Friday Link Love: Special Lists Edition

deb1654baf42ccffbe2f148ea6dd7c9dThis is my last planned post of 2012. Next week I am off to celebrate the radical and improbable incarnation of God, then Margaret’s birthday on 12/27, and my own on 1/2.

I’m a sucker for a good end-of-year list. FLL is light on links this week, but each of these offerings has tons of links within it, like web-based nesting dolls. Enjoy… and share your favorite end of year list in the comments.

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Top 20 Insights, Talks, and Quotables on Making Ideas Happen — 99U

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A Colossal Year: Top 15 Posts in 2012 — Colossal

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The Best of the Best List: 2012 Critics’ Top Books — The Daily Beast

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And while this isn’t a 2012-specific list, here’s a link to my most popular posts on this blog to tide you over until I return.

Point of personal privilege: on December 23 I enter my 10th year of blogging. My first blog is long decommissioned, but I give thanks for the connections made and insights gained from this medium. Blogging almost feels quaint now, given the connectional tools now at our disposal. Yet I love the (relatively) long-form genre that is the blog. And I thank you for your companionship over the years.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Toggl: A Tool for Pastors and Other Busy People

One of the presenters at CREDO a couple of weeks ago talked about Jim Collins, the business consultant and author of Good to Great, who breaks down his work week in the following way:

53% Creative
28% Teaching
19% Other

I don’t remember the presenter’s point any more; I just remember scoffing at the percentages. “Must be nice,” I thought to myself. In parish ministry, what with committee structures and aging buildings and never-ending communications tasks, the administrative load is considerable. (And the emails never end.)

The next night at CREDO I received the results of the Clergy Vocational Profile, which is a 93-question survey that 10 members of Tiny Church filled out.The profile asked them to rate me in terms of various skills and activities, but also how important they considered those skills and activities. I filled out the same profile for myself. There were two free-form questions at the end: what does this person do well, and what does she need to work on.

I learned a couple things from the CVP. One, and not surprising, I am much harder on myself than others are on me. But that’s not what this post is about.

Two is that, while administration was not unimportant to the respondents, when it came to the free-form question, nobody affirmed the way that I put the Sunday School schedule together. Instead they affirmed gifts in preaching, worship, teaching, communication, spiritual guidance, and visionary leadership.

By the end of the week I had come back around to Jim Collins’s ratios. I began to wonder whether I’d been letting my schedule happen to me, rather than trying to create a schedule that matched my skills and the things that the people at Tiny Church value about me.

The other thing I claimed while at CREDO is that I am a creative person, who needs to spend time doing creative tasks in order to feel fulfilled and whole. (This realization came after the “play with art supplies” evening, when I asked to take home some stuff so I could make a book of my CREDO experience over the remaining days. Ahem.)

So! Given all this, I created a goal: to re-balance my schedule to reflect the following ratios as much as possible:

50% Creative: sermon prep, order of worship prep, reading, writing, vision work
25-30% Connecting: pastoral care, teaching, mentoring leaders, meetings
20-25% Logistics: paperwork, email, right-hand-left-hand stuff

I have a number of steps in place to make progress on this goal. One of them is to use Toggl to keep track of what I do with my time.

What is Toggl? Toggl is an application (web, desktop and smartphone) that lets you track how long you spend doing various things. You can use it in two ways:

  • Live: Say you’re working on the bulletin. You type “bulletin” into the window, select a project (mine would be “Creative”) and hit Start. When you’re done, hit Stop. That’s it.
  • After the fact: Say you’re visiting someone in the hospital. You can manually enter in the time you spent with that person afterwards.

Toggl also lets you generate pie graphs to show how long you worked on various things. So I can look at my ministry activities and see whether creative really does take up half the “plate.”

Insert standard caveats here about how ministry does not conform to easy categories. And there is a sense in which ministry is by nature reactive. If the building floods, as it did at my friend Eric’s church this week, the “logistics” piece of pie is going to be huge.

