Art to Inspire... Plus a Giveaway!

The Blue Room is undergoing a few changes. No, not this website---the actual blue room, our dining room-turned-office and craft space for which this website is named. The Blue Room is a symbol for the stuff in our lives that doesn't work that needs to be reimagined to embrace the way things are, not the way we think they should be. With three young children, we never used our formal dining room. But I did need a study at home. And the kids would benefit from a place where they could play around with glitter, paint, glue and stickers. Preferably a place without carpet...

So during Snowpocalypse of 2010, our Blue Room was transformed from a useless place to a space for life and creativity.

I realized recently that despite the symbolism of the Blue Room, the walls have been adorned with the same artwork I've had for a long time. I don't remember when I got this labyrinth poster (scroll down for the only image I can find online), but it was well before the 1999 gathering being advertised.

And Jane Evershed's First Supper has been with me for many years. As a former Baptist who grew up with a blond Jesus and very male-centric images of God and Jesus' closest followers, I love Evershed's table, with 12 multi-racial and beautifully adorned women raising their glasses into the air. (Which one is the host at the table? Which one is Jesus? None of them. All of them.)

But life moves on. And now I have one of these, a rendering of the cover of Boston Magazine from last spring:

o-BOSTON-MAGAZINE-570_original

Peace, love, and running.

Here's poster #2. Brain Pickings is one of my favorite sites, and Maria Popova recently published Seven Life Lessons from her work on the site. The folks Holstee Company came up with a beautiful graphical rendering of it. It arrived last week and is hanging on the nail I used for the Evershed poster. The placement isn't quite right in the room, but I love it. A closeup from their website:

holstee_7things5

Which brings me to the giveaway. The Holstee company initially sent me their manifesto poster by mistake. The corrected the order, and asked me to keep the poster. But I want to share the love. So comment here or on my Facebook page with a recent "Blue Room" experience: either something you've reconfigured to fit your life as it really is, or something you know you need to reconfigure. (Or a general "hi" is fine too.) Each comment will be entered once. Submissions are due by Friday August 22 at midnight EDT.

Here's Holstee's manifesto poster (actual size 18x24"). Good luck to everyone!

Holstee-scan

The Vietnam Memorial: A Parable for Leadership

medium_2634032379 The other day I heard Maya Lin talk about her design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. I've visited the wall many times, and it's always crowded with people, many of them deeply moved by the v-shaped black granite gash in the earth.

The memorial seems brilliant, even inevitable now, as if the memorial couldn't have possibly looked any other way. But at the time, it was controversial, scandalous. Many Vietnam veterans fought it. They wanted something more traditional. A few concessions were made---a flag, a statue of a soldier---but through it all, Lin remained convicted and steadfast to her vision and her design.

The night before the memorial was dedicated, Lin was touring the space when a Vietnam veteran walked up to her. He was a big guy, an imposing guy, and he was livid at what he saw. He lit into her, practically pinning her to the wall with his rage, asking, How dare she do this?

As I listened to this story, I imagined what it would have been like to be Maya Lin, and to be the focus of such ire. Then I realized that of course, it has happened to me, though on a more modest scale. One time in the church I used to serve, we made a decision to change the way we served communion. It was the right decision, and we communicated our purposes the best we could. But a man left that day and made a beeline for me: How could you do this? How dare you do this? I received his rancor as non-anxiously as I could, but inside my heart sank and I was flooded with doubt.

I was expecting Lin to admit to similar feelings, but she responded differently. As she listened to the veteran, and heard all of that pain tumbling out, she thought to herself, It's working. The wall is doing exactly what I'd hoped it would do.

Pastors, leaders, and any of us in the transformation business: take heed. When you touch people emotionally, people may lash out. But that's not necessarily a sign to stop. It can be a sign to stand firm, or if you dare, to go deeper.

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photo credit: fensterbme via photopin cc

Monster Friday Link Love: Link Love's Out for Summer!

Yes... I've decided to take a break from Friday Link Love through the summer, at least. I will still link to stuff at Twitter and Facebook, and will probably drop a link here and there occasionally. But this summer is too squirrelly to commit to a regular posting schedule, so I'm hanging out my Gone Fishin' sign on this feature. But we're going out with a bang! TON of stuff today. A couple of gleanings from social media and some other random stuff. Away we go:

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Here We Are Now Entertain Us -- Running Chicken

This week Jan blogged about TED Talks, the Moth, and sermons and said, "one of these is not like the other". Why are sermons viewed as boring? she asks. How can we sharpen our proclamation by listening to these other forms of communication? As a huge fan of The Moth, and a semi fan of TED, this is a great question and one to explore. Good discussion in the comments of her blog.

