Friday Link Love: Kids Today, An Elusive Dog, and A Good Gun Control Debate

It’s Friday!

What do you have planned for the weekend? I’m pinching myself because Robert and I came into some tickets to the biggest party in town. You know those people who respond to “how are you” with “better than I deserve”?

Yeah. That.

I have a great life. It would be poor stewardship not to enjoy the heck out of it.

Anyway… here we go:

~

When I Was Your Age… Or ‘What Is It with Kids These Days?’ — Scientific American

Same as it ever was:

In her most recent book, Twentysomething: Why do Young Adults Seem Stuck, co-authored with her twenty-something daughter Samantha, Robin Marantz Henig delves into the hard data… what—if anything—is it about kids these days? the mother-daughter team asks. And why is it that every generation seems to think that there’s something different going on with kids these days, as compared to any other?

In 2000, psychologist Jeffrey Arnett proposed the existence of a new stage of development: emerging adulthood. Whereas before, we’d go straight from adolescence to full-blown young adultdom, now, there was a step in between, an area where our adult selves were emerging but not-quite-emerged…

As Marantz Henig is quick to point out, Arnett isn’t the first to discuss this possibility. In a 1970 article in The American Scholar, the psychologist Kenneth Keniston also thought he discerned a new trend of unsettled wandering. He termed in simply, “youth.” And that youth “sounds a lot like Arnett’s description of emerging adulthood a generation later,” Marantz Henig writes, going on to say that, “despite Arnett’s claims to the contrary, we weren’t really all that different then from the way our own children are now. Keniston’s article seems a lovely demonstration of the eternal cycle of life, the perennial conflict between the generations, the gradual resolution of those conflicts. It’s reassuring….”

As a member of Generation X, who heard a lot of the same criticisms leveled at me and my generation that I am now hearing about the Millenials, it is reassuring indeed.

~

Can You Find the Dog in Each of These Photos? — Colossal

Meet Momo, the most elusive puppy on Instagram. He’s a border collie if that helps:

momo-5

Ontario-based graphic designer Andrew Knapp noticed that his 4.5 year old border collie, Momo, would always hide when fetching sticks instead of dutifully returning them.

Andrew’s site is GoFindMomo.com.

~

13 Must-See Stargazing Events in 2013 — Mother Nature Network

First up: the moon and Jupiter conjunction in just a few days:

Jan. 21: Very Close Moon/Jupiter Conjunction
For North Americans, this is a real head-turner, one easily visible even from brightly lit cities. A waxing gibbous moon, 78-percent illuminated, will pass within less than a degree to the south of Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. (For reference, your closed fist held out at arm’s length covers 10 degrees of the sky.)
These two bright luminaries will make their closest approach high in the evening sky for all to see. What’s even more interesting is that this will be the closest moon-Jupiter conjunction until the year 2026! [Amazing Photos: Jupiter and the Moon]

~

My Faith: A Confession — Justin Erik Halldór Smith

My kind of confession. Long and equivocally unequivocal:

For some centuries now, no small confusion has arisen from the fact that we talk about belief in God, rather than love of God. The two amount to the same thing, but the first of these expressions, at least since the beginning of the modern period, pushes us willy-nilly into the field of evidence and argumentation, a field where the standards of commitment have nothing to do with the issue at hand, and so not surprisingly, though for poorly understood reasons, belief in God cannot but be a failing proposition.

As they told us at CREDO, “credo” means “believe,” but really it means “I give my heart.”

But start from love, start from joy, and the demand for further evidence vanishes. To continue to make it would be like demanding to see the hormones that cause an erection before accepting that there is such a thing as eros. It would be vulgar. It is vulgar, every time we hear it from the puffed-up fools who believe they are defending the honour and integrity of something, which they also do not understand, but which they call ‘science’. Science has more often than not been driven by what its practitioners have experienced as joy and wonder before God’s creation. This is a historical fact, and even if you are one of the puffed-up fools who thinks belief in God deserves nothing but mockery, you cannot change this fact.