But still, let’s be honest. We clergy often use the unpredictability of ministry as an excuse, letting our time be taken up with the low-hanging fruit that makes us feel busy but that doesn’t actually transform lives for the sake of the gospel.

I am just as guilty of this as anyone… but I’m hoping that, with a better sense of how I spend my time, I can improve.

Now the question is, where does Facebook fit into the pie…

Friday Link Love: Tickling, Ambition, Funky Geometry, and More

Away we go!

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Mrs. Melissa Christ — New Yorker

I tweeted and FBed this but if you missed it:

Then Jesus came over and introduced himself and we chitchatted about everything, from keeping the Sabbath to how we both felt really sorry for the lame. Then I asked Jesus about his family, and he said, “My father is a carpenter,” and I could feel myself getting all flushed as I immediately thought, Hello, new coffee table.

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I Giggle, Therefore I Am — Slate

How tickling helps us know we exist:

“When you look at the evolution of the development of tickle, you’re also looking at the evolution of the development of self,” he says.  What’s at work in tickling, he argues, is the neurological basis for the separation of self from other. After all, as Provine noted so indelicately, you can’t tickle yourself. Your body knows that you are you; you can’t fool it. “Otherwise you’d go through life in a giant chain reaction of goosiness,” Provine says. “You’d be afraid of your own clothing if you could never distinguish between touching and being touched.”

When a baby senses a foreign hand lightly brushing his bare feet, he’s experiencing something that is recognizably other—which means that there’s something that isn’t other, too: There’s himself.

So if you don’t like being tickled, does that mean you aren’t self-differentiated or something?

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What God Can Do — Rachel Hackenburg

A friend and I talk a lot about ambition—how does this work in a Christian context which emphasizes virtues of cooperation and humility? Pride is one of the deadlies, eh? Rachel provides some good fodder as well as some blunt honesty:

I want to be great. I want to be great at everything I do, and I give myself a hard time for not being brilliantly excellent 100% of the time — as a pastor, a preacher, a mother, a writer. I long to be stellar … and not just to be stellar, but to be known for being stellar. It’s entirely vain of me, and I want to repent of it as soon as I see it glaring in front of me. But the desire always returns. I’ll see news on Facebook about a clergy colleague’s invitation to the White House, or about another mother who is teaching her children how to cook five-star meals after they finish their homework each day, or about a writer friend who’s on his fifth book … and the demon wells up again: “I want to be great too! I want people to see that I’m great.”

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Neil Gaiman’s 8 Rules of Writing — 99U

Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.

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Meet the Hexaflexagon — io9

And it will indeed blow your mind:

First discovered in the 1930s by a daydreaming student named Arthur H. Stone, flexagons have attracted the curiosity of great scientists for decades, including Stone’s friend and colleague Richard Feynman. Here, the ever-capable Hart introduces the folding, pinching, rotating, multifaceted geometric oddity with her signature brand of rapid-fire wit and exposition. She even shows you how to make your own.

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Eternal Clock Could Keep Time after Universe Dies — Scientific American

I can’t speak to the science of this, but the idea of such a clock makes me feel all fizzy inside.

The idea for an eternal clock that would continue to keep time even after the universe ceased to exist has intrigued physicists. However, no one has figured out how one might be built, until now.

Researchers have now proposed an experimental design for a “space-time crystal” that would be able to keep time forever. This four-dimensional crystal would be similar to conventional 3D crystals, which are structures, like snowflakes and diamonds, whose atoms are arranged in repeating patterns. Whereas a diamond has a periodic structure in three dimensions, the space-time crystal would be periodic in time as well as space.

Too bad Madeleine L’Engle is no longer with us.

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Hacking Habits: How to Make New Behaviors Last for Good — 99U

Seems very sound to me:

Habits consist of a simple, but extremely powerful, three-step loop. Here’s Duhigg:

First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is areward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future. Over time, this loop… becomes more and more automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges.

