Archive for the ‘Top 3 on Tuesday’ Category

The Civil Reader–3 June 2012

I am out of town, and my schedule is a bit crazy, but I did want to post something on here so that I don’t forget how.  I only have two articles to share this week, but I really enjoyed them both.

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Why We Lie, by Dan Ariely

Okay, first of all, if you don’t find psychological studies fascinating, well…I don’t know what’s wrong with you.  Do you just not like interesting things??  Surely you do!  But even in the off chance that you a completely strange person who is not utterly riveted by such studies, KEEP READING until you get to the part about the Ten Commandments.  It is…just, wow.  I am sooo interested in fleshing out these implications.  Feel free to do so in the comments.

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The Dark Side of Healthy Eating:  Diagnosing ‘Orthoexia’ Eating Disorders, at Her.meneutics

While this article is not as hit-you-in-the-face revelatory as the first, it did put words on some vague pseudo-thoughts swirling around in my head.  After reading 7, by Jen Hatmaker, my already budding interest in healthy eating was given an ethical dimension.  However, I can’t help but notice that the desire to eat in healthy, ethical ways often butts up against the als0-very-important practice of eating communally.  This article articulates that tension in helpful ways.

And that’s really all I have.  If you have something interesting that you read this week, please leave it in the comments!

The Civil Reader–29 May 2012

Wow, I skipped last week, and now I have a million articles to share.  Thankfully, I’ve forgotten what most of them are, which leaves us with just a few!  I’d like to think that the fact that these have remained in my memory means that they are the creme de la creme.  (Don’t judge me for not knowing how to make accent marks.)

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Culture Wars and the Future of the Evangelical Political Witness, at Mere Orthodoxy

I recently realized that almost all the blogs I read are more theologically and socially liberal than I am.  The problem I have with that is that, through my blog feed, I am giving myself an unbalanced view of reality.  Thus, I decided to add some more conservative voices to my feed and have found that I really enjoy them.  One of these voices is that of Matthew Anderson, who appears to be the chief writer for the site, Mere Orthodoxy.  He is a self-identifying conservative who seems to view politics very similarly to the way I do (which, of course, means he’s right….right?).  In the past week or two, he has been grappling with the idea of Christian political involvement, and I have been very interested to read what he says.  (See also:  “We are All Culture Warriors Now (?)” and “Post-Partisan Evangelicals and the Culture Wars:  An Attempt at Clarification”).

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Love People, Not Projects, by Jamie the Very Worst Missionary

All I really have to say to this article is:  Exactly!  As a naturally task-oriented person, I have a tendency to view people as projects, and these last few years have really opened my eyes to how dehumanizing that is to others.  Instead, God is helping me to better understand His intention for relationships and for the church.  Giving was never meant to be a one-way street.  While there are one-way gifts (um, Christ’s sacrifice comes to mind), the larger intention is always a mutually-participatory relationship.  And I have to tell you from experience that going about it that way is much more rewarding and exciting than the drudgery and ineffectiveness of trying to “save the world.”

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This last section is tricky because the article I read was merely a gateway to another idea.  See, when I read Why Africa Needs a Study Bible, at Gospel Coalition, I was immediately distracted by the fact that the interviewee, Matthew Elliot, has written two books called, Feel:  The Power of Listening to Your Heart, and Faithful Feelings:  Rethinking Emotion in the New Testament.  I then quickly got lost in the reviews of these books and was very intrigued.  As I have alluded before on this blog, I have long been distrustful of the elevation of pure reason over emotion.  Instead, I see them both as tools given to us by God, both of which can be distorted.  In fact, sometimes I think that distorted reason is far more dangerous than distorted emotion.

Oddly, another article backed up my theory this week:  Richard Beck’s Orthodox Alexithymia.  In this thought-provoking article, he argues,

For the Greeks emotion was error-prone and wild. Consequently, the wise person would use reason to subdue, tame, and guide the emotions. Thus the vision of the detached, cool, and cerebral philosopher.

We now know that the Greeks got this wrong. When emotion is decoupled from reason we have something that looks like sociopathy.