…Those who know me or have read me will probably know that I have often claimed that I am an atheist. I would like to stop doing this, but if I had to justify myself, I would say that it is for fear of being confused with that blowhard with the ‘John 3:16’ banner that I am unforthcoming about what I actually believe. I am infinitely closer, in the condition of my soul, to the people who feel God’s absence– the reasons for this feeling are a profound theological problem, and one might say that it is only smugness that enables people, atheists and dogmatists alike, to avoid grappling with this problem. I am with the people who detect God’s hand, perhaps without even realizing it, where the smug banner-holder sees only sin: in jungle music, dirty jokes, seduction, and swearing. I am with the preacher who puts out a gospel album, then goes to prison on fraud and drug charges for a while, then puts out a hip-grinding soul album, and then another gospel album. I am with the animals, who can’t even read, but can still talk to the saints of divine things. I am sooner an atheist, if what we understand by Christianity is a sort of supernatural monarchism; if we understand by it that God is love, though, then, I say, I am a Christian.

Along similar lines: God is Unknowable; Stop Looking for Him and You Will Find Faith — David Bryant (Guardian)

~

Sitting is the Smoking of Our Generation — Harvard Business Review

Four years ago, I made a simple change when I switched one meeting from a coffee meeting to a walking-meeting. I liked it so much it became a regular addition to my calendar; I now average four such meetings, and 20 to 30 miles each week. Today it’s life-changing, but it happened almost by accident.

~

10 Habits to Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Child — Aha! Parenting

Some of these I’m OK at:

12 hugs a day. Hug your child first thing in the morning, when you say goodbye, when you’re re-united, at bedtime, and often in between.  If your tween or teen rebuffs your advances when she first walks in the door, realize that with older kids you have to ease into the connection.  Get her settled with a cool drink, and chat as you give a foot rub. (Seem like going above and beyond?  It’s a foolproof way to hear what happened in her life today, which should be high on your priority list.)

Some of them I need to work on:

Welcome emotion. Sure, it’s inconvenient.  But your child needs to express his emotions or they’ll drive his behavior.  So accept the meltdowns, don’t let the anger trigger you, and welcome the tears and fears that always hide behind the anger. Remember that you’re the one he trusts enough to cry with, and breathe your way through it.  Afterwards, he’ll feel more relaxed, cooperative, and closer to you.

~

The Importance of a ‘Stop Day’ — Matthew Sleeth

Sabbath is a health issue too. Dr. Sleeth (a former ER physician) puts it well:

It’s interesting, when a doctor sits down and does a primary intake with a new patient, they ask about smoking, exercise and diet, but they don’t ask how much you’re working. They don’t get any sense of if you’re working seven days a week, or if you have time set aside — like people have always had — for rest.

I think the lack of rest is reflected in our saying, “We don’t have enough time.” I think it’s pretty much generally felt that we don’t have enough time to really get to the things we want to do in life.

~

A Gun Control Debate — Matt Springer and Mark Hoofnagle

The other day I heard radio show on gun control. It was frustrating because the so-called gun rights advocate had good points to make that the gun control advocate could not, or did not, hear. At the same time, I found myself wishing that the gun rights advocate had offered more constructive proposals rather than shrugging and saying “It’s all a matter of semantics.”

This debate, hosted at scienceblogs.com, is a good model. It’s not pithy. It’s long and wonky. So be it. Serious times demand no less. Mark starts off:

Mass violence is not just a problem in the United States. Similar incidents have occurred in other countries, even mass shootings in countries with significant restrictions similar to what I would advocate. However, the experience of other countries is less in frequency and severity. Yes, other countries have mass violence despite strict gun control, even countries like Norway. However, no other comparable industrialized country has gun violence similar to ours. No you can not compare the United States to Mexico. No, gun control is never perfect. No, we can not prevent all murder, all mass murder, or all violent crime, but we can decrease the death toll.

and Matt follows up:

Now any preventable cause of even a single death should be prevented, and while mass murder shocks the conscience in a way that the anonymous and impersonal forces of nature cannot, this ought to cause us to pause and consider whether what is being proposed will actually do any good. The choices we make in response to these tragedies will have consequences that we foresee and consequences we don’t. These consequences may well include the failure of new laws to save anyone in the future. This concern is not hypothetical – we’re well over a decade into our government’s frantic response to 9/11, and we may well be less safe than we were on 9/10.

