JFK’s diary and the ‘disciplined pursuit of less’

Posted by    |    April 27th, 2017 at 5:59 am

A diary kept by a young John F. Kennedy while he was a journalist after World War II has sold at auction for $718,750. The diary was mostly typed but includes twelve handwritten pages. In it, the twenty-eight-year-old Kennedy reflects on the devastation he saw in Berlin and questions the potential of the fledgling United Nations.

Few knew that fifteen years later he would be president of the United States.

Following his service in World War II, for which he received the Navy and Marine Corp Medal for leadership and courage, Kennedy considered becoming a writer or teacher. After his older brother’s tragic death, however, his father convinced him to run for Congress. His victory in 1946 led to two terms in the Senate and his election in 1960 as the youngest president in our nation’s history. His unwavering focus on his goal explains his political success and his enduring legacy.

Greg McKeown’s bestseller, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, notes: “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.” He notes, “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”

McKeown encourages us to refuse the frustration of doing everything that is popular now, choosing instead to do the right thing for the right reason at the right time. He notes that a Non-essentialist thinks almost everything is essential, while an Essentialist thinks almost everything is nonessential. To this end, he cites Socrates’ warning, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”

Are you struggling with such barrenness today?

Your materialistic culture measures success by activity. The less we sleep and the more we work, the more applause we receive. But God measures our temporal activities by their eternal results. That’s why he calls us to fulfill his unique purpose for our lives at all costs:

“We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18).

Missionary C. T. Studd prayed,

Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Greg McKeown quotes Anna Pavlova, the Russian ballet dancer: “To follow, without halt, one aim: there is the secret to success.” Will you be a success today?

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Daily Briefing: April 27, 2017

Posted by    |    April 27th, 2017 at 5:23 am

T O P   N E W S

White House Proposes Slashing Tax Rates for Individuals and Businesses (NY Times)

“The Trump administration would double the standard deduction, essentially eliminating taxes on the first $24,000 of a couple’s earnings. It also called for the elimination of most itemized tax deductions but would leave in place the popular deductions for mortgage interest and charitable contributions.The estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, which Mr. Trump has railed against for years, would be repealed under his plan.
“As expected, the White House did not include in its plan the border adjustment tax on imports that was prized by House Republicans. However, it did express broad support for switching to a so-called territorial tax system that would exempt company earnings abroad from taxation but would encourage companies to maintain their headquarters in the United States.”

Nick Note: Did you hear about the world’s last male white rhino? It got a Tinder (a dating app) profile and is looking for love. Speaking of love, or the lack thereof, new poll numbers were released concerning President Trump. His numbers are historically low when compared to other presidents’, but the numbers do indicate more Americans (54 percent) think the country is going in the right direction. Ross Douthat, conservative columnist at the NY Times, notes this morning that things could be worse. If they do get worse, Caitlyn Jenner came out yesterday and said she would be willing to run for public office. But things are turning. For example, the House Freedom Caucus, the group of conservatives who were instrumental in blocking Mr. Trump’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act last month, gave its approval Wednesday to a new, more conservative version. House Republican leaders are considering holding a quick vote on their embattled health care bill after the group endorsed a revised version. The Republican vote-counting team is shooting for a vote Saturday. On top of this is news that broke late last night that Republicans will move forward with a short-term spending plan that will keep the government open through May 5, providing more time to negotiate a longer-term funding package. But perhaps the most interesting news is that the Trump administration is debating whether to issue a formal threat to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement. Some argue that such trade agreements take away jobs. Others argue that such agreements spur innovation, produce efficiencies, and in time create new jobs. Today, Mr. Trump will welcome the Argentine president to the White House to discuss trade issues, among other things. As you can tell, there are quite a few decisions and a number of issues facing the president. In the biblical narrative, what we want to do is not always want we need to do. Our desire is not always God’s calling (see David and the temple, 1 Chronicles 29). However, God’s wisdom, presence, and guidance is always available (James 1:5, Matthew 28:20, Psalm 23).

