Monday, September 30, 2013

Daily Links 9-30-13

Ernest Hemingway's Reading List for young adults, just because a book is labeled "young adult" doesn't mean you should ignore it, Instragramming your meal, and more in today's link roundup.


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Ernest Hemingway once wrote out a reading list for a young man. But that's only the beginning of the story.
(Hat tip: Buzzfeed)

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Young Adult Fiction is better than you think. Or as my daughter (who pointed this out to me) put it, a good story is a good story.

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Disney quote of the day:


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Want to Instragram your meal? Bobby Flay is okay with that:

“Listen, if you want to come to my restaurant, where you’re paying for your meal, and you want to take a picture of my food and advertise it all over the world and the internet, be my guest,” Bobby responded.

Hat tip: Food Riot

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When someone says to you, "God Told Me", how do you react?

Hat tip: Blogging Theologically

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No Shirt, No Shoes, No Sagging, No Service? (via Food Riot)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Weekend Links 9-28-13

A little nostalgia, Alfred Hitchcock, some odd Disney facts, and more fun stuff for your weekend reading pleasure.


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If you are of a certain age, you likely had a Trapper Keeper while you were in school. Here's a wonderful history of our favorite school accessory.

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All of Alfred Hitchcock's cameo appearances in one video:




Source

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An assortment of odd Disney movie facts.

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Grammar rules: how to use a comma without looking like an idiot. (Hat tip: Neatorama)

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Five curious cases of international borders.

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Going the extra mile: A woman loses her wedding ring. A Panera Bread store manager finds the ring in their parking lot.  Key quote:‘This is Panera. This is what we do, we build relationships so our guests can come back."
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Ten baseball songs you probably have never heard (at least I had never heard of any of them).

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A guide to reading the Federalist Papers (hint: you don't have to read them all)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Weekend Playlist - How's The World Treating You


Last week I spotlighted the musical genius of pairing Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. This week is another example of musical genius in the form of pairing Alison Krauss and James Taylor. Their cover of the Louvin Brothers 1961 hit "How's the World Treating You" is a beautiful ballad featuring absolutely perfect harmonies. Although this song didn't make the charts it's still a classic recording. Enjoy.


Daily Links 9-27-13

Harnessing the power of introverts, the dangers of busyness, how a 1940's actress helped develop wireless technologies we enjoy today, and more in today's link roundup.

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One the best books I have read lately is Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking. This article neatly summarizes her findings in the book and how businesses can apply its lessons.

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Three dangers of busyness. This looks like it's going to be a great book.

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Some fascinating facts about Walt Disney World that you may not know.

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Did you know that a 1940's Hollywood star helped make wireless technologies possible? It's a fascinating story.

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Recreating Ernest Hemingway's hamburger recipe. (Hat tip: Food Riot). I have to say that this looks delicious and may be well worth a try.

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Victor Davis Hanson on the decline of college:

For the last 70 years, American higher education was assumed to be the pathway to upward mobility and a rich shared-learning experience. Young Americans for four years took a common core of classes, learned to look at the world dispassionately, and gained the concrete knowledge to make informed arguments logically.
The result was a more skilled workforce and a competent democratic citizenry. That ideal may still be true at our flagship universities, with their enormous endowments and stellar world rankings. Yet most everywhere else, something went terribly wrong with that model. Almost all the old campus protocols are now tragically outdated or antithetical to their original mission.
Be sure to read the whole thing.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Daily Links 9-26-13

The darker side of Peter Pan, money and marriage, pocket notebooks, what the next generation considers normal, youth in church and more in today's links.

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J. M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, had a sad life. Neatorama has the complete story. Although Barrie faced a lot of tragedy, his story of the boy who never grew up has brought joy to countless children over the years.

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This seems a little obvious: pooling your money leads to a happier marriage.

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This is a fascinating article: the six hours aboard Air Force One following the assassination of President John Kennedy. (Hat tip: Stephen Mansfield)

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This is cool: the pocket notebooks of 20 famous men.

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We're doing youth a disservice by segregating them from the rest of the congregation:

Simply put, we do teens a disservice when we segregate them from the life of the church. When we build youth ministries that don't fold students into the life of the congregation, the unintended consequence is a future of empty pews. Pew Research reports that 20- to 30-year-olds attend church at half the rate of their parents and one-fourth the rate of their grandparents. These young adults were teens a decade or two ago, and many of them were active in youth ministries. As result, many today ask what we can do to reverse this
regrettable trend, wondering how to get formerly churchgoing youth "back" into church. In my view, we must engage students in the life of entire congregations. Then and only then can we model and shape a biblical view of the church as we entrust the faith from one generation to the next.

We've always made it a point to try to worship together in a family. I can remember once visiting in a church and almost getting into a heated argument because we wanted our children with us rather than the rest of the youth. This article makes an excellent point and is well worth reading.

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The Mindset List helps understand what the current generation defines as "normal". It's a surprising list.

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How one pilot's sweet tooth helped to defeat communism.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

If You're Reading This, It's Already Too Late


Full story here.

Daily Links 9-25-13

Where to find the best burgers, why men aren't singing in church, Babe Ruth getting plunked, pitfalls of modern technology, and more in today's link roundup.

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When I lived in Raleigh, North Carolina years ago I used to frequent a little dive of a burger joint that had some of the best burgers that I have ever tasted. I was happy to discover they are still in business (and still very reasonably priced). So, if you're in the Raleigh area and you want a great burger you have to visit Char-Grill. You will not be disappointed. (Hat tip: Serious Eats)

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I hadn't noticed this but I wonder if it's true that men have stopped singing in church. (Hat tip: Challies)

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A little baseball history: How Babe Ruth brushed off getting plunked.