Both men own and operate firearms. Both are reasonable, non-knee-jerk types. More of these, please. (I hope they will keep going.)

Experiments in Food Rule #39

I’m a Maira Kalman fangirl. Some years ago I gave my sister-in-law a copy of Strunk and White illustrated by Kalman, and had to get one for myself. Last Christmas it was Robert’s turn: he received Food Rules by Michael Pollan, featuring Kalman’s quirky illustrations:

The food rules are listed here, though the book itself is worth checking out. One of my favorites is #39:

Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.

The idea is that anything you cook is going to be made with (generally) wholesome ingredients, so by making your own you will cut way down on preservatives, trans fats and Red 40 Lake.

But also, the effort involved in cooking your own junk food is an automatic limiter. Having a Costco-sized box of Oreos in your house can be more problematic than having 18 molasses cookies. Having to make them yourself means unless you have all the time in the world, you will have less on hand. And if your kids helped you make them, they are probably monitoring how quickly they’re disappearing.

We didn’t intentionally decide to follow this food rule—we’ve kinda backed our way into it. During the spring I got on a huge muffin kick and made a different muffin each week: strawberry lemonade, honey oat, pineapple bran. Muffins are a great hybrid food: are they a dessert? Are they a breakfast food? Plus they come in a single size: automatic portion control. Yeah, you can eat multiple muffins at a sitting—

not that I’ve ever done that… ~cough~

But at least you clearly see that’s what you’re doing, as opposed to furtively cutting yourself a bigger slice of quickbread or cake and calling it “one serving.”

Summer is too hot for the oven, so we’ve moved from muffins to ice cream. Robert picked up the Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book and has been having a field day. Their flavors are to die for: chocolate malt, fluffernutter, and Elvis: The Fat Years, which is banana ice cream studded with bacon peanut brittle.

(Robert wants me to tell you that the sugar content in some of these recipes keeps them from freezing very hard, so he’s made some tweaks.  He’s also adjusted the level of cream and milk to lighten them a little.)

The good thing about these flavors is a little goes a long way. Their chocolate is SO chocolatey that one serving is plenty. (Did you know that 1/2 cup of ice cream is considered a serving?)

One caveat: this week he made Harvey Milk and Honey (hey, they’re based in San Francisco) which involves raw honey and graham cracker pieces toasted in butter. That one, we could eat pints and pints of. You’ve been warned.

When I first heard about Food Rules I thought great, another scold. But there are so many rules that you can’t possibly follow them all, so there’s a gracious freedom to adopt those rules that make the most sense for you.

OK, you could follow them all, but I’m not sure I want to know you.

What do you think of food rules—Pollan’s or others? Do you have any food rules you follow?

I Kinda Wish I Was Fat

Several months ago I wrote a post wondering whether we could reclaim the word “fat.” I’m still not sure it’s something the culture can or will ever get on board with. But if nothing else, it’s worth pondering as a mental exercise: can we redeem words that have been used to shame?

That question has spiritual implications, by the way.

Anyway, if you were still trying to get your mind around my argument, check out this video (3 minutes) of a woman responding to YouTube commenters calling her fat. (Once again let me remind you that Internet comments are the best proof for total depravity that we have. Score 1 for the Calvinists.)

I almost wish I were still [overweight, fat, BMI 29, insert descriptor here] just to stand with this sassy gal.

BTW, rarely have I heard the words “f*** you” delivered with such joie de vivre. It’s bleeped out, but still. If that offends you, don’t watch.

(h/t: Keith)

Friday Link Love

A Reading from Sabbath in the Suburbs — Yours Truly

Last Sunday I read a short excerpt from my book which talks a little bit about Christian freedom. I chose this excerpt with the July 4 holiday in mind. Freedom gets talked about a lot this time of year, but Christians have something specific in mind when we talk about freedom.

