Friday, August 30, 2013

Weekend Playlist: Goodnight Irene

There's a tradition in my wife's family that whenever they get together for a family reunion (or pretty much any other occasion) there's an impromptu jam session. I've been fortunate to participate in more than a few of these sessions although I have to admit my wife's family is full of far better musicians than I ever hope to be. Usually the sessions will end with a rendition of Goodnight Irene.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Eric Clapton had included the track on his latest CD Old Sock. Even more surprising is that he's actually been performing the song for years as you can see from the video below. Enjoy!

Daily Links 8-30-13

Happy Firiday! Here are some links of interest to lead into the weekend:


Ranking the 21 best Jane Austen films of all time. I haven't seen all of these films but I would say I pretty much agree with the way these were ranked.


10 Things Christians Should Know About Islam. This is a good quick reference on Islam for those who are not familiar with what Islam is all about.


Sign me up: The Bacon Weave Breakfast Taco. (hat tip Neatorama)


Working Harder and Smarter: What Ashton Kutcher and Mike Rowe Have to Teach Us

So as Kutcher and Rowe urge, in the words of the latter, "work smart and hard." But as Kutcher's final point in his acceptance speech makes clear, our work needs to be oriented toward something larger. Kutcher encourages his audience to dream big, to work hard and smart "to build a life" characterized by meaning and significance. Lester DeKoster says there is a deep relationship between the meaning of our lives and our labor, since work is "a glorious opportunity to serve God and our neighbors by participating in God’s creative work through cultivation of the creation order." Work is a channel of preserving, common grace, intended by God to be the primary avenue for meeting our material needs and social life.
If younger generations faced by dour prospects in the marketplace would take the wisdom of Ashton Kutcher and Mike Rowe to heart, the prospects for a flourishing culture and economy would be much brighter. This would mean that there would be a greater recognition of the cultural and economic contributions realized through vocational training, through mentorships, craftsmanship, and entrepreneurs. Rowe, for instance, talks about "hundreds of men and women who loved their jobs and worked their butts off: welders, mechanics, electricians, plumbers. I’ve met them in every state, and seen firsthand a pride of workmanship that simply doesn’t exist in most 'cleaner' industries."


Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Art of Keeping Score

One of my favorite things about watching baseball is the ability to keep score. A good scorecard can reveal much to a baseball fan that is not obvious to the casual observer of the game. ESPN's Jim Caple has this to say on scoring:

You can keep score in sports such as basketball, bowling or golf, but it amounts to little more than marking down numbers. There is no creativity involved. Scorekeeping in baseball, however, is an art form, individual expression that makes you feel you are part of the game. It personally and precisely records every moment of the game, allowing you to replay and relive it forever.
This is the thing I love most about scorekeeping. I can look back in my scorebook and relive games that I watched years ago. It becomes a lasting memory of the game we have just witnessed.

For the uninitiated, scorekeeping might seem to be a little daunting. A good place to start is with this tutorial. Then I would also recommend reading Paul Dickson's excellent book The Joy of Keeping Score. Finally, you'll need a good scorebook. The Eephus League Halfliner is the best scorebook I have found. I have the smaller version of the scorebook but plan on upgrading to the halfliner when my current book is full.

If you really want to appreciate and understand baseball you should learn to keep score. My oldest daughter has already said that she wants to learn to keep score. I'll be happy to teach her one day how to do it. Once you start keeping score you'll never watch a baseball game the same way again.

Are You An Introvert or Extrovert?

It's been a hot topic in the news lately along with spawning bestselling books such as Susan Cain's excellent book Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can't Stop Talking (which I highly recommend). But what actually qualifies someone to be classified as an introvert? What are the qualities that reflect an introverted personality? Here's an excellent inventory of the signs that you may be an introvert. (hat tip: The Wardrobe Door) The bottom line is that there is no shame in being an introvert. In fact, if you have those tendencies (and I know that I do) the best thing you can do is embrace the fact that you are introverted and learn how to manage life in light of the toll that social interaction will take on you.

Daily Links 8-29-13

A fresh serving of links to start your day. Tastes better than sausage.


30 Dr. Seuss quotes that could change your life.


Mike Rowe: Using the Tools God Gave Him


Trailer of the week: The Monuments Men

Daily Links 8-29-13

Your daily dose of links to start your day off right.....


10 Easy Ways to Save Money Tonight.  These are some great suggestions. I wish I had thought of them.


10 really cool food trucks (hat tip Neatorama). I love the idea of food trucks a lot. Unfortunately we don't have them where we live. But I wouldn't hesitate to partake of any of these trucks' offerings.


How to Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee (hat tip Instapundit). Now I knew it took effort (certainly much more than I put into it each morning) but I had no idea just how much of an exact science this is.


