of magnetic wooden blocks, which was a 2014 finalist for Toy of the Year. Plus, I love everything about Tegu; it employs more than 200 people in Honduras, matches their retirement contributions, replants trees for the ones they use, and invests in schools. It has been in Forbes, Entrepreneur, and more.
My niece, an animal aficicionado and aspiring artist, will love this handmade night light. According to legend, Paulie the Panda was born in Wicker Park and loves bamboo, street tacos, Mumford & Sons, and smooth jazz. The artist, Anna Lou, sees her work as creating beauty from brokenness.
I still have the leather backpack I bought when I was 13 years old, so I’m excited to give this one to my niece. Not only do its proceeds goes to empowering and employing more than 1,500 marginalized women in Kenya, Pakistan, Cambodia, India, and Ethiopia, Raven + Lily also invests in their communities through healthcare and education.
These notebooks can be customized on the outside and the inside—that is, you can choose your cover, your monogram, even your type of notebook (agenda, journal, unlined canvas). Plus, all notebooks are soft canvas covers and stitched down the spine for an eco-friendly binding solution.
Host a real-life or virtual dinner party for your friends, family, neighbors, or colleagues using this fantastic kit that helps you celebrate and give clean water to some of your 783 million global neighbors who don’t have access to it. Just $30 will bring clean water to one person in need, and 100% of your gift funds water projects.
In his forthcoming book, Strong and Weak, Andy Crouch argues that suffering happens when vulnerability exists without authority. For IJM’s clients—widows, orphans, victims of property grabbing and sex trafficking—this is all they know. By giving this gift, you’ll partner with IJM to provide legal aid, which has the potential to create enduring, systemic change.
Samaritan’s Purse responds immediately to global crises and helps desperate families, many of whom have lost everything. With a $45 gift, you can partner with them to supply a hurting family with emergency supplies that will meet their needs today, give them hope tomorrow, and reach out to them with the love of Christ.
Because we believe that truth matters, we want to equip pastors all over the world to understand and love the gospel. A gift of $40 equips a dozen Spanish-speaking pastors to receive Am I Called? A Summons to Pastoral Ministry by Dave Harvey, which can help them to discern their calling.
Editors’ note: Most discounts run from either Black Friday (11/27/15) or Cyber Monday (11/30/15) – 12/31/15 and cannot be combined with other offers. Free shipping from fashionABLE expires on 12/4/15. Sseko Designs, Thistle Farms, and Krochet Kids discounts are valid from Friday (11/27/15), to Cyber Monday (11/30/15) only. Anna Lou Glass discount is valid on Cyber Monday (11/30/15) only. The Root Collective discount does not apply to items already on sale. The Tegu discount does not apply to myBLOCKHEAD. The Soma discount lasts 3 months. Although most companies sent complimentary products to verify quality, no company paid to be included in this guide, and TGC receives no financial benefit from any sales. All companies are either known by the author personally or were recommended to her by friends or by Praxis Labs, a faith-based incubator for entrepreneurs.
Workshop Leader: Collin Hansen
Date: April 14, 2015
Event: The Gospel Coalition 2015 National Conference, Orlando, Florida
Collin Hansen serves as editorial director for The Gospel Coalition. He is the author of Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate, and Commissioned Church, Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey With the New Calvinists, and co-author with John Woodbridge of A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir. He earned an MDiv at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and an undergraduate degree in journalism and history from Northwestern University. He previously worked as an associate editor for Christianity Today magazine, co-edited Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism, and co-edits the Cultural Renewal series with Tim Keller. He and his wife belong to Redeemer Community Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and he serves on the advisory board of Beeson Divinity School. You can follow him on Twitter.
“The worst moment for an atheist is when he is really thankful and has no one to thank.”
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
“The aim of life is appreciation; there is no sense in not appreciating things; and there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them.”
“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”
“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”
“When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?”
Hello, Folks. Jagi, here, shanghaiing John’s blog once again.
This time, I just wanted to say thank you to all of you for your incredible generosity and for making our summer a miracle instead of time of poverty.
God bless you all!
The NapTown Fitness family wishes you and your family the happiest of holidays! We hope that you enjoy this at-home workout before your Thanksgiving Day festivities or do something else active before enjoying time with friends and family. Take a moment today to remember all of the things that you are grateful for – literally anything and everything from the giant things to the tiniest things that seem insignificant! If you are feeling especially cheerful, comment below with a few things that you are thankful for
Have a wonderful and safe holiday and we will see you tomorrow at one of our three locations for a workout!
12:00-2:00pm Open Gym
3:00pm Yoga Gratitude Flow
One Legged Burpee: Alternate Legs each time.
Scale* = Don’t go to the ground, don’t jump at the top, or don’t extend your leg as far back.
With the release of MAME/MESS 0.168 today, JSMESS achieved something special and something final: Irrelevancy.
Pushing it through Emscripten also makes way for a future in which a replacement candidate like WebAssembly will be the eventual final target. Emscripten’s continued dedication to cross-platform compatibility and refinement of the compilation process means that now there’s a dedicated team for compiling (Emscripten), and a dedicated team for emulation (MAME). It’s as sweet as it gets.
This has been a very long road for me. I announced this project idea in this very weblog a mere four years ago. 4 years! (And note that DopefishJ is the first to jump in with assistance. Four years ago! And he’s never wavered.)
4 years is a very long time to bring something like this together. Granted, we had something sort of working within the first year, but to continually refine, improve, find the bugs, re-engineer the whole thing and attempt to make it functionally easier to keep on top of… that took a core set of people a lot of time.
They’re owed a lot of gratitude and thanks, and I need to assemble the canonical list of everyone who helped, but the efforts of DFJustin, Vito, bai, devesine, dreamlayers, clb, jvilk, yipdw,balrog, MooglyGuy, haze lord_nightmare, and many others are what brought us to this point.
So, what’s next?
Well, the emscripten support in MAME/MESS is not perfect – it definitely needs eyes looking at it to improve the accuracy and the implementation. But it just got added this month, and I’m quite patient about these sorts of improvements.
And of course MAME/MESS can always use the addition of more people helping it with support, refinement and improvements. The Emscripten/website use case is a strong one – it’s going to be very easy for museums, university teachers, and everyone else to be interacting with this emulator going forward, and so the more focus on getting it comprehensive and quick as well as accurate, the better. It’s instant reward.
As I’ve indicated earlier this month, my focus is not on making sure emulation in the browser is a fact – that’s been established. My focus is entirely on transferring as much lost or in-danger digital information into modern-computer-readable-form as absolutely fast as possible. The emulators are here, and they’re waiting. Now we have to focus on these poor, solid magnetic souls keeping their precious contents, day by day, until they’re rescued.
I am not sad in the least. It was so fun to work with this team to get things where there are, and it’ll be so great to refocus them on parts that need more attention and love (like automatic new-driver building when new versions of MESS/MAME come out).
It is, all told, a great day.
Thanks to everyone.
Unfortunately I cannot embed or link to the video. The Powers That Be are taking steps to keep you from seeing it.
This was deliberately edited to create a certain emotional effect. Do not assume the news and other sources trying to create the opposite effect are not edited as deliberately.
No one should decide such an issue after hearing from only one side: that would be to heed the counsel for the defense without hearing the case of the prosecution.
Here is the discussion of why military action such as sending in ground troops or making a serious attempt to ‘get the bastards’ can never take place, despite America being the mightiest military power in history with no close seconds.
At about 1.30, the Community Organizer in Chief refers to criticism of his appallingly nonexistent military strategy as ‘popping off’ and utters a string of childish nonsequiturs.
He does not mention that three fourths of the minuscule number of air sorties in the combat region flown each day return with the bombs undropped.
The comment immediately following was even more telling, but the above being from a leftwing “news” site, it was edited out.
He is not saying he does not want America to lead and does not want America to win. He is saying that those of us who do want that are uttering meaningless slogans, because this war is impossible for the sole hyperpower on Earth to win, or even to engage in any meaningful way. Totally impossible. It is impossible because, uh, you are a racist for asking why it is impossible.
And, of course, here is the prosecution’s argument in favor of an open door policy welcoming Jihadists and other Mohammedans into our nation:
Here is more evidence from the Prosecution:
Well, I am glad that settles that issue.
I am sure Saint James Matamoros is pleased to hear that Muslims are a peaceful and tolerant people. The people of Covadonga and Granada in Spain, Tours in France, Vienna in Austria, Constantinople in an empire that no longer exists, not to mention Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea feel the same way. So too do the people working in the Twin Towers, the sailors aboard the SS Cole, visiting a nightclub in Bali, riding a Spanish railway, not to mention every Circassian beauty, every African slave, Thomas Jefferson and Richard Dale, Richard Morris, William Eaton, Edward Preble, and all the men serving under them, Don Juan of Austria and all the men serving under him, Richard the Lionheart, Godfrey of Bullion and every Jew wherever situate in the world.
We all agree. Islamics have nothing whatsoever to do with the Islamic religion, Islamic history, Islamic political philosophy, the Islamic warrior culture, nor with the acts of Holy War which are one of the central duties of the faithful in Islam.
Not only to they have nothing to do with our current yet somehow unnamed enemies, they have nothing WHATSOEVER to do with them.
I would like to ask the Secretary of State who the Mohammedan has ever tolerated, or to what race or nation ever offered to live in peace?
I would also like to ask if she is actually so incredibly stupid as to believe the words issuing from her wrinkled leather mask she wears over her arachnid visage so as to pass for human, so incredibly arrogant as to believe any sane man credulous enough to believe such a whopper, or so incredibly evil as to aid and abet an enemy in wartime by spreading propaganda meant that so clearly serves their interest?
Personally, I would say allowing a flood of military-age young men into the nation, barbarians from barbaric cultures, forbidden by their laws under penalty of death to assimilate to our way life was all three at once.
These so-called refugees are members of the religious and political movement advocating submission to Allah and adoption of Shariah Law. We in the West call Islam a religion and pretend it is like a denomination of Anglicans or Baptists. It is not. It is something utterly alien to our culture: a theocratic totalitarian system expressly designed to make the whole society into a war machine that must expand, enslave and conquer until the end of the world.
In the movement called Submission, there is no separating the politics from the religion, no division into secular and spiritual power, no separation of mosque and state, no division between private belief and public civic virtue, nothing remotely like that.
In the West, no Roman Emperor ever claimed to be the Pope or one of the Apostles. In Islam, no Caliph or Sultan ever claimed not to be both the supreme secular and spiritual authority at once. In the West, Christ murdered not one single person, and his followers by and large follow that and take that as their rule. In the East, Mohammed was deceptive when he was weak, and a warrior and slave-taker when he was strong, torturing for money, raping women, glorying in murder and killing, and his followers by and large follow that and take that as their rule.
There is no figure like Saint Francis in all of Islam. If there is a sect or branch of Islam that practices pacifism like our Quakers, I have never heard of it, and cannot find traces of it.
While there are members of that movement who perhaps do not advocate immediate violence against nonbelievers, the historical record makes clear that at no time in the past have the nonviolent Mohammedans restrained the violent ones, or even attempted to do so.
There were no abolition societies during the centuries of Turkish slave trade. There were no Islamic suffragettes born in those lands. There were and are no Islamic pro-democracy movements — you mistake the character of the Arab Spring if you think the Imams overthrowing the Dictators was any such thing.
It is not a culture that favors peace or toleration.
The argument for the Prosecution coming from Grandma Alinsky is a bland denial of this, as outrageous and simple as any lie of Big Brother. It is an untruth meant to be so untrue that only the most perfectly loyal in the groupthink warren will pretend to believe, and the separate themselves from the imperfect.
So those are the two sides of the argument.
Those are the two visions of what the situation is. One side believes the flood of Mohammedans vowing to destroy us is an existential threat, and the other believes the weather is an existential threat.
Myself, I never understood even in theory what the case in favor of multiculturalism was supposed to be, aside from suicide on a civilization-wide scale.
Even if the prosecution is right, and the West does deserve to die on a civilizational scale, slide into a darkness from which no one will ever recover (for only Christendom has ever produced the science of archaeology), I would say it is better to resist, no matter how deserving the Progressives believe us to be to drown in blood, ourselves, our children, and our lady wives.
The Progressives are using the civilized restraint we offer them out of courtesy to let them speak to silence us and usher into our midst barbarians boasting of their powers to kill us.
Perhaps it is time to silence them. Materially abetting the enemy in time of war should, at least, revoke a citizen’s citizenship and his rights under the First Amendment.
But weigh both sides of the matter, put emotion aside, and come to a judgment that is just.
Did you know there’s a gladness that should lead us to repentance? More often we think of it the other way around. And we are right to do so. Repentance from our sins, along with a corresponding faith in Christ, most certainly leads to gladness. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19–20). “And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life’” (Acts 11:18). Forgiveness. Freedom from condemnation. The gift of the Holy Spirit. Refreshment. New life. Indeed, all the blessings of salvation come to us through repentance and faith, and therefore repentance leads to unspeakable joy and gladness.
However, the Bible also speaks of a gladness that should lead us to repentance. It’s a gladness experienced by everyone in the world. It will be experienced in abundance by families all around our country on Thanksgiving Day. Here’s how Paul describes it when he proclaims the gospel to the idol worshipers of Lystra in Acts 14:15–17:
We bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.
Paul explains that in every generation, God has been testifying to his existence and goodness by his generous earthly provision throughout the world. He has been satisfying hearts with “food and gladness.” All the while, people have been living in disregard for the Lord, setting their hope on created things rather than on the Creator himself. And now, as Paul calls these idol worshipers to turn from their vain beliefs and trust in the living God, he appeals to their experience of “gladness” in order to spur them on to repentance. In other words, he says, “Realize who has given you this gladness, and then repent from trusting in anything other than God himself.” This sounds similar to Paul’s statement in Romans 2:4: “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”
So how can we make the most of such truths as we gather around the table this Thanksgiving? First, when your heart is satisfied with food and gladness among family and friends, be reminded that these blessings are given in spite of our sin and undeservedness. May the abundance of our earthly provision not lead us to a sense of entitlement or self-righteous pride, nor to setting our hope on the things of this world. Rather, may they encourage us toward a humble heart that recognizes the generosity of God toward us in spite of our sin. And may that lead us to hope afresh in the provision of his eternal blessings to all who repent and trust in Jesus Christ. Second, learn from Paul’s example as you seek to engage your unbelieving family and friends with the good news of the gospel. Look for opportunities to highlight the abundant earthly provision of the Lord in this life, in spite of the fact that we so often live in blatant disregard for him. God is patient and forebearing and kind. Yet this situation will not last forever. These earthly provisions are not sufficient in themselves. They are intended to lead us to recognize the goodness of God so that we might repent of our sinful disregard and place our trust in him. Earthly “gladness” is intended to lead us to repentance, so that we might ultimately experience eternal joy in Christ.
The Dark Ages have a bad reputation.
But, in many ways, the feudal system, with one universal Church and many local kings and barons maintaining the folk law, tied to subjects and vassals by personal oaths of loyalty, with neither the slave markets of the ancient world, the theocratic sultanates, ancestor worship, or caste systems of the Near and Far East, nor with the plutocracies, state-syndicates, and socialisms of modern Europe, achieved something unheard-of in the ancient world and forgotten in the modern:
It achieved maturity. It achieved something never achieved before or since: a form of civilization fitted to the human condition, high and low, male and female, spiritual and temporal. It achieved the modern world without the more notorious evils and drawbacks of the modern world.
In the West, the Dark Ages took the wreckage of the Roman Empire, while being attacked from the Norse and the Paynims, preserved the best of the old while creating the brilliance we call Europe, and managed to throw the Mohammedans out of Spain. Meanwhile, in the East, the Byzantines has a centralized empire more similar to our modern bureaucracy-state, and collapsed before the approach of Islam.
Monarchy is not a perfect system, but it is better than the Imperial form of government where anyone, from the son of the previous emperor to a famous general to a camel driver can be elevated to the purple as the Praetorian Guard elects, and no one else gets a vote.
No emperor was secure since the Army could change its mind at any time, and so each emperor, for his own safety, had to destroy any competent general who grew too popular. Small wonder the Roman Republic stopped expanding after Augustus Caesar. Bowing and vowing fealty to a child whose only qualification is that he is the son of the last commander-in-chief is admittedly an absurd system, but if the barons and the army are unwilling to rise up in rebellion to follow anyone outside the royal family, the pool of candidates who can start a civil war is small, and there are fewer such wars.
Meanwhile, from 500 AD to 1500 AD under precisely the type of government at which you sneer, the West abolished slavery, invented science, erected the Common Law (which is the single greatest juridical accomplishment of Man) created perspective in drawing, the Gothic arch and flying buttress in architecture, the horse collar and stirrup, the romance story in art, individualism in psychology, the Magna Charter, the dinner fork, the Julian calendar, the monastic order, parliamentary government, separation of secular and spiritual government, the University system, the code of chivalry, the notion of limited warfare, Christmas carols, the windmill, modern astronomy, the clock, eyeglasses, the bound book, the Copernican model, and the idea that marriages had to be voluntary for both partners. This was while civilization was in ruins and under remorseless attack by more powerful forces from north, south, and east.
And they did this while preserving pagan culture, arts and letters, unlike their neighbors to the south, the Mohammedan, who destroyed what they could lay their hands on of the previous cultures they conquered.
And they did all this without letting the rich and the moneylender run roughshod over the rest of society. The socialist impulse was channeled into constructive use: anyone who wanted to live without property could join a monastery. Any Puritan who wanted to live without luxuries could be a hermit. Anyone eager for productive work could join a guild or move to a chartered city. There were taxes aplenty, but no tax on income.
One might be tempted to think the guild system and the ownership by many small yeoman-farmers of many small shops and farms imposed undue restrictions on the free market. However, we who toil under the minute regulation of every aspect and element of life, we whose toilet water tanks are regulated, cannot in good conscience mock the sumptuary laws and guild restrictions of the medieval. The feudal lord was due a tithe, ten percent, of the produce of the land. When was the last year anyone’s income tax was that low?
They were freer than we are. And their gold was gold indeed.
They had more holidays than we have now. People used to sing in public, together. And churchbells pleasing to the ear from high spires pleasing to the eye sent sonorous echoes across the landscape to mark the hours.
No doubt the Progressive reader is aghast at the notion that the Thirteenth Century was more mature than the Twentieth, but I invite the candid reader to use any reasonable metric to measure what is actually suitable for human life.
The Dark Ages society is the only one, ever, that eliminated both forms of superstition, either the consultation of oracles and the worship of autocrats as divine, which have afflicted every other human society before and since.
Julian the Apostate had a slave girl slaughtered so that her entrails could be read. He was the last (and only) pagan Emperor of Constantinople. But the Romans, the Egyptians, the Chinese, and every other great civilization of the past thought they could divine the future by consulting the stars or the birds. The Socialists thought they could divine the future using the abortive science of Marx economics.
You may not have noticed that the Brahmin claim to spiritual superiority over their servile classes is not unique to India. In fact, it is a universal conceit outside the Christian world: the ancient Egyptians paid divine honors to the Pharoahs, the Japanese and Chinese to their Emperors, as the Romans to theirs. The descendant of Mohammed claim rulership based on the sacred blood in their veins.
The corpse of Lenin displayed for the adoration of the public, or the worship of the Glorious Leader in North Vietnam are modern variations on this theme. The Cult of Personality is a cult indeed.
Only the Christian kings know that they will be a naked on Judgment Day as the lowest serf, and that our God is no respecter of persons. Royalty and nobility was thought to be a higher rank than common blood in the Middle Ages, but this was not a spiritual superiority.
It was not the elitism of a Brahmin or a Leftwing partisan, who thinks he is morally superior to the common ruck whom he despises.
It was an elitism of a military hierarchy only: the king, in the earliest days of the Middle Ages, was merely the commander in chief, not the guardian of your conscience. And a good king owned a palace because he spent most of his life sleeping in a tent between marches. Perhaps the medieval practice of routine confession of sins prevented the growth of the spiritual elitism of Brahmins or Leftists.
Only in Christendom could a beggar like Francis be honored with sainthood on an equal footing with King Louis. With the end of the Middle Ages, this great principle was smothered in Protestant nations: both Cromwell and the Puritans in Massachusetts said all their followers were saints, everyone was a saint. Their names are forgotten, and no one erects statues to them. By making everyone a saint, whether he meant to or not, Cromwell made sure no one was.
The Twentieth Century was more violent both physically and spiritually. Count the number of mass murders by nation-states, either in raw numbers or as a percentage. Compare.
Maturity is the ability to combine conflicting elements either in a man’s heart or in man’s civilization into a rule and a sense of balance where no one mood, no one passion and no one faction runs away with you.
Maturity in a soul means the reason, the appetites and the passions act in harmony, and the more harmony is achieved, the more the maturity. It is the child who cannot control his appetites and passions, and lets a fierce mood or sudden disappointment throw him into childish rage or erupt into childish tears.
Maturity in a community means that the spiritual and temporal powers are balanced, the elite and the commoners agree on the social order and can cooperate to mutual gain without mutual recrimination or mutual hatred, that the cities and the country cooperate, the knight and the contemplative, the men and the women are settled into roles fit for human life, and so on.
In the modern day, the elite hates the commons and seeks forever to destroy and enslave them, in the name, ironically enough, of freeing them. The elite and intellectuals in the Middle Ages were clerks in the Church, not vicious and deceptive pundits, newspapermen, and empty headed actors burning with a zeal to subvert and suborn middle class values, and destroy their hated enemies, the Bourgeoisie.
The elite were not a different religion from the commons then, but agreed on the basics of the basic vision of a just life. Not every king was a good king, but there was a basic agreement on what a good king should be.
Sneer me no sneers about the divine right of kings placing some men above others: that doctrine dates from the Reformation. The legal theory of the Middle Ages was Roman and hence, in the technical sense of the term, republican.
(And do not bring up that tiresome old slander, prima nocte: the idea that lords could commit adulterous rape on the wedding night with any comely peasant lass is a slander invented by Voltaire, who could not find any real medieval laws to mock, and so invented one. Ironically, it is one Voltaire’s fellow atheist and practitioner of modern scientific and secular values, Lavrenti Beria , actually indulged in.)
This legal theory, best explicated by Thomas Aquinas, does not promise civic equality to all men, and so is anathema to the modern age. But then again, the legal theory of the Modern Age started with Machiavelli: both sides of the great conflicts of the Twentieth Century, Democrats or Socialists, justified their politics on the basis of it being a necessary evil, an evil that is done that good might come of it.
The idea of a state whose mission is to encourage the virtue of its citizens comes from the days when the clothing and architecture and music likewise was meant to be both useful and beautiful. Nowadays we dress in drab denim, and live in steel boxes. The society that lives for its own pleasures and powers produces ugliness; the society that lives for God, for something greater than itself, produces pleasure and power.
In the Middle Ages, sacred things were actually set aside from the rough and tumble of common life. Any man or woman could retire from the world and join a nunnery or monastic order, and be immune from the class requirements of the surrounding society.
Historians mark the reign of Henry VIII as the end of the Middle Ages. Starting with him, nations began to claim the power to redesign and redefine the contents of the Bible, the nature of the Eucharist, the authority of priests, as well as the doctrines and disciplines of the Church. Separation of the spiritual power from the temporal was lost, and sacred and mundane became intermingled to their mutual detriment.
It was the shipwreck of the world’s most glorious civilization, and a continual loss of personal liberty until, far overdue, some medieval notions of the proper rights and duties of man resurfaced in new guises during ironically-named Enlightenment, the Age of Reason which ushered in the Guillotine and the Gulag.
Once the idea of civil power ruling over sacred things became commonplace, Cromwell became possible, perhaps inevitable: what all such Puritanical movements involved is trying to be holier than Christ, and to force common people to adopt one or more disciplines of the Church: Some forswear alcohol, some forswear all worldly pleasures, some forswear all worldly distinctions of rank, some forswear private ownership of property.
Some take a vow of silence and forswear freedom in speech; some take a vow of obedience so that a master of the order can order every detail of your no-longer-private life. Political Correctness and the totalitarian adoration of a Glorious Leader are based on a religious impulse which the Church could tame to good uses.
And all heretics, starting with Mohammed, abolish the boundary between priests and layman, and make every man a priest, and therefore no man.
The terror of the Puritans of Cromwell, the Terror of the French Revolution, and the appalling mass murders of the Bolsheviks are, each one in its own way, was attempting to impose the Jesuit life a Jesuit imposed on no one but himself onto the general society in no way suited for such special spiritual discipline.
This confusion of the spiritual and temporal power is the source not of one, but of all the political controversies of the Twentieth Century, and the Twenty-First. That confusion was introduced by the end of the Middle Ages, and introduced a civil war into Christendom which eventually led to its self-destruction at the apex of Europe’s greatest splendor, at World War One.
Europe died then, and its dispirited but hollowed eyed corpse has continued from that day to this merely by inertia, waiting for some Christ-hating power, either communism in the East or Islam in the South, to roll over the lifeless corpse of Europa, and put a stake through her heart.
If Europe rediscovers Christ, she may be born again from the dead. That is what Christ does for those who have faith in His name.
If not, the churchbells will never be heard again. Instead we shall hear the endless yammering of state-worshiping propaganda or the eerie wailing of the paynim call to prayer.
This is a guest post by Jared C. Wilson, a contributor to the ESV Men's Devotional Bible.
The gospel breathes life into a man’s weary spirit primarily in three ways:
I think every man carries around some sort of wound, baggage, things that they’ve done, mistakes that they’ve made, sins that they’ve committed. Even if they’ve repented of these things, sometimes they don’t feel forgiven or they feel like they can’t escape from under that shadow.
The gospel comes in and says that what you were does not define you. You are what God says you are in Christ. Understanding the rich truth of justification gives us great freedom from the past.
In the gospel comes the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. We really do have the Spirit working according to the Father’s will to make us more like Christ . We do have the power to obey.
But when we fall short—as we often do—we know that we have the grace to forgive us so that we’re not defined by our worst deeds. We really do have the Spirit’s empowering presence for our present work and effort.
Most men worry about providing for their families and making sure the bottom doesn’t fall out from underneath them. The harsh truth of living in a broken and sinful world is that we have no guarantee of security; Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). We don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
But we do have the guarantee that our hope is secure in the gospel. The hope that we have in Christ is not the same hope that we often refer to in everyday language (e.g., “I hope something good will happen.). Our hope in Christ is a sure hope—a secure hope.
Every man can wake up in the morning with fresh mercies and with the understanding that whatever happens to his bank account or with his family or whatever else, he is united to Christ and therefore he is as secure as Christ himself is.
Jared C. Wilson is the director of content strategy at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, and a contributor to the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible.
This is a guest post by Mike Bullmore, a contributor to the ESV Men's Devotional Bible.
All of us are going to experience darkness in our lives. There’s no avoiding it and there’s no guarantee that because we’re in a saving relationship with God through Christ that we’re going to be exempt from it—we’re not.
But in the midst of this, Psalm 88 comes in and speaks to us in our darkest times, whether the result of disappointment, loss, betrayal, or any number of things. We're all going to experience what the writer of Psalm 88 experienced: the sense of a loss of inner strength, even to the point of despair. Psalm 88 is in our Bibles to let us know that, when we experience that sort of thing, we’re not alone; it’s not an uncommon human experience.
But far more important than letting us know we’re not alone, Psalm 88 tells us what to do in that experience. It embodies for us the right pattern of how to act in the darkness. Three times in the chapter, the psalmist cries out to God, and that structures the psalm. Psalm 88 is actually a turning to God in the darkness. It’s telling God about the darkness. It’s trusting in God despite the darkness.
Psalm 88 ends up reminding us we’re not alone in hard times and helps us to know what to do—turn to God.
Mike Bullmore serves as senior pastor at Crossway Community Church in Bristol, Wisconsin, and is a contributor to the ESV Men's Devotional Bible.
Here’s an update on the Infocom Cabinet, with a side order of ethical debate.
I’ve now dumped the balance of materials I have around into the Infocom Cabinet collection on the Internet Archive. There’s some scatterings left on my hard drives, but they are either 100% personal (think: pay stubs and employee evaluations) or they’re duplicated in many ways in what did go up.
So with this little update comes:
All told, we’re somewhere in the range north of 5,000 individual scanned pages in this uploaded collection. It’s worth it to note that this wasn’t even the full extent of Steve Meretzky’s file cabinet – this was just as much as I grabbed with a sense of “this needs to be saved” cross-purposed with “this will look good scrolling by in the final film”. There’s likely piles of interesting material in the collection, including all of Steve’s work with Boffo and Legend Entertainment, two companies he worked at after Infocom – I just had to call it at some point, or I’d probably be scanning to this day. I again note that Stanford University was donated the entire Meretzky collection, where it sits safely to this day.
For the “what about” crowd… yes, there’s a few other items in the collection, and I may put them up if it makes sense to, but this should really be enough for anyone to produce a reasonably informed opinion on the goings-on, from nearly day one through to the office closing and all the remaining items shipped away, of Infocom, Inc., 1983-1989. They’re readable in the browser, and the original scans that are up are all 600dpi, meaning they can be zoomed in for artistic meaningfulness, which as a documentary film guy I’m pretty big on. It’s a triumph! People are talking about it! It’s making waves!
So, there’s an important factor in this. The vast, vast majority of Infocom employees are very much alive, some still working in the games industry, and others who have possibly not thought about the words “Zork”, “Infocom”, or “55 Wheeler Street” for a very long time. And now, out of nowhere, related to no particular anniversary or event, the sum total of the company’s materials are now online somewhere, browsable, and thousands of people are poring over them, studying and commenting.
Some will be delighted. Some will be confused why anyone cares so much, and maybe one or two will be in some ways horrified or nervous, especially if they haven’t gone over what’s been posted themselves.
For the film, I interacted with a variety of Infocom staff, some of them for just one day (interview), some just over a single phone call (saying they wouldn’t be in the film), and others on and off for years. I can’t pretend to call myself their friend beyond the Meretzky family and especially Steve, who I spent a large amount of time with during production and who I occasionally see when I’m in California.
There’s a situation in making a documentary I call “Stop-Motion Interaction” where you interview someone, spend 3 years working on the movie, and then either have the person at the premiere or run into them, and you have been spending months inside your head getting to know the person from what they talked about, and then you see them and to them, you’re just this old dim memory and to you, you’re seeing an old friend again. It can be jarring for both parties.
But there were people I didn’t get the opportunity to talk with at all. They literally have nothing to know about me or my methods or what I’m about, beyond I made some sort of film and that film had an Infocom aspect to it. (Some Infocom alumni just called GET LAMP “The Infocom Movie”, presuming that’s what it’d be about.) For some of them, they will likely see what just happened with all this documentation and have a “reaction”.
This gets enormously complicated. And painful. But if I’m going to talk about where I got to with releasing all this historical information, and to stand as some sort of example of the issues involved, I gotta go here.
It’s explained in excruciating detail in this podcast, so I’ll go with the Cliffs Notes version, like someone explaining why one shoulder blade is 2 inches higher than the other, and why there’s a scar going from one ear to the forehead.
Besides this treasure trove of infocom documentation in Steve’s basement, I had someone contact me saying, basically, “So, you’re working on this movie. Would you like The Infocom Drive?” Like everything else, I said YES without needing any details because that’s how I roll. When the Infocom Drive arrived (a roughly 150mb .zip), it was essentially a snapshot of Infocom at the end of days, Knowing that this was a goldmine that needed to be in some way preserved, I gave three copies away to trusted sources, and one of them wrote an article about a particular narrative thread in the drive’s contents, got a ton of attention, some extremely angry ex-Infocom folks (both privately and public, to me), my movie almost died in the cradle and I didn’t talk to the author for about six years.
Again, the podcast goes into this whole thing for the sake of the looky-loos, but I’m trying to get to the core of the discussion/debate here – that to tell this narrative thread, this article used e-mails, entirely private, pulled from the hard drive and which were never, ever published anywhere and I’m sure the employees on both sides of each letter had no idea their writings survived and just imagine waking up to that nightmare scenario.
Reconciliation did happen, and I did have conversations with a lot of people about it, and I definitely still harbor both the sadness at the initial event and the lost opportunities of six years of potential collaboration.
So then, what exactly am I doing here?
First, I tried to take lessons from the debacle of a half-decade-plus ago and implement them in a way that would protect people:
Steve has been rather open with how he does his work, so there are things in there that I wouldn’t do if I hadn’t worked things out with Steve and gotten his opinion on what’s acceptable. For example, I left in a salary listing for Steve just because it’s both historically interesting and because I think if he had it on his computer, he’d make it part of a presentation at GDC. But only Steve gets that treatment in any way.
I worry about someone defending decisions made decades ago, with 20/20 hindsight applied by groupthink hive-mind perfection-oriented knowledge. I hope that doesn’t happen. People in this group range from early 20s to early 30s (with a few noted exceptions) and Infocom was often either their first job, or a completely crazy 90 degree change in career. They did what they did, and it came from competence and doing the right thing as they saw it. I don’t know if any of us could stand up to such scrutiny and get top marks across the board.
Beyond this, though, there’s the situation itself.
This is probably going to be the only time, outside of maybe Sierra and Broderbund, that this level of depth of the life cycle of a game company will ever end up online. And while I know there are archives of some game companies, I don’t believe any had the meticulousness that Steve showed in gathering up company work and management product and placing them into perfectly boxed-up folders indicating what aspect of the firm they were. We literally have the memos introducing the start of the sales team, company library and health insurance… and then the “we’re not doing so well”, the resignation letters, the calls to sell furniture and office supplies. It’s all in there.
It is my strongest belief that this collection will instruct, inform and change things in games, if only to show what situations have persisted for years, and what aspects are evolved from how things were. It’s hard, cold source material, unprettified and unsummarized, and showing something else: Just how fucking amazing Infocom was.
These were good people. Hardworking employees, creative geniuses, and driven towards the goal of being the best of the game companies. A place that people dreamed of being part of from the outside. A company that stood as doing all the right things, until it wasn’t doing the right things. A chance for people to figure out where the cracks showed, where the triumphs were, and where dreams were actually and truly formed and hewed on a daily basis. That’s pretty amazing.
Infocom alumni can e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) any time if they have concerns about something, or which I overlooked the nature of (I tried to be very careful about this and all the thousands of pages have been vetted by me personally – the buck stops here.) Naturally, the world at large can e-mail me too.
I should rush to say that the reaction on the part of everyone I’ve found has been 100% positive. I’m writing this not because someone complained, but because I saw in a potential scenario that angry and betrayed researcher I was so long ago with my friend (who is still, again, very much my friend) Andy. I know that the result is often not shouting but seething. That solves nothing. I wanted to get ahead of it.
For everyone else, please enjoy this rare and possibly unique peering into what is, ultimately, one of the high holy grails of gaming history.
Backups always come up this time of year. If you're at home visiting family, it's your Nerd Duty to make sure your family members have something in place to keep their data safe.
There are lots of good options out there today, but back in the early 2000s, that wasn't true. If you were a .Mac subscriber, though, Apple's Backup.app made data duplication easier than it had been previously. You didn't even have to download the app; you could install it right from your iDisk folder.
There were three major versions of Backup.app; that screenshot is from version 3, which was by far the most useful.
(Version 2's headline feature? Support for FireWire drives.)
The app came with several preset backup solutions:
Each of these four options could be tweaked further, and Backup.app could be used to help restore data from the various destinations if needed.
The final option allowed for custom backups, mixing and matching files, destinations and frequency of the backup:
Backup.app could be used to copy data to a non-iDisk location without a .Mac subscription, but was limited to 100 MB per backup. It was really designed to be a park for users paying the $99/year fee.
Backup.app — while it runs under OS X El Capitan — is past its useful life. Time Machine shipped with OS X Leopard in 2007, making Backup.app less useful. By the time MobileMe was announced a year later, the writing was on the wall for this little utility.
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
— Mahatma Gandhi
I’m not sure if Gandhi actually said that. Somebody did. My best human chance of finding who said it — or at least of gaining a learned enlargement on the lesson — would have been David Sallis. “Big Davy” didn’t know everything, but he came closer than anybody else I know, and he was a living exemplar of Gandhi’s advice.
Davy’s answer would have been knowing, clever and enlarged by a joke, a wild story or both. Alas, I can’t ask him, because he died last Friday of a stroke he suffered a few days earlier. He was just 56, and is survived by his wife Margaret and daughter Rosie —
— both of whom he adored absolutely — and by countless friends and colleagues who remain shocked and saddened by his passing.
I caught a telling example of how much Davy knew when he was visiting in Santa Barbara for the first time a couple years ago, and we took a long walk downtown. Observing the distinctive typeface of the city’s street signs, he described in depth its origin and design elements. I don’t remember what he said, except that the typeface, like the town, was of regional Spanish provenance. Now when I look online, all I can find about the typeface is that it’s called “Mission,” and lives in no standard font library. Whether or not Davy knew more than the rest of the world on the subject, it was totally in character that he might.
Davy didn’t like it when I told other people he was a maths genius. A stickler for accuracy, he said he was taught by some real ones, at Imperial College and elsewhere. But while he might not have been their equal, he was wickedly smart on the topic. One evening I saw that demonstrated at a bar in Silicon Valley. Davy was sitting at a table with another maths whiz, talking about how to solve some particularly vexing problem. Pausing in the midst of the conversation, Davy folded a napkin several ways at various angles and pushed it across the table to the other guy, who said “That’s it!” and looked back at Davy in amazement. Davy returned a look of agreement with one raised eyebrow and a wry smile. It was an expression that at once said both that he had won and this was all in fun — and “Isn’t it great that we’re both learning something here?” Here’s a photo I shot of the scene:
Davy was also a lover and player of music. Here he is on a guitar he brought to our house on a visit:
Davy’s tastes were wildly eclectic and refined. That guitar is an Erlewine headless Lazer — the same one played by Johnny Winter. At the time it was on its way to joining Davy’s extensive collection of vintage saxophones and guitars of every kind, any of which he might pick up and wail away on at a moment’s notice. He could hold forth on Bach and punk with equal authority, and had forgotten more about Frank Zappa than all but a few will ever know. Here he is with our friend Robert Spensley (another fabulous musician), in their Zappa shirts:
Davy became instant friends with my wife and I when we met in London in May 2013, at a lunch with a handful of colleagues at Visa Europe, which employed his consulting services for many years. It was Davy who brought VRM (subject of my work with the Berkman Center) to the company’s attention, and who had been the main instigator of the gathering.
Suspecting that we might be among the few who would know a world-changing business and technical hack when we saw one, he shared with us plans for Qredo, an architecture for sending and sharing data securely and privately between parties who could also, if they chose, connect anonymously — and then selectively disclose more information as purposes required. Qredo eventually became a startup, and I served through its formative months on the company board, visiting often to Richmond, Davy’s beloved home town. Here he is, describing how Qredo fit into some VRM contexts :
Yet what I love and remember best about Davy was how much fun he was as a companion — at work on Qredo, in conversation at pubs and in other convivial settings, on walks in Richmond and around London, and over countless meals in places both fun and fine. To all those occasions Davy brought the most irrepressible inner child I have ever known in an adult human being. Here is a small collection of shots that show our boy at work and play:
Since he left I haven’t gone ten minutes without lamenting how much his absence lessens the world. The one solace I find is knowing how much larger he made the world when he was with us.
For those able to attend, a ceremony and burial will be held on Monday, 30 November, 11 AM at Richmond Cemetery.
