From Business Insider see “How to Start an Interesting Conversation with Anyone.” This is a good piece. Far too many people are passive in the company of others. This could be very helpful.
This post from Life Hack is a reminder that there is value in reviewing one’s goals. See “5 Actions You Should Take to Plan Your Next 5 Years Well.”
This is a good post by the former Stanford University dean. See “Former Stanford dean explains why helicoptering parenting is ruining a generation of children.”
I like New York Times columnist David Brooks. Like any writer, I don’t agree with everything he says. I like Brooks because he makes me think. I also like him because he is not predictable. See his recent columns here.
I occasionally listen to NPR’s radio program On Being with Krista Tippett. Recently I listened to a portion of the podcast with Adam Grant, “Successful Givers, Toxic Takers, and the Life We Spend at Work.”
Some very interesting articles appeared recently regarding children, play, etc. See “Schools Hire Consultants to Make Recess Safe, Structured, Sad” and “Kids Need To Get Out And Play.” Also on the subject of children be sure to at least skim (from the Washington Post) “Are parents ruining youth sports? Few kids play amid pressure.”
Conversation and Technology
See the interview with Sherry Turkle in the Huffington Post regarding her new book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. The article is “Texting Isn’t the Problem: A Conversation with Sherry Turkle About Reclaiming Conversation.”
See Adam Toren’s “7 Healthy Habits that Maximize Your Productivity Every Day.” (Reading these kinds of articles often reminds me of a bad habit I’ve acquired or a good habit that I’ve neglected.) See also “7 Invaluable Lessons from World Class Achievers.”
Be sure to read my recent blog post “What Good Parents Do.” These are some reflections on the practices and habits of good parents.
Odds and Ends
I am reading Tim Keller’s book Preaching. This is an excellent book written by a seasoned minister who has been preaching for many years. I especially pay attention to Keller’s footnotes as he is apparently one who reads widely.
This weekend I read several two articles and an interview by James K. A. Smith in Comment (print edition). (See online edition here.) In particular I enjoyed his “An annotated reading of your world.” I will quote one section of this article:
The world needs your (continuing) education, and your soul is starving for it. We are remarkably well-educated dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants who could only dream of what we enjoy. Let’s not squander our inheritance. (p. 11)
Those of us who have children are always learning, or at least we should be. We have two daughters who are adults and are still learning what it means to be a dad and mom to two adult children.
James K. A. Smith, in an article in Comment journal (fall 2015) speaks of “the currents and dynamics of society that are essential but often ignored because they are banal and taken for granted.” He observes that “While headlines focus on spectacles and draw our attention to controversy, the things that make a society tick hum away in the background, in the quiet of life-giving homes and the energy of formative classroom . . . .” (“Health Beyond the Hospital” p. 2-3).
As parents, we need to be aware of the significance of the “quiet of life-giving homes.” This may be where some of the most significant work of our lives will be done. Yet in our busyness and fatigue, we may also ignore some of the most important realities of being a good parent.
What do good parents do who wish to raise children in life-giving homes?
Good parents continue to learn. Pity the child who is being raised by a dad or mom who won’t learn, grow, read, or ask questions of others. Their default is often their own experience. “This is the way I was raised. This is good enough for my children.” Granted, all of us can learn something from our families of origin. However, we bless our children when we continue to grow and mature as parents.
At the time, it was a new luxury car. It was a car that I could only dream of owning. The owner was a wealthy man in our small church. I was a newly married, young preacher. That morning, as I walked out of our church building, I could see him already sitting behind the wheel of his parked car, puffing on a big cigar.
As I walked by his car, I waved to him. His window slowly came down. He glared at me and sternly said, “Let’s don’t talk about race anymore!”
That morning I had preached a sermon and at some point had said something about race and the way we treat one another. As I recall, I spoke regarding the way we as Christians are called to treat others, regardless of ethnic group.
Apparently this man did not like what I said. This was a new experience for me. I had never had someone immediately snap at me like this regarding what was just said in a sermon. I responded by saying something like, “I was just applying the message of the text that I was preaching this morning.”
I thought about his remark throughout the day. I knew he was used to having his way. I also knew that he gave more money on Sunday morning than anyone else and that our small church was impacted by his gift. I reflected on what I had said in the sermon and genuinely believed that what I said was appropriate.
On one level his comment was about race but it actually was about much more. His comment forced me to reflect on why I preached and why I did any kind of ministry in the first place.
Steve Norman has written a very fine post on some of the benefits of seminary. Working with Harding School of Theology, I obviously believe there are great benefits that one can receive at a seminary. See 4 Surprising Benefits of Seminary.
For your brain
These two articles deal with the kind of food that might enhance the brain. See 7 Back to School Breakfasts that Boost Brain Power and Researchers Find 8 Superfoods That Drastically Boost Your Brainpower At Work.
Bill George, a Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School has written a good article entitled Self Awareness: Key to Sustainable Leadership (Huffington Post).