The Content of Our Character. Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" Speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C. Dr. Albert Mohler offers some reflections on what the speech means to Christians fifty years later. Here is an interesting tidbit that I didn't know about the speech that speaks to Dr. King's great gifts as an orator:

Interestingly, the most famous words of his speech were not included in his manuscript. King had arrived in Washington the day before and had prepared his speech in a room at the famous Willard Hotel. In The Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation, author Drew D. Hansen provides parallel texts of Dr. King’s manuscript and of his actual words. When he reached the pinnacle of his oratory, King simply departed from his prepared text and launched his speech into history.
“I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”
Dr. King spoke of a dream “that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.” And he spoke personally: “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I Would Challenge You To A Battle of Wits....


Daily Links 8-28-13

Good morning. Here are a few links to help start your day. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy.

Healthy Churches are Messy

The healthiest churches are inevitably messy. The church that is bearing fruit will have many new believers, which means an ongoing struggle to disciple them. This discipleship, however, cannot happen in a vacuum, and it certainly doesn’t happen instantaneously.


Via Book Riot, 15 Fabulous Bookish Pinterest Boards.


One of C. S. Lewis' previously unpublished letters is published revealing the respect he had for the children that wrote to him. 


Which store brands are as good as or better than store brands? (hat tip: Lifehacker)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How to Care for an Introvert

Hat tip: Stephen Mansfield

Daily Links 8-27-13

Good morning. Here are a few links to start the day:

Why telling your story is NOT the best way to share the gospel:

The problem with this method is that it doesn’t work anymore. It might have worked 20 or 30 years ago,  but in 2013 any post-modern worth his salt will respond “that may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.” And well he should. If the person sharing his faith is saying that you should try this because it worked for him—if he is basing his argument for following Christ on his own experience—then it’s only fair that the person responding should be able to say that his experience is just as valid.
In a way, the Christian who uses only his own experience to tell non-Christians about Jesus is giving the post-modern the home-field advantage. He is implicitly agreeing that what matters most is personal experience, not truth.

Why we need better young adult fiction:

This is why good taste matters so much when it comes to books for children and young adults. Books tell children what to expect, what life is, what culture is, how we are expected to behave—what the spectrum is. Books don’t just cater to tastes. They form tastes. They create norms—and as the examples above show, the norms young people take away are not necessarily the norms adults intend. This is why I am skeptical of the social utility of so-called “problem novels”—books that have a troubled main character, such as a girl with a father who started raping her when she was a toddler and anonymously provides her with knives when she is a teenager hoping that she will cut herself to death. (This scenario is from Cheryl Rainfield’s 2010 Young Adult novel,  Scars which School Library Journal hailed as “one heck of a good book.”) The argument in favor of such books is that they validate the real and terrible experiences of teenagers who have been abused, addicted, or raped—among other things. The problem is that the very act of detailing these pathologies, not just in one book but in many, normalizes them. And teenagers are all about identifying norms and adhering to them.

Audience member gets to sing For Good with Kristen Chenoweth, video goes viral.

Read the full story here. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Daily Links 8-26-13

A few links of interest to start out your week:
Last Friday, Dodger fans (and baseball fans everywhere for that matter) rejoiced at the news that Vin Scully would return to the broadcast booth next year for his 65th year as play-by-play announcer. In his own words:
I really still enjoy it immensely. My health is good, thank God. So why not? And my wife said, 'Why not?' as well.
"Just the thought of walking away from it to retirement — and looking out the window or something? It's just too good. As a baseball man, and someone who has always loved the game, the situation and the conditions are perfect."
It's refreshing to see someone who continues to work because they enjoy what they do. Of course, when you're having fun, a job i s not really work at all.  ***************************************** An interesting list of 18 everyday products you have been using wrong. *****************************************
10 interesting facts about The Princess Bride from director Rob Reiner This one is my favorite: Reitman: I read that you were in a restaurant in New York once, and one of John Gotti’s men said… Reiner: Yeah, I walked outside the restaurant, and John Gotti was there with six wiseguys. There was a guy beside the limo who looked like Luca Brasi. He looked at me, and said: “You killed my father…Prepare to die!” I almost went right then! He said, “I love dat movie, da Princess Bride!”

Friday, August 23, 2013

Weekend Playlist: Bruises

Every once in a while I run across a song that will follow me around for days. By that I mean that every time I turn on the radio a song seems to play. That's certainly true for this song by Train (with Ashley Monroe). And given the fact that I live one town over from where I went to high school means the chance that I'll have a reunion with a classmate along the lines of the one described in the song is pretty high. This is one of my current favorite songs. Each time it comes on the radio I have to turn the volume just a little more. Enjoy!