CounterPunch has published my article on one aspect of Dylan’s foreign policy: his view of the modern state of Israel. It touches on the theology of dispensational premillennialism. Our book also deals with his perspectives on patriotism, imperialism, economic globalization, war and peace, and the military-industrial complex.
This is a guest post by Philip Graham Ryken, a contributor to the ESV Men's Devotional Bible.
One of the things that I love about the stories in the Bible is how many ordinary people you meet. Some of them are very famous—think of Moses, for example, and his story that’s told in the book of Exodus. He truly is a great man of God from one perspective. But he’s also a very ordinary person with a lot of humble circumstances in his life and some failures and some very common problems.
For one, Moses had conflicts within his family. What’s more, he tried to serve God by delivering the Israelites from Egypt one Egyptian at a time and that didn’t work so well. So he had to leave for forty years and spent a long time in the wilderness—a long time of preparation.
I think these are all things that ordinary people can relate to. We, too, have problems in our own families. There are things we try to do to serve God that don’t work out the way that we hoped they would—and may not even turn out to be God’s purpose for us at all! Most of us have long periods of waiting and long periods of preparation where we're studying for something or waiting for God’s will to be revealed to us.
Moses went through all of those things. And, at the end of his life, he didn’t even get a chance to lead people into the Promised Land, which is what he wanted to do. In the same way, not all of our ambitions are satisfied either. Yet each one of us has an opportunity to live a life that’s pleasing to God and ultimately for his glory.
We may not be as famous as Moses, but I think Moses (and the other people we meet in the Bible) are accessible to us because they’re wrestling with the same real-world issues that we are.
Philip Graham Ryken is the president of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, and a contributor to the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible.
This is a classic tip for those who ran Mac OS 9 and earlier:
The Desktop file is an invisible file found in the main level of your hard disk in Mac OS 9 or earlier. It is the file that keeps track of all the documents and applications that are on your disk. System 7.0 and later versions use the invisible files named Desktop DB and Desktop DF.
Occasionally, your Desktop file may become too large or may become unusable. It is generally a good idea to rebuild your Desktop file once a month or so in Mac OS 9 or earlier.
This is a guest post by Christopher Catherwood, author of Martyn Lloyd-Jones: His Life and Relevance for the 21st Century.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones—often known as “the Doctor” from his medical degree—was one of the greatest preachers of the twentieth century, if not one of the most distinguished since his hero Jonathan Edwards in the eighteenth century.
I must of course admit to a prejudice as I write that; I am his eldest grandchild! But I am not alone in my high regard for him personally and for his many decades of ministry, which spanned the years 1927, when he started to preach, until his death in 1981. I am also the author of a new biography entitled, Martyn Lloyd-Jones: His Life and Relevance for the 21st Century.
What is different about this book, apart from the family relationship?
Many works on the Doctor are histories, looking back at past events and often controversies of long ago. Dr Lloyd-Jones was a man of passionate conviction, and it is fascinating (and also alarming) to see how people on very different sides of some controversial issues each claim the Doctor was exclusively on their side! However, in this work I do not take sides, but allow readers to make their own minds up, on the basis of scripture as the Doctor always insisted was the only way in which such matters should be decided.
My book deliberately also looks forward, not backwards, to show how relevant both he and his ministry are today and to the future. The Doctor was someone highly regarded worldwide. His works were translated into countless languages, with eager readers from every country imaginable under the sun. Much of his ministry was in the USA, a country he loved, and he was a truly global figure, patriotic Welshman though he was! With Evangelicalism now also spreading everywhere, his international outlook remains vital.
Like close family friend Mark Dever, I feel that the renaissance in recent years of Reformed theology, the rediscovery of the great truths of Calvin and of the Puritans, of Jonathan Edwards and C. H. Spurgeon, is a move very much of God, and is one of the most exciting developments in years. This in and of itself has made the life, thought, preaching, and ministry of Lloyd-Jones more relevant than ever. As he always told his family, he was a “Bible Calvinist not a system Calvinist,” and, at a time in which the glorious doctrines of grace are being found by large generations of young people, the need to rediscover Martyn Lloyd-Jones increases in importance.
Reformed doctrine is not something of historic interest alone, but is also profoundly relevant to how to live and think today. No one was more conversant with the works of, say, John Owen or Jonathan Edwards, than the Doctor. But he made them and their interpretation of Scripture alive and even life-changing. According to Lloyd-Jones, preaching was logic on fire, to the whole person, not just to the heart or to the head.
Why do we believe what we believe? It may sound like an odd question, but in our own time it is as vital an issue as ever. To the Doctor, Scripture was the supreme, authoritative guide to everything. All too often, we straightjacket ourselves into man-made positions and formulae, and, while no one revered the old creeds and confessions more than the Doctor, it was the truth as expounded in the Bible upon which he based everything he thought, said, and taught. It is an emphasis that we always need to remember—the Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura. It is how today, for instance, there are many Baptists who are also Reformed, a position unthinkable in the past but entirely possible if you base your doctrines on how you interpret the Scripture, as do many American Evangelicals today.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones was the world’s most enthusiastic grandfather! And that enthusiasm carried through into his entire life and ministry. To him, nothing was more exciting than the great truths of Scripture—and the life enhancing way in which they were rediscovered by generations of Reformed preachers, such as his great favorite, Jonathan Edwards.
Truth is always relevant. So too, therefore, is Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
Christopher Catherwood (PhD, University of East Anglia) is an historian, a by-fellow of Churchill College Cambridge, and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He holds degrees from Cambridge and Oxford in modern history and resides in Cambridge with his wife, Paulette. He is the author of a number of books, including Church History: A Crash Course for the Curious and Martyn Lloyd-Jones: His Life and Relevance for the 21st Century, and the editor of The Christ-Centered Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
Hey everyone, today we’re kicking off our Annual Holiday Sale!
We only have one sale all year at Unconventional Guides, and it begins now.
This year it’s a big 25% off everything in the Unconventional Guides store, the biggest savings it’s been in two years.
The discount applies to combo packs as well—which is a really good deal because they already sell at a discount, so you get to save even more.
The code will be available until midnight on Monday the 30th, Eastern Standard Time.
Never checked out the shop before? Here are a few products and combo packs we recommend:
— Get everything we’ve ever produced under the Unconventional Guides brand, including the highest version of the bestselling Empire Building Kit and also a few discontinued products. Regular price: $897 / Combo price: $649
Sales price with discount code: $487
— Includes a suite of resources to help you make measurable progress on your online (or offline!) business. Regular price: $454 / Sales price: $379
Sales price with discount code: $284
— Get your travel hacking off to a strong start with the full versions of several guides for Frequent Flyer adventurers, including the all-new Upgrade Unlocked guide.
Regular price: $197 / Sales price: $165
Sales price with discount code: $124
Also, note that two of our newest guides, Working On the Road and Upgrade Unlocked, are essentially half off during the sale because they are still set at their low introductory prices. But after the sale ends on the 30th, they’ll go up to the regular price (about $30 more for each).
The discount also applies to all levels of the bestselling Empire Building Kit
Finally, we also have gift certificates! Yes, the coupon code is valid for those too.
If you want something, pick it up this Wednesday the 25th – Monday the 30th—and remember to use discount code “GRAVY” at check-out.
The code will be available until midnight on Monday, Eastern Standard Time.
Have a great week and Happy Thanksgiving!
A good friend announced he was running D&D 3rd ed mid-level module and invited me to play. Excited, I went to our local hobby shop and bought a new set of dice. They were a pretty marbleized red with white numbers that would soon become the bane of my existence.
The D6s lulled me into a false…Read more
Two wellsprings nourished my muse. (The desire for that sort of poetic imagery was not among them.) The first was a deep-rooted dissatisfaction with common security advice. This common "wisdom"--I use the word advisedly--often seemed to be outdated. Yes, it was the distillation of years of conventional wisdom, but that was precisely the problem: the world has changed; the advice hasn't.
Consider, for example, passwords (and that specifically was the other source of my discomfort). We all know what to do: pick strong passwords, don't reuse them, don't write them down, etc. That all seems like very sound advice--but it comes from a 1979 paper by Morris and Thompson. The world was very different then. Many people were still using hard-copy, electromechanical terminals, people had very few logins, and neither defenders nor attackers had much in the way of computational power. None of that is true today. Maybe the advice was still sound, or maybe it wasn't, but very few people seemed to be questioning it. In fact, the requirement was embedded in very static checklists that sites were expected to follow.
Suppose that passwords are in fact terminally insecure. What the alternative? The usual answer is some form of two-factor authentication. Is that secure? Or is two-factor authentication subject to its own problems? If it's secure today, will it remain secure tomorrow? Computer technology is an extremely dynamic field; not only does the technology change, the applications and the threats change as well. Let's put it like this--why should you expect the answers to any of these questions to remain the same?
The only solution, I concluded, was to go back to first principles. What were the fundamental assumptions behind security? It turns out that for passwords, the main reason you need strong passwords is if a site's password database is compromised. In other words, a guessed password is the second failure; if the first could be avoided, the second isn't an issue. But if a site can't protect a password file, can it protect some other sort of authentication database? That doesn't seem likely. What does that mean for the security of other forms of authentication?
Threats also change. 21 years ago, when Bill Cheswick and I wrote
Firewalls and Internet Security,
no one was sending phishing emails to collect bank account passwords.
Of course, there were no online banks then (there was barely a Web),
but that's precisely the point. I eventually concluded that threats
could be mapped along two axes, how skilled the attacker was and how
much your site was being targeted:
Your defenses have to vary. Enterprise-scale firewalls are useful against unskilled joy hackers, they're only a speed bump to intelligence agencies, and targeted attacks are often launched by insiders who are, by definition, on the inside. Special-purpose internal firewalls, though, can be very useful.
All of this and more went into Thinking Security. It's an advanced book, not a collection of checklists. I do give some advice based on today's technologies and threats, but I show what assumptions that advice is based on, and what sorts of changes would lead it to change. I assume you already know what an encryption algorithm is, so I concentrate on what encryption is and isn't good for. The main focus is how to think about the problem. I'm morally certain that right now, someone in Silicon Valley or Tel Aviv or Hyderabad or Beijing or Accra or somewhere is devising something that 10 years from now, we'll find indispensable, but will have as profound an effect on security as today's smartphones have had. (By the way--the iPhone is only about 8 years old, but few people in high-tech can imagine life without it or an Android phone. What's next?) How will we cope?
That's why I wrote this new book. Threats aren't static, so our defenses and our thought processes can't be, either.
After his second year of graduate school at Princeton, Richard Feynman faced his oral examinations. Feynman was not yet the famous physicist he would soon become (as his biographer James Gleick put it, “His Feynman aura…was still strictly local”), so he took his preparation seriously.
Feynman drove up to MIT, a campus familiar from his undergraduate years, and a place “where he could be alone.” It’s what he did next that I find interesting.
As Gleick explains:
“[He] opened a fresh notebook. On the title page he wrote: NOTEBOOK OF THINGS I DON’T KNOW ABOUT. For the first but not last time he reorganized his knowledge. He worked for weeks at disassembling each branch of physics, oiling the parts, and putting them back together, looking all the while for the raw edges and inconsistencies. He tried to find the essential kernels of each subject.”
I might not have worked with any future Feynmans during my time at MIT, but I certainly had the privilege to watch the ascent of at least two or three future stars in the world of science. And one thing they all seemed to share with Feyman was his hunger to understand what he didn’t know.
If someone published something good, they wanted to understand it. If this good thing used some mathematical technique they didn’t know, they’d drop off the radar until they learned it. If you published an interesting result, they’d soon learn every detail and be able to replicate it easier than you could manage.
Their proverbial notebooks of things they don’t know where always growing, and as a result, they thrived.
The Feynman Notebook Method
I think there’s a general method lurking here. People resist learning hard things — be it a graduate student mastering fundamental physics or an online marketer taming a new digital analytics tool — because learning is hard and requires significant amounts of deep work.
Dedicating a notebook to a new learning task, however, can provide concrete cues that help you stick with this hard process.
At first, the notebook pages are empty, but as they fill with careful notes, your knowledge also grows. The drive to fill more pages keeps your motivation stoked.
(To see this Feynman Notebook Method in action, consider the image at the top of this post, which shows a page from the notes I took as part of my effort to learn the basics of information theory during a recent trip to San Sebastian, Spain.)
It’s a simple idea: translate your growing knowledge of something hard into a concrete form and you’re more likely to keep investing the mental energy needed to keep learning. But sometimes a simple idea is all it takes to unlock a new level of potential.
“When [Feynman] was done,” Gleick reports, “he had a notebook of which he was especially proud.”
You should seek that same pride in your own quest to become too good to be ignored.
Home of the pizza, battery, piano, espresso machine, barometer, typewriter, violin, and MP3, Italy is replete with interesting cultural history.
This peninsular country, nestled in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, became a nation-state in 1861 (with the establishment of a monarchy) until the Fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini during WWII. Since 1946 Italy has been a democratic republic and today boasts the fourth-largest national economy in Europe.
Almost twice the size of Georgia and slightly larger than Arizona, Italy has a population of 61 million—just a little less than France and the United Kingdom. Two sovereign nations exist within the Italy itself, including the Vatican. It should come as no surprise, then, that upwards 80 percent of its population identifies as Roman Catholic with a meager 1 percent identifying as evangelical.
Continuing our series highlighting how the gospel is at work in various countries, I reached out to Leonardo de Chirico, pastor of Breccia di Roma church in Rome and lecturer of historical theology at the Istituto di Formazione Evangelica e Documentazione (IFED). A keen observer of the Roman Catholic Church, Chirico discusses the state of the church in Italy today, what it’s like to be an evangelical in Rome, recent Vatican intrigue, and more.
In a hundred words or less, how would you describe the state of church in Italy?
As the Protestant Reformation was suffocated in the 16th century by a powerful Roman Catholic church, the evangelical community in Italy has always been a tiny persecuted minority until the second half of the 20th century. Having learned to survive, churches are made of solid believers who nonetheless tend to be inward-focused and suspicious of others. However, these difficult conditions didn’t prevent the gospel from spreading, especially in the southern regions of the country. Evangelicals represent roughly 1 percent of Italy’s 61 million people. So the work ahead of us is massive.
What most encourages you about the evangelical church in your country?
The faithful evangelical witness of past generations in difficult circumstances is inspiring. The gradual growth of cooperative efforts—for instance, in advocating for religious freedom or mercy ministries—is also encouraging. There are more solid books being translated into Italian (e.g., authors like Don Carson, Tim Keller, John Piper, John MacArthur, Mark Dever), and conferences and training initiatives are available for the Italian public. Recently the Dictionary of Evangelical Theology, a 900-page volume with more than 600 entries, was edited by Italian theologians and had to be reprinted—something unthinkable even a few years ago. There are 120 students following a non-residential five-year course in Reformed theology at the Istituto di Formazione Evangelica e Documentazione (IFED); this is also encouraging.
In the past, Italian theologians have significantly contributed to the cause of the gospel worldwide: I think of Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499–1562), peer to John Calvin and Heinrich Bullinger, whose Loci Communes (Common Places) were standard works for generations of Protestant pastors. I think of Francis Turretin (1623–1687), whose Institutes of Elenctic Theology is a crown of Reformed orthodoxy that served as the theology textbook at old Princeton Seminary. So while there’s still much to be translated, I’m convinced of the need for Italians themselves to write and develop contextually appropriate resources.
There’s also a growing desire to see a shift from the survival mentality of the past to a missional mindset for the glory of God and the good of the nation. Without negating our struggles and problems, there is a sense of a coming momentum for the gospel. Efforts to help the Italian church from abroad have largely tended to either bypass national Italian church leadership or support autonomous individuals. I think we are becoming more credible partners to work with in promoting the gospel in our country.
What are the biggest challenges facing the evangelical church in Italy?
As my senior colleague at IFED Pietro Bolognesi rightly argues, we have three main challenges: (1) identity, (2) unity, and (3) training. In a struggling minority situation, Christian identity has been largely defined not by who we are but by who we are not (e.g., not religiously Roman Catholic, not theologically liberal, not culturally secular). The overall perception has been that evangelicals are a cult. There is a need, then, to better grasp our evangelical identity based on core gospel essentials rather than on subcultural features.
Then there’s unity. Secondary distinctives have produced too much fragmentation. We need to do together what’s biblically possible, knowing that most of the challenges ahead of us (e.g., public witness, church planting, quality training) cannot be faced on a local level alone.
Lastly there’s training. In struggling and small churches, formation haven’t been viewed as a priority. Most leaders are self-taught and self-trained. Cultural engagement is often shallow. The situation won’t improve if leaders don’t emerge who are better equipped for ministry and if we don’t have Christians better prepared for how to be faithful and missional in their vocations.
A few years ago TGC published two pieces by Italian ministers. While one bemoaned the scarcity of spiritual leaders, the other lamented the shortage of Italian exegetes. In one sense, they were calling for the same thing: faithful, qualified, and able ministers of the Word of God. Would you agree with their take? Would you add anything?
They certainly describe a real need. God’s church exists where God’s Word is faithfully preached. We need preachers who aren’t only exegetes but also men of the Word to raise the profile of Christian ministry in the country. We also need churches prepared to move beyond extreme independence and develop the ability to operate in networks. We also need to nurture a vision for gospel impact on the whole country, not just maintenance of our own little tribes. Our dream should be to see God grant a time of biblical reformation that boldly confronts the idolatry of the nation.
For many years you’ve maintained a blog titled the Vatican Files (also appearing on Reformation21) where you write on the Vatican and Roman Catholic issues from an evangelical perspective. How did this begin? And what has the response been over the years?
As a theologian living in Rome I thought one way I could serve and contribute to the efforts of the global church would be to provide ongoing reports and assessments of Roman Catholicism. The allure and appeal of unity with Rome is as enticing as ever. Yet the need is to understand Roman Catholicism as a system governed by spurious principles such as optimistic anthropology, synergistic salvation, abnormal ecclesiology, and ambiguous church-state identity which lies at the heart of the church. The Vatican Files are tools designed to help grasp the theological system binding the whole of Roman Catholicism—and it attempts to go beyond simplistic and superficial understandings of it. I’ve received encouraging feedback from around the world saying the Vatican Files are useful. Today, the contribution that Italian theology can make to the global evangelical family perhaps lies in helping it to frame a biblically robust assessment of Roman Catholicism. More than ever this is at the top of the list of the global evangelical agenda.
Various reports indicate that a conservative dissent has been brewing in the Roman Catholic Church’s hierarchy as Pope Francis has sought, contrary to Roman Catholic doctrine, to grant divorced and remarried Catholics entrance both to the Church and to communion. As an evangelical in Rome, what’s your take?
Pope Francis is working hard to change the overall narrative of the Roman Catholic faith, wanting it to be marked by mercy and inclusivity instead of tradition and rules. He’s pitting the “letter” against the “spirit” of Roman Catholicism, pushing the latter over the former. This explains the concerns of certain traditional quarters about ambiguities in his language, also present in the final document of the recent Synod on the family.
Pope Francis wants to overcome the letter of canon law with a merciful spirit that welcomes all without challeging anyone. This is why he’s so loved by secular people. Everyone feels affirmed and no one feels questioned by what he says. But the biblical good news is that Jesus has come to pay for our sins and calls all persons to repent and believe. If you miss one bit of the gospel, you miss it all. The Pope uses language that resembles the gospel, but the meaning of what he says is far from it.
How can we pray for the evangelical church in Italy?
Please pray for:
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When the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Obergefell case, establishing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, public Christianity in America suffered what might be its greatest defeat in the nation’s history. Others might point to earlier decisions that struck down practices such as prayer and Bible readings in public schools, but that would not be quite right. Faithful Christians could reconcile those cases as a matter of simple prudence and religious liberty. Obergefell and the cases that led up to it dealt squarely with the Christian view of marriage, which was normative in America for most of the republic’s history. The court’s decision largely completed the job of severing the connection between the Christian sexual ethic and American law. While nearly the whole of American and world culture for about the past 5,000 years has clearly rejected gay marriage (if not always gay sexual relations, as in the Greco-Roman classical period), the majority opinion has changed rapidly and radically during the past decade.
Five years ago, James Davison Hunter rendered his verdict on Christian efforts to change the world (from his well-known book’s title). While he noted the amazing and disproportionate success of tiny minority groups such as Jews and gays in affecting culture, he simultaneously observed that conservative Christians have failed to achieve similar success despite their far-superior numbers. Hunter explains that part of the problem is that Christians have misjudged the mechanics of culture change. Thus, they have set up outposts in perimeter places, such as Colorado Springs, when they should have been concerned with engaging elites in cultural centers, such as New York and Los Angeles. By correctly understanding that kind of influence dynamic, enlightenment thinkers were able to take over what had been a mostly Christian sphere of higher education, for example. Culture change is not about the numbers so much as it is about the use of elites to win over other elites in the major cities.
One of the interesting things about Hunter’s analysis is that while he describes how culture changes, he does not recommend that Christians attempt to follow his blueprint. Rather, he encourages Christians to be content with being faithfully present in culture and to emphasize shalom (peace and the common good). Inherent in this modest advice is a gentle rebuke. The sociologist seems to see conservative Christians as a group who overreached in the culture wars. They relied too much on political solutions to establish cultural norms.
In America, it has been the lot of conservative evangelicals and Catholics to insist on male-female marital and sexual complementarity in terms of morality and law. And it has not been a happy task. We have seen our young people frequently disagree with us on this issue (even many of those enrolled in Christian colleges). They have often agreed with the charge that Christians have acted in a bullying fashion toward gays. And if there is one thing of which millennials are sure they disapprove, it is bullies. Worse still, we have had to strongly resist comparisons between the struggle over civil rights for African Americans and the gay marriage controversy. It is entirely possible that the dominant interpretation will ultimately be that those who fought gay marriage will come to be viewed in the same light as Southern segregationists.
Young evangelicals are in the toughest position. Their peers probably have less respect and tolerance for orthodox Christianity than has been the norm (and it wasn’t much to begin with). They have grown up in a period when gay marriage has been the single biggest moral controversy. While the pro-life movement conferred some elements of a civil-rights movement type of legitimacy on the political activity of my generation (Generation X) of Christians, they have experienced the opposite sense with regard to gay marriage. Something that once seemed self-evident (male-female complementarity) now manifests as some repressive “Christianist” construct oddly imposed on innocent human beings who need greater room for self-discovery and self-expression.
As we evaluate our situation, Christian writers and other leaders are looking at new approaches. Rod Dreher, who has become an important voice for Christians during this period, has written about what he calls “the Benedict option.” While there is room for interpretation, Dreher seems to mean that Christians need to place more focus on orthodoxy and orthopraxy as a community. By strengthening their cultural and spiritual core from the inside, the devout may be able to engage the culture in a more meaningful way. Some see Dreher’s approach as a call for withdrawal, but I think he intends merely to change our priorities as the church in such a way as to improve the authenticity of our witness.
Others refer to a Robert George option. The Princeton philosopher emphasizes continuous, rational engagement at the highest level of discourse. We see his strategy at work in the activities of his student Ryan T. Anderson during these past few years.
In a third camp, I see something like an option I would associate with people such as former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, Q Ideas founder Gabe Lyons, and James Davison Hunter. This group notes the toxic reputation Christians have developed in the broader culture (with Lyons focusing attention especially on how young people feel about us) and recommends a focus on “shalom,” as Hunter says, or “the common good,” as Lyons emphasizes in his conferences.
There are some problems with this approach. First, people in the third group seem to think that bad public relations for Christians are due to their activities in the culture war. The problem with that analysis is that we have not been the aggressors, though we are often seen that way. We have tried to preserve important values against a social revolution championed by the cultural vanguard and aided by technology (such as the birth control pill). Could we have been shrewder, more compassionate, and better communicators? Sure. But I think we owe it to those who entered the fray to honor their part in the struggle.
Second, when I listen to Gerson, I hear him talking about how we should be doing things like the Bush administration’s campaign to reduce AIDS in Africa. He is rightly proud of that success. But I can’t help but note that these kind of common good initiatives tend to already claim overwhelming support. Let’s wipe out malaria. Absolutely. Let’s prevent sex trafficking. Who would disagree? Let’s prevent child abuse. Right on. These are not the matters, though, which separate us. The things that actually separate us already have been and remain the big controversies in our culture: What is the proper place for sex in a relationship? What is marriage? When does life begin? These fundamental debates are not easily resolved by a focus on the common good. The real reason these things become a fight is because they hit close to home for everyone.
Emphasizing the common good will not make those battles go away. And changing our focus away from these divisive matters will only make matters worse as we lose momentum in those conflicts and leave the remaining fighters isolated, dispirited, marginalized, and weakened.
I am suggesting that the battle is where the battle is. Do we get a bad reputation (especially today) by making a case for sex and childbearing exclusively within the bounds of marriage? Yes. Some think of our position as repressive and freakish. When we argue that the collapse of marriage among the poor has made the problem of poverty worse, that position, too, invites scorn. In our opposition to abortion, we continue to incite the contempt of important cultural elites. Our resistance to gay marriage is the worst of the bunch. I can’t easily explain how something that was an overwhelmingly dominant view for thousands of years has now become the greatest black mark against the church, but it has. Focusing on the common good is only likely to prove a tonic if we give up contesting these other matters. But I don’t think we can faithfully do that. Even if we could, the fact remains that the core of our message is that human beings are fallen creatures who live in sin and are hopeless without Jesus Christ. That message automatically creates friction in a society that has reduced sin to the categories of violence and intolerance.
This perspective reveals my pessimism about a strategy oriented around emphasizing the common good (shalom). Otherwise, I would be more inclined to accept Hunter’s description of how cultural change occurs (via the interaction of elites at the centers of culture) and to pursue that strategy as smartly as possible.
Dreher’s recommendation seems to be the most promising. Christians have two great needs in terms of their cultural engagement. First, they have to defend orthodoxy. There will be a powerful attempt to argue that marriage is a secondary issue and that the case against gay marriage is little more than one interpretation among many. But, second, Christians will have to become a more distinctive community. That is difficult because the church is by definition full of redeemed but not yet glorified sinners. Yet as cultural Christianity collapses, we can more closely resemble what Elton Trueblood called “the company of the committed.” What we lose in numbers, perhaps we will gain in authenticity and in the strength of our testimonies.
There is one thing of which I am almost certain. The arguments aimed at reclaiming America by pointing to some purportedly fully Christian nature of the American founding are not going to restore what has been lost. That is a dead end. Even if we were to concede the entire case (which I do not), Americans today feel no obligation to act as if Christians were granted a permanent lease on the republic. We aren’t going to convince them that they are now obligated to respect the sensibilities of those who preceded us.
I confess that I am and have been a culture warrior. When I became a Christian, I vowed to press the Christian case (as I saw it) in the public square. But I believed I could be smarter, more careful, more articulate, and more convincing than many others I had seen. I am beginning to realize that changing the culture may not ultimately be a matter of the intellect so much as it is of the spirit. As I look back on the American attitude toward sex, for example, I realize that we the people have mostly acted like utilitarians. We embraced the Christian sexual ethic until the birth control pill made it unnecessary to do so. Obedience to Scripture was less devotion to God than a form of behavioral calculation. Martin Luther tended to believe the number of true Christians was quite small. We seem to have assumed the opposite to be true.
Today, I look more intently toward spiritual experience and the transformation of minds and hearts through an encounter with the living God. Reading the work of writers such as C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer moved me and shaped me, but that process only started after I began to seek a relationship with Jesus Christ.
We can strategize and advance important ideas. I believe in doing those things and have dedicated my career to that end. Ultimately, however, the most important works will be those of evangelism and discipleship.
The challenge before us is great. But I remember how unlikely it was that I, a scoffer, came to have my heart struck by the Holy Spirit. As a result, there is no social revolution, no worldly court, and no legislation that will reorient me. We need not run with the herd nor participate in some osmosis of values. We know what it means to live as Christians. And we must do so.
Editors’ note: This excerpt is adapted from The Gospel Coalition eBook Revisiting ‘Faithful Presence’: To Change the World Five Years Later, edited by Collin Hansen. Download the book for free in ePub, MOBI, or PDF files.
Tim Keller made a resolution. He would read through the Book of Psalms—all 150 chapters—each month. That was 20 years ago.
In their new 365-day devotional, The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms (Viking, 2015) [excerpt], Keller and his wife, Kathy, walk us through each verse in the Book of Psalms over the course of 365 days. With scriptural reflections and sample prayers on every page, this is a profoundly helpful resource for any believer. (And it’s not a bad Christmas gift, either.)
“The other Scriptures speak to us,” observed Athanasius (AD 296–373), “but the Psalms speak for us.” For 3,000 years the Psalter has been the prayer book and songbook of God’s people. It was also the prayer book and songbook of God’s Son. Our Savior quoted from the Psalms more than any other biblical book—even while breathing his last (Matt. 27:46; Luke 23:46).
I asked Keller why The Songs of Jesus is his “most personal and intimate” book, what to do with imprecatory prayers, how the psalms have shaped him, and more.
In what sense is The Songs of Jesus (in Kathy’s words) “the most personal and intimate of all Tim’s books”?
For each of the 365 portions of the Psalter, Kathy and I wrote a reflection—based on a diligent study of the passage—that shows how God has used these texts in our lives over the years, and especially in times of difficulty and sorrow. So many of the meditations come right out of our walk with God. When I wrote the prayers at the end of each page, they came from my own heart and life. These are the ways I pray these psalms now, shaped by years of working through the Book of Psalms every month.
You contend that the psalms are “the divinely ordained way to learn devotion to our God.” That’s a big statement. Why is a 3,000-year-old Old Testament songbook so relevant to 21st-century Christians?
That’s indeed a big statement but not a controversial one. There are other prayers in the Bible but no other place where you have an entire course of theology in prayer form, and no other place where you have every possible heart condition represented, along with the way to process that situation before God. Even the Lord’s Prayer is more a summary of what we must pray—while the Psalms are a comprehensive program in how to pray it.
How should Christians make sense of and pray the imprecatory psalms?
While Christians rightly conclude that, on this side of the cross, believers will respond to wrongs and persecution differently, we must not be too quick to recoil from these psalms and miss what we should learn. One lesson is that God does indeed hate injustice. Most Western Christians haven’t experienced much in the way of violent mistreatment, and we should let these psalms help us feel the desperation and helplessness of those who have. We shouldn’t close our ears to the cries of the oppressed.
Second, we should realize that virtually always (unless David is speaking as king and civil magistrate) the psalmist leaves the justice and vengeance to God, and does not personally take revenge, as the New Testament commands (Rom. 12:19).
Finally, when we are wronged we should put the cross before our eyes, remembering that what our enemies deserve we deserve too, and that it fell on Jesus Christ so we can be pardoned. This is our powerful New Testament resource for forgiveness. Remember that, as Alec Motyer has written, the inspired psalmists knew less about God than Christians do, but they loved him a lot more than we do. Motyer thinks that being rightfully angry without falling into sin is extremely difficult (Eph. 4:26) and, while the psalmists never do, we shouldn’t try it. Rather we should cling to the cross and love our enemies.
Chris Wright has observed, “Lament is not only allowed in the Bible; it is modeled in abundance. God seems to want to give us as many words with which to fill out our complaint forms as to write our thank-you notes.” How can grieving Christians engage in God-honoring lament rather than mere cathartic venting?
The answer, of course, is to let the psalms of lament shape your prayer of lament. The psalmists, despite their intensity and shocking candor, always pour out their white-hot feelings to God. No matter how angry and despondent you may be, if you use the psalms of lament to give you words for your prayers, you will in no sense feel stifled or “bottled up.” Rather, the language of the laments are so startling that they will probably help you to be more honest about your emotions than you would have been.
But the laments don’t just help you to be emotionally honest; they also bring you to the real God. Our great danger is that in the midst of our pain we forget or deny that God is a God of wisdom, power, and goodness. The psalmists, struggling as much as any of us, will nevertheless draw us back toward that reality and anchor us in it.
Do any preachers or teachers stand out to you in their treatment of the Psalms? If so, why?
Certainly. Derek Kidner’s commentary on the Psalms, though too brief, is tremendous for its insight and elegance. Alec Motyer and Tremper Longman have also written great popular-level commentaries. Tremper’s volume is the best for helping you see every psalm as pointing to Christ. Eugene Peterson’s book Answering God is filled with great helps for understanding and praying the psalms. Peterson convinced me years ago I had to immerse myself deeply in the Psalms if I was going to know God.
Two decades ago, Tim, you began reading the entire Book of Psalms each month. How has this experience shaped you as a Christian and as a pastor?
First, I’ve learned that I have to read them as a Christian if they are going to shape me as a Christian. That is, I need to see Christ in the Psalms, as he did himself. Jesus saw himself as the priest-king of Psalm 110, as the cornerstone of Psalm 118, and as the sufferer of Psalm 22. If I am to follow my Lord, I must see him in the Psalms.
When I do that, the Psalms teach me to do the things the psalmists do: (1) commit myself to God; (2) depend on God; (3) seek solace in God; (4) find mercy and grace in God; and (5) get perspective and wisdom from God—all through Jesus Christ.
Finally, the Psalms give me as a pastor a “medicine chest” to help people do all these things, too. I don’t have to only exhort others to seek God in their situation. I can find that situation represented in the Psalter and then read (and pray) the psalm with them, which shows them how to live before God in their condition.
Within Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age, Jonathan Grant presents a wide-angled-lens account of Christian sexual ethics within the context of contemporary culture. Rather than focus on discrete questions—he only lightly grazes on some of the fiercest prevailing controversies—Grant’s concern is to expose the nature of the shared cultural matrix from which they arise.
Grant, pastor of an Anglican congregation in New Zealand, writes from an acute awareness of the need for formational, rather than chiefly informational, responses to our sexual climate. Drawing on sources such as the work of Stanley Hauerwas and James K. A. Smith’s recent Cultural Liturgies project (see Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom), he argues our behavior is molded by a “social imaginary” that shapes our vision of the good, directs our desires, and fosters certain habits of thought and action. The sexual and religious landscape mapped by sociologists like Mark Regnerus and Christian Smith has distinctive dynamics, and Charles Taylor’s work on secularization and the contemporary self informs Grant’s perceptive insights into their logic and origin as they bear on our sexual selves.
Divine Sex divides into two halves: the first mapping the “modern sexual imaginary,” the second articulating a new vision for Christian formation. The modern sexual self, Grant argues, exists in a culture of authenticity and expressive individualism, with intimate personal relationship being “the place where we can most fully express and actualize ourselves” (30–31). When the culture has been shorn of transcendence, meaning and personal identity are sought in romantic fulfillment and the “authentic” expression of our sexual selves.
Grant insists that “attending to people’s sexual and relational lives is a critical part of [the] journey of discipleship because we are connectional beings” (25). Our relationships and sexual identities color much of our experience and understanding of faith, as we wrestle with God through singleness, marriage, childlessness, or against the backdrop of our sexuality. Our selves are powerfully implicated in our sexuality, and churches that fail to address people at this point fail properly to disciple them.
The modern sexual self is trapped in a series of dilemmas, caught between the desire for authentic intimacy and radical individualism’s quest for autonomy, between the fantasy of romance and the fatalism of realism. Our autonomous individualism denies we have “moral claims on each other’s lives, especially our sexual lives” (54), treating them as a purely private matter. We vacillate between contrasting individualistic visions of freedom represented by utilitarianism’s rational control, expressivism’s following of its heart, and postmodernism’s listless liberty. We value open options, but lack the capacity of wholehearted commitment, succumbing to “the easy rush of pornography, consumerism, uncommitted relationships, the next big experience, and so on” (59). Our false vision of freedom poorly equips us for the challenge of marriage, on account of our resistance to binding ties: we want the gift of marriage, but won’t accept its crisis.
Grant emphasizes the importance of capitalism and the consumerist habits that form us. We’re trained to invest in things—and people—with the promise of personal fulfillment, yet also to stand aloof, ready to abandon them for a more appealing alternative when the time comes.
The habits of consumerism render us poorly prepared for the productive, committed, and united labor of forging a lasting marriage. Our prioritization of consumerist individualism can be seen in the delay of marriage until “a person’s education is complete and his or her career and financial trajectory are secure” (82). Recent decades have also witnessed the increased “intimatizing” of our technologies and technologizing of our intimacies. Grant discusses such developments as online pornography, “hyperconnected” youth, and the practice of online dating.
The purchase of consumerism on our moral imagination owes much to our detachment of creation from its Creator and our moral nihilism, which reduces the world and people to disenchanted “things,” stripped of their dignity and meaning. Grant exposes the steady disintegration of sex through technological, social, and ideological factors: sex separated from procreation, sex separated from marriage, sex separated from partnership, sex separated from another person—until sex is even separated from our own bodies as the form of our physicality is denied its “orienting force.”
When our lives are so fragmented, scriptural teaching on sexuality can appear as a list of rules, rather than as an integrating vision for healthful life in God’s rich and meaningful creation. In a particularly thought-provoking passage, Grant discusses how a personal encounter with God can radically transform people’s vision and practice of sexuality, puncturing the low horizons of their secular existence and opening them up to the integrating pull of divine transcendence.
The second half of Divine Sex offers a vision for Christian formation and re-formation, one that responds to the prevailing sexual imaginary and our ingrained habits with something more effective than ideas alone. Grant presents a vision of sexuality that is:
Grant contends this approach is a way in which we can both reflect kingdom realities and image God. Such a sexual vision isn’t exclusive to married persons: “As Christian vocations, singleness and marriage play different harmonies within the master score, thereby reflecting the reality of heaven—the way things really are” (159).
This vision is not a legalistic but a liberating one: the boundaries make possible life-giving practice. It requires of us an education in—and spiritual restoration of—desire. We must learn how to desire more fully and wholeheartedly so we’re protected from either stagnating in cycles of addiction or surrendering ourselves to desire unmindful of its direction. A Christian vision of sex must afford us new “narratives,” models and scripts that free us from the shackles of cultural habit. These must be rooted in the “master narrative” of the gospel itself, a narrative we live out of as communities of disciples.
Divine Sex isn’t a book for teenagers seeking to arrive at healthy sexual selves, although it’s a profoundly helpful book for anyone seeking to pastor such persons.
While practical suggestions are lightly sprinkled throughout, the book is more theoretical in character and pitched at an accessible academic level. Its vision is potent, although its suggestions for communicating the proposed vision are a weaker aspect of an extremely strong book.
In his concluding chapter, Grant outlines some helpful “redeeming practices.” Perhaps my greatest disappointment was that this dimension wasn’t developed further. Grant’s analysis of the contemporary situation is stellar, and his vision lives up to the promise of the subtitle; however, I suspect other readers will share my wish that he’d given more extensive and intensive attention to the practical means by which his proposed vision could be kneaded into our lives and communities.
This is a book I’ve already personally recommended to several friends and acquaintances. I highly encourage you to read it too.
Jonathan Grant. Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2015. 256 pp. $17.99.
“The Cross of Christ turns things upside down for us.” David Short
Text: 2 Corinthians 2:12–3:6
Preached: September 27, 2015
Location: St. John's Vancouver
David Short is rector of St. John's Vancouver Anglican Church in Canada and a Council member for The Gospel Coalition. Prior to moving to Vancouver, he served parishes in New South Wales, Australia. David has served in the Anglican Church for 15 years in Canada and 10 years in Australia. He was born in East Africa and educated in Australia and Canada.