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I am ashamed to say I can totally relate to this:

This morning I awoke to discover I had no internet access. I don’t mean that after a leisurely breakfast and shower I eventually sat down to my computer and couldn’t get online. I mean I literally “awoke to discover” it, because the first thing I did when my eyes opened was to grab the cell phone from my night stand and check my emails. My inability to do so immediately left me as agitated as a junky in need of a fix, highlighting for me just how addicted I, like countless others, have become to being perpetually connected to the outside world through my phone.
Except that it doesn’t really connect me at all; if anything, my phonedisconnects me from the outside world. Yes, it links me to a multiverse of information and distractions. But there is something about experiencing the world through the addictive central portal of a smartphone that creates a psychological and spiritual distance from the experience and from the world itself.

Read the whole thing.

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I'm not sure whether any of these tips would really be effective, but here are 25 productivity secrets of successful historical figures.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Merlke's Boner - 105 Years Later

For those not familiar with baseball history, Merkle's Boner refers to the most infamous error ever committed not just in a baseball game but arguably in any major sporting event. Keith Olbermann took time on his TV show this week to mark the anniversary with a helpful lesson on what happened and why this muff took on a life of its own (hat tip Rob Neyer)




A couple of points Olbermann doesn't bring out that are worth considering:

There were only two umpires working this game. In fact, for most regular season games it would be normal to only have a home plate umpire. Despite all the controversy surrounding this incident, multiple umpires would not be used in regular season games on a normal basis until 1920.

Merkle's mistake was magnified in large part because the stakes were so high. In those days, you didn't have multiple layers of playoffs and a wild-card system that allowed the fourth and fifth worst teams in the league a shot at the championship at the end of the regular season. If you didn't finish first in the league you went home. Thus, the pressure was much greater on players then than it is today.

It's a little bit of a stretch, though, to say that this one play was somehow responsible for keeping the Cubs from winning another World Series. Johnny Evers was simply enforcing the rules of the day no matter how much they might not make sense to our modern sensibilities. The Cubs appeared in seven more World Series after 1908 so it's a little bit of a stretch to say that somehow this play and how the team handled it are somehow responsible for the last century-plus of failure.

Otherwise this is a terrific lesson in baseball history. It's also a tragic story of how one man suffered the wrath of fans for far too long. Mistakes happen every day. Sometimes the stakes are higher than others. But that doesn't mean we need to make the person responsible for the mistake a pariah.

Daily Links 9-24-13

Things you won't find on a playground anymore, how to remove yourself from the internet, the war on men, and more in today's links.

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Here are a list of 11 things you don't see on the playground any more. How did we ever survive our childhood

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Want to delete your internet accounts? Just Delete Me is designed to help you how to remove yourself from the internet.

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Dr. Albert Mohler has a fascinating interview with Dr. Helen Smith about her book Men On Strike. Here's her take on why men are going on strike against college:

I have a chapter in the book called “The College Strike.” And maybe that’s almost beyond what’s happening. Because what’s happening is men are just not making it into college. Right now it’s about 57% women, 43% men, and that’s growing where they think in the next ten  years it could be as many as 60% women going to college. One of the reasons for that is younger men in the elementary school grades often having failing grades, they often don’t do well, a lot of boys can’t read or don’t do well in those areas. And they’re disconnected from schools because schools in some sense over the last forty to fifty years have become places that are much more suitable for girls than they are for boys. And we worry so much about what girls need and how we make that happen. Like if we see that girls are lagging behind in science we immediately say okay we have to do something; we have to find books that girls like to read; we have to find a way to teach girls that will make them want to go into science or make them want to understand math better. But we don’t look at boys and we don’t say okay these boys can’t read; what can we do? And a lot of boys are sitting in schools and they’re told to stay quite. We’ve taken away recess, and Christina Hoff Sommers talks about this in her book The War on Boys, she talks a lot about what young men are facing in this country and how we don’t have any competition in schools. We have done away with dodge ball, we’ve done away with recess, and boys are sort of left sitting there and being handed books written by Toni Morrison or other female writers that sometimes they really can’t connect to. The saddest thing to me is that I’ve talked to boys around the country and one of the things a 14 year old boy said to me was that he wanted to start a boy’s group in his school. And he said that not one male teacher or female teacher in his school in New York City was brave enough to help him start that club. But they just said you know we can’t do that because they didn’t want to have an all-boys club in the school, whereas there are a million all-girls clubs, a Latino club, there’s an African-American club, but they can’t have a boys’ club. And I talk about that some in the book about there was one southern school that did start a men’s law group in a law school. And they were able to successfully do that. So I talk to men in the book about how do you go about reclaiming some of that space. And some of that can be worked out, but some of it is some of the schools they just will not allow that type of thing.

Read the whole thing. Or you can listen to the podcast here.

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Now this looks tasty: how to make your own gourmet bacon. (Hat tip: Fine Dining Lovers)

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Baseball history: film of Babe Ruth's called shot



Hat tip: John Thorn

Monday, September 23, 2013

Who To Follow On Twitter: Potpourri Edition

I've covered a number of different categories of Twitter feeds to follow in previous posts. Today, a roundup of other Twitter feeds that should not be missed.

Art of Manliness (@artofmanliness)

As their website explains, they are dedicated to the recovering the lost art of manliness. How does a gentleman become a gentleman? What are the skills that every man, husband, and father need to learn? This is where you will find the answers to these questions.

Honest Toddler (@HonestToddler)

Imagine how a three year-old would sound on Twitter and you get the idea behind this wonderful creation of writer Bunmi Laditan. This is a feed that frequently makes me laugh out loud. She also just wrote a book. This is one of the great bright spots on Twitter.

Mental Floss (@mental_floss)

The official feed of Mental Floss magazine is chock full of fun facts and links of interest. If you have an interest in trivial stuff then this is the feed for you.

Lifehacker (@lifehacker)

Lifehacker is an indispensable website full of shortcuts and tips to getting things done. If you ever need to know how to do something this is a good place to start. They are constantly sending out all sorts of tips and links to downloads and apps that will make life easier. 

Neatorama (@neatorama)
 
If your interests skew towards the geeky stuff (or the just plain unusual) this is another feed that you should certainly follow. Some of the most unusual and fascinating stuff can be found on the site. They also have one of the most fantastic collections of geeky fan gear in their web shop.