Isis faces exodus of foreign fighters as its ‘caliphate’ crumbles (The Guardian)

“Large numbers of foreign fighters and sympathisers are abandoning Islamic State and trying to enter Turkey, with at least two British nationals and a US citizen joining an exodus that is depleting the ranks of the terror group.
“Dozens more foreigners have fled in recent weeks, most caught as they tried to cross the frontier, as Isis’s capacity to hold ground in Syria and Iraq collapses. Some – it is not known how many – are thought to have evaded capture and made it across the border into Turkey.”

Nick Note: Here is a phenomenal report from the front lines in Mosul. However, it is important to note that the caliphate may be crumbling but the ideology remains strong. The caliphate requires land but the extremist mentality does not. For more on radical Islam, I highly recommend Dr. Denison’s white paper on the issue. (Hebrews 13:3)

Ann Coulter speech at UC Berkeley canceled, again, amid fears for safety (WaPo)

“Coulter said, “Everyone who should be for free speech has turned tail and run.”
“The university sent a message to the campus community Wednesday in the midst of uncertainty over whether, or when, Coulter might come to campus. After the university originally canceled her speech for Thursday and instead invited her to speak there next week, Coulter had vowed to speak anyway.”

Nick Note: If we learned anything from the Middlebury College incident (I wrote about this here) it’s that college students can unfortunately be physical when presented with ideas that are contrary to their personal ideologies and narratives. You may not agree with Coulter. You may disagree with the way in which she presents her arguments (Proverbs 15:1). But her not being able to speak at UC Berkeley is a loss for the American experiment and the freedom of speech. In the biblical narrative, we read of a God that invites us to reason together and pray for the leaders so that we may live peaceably (1 Timothy 2:1-2, Isaiah 1:18). When the freedom of speech is squelched, the silence is deafening.

The Real Story Behind ESPN’s Wednesday Massacre (The Federalist)

“ESPN, the self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports, is in the process of laying off 100 staffers, most of whom are reported to be on-air talent.
“On track for $8 billion in programming costs in 2017, ESPN will rack up its 15 millionth lost subscriber since 2011. Every single day so far in 2017 over 10,000 people have left ESPN. The numbers are astonishing and the collapse is rapid. All those lost subscribers add up to big money — that’s over $1.3 billion a year in money that comes off ESPN’s books every year. And ESPN is on the hook for billions and billions a year for all the years ahead. That’s guaranteed payments to leagues that ESPN can’t escape no matter how many employees it fires.
“As I’ve written before, if the current subscriber loss trajectory keeps up ESPN will begin losing money by 2021. And if the subscriber losses accelerate it will happen even sooner than that.”

Nick Note: In the past six years, ESPN has lost 12 million subscribers. Consider this: each month, a subscriber would indirectly pay $7 to ESPN. That means ESPN is losing nearly $100 million in revenue each month. They are not just losing subscribers but also viewers. According to Broadcast & Cable, ESPN’s ratings are down 7 percent this year. ESPN2’s ratings are down 34 percent. No word on ESPN 8 – the Ocho. What is the reason for the massive layoffs? Did they become too political (see the National Review piece here (h/t: Kerby))? In Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, he coins the hedgehog concept for businesses. This concept requires organizations to base their strategy on three questions: 1. What you can be best in the world at, 2. What drives your economic engine, and 3. What you are deeply passionate about. In the Scriptures, we read that God has gifted each of us specifically, blessed us with his compelling love unconditionally, and fashioned us in such a way and placed us at such a time in order that we might thrive in his plans (Romans 12:6, 1 Peter 4:10, Jeremiah 31:3, Romans 8:38-39, 2 Corinthians 5:14, 2 Timothy 3:17, Acts 17:26-27, Jeremiah 29:11).

