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Depression and the Pastor’s Wife: Suffering in Silence
Transparent post from Cara Croft that will help many.

Short-term Family Resolutions
Steve McCoy explains how his family has made progress by developing smaller and shorter-term resolutions, especially in fasting from technology.

Simple Evangelism in the Church
How an atheist was won by Christians loving one another.

Taking Back Sunday
Daniel Montgomery tackles the subject of exhaustion and argues that most people are living a sub-human life. ON same topic, Jonathan Parnell gives us Three Reasons to Get Some Sleep.

Ecclesiastes and the New Testament
Paul Helm looks at how Ecclesiastes influenced the New Testament writers.

Calvin The Liturgist
How Calvinist is your church’s liturgy?

Children’s Bible Reading Plan

Here’s this week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first year of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf. And this is the second year in Word and pdf.

The first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Here’s an explanation of the plan.

And here are the daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books with Genesis and Matthew now complete (explanatory note).

Old Testament

New Testament

8 Ways to Reverse the Decline of the American Book Lover

According to The Pew Research Center:

  • Nearly a quarter of American adults have not read a single book in the past year.
  • The number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978.
  • In 1978, 42 percent of adults had read 11 books or more in the past year; today just 28 percent hit the 11 mark.
  • The average 18-to-29 year old finishes nine per year, compared to 13 among older American.

But there’s some good news too:

The percentage of young folks reading for pleasure stopped declining. Last year, the NEA found that 52 percent of 18-24 year-olds had read a book outside of work or school, the same as in the pre-Facebook days of 2002. If book culture were in terminal decline, this is the demographic where you’d expect it to be fading fastest. Perhaps the worst of the fall is over.

I struggle to find time to read. Yes, I read plenty during working hours for lectures, sermons, etc, but in terms of reading books of choice in my leisure time, I confess I often go to bed disappointed in my use of the evening hours. It’s so much easier just to tap around on the iPad or read blogs. So here are a few strategies I’ve recently been trying to follow to increase my reading.

Same Time and Place
Set aside 30 minutes a day when and where you can be guaranteed that you will not be interrupted. Try to make it the same place and the same time every day and get agreement from everyone in your household to guard that time for you. And turn off your phone notifications. When you get used to that rare and wonderful feeling of reading for 30 uninterrupted minutes, up it to 45, then an hour. You’ll soon be completing a book every 7-10 days.

Count the Pages
I know, this probably sounds ridiculous, and maybe it’s a man thing (everything’s got to be a competition), but I do find I read more when I count and record the number of pages I read in my 30 minutes. Somehow it stops me reading at half-speed and also improves my concentration. Put an index card in the book and record the pages for each 30 mins.

Read Paragraphs Not Pages
Break each page into paragraphs and count each read paragraph as an achievement. Maybe it’s social media but I find I don’t have the same concentration span that I used to. I can read a page and yet realize I haven’t taken in a thing. But if I focus on paragraphs, I find that I can concentrate much better on the smaller chunks, and my reading speed actually improves as I build momentum as each paragraph is conquered (it’s the man thing again).

Stop Reading
Books are brilliantly marketed today, making it more and more difficult to know what books to buy or not. They all “look” so good. Few read as good as they look. I’ve lost count of the number of books I’ve stopped reading after a chapter or two. I don’t feel under any obligation to force myself to read badly written, poorly thought out, and pale imitation books just because I bought them. That would be double stupidity – wasting my money AND my time. If you make yourself read a book you are not enjoying, you will slow down, find excuses to fill your 30 minutes with better things, and eventually give up.

Start the Empty Shelf Challenge
I’m still trying to find an empty shelf, but I think Jon Acuff’s Empty Shelf Challenge is a great idea to motivate a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Not very helpful for Kindle readers unless you follow his suggestion of printing out a copies of the front covers and maybe posting them on a wall. Which brings me to…

Read Paper Books
I love technology, but I must confess that despite trying again and again and again to read books on a Kindle, I hardly ever finish books on it. I don’t have the motivation of seeing how far I’m physically through the book, and I am way to easily distracted by the other possible books on my Kindle or other options on my iPad. Kindle books are cheaper, but you lose more than you gain.

