Friday Link Love: Flying Houses, Being a Mystic, and Mighty Girls… One of Whom with Toilet Covers on Her Head

First, if you haven’t already heard me shouting from the rooftops about it, here is my interview about Sabbath in the Suburbs on Huffington Post Books.

Another note. I share links to interesting, inspiring, curious content all week long at my Facebook page. Feel free to subscribe to the public updates, even if we’re not FB friends!

Lots of images in Link Love this week, and a few meaty quotes. Onward…


Flying Houses by Laurent Cherere — Colossal

Wonderful. Like something out of Roald Dahl:




Top Read-Aloud Books Starring Mighty Girls — A Mighty Girl

This is one I shared on Facebook. Great list! I want to read them all.


Christian Wiman on Faith and Language — Andrew Sullivan

Another one I shared earlier this week, but dang, I like it:

To have faith in a religion, any religion, is to accept at some primary level that its particular language of words and symbols says something true about reality. This doesn’t mean that the words and symbols are reality (that’s fundamentalism), nor that you will ever master those words and symbols well enough to regard reality as some fixed thing. What it does mean, though, is that you can ‘no more be religious in general than [you] can speak language in general’ (George Lindbeck), and that the only way to deepen your knowledge and experience of ultimate divinity is to deepen your knowledge and experience of the all-too-temporal symbols and language of a particular religion. Lindbeck would go so far as to say that your religion of origin has such a bone-deep hold on you that, as with a native language, it’s your only hope for true religious fluency. I wouldn’t go that far, but I would say that one has to submit to symbols and language that may be inadequate in order to have those inadequacies transcended.

This is true of poetry, too: I don’t think you can spend your whole life questioning whether language can represent reality. At some point, you have to believe that the inadequacies of words you use will be transcended by the faith with which you use them. You have to believe that poetry has some reach into reality itself, or you have to go silent. – Christian Wiman, “Notes on Poetry and Religion,” from Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet.


Stoic, Addict, Mystic — Andrew Sullivan

Another one posted on The Dish this week:

We are rarely presented with an authentically fulfilling trajectory for our desires… If we are created for infinite satisfaction, we really only have three choices about what to do with our desire in this life: We will become either a stoic, an addict, or a mystic. The stoic squelches desire out of fear, while the addict attempts to satisfy his desire for infinity with finite things, which, of course, can’t satisfy. That’s why the addict wants more and more and more. The mystic, on the other hand — in the Christian sense of the term — is the one who is learning how to direct his desire for infinity toward infinity,” – Christopher West, whose new book is Fill These Hearts.

For infinity, toward infinity. Nice.

Winners of the 2012 National Geographic Photo Contest — National Geographic

A cat picture won! Sort of. Go to the link to see the grand prize winner, as well as all the other top picks. My favorite in the “people” category:



Unleash Your Unconscious: How Switching Tasks Maximizes Creative Thinking — 99U

Incubation breaks boosted creative performance, but only when the time was spent engaged in a different kind of mental activity. Participants who in the break switched from verbal to spatial, or from spatial to verbal, excelled when they returned to their main task – in terms of the number and quality of their solutions. The change in focus freed up their unconscious to spend the incubation period tackling the main challenge.

Highly recommend running, for people with the knees for it.


Embracing Mystery in the New Year: Ten Essential Practices — Christian Valters Paintner

Follow the thread. Each of us has a unique unfolding story and call in this world. We don’t “figure this out” but rather we allow the story to emerge in its own time, tending the symbols and synchronicities that guide us along.
Trust in what you love. Following the thread is essentially about cultivating a deep trust in what you love. What are the things that make your heart beat loudly, no matter how at odds they feel with your current life (and perhaps especially so)? Make some room this year to honor what brings you alive.


Airplane Lavatory Self-Portraits — Sad and Useless

h/t Keith Snyder.

Nina Katchadourian whiles away long plane journeys by locking herself in the lavatory and pretending to be a 15th century Dutch painting. The project began spontaneously on a flight in March 2010 and is ongoing…

I do think about the line forming outside the door while she’s doing this, but:



Have a wonderful weekend!

Henry Miller’s “Happiness Project”

I was inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project to develop my own personal commandments two years ago. (Hers are in the sidebar of her website and include things like “do it now” and “be polite and be fair.”)