C U L T U R A L   N E W S

Jesse Watters of Fox Denies His Ivanka Trump Comment Was Lewd (NY Times)

“Responding to footage of Ms. Trump being jeered on stage in Berlin while speaking on a panel about female entrepreneurship, Mr. Watters first defended Ms. Trump, the daughter of President Trump.
“It’s funny, the left says they really respect women, and then when given an opportunity to respect a woman like that, they boo and hiss,” he said. Then he added with a grin: “So I don’t really get what’s going on here, but I really liked how she was speaking into that microphone.”

Nick Note: Watch it here and judge for yourself. Are some making too big of deal about this? Or is this a systemic problem at Fox? Shakespeare noted that jesters do oft prove as prophets. Watch this 2-minute compilation video and again judge for yourself. Only the Lord knows the condition of the heart, but the words of our mouth are the overflow of our heart (1 Corinthians 2:11, Luke 6:45).

Amazon has a new $200 Echo camera that will judge your outfit every day (QZ)

“The Echo Look is shaped like an elongated webcam, and combines the microphone and speaker technology of the last iterations of the Echo, with a depth-sensing camera and LED lights to let users take and share short photos and videos of themselves by calling out to Alexa.
“The online retailer is pitching the Echo Look as a fashion-forward device, meant to help you figure out what from your wardrobe suits you best every day. The device’s app ships with software called “Style Check,” which Amazon describes as “a new service that combines machine learning algorithms with advice from fashion specialists,” that lets users compare two photos taken through the Look to decide which outfit is better.”

Nick Note: Right Said Fred thought they were too sexy but now Amazon Echo will be the judge of that. Contra to the lyrical theology of Miley Cyrus, Echo will judge you. No word on whether Judge Judy lent her voice to this project. But in all seriousness, does this indicate our need for affirmation? Or does it reveal our lack of community that is willing to speak candidly with us? In the Scriptures, we read that God cares about what we wear but cares far greater about the condition of our heart (1 Samuel 16:7, Exodus 28). As Dorothy Parker noted: “Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.”

The Elegant Way Online Social Networks ‘Heal’ After a Death (The Atlantic)

“As expected, a substantial amount of social interaction was lost with the death of a friend,” the researchers write. But the friends’ interactions with each other spiked after the person’s death—“as people support each other,” Hobbs says, or spread the news, or coordinate in advance of a funeral. (The interactions measured here were photo tags, comments, and posts on someone’s timeline.) And while the interactions quickly declined again, once they stabilized, people in the network continued to communicate with each other far more than they did before their friend died, for at least two years.
“Sometimes close friends of a person who dies don’t know each other well, so this study suggests that Facebook helps them to connect with each other and perhaps see their mutual friend through another person’s eyes, and find other people to grieve and recover with.”

Nick Note: Just as previous generations would visit the gravesite of a deceased friend, today we are increasingly visiting their social media footprint.Kierkegaard likened memories to a blanket, in that they both comfort and warm us. Social media profiles help do this today. “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting… (Ecclesiastes 7:2)”

Why Educated Christians Are Sticking With Church (The Atlantic)

“Catholic, Mormon, and Protestant college grads are all more likely to attend church on a weekly basis than their less educated peers. This was not the trend among religious minorities like Muslims and Jews, or among people who don’t affiliate with any religion at all, suggesting that education has a distinctive effect on religiosity within the world of Christianity.
“Pew’s researchers found that educated people are generally less likely to believe in God: Among all U.S. adults, only 83 percent of college grads said they think God exists, while 92 percent of people with only a high-school degree or less said the same.
“Among educated mainline Protestants, 96 percent said they believe in God, compared to 97 percent among the less educated; among Catholics, 98 percent of both groups said the same.”

Nick Note: In 1994, Mark Noll wrote his famous Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. In it, he posited that the scandal is that there is no mind. Since then, we are increasingly seeing a turnaround as Christians accept the invitation of our Lord to reason together (Isaiah 1:18). As Christians, we have been called to love the Lord with all our mind (Matthew 22:36-40). Our God is wisdom, and we are to seek after him and his wisdom like it is gold (1 Corinthians 1:30, Proverbs 2:4-5). Though we are in a broken world (and we ourselves are broken), we are to renew our broken minds in order that we might know what is good and pleasing (Romans 12:1-2).