Friday Tweet Roundup 8-23-13

Happy Friday everyone!  I continue to be amazed at what I find on Twitter. Here is a roundup of this week's links. Please follow me on Twitter if you are so inclined.

About three years prior to writing 1984, George Orwell wrote a letter detailing the theories that would shape the novel.

This is a great question: "What will be the cost to the church if young men continue to give themselves to pornography?"

Settling the important questions: when grilling is it better to marinade or rub? Go for the rub. Related: my favorite way to prepare steaks only involves using salt and pepper.

I didn't really understand the appeal of Duck Dynasty until I saw a couple of episodes. Here's an explanation as to why it's so popular (and that's a good thing). It's become one of our favorite shows.

Marian McPartland, hostess of NPR's Piano Jazz passed away this week at 95. An appreciation of her remarkable career.

A young man gets stranded at the airport with no money and nothing to eat. What one restaurant did really shows what great customer service is all about.

Legendary Disney songwriters Richard Sherman and Alan Menken recently appeared in concert together at the D23 Expo and it was as magical as you would expect it to be.

The late Elmore Leonard had some great rules for writers.

Baseball's National Hall of Fame should be about those who played the game with honor. This is an interesting case for one such player who is not currently enshrined in the Hall (but should be).

A 911 operator comes to a bride's rescue. Then they become friends.

15 companies that started out selling something else than what they became famous for.

TIME finally reports on a story that a lot of parents already know about: Public schools are hostile to boys.

It's always tough when you're facing the prospect of leaving your church. Here are 10 questions you should ask yourself if you're considering such a step. It's a serious decision and is worth careful thought and prayer.

What Disney taught one person about leadership.

According to Dr. Albert Mohler, the antidote to anemic worship is expository preaching.

An American POW's prized gold ring returns home after he gave it away for food during World War II.

Los Angeles Dodgers' pitching ace Clayton Kershaw would rather talk about what he's doing off the field. Key quote: "Kershaw said he wants to be known as a Christian who happens to play baseball, not as a baseball player who happens to be a Christian."

There are some that say e-books will be the death of the publishing industry. But one publisher is starting to reward customers with free e-book copies of physical books that they buy. This makes sense to me. Amazon had already done this with CDs purchased through their site so it makes sense that publishers will want to do the same.

From Art of Manliness, five traits of true leadership.

Five habits of highly effective communicators.

How to go from being a good leader to a great manager.

This is amazing: historical black and white photographs are colorized. The results are incredible.

A brief history of everyone's favorite summertime memory: the ice cream truck.

The plucky investigative reporter who got herself committed to an insane asylum. On purpose.

Did you know before she became a famous television chef Julia Child was a spy? The stories of five unlikely spies.

Let's call this your bookstore bucket list. 16 bookstores to see before you die. Judging by the pictures, I'd say they were right.

An interesting interview with the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Convention, Russell Moore. His observations on the role of Christians in culture today are right on the mark.

That's it. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Jobs, The Economy, and Hard Work

There's a lot of talk these days about jobs and the economy. One of the common talking points we hear is that there are jobs that people don't want to do. Steve Kloosterman waded into this issue with a column entitled Are Bad Jobs Good for the Economy and People Who Work Them? Because the article was accompanied by a picture of Mike Rowe (who happens to know a thing or two about jobs - both good and bad) it caught his attention and prompted a fantastic takedown of  the article and a wonderful treatise on hard work. After taking the article point by point he summarizes the problem of our attitude towards jobs with this statement:

There’s a trillion dollars of college debt on the books, and we’re still pushing a four-year degree like it’s some sort of golden ticket. Dozens of states are facing massive shortages in the skilled trades, but we still talk about trade schools as “alternatives for the academically challenged.” And now, with record high unemployment and Detroit flat broke, you want to focus on the problem of ...“bad jobs?” Can you imagine our grandparents bemoaning the existence of “unpleasant” work? Can you imagine the greatest generation agreeing that some jobs were just “not worth having?”
Look, I don’t want to sound like the cranky neighbor on the front porch, screaming at the kids to get off his lawn....But come on -- 12 million people are looking for work and 3 million jobs can’t be filled? How come nobody is asking questions about that? Why is no one taking a poll on whether our expectations have replaced our common sense? Why do we talk only of “job-creation,” when we can’t even fill the jobs we have?
On Dirty Jobs, I met hundreds of men and women who found success and happiness by doing the “unpleasant" thing. I remember a guy in Washington whose first job was cleaning the grease trap in a Mexican restaurant. He moved on to washing dishes and then waiting tables. Today, he owns the restaurant, and six more just like it. I'd like to read more stories about people like that, and I bet I'm not alone.
Take the time to read it all.

