Friday Link Love

Anon!

Are There Babysitters in Heaven? — Meg Peery McLaughlin

Meg is a friend and a profoundly gifted pastor. Here she offers tips for people helping children process death and grief.

It’s best to be open with kids when the topic comes up and their questions arise. Be honest and as clear/concrete as possible. Kids don’t need to be shielded from the truth. If they are, their imaginations will fill in details where there are gaps. Avoid clichés: “God takes people” makes it seem like God is like the descending metal claw in a toy machine.

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Grin and Bear It! How to Tackle the Tougher Tasks — 99U

I especially like the “networking” section, particularly the tip about showing up early to an event. So much easier than showing up late and trying to insert oneself into groups that have already formed.

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Why a Bible Belt Conservative Spent a Year Pretending to Be Gay — Guardian

Tip o’ the hat to my friend Jay for sending this along:

Timothy Kurek grew up hating homosexuality. As a conservative Christian deep in America’s Bible belt, he had been taught that being gay was an abomination before God. He went to his right-wing church, saw himself as a soldier for Christ and attended Liberty University, the “evangelical West Point”.

But when a Christian friend in a karaoke bar told him how her family had kicked her out when she revealed she was a lesbian, Kurek began to question profoundly his beliefs and religious teaching. Amazingly, the 26-year-old decided to “walk in the shoes” of a gay man in America by pretending to be homosexual.

This is an interesting article, and I always like a good redemption story. But you don’t have to pretend for a year in order to understand the plight of another (though that’s a good way to get a book deal, eh?). Simply befriending someone usually does the trick. Which is why Mix It Up at Lunch Day is such a neat thing.

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The Waterfall Swing — Colossal

The water pours down from the beam on the top of the swing, but stops when the person passes underneath. How fun is that? Click on the link or the image below for video.

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My last few links are all from the same source, Brain Pickings:

Do Not Despise Your Inner Life 

Inspired by Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet

James Harmon set out to create an antidote to the “toxic cloud of tepid-broth wisdom” found in books “with the shelf life of a banana” that the contemporary publishing world peddled and reached out to some of the most “outspoken provocateurs, funky philosophers, cunning cultural critics, social gadflies, cyberpunks, raconteurs, radical academics, literary outlaws, and obscure but wildly talented poets. The result, a decade in the making and the stubborn survivor of ample publishing pressure to grind it into precisely the kind of mush Harmon was determined to avoid, is Take My Advice: Letters to the Next Generation from People Who Know a Thing or Two

The post contains an excerpt from philosopher Martha Nussbaum and includes the advice, “Read a lot of stories, listen to a lot of music, and think about what the stories you encounter mean for your own life and lives of those you love. In that way, you will not be alone with an empty self; you will have a newly rich life with yourself, and enhanced possibilities of real communication with others.”

I WANT THIS BOOK.

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75 Scientific Mysteries, Illustrated by Artists

One of the illustrations for How Does Gravity Work?

Art meets science. How could it not be awesome?

[The book’s editors] invite some of today’s most celebrated artists to create scientific illustrations and charts to accompany short essays about the most fascinating unanswered questions on the minds of contemporary scientists across biology, astrophysics, chemistry, quantum mechanics, anthropology, and more.

The images, which comes from a mix of well-known titans and promising up-and-comers, including favorites like Lisa CongdonGemma Correll, and Jon Klassen, borrow inspiration from antique medical illustrationsvintage science diagrams, and other historical ephemera from periods of explosive scientific curiosity.

Above all, the project is a testament to the idea that ignorance is what drives discovery and wonder is what propels science — a reminder to, as Rilke put it, live the questions and delight in reflecting on the mysteries themselves.

I WANT THIS BOOK TOO.

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Anais Nin Meets Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr.

Nin has been a person of fascination to me, but the key quote was this one:

[Frank Lloyd Wright’s] struggle is against uniformity and wholesale design. He speaks out boldly, as Varèse did. If he sounds like a moralist, it is because beauty, quality, and ethics are inseparable.

What an intriguing thought. Do you agree?

Have a good weekend. And if you’re needing some Sabbath this weekend but aren’t sure where to start, check out my post at the Sabbath blog.

