Clean Slates and New Habits

Gretchen Rubin, author of the bestselling Happiness Project, is writing a new book about habits called Before and After. In her latest blog post on the subject, she writes about how a clean slate can provoke, promote, and sustain major habit change. As she puts it: 

The fresh start, the do-over, or the new year is a crucial time, because it offers tremendous opportunity for forming new habits -

Some of the slate-cleaning events she mentions are:

  • A change in personal relationships: marriage, divorce, a new baby, a new puppy, a break-up, a new friend, a death.
  • A change in surroundings: a new apartment, a new city, even rearranged furniture.
  • Major changes: a new job, a new school, a new doctor.
  • Minor changes: taking a different route to work, or watching TV in a different room.

Well, if such clean slate/fresh start events can produce new and better habits, how much more the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ and being adopted into the family of God? What cleaner slate, what fresher start could possibly be imagined! What a do-over! What a change and what a power to change!

Last summer I was playing soccer at our church camp. My team was losing 4-0 and also losing heart. When the supper bell rang, somebody on the other side shouted out, “Right, next goal’s the winner!” Well, you should have seen the energy course through my team again. Given a clean sheet to start over, hope was renewed, tiredness disappeared, heads were up and legs were pumping again.

That’s why we need daily cleansing of our consciences with Christ’s blood. It gives us a fresh start, a clean sheet, re-energizing and re-motivating us to serve again. You don’t guilt someone into change; you grace them into it.

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True Woman 101
Looks like Tim Challies’ church has discovered a great resource for women’s discipleship.

Why Some Teachers Are Banning Laptops From The Classroom
This is very, very tempting. One problem is that many of us have virtually forgotten how to write. I can hardly read my own writing today.

Basking In God’s Love
Erik Raymond calls us to reflect upon and delight in three simple words: “God loves me.”

4 Reflections on Online Dating
Zack Boren: “Two years ago today I met the woman who would become my wife. The vehicle that brought us together was the internet. So we are an online dating success story.”

4 Practical Ways to Welcome Autism Into Your Church
One environment where children with autism and other disabilities should always be welcome, though, is church. Here are four ways you can be a blessing to these precious families.

DIY University And The Future of Higher Education
Alex Chediak with a stimulating interview of an author of DIY U, a book about the future of education. You can read Aaron Armstrong’s review of Alex’s Preparing Teens for College here.

Cancer Sucks. But Christ is Better
Noah has since gone home to be with his Lord.

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Whatever Happened to a Sabbath Day’s Rest?
A very brave Jemar Tisby: “I know I’m wading into controversial theological territory here.  And I admit that I don’t know all the nuances of what it means to have a biblical Sabbath.  I’m just speaking as a simple worshiper who is still refining his thought and practice on this subject.  That being said, here are five truths about taking a Sabbath day’s rest.”

Why The Social Networks Are Falling Apart
Fascinating article that examines the future of social networking and explains why the big social companies are buying multiple “independent” apps.

The Best Jobs Of 2014
Looks like they involve lots of math, data, and code.

6 Easy Ways To Contribute To Your Pastor’s Emotional Health
Ken Miller: “I’m a third generation pastor. My father was a pastor for forty-three years and a denominational leader for the majority of that time. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of pastors suffer and then hide their emotional sickness. The result was often a personal implosion and forced termination.”

Abusers in The Christian Church: The Five Stages of Biblical Repentance
“One of the strangest and most deplorable phenomena I’ve ever encountered in the Christian church is the tendency of many believers to take the side of the abuser in domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault cases, particularly if the abuser is a pastor or leader in the church.”

Darcy Oakes Jaw-Dropping Dove Illusions
This blows my brain.

Astronomical Grace

IndescribableWhat do you get when you put together astronomy and grace? Yes, that’s right, you get astronomical grace. And that’s exactly what you get in Louie Giglio and Matt Redman’s book, Indescribable (now available for only $2.24 on the Kindle).

Giglio and Redman’s shared passion for astronomy and grace led them to co-author this book, which follows a two-step pattern in most of its chapters.

1. Star-struck: Scientific facts and figures about the size and speed of the stars, planets, galaxies, etc., that magnify and exalt their Creator’s power, wisdom, beauty, etc.
2. Grace-struck: Who am I, that such a God should love, me, care for me, send His Son to die for me, and save me?

As it’s one of the most powerful presentations of the Gospel I’ve come across in a long time, let me gather together some of the stats and then some of the applications and see if it leaves you as star-struck and grace-struck as I was.

When it comes to looking at the stars, you and I live in a privileged age. A few hundred years ago, astronomers believed there to be only around six thousand stars out there in the universe…Astronomers now believe there to be more stars in the visible universe (what we know to be there) than there are grains of sand on all of the world’s beaches and deserts.

The newest evidence suggests that there are somewhere between one hundred and two hundred billion galaxies in the universe, each of them containing hundreds of billions of stars. And as most scientists agree, there still seems to be no end in sight.

The biggest and brightest known star in our own galaxy is Eta Carinae. If the sun and Eta Carinae were at the same distance from the earth, Eta Carinae would be 4 million times as bright as the sun.

At the peak of it’s luminosity Supernova 1987A was thought to be shining over one hundred million times brighter than the Sun!

If our Sun were only eighteen inches high, then in comparison the star IRS 65 would stand as tall as Mount Everest.

VY Canis Majoris is so monstrous you could fit seven quadrillion Earths inside it.

“The universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine” (James Jeans, physicist and astronomer).

