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News That Illustrates for Sunday, April 14th—21st

"Hearing lips, and Seeing Voices."

A recent video from Yale's Haskins Laboratory illustrates the McGurk Effect, "a perceptual illusion demonstrating that understanding speech is not just about what we hear, but also what we see." Basically, the McGurk Effect shows the integration of our senses, particularly how what we see impacts what we hear. It's a great illustration to help us think about how the way others perceive us living our lives dramatically impacts how they are able to accept and understand our message. Dissonance between one's words and one's walk is confusing, damaging, and as potentially bizarre as the McGurk Effect.

PREACHING ANGLES: Christian behavior, Hypocrisy, Integrity, Witness

The "Fearful Gift" of Suffering

New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks penned an insightful piece about the "fearful gift" of suffering last week. He talks about the irony of our culture's obsession with happiness, yet our growth through difficulty. In a stand-out quote, Brooks says: "When people remember the past, they don't only talk about happiness. It is often the ordeals that seem most significant. People shoot for happiness but feel formed through suffering." What a clear statement of one of Christianity's central tenets—that suffering, while not to be sought, is a potent catalyst for growth and even spiritual renewal. Remember that even Jesus "learned obedience through what he suffered." (Heb. 5:8)

PREACHING ANGLES: Difficulty, Sanctification, Spiritual Growth, Suffering,

Letters from Prison to the Past

Photographer Trent Bell shared a fascinating and haunting photo project recently. Titled "Reflect," the series of images overlays images of prisoners in the state of Maine with handwritten letters to their younger selves. (View the series here.) The photos are poignant snapshots of regret, kindness, too-late regret, and even self-forgiveness. Each image has its own story, told by men imprisoned for murder, robbery, sexual assault, and so on. But this quote stood out, from Jack Haycock, 41, imprisoned for drug trafficking: "I want to warn you that times will be tuff if you don't change … much more will be expected of you from these so called friends you've picked up along the way … impressing them won't be worth it, because in the end when it's you sitting in a cold cell. They'll be long gone … get to work, Jack, get clean, and avoid the madness, because you are good enough to live your dreams and not just have them in your sleep." The power of earned wisdom is deep. It's never too late to change, but some consequences can't.

PREACHING ANGLES: Advice, Change Repentance, Wisdom

Plane's Musical Flashmob … A Bit Like Church?

Most of the Australian cast of Disney's Broadway hit The Lion King were on the same plane from Brisbane to Sydney recently. The group staged a musical flashmob on board, regaling their unsuspecting fellow passengers with an acapella version of "The Circle of Life." Their joyful performance transformed a mundane flight into an unforgettable moment for the plane. Watching the video, it's easy to see how this illustrates the church's role in culture. We all share a journey with our friends, neighbors, and family members, experiencing the common, everyday occurrences of life. There may not be a lot we can do to steer the plane or ensure a safe landing—but we can sing a song, united and joyful, that brings pleasure to our companions, share beauty and meaning, and point people to Jesus.

PREACHING ANGLES: Common Good, Culture, Joy, Salt and Light

Wall Street to Workers: "Take Weekends Off"

In the world of banking everything is go, go, go. But recently some of the biggest banks on Wall Street have been saying slow, slow, slow. Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, and Citigroup have begun to tell their analysts and associates to take some weekends off. This might not seem like a big deal to most of us, but as the New York Times comments: " … in an industry in which grueling schedules are embraced as a badge of honor, it reflects a significant shift in corporate culture." Could it be that even Big Finance is beginning to see the importance of work-life balance? Scripture's vision of balanced work and rest is truly counter-cultural.

Preaching Angles: Culture, Rest, Work

"Shakespeare in Three Panels" Shows the Importance of Context in Stories

Librarian and cartoonist May Gosling sums up famous Shakespeare plays in 3 panel cartoons. The jerky, stick figure stories are abrupt and bizarre, but instantly recognizable for anyone familiar with the Bard's work. They're also a lot like how many people tell the story of the gospel. While we're quick to say "You're a sinner, Jesus died, now everything's ok." For many people less familiar than we are with the Bible or the gospel, it can be confusing, context-less, and even alienating. We don't need to be as longwinded as Hamlet to share the Christian story, but we also need to recognize that for many, three panels do not a story make.

PREACHING ANGLES: Evangelism, Gospel, Witnessing

Blind-Tested Musicians Can't Tell a Stradivarius from a Modern Violin

What's in a name? A lot, if a recent double-blind comparison of violins has anything to say about it. The test of twelve instruments old and new, including a violin made by the legendary Stradivarius, ended with a clear preference for a modern violin, and the interesting fact that players were "unable to reliably distinguish new violins from old." Would that have been the case if players had known the origins of each instrument? Given our human propensity to honor good reputations, probably not. How does this affect our views of other people and other Christians? Are we so quick to ascribe value based on a name or reputation that we can't accurately hear the true music of someone's life? Sometimes, seeing too much can be blindness.

PREACHING ANGLES: Bias, Diversity, Prejudice, Reputation,

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