But I am also compelled by this post, which questions the rise of edutainment:

Most importantly, is the central claim [by Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, in a recent interview] that the test of education is whether or not it’s entertaining. Wales asks, “why wouldn’t you have the most entertaining professor, the one with the proven track record of getting knowledge into people’s heads?” Is there evidence that the most entertaining lecture is the one that gets “knowledge into people’s heads”? Again, I’m not suggesting that a boring lecture is going to do the trick, but I’m arguing that entertaining students doesn’t necessarily equate with teaching them something.

When I lecture on Kant, I don’t think I’m really entertaining my students. In my opinion, Kant’s Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals doesn’t lend itself to entertainment; it’s a dense text that needs some serious explication. Now, I don’t speak in a monotone and I try to find relevant examples to help them make sense of the material, but I’m not standing in front of the class hoping that they’ll all have a great time; I’m standing there with the express purpose of teaching them about Kant.

At the risk of a "get off my lawn" moment... Yes.

I read a New Yorker profile about TED not long ago and came away a bit soured. TED talks are very formulaic---not necessarily a bad thing, I'll admit---but the organizers work with presenters to make their content fit their rigorous. This includes dumbing down some material. Do we really want to go down that road?

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Why Rituals Work -- Scientific American

Recent research suggests that rituals may be more rational than they appear. Why? Because even simple rituals can be extremely effective. Rituals performed after experiencing losses – from loved ones to lotteries – do alleviate grief, and rituals performed before high-pressure tasks – like singing in public – do in fact reduce anxiety and increase people’s confidence. What’s more, rituals appear to benefit even people who claim not to believe that rituals work.

A nice argument for living "as if." Which is what I see in a lot of church work.

…We found that people who wrote about engaging in a ritual reported feeling less grief than did those who only wrote about the loss.

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Arts and Faith -- Loyola Press

This site is just getting going but looks very promising: "Explore stories about musicians, crafters, dancers, painters, and more, who demonstrate the many inspiring (and surprising) ways art can deepen your relationship with God."

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Orchestra Hidden Camera Prank -- YouTube

Somebody asked me recently where I get all my links for FLL. The fun thing is that people have started sending me stuff. Here's one example. Pretty cute:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knz5LfYNxYQ

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Keep Your 'Someday' List from Being Clutter -- David Caolo, Unclutterer

A little bit of Getting Things Done jiu jitsu---this is good advice even if you're not a disciple of David Allen as I am:

In GTD, “visit Japan” is not a task, it’s a project. Fortunately, my old job helped me get good at breaking complex behaviors (or in this case, projects) down into very small, observable, concrete actions. Perhaps “discuss life in Japan with uncle who used to live there” is a doable first step. Maybe “research seasonal weather in Japan” or “find a well-written book on Japanese customs or food” could be other first steps. In breaking down the project, two things happen.

First, I feel like I’m making progress on this huge task, rather than letting it stagnate. Second, I’ll get a true measure of my willingness to go through with completing the project completely. If my interest wanes, I can safely remove it from the list as Merlin suggested. If I have an increase in interest that will suggest motivation, and I’ll continue to devise small steps that move me closer to completing the project.

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Photo Series of a Young Girl Dressed Up as Great Women Throughout History -- Peta Pixel

A photographer wanted to commemorate her daughter's fifth birthday:

My daughter wasn’t born into royalty, but she was born into a country where she can now vote, become a doctor, a pilot, an astronaut, or even President if she wants and that’s what REALLY matters.

The resulting photo series has Emma dressed and posed as five influential women from the history books, with a presidential photo thrown in at the end. Click the link to see.

H/t Facebook friend Jeanny House.

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While we're on photography:

The Art of Being at the Right Place at the Right Time -- Colossal

If you've seen Dewitt Jones's now-classic DVD, Everyday Creativity, you know he talks about putting yourself in the place of most potential. This photographer has clearly done that---as Christopher notes on Colossal, she must never be without a camera, because she's able to capture amazing images.

Tons at the link.

