This Week’s Links

Internet1Each week on the blog I get to share some of what I have seen, read, and found interesting and thought provoking over the past week. To help make sense of all of these links, I have grouped them by the following categories: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Stewardship; Vocation; and Miscellaneous. As you might guess, this week’s set of links include a number of Christmas related posts and topics. I hope that you enjoy these links, and that you have a Merry Christmas!

Church and Ministry Thoughts & Practice

For those of you preparing for worship or writing a sermon for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or the first Sunday of Christmas, I have some links for you! First, check out Bishop Michael Rinehart’s look at “Christmas C and Christmas 1C.” Then dig into the gospel passages and thoughts about preaching on Christmas which friend and professor Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis shares in writing about, “The Need for Christmas Preaching,” and “Divine and Human Favor.”

Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, shared a Christmas message in this video, “It is nearly Christmas.”

I shard my now weekly post as mission developer at Messiah Lutheran Church, reflecting about telling the story, Christmas carols, and evangelism in “Go Tell it on the Mountain.” This week’s post looks at North County’s practices related to communion as well as some community observations about prayer in worship in, “Christmas, Communion and Prayer.”

Are you looking for a faith community to worship as part of this Christmas? If so, I invite you to find a congregation near you here.  If you are in the vicinity of Vancouver, Washington, I invite you to join me Christmas Eve at Messiah Lutheran Church for worship at 10:30am, 5pm, 7pm, 9pm, and/or 11pm.

Pastor and blogger Nurya Love Parish shared a very helpful post for congregations and faith communities this week of the year, in sharing bout “How to invite 1000 people to your church for Christmas- in 20 minutes for $20.” Think it’s too good to be true? Check out Nurya’s post to see how.

Christina Embree shared some thoughts about why she doesn’t like church Christmas programs. These are some interesting thoughts. I think Christina is on to something especially in moving toward the importance of cross-generational and inter-generational ministry. I’m not an advocate for getting rid of Christmas programs, rather, one who would advocate for them being more intentional and part of the worship experience of the congregation involving the entire congregation. My mom comes to mind as an example of a person who has written countless programs for different congregations which are contextually relevant to them, and incorporate different parts and members of the faith community as away of building community. At its best, I think that’s what a Christmas program does. At its worst, it’s just an opportunity to put kids up front in worship and say, “how cute.” What do you think?

My brother Thomas and his friend Mingo Johnson at Redeemer Lutheran on Easter Sunday.
My brother Thomas and his friend Mingo Johnson at Redeemer Lutheran on Easter Sunday.

Jason Chesnut moderated last week’s Church and Social Media (#ChSocM) chat which looked at “The Underside of Christmas.” Questions that were pondered included: “How do we understand and engage Christmas from the underside?”

Consultant Joy Skjegstad told the story of “Building community through arts ministry,” a story about Redeemer Lutheran in Minneapolis, my brother Thomas’ church.

Jan Edmiston shared a list of five people who are her “Most Intriguing People of Faith in 2015.” Who would you put on your list like this?

I have sad news to share as Rev. Dr. Dick Foege passed away recently. My grandpa served as visitation pastor on staff with Pastor Foege for most of the 1990’s in Tacoma.

Melanie Grayce West wrote about Pastor Emily Scott in The Wall Street Journal, writing, “Pastor Forges a New Path in Brooklyn.”

Bishop Michael Rinehart shared some thoughts about “Creating a Growing Volunteer Army in Your Church.”

Cross-Sector Collaboration

In an exciting update, Gabriel Spitzer shares news that “PLU and UW Say They’ll Consider an Outside Bid for KPLU.”

NWB shared a timely and seasonally titled post, “‘I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas’ and other nonprofit holiday songs.”

Adi Gaskell shared some thoughts about “How text messaging can support behavior change in health care.” What do you think?

For those of you who work from home, like I do often, Michelle Schroeder-Gardner shared some “Tips for Staying Sane When Working From Home.”

Social leadership theorist Julian Stodd unpacked, “Holistic Adaptation: the Mindset of Future Organizations.” Julian also shared about his team’s virtual Christmas party, a party connected across time and space.

Leadership Thought & Practice

Gini Dietrich shared a look at “Eight PR Trends for 2016.” The trends that she outlines are: better content marketing; content as product; livestreaming; private communities; paid amplification; virtual reality; semantic search; and measurement, measurement, measurement.

Justin Irving continued his look at “The Power of Vision.”

Jody Thone, her daughter, and my wife Allison
Jody Thone, her daughter, and my wife Allison

Friend, leader, and coach Jody Thone reflected about her recent “TEDGlobal Journey.”

Dan Rockwell shared this look, and an invitation to enter a contest for a free book, in writing about “The Reason Organizations Don’t Change.”

