Friday Link Love

Some random stuff that caught my attention this week:

I Believe in Child Labour, Sweatshops and Torture

Peter Rollins is an amazingly complex thinker and communicator. But in this post he doesn’t do nuance—for which he has been criticized. Still, for many Christians who have divorced belief from practice for way too long, and in some pretty tragic ways, these are prophetic words.

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“In My Opinion”: Practices of Discernment for Leaders When Making Decisions

Here’s your nuance:

On one of my work-related trips, I struck up a conversation with a young man who was a professional pilot. He was a serious-minded guy, and before long we were discussing the big issues of life. After a while, he said he noticed that whenever I said something substantive, I always added the qualifier “in my opinion.” In his opinion, he said, someone with my academic background should not qualify his remarks but should speak “with certainty.”

I explained that my degrees have provided me with more questions than answers. He said, “I’ll have to think about that.”

I thought about it, too. And I stick by my qualifier.

The article offers some antidotes to what the author calls “arrogant absolutism.”

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The Men in Mentors

The author went looking for female mentors… and couldn’t find any.

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And a bit more whimsy:

Solutions for the ‘Everyday’

Two-way toothpaste? Coffins that screw into the ground? I love it!

Friday Link Love

A few odds and ends from around the Intertubes:

7 Principles of Comedy/ Design/ Creating Anything

Discussion of the HBO special “Talking Funny” with Ricky Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Louis CK. Interesting connections between their process and other creative processes. Plus there’s a link to the special, available in four parts on YouTube.

The Myth of Self Control

From Andrew Sullivan’s blog. “Dan Ariely sees the psychology of self control at work in the tale of Ulysses and the sirens.”

Mom Gets the Right Things Done with the Natural Planning Model

I first read this as “natural family planning,” for which the jokes write themselves. But this is a Getting Things Done post about how to apply the principles of GTD to one’s home/family life, not just work life. The more I get into GTD the more I realize it is really a process of discernment at its core.

Beware the Metaphor

We’ve always known language is powerful, now we have a study that demonstrates one aspect of this:

Researchers asked students to read one of two crime reports. In the first report, crime was described as a “wild beast preying on the city” and “lurking in neighborhoods.”

Guess which group suggested more jails and getting “tougher on crime,” and which suggested more social reforms such as improving education?

This study is not surprising, but it does solidify my intense dislike for cable news and its swooshes and logos and Super Scary Music.

Fidelia’s Sisters: How Do You Do It?

A nice column from a minister-mom that provides an honest look at what it’s really like to engage on those two vocations.

A Benedictine Paradigm for Congregational Life

In all our talk about being missional and the church not existing for its own sake, we can get out of whack as we fail to nurture our own spiritual lives. The Benedictine Rule can show us how to find balance and faithfulness between inward journey and outward service.

Friday Link Love

Just a few links this week.

How to Steal Like An Artist

This is by Austin Kleon who does poetry called newspaper blackout. So delightfully lo-fi.

There was a video going around the internet last year of Rainn Wilson, the guy who plays Dwight on The Office. He was talking about creative block, and he said this thing that drove me nuts, because I feel like it’s a license for so many people to put off making things: “If you don’t know who you are or what you’re about or what you believe in it’s really pretty impossible to be creative.”

If I waited to know “who I was” or “what I was about” before I started “being creative”, well, I’d still be sitting around trying to figure myself out instead of making things. In my experience, it’s in the act of making things that we figure out who we are.

Lots more stuff like that. Thoughts+drawings. I find the whole thing charming and inspiring.

Digital Memory Archive

Although we’ve always thought of ourselves as rather minimalist, we’ve been realizing that we have attachments to things that we don’t really want or need anymore, and have a hard time letting them go. What we are really attached to are the memories and associations the object spurs, afraid we’d lose the memory if we could never see the object again. As a solution, we started photographing things we wanted to let go of to create a digital archive of “Memory Stuff”. It freed us up to give stuff away.

I like.

