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…

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Flying Houses by Laurent Cherere — Colossal

Wonderful. Like something out of Roald Dahl:

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laurent-4

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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.

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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.

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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:

H6yMi6fUB_1JR964xxG8RxsYArlNNn1lR5PWutchIb-0b1wahCLwPmHficO2saD0RkzVCatVnWrRPg

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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.

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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.

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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:

lav3

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Have a wonderful weekend!

‘Our Ugly Failure to Evolve’ — On the Mystery of the Incarnation, after Newtown

160229699212188623“On the Mystery of the Incarnation”

It’s when we face for a moment
the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know
the taint in our own selves, that awe
cracks the mind’s shell and enters the heart:
not to a flower, not to a dolphin,
to no innocent form
but to this creature vainly sure
it and no other is god-like, God
(out of compassion for our ugly
failure to evolve) entrusts,
as guest, as brother,
the Word.

Denise Levertov (h/t Andrew Foster Connors)

Image source

Friday Link Love

Away we go:

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Winners of the National Geographic Photo Contest — The Atlantic

My favorite:

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New Orleans Pastor Known as ‘Da Condom Father’ Couldn’t Just Watch People Die — Nola.com

According to the article, black people are 32 percent of the Louisiana population but, according to the state Department of Health and Human Hospitals, account for 73 percent of the newest HIV cases and 76 percent of the cases that progressed to AIDS. So this pastor hands out condoms to his parishioners and community. For him the ethics is clear:

Is such the Lord’s work? Davenport is convinced it is. What is he supposed to do? Stand back and see his people die ? Preach to them about sexual purity — then stand back and see his people die?

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Julia Child Visits Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood — The Fred Rogers Company

A video from the archives, in honor of that wonderful dame’s 100th birthday:


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The ‘Open’ Office is a Source of Stress — Time

The modern open office was designed for team building and camaraderie but is mostly distinguished by its high noise levels, lack of privacy and surfeit of both digital and human distractions. And indeed, several decades of research have confirmed that open-plan offices are generally associated with greater employee stress, poorer co-worker relations and reduced satisfaction with the physical environment.

Do you work in an open office environment? What do you think of it, dear readers?

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War Some of the Time — Writers Almanac

A great one from Bukowski:

when you write a poem it
needn’t be intense
it
can be nice and
easy
and you shouldn’t necessarily
be
concerned only with things like anger or
love or need;
at any moment the
greatest accomplishment might be to simply
get
up and tap the handle
on that leaking toilet;

More at the link.

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Why Be Grateful? — Jana Riess

There’s actual science between the practice of gratitude:

In one experiment, students were given different topics on which they had to write a paper. Some students were then given scathing criticism of their papers, while others were praised lavishly.

Then all the students were given the opportunity to go up against their teachers/ graders in a computer game. Not surprisingly, the students who had been sharply criticized retaliated in kind during the game, blasting the heck out of the perpetrators who had made their lives miserable. The ones who had been praised were not aggressive in the game.

And then things got really interesting. There was one exception to the rule about students who had been criticized turning around and retaliating.  This was a small group of the mocked students who had been assigned in their papers to enumerate the things they were grateful for in their lives.

Here’s the thing: those students who had written about gratitude didn’t react negatively to the criticism they received on their papers. They did not retaliate in the computer game.

Apparently, the simple act of counting their blessings had given them enough positive reinforcement about their lives that any criticism of their papers just rolled right off them.

I’ve been working on gratitude this week. It’s been hard. I am very concerned for a family in our church whose little boy is battling ALD and he continues to struggle. I feel very weighed down on their behalf. But I’m trying.

Videos like this help:

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My Own Rice — Church World Service

I love Church World Service. They are a modest organization but very effective, with low overhead. Remember that old Cadillac slogan, “quietly doing things very well”? That’s CWS.

Here’s a story of a young boy in Myanmar who was one of two survivors of a flood in his village. He received a micro-loan and is now growing his own rice.

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Peace be with you, friends.

Bonus Mid-Week Link Love

Friends, thank you so much for your support for my book. I cherish your can-do attitude and your willingness to write reviews, make connections, suggest it to your friends… and pre-order.

One thing I forgot to mention—there will be a discussion guide for groups, Sunday School classes, etc. Stay tuned!

Last night I finally finished an article for the Journal for Preachers that was due a week ago, and I’m wiped. Meanwhile, I’ve found a lot of candidates for Link Love this week. So here’s a little bonus, one silly, one sublime.

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The Anthem Olympics — Grantland

A “competition” between the different national anthems. A fun sendup of NBC’s Olympics coverage. Regarding the United States anthem:

We can only admire the wisdom of the American people for selecting as their anthem a song that directly confronts the single most painful moment from their history: The time when Francis Scott Key didn’t know who had won the battle for Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. The chord progression might be stodgy, the melody might be hard to sing, but the words — words about not being able to see very well when peering over the side of an 18th-century sailing ship — remain as true today as they were the day they were written.

Bob Costas’s Take: “Here’s an amusing story: It’s being said that many members of Team USA didn’t like the food in the Olympic Village … and then they realized there was a McDonald’s right there. Pepper?”