Acculturated (@Acculturated)

Pop culture permeates our culture but the big question is why? That's the question that Acculturated tries to answer each day by taking a critical look at pop culture and its influence on our culture as a whole. This is an excellent blog to follow and you can keep up with all the latest posts through their feed.


To view the other posts in this series, click here. 

Daily Links 9-23-13

How Netflix decides what to stream, Disney princesses' fashion, vintage motivational posters, and more in today's featured links.

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Disney princesses imagined in the fashion of the year that their respective films premiered. This is really cool. (Hat tip: Neatorama)

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Over the weekend we watched the first installment of The Hollow Crown on PBS which was William Shakespeare's Richard II. It probably would have helped to have read this first so I could have understood a little better what was going on. The first installment was excellent and we're looking forward to the rest of the series.

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If you have over 10,000 Instagram followers you can spend a night free in this hotel.

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Netflix uses some interesting tricks in determining what series to buy to add to their streaming service. Among their strategies is to see what is popular with pirates. (Hat tip: Gizmodo)

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A look at some really neat vintage motivational posters.

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Coming soon to the big screen - Anne of Green Gables-The Musical

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It's still in the concept stage but this looks like a really cool library.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Weekend Links 9-21-13

Here are a few links of interest for your weekend enjoyment. How to visit a museum without leaving home, keeping up with current events, and Star Trek episodes imagined as vintage movie posters.

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A father dying of cancer knew he wouldn't live to see his daughters get married. But he came up with a way to walk his daughters down the aisle.

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Too busy to keep up with current events? Wikipedia's Date View can help with that.

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How to visit the world's best museums from the comfort of your own home.

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An artist has conceived all of the original episodes of Star Trek as vintage movie posters. The results are pretty amazing. (Hat tip: Gizmodo)

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Disney's Peter Pan is celebrating its 60th anniversary. You can commemorate the occasion by owning this wonderful tea pot.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Who Will Be Baseball's Wild Card Teams?

Major League Baseball's Wild Card games are in their second year and the races in both leagues are much tighter than anyone could have anticipated even a couple of weeks ago. Sure, nobody really likes the game but having the opportunity to play one more game to advance into the playoffs is something a lot of guys would want to have the opportunity to do.

What makes things more complicated this year is that there are no clear favorites in either league with just ten days left in the regular season. In both leagues there are teams in the mix that at the beginning of the year wouldn't have been picked to have a chance to make the playoffs. In one league not only are the two wild card spots but one division title is in play while in the other there are six teams with a legitimate shot at the two wild card spots.

Let's start in the National League. As of right now, the St. Louis Cardinals hold a one game league over the Pittsburgh Pirates for the division title and a two game lead over the Cincinnati Reds. The Pirates have a one game lead over the Reds in the wild card standings and the Washington Nationals are the only other NL team with any chance at the wild card trailing the Reds by five games.

This is where it gets interesting: Thanks to some brilliant planning by the scheduling office, the Pirates and Reds get to face each other six times in the final ten days. I seriously doubt that whoever put together the schedule thought that the Pirates would be playoff contenders. Consequently, games at the end of the season that would have probably thought to have very little significance become incredibly important.

Also, thanks to the fact that the NL Central has been such a tight division down the stretch, it's conceivable that any one of the three teams (Cardinals, Pirates and Reds) could end up the division champ. Or we could end up with a tie for either the wild card or the division (or both) and then chaos would ensue.

Let's suppose for a moment, however, that on the final day of the season we will know both the Central Division champ and the NL Wild Cards. Which team has the best chance of making it to the playoffs? Here's the remaining schedule for the contenders:

Cardinals:   3 games @ Milwaukee, 3 vs. Washington, 3 vs. Chicago Cubs
Pirates:       3 games vs. Cincinnati, 3 at Chicago Cubs, 3 at Cincinnati
Reds:         3 games @ Pittsburgh, 3 vs. New York Mets, 3 vs. Pittsburgh
Nationals:   3  games vs. Miami, 3 @ St. Louis, 3 @ Arizona

The one team I'm not sure about in this list is the Nationals. I think they're a pretty good team but they have a lot of ground to make up (5 games with 9 to play). Of course, they benefit greatly from having Pittsburgh and Cincinnati facing each other 6 times. If it weren't for that little scheduling quirk I'm not sure they would have a chance. The only series they have remaining that would be of concern to me is the 3 games at St. Louis. By that point, they may be playing the role of spoiler rather than contender.

As for the other three teams, both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh have the toughest road by virtue of the games against each other. The Pirates and Cardinals both must also face the Cubs who could do some real damage as spoilers in the final week. I would give the Reds a better shot at winning the division if they didn't have those six games against the Pirates.

Final prediction: NL Central Division Champ - Pirates, wild card - Reds and Cardinals

The American League has its own set of issues. As of right now, there are six teams that can be considered legitimate contenders for the two wild card spots. For the sake of simplicity, I am going to assume that Detroit and Oakland will win their respective divisions though there is a slim chance that one of the wild card contenders could slip into the division lead if everything plays out just right.

Here's how the wild card standings stack up right now:

Team                    Record                      Games Back
Texas                   83-69                              --
Tampa Bay          83-69                              --
Cleveland            83-70                              1/2
Baltimore             81-71                              2
Kansas City         80-72                              3
New York           80-73                              3 1/2

Let's take a look at them in reverse order:

New York Yankees - games remaining: 3 vs. San Francisco, 3 vs. Tampa Bay, 3 @ Houston
The Yankees are getting older by the day. Every New York fan knows that time is running out for this team to win another championship. With Alex Rodriguez's suspension looming chances are good he's not playing next year. Derek Jeter is still battling ankle issues. Mariano Rivera is retiring. Today we find out that Andy Petite is calling it quits too. Manager Joe Girardi's contract runs out at the end of the year and there are rumors he may leave New York to manage the Chicago Cubs. There's also the fact that Girardi has been working miracles with this team to keep them in contention. Their offense at time has been pitiful and if it hadn't been for the mid-season acquisition of Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs they might not even be here.