Pay Attention to What You Envy to Discover Work That You Love

Jealousy and envy are not necessarily the most attractive traits of humanity, but at least they’re honest. If you’re having trouble figuring out what kind of work you love, try paying closer attention to the things you envy.

I love the thought of mining one’s shadow side for the sake of personal growth and discernment. And that’s all I’m going to say about that at the moment…

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Reverb #10: Wisdom

December 10: Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

It’s so hard to know the impact of our decisions. I’m with David Wilcox. He introduces his song “Hold It Up to the Light” by talking about the “thousand little decisions” that get us where we are. We focus on the big roads diverged in a yellow wood, but what about the tiny calibrations along the way?

I made some big decisions this year, including the decision to say no to some things that allowed me to say yes to some other stuff. But the decision that has brought the most happiness is the decision to convert our dining room into a study/craft room that we call the blue room, which is where this blog gets its name. You can read about it here.

Here’s the thing about me. I like the idea of creative space and messiness in which experimentation can happen and projects can grow, but I don’t like clutter. At all. I can put that positively and say that I desire outward order because it helps me have inner peace. (Thank you Gretchen Rubin.) But really, I’m just anal. So the blue room is perfect because it can stay untidy… because it’s supposed to. Then when I need to get away from the dried Play-Doh pebbles on the floor or hole-punch confetti, I have the uncluttered living room as an escape.

Right now our table has various materials on it from our Christmas projects, as well as a kit for a gingerbread village that we’ll get to. It’s a happy jumble.

We wondered how we would do without a formal dining room. Thanksgiving was our first time to try that out since the room was transformed back in January. It’s a bit of a loss, to be sure—the kitchen table is smaller, and it’s not quite as lovely to have a nice dinner with the pots and pans crusting over in full view—but it went fine. What is gained is much better than what was lost.

Reverb—December 1 and 2

I’ll be reverbing this month—find out more here. I’m a day behind so here’s two days’ worth.

December 1’s prompt: One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?

  • 2010: Adventure. I made it through my first year in a new call and visited some new countries; that’s plenty of adventure there. Also, our family weathered a significant job change for Robert. I became a swim team mom, I let go of several writing commitments and created a huge empty space (some might call it a vacuum), which is a scary unknown space for me… and that space got filled up with a book contract.
  • 2011: Fruitful. I like that word better than productive—more organic, more process-oriented. Now that I have the contract, I have to write the darn book, so 2011 better be fruitful! Also, next year we will pass several kid milestones: two children in elementary school, getting rid of our last carseat and stroller, and finally finishing up with diapers, which have been with us for eight long years. (Yikes.) We’re also beginning a visioning/transformation process at our congregation, which will bear lots of fruit, I think.

December 2’s prompt: Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

Random Internetting, and not easily. But I am working on these boundaries all the time.

Choosing the Lesser of Two Evils

I read from time to time about people who have decided not to vote because they are tired of making a choice between what feels like the lesser of two evils. Perhaps their candidate of choice got elected and compromised more than they “should have.” Or neither of the candidates truly reflects the person’s convictions. I’m hearing from some folks in Illinois that neither of the senate candidates is all that great.

I agree that holding one’s nose while voting doesn’t exactly inspire excitement. You think to yourself, “Out of the entire country (state, city), these two clowns are the best candidates we could come up with?” Doesn’t make you want to hop out of bed and stand in a long line at the polls before work.

And yet isn’t life often about choosing between two imperfect (sometimes highly imperfect) options? I know a woman whose mother was in a slow decline due to illness, and in the end, she had to choose between two different therapeutic options, one of which would lead to congestive heart failure and the other to kidney failure. In the former case, death can come more quickly, but it’s an anxious, uncomfortable process. In the latter case, the person just slips away, but it can take longer.

Talk about the lesser of two evils.

Recently while I was pondering a decision, some friends asked me, “What’s the worst that can happen if you choose X, or Y?” Now, in this case I was trying to decide between two good things. And with two good things, you really can’t go wrong, and it’s freeing just to do the best you can with the decision.