Imparting Importing Life Lessons

It will only take a minute of your time but this video is absolutely fantastic. Colorado Rockies' third base coach Rene Lachemann gave a young Phillies fan a baseball. Then he proceeded to impart some important life lessons to the kid.
I have a feeling this kid won't forget this encounter anytime soon. Hats off to Lachemann for taking the opportunity to teach the kid some important truths.

Hat tip: Hardball Talk

Fun Find of the Week: 11 Google Services with Hidden Easter Eggs

You have to hand it to the folks at Google. They have a great sense of humor. It turns out that there are a whole host of interesting features built into their web services. For example:

Go to YouTube. Start watching a video. Click outside the search bar and type "1980." This will launch a playable game of Missile Command above the video. Beware! The aliens are trying to destroy the video you’re watching. 

Full story available at Mental Floss.

Monday, August 19, 2013

From the Archives: Rules of the South


If you are going to live or visit in the South, you need to know these rules:

1. That farm boy you see at the gas station did MORE work before breakfast than you do all week at the gym.

2. It's called a "gravel road." No matter how slow you drive, you're going to get dust on your Navigator. Drive it or get out of the way.

3. The red dirt -- it's called clay. Red clay. If you like the color, don't wash your car for a couple weeks -- it'll be permanent.

4. We all started hunting and fishing when we were seven years old. Yeah, we saw Bambi. We got over it.

5. Go ahead and bring your $600 Orvis Fly Rod. Don't cry to us if a flathead breaks it off at the handle. We have a name for those little 13-inch trout you fish for -- bait.

6. Pull your pants up. You look like an idiot.

7. If that cell phone rings while a bunch of mallards (ducks) are making their final approach, we will shoot it (the phone). You might want to ensure it's not up to your ear at the time.

8. No, there's no "Vegetarian Special" on the menu. Order steak. Order it rare. Or, you can order the Chef's Salad and pick off the two pounds of ham and turkey.

9. Tea - yeah, we have tea. It comes in a glass over ice and is really, really sweet. You want it hot -- sit it in the sun. You want it unsweetened -- add a LOT of water.

10. You bring Coke into my house, it better be brown, wet, and served over ice.

11. So, you have a sixty thousand dollar car. We're real impressed. We have a quarter of a million-dollar combine (it's farm equipment) that we only use two weeks a year.

12. Let's get this straight. We have one stoplight in town. We stop when it's red. We may even stop when it's yellow.

13. We eat dinner together with our families. We pray before we eat (yeah, even breakfast). We go to church on Wednesdays and Sundays and we go to high school football games on Friday nights. We still address our seniors with "yes, sir" and "yes, ma'am," and we sometimes still take Sunday drives around town to see friends and neighbors.

14. We don't do "hurry up" well.

15. Greens - yeah, we have greens, but you don't putt on them. You boil them with salty fatback, bacon or a ham hock.

16. Yeah, we eat catfish, bass, bream (pronounced brim) and carp. You really want sushi and caviar? It's available at the bait shop.

17. They are pigs. That's what they smell like (money). Get it -- pig farms -- income -- money? Get over it. Don't like the smell? Interstate 75 goes two ways. Interstate 20 goes the other two. Pick one.

18. Grits are corn. You put butter, salt, and maybe even some pepper on them. If you want to put milk and sugar on them, then you want Cream of Wheat --go to Kansas. That would be I-20 West.

19. The "Opener" refers to the first day of deer season or dove season. Both are holidays. You can get pancakes, cane syrup, and sausage before daylight at the church on either day.

20. So every person in every pickup waves? Yeah, it's called being friendly. Understand the concept?

21. Yeah, we have golf courses. Don't hit in the water hazards. It spooks the fish and bothers the gators...and if you hit it in the rough, we have these things called diamondbacks, and they're not baseball players.

22. That Highway Patrol Officer that just pulled you over for driving like an idiot...his name is "Sir," no matter how young he is.

23. We have lots of pine trees. They have sap. It drips from them. You park your Navigator under them, and they'll leave a logo on your hood.

24. You burn an American flag in our state, you get beat up. No questions

25. No, we don't care how you do things in California or up North. If it is so great, why not stay there?

26. And no, down here we don't have an accent. You do.


This was originally posted in 2007.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Tweet Roundup 8-16-13

It's Friday and time for another roundup of links of interest that I tweeted about this week. Be sure to follow me on Twitter for the latest.

26 problems only introverts would understand. Yes, this post speaks to me.

Some good tips on writing and speaking for introverts.

Who knew that churches had spies? They found out some interesting things in looking over churches.

Seven expectations of every church member. If more churches set these expectations of their members they would be a lot healthier.

How the temperance movement almost killed root beer.