But the question remains whether they can win the wild card. The big worry for me is the three games against Tampa Bay. That's the most difficult series facing them on their remaining schedule. The Yankees seem to be one loss away from a complete collapse for the past couple of months. There's no doubt they've been successful. But given the teams they would have to move past in the standings to get to the playoffs I don't see it happening.

Kansas City Royals - games remaining: 3 vs. Texas, 3 @ Seattle, 4 @ Chicago White Sox
The best and worst news for one of the two AL Cinderella teams (Cleveland is the other) is that their next 3 games are against Texas. (see my analysis of the Rangers below) The key for the Royals will be taking at least 2 out of the three games from Texas. If they can do that they have an easier path to one of the wild card slots.

Baltimore Orioles - games remaining: 4 at Tampa, 3 vs. Toronto, 3 vs. Boston
The AL Cinderella team of 2012 won the inaugural wild card game against Texas before losing the division series to New York in five games. The 2013 incarnation has not been as lucky as the 2012 version particularly in close games. To make matters worse, they have the toughest schedule of any of the remaining contenders. The key series for them will be the four games against Tampa. If they can take three of the four games. If not, then they will likely be out of the race. My predicition: they just miss making the playoffs.

Cleveland Indians - games remaining: 3 vs. Houston, 2 vs. Chicago White Sox, 4 at Minnesota
The Indians certainly represent this year's surprise team in the American League. They have the biggest advantage going into the home stretch: none of the three teams they will face have a winning record. At only 1/2 game behind the Rays and Rangers they are the team best positioned to make a move. My predicition: Cleveland wins one of the wild card spots by winning 6 of 9 games down the stretch.

Tampa Bay Rays - games remaining: 4 vs. Baltimore, 3 @ New York Yankees, 3 @ Toronto
Their remaining schedule might be a little cause for concern but the fact is that Tampa has become a consistent contender for one simple reason: their manager, Joe Maddon, is a genius. Some would say a mad genius. Maddon is somehow able to figure out how to maximize the use of every single player on his roster in a way that no other manager can. The key for Tampa will be how they do against Baltimore and New York. If they can win both of those series they will make the playoffs yet again. The fact that they also control their own destiny as they are tied with Texas in win/loss record helps a great deal. My prediction: Tampa wins the other wild card slot and will host the Indians in the Wild Card game.

Texas Rangers - games remaining: 3 @ Kansas City, 3 vs. Houston, 4 vs. Los Angeles Angels
The Rangers are coming off one of the worst two week stretches they have had this season: a seven game losing streak including being swept by both the Pirates and Indians before snapping the streak during a four game split with Tampa. The Rangers definitely don't have the same kind of offense they had in 2010 and 2011 during their back-to-back World Series appearances. It's bad enough that rumors of Ron Washington's dismissal at season's end  if the Rangers miss the playoffs (though both Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels say that's not going to happen). If they can survive the series with the Royals then they stand a fair shot at making the playoffs. My predicition: the Rangers will just miss winning the wild card.

Daily Links 9-20-13

E-reader covers, Google services you're not using, Jackie Robinson, and more in today's links.

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This is a really cool idea: e-reader covers designed to look like classic books.
You can find more of them here. Hat tip Book Riot

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Everywhere you go on the internet it seems that Google has some type of service to offer. Here are five services that you have probably overlooked.

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Barnabas Piper argues that the recent film 42 about baseball legend Jackie Robinson couldn't possibly capture what really made him great:

What made Jackie Robinson so great was precisely what made it so hard to capture his whole person on screen: his silence, stolidity, strength, and fortitude. He wasn’t a vocal activist in his playing days; he simply stood tall in the face of half a nation’s hatred and beat them at their own favorite game. Somehow Robinson managed this while bearing the hopes and expectations of millions of African-Americans on his shoulders. Actions speak louder than words, and Robinson was living proof of that. He changed America without saying a notable word.

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Learn the secrets of the service industry and you will save yourself some time and money.

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Turns out the Earl of Sandwich was quite the inventive fellow. Not only did create fast food with the sandwich but he gave birth to Starbucks, too. (Hat tip Food Riot)

Weekend Playlist: The Nearness of You

One of the most inspired musical pairings had to be Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Although they only recorded three albums together each one was a thing of beauty. Perhaps no better song captures the contrast in their voices that this beautiful ballad The Nearness of You. This has to be one of the most romantic songs I have ever heard. Enjoy.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Daily Links 9-19-13

Picking worship songs, the despised Nook, and more in today's roundup of links.

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Picking the Right Key For Your Congregation. As any worship leader will tell you, one of the trickiest things is figuring out the right key to sing songs in that will be comfortable for everyone. This article has some good tips for worship leaders to follow.

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Last week's shareholder meeting at Barnes and Noble was not a pleasant affair. Part of the problem is that the Nook is not well liked. One shareholder said this: “Look, no one is happy with Nook, we know we need a new e-reader strategy but it’s not easy when you look at [the competitors] we’re up against.”  (hat tip Book Riot)

For what it's worth, I prefer the Kindle.

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No time for a cup of coffee? No worries. Soon you will be able to spray caffeine on your skin.

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Here's the latest chapter in the ongoing war on boys: how to make school better for boys. Given this is from the woman who wrote the book on this subject it's worthy of your attention.

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The complete guide to making money in your spare time. There are plenty of options depending on how much effort you want to put into it.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Better Keep an Eye on Your Children


Daily Links 9-18-13

Lessons from a breakup, guarding your heart against Satan's tactics, stalling cohabitation rates, the classiest McDonalds in America and more in today's roundup of links.

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Not all relationships end well. But that doesn't mean there aren't lessons to be learned from a breakup.

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When a couple is preparing to get married, Satan will do everything he can to destroy it before it begins. So it's best to know what tactics he will use so you can guard your heart against them.

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Cohabitation rates are stalling. Is that good news? Well, yes and no.

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A three-way tie for the National League Central Division (and Wild Card) is not beyond the realm of possibility. So how in the world would such a tie be broken? Jayson Stark has the answers.

