• July 29 - Kathy D on Eulogy
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  • July 29 - Jeff Japinga on Eulogy
  • July 29 - the12 editor
  • July 29 - Kathy D on Refuge

Kids, Commercials, and Why Soccer Might Someday Catch on in America

From Jessica Bratt

Today's guest post comes from my friend Adam Navis. Adam is the Director of Operations for Words of Hope and is also studying the intersection of faith and writing for the focus of his D.Min. studies at Western Theological Seminary.


photo by Mikaela Deur It’s Monday, the day after Germany defeated Argentina in the World Cup Finals. I've watched more games during the 2014 World Cup than ever before (4). I was a few years ahead of the youth-soccer boom in America, but I’ve got enough younger (and international) relatives that getting together to watch the World Cup is now a thing that happens in my life.

But to watch a World Cup game, I have to go to my in-laws house because we don't have broadcast television. For five years now, our family has gotten all our television through Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and iTunes. We did this to save money, but it has also meant that our three children have grown up being able to control what they watch, when they watch it, and more significantly - they don't watch commercials!


Welcoming the Stranger

When I attended a conference in California, I came across a banner I had to have. Horizontally it said:

W- We are all related
E- Everyone makes a difference
L- Live Simply
C- Celebrate community and honor diversity
O- Only love makes a family
M- Make peace
E- Everything is connected

Immediately, my thought was this is a picture of beloved community, a place where all are welcomed, all are loved, all are valued. When I think of people leaving our churches after they have worshipped, it is my hope and prayer that they can feel this kind of welcome and know surely the presence of God was in this place.

Rev. Kirsty DePree is an associate minister at Marble Collegiate Church (RCA) in New York, New York.


Deep Practice

From Debra Rienstra

Through random book serendipity, I came across the 2009 book The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, and I’ve been reading about “talent hotbeds.” Coyle wanted to know why a certain Russian tennis academy produces a slew of champions, or the Dominican Republic a steady stream of baseball pros, or 1590s Elizabethan England an outpouring of great poets. He discovered that the answer is neither genetic mutations, nor climate, nor—I know this will come as a disappointment—aliens. The answer is practice.

Naturally, we are talking about a certain kind of practice in certain kinds of circumstances. The book is a pleasantly breathless study of what creates motivation, what constitutes great coaching or teaching, and how we learn complex skills most efficiently. If you can put together the right elements, you might just set off a bloom of talent. I found this book intriguing as a teacher, a musician, and an occasionally nagging parent (“Practice your horn!”)—and I’m sure that athletes, too, would find it useful and even inspiring.

What interested me most, though, was the idea of “deep practice” at the heart of the book. Efficient learning, the kind that results in exceptional talent, requires not just any practice, but deep practice. This is a focused, exacting form of skill-building, a kind of fierce meditation in action. Anyone can do it; you just have to learn how and then keep it up.

The reason deep practice is so effective, Coyle explains, is myelin. Myelin is a sheathing that your brain uses to coat and secure a neural pathway when you repeat a skill. The more you repeat something, the more myelin your brain creates and the greater “bandwidth” you develop for that skill. When you practice well, you build myelin quickly, and you retain and improve the skill you’re working on. So don’t practice something wrong! Then you’re just building myelin for the wrong pathway!


Black Soil--lovely dirt

From James C. Schaap


Yesterday, my neighbor came by and dumped a scoop full of black dirt on what, someday, will be--we hope--our front lawn. What some people tell me, people I trust, is that you can never have enough black dirt. 

I'm no farmer, never have been, never will be; nor am I much of a gardener, to be truthful. But there's something about that line I love:  "You can never have enough black dirt." If it was funny, it could be a Rodney Dangerfield one-liner; but it's not--it's true. "You can never have enough black dirt."

Anyway, we got it. A few days ago, we took a dying plant into a local greenhouse to get a new arrangement. The guy said he'd dig the old one out and put together some new combo for us--late season, 50% off too. He did.

But he said he put the old sad one into a spare pot he had sitting around because the old guy still had good roots. Just couldn't toss it. I like that.

Anyway, he looked up at us as if what he'd pulled out of that old pot was straight dope (this is Iowa, remember, not  Colorado).  He looked straight at me, brows furrowed. "Where'd you get that dirt anyway?" he said. 


Raspberries and Sowing

From Thomas C. Goodhart

This has been a bumper harvest year for my black raspberries! They have done well in our little churchyard space each of the last six years since I planted them but are now finally established in just the right patch. Rooted in well, aided by supportive fencing for their brambles, provided a good amount of sun but not too much they have rewarded me with plump berries for breakfast for weeks now.

It is in the light of a prodigious supply of black raspberries that I ponder and prepare for this coming Sunday’s gospel text in the Revised Common Lectionary which includes the parable of the sower from Matthew 13:

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!” “Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23)