Lou Gehrig was called the Pride of the Yankees. By contrast Alex Rodriguez can be called the Disgrace of the Yankees.

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice marks its 200th anniversary. Austen addiction is alive and well. 

Film and fashion collide: The suits of James Bond.

Today marks the beginning of a Michigan man's quest to visit all 30 major league parks in 30 days to raise money for leukemia and lymphoma research. His website is here if you want to support him.

Disney songwriting legends Richard Sherman and Alan Menken reflect on their careers.

Here's a great list of books to read with your child before they are 12 years old.

Did you hear the one about the time a cat was sent through pneumatic tubes? It's a true story

Then there were the time(s) Disney animators plagiarized themselves.

Attention Whovians: you can use Google Maps to view inside the TARDIS.

One thing you never, ever do is run on Yasiel Puig. This throw is insane. What's more amazing is the play at third isn't even close.

That's it. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Advice from Fathers to Sons: How to Look at Women

There is so much written today on modesty and how men should view women. Unfortunately much of that advice, while well intended, is simply wrong. But this article is probably one of the best I have read on the subject in a long, long time. An excerpt:

A lot of people will try and tell you that a woman should watch how she dresses so she doesn’t tempt you to look at her wrongly.  Here is what I will tell you.  It is a woman’s responsibility to dress herself in the morning.  It is your responsibility to look at her like a human being regardless of what she is wearing. 
The whole thing is worth reading. And if you are a dad who has a son, take the time to have the conversation that this article recommends. If we expect men to treat our daughters with respect then we need to do a better job of training our sons how to properly treat our daughters.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

From the Archives: The Jennifer Ehle Interview

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to interview Jennifer Ehle (Elizabeth Darcy, Pride and Prejudice) via e-mail while she was performing The Philadelphia Story on stage in London. The original article appeared here at Blogcritics. The following are her answers to the questions that I posed to her.

Given the popularity of Pride and Prejudice when it first appeared, it would have been natural to expect you to try to capitalize on its success with your subsequent roles. However, it seems that you went out of your way to try not to be typecast in the same type of roles as Elizabeth Bennet. Can you share how you selected the roles you accepted after Pride and Prejudice and whether a fear of typecasting played a part in those selections?

When Pride and Prejudice came out September of ‘95, I was already working at the RSC and under contract with them till February of ‘96 — so there was nothing I could have done to ‘capitalize’ on the show’s success then, even if I had wanted to. It suited me perfectly to be unavailable; and to sit tight and wait out the hoopla. Once I was released from the RSC, I just continued to do what I always had done, which was to take the most interesting (to me) jobs that I was offered. This has changed a little now that I have a family — and am open again to working — but it has not changed a great deal. Now it has to be the most interesting job that is also interesting enough to ask my family to commit to. I do not feel as though I have ever been type cast. The women I have been lucky enough to play have been complex enough to allow me to use a varied pallete. Although I have played a few women whom I think of as ‘warmth-exuders’ who stand by their men — they have been quite varied apart from having that quality in common.

One of the wonderful aspects of Pride and Prejudice is the relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and her father (portrayed by Benjamin Whitrow). Can you tell us about the chemistry between the two of you and how it affected your portrayal of Elizabeth? Does the relationship between these two characters in any way reflect your relationship with your own father?

I really enjoyed filming the father/daughter scenes with Ben. It was one of my very favorite bits of the filming. They were shot right at the start of the five month shoot and so, I was not yet exhausted — and they were done all in a clump, with just the two of us there. The relationship between Mr. Bennet and Lizzie was always my favorite part of the book. It was, for me growing up, the love story in the book; and I would weep whenever I reread it and would get to the bit where Lizzie tells Mr. Bennet that Darcy is the best man she has ever known. It is such an important part of the whole female fantasy of the story — the favorite daughter who idolizes her father above all men and then, when he fails to protect Lydia from herself, is exposed as a mere human being. Then, and only then, is the young woman free to find her own mate and open her heart to him.

Of the following men from Pride and Prejudice – Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley or Mr. Bennet – which would you want your son to grow up to be like and why?

These are the options?! It’s amazing the species continues.

You mentioned in an interview that the only role that would take you away from your family would be Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story. How have your career choices changed as a result of getting married and having a son?

Well, when I met my husband, I knew that I wanted to pay full attention to this relationship. I had not enjoyed acting for a lot of my twenties and wanted to step away and see how that felt; to see if the desire to act would return in full. So as soon as my commitments exhausted themselves (Possession and Design For Living) I took that time. Three years later, I was curious to see how it would feel to act again and it was fine. I liked it, but still wasn’t sure. Now, four-and-some years on from ‘walking away,’ I am really enjoying it and have not felt this unambivalent about working for at least a decade. It’s fun being an actress. Who knew?