He backs this up with some medical jargon about how the brain works and then extends the implications to religion:

When theology and doctrine become separated from emotion we end up with something dysfunctional and even monstrous.

I found myself agreeing with almost all of it.  For one thing, I would argue that the Bible warns us about trusting our intellect more than it does trusting our emotions.  But the bottom line for me is that everyone uses emotions to make decisions; emotion and reason are inextricably intertwined, and rightly so.  That is how God designed us.  Thus, the best thing people can do is to admit the emotions that play a part in their every decision, for the degree to which they believe that they are using reason apart from emotion is the degree to which they are delusional.

But that’s just my two cents on the matter.

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I know I read more good stuff, but that’s all I can remember.  What have you been reading lately?

The Civil Reader–15 May 2012

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Civil Reader.  Since Mother’s Day was on Sunday (I had a wonderful one; thanks for asking!), I thought I would start by sharing a couple of blogs on the subject.

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How to Miss a Childhood

As someone who struggles to always be “present” for my children, I needed this little reminder.  Greg and I were just talking today about how we sometimes fear that our smart phones and the internet are rewiring our brains and making it impossible to just sit still and “be” for more than a few minutes.  Reading this blog gave me inspiration in my fight against internet distraction, and I reaped the benefits this week.  For example, I let Anna watch a video on my phone in the carpool line this afternoon.  Usually, I grow quickly bored without something to read, but today, I just adjusted the rearview mirror to watch her face while she watched the screen…and let me tell you, that was the real show.  I learned that, when watching a video, Anna’s brow furrows into a slight frown of concentration for most of the program, interrupted only by short, fleeting smiles or completely abrupt bursts of quick laughter, which meld back into her concentration frown almost as quickly as they come.  I spent the fifteen minutes of her video just marveling at the complexity of her features.  What a gift she is!

Where is the Mommy-War for the Motherless Child? by Kristen Howerton at Rage Against the Minivan

Kristen wrote this in response to the controversial Time magazine cover.  Only an excerpt from the blog itself will do it justice

I don’t much care if you breastfed your kid until they started kindergarten, or if you fed them formula from day one. I don’t really care if you turned your infant car-seat forward-facing prior to age 2, or if you homeschool, or if you send your kids to daycare while you go to work. Do you cosleep? Did you circumcise your son? I DON’T CARE.  Do you babywear? Push your kid around in a stroller? Use a leash for your kid at Disneyland?  Whatever.  Good for you.

When it comes to issues of motherhood, there is one issue I care about: some kids don’t have one.

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On the Bible front, I enjoyed the following three articles

Let Them Both Grow Together, by Richard Beck at Experimental Theology

If I’ve ever heard a sermon on the parable of the weeds, I have forgotten it.  Thus, the story is always a treasure to find on my tours through the Bible.  It doesn’t take much to make this story come to life, because it really speaks for itself, but I like Beck’s thoughts here.  His one misstep, in my opinion, is when he makes a small, misguided attempt to label weeds–something the parable seems to speak against.  But I can understand the impulse; I think it is part of human nature to want to classify.  I, particularly, should have been a Victorian (hello, binomial nomenclature!) because I love the idea of separating things into parts and organizing them by kind.  Thus, I am naturally prone to applying such labels as “wheat” and “chaff.”  Maybe that’s why I find Jesus’ words here to be so instructive.

We are the Pharisees, by Jenny Rae Armstrong

When I first read Luke Timothy Johnson’s description of the Pharisees a few years ago, I was immediately filled with sympathy for them.  After all, unlike most of the Israelites in the Old Testament, the Pharisees were zealous for the Law and passionate about keeping it.  Honestly, if I didn’t have Jesus’ words to contradict them, I would probably think they were right on, based on my understanding of the Law from reading the OT.  I mean, keeping the particulars of the Law was important to God.  Think Uzzah.  Think Nadab and Abihu.  Think Moses’ blessings and curses.  The Pharisees probably worked harder at staying between the lines than any generation before them.  And yet…they missed it.  My sympathy for them is part of what made Jenny Armstrong’s article resonate with me.  I think we naturally have such a knee-jerk defensiveness when it comes to being described as a Pharisee that  we immediately dismiss it.  To do so, however, misses the many important lessons that they can teach us.  They are more than just mustache-twirling cartoons.

