Saturday, March 03, 2012

Compendium of Links #26

In case you missed LOMO #23, I got a new job, and this weekend am off looking for apartments. It’s gonna be fun!! In the meantime, a few links to brighten your morning:

A funny link to start with, from a pastoral ministries friend of mine. Words that laypersons are allowed to know. Like “layperson”…

How to turn your dumbphone into a smartphone using nothing but SMS! Yes, brought to you by Lifehacker. I kinda want to try some of this.

Derek Webb thinks giving music away is a good idea. (Via Evangelical Outpost.) Here’s why:

If someone buys my music on iTunes, Amazon, or in a record store (remember those?), let alone streams it on Spotify, it’s all short-term money. That might be the last  interaction I have with that particular fan. But if I give that fan the same record for free in exchange for a connection (an e-mail and a zip code), I can make that same money, if not double or triple that amount, over time. And “over time” is key, since the ultimate career success is sustainability. Longevity. See, the reality is that out of a $10 iTunes album sale, I probably net around a dollar. So if I give that record away, and as a result am able to get that fan out to a concert (I can use their zip code to specifically promote my shows in their area), I make approximately $10 back, and twice that if they visit the merch table. I can sell them an older/newer album and make approximately $10 back. The point is, if I can find some organic way to creatively engage them in a paid follow-up transaction, I increase my revenue 10 times on any one of these interactions.

I’ve wondered for years what life was like before recorded music… back when you had to play it yourself, or get a friend to play it, if you wanted to hear music. When sheet music was incredibly popular and grandparents taught their grandchildren the songs they learned from their own grandparents before them. Were there concerts? Of course there were—think Beethoven and Bach, if nothing else. But otherwise, I can’t fathom a world without commercialized music.

Journalism’s future is bright—well of course the OJR (Online Journalism Review) would say that, but still. It’s an interesting read and I’m fascinated by the then-v-now timeline of how a reporter’s day is spent.

Can men and women be “just friends”? A college student takes a video straw poll. My opinion? Yes, they can. The simplest reason: What else would you call a brother/sister or cousin/cousin relationship?

When Pigs Fly—a Boundless article that exhorts people to view sex and gender roles positively, i.e. not portraying guys as “pigs out to get you.”

Would it be controversial to say men are supposed to be the way we are? That, despite the sin we struggle with, there is something good and God-like lying dormant in our sexual wiring? To believe that my sexuality is a gift and not a curse, most of the time I feel like I'm hoping against hope.

Everything you thought you knew about learning is wrong. And this is how to do it right. Or so says Wired:

Taking notes during class? Topic-focused study? A consistent learning environment? All are exactly opposite of the best strategies for learning.

I recently had the good fortune to interview Robert Bjork, the director of the UCLA Learning and Forgetting Lab, a distinguished professor of psychology, and a massively renowned expert on packing things in your brain in a way that keeps them from leaking out.

It turns out that everything I thought I knew about learning is wrong.

Stop whining about who’s rich and start helping who’s poor. That’s the approach that should grow out of the quintessential American attitude toward prosperity and income inequality, according to James Q. Wilson, writing for the Washington Post. At the end of the article he suggests a business  model for developing ways to help the poor become not-so-poor, and it requires rich investors. (Didn’t it always? You can’t even have a good rental house without someone richer to rent it from…)

And today’s video… a song I heard on the radio last weekend and immediately fell in love with. Somehow, my college roommate has loved this song for years and I don’t remember hearing it emanating from her computer, ever!


It’s an earworm for me. The chorus was stuck in my head for three straight days. It makes me wonder though—how’s John Mayer treating the women in his life?

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Worshiping the Christ-child

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East and have come to worship him.”… And when they had come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother and fell down and worshiped him. (Matt. 2:1-2)

Remember how, a few months ago, I was enthralled by the whole idea that missions and worship are connected? Here, worship shows up in an entirely different context, and I believe it’s the first time I’ve realized this aspect.

The wise men’s entire purpose in traveling hundreds of miles, following an elusive astronomical event, was to worship someone. A someone they probably didn’t even know was a child, hardly two years old.

When was the last time you felt a sense of awe and reverence toward a toddler?

These sages, the philosopher-scientists of their day—maybe like Aristotle—were supernaturally led, they knew, but their destination was the abode of a small child whose future they couldn’t begin to fathom. In the prophecies they had read about a priest-king, a prophet, and came prepared for such a one: They found a poor family and a child, barely ready to speak, who was to be the chosen one someday. Who already was the chosen one, somehow.

They gave him gold, the gift fit for a king. They gave him frankincense, the especial spice of the priesthood. And they gave him myrrh, another spice, this one used only for the dead. They prepared him for his funeral and burial before he could understand what it was to live and die.

Their first response was not thankfulness that he would save mankind, though no doubt that was an element in their worship. Nor did they state their intention of asking the priest-king for their own welfare or the welfare of their friends and neighbors. They came to worship.

What does it mean to worship a child?

I’m not a professional theologian. I can only imagine that it is to appreciate what he once was, what he gave up to become that child. The Scriptures say he “took on the form of a man.” He who was all-powerful wrapped himself in the tender skin of a human. He who was all-knowing shut his eyes to 99 percent of that knowledge in order to become like a man. He who was present everywhere contented himself to be localized in the body of a solitary human being, with arms and legs and a nose that sometimes got stuffed up.

Perhaps worshiping a child is to appreciate what he would become, what he was preparing to do three decades thence. He would be wildly popular, yet controversial, for three short years—less time than it takes to complete a bachelor’s degree—then he would volunteer to be beaten with glass-tipped whips, crowned with a vine of thorns several inches long and strung up by the hands, gouged by heavy iron nails, until his last breath left him. More than that—he would see his closest friends abandon him, all but one. He’d face his own father and see him turn his back. A heavenly father never abandons you, they say, yet he did abandon Jesus, or so it seemed.

But maybe worshiping a child is simply to appreciate what he is—a bundle of paradoxes that can be united only in that one single human being, a mix of impossibilities yielding a strange certainty. Seeing the mere babe as the culmination of hundreds of years of prophecies must have been trying for the sages who knocked at Mary and Joseph’s door. But they accepted his identity and worshiped at his feet.

I wonder what the baby Jesus thought of it.