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The Threat of Literalism -- Ken Kovacs

A friend and colleague pens this:

James Hollis, Jungian analyst and writer, suggests that literalism is actually a form of religious blasphemy because it seeks to concretize (nail down, define) and absolutize the core experience of the Holy, of God – a God, if God, who cannot be controlled or defined; a God, as theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) insisted, who was Wholly Other, a God who remains ultimately a mystery.  And a mystery is not the same thing as a puzzle (which can be solved); a mystery is always enigmatic and is therefore inherently unknowable.  The German theologian Gerhard Tersteegen (1697-1769) reminded us, "A God comprehended is no God."

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How about closing with two links from my alma mater, Rice University?

Neil deGrasse Tyson to Grads: Future of Exploration in Your Hands -- Rice.edu

HOW LUCKY IS THE CLASS OF 2013 TO GET NdGT AS COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER?!?

We got Elizabeth Dole, which... eh.

Tyson, whose wife, Alice Young, is a Rice alumna, challenged the new graduates to become part of the new drive to discover. “There is no solution to a problem that does not embrace all we have created as a species,” he said. “The original seeds of the space program were planted right here on this campus, and I can tell you that in the years since we have landed on the moon, America has lost its exploratory compass.

Also: some straight talk about what motivates humanity to explore:

War, money and the praise of royalty and deity. He noted Kennedy’s speech at Rice that laid out the plan to go to the moon followed one a year earlier to Congress that first proposed the adventure.

“We haven’t been honest with ourselves about that,” he said, reciting the part of JFK’s 1962 speech to Congress that appears in a monument at the Kennedy Space Center. What’s missing, he said, is a reference to the war driver: in this case, Yuri Gagarin’s orbital mission for the Soviet Union six weeks earlier.

“No one has ever spent big money just to explore,” he said. “No one has ever done that. I wish they did, but they don’t. We went to the moon on a war driver."

(And in case you missed it, here's a bonus link that had a lot of social media buzz: John Green's commencement speech to Butler. Top-notch.

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Shimmering Chain-link Fence Installation by Soo Sunny Park -- Colossal

How exciting to see the Rice Art Gallery featured on Colossal! Wish I could see this in person. Plexi-glass and chain link.

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Peace be with you, friends.

Friday Link Love

Can you believe this is my 108th Link Love? That's about 2 years of collecting bits and pieces of stuff. Like a magpie. I should probably go on hiatus at some point. Don't want to get stuck in a rut. Maybe this summer. In the meantime... here we go!

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Modern Art Desserts -- Brain Pickings

This is from a few weeks ago--I've been saving it.

modernartdesserts3

More at the link.

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Perfectionism as Paralysis -- David Foster Wallace

Courtesy of The Dish and a good adjunct to my post about perfectionism and failure the other day, an animated clip of DFW talking in 1996 about perfectionism, ambition... and tennis:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=w5R8gduPZw4

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The Good Kind of Crazy -- David Lose

After filling me in on some of the latest and greatest ideas she’s had about the church she leads, she stopped and said, “You know, you’re about the only person I know who doesn’t think I’m crazy when I talk this way.”

“Actually,” I replied with a smile, “I think you’re crazy too. But the church needs crazy right now.”

...My friend is perceived as a little crazy. She’s not content with the same old thing, only better. She wants something new. So she has the youth of her church lead worship and participate in the sermon. She doesn’t do confirmation anymore, but instead finds ways to gather her youth around conversations about faith, life, and life lived faithfully. And this summer they’re not singing hymns at her church, but pop songs. And talking about popular YouTube videos. And other crazy stuff.

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On that note... maybe this is an example of the good kind of crazy, albeit from another era:

100 Years Later, a Time Capsule is Opened -- Yahoo! News

The First Lutheran Church of Oklahoma City dug up and opened its Century Chest, a time capsule that was buried under the church 100 years ago.

The artifacts inside the copper chest were remarkably well intact. Credit for that goes to the church's Ladies Aide Society, the group that buried the capsule a century ago. The group buried the chest in double concrete walls and under 12 inches of concrete, according to Fox News.

As my friend Alex Hendrickson said, "Varsity level church ladies." Seriously.

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For a Student of Theology, Poetry Reverberates -- NPR

My favorite class in seminary was The Preacher and the Poet, so Robert sent this to me with the subject line "MaryAnn bait."