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A peek inside the classiest McDonalds in America. It's a fun story.


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Why theology matters to musicians (via Worship Ideas)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Daily Links 9-17-13

Work, misspelled cakes, introverts, switching careers, and more in today's link roundup.

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Five encouragements for your work.

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Why do baseball teams bunt so much? And is it effective? (The short answer is no)

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When spelling names on cakes goes horribly wrong. (Hat tip Neatorama)

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"I'm an introvert, and I don't need to come out of my shell." I couldn't agree more. Also, his points on homeschooling are dead on.

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This just goes to show that it's never too late start over in your career: 10 People Who Switched Careers After 50 and Thrived.


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What's the Difference Between Women Preaching and Women Blogging? There is a difference. I think the author is right on the money in her analysis of this issue.

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The real life inspirations behind Disney Princesses.

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Finally, a little Cubs humor:


Monday, September 16, 2013

Worship Thoughts: Finding New Worship Songs

It's a challenge that every worship leader faces: how to find fresh new worship songs for your church to sing. To make matters worse, the abundance of new music being churned out makes it difficult for a worship leader to sort through it all and make a wise decision about what to use. I've been there and can certainly sympathize with this struggle. So here are a few tips on how to make the process of finding new songs easier.

First, don't listen to the hype from publishers. Every record company that publishes worship music will try to push a particular song or CD as "the best worship song ever" or something like that. Don't listen to them. Don't buy into the hype. Instead, try to listen to songs with an open mind and decide what will work best for your congregation.

Second, just because it's new doesn't  mean you suspend your guidelines for picking worship songs. As a worship leader, you should have certain criteria that you use to select worship songs.The rules aren't suddenly irrelevant because you are dealing with new songs. You should still follow the same guidelines as you do for picking any other worship song.

Third, look to artists/writers/publishers that are responsible for the songs you are currently using in church. Although past history is not always a predictor of future success, it can be a good guide in evaluating new music. For example, let's say that there is a writer who has written a number of the songs you're currently using. If he or she suddenly has a new CD come out, you would probably be wise to give it a listen. It's not guaranteed that you will want to use their songs. But the fact that you have used other songs by that writer is a good indicator that new songs might also be worth considering in your services.

Fourth, listen to the song first for what it is and then for whether it's something you can use. One of the issues I struggled with in evaluating new songs was immediately trying to determine whether it was a song my worship team could handle. However, the better thing to do is determine whether the song is a good song and then determine whether it can be used with your congregation. Since your worship team is going to likely have a different makeup than the band whose CD you're listening to some degree of modification will be needed to make the song work for your church. It's better to listen to the song and determine whether it's a good song on its own merits before deciding whether it's appropriate to use in your church.

Fifth, remember that it's more than likely you will end up using a very small fraction of the new music that comes to your attention. When I led worship I would often receive sampler CDs from different publishers. It was not unusual for me to use only 1-2 songs out of every 4-5 CDs I would receive. In other words, I utilized a very small percentage of the total music that I received. Part of that has to do with the fact I'm picky about what I use. It's also partly due to the fact that there is a high volume of worship music being produced but very little of it fit my needs.

Leading worship is both a terrific honor and tremendous responsibility. It's a job that is not to be taken lightly. Worship songs whether new or old should be selected carefully. As worship leaders we are also teachers. It's important to remember that whatever we are singing we need to be sure that it is teaching the truth of God's Word.

For previous posts in this series, click here.


Who to Follow on Twitter: In the News

I have a tough time keeping up with the news but one way to deal with that problem is to follow a handful of reporters on Twitter. Here are six reporters that are worth following if you want to keep up with what's going on in the world:

Eliana Johnson (@elianayjohnson) is a former Fox News producer and now a media editor for National Review providing editorial direction for their daily news coverage. She's a great person to follow for a general sense of what's newsworthy. She covers the White House, Congress and campaigns. Here complete article archive is here.

Kirsten Powers (@kirstenpowers10) is more on the liberal side of the political spectrum but is an excellent reporter and columnist. She's written extensively on human rights as well as abortion. Her coverage of the Kermit Gosnell trial was some of the best that was done and brought long overdue media attention to the horrors of the abortion industry.

Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) is a former ABC News White House correspondent and currently anchor of The Lead on CNN. He recently said in an interview that he tries to be fair to all sides of the political spectrum. He's certainly proven that so far. If there is anyone I would want to interview a politician it would be him. He is also the best-selling author of The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor.

Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) is a senior writer for the Weekly Standard and one of the few practitioners of long form journalism left these days. His articles are well-researched and insightful. Although he comes from a center-right perspective he is extremely fair.

Major Garrett (@MajorCBS) is both Chief White House correspondent for CBS News and a columnist for National Journal. Because he has an extensive background in print journalism he is a terrific writer. He's also well connected to what's going on in Washington which makes him worth a follow.

Brit Hume (@brithume) is a Senior Political Analyst at Fox News and former anchor of Special Report. He's also previously served as a Congressional and White House correspondent and is also well-connected. He links to a lot of the best reporters so his feed is definitely worth following.

Previous posts in this series:

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

Who to Follow on Twitter: Let's Eat

Who to Follow on Twitter: Play Ball!

Who to Follow on Twitter: Pastoral Edition

Daily Links 9-16-13

Spies, bookish art, marriage as a covenant, and more in today's links.

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The beauty queen who was Winston Churchill's favorite spy and might have been the inspiration for Vesper Lynd in Ian Fleming's Casino Royale.

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Some really cool bookish art:


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Tim Keller on The Marriage Covenant:

In sharp contrast with our culture, the Bible teaches that the essence of marriage is a sacrificial commitment to the good of the other. That means that love is more fundamentally action than emotion. But in talking this way, there is a danger of falling into the opposite error that characterized many ancient and traditional societies. It is possible to see marriage as merely a social transaction, a way of doing your duty to family, tribe and society. Traditional societies made the family the ultimate value in life, and so marriage was a mere transaction that helped your family’s interest. By contrast, contemporary Western societies make the individual’s happiness the ultimate value, and so marriage becomes primarily an experience of romantic fulfillment. But the Bible sees GOD as the supreme good – not the individual or the family – and that gives us a view of marriage that intimately unites feelings AND duty, passion AND promise. That is because at the heart of the Biblical idea of marriage is the covenant.