Karan Varindani, on using an iPad Pro in college:
I can’t stress just how much the Apple Pencil increases the utility of the iPad Pro. Its precision turns the device into a true digital textbook and makes it incredibly easy to eliminate a lot of paper workflows in college. I’m typing all my comments in PDF Expert for now but as soon as the app gets updated for the Pencil I’ll start writing those out, simply for the increased memory retention of writing vs typing.
I missed this week's Connected, but am listening to it now. It's a fun one:
This week, Federico talks about how he is changing his automation workflows with 1Writer and Workflow, and Myke talks about his Apple Pencil review.
Thanks to these sponsors for making is possible:
Rockets have always been expendable. Not anymore. Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts, a used rocket.
This flight validates our vehicle architecture and design. Our unique ring fin shifted the center of pressure aft to help control reentry and descent; eight large drag brakes deployed and reduced the vehicle’s terminal speed to 387 mph; hydraulically actuated fins steered the vehicle through 119-mph high-altitude crosswinds to a location precisely aligned with and 5,000 feet above the landing pad; then the highly-throttleable BE-3 engine re-ignited to slow the booster as the landing gear deployed and the vehicle descended the last 100 feet at 4.4 mph to touchdown on the pad.
The video really is something. New Shepard launches, flies to the edge of the atmosphere, and after jettisoning its crew capsule, enter a free fall back to Earth to be slowed before landing by the same motor used at liftoff.
Elon Musk's SpaceX has been attempting to land its Falcon 9 rocket, but has yet to do it successfully. While SpaceX is ahead of Blue Origin in several key areas, yesterday's landing a big win for Bezos' company.
Both companies are working with NASA on its Commercial Crew program, which will have private companies flying astronauts to and from the International Space Station while the agency focuses on its Journey to Mars program.
The 100,000 Meter rowing challenge between Thanksgiving and Christmas is upon us and that means you should be getting your booty in to the 10:00am rowing class at Delaware on Sunday morning. It is the perfect opportunity to log meters for the challenge and get your form on point for your solo pieces. Over the course of the challenge, we will be allowing people to take some time before and after classes to get in a little rowing as a cool down or warm up that will double as a way to log some meters. When you are doing this, be aware of classes going on around you, knowing that the actual class always has first dibs on rowers and on the volume (i.e. do not row over the sound of a coach talking). If you have any questions about the challenge, email email@example.com or check out this link!
We will see you on the erg!
Made a dawn run to the nearby Peets for some dry cappuccinos, and was bathed in glow on my return by one of the most spectacular sunrises I have ever seen. It was post-peak when I got back (to the place where I’m staying in Gold River, California), but with some underexposure and white balance tweaking, I was able to get the shots in this set here.
Alas, the shot above is not in that set. It’s a screen shot I took of an adjusted raw file that Adobe Photoshop CS6 simply refused to save. “The file could not be created,” it said. No explanation. I checked permissions. No problem there. It just refused. I just checke, and the same thing happens with all files from all directories on all drives. Photoshop is suddenly useless to for editing RAW files. Any suggestions?
[Later…] An Adobe forum provided the answer here. All better now.
To read this, you’d think the Teacher was perusing a recent publishing catalogue, skimming through the “study Bible” section. Each year it seems that another one, or two, or ten are printed by the same publishing house, aimed at an ever narrower slice of the Evangelical consumer base. First, it’s the “Patriots” Bible. Then, it’s the Eco-study Bible. Or the Student’s Study Bible. Or the Red-headed, Left-handed, Immigrant’s Study Bible. And the standard-issue, ESV Study Bible for New Calvinists looking to up their game. The longer (and more cognizant) I’ve been around the Evangelical world, the easier it’s been to become cynical about the whole industry and the concept as a whole.
But then I remember my own study Bibles and I have to tap the breaks on my cynicism ever so slightly. You see, I’ve had three study Bibles in my time, each quite crucial in my spiritual and intellectual development.
First, when I was a sophomore in high school, I started a break-time Bible study with my friend. Initially, we just began to meet at one of the tables to read the Psalms together and pray. Then, more and more people began to join us, so we had to move inside to a classroom to read. Pretty soon, I got the idea to actually start reading a bit and saying something about what we read. Novel idea, I know. That’s when I asked my parents for a study Bible–because as many sermons as I heard, when I got to Romans and Paul started dropping “circumcision” all over the place, I knew I was out of my league.
So my parents got me the NIV Life Application Study Bible. Of course, being a life application Bible, it wasn’t very in-depth on doctrine or massive exegetical insights. All the same, for a high schooler looking to learn enough to share some insights with 10 other high schoolers at break, it was eye-opening. I knew the Bible was the Word of God, but who knew so much of it could speak to my daily issues? In any case, that was my Bible all through the rest of high school and served me well.
Then, came college. Without going into a lot of details, college started out as a dry time for me. Even though I was still in church, I was frustrated at God for some goods I thought he had failed to deliver even though he never promised them. Which is typical. In any case, around Christmas, I knew something had to change, so I started going to a new church and asked my parents for the straight NIV Study Bible that focused more on historical and intertextual notes. And they came through and bought it for me. And I started reading it every day. I’d pray, read the text, and the notes and even began looking up the cross-references. I’d make my own illegible, incorrect notes as well. And things started to come alive for me.
Of course, there were a variety of factors involved at the time including the new church, an iPod (no joke), and a Bible study with some caring dudes. All the same, when my life caught fire again, along with a call to ministry, one of the things it involved was a mass consumption of Scripture. I basically tore through that study Bible. Thankfully, at the time, I was hungry for the Bible as the Bible, so I wasn’t just skipping to the study note section (which is all too easy to do for some). All the same, I learned so much just by reading the text and all the helpful explanatory notes.
I’m older now, a bit more theologically-experienced, and I get the dangers of printing text alongside the text. But seriously, when I was younger, with no access to a theological library, or commentaries, or articles the way I was later in seminary, at church, and now back in seminary, those notes were an entry-way into a new exegetical world. And so, by the end of college, my second study Bible was tore up. I had to shelve it because of how jacked up it had gotten from overuse and carrying it around everywhere.
Finally, when I hit my MA, I got a third kind of study Bible. As it was more of an academic degree, I had to purchase an SBL approved NRSV one. So I snagged myself a HarperCollins Study Bible—which I preferred to the New Oxford Annotated one—and I got to work. This was a different experience, of course. There was almost no life application. Nor was an overly-“theological” approach to commentary the norm. All the same, it proved a trusty entry-way as well, into a more historical and academic approach to the text (with some of the common, boilerplate, historical-critical assumptions) that I would have to master if I was going to get through the degree. So I put some mileage on that one, as well.
Why go into all this? Well, for one thing it’s nostalgic for me to remember. Second, I suppose it’s to remind myself that a number of the things that it’s easy for me to get cynical about the more I press on in my faith (simple, Evangelicalish things that are easily distorted and vulgarized through marketing), had some positive purpose for people. And they probably still do. Taste-wise nor in theological temperament, I don’t connect to some of the worship anthems I used to, but there are a great many of them that are theologically sound and spiritually-salutary songs that I’d be wrong to scorn or write off.
For that reason, I can imagine another young man headed to the ministry deriving great insight from his first study Bible. Or the mom and dad without time to take a class in advanced hermeneutics, still looking to grow in their knowledge of Scripture in order to instruct their children in the Word of life. Or the small group, Bible study leader. Or the missionary without a book budget who needs a teaching aid through the Old Testament contextual issues. And so on.
So, I suppose, for all their possible flaws, I’m saying I loved my study Bibles and I’d caution against the sort of easy scorn those of us with a stack of commentaries on our shelves might be tempted towards. Though there are real dangers to be avoided and some egregious marketing practices to be condemned, there is real, spiritual value in a good study Bible.
Soli Deo Gloria
But reading the comments below from various experts—in biblical studies and apologetics and science and cometography—should encourage readers to give Colin Nicholl’s groundbreaking work, The Great Christ Comet: Revealing the True Start of Bethlehem, serious attention.
Simon Gathercole says it is “the most comprehensive interdisciplinary synthesis of biblical and astronomical data yet produced. . . . a remarkable feat.”
J. P. Moreland calls it “the definitive treatment of the subject.”
Eric Metaxas says it is ”an historic discovery and nothing less.”
Gary Kronk, author of Cambridge University Press’s multi-volume Cometography series, says this book is “a remarkable achievement . . . the most important book ever published on the Star of Bethlehem.”
John Lennox says it is “quite breathtaking in the range of its scholarship, yet a page-turner in terms of its accessibility.”
Gordon Wenham writes that this “amazing study . . . reads like an absorbing detective story.”
You can read the full blurbs below. And you can read an excerpt of the book here.
You can also watch this sit-down interview with Eric Metaxas below:
“The Great Christ Comet is a stunning book. Colin R. Nicholl develops a convincing case for what exactly the Star of Bethlehem was. The book reads like a detective novel, and while it is full of evidence, information, and argumentation, it is accessible and enjoyable to read. This work is now the definitive treatment of the subject. I highly recommend it.”
J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Biola University; author, The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters
“I am simply in awe of this book. It is a blockbuster. It is an historic discovery and nothing less. The Great Christ Comet is an absolutely astonishing triumph of interdisciplinary scholarship so rarely seen and so tremendously illuminating as to merit bright comparison with the very celestial phenomenon it describes. Both lead us to the manger and to the Great Poet within, whose syllables are the moon and sun and stars.”
Eric Metaxas, New York Times best-selling author, Miracles and Bonhoeffer
“In every respect this volume is a remarkable achievement. I regard it as the most important book ever published on the Star of Bethlehem and enthusiastically commend it.”
Gary Kronk, author, Cometography; Consultant, American Meteor Society
“The most comprehensive interdisciplinary synthesis of biblical and astronomical data yet produced. It is a remarkable feat that a biblical scholar has been able to master the scientific data at such a level of erudition. No discussion of the historicity of the Star of Bethlehem can afford to ignore this book.”
Simon Gathercole, Senior Lecturer in New Testament, University of Cambridge; author,Where Is Boasting? and The Preexistent Son
“In this erudite, engrossing, and compelling book, Colin R. Nicholl painstakingly develops a new solution for the enduring mystery of the Star of Bethlehem, bringing together the biblical story and ancient descriptions of the sky with modern understandings of astronomy. Nicholl’s argument—that the celestial visitor was actually a phenomenal comet that passed perilously close by Earth in 6 BC—is certain to be discussed and debated for years to come.”
Duncan Steel, Visiting Astronomer, Armagh Observatory; Visiting Professor, University of Buckingham; author, Eclipse and Marking Time
“This is an amazing study. It reads like an absorbing detective story. Nicholl starts with a detailed reading of Matthew’s account of the visit of the Magi. He makes the case, based on ancient and modern astronomy, that the star of Bethlehem was a great comet whose behavior in the sky would have been interpreted by ancient astrologers as announcing the birth of a Jewish Messiah. The depth and breadth of learning that Nicholl displays is prodigious and persuasive, and all future studies will have to take its proposals most seriously.”
Gordon Wenham, Adjunct Professor of Old Testament, Trinity College, Bristol
“This is an outstanding book, quite breathtaking in the range of its scholarship, yet a page-turner in terms of its accessibility. Colin R. Nicholl is eminently followable, using detective skills to assess the biblical, historical, and astronomical evidence that lead him to conclude that the ‘star’ of Bethlehem was a comet. A real tour de force that I recommend unreservedly to a broad readership.”
John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics, University of Oxford
“Colin R. Nicholl brilliantly tackles a subject that has been debated for centuries. The Great Christ Comet is a captivating book on the Star of Bethlehem. You will not be able to put this book down!”
Louie Giglio, Pastor, Passion City Church, Atlanta; Founder, Passion Conferences
“Readers of this book will learn a lot of astronomy, history, and theology. Nicholl has produced a remarkable and fascinating book that combines the best of recent scientific scholarship with the best biblical scholarship. The Great Christ Comet is a model of the integration of science and Scripture, and presents a tightly reasoned and highly plausible argument that the Star was a comet. A terrific read!”
Donald A. Hagner, George Eldon Ladd Professor of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary; author, Matthew (Word Biblical Commentary)
“Nicholl breaks important new ground in the quest for the historical Star of Bethlehem. Not only does he develop a formidable case for identifying the Star as a great comet; he also proposes a fresh explanation as to what it may have done to so impress the Magi. Nicholl has a clear understanding of the relevant areas of modern astronomy, and especially of the nature, evolution, and orbital dynamics of comets as currently understood. This work will be of great interest to astronomers, theologians, historians of science, and the general public, and will hopefully stimulate important new lines of scientific enquiry.”
Mark Bailey, Director, Armagh Observatory; coauthor, The Origin of Comets
“Colin R. Nicholl’s magnum opus, which interprets Matthew’s Nativity ‘star’ as a spectacular comet, is fascinating and illuminating. He supports his thesis by appealing to Babylonian, classical, and patristic texts as well as modern astronomical data on comets. His comprehensive mastery of the data enables him to present a detailed scenario of the Magi’s initial sighting, subsequent observations, journey, and visit to the house in Bethlehem to view the newborn Christ child.”
Edwin M. Yamauchi, Professor Emeritus of History, Miami University
“This is the only book I know of by a biblical scholar on the Star of Bethlehem. It is rooted in a detailed analysis of the biblical text and offers a comprehensive scientific explanation for the Star of Bethlehem. Nicholl makes a compelling case that the Star was a comet, supporting this conclusion with a mass of evidence from a variety of sources. I strongly recommend his work on one of the most fascinating biblical mysteries.”
Colin Humphreys, Professor and Director of Research, Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, University of Cambridge; author, The Miracles of Exodus
“This rigorous and compelling book sets a new standard for the study of the Star of Bethlehem. No prior investigation of this mystery has brought the disciplines of biblical studies and astronomy together in such a clear, thoroughly researched, and decisive way. Nicholl lets us observe the skies with the Magi and walk with them all the way to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. This richly illustrated and pleasantly accessible work is a must-read for everyone even vaguely interested in the Magi’s Star. I enthusiastically recommend this eye-opening book!”
John Hartmann, former Assistant Lecturer of Greek, University of Cambridge; Pastor, New Reformation Church, St. Louis, Missouri
“Colin R. Nicholl offers an impressive case for understanding the Magi’s star as a comet. He has produced a readable and beautifully illustrated introduction to relevant fields of astronomy, and has laid out pertinent historical data with proportion, care, and integrity. Based on detailed biblical study and current astronomical knowledge, Nicholl develops a fascinating reconstruction of the unprecedented events relating to the Star and the Magi.”
John Nolland, Tutor in New Testament, Trinity College, Bristol; Visiting Professor, University of Bristol; author, The Gospel of Matthew (The New International Greek Testament Commentary)
“The Great Christ Comet is a significant new contribution to the long-running debate over the nature of the Star of Bethlehem. One of the book’s many strengths is its critique of earlier, widely discussed hypotheses proposed to explain the Star. The book also explains the relevant astronomy very clearly at a level the general reader should have no trouble following. The case Nicholl makes for the Star being a great comet is certainly worthy of serious consideration.”
Martin Gaskell, Department of Astronomy, University of California at Santa Cruz
“Fascinating reading. Clearly the author has not only done his homework but has meticulously mined both quarries, theological and astronomical.”
Paul Maier, Professor of Ancient History, Western Michigan University; author, In the Fullness of Time
“It is a real pleasure to commend The Great Christ Comet to everyone who has ever wondered what could possibly account for the appearance of the Star of Bethlehem. Few have expended as much earnest research, or written as clearly, on the astronomical basis for this special event as has Colin R. Nicholl. When you’re reading this book, the pages turn rapidly—similar to the way the pages fly when you’re engrossed in a mystery novel. All readers will be richly rewarded!”
Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Colman M. Mockler Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Old Testament and President Emeritus, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
Appendix 1: The Chinese Comet Records
Appendix 2: The Meteor Storm of 6 BC
An encouraging answer from presidential candidate Marco Rubio:
John Marshall wanted to travel with his family before his two teenagers left home. Along with his wife Traca, the foursome went around the world on a 6-month, unforgettable, volunteering escapade.
I’m a 49-year-old father of two from Maine. For years I’ve worked in the TV business, writing shows and commercials, using my creativity to tell stories for advertisers. But lately, I have a new focus.
After a big trip that took my family and I around the world, I’m now writing books, working on behalf of orphaned children, and telling their stories. It’s some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever been involved in. I love it.
What inspired you to travel?
My wife Traca and I had been talking about taking a trip around the world ever since our son Logan was born. Seventeen years later, when Logan, and our daughter Jackson, were in high school, we realized our window for family travel was closing fast—and all we’d done was talk.
We couldn’t afford the typical hotel-restaurant-museum kind of trip. And then, I had an “ah-ha” moment: What if we volunteered our way around the world? What if we worked with local organizations on all kinds of interesting projects? We wouldn’t just be sightseeing, we’d be helping.
It was an idea that changed the course of all of our lives and set us off on an incredible and transformative adventure.
How did it change everyone’s life?
Taking this trip has put every member of my family on a new, inspired course in life.
My son Logan has spent years volunteering and surfing his way around South America; he’s now fluent in Spanish and blogging about natural fitness. My daughter Jackson is studying to be a doctor, planning to work in the developing world. My wife Traca has gone back to school to get her masters in Yoga Studies, another long-standing dream of hers. And I have started working on behalf of orphan projects worldwide.
But even more than these career and life-path changes, our inner lives were changed by the trip as well. We’ve all had the chance to meet the world face to face, to see some of the challenges people struggle with on a daily basis, to put our own fortunate lives in perspective, and to be touched by the need and generosity of the people we had the privilege to meet.
We were not changing the world for them. We went to learn, to pitch in, and to be changed along the way.
Tell us about an encounter fresh in your mind.
Volunteering in the developing world is a jolt of reality. It’s easy to sit at home and talk about global poverty and to be sad in a general sense about world hunger. But when I actually met real people who were poor and hungry . . . they were not what I was imagining.
That was certainly true for orphaned kids in India. Before leaving home, I thought of them as some general, faceless mass of regrettable humanity, but these kids were not like that at all. They were so full of life, so loving, and they poured their love into me day after day as if I was the one who was empty.
All at once, the 150 million orphans in the world right now are overwhelming to think about. But when I got to know them, one on one, as children, it’s been impossible for me to return home and live as if they do not exist.
How did that experience change you?
Living at the Indian orphanage really changed my life, and I could see it changing my children as well. Before the trip, my kids were very self focused, worried about American teen “problems.” But at the orphanage, they really began to focus outward; working alongside orphaned kids their own age in the laundry or the kitchen, forgetting about the internet, really trying to make a difference.
My family and I would split up during the day and gravitate to the people we most connected with. Then at night, we’d sit on our porch, watch the huge fruit bats flap through the air, and talk about our day’s adventures. I loved seeing my daughter come back late from the girl’s hostel, drenched with sweat with a huge smile on her face after a night dancing to Bollywood songs.
Those times of sharing, of connection, are something I will never forget.
What was it like to experience this trip with your family?
While we were volunteering our way from country to country, I got a chance to see my kids working. At home, like a lot of kids, they weren’t crazy about hard work. But on our trip, they needed to work as part of the deal, and they really stepped up. It was all labor-intensive, challenging stuff, but they did it.
On farms in New Zealand, they worked for three to five hours a day, which they rarely did around our house back in Maine. They also taught their own English classes in Thailand, three classes a day, five days a week. They worked alongside the orphans in the orphanage laundry and kitchen.
Nothing made me more proud than seeing how capable my kids were. It was one of the best parts of the trip.
Were your kids willing participants in your travels?
The trip wasn’t always easy for my kids. Both of them missed their friends, their teams, their bed, their hot showers, their phones, their rooms, their clothes, their privacy. And living mostly in one room with Mom and Dad for six months can be a challenge.
There were a few tears at times, and requests to go home.
But mostly it was a huge education for them. Hand-feeding baby monkeys, teaching their own English classes, making friends with orphans, and simply seeing how another part of the world lives. Meeting new people, rising to real-world challenges, immersing in cultures, enduring difficult moments…these are the things no classroom can offer.
How did you pay for your around the world trip?
We took out a home equity loan to pay, rolled it into our existing mortgage, and due to a phenomenally low interest rate, our monthly mortgage payment actually went down!
After that, we tried to stick to a budget of $8/day per person for food and accommodations (that’s $1000/month for all four of us). Not all volunteer organizations are so affordable. If one was too expensive, like an elephant preserve in Africa that wanted $2000/per week per person, we’d keep looking.
To find opportunities, we usually just typed the name of the country we wanted to visit along with the word “volunteer” into our search bar.
For the record: It cost less for us to volunteer our way around the world for six months than it would have cost us to stay at home and live our regular lives.
What surprised you along the way?
It almost seemed like the less money people had, the more generous they became. We saw this all over the world, especially in the rural villages. Take Stok, high in the Himalayas on the Tibetan border.
In Stok, the people are mostly farmers, extremely poor. And yet, every house we passed wanted to invite us in for tea, every child was eager to give us little gifts. One evening, three young boys cornered me on the street and insisted I take the dirty apricots they pulled from their pockets. It was all they had.
When I accepted the filthy fruit, the boys were overjoyed. They ran off laughing and so happy. It was a great reminder of how much joy you can get from giving to others.
What moment can you not forget?
I met a man in India who had the worst job I’d ever seen.
He had no legs and couldn’t work, so each day, he dragged himself down the middle of a congested street, begging for coins. Through the dust and heat and indifference, this man crawled from one end of the street to the other and back again all day long, waiting for a few coins to drop from the passing windows. I always gave him a little money and wished him well.
Whenever I think my life is difficult or my problems are challenging, I just remember that man in the street and think…I’ve got it pretty good.
The great debate: aisle or window?
Aisle. My long legs demand it.
Best travel tip, go:
Don’t feed the monkeys.
They look cute and I know it’s an exotic thing to do, but monkeys can be aggressive and territorial. Trust me on this one. I have lots of monkey bites to prove this point.
Don’t buy bottled water.
I know it’s more convenient, but the world is absolutely buried in discarded plastic. If you can, bring a pump, pump your own clean water, and leave not a single plastic bottle behind. It will save you a bunch of money in the long run, too.
What did we miss?
More than anything, I just want to stress that if my family and I can do this, you and your family can too (if you want to). We weren’t rich and bored. I didn’t have a book deal before leaving home. But we were motivated and we made the decision to go.
Dreaming of taking a trip around the world is not the same thing as deciding to do it. We talked about taking a trip like this for years. We dreamed of it. But once we decided to go, once we told people, once I gave my notice at work, once we bought non-refundable plane tickets, once we informed our children’s school that they would not be coming back for the second half of the year, once we rented our house…there was no turning back.
With action, dreams come to life. For us, that started with a fully-committed decision to get out the door.
My book about our experience, Wide-Open World, is out. Now, I’m hoping to head back to the orphanage in India this summer. I lived there most of last year and the children have a big piece of my heart. I can’t wait to see them again.
Stay up to date with John at John Marshall.
During benefits open enrollment at my employer, I signed up for both Health Savings Account (HSA) and Flexible Savings Account (FSA) for next year.
You may have heard that you can’t contribute to both HSA and FSA in the same year. It’s not true. You can contribute to HSA and FSA in the same year.
First of all, if the FSA is a dependent care FSA, you can definitely have it in conjunction with HSA.
Second, if your health care FSA and HSA don’t overlap, you can contribute to both in the same year. For example if you have FSA with one job and you join another company that offers a high deductible plan with HSA, you can sign up for the HSA for the remaining months. If you are aggressive, you can invoke the “last month rule” and contribute the full year maximum to your HSA.
Last, which is the case for me, you can contribute to both HSA and health care FSA in overlapping months in the same year as well, if the FSA is a limited purpose FSA or a post-deductible FSA.
A limited purpose FSA covers dental, vision, and other eligible expenses, but not medical or prescription drugs. A post-deductible FSA kicks in only after you satisfied the deductible in a high deductible plan. I’ve never seen a post-deductible FSA. If your employer offers an HSA-eligible medical plan, it likely will make the FSA a limited purpose FSA for those who sign up for the HSA plan.
Why do you want to contribute to a limited purpose FSA in addition to the HSA? Because you want to save more pre-tax dollars. Just use the money in the limited purpose FSA to cover dental, vision, and other eligible expenses and save more of your HSA dollars for the future.
Some dental and vision expenses are predictable. If you need a dental implant or if your kids need braces, you have the treatment plan. You know roughly how much you will pay out of pocket. If you wear contact lenses, you know how much they cost over the course of a year and how much insurance will cover. Use a limited purpose FSA to cover these expenses instead of taking money out of your HSA or paying out of pocket with post-tax dollars.
FSAs have become more flexible since the IRS allowed employers to add a 2-1/2-month grace period or a $500 rollover for unused dollars. My employer chose the $500 rollover option. When unused dollars in a limited purpose FSA roll over to the following year, they stay as limited purpose and they don’t interfere with the HSA.
What you can’t do is to contribute to an HSA and have a general purpose health care FSA for overlapping months, and if you are married, your spouse can’t have a general purpose FSA at the same time either, regardless whether the two of you are on the same health plan or whether you actually request reimbursement from your spouse’s FSA. Just the fact that you are eligible to have your medical expenses reimbursed from your spouse’s FSA disqualifies you from contributing to an HSA.
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This is a guest post by David Powlison, a contributor to the ESV Men's Devotional Bible.
Pastors, missionaries, and other Christian workers are often liable to a unique pitfall in that the thing that tempts them most is a really good gift. It is the temptation to find your identity in your role.
But the truth is that all of our roles are temporary. They are callings that we have for a season. You won’t have that calling forever. If you build your essential sense of who you are into that role, you will create a monstrosity out of it—at some level, it will become idolatrous.
The opposite to creating a distortion in your role is anchoring your identity in things that actually relate more intrinsically to who you are as a person, as a man, as a human being.
For example, the first four Beatitudes in Matthew 5 all portray an essential sense of need for help outside of yourself. If a pastor, a missionary, a teacher, a professor, a counselor, or any kind of Christian worker loses that sense of fundamentally being a dependent and in need of mercy—and starts to attach their identity to a role that they play, as good as that role may be—they will start to skew their self-understanding. They will become prone to possessiveness, owning turf, getting defensive, becoming messianic, or any number of particular temptations that stem from getting too hung up on a calling. When this happens, you have lost sight of the essential identity that is supposed to be the heartbeat of your life.
No matter what your calling is—whether as a pastor or as someone who is on his deathbed and in need of pastoring—the question is the same: have you, throughout your life, cultivated a core identity that is anchored in Christ instead of in your role here on earth?
David Powlison serves as the executive director of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation and is a contributor to the ESV Men's Devotional Bible.
“First there was Black Friday, then Cyber Monday. November 27, 2010 was the first ever Small Business Saturday. Small Business Saturday is the day we celebrate the Shop Small movement to drive shoppers to local merchants across the U.S.
More than 200 organizations have already joined American Express OPEN, the company’s small business unit, in declaring the Saturday after Thanksgiving as Small Business Saturday.” From the Small Business Saturday Facebook page, click here for more information!
For Indy Shoppers, that means heading over to Mass Ave to take in all of the sights and sounds of Shop Small at our local businesses. The first 10 people to enter the Delaware location today will be given a gift bag filled with goodies, deals and freebies from local stores along Mass Avenue.
The entire point is how these purchases make you feel, and it’s that feeling, whether it be an appreciation for craftsmanship, status, or simply being pampered, that provides the sort of differentiation that makes all of these products profitable.
My uncle used to host a D&D campaign when my cousins came to visit. I was the Human Warrior, my brother was an Elven Wizard, Fran a Human Ranger, Nik a Dwarven Cleric, and JD an Elven Warmage.
The adventure was simple. We were tasked with delivering a message to another kingdom. I figured it…Read more
This is the second nicest letter a patron has every sent me. The first was too personal and too deeply moving to share, but the reader here (my boss, same as you) gave me permission to share this pat on the back.
I have written you before in praise of your work, and you were kind enough to respond in like fashion (namely, the comment section of Vox Day’s website) that such acknowledgement has some significance to you. I am writing in a somewhat more direct fashion to again express my thanks, both in general for many an enjoyable hour reading your words, but in specific for your story “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds.”
As of the opening of this missive I have not even finished the story, but was already moved both to tears and a burning need to acknowledge a master’s work: in no author not named Tolkien, Wolfe, or Lewis, had I ever read something so moving! The story is written with the names and heritage of the West, of Eve, Cain, and Tubal-Cain, with the accents of Classical civilization and the sonorous diction of a craftsman who both knows and loves our great language: these alone would be enough to endear it to me. But I confess, when I reached the apotheosis of the animals (what else to call it when these loyal creatures become like unto us, which are as gods to them) and the angelic explanation, complete with the prayers of Sts. Roch and Eligius, I wept.
You see, I have an old dog whom I love. My wife used to remark that if he had opposable thumbs, he would not only be able to drive, but smarter than most of the human drivers on the road. We got him at her request, almost 12 years ago when we were little more than newlyweds.
And only now am I coming to understand that when he passes, I may well take it harder than she.
He has been our loyal companion and guarded our home through every one of my many absences: deployment, exercise, school, and university. Because he wards the house and guides the pack (we have other dogs, and they generally defer to him. It’s an odd dynamic), I have slept soundly for over a decade. He watched over my daughter when she was born and shared our concern as her development showed signs of going awry. I feel that he mourns her autism as much as or more than we, and believe he shares our joy at her ongoing healing in his own tired and aged way. When I reach my eternal reward and am issued my arms and Brasso kit (SOMEONE has to keep the Pearly Gates and His throne sparkling, and Marines are good for cleaning and polishing as well as guarding Heaven’s streets) and inquiring after my family, I will echo St. Roch’s prayer.
And while I know that irrational beasts are said to be soulless, I cannot but think that the Almighty, in all His mercy, would not forever sunder us from our closest companions.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, for putting these same thoughts into words and frame more eloquent than I could ever hope to achieve. May the Lord bless and keep you and yours, and may your muse be ever present!
With great respect and thanks,
P.S. On a side note, please don’t keep us waiting overlong on Nowhither: I’ve just finished my second read-through of Somewhither and am eager for more!
Saint Eligius is the patron of veterinarians; Saint Roche of dogs, as well as of the infirm generally.
Let me use this opportunity to give my progress report to my patrons and readers:
NOWITHER is my next project after I am done with my juvenile Knight-and-his-Dog-who-was-Thursday urban fantasy Arthuriania called GREEN KNIGHT’S SQUIRE, which is now two thirds written, and may be finished in a month or two.
Either I am a mad genius or a crazy person, so this book is either utterly brilliant or totally stupid. I write: you decide.
GREEN KNIGHT’S SQUIRE is the first of a quartet of books, each about one of four cousins getting training for a profession in a world haunted by elves and shadows only they can see.
The second is tentatively titled DARK AVENGER’S SIDEKICK; the third is MAD SCIENTIST’S INTERN; and final is GHOSTLY FATHER’S NOVICE. I leave you to guess from the titles what their chosen professions will be.
The cousins are named Gilberec Moth, Yumiko Moth, Thomas Rocket Moth, and Matthias Moth.
And, yes, they are all descended from Titania’s fairy servant from Shakespeare. The conceit is that Moth and his descendants intermarried with mermaids and giants, centaurs and satyrs, stars and demigods, jinn and divas and dryads, but also with humans, so that any member of the family has some fairy blood in him, and may have nearly any mythical figure for his second cousin. Titania’s other servants took another path, and Cobweb’s descendants interbred with vampires and werewolves and suchlike, and they bow to Chaos and Old Night.
They are all members of a secret police organization called the Last Crusade, fighting a deadly conspiracy called The Supreme Anarchists’ Council. The Seven Anarchists all have codenames are taken from the days of the week, and they contemplate a rebellion against nature herself, and nature’s God. Fortunately, some things are in the public domain, and I am as shameless as Homer when it comes to ripping off other sources, or, more to the point, as shameless as Virgil ripping off Homer.
The whole series is called ‘Moths and Cobwebs.’ I hope I can crank out one or two a year. The talking dog, Ruff, will appear in all of them.
My spooky metaphysical thriller, IRON CHAMBER OF MEMORY is my one attempt to be Charles Williams. It is sitting on the desk of my editor in Europe. It is about a man who does not remember he is in love with his one true love unless he and she step into an unearthly chamber called the Rose Lotus Room in his best friend’s haunted mansion on Sark Island in the English Channel. But he is his best friend’s best man. He cannot remember why there are bulletholes, spent shells, and bloodstains found here and there about the mansion, or why he has strange dreams about talking beasts and blood-drinking shadows.
Sark is an island where no lights are permitted to shine at night and no vehicles are permitted on the island’s road: it is also the last place ruled by a feudal lord in all of Europe (that is, up until 2008, when a millionaire newspaper magnate overthrew the government) — and those are the parts I did not make up.
The whole is an homage and a tip of the hat to David Lindsay’s deservedly forgotten A HAUNTED WOMAN, who also wrote A VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS. He had an excellent metaphysical idea for a story, but no story to back it up. I claim it as abandoned property and will improve the lot.
My next two novels in my Eschaton Sequence VINDICATION OF MAN and COUNT TO INFINITY, which is some of the best stuff I have ever written, is sitting on the desk of my editor in New York. Since I blew up the universe at the end of the final book, I currently have no additional sequels planned.
I also blew up the universe at the end and/or beginning of NULL-A CONTINUUM, but despite this penchant for large scale catastrophe, I have not been given a nickname as cool as my hero ‘World-Wrecker’ Hamilton.
Editors’ note: Yesterday was the annual International Day of the Bible, a day set aside to invite people around the world to celebrate the Bible. As a follow-up to that celebration, I want to encourage you to use this Thanksgiving week to begin learning basic facts about the Bible.
“When you encounter a present-day view of Holy Scripture,” J. I. Packer wrote, “you encounter more than a view of Scripture.” As Packer adds,
What you meet is a total view of God and the world, that is, a total theology, which is both an ontology, declaring what there is, and an epistemology, stating how we know what there is. This is necessarily so, for a theology is a seamless robe, a circle within which everything links up with everything else through its common grounding in God. Every view of Scripture, in particular, proves on analysis to be bound up with an overall view of God and man.
Our view of Scripture—particularly how we view the Bible’s truthfulness and authority over our lives—profoundly affects our spiritual formation. For this reason, the primary thing we should know about the Bible is that, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
But our view of Scripture should also lead us to discover what the Bible is and how we came to receive it. Knowing facts about the Bible is not for the purpose of gathering material for a trivia contest, but for becoming intimately familiar with the book that will most shape our lives.
Here is a sampling of basic facts we should know:
It’s library of books — The Bible is a library of 66 books, written by 44 authors under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit over a period of about 1,500 years. The 39 books of the Old Testament were composed between 1400 and 400 B.C., the 27 books of the New Testament between AD 50 and AD 100.
The Bible is self-referencing — All the books of the Old Testament, with the exception of Esther, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon, are quoted or referenced in the New Testament. Jesus quoted or made references from Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Proverbs, 1 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Micah, Zechariah, and Malachi.
Why it’s called a “Bible” — The English word Bible is derived from the Koine Greek τὰ βιβλία (ta biblia—“the books”). While Christian use of the term can be traced to around AD 223, Chrysostom in his Homilies on Matthew (between AD 386 and 388) appears to be the first writer to use the Greek phrase ta biblia to describe both the Old and New Testaments together.
The meaning of Testament — The word “testament” means “covenant.” The term “Old Testament” refers to the covenant that God entered into with Abraham and the people of Israel, and “New Testament” to the covenant God has entered into with believers through Christ.
Where chapters and verses came from — The practice of dividing the Bible into chapters began with Stephen Langton, an archbishop of Canterbury in the early 13th century. Robert Estienne, a 16th-century printer and classical scholar in Paris, was the first to print the Bible divided into standard numbered verses.
How we discovered the canon — “Canon” is a word that comes from Greek and Hebrew words that literally mean a measuring rod. So canonicity describes the standard that books had to meet to be recognized as Scripture. God’s people merely discovered the canon—the authority of the books in the Bible is established by God. That a book is canonical is due to divine inspiration while how it is known to be canonical is due to a process of human recognition. The process of discovery, as Norman Geisler explains, included the following questions:
Was a book (1) written by a spokesperson for God, (2) who was confirmed by an act of God, (3) told the truth (4) in the power of God and (5) was accepted by the people of God? If a book clearly had the first mark canonicty was often assumed. Contemporaries of a prophet or apostle made the initial confirmation. Later church Fathers sorted out the profusion of religious literature to officially recognize what books were divinely inspired in the manner of which Paul speaks in 2 Timothy 3:16.
What other basic facts about the Bible should Christians know?
What does it mean to be both black and a Christian? How, for example, should a new believer view his identity as an African American now that his ultimate identity is in Christ? Should he even care he’s black? While these particular questions are unique to African Americans, Christians of every ethnicity should consider such issues with biblical care.
In this new roundtable video, Trillia Newbell (director of community outreach for the ERLC and author of United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity), Vermon Pierre (lead pastor of Roosevelt Community Church in Phoenix), and John Onwuchekwa (lead pastor of Cornerstone Church in Atlanta) do just that. They show us how diversity benefits the whole church, what race reveals about the imago dei, why God creates color, and more. The 10-minute video will both encourage minorities struggling with identity and teach those in the majority how to better engage those who may have a different skin color but are still brothers and sisters in God’s family.
Editors’ note: Tune in here at 8:30 p.m. EST tonight—the one-year anniversary of the Ferguson decision—as pastor and TGC Council member Darrin Patrick talks with NFL tight end Benjamin Watson about his experiences and insights as a Christian and an African American. Head to Twitter afterward and interact directly with Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) using the hashtag #UnderOurSkin. Then pick up a copy of Watson’s new book Under Our Skin: Getting Real About Race—and Getting Free from the Frustrations and Fears that Divide Us for yourself, your small group, even your whole church. Talk about it with believers with different experiences; this guide can help. May God help us enjoy counter-cultural community together.
The Gospel Coalition’s Theological Vision of Ministry lays out five characteristics of gospel-centered ministry. But one of them is far more difficult than the others.
In the abstract we love to say with TGC’s theological vision on point (3), “Because the gospel removes both fear and pride, people should get along inside the church who could never get along outside.” But then life gets in the way. We hang out with people who look and talk like we do. We credit ourselves for financial success and judge others as getting what they deserve. We feature the beautiful and ignore the broken. Our actions reveal how hard it is to ground our identity in Jesus Christ when the world divides along the lines of money, age, and ethnicity.
Last fall the events of Ferguson, Missouri deepened many of these divisions. I’ve never seen so many Christians who share a common desire to love and follow Jesus struggle to even talk with each other about an issue. Brother turned against brother. But one voice in particular challenged readers across the political and ethnic spectrum, even as he fostered unity around the gospel of Jesus Christ. Until last November 24 Benjamin Watson was primarily known as a tight end in the National Football League. Since then, God has raised him up as a voice of hope and peace in the name of Christ. His initial thoughts on Ferguson were read with appreciation by millions. As his new book launches in the middle of football season he continues to testify on Fox News, CNN, and ESPN to the power of the gospel to make brothers out of enemies.