Read with Your Kids
This will probably only work for those of us with older children, but this January I agreed with my two teenage sons that I would buy each of them a book a month from Amazon. They don’t have a free choice, as we make the selections together. The main criteria are that the books would help them grow spiritually, vocationally, or help prepare them for life in some way. As they each have to read the other’s choice as well, I hope they and I will have read 24 books in the year, with lots of discussion among us along the way. FYI, the first two books they chose were Sam Walton: Made in America (one wants to go into business), and How to Become a Straight A Student (we can but dream).

Anyone got any other ideas?


The Unequal Distribution of Economic Freedom
At Forbes, Alejandro Chafuen surveys countries that have successfully raised lower incomes and argues that the main causes of income inequality are:

1. Corruption: Defined as those actions by government agents that sell what they do not have a right to sell, such as subsidies, preferential regulations and others, which disproportionally affects the poor.

2. Cronyism: This is similar to corruption but usually “legal.”

3. Regulatory barriers: This is in the form of high capital requirements, mountains of red tape, and exorbitant license fees, especially in the areas where the poor enter the market.

4. Government schools:  In “This Wonderful Tree,” James Tooley, of the E.G. West Centre, documents how in several nations the poor prefer to send their children to humble, but more efficient, private schools. Nobel Laureate Gary Becker, of the Becker Friedman Institute, argues that a big improvement in high school graduation rates would reduce inequality of earnings.

5. Monetary Policy: Ralph Benko, a contributor, recently wrote a column on inequality where he took as a given that major players in the banking sector were being unjustly enriched by the current monetary policy.

Meanwhile, at the Acton Institute Blog, Elise Hilton says the the current administration’s preoccupation with income inequality is really about stirring up and exploiting envy. There are some powerful quotes in this piece. For example, this extract from a short story by Kurt Vonnegut.

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Marijuana Use During Pregnancy Affects Baby’s Brains
President Obama and some of our politicians are going to have a lot to answer for. Pictures of giggling grannies munching away on pot cookies is what they and the media want you to see. It’s all such a laugh, isn’t it. What they don’t show you are the psychiatric wards full of ex-pot users. And now science is beginning to explain why:

Using marijuana during pregnancy could affect a baby’s brain development by interfering with how brain cells are wired, a new study in mice and human tissue suggests.

Researchers studied marijuana’s effects on mice and brain tissue from human fetuses, and found that the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, interferes with the formation of connections between nerve cells in the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher thinking skills and forming memories.

The effects of prenatal marijuana exposure could even last into adulthood. The drug could have direct effects, or it could sensitize the brain to future drug exposure or neuropsychiatric illnesses.

Men are More Forgetful than Women
No, really.

This feels a bit like self-flagellation (I imagine), but men, at least we have a new excuse (“Science made me do it”):

Men are frequently accused of forgetting birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and even something as simple as taking the trash out. But they have developed this stigma for a reason, a new study suggest – it found that men are more forgetful than women, regardless of their age.

The research team, led by Prof. Jostein Holmen of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, published the study findings in the journal BMC Psychology.

  • Overall, the researchers found that memory problems increased with age. But in all age groups, men reported more memory problems than women.
  • Furthermore, the investigators were surprised to find that younger men forget just as much as older men.

Check out

Work that makes a difference
Dull job? This should encourage and inspire you.

Cynicism Doesn’t Reach a Lost World
Ed Stetzer with a neat story about how his cynicism was dissolved by an appearance of sky-writing above Disney.

What if you could only have one word on your tombstone?
R.C. Sproul Jr. with a surprising but good answer.

How to keep your “I do” in the present tense
Got this one via Tim Challies, but in the off-chance you are the one person in the universe that doesn’t read his blog, I wanted to give you the chance to read this beautiful story.

Christians, Don’t Give up on the Homosexuality Debate
Tremendous challenge and encouragement from Jason Helopoulos.

Cathy Rodgers and the Politics of Down Syndrome
“Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’s response to the president’s State of the Union address last night drew attention to her family, and specifically to her oldest son Cole, who has Down syndrome. Her speech implied her personal and political support for children with Down syndrome, but as a fellow mother of a child with Down syndrome I’m torn by the inconsistent messages about Down syndrome (and other vulnerabilities) from both parties.”