Janet Britcher shared some thoughts about “How to Manage Toxic Employees.”

Dan Forbes at Lead with Giants shared a summary and thoughts about a recent tweetchat discussing, “Women vs. Men in Leadership.” Check out some of the lessons learned, ideas, and questions discussed.

Speaking of women leaders, Anne Loehr shared this look at women leaders in writing, “Pioneers of the Better Way: 5 Women Blaze a Trail Toward the Future of Work.” The five women that Anne shares about are: Sara Sutton Fell; Katie Kendall; Rhiannon Ruff; Maria Simon; and Jessica DeGroot.

Anne Loehr also wrote that, “Future Focused Leaders Create Cultures of Purpose.”

David Hasenbalg asked, “Are You Blind to Your Organization’s Culture?” That’s an important question to consider.

Lolly Daskal wrote and shared, “10 Seconds to Take Your Leadership from Good to Great.”

Scott Savage at Thin Difference unpacked “7 Benefits of Tough Conversations.” The benefits he highlights are that: tough conversations communicate value; they reveal blind spots; they stretch our leadership; they can increase trust and respect; they clarify the future; they create opportunities for growth; and can focus your development and coaching. If you needed a reason to have that tough conversation you have been avoiding, here are seven good reasons to take the courageous step to have the conversation.


Heidi Oran at Thin Difference wrote and asked, “Are You Serious About Chasing Your Dream?” Within this post, Heidi shared five questions that dream-chasers can ask themselves: Is it really what you want? Are you overly attached? Are you ready to hustle? Are you prepared to be in it for the long haul? And, are you flexible enough to welcome necessary change?

The Chicago Tribune shared this article, “In defense of millennials, the entrepreneur generation.”

Stefanie O’Connell wrote and shared, “Millennials and Money: The Stories Behind the Stats.”

Erin at Young Adult Money shared, “4 Insurance Policies All Millennials Need to Have.” Erin particularly highlights: renters/home owners insurance; health insurance; life insurance; and car insurance.

Amanda Oliver wrote about, “What Every Millennial Wishes You Understood About Student Loan Debt.”

Kern Carter wrote and shared, “What a Great Time to be Young and Creative.”

Joelle Thomas wrote and shared, “Climate Change and Millennials: The Future is In Our Hands.”

Neighbor Love

This time of year can be hard for people, especially those who are grieving or lonely. In response to this faith communities often offer, “Blue Christmas,” “Longest Night,” or “Comfort and Hope” services. The church that my wife Allison and I are currently serving this year had a Comfort and Hope service last week, and Allison preached, sharing this message that, “Hope is Terrible I Mean Great: Blue Christmas.” Even if I say so myself, it was a beautiful and powerful message. I was moved by her stories and connection, as well as her closing thoughts, which she wrote: “The love, respect, and trust of others that I was seeking did not come from my checking off my list of things successful adults do. It came from God. It’s a big risk to hope – but I’ve found that you don’t find God’s hope and God’s peace by being right. You find it, by being open—which is SO hard, trust me, but God has never been about clenched fists, and has always been about an open hand. I wish I had a 1-2-3 step process for you, but I’m kind of glad I don’t. Because none of us can find peace from a list, or a checklist. We find peace when we fall on our knees, with our faces set to the rising sun, realizing God’s been there all along. It’s the most unglamorous picture, but it’s where we’re tired, and muddy, and we’re done dwelling in fear that change can happen, and in our darkness shines a glimmer of light. I hope you see that glimmer, if not tonight in the days to come, like I saw in my friend, because God’s hope holds you tonight and shines on you in the rising sun. Let it be so.” Please go and read the whole reflection, you will be glad you did.

Friend and pastor Chris Nelson shared this post about, “The Shoulder Season of Advent.”

"With Joy" by Vonda Drees
“With Joy” by Vonda Drees

Friend, blogger, and artist Vonda Drees shared a number of beautiful posts over the past week. These posts included: “lovestruck“; “let it be in me“; “with joy“; “God’s faithful companionship“; “courage to come home“; “lean our weary heads…“; and “Courage!

Vonda also shared and reblogged this post by Jody Thomae, “Create-A-Day: your daily dose of creativity #244- More Advent Resources!

Friend and fellow LEAD leader, Lynn Willis wrote about “God’s Creative Agape.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Aaron Fuller shared his sermon for this past weekend based on Luke 1:5-13, 57-80, “The Unexpected: Advent & John.”

Also based on the same text, friend, pastor, and blogger Frank Johnson shared his sermon, “God of the dawn break.

My friend Hannah Heinzekehr and The Mennonitehave been sharing a daily Advent series. Among the posts I have particularly enjoyed over the past week are this one by Megan Ramer, and this one by Melissa Florer-Bixler entitled, “God our midwife and and mother.”