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Tips for changing your reading habits. I think I would be a much more effective reader if I applied all three of these tips.

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Four in Ten College Grads Don't Need a Degree for Their Work

A majority of American workers have jobs that do not require a college degree, according to a new Gallup. This finding wouldn’t be particularly surprising if it were only blue-collar workers saying this, but the poll also found that four in ten college grads agreed that they don’t need a college degree for the work they do.
It’s not exactly a shock at this point that college grads haven’t been able to make the most of their degrees, but when nearly half of the country’s college students are wasting money on degrees that they believe have done nothing to prepare them for their jobs, there’s obviously a problem. These findings can’t be chalked up entirely to undergraduates’ poor choices; college degrees have increasingly become prerequisites for jobs that could easily be performed by high school grads. In many cases, employers are just looking to a college degree as a quick signifier of an applicant’s determination and work ethic, not as a sign of skills learned.

Hat tip Instapundit

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Weekend Links 9-14-13

Saying goodbye to the NIV, some great advice on dating, great quotes on manliness, Taps, and amazing things found buried in the desert all in this weekend's links.

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Goodbye, NIV.

The NIV Bible is no more. Alas.
The version that many grew up reading has finally ridden off into the sunset, never to return. Zondervan has phased it out, buried it, and replaced it with something else. Many people denied that a significant change had taken place, and tried to act like the Bible being sold now as the NIV is indeed the NIV they grew up with. That myth was sustainable for a while, but eventually it just didn’t work. This year many Christian schools finally dropped the NIV, and replaced it with something else. Even AWANA was forced to make the change.

I still have an original NIV Study Bible that I use often for my personal Bible study. But if I were to advise someone on what translation to buy I would have to recommend either ESV or NASB. I didn't realize that the NIV had changed so much.

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A great roundup of quotes on manliness from The Art of Manliness.

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Some great advice on dating which sounds a lot like the discussions I have had with my own daughters:

Don’t date just for the sake of dating. Sure, you can take a stroll through the park just for the sake of strolling through the park, but dating ain’t a stroll through the park. It’s a complicated and serious thing; it can also be fun, but it isn’t something you should do for pure recreation. Dating is supposed to be a means to an end. Or, maybe a better way of putting it, dating is a means to a beginning.
To put it simply: If you know for a fact that you would never marry a certain person, then you shouldn’t be in a romantic relationship with them. Knowingly staying in a relationship without a future is like riding a dying horse into the desert. It’s a slow, painful death march, and there is no chance of it working out in your favor. So go ahead and date, but date with a purpose. Date with a goal. Date with your eyes toward marriage. I know that might seem old fashioned. In fact it is old fashioned, which is why you should listen to it.
Back in those old, dark days, they didn’t have anything called “dating”; instead they had “courtship.” And courting would have looked a lot like dating, with one difference: There was a point. They had a purpose. They had a goal. They were interested in being adults and making a commitment, and the courting process would tell them whether they should or could make that commitment to each other. Marriage was the ultimate destination, and if it became apparent that this destination could not be reached, they ended the courtship and moved on with their lives. The modern dating strategy is different. You don’t have one common goal or desired destination. Instead, you spin in circles together until someone gets dizzy and jumps off. The sudden stop sends the other person hurtling into space, while you wander aimlessly away, searching desperately for another random stranger to latch onto for an indefinite period of false hopes and disappointments.

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Five Amazing Things People Buried in the Desert. No it's not treasure but interesting anyway.

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The Last 24 Notes

Tom Day is not a man given to extravagance. He thinks he’s living high on a reporter’s nickel if he orders a beef sandwich to go at the local Buona sub shop. He shops at Goodwill every Sunday, hoping to pick up bargains, like his handsome $35 suits. But if there’s one superfluity that Day especially can’t abide, it is that of empty rhetoric.
There’s been a lot of talk about “the troops” the last many years: Supporting The Troops. Hugging The Troops. Splitting A Malt With The Troops. (At least when not Forgetting The Troops, hurriedly paging past the “Faces of the Fallen” feature in your local paper to get to the movie listings.) The talk usually comes from helmet-haired cable anchors or men with soft hands who type things for a living. They use those who serve like polemical mascots, to run up the score either for or against the war of the moment. But to Tom Day, “duty .  .  . honor .  .  . sacrifice” aren’t just Memorial Day buzzwords that trigger the Pavlovian anticipation of picnic foods and mattress-outlet sales. 
They are words that actually require something of him, the dwindling resource you can’t buy more of: time. For the 73-year-old former Marine serves those who serve. Or rather, he serves those who have served. Day is the man who, both on his own and through the 7,500-plus volunteers in the organization he founded, Bugles Across America, has saved the tradition of playing live “Taps” at military funerals.

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Weekend Playlist: Hugh Laurie

Most people know Hugh Laurie from House, M. D. In reality, he's a multi-talented performer. Earlier this summer he released his second blues CD entitled Didn't It Rain and is currently touring with his band. Anyone who has paid attention to his career would realize that music has been a big part of his career.

Some of his earliest (and most memorable performances) came while portraying Bertie Wooster in the series Jeeves and Wooster based on the popular P. G. Wodehouse novels. Here's my personal favorite from that show:






Then there's the time that Bertie tries to figure out how to master "Puttin' on the Ritz"


He also once demonstrated his songwriting skills.

Here's his performance of Wild Honey from his latest CD. The amazing thing to me is the decision to record the entire group live in the studio. I think that adds a lot to the production. Hats off to Hugh Laurie for bringing the blues back to life. Enjoy!