How much influence did your parents have on you in your choice of acting as a career? How much has your mother influenced you particularly in your career as a stage actress?

While most kids may be asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” — the question always put to me was, “Are you going to be an actress or a writer?” — and I really never did consider anything else as a possibility. Having grown up with parents in these quite bohemian, joyous, autonomous careers, I do not see why I would ever have looked much further.

How did you prepare for the role of Tracy Lord? She seems very over-the-top compared to your previous roles that are far more understated. Have you had a chance to see the film and if not do you plan to see it?

Still haven’t seen the Grant/Hepburn movie. I’m sure I will one day.

The most important question any North Carolina native should answer: which do you prefer – Eastern or Western North Carolina barbecue and why?

I don’t know! I don’t know! Oh, help. I would imagine I have never even had Eastern. Have not had a lot of BBQ, because my Mother is involved in reforming the way pigs are farmed so we avoid factory-farmed pork as a rule. But did I mention her cheese grits?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Worship Thoughts: Greeting Time

So far in this series of posts, I've been sharing some thoughts about worship and some of the things that are being done routinely in church that perhaps would be better left out. Today, I want to address another of the "sacred cows" of the church: the greeting time.

In almost every church I have visited, there is some period of time set aside during the service to "greet one another". Presumably this is an opportunity for church members to greet visitors and get to know them better. What seems to happen more often than not is that folks spend lots of time shaking heads but never really getting to know one another. Part of that is the constraints of time. It's hard in the course of a couple of minutes to start a meaningful conversation with someone especially when that person already feels a little uncomfortable and out of place. Of course, as an introvert I'm not inclined to engage in meaningless conversation. I'm naturally uncomfortable in large gatherings. Greeting time usually ends up being the most excruciating part of the service. 

By the way, is it too much to ask for folks to introduce themselves? I can't tell you how many times I have visited a church where no one wants to tell me their name. 

The other issue is the fact that the greeting time ends up disrupting the flow of the worship service. I've experienced this both as part of the congregation and as a worship leader. It's difficult to get folks focused back on worship after they have been up shaking hands and chatting with each other.

I'm all for trying to make visitors feel more comfortable in the church. As a matter of fact, I think most churches don't expend enough energy welcoming visitors to the church. But it also seems that the best time to do this is either before or after the worship service. But interrupting the service for a few minutes of chit-chat seems to be counterproductive. Like so many of the other elements of worship that have become entrenched in our services it would be wise to reconsider whether greeting time is really accomplishing what needs to be accomplished. If it isn't then maybe it's time to stop doing it. 

Previous entries in this series:

Friday, August 09, 2013

Friday Tweet Recap 8-9-13

Here's a roundup of interesting things that I found on the web and tweeted this week. Quite a boatload of links in today's edition. Be sure to follow me on Twitter for the latest:

A historian makes a case for examining the forgotten presidents.

10 signs you might be a Jane Austen addict. This link should in no way imply that I think any of the women in my household should be classified as addicts.

Two different stories on finding love and both of them are unusual: From Wrong Number to Wedded Bliss and From Hashtags to Holy Matrimony.

For some, college is not worth the debt. More and more, this is something that families have to consider before sending their kids off to school.

"How did you like the sermon?" is the wrong question to ask because sermons are not for liking.

6 Commonly Held Misconceptions about Introverts.

10 reasons parents need a date night (with helpful explanations for the kids).

A fascinating survey of book lovers. Some the stats in this survey are really surprising.

I was sorry to hear this news. I hope they will change their minds.

10 things that "Yahweh" means. I honestly didn't know this.

What strengthens and weakens integrity - it's the small choices that count.

Eric Metaxas argues that cultural elites are the next great unreached people group. He makes a very compelling case.

A controversy has arisen over the word "wrath" in a hymn. Timothy George explains the problem. And Thom Rainer has some insight on what this says about evangelism and the church.

A surprisingly positive New York Times profile of the business practices of Christian companies.

Dispelling 12 common myths about Calvinism.

In honor of the announcement of the 12th doctor, 8 pieces of Doctor Who tea swag.

This is one of the rarest things you will see in baseball: a one pitch strikeout.

Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees received a well-deserved 211 game suspension from Major League Baseball. For those unfamiliar with the story, Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan has an excellent timeline of how this came to pass.

More on Rodriguez: the reason why MLB needs to enforce the rules regarding drug use.

Here's one of the best baseball promos I have ever seen: Vin Scully for ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.

It's been 25 years since the first night game at Wrigley Field. Some recollections from those who were there.

Reclaiming excellence as a Christian virtue.

Some wonderful and weird places for bookstores.