Over the last year, The Gospel Coalition has sought in many venues to facilitate and direct conversations about mercy and justice. For today’s one-year anniversary of the Ferguson verdict and subsequent riots, we’ve planned a special feature webcast with Watson and TGC Council member Darrin Patrick, pastor of The Journey in St. Louis, near Ferguson. Working with Tyndale House Publishers, our friends at The Journey have produced a wonderfully challenging, hopeful, and encouraging 30-minute conversation about how the gospel generates counter-cultural community that grabs the attention of a broken, angry, divided world. The webcast even includes exclusive footage of the Ferguson riots filmed last year by The Journey’s professional video team.
Tune in here tonight at 8:30 p.m. EST (7:30 p.m. CST) as Patrick talks with Watson about his experiences and insights as a Christian and an African American as told in his new book, Under Our Skin Getting Real About Race and Getting Free From the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us. Head to Twitter afterward and talk directly with Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) using the hashtag #UnderOurSkin. Then pick up a copy of the book for yourself, your small group, and even your whole church. Talk about it with believers with different experiences; this guide can help. And may God help us enjoy counter-cultural community together.
“I just want to paint my nails and have it not smudge within seconds,” I lamented to a friend recently. Vanity aside, smudging is something I face regularly. I’ve tried several different solutions—each to no avail. But I like having painted nails. See my dilemma?
My friend then began telling me about a product that might work in my season of life—mom with three kids under three, freelance writer working on a book, and wife of a businessman who often travels. In that week alone, she was one of three people I encountered who were part of direct-selling or multi-level marketing.
Opinions on these types of businesses range from complete disdain to full support and participation. Because of my limited experience, I’m more neutral. I’ve benefited from family and friends involved in them. I like Mary Kay makeup because it saves me time and energy. I use my Thirty-One bag as my diaper bag. And I tell anyone who will listen about the Pampered Chef wooden spoons I got as a wedding gift.
But I also feel discomfort when my social media feeds are filled with all manner of products being sold by my friends. Sometimes I just want to see a friend’s new baby or remodeled kitchen, or hear about her new job, instead of some new product destined to change my life.
Direct-selling and multi-level marketing as means of work is not the problem. Work is a good thing; it’s a gift from God and part of who we are as his image bearers. In some cases, these types of businesses allow a mom to contribute financially to the family and also stay home with the kids. But all work, including direct-selling and multi-level marketing, is marred by sin. Our sinful hearts find ways to distort and misuse even work done with the best of intentions.
To be clear, not all direct-selling is multi-level marketing. Some choose to sell their product in isolation from a larger network; others sell with a larger team, recruiting friends and family to their business. Although each presents its own challenges, some general principles that apply to both multi-level marketing and direct-selling.
So here are three ways not to engage in such ventures:
I have another friend who’s familiar with the world of multi-level marketing. Her mom sold Premier jewelry for years, advancing in the company and contributing significantly to her family’s income. When my friend and her sister began their careers in multi-level marketing, their mom encouraged them to keep the local church separate from their business. This can be a real struggle when your customer base is your church directory or when “potential recruits” are sitting across from you in small group.
Of course, this temptation isn’t limited to this type of work. On Sunday mornings the financial planner can get bombarded with questions about retirement accounts, and the doctor seen as ever ready to diagnose and treat our ailments free of charge. On the flipside, the makeup consultant can view her Bible study friends as potential clients, bringing samples every week.
All of these scenarios replace the local church gathering with our personal agendas. The church is for the people of God to gather together around the preached Word, prayer, and the sacraments. It’s where we leave our agendas at the door and gather together as one body to worship the risen Christ.
“When everyone is competing for business, or when your business reaches a point that you need to start pushing your network of people to buy your product, that’s when it’s time to step back,” my friend remarked, reflecting on her reasons for leaving multi-level marketing. Though she’d seen significant success up to that point, she’d exhausted her resources and didn’t want to use her relationships. While she knew her product wasn’t for everyone, she saw it help women directly, and that motivated her to continue selling. Work for her wasn’t about her own benefit but about her customers’ well-being. It was about loving her neighbor.
The temptation in all work—not just direct-selling and multi-level marketing—is to make it about our glory, our personal fulfillment, our growing bank account. But that’s not how God views it. Our work is about his glory and our neighbor’s good.
If you adopt the world’s mentality on work, direct-selling and multi-level marketing become all about you and your business. But it doesn’t have to be. When my friend told me about her nail product, for example, she didn’t enter my home ready to sell her product. Instead she heard my story, understood my need, and attempted to meet that need—even if my need was vain! She was embodying the idea that her work is a way to love her neighbor by meeting her needs.
In addition to seeing your product as a way to love your neighbor, caring for the people who work underneath you (and above you) is also a way to love your neighbor. It’s tempting to see dollar signs when another joins your team, or to only think in terms of your bank account expanding. But if you’re part of a multi-level marketing team, your work is benefiting the people you sell to, and the people you sell with.
In her years of multi-level marketing my friend (as well as her mom and sister) saw a real shift in her colleagues’ lives as money began rolling into their bank accounts. This is a struggle for anyone paid for work. As financial security rises, so does lust for more.
There is a unique temptation, though, in the multi-level marketing world. A woman can go from being a stay-at-home mom with no source of income to a multi-level marketing success with cash flowing in by the fistful. It’s easy to put a premium on the work that brings financial contribution rather than on the work that’s bringing a familial contribution. It feels like you’re doing something that matters when you’re bringing home the bacon. But all work matters, whether you’re frying the bacon or making the money that allows you to buy it. Work is a means of contribution to society, regardless of the dollar sign attached to it.
With millions of people involved in multi-level marketing and direct-selling, this way of working and making money isn’t going anywhere. Instead of writing off the idea completely, we—as Christians who believe all work has value—can provide a different way of thinking about it that doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Whether your job is selling beauty products out of your home or something else entirely, the motive for our work remains the same—loving our neighbor. We are the vehicle through which God loves our world, our family and friends, and this is our focus in work—even if that work is helping a mom figure out a way to keep her nail polish from smudging.
It seems that every house I’ve ever owned has needed a new furnace. I mean sure, the old furnace was still there clunking along and producing heat, but it was always some embarrassingly old thing installed by someone that obviously didn’t care about energy efficiency (or it predated the invention of efficient furnaces entirely).
But like all owners of these same houses before me, I let it slide and let projects that seemed more urgent on the surface suck up my time. I renovated kitchens and bathrooms or replaced roofs. It was financially easy to justify the procrastination as well: heating bills for a typical house are under $1000 per year in my area, but if you hire out the installation of a new furnace you’re looking at about five grand. Even more if you’re replacing the air conditioning system at the same time. Even if you could find one that ran on free magic unicorn dust you would have a six year payback and more realistically it will take decades.
So I let the slow leakage continue and always felt a small hole in my heart every time that machine kicked on, because for Mr. Money Mustache, energy efficiency is a moral issue even more than it is a financial one.
I figured the numbers would work out much better if I could actually do the replacement job myself, because a top-of-the-line gas furnace only costs about $1200 online these days. But I didn’t know exactly how to do it and there never seemed to be a good time to learn*. Nobody I knew had ever replaced their own furnace, and the building materials stores don’t even sell them – everybody says you need to hire a pro for such a thing.
But finally, here in the year 2015 and at the embarrassingly late age of 41, I have finally studied up on the necessary tricks, successfully installed two beautiful high-efficiency gas furnaces alongside friends, and am here to tell you it is a perfectly reasonable do-it-yourself project after all**. So let’s get started.
Step 1: How the hell does a furnace work?
When you get right down to it, a gas furnace is just a box-shaped heater connected to some tubes. These days, they have added more internal complexity to make them more efficient, but all you really need to know as the installer is this: Cold Air in, Warm air out, Gas and Electricity in, Combustion air In and Out. It gets even easier if you write these same things on a picture of a box (aka furnace).
Step 2: What kind do I need and where do I buy it?
In general, you’ll want a high-efficiency (94% or higher) condensing furnace, with variable speed blower and roughly the same overall heating capacity as the one you’re replacing. It can be smaller in physical size (they have shrunk nicely over the years), but probably not much bigger since you have to fit it into the same space.
Actually finding a place that sells furnaces can be tricky. Like plumbing was a few decades ago, the heating and cooling industry is still an insider’s game, with low-profile stores that only sell to contractors, and contractors that insist their field is far too dangerous and exacting for any homeowner to master. If your personality type is at all similar to mine, the very words “consult a qualified installer” piss you off a little and make you want to learn the trade.
Typing “where to buy a gas furnace” into Google leads to a mixed bag you can sift through, but I ended up finding the best results for my situation at a place called Alpine Home Air. Specifically, for both recent installs, my friends just went for the top-of-the-line Goodman 96% unit.
For a bit more background reading on the field, Consumer Reports has a free furnace buying guide.
Step 3: OK, Got The Furnace. What Other Parts Do I Need?
Remembering that diagram above, you’re hooking up air, gas, intake, exhaust, and electricity. Everything will be available at your local building materials shop, with the possible exception of a condensate pump.
If you’re installing the furnace from scratch or replacing a Crazy Spaghetti Octopus monster and want to re-do the ducting in your basement completely, you might also pick up:
Step 4: Let’s Hook This Sucker Up
Read the Manual:
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Goodman furnace we used came with a fully detailed installation manual – none of this consumer-oriented “run screaming and consult a professional” attitude. Every hookup and specification, right down to how far to keep your vent pipes away from exterior windows, was described clearly with pictures. I spent a leisurely hour at home reading it from cover to cover the night before beginning the installation, which allowed me to have the big picture in mind on the big day.
Cool air (also called ‘return air’) gets sucked in through the bottom of the furnace, heated, and blown out the top (‘supply’). If you are replacing an existing furnace, you just need to carefully extract the old furnace from the big metal boxes, then seal the new unit to the same boxes. You can reshape or extend them as necessary.
If you have central air conditioning, there will be a separate metal box stuck in with everything else. Just leave it in place, be careful not to break the tubes and wires, and it will continue to work with your new setup.
Tools and tips: You cut the metal with tin snips or a grinder with metal cutoff wheel. Fold pieces nicely with a metal brake. Screw things together with sheet metal screws. Create airtight and heat-resistant joints with silver foil tape (not duct tape). Brush on duct sealant to all potential air joints to create a better seal. And above all, instantly master sheet metal duct work with a few YouTube videos on the subject.
Combustion Air and Exhaust:
Here we are just running two pieces of 3″ PVC pipe (you can even use 2″ for shorter runs) from the furnace to an inconspicuous place on the outside of your house. It’s a fun design puzzle, deciding how to route the pipe and figuring out which fittings to use to accomplish it. Your goal is a classy looking job. You cut it with a miter saw or sawzall, and glue it with purple PVC primer and PVC glue. Again, watch a few videos if you need to learn how to handle this stuff.
As a huge bonus, these same plastic piping skills will allow you to run drain pipes, which lets you build your own bathroom from scratch (future article?)
Although people tend to be afraid of working on gas piping (after all, you can blow up your entire house if you get just the perfect gas leak and ignite it), it is easier than ever and quite rewarding to do yourself.
An existing furnace will already have a gas line, complete with shutoff. So in most cases, you can just connect your new furnace with a standard flexible gas connector.
But if you need to change the routing, you can turn off your gas supply at the outside meter, use a big pipe wrench to unthread the existing black gas pipe, and buy new lengths and fittings at the store to create your new layout. They will even custom-cut and thread the pipe for you, or you can do it yourself if you own a pipe threading tool. Once you have the right pieces, wrench everything together with plenty of pipe thread sealant (aka “pipe dope”) to create gas-tight joints.
These days, I usually bypass the black gas pipe entirely and use the newer flexible Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing (CSST for short) instead. This saves time and allows you to thread the tubing right through joists and around corners, keeping it out of sight – especially useful if you’re installing in basement that may eventually be finished. The fittings come with detailed instructions and you can of course watch videos on CSST installation as well.
When everything looks perfect, you turn on the gas and check thoroughly for leaks with a soap solution, your nose, and a gas leak detector.
The furnace uses electricity to run its control electronics, igniter, and blower. But you just need to connect it to one normal (15 amp) household circuit. Black wire is hot, white is neutral, and green/copper is ground. You make the connection right inside the junction box built into the furnace, although you’ll want to mount a switch somewhere in the circuit so you can power down the furnace.
Another option (if your inspector allows it) is to wire on a cord and simply plug the furnace into a nearby electrical outlet. This is simpler, and allows you to plug the furnace into a backup power source (generator or large battery) to restore heating in the event of a power failure.
Condensate (aka dripping water):
When an efficient furnace runs, it condenses some water out of the hot combustion gases. This drips slowly out of the furnace through a little plastic spout, and you need to connect that to a flexible plastic tube that takes the water somewhere safe. If you have a floor drain in the basement, pipe the water there. If you need to lift the water higher, you dump it into a condensate pump, and have the output go to a nearby plumbing drain.
You are down to the really easy stuff now! You can follow the instructions for the furnace and thermostat, but in my case I just connected the red, green, yellow and white wires on both sides. For a longer explanation of what the wires do, here’s a guide.
And You’re Done!
It’ll take some work and you will learn a few things, but at the end of the project you’ll have a beautiful new furnace that is provides a sizable return on your investment of time and money.
Here’s a picture of one of the finished installations at a friend’s house. From bottom to top, notice the custom return plenum, furnace, existing A/C box, PVC combustion air piping, and my homemade supply plenum that funnels the air to the old ductwork.
Successful DIY mentality
When I first started do-it-yourself home renovation, at least part of the motivation was a desire to save some serious money. But in recent years the need to conserve money has faded away completely and yet I find myself more enthusiastic about building and fixing stuff than ever. This is because learning new skills, solving puzzles and creating finished products you can be proud of is not just something you do for money – it’s the purpose of life itself.
So when confronted with a choice between fixing something yourself and hiring it out, you do well if you push your comfort zone just little a bit further each time. Just remember the mantra: “This is possible, and plenty of people with fewer advantages than me have accomplished the same thing many times in the past”
Then you get to work, read the instructions, tinker, make mistakes, learn, and succeed. And continue to build on that success, forever.
Further Reading: You can find many more of my DIY-Themed Articles with the shortcut http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/tag/diy/
* When I bought my current house I ditched the hot air furnace entirely and built an under-floor radiant heat system instead. Now into its second winter, we are still loving it.
**Do you need a permit and Inspection?
In general, yes – replacing a furnace is something your city wants you to get a permit for. But it’s not a big deal – going through this process is a nice low-cost safety check to make sure you get the details right. And having an inspected, approved permit on file will make it easier to sell your house further down the road.
Be on the lookout for time in the next few weeks to spend time working on your goals. Get your goal up on the board or email firstname.lastname@example.org before tomorrow and work towards it between now and the end of the year. If you are able to attend at least 8 classes during the month of December and work towards that goal (or goals), then you will be entered into a drawing to win a free month’s membership! A second drawing will be help to give someone a free membership to give away as a gift to a friend, family member, or enemy so that they can try out the NapTown Fitness family.
Wednesday November 25th
6:15pm Barbell Club
8:00pm Open Gym
7:30pm Restorative Yoga
Thursday November 26th
All Classes Cancelled at all 3 Locations
*at home workout to be posted on blog or go run the Drumstick Dash for the CrossFit NapTown team, Password: Crossfitnap
Friday November 27th
10:00am-12:00pm Open Gym
Concept 2 is holding a Holiday rowing challenge between Thanksgiving and Christmas to row 100,000 meters or 200,000 meters. What a perfect way to stay in shape and challenge yourself during the holiday season and help keep you in the gym! Click on this link or on the photo below to get more information on the challenge and sign up to join in on the fun.
Click here to view a Facebook post with tons of chatter on who is getting in on the challenge in the NapTown Fitness family.
Wednesday November 25th
6:15pm Barbell Club
8:00pm Open Gym
7:30pm Restorative Yoga
Thursday November 26th
All Classes Cancelled at all 3 Locations
*at home workout to be posted on blog or go run the Drumstick Dash for the CrossFit NapTown team, Password: Crossfitnap
Friday November 27th
10:00am-12:00pm Open Gym
I've been keeping my eye on this LEGO Ideas project page for a while:
This year is the 45 years Apollo 11 Moon-landing anniversary.
What a perfect time to present you the Saturn-V rocket which took the Apollo 11 crew to the moon out of Lego!
The whole Lego rocket is about 1 meter/130 studs high (aprox. 1:110 scale), has 1179 bricks and lots of features:
- removable 1st rocket-stage with the main rocket engine
- removable 2nd rocket-stage with rocket engine
- removable 3rd rocket-stage with the Apollo spacecraft
- Apollo spacecraft with the "Eagle" Lunar Lander and the Lunar Orbiter
- the rescue rocket on top of the whole spacecraft
- two minifigure astronauts on the Moon for displaying
The project has reached 10,000 votes, meaning it will be considered by the toymaker for possible production.
Sign me up. I'd love to have this sitting next to my shuttle.
If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut. . . .
It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written, but I know it’s true. If I had a nickel for every person who ever told me he/she wanted to become a writer but didn’t have time to read, I could buy myself a pretty good steak dinner. Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.
Most people ask three questions of what they read:
(1) What is being said?
(2) Does it interest me?
(3) Is it well constructed?
Writers also ask these questions, but two others along with them:
(4) How did the author achieve the effects he has? And
(5) What can I steal, properly camouflaged of course, from the best of what I am reading for my own writing?
This can slow things down a good bit.
Some people won’t write until they first know what they think about a subject. But good writers write in order to find out what they think. Here are a few examples:
Calvin, citing Augustine: “I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write.”
Ed Welch: “I find that there are three levels of clarity. When I only think about something, my thoughts are embryonic and muddled. When I speak about it, my thoughts become clearer, though not always. When I write about it, I jump to a new level of clarity.”
John Piper: “Writing became the lever of my thinking and the outlet of my feelings. If I didn’t pull the lever, the wheel of thinking did not turn. It jerked and squeaked and halted. But once a pen was in hand, or a keyboard, the fog began to clear and the wheel of thought began to spin with clarity and insight.”
Arthur Krystal: “Like most writers, I seem to be smarter in print than in person. In fact, I am smarter when I’m writing. I don’t claim this merely because there is usually no one around to observe the false starts and groan-inducing sentences that make a mockery of my presumed intelligence, but because when the work is going well, I’m expressing opinions that I’ve never uttered in conversation and that otherwise might never occur to me. Nor am I the first to have this thought, which, naturally, occurred to me while composing. According to Edgar Allan Poe, writing in Graham’s Magazine, ‘Some Frenchman—possibly Montaigne—says: ‘People talk about thinking, but for my part I never think except when I sit down to write.’ I can’t find these words in my copy of Montaigne, but I agree with the thought, whoever might have formed it. And it’s not because writing helps me to organize my ideas or reveals how I feel about something, but because it actually creates thought or, at least supplies a Petri dish for its genesis.”
Justice Brandeis: “There is no great writing, only great rewriting.”
James A Michener: “I have never thought of myself as a good writer. Anyone who wants reassurance of that should read one of my first drafts. But I’m one of the world’s great rewriters.”
Michael Crichton: Books aren’t written—they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”
Roald Dahl: “Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.”
Elmore Leonard: “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
Vladimir Nabokov: “I have rewritten — often several times — every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.”
Helen Dunmore: “Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. If it still doesn’t work, throw it away. It’s a nice feeling, and you don’t want to be cluttered with the corpses of poems and stories which have everything in them except the life they need.”
Raymond Chandler: “Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.”
Will Self: “Don’t look back until you’ve written an entire draft, just begin each day from the last sentence you wrote the preceding day. This prevents those cringing feelings, and means that you have a substantial body of work before you get down to the real work which is all in the edit.”
This last Sunday was the first time I ever went to church in the snow. Chicagoland had its first snowfall of the season on Friday night continuing into Saturday, immediately transforming the landscape, covering the last vestiges of autumn red, gold, and hints of green, into a dense carpet of white powder. For a California boy, it was all a bit magical. I’d never seen snow fall before–certainly not outside my window.
Of course, that also means I’ve never dealt with snow as a reality of life. Because it is a reality of life out here. So much so that you have to get special gear for it. Not only jackets, gloves, and boots, but gear for your car like ice-scrapers for your windows and shovels to move the all the snow the snow-plow pushed up against your car in the morning. And there’s not just one kind of snow, the lovely white powder. There’s also slush. And Ice hiding under the powder and slush. And the salt, that gets poured out to get rid of the powder and the slush and the ice.
Needless to say, it can get a bit messy, especially when you’re trying to walk indoors. No matter how hard you try, or how good your boots or doormat are, it’s difficult not to track your mess inside, without taking off your shoes altogether. And even then, if the snow has been kicked up on the legs of your pants, it’s just inevitable.
Which brings me to church.
Every week at church one of our pastors leads us through a time of corporate confession of sins and an assurance of pardon. This week my pastor Jason noticed the tentative way people were walking into church. “Are we allowed to come in like this on the clean wood floors? Is all the salt, slush, dirt, and powder too much of a mess for church this morning?”
He pointed out that’s the way all too many of us walk into church every week: “Am I allowed to come in like this? Is this mess okay in here? Can I come sit in the pews with all the slush, grime, and filth from my life? Is this sin too dirty to clean up? Is my mess going to stain the carpet? Do I have to make sure I’m gotten every single speck off before I walk through the door?”
The good news of the gospel is that God’s church is a place of welcome because the God of the Gospel is a hospitable God. Our forgiving Father does not require you to clean up your mess to come through the door. In fact, in the gospel, he has sent his Son out into the highways and byways to collect you from the cold and the slush you’ve been wearily trodding in. In baptism, he himself gives you a new set of clothes–his own garment of righteousness to clothe you. And he sits you down to be warmed by the gift of the fire of the Holy Spirit. Finally, in the Lord’s Supper, he feasts you on the bread of life and the cup of the new covenant.
So to answer the question, “Can I drag this dirt into church?” Yes! Of course, you can. That’s the only way anybody ever makes it through the door.
Soli Deo Gloria
This is big news, in the realm of game design studies.
During the production of GET LAMP, I spent a lot of time digitizing or photographing all sorts of artifacts and documents related to Interactive Fiction and text adventures. This included books, advertisements, printouts, and various ephemera that various players or programmers had lying around from that era. This would usually involve one or two ads, maybe a map or two that someone had drawn, and one or two photos snapped at a convention.
But not in the case of Steve Meretzky.
If you’re coming into this relatively new, or even if you need a little brush-up, let me state: Steve Meretzky has earned the title of “Game God” several times over, having been at the center of the early zenith of computer games in the 1980s and persisting, even thriving, in the years since. He continues to work in the industry, still doing game design, 35 years since he started out as a tester at what would become Infocom.
But more than that – besides writing a large amount of game classics in the Interactive Fiction realm, he also was an incredibly good historian and archivist, saving everything.
When we finally connected during production (as it turned out, we lived within 10 miles of each other), Steve showed me his collection of items he had from the days of Infocom (which spanned from roughly 1981 through to the company’s eventual closing and absorption by Activision in the early 1990s). And it was a hell of a collection:
Recognizing the value here, not just for my documentary but for the world at large, I gained permission from Steve to start scanning these items. First, in his basement, and then, when the job extended past a few weekends and it got annoying to have this guy in Steve’s basement, from my home, in a setup that I would work from with a set of pliers (for staples) and just scanning, constantly, as I could:
This took a long time. I scanned as much as I could, and after working on Steve’s “design binders”, which are very large combinations of every scrap of paper related to a game, I took a run at the file cabinet, which had pretty much every major communicated aspect of the Infocom company, from memorandums and business process through to interoffice softball game preparations and crab race outcomes. I definitely didn’t get everything, but I got a whole lot. Something on the order of roughly 9,000 scanned items, in fact.
Ultimately, Steve moved out of his lovely home and went to the west coast. His binders, artifacts and other items went to Stanford University, where they are housed today. I sent them copies of my hard drives, and they are using them (to my delight) to house their own digital form of the archives, and intend to bring in the remainder of the materials over time.
I ended up using a lot of material in GET LAMP, with loving pans across these 600dpi images of puzzles, writing and advertisements while people talked about text games and the craft of creating them. And after the movie was done, I put the scans away and moved onto other projects.
Today, I’m dropping the first set of what I hope will be the vast majority of the stuff I scanned during that production year, onto the Internet Archive. The collection is called The Infocom Cabinet, and right now it has every design notebook/binder that Steve Meretzky kept during the period of what most people consider “Classic” Infocom. This includes binders for:
Right there are nearly 4,000 pages of material to go through related to the production of these games.
Bear in mind: Steve did not mess around when it came to assembling these folders. He includes the light, drizzly roots of a given game, whether it be some cut-out newspaper articles or an exchange between employees of “what should Steve work on next”. (In some cases, heavy descriptions of the games Steve never got a chance to make, including a Titanic game and Minute Mysteries.) It then follows through many iterations of the maps, puzzles, references of any given work. Often, there are draft versions of the artwork and text for the manual and hint books, including all correspondence with outside vendors (like G/R, the copywrite/design group Infocom used heavily and which Steve has the occasional huge disagreement with). Then, once the game is functional, we have letters and feedback from playtesters.
(PLEASE NOTE: I HAVE REDACTED THE NAMES AND PERSONAL INFORMATION OF THE PLAYTESTERS INVOLVED – ORIGINAL UNREDACTED COPIES ARE NOT ONLINE BUT EXISTENT.)
For someone involved in game design, this is priceless work. Unfettered by the crushing schedules and indie limits of the current industry, the designers at Infocom (including Steve, but not limited to him by any means) were able to really explore what made games so much fun, where the medium could go, and what choices could be made. It’s all here.
But more than that, and I mean much more – Steve kept all the memos, business process, and related papers that were generated through Infocom Inc.’s life. Like, pretty much all of it.
This gets slightly harder for me to put up – I am going to have to work with Steve and some of the other people involved as to what can go up now and what should stay in Stanford’s stacks for researchers to work with. But for now, a healthy set of materials have gone up:
This is a relatively tiny amount of the total internal company scans I have made, but these are the ones that I can put up without worrying about it crashing into anyone’s life. Again, personal information has been removed, and the focus has been on company process and interesting historical documents.
There’s so much more not up right now, but this 4,000 page cache should give you something pretty extensive to chew on. I also can’t promise when the ‘next wave’ will come, as it really will be time consuming to go through compared to the relatively light (personal-information-wise) design binders. But it will!
I can’t thank Steve enough for what he did during the timespan of Infocom – he just absolutely captured a very special company during a very special time and kept it, well-sorted and updated, for years and years. That we have this at all is a tribute to his staying firm to this approach, even with the side-effort of, you know, completely revolutionizing computer games.
Ten years ago, a team lead by Irina Conboy at the University of California at Berkeley showed something remarkable in a Nature paper: if you take old cells and put them in a young environment, you effectively rejuvenate them. This is remarkable work that was cited hundreds of times.
Their work shows that vampire stories have a grain of truth in them. It seems that old people could be made young again by using the blood of the young. But unlike vampire stories, this is serious science.
So whatever happened to this work? It was cited and it lead to further academic research… There were a few press releases over the years…
But, on the whole, not much happened. Why?
One explanation could be that the findings were bogus. Yet they appear to be remarkably robust.
The theory behind the effect also appears reasonable. Our bodies are made of cells, and these cells are constantly being reconstructed and replenished. As you age, this process slows down.
Some scientists believe that the process slows down to protect us from further harm. It is like driving an old car: you do not want to push it too hard so you drive ever more slowly as the car gets older. Others (like Conboy I suspect) appear to believe that it is the slowing down of the repair itself that causes ill-health as we age.
But whatever your favorite theory is… what Conboy et al. showed is that you could re-activate the repair mechanisms by fooling the cells into thinking that they are in a young body. At the very least, this should lead to an increased metabolism… with the worst case scenario being a much higher rate of cancer and related diseases… and the best case being a reversal of aging.
We have some elegant proof of principles, like the fact that oxytocin appears to rejuvenate old muscles so that they become seemingly indistinguishable from young muscles. (You can order oxytocin on Amazon.com.)
So why did we not see much progress in the last ten years? Conboy et al. have produced their own answer regarding this lack of practical progress:
If all this has been known for 10 years, why is there still no therapeutics?
One reason is that instead of reporting broad rejuvenation of aging in three germ layer derivatives, muscle, liver, and brain by the systemic milieu, the impact of the study published in 2005 became narrower. The review and editorial process forced the removal of the neurogenesis data from the original manuscript. Originally, some neurogenesis data were included in the manuscript but, while the findings were solid, it would require months to years to address the reviewer’s comments, and the brain data were removed from the 2005 paper as an editorial compromise. (…)
Another reason for the slow pace in developing therapies to broadly combat age-related tissue degenerative pathologies is that defined strategies (…) have been very difficult to publish in high impact journals; (…)
If you have not been subject to peer review, it might be hard to understand how peer comments can slow down researchers so much… and even discourage entire lines of research. To better understand the process… imagine that you have to convince four strangers of some result… and the burden is entirely on you to convince them… and if only just one of them refuses to accept your argument, for whatever reason, he may easily convince an editor to reject your work… The adversarial referee does not even have to admit he does not believe your result, he can simply say benign things like “they need to run larger or more complicated experiments”. In one project I did, one referee asked us to redo all the experiments in a more realistic setting. So we did. Then he complained that they were not extensive enough. We extended them. By that time I had invested months of research on purely mundane tasks like setting up servers and writing data management software… then the referee asked for a 100x extension of the data sizes… which would have implied a complete overhaul of all our work. I wrote a fifteen-page rebuttal arguing that no other work had been subjected to such levels of scrutiny in the recent past, and the editor ended up agreeing with us.
Your best strategy in such case might be to simply “give up” and focus on producing “uncontroversial” results. So there are research projects that neither I nor many other researchers will touch…
I was reminded of what a great computer scientist, Edsger Dijkstra, wrote on this topic:
Not only does the mechanism of peer review fail to protect us from disasters, in a certain way it guarantees mediocrity (…) At the time, it is done, truly original work—which, in the scientific establishment, is as welcome as unwanted baby (…)
Dijkstra was a prototypical blogger: he wrote papers that he shared with his friends. Why can’t Conboy et al. do the same thing and “become independent” of peer review? Because they fear that people would dismiss their work as being “fringe” research with no credibility. They would not be funded. Without funding, they would quickly lose their laboratory, and so forth.
In any case, the Conboy et al. story reminds us that seemingly innocent cultural games, like peer review, can have a deep impact on what gets researched and how much progress we make over time. Ultimately, we have to allocate finite resources, if only the time of our trained researchers. How we do it matters very much.
Thankfully, since Conboy et al. published their 2005, the world of academic publishing has changed. Of course, the underlying culture can only change so much, people are still tailoring their work so that it will get accepted in prestigious venues… even if it makes said work much less important and interesting… But I also think that the culture is being transformed. Initiatives like the Public Library of Science (PLoS) launched in 2003 have showed the world that you could produce high impact serious work without going through an elitist venue.
I think that, ultimately, it is the spirit of open source that is gaining ground. That’s where the true meaning of science thrived: it does not matter who you are, what matters is whether you are proposing works. Good science is good science no matter what the publishing venue is… And there is more to science than publishing papers… Increasingly, researchers share their data and software… instead of trying to improve your impact through prestige, you can improve your impact by making life easier for people who want to use your work.
The evolution of how we research may end up accelerating research itself…
Myke Hurley, writing for The Pen Addict:
The work Apple has done to get the hardware and software in harmony to the point where this all works so flawlessly is astounding to me. The results I am able to achieve are just fantastic.
I have always been a pen guy. But now I'm a Pencil guy too.
This week on Relay FM's only space-themed podcast, Jason and I talk about the not-so-impending doom facing Phobos and a bunch of other news before being joined by Emily Lakdawalla from The Planetary Society to discuss the future of solar system exploration.
My thanks to these sponsors:
Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost / Ninth Sunday of Luke, November 22, 2015 Ephesians 4:1-7; Luke 12:16-21 Rev. Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Paul is in prison, and he writes to the Christians of ... READ MORE ›
The post Oneness in the Church: The Key to Generosity and Good Works appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.
Are you a full-time freelancer or independent worker? Do you make a pretty good living and like the work you do? Every year, do you think “man, why is my tax bill so high?" then think, “well, I guess this is just how it is for folks like me."
Then, you write that big check to Uncle Sam. You may find yourself wondering if you could have done something different. Or, if the check is really huge, you might even wonder if it wouldn’t be cheaper to just get a regular job again...
Chances are, if you’ve read this far, Andrew Carroll can help you.
He's a CPA/PFS, CITP, and CGMA and the General Manager of NCH Tax & Wealth Advisors in Fullerton, California. What all that means is that, to be honest, he probably know more about taxes than you or anybody you know.
Andrew has worked with dozens of people just like you in situations just like the one described above.
The Freelancer’s Guide to Escaping Taxes is a distilled version of the same advice he's been giving to folks just like you for years. If you want to know the truth, Andrew figured out it’d more efficient to spend the time writing it down than repeatedly saying it. Go check it out.
The current incarnation of right liberalism always has a different policy agenda, in the sense of favoring different tactics and metrics, than the current incarnation of left liberalism. But they have always and still do agree when it comes to their basic view of what politics is about and what justifies the exercise of political authority. Indeed that is precisely why the left (new) generation of liberalism always turns on the right (older) generation of liberalism.
(What takes the whole thing through the looking glass is that the principles upon which all liberals agree – that the primary purpose and justification of politics is to secure freedom and equal rights – are incoherent; so, by the principle of explosion, they logically imply everything and its opposite all at once, although in practice this is constrained by the reality in which we are situated).
The nature of the liberal insect hivemind is such that the offspring always devour the parents. Then the offspring become surprised after time passes, when they find themselves old and surrounded by larvae with knives.
So there really isn’t a stable ‘right liberalism’ and a stable ‘left liberalism’, let alone a categorically different ‘liberalism’ and ‘leftism’. There is a current ascendant liberalism, its immediate predecessor, and then prior generations before that. It is a mistake to view the little wasp nest we saw in 1776 or 1789 as something different from the monstrous hive we see today.
And even this generational model projects a discreteness onto what is really a continuous process. The march leftward takes place inside individual persons as time goes on, as they find themselves disgusted with the intolerant earlier versions of themselves and try to scrub away the despicable remnants of their own origins. Out, vile spot!
The exceptions are sociopaths.
This is a guest post by Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., a contributor to the ESV Men's Devotional Bible.
I have a word of advice for young dads: enjoy it.
Those early years with the kids just fly by. I know that, at the time—when you are in that mega-commitment 24/7—it seems like you want to say, “Oh my goodness, how did this happen?!” But the truth is, it just flies by.
If I could go back to those early years when our kids were little—those high-demand years—I’d go back in a New York minute because I miss it so much. It’s very important to understand that commitment is not a trap, it’s not a prison. Commitment is an escape from prison—the prison of selfishness. To be in those high-demand years is a great blessing so enjoy it. Enjoy your kids!
We all experience sincere enjoyment as love. The Westminster Catechism says that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” When we sincerely enjoy God as our greatest good—at the level of our heart and at the level of our mind—God feels loved. That same principle is true of all interpersonal relationships.
When our children sense that we sincerely enjoy them, they feel loved. Our children have not been sent into our lives as some sort of curse or burden, even though they require and deserve tremendous attention.
So enjoy those years and enjoy your kids; you’re going to miss it really soon.
Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. is the lead pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and a contributor to the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible.
If you misidentify a problem, your proposed solution probably won’t work.
Let’s say you have a headache, so you decide to amputate your leg. You’ll probably still have the headache, and then you’ll be missing a leg as well. For more effective treatment of headaches, consider a glass of water and perhaps an aspirin.
Many other treatment plans fail for the same reason. Something is wrong, and you think you know what it is, but that’s just because you’re looking at the obvious.
You may feel, for example, that you’re “overwhelmed.” And perhaps you are. Or you may feel generally anxious, and perhaps you are—or maybe it’s something else entirely. But before you dash off to treat the symptoms, declaring email bankruptcy or a digital sabbatical, promising to return with a 28-day series of themed Instagram photos, take a look at the bigger picture of your life.
Because while you think the issue is all those emails or notifications you’re getting, maybe that’s not it at all. Maybe the real problem isn’t too many inputs, it’s not enough purpose. Maybe you need to ask bigger questions of yourself:
When you get these things right, the rest of the decisions matter far less. You can spend your time online or not. You can rent a mansion or own a tiny home. The decisions are up to you, like they always are.
Don’t be misled by thinking that the answer is always to simplify. Living with purpose in the digital age isn’t any harder than it’s ever been.
That anxiety you’re feeling isn’t your phone. It’s your soul. It’s your inner voice saying, “Is this all there is?”
One of the first quests we embarked on was helping an old blind Witch who could point the way we needed to continue. The Witch had a number of tasks for us to do to help with her preparations, which ultimately ended with her being very hungry and needing something to eat before she could cast the…Read more
I’m very happy to finally be able to announce our paper on the connected scatterplot technique. It describes the technique, provides some historical perspective, and most of all looks into how easy to understand and engaging the technique actually is.
The connected scatterplot isn’t really known in visualization, but has gotten some interest in journalism. There are a number of recent examples, like How the U.S. and OPEC Drive Oil Prices, The Death Spiral Of M. Night Shyamalan’s Career, National Indebtedness, and a number others (there’s a list in the paper). My favorites include one of my all-time favorite news graphics, Driving Safety, in Fits and Starts, as well as Helium Supply, and The Rise of Long-Term Joblessness (aka The Scorpion Chart).
In a way, the connected scatterplot is just that: a scatterplot with the dots connected by lines. But the appearance is quite different, since the lines give it much more of a gestalt than the points alone. It’s important to understand the way it depicts two time series, which is why we describe it at some length in the paper.
The use in journalism is quite specific, and closely modeled on the original idea behind the technique (which was first published in an economics paper): compare two time series with points that coincide. That makes a lot of sense for the types of data often used in journalism, which are reported at some common and predictable schedule: monthly, quarterly, yearly.
We talked to some of the journalists that had used the chart type to get a sense of why they had done so. How did they learn about it? What made them try it on their data? Did they think people would get it? Most of the folks we talked to expected their readers to be able to figure it out, even if it would require some work.
To see if that was the case, we conducted three studies. One was qualitative and had people explain what they were seeing in a chart and predict what the next step would be given a verbal description; another one had them translate from a dual-axis line chart to a connected scatterplot to see how well they would be able to do that; and the final one looked at how engaging people would find connected scatterplots in a simulated news website setting.
People are surprisingly good at understanding the technique, but they do make some specific mistakes and don’t make the same number of inferences about correlation. There are a number of visual features that let people see structures that they wouldn’t be able to see as well in other charts, which strikes me as fertile ground for further work. The Time Curves paper at InfoVis earlier this year used the technique in a different way than we do in the paper, but they also looked at visual structures that let people identify patterns (like circular edits on Wikipedia, etc.).
This is work with Steve Haroz and Steven Franconeri, both at Northwestern University (the same gang that worked on the ISOTYPE paper we had at CHI). Steve has made a nice landing page for the paper, including an interactive tool that lets you play with the technique. There are also links to the experiments (to run in your browser) and some additional materials. The paper is going to appear in 2016, but it is already pre-published (requires IEEExpore access) and citable.
Steve Haroz, Robert Kosara, Steven L. Franconeri, The Connected Scatterplot for Presenting Paired Time Series, Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics (TVCG), 2016. DOI: 10.1109/TVCG.2015.2502587
|These are a couple of folders in my personal mail account:|
|and these are a couple of folders in my work account:|
That comes to about 120 messages a day, every day of the week, and those are just the ones I bothered to archive. Here's how I manage it:
Always do an hour's work in the morning before checking email at all.
