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Snow Angels – Free Jazz/Bluesy Original Christmas Themed Album by Over The Rhine

Sometimes Christmas means the blues.
Over The Rhine‘s 2006 album of original Christmas themed songs Snow Angels is smooth and softly jazz/blues infused, celebrating (if that’s the word) the fact that sometimes Christmas is not the happiest day of the year.
I got it for free from Noisetrade.
The Noisetrade notes suggest that folks who like Norah Jones, Emmylou Harris, The Civil Wars, Bon Iver, Billie Holiday may be interested.
Even thought it’s free, you can pre-listen at the Noisetrade page.

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Drowned Buildings

I love the concept of unused portions of buildings or abandoned buildings.
Any opportunity to look around is irresistible.
This post on drowned buildings from The World Geography evokes all sorts of curiosity.
Here’s one. See the rest.

St. Nicholas Church, Macedonia


The church of St. Nicholas in Mavrovo, Macedonia was built in 1850 and stood for a 153 years until it was decided an artificial lake was needed in the village. At one point the church was fully submerged, but it keeps rising again, especially in summer with the droughts of the 21st century. [link, map]

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All I Need – CeeLo Green featuring The Muppets

This is generic holiday fare, but it features The Muppets.
Everything’s better with Muppets.
I have no idea who CeeLo is, but if The Muppets vouch for him…
And there’s a very familiar riff that’s been sampled in the chorus.
And on Saturday I start featuring 25 days (at least) of real Christmas songs.

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Fighting Inward Drift During Church Budget Season (via Thom Rainer)

This week we’re putting together mgpc’s 2013 proposed ministry and mission plan and budget.
I mentioned last year why it will be always be planned in deficit, because maintenance is death.
But another concern is expressed in these points from a post by Thom Rainer which deals with the drift which all institutions and groups experience, an ongoing temptation to forsake their original purpose by allowing a historical expression by which they sought to achieve that purpose to become their new reason for existing.
Read Rainer’s whole post here.
Here are five signs of inward drift for churches.

Signs of Inward Drift in Established Churches
The signs of inward drift in an established church are clear even though the members don’t often recognize them:

  1. Most of the ministries and programs are focused on meeting the desires and needs of the members.
  2. The budget of the congregation is directed primarily at funding the projects and even comforts of the members.
  3. Conflict in the congregation is not uncommon since members are more concerned about getting their perceived needs and desires met.
  4. There is little to no focus on evangelism, reaching out to the community, and getting the gospel to the nations.
  5. Leadership is weak and reticent to address the problems, because that leadership emphasis could disrupt the status quo.

These points are never far from our thinking.
Additionally the challenge of not simply casting a communal vision, but enabling everyone to feel they are an active part in striving toward that vision is always before us.
We’re not complacent about how we’re going.

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Monday Preacher’s Blues: Seven Signs The Sermon Is Nearly Over (via Jon Acuff)

Jon Acuff provides seven signs the sermon is nearly over.
Don’t know if I gave any of these yesterday.
Everyone did a good job of not obviously looking for them.

7 ways to know a sermon is about to end:

1. “In closing…”
This is an old school sermon ender. When you hear this phrase, you’ve got about 7 minutes left.

2. “If I could leave you with one thing today…”
When I hear this, I kick everything else out of my head and laser focus. The “one thing” approach is like a grenade of knowledge that is about to be dropped.

3. “As we’re wrapping up…”
Technically, not accurate, since only the pastor should be wrapping up. Hopefully the crowd isn’t zipping up Bibles or gathering stuff while he’s trying to close the sermon. That’s distracting.

4. The band starts to materialize like musical mist.
Wait a second, is that a guitar player slowly creeping onto the stage all quiet like? Did the drummer just arise out of the floor to sit behind his kit?

5. The pastor closes his Bible.
Class is over. We took a good look at the good book and now we’re done.

6. The pastor sneaks a peek at the clock and gets nervous.
I’m not a pastor, but occasionally you’ll see me do this when I’m speaking. A lot of churches have clocks on the back walls indicating how much time you have to speak. And they count backwards. When you go over your time they start flashing red. If you ever see a pastor look up, as if to the heavens, and get “insta-sweaty” it’s because he’s way behind.

7. They start talking faster.
I have two talking speeds – Fast and wicked fast. If I realize I’m out of time but still have 2 main points to share, I speed up. Like a ninja. Or a cheetah. Or a ninja cheetah, the fastest of all martial arts jungle cats.

Those are the signs a sermon is about to end. If on the other hand a pastor takes his coat off, removes his watch or says, “Today I want to talk about …” forget it, that sermon is no where near over.

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Video Diary #9

Fresh on the internet, here’s Peter Jackson’s latest video diary which covers the post production of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which he promises will be finished two or so days before its release next month.
Next Month!

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Five Ways To Combat Insecurity As A Pastor Or Leader (via Ron Edmondson)

The first and last of these have proved to be very helpful over the years.
Not easy to do, but very helpful.
The importance of a of a leadership team of complementary skills and not clones is helpful, too.
There are lots of constructive suggestions in the comment thread of the original post, as well.
From Ron Edmondson:

5 ways to deal with insecurity as a pastor or leader:

Avoid comparisons – Insecurity often develops when a person compares his or herself to another. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Be yourself. Realize that who God designed you to be is not a mistake. Obviously, someone believed in your abilities as a leader. You need to stop comparing and start living in your own skin.
Concentrate on your abilities – What are you good at? Make a list of your good qualities. You probably have more than you think you do. In times of feeling insecure we often forget. Keep your list handy. It will help you to feel more confident if you focus more on the positives than the negatives.
Surround yourself with people who complement your weaknesses – Part of having a healthy organization is the strength that comes from different people. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are probably people who can do things you don’t feel comfortable doing. It’s not a sign of weakness to get others involved. It’s actually a sign of strength as a leader. (And its a more Biblical model of the church.)
Keep learning – Seek wisdom from other leaders. Read books. Take additional classes. Knowledge is power. The more you grow in information the more competent you will feel in your role. (By the way, when I feel overwhelmed or insecure, I read the stories like that of Gideon, Moses, Joseph, David, or Joshua repeatedly. Great encouragement.)
Ultimately, find your identity in what’s really secure – You have a relationship with Christ. Remember, “You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength”. If you are facing insecurity in leadership you may have to simply get better at walking by faith. “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)