God Behaving Badly, Part One, by Frank Viola (an interview with David Lamb)

I was excited to see this interview, as Lamb’s book, God Behaving Badly, is on my must-read-soon list.  The full title is God Behaving Badly:  Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist, and Racist?  In this interview, Viola plays devil’s advocate and asks Lamb some tough questions about God’s behavior in the OT.  I even threw in a question of my own in the comments, and Lamb gave a helpful response.  There is also a part 2 of the series, which is also good.

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And lastly, here is a great read that is about so much more than the recent NC vote:

A Challenge to Both Sides of the Amendment One Debate, by Justin Lee at Crumbs from the Communion Table.

As a “Side B” Christian who “believes that the church has mishandled its response to homosexuality,” even as I affirm that the male/female relationship in marriage is God’s plan for sexuality, I really appreciated Justin Lee’s grace-filled response to Amendment One here.  I think he shares concepts that we all need to keep in mind during this election season and beyond.

The Civil Reader–8 May 2012

I took a little blogging break last week because I was extremely busy and because I wanted to spend some time thinking about why I blog.  It was a nice, somewhat clarifying week to me, and now I’m ready to jump back into the game.  I have several plans for new directions to take, and one of them is to try to orient my blog more tightly around the “Kingdom Civics” theme.  To that end, one simple change I made was renaming my “Top Three on Tuesday” column something more fitting to my theme.  “The Civil Reader” is pretty lame…but I kind of like it.  I’m a nerd when it comes to themes, and to me, this new name serves my purpose better.  The purpose of this weekly feature, after all, is to curate articles that will help us be more “civil minded,” in the Kingdom sense.  (That said, I’m definitely linking to an article on kids drinking “beer” at the bottom, simply because it cracked me up.)  Also, I’m tired of having to limit it to three articles.  Since it’s been two weeks, I have lots of articles to share, and I want more freedom in that regard. I’m also going to interact more with the articles.  Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments!

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The Disease of Building Theology in the Theoretical or “A Needed Corrective to Our Polarizing Discourse”, by Jon Huckins at Red Letter Christians

Recently, I read a blog (I have no idea where, or I would give credit) questioning the absence of female voices in the theological blogosphere.  The author, a woman herself, went on to suggest several possible reasons why women shy away from discussing theological issues, either on their own blogs or the comments sections of other, more well-known blogs.  One of her hypotheses was that even when women do write about theological matters, their blogs tend more toward “memoir-style” writing than strictly theological.  For some reason, I sensed a hint of dismissiveness in this description, and it gave me pause.  I started my own blog, after all, to discuss theological matters, and not because I was trying to make a name for myself or “get ahead” in the blogging world (whatever that means), but because…well, because I am interested in theological matters.  However, I do tend more toward memoir-style writing, and that is very much on purpose, although I don’t think it is because I am a woman.  You see, over the years, I seem to have developed a spiritual allergy when it comes to matters of faith separated from concrete action.  As much as I love talking about God, too much talking makes me antsy, and I feel the overwhelming need to actually do something real about it.  It’s like a nervous tic, and sometimes it can be a bad thing.  For example, this tic led me to blow a whole essay question on the final for one of my college Bible classes.  Instead of answering the question, I calculated (and accepted) the hit to my grade and then teed off on my disillusionment with the content of the class.  As much as I loved my professor, I was so disgruntled with the idea of all these erudite biblical scholars devoting their whole lives to sitting around and talking about the Bible.  My whole “essay” was somewhat misguided and more than a touch judgmental, but like I said, my obsession with corresponding action is a quirk I can’t seem to shake.  That same year, a group of us started our current church, and I may or may not have driven everyone crazy with my insistence on sticking to our “launch” date.  I was just so worried that if we pushed it back, we wouldn’t start it at all.  I hated the idea of us just sitting around talking about it. We did end up pushing back the date a few weeks (definitely a good call), but thankfully, it did start!