Pepper Bohannan’s Take: “You know, Bob, the U.S. doesn’t have a reputation as an anthem country. It was a surprise to many people that they made the medal round at all. Up next, we’ll talk about this perception with each American anthemer individually for 20 minutes.”

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The Real Work — Wendell Berry

Perhaps you saw this one too from the Writers Almanac:

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Spectacular.

Happy Wednesday, everyone.

Image: Gold medalist in judo Kayla Harrison of the United States reacts as the national anthem is played.

Back from the Conference

Someday I Will Forget These Things

There was the quote
I had to scribble down,
quickly, the pen faltering like a toddler’s dragging-mad footsteps.

And the wisdom,
shared in a tumble of tweets,
a paper chain across the universe.

And the poem that exploded the room,
or made the air leak out in a sigh.

There was the certain conviction that words matter.

And there were hands to receive, and offers of help.
There were people
who saw the door open a crack,
who pushed it wide
to allow others through.

And there was the tree dusted with purple
and a yellow hydrant kneeling underneath.
I could not bear to take its picture.

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(Door image came from Sue Baller-Shepard, a new friend.
Check out her wonderful Spiritual Book Club site.)   

Friday Link Love

The First Supper by Jane Evershed

Perhaps the World Ends Here — Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

Susan Olson recently linked to this poem and it’s been echoing in my mind. Reminds me of Bruce Cockburn’s song “Last Night of the World”:

If this were the last night of the world
What would I do?
What would I do that was different
Unless it was champagne with you?

I’m thankful that our family is in a season in which all five of us eat together at least six nights a week.

It will not always be thus.

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The Most Astounding Fact — Neil deGrasse Tyson

This has been making the rounds, but if you haven’t seen it:

Bonus link: Listen to physicist James Gates’s interview on On Being. I didn’t understand a lot of it. But I liked it nonetheless.

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The Six Secrets the Girl Scouts Have Kept for a Century — WSJ

How is this single-sex organization based on principles begun before the first World War able to remain vital in the twenty first century? How much of it would Juliette Gordon Low recognize? What are the secrets to the continued success of Girl Scouting?

One thing that was not mentioned in the article is that the uniform is updated regularly. I’m not kidding. That seems very superficial but it is a huge symbolic statement that the Girl Scouts are not stuck in the past.

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Do As Franzen Does. Do What You Like — Roxane Gay

Alas, there’s been yet another installment of Famous Author Disparaging Social Media. I love this response:

Is anyone really using Twitter to craft complex rhetorical arguments? What does responsibility have to do with chattering online? It’s like Franzen is saying, “I cannot swim in my car and therefore my car is not useful.” He doesn’t understand what Twitter is for. Of course he dislikes it. He’s working from a place of profound ignorance. His stance is one of those things where you have to say, “There, there, Mr. Franzen, here is your Ovaltine.”

Heh.

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And lastly, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, my friend Stacey posted this recipe to Facebook earlier this week:

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

I’m still not eating dessert during Lent, but o frabjous day, every Sunday is a mini-Easter! And Oh Em Gee:

These cupcakes consist of a Guinness-chocolate cake base, which has a wonderful depth of flavor and is also supremely moist. The centers of the cupcakes are cut out and filled with a chocolate ganache that has been spiked with Irish whiskey. And to top it all off, the frosting is my favorite vanilla buttercream that has been doused with a serious amount of Baileys Irish Cream.

I’m eatin’ that.

May you too have a delicious weekend.

Birthday Thanks

I’ll be honest. In terms of actual birthdays, it hasn’t been the greatest ever—we drove all day yesterday and for half of today, and it’s always a big fat bummer to come home to the Christmas stuff, and all the mess of unpacking the car, getting ready to go back to work tomorrow, making sure we have food in the house, etc.

We are all super tired too.

But that’s just the way it had to be, you know? I’m not super anal about celebrating on the actual day. Robert and I had a great dinner with my siblings last Thursday, and will celebrate more this weekend. There are other little dinners and things planned with friends, and I suspect there will be some revelry still to come once Caroline and Robert get home from the grocery store and vague “errands.” But still—kind of a blah day. A day in transit and transition.

So I appreciated today’s offering from the Writer’s Almanac. Inspired by that poem, as well as my life (which is pretty darn awesome when I take a step back)… I give you “Birthday Thanks.”

To the newly knitted mittens,
made with a little of this and that
over late-night vacation conversations.

Praise the cold that received us
as we drove north, and to
the bushel of red navel oranges in the trunk
to make that cold more bearable.

Praise the homecoming, like walking into a museum of our life,
everything untouched.

Praise the dot matrix paper, unfurled,
with H A P P Y B I R T H D A Y scrawled across it, praise the
barefoot six year old, now coloring between each letter.

Praise the cardboard box
which has become a ramp for the Matchbox cars.

Praise the tuning fork
which became the most beloved gift
for the eight year old who always whistles.

Praise the speakers in the kitchen
playing all the right music
while the boxes get flattened and the Monopoly put away.

Praise the counter, crammed with groceries:
bananas that will be perfectly yellow by morning,
and sliced bread in all its preparedness,
ready for tomorrow’s lunchbox assembly line
even if I am not.