It was a useful exercise… though it also felt very self-helpish. But it turns out other people were developing personal commandments way before the personal development craze of the 1980s and beyond. Benjamin Franklin, for one. Here are Henry Miller’s, which I ran across last week on the Improvised Life website:

I especially like #3 and #7, and am intrigued by #6. What does that mean to you?

For what it’s worth, here are mine, which I call intentions.

  1. Live MaryAnn’s story.
  2. Love God * Love Others * Love Yourself.
  3. If it’s not working, reframe it.
  4. Spend it all.
  5. Practice “yes-and.”
  6. Do small things with great love.
  7. Laugh, sing, breathe.
  8. Love what is.
  9. Show up * listen * tell the truth * let go.
  10. Hold fast to what is good.
  11. Today is their childhood.
  12. Make friends with time.

Do you have personal commandments, guiding principles, or intentions? I would love to hear them and/or reasons why such statements are not meaningful or helpful for you.

Friday Link Love


I still want to know your greatest tech challenge, but here are some other things to ponder:


“53” by e.e. cummings

Another great manifesto for 2012:

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
for even if it’s sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

More at the link.


Walker Percy Interviews Himself — Andrew Sullivan

This is from Christmas Day and I am still going back to it. There’s an impertinence and a wild sort of reverence here:

Q: Would you exclude, for example, scientific humanism as a rational and honorable alternative [to faith]?

A: Yes.

Q: Why?

A: It’s not good enough.

Q: Why not?

A: This life is too much trouble, far too strange, to arrive at the end of it and then to be asked what you make of it and have to answer “Scientific humanism.” That won’t do. A poor show. Life is a mystery, love is a delight. Therefore I take it as axiomatic that one should settle for nothing less than the infinite mystery and the infinite delight, i.e., God. In fact I demand it. I refuse to settle for anything less. I don’t see why anyone should settle for less than Jacob, who actually grabbed aholt of God and would not let go until God identified himself and blessed him.

Q: Grabbed aholt?

A: A Louisiana expression.


How Music Works in Worship — Troy Bronsink

Another perceptive offering from Troy.


And now, from the Department of Publicity:

Church folks, don’t forget the Lent Devotional Guide I wrote for Chalice Press. Also available in e-format! Unfortunately, there aren’t samples available online, but if you’d like a free sample of the first few entries, e-mail maryannmcdana at gmail dot com.

Also, the NEXT Church 2012 conference is going to be great. I’m leading a workshop called “Agile Church: Rethinking Congregational Structures,” but there are a lot of other reasons to come (including the aforementioned Troy). Hope to see you in Dallas.

Happy New Year!

We’re having a great week in Florida with my siblings and their families. We had the best (also longest) day at Magic Kingdom EVER, and have had lots of awesome hanging-out time.

As many of you know, my birthday is right after New Year’s, which means that this time of year is heavy on introspection and taking stock.

In the past I have made resolutions, set intentions, established goals, and more. Last year, for example, was a big bucket list year: I climbed the mountain, ran the race, finished the book (two actually) and lost almost 25 pounds (and counting).

I have a number of big projects in 2012, including getting the book released, leading a few conferences, pastoring Tiny Church into ever newer directions, and probably running another race or two. But those are scheduled and will happen without setting a particular intention in that direction.

Sometimes I think too much, plan too much, manage too much. So this year, my one and only intention is to cultivate joy in my life. That means cultivating laughter. Music. Beauty.

To keep that focus in the midst of all that other stuff is a worthy goal, no?

Oh, and this isn’t a bad intention either:

Happy New Year!

Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting: Book Review

Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn

I borrowed this book from the library after hearing Jon Kabat-Zinn on Being (formerly Speaking of Faith). It’s a good book and a quick read.

Their basic premise is that parenting is a spiritual discipline (so let’s consider childrearing an eighteen-year retreat—who needs to go to the monastery to be spiritual!). They are coming from a Buddhist perspective, though the concepts they describe are quite universal.

They emphasize mindfulness, intentionality, gentleness, and an open-hearted focus on what children need. The Kabat-Zinns talk about the “sovereignty” of children—the idea that they are who they are, and are becoming who they are becoming, and our job is to create a space for that to happen, not to manage or mold them.

I’ve said in the past that my parenting philosophy is to treat children as people. That is, that they have an inherent dignity that is worthy of respect. (I’m not unique in this, by the way. The book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen… is a good summary of my approach, or should I say, my hoped-for approach, because I miss the mark constantly.)