Friend, blogger, pastor, and Ph.D. student Mandy Brobst-Renaud wrote and reflected about “The Song We Didn’t Know We Knew.”

I continued my journey through Advent with the Advent Photo Devotional, including posts titled: “Gates & Open“; “Bring“; “Voices“; “Join“; and “Singing.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Diane Roth reflected about “Advent Four.”

Meta Herrick Carlson shared a beautiful and powerful post which I hope you will check out, “this is the time.”

Friend, intern pastor, and blogger Matt Byrd wrote and shared, “The one where I think about Christmas.

I’m sure you love “The Charlie Brown Christmas” like I do. But have you noticed the moment Linus’ drops the blanket. Jason Soroski reflects about this in writing, “Just Drop the Blanket: The Moment You Never Noticed in a Charlie Brown Christmas.” Jason provides a good look, but I also appreciate the response that friend and pastor Erik Gronberg writes about it in “Picking the Blanket Back Up.”

Here’s a look at a potential modern rendering of the nativity entitled, “Jose y Maria,” by Everett Patterson, if it were to have happened today. I think this is quite powerful.

Marg Herder interviewed my friend and pastor-in-waiting Emmy Kegler who will be a featured speaker next month. Check out the “2016 #GCNConf- ‘weconnect’ Emmy Kegler Interview.”

Friend, blogger, and stewardship director Adam Copeland shared “An Appeal to Christians in the U.S.

Back in Minnesota, the Mall of America continues to seem like it doesn’t understand the importance of Black Lives Matter.

The Millennial Journal shares news that “Cardinal Sean O’Malley Calls for Welcoming Refugees.”

If you want to respond to the refugee crisis, consider this, “The Compassion Collective: We Stand with Love.”

Miroslav Volf wrote that, “Wheaton professor’s suspension is about anti-Muslim bigotry, not theology.” Related to this, friend and blogger Daniel Wolpert wrote that, “#Wheaton’s Move Should Not Surprise.”

My sister Tamara shared this look at “What ‘political correctness’ does and doesn’t mean,” by Parker Molloy.

In the neighbor love in action story of the week, news broke yesterday of how “Kenyan Muslims shielded Christians in Mandera bus attack.” This is the kind of solidarity we should be showing to our Muslim neighbors in the United States now. This is what solidarity looks like between people, citizens, and neighbors. Thank you to the Kenyan Muslims who shielded Christians in the bus attack. Let us all be as such neighbors in our own communities to all people.

Social Media & Blogging

Friend and blogger J.W. Wartick shared his version of the links with his “Really Recommended Posts” for the past week.


Friend, blogger, and stewardship director Adam Copeland wrote and shared, “Surprise: Connecting Advent and Stewardship.”

Bishop Michael Rinehart shared a little look at “Wesley’s Example of Giving.”

Have you thoughts about your year-end giving yet? If not, check out this post and set of reflections I shared last year on the COMPASS blog.

In the spirit of giving, I shared some thoughts on the COMPASS blog about “Giving on a Budget.”


Eric Mandel shared this great post about vocation and working through life’s challenges in the hopes of following one’s calling in writing, “From Seahawks to Costco: Kent’s Demitrius Bronson.”

Thin Difference shared a guest post by Yesenia Ye looking at the life and vocational “Balancing Act: (of) Pursuing Career and Education.”


Are you still looking for some last minute decorating ideas? Consider Amy Christie’seasiest real evergreen garland ever.”

Over the weekend my wife Allison and I had the privilege of going to see “Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens.” We loved it! So did our friend J.W. Wartick who shared this review and “Christian perspective.” Matt Zoller-Seitz also shared this review on Roger Ebert’s site. Also, if you are willing to re-consider episodes 1-3, you might want to read Ebert’s review of Episode 1. I have always been of the opinion that the public has been too hard on George Lucas and the prequel. I think it did it’s job at setting up the series. Could it have been better, probably, sure. But it was still pretty good.

Our in-progress Christmas tree
Merry Christmas from my family to your’s!

If you are like me, you find airplanes and airports fascinating. In that case, you will love this look by Emily Rueb at “The Art of Turning Around an Airplane.”


That concludes this edition of the links. I hope you have enjoyed them. As always, if you have particular questions or topics for me to think about on the blog, please share them. Also, if there are things you would like to see included in the links, please let me know that too. Just so you know, there will likely not be any links next week as I take some time off to relax during the days between Christmas and New Year’s. The links will return as normally scheduled on January 5th. Until then, I hope that you have a Very Merry Christmas, and a blessed holiday time with family, friends, and loved ones. Thank you for being a part of the conversation here on the blog this year, and I look forward to continuing it with you in 2016! -TS

Image Credits: The Links and “with joy.”

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