The first rule of habit-changing is that you have to play by the rules. That is, there’s no escaping the three-step loop (e.g. cue, routine, reward) because it’s hard-wired into our brains.

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I will be off the next week. (Gasp!) I’m spending the weekend with friends, then attending the Presbyterian CREDO Conference at Mo-Ranch. I am very psyched to be there, having heard universally positive things about this gathering. I also have many dear friends who will be there too.

If I blog, they will be photo-blogs, which I sometimes do as a spiritual discipline when I’m away on retreat, to get myself beyond the words that so often fill my days.

Or I may not feel guided towards that at all. We will see.

Friday Link Love: Mrs. Jesus, Mandatory Sandwiches, and a Wee Bit of Death

Let me first dispense with the Links of Self Promo:

New Website // Order the Book // Sign up for the Goodreads Giveaway

OK. Now that that’s done…

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Interactive Cloud of 6,000 Light Bulbs — O.C.L.

That’s Obligatory Colossal Link:

Gorgeous!

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Small Good Things — Paris Review

A lovely little essay about how writers illuminate the sacramental nature of ordinary things, particularly food.

The author talks about Raymond Carver’s story “A Small Good Thing,” which you may recall is about a couple who lose their 8 year old son, and they are tormented by the phone calls from a hapless baker who is demanding payment for the birthday cake he made for the boy.

I performed that piece for Prose Interp competitions in high school. I read it now and cringe to think of my performance. What did I know at 18 about the heartbreak within that story? Nothing. I knew nothing.

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Famous Writers on Death and Mortality — Flavorwire

I’ll say it—Christopher Hitchens was a pretentious old crank—but I cannot wait to read his book Mortality. In honor of its publication, here are 20 writers on the last great mystery:

“We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves.

I wish for all this to be marked on by body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography — to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience.” – Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

By the way, if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend Sum: 40 Tales of the Afterlives by David Eagleman. So, so imaginative and poignant.

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How the President Gets Things Done — 99U

I really like 99U. Lots of cool ideas there. Here are some things that Barack Obama does to make his life easier and more efficient, including offloading trivial decisions like what to eat and wear.

#5 warmed my Sabbath-loving heart:

5. Your personal time is sacred.

The president has three moments in his schedule that are unquestionably his: the morning workout, his dinner with his daughters, and the nighttime after his family falls asleep. Each block of time serves a different role for Obama: the gym keeps his body in good health, the late night helps him catch up on work, and the dinner is especially sacred time, with the added benefit of giving the president a bit of perspective outside his hectic workday.

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Historian Says Piece of Papyrus Refers to Jesus’ Wife — NYT

This has been making the rounds. This scrap of papyrus suggests that Jesus might have had a wife—it would not have been unusual at the time, folks—and  that there were female disciples (not earth-shattering to anyone who’s actually read the gospels—sisters are all over that good news!). Here’s the pertinent bit:

“This fragment suggests that some early Christians had a tradition that Jesus was married,” Dr. King said. “There was, we already know, a controversy in the second century over whether Jesus was married, caught up with a debate about whether Christians should marry and have sex.”

People have been wondering and arguing about this guy for a very, very long time. Disagreement over contested truths are nothing new. Giddy-up and praise be.

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Should Lunch Breaks Be Mandatory? — BBC

I’m not sure how I feel about mandating lunch breaks. Especially for people with a long commute and/or kids at home, there’s something to be said for compressing the workday so they can get home at a decent hour. Still:

One obvious reason to do lunch is to slow down and gain some perspective. If we burrow into work, and don’t come up for air during the day, we will have a hard time thinking strategically or putting our daily tasks into broader context.

By taking a lunch break, we can think outside the box. In the interviews I conducted for my book, I was struck by how many senior leaders stressed the importance of strategic “downtime” – lunch or some other block of an hour or more per day – to break up their thinking and spur them to be more strategic.

