Friday Link Love: Doubt, Virginia Woolf, and a Real-Life Lord of the Flies

A couple of quick me-links: Last minute, preachers, I'm at The Hardest Question this week with pieces on the gospel and Acts.

I also did a webinar on Sabbath for the Presbyterian Outlook this week. I covered some stuff that's in the book but a lot that's not, including how to get congregations thinking about and practicing Sabbath. You can order a DVD here.

Enough about me. Here we go!


The Politics of Play -- Orion

A plea for a little more free-range parenting:

Some schools forbid children to play in the snow for fear of legal action in the event of an accident. We live in a litigious age, but this is about far more than that: it is about the kind of children we are creating.

By insidiously demanding that children always seek permission for the most trivial of actions, that they must obey the commands of others at every turn, we ensure that children today are not so much beaten into obedience as eroded into it. A risk-averse society creates a docility and loss of autonomy that has a horrible political shadow: a populace malleable, commandable, and blindly obedient.

The author also talks about a real-life Lord of the Flies incident... that didn't end like Lord of the Flies:

One day, in 1977, six boys set out from Tonga on a fishing trip. They left safe harbor, and fate befell them. Badly. Caught in a huge storm, the boys were shipwrecked on a deserted island. What do they do, this little tribe?

They made a pact never to quarrel, because they could see that arguing could lead to mutually assured destruction. They promised each other that wherever they went on the island, they would go in twos, in case they got lost or had an accident. They agreed to have a rotation of being on guard, night and day, to watch out for anything that might harm them or anything that might help. And they kept their promises—for a day that became a week, a month, a year. After fifteen months, two boys, on watch as they had agreed, saw a speck of a boat on the horizon. The boys were found and rescued, all of them, grace intact and promises held.

If anyone knows more about this story, please let me know. I would love to read more. Google didn't turn up much.


Principal Fires Security Guards to Hire Art Teachers--and Transforms Elementary School -- NBC

Thanks to Marci Glass, who said, "This is what it means to live the future you envision." Yes:

In a school notorious for its lack of discipline, where backpacks were prohibited for fear the students would use them to carry weapons, Bott’s bold decision to replace the security guards with art teachers was met with skepticism by those who also questioned why he would choose to lead the troubled school.

“A lot of my colleagues really questioned the decision,” he said. “A lot of people actually would say to me, ‘You realize that Orchard Gardens is a career killer? You know, you don't want to go to Orchard Gardens.’”

But now, three years later, the school is almost unrecognizable. Brightly colored paintings, essays of achievement, and motivational posters line the halls. The dance studio has been resurrected, along with the band room, and an artists’ studio.

Swords into ploughshares.


How Not to Die -- Atlantic

My friend Shala linked to this article on her Caterpickles blog. Not a happy topic, but an important one.

Dr. Angelo Volandes is making a film that he believes will change the way you die. The studio is his living room in Newton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston; the control panel is his laptop; the camera crew is a 24-year-old guy named Jake; the star is his wife, Aretha Delight Davis. Volandes, a thickening mesomorph with straight brown hair that is graying at his temples, is wearing a T-shirt and shorts and looks like he belongs at a football game. Davis, a beautiful woman of Guyanese extraction with richly braided hair, is dressed in a white lab coat over a black shirt and stands before a plain gray backdrop.

“Remember: always slow,” Volandes says.

“Sure, hon,” Davis says, annoyed. She has done this many times.

Volandes claps to sync the sound. “Take one: Goals of Care, Dementia.”

As a pastor I would love to get my hands on the video series Dr. Volandes is creating.


A Prayer for Children of All Ages -- Ashley-Anne Masters

Mother's Day is coming up, and then Father's Day. Both of these days can be very hard for folks; Ashley-Anne offers a prayer for use in worship:

God our perfect parent, we pray:

For those who will send flowers to their mom and those who will put flowers on their mom’s grave

For those who wish their children could have met their grandparents and those who will tell their parents that they will soon be grandparents

For those who will make new memories and those who will carry on old traditions

For sons named after their fathers and for those who don’t know their father’s name . . .

More at the link.


On Craftsmanship: The Only Surviving Recording of Virginia Woolf's Voice -- Brain Pickings

True confession: I didn't listen to the whole thing. But it's very moving to hear her voice.


Speaking of writing:

A Backwards Pitch -- Ruth Everhart

I highlighted Ruth's book, Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land, a few weeks ago on Link Love; I like how she puts into practice Seth Godin's advice to "say it backwards":

 My book about pilgrimage is not for everyone.

~ If you venerate icons you may find this book to be irreverent, even off-putting.


And a few things I posted on social media earlier this week, but they bear repeating:

9 Questions to Ask about Social Media -- 99U

  • Is it necessary to share this? Will it add value to my life and for other people?
  • Can I share this experience later so I can focus on living it now?
  • Am I looking for validation? Is there something I could do to validate myself?


The Pain When Children Fly the Nest -- Adam Gopnik, the Guardian

I'll read just about any topic, so long as Gopnik writes it. And we are years away from kids leaving the nest, but this still spoke to me.

I suspect he will return one Christmas soon with an icy, exquisite, intelligent young woman in black clothes, with a single odd piercing somewhere elegant - ear or nose or lip - who will, when I am almost out of earshot, issue a gentle warning: "Listen, with the wedding toasts - could you make sure your father doesn't get, you know, all boozy and damp and weepy?" My son will nod at the warning.