Don't leave email running in the background: turn it on, do a sweep (below), then turn it off. If you want to send an email in the middle of some other task, leave yourself a note in a text file for batch processing later.
When you do turn mail on, do one quick pass to archive and delete things that don't require replies. You'll be surprised how many threads take care of themselves, or how many things other people will answer, or how far the discussion will get without you intervening.
Once you've done that pass, go back and do all your composing in a batch, because then you'll know which things really need replies right now and which can be left. (If you've made notes to yourself while doing other work about email that needs processing, now's the time to turn them into messages - again, you'll be surprised how many messages don't need to be sent once you see what the rest of the world has already said.)
"But people might need to get hold of me right away for emergencies!" OK, then give those people your cell # and ask them to text you (or call, if they're my age and still regard texting suspiciously).
Don't be afraid to let important-but-not-urgent email pile up, but allocate an afternoon each week for clearing it. Again, do this offline—give yourself space to think medium-sized joined-up thoughts.
November is National Adoption Month, a time when many American churches focus one Sunday to discuss the plight of the fatherless. Some hearts will be stirred to action, and will begin the process of fostering or adopting. Sadly, though, many who want to help a child will decide not to for a variety of reasons—some legitimate, others based on misunderstandings and fears.
Below I will address a few common arguments against adoption, and make a case for adoption. Before diving in, though, I’d like to be clear on one point. Adoption is not for everyone.
The Lord doesn’t place a call on everyone’s heart to adopt. Nevertheless, I think the church should handle adoption and caring for the fatherless like we handle the Great Commission. While not everyone is called to adopt, as part of the church everyone does play a role in caring for the fatherless (James 1:27).
There are innumerable ways to carry out this role. Here are a couple suggestions:
But what about those considering adoption who have concerns? Some of the common arguments against adoption are:
1. “We don’t have enough money.”
If the Lord wants you to adopt, he will provide the means to fulfill what he’s called you to. Yes, you may have to pinch pennies and save for a long time, and your desire for an adopted child may get delayed because of finances. But don’t lose hope. Domestic adoption is often a lot less expensive than international adoption, so consider adopting locally or fostering to adopt.
“Wait for the LORD,” the psalmist writes, “be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (Ps. 27:14). May all who are watching you go through this process be encouraged and edified by your trust in God.
2. “I can’t love this child as my own since they don’t share my blood.”
Adoption’s been a part of my vocabulary for my entire life because I’m adopted, my five siblings are adopted, my cousin is adopted, and I seek to educate others on adoption. I readily acknowledge, though, that adoption isn’t as common for most.
Christians should be on the forefront of dispelling the notion you can’t truly love a child just because they don’t carry your genes. What a spectacular way to demonstrate the gospel to the world when we intentionally choose to love and care for those who aren’t like us. We can love extravagantly because God has loved us extravagantly. If it’s a temptation for you to think you couldn’t love a child because they aren’t your “own” flesh and blood, remember the essence of the gospel: God loved and chose you, even though you were an unworthy outsider.
3. “It’s going to be hard.”
You bet it is! But what worth having is easy? Ask yourself questions like:
Am I willing to die to myself, in order to rescue and love a child?
Am I willing to risk loving someone who might not immediately love me back?
As you ponder such questions, ponder Paul’s words:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:9–10)
It’s when you’re at your weakest that the Lord shines most brightly through you, invading your heart with his strength. Don’t shy away from something just because it may be difficult. Go into adoption with your eyes wide open, knowing the Lord will be with you every step of the way.
Your actions on earth have eternal consequences. Choose wisely. Choose well.
Adoption is beautiful, but it’s not natural. It’s a result of the fall. Yet God in his stunning grace has redeemed what’s been broken. He not only redeems the fatherless; he’s woven adoption into the gospel itself. As John Piper has observed, “The gospel is not a picture of adoption. Adoption is a picture of the gospel.”
Regardless of the path we choose, or the plans the Lord has for us, as Christians we are benefactors of the greatest adoption in history. Because of the finished work of Christ on the cross, we are adopted into God’s family as his sons and daughters. Brothers and sisters, rest and delight in your immovable standing with your heavenly Father.
In just four hours, Islamic extremists set fire to 60 evangelical church buildings in the Republic of Niger. The following day, in two hours, another 10 were burned.
This West African country may never be the same since those two days in January. The attacks on Niger’s churches came as a further reaction to the violence in Paris days earlier, after a cartoon depiction of the prophet Muhammad appeared in a French satirical magazine.
But the churches were not destroyed.
This August, I (Monroe) was privileged to spend a week in Niger, along with Carl Palmer (a former pastor and now an associate with Global Training Network) and Jeff Minard (director of William Carey Library). Our trip was facilitated by the prayers and support of East-West Ministries International, which serves the persecuted church in hard-to-reach places.
Our time training 200 pastors from across Niger—one of the poorest nations of the world—was part of an eighth-consecutive annual meeting of evangelical pastors there. It proved to be the largest gathering of evangelical pastors in the country’s history.
Niger’s nearly 18 million people are predominantly Muslim—more than 96 percent. The number of Christians here is estimated at 66,000—one-third of 1 percent of the population. The group of pastors we trained represented most of the country’s born-again believers.
The event, hosted by Samaritan’s Purse, was funded by a well-known organization that ministers to the persecuted church around the world. It was conducted in Niger’s official language of French, along with Hausa and English. The former French colony has between eight and 20 indigenous languages, depending on how they’re counted. We conducted a small-group training course in both French and English and then observed discussions in two more local languages.
Every pastor who lost a church building attended. Their churches continue to meet in homes, business offices, and outdoors. They report a significant increase in church attendance since the January devastation.
Attendees loved the participatory style of learning; they said it’s the best way for Africans to learn. All of these men—starved for fellowship, affirmation, and encouragement—said it was the best week of their lives.
The conference attendees have no internet service and no resources to afford books or travel. Financial assistance enabled many who came from a distance. It’s common for these men to stay in their hometowns year-round, without the fellowship of other pastors. One was thrilled to reconnect with a pastor friend he hadn’t seen in 25 years.
Upon arrival at the conference, a middle-aged man named Elie expressed great uncertainty about his call to be a pastor. By week’s end, he’d realized God’s clear call.
One of our mid-week sessions was interrupted by four Tuareg men dressed like Islamic terrorists. After they came in and sat among us, we learned they were evangelists who plant churches among nomads near the Algerian border. One of them, a pastor named Ali, has led more than 300 Fulani nomads to Christ and planted itinerant churches among them.
My team had carried three boxes of Christian books—the customs limit for Niger. We supplied each pastor with a French translation of John Piper’s The Dangerous Duty of Delight, which helps believers understand that pursuing happiness in Christ changes our attitudes toward everything. These books, printed as a Packing Hope project for theological famine relief, were provided without cost to us through TGC International Outreach. We also gave the men copies of a colorful children’s book in French, published by www.childrenministries.org, that makes Scripture memory easy and instructive.
The pastors displayed grace, gratitude, and joy at the gathering. They also expressed appreciation to everyone who prayed for them (see the video below). The men said the event energized them to stay the course and keep planting new churches.
By September, four of the burned church structures had been rebuilt. The unholy fires intended to destroy the church in Niger have instead fueled a holy fire in the hearts of pastors. These servants of God, unconcerned about their personal safety, want to make a difference for Christ.
Praise the Lord! May this fire never be extinguished. May this country never be the same.
“Here’s the dirty little secret: starting something is insanely hard.”
This is an opening line in Evan Baehr and Evan Loomis’s Get Backed: Craft Your Story, Build the Perfect Pitch Deck, Launch the Venture of Your Dreams. Written by practicing entrepreneurs and talented fundraisers still in their early thirties, the new book dangerously joins a long list of practical how-to manuals focused on one of the most critical aspects of starting a business—raising money. Yet Get Backed, unlike many others, is both accessible and relatable to anyone trying to raise capital—from entrepreneurs to church planters.
Baehr and Loomis write from the perspective of their recent experiences—not all pretty—in raising tens of millions of dollars for ventures being built this very moment. Their refreshingly narrow focus answers a simple question: What does it take to get funded?
Although there’s no shortage of advice on fundraising, “most of it is terrible,” Loomis notes. That’s why he and Baehr wrote Get Backed; it’s the resource they wish they had when they set out to raise money for their own ventures. It goes to great lengths to demystify the fundraising process, countering the popular view that some are just born to raise money while others have no business trying. And it encourages would-be entrepreneurs to break the fundraising process down to its core, its essential elements.
Get Backed is divided into two sections. The first, “Create Your Pitch,” is rich with insight and strong examples. It gets into the nitty gritty of things like story-crafting and pitch book designing. If you’re interested in raising money for anything—a company, a nonprofit, a mission trip, or a church—their pitch book framework is for you. You’ll find that, in just 10 slides, you can provide effective context to any discussion with potential funders.
The second section, “Get Backed,” is about the process by which you identify, approach, and engage potential investors. Though it’s helpful and informative for folks looking to raise capital for any project, its wisdom is mostly contextualized for raising money for a for-profit venture. That said, in this section Baehr and Loomis introduce the gem of the book: The Friendship Loop.
The Friendship Loop is about developing a disciplined fundraising approach and regimen—and, as the authors point out, it’s been used (intuitively or intentionally) by every successful and well-respected entrepreneur they’ve met. In the end, the Evans present this Loop as a call to relational stewardship, highlighting a sad pattern we often practice in fundraising efforts when we unwittingly prioritize cash over relationships. As they rightly note, there’s no real capital without earning trust.
As Baehr and Loomis explore The Friendship Loop further, they offer practical tips for how to initiate, develop, and strengthen relationships, particularly those where there’s an “ask” expected somewhere along the conversational journey. You’ll easily grasp their Intro-Build-Delight-Invite (and repeat) process and, if you achieve their goal, you’ll likely agree that “cash isn’t king; friendship is.” It’s a unique and needed perspective.
Since their audience is secular (even though they themselves are followers of Christ) Loomis and Baehr don’t explore one of the most challenging aspects of fundraising—the role of God’s sovereignty.
When we seek to advance a cause, further an organization, or raise funds, we use books like Get Backed to help us maximize our chances for success, but we don’t always bring home the bacon. This is because God rules—always—and we know his ways are mysterious. He has purpose even in closed doors.
In fundraising, all you can do is bring your best; once “the ask” is out there, you sit entirely at the mercy of the potential giver, investor, or backer. Investors can’t be coerced into participating in something they don’t like or understand. So you don’t just ready your story or your pitch book; you also ready your heart to potentially hear “no”—No, I’m not willing to risk my money. No, I can’t make a commitment at this time—even as you labor in every way for a “yes.”
This is what Nehemiah did.
Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the king when he received word that, though a Jewish remnant had survived the exile, Jerusalem and its walls were in shambles. Upon hearing this news, Nehemiah was deeply affected and entered a period of concerted mourning, prayer, and fasting. As he emerged from his retreat, he offered a beautiful prayer that fundraisers would be wise to consult:
O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. . . . O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. (Neh. 1:5–11)
Nehemiah later finds himself in the king’s presence and is visibly sad. Having been trustworthy as the king’s servant over the years, the king is quick to recognize Nehemiah’s state as a sadness of heart, and he wants to help. Upon this inquiry, Nehemiah makes “the ask”: Would you bless my journey back to Jerusalem, and further, would you provide the letters I need to pave the way for rebuilding the walls? It’s vision-casting at its finest, and Nehemiah receives the king’s favor—thanks to the generous provision of “success” from the Lord.
Growing things—whether a company, a project, or a church—from scratch is hard business. It requires tools, vision, determination, and grit. But it also requires relationships and divine provision. Get Backed will prepare you in almost every way for your next fundraising effort. After that, it’s up to God to build the house.
Evan Baehr and Evan Loomis, Get Backed: Craft Your Story, Build the Perfect Pitch Deck, Launch the Venture of Your Dreams. Boston: Harvard University Press, 2015. 224 pp. $35.00
Christian history. Some of you already may be tempted to stop reading. History, after all, is a subject that can feel distant, boring, irrelevant.
But I’m convinced you should care about the history of the church. In fact, I believe it’s essential. And for your good.
Christianity is a history-anchored faith. We don’t teach a set of abstract principles or philosophical ideas; we teach the truth of a historical event. As Francis Schaeffer liked to say, if you were there 2,000 years ago you could have run your hand down the cross and gotten a splinter. How silly would it be for us to conclude, “Well, I believe Jesus lived and died and rose in historical time, and that without those historical events I’d be lost forever, but I don’t really care about history.”
Further, if you’re a Christian, then church history is your family history. Think about that. Studying church history is like opening a photo album and exploring your family heritage.
But Christian history isn’t just meaningful; it’s intensely practical, too. Here are seven ways that studying it benefits us.
First, Christian history instructs us, replacing our ignorance with truth. “To know nothing of what happened before you were born,” warned the ancient philosopher Cicero, “is to forever remain a child.” Learning history matures us by rooting us in reality—in what actually happened as opposed to what we assume must have happened or wish had happened.
The Christian church has a glorious yet checkered past. Just as the scriptural record of God’s people is a mixed bag—great feats of faith mingled with great falls into sin—so is the history of the people who have made up the church through the ages. Historians John Woodbridge and Frank James observe:
The history of the church reminds us that Christians can be culprits of foolishness as well as bold titans for truth. They can be egoistic and self-serving; they can be humble and generous. A single individual can embody conflicting traits. We may find it disconcerting to discover that our heroes are sometimes flawed. . . . [But] God works through sinners to accomplish his good purposes.
The study of Christian history serves an instructive, and therefore maturing, purpose.
Second, Christian history exhilarates. Yes, it can seem boring at times. And no doubt it can be taught boringly. When taught well, though, it involves the thrill of discovery—and that’s exciting. You get to meet people you’ve never seen and visit places you’ve never been, and can never go, since they no longer exist.
Exploring your spiritual heritage can be a thrilling adventure.
Third, Christian history provides perspective, freeing us from the narrow perspectives and overwhelming demands of the urgent.
One historian aptly noted that history “must be our deliverer not only from the undue influence of other times, but from the undue influence of our own—from the tyranny of environment and the pressures of the air we breathe.” An excessive focus on the present leads to historical and spiritual myopia. We need Christian history to expand our horizons.
Additionally, it can be easy to think that there was some golden age of doctrinal knowledge and Christian living long ago to which we must return. But this is an illusion. No era has known a level of Christian thought and practice that didn’t cry out for the King’s return.
Fourth, Christian history illumines. It sheds light on present trends and circumstances, thereby going a long way toward explaining why things are the way they are today.
The challenges facing us as Christians are rarely unique to our time. For example, if you’ve ever talked with a Mormon you may know that they deny Christ’s deity. He isn’t the Creator God, they say, but a created god—the highest creature, even. But this argument has been around since at least the third century, and a book like Athanasius’s On the Incarnation—written in response to this very issue—can illumine us on how to answer our Mormon friends.
Fifth, Christian history inspires. I imagine you know what it’s like to hear a story or watch a film about a historical figure and feel stirred. Reading biographies can be a particularly powerful source of inspiration. Whether learning of the heavenly-mindedness of Jonathan Edwards, the persistence of Adoniram Judson, the faith of George Mueller, or the conviction of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God has often used biographies in my life to encourage my soul and spark fresh devotion to Christ. (If you’re looking for an accessible on-ramp, John Piper’s biographical lectures and books are a good place to start. This series of biographies for kids is helpful as well.)
In Scripture, rehearsing acts of faith in the past (Heb. 11:1–40) is tethered to running with endurance in the present (Heb: 12:1–2). Your Savior intends yesterday’s stories to inspire you in today’s race.
Sixth, Christian history humbles and convicts. As you explore the lives of your spiritual forebears, you’ll soon find you’re not as impressive as you thought.
Bethan Lloyd-Jones, wife of the great 20th-century preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones, once explained: “In order to understand my husband you must understand that he was first of all a man of prayer, and then an evangelist.” Now ask yourself: If the person who knows you best were to share the secret to understanding you, would prayer and evangelism top their list?
Finally, studying Christian history fires worship. How could it not? It deepens our amazement at God’s unflinching faithfulness through the ages. We’re moved to praise him for rescuing, for preserving, and for using his people despite themselves.
Although Christian history is the study of the works of men and women, it’s ultimately the study of the work of God. It’s not Christians who have been building the church, after all; it’s Christ. I will build my church, he promised, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18).
Speaking of Jesus, few things showcase him like church history. We may think there are many heroes of the past, but in the final analysis there’s only one. The Lord Jesus is the only perfect hero to which all of his imperfect followers point.
Editors’ note: This article originally appeared at Christianity.com.
This is directly from the mouth of Olympic Gymnast turned CrossFit athlete, Dave Durante. The information is geared towards athletes from any background looking to get into gymnastics and develop skills in that realm. That means every single person in the gym who wants to get better at pull ups, muscle ups, handstands, or what have you. Over the next few weeks, we will be diving deeper into gymnastics movements, working to develop good static positioning and strength, moving that into a dynamic plane through the creation of shapes, and eventually moving into dynamic actions and complex series. This is all a progression. Remember to always be patient and read on to understand why the heck we are going to be going at a slower pace on some of these things than you may be used to. Email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any further questions or want more clarity on what the heck Dave is saying below.
PHASE 1: CREATION OF SHAPES AND BODY AWARENESS
This step is fundamental to all movement and is the building block for all future steps. This step revolves around 2 key components. The first is core-centric exercises which help to develop the understanding of what an athletes body is doing within space and time. The second piece is flexibility work. Consistent, daily, full body flexibility training is critical to allow for creation of correct body shapes. Within this step, an athlete develops an understanding of how to connect the dots between what they think is happening with their body when attempting a particular position and what reality looks like. Almost all the time, those two pieces are very different from each other, especially for beginners.
PHASE 2: CONTROLLED ACTION AND STATIC HOLDS
Prior to appreciating movement that involves speed and/or momentum, an athlete must learn how to hold positions. This is the strength and stability building stage. Being able to control body movement through slow tempo and static holds, an athlete creates not only a higher level of understanding, but also increases activation of key muscle groups that do not always fire properly during dynamic action. Slowing down will allow any athlete to speed up more efficiently.
PHASE 3: DYNAMIC ACTION
This is the phase most athletes jump to right away. Swinging/kipping action can be exciting and fun, but can also lead giving an athlete a false sense of understanding movement. Completing a specific skill one time should never be the end goal. Without phases 1 and 2, an athlete can never fully grasp the full potential of dynamic action. If phases 1 and 2 are in place, the range of skills and drills an athlete can achieve increases exponentially. The process takes a time, but anything worth achieving takes consistency. That process is the great separator between the good athletes and the great. Take pride in the process. Appreciate the incremental gains and the skills will not only come, but they will stay for the long term. One of the most frustrating things that can happen to an athlete is learn a movement, have it perfect one day, then forget how to do it the next. Many times the reason why this happens is that steps one and two were skipped and an athlete made a skill more out of luck rather than true understanding. Our goal is to achieve a skill and to make it stick for the long term.
PHASE 4: CREATION OF SEQUENCES/COMPLEXES
This is the pinnacle of the gymnastics world. Combining the skills learned in phases 1, 2, and 3 performing them with ease. For a gymnast, this essentially equates to a some form of a routine (parts, 1/2 routines, full routines) that would be performed in competition. For the fitness world, this would equate to a complex where a variety of movements are combined. In the gymnastics world, the goal is to make the near impossible seem effortless. Gymnasts have to take aesthetics into account, but aside from making things look pretty, there is function in working to make things look effortless. It allows for an athlete to create efficiency. This efficiency can be applied to complexes in the same way they are applied to gymnastics routines, which in turn allows for conservation of energy during long intensity based workouts. As the fitness world strives toward more intricate complexes, there is greater need for appreciation and application of phases 1, 2, and 3. Skipping steps only leads to dead ends, so take the time to learn the body weight movement and gymnastics exercises in the proper order.
Last week I mentioned the new-and-improved bonus offer for the travel rewards card I use every day, no matter where I am in the world. For a limited time, you can earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points instead of the usual 40,000.
Extra points are always great! Depending on how you use them, 10,000 points can be halfway to a plane ticket, or even two hotel nights.
But I almost forgot something: you can actually earn an additional 5,000 points just by adding an authorized user to your account. You can do this anytime in the first three months of having the card, and the points should automatically post up.
The authorized user has to make at least one purchase, but it can be for any amount. In the past I’ve added an authorized user to my accounts and taken the new card to the grocery store, where I bought a banana for 20 cents. Yes, that works.
Oh, and also—for a while, my cat had an American Express card issued in her name. I kept finding all these charges for toy mice and cat treats, so I finally canceled it. Just kidding … well, mostly.
So basically, if you’re getting the card, you might as well get 5,000 extra points while you’re at it. There’s no charge for doing so, and no downside as long as you keep it away from your cat or anyone else who might use it for a spending spree. Happy holidays!
This week was a good week for learning more about coding. The Toronto Public Library hackathon turned out to be an excellent excuse to dig into geographic visualizations and user scripts, and I picked up a few search tips from the mentors there. My tiny hack for displaying branch search results on a map of neighbourhood libraries won the best idea prize at the hackathon, yay! I spent some time after the hackathon cleaning up my code and turning it into something I can use without having a server running. I’m starting to really like this practice of having lots of small tests, too – hooray for Jasmine! =) See my notes for more details.
Lots of Emacs-related stuff. Another edition of Emacs News, another Emacs Hangout, and lots of editing of the EmacsWiki. It’s a good community, and it’s nice to be able to help out.
Ups and downs, energy-wise, but W- thoughtfully stepped in with some mid-week cooking. He’s so awesome. I’ll probably take it easy for the next few weeks instead of tilting the balance towards consulting. Still, there’s plenty to do and plenty to learn. =)
Focus areas and time review
Concept 2 is holding a Holiday rowing challenge between Thanksgiving and Christmas to row 100,000 meters or 200,000 meters. What a perfect way to stay in shape and challenge yourself during the holiday season and help keep you in the gym! Click on this link or on the photo below to get more information on the challenge and sign up to join in on the fun.
Click here to view a Facebook post with tons of chatter on who is getting in on the challenge in the NapTown Fitness family.
Over the past few days, many have rightly observed that the terrorist attack at the Parisian concert hall Le Bataclan targeted not just the population of France, but French culture as well. Even so, this jihadist display of force failed to draw the curtain on another extraordinary show that stole the spotlight that fateful night. At center stage in this show of courage and compassion were men and women who risked their lives to save others.
Yes, in the very aisles of this theater of terror, in the midst of this macabre performance that shook not just the nation but the entire world, our attention was drawn to a handful of actors clearly being directed by another script—a script whose subtext calls to mind the climactic moment of the gospel. Even as the deafening drumbeat of automatic weapons drowned out the death-metal music that had drawn the capacity crowd, magnificent echoes of the Good News of Jesus Christ rang out from unexpected corners of the hall.
One example includes a protagonist whose evident humility in recounting his story left many of us speechless. This breathtaking scene, which has been played and replayed all over the world, was filmed by a journalist from the French newspaper Le Monde. A pregnant woman trying to flee the concert hall hangs from a railing high above the ground, her strength fading with each passing minute. In a calm yet pleading voice, she asks others who are fleeing beneath her to come to her aid. No one stops. The growl of gunfire nips at their heels, and the panic is palpable.
But then, a young man named Sebastien, himself hanging from a ventilation shaft within arm’s reach of a window, decides to re-enter the building and give the desperate woman a helping hand. Just when she feels that she can hang on no longer, Sebastien, leaning out of the window above her, takes hold of her arms and pulls her to safety.
But Sebastien’s act of bravery comes at a cost. Moments later, he is taken hostage by the terrorists. In what seems to be nothing short of a miracle, he will survive the nightmare and emerge with his life from this improbable sequence of tragic events. And thanks to Twitter, the pregnant woman will later meet her savior in person.
This rescue provides us with a powerful illustration of the gospel. Sebastien gave up his own security to save the life of a woman in distress. Likewise, Jesus Christ not only risked his life to save the lives of others, he even voluntarily offered his life for their salvation.
But Sebastien's heroic act is even more than a potent reminder of Christ's sacrifice. It is also a provocative illustration of Christ’s call—a call he addresses to all of his disciples. Christ calls us to put our own interests aside, daily, and to respond to the needs of those around us. Few if any of our acts of self-sacrifice will carry the same heroic import as that of Sebastien and others like him in life-or-death situations. Nevertheless, these often-unrecognized gestures will serve to confirm our association with Christ, the ultimate example of sacrificial giving.
As we remember the shocking events of November 13, 2015, in the days and weeks to come, we must not let sad memories monopolize our meditation. Let us not forget that the unspeakable brutality witnessed all over the world gave way to unforgettable acts of heroism and self-sacrifice. Let these also serve as an object of our meditation, reminding us of that ultimate act of heroism, the sacrifice of God’s Son on the cross for the sins of mankind. Even more, let these memories inspire and move us toward the kind of courageous, sacrificial life that every disciple of Christ is called to live, to the glory of God our Savior.
What would I have done if I had been in Sebastien’s shoes?
In 2013 the WDS community started a foundation, making an initial investment of $100,000 and pledging to support “Scholarships for Real Life,” a program to enable people to pursue a dream of their own while also addressing a problem that affects others. Here’s one of our 2015 grantees.
Valerie Groth is a trained social worker and life coach. She recently founded the Ryan Banks Academy, which seeks to create a safe and positive learning environment for kids in the Chicago area.
Ryan Banks Academy is an independent college-preparatory, residential, tuition-free middle and high school that will prepare motivated students from Chicago neighborhoods to graduate from college, enter into meaningful careers, and be the catalyst to bring positive change into their communities.
According to Valerie, the academy’s mission is to teach Chicago students –
“Not only the value of education, but also encouragement for our students to focus on cultivating their own unique strengths, interests, and passions so that they may lead a purpose-filled life. We take a holistic view of the student as a whole person, and our curriculum focuses not just on their academic pursuits but also on developing their relationships, core values, mindset, and our students learn how to set goals and to plan for their future.”
We’ll be announcing two other grantees over the next two weeks—and then we’ll prepare to take applications for 2016 grants!
Imagine a world where children grow up with Beeminder as a way of life. Well we created Beeminder when our kids were babies so here in Portland (at least in our house) that world exists, as a reality. Here to tell you about that is Beeminder’s presumably youngest user, Faire Soule-Reeves.
Hi! I am Faire Soule-Reeves. I am 8 years old. I am the daughter of Daniel Reeves and Bethany Soule. They are the founders of Beeminder. I use Beeminder and I am here to tell you about it.
Beeminder helps people get motivated to do things they weren’t motivated to do before.
Here is a booklet I made in first grade (I am now in third grade):
Here I am explaining Beeminder to my little brother who is actually 5 in the video:
Here are the things I’m currently beeminding:
I was in Germany for two weeks this August. I used Duolingo to prepare for my arrival in Berlin. Duolingo is definitely not the best language learner, because it just teaches you random words and sentences. Although if you use it for a long time, the things Duolingo teaches you can sometimes be handy. Your progress gets entered automatically from Duolingo to Beeminder which is nice. I still use Duolingo to improve my German and get more fluent. I wouldn’t do Duolingo without Beeminder, and I can prove it because I am usually rushing to do it right before my bedtime. If it weren’t for Beeminder telling me that I would derail, I would just go to bed and forget about it.
I beemind my sugar. Of course it is a Do Less goal. The story to this one is that it’s annoying when I’m like: “Mom, can I have sugar? Dad, can I have sugar? Mom, can I have sugar? Dad, can I have sugar?” Now I can just check my phone and the Beeminder app tells me how much sugar I can have.
I use Beeminder to track screen time so I won’t become like Jimmy Jet and his television set.
My friend Alice Tiffany and I saw each other this summer and we were talking about what games we had on our phones. I said “I have Crossy Road and Geometry Dash. And you?”
“My mom took all the games off my phone because I played them too much,” said Alice.
“That is a great reason to use Beeminder!!” said me and my dad at the same time.
“What’s Beeminder?” asked Alice.
So me and my dad explained Beeminder to Alice…
How I keep track of things on my screen time goal is via RescueTime. My parents have been trying to program it so you can beemind more than one game or app on one graph.
I was inspired by my parents to make a must-do goal even though they didn’t think it was a good idea. My parents weren’t sure about it because it can be hard to remember to enter data, which it is. Sometimes it is fun to do my must-dos, because if I have been feeling sad lately or have had an unpleasant feeling, I will make my must-do something SILLY or ExCiTiNg!!!
Pushups are just pushups. They make me stronger. MUSCLES!!! Something interesting is that you can lay your phone on the ground and touch your nose to the phone to count your pushups. (That’s part of the Beeminder Android app.)
I also have a weight graph, but that is just because my parents have a Withings scale at our house. When I step on it and all the data is collected, then it will automatically enter to Beeminder.
I read like crazy nowadays because I am doing Oregon Battle of the Books , and just generally love reading. I have finished seven of the sixteen books and everyone has to January or Febuary to finish all sixteen. Also I forgot to mention that you only have to read three or four books twice, but I am doing all of them since I am at a little higher reading level than third through fifth grade. Those are the reading level of the sixteen books.
When I beemind reading, I track it by minutes. I sometimes use my watch or the timer that’s part of the Beeminder app on my phone.
My dad threw out some ideas including: practicing piano, playing CodeCombat (learn to code by playing a game), or tracking steps. He thought that these might be good ideas for me or other kids who might want to try out Beeminder. I would be up for making a steps goal (I have the Misfit app on my Pebble watch) but I am not really excited about beeminding CodeCombat and piano even though I enjoy doing them in my free time.
Also since I enjoyed writing this blog post, but me and my dad put it off for a few months since starting it, that could be a reason to make a writing goal.
I have derailed a lot and my mom lends me her credit card to pay for derailments. But then I do owe my mom back. Then I earn money by doing chores and I earned $120.00 from my parents just for typing this!  I’m also always happy to get my parents new users, by telling people about Beeminder!
 Oregon Battle of the Books is an organization for kids where the kids read sixteen books and go to tournaments. You organize a team of four or five kids and have battles answering questions about the books. Then you get points if you answer them correctly. There is also a regionals battle and the US championship.
 Before I started editing and perfecting this, I had to have an auction with my mom whether or not I could stay up late. I had to pay $10.00 to get to stay up way past my bedtime to edit this.
I was 14 when Islamic terrorists attacked my school. In the years that followed, I was often physically overwhelmed by an anxiety that came from knowing I could never feel safe anymore.
As I read live updates from Paris last week, I felt that same cold, knotting fear climbing up my back and reaching around my neck.
Even though Louisville and Paris are thousands of miles apart, these attacks feel different—closer somehow. These terrorists brutally murdered people doing everyday things—going to a soccer match, a concert, a restaurant. Things you and I could’ve been doing. These attacks weren’t just on Parisians, in other words. They were attacks on normal life.
The point of terrorism—and what makes it appealing to those who cannot fight traditional-style battles—is to inject fear into others. To freeze economies by making people too afraid to go out shopping. To tear societies apart since people are too afraid to gather in public places. In short, the point is to make us too fearful to go about our daily lives.
For all the bravado or stiff upper lip we may put up against acts of terror, the fact is sometimes they work. Sometimes, they make us afraid.
But that fear—that uncertainty and hopelessness threatening to paralyze you—is the very thing God uses to strip away your confidence in this world.
Physical safety is so illusory, so fleeting. Once you sense this, you may suddenly discover parts of Scripture to be more relevant to your life than you thought. Ecclesiastes reminds us repeatedly of the brevity of human life, and how little control we have over our plans. James instructs us to say “Lord willing” as an expression of our dependence on God’s protection and provision in the fruition of our plans (James 4:13–14).
Hebrews was written to believers being beaten, imprisoned, and robbed (Heb. 10:32–34). In a sense, these were acts of terrorism—designed to teach the young Christians there was no guarantee of protection for their belongings or persons. And yet, these believers weren’t told to make themselves more secure. They weren’t told either to fight or to flee from the danger.
The Holy Spirit, through the author of Hebrews, tells us the ultimate response to physical uncertainty is to fix our eyes on Jesus—to go to him, outside the camp, and place our hope in an everlasting city, not earthly ones (Heb. 13:13–14).
Brothers and sisters, we’ve always lived in a dangerous world. In the same weekend of the Paris attacks there was a devastating massacre in Beirut. A funeral in Baghdad was bombed. A three-year-old in Charlotte was accidentally shot. And now an attack in Mali. This world threatens to undo us not just because we trust in Christ, but because sin has so tragically fractured it. Both world history and your own personal past reveal that the unpredictable, the unforeseen, the chaotic might be right around the corner. Even if you could flee the places that seem most dangerous, death and tragedy could still overtake you there. That’s why Jesus exhorts us not to fear those who can destroy the body, but only him who can destroy both body and soul (Matt. 10:28).
Fear is the natural human response to this kind of tragedy. French Muslims are afraid of how they’ll be seen. French secularists are afraid of losing not just their lives, but their country. People who’ve felt secure for a long time suddenly feel shaken to the core.
But the Christian response to chaos is not to grab what we can see more tightly. All those things are fleeting. Nor is our response to fling our hands in the air and try not to worry since it’s out of our control anyway. No. Our response is to look to the one who governs the universe.
When terror grips you, your heart is likely believing, at some level, that God really isn’t in control, or that some things in life are more precious than the hope we have in Christ. The only way to fight that unbelief is to rehearse the gospel and fix your eyes on Jesus the King. That is the resounding counsel of his Word.
Our earthly security never lasts. But in Christ we have an inheritance, a security that will never be taken from us. This is the stunning position in which we stand. No, we cannot guarantee our own physical safety—much less that of our children, our friends, or our church. But we know one who guarantees something far greater than safety on earth. Trust that promise. Stand on the certainty that what matters most can never be taken away from you. Rest in the reality that our God is infinitely sovereign, infinitely wise, infinitely good—and therefore infinitely worthy of trust.
The Holiday season can be a crazy time for most people when our fitness starts to fall to the bottom of our priority list. Most people regret some of the choices they make during the holiday season come the start of the new year. We are still around with TONS of hours during the holiday season and are here to help you stay fit and sane through the holidays. To help you guys stay on task, we are giving you the opportunity to win a big old prize for the start of the new year with a drawing for a free month’s membership. All you have to do is set a goal and achieve that goal by the end of the year to be entered in the drawing. See the goal board next time you stop in to see the goals that have been added thus far and to get your name up there too! If you are not sure what your goal should be, brainstorm with a coach or another member about what might be a good idea for you.
Let’s get some more specifics:
November 26th (i.e. Thanksgiving Day): set a goal on the goal board at one of the locations that you attend and email email@example.com with that goal as well
December 1st-December 31st: attend at least 8 classes (average 2 per week) during the month of December at any location under any program
December 31st: achieve your goal by this date with proof of that goal (record yourself doing it or have a witness). Put a big check mark next to it on the goal board and again email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know you nailed it.
S.M.A.R.T. Goal Guidelines:
Specific: make sure that your goals are specific to you and can be very clearly defined. For example, your goal should not be “to be more fit” – that is far too general
Measurable: your goal(s) should be quantifiable so that you can truly test if you are achieving them. This goal: “to get faster at rowing” is not as meaningful as this goal: “to achieve a sub 8:00 2000m row”
Attainable: when setting goals, you want to be able to actually achieve them. It would not be smart for me to set the goal to become a WNBA star because I am 5’3″ and have played less than 1 hour of cumulative basketball over my lifetime. I am never going to achieve that goal, so why set it? For this challenge, you only have about a month to make it happen so “to add 100# to my front squat” is not a SMART goal to set for this time frame. Most any goal can be achieved eventually if you have a plan in place that moves you there, but far off big goals will never happen without the small, attainable goals set along the way.
Realistic: your goals should be ones that are relevant to you and realistic for what you are willing to do for them. If you only want something enough to think about it, then you won’t reach that goal. It has to be something that you are willing and ABLE to put the time and effort in to achieve. Perhaps being a CrossFit Games athlete is a goal of yours but you are also a parent and full time employee – you may not be able to put in the time and effort at this moment to achieve that goal so keep it realistic for your circumstances
Time Sensitive: goals need to have timelines to be truly effective. If you do not put a deadline on yourself, then it will always be waiting in the distance. Having the time constraint puts the pressure on you to get things done and put in the work to achieve the goal!
Let us know if you have any questions about goal setting and keep your eyes peeled for a few goal setting sessions at the end of this year and early next year where you can sit down and hash this stuff out with a room full of people to bounce ideas off of!
A New Book
I’m excited to announce my new book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
The book will be published on January 5th (though it’s available now for pre-order). In this post, I want to provide you a brief sneak peek.
My Deep Work Mission
If you’ve been reading Study Hacks over the past few years, you’ve witnessed my increasing interest in the topic of deep work, which I define to be the act of focusing without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.
I firmly believe that deep work is like a superpower in our current economy: it enables you to quickly (and deliberately) learn complicated new skills and produce high-value output at a high rate.
Deep work is also an activity that generates a sense of meaning and fulfillment in your professional life. Few come home energized after an afternoon of frenetic e-mail replies, but the same time spent tackling a hard problem in a quiet location can be immensely satisfying.
There’s a reason why the people who impress us most tend to be people who deployed intense focus to make a dent in the universe; c.f., Einstein and Jobs.
Focus is the New I.Q.
Which brings me to my new book…
Deep Work is divided into two parts. The first part is dedicated to making the case for this activity. In particular, I provide evidence that the following hypothesis is true:
The Deep Work Hypothesis.
Deep work is becoming increasingly valuable at the same time that it’s becoming increasingly rare. Therefore, if you cultivate this skill, you’ll thrive.
The second part of the book provides strategies for acting on this reality.
Drawing on my own habits, the habits of other adept deep workers, and reams of relevant science, I describe how to improve your ability to work deeply and how to make deep work a major part of your already busy schedule.
In this second part, you’ll also find detailed elaborations of some of my more well-known ideas on supporting deep work, from time blocking, to fixed-schedule productivity, to depth rituals — in addition to many more tactics that I’m revealing for the first time.
If you want to learn more about the book, the Amazon page includes the full flap copy as well as the nice endorsements it received from Dan Pink, Seth Godin, Matthew Crawford, Adam Grant, Derek Sivers and Ben Casnocha.
You can also read this extended excerpt on Medium that discusses how a star professor uses deep work to dominate his field.
Hey everyone, happy fast-approaching holidays!
The season is barreling toward us and regardless of how you celebrate, I hope your holidays will be filled with spiked eggnog and loved ones. Over here, I’m planning an early start to this year’s Annual Review.
But first—next week, starting on Wednesday the 25th, we’ll be kicking off the only sale we do every year at Unconventional Guides. There’s only one! And it happens very soon.
Our Annual Holiday Sale: This Time It’s 25% Off!
Important: don’t buy anything from Unconventional Guides this weekend. Wait until next Wednesday and you can save a lot.
This year we’ll be offering 25% on everything in the Unconventional Guides store. Twenty-five percent, with no exceptions.*
This discount applies to combo packs as well—which is pretty great because they already sell at a discount, so you can save even more.
*Really, no exceptions.