I read a lot of theology, both for my degree and for my professional track, and sometimes I think poetry, whether or not it's explicitly religious, is one of the best modes that theology, or talking about God, can take. ... Poetry is a form where the language is under so much pressure, and that can really bring about these wonderful surprises and insights in our ways of talking about God or thinking about our faith.

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The Best Lesson My Kids Ever Taught Me -- Practicing Families

The author describes the experience of having a newborn and always having to think about the next thing. Ohhhh yeah. That kind of extreme time maximization is part of what led us to Sabbath, when we can turn off (or at least mute) those endless calculations:

I was always planning ahead for the next step of the operation. It’s breakfast time. Eat because we have to get dressed! Get dressed because we have to go to baby class! Finish baby class so we can get home for nap! Get nap started so I can have writing time! Hurry, hurry through writing before the baby wakes up! Get ready so we can go to the park! Finish up at the park so we can get home so I can make dinner! And on and on…We were still on that hamster wheel, still always urgently moving forward to the next item on the agenda.

It wasn’t my schedule that was the problem. It was the fact that during every activity we engaged in, my mind was already on the next one.

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Journey to the Center of the Earth: Glimpse Inside an Active Volcano -- Colossal

I didn't do Kid Link Love this week but if I had, this would've been featured. Volcanoes are so awesome. This planet is doin' stuff:

volcano-8

 

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Speaking of Kid Links, I shared this one with my girls:

A Wet Towel in Space is Not Like a Wet Towel on Earth -- NPR

I've gotta think that zero gravity tourism will happen in our lifetimes. Which is irrelevant for me since I get motion sick on a porch swing. So I'll have to content myself with videos like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=o8TssbmY-GM

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Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. We've got a party Saturday night and I'm leading a retreat after church on Sunday. A full weekend but a good one. Peace.

Would You Say I Have a Plethora of Friday Links?

Well friends, It was two years ago this month that I started Couch to 5K, and tomorrow I run my first half marathon. Yeehaw! This week has been about catching up from all my out of town travel, tapering, and eating carbs. (Any excuse.) I'm sure I'll check in afterwards and get all bloggy about it, but in the meantime... wish me luck!

As for link love, we have TONS of stuff this week. So I'll just dump 'em here without too much comment. Enjoy:

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Objects Make of Paper -- Colossal

Made of paper. Paper:

paper-7

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Making Room for the Sabbath and Keeping it Holy -- LGBT Weekly

A good primer, if for some reason you haven't already gotten that from me...

How can we do this? There are a number of spiritual practices you might want to incorporate: daily devotions, weekly worship, eating right, exercise, acts of kindness, focused prayer.

There are also a number of Sabbath-day practices you might consider: going for a contemplative walk; having some friends over to play games; “unplugging” from your cell phone for a few hours; going for a drive on Sunday afternoon and showing up at somebody’s house at suppertime! OK, maybe not that last one. But you get the idea.

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Does Stress Hide Deeper Social Problems? -- Time

Yes:

There’s no amount of counseling, kale, or yoga — even if these were available or affordable to everyone in the U.S. — that will alter the economic, political, and social forces that sustain poverty or war in the age of terrorism, or what we glibly call “work-family conflict.” We’re going to have to throw out the bath oil with the bath water if we’re going to tackle the social problems that actually create the stress we bemoan today.

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Creative Pro-Tip: Take Things Away Until You Cry -- 99U

These made me think:

  • If you meet a person who cares about the same obscure things you do, hold on to them for dear life.

  • Start brave and brash: you can always make things more conservative, but it’s hard to make things more radical.

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Daring New Ideas from TED 2013 -- Brene Brown

Brene's picks for the best stuff this year. Links to three talks, including the one by Amanda Palmer that's just stellar.

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The Economy of Punishment -- Harvard Business Review

Quite simply, our fear prevents us from recognizing and finding appropriate channels for the talents of our criminal population. As a result, we have institutionalized a simple formula for dealing with such individuals: capture, punish and isolate.

This formula has become a curse, resulting in an epidemic of incarceration across the United States.

So how, as a society, do we develop new instincts towards criminals and what strategies can be effectively employed to reduce the rate of incarceration and the rate of recidivism?