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Friday Link Love: Character, Luck and Love, and a Homemade Helicopter

 

Away we go:

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Poetic Cosmos of the Breath — Colossal

 

The artist took huge sheets of colorful foil, taped the edges to the ground, then filled them with air. Transcendent:

 

 

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Children Succeed with Character, Not Test Scores — NPR

An interview with the author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character. I’m seeing stuff about this book all over the place.

The author’s focus seems to be on how kids prevail in rough neighborhoods and despite socio-economic disadvantage. As a parent in a very different context, I’d like to know specific ways to encourage my own children. The schools are still focused on IQ and test scores as measures of success. How do we transition toward grit, curiosity and character?

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What Can I Say That’s Actually Helpful in Times of Grief? — Lifehacker

A very good list:

“I’m so sorry for your loss.” Yes, it’s completely unoriginal, but that doesn’t really matter here. If you knew the person who passed away, you could add in meaningful memories. When my previous boss died this year, I told his family, whom I was also close to, how he had been my mentor when I was just a kid out of college and one of my biggest supporters. I’m not sure if it helped them, but probably most families would appreciate your recognizing their loved one and their loss.

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Tough Times, Luck and Love: One Family’s Story of Childhood Leukemia — Vimeo

I am acquainted with this family through friends. Sweet and (some) wrenching photos combined with an interview with the mother. Wise and heartfelt.

Tough Times, Luck and Love: One Family’s Story of Childhood Leukemia from Liisa Ogburn on Vimeo.

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The Water-Park Scandal and Two Americas — Esquire

Waterparks are implementing “flash passes” so people can pay more to cut to the front of the line. The author sees this as a metaphor:

It sounds like an innovative answer to the problem that everybody faces at an amusement park, and one perfectly in keeping with the approaches currently in place at airports and even on some crowded American highways — perfectly in keeping with the two-tiering of America. You can pay for one level of access, or you can pay for another. If you have the means, you can even pay for freedom. There’s only one problem: Cutting the line is cheating, and everyone knows it. Children know it most acutely, know it in their bones, and so when they’ve been waiting on a line for a half-hour and a family sporting yellow plastic Flash Passes on their wrists walks up and steps in front of them, they can’t help asking why that family has been permitted the privilege of perpetrating what looks like an obvious injustice. And then you have to explain not just that they paid for it but that you haven’t paid enough — that the $100 or so that you’ve ponied up was just enough to teach your children that they are second- or third-class citizens.

It wouldn’t be so bad, if the line still moved. But it doesn’t. It stops, every time a group of people with Flash Passes cut to the front. You used to be able to go on, say, three or four rides an hour, even on the most crowded days. Now you go on one or two.

Praise and thanks for Disney, whose Fast Passes are free and available to anyone who wants to go to the trouble of retrieving them.

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Less — theskyislaughing

My goal for the year is “less.”  I just want to keep all my vices but engage in them less often.

I’m not giving up Diet Coke, but I’ll drink it less (like once a day during work days)often.

I’m not giving up driving, but I’ll do it less often.

I’m not giving up computer time, but I’ll do it less often.

This is excellent. I think there are Sabbath implications here. We sometimes think that if we can’t do it perfectly then we won’t do it at all. If a weekly Sabbath seems impossible, how about every two weeks? Every month? How about a commitment simply to labor a little less?

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The Two-Spirit People of Indigenous North Americans — Guardian

Interesting article about Native Americans’ reverential treatment of sexual minorities (including gay persons) in their communities:

Rather than emphasising the homosexuality of these persons, however, many Native Americans focused on their spiritual gifts. American Indian traditionalists, even today, tend to see a person’s basic character as a reflection of their spirit. Since everything that exists is thought to come from the spirit world, androgynous or transgender persons are seen as doubly blessed, having both the spirit of a man and the spirit of a woman. Thus, they are honoured for having two spirits, and are seen as more spiritually gifted than the typical masculine male or feminine female.

Therefore, many Native American religions, rather than stigmatising such persons, often looked to them as religious leaders and teachers.