Nervous tics aside, my point is that, to me, there is something so sterile about discussing matters of faith in a strictly theoretical way, apart from the actual application of actual life.  This article does a good job of articulating those ideas, and it does so by contrasting the faith of Christians in the “first world” with Christians in the “third world.”  There is also the tacit suggestion that the reason we get caught up in theological disputes is because we have too much time on our hands.  I agree.

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It’s Not Complementarianism; it’s Patriarchy, by Rachel Held Evans

The thesis of this article is neatly contained in the title, but what intrigued me the most was the opening, where Evans quotes the dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Seminary.  This dean laments his theory that many marriages that would define themselves as “complementarian” (where the male is the head of the household) are actually “egalitarian” (where both partners are treated as equals) in practice.   Reading that, I realized that my own marriage could probably be described that way.  I was raised to take the Bible fairly literally– a habit which can be quite troublesome when one reads Jesus’ words–and so I’ve always embraced the Christ-church model of marriage in Ephesians 5.  And yet, in my marriage, my husband certainly does not act as “lord.”

These thoughts led to a very interesting conversation between Greg and me that evening as we contemplated what to do for dinner.  We had gift cards to Outback, but it was Friday night, and we didn’t want to have to wait for a table.  I suggested take-out, but Greg has this real bias against take-out from nice restaurants.  He says the food gets too cold, and he doesn’t want good food to get cold before he eats it.  I laughed at him, told him he was crazy, and said how we always got take-out growing up.  I even mentioned that my mom and I have gotten take-out from Carrabba’s a couple times here, and it is always fine.  He still was not for “blowing” our gift cards on take-out, so we didn’t do it.  It was as simple as that.  It got me thinking, though, and I told him about Evans’ article.

“The thing is,” I said, “I don’t think I acquiesced to your preferences because you are the ‘man,’ but because I love you, and I would not want to spend ‘our’ resources on something you would not enjoy.  There were no gender issues at work right there.  I respect you as a person, not simply as a man.”

Greg agreed, and added a great twist:  “Exactly.  It’s just like when you are crazy and don’t want to eat at Baja Burrito, we always eat somewhere else–even though Baja Burrito is awesome.  Because even though I think you are insane, why would I insist on eating somewhere that you didn’t want to eat?  That’s stupid.” It’s true.  Baja Burrito is awesome, but I haven’t been in the mood for it for months.

We paused.  “I know some husbands who would insist on the restaurant,” I said.  Greg laughed.  “I do, too, and they would think they were exercising their God-given rights as men.”

The bottom line is that Greg agreed that, whatever we said about our marriage, it is pretty egalitarian.  The thing is, though, I still think our marriage is based on Ephesians 5.  The section starts in verse 21, where Paul tells husbands and wives to “submit to one another, out of reverence for Christ.”  And the very idea of embodying Christ in a marriage (the husband’s role) would seem to suggest radical self-sacrifice and service to one’s family.  To me, my husband embodies that really well.

I don’t know…the whole thing just made me think about that idea of a “biblical marriage” and what that is supposed to look like.  I agree with the commenter on iMonk’s open forum yesterday, who said, “Personally I feel what other people do in their marriages is their business. But I do get tired of people holding up their marriages as the “Biblical” example.”  So just to be clear, I’m not holding up Greg’s and my restaurant dealings as “the biblical example”; it just made me think about how our marriage looks different from what I’ve sometimes been told is the biblical example.  And not just in terms of restaurant choices.

Okay, I’m going to stop rambling about every article.  (Clearly, my blogging break took its toll on me.  I have a lot of words to get out!)

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An Apology to the Democrats (and Jesus), by Marla Taviano

I’m not even a Democrat, and I’m tempted to accept this apology.

Or give it!

In light of my thoughts, actions, and experiences over the last ten years, I’m kind of in a position to do both.