Daily Links 9-13-13

Happy Friday! Among today's links: the power of five words, why David McCullough writes on a typewriter,

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5 Words vs. 5 Lies:

2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed.” That’s not the whole verse, but those five words say enough to meditate on for a lifetime. The fact that the words of Scripture are the words of God Himself is significant. And I think those five words, “All Scripture is God-breathed,” help us fight some of the lies that we sometimes believe about the Bible.

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Why David McCullough writes on a typewriter:
I write on an old Royal typewriter, a beauty! I bought it secondhand in 1964, before I started  The Johnstown Flood, and I’ve written all my books on it. It was made about 1941 and it works perfectly. I have it cleaned and oiled about once every book and the roller has to be replaced now and then. Otherwise it’s the same machine. Imagine—it’s more than fifty years old and it still does just what it was built to do! There’s not a thing wrong with it.


The entire interview is worth reading. Hat tip Justin Taylor.

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This is the downside of being part of a generation raised on social media: For Millenials Connections are Easy, Friendships are Hard. (hat tip Instapundit)

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11 real weapons used in World War II that you've probably never heard of. (Hat tip Mental Floss)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Daily Links 9-12-13


Hercule Poirot returns, hidden passageways, how to become a well-stocked recluse and more in today's link roundup.

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 Frankly, I am not sure what to make of this:
Hercule Poirot has returned. HarperCollins has announced it will publish a new novel centered on Agatha Christie’s famous protagonist – a Belgian detective famous for his carefully tended moustache – to be written by author Sophie Hannah. The book is authorized by Agatha Christie’s estate. The novel by Hannah will be “a diabolically clever murder mystery sure to baffle and delight,” according to HarperCollins. The new book, which will be the first work about Christie’s characters since the author’s death in 1976, is set to be published next September.
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Architectural delight - a wonderful round up of hidden passageways and secret doors (via Mental Floss).

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Making the case against college.

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How to order everything you need online and never leave home again. This appeals to me a lot.

All kidding aside, Amazon Prime is still one of the best deals going online.

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A profile of the women of Duck Dynasty: Of all the shows on television right now,Duck Dynasty is one of the few that does not objectify women, but portrays them as whole persons. Furthermore, it pushes back against shallow stereotypes of Christian womanhood. The Robertson women are not cookie cutter look-alikes. They're not all stay-at-home moms, or incredible cooks, or silent submissives. Korie is a businesswoman without a knack for cooking or sewing, and Miss Kay wields a gentle yet authoritative power in the family. As the two main female characters, Korie and Miss Kay are not cut from the same cloth, but each woman has her own strengths, her own areas of influence, and her own expressions of self. And amidst this diversity, each embodies the biblical image of a woman "clothed in strength and dignity" (Prov. 31:25).

Worship Thoughts: Picking the Worship Songs

A worship leader's biggest challenge is always choosing songs. Regardless of whether it is for a Sunday morning service or just a small group Bible Study the challenge remains the same: picking songs that are appropriate for the setting. Here are a few simple guidelines I follow in selecting songs when I am leading worship:

Does the song's lyrics reflect sound doctrine? Many worship songs are very shallow and don't convey sound biblical teaching. There are plenty of songs that are very popular but not very deep theologically speaking. Over the years I have discarded a number of songs that I had sung previously because on closer examination I have discovered that they were not teaching sound doctrine. Each song should be examined carefully to determine whether what is being said is true when measured against the standard of Scripture.

Is the song one that me (or my worship team) can play and sing? This is an area that can trip up many a worship leader. It's important to keep in mind the skill level of your team (or yourself if you're leading by yourself). Often a worship leader will hear a song and think that it would be a great song for the congregation to sing. But the skill of the team might not be such that they can lead the song.

Or consider someone like myself who leads worship in a small group setting. My worship team consists of one person: me. This limits to some extent what songs we can sing. It has to be a song that can be done with me just playing my guitar.

Another consideration is whether the song can be sung by the team (or in my case, me). In order to effectively lead a song I've got to be able to sing it so others can follow. And I have to be able to sing it in a key that everyone will be comfortable with.

Don't worry about themes or trying to fit the songs to the message. There are different schools of thought on this. Some try to tie the songs to the sermon and others don't. I've typically been in the latter camp. If I can tie the songs thematically to the sermon then that's an added bonus. However, it's not something I normally strive for. But there is nothing wrong with trying to do it if you can. It all depends on the sermon and the topics that are being dealt with.

On the other hand, some songs are grouped naturally together to fit a particular theme. Sometimes the worship sets I put together are tied together by a common theme. But as I said before, this is usually not my intention. I don't try too hard to make everything fit a particular theme or message.

Don't plan on more songs than  you have time for. This seems like common sense. But it is an important point to remember. It's crucial to cooperate with your fellow leaders to work out a mutually agreeable amount of time for worship music.

Plan ahead. I find it helpful to start working on the next week's worship set as soon as possible. For example, if I have led worship on Sunday I am already starting to think about the next Sunday's worship set on Monday. Part of the reason for this is you never know how long it will take for your worship set to come together. Part of the reason is also that it gives you the freedom to make changes as the week progresses.

Be flexible. As stated above, things can change during the week. Something can happen to throw off your entire plan for a given service. You should not be so married to your worship set that you don't have the freedom to make changes (sometimes even right before the service is to start).

Don't think too hard about it. I have found that sometimes the more I think about a worship set the harder it is to pull together. Certainly you want to put some thought into it but not so much that you are not open to what God has in store for you. Some of the "best" worship sets I have put together have come to me at the most unlikely times and when I have been thinking about it the least.

Pray. Finally, and most importantly, you should be praying over every aspect of your worship. Pray that in leading you will have an attitude of worship in front of your congregation. Pray for your team members. Pray for your pastor. And pray for your congregation.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Is This a Sign for a Shower?


Yes, at first glance I thought it was a Dalek, too.

Via Powerline.

Daily Links 9-11-13

Reflections on 9/11, more on Vin Scully, a new way to protect your family from pornography and more in today's roundup of links.

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Where I was on 9/11. I wrote this originally on the five year anniversary.

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Vin Scully is truly the heart of Los Angeles.