Here's a great case of suburban renewal: abandoned Wal-Mart turned into America's largest library.

That's it. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Who to Follow on Twitter: Play Ball!

If you've spent any time on the blog, you know that I am a big baseball fan. Baseball has given birth to more great writing (and sportswriters) than any other sport. Twitter is full of plenty of baseball writers. It's a great way to keep up with what's going on with your team. Here are nine of my favorite baseball related Twitter feeds:

First Inning: Major League Baseball (@MLB)

Okay, so this one is a little obvious. This is the official feed of Major League Baseball. It's good place to start if you are looking for a good source for baseball news.

Second Inning: The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (@BaseballHall)

Another obvious choice. If you wanted to keep up with happening in Cooperstown this is the place to go. In addition to happenings at the Hall they also tweet out interesting facts from baseball history.

Third Inning: John Thorn (@thorn_john)

He is Major League Baseball's official historian and one of the premier authorities on the early roots of the game. He's also posting frequently on his blog. His books include First Pitch: How Baseball Began and Baseball in the Garden of Eden.

Fourth Inning: Vin Scully Tweet (@VinScullyTweet)

Vin Scully is the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers and a national treasure. He's not on Twitter (at least, not often) so this feed is a tribute to the Hall of Fame broadcaster. And yes, they have a Facebook page too.

Fifth Inning: Thomas Boswell (@ThomasBoswellWP)

Thomas Boswell's books Why Time Begins On Opening Day and How Life Imitates The World Series are both essential reading for any baseball fan. If you can't get a hold of those books, all you need to read to know why he's worth a follow is 99 Reasons Why Baseball Is Better Than Football.  It was an instant classic the moment is was published. His Washington Post columns can be found here.

Sixth Inning: Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal)

He's arguably one of the best baseball reporters in the business. He also seems to be one of the most well-connected. If something is happening in the game, Rosenthal is likely to know about it. His columns appear regularly at Fox Sports.

Seventh Inning: Rob Neyer (@robneyer)

Rob Neyer made a name for himself as an ESPN columnist but it was when he made the jump to Baseball Nation that his writing really took off. He's one of the premier writers to follow and one of the leading authorities on the game.

Eighth Inning: Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri)

Along with Rob Neyer, Jonah Keri is the other baseball blogger who has also made a name for himself. His best-selling book, The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Team From Worst to First, chronicled how the Tampa Bay Rays became a perennial contender in the American League East. He blogs at Grantland.

Ninth Inning: Louisville Slugger (@sluggernation)

Nothing says baseball or American made the way Louisville Slugger does. The museum and factory tour is a must on a visit to Louisville. Plus they give away stuff all the time which makes it all the more fun to follow their feed.

Previous entries in this series:

Who to Follow on Twitter:: Pastoral Edition

Who to Follow on Twitter: Let's Eat

Who to Follow on Twitter: Don't Know Much About History

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

From the Archives: Developiing Discernment

The other day my daughters were watching a movie on one of the kids' channels on TV. Based on what they had told me about the movie (which was all that they knew from looking it up online) it sounded like it would be okay. But after it was over and they came to tell us about it, we discovered that there were elements of the story that were not necessarily things we would want them to be exposed to. In fact, if we had known about it ahead of time we probably would have told them not to watch it.

However, I was not angry with them nor did I get angry with them. Instead, I used the opportunity to discuss with them the issue of discernment and being able to determine whether something was appropriate for them based on what was contained in the program. We discussed specific examples of other programs we have told them not to watch and why we found them objectionable.

Our goal is not to police everything they watch or read. Rather, it is to help them to develop discernment and to understand what worldviews are being represented in different programs. Often, we find that material that is theoretically targeted towards kids our age (they are 10 and 9) has content that is really more suitable for older children. We've had to work with them to help them understand that they need to be aware of the messages that are being relayed through media and be able to understand the agenda behind the entertainment.

Developing discernment in my kids has not simply been about telling them what is right or wrong. Nor has it been to say "this is okay" or "this is not okay". Often, we have to go beyond simple right and wrong and explain the reasons why we object to something. By explaining this to them we are helping them to make wiser decisions on their own. That's really the point of training a child in the way they will go: so that they can make wise decisions when they don't have Mom or Dad to make them for them.

This post originally appeared in 2006. 

Monday, August 05, 2013

Worship Thoughts: The Visitor's Card

In almost every church I have ever visited there is always the issue of the visitor's card. Churches routinely use such cards to gather information on guests to the church. How such information is used varies from church to church but the purpose is generally the same: find out as much information as they can about newcomers to the church.