Many gangsters are natural born innovators with restricted economic opportunities. Nobody understands this better than Catherine (Cat) Rohr, who quit her job in private equity to become a champion for the incarcerated. As she told us, "Initially I had this attitude that people in prison were the scum of the earth, that they were a waste of tax dollars." But in getting to know the prison population better, Cat's position began to change. "I suddenly realized I was meeting entrepreneurs in prison. That these guys who had run drug businesses had all these entrepreneurial characteristics like scrappiness, charisma, and real skills in leadership and management." With this realization, Cat began a life committed to honoring the talents and skills of those in prison.

As part of this journey, Cat launched a program called Defy Ventures, in New York, that provides a business incubator for ex-offenders who then have an opportunity to compete for $150,000 in seed capital for their businesses. At the core of Cat's program is a powerful acknowledgement of the skills and talents that former drug dealers and gang leaders possess. From there it's just a matter of pivoting these street skills into the world of formal entrepreneurship. For many ex-cons, who face discrimination from employers after getting out of prison, Cat's program offers an MBA-like training matched with exposure to leading entrepreneurs, investors, and potential employers.

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Top Secret Drum Corps -- Colossal

A-ma-zing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=HW3QVLlK-kE

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Clare Booth Luce's Advice to Her 18 Year Old Daughter -- Brain Pickings

Includes links to other words of wisdom from authors and artists to their children.

“The main thing is to get what little happiness there is out of life in this wartorn world because ‘these are the good old days’ now.”

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Living with Less. A Lot Less -- New York Times

Living with less as it's described in this article means deciding what kind of person/family you're going to be, in some sense. If you have no camping equipment, especially if you had camping equipment and you give it away, you've made a decision: we are not going to be a family that camps.

Nothing particularly wise there, just something that came to me as I read the article. I guess you could borrow stuff. But I do think that these discussions about simplifying are harder when you have children. Giving kids opportunities to try things necessitates acquiring the equipment required for them to try it. And when they lose interest, how do you know whether it's temporary or permanent?

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Freelancing in the Digital Age -- Andrew Sullivan

I'm now having to do a lot more negotiating and advocating for myself when it comes to money, so I found this discussion interesting:

A little while back, I was contributing a piece to a publication that I was thrilled to be writing for: high prestige, high visibility, great roster of fellow contributors. I was honored to be asked. And when the editor mentioned my fee, I was initially eager to say yes. But something told me to hold back (for once—I am usually a very poor negotiator). I thought about who else was contributing, what demands they or their agents might have made, the fact that there’s probably always wiggle room … and I typed this into an e-mail: “I’ll do it for whatever you pay Sam Lipsyte.”

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Letting Go -- A Deeper Story

Written by my friend Troy Bronsink, who has a great new book out about creativity and the life of faith:

“We think that its best for Neighbors Abbey that you no longer be Presbyterian” were the words she said. But what I heard was: “Just 3 years in we’re backing out of our 7 year grant commitment, and now you have 6 months to double your annual fund raising from $25k to $50K.” It reminded me of the arrows I shot in scouting camp as a kid. Hers landing dead center.  Mine… well I’d pulled the string but there was no chance it was gonna go where I’d aimed. Not any more.  I didn’t even have to watch to find out.

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Have a great weekend, everyone. Peace be with you.

Lightning-Fast Friday Link Love

We're officially in a season in the Dana household when there is so much going on it's actually comical. My Lenten discipline of "doing nothing extra" could not come at a better time... though it's often hard to figure out what's "extra," and even when one separates the wheat from the chaff, there is still more to do than time to do it. So here's a quick Friday Link Love. Maybe like me you need a little palate cleanser between must-do tasks. Hope these bring a little joy and inspiration.

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First, the obligatory links of self-promotion:

Sabbath in the Suburbs was reviewed in the Christian Century. Who wins the cage match between MaryAnn McKibben Dana and Rachel Held Evans? OK, I'm kidding, but how wonderful is this:

MaryAnn McKibben Dana’s Sabbath in the Suburbs: A Family’s Experiment with Holy Time will probably make a much smaller splash than Evans’s book even though it is one of the most helpful and well-conceived books on spirituality I’ve ever read.

Many thanks to Bromleigh McCleneghan, who wrote a pretty awesome book herself.

Seond link: here I am on God Complex Radio.

And finally, we're having a giveaway on GoodReads---three signed copies of the book. I'd love to give one to a Blue Room reader!

Now on to the show:

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National Day of Unplugging -- Sabbath Manifesto

March 1-2 is the annual day to put away the cell phones. iPads and laptops, and savor the world of relationships right around you. Here are some ideas to get you primed for the big day.