If you want something, stay tuned for next week’s sale, including the all-important discount code that you’ll need to get the 25% savings. The code will be available until midnight on Monday, Eastern Standard Time.
Have a great weekend!
Image: Jason Devaun
Reviews, etc. posted this week on The Englewood Review of Books website:
Earthly Battle and Cosmic Battle A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and A Great War Joseph Loconte Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2015. Buy now: [ ] [ ] and Bedeviled: Lewis, Tolkien, and the Shadow of Evil Colin Duriez Paperback: IVP Books, 2015 Buy now: [ ] [ ] A Review by Amy Gentile. “The […]
Here are 5 essential ebooks on sale now that are worth checking out: (Marilynne Robinson, Flannery O’Connor, Bonhoeffer, MORE) Via our sister website Thrifty Christian Reader… To keep up with all the latest ebook deals, be sure to connect with TCR via email or on Facebook… Marilynne Robinson *** $4.99*** Other books by Marilynne […]
Resisting Consumerism. A Review of The Year without a Purchase: One Family’s Quest to Stop Shopping and Start Connecting Scott Dannemiller Paperback: WJK Books, 2015 Buy now: [ ] [ ] Reviewed by Leslie Klingensmith The “Year of…” premise for structuring a book is getting stale. They are everywhere. I suppose they have […]
Really enjoyed the Neighborhood Economics conference in Cincinnati this week, and left with much to think about! What is Neighborhood Economics? Peter Block has described it this way: “Neighborhood Economics is an idea committed to accelerating the flow of capital into resident driven entrepreneurial enterprise. It calls us to shift how we think about ending […]
I’ve been traveling a lot over the last few weeks, so am still processing the entries in our Worst Christian Book Covers of 2015 contest. I hope to post this list next week. But in the meantime, I discovered this (comic book) cover this week that should have been a contender in last year’s competition… […]
This poem, written in the wake of 9/11, is a striking read in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. Thanks to Cynthia Wallace for bringing it to my attention! This poem can be found in the collection of the same name: The School Among the Ruins: Poems 2000-2004 Adrienne Rich Paperback: Norton, 2006 […]
Here are a few new book releases from this week that are worth checking out: (Where possible, we have also tried to include a review/interview related to the book…) By Sarah Coakley Read an excerpt from this book (via Google Books) NEXT BOOK >>>>>
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Update 2015-11-26: fixed link to my config. Thanks, Thomas!
I use Gmail for my mail because it:
However, I like the way the Gnus mail/news client in Emacs gives me a much more keyboard-friendly way to manage lots of mail, and I can even write code to partially automate some of my common operations.
I used to have my config in in
~/.gnus, but people might find it handy, so I’ve added it to my public Emacs configuration.
I like using Gmane to read mailing lists, and I use IMAP to read my Gmail.
(setq gnus-select-method '(nnnil "")) (setq gnus-secondary-select-methods '((nntp "news.gmane.org") (nnimap "imap.gmail.com" (nnimap-address "imap.gmail.com") (nnimap-server-port 993) (nnimap-stream ssl) (nnimap-authenticator login))))
I have two-factor authentication enabled for Gmail, so I set up an app-specific password for Gnus. I have an
~/.authinfo file set up with something like:
machine imap.gmail.com login email@example.com password mysecretapppassword machine imap.gmail.com login firstname.lastname@example.org password mysecretapppassword port 993 machine smtp.gmail.com login email@example.com password mysecretapppassword port 587
(I should probably get around to using GPG to automatically encrypt and decrypt this file.)
Sending e-mail on Windows was a bit of a pain. Fortunately, I eventually found something that works. I’ve configured emailrelay to accept the mail and forward it to Gmail. The server starts with this batch file:
start "emailrelay" "C:\Program Files (x86)\emailrelay\emailrelay.exe" --as-proxy smtp.gmail.com:25 --client-auth "C:/sacha/.emailrelay" --client-tls --log --pid-file "C:\Program Files (x86)\emailrelay\emailrelay.pid" --spool-dir C:\sacha\tmp\emailrelay
Sending queued mail works with this batch file:
"c:\Program Files (x86)\emailrelay\emailrelay.exe" --as-client smtp.gmail.com:587 --client-auth c:\sacha\.emailrelay --client-tls --spool-dir c:\sacha\tmp\emailrelay
I should probably get around to using
--as-proxy properly, since it still seems to hold mail until I explicitly send it.
Some more config. Not sure how much of this is needed.
(setq message-send-mail-function 'smtpmail-send-it smtpmail-starttls-credentials '(("localhost" 25 "firstname.lastname@example.org" nil)) smtpmail-auth-credentials '(("localhost" 25 "email@example.com" nil)) smtpmail-default-smtp-server "localhost" smtpmail-smtp-server "localhost" smtpmail-smtp-service 25 smtpmail-local-domain "local.sachachua.com") (setq send-mail-function 'smtpmail-send-it) (setq smtpmail-smtp-server "127.0.0.1") (setq smtpmail-smtp-service 25) (setq user-mail-address "firstname.lastname@example.org")
Hide HTML mail. I need to fiddle with this some more, since Gnus still tries to display them. Sometimes my Gnus crashes when it tries to display HTML mail.
(setq mm-discouraged-alternatives '("text/html" "text/richtext") mm-automatic-display (-difference mm-automatic-display '("text/html" "text/enriched" "text/richtext")))
Hide quoted text.
(setq gnus-treat-hide-citation t)
Get smarter about filtering depending on what I reed or mark. I use
! (tick) for marking threads as something that interests me.
(setq gnus-use-adaptive-scoring t) (setq gnus-default-adaptive-score-alist '((gnus-unread-mark) (gnus-ticked-mark (subject 10)) (gnus-killed-mark (subject -5)) (gnus-catchup-mark (subject -1))))
In political transactions, players cannot make deals using dollars, but nonetheless they engage in trades to pursue their goals. Policymakers may engage in trades both with other policymakers and with private sector actors . While these deals are not denominated in dollars, their gains from trade can still be considered “profit” that goes to the parties to the trade. In the decision to create the DC Metro’s silver line extending from West Falls Church to Dulles International Airport, many public sector and private sector parties profited from the complex dealmaking that facilitated the extension.
The Silver Line was accompanied by redevelopment planning for Tysons Corner, a suburb of DC along the line’s route. These rail construction and accompanying rezoning benefitted three primary groups. The first and most obvious beneficiaries of the development of the Silver Line were the individuals and corporations that owned large parcels of land near the planned stations. The value of their holdings increased not only because of the new infrastructure, but also because the planning for the Silver Line involved significant upzoning, making more intensive and profitable use of their land legal. The combined promise of upzoning and the new metro stations ensured local policymakers that powerful landowners would support their efforts. These large landowners who benefited from upzoning include West Group, Tysons Corner Property, and West Mac Associates among other. The leadership members of these corporations were active in commenting on the proposed changes to the area’s land use and transportation plans. Because of its large investment in Tysons Corner and its corresponding importance in the development process, West Group has had special involvement in the redevelopment process. Implementing the proposed grid of streets relies heavily on West Group properties and other major developers cooperating to minimize the need to use eminent domain to achieve the infrastructure requirements to facilitate increased density and pedestrianism.
Secondly, for Fairfax County officials, the redevelopment of Tysons Corner created an opportunity for planners to increase their stature and influence. The redevelopment plan — which incorporated Smart Growth objectives supported by the American Planning Association including walkability, mix-use development, and affordable housing — received the Daniel Burnham Award, gaining the planners involved national attention. Because the project involved working with influential individuals in the private sector and at the local, state, and federal levels, the process provided planners with many opportunities to improve their stature and to make connections to further their careers.
Lastly, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority benefitted both from increasing its domain and from improving the politics underlying its operating budget. While WMATA manages Metro’s operating budget, the $5.25 billion cost of construction of the Silver Line is being financed by MWAA (53%) and the federal government (18%) with the only the remaining 29% falling to the transit agency. However, each year, WMATA must scramble to cover its operating costs with a mix of subsidies and farebox recovery. This public sector budget calculation with no private sector equivalent has led to a situation in which WMATA was able to use other agencies’ money to make it easier to secure the yearly financing that it needs to operate by providing service to a larger pool of voters.
As in the private sector, deal making in the public sector is fraught with uncertainty. The opening of the Silver Line has resulted in decreased reliability for Metro’s entire system. In spite of adding stations to the system, total WMATA ridership is down. And while Fairfax County planners received accolades for their vision of a mixed-income community, even the area’s affordable housing is accessible only to relatively high-income households, and residential development is falling short of planners targets. Because Tysons Corner is located between Route 123, Route 7, and Highway 495, the addition of a Metro stop hasn’t turned it into the walkable neighborhood that planners said they envisioned.
From a benefit-cost perspective, the Silver Line project is a clear failure. At a per-kilometer cost of $182 million, the line is exorbitantly expensive for above-ground rail, and so far it’s failing to meet its expected ridership numbers. In spite of its financial failures, the project may be succeeding on the terms relevant to the parties who put the deal together. It has brought benefits to city planners, to WMATA leadership, and to Tysons landowners. While these benefits have come at large costs to Metro riders, taxpayers, and tollroad users who are paying for the Silver Line construction, these costs are largely borne by people who were not party to the dealmaking.
In a thread at Bonald’s, Josh writes:
The Polish never lacked in morale to the extent that they were/are Polish and not white. Nobody is going to fight and die in order to be a white guy, but the ethnics held out against the worlds largest social engineering project long enough that people in the 70s were reading about the “Rise of the Unmeltable Ethnics”.
As I mention in the comment thread, I am beginning to suspect that white is to ethnicity/tribe as right-liberal conservatism is to metaphysically realist traditionalism. That is to say, in the domain of race and ethnicity ‘whiteness’ is very much like ‘conservative’ in the domain of politics. The function of political conservatism is to preserve enough unprincipled exceptions to keep everything from going off the rails, without actually challenging liberalism itself. And the point of whiteness is to preserve enough racial and ethnic identity to keep mother nature at bay, and give conservatives something to complain about, without actually challenging liberalism.
The white race, then, just is the racial embodiment of liberalism. It is the embodied melting pot of interbred liberals. Like liberalism itself it is ultimately self-hating and suicidal. Like liberalism it has to authoritatively discriminate while incoherently denying that it is doing so. Like liberalism it has to hold supreme authority while pretending that authority is illegitimate. Like liberalism it fails to recognize that today’s liberal is tomorrow’s oppressor, fails to see that the gun it is holding is pointed at its own feet.
Whiteness is right-liberalism incarnate, the matter into which the soul of liberalism is infused.
I am as agog and aghast as all honest onlookers, psychopathologists, and men of good will at the inability of the Progressives to perceive even the slightest thistledown-weight of danger from the blood-sopped cave-dwelling death-cultists of Mohammed, who have been at war with Christianity since the days of Mohammed, and whose Holy Book, the Al Koran, commands in no uncertain terms that all infidels be converted at swordpoint or slain or enslaved.
The behavior of the Ishmaelites has not changed since the Bronze Age by an iota. Adopting Mohammedanism did not improve their character: they are the same Edomite and sons of Agog seen in the Bible, the deadly and unrelenting enemy of the Chosen People.
But to the Progressives, these troglodytes are the victims, not the aggressors, and their actions are the fault of Western powers: the fault, in short, of Western economic and political, racial and religious institutions: Capitalism, Constitutional conservatism, Caucasians and Christians.
Examples are countless.
Haunting my journal here of late is a wide-mouthed loon whose anger was provoked at my rather bland and obvious comment that the victims in the Paris Jihad attacks were literally disarmed by French gun control laws, much in the same way students on campus are disarmed mentally and spiritually by what passes for modern education. When asked to explain his unclear yet frantic comments, he vented some elliptical yet vehement sentences about how certain ‘retrogressive’ elements — he meant Christians — were just as dangerous as the Jihad, if not more so.
Again, I encountered a political cartoon showing a caricature of a Conservative in the foreground, ranting against the danger that Syrian refugees may have Jihadist agents among them. A small child in the foreground sees an ominous figure looming up behind, with military-grade firearm slung at his shoulder. The looming, ominous figure wears a ballcap with labeled NRA.
Again, President Obama, in the shadow of the most recent of an endless series of Jihad attacks again promises to do nothing, or speaks in the dullest possible monotone about United States role in the Global Jihad, but grows animated and waxes indignant at Republican state governors.
Here are his words:
“We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic. We don’t make good decisions if it’s based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks.
“When individuals say we should have a religious test, and that only Christians, proven Christians, should be admitted, that’s offensive.
“I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric that’s been coming out of here in the course of this debate.
“ISIL seeks to exploit the idea that there’s war between Islam and the West, and when you start seeing individuals in positions of responsibility suggesting Christians are more worthy of protection than Muslims who are in a war-torn land, that feeds the ISIL narrative. It’s counterproductive. And it needs to stop.
“These are the same folks often times who’ve suggested that they’re so tough that, uh, just talkin’ to Putin or staring down ISIL or using some additional rhetoric somehow’s gonna solve the problems out there.
“But apparently they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion.
“First they were worried about the press being too tough on ’em during debates; now they’re worried about three-year-old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me.
“… They’ve been playing on fear in order to try to score political points. Or to advance their agenda. And it’s irresponsible. And it’s contrary to who we are. And it needs to stop, because the world is watching.”
It is more than surprising to me that the quote is greeted with an f-bomb of applause by that site; and the comments beneath without exception applauded and affirmed the president’s petulant and whining wordgruel of folly as true leadership.
Of the many vile and stupid things this President has said, this is the most vile and the most stupid, and so far beneath the dignity of the office of President as to be a record low. He should be punched in the mouth, preferably by Dr. Ben Carson.
I have never been ashamed of being an American before. Now I am. That my fellow Americans would twice elect to office a man who could say such things diminishes my faith in democracy. Monarchy begins to look like the better option.
Mr. Obama answers the legitimate concerns of sane men not wishing to expose their nation and people to a breathtakingly obvious danger by calling his opposing political party rivals cowards afraid of three year olds.
It would insult children to call this insult childish.
In the same week when these remarks were made, President Obama released five more known Al-Qaeda terrorist war criminals from Gitmo. President Obama in an unconstitutional powegrab made a foreign treaty without the advice and consent of the Senate in order to deliver millions of dollars to Iran, whose leadership has vowed to use the money to build a nuclear weapon to wipe Israel off the map: a Holocaust in four minutes.
It is worth noting that one of the eight Jihadist responsible for the Paris massacre was a Syrian refugee; that in all fifty states, according to government sources, there are ongoing investigations of ongoing ISIS activity, some 900 cases all told; that the vast majority of these refugees are military-age young men; that 13% of refugees poled support ISIS and presumably more do not admit it; and that there is no vetting process to separate terrorists from the civilian among whom they mingle without benefit of uniform.
It is worth noting that the Boston Marathon bombers were Muslim refugees welcomed into the this country by what Mr Obama calls our tradition of compassion. As for the vetting process, it is worth noting that the Russian government warned us by name of the two Muslim brothers who set off the Boston bombs, and our administration ignored the warnings.
The promise to vet the refugees to see who may or may not be a terrorist is akin to the promise that anyone who likes his doctor can keep his doctor, and akin to the assurance that the Benghazi attacks were triggered by an obscure antimuslim video rather than by the organized terrorism Obama claimed, for reelection purposed, to have contained, and akin to the assurance that two rogue IRS agents were behind the harassment of conservative protest parties.
Saying we have the ability to vet refugees from Syria is a lie so flatearthian in its audacity that the sheer shock to those hearing it, unable to believe that anyone would lie so transparently and so hugely, would silence objections.
It is also sadly necessary in this Dark Age in which we live to mention and repeat blindingly obvious matters no child should be allowed to pass the Fifth Grade without knowing: in this case, it is blinding obvious that the reason why civilized peoples put their soldiers in uniform is to prevent a civilized enemy from mistakenly harming noncombatants.
If, as a matter of policy, the Jihad hides its soldiers among its noncombatants, the civilized power at war with Jihad has no choice but to treat one and all as if they are soldiers. Any harm done to civilians is the fault of the Jihadists, not the civilized power. Any power too tenderhearted to shoot through the hostages to return fire to the savages hiding behind them in effect grants the savages immunity from retaliation.
We are all aghast at the inability of the Left to see any danger from the Jihad, but to see impending danger of infinite menace from Christians who adore Christ and respect the US Constitution.
Is there any danger?
Here is a partial list of the terror attacks just in the last 30 days. http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/index.html#Attacks The alert reader will note this is roughly five a day.
The link below that list the previous years:
This list does not include anything from before 9/11, such as the first Twin Towers bombing, the Achille Lauro murder, where a man in a wheelchair was tossed into the sea to drown, or the Olympic hostages, Kobar Towers, various Chechnya suicide bombings, or the hostages taken under the Carter administration, or, for that matter, the Turkish genocide of the Armenian Christians, the Barbary Pirates, the conquest of Spain, and so on in an uninterrupted line back to the Seventh Century.
Please note the salient characteristic of all these attacks: they are always symbolic, and usually sneak attacks by men not in uniform against soft targets. Like the execution style slaying of the crippled in wheelchairs in the French theater, the targets and method of attack is selected to be as dishonorable, random, cruel, and horrific as possible. No targets, except by accident, have any military value whatsoever. When military targets are selected, it is for symbolic rather than military value.
These creatures are clearly more evil and despicable than Nazis, more cruel than Soviets, are more clearly racists, more clearly anti-Semites, and have not even the flimsy excuses of communists and fascists, who at least claimed to be attempting to better civilization here on earth, to justify their dark deeds. They suicidal in their reckless hatred. They hate us so much that they will commit suicide merely the hope of blowing apart innocent Jewish schoolgirls standing nearby.
And the Progressive, so proud of being widely read, broad minded, cosmopolitan and free of any whiff of bigotry, sees no danger, none whatsoever, from the Jihad, and fears everything and anything from Christians.
His hatred is the same as that of the Jihad, and his enemy is the same: Christ.
How can this be? We Christians have given the Progressives a civilization of unparalleled wealth and liberty. They routinely side with the Mohammedan barbarians, and excuse or ignore the bloodshed, terror, death, rapine, and barbarism.
According to Progressives, there is no original sin. All men can be improved by Darwinian evolution, social evolution, education and the compassionate leadership of the moral elite until they reach perfection. Perfection can be achieved rapidly, provided the enlightened leadership is obeyed in all matters down to the smallest detail of your life, your words, your deeds and your thoughts. Nothing is neutral, nothing is too small to be beyond the need for your betters to place it under their control. Nothing is apolitical.
Because there is no original sin in the Progressive system, all suffering must arise from the institutions of civilization. To be specific, in a semiliterate misunderstanding of Darwin, human societies are said to ‘evolve’, that is to say, to move by trial and error in the general direction of inferior to superior, driven by mystical forces of history. The flaws in human institutions hence are caused by an insufficiency of evolutionary pressure, that is, a lack of the wars and internal social breakdowns that drive social evolution to ever higher and more enlightened forms. This theory makes so little sense one is tempted to conclude it is not meant to. One assumes it is meant only to sound impressive and justify violence.
In Marx’s day, the emphasis was particularly to criticize and abolish the institution of private property. After World War Two, Marxists abandoned the criticism of private property and instead criticized the institutional racism allegedly innate in every Western legal and cultural traditions.
Later, this criticism was transferred to the relations between the sexes, and a new yet breathtakingly meaningless term, ‘sexism’, was coined to express the concept that race hatred akin to antisemitism exists between men and women. As if sex were a race. Or something. One assumes the word is not meant to convey a meaning, merely provoke a Pavlovian response.
Later again, this criticism was transferred to sexual perversions, with other terms coined to make decency sound not merely bad, but a product of mental disease, and to make mental disease sound like an arbitrary yet personal decision of which direction to go: homophobia, sexual orientation, cisgendered, heteronormative, and other jabberwocky. That these words have come into common use and have the power to persuade the unwary is a continual affirmation of P.T. Barnum’s observation that there is a sucker born every minute.
The significant point is that Progressives are radicals, that is, they do not seek to reform social institutions but to destroy them to the root. The word ‘radical’ means addressing the root of the problem. All Western Institutions from church to bank to marriage to law courts have to be razed to the ground and remade from bottom to top, radically transformed, and replaced with a fairytale utopia.
That the idea of radical obliteration directly contradicts the idea of evolution proceeding by small and hesitant steps of trial and error need not concern us, as it does not concern the Progressives. Logic is not their forte.
Theirs is not a rational theory, not a political theory, not an economic theory. It is a search for the meaning of life and an answer to the deep question of what is human nature and what causes human suffering and what can cure it. It is, in short, an ersatz religion. That it is an irreligious religion does not concern the Progressives. Logic is not their strong suit.
It is the opposite answer given by Christianity.
Progressivism says Man never sinned, and is not sinful by nature: God says Man did, and is.
Progressives claim that they can make Man perfect once they have absolute power over all parts of human life down to the least stray and private thought, or, in other words, humans can be forced to be perfect once all freedom is removed. God says Man’s will is free, and that perfection is not to be found in this world.
Progressivism says Western Civilization, that is, Christendom, is the source of sin. Everyone outside Christendom is blameless, a victim of Europe, and all woman and perverts inside Christendom are likewise victims of various forms of oppression. God says Christ is the only salvation, that no one is blameless, that all are victims, not just of human but also of hellish oppressors.
Progressivism says a Glorious Leader and Worldly Messiah will arise to lead the oppressed to violent and bloody victory over their oppressors, which include the whole system of the world, all its laws and customs.
No Glorious Leader ever accomplishes utopia, or, for that matter, leaves his nation better than he found it, or even leaves it intact. This is always blamed on the insufficiency of the political will of the loyalists and the disloyalty of saboteurs. It is always promised that more bloodshed will solve the problem more mass-liquidations.
100 million innocent deaths is not enough. Once enough people are killed by Stalin, by Che, by Castro, by Mao, and killed and killed and killed until the seas runs pink with blood, the great goddess History will be pleased with the blood of the multi-genocidal human sacrifices, and that the New Jerusalem will descend from heaven and abolish the law of supply and demand, the law of cause and effect, prices, wages, and scarcity of resources or labor, and that all goods and services will be free in infinite abundance forevermore hereafter and amen.
God says Christ is the Messiah, and He sacrificed Himself, not an innocent bystander, to save you. The blood that had been shed is enough.
Now, not all Progressives admit or know these are the beliefs of their church just as not all Catholics have read the Catechism. There are ignoramuses in their church as in ours, and differences of opinions on some things. But what the official organs of the church teach has remained always the same.
The difference is that the leaders of our Church actually try to teach us and tell us what Christ teaches; the leaders of Progressivism are ashamed of their goals and means, and so they try to gain the loyalty of their followers without telling the followers their theory, their strategy, or their ends. Ironically, it is Progressivism that is based on blind faith and demands blind faith in its followers, but not Christianity.
Nonetheless, Progressivism will never die out, not as long as men are human, because no other philosophy has been so fruitful in inventing reasons to do immoral acts large and small in the name of an alleged higher morality. No other system cloaks envy as altruism, violence as evolutionary dynamism. No other system has been so successful in marrying perfect evil to perfect self-righteousness.
Because of the deceptive nature of leadership, many a Progressive follower not only has no knowledge of what he believes, he will hotly deny it. The degree to which this self deception is willful on the part of its victims is hard to say, perhaps impossible.
One supposes that a follower who successfully deceives himself into believing the outrageous lies of the leadership will sincerely believe the deception, and that only the unsuccessful know they are deceiving themselves and thus are hypocrites. I am not sure how it works.
Those Progressive followers who deny the violent nature of Progressivism can be contradicted by three small words: Occupy Wall Street. Those who deny its totalitarian busy-body nature and antinomian morality can be contradicted by two: Political Correctness.
Political Correctness, after all, is nothing other than lying for the sake of the Party under the theory that the ends justify the means. Since Utopia is the desired end goal, any degree of dishonesty is not only justified, the reactionaries have no one to blame but themselves for being lied to, since it is their institutions that cause all human suffering.
So, when a hard core Progressive is elected to office, he carries out his program as a man of his rather limited experience but natural gift for rhetoric must carry it out.
The Progressive theory is that Western Civilization is the cause of human suffering, specifically,
(a) the institution of private property called Capitalism
(b) the institutions of jury-made law and federalism, limited government, respect for law and order, called Constitutionalism
(c) the moral norms of the West, chastity and sobriety, monogamy and monotheism, derived from nowhere other than Christianity
(d) institutions alleged to be racists or to perpetuate racism by means of White Privilege, a scarecrow boogerman we might as well called Caucasianism.
The Progressive claim to oppose racism, but they obviously approve of racism when and where it is found in non-White races. It is the alleged loyalty of all white races to the alleged common interest all white races share that the Progressive opposes. This loyalty to the White Race we can refer to by the coined term Caucasianism.
These are the Four C’s that Progressive theory identifies as the source of human suffering.
The main racist nation, according to this theory, is the US, and the main mission of the Progressives is to remove the US from world hegemony and world domination: we must lose our superpower status in order to become weak hence no longer a source of human suffering. But weakening the US will also diminish Christianity, harm Capitalism, and abolish Constitutional government now and forever.
Mr. Obama is a devout Progressive. Do not wonder why he had done nothing effective against the Jihad, and, indeed, has done much to aid and abet their aims. They are not his enemy.
You doubt me? Let us look at his record of leadership, and see what he has actually accomplished.
Whether this is motivated by frantic hatred of the United States or a sincere concern that the United States, as well as the rest of the world, will be better off once all human evils are abolished and utopia descends from the buttocks of the Progressive is a moot question. It is like asking about the patriotism of a traitor who betrays his country to save his country from some alleged worse danger: who cares? An investigation of the labyrinthine snarl of excuses, emotions, neurosis and mental blind spots needed to embrace such paradoxes need not concern us here.
(a) Capitalism: Mr. Obama’s first act as president under the guise of bailing out large Wall Street banks was to seize General Motors, several major banks, the student loan industry, and by torturous and convoluted set of unconstitutional maneuvers, the sum total of the health care insurance industry.
The mission is accomplished, at least insofar as a mere eight years can oversee. The US had been fundamentally Capitalist with many ‘mixed economy’ socialist intrusions in an around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Now the US is fundamentally run on the economic theory correctly called fascism or cronyism, with some remaining pockets of Capitalism slowly shrinking.
Does anyone imagine, for example, that these days a new automobile company would be allowed to be founded anywhere in US territory?
The national debt is sufficient to make a major depression inevitable, perhaps even a worldwide economic collapse: it is inevitable, given the ignorance of the American public, that this collapse will be blamed on Capitalism, and the free world will embrace the Chinese model of a limited private sector, but all major industries controlled by the state, for the state, for the benefit of the elite and their friends.
(b) Constitutionalism: the use of executive orders and unconstitutional maneuvers to make treaties, change laws after they are passed by Congress, abridge laws by refusing to enforce them, ignore laws, and so on and on is not an accident. The point is to make the system no longer able to operate as well as to desecrate the constitutional system to the point where no one, Left or Right, believes it can, should, or will work any longer.
In each case, the illegal acts are ones calculated to endanger the republic, so that the other branches of government, or the states, must react in defiance eventually amounting to open rebellion or else continuing to do nothing while the electorate is replaced by Mexican or Jihadist mobs. He wins either way.
Total collapse of the Constitutional system close to happening, but how close cannot be said beforehand. Once total collapse occurs, and states and municipalities are in total and open rebellion against the federal government, we will see how much pressure it took to snap it.
(c) Christian moral norms: Sodomy marriage is now a constitutional right in all fifty states, and all public images and rituals showing respect to the Christian faith are slowly being obliterated, replaced by holidays and public honors shown to Islam. The Little Sisters of the Poor have to pay for abortions and contraceptives. So, mission accomplished here, too. Christianity is dying in America, and is dead in Europe.
If Christianity is not openly outlawed in this generation, it will be outlawed by the time all the Eloi indoctrinated by modern college safe-space speech codes come of age and assume the mantle of leadership. They will no longer be able to understand, even in theory, why someone should be permitted to worship in a fashion that causes wounded feelings in others.
(d) Caucasianism: the racism of white racists is to be overthrown by race riots.
We have seen some violence, and I am sure Mr. Obama is puzzled why there has not been the general uprising and coast to coast bloodletting Marxist theory predicts will happen. Occupy Wall Street and the Black Lives Matter movements, and the general turmoil deliberately created by the holodeck-illusion called the news have taken deep root. Eight years is not long enough to make the least racist nation in history into a European nation, but the huge strides we have made in this direction frankly are terrifying. Race Wars within the decade.
With all this now understood, the answer to question 1 is obvious: Mr Obama does not seek to thrust the United States into a leadership position in the Global Jihad because he thinks that position is bad for the world and perhaps (but this is secondary) bad for us. It would make the United States powerful and significant, a mover and a shaker, when the cure for the world’s suffering is to eliminate America insofar as possible.
Is any Islamic terror group dangerous? To America and to Western Civilization, yes. To Progressives, no.
(a) Mohammedanism is not capitalist but very much the opposite. Shariah Law is more restrictive about usury and grants less security in the ownership of property than any legal system known to man. The reason why the Middle East remains undeveloped is this, and nothing else: their laws discourage and penalize the investment of capital and the improvement of land.
(b) Shariah law is not only not a constitutional system, it is the opposite. It provides unlimited government, a theocracy, with no role for liberty and no role for checks and balances. If anything, Shariah is more totalitarian than fascism.
(c) Christian. No one is a more vehement, ruthless, cruel, sadistic, sick and perverted enemy of Christianity for more centuries in more numbers than Mohammed and his creatures can possibly exist. Progressives delight in antichristianity.
(d) Caucasian. The Mohammedanism is a faith and not a race, but the Progressives see everything through the lens of race, and so, to them, it is a race.
So on on all four points, Capitalism, Constitutional government, Christianity and Caucasianism, the Mohammedans are not threat to the Progressive program of progressive destruction of the West, but an aid.
This last week, Alastair, Matthew, and I took up a discussion of Moshe Halbertal’s little book On Sacrifice. As always, I felt like I learned a lot and I hope you will as well. If you’d like to read more about the book, I posted on it last week here. Thanks again for listening.
John Piper wrote of Barry Danylak and his work on Redeeming Singleness: How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life (Crossway, 2010):
I don’t know of anyone else who has ever provided the extent of biblical reflection on singleness that Barry has provided for us here. . . .
My guess is that virtually every single who reads this book will finish with a sense of wonder at who they are, and how little they knew about this gift and calling.
Here is an hour-long talk from Dr. Danylak where he lays out the biblical teaching on singleness:
Three Muslims who brutally raped a 14-year old girl in Norway:
The incident happened on the night of July 30 when the three men accosted the girl on a commuter train before also molesting her in a farm house and at an apartment in Oslo.
During her ordeal, the girl was raped both orally and anally before being forced to take drugs. According to reports, the abuse, which lasted for hours, was so horrific that at one point the girl expressed a desire to take her own life to end the suffering.
The girl suffered “severe mental damage” and PTSD as a result of the incident, missed a year of school and is still struggling to deal with what happened.
The three men, 18-year-old Bile Mohamed Elmi, 21-year-old Abdirizak Nur Ali and 21-year-old Mohamed Abdirisak Mohamed, were initially charged with gang rape, which carries a maximum sentence of 21 years.
However, prosecutor Cecilie Schloss Møller insisted there wasn’t enough evidence and the three men were convicted of sexual contact with a child under 16 years of age, which carries a lighter sentence.
The article states that one man was given community service and no jail time at all. My observation is simple: if the Progressive government of Norway wanted to deter rape, surely they would punish rape? If they punish rape not with death by hanging, not with jail, but with ludicrously light sentences, the only reasonable conclusion that that they do not wish to deter it.
The article continues:
In Norway, almost half of all rapes committed in Oslo in 2011 were carried out by individuals of African, Middle Eastern or Asian origin, despite the fact that Muslim immigrants only represent 1.5-2 per cent of the population.
In addition, 100 per cent of aggravated rapes involving physical violence were committed by individuals of African, Middle Eastern or Asian origin [Muslims].
Leftist political leaders responded to the figures by absolving “traumatized asylum seekers” of blame and instead pointed fingers at police for encouraging “xenophobia and prejudice” merely for reporting the statistics.
The only conclusion is that stopping rape is not anywhere within the Progressive purview. Stopping xenophobia, however, is.
Xenophobia is the mental disease of having an irrational fear of strangers. However, it is the longstanding tradition of Muslims, enshrined in Shariah Law, to punish girls for being girls by raping them, and to punish rape victims for being rape victims by killing them. To fear and hate such grotesque and satanic violations of one’s mothers, wives, sisters and daughters is hardly irrational, it is paramount duty.
The Progressives are actively hindering that duty. We do we continue to tolerate that they should exist at all, much less govern us?
This is a guest post by Philip Graham Ryken, a contributor to the ESV Men's Devotional Bible.
When you look at the story of the children of Israel in the book of Exodus and throughout the Old Testament, the people of God often seem sort of whiney; there’s a lot of grumbling and complaining. I think most parents can relate to what it’s like for God as a father to relate to the children of Israel.
We need to find ourselves in that story as well because we have a lot of complaints about life—a lot of areas of discontent. We tend to grumble about small, insignificant things. One of the things that’s important for us to do for our own sanctification is to ask the question, “Why am I grumbling and complaining about this?” Usually it’s because I have some idol that I have set up as something that’s very important to me—my own schedule and things that make life better for me. Then when something gets in the way of what makes my life better for me, I am very quick to complain about it.
It is really important to recognize that all of our complaining is ultimately directed against God, whether we mention him specifically in our complaints or not. All of our complaining goes to him; he is the great God. He is the one who exercises his sovereignty over whatever happens. So all of our complaints go right to the top.
That shows what a great sin complaining really is: an attack on the goodness of God.
Philip Graham Ryken is the president of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, and a contributor to the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible.
I was the guest on yesterday’s installment of the Federalist Radio Hour with Ben Domenech. I took over the entire show, talking about a wide-ranging set of urban issues, including:
If the embed doesn’t display for you, click over to listen on Soundcloud.
We know more and more about the financial cost of cybercrime, but there has been very little work on its emotional cost. David Modic and I decided to investigate. We wanted to empirically test whether there are emotional repercussions to becoming a victim of fraud (Yes, there are). We wanted to compare emotional and financial impact across different categories of fraud and establish a ranking list (And we did). An interesting, although not surprising, finding was that in every tested category the victim’s perception of emotional impact outweighed the reported financial loss.
A victim may think that they will still be able to recover their money, if not their pride. That really depends on what type of fraud they facilitated. If it is auction fraud, then their chances of recovery are comparatively higher than in bank fraud – we found that 26% of our sample would attempt to recover funds lost in a fraudulent auction and approximately half of them were reimbursed (look at this presentation). There is considerable evidence that banks are not very likely to believe someone claiming to be a victim of, say, identity theft and by extension bank fraud. Thus, when someone ends up out of pocket, they will likely also go through a process of secondary victimisation where they will be told they broke some small-print rule like having the same pin for two of their bank cards or not using the bank’s approved anti-virus software, and are thus not eligible for any refund and it is all their own fault, really.
This paper complements and extends our earlier work on the costs of cybercrime, where we show that the broader economic costs to society of cybercrime – such as loss of confidence in online shopping and banking – also greatly exceed the amounts that cybercriminals actually manage to steal.
This is a tale of my friend's first time DMing. Now he is an experienced and brutal DM, but at the time, he was a bit wobbly and experimental. He had created a whole new campaign world for his first time (always a risky choice when you're first learning the ropes), and had even created a magic…Read more
Alfred North Whitehead once said that civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them. I've recently realized that something similar is true of organizations and email: the surest sign of how far Software Carpentry has come in the last 12 months is that I now only need to respond to forty or fifty of the Software Carpentry-related messages that land in my inbox every day, rather than all 200 or so. It's actually quite wonderful.
Few things are as gratifying to a man as starting, owning, and operating a small business. Building something with your own sweat and muscle, having your talents and skills provide real value for others, generating wealth from scratch with just your own ingenuity and determination—these are things every man should experience.
Unfortunately, most of us were subjected to a public education that attempted to quash our inborn nature—our proclivity to create, to risk, and to lead—in order to create the next generation of employees. What was emphasized and rewarded in school? Submission to authority, calm, quiet, following directions, "working together" (that is to say, not offending anybody, not rocking the boat, not challenging the status quo).
So, starting a business requires unlearning some deeply engrained habits. How do you do that? It’s simple. Get started. Start today. No excuses. If you’re hesitant because you’re afraid, consider this: your desire to start a small business is all the evidence you need that the thing schooling tried to quell—your natural inclination to create—is still alive, though buried deep. It needs to be nourished and brought to the surface again. You will not be happy until it is because you will be living against your own nature. You can play it safe and stay an employee, but it will nag you all your life. If you are meant to be an entrepreneur, you will know it. It will make itself known.
But I suspect those of you reading this aren’t overwhelmed by fear. You’ve already accepted that owning your own business is the only route for you to take. Instead, your problem is ignorance and confusion. You already decided to start a small business. You just don’t know how.
The first thing you need is an idea.
Saying, "The first thing you need is an idea" may seem too simple, too obvious, to many of you, but I assure you that in my experience that’s exactly what most men have to hear, lest they believe the first thing they need is a business.
They become obsessed with "playing business" rather than starting one. Here are some questions you shouldn’t be asking at all right now:
When you say you want to start a small business, what do you mean? Do you mean you want to have a taxable entity with a website and business cards? I doubt it. If so, you’re an idiot.
No, starting a business means executing an idea in the hopes that it will generate enough money to support itself and your lifestyle so that you can continue to execute it indefinitely.
Starting with the idea is what men of action do. If you’re serious about creating something profitable and real, ignore the details. Don’t get caught up in all the minutiae of playing business and realize that doing so is mere busywork. It gets you no closer to owning a real business. Until the moment you turn a profit, all that bureaucratic time-wasting is a non-issue.
I don’t believe ideas can be given out in a cookie-cutter fashion. They must be found individually and specifically suited to the individual. For that reason, I’m not going to provide you with a list of "excellent opportunities" and then list out a bunch of boring and generic jobs like "Bookkeeping", "Computer Repair", or "Yard Work Services" that may or may not appeal to you. I was given garbage advice like that too many times to count. At best, these suggestions can be a good starting point. Usually they aren’t even that.
On the search for your small business idea, you have to start with you and your goals. I wish I had realized this at the beginning. First you must ask what you really want from life. It’s a tricky thing to answer because you’re usually tempted to answer with what you think you want from life or what you think people in general want from life. What the question is really asking is this:
Despite what you wish you had done and what you say you value, what do your past actions indicate you actually value above all other things?
I thought I wanted a lot of money. I wanted to want to earn a lot of money. For years, I made decisions as if that was actually true and every time I failed.
It took me a long time to realize, but what my strongest tendencies and my history suggest to me is that what I value, above all else, is independence and the freedom to explore curiosity and make connections. It doesn’t matter if I want this to be the case and it doesn’t matter if I wish it wasn’t the case. It is the case, and the best way to win is to lean into your strengths, not try to eradicate your weaknesses.
Maybe you know yourself quite well. God bless you and congratulations, you’re lucky. It’s not so clearcut for some of us. Recognizing our habits and what those habits say about our values can be tough. It took me years for a reason. If you want an objective way to evaluate what you actually value, I recommend as a starting point doing a Myers-Briggs personality test.