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Wounded Healers and Healed Healers:  Physician Heal Thyself, by Jennifer Dawn Watts at Red Letter Christians.

From a ministry standpoint, this one is really good.  Over the years, I have become more and more aware of the inherent brokenness of ministers (due to their humanity), and I’ve also seen several people whose pasts and predilections pose particular problems in ministry (I was not even trying to get that alliteration!  Sweet!).  I’ve often wondered about this conundrum of “wounded healers,” especially when some of the wounds are so…obvious.  This article gives me a lot of hope, as well as a reminder that we don’t have to be perfect to serve in the Kingdom.

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Oppressors, Activists, and Spiritual Stinginess:  St. Paul’s Guide to Praying Better Prayers, by Jenny Rae Armstrong

This is a wonderful read on Philemon, full of that practical application I was talking about.  Plus, Armstrong highlights a dynamite prayer by Paul that I had never paid attention to before.  Seriously, it’s a great verse–I bet you’ve never noticed it!

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Missing, by Michelle DeRusha at Rachel Held Evans’ blog.

As one whose faith grows and shifts with each passing year, I could really relate to DeRusha’s predicament of passing on her “faith” to her children.  Like her, I have to say, “I don’t know” more than I would like to admit.

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When Sex Sells and Provides, by Tim Fall at Think Christian

Faithful blog commenter, Tim Fall, muses on the decline of our culture from his perspective as a judge.  As suggested by the title, much of his reflection centers around the way our society, as well as others, views sex.  Even though many of us don’t interact with strippers in our day job, I think we can see the truth of his words just by turning on the tv occasionally.

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Waiting, by Courtney Steed at Living Peacefully Less Stressed

My dear friend, Courtney, is currently in a season of “waiting” on God.  I know how hard, yet fruitful, these seasons can be, and I love her words here.

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The Time the Kids and I Drank Beer at Target, by Kristen Howerton at Rage Against the Minivan

Okay, this one is just funny.  As a mom who is “a little bit Amish when it comes to soda and the kids,” I found it all the more amusing.  Thank goodness my kids don’t have a great idea of what beer is, either, or I could completely see this happening in our own lives!

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Well, those are the interesting articles I found this week.  Do you have any interesting reads?

Top Three on Tuesday

I’ve been toying with the idea of retooling some parts of my blog to bring them more in line with the overall theme.  For my “Top 3 on Tuesday” posts, that basically means changing the title to incorporate something about civics.  I’m picturing something that conveys 1) the Kingdom civics theme, 2) the fact that it is a collection of pertinent articles, and 3) that it is a weekly feature.  Any ideas?

While you chew on that, I’ll share my top 3 this week:

The Sane Ones, from Experimental Theology

The sanity of Eichmann is disturbing. We equate sanity with a sense of justice, with humaneness, with prudence, with the capacity to love and understand other people. We rely on the sane people of the world to preserve it from barbarism, madness, destruction. And now it begins to dawn on us that it is precisely the sane ones who are the most dangerous.

The bulk of this article (including the above excerpt) is quoted from Thomas Merton.  Some of it resonates with my thoughts on the human capacity for evil, and it also echoes some of my concerns about our tendency to always elevate the logical and dispassionate as morally superior.

Forgo, from Millions of Miles

I am among the 1-3% wealthiest persons of the world. Not because of my income, but simply because I have a bed and access to clean water. To realize I am just like the man to whom Christ spoke in Luke 6:24 is a horrible feeling.

When did retirement become one of life’s biggest goals? When did comfort become the deciding factor in all major decisions? What happened to living like foreigners in the land in which we live (1 Peter 2:11)?

The excerpt from this article is also a quote from a third source, and this time, that source is the creator of an app called Forgo.  I loved the idea behind the app, and even if I don’t end up personally using it (mainly b/c I want to choose my own charities), I was inspired to incorporate the premise into my own life.