The link above will get you to my most recent 10 sermons at Tiny Church. You can also subscribe via iTunes; search for Idylwood Presbyterian Church. I can’t stand to listen to myself so I rely on listeners to let me know if something is awry in these recordings.

~

Speaking of which, yesterday I recorded a Master Class on Sabbath-keeping for ChurchNext. It was a Skyped video conversation, which makes the cringe factor all the greater. I’ll let you know when my class goes live, but in the meantime, check out some of Chris Yaw’s great offerings. What a cool resource.

Self-promotion aside… away we go:

~

Three Great Stop Motion Shorts Not to Be Missed — Colossal

These are utterly charming. Three short films featuring 1. the primordial soup (err noodles), 2. a teeny tiny road trip, and 3. straight pins with character. [Photo is an image capture from one of the videos.]

~

The Busy Trap — New York Times

I can’t tell you how many people sent this my way. And for good reason; this piece has Sabbath written all over it:

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’être was obviated when “menu” buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion.

Lately I am trying to stop talking about how busy I am. For one, because the comment has become so ubiquitous as to be meaningless. It’s the “umm…you know” of the 21st century. But also because the author is right; busy has become a status symbol. Henri Nouwen said that the Christian life is a steady process of downward mobility. So… I’m done.

(For that matter, I heard myself use the phrase “killing time” the other day and was immediately appalled. What a dreadful thing to say!)

~

I Took a Web Detour and Now I Feel Better — New York Times (again)

I am pretty convinced that our 24-7 digital culture is doing serious things to our brains. But this is a nice counter-testimony:

Stressed out, on a deadline, I was frustrated to the point of uselessness and began to post a handful of items to Twitter and Tumblr. For a while, my mind and fingers wandered aimlessly around the Web. When I grew tired of this, I turned back to my assignment, completed it and turned it in. The entire detour took less than 10 minutes, and it seemed to make me more efficient.

…[S]ometimes I’ve found that losing myself in the Web can be invigorating. Instead of needing to turn off the noise of the Web, I often use it to calm my nerves so I can finish my work.

I have felt that. Even more effective is a run or a shower, though—at least in my experience.

~

A Health-Care ‘Judas’ Recounts His Conversion — CNN

I love the story of Wendell Potter, a former Cigna executive who became an outspoken advocate for health reform based on his experience.

Thousands of them had lined up under a cloudy sky in an open field. Many had camped out the night before. When their turns came, doctors treated them in animal stalls and on gurneys placed on rain-soaked sidewalks.

They were Americans who needed basic medical care. Potter had driven to the Wise County Fairgrounds in Virginia in July 2007 after reading that a group called Remote Area Medical, which flew American doctors to remote Third World villages, was hosting a free outdoor clinic.

Potter, a Cigna health care executive who ate from gold-rimmed silverware in corporate jets, says that morning was his “Road to Damascus” experience.

“It looked like a refugee camp,” Potter says. “It just hit me like a bolt of lightning. What I was doing for a living was making it necessary for people to resort to getting care in animal stalls.”

Though this article does not say so, it was a relationship with a Presbyterian church that helped inform his change of heart.

~

I’m gratified by the Presbyterian angle, because on the other hand we have…

Five Reasons Denominations Are Passe — David Lose

I’ve been following our denomination’s General Assembly all week and it’s been a bit of a mess, frankly. David’s post is prescient, and strong medicine.

Inordinate amounts of funding are spent on maintaining denominational structures and bureaucracies, money that could be spent on mission. Even though every denomination I know has in recent years cut way back on spending, eliminated various divisions or boards, or extended the times between major assemblies or conventions, denominations are still expending vast sums of money to prop up dated denominational bureaucracies. Would it not make sense to conserve resources by efficiently combining structures? Are seven or eight struggling denominational publishing houses better than one robust one? Where there are three beleaguered denominational seminaries in a single region, might not one healthy pan-denominational school suffice? (And we haven’t even started on congregations!) Think of what might happen if the savings were channeled to funding creative media campaigns that didn’t extol the virtues of one denomination but taught the Christian faith.

~

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and stay cool.