Recent experiences with the visitor's card have put me off filling out one ever again. Not long ago I was in a church where I had filled out a card. The next morning the pastor showed up unannounced at my front door wanting to talk about the church. Sadly, I had already determined based on our visit that the church was not a fit for our family. So from now on, I am adopting the following attitude towards the visitor's card:

Please don't force me to fill out a visitor's card. Don't make me write down any information, especially if I have already sidestepped your first appeal to get me to do so. I don't want to hurt your feelings, so don't make me have to keep coming up with excuses. The truth is that I’m not going to fill out anything until I am sure that your church might be a real option for me.
That's the rub. It's hard for a person coming to a church for the first time to decide whether that's the place for them based on one hour of worship. It would be like deciding to marry someone after only a single date with them. It's not advisable. You haven't had an opportunity to get to know them yet.
The same holds true for church. Church needs to be a place where you can be involved, where you can fellowship with other believers and be an integral part of the body of Christ. Membership in a church is a serious commitment and one that should not be entered into lightly. So it would be better for churches to keep that in mind and not pressure newcomers into rushing into a relationship they may not be comfortable with.

Previously in this series - Worship Thoughts: Special Music

Friday, August 02, 2013

Friday Tweet Recap 8-2-13

Here's a roundup of links of interest from my Twitter feed from the past week for your weekend enjoyment:

The U. K. is taking steps to block pornography on the Internet. Should the U. S. do the same?

Last week I proposed stiffer penalties for PED use in baseball. According to this article, some players are on board with the idea.

A heartwarming profile of life in the village of Cooperstown.

Modesty is the new sexy. It's not about wardrobe. "Modesty has to flow from the wellspring of our selves."

This is a great story: A golfer withdraws from a tournament that he's leading forfeiting a potential $1 million dollar payday to be with his wife who is giving birth.

Why guys love Kate Middleton. (Hint: it's not just because she's attractive)

Think you couldn't homeschool? Read this confession of a reluctant homeschool mom.

This is a useful article: An Introvert's Guide to Introverts.

More on Introverts: Justin Lathrop reviews Susan Cain's excellent book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking and makes some good points on why introverts make great leaders. I'm just about finished reading Cain's book and it is a terrific read.

Among CIA museum’s prizes, an American love letter on Hitler’s stationery.

This is cool: A one sentence summary of each of Screwtape's letters.

It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World - The Greatest Slapstick Comedy Ever? You bet!

If you're reading this, it's already too late. 

That's it. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Who to Follow on Twitter - Pastoral Edition

When I first started blogging nearly ten years ago one of the things I noticed was how many pastors were embracing this new medium. It makes a lot of sense as the Internet is a good medium to share teaching whether by audio, video or written form. So it should come as no surprise that there are pastors who embrace Twitter as part of their overall social media presence. Some use it to publicize their blogs while others simply share Scriptures or other thoughts. Here are a few of my favorite pastors to follow:

1. Timothy Keller (@timkellernyc)

Pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City and author of numerous books, Keller is preaching the gospel in one of the toughest cities in America for Christians to live. He's a leading reformed pastor and is currently in very high demand on the conference circuit. Like several of the pastors I will list here he is able to share nuggets of truth that will get you to think about your life and relationship to Christ.

2. John Piper (@JohnPiper)

He's the founder of Desiring God Ministries and another prolific author. For a guy who just retired from the pulpit this spring he sure stays busy. He's still doing a lot of writing and teaching which makes him an interest person to follow. He will also link to a lot of other pastors and teachers as well which is another really good reason to follow him.

3. Kevin DeYoung (@RevKevDeYoung)

He is pastor of University Reformed Church in Lansing, Michigan. He's also another of the growing number of Reformed pastors on the Internet. He also blogs at The Gospel Coalition and is worth frequently checking.

4. Mark Dever (@MarkDever

He is the Senior Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC and founder of 9 Marks Ministries which is devoted to the development of healthy churches. He is also one of the founders of Together for the Gospel. He is a prolific tweeter and his writings have been of tremendous encouragement to me in my previous roles in church leadership.

5. Albert Mohler (@albertmohler)

Technically speaking, he's not (currently) a pastor. Dr. Mohler is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is another principal leader behind Together for the Gospel and also is associated with 9 Marks. Dr. Mohler is also a prolific blogger and hosts a daily radio program addressing current issues from a Christian world view.

6. Tim Challies (@challies)

Tim is an associate pastor with Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. However, I have had the opportunity to get to know him more through his blog. He is one of the smartest guys among Reformed thinkers that I know of. He's also the most prolific reader I have ever seen as he publishes book reviews at a staggering rate. In fact, I am usually searching his blog first to see whether he has read a book before deciding to tackle it myself.

Previous entries in this series:

Who to Follow on Twitter - Let's Eat!

Who to Follow on Twitter - Don't Know Much About History