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If the router sold by Pandora's Hope really delivers on its promise to filter out internet pornography it could be a good option for protecting your family. A review is here.

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Making an argument for shorter sermons. I'm not sure I'm in total agreement here. It seems to me the more important question is the content of the sermon rather than the length.

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How to criticize a preacher. Yes, there is a time and place where you may need to confront your pastor over something he said from the pulpit. These are good questions to ponder before having that conversation.

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How important is the style of music a church sings? Actually, the article's first point is the more important consideration:


Most important are the truth of the words being sung. Since a church sings music in order to worship God, our songs should function like a musical confession of faith. Those confessions of faith should contain substantial truth about God, or else we’ll hardly be worshiping at all.




Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Beer Ad Emphasizes Dignity of Human Life

I normally wouldn't call attention to a commercial (certainly not a beer commercial) but this is not an ordinary ad. It is, in fact, most extraordinary because it is so totally unlike any other commercial I have seen. Take one minute to watch this and be astounded at the power of its simple message:


LifeNews explains the power behind the ad:

The one-minute commercial features a group of guy friends –all in wheelchairs– gathered for a competitive and adrenaline-charged game of basketball. The game is aggressive, and no one seems deterred by the precarious possibilities of collisions or falling over (both of which happen during the game). The purpose of the commercial at first seems to convey the message that this kind of dedication is what true athleticism is all about. But that’s not all the advertisement portrays.
It’s clear towards the end that these guys are champs. They’re dedicated and fearless. The last few seconds reveal an unexpected twist. As all of the men except one rise up out of their wheelchairs and effortlessly walk away together, the viewer learns that these are also some of the most committed friends a man could ask for: only one of them is really wheelchair-bound, but that’s no impediment to his team. The commercial closes with a scene of the men enjoying Guinness at a bar after the game as a narrative voice concludes: The choices we make reveal the true nature of our character. Nothing could be truer.
Indeed.

Daily Links 9-10-13

Vin Scully, statements for leaders, work attitudes and more in today's edition of Daily Links.

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Vin Scully is one of the best storytellers around. But this story about growing up in parochial school is amazing. Best line: "why in the world would you want to change God's work?"

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5 Important Attitudes to Embrace at Work:

American Christians have a rather uneasy relationship with work. On Sunday, the lay person hears an impassioned message about sacrifice, self-denial, and the mission of God. He might be treated to a stirring testimony of a wealthy CEO who gave up a promising career to enter "full-time" ministry.
Then, Monday morning happens. He takes his place on the factory line, at a desk, in a garage, or behind the wheel. The guilt and shame surge up inside of him, for he thinks that if he were truly committed to Jesus, if he were part of the A-team of Christians in the world, he wouldn't get a check from a "secular" corporation or small business, but from a Christian company such as a church or a parachurch organization. 
I've lived on both sides of this secular-sacred divide. My dad is a plumber. He's a committed husband and father who's given himself in service to his church. But still he's ... just a plumber. He's not a pastor or missionary or worship leader. At times, I've felt that Dad was made to feel as if he were on God's junior varsity. As if his entrance into glory won't be met with the same applause as those who delivered the sermons on Sunday.
I'm also a pastor and have had to guard against unwittingly shaming the hardworking lay people I serve, simply because I'm privileged to work, full-time, in the business of church. Some pastors might consider themselves more dedicated and more like Jesus than those who sling it in the real world, getting their hands dirty in jobs that seem less than sacred. Although the pastoral and missionary callings are sober, serious endeavors, they don't ascribe any more glory to the sinners who occupy them. Moreover, if faithfulness is God's measure of success, everywhere you serve is God's theater.

Hat tip: Thom Rainer

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Making the case for not posting your kid's information online (hat tip Challies).

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Some very honest (and important) advice on dating:

Don’t date just for the sake of dating. Sure, you can take a stroll through the park just for the sake of strolling through the park, but dating ain’t a stroll through the park. It’s a complicated and serious thing; it can also be fun, but it isn’t something you should do for pure recreation. Dating is supposed to be a means to an end. Or, maybe a better way of putting it, dating is a means to a beginning.
To put it simply: If you know for a fact that you would never marry a certain person, then you shouldn’t be in a romantic relationship with them. Knowingly staying in a relationship without a future is like riding a dying horse into the desert. It’s a slow, painful death march, and there is no chance of it working out in your favor. So go ahead and date, but date with a purpose. Date with a goal. Date with your eyes toward marriage. I know that might seem old fashioned. In fact it is old fashioned, which is why you should listen to it.
Back in those old, dark days, they didn’t have anything called “dating”; instead they had “courtship.” And courting would have looked a lot like dating, with one difference: There was a point. They had a purpose. They had a goal. They were interested in being adults and making a commitment, and the courting process would tell them whether they should or could make that commitment to each other. Marriage was the ultimate destination, and if it became apparent that this destination could not be reached, they ended the courtship and moved on with their lives. The modern dating strategy is different. You don’t have one common goal or desired destination. Instead, you spin in circles together until someone gets dizzy and jumps off. The sudden stop sends the other person hurtling into space, while you wander aimlessly away, searching desperately for another random stranger to latch onto for an indefinite period of false hopes and disappointments.
Be sure to read the whole thing.\

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Did you know the Star Trek theme song had lyrics?

Monday, September 09, 2013

Cleaning up E-mail

I'm in the midst of switching e-mail accounts. I've been going through the numerous e-mails I receive each day trying to figure out which subscriptions I want to move over to my new account. In the process I realize I've subscribed to a lot of newsletters in the past few years I don't really read anymore. I'm deleting them instead of taking the time to read them.

I'm probably not alone. It's very easy to subscribe to an e-mail newsletter. It doesn't cost anything. And in most cases they probably come so infrequently that you don't even notice how many e-mails cumulatively you're receiving.

So here's my question: does anyone really utilize e-mail newsletters any more? Or are you like me and you just delete them without reading them?

When's the last time you really examined closely what e-mail you're receiving? I'd be willing to bet you're being bombarded with e-mail and you don't even know it.