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Everything Is Incredible — Vimeo

A man in Honduras, crippled since birth, has been building his own helicopter for more than 50 years. This is funny, sad, and inspiring all at once.

Everything is Incredible from Tyler Bastian on Vimeo.

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Have an incredible weekend, everyone.

Friday Link Love: No More Random Than Usual Edition

This post was originally “perhaps more random than usual” but I thought better of one of my links. *I* found it amusing, but it was off-color and had the potential to offend, so away it went.

Onward:

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Rest: Breathing Space and Sabbath Work — Mihee Kim-Kort

Mihee is a fellow pastor and Chalice Press author. She was with the board of the Young Clergy Women last week and talked about how it was a Sabbath experience, even though she was working:

…a mixed-up experience of Sabbath from daily living, i.e. from the babies. It was a Sabbath-work. It was space to breathe, without being stifled and smothered by my extremely loving babies. It was a space to be, and be not only a mom but a pastor, a sister, a leader, a thinker, a writer. It was a space to receive, and give in a different way.

A space she found restful and Sabbath-y.

I love this. One of the things I do in the book is explore different ways of thinking about Sabbath other than simply “not working.” For example, one section talks about Sabbath as a time to cultivate novelty. By moving into a different creative space, we are able to find rest and renewal.

She’s also got a great link to a TED talk called “The Art of Possibility.” How can you not lean in to that?

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Lamp Made from Sawmill Waste and LEDs — Colossal

A perfect illustration of that old preaching saw about how the cracks are important because that’s where the light shines through:

Genius.

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The Greatest Films of All Time — Roger Ebert

And he would know, eh? The reasoning behind his choices is enjoyable to read, as is everything Ebert writes:

The two [new] candidates, for me, are Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York” (2008) and Terrene Malick’s “The Tree of Life” (2011). Like the Herzog, the Kubrick and the Coppola, they are films of almost foolhardy ambition. Like many of the films on my list, they were directed by the artist who wrote them. Like several of them, it attempts no less than to tell the story of an entire life.

In “Synecdoche,” Kaufman does this with one of the most audacious sets ever constructed: An ever-expanding series of boxes or compartments within which the protagonist attempts to deal with the categories of his life. The film has the insight that we all deal with life in separate segments, defined by choice or compulsion, desire or fear, past or present. It is no less than a film about life.

In “The Tree of Life,” Malick boldly begins with the Big Bang and ends in an unspecified state of attenuated consciousness after death. The central section is the story of birth and raising a family.

I could choose either film. I will choose “The Tree of Life” because it is more affirmative and hopeful. I realize that isn’t a defensible reasons for choosing one film over the other, but it is my reason, and making this list is essentially impossible, anyway.

Have you seen Tree of Life? We’ve had it sitting on our coffee table from Netflix for oh, two months or so. I will watch it!

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Panoramic Picture from Mars — NASA

Click on the link above for a 360-degree view of the Red Planet. Stunning, although I do love our pretty blue one.

(Note that this is NOT from Curiosity. In fact this may not even be a new picture. But it was new to me—maybe it’s new for you too.)

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Why Great Ideas Get Rejected — 99U

Creativity requires an element of novelty, but novelty provokes uncertainty:

We now know that regardless of how open-minded people are, or claim to be, they experience a subtle bias against creative ideas when faced with uncertain situations. This isn’t merely a preference for the familiar or a desire to maintain the status quo. Most of us sincerely claim that we want the positive changes creativity provides. What the bias affects is our ability to recognize the creative ideas that we claim we desire. Thus, when you’re pitching your creative idea, it may not be the idea itself that is being rejected. The more likely culprit could be the uncertainty your audience is feeling, which in turn is overriding their ability to recognize the idea as truly novel and useful.

If the implicit bias against creativity is triggered by uncertainty, then crafting your pitch to maximize certainty should improve the odds of the idea being accepted. You can do this in a variety of ways…

Members of the NEXT Church and other change agents: be advised.

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Pride Parade in Uganda — Advocate

This came across my Facebook feed last night. I don’t care who you are or what you believe, that is some stunning bravery right there.

Gorgeous.

Go in peace. Live fearless.