But really, at its heart, “What’s the worst that can happen” is a question about minimizing the negative outcomes. Kind of a “do the least harm” thing. And sometimes that’s the best we can do. So much is out of our control; even the outcome of our decisions is largely out of our control.

Back to voting. I’m always thrilled when there’s a candidate that aligns exactly with my values. Hardly ever happens though. So I go with the one that’s slightly closer to me than the other, and then I call and write letters and do all that stuff one does, including supporting a primary challenger who more accurately reflects my values, if it comes to that.

I hope that doesn’t make me complacent, or a pessimist. I just remember that ten years ago, a third-party candidate convinced a good number of people that there was no difference between the Democratic and Republican candidates. Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, I don’t know anyone credible today who thinks that an Al Gore presidency would have been “no different” than the George W. Bush one.

I learned in seminary that the book of Exodus gets its name from the Greek which means, “a way out.” I love this. It’s not THE way out, it’s A way out.

In one sense, this can speak of abundance (something I write a lot about)—God could have rescued the people in any infinite number of ways, but chose this one.

But you can also see it with a different slant, a sort of “eh, there might be other ways to do it, maybe even better ones, but this gets the job done.” Kind of a MacGyver God: the world’s an imperfect place; you don’t always have the tools you need, so you kinda do the best with what you’ve got. So if you’re MacGyver, you break yourself out of the bad guy’s lair with the chewing gum and the brillo pad, and if you’re the American voter, you try to make the world a better place with a candidate that you find the least offensive.

As I said, this doesn’t inspire a lot of excitement, and we should all work for change—does anyone NOT agree that our campaign finance system is broken?—but such is the world as it stands.

I don’t know. No pithy conclusion here. Just thinking.

How Do You Decide?

How do you decide what’s “yours to do”?

I’ve got an invitation in my e-mail box to do some writing for someone. It’s a paying gig, which is a rare and wonderful thing… though let’s not kid ourselves, it’s not much. And I try not to break it down by the hour.

I’ve written for this outfit before. It’s not hard stuff, and I believe in what they’re doing, but it’s not exactly what I want to be focusing on right now. There are two large projects I want to work on that I really feel energy for, but there’s no deadline on them, and if they take a little longer because of side projects, well, nobody will care but me (and perhaps my writing group).

The invitation came right before I left, so I mulled it on my trip. As often happens, I came home from our travels invigorated, and resolved to be intentional about the things I take on, to avoid doing things just because they’re expected of me by others. Again I link to the Christian Century and the article about the power of travel.

Our church also suffered a sudden, unexpected loss of a pillar member while I was away. I will miss T and her caring spirit. Such losses always invite us to consider our lives and make course corrections if necessary. Life is short and we are each irreplaceable.

So this morning I started to write a “no thanks” e-mail… and then something stopped me. I started to think about how the project really wouldn’t take that much time, and it’s far enough out that I could plan my time to get it done and also work on my personal projects. It’s a slightly different focus than the work I’ve done for them before, which makes it enticing. Besides… I’m a writer. I serve a church part-time so that I can work on projects just like this one.

Those are all valid points, but I wonder if they are really what stopped me. Maybe I stopped because of fear. Maybe I am worried that if I start saying no to stuff, people will stop asking. Or maybe it’s ego—I want to feel important and needed. Or maybe it’s competitiveness—they’ll ask someone else and like his/her stuff better.

First John talks about “testing the spirits” to see if they are of God. If I am leaning toward yes, and and that comes from a place of trust and joy, then I want to go that way. If I am working primarily out of fear or shadow stuff, then I want to check that. Unfortunately, most decisions are a muddled mix of both.

Interestingly, Bruce Reyes-Chow (the former moderator of our denomination) just announced today that he’s letting go of two projects he’s been working on. I admire his discernment and am sure it was tough. I believe in saying No when it allows you to work on the larger Yes, but discerning what that is isn’t easy.

How do you decide to say no to worthy invitations? How do you determine what’s “yours to do”?