I used to be skeptical of Myers-Briggs tests, thinking them akin to horoscopes or cold reading. That’s not the case, though. They are not meant to be predictive or prescriptive. Their purpose isn’t to pigeonhole you into some stereotype, but to help you recognize the outstanding principles that undergird the decisions you make, principles that may not be so obvious to you.
I recommend taking the free test available at 16Personalities. When you finish the test, it will give you an excellent summary that breaks down your strengths and weaknesses, and how they relate to the kind of careers that appeal to you. You can use this information to make some inferences about what you actually value and what kind of business you should start.
To illustrate my point, I’ll give you a glimpse into my own personal experience. I have always felt a pull toward running my own business and I have hated literally every job I’ve ever worked for someone else. I hated being an employee. Not understanding myself, I chalked it up to me being lazy or undisciplined. Of course, that self-diagnosis didn’t hold up when I examined other parts of my life. My interest in web design was sort of an obsession. While I could hardly motivate myself to clean toilets for my boss, I could easily pull all-nighters to execute ideas I had for websites, even if I intended to show no one. There was my answer! I should become a web designer. So I quit that job and started working as a freelance web designer. It was certainly better, but I wouldn’t say I liked it. I didn’t. Making websites for myself and making websites for other people turned out to be two very different things. This is the limbo I was caught in for years.
Had I known to take a Myers-Briggs test, I could have been out of that limbo much sooner and had a good understanding of myself for making the next move. The result of my test is INTP. That means I am Introverted (I), Intuitive (N), Thinking (T), and Perceiving (P) (all explained on the website should you do the test.) I was very unhappy with this result, but I identified with it. This is why it can be hard to understand what you actually value. The truth may be less noble than you wish it was. If you take a look at the summary for INTPs, I think they sound like pretentious dicks:
"The INTP personality type is fairly rare, making up only three percent of the population, which is definitely a good thing for them, as there’s nothing they’d be more unhappy about than being ‘common’. INTPs pride themselves on their inventiveness and creativity, their unique perspective and vigorous intellect."
So, I actually am a pretentious dick, which is why I couldn’t accept or refused to notice what is probably obvious to everyone else: I like to be alone, I like to have space to think, I like to think a lot, I like to have the freedom to learn a wide variety of things and see what connections I can make. Those values explained why I hated every job I’ve ever had. It explained why I kept leaning toward freelancing despite not liking it. And it explained why I failed. That’s around the time I started building niche websites, developing private label products for Amazon, and writing—all of which provide me with the freedom to learn new things, make connections, and earn money doing what I naturally do.
That is the key for you. Do not attempt a business that goes against what naturally drives you. The more you can understand what you actually want, the better the chance of success.
Let me guess. At some point, some impossibly positive douchebag who smiles too much shared an inspirational quote on his "How to Make Money" podcast that said you should follow your passion? Forget that guy. That guy is either a dumbass or he wants you to fall through the sales funnel that’s building his mansion.
The purpose of your business is to earn money, as much as possible in fact. So do you start by asking yourself what you love to do or do you start by seeing what has the potential to earn a lot of money? The latter, obviously. Do you know what entrepreneurs like yourself are passionate about? Businesses that succeed. The more your business succeeds, the more you’ll be into it, even if you didn’t care much about its subject matter in the beginning.
That doesn’t mean you should do something you absolutely hate, but realize the thing you’re most passionate about probably doesn’t have a market or will take years to build. Focus on what wins fast, not on what makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. If it aligns with your values and you have the skills to make it happen, then it doesn’t matter how passionate you are about the idea.
Once you have some understanding of what drives you and what kind of business you should start, it’s time to look for your actual idea. Don’t approach this part of the process thinking you’re looking for a single totally original and genius idea. You’re looking for what works, period. And what works is getting paid.
One of the reasons I say to ignore all the "playing business" tasks is because they force you to spend money before you’re making any money, before you even have a product or service to sell. Do NOT spend money unless people have already given (or at least committed to giving) you money. Simple as that.
First, you need to generate as many ideas as you can. These ideas will be divided into two basic categories: products and services. If you’re an introvert like myself, products are the better category. You can create them once and sell them forever, plus they can be automated and scaled. For example, I can sell one ebook or I can sell 10,000 ebooks all while sleeping. I can sell a few or many without ever being involved in the transaction. If I chose to offer a service like web design, I can only grow to a certain point before I need to hire another designer, and even then we can both only work a certain number of hours. Product ideas or service ideas can work, it just depends on what you value most.
Where do you find these ideas exactly? You want to start with what people are already buying. Even better, start with what you are already buying. What were your last 5 purchases? Write them down and brainstorm the various ways you can sell them or sell things like them.
For example, the last thing I bought was a replacement LCD for a smartphone. I can guess there’s a market for this kind of thing because I just paid for this product. I am the market. So what kinds of products and services does this lead to?
Products related to replacement LCD screen:
Services related to replacement LCD screen:
After you do this for all of the ideas you’ve come up with, you’ll naturally gravitate towards a few. Those are the ones you need to test. If none of your potential products or services interest you in any way, scrap them. Start over. Come up with some new ideas.
As you generate ideas, make sure you have access to the audience who would spend money on those ideas. If you’re a 45-year-old construction worker, don’t try to sell princess dresses to 12-year-old girls. Explore your hobbies and the communities of people you have access to.
Guess how much time and money you’re going to spend on testing? Barely any and none, respectively. You don’t spend money on your business until your business is making money.
Maybe it’s not right to call this part testing. Testing implies that maybe it’s a trial run. It’s not. This is an honest attempt at starting an actual business.
Here are the rules of the test:
That’s it. Sell 3 preorders within 24 hours. No need to work out a marketing plan or set up social media accounts. No need for a website. All bullshit aside, hit the street. Go to your neighbors, use Facebook chat or Skype, comment on related blog posts or relevant forums. Get out there and start selling. Pure action.
If you get the 3 preorders then work on whatever you need to work on to deliver the product/service. That may mean spending a little money if you sold a physical product that needs manufactured, but it doesn’t matter because those people have already paid you.
If you don’t get the 3 preorders, move on to another idea and another 24-hour test until you do.
Generate and test ideas until one of them sticks. It’s a foolproof way to success. Of course, there’s a lot of work that comes after this: finding manufacturers, writing your book, finding a venue for your class, acquiring new clients. The next steps will be specific to you and what idea you’ve decided to pursue.
But if you’ve made it that far you’ve proven you can handle it.
Be on the lookout for time in the next few weeks to spend time working on your goals. That means, take the next few days to establish a goal (before Thanksgiving), write it up on the board, and work towards it between now and the end of the year. If you are able to complete that goal successfully, with a witness or some form of proof, and attend at least 8 classes during the month of December, then you will be entered into a drawing to win a free month’s membership!
Wednesday November 25th
6:15pm Barbell Club
8:00pm Open Gym
7:30pm Restorative Yoga
Thursday November 26th
All Classes Cancelled at all 3 Locations
*at home workout to be posted on blog or go run the Drumstick Dash for the CrossFit NapTown team, Password: Crossfitnap
Friday November 27th
10:00am-12:00pm Open Gym
Recently more than half the nation’s governors—27 states—have expressed opposition to letting Syrian refugees into their states. Many lawmakers in Congress are also considering legislation that would suspend the Syrian refugee program. Here is what you should know about the current controversy:
Why is there a new concern about allowing Syrian refugees into the United States?
According to the French government, at least one of the terrorists in the recent attack on Paris is believed to have entered the country by posing as a refugee. The concern is that through inadequate screening procedures, similar would-be terrorists may be able to enter the United States.
What is the Syrian refugee crisis?
For the past four years, Syria has been in a civil war that has forced 11 million people— half the country’s pre-crisis population—to flee their homes. About 7.6 million Syrians have been internally displaced within the country, and 4 million have fled Syria for other countries. The result is one of the largest forced migrations since World War II.
Are all the refugees fleeing Islamic State (ISIS)?
Not necessarily. The crisis is mostly caused by the civil war in Syria. In 2011, during the Middle Eastern protest movement known as the Arab Spring, protesters in Syria demanded the end of Ba’ath Party rule and the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has held the country’s presidency since 1971. In April 2011, the Syrian Army was sent to quell the protest, and soldiers opened fire on demonstrators. After months of military sieges, the protests evolved into an armed rebellion and has spread across the country.
Although the conflict was originally between factions for and against President Assad, the civil war has broadened into a battle between the country’s Sunni majority against the president’s Shia Alawite sect. The conflict has drawn in neighboring countries and world powers and lead to the rise of jihadist groups, including Islamic State.
What makes a person a “refugee”?
U.S. and international law define a “refugee” as a person who has left his country of nationality or residence and who is unable to return due to a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
In order for a person to be granted asylum or “refugee status,” a person must be able to prove that a well-founded fear of persecution is the reason he left his home country.
The U.S. government defines “refugee” as any person who is outside any country of such person's nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
What is the United States doing about the refugee crisis?
Since the start of the conflict, the United States has admitted approximately 2,100 refugees from Syria. At a press briefing on September 10, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that the Obama administration is making plans to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next budget year. (There is currently a cap that limits the number of refugee visas the United States can issue per year at 70,000 for all countries.)
What is the screening process for refugees?
Every refugee goes through an intensive vetting process, notes Time magazine, but the precautions are increased for Syrians. According to Time:
Multiple law enforcement, intelligence, and security agencies perform “the most rigorous screening of any traveler to the U.S.,” says a senior administration official. Among the agencies involved are the State Department, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security. A DHS officer conducts in-person interviews with every applicant. Biometric information such as fingerprints are collected and matched against criminal databases. Biographical information such as past visa applications are scrutinized to ensure the applicant’s story coheres.
How many of the refugees admitted to the United States. are Christian? Are Muslim?
According to an analysis by CNS News, of 2,184 Syrian refugees admitted into the United States since the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011, only 53 (2.4 percent) have been Christians while 2,098 (or 96 percent) are Muslims. The remaining 33 include 1 Yazidi, 8 Jehovah Witnesses, 2 Baha’i, 6 Zoroastrians, 6 of “other religion,” 7 of “no religion,” and 3 atheists.
Why do some members of Congress want to suspend the Syrian refugee program?
Congressional Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, said there are grave reasons to fear that terrorists would be permitted to enter the country posing as refugees, according to The New York Times.
Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he was drawing up legislation to suspend the refugee resettlement program.
“I call on you to temporarily suspend the admission of all additional Syrian refugees into the United States pending a full review of the Syrian refugee resettlement program,” McCaul said to President Obama.
“Our nation has a proud tradition of welcoming refugees into our country, but in this particular case the high-threat environment demands that we move forward with greater caution,” McCaul said. On Thursday the House passed a bill that would block Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the country unless they pass strict background checks. The measure passed with the support of 47 Democrats and almost all House Republicans.
Who is in charge of the resettling refugees into the United States?
The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is the federal government agency charged with providing benefits and services to assist the resettlement and local integration of refugee populations. The ORR often works closely with non-governmental organizations, such as World Relief, in the relocation of refugees. Some of the ORR programs include Refugee Cash Assistance and Refugee Medical Assistance (for up to eight months); Refugee Social Services, such as job and language training (for up to five years); and temporary custody and care to unaccompanied refugee children.
Which state have refused to accept Syrians refugees?
The 27 states whose governors have said they will not accept Syrian refugees are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Can governors refuse to accept refugees in their state?
Not exactly. According to the Refugee Act of 1980, resettlement efforts coordinated by the federal government “should be conducted in close cooperation and advance consultation with state and local governments” and “meet with representatives of state and local governments to plan and coordinate in advance of their arrival the appropriate placement of refugees among the various States and localities.”
Additionally, the law says, “With respect to the location of placement of refugees within a state, the federal agency administering subsection (b)(1) shall, consistent with such policies and strategies and to the maximum extent possible, take into account recommendations of the state.”
So while the state and local governments can refuse to cooperate with the federal government, they can’t expressly forbid refugees from being allowed into their states.
When I wrote the post that went viral after the Ferguson grand jury decision was announced, it opened a lot of doors with my teammates. Many players and coaches, black and white, told me, “That’s what I was thinking; I just didn’t know how to say it.”
Ferguson wasn’t just Ferguson. It was America. It was the symbol of so many racial conflicts over the months—each with different sets of circumstances, all of them prompting strong responses among blacks and whites.
It’s hard to follow current events closely during the NFL season. Football can be like a bottomless pit, consuming everyone involved for six months. Ferguson, though, was something none of us could get away from. I suspect this was true for most Americans. The nature of the tragedy galvanized the attention of people who would’ve otherwise been wrapped up in their own work and daily pursuits. It was constantly on the news, from August (when Michael Brown was killed) through November (when a grand jury decided there wasn’t enough evidence to indict Darren Wilson).
For us ballplayers—in my case, on the New Orleans Saints—some things are still hard to talk about, no matter how close we become during training camp and the regular season. As the saying goes: If you want to keep friends, never talk about religion or politics—or race.
But my post opened the conversation among us.
Even if we didn’t agree totally—and we often didn’t—we could at least express our views and hear from each other. I heard every kind of opinion from all sides of the spectrum. But it was encouraging that almost every response became a dialogue.
Sometimes we had to agree to disagree, but only after honest back-and-forth discussion. Talking about these issues is the first step to understanding and healing.
The feedback I received from the public via Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail mirrored what I’d heard from my friends and teammates. One person, identifying as an atheist, commented at the end of my post. He thanked me for my words, which he truly appreciated—“minus the part about God.”
I appreciated his response and told him so.
But there can never be a “minus the part about God” if we want real solutions.
Here’s what I’ve come to believe: At the root of racism is a flawed view of ourselves.
Racism is based on an elevation of our own talents, physical characteristics, and DNA—which we inherited by no choice or merit of our own—over someone else’s. It’s an assumption that the other person is different and therefore we are better. It’s an attitude that says, “I represent the norm; you are the variation, the outlier, the odd one.”
It’s wrong, of course—not just morally, but factually. We all—black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and every other ethnicity—are 99.9 percent the same. We all predominantly share the same DNA. We all are human.
I recently had an appointment with a dermatologist. I sat in the examination room and checked my iPhone as I waited for the doctor to come in. After a short wait, I heard the customary knock. The door opened slowly, and in walked my new dermatologist.
I’m not sure what I expected, but the doctor turned out to be a brown-haired white woman a little older than me. We exchanged background information for a few minutes. She was very knowledgeable and knew just what to do to help me.
At the end of the visit, I asked her a question about a specific hair product she’d recommended. I must’ve known it was a borderline dumb question, so I prefaced it with, “Excuse my ignorance, but with these products, does it matter if you’re black or white?”
What she said next reminded me of what I already knew but constantly need to be reminded of.
“Hair is just hair,” she said. “It’s all about texture, and that depends on the melanin in your skin. Under a microscope, all skin and hair follicles are basically the same. The only difference is the amount of melanin. Curl types and hair properties such as texture, density, elasticity, and porosity can vary across the spectrum of skin tone. So really, hair is about the individual, not the individual’s race.”
It’s amazing that melanin—the pigment that gives human skin, hair, and eyes their color—has caused so much pain and tragedy in America.
Under our skin, we are all the same—flesh, blood, and spirit. We are commonly human. All of us are human beings created by and for God.
Editors’ note: This is an adapted excerpt from Benjamin Watson’s new book Under Our Skin: Getting Real About Race—and Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us (Tyndale, 2015). Tune in here next Tuesday, November 24, at 8:30 p.m. EST (7:30 p.m. CST) as Darrin Patrick talks with Watson about his experiences and insights as a Christian and an African American. Head to Twitter afterward and interact directly with Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) using the hashtag #UnderOurSkin. Then pick up a copy of the book for yourself, your small group, and even your whole church. Talk about it with believers with different experiences; this guide can help. May God help us enjoy counter-cultural community together.
Workshop Leader: Mark Dever
Date: April 14, 2015
Event: The Gospel Coalition 2015 National Conference, Orlando, Florida
Mark Dever is a TGC Council member senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC and president of 9Marks. Dever is the author of numerous books, including Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. You can follow him on Twitter.
David Bausman is a lawyer who serves as the director of policy and regulatory affairs for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. He lives in the Indianapolis area with his family and is active in his church and local politics.
How would you describe your work?
Problem-solving is the essence of my work. While handling policy and regulatory affairs for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, issues arise on the local, state, and federal levels. My goal is to find solutions that will support Indiana’s farmers and agribusinesses. New issues arise all the time, which makes each day unique. It could be a land use issue on Monday and a transportation question on Tuesday. There’s never a dull moment.
As an image-bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work?
Lawyers are often viewed as creating conflict. While there can be some truth to that view, I try to mediate a solution or prevent conflict from occurring altogether. Serving as regulatory liaison, I’m often called to bring together different groups to try and achieve a win-win situation. Sometimes the groups are already at odds with each other, in which case my goal is to restore their relationship—a small picture of how God brings restoration into the lives of his children.
How does your work give you a unique vantage point into the brokenness of the world?
Working in agricultural policy I see firsthand how nasty and divisive issues can be. Arguments become heated and personal very quickly. Instead of focusing on the facts, people become driven by their emotions. A simple online search on any number of agricultural issues can reveal this focus on emotions versus facts/science. As a result, people with differing views become “The Enemy” as misinformation is fed to consumers. It isn’t that everyone has to agree on every issue, but we can disagree with civility and respect––especially as Christians––in order to adorn the gospel.
Jesus commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” How does your work function as an opportunity to love and serve others?
My dad grew up on my grandparents’ goat dairy farm that, in the 1980s, they lost. To this day, I know losing the family farm still affects my dad. My goal has been to work to ensure that what happened to my grandparents’ farm doesn’t happen to Hoosier family farms. Therefore, I strive to protect our hard-working family farms by working to back laws and regulations that support agriculture and will allow family farms to continue to be passed down to future generations.
Editors’ note: The weekly TGCvocations column asks practitioners about their jobs and how they integrate their faith and work. Interviews are condensed.
Whenever I (Curtis) read a work on the black church, I immediately become protective of my ecclesiological tradition. This didn’t happen, though, as I read Thabiti Anyabwile’s new book Reviving the Black Church: A Call to Reclaim a Sacred Institution. As a participant-observer of the black church tradition, he understands the real problems it faces. Even with pointed concerns and criticisms Anyabwile—TGC Council member and pastor of Anacostia River Church in Washington, D.C.—writes as one who loves the bride of Christ.
Anyabwile argues that there’s a better way forward for the black church than what’s historically been the case. For him, this better way forward borrows from the wisdom of “earlier faithful Christians” and is outlined for us in God’s Word.
Reviving the Black Church has three major sections with 13 chapters. In section 1 Anyabwile provides a historical survey of the role of Scripture in black churches, a theological defense of the importance of biblical preaching, and an exploration of the importance of worship according to Scripture (15–82). These pages express the need to make the Bible the centerpiece of every aspect of black church life—from the prayers to the preaching and teaching to the congregational worship.
Section 2 covers leadership in the black church, which is often imbalanced with too much power residing in one pastor (97–114). Anyabwile also contends the black church has often misunderstood pastoral authority by creating unbiblical offices of authority (115–136) or appointing unqualified persons to serve in leadership (137–153).
In section 3 Anyabwile argues that the black church should pursue revival through a biblical understanding of membership and mission (173–245). He challenges the black church to rekindle personal piety and discipleship (173–188); to prioritize a biblical understanding of regenerate church membership (189–208); to help black men grasp a biblical view of manhood (209–226); and to reengage in missions (227–245).
Anyabwile acknowledges the unspoken “cultural rules forbidding public critique of the black church” (12). As such, this published assessment of the black church will invariably solicit scorn from some quarters. I’d encourage those tempted to dismiss Anyabwile’s concerns, though, to withhold judgment until they’ve thoughtfully engaged the book.
Anyabwile’s thesis is clear: “The only force capable of reviving the black church in whatever area she needs is the Spirit of God animating the Word of God” (247). He examines various sectors of the black church in antebellum North and South; explains how white supremacy gave rise to the black church in early American history; and distills decades of African diasporic dehumanization from the era of the transatlantic slave trade to the present day. In so doing, Anyabwile invokes the expertise and kaleidoscope of African American scholars, which is one of the book’s greatest strengths. He solicits counsel from black liberation theologians, including womanist intellectuals, along with faithful African American evangelical witnesses.
Such exchanges between opposing theological camps often succumb to theological syncretism. Anyabwile avoids this blunder. Readers will sense a non-threatening dialectical conversation between black evangelicals and liberationists throughout the work. To Anyabwile’s credit, he marshals primary and secondary works in African American religious thought from individuals, categorically speaking, who span the spectrum: Reformed and Arminian African diasporic abolitionist intellectuals, evangelicals, liberationists, and prosperity preachers. Anyabwile doesn’t venerate or vilify any camp. For example, he illustrates how evangelicals, liberationists, and prosperity adherents all “contributed to the de-centering of the Bible”:
Evangelicals have allowed [Scripture] to be de-centered through neglect, failing to read it and apply it to life and faith. Liberationists have reveled against it, actually calling for its removal from the dominant place in theology and religion. And prosperity preachers have removed it from the center by misusing and misquoting it, using biblicism that sounds evangelical while focusing on worldly materialism and success. (25)
Sometimes we evangelicals have a hard time rendering self-critique, though we must. Anyabwile offers a helpful example.
Readers should listen closely to the book’s inner dialogues; they’re more than thoughtful anecdotes to pique interest. Like the African theologian Augustine in his Confessions, authorial introspection connects well with those who possess common background. For instance, I (Curtis) resonate with Anyabwile’s journey from social and spiritual naïveté as a young adult toward biblically orthodox belief and, eventually, behavior. Anyabwile exposes himself with a riveting story of grace and mercy. He weaves his personal narrative into the fabric of the black church, bolstering his love for her even though, in God’s providence, he united with a predominantly Anglo church community for a season of discipleship and leadership. Yet Anyabwile’s time in this spiritual setting did not quell his passion for reaching the black church or ameliorating societal ills that hinder African American progress in general.
As such, Anyabwile’s provocative query—“When you hear the word pastor, what comes to mind?”—suggests many pastors burn out because parishioners place inordinate expectations on their shoulders (99). He develops a taxonomy of differing functionalities within pastoral leadership along the lines of traditional (100-102) and contemporary (102-103) in order to lay a foundation for restoring biblical models. He also courageously engages the topic of egalitarianism and complementarianism; anyone familiar with the historic underpinnings of the black church understands this cannot be jettisoned (123-136).
A work on the black church would be remiss without a consideration of the black family and its role in revival. Anyabwile employs a distinctly African diasporic evangelical worldview that repudiates false dichotomies between body and soul or society and spirituality. If the black family suffers, then the black church suffers. Anyabwile addresses the common refrain “black men are an endangered species” with clear principles for change. In doing so, he creates needed space for African American colloquialisms in evangelical literature. Biblical manhood, he explains, centers on developing men who worship, work, and love “one woman” well (209–213).
Moreover, Anyabwile captures the essence of William Julius Wilson’s counsel (213–218). Wilson, framed through Anyabwile’s lens, gives readers the sociological tools to engage black suffering without championing victimization or, to borrow from William Ryan, “blaming the victim.” Anyabwile once again offers balanced commentary with Scripture. Sound sociological and group psychological suppositions guide his literary steps.
As a New Testament scholar and seminary professor, I (Jarvis) have picky disagreements here and there with Anyabwile’s handling of certain texts. At times his exegesis seems strained. For example, he follows the popular “as you go” understanding of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19–20 (183). However, the Greek actually supports an alternative reading. Jesus is commanding these Jewish disciples to “go and make disciples of all non-Jewish people.” He isn’t saying “as you go.”
Further, although Anyabwile thinks seminaries have a role in training ministers (168), he thinks it’s a small one. I see the role seminaries play in the theological and ministerial training of pastors as more vital than Anyabwile does. While I agree seminaries cannot teach future pastors everything about pastoral ministry—local churches should do that—good seminaries have an enormous amount of biblical and theological resources (e.g., specialists offering a wealth of grammatical, historical, analytical, and intellectual resources) to pour into ministers in training.
Ministerial training involves more than seminary can provide, but certainly not less. Even pastors who don’t have formal theological training have benefited tremendously from those who’ve either been formally trained (e.g., Mark Dever’s influence on Anyabwile) or have benefited from those who have been formally trained.
These minor complaints aside, Reviving the Black Church should be read by anyone who loves the church, especially the black church. It reveals the heart of a pastor who deeply loves the black church and longs to see her conformed to the image of Christ rather than resigned to cultural captivity. Anyabwile’s big vision of God, Scripture, preaching, and the church—and his vast knowledge of African American intellectual history—are worth the read.
Reviving the Black Church offers a robust biblical and theological exposition of how dead black churches can be made alive in Christ by the power of the Spirit and the preached Word, just like those dry bones in Ezekiel 37. But Reviving the Black Church isn’t just for the black church. Pastors and church leaders from a variety of ethnic stripes can benefit from it.
Thabiti Anyabwile. Reviving The Black Church: A Call to Reclaim a Sacred Institution. Nashville, TN: B&H, 2015. 269 pp. $15.99.
Editors’ note: Tune in here at 8:30 p.m. ET next Tuesday, November 24—the one-year anniversary of the Ferguson decision—as Darrin Patrick talks with NFL tight end Benjamin Watson about his experiences and insights as a Christian and an African American. Head to Twitter afterward and interact directly with Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) using the hashtag #UnderOurSkin. Then pick up a copy of Watson’s new book Under Our Skin: Getting Real About Race—and Getting Free from the Frustrations and Fears that Divide Us for yourself, your small group, even your whole church. Talk about it with believers with different experiences; this guide can help. May God help us enjoy counter-cultural community together.
Workshop Leader: Mark Dever
Date: April 14, 2015
Event: The Gospel Coalition 2015 National Conference, Orlando, Florida
Mark Dever is a TGC Council member and senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and president of 9Marks. Dever is the author of numerous books, including Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. You can follow him on Twitter.
We recently finished the first round of ticket sales for WDS 2016, and they went quickly! We’ll have one final round early next year. If you’d like to join us, be sure you’re on the waiting list for first notice.
But first, we’re rolling out more speaker videos from WDS 2015. Vani Hari, food activist, creator of FoodBabe.com and author of the bestselling book The Food Babe Way, shared her story about finding her voice and dealing with haters.
Check out the video!
“It doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it. It matters how many people do. Focus on the willing.”
Every year, WDS sells out far in advance of the actual event. If you’d like to come, don’t hesitate! Next year will be our sixth year, and we’re planning big things.
We’ll have more great speakers, amazing parties, hundreds of meetups and breakout sessions, and an all-new world record attempt.
Stay tuned for more speaker videos!
Roses are red
Violets are blue
I’m no poet
But I’ll inflict this on you.
They confuse us about usury
by treating a personal guarantee
as if it were their property
and charging us a rental fee
now this is modern slavery
which rests on unreality
that banks turn into currency
for paying your transaction fee
Those Vogons have got nothing on me. I blame this on Bonald.
Superversive has an essay by S. Dorman, author of Fantastic Travelogue: Mark Twain and CS Lewis Talk Things Over in the Hereafter.
Without a guide, how is one to get from the city of destruction to the celestial city? During the Middle Ages pilgrims traveled on foot (or hoof). In John Bunyan’s work, Christian conversed with Apollyon, out of whose “belly came fire and smoke,” and whose look conveyed disdain. But his intermittent guide was The Evangelist. Modern characters traveled by comet or a train.. Nathaniel Hawthorne used the template of John Bunyan’s footsore progress to send himself comfortably toward his own celestial destination on the railroad…Sixty years after Hawthorne’s train ride, Mark Twain sent his first person character to heaven aboard a comet cum steamship…In C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce conveyance from hell to heaven is a flying bus. …
I woke up to a fun tweet in my timeline this morning:
I had no idea this existed. In short, some Macs sold between 1992 and 1996 came with free telephone support as long as you owned the machine. In 1997, Apple tried shutting it down, but got hit with a lawsuit.
The best part? The phone number still works.
This is a guest post by Jared C. Wilson, a contributor to the ESV Men's Devotional Bible.
One of the best practices for those who want to make sure that they are gospel-centered everyday—that they are looking into the grace of God in Christ—is to look for Christ in the Scriptures.
Most Christians understand that they ought to be spending time in God’s Word everyday but a lot of times that can just look like a checklist of religious duty. No matter what biblical text you’re in, it is important to look for the gospel and Jesus within it. This can be a little harder in the Old Testament and even in some New Testament texts. However, the aim is rather simple: look first and foremost for what God has done, not what you are to do.
Reordering your study of the Bible in this way will help you to develop a gospel-centered impulse or instinct—one that is quicker than our instinct toward man-made religion or obedience. And that is what will produce more and more awe in your heart at what God has done.
Jared C. Wilson is the director of content strategy at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, and a contributor to the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible.
Novelist and O’Connor scholar Jonathan Rogers writes:
Readers are often offended by Flannery O’Connor’s stories.
They ought to be; the stories are offensive.
Jesus’s parables would offend us, too, if we hadn’t heard them so many times—or if we were paying better attention.
In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, we can all understand why the older brother, the one who has kept his nose clean, is offended by his father’s eager welcoming of the wayward brother. It’s a little shocking to realize that Jesus presents the older brother as just as big a jerk as the younger brother. Consider how much more shocking it would have been for Jesus’s original audience, who hadn’t already been told what they were supposed to think about the story.
The parables are driven by that dissonance between the truth and the way we feel about the truth. Jesus shows us what the kingdom of God looks like; if we allow ourselves to be offended by that vision, we begin to see what needs to happen in our hearts.
I say I love grace, but I’m bothered by the fact that the vineyard workers who showed up an hour before dark get paid the same amount as the workers who started at daybreak. I can either reject that parable altogether, or I can think about why my heart doesn’t line up with the things I say I believe. But it would be a big mistake to explain away the offense—to say it’s not really that offensive.
O’Connor was working from Jesus’s playbook. She used shock and offense to show us something about our hearts. “To the hard of hearing you shout,” she wrote, “and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.”
Rogers explores these ideas in the introduction to his book, The Terrible Speed of Mercy:
If [O’Connor’s] stories offend conventional morality, it is because the gospel itself is an offense to conventional morality. Grace is a scandal; it always has been. Jesus put out the glad hand to lepers and cripples and prostitutes and losers of every stripe even as he called the self-righteous a brood of vipers.
In “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” it is painful to see a mostly harmless old grandmother come to terms with God and herself only at gunpoint.
It is even more painful to see her get shot anyway.
In a more properly moral story, she would be rewarded for her late-breaking insight and her life would be spared. But the story only enacts what Christians say they believe already: that to lose one’s body for the sake of one’s soul is a good trade indeed. It’s a mystery, and no small part of the mystery is the reader’s visceral reaction to truths he claims to believe already. O’Connor invites us to step into such mysteries, but she never resolves them. She never reduces them to something manageable.
O’Connor speaks with the ardor of an Old Testament prophet in her stories. She’s like an Isaiah who never quite gets around to “Comfort ye my people.” Except for this: there is a kind of comfort in finally facing the truth about oneself. That’s what happens in every one of Flannery O’Connor’s stories: in a moment of extremity, a character—usually a self-satisfied, self-sufficient character—finally comes to see the truth of his situation. He is accountable to a great God who is the source of all. He inhabits mysteries that are too great for him. And for the first time there is hope, even if he doesn’t understand it yet . . .
In O’Connor’s unique vision, the physical world, even at its seediest and ugliest, is a place where grace still does its work. In fact, it is exactly the place where grace does its work. Truth tells itself here, no matter how loud it has to shout.
You can read “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” online, written in 1953, when Flannery O’Connor was 28 years old.
On April 22, 1959, the 34-year-old O’Connor visited Vanderbilt University and read “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” You can listen to the audio below:
When she gave a reading of this story at Hollins College in Virginia on October 14, 1963—just 9 months before she died from complications of lupus—she prefaced it with some remarks.
Among other things, she addressed “what makes a story work, and what makes it hold up as a story”:
I have decided that it is probably some action, some gesture of a character that is unlike any other in the story, one which indicates where the real heart of the story lies. This would have to be an action or a gesture which was both totally right and totally unexpected; it would have to be one that was both in character and beyond character; it would have to suggest both the world and eternity. The action or gesture I’m talking about would have to be on the anagogical level, that is, the level which has to do with the Divine life and our participation in it. It would be a gesture that transcended any neat allegory that might have been intended or any pat moral categories a reader could make. It would be a gesture which somehow made contact with mystery.
She identifies the place of such a “gesture” in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”:
The Grandmother is at last alone, facing the Misfit. Her head clears for an instant and she realizes, even in her limited way, that she is responsible for the man before her and joined to him by ties of kinship which have their roots deep in the mystery she has been merely prattling about so far. And at this point, she does the right thing, she makes the right gesture.
I find that students are often puzzled by what she says and does here, but I think myself that if I took out this gesture and what she says with it, I would have no story. What was left would not be worth your attention. Our age not only does not have a very sharp eye for the almost imperceptible intrusions of grace, it no longer has much feeling for the nature of the violence which precede and follow them. The devil’s greatest wile, Baudelaire has said, is to convince us that he does not exist.
On the violence in her stories, O’Connor comments:
In my own stories I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace. Their heads are so hard that almost nothing else will do the work. This idea, that reality is something to which we must be returned at considerable cost, is one which is seldom understood by the casual reader, but it is one which is implicit in the Christian view of the world.
O’Connor knows that some people label this story “grotesque,” but she prefers to call it “literal”:
A good story is literal in the same sense that a child’s drawing is literal. When a child draws, he doesn’t intend to distort but to set down exactly what he sees, and as his gaze is direct, he sees the lines that create motion. Now the lines of motion that interest the writer are usually invisible. They are lines of spiritual motion. And in this story you should be on the lookout for such things as the action of grace in the Grandmother’s soul, and not for the dead bodies.
O’Conner elsewhere expanded on the comparison of stories and drawings:
When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock-to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.
You can also get O’Connor’s complete stories for just over $10.
There was once a Halfling Rogue that liked to play pranks on humans. For fun he would sneak into the houses of humans, push them out of their beds while they slept, and run away, cackling while the humans cursed up a storm.
After enough 'Tall' townspeople complained to the Half-Orc Lord of the…Read more
I knew nothing about Vox Day a couple weeks ago when his book, SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police, was recommended to me by Amazon. The title of the book caught my attention, but the cover even more so: an innocent, amiable smiley face bearing a forked tongue, incredibly suitable symbolism for SJWs who bully with their venomous pseudo-compassion, and insatiable thirst for the glow of self-righteousness and moral superiority.
For the uninitiated, SJW is an initialism that stands for Social Justice Warrior. I don’t know the history of the term, but I’ve only seen it used sarcastically, which is perfectly understandable given that SJW-types are not "warriors" in the traditional sense—they are not particularly brave or strong and they do not fight with fists or bullets, but whiney emotional rhetoric—and social justice itself is not a definite cause for which to fight.
The general meaning of "social justice" is to distribute wealth, opportunities, and privileges equally within a society. This, as you can probably see, conflicts with the application of actual justice since enacting social justice would necessarily require that things due to one group of people be stolen and given to another group of people in the name of sameness.
The particular meaning of social justice is more interesting because it’s completely amorphous. Want to know what social justice means today? Go to Twitter and look at the top political hashtag. I’ll take a look now…
Ah, there we go. Today is about hijacking #InternationalMensDay—a day to spread awareness that suicide is the leading cause of death in men between 20 and 45 years old—to complain that every day is men’s day and that we should eradicate so-called "toxic masculinity" (SJWs are quite fond of using imprecise and indefinable terms.)
What social justice is really about, first and foremost, is the celebration of victimhood. It’s a competition between the loudest and most obnoxious to discover who "society" has given the roughest deal. (Answer: none of them. Social justice is a luxury for the guilt-ridden affluent.)
I was familiar with SJWs before reading the book, but I don’t go out of my way to interact with them or to understand them. I know where they tend to live (Tumblr, Gawker, the 9th Circle of Twitter), but I don’t follow them. With all the politically correct movements erupting over the last year, though, I was definitely curious. What makes them tick? Why do they do what they do? More importantly, what can I do to ignore or shut down their arguments and idiocy? Vox Day’s SJWs Always Lie answers all that and more.
A large part of the book centers around controversies in which Vox Day himself was personally involved, specifically regarding the Hugo Awards (he is a science fiction writer) and #GamerGate (he is a video game designer). As someone who does not follow either of those worlds, Day’s insights are very interesting.
The extent to which SJW-types have infiltrated and taken over the science fiction market, for example, is disturbing. But the story of GamerGate was the story that most appealed to me in the book. I knew nothing about GamerGate, what caused it, why it seemed to spring to life again (at least as far as hashtags go) every so often. Vox Day lays out a timeline of events and describes notable figures within the—for lack of a better term, I guess—movement. I didn’t realize that gamers were in a war of sorts with SJWs, or that they were among the first to stand up en masse against them.
More than those personal stories, though, Vox Day lays out the mindset of an SJW, what drives them, and how best to respond to their arguments (or, more likely, their overwhelming and nonsensical emotional rhetoric).
If you find their brand of authoritarianism and thought policing disgusting and want to learn more about their tactics, behavior, and beliefs; or, God forbid, you’re being targeted by them and want to know what you can do, Vox Day’s SJWs Always Lie is the definitive guide. Highly recommended.
Coding, e-mail, LaTeX, and more. Enjoy!
|me||9:30 PM||notmuch, mairix|
|Will Monroe||9:31 PM||thanks!|
|Puneeth Chaganti||9:33 PM||Hi everyone.|
|Puneeth Chaganti||9:36 PM||I use imapfilter for my non-gmail account.|
|Diego Berrocal||9:36 PM||what about the gmail one?|
|Will Monroe||9:36 PM||these are excellent suggestions for a new gnus user Puneeth, thank you for org2blog!|
|Puneeth Chaganti||9:37 PM||I don’t yet use gmail with mu4e. Just not sure how long downloading all my mail would take.|
|Diego Berrocal||9:38 PM||https://mosh.mit.edu/#techinfo ^ better ssh|
|Will Monroe||9:39 PM||Puneeth, I’ve used mu4e with offlineimap to download lots of gmail. It did take a lot of time for ~4GB to download.|
|Puneeth Chaganti||9:40 PM||Yeah, I’m also subscribed to a lot of lists that are filterd out using email filters, but I’m afraid getting new mail also would be really slow. I have a better internet connection these days. May be I should try.|
|Diego Berrocal||9:41 PM||doesn’t gnus freeze your emacs sometimes?|
|me||9:41 PM||I’ve been using gmane.org for many mailing lists. The web interface has been a bit wonky, but the NNTP through Gnus seems okay.|
|Diego Berrocal||9:41 PM||it did on me last time I used it (years ago) Link to Window Manager: https://github.com/ch11ng/exwm|
|Puneeth Chaganti||9:44 PM||http://conkeror.org/|
|Will Monroe||9:46 PM||Bye everyone! It was nice talking with you.|
|Daniel Gopar||9:48 PM||Diego do you have an example of using firestarter with rsync? Do you have your init.el uploaded in Github or somwhere?|
|Diego Berrocal||9:49 PM||unfortunately it’s not in my config anymore I’ll try to make a blog post|
|Daniel Gopar||9:50 PM||sweet \o/ Let me know if you end up creating a post|
|Diego Berrocal||9:50 PM||yeah \o/|
|Puneeth Chaganti||9:52 PM||Yes, I found it useful too. Thanks for doing those posts, Sacha|
|Diego Berrocal||9:53 PM||not more scrolling through MELPA twitter now edit-with-emacs ^|
|Bryan Maass||9:54 PM||edit-with-emacs|
|Howard Melman||9:56 PM||https://github.com/jrus/cocoa-text-system|
|Bryan Maass||9:56 PM||https://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~jrus/site/cocoa-text.html|
|me||9:58 PM||Reddit discussion of spaceline|
|Bryan Garza||10:03 PM||https://github.com/kuanyui/moe-theme.el|
|me||10:07 PM||(org) Tables in arbitrary syntax From Joseph: yihui.name/knitr|
|Bryan Garza||10:19 PM||https://www.masteringemacs.org/article/complete-guide-mastering-eshell https://github.com/k-talo/volatile-highlights.el https://github.com/Malabarba/beacon|
|Diego Berrocal||10:25 PM||git-timemachine|
|me||10:27 PM||(setq undo-tree-visualizer-timestamps t)<br> (setq undo-tree-visualizer-diff t)|
|Daniel Gopar||10:28 PM||Diego can you put a link to your site?|
|Diego Berrocal||10:30 PM||cestdiego.github.io ^|
For more information about Emacs Hangouts, see http://sachachua.com/blog/tag/emacs-hangout
When I first read The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller with Kathy Keller, three thoughts occurred to me:
So I’m delighted to say that Zondervan has recently released a six-session DVD and group study guide for The Meaning of Marriage. Anyone who’s spent time with Tim and Kathy knows how insightful and funny they can be together, so those interactions themselves are worth picking up the DVD.