Friday Link Love

Away we go:

Man Barely Able to Stand Does the Unthinkable — YouTube

I would like to know more specifics about how the yoga teacher helped him, but yes. Amazing.

h/t: Teri Peterson

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Neil deGrasse Tyson Gets Sidetracked While Singing Children’s Songs — McSweeney’s

They get his gee-whiz pegagogical voice just right:

Actually, some might call the wheels on the bus a “discovery” more than an invention, as most things in this world are a discovery of invention, rather than a fabrication out of nothing. This brings up something I want to discuss briefly here, if you will allow, because I think the misconception that a lot of people have, uh, concerning, concerning SCIENTISTS. Oooo, “Scientists.” That word. Strikes fear into the heart of some, and amazement into the heart of, well, me. And probably you, since you are here today in this planetarium, listening to me go on and on about my love for this… hang on a sec, let me… okay, so, we often find people BLAMING scientists for, for, for, these discoveries and inventions… being misused or being funded for misuse. We must remember that the discovery itself is not moral or immoral, it is the application of said discovery that is required to be held to that standard. Also, how cool are wheels on busses, right? And circles, in general. The fact that you can take a circle and divide it by its radius and you get pi, everytime, is astounding to me. Gives me chills every time.

More at the link. And for those keeping score, this is the second week in a row that I’ve featured NdGT on Friday Link Love. Why? Because he’s kind of a big deal.

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The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen — That Organic Girl

This post offers a list of foods that are most important to buy organic (if possible) and a list of foods for which organic isn’t that critical.

I’m a pretty half-***ed consumer when it comes to organic goods—I basically get what’s available and what my kids are likely to eat. (Caroline just informed me that she no longer likes the big three: apples, oranges, or bananas. C’mon, WORK WITH ME KID.)

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Speaking of food,

The Anti-Diet — The Londoner

As I wrote on my Pinterest boards, “Best overview I’ve read on how to lose weight without dieting. Covers exercise, emotionally based eating, sustaining a discipline, the importance of enjoying food… I don’t know about the cravings piece (e.g. if you crave carbonated drinks you need more calcium) but it’s interesting.”

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Traditional Marriage: One Man, Many Women, Some Girls, Some Slaves — Religion Dispatches

Just so we’re clear:

Time to break out your Bible, Mr. Perkins! Abraham had two wives, Sarah and her handmaiden Hagar. King Solomon had 700 wives, plus 300 concubines and slaves. Jacob, the patriarch who gives Israel its name, had two wives and two concubines. In a humanist vein, Exodus 21:10 warns that when men take additional wives, they must still provide for their previous one. (Exodus 21:16 adds that if a man seduces a virgin and has sex with her, he has to marry her, too.)

But that’s not all. In biblical society, when you conquered another city, tribe, or nation, the victorious men would “win” their defeated foes’ wives as part of the spoils. It also commanded levirate marriage, the system wherein, if a man died, his younger brother would have to marry his widow and produce heirs with her who would be considered the older brother’s descendants. Now that’s traditional marriage!

More. Much more.

Last week a conservative member of my denomination told NPR, “From the Old Testament and throughout the New Testament, the only sexual relationships that are affirmed in scripture are those in the context of marriage between one man and one woman.” To quote my friend Michael: biblical scholarship FAIL.

You want to be against gay marriage? You can do that. But the Bible doesn’t help you as much as you think it does.

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And just for fun, and to fill my quota on posts from Colossal:

Gale-Force Winds Directly to the Face — Colossal

So very entertaining and bizarre. It’s exactly what it sounds like:

Have a great weekend, all.

Speaking of North Carolina… A Repost

This was the second post I wrote on The Blue Room, related to Prop 8 in California. It relates a bit to what’s going on down in North Carolina.

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Nothing like tackling a controversial issue on the second day of a new blog!

I’m not going to say much about Judge Walker’s decision declaring California’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional. But I am thinking about a few things today.

I remember seven years ago this summer, going to the Fairfax County Courthouse to get authorized to perform weddings in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In accordance with Virginia law, I had to fill out a form, get a letter from my presbytery saying I was a minister in good standing, pay $30, and take an oath. I remember walking out of the courthouse afterwards, calling Robert and laughing: “Hey! I’ve got the ‘power vested in me’ now!”