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17 Mesmerizing Before and After Photoshop GIFs -- Buzzfeed

anigif_enhanced-buzz-16931-1360693844-4

Love your self. Love your body.

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Using the Crowd to Save People after Disasters -- Fast Company

Social media serves a powerful purpose:

In the aftermath of a major disaster, it’s hard for aid workers to know what’s happening on the ground, and to direct resources where they are needed most. That’s when text messaging and social media can help. By analyzing tweets and other snippets, it’s possible to see trends--say, where people are trapped, or where there are water shortages--and do something about them.

The issue is the analysis part, says Lukas Biewald, CEO of CrowdFlower, a San Francisco company that finds people online willing to do "micro tasks" (normally for commercial purposes). One, you’ve got a huge amount of data to sift through, and not a lot of time. And two, all the text might be in a language--or filled with local references--that you don’t understand. You need some way of crunching it quickly, using people who aren’t put off by colloquial or foreign terms.

Patrick Meier, director of social innovation at the Qatar Foundation’s Computing Research Institute, and a member of a group called the Digital Humanitarian Network, says crowdsourcing can help. Following last December’s Typhoon Pablo, in the Philippines, DHN identified 20,000 relevant tweets, and then called on CrowdFlower to find volunteers to make the first assessment. The groups identified, one, messages with links to photos and video, and, two, messages that referred to damage that could be geo-tagged. From about 100 tweets, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) could then build a map plotting damaged houses and bridges, flooding, and so on.

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An Artist, 25 Years in the Making -- Imgur

An artist posted photos of his artwork, starting when he was 2 years old. Lovely to see the artist emerge.

QwxbAVX

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William Lowrey: Don't Lose the Larger Vision -- Faith and Leadership

A Presbyterian minister who helped resolve bloody conflicts in Sudan reflects on his long career of peacemaking in America and Africa.

Bill Lowrey is a friend and colleague here in the greater DC area an amazing inspiration. I love that Faith and Leadership saw fit to feature him on their site. People who think that Christianity is nothing but hate and intolerance need to read about this fine man who has quietly and humbly devoted his life to peace and justice.

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Peace be with you all.

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

First, if you haven't already heard me shouting from the rooftops about it, here is my interview about Sabbath in the Suburbs on Huffington Post Books. Another note. I share links to interesting, inspiring, curious content all week long at my Facebook page. Feel free to subscribe to the public updates, even if we're not FB friends!

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

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Flying Houses by Laurent Cherere -- Colossal

Wonderful. Like something out of Roald Dahl:

laurent-2

laurent-4

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

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

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Christian Wiman on Faith and Language -- Andrew Sullivan

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

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

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

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Stoic, Addict, Mystic -- Andrew Sullivan

Another one posted on The Dish this week:

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

For infinity, toward infinity. Nice.

Winners of the 2012 National Geographic Photo Contest -- National Geographic

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

H6yMi6fUB_1JR964xxG8RxsYArlNNn1lR5PWutchIb-0b1wahCLwPmHficO2saD0RkzVCatVnWrRPg

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

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

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

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

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

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Airplane Lavatory Self-Portraits -- Sad and Useless

h/t Keith Snyder.

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

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

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Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday Link Love: Nude Dancers, Suburban Living, and the Empathic Rat

First, a link to my article at catapult magazine for their 10 Things edition: 10 Ways to Savor Your Time in 2013. Annnnnd.... away we go:

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Time-Lapse Images of Nude Dancers Created with 10,000 Individual Photographs -- Colossal

Obligatory Colossal Post. Lots more at the link:

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Five Easy Things to a Happier Year -- National Catholic Review

I'm keeping it light on the New Year's resolutions/intentions this year. I'm already running a half marathon, promoting a book and planning the next one---that's plenty to keep me busy. Plus I'm all about the improv and less about the major planning. But I can get behind these:

Be a Little Kinder.  I think that 90% of the spiritual life is being a kind person.   No need to have any advanced degrees in theology or moral reasoning, and no need to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the world’s religious traditions, to get this: Be gentler and more compassionate towards other people.

I like the one about enjoying nature more. Reminds me of one of my father-in-law's practices. When he comes home from work, he takes a moment between car and house to look up. Just to see what the sky looks like. I love that.