In reason’s ear, they all rejoice,
and utter forth a glorious voice,
forever singing as they shine:
“The hand that made us is divine!”
(Joseph Addison)

“The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder” (Ralph W. Sockman).

I can’t help but believe that a Creator responsible for countless wonders must take delight as we find out more and more of what’s out there and how nature unfolds.

Our discoveries tell us something about the nature of God as we see evidence of patience, beauty, incredible magnitude, and a flourishing of life—at least on one planet!

“Earth is beautiful beyond description. God must love us dearly to provide a planet so perfectly tuned for life in what appears to be an otherwise empty universe. As I enjoy the view and the comfort of His loving presence, I am convinced we serve an incredibly loving heavenly Father” (former astronaut, Joe Tanner).

As it turns out, we’re even smaller than we thought we were. And our Creator God is far mightier than we ever imagined Him to be.

These figures are completely off the charts, once again filling us with reverence and awe for our indescribable Maker. He simply spoke … and there they were.

In the book of Isaiah, for example, God keeps pointing us to the cosmos as a reminder of His great and unmatchable strength: I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens. (44:24) My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts. (45:12).

For love Jesus chose to come to this “mote of dust,” embodying God’s indelible proclamation: “I love you.” How amazing that, on this tiny cosmic speck, His incomprehensible death provided a covering for our fallenness, His resurrection life bridging the way back to the arms of our Maker. Looking back across time at this little sphere that we call home, I cannot escape the feeling that comes over me. Yet, looking at the wonder of the cross of Christ, I can’t help but see God’s irrepressible stamp of significance on tiny, insignificant people like you and me.

But the more I encounter grandeur, the more I’m drawn into wonder. In the light of these incredible, shining stars, the beauty of the gospel shines ever more brightly in my soul. How could it be that the One who spoke these epic galaxies into being lavishes His love on the likes of you and me? The all-powerful hands of the Maker became the nail-pierced hands of the Savior. He who is everything made Himself nothing. The One who commands the Sun, Moon, and stars in their courses above took on the nature of a servant.

Jesus, who said, “Let there be light,” spoke up for you and me. And in the end, in human skin, the sinless and perfect Son of God exchanged His life for every twisted thing that we have done. In that single act, the star breather became the sin bearer. The universe maker became humanity’s Savior.

God doesn’t need a Hubble Telescope to get in touch with you or check on the affairs of your life. He sees it all, the good and the bad, the joy and the pain. But not only does God see, He has the power to heal and repair, to carry and to hold.

Looking up makes us feel small and shrouds us with a sense of awe, but that’s never a bad thing. So let that feeling come (and stay) as you journey through these pages. And let the wonder of it all lift you up to see and embrace the face of God, the brilliant Maker of all.

Indescribable Glory and Grace
As Indescribable contains many beautiful color pictures of stars, planets, and galaxies, I’d recommend reading it on the iPad or on the Kindle App for PC/Mac. I see there’s also a film version you might want to check out.

I leave you with Giglio and Redman’s challenge: “Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course…We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night and we watch television.”

Or perhaps we could paraphrase: “The Son comes out every Sunday and we watch television.”

Indescribable: Encountering the Glory of God in the Beauty of the Universe ($2.24)

Indescribable DVD ($9.88)

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My Students Don’t Know How To Have a Conversation
“Recently I stood in front of my class, observing an all-too-familiar scene. Most of my students were covertly—or so they thought—pecking away at their smartphones under their desks, checking their Facebook feeds and texts. As I called their attention, students’ heads slowly lifted, their eyes reluctantly glancing forward. I then cheerfully explained that their next project would practice a skill they all desperately needed: holding a conversation.”

7 Things I Believe Jesus Would Say To The LGBT Community
I’d rephrase some of these but there’s good counsel here for those struggling to know what to say in our increasingly messed-up society.

Holy Alliance
Janie Cheaney: “Only a counterfeit holiness makes a divide between body and spirit”

Biblical Ethics for Medicine
Four directives to help develop biblical medical ethics.

So, You Want To Be A Professor? Why?
Say “Yes” to all seven questions before considering a doctorate. NB: “Academics spend only about 40% of their time on teaching-related tasks. Much of the rest of their days are spent on dreary email and meetings, just like other professionals.” Sometimes it’s closer to 20%.

How The Blind See Beauty (HT: Ann Voskamp)

Edulution: The Biggest Change in Higher Education

Here are Brad Lukanic’s 5 Bold Predictions For The Future of Higher Education:

1. Academic curricula will become more multi-disciplinary.

2. Education leaders will need to balance MOOCS and traditional learning.

3. Student recruitment and retention will be more important than ever.

4. Higher education needs to invest in technology

5. Higher education will explore new funding models.

The first two predictions are the most critical for Seminaries. Re #1, there must be far greater collaboration and integration of departments in order to produce well-rounded pastors. Students often complain of overlap in Seminary courses. Personally, I think the problem is unplanned and accidental overlap and the answer is much more planned, intentional, holistic overlap within departments and between departments.

The second prediction touches on the most world-shifting revolution for teachers. Gone are the days of a single curriculum and single assessment method. Also gone are the days of trying to fit on-campus courses into a MOOC or Distance Learning mold (and vice versa). Teachers are going to have to produce multiple curricula and assessment methods for each course and provide differeent students (both on and off campus) with a range of choices as to how they will learn the material, when they will learn the material, and how they will demonstrate mastery of it.

We might prefer the simpler (and easier) world. But it’s gone. And so will we, unless we adapt and change. “Edulution” anyone?