Top Weight Loss Tips

People often ask me how I went about losing weight over these last several months. I feel very sheepish because I don’t have a good answer, and the stuff I do is in no way original. It’s a very unromantic combination of diet and exercise. No meal replacement. No expensive powders or weird smoothies. Just eating good food in the right proportions and running or walking 4-5 times a week.

That said, here are some tips that have been most useful for me.

  • Log everything you eat. I use MyFitnessPal, which tracks food and exercise. I’ve also heard good things about LoseIt. The bar code scanner makes it fun. Over time I’ve gotten less anal about logging absolutely everything, but that’s because I’ve got an intuitive sense of where I am. Is that a pain? Yes. Are there days I get sick of logging everything? Absolutely. Would I rather deal with the hassle of logging than backsliding? Yes.
  • Weigh yourself every day. Studies show that regular feedback is key to achieving goals. I think the conventional wisdom used to be a weekly weigh-in, but that’s not enough input to keep me going. That said, expect ups and downs. Look at the forest, not the trees. But look everyday.
  • Invest in a kitchen scale and measuring cups. Portion size is everything. It’s amazing how much I can fudge my portions if I try to eyeball it.
  • Be around people who will support, not sabotage.
  • This is a lifestyle, not a short-term goal. Which means I eat delicious things that are “bad” for me, and I do it with some regularity. My friend Jay, who’s done a great job with weight loss, put it well: “Be sensible more often than not and you’ll go in the right direction.”
  • Then again, I’m a moderator, not an abstainer. Figure out which one you are and be that.
  • Another tip from Jay: when you’re at a restaurant and are starting to pick at your meal after you’re full, sprinkle water from your water glass all over the food. Weird but it works. I’ve done similar things, including (gasp!) throwing away the rest of something that just needed to be out of my house and my life. (See: leftover tubs of frosting after a kid’s birthday.) Sorry, starving children of the world.
  • Dessert, alcoholic beverage, or a day off from exercise: pick two on any given day. You’ll likely stay in range, but you can still enjoy life and be flexible to the needs and desires of the moment.

Do you have any tips you use? Share in the comments.

Image comes from this post, which I featured recently on Link Love

Holy As a Weekend Is Spent

Meet Jacob, a special friend and member of my church whom I visited this past weekend in Minnesota. Jacob, age 7, had a bone marrow transplant 180 days ago. That’s a milestone, but the celebration was rather low-key—we played some Wii (he kicked my butt) and I took his mom out for beers and pub food.

At this point, it appears that the BMT has halted the spread of the ALD, which is cause for rejoicing in heaven and earth. I am so thankful to the as-yet-unnamed guy in his mid-40s who was a perfect match, who gave Jacob a second chance. We will be having a bone marrow registry drive at Tiny Church in November, near the one-year anniversary of Jake’s transplant.

Unfortunately, Jacob has been in the hospital since day 60 or so. He’s had a whole host of issues to deal with since transplant, including graft v. host disease and all kinds of other stuff. You know those drug commercials where they list all the weird, random side effects? And when you ask the doctor she says, “Eh, I have never seen that happen.” Jake seems to have a talent for being the one who gets the weird complication or side effect. He is, to borrow a phrase, the 1%.

You can read his incredible story here, although the latest entry is about me and how I came to be called to Tiny. So let me return the favor by telling you a little of what I saw this weekend.

I saw a kid who was clearly feeling crummy but who complained exactly twice. Who doesn’t like physical therapy but who does it. (Sadly, I missed his 2 laps around the floor on the bike on Sunday.) Who speaks up for himself, who’s assertive to say what he needs or wants. Who swallows handfuls of pills each day, and pillcams the width of a Sharpie.

Who was stronger on Sunday than he was on Saturday.

I also saw a mother whose frustration and fatigue with the situation has gotta be out of this world but who responded with patience, love and attentiveness to her son. Who spends every day and night with him but who takes time away each day because that’s the healthy, faithful thing to do. Who is very plugged into what’s happening with her daughter back home in Virginia and who can’t wait until she comes out for the summer, even though that means an increase in logistics.