A Ban on “Biblical,” from Internet Monk

I made a New Year’s resolution this year: I will try my best to avoid using the adjective “Biblical” to describe what I think “the Bible teaches.” The use of this word as a prescriptive adjective to promote positions and convictions is rampant among Christians. The problem is, it usually obscures more than it enlightens, hurts rather than helps, and stops discussion dead in its tracks rather than promoting good conversation.

Chaplain Mike goes on to list the necessary caveats, but on the whole, I totally agree with his point.  It’s funny because the verses we read in our Wednesday night class last week talked about the banning of oaths.  One of the comments I read on that passage was that people used oaths to claim that God was on their side and basically to stop the conversation.  It was a power play.  It seems sometimes that we do the same thing with the word, “biblical.”  After all, if you claim that your view is “biblical,” and someone disagrees, does that mean that he or she is un-biblical?  That seems to be what’s implied!

Did you read anything interesting this week?

Top 3 on Tuesday

Due to the unprecedented reaction of having not one, but two–TWO–responses to last week’s always-highly-anticipated “Top 3 on Tuesday,” I am keeping the tradition alive, even though I’m fresh out of blogs to share.  Instead, I’ll just link to three good articles I’ve read in the past week.

By far, the most moving one for me was, “My Father’s Son,” by Jamie the Very Worst Missionary.  I think it is one of those that either hits you or it doesn’t, but I immediately teared up at the line that inspires the title.  Again, I can’t really explain why it hit me so strongly, but it did.  It’s short and sweet and profound.

Other than that, there were not any articles that really rocked my world.  However, I did find two articles about Facebook that were interesting.  Other than their subject matter, they have little in common, but I’m going to force them together nevertheless.  In “More Connected and Never Lonelier?”, Chaplain Mike quotes a super-long article from The Atlantic about loneliness.  Though I didn’t read the whole Atlantic article, the idea of social networks ultimately making us lonelier is an interesting one.  I would love to hear other’s thoughts on that.

In a completely different vein, I read the practical article, “Facebook Etiquette for Christians”, when it was shared–of course–by a friend on Facebook.  It is incredibly unfortunate that the title is misspelled (I had to correct it on here), but other than that little snafu, I thought it had some good tips.  The biggest idea it raised in my mind, though, was how do I best use Facebook to glorify God?  I love the idea of being purposeful in all my actions, including social networking.  Thus, I wasn’t moved or convicted or inspired by any one tip in this article; rather, it spurred me on to think more carefully about my actions on Facebook in general.

Okay, now that I’ve shared my Top 3, has anyone else read anything interesting?

Top 2 on…Oh, Forget It

Alright, so apparently I don’t read as many blogs as I thought I did. Thus, I believe that this will be the last week of “Top 3 on Tuesday,” at least until I find another cool blog to share. Perhaps in the future, this will continue as a sporadic series. Really, though, who can tell at this point?

Since the purpose of this series was to share some good reads, I did want to share two articles I read this week that were very timely to me. Since our family has been spending a lot of time trying to preserve our cherished “family time,” I read with interest two articles that dealt with that very subject.

The first was from her.meneutics (say, that’s another blog I read, albeit not regularly). It was called, “Mourning the Death of Family-Friendly TV”, and to be honest, I started reading it thinking I was going to get on my high horse regarding the lack of quality broadcasting these days. Instead, I ended up on my high horse regarding the need for quality time as a family. I know, I know–I shouldn’t get on my high horse. It’s bad and prideful. I’m working on it.

(But it was a good read.)

Then, I was very surprised to read the latest entry in the “What I Want You to Know” series over at Rage Against the Minivan. It was written by a teenager who was mourning the fact that her mom went back to work three days a week (ahem). Much of what she wrote sounds, um, retro (read: backwards) by today’s standards, and so I was a little surprised it was posted on such a “forward thinking” blog. However, it was honest and heartfelt, even with all the solipsism that one would expect from a teenager. Plus, it really made me think about the way my employment decisions affect my kids.

I honestly did search for a third blog to fit this theme of “the counter-cultural preservation of the family structure,” but I came up short. Thus, you only get a “Top 2.” Sorry about that. If you find a third, I’d love to read it!

Have you read anything good this week?

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