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Why Do Americans Have Less Vacation Time Than Anyone Else? -- Big Think

This one gets in my craw. It's not the most pressing issue we face, but it is a justice issue and a spiritual issue:

Like many of you, I am on vacation this week. For most Americans, Christmas week represents about half of the time off we will enjoy all year long. Compared with Australians (at least 4 weeks off, plus 10 public holidays), Brazilians (22 days of paid leave with a 33 percent salary vacation bonus) and the French (at least 5 weeks off and as many as 9 for many public employees), we are seriously bereft.

Look at how the United States stacks up against the rest of the developed world in number of mandatory days off each year:

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What is that all about, do you think?

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How People Live in the Suburbs: A Vintage Illustrated Gem -- Brain Pickings

How People Live In The Suburbs was published as part of a Basic Understanding series of primary school supplements, also including How People Earn and Use MoneyHow Farms Help Us, and How Our Government Helps Us — all, sadly, out of print but delightful if you’re able to secure a copy.

Click the link above for more images. These are just cute and bizarre:

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The Five Types of Work That Fill Your Day -- 99U

I'm still using Toggl to keep track of how much time I spend on creative work, connecting with people, and doing logistics. Read more about that process here.

But based on this article it would be interesting to do an audit of my time to see how much of my day is spent on Reactionary, Planning, Procedural, Insecurity, and Problem-solving tasks. Good tips here for how to bring things into a frutful balance for your situation.

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The Power and the Allegory: A Book of Interviews with Madeleine L'Engle -- BookForum

The book itself is called Listening for Madeleine. From the BookForum article:

L’Engle’s faith was deeply untraditional. A mathematics professor who advised her on A Wrinkle in Time says the three beings who guide Meg on her interplanetary journey—Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which—were meant to be angels, but they could just as easily be mistaken for witches. And the novel’s dominant image of evil is an undefined blackness that casts its shadow across a wide band of the universe, including Earth. Camazotz, a planet controlled by the blackness, is not a hotbed of violence and depravity but a vision of perfect order. All the houses are identical, the children bounce their balls in perfect unison, and anyone who refuses to submit to the program is punished. “I am freedom from all responsibility,” the evil power croons to Meg. But she recognizes that this is a false consolation, a substitution of conformity for equality. “Like and equal are not the same thing at all!” she screams.

The fundamental lesson is that it’s OK—even desirable—to be a misfit.

Looking back, I'd say that A Wrinkle in Time formed my early theology as much as (or let's be honest, more than) the Bible.

Incidentally, I'm putting this post together on Thursday, and Caroline is in the chair next to me with the new graphic novel version of A Wrinkle in Time. I gave it to her for Christmas and she's already on her second reading of it.

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A New Model of Empathy: The Rat -- Washington Post

I expect there is more of this going on in the animal kingdom than we want to admit:

In a simple experiment, researchers at the University of Chicago sought to find out whether a rat would release a fellow rat from an unpleasantly restrictive cage if it could. The answer was yes.

The free rat, occasionally hearing distress calls from its compatriot, learned to open the cage and did so with greater efficiency over time. It would release the other animal even if there wasn’t the payoff of a reunion with it. Astonishingly, if given access to a small hoard of chocolate chips, the free rat would usually save at least one treat for the captive — which is a lot to expect of a rat.

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May your weekend be filled with a small hoard of chocolate chips... or whatever delights you.

Friday Link Love: Special Lists Edition

deb1654baf42ccffbe2f148ea6dd7c9dThis is my last planned post of 2012. Next week I am off to celebrate the radical and improbable incarnation of God, then Margaret's birthday on 12/27, and my own on 1/2. I'm a sucker for a good end-of-year list. FLL is light on links this week, but each of these offerings has tons of links within it, like web-based nesting dolls. Enjoy... and share your favorite end of year list in the comments.

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Top 20 Insights, Talks, and Quotables on Making Ideas Happen -- 99U

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A Colossal Year: Top 15 Posts in 2012 -- Colossal

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The Best of the Best List: 2012 Critics' Top Books -- The Daily Beast

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And while this isn't a 2012-specific list, here's a link to my most popular posts on this blog to tide you over until I return.

Point of personal privilege: on December 23 I enter my 10th year of blogging. My first blog is long decommissioned, but I give thanks for the connections made and insights gained from this medium. Blogging almost feels quaint now, given the connectional tools now at our disposal. Yet I love the (relatively) long-form genre that is the blog. And I thank you for your companionship over the years.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!