Who went shopping for a wedding shower gift, for heaven’s sake.

It’s a cliche to call people like this brave. I’m not even sure that’s the right word. Because they would answer, What choice do we have?

They do have a choice, though. They can become bitter and defeated and curved into themselves—and who would blame them?—or they can write a journal entry that says, “Enough about us—another family here needs our prayers and thoughts right now.”

One of my articles of faith is that people going through hard times are under no obligation to be inspiring to the rest of us. They have every right to be cranky and imperfect, to shake their fist at the heavens.

And when the opposite happens—when grace happens—well, there’s nothing for a pastor, or a person, to do but to notice it and name it. To breathe, bask and behold.

~

Title is a riff on a Carrie Newcomer song (video). “Redemption everywhere I look.”

UPDATE: Fixed the link to the family’s CaringBridge site.

Worry is the Work…

Many years ago, I ran across this pithy quote:

Worrying is like being in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but you don’t ever get anywhere.

I have no idea how it came to me. I was a young teenager and my parents were separated. They later divorced, and we kids moved to Dallas with Mamala. I was to enter a new school halfway through my eighth grade year.

Remember junior high? The painful awkwardness? Add a traumatic family experience, then throw in a dash of being the new kid amid people, many of whom had known each other since kindergarten. And do all that with just a semester to get one’s bearings before high school.

There was plenty about that that was worrisome.

But I tried to put it all out of my mind, because it doesn’t do any good to worry, right? Even Jesus says so.

Wrong. (Sorry Jesus.)

Fast forward almost 20 years, when I was pregnant with Caroline. My favorite book about pregnancy and childbirth had a chapter called “Worry Is the Work of Pregnancy.” In it the authors made the following counter-intuitive case: Worry is actually useful and helpful. And when well-intentioned people advise us not to worry, they are actually keeping is from doing very important psychological and spiritual work; namely, to mentally picture ourselves in that situation, to plan for contingencies, to prepare for the unexpected.

This chapter was a tremendous relief.

I am a talented worrier, and there are all sorts of worrisome aspects of pregnancy and labor. What if the fetus isn’t healthy? What if I get preeclampsia? What if I don’t have the kind of birth I want? What if the baby needs to go to the NICU? What if we can’t ever get breastfeeding to work?

Making worry one’s work means taking these fears to their logical conclusions by asking, “Well… what if I need a C-section? What will that be like? What do I need to know in order to feel good about that outcome?” That felt so much more sensible than trying not to think about all those unlikely scenarios because “there’s nothing you can do about it anyway.” Yes, there is. Even the practice of seeing one in the situation is a help. Even if the worst-case scenario never comes to pass, it is not wasted effort. You are stronger for looking at the fearful possibilities and saying, “Here is how I will handle that with strength and courage.”

As you can see, this is a productive kind of mental exercise. Worry is not the same as fretting. It’s not healthy to let one’s life be consumed with anxiety. Rather, worry is engaging Shel Silverstein’s Whatifs and saying, “Show me what you’ve got.”

I know a dear family with three sweet children. Their oldest contracted a disease that required a bone marrow transplant. Unfortunately, his body was too compromised, and he died. Their other son also has this disease, though he was asymptomatic for a long time. One night the mother asked the father, “What are we going to do if this disease progresses in J?” The husband answered, “We will go back to Minnesota and go through the bone marrow process again.” He was kind, but matter-of-fact: That one’s easy.

And in fact… they did have to go back to Minnesota. And things are going very differently for their other son. It’s not my story to tell, but he’s doing well.

I had my first mammogram last week. On Friday the doctor called and asked me to come in today for some additional views of a spot they couldn’t see clearly. Statistics were on my side; genetics were on my side. I knew that chances were good that the additional tests would reveal nothing of concern. And that’s exactly what happened.

But I did spend some time with the Whatifs. What would I do if there was a problem? Whom would I tell? What would I need? And those questions did not consume the days between the doctor’s call and the appointment. They gave me something firm to stand on today.

So I guess you could say, I worried…

But because I worried, I wasn’t afraid.