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What Americans Actually Do All Weekend, in 2 Graphs — NPR

What do you see in this graph? I see:

  1. A lot of sleep.
  2. Religious activities are only 37 minutes… and yet many worship services last an hour. So what’s up with the other 23 minutes? Oh right: sleeping.

Well, whatever the weekend holds for you, I hope that the leisure bit is a nice big piece of the graph.

Friday Link Love

Hope you folks in the U.S. have a wonderful Labor Day… We’re making a special outing to Wolf Trap to see Cathy Rigby in Peter Pan, but mostly we’ll be getting the kids ready for school. Margaret goes to kindergarten! Amazing.

Away we go:

Animated Sheet Music

Watch the sheet music go by as Miles Davis and his bandmates play “So What.”

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Samuel Morse’s Reversal of Fortune—Smithsonian

It wasn’t until after he failed as an artist that Morse revolutionized communications by inventing the telegraph.

Let’s hear it for Plan B!

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David Allen on Dealing with Interruptions—GTD

That cheap three-sided piece of plastic on your desk holds the key.

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Finding Time (to Write)—Anne Lamott

No one needs to watch the news every night, unless one is married to the anchor. Otherwise, you are mostly going to learn more than you need to know about where the local fires are, and how rainy it has been: so rainy! That is half an hour, a few days a week, I tell my students. You could commit to writing one page a night, which, over a year, is most of a book.

 

 

 

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

Some stuff that crossed my ‘desk’ this week that I found interesting:

What Gets in the Way of Delegating?

As our session begins a new way of doing our work, appropriate delegation will be essential. This has some good ways of thinking about what stands in the way of delegating.

Asking Questions

A recent study pitted students in a library against students using Google. Both groups had to answer a set of questions. Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist was overjoyed at the results:

It took them 7 minutes to answer the questions on Google and 22 minutes to answer them in the library. Think about all the time saved! Thirty years ago, getting answers was really expensive, so we asked very few questions. Now getting answers is cheap, so we ask billions of questions a day, like “what is Jennifer Aniston having for breakfast?” We would have never asked that 30 years ago.

Nicholas Carr isn’t satisfied:

…Maybe the question we should be asking, not of Google but of ourselves, is what types of questions the Net is encouraging us to ask. Should human thought be gauged by its output or by its quality?

Interesting stuff.

What Use Is Poetry, Really?

On the first day of National Poetry Month: a review of Wendell Berry’s recent book about William Carlos Williams. Essential reading for the poetically inclined.

The Surprising Truth about Addiction

Smoking is at the top of the charts in terms of difficulty of quitting. But the majority of ex-smokers quit without any aid––neither nicotine patches nor gum, Smokenders groups nor hypnotism. (Don’t take my word for it; at your next social gathering, ask how many people have quit smoking on their own.) In fact, as many cigarette smokers quit on their own, an even higher percentage of heroin and cocaine addicts and alcoholics quit without treatment. It is simply more difficult to keep these habits going through adulthood. It’s hard to go to Disney World with your family while you are shooting heroin. Addicts who quit on their own typically report that they did so in order to achieve normalcy.

Tools for Thinking

I find David Brooks to be kind of a pinhead, but this is pretty interesting stuff.

A few months ago, Steven Pinker of Harvard asked a smart question: What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?

The Origins of Good Ideas

We have a natural tendency to romanticize breakthrough innovations, imagining momentous ideas transcending their surroundings, a gifted mind somehow seeing over the detritus of old ideas and ossified tradition.

But ideas are works of bricolage. They are, almost inevitably, networks of other ideas. We take the ideas we’ve inherited or stumbled across, and we jigger them together into some new shape. We like to think of our ideas as a $40,000 incubator, shipped direct from the factory, but in reality they’ve been cobbled together with spare parts that happened to be sitting in the garage.

Have a great weekend…