Being with people in grief and loss
Maria Popova has written a great piece in Brain Pickings. See Barbara Walters on How to Be There for the Newly Bereaved and Brokenhearted. (Maria Popova often writes thoughtful and useful posts that are helpful and interesting.)
Terry Rush has written a post entitled Anti-Religion is a Religion. Worth reading.
Public speaking and preachers
Don’t miss this fine post. Volume and the Public Speaker: Be Heard and Be Effective. This post contains important reminders to anyone who does public speaking.
Marriage and the dangerous question
See this post by one of my favorite writers, Gary Thomas — The Question That Can Destroy Your Marriage.
Wise leaders understand that life and ministry is a long game. Far too many church leaders act as if real ministry began once they came on the scene. It almost sounds like what the congregation may have been doing for many years long before the present leaders showed up is not as legitimate as what is being done today. Wise ministers know that God has been working long before they arrived and will continue to work in that congregation long after they are gone.
Wise leaders never stop growing in character. For example, a minister preaches/leads/teaches out of a transformed life. As Ruth Haley Barton has said:
What would it look like for me to lead more consistently from my soul — the place of my own encounter with God — rather than leading primarily from my head, my unbridled activism, or my performance-oriented drivenness? (Ruth Haley Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, p. 25)
Most ministers who I know are good people. In fact, some of the best people I know serve as ministers in churches. Many preach and some serve in other roles.
Ministers have the opportunity to influence other ministers as well as the elders of the congregation by what they model in their professional life as well as in their private life.
Some ministers are overly concerned with their visibility and their status among others instead of focusing on their character.
As a result, some ministers become preoccupied with things that just don’t matter that much. Some may keep score. “They asked him to keynote a lecture at Pepperdine again!” Or, maybe you see that your friend is preaching at a number of churches over the next few months and you can’t believe they asked this person instead of you. Or, you find yourself checking to see how many Twitter followers that a certain preacher has or how many Facebook friends this person has.
When the forming of our character is ignored, it may show up privately, publicly or both. Privately, one may begin to harbor grudges, resentment, and hatred for others. Or, you may begin to make poor personal choices and give yourself the license to follow your lusts. Quite often this means opening the door to pornography. Once that door is open, it is often quite difficult to ever get it closed again.
When we ignore the building of our character, it may show up publicly, perhaps in the way we do ministry. We may lie about the attendance at our church. We may exaggerate the good things that happen at our church. Many ministers take short-cuts. Some plagiarize sermons while others practice manipulation and dishonesty with the elders or a congregation.
Do you ever wish you could have a do-over?
As a teenager, I used to play golf frequently at Tenison Golf Course in Dallas. One of the first times I ever played, I hit a terrible drive off the tee. Someone said, “Take a mulligan.” I learned that “mulligan” was just another word for “do-over.”
There is nothing like a do-over. Grace through Jesus is the ultimate do-over.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
A do-over is what so many of us want.
The parents who are broken hearted over the lifestyle of their teenage son or daughter.
The father whose son witnessed his unholy lifestyle and now, years later, the son is imitating the father.
The business person who in a moment of panic chose to be dishonest on his taxes.
The young man who wishes he had never looked at his first pornographic website.
For many years I have been listening to stories. One man sat in my office and stared at the floor. He looked awful. I suspect he had not slept all night.
“I need to tell you something.”
Are you grappling with important questions?
Some people are preoccupied with their image. (How do I look?)
Some are preoccupied with their success. (How can I win?)
Others, however, have discovered that one’s life can really change for the good when you deal with some very important questions.
- The question of character. What is the most important thing in life to you?
- The question of legacy. What do you want to be known for at the end of your life?
- The question of the present. At this stage in your journey, what do you need to learn next?
(Thanks to Walter Wright for these three questions found in Mentoring, pp. 2-3.)
Some of us consider such questions but seem to think our thoughts are enough. Consequently, while we may say what we believe to the the most important thing in life, our actions do not reflect such values. Or, we may tell others what we want to be known for at the end our our life but them allow our compulsive desires to determine what we do.
Dealing with these questions are game-changers!
She sat in my office staring at the floor. I’ve seen that look so many times on the faces of men and women who have experienced hurt.
Sometimes, life is really hard.
You may feel hurt, disappointed, and empty.
You may feel numb.
Whatever the reason, there comes a point when you need to hear once again a word of hope.
I love Psalm 73. In fact, it may be one of my favorite Psalms. The Psalm speaks of a person who says that his “feet had almost slipped.” He became so discouraged after seeing the unfairness and pain that exists in the world. He saw the “prosperity of the wicked” (73:3). It seemed as if they had no struggles, burdens or the common human ills (73:4-5). They were a prideful and arrogant people (73:6-8). The world was not working right and it was very discouraging to this writer. He felt as if his faith was all for nothing (73:13)
However all of this changed later and he came away from the sanctuary very encouraged.