And this one was posted to the church's Facebook page:

To Doubt Is Christian -- The Dish

The Dish quotes Christopher Hutton:

Doubt is a thing which many Christians see as opposing their faith. Many have fought it and its prevalence in the modern minds of man. 19th century pastor Robert Turnbull once  stated that “Doubt, indeed, is the disease of this inquisitive, restless age.” Many people react negatively towards any feelings of doubt that they may have, fearing that this doubt means that they aren’t fully committed to God.

However, this fear of doubt is dreadfully dangerous. Not every man who doubts his faith loses it. And if they look at most human lives, they’ll find that if one doesn’t doubt, then one isn’t human. It is a necessary idea for any believer, for it acts as the catalyst and tool for a man or woman to grow.

Then a quote from Tim Keller:

A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection. Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts—not only their own but their friends’ and neighbors’.

Would be interesting to have a church group study on doubt.


And finally... there's this!

rundisney 2013 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon Female Winner Renee High_0

M-I-C... see you in January!

K-E-Y... why? Because I'm running the Disney Marathon!

I'm sure there will be much weeping and consternation on this blog over the next several months, but for now... yeah. Inhale. Exhale.


Have a great weekend, everyone.

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.


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:


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.


17 Mesmerizing Before and After Photoshop GIFs -- Buzzfeed


Love your self. Love your body.


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.


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.



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.


Peace be with you all.

Social Media for Pastors and Other Adults

  A friend of mine likes to say, "Sometimes the pastor's main job is to be the grownup in the room."

Sometimes the "room" you're in is the Internet.

And sometimes we need to model healthy communication, despite the fact that we're subject to the same fears, insecurities and foibles as anyone else. It's easy to hide behind a screen.

Do you have rules and norms for social media and e-mail? Here's one of mine. It's not hard and fast but I've found it to be useful:

When you're dealing with sensitive subjects, or the potential for hurt or angry feelings, "bump it up."

In other words, however the person contacts you about an issue, you respond with a more direct mode of communication.

One level up should do it. If they send you a text message, you respond with a phone call. If they send an e-mail, pay them a visit.

What do you think? Share your rule or experience in the comments.

Should I Call You? Text You? Facebook Message? Eh, Forget It.

I read with interest this blog post about people who do not do e-mail:

In our recent conversation, [my friend] said that she find writing emails very uncomfortable. When she opens a newsy email, she feels paralyzed, and she is utterly unable to respond. Another friend expressed a very similar response to long newsy emails. She said they make her feel completely frozen and she can’t think of anything to write in response.

...This email conundrum reminded me of our two sons, neither of whom live near us. One son loves to talk on the telephone or by Skype, and the other son hates those two means of communication. Our second son blogs and sends emails, so we are in touch with him, but he has never liked talking on the phone to us or to his friends.

The proliferation of social media and technology makes ministry (and life in general) easier and more complicated at the same time. It's fantastic to address a quick issue with a text message exchange. I receive lovely e-mails from church members, opening up about pastoral stuff they would never say face to face.

My general rule is that I rarely "downgrade" my responses. If someone calls me, I don't send a text message in response. Occasionally, if it's truly a quick answer, or time sensitive and all I have time for is a text (e.g. kid bedtime), I will and be done with it. But I have also regretted it a couple of times, when I failed to discern that there was an emotional need there, underneath the ministry question. The person felt dismissed by the text. In fact, we may need to "upgrade" the response (answering e-mail with a phone call, answer phone with face to face) in order to model good communication skills and get to the heart of the matter.

Moving beyond ministry, if we have faraway friends and family we want to keep in touch with, we should make an effort to learn what their preferred medium is. Sort of like love languages. We can't always honor their preferences, and each of us has our own preferred modes of communication. But taking their own comfort and preferences into account is the hospitable thing to do.

I take a three-day tech Sabbath from social media every week. My mother really doesn't like it because she likes knowing what's going on in my life. This puzzled me at first---why don't you just call or text if you want to know what's going on? Now I make an effort to keep in touch with her in other ways during that time. When I was in Minnesota I sent her a daily e-mail update, which was good for me (gave me a chance to look back on my day) and for both of us (I enjoyed getting her responses, which shared deeper info than she puts on Facebook).

I recently asked folks on Facebook whether phone conversations are on their way out. Many people admitted that they don't like the phone or use it much anymore. I sometimes feel awkward on the phone, particularly when it comes to ending the conversation. (Have I kept them too long? Am I getting off too abruptly?) But on balance, it's a positive in my book. There is no substitute for hearing the other person's voice. By contrast, a friend of mine says her college-age daughter will have long conversations with her significant other via text. It slows them down, she says. It allows them to say things that they would find it harder to say face to face. As a writer, I appreciate that the written word has this power. (I also know that that power, combined with anonymity/physical distance, can provide a means of harming others. It happened to me just this week, in fact.)

Then there's Google+. I really like the way it works, and often feel completely 'done' with Facebook. Except that I have dear friends there. But it depends on how you understand the purpose of social media. If it's a way of keeping in touch with loved ones, then you will keep doing it. If it's a means of recreation and conversation---a cocktail party, if you will---you can have a more "bloom where you're planted" mentality.

I know I will not keep up with both long-term. So I think about whether it makes sense to go with Google+, cancel or suspend use of my Facebook account, and keep up with my closest FB friends in other ways. One of the complications of this technology is that the idea of "seasons of friendship" is becoming obsolete---the idea that a friend is a friend in a particular time and place and maybe not forever. With social media, you need never lose touch again!

I'm not sure that's a good thing.

Then again, long-time friendships are precious.

What do you think about all this?