Something about that whole transaction felt very, very strange to me at the time. It seemed quite odd that I, a minister called by God and ordained to serve a local congregation, was now in effect performing a service on behalf of the state… that a couple whose wedding I officiated would not be legally married until I signed the license and sent it back to the county.

I remember when Robert and I went to get our marriage license (sixteen years ago!), the clerk asked us a long list of questions that we had to answer with “I do” and the like. As bureaucratic processes go, it was unexpectedly moving. Almost… liturgical? We left, and one of us said to the other, Did we just get married? Because it kinda feels like we did. Hey, if only we’d kissed afterwards, we could have saved everyone a lot of time and money…

This was in Texas, where I’ve also performed weddings, but unlike Virginia, there were no legal hoops to jump through beforehand. I’ve often wondered why Texas doesn’t vet its clergy like Virginia does. Could it be that Texas’s requirements and processes for getting a marriage license are more stringent, making the credentials of the officiant less relevant? I haven’t gotten a marriage license in Virginia so I have no idea. I hope one of my smart readers has some info about this.

The point is this, however: seven years ago, when I got ordained, I had not given much thought to the nuances of how gay marriage could or would be enacted from a policy perspective. But it seems clear to me now, as many others have said, that we need to separate the religious service of marriage from its civil aspects. I believe it is the only way forward, and it also gets clergy out of this agent-of-the-state weirdness. Even some of the opponents to gay marriage acknowledge that the legal rights of partnership should not be denied to same-sex couples.

I’m thinking about a couple whose wedding I recently officiated. I woke up the morning of their wedding rehearsal with a start, realizing that I hadn’t said anything to them in our premarital counseling about getting a marriage license. It isn’t my job to remind them, but usually it comes up, and I tell them to bring their paperwork to the service, if not the rehearsal, so I can sign it.

At the rehearsal I mention this to the groom and he says, “Oh, we’re actually not planning to get a marriage license. We really don’t care what our status is with the government. What matters to us is that our union be blessed by God.”

Now, inside I’m thinking, This is a really, really bad idea. This couple already has children together, and let’s face it, there are tangible benefits to being “officially” married… which of course is a big part of why gay persons are fighting for this civil right. And I told some friends afterward about this and several suggested that they probably already were married and either didn’t want their family to know, or wanted the imprimatur of the church on their union. I also felt a little put out: then what am I doing here? Play-acting? Fake marrying?

Later I realized: they cared more about the liturgical and sacramental aspects of marriage than the legal ones. Isn’t that something? What I was doing there was not play-acting, but what I as a clergyperson am supposed to do: to ask God’s blessing on the union between two people, to pray for their welfare, and to support them as they pledge their lives to one another.

And whatever legal/contractual arrangement they have with one another, as important and beneficial as that is, is a separate issue entirely.

What do you think?

Frick and Frack: A Tale of Justice

Below is a letter I am sending to the president of Columbia Theological Seminary, Dr. Steve Hayner, and members of the “cabinet”:

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I know you have been receiving countless communications about your recent announcement regarding Columbia’s housing policy. One of these letters is from my friend, Michael Kirby.

I write now, with his permission, to tell you a part of the story that he did not.

Michael and I were friends long before seminary. We met in Houston, Texas, both former Southern Baptists who attended the same church, St. Philip Presbyterian. Michael was an elder; I was a deacon and later a staff member. We were in Sunday School class together. We sang in the choir together. We went on young-adult retreats together (back when we were young adults). And, nurtured in the loving care of that amazing church community, we felt God calling us to ministry—not exactly together, but in parallel.

We were interested in some of the same seminaries, and happened to attend the same CTS Inquirer’s Weekend in November 1999. We didn’t talk much that weekend, giving each other space to discern, but I found myself wondering whether he was as lit up with excitement as I was over what Columbia had to offer. He was.