Authoritarian parenting certainly seems more expeditious, but it’s just not my thing. That doesn’t mean that my children run our household, and they certainly don’t always get their way (how would that even be possible when there are three of them??). But I don’t do the “because I said so” thing with them. I don’t tell Caroline how much of her weekly homework packet to do each night. And I try to be authentic with them. They see me (I think) as a person who loves them deeply but is a flawed human being who messes up and apologizes, seeking their forgiveness. I don’t try to be infallible. (Again, I’m not unique in this, but I do see lots of other parenting flavors out there. So… this is mine.)

One note about the book: the K-Zs are definitely coming from the attachment parenting side of things. So they are pretty critical of cry-it-out methods of sleep training, for example. It’s not hard to see how cry-it-out would be antithetical to their approach of mindful parenting. Responding to a child’s cries does not spoil her; it teaches her that she can rely upon the parents around her to care about her emotional needs. I basically agree, but what about the sovereignty of the parents? Sometimes, taking a break is essential for a parents’ self-care, whether it’s letting a child fuss for a while, especially if he’s older and you are desperately sleep-deprived yourself. They provide some caveats to their approach but I would like to see more. A parenting philosophy is like home base—it’s where you keep coming back to, but you’ve gotta venture out sometimes if you’re gonna play this crazy, no-rules game called raising kids.

That said, I appreciated the book very much. The seven intentions and eleven exercises for mindful parenting at the end of the book provided a good summary. Examples:

Intention 4: I will make every effort to see who my children actually are, and to remember to accept them for who they are at every age, rather than be blinded by my own expectations and fears. By making a commitment to live my own life fully and to work at seeing and accepting myself as I am, I will be better able to accord a similar acceptance to my children.  In this way I can help them to grow and to realize their full potential as unique beings.

And the second practice of mindful parenting (paraphrased) is to take time each day to imagine how you sound from your child’s point of view. [If you dare. I’ve actually asked them for feedback before, which is also illuminating.]

One memorable tidbit: Jon Kabat-Zinn talks about reading his son, who wanted to read Jack and the Beanstalk over and over again one night. By the seventh time Dad was getting VERY tired of it, but he realized that for his son, it was new every time—his eyes would widen, he would gasp. He was completely in the moment.

Can we learn from our children to be similarly mindful? Yes, we certainly can. And we can model it for them too.


What’s Your Word for 2011?

Well I sorta fell off the Reverb bandwagon around Christmas. And y’know? I’m not going to feel guilty about it!

Although I didn’t finish out the month of Reverb prompts, I have been doing some dreaming and planning for 2011. Last Tuesday was “think day” for church stuff: worship planning, goals, etc. Wednesday was focused on personal life and writing. I do like the reset of a new year to refocus. The fact that the new year coincides with my birthday only reinforces the power of that. I don’t make resolutions, because those seem too rigid. I do set intentions, however. (Heck, I do that monthly, a la Happiness Project.)

One word kept coming up as I thought about 2011, and the word is “rootedness.” With such a busy life and so many demands on my time and energy, staying grounded is an ongoing challenge. It is easy to be “blown about by every wind of doctrine.” Or if not doctrine, then Internet kerfuffles, random anxieties and the crisis du jour.

My personal hopes for 2011 all grew out of that word:

  • rooted in the physical world (more walks outside, regular excursions to hike or explore)
  • rooted in deep relationships (I’m intending to write actual letters this year, and to have more phone conversations, and do less relationships-via-Facebook)
  • rooted in creativity (schedule regular “spirit days,” write the durn book).

I’ve also been playing the word game with the church. The church I used to serve would give out paper stars at Epiphany. Each had a word on it that was the person’s “prayer word” for the year. The words were all over the map: wisdom, peace, harmony.

The idea comes from a friend of mine, Margee Iddings, who recently shared the whole concept, which I love. The pastor thinks about the upcoming year: what the church will be facing, upcoming challenges and such. What virtues or attributes will be needed to face these challenges? Put those words on stars, and have people choose them at random. Then people are invited to find other people who share their word and talk briefly about what that word means to them and other brief questions.

It is often the case that people receive the word they need.

Next year, our congregation will be going through the presbytery’s “transforming congregations” project, making some decisions about what to do with our manse, and thinking about how to increase our connection to the larger community. Here are the words I chose:

  • trust
  • courage
  • compassion
  • risk
  • radiance
  • faith
  • attentiveness
  • joy

What would your word be for 2011?

Image: Epiphany Stars