But in keeping with the Kellers’ ministry in New York City, this study offers something I never considered when I first read their book: group discussion that includes non-believers. As Kathy has previously discussed when writing for The Gospel Coalition, marriage between men and women who don’t share religious beliefs has become increasingly common, even in evangelical churches. No issue has been so frequently challenging in my own personal ministry, as I seek to counsel and lead such couples. This study, then, can help you talk with these families about what difference Jesus makes in relationships. As the Kellers write in The Meaning of Marriage:
According to the Bible, God devised marriage to reflect his saving love for us in Christ, to refine our character, to create stable human community for the birth and nurture of children, and to accomplish all this by bringing the complementary sexes into an enduring whole-life union.
Earlier this month a couple from my church asked me to conduct their wedding ceremony next summer. I’ve known this couple since they first met last year; the bride-to-be was baptized as a believer several years ago while she was a member of the home group my wife and I led. They asked me to conduct the ceremony because I understand their situation; neither one of them grew up in a believing, churchgoing home. I’m delighted, then, to commend this study for their premarital counseling in the absence of a family model for gospel-centered marriage. And as I prepare for next summer, I’m eager to examine it more closely myself for additional counsel on how to testify to God’s grace on display in marriage.
Marriage is anything but easy when sinners get involved. Since we’re all sinners, we need help: whether we long to get married, plan to get married, or married a non-believer. Even if you and your spouse have been married a long time and share common faith in Jesus Christ, you still need help as you work out the one-flesh mystery of marriage. I don’t know any other single resource that addresses all of these scenarios. As you seek to display for the world Christ’s love for his church (Eph. 5:22–33), put this new group study to work in your family and church.
Every day when you arrive at your workplace, an attitude arrives with you. Our attitudes are like the perfume or cologne we are wearing; we smell the fragrance when we first put it on, but others smell it throughout the day. The fragrance you’re wearing at work, others are picking up.
So what are those around you smelling? The apostle Paul reminds us that as apprentices of Jesus, we have the fragrance of Jesus. The attitudes we wear to our workplaces should remind others of him. The fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—should make up a great deal of our attitudinal fragrance.
Paul’s inspired words to the followers of Jesus at Thessalonica are also helpful in cultivating a new attitude about my work and my workplace. After urging the Thessalonian believers to seek the common good of all, he lays out three attitudinal adjustments that powerfully transform the workplaces we’ve been called to inhabit:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess. 5:16–18)
In these power-packed verses Paul encourages us to cultivate attitudes of joy, of prayer, and of gratitude. Though our work and workplaces can be deeply frustrating at times and we often deal with deeply difficult and demanding people, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to positively influence a workplace culture that promotes human flourishing, synergistic teamwork, and the common good.
It’s also helpful for me to regularly remember who my ultimate audience is at work. Living and working before an Audience of One is amazingly transforming in both the good times and the bad. In my own workplace, I am particularly encouraged by the truthsof Proverbs 16:3: “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” When we live before an Audience of One, we have nothing to fear, nothing to hide, and nothing to prove. We can devote our complete energy to doing good work. We can practice the presence of God as we work and enjoy an ongoing conversation with him. As an overflow of our walk with Christ, we have the wonderful opportunity to bring a positive, joyful outlook to our daily work. Our attitudes can be the sweet aroma of Christ to those around us.
As I’ve interacted with business leaders over the years, I’ve heard negative words about the shabbiness and shadiness of Christians in the workplace more times than I can count. Whether the stories are exaggerated for effect I don’t know, but I do believe the reputation of Christians and their work is a sobering indictment on our inadequate understanding—as well as our day-to-day application—of the transforming truths of vocation. Sadly, a great deal of the shabbiness and shadiness of many Christians’ work is directly related to an inadequate and often distorted theology of vocation.
I fear many of us who call ourselves Christians do not live up to that name in our work. Perhaps we need a fresh reminder that those who call themselves Christians are to behave differently. Paul makes an important connection between the name of Jesus and our day-to-day behavior. Writing to followers of Jesus at Colossae, he says:
Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father though him. (Col. 3:17)
When we embrace Jesus as our Lord and Savior, by his grace we work and behave differently in the workplace. Like our Master who modeled excellent carpentry work, in his grace we, too, labor with diligence and strive for excellence in whatever work God has called us to.
Though we are called to profess our faith to others, to give a spoken account for the hope within us, we are also called to practice our faith before others. Yes, we witness by our words, but we also witness by our work. The excellence of our work often gives us the credibility to speak of the excellence of our Lord Jesus and to share the good news with our coworkers. When you stop to think about it, the sheer amount of time you work each week means you witness much more by your work than you do by your words. God designed it that way.
Steve Sample has been described as the greatest university president of his generation. For 19 years he led the University of Southern California to new heights of growth and to a worldwide educational influence never imagined. At his last commencement address, he spoke to 40,000 members and friends of the Trojan family who’d gathered to celebrate the academic achievements of some of America’s most gifted leaders of tomorrow.
Looking out over the crowd, Sample urged the graduates to think about life’s biggest issues and not just their future careers. His address raised three questions that would in large measure set the trajectory of the graduates’ lives. First, how did they feel about money? Second, how did they feel about children? Third, how did they feel about God? As Sample raised his third question, there was pin-drop silence. Respectfully but courageously, USC’s outstanding president challenged all who had gathered to carefully consider spiritual reality and the profound implications for their lives and our world.
As I listened to Sample’s courageous words, I was struck that the integrity of his life and the excellence of his work for 19 years had given him a credible platform and the gravitas to speak boldly of the God he loved and served. His life and work made his courageous words persuasive and compelling. Our God-honoring work is often one of the greatest apologetics for our God-focused words.
Editors' note: This TBT excerpt is adapted from Tom Nelson’s Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work (Crossway, 2011). TBT (Throwback Thursday) with Every Square Inch: Reading the Classics is a weekly column that publishes some of the best writings on vocation to introduce you to thoughtful literature and to encourage you to know and love Christ more in all spheres of your life.
I wanna hide the truth, I wanna shelter you, but with the beast inside there’s nowhere we can hide . . . when you feel my heat, look into my eyes, that’s where my demons hide. – Imagine Dragons, “Demons”
The virus of sin corrupts every human heart (Rom. 5:12). We shouldn’t be surprised then when the behavioral effects of the heart set out to rule through slick manipulation or open violence.
This point is true and helpful theologically, but it’s too simplistic to answer the question, “Why does he do that?” by saying, “Well, he’s a sinner.” The sad reality of fallen humanness is that we don’t always know or understand why we do the things we do. Nevertheless, we want to be people who can think biblically and carefully about others and ourselves.
Abusers choose to abuse as a deliberate tool to gain control. You don’t overcome abusiveness by focusing on self-esteem or anger management. Abusers aren’t sick; they’re clever and driven by their selfish desire to control. This means the abused isn’t crazy or responsible for the behavior of their abuser. Abusers have failed to find their identity in being a child of God. They cannot accept that they may be abandoned, hurt, or not respected by others, so they control the people around them to preserve their god-like identity. This means the abused cannot try to manage the situation. Sticking around or trying to appease or avoid conflict won’t change the abusers real need to find their identity in Christ alone.
Awful and unhelpful things are often said about women who remain in abusive relationships. Instead of being one of those voices, let’s try to understand why a woman may find it hard to leave. Fear of more violence, fear for the children, fear of her own future—these often paralyze and produce a fog that distorts reality. Most abusers work hard to isolate those they’re abusing through threats, discrediting others, or shaming them into thinking that nobody will believe them. A wife may not necessary hate her abusive husband; she just hates the abuse and wants it to stop. With all of his manipulative apologies, she believes that he’ll change. And sadly, she hopes her suffering will achieve his redemption. It’s wrong to think that she’s staying because she’s responsible for his behavior, or that she must have done something to provoke him and deserves the treatment she’s getting.
One of the great lies the enemy wants to perpetrate is that you can remain unaffected by the sin done against you. Satan wants you to keep quiet, forgive and forget, and not let the beauty of a risen Savior shape every part of your story. You need to let the gospel have the last word. The church must learn how to give women back their voice so they can see the wondrous reality of God’s redeeming work for them.
(1) Think a marriage must be saved at all costs
Sadly, the church often becomes a place of further abuse. It wrongly cites biblical texts to promote the abuse of power by a husband or the place of suffering for a wife in the name of submission. A woman who has been battered, neglected, or verbally abused does not need marriage counseling—she needs to hear of the protective, loving, and redeeming work of Jesus who calls her his own. I fear that if Ray and Janay Rice sat in many of our well-taught congregations, he would be told to attend anger management classes, and she would be taught to lovingly serve her husband. They both need to lift their eyes from their momentary marriage to the eternal marriage they need. Marriage is not our god!
(2) Believe all divorce is sin
Somehow we’ve failed to read all of Malachi 2:16. God not only hates divorce, he also hates the one whose garment is covered with violence. A violent and abusive man breaks the marriage covenant with his sinful choices. He is the “divorcer” and his marriage is not honoring the Lord. I know the topic of divorce is exegetically complicated and ecclesiologically controversial, but I’m amazed at the responses I often get from pastors on the handling of these issues. The husband is abusive, and the wife pursues divorce. What does the church do? Discipline or ignore the woman. They say they could never live with that man but don’t want to condone divorce. This is not courageous pastoral ministry. When a man regularly domineers and verbally attacks—when he uses his wife rather than serves her—that man has forsaken the commitment he made to her and before God. That is what God hates.
(3) Wrongly teach headship and submission
Ephesians 5:22–33 is one of the most beautiful pictures of God’s design for the home. It’s a high and holy calling, one never to be diminished or tweaked to “fit the times.” The problem isn’t in God’s design—it’s in man’s corruption. We don’t need to become feminists or egalitarians to speak against domestic violence and all forms of abuse. We just need to stand in the truth of God’s Word and in the gap of a culture gone mad.
(4) Misunderstand forgiveness
We must rightly understand the biblical teaching on forgiveness and reconciliation. The end goal is not a man back in the home—it’s righteousness. Reconciliation is not the same thing as reunion, and forgiveness is not a demand from the abuser so that we can get on with things.
(1) Make safety a top priority
It’s not uncommon for a woman to express the real fear that she believes her husband will kill her. This should never be dismissed as extreme or dramatic. The church that fails to put the physical and emotional safety and protection of people first is not practicing “pure and undefiled religion” (James 1:27).
(2) Listen and believe them
If someone is courageous enough to share their story with you, you must listen with wisdom and compassion. Believe them. Listen, express gratitude for their willingness to share, and then help them get connected to an experienced and competent counselor.
(3) Don’t recommend quick fixes
Don’t go into “fix it” mode, trying to get more details or to reunite the victim with perpetrator. Avoid cheap counsel.
(4) Seek greater understanding
Do some reading and ask experienced counselors about the issue.
(5) Offer hope
The gospel is all about the real and powerful hope of change because of a living God. Share it with passion, conviction, and humility.
(6) Provide accountability
As you see the abuses of power and control in relationships around you, speak up and rebuke them. Exhort and encourage obedience as the best option.
“You don’t act like the rest of them do.”
A former friend’s words embarrassed and astounded me. She was speaking to Marcia Mitchell, an African American woman who left an abusive relationship and had moved in with my family.
I bit my lip and squeezed my eyelids shut.
Marcia huffed, shook her head, and walked back to the car. I followed her example, leaving my friend standing in the parking lot.
In my friend’s mind, she’d given Marcia a compliment. But before I lay too much condemnation at her feet, I have to confess I’ve made comments just as thoughtless and stupid. Instead of proving me innocent of racism, her words revealed a heart that still needed changing.
Marcia lived with us for more than a year. Before then, I believed most African Americans who decried racism in America were being overly sensitive. America gave everyone an equal footing. That was before I witnessed exchanges like the one in the parking lot, which occurred nearly every day. Racism is better understood when experienced than when explained. Getting to know and care for Marcia made those comments personal to me. I began to feel firsthand the realities of living in her world.
Marcia had earned a college degree from an unaccredited institution no employer would recognize. She worked two jobs and still couldn’t pay her bills. The climb out of poverty proved steep, and the government’s helping hand rarely extended to her, the working poor. A welfare check would have given her more income, and qualified her for government housing as well, but Marcia wouldn’t take it. Why?
“Because that’s not right,” she said. “It’s not what a Christian is supposed to do. I don’t know what’s going to happen with all this, because it’s not as if I have anybody to call. I guess I’ll find out what it means to trust God, won’t I?”
Brian Fikkert, founder and executive director of the Chalmers Center for Economic Development at Covenant College, writes, “Once you define poverty as being rooted in broken relationships, it changes everything in your approach to working with the poor.”
Broken relationships peppered Marcia’s life. Her mother passed away years ago. Her dad only called when he needed money. I was staring at the living example of Fikkert’s words.
His use of the word relationship challenged me. I believed the Lord called me not merely to bring Marcia into my home, but rather to bring her home, to a place where she would become part of the family—an adoption of sorts. As the psalmist declares, God is “a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,” and he “sets the lonely in families” (Ps. 68:6).
Offering Marcia a place to stay would be hard, but doable, even for a long period. But what of offering her a place in our hearts, as a member of the family? Marcia and my family had many cultural differences. The only thing we had in common was Christ. Would he be enough for her and for us on this new adventure?
One day on her way home from work, Marcia’s car breathed its last breath. The hood had been held together by bungie cords. They finally snapped apart as the overheated engine seemed to vomit car parts out onto the road. A bystander helped her push the remains out of traffic. When I arrived shortly thereafter, Marcia had one hand on the hood of her car, and one hand toward heaven. Tears streamed down her face.
“Lord, you see; you know my need. You are my provider.”
It’s one thing to trust God when your job seems secure and your savings account is fully funded, but Marcia possessed greater faith than that.
Our deacons maintained a car ministry where members donated used vehicles to those in need. The ministry chair contacted me that afternoon and asked, “Hi Gaye, do you know anyone in need of a car?”
“What!? You’re kidding, right?”
Five years later, Marcia still drives the donated vehicle. She drove it to classes at night and continued to work two jobs. She drove it to her graduation from correctional officer basic training and to her current full-time job. She located an affordable apartment downtown near several members of our church, which is now her church too.
As a member in our church, Marcia reminds us that unity is not uniformity. Predominantly white churches anxious to open their doors to African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians aren’t always aware of the price minorities pay when they align with our churches.
Someone in Marcia’s family asked her, “Why do you want to go to that white church?” She replied, “Because they preach Jesus, and they love me. That’s my definition of church.”
There’ve been awkward moments when well-intentioned church members have said the wrong thing. Noticing Marcia’s membership name badge, someone once told her, “You don’t look like a typical First Presbyterian member.” Marcia just smiled, “Who knows what that looks like? If more people like me join the church, there may come a time I’ll be telling you the same thing.”
Instead of shaking her head and walking away, she felt safe enough to challenge that person’s thinking. When you know you’re loved, you can say what you need to say.
Marcia took her place not only in our church but also at family gatherings. She was the over-the-top family member who hollered, “You go girl!” when my daughter graduated from college.
When I went with Marcia to a medical appointment, the doctor scratched his head and pointed to me. “And who are you to Miss Mitchell?” Marcia quickly answered. “My mother. Being a doctor, don’t you see the family resemblance?”
At my husband’s funeral, my father-in-law stopped in the aisle when he saw Marcia and took her hand. “You are sitting with us. He was your dad too.”
One of the things that carried me, a new widow, from fear to faith was Marcia’s prayer: “Lord, you see; you know my need. You are my provider.”
Loving Marcia and walking toward what it means to be part of racial reconciliation cost both her and my family more than we knew—a price neither of us could pay. I don’t claim to have all the answers for poverty and racial reconciliation, but I have to wonder: how different would our churches look if we were willing to take on someone else’s hurts as our own?
Editors’ note: Tune in here at 8:30 p.m. ET next Tuesday, November 24—the one-year anniversary of the Ferguson decision—as pastor and TGC Council member Darrin Patrick talks with NFL tight end Benjamin Watson about his experiences and insights as a Christian and an African American. Head to Twitter afterward and interact directly with Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) using the hashtag #UnderOurSkin. Then pick up a copy of Watson’s new book Under Our Skin: Getting Real About Race—and Getting Free from the Frustrations and Fears that Divide Us for yourself, your small group, even your whole church. Talk about it with believers with different experiences; this guide can help. May God help us enjoy counter-cultural community together.
Who are you? What gives a man his identity? On what foundation are you building your sense of self? Your answer, whether true or false, defines your life.
Wrong ways of defining who we are arise naturally in our hearts, and the world around us preaches and models innumerable false identities. But Jesus maps out and walks out a counterintuitive and countercultural way to know who you are. Your true identity is a gift of God, a surprising discovery, and then a committed choice.
What are the ways men get identity wrong? Perhaps you construct a self by the roles and accomplishments listed on your résumé. You might identify yourself by your lineage or ethnicity, by your job history or the schools you attended, by your marital status or parental role. Perhaps you define who you are by your political leanings or the objects of your sexual longings. Maybe you consider yourself to be summed up in a Myers-Briggs category or a psychiatric diagnosis. Your sense of self might be based on money (or your lack thereof), on achievements (or failures), on the approval of others (or their rejection), on your self-esteem (or self-hatred). Perhaps you think that your sins define you: an angry man, an addict, an anxious people-pleaser. Perhaps afflictions define you: disability, cancer, divorce. Even your Christian identity might anchor in something that is not God: Bible knowledge, giftedness, or the church denomination to which you belong.
In each case, your sense of identity comes unglued from the God who actually defines you.
God’s way of sizing up a man goes against the grain of our instinctive opinions and strategies. Here are six basic realities to orient you:
Now consider a few of the details. Don’t skim through. You will never be gripped by these truths if you treat them merely as an information download.
We could go on! The pattern is obvious. Every core aspect of a man’s identity expresses some form of humility, need, submission, and dependency before the Lord. Our culture and our hearts might claim that masculinity means being independent, self-confident, proud, strong, assertive, decisive, tough-minded, opinionated, and unemotional. But Jesus is the true man, and he is unafraid of weakness, lowliness, and submission. He came as a helpless and endangered child. He became dependent, poor, afflicted, homeless, submitted—an obedient servant entrusted with a job to do. He became a mere man and died in pain—committing his spirit into God’s hands, depending by faith on the power of the Spirit to raise him. He feels every emotion expressed in the Psalms.
Yet Jesus is also strong. He is leader, teacher, and Lord. He speaks with decisive authority. He helps the weak. He forgives the sinful. He has mercies to give away. He faces the hostility of men with courage and clarity. He lives purposefully. He goes out looking for his lost sheep. He does the things God does.
How did these two things fit together in Jesus’s life, and how do they fit together in ours? Here is the pattern: Core identity as a man leads to the calling to act like God. Weakness leads to strength. Serving leads to mastery. Deaths lead to resurrections. It never works the other way around. When your core identity is meek and lowly—like Jesus—then your calling develops into his image of purposeful, wise, courageous love. You become like God.
The order matters. You become generous and merciful to others by continually receiving generous mercies. You learn how to protect others by finding refuge in the Lord. You develop into a good father by living as a well-fathered child of your Father. You develop into a masterful leader by living as a well-mastered servant. You develop into a wise teacher by being a well-taught learner. You learn how to husband a wife in love by being well-husbanded by Christ. You develop into a caring pastor of others by living as a well-pastored sheep of your Shepherd. You become a surprisingly good counselor by being well-counseled by your Wonderful Counselor.
Of course, in much of life, we function in roles where others are over us, and we live in honorable dependency and submission. “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” (1 Pet. 2:13). Leaders in one sphere submit in other spheres. The pastor of your church is subject to the church’s governing authorities. A father of children owes honor to his own mother and father. When your core identity is in Christ, you bear fruit whether he calls you to serve as a leader or to serve as a servant.
Finally, consider that all your present callings will someday come to an end. When you grow old, frail, and helpless, you will become someone else’s charge and responsibility. But your true identity is imperishable. You will still abide in Christ. And when he appears, you will appear with him in glory (Col. 3:4).
Editors’ note: This is an excerpt from the new ESV Men’s Devotional Bible (Crossway, 2015).
A reader objected that guns are legal in France in reply to my comment that the French were disarmed.
My question to you, reader, is at what point do ‘reasonable restrictions’ become so restrictive as to be, in effect, a ban? How chilly must the chilling effect become before it is accurate to call it frozen?
In France, only licensed gun owners (for certain arms) may lawfully acquire, possess or transfer a firearm or ammunition. Cites: 110 137 138 131 132 136 139 140141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 94 95 75 151 129 133
Hover your cursor over the numbers to see the cite. This took me precisely one second of Internet research to find.
There was one security guard in the theater. He was unarmed.
From the fact that not one single victim of the shootings this week in Paris was armed, it takes no Olympic longjump of logic to conclude that these laws operated with precisely the predicted effect. No one in the victim crowd had a genuine reason to possess a firearm, hence no one had a license. Who had firearms, however?
One theme I always hammer is that you have to look at proposed policy solutions in the context of the area where you want to apply them.
A great example of this is Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). The UGB, a policy that limits suburban development outside of a line drawn around the Portland region, is widely admired and perhaps even seen a type of holy grail policy in terms of preventing sprawl.
Obviously restricting development outside the UGB raised demand for land inside of it and thus housing prices. Portland’s median home price multiple – that is, the median home price divided by the median household income – is 4.8. The average household in Portland would need to spend 4.8 times its annual income to buy a house there. This compares with 2.9 in Kansas City, 3.0 in Columbus, and 3.9 in Austin.
So Portland is less affordable than many similar sized housing markets around the US.
But despite this, Portland remains the most affordable major West Coast metro area. That’s because housing prices in other major coastal cities are even higher, including Seattle (5.2), Los Angeles (8.0), San Diego (8.3), the Bay Area (9.2), and Vancouver (10.6).
So even while its home prices have risen, Portland remains the cheapest major city to live apart from Sacramento (4.7). That is, even with the UGB Portland has a big cost advantage over its regional competition. In short, it’s cheap.
In this way, the attraction of Portland is a lot like Texas. Its draw is more a cost arbitrage play for people leaving San Francisco than an upgrade to superior urbanism from the interior. As it happens, California refugees make up the bulk of the net migrants into Portland.
The Texas comparison is relevant on the tax front too. Portland is one of the rare places you have the potential for double border tax arbitrage. Washington state has no income tax and Oregon has no sales tax. While only a limited number of people can take advantage of both (you have to both live and work in Washington to avoid the income tax), being able to zero out one or more major tax categories is a win.
This is not to say that Portland is a lousy place to live. It’s fantastic as near as I can tell. The point is that Portland was able to put in place policies to create good enough urbanism to lure a certain number of San Franciscans without compromising its competitive position because it was in a high cost neighborhood.
The story would be very different for a place like Oklahoma City or Columbus. These cities are in low cost regions, and if they undertook policies that raised their housing prices, they’d rapidly find themselves the most expensive market in their area.
Cloning Portland’s UGB is simply not a viable policy for most interior cities, even if they had the political alignment to make it happen.
There are many policies that can be broadly implemented across cities. The general principle is to first understand why a policy worked in the original context, then ask whether it is applicable to the target context, and if so how to implement it most successfully.
If you are into rowing or want to improve your rowing skills or increase cardiovascular output, then this is the competition for you! The Row’d Royalty online competition begins January 7th and lasts for 4 weeks with one workout released each week. The workouts are designed to find the fittest overall rowers (and team of rowers) in the world. No sprint or endurance specialist can hide in this competition. It is an all around incredible event and CrossFit NapTown is the reigning champion of the team competition. We look forward to repeating as champions and could use as much help as possible from all of you! Anyone has the chance to score each week for the team and last year, our victory came from the combined efforts of a big group of people rowing their hearts out.
This is the perfect way to stay in good cardiovascular shape through the winter when it is way too cold and dreary for most of us to go out for a run. It is also a great opportunity to improve your rowing technique. How is that possible you ask? Well, I’ll tell you how! Signing up for Row’d Royalty gets you in with the community of rowers all taking part in the competition through NapTown Fitness. We now offer 3 rowing only classes on different days of the week and at all three locations. Meet up with some other friends doing Row’d Royalty and make your way over to one of our rowing classes to learn from some rowing experts to prepare for Row’s Royalty.
Click here or on the image below to register before the early bird discount period is over and registration is moved up to $20.
Tuesday @ Monon Trail: 7:30pm-8:15pm
Thursday @ Capitol: 7:00pm-7:45pm
Sunday @ Delaware: 10:00am-11:00am
One of the more famous marketing frameworks is the Marketing Mix, also known as “The Four P’s.” According to the framework there are four key components to a marketing plan:
Of these four the most difficult and expensive — and thus, the greatest barrier to entry (i.e. the biggest moat) — was place. Actually getting your product in front of customers required relationships with wholesales and retailers, not to mention significant investments in logistics. Indeed, the companies who controlled distribution were often the most profitable of all.
Consider the media industry: broadcast networks had rights to the airwaves, cable networks needed to get carriage (which itself was offered by private companies, earning them tremendous profits), newspapers owned printing presses and delivery trucks, music companies printed albums and got them into stores, publishers did the same with books. From a business-model perspective all of these companies were similar: by controlling distribution they collected rents on what was actually distributed.
It’s not just media, though. Selling anything — clothes, shoes, pots and pans — depended on actually getting your product on the shelves, which meant dealing with wholesalers, retailers, shippers, etc., all of whom extracted their chunk of flesh. Your typical manufacturer would be lucky to get 40% of the retail price of an item, and often far less — and that is if said manufacturer could get their item in a store in the first place.
In short, starting a new business in any industry was really, really hard: simply getting your foot in the door required not just a great product but also a massive investment in getting that product in front of customers, and we haven’t even gotten to promotion (much less a price that pays for it all).
This ultimately benefited the largest players: Proctor & Gamble, for example, could leverage its relationships with retailers who already sold Tide laundry detergent and Pampers diapers to get shelf space for a new product line. Big department store chains could demand exclusivity for new apparel or drive down the price. Media companies could pick and choose who to feature, and on their terms. The payoff for actually getting a business off the ground was that once you made it things got a lot easier:
This is what the “good old days” looked like: pre-existing businesses at best competed with a known set of peer companies, or as was often the case, dominated individual markets, limited only by their ability to scale. Of course things weren’t so good for the folks who couldn’t manage to get distribution: at best they could throw their product over the wall and hope for whatever crumbs got tossed back for their trouble, while customers had to settle for products that tended to serve the lowest common denominator.
This context is why I tend to roll my eyes at, for example, complaints about the 30% commission charged by app stores. It used to be that publishing a piece of software was only partially about creating said software: just as important, if not more, was getting said software onto shelves where customers could actually pick them up, and a publisher was lucky to keep 30% of the retail cost for the privilege.
App stores changed everything: now anyone with a developer account could publish an app on the exact same terms as anyone else; Apple and Google could afford to do that because the Internet made shelf space effectively infinite. The wall was gone!
The problem, as App Store developers have increasingly realized, is that the existence of that old distribution wall was directly tied to the existence of profits on the other side: when anyone can sell software — when the place is open to all — no one can make a profit, because the price goes to zero.
I’ve been a longstanding critic of Apple’s approach to the App Store, most recently in From Products to Platforms. Specifically, I think the App Store’s refusal to support trials makes it difficult for superior products to differentiate themselves and thus charge a higher price, and the absence of upgrade pricing and customer data makes it difficult to get more money from a developer’s existing user base.
Still, I’ve long been cognizant that even were Apple to change its policies developers would be rolling the proverbial rock uphill. Back in 2013 I noted in Open Source Apps:
What makes the software market so fascinating from an economic perspective is that the marginal cost of software is $0. After all, software is simply bits on a drive, replicated at the blink of an eye. Again, it doesn’t matter how much effort was needed to create said software; that’s a sunk cost. All that matters is how much it costs to make one more copy: $0.
The implication for apps is clear: any undifferentiated software product, such as your garden variety app, will inevitably be free. This is why the market for paid apps has largely evaporated. Over time substitutes have entered the market at ever lower prices, ultimately landing at their marginal cost of production: $0.
Still, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make money.
Note the key adjective there: “undifferentiated.” What does it mean to be differentiated? There’s no question it has something to do with that first ‘P’, product. A differentiated product is “better” in some way, but all too often putting your finger on exactly what is better is a frustrating exercise. It just “feels” better, or, to switch that around, it’s about how it makes you feel. I’ve written extensively about the importance of the user experience and this gets at the same point: delivering an experience is less about features than it is the entirety of the experience, including approachability, usability, and even things like status or fitting in.
Consider the one app category that continues to succeed wildly on the App Store: free-to-play games like Candy Crush or Clash of Clans. Critics complain that they are manipulative, extracting money from culpable players in exchange for a worthless digital good that delivers little more than a sense of accomplishment to the buyer — a shot of dopamine, basically. But, if I may put on my contrarian hat, so what? Is said shot of dopamine any different than that obtained by any number of other means, many of which cost money? If differentiation is more about how something makes you feel and less about features then why the special bias simply because one particular something happens to be created in software? And, I’d add, digital dopamine results in a far more equitable business model for the developer: the more a user plays the more money a developer earns.
An even more extreme example is free-to-win games that are increasingly popular on the PC (yes, it’s still a thing!). Chris Dixon wrote a must-read post entitled Lessons From the PC Video Game Industry that described this business model:
The PC gaming world has taken the freemium model to the extreme. In contrast to smartphone games like Candy Crush that are “free-to-play,” PC games like Dota 2 are “free-to-win.” You can’t spend money to get better at the game — that would be seen as corrupting the spirit of fair competition. (PC gamers, like South Park, generally view the smartphone gaming business model as cynical and manipulative). The things you can buy are mostly cosmetic, like new outfits for your characters or new background soundtracks. League of Legends (the most popular PC game not on Steam) is estimated to have made over $1B last year selling these kinds of cosmetic items.
I know many of you are rolling your eyes — selling digital clothes for a digital avatar, and to the tune of a billion dollars? How silly must you be? Well, how silly must you be to carry a $5,000 handbag with far less functionality than another a fraction of the price, or wear a $10,000 watch or $200 necktie? What about flying first class or staying in a five-star hotel — you can’t take either with you! It’s completely irrational.
Or, rather, it’s irrational if you only look at features. The entire point is how these purchases make you feel, and it’s that feeling, whether it be an appreciation for craftsmanship, status, or simply being pampered, that provides the sort of differentiation that makes all of these products profitable. One could argue that an insistence on limiting the calculation of value to items that are permanent, physical, and easily listed on a spreadsheet is the real irrationality.
In the case of those PC games, what the developers have done is actually exceptionally impressive, and something that should serve as a model for all sorts of businesses. Instead of trying to make money in a market — paid PC games — where making money is all but impossible thanks to the competition unleashed by the Internet, the developers effectively created an entirely new market — a virtual world filled with people lured in through free access and quality gameplay — and then leveraged their ownership of that market to fulfill the same sort of needs that fashion-focused businesses have been fulfilling forever. The need to look cool, or the need to stand out. The need to impress your friends, or simply to like how you look.
It doesn’t matter that it’s digital, by the way: any one person’s reality is ultimately wherever they choose to focus their attention and time, which makes games like League of Legends far more real to their inhabitants than the fashion boutiques in Paris would ever be — and far more exclusive. After all, there is only one seller.
Plus, just as is the case with free-to-play games, the economics are all in alignment: creating the market is a fixed cost which means it has no impact on the marginal cost of one more player. Why not add the maximum number of players (by making it free) and then develop a different revenue stream that pays out continuously the longer a player plays the game, ensuring the developer captures value as it is realized? Sure, said value may only be captured from some, and in relatively tiny increments, but remember we’re dealing with the Internet: you can make it up in volume.
Moreover, I think the model is broadly applicable. I wrote two weeks ago about how the future of publishing will not be about monetizing pure words but rather about using words to gain fans that can be monetized through other harder-to-discover media. Time and attention remain precious commodities and earning trust in one area gives you the right to make money from it in another. Similarly, as I wrote last week, software generally should be seen as a lever to solutions that are much more meaningful to customers, and much more difficult to copy. After all, as noted above, software is infinitely copyable: better to use that quality to your advantage than to base your business model on fighting gravity.1
More broadly, the fact remains that business is difficult — it was difficult before the Internet, and it’s difficult now — but the nature of the difficulty has changed. Distribution used to be the hardest thing, but now that distribution is free the time and money saved must instead be invested in getting even closer to customers and more finely attuned to exactly why they are spending their money on you. Any sort of software — or writing, or music, or video, or clothing, or anything else — has never been purchased for its intrinsic value but rather because of what it did for the buyer — how it made them feel (informed, happy, relaxed, etc.). Create the conditions where the need might manifest itself and then meet that need, and not only will your business succeed, it will, in all likelihood, succeed to an even greater extent than the physically-limited lowest common denominator winners from the “good old days.”
A reader with the uncomplicated but noetic name of Simplemind asks:
I have always wanted someone to explain this Gene Wolfe passage spoken by his character Severian the torturer. I do not know philosophy but is he talking about gnostiscm? Knowing the right words vs that things unfold according to free will/plan?
It always struck me as a beautifully written and pregnant with a meaning I could not quite deliver into my own mind.
“We believe that we invent symbols. The truth is that they invent us; we are their creatures, shaped by their hard, defining edges. When soldiers take their oath they are given a coin, an asimi stamped with the profile of the Autarch. Their acceptance of that coin is their acceptance of the special duties and burdens of military life—they are soldiers from that moment, though they may know nothing of the management of arms. I did not know that then, but it is a profound mistake to believe that we must know of such things to be influenced by them, and in fact to believe so is to believe in the most debased and superstitious kind of magic. The would-be sorcerer alone has faith in the efficacy of pure knowledge; rational people know that things act of themselves or not at all.”
It is an excellent question.
The quote immediately follows the moment when the young Severian, having accepted a coin from the dashing rebel Vodalus, puts it unthinkingly in his pocket.
Without knowing it, he is now a soldier of the rebel forces, a Voladarii. This is just as he just pretended to be a paragraph before: as often happens in life, the pretense becomes reality.
When soldiers take their oath they are given a coin, an asimi stamped with the profile of the Autarch. Their acceptance of that coin is their acceptance of the special duties and burdens of military life—they are soldiers from that moment, though they may know nothing of the management of arms.
Accepting the coin is the sacrament of entry into the military: from now on, Sevarian is a rebel against the system of his world, just as Christ was a rebel, not just against the Roman Empire, but against Hell.
We believe that we invent symbols. The truth is that they invent us; we are their creatures, shaped by their hard, defining edges
In the Thirteenth Century a dispute arose among schoolmen as to whether we invent names for things arbitrarily, or whether names have a nature of their own. The idea that words are merely labels applied arbitrarily is called Nominalism. Without going into the history of philosophy, or the complexity of the various nuances of the argument, it is accurate generally to say that Nominalism gave rise to the dethronement of Metaphysics as the queen of sciences, the rise of Dualism, the glorification of Empiricism at the expense of Rationalism, and, indeed the abandonment of classical philosophy by the modern world altogether. It is somewhat awe inspiring to contemplate the forethought of the medieval scholars to reject Nominalism, and to foresee the various errors that would inevitably flow from this one master error.
Nominalism says Platonic idea or forms do not exist. Universals, so says Nominalism, exist only in speech, not in reality. The opposite doctrine, saying abstractions are real and universals are real, is called Realism.
Severian is announcing his belief in Realism, but adding the mystical doctrine that some symbols are sacramental. A sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible (and sacred) reality.
I did not know that then, but it is a profound mistake to believe that we must know of such things to be influenced by them, and in fact to believe so is to believe in the most debased and superstitious kind of magic.
Sevarian is saying he did not know first, that accepting a coin inducted him into the military of the rebels, and, second, that the symbol of the coin has a power to shape Sevarians character whether he knows it or not. And it does indeed so shape him: he falls in love with a prisoner named Thecla and arranges her suicide to prevent her suffering the proscribed regime of torture as proscribed by law because he is, whether he admits it or not, a servant loyal to Vodalus, attracted to the paramour of Vodalus, Thea, and hence attracted to her sister Thecla.
Severian is dramatically dismissing the doctrine that symbols have power over us only when we know and acknowledge their meaning. He calls it magic somewhat wryly: a magician believes that certain magic words have power because the words are magic.
Severian is turning this on its head, saying that sacramental words (words like “I do” spoken by the bride at her marriage mass) have power because the words are magic, and it is the magician who thinks they are robbed of their power merely because he does not know or does not consent to that power. (I note in passing that the sin of buying Church offices is called Simony, and takes its name from Simon the Magician, who astonished the crowds of Rome by flying over the city with artificial wings.)
The would-be sorcerer alone has faith in the efficacy of pure knowledge; rational people know that things act of themselves or not at all
In the Fifth Century a schism erupted called Donatism, where certain Christians asserted that any bishop who collaborated with the Roman Persecutions of ten years before lost their bishoprics, hence every sacrament they had performed, baptism or marriage or ordination, was invalid.
St Augustine of Hippo argued against the Donatists, and first enunciated the Catholic doctrine of Ex Opere Operato, that is, the sacrament works of its own power, not by the faith of the bishop.
If you have ever seen the movie FRIGHT NIGHT, there is a funny (if horrific) scene where an unbeliever holds up a crucifix to a vampire, who merely smiles and says “You need faith for that to work” pushes the crucifix aside without harm and mugs the man. Now, whatever the other merits of the film, it is theologically incorrect.
As Severian says, rational people know that things act of themselves are not at all.
Not to shock my Protestant friends, but this passage, and indeed this book, takes its beauty and its depth from the Catholic doctrines that Gene Wolfe is seeped in.
I note wryly that in the final book, when Severian once again inspects the coin he was given by Vodalus, discovers that it is adulterated. It is a false coin.