I still remember the tentative conversation with Michael the day the scholarship announcements went out, and the explosion of joy when we found out that we had both received identical scholarships. Over the years at Columbia, it’s fair to say that we competed, but in the best possible way: We drove one another to do our absolute best. We supported and encouraged one another and studied together. We gave each other tips for navigating our home presbytery’s Committee on Preparation for Ministry. We each found our own niches and leadership opportunities while drawing closer to one another. We remain close to this day. I celebrate his ministry in Chicago and across the larger church, particularly as a voice for justice and for the compassion of God that knows no bounds.

I’ll be honest. In my early stages of discernment, when I pictured myself in seminary, I imagined striking out on my own, not with someone from my hometown. But I cannot imagine my call story without Michael Kirby.

Our stories diverge in one important way. Michael, a gay man, arrived at Columbia unpartnered, whereas I came with a husband. And therein lies the cruel twist: despite our similarities in background, despite our mutual commitment to academic rigor and excellence in ministry, and despite our shared love for the church, had Michael been the one to arrive with a husband instead of me, he would have been barred from campus housing.

That, in short, is a travesty.

I do not envy you the many constituencies and interests you must consider in stewarding Columbia Seminary, an institution we all love and revere. But as you listen to the myriad voices on this issue, don’t forget the future Michael Kirbys out there:
folks who are just now feeling the Holy Spirit tug at them,
folks who feel most alive when they are serving the church,
folks for whom a seminary education may be out of reach financially if they are forced to live off campus…
And folks who will not consider Columbia Theological Seminary so long as they and their families are excluded from a vital part of campus life.

What profoundly gifted servants of God will you never have the opportunity to nurture and grow with as a result of this policy?

Thank you for listening.

Peace of Christ,

The Rev. MaryAnn McKibben Dana
M.Div. 2003

Friday Link Love

Right to it:

Beautiful Imperfection – O Magazine

This week, as the Miss Representation trailer has been zipping around Facebook, O Magazine hits the stands with a photo of a model with lines where she would need to be ‘shopped or sliced in order to look like Barbie:

I’m a little boggled that the model above is identified as being “plus sized,” and a few of the comments I read insisted that this beautiful gal was overweight and unhealthy. Aroo?

I hope this photo circulates widely. Kudos to photographer Matthew Rolston.

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Coming Out as an Evangelical Supporter of Gay Rights – Mark Achtemeier

This Saturday I was privileged to speak at the ordination of a man I believe will be a wonderful minister. That man, Scott Anderson, happens to be the first openly gay person ordained in my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), since a historic policy shift last July.

Scott’s congregation in Madison was bursting with celebration during the service. However, not everyone in our denomination felt joyful.

I understand this distress because, as a lifelong conservative Christian, for most of my life I would have felt the same way.

Thanks be to God for Dr. Achtemeier’s conversion and witness.

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Laughing in Church – Faith and Leadership

Levity is still considered excessive in some churches. (Believe me, I’ve visited them and worshiped in them.) And when bishops, priests, sisters, brothers, ministers, pastors, elders, pastoral associates, music ministers, hospital chaplains, directors of religious education, and religious education teachers act as if they have the weight of the world on their shoulders, that no job is as difficult as theirs, and that they alone are responsible for doing God’s work, then we’re in trouble.

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10Q: Reflect. React. Renew.

A place to write and reflect on ten questions, in commemoration of the Jewish High Holidays. Why don’t Presbyterians do anything this cool?

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With Time Running Short, Jobs Managed His Farewells – New York Times

If you’re not tired of all the Steve Jobs articles, this is a good one. People wanted to give him awards and honor him at banquets, but near the end, he just wanted to have dinner at home with his kids. This is a good one about saying “No” in order to say a bigger “Yes.”

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How Yelp Is Killing Chain Restaurants – Ezra Klein

Business at chain restaurants is decreasing as the popularity of Yelp increases. Good stuff!

We use Yelp a lot, and have even started using it on road trips, a practice Robert instigated. I often bristle at first, because local restaurants are typically a few miles off the interstate and I just like to get where we’re going. But it almost always turns out much better—more pleasant and interesting than the fast food options.

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Pendulum Motion (YouTube)

This delighted my kids the other day:

Have a great weekend.