N E W S   Y O U   C A N   U S E

San Antonio cop responds to noise complaint, ends up salsa dancing

Nick Note: Watch it here. I love videos like this. All too often, we only hear and read the negative. But this video breaks that cultural narrative. How can you, as a Christian, break the cultural narrative concerning Christians? “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another… (John 13:35)”


Before Justin Timberlake, there was *NSYNC. Before I was a two-time Lip Sync champ of Clarksville High School, I was a mediocre JV tennis player. Don’t let the action shot fool you; I fetched more than I hit. But I was still on the team thanks in large part to Coach U.K. Growing up, I played baseball and basketball. Unfortunately, I earned the nickname frozen pizza in baseball due to my unwillingness to swing at the plate – hence frozen pizza. With basketball, I knew it better than I played it. Little did I know this would be a pattern that would play out for the rest of my life. Examples include: cooking, golfing, and driving. But with tennis, Coach U.K. taught me more about life than the game. She was a tornado of activity, moving from one task to the next. She was teacher, a tutor, a coach, and a mom. This was the first time I realized teachers were people with lives outside of school. Teaching is a high demand profession with little room for error. The demands upon teachers often outweigh the resources available to them. They are in the spotlight when things go wrong and in the shadow of their students’ success when things go right. No one can have it all, but we had more than enough with Coach U.K. She coached us, provided delicious snacks for us, and supported us on and off the court. Thanks, Coach U.K. I still play tennis every so often, but my karaoke skills are off the charts. Until tomorrow, Bye Bye Bye. #TeachingNickWasThePitts

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It pays to be nice

Posted by    |    April 26th, 2017 at 3:08 pm

The old cliché that nice guys finish last is commonly thrown around when it seems like the world has treated us unfairly. Perhaps part of the reason that saying has stuck around through the years is that experience would seem to back it up. But does that mean that it really is in our best interest to go through life as selfish, mean, and ruthless people?

Fortunately, it does not. New research from Dr. Mitch Prinstein, a professor and director of clinical psychology at UNC Chapel Hill, demonstrates that nice guys (and girls) don’t have to finish last. We just buy into that idea because it’s often true in one of our most formative periods of life. As Sarah Maslin Nir writes for the New York Times, the kinds of qualities that make one popular early in life and in adulthood—sharing, kindness, openness, etc—simply aren’t prized in adolescence. There, “status born of power and even notorious behavior” reign supreme.

As Dr. Prinstein found, however, “Those who were highest in status in high school, as well as those least liked in elementary school, are ‘most likely to engage in dangerous and risky behavior.’” Essentially, if your teens are the best years of your life, it might not speak well about who you are as an adult.

Conversely, the study also found that the kind of life that leads to being liked outside those adolescent years “creates opportunities for learning and for new kinds of life experiences that help somebody gain an advantage.” It turns out that being nice to others isn’t just a byproduct of an easier life but can actually help to create that better life.

If that’s true, though, then why does it so often seem like we’re penalized for being kind to others? Part of it is simply the fact that we live in a fallen world where everyone goes through times of hardships and persecution to some extent. Jesus was clear that following him would not save us from such a fate (John 15:18–21) and that we shouldn’t be surprised when those trials come.

I think an equally important reason, however, is that we tend to remember the times that we feel as though we were wronged far more clearly than the times where the opposite was true. As a result, our interpretation of the world around us will be consistently skewed towards the negative unless we actively try to view things from a more positive perspective. If you doubt that’s true, just think back to the last time you felt like you were treated unfairly. Now try and remember a time where you were given the credit you deserved. Which memory is more vivid and emotionally charged? For me, at least, the negative experiences have always stood out much more clearly than the positive.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. John Green could have been writing from the depths of my soul when he stated “The degree to which I am blessed staggers me . . . the degree to which I take that for granted shames me.” The cure to the belief that kindness is never rewarded in this life is to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” and allow him to grant us the perspective we so desperately need (2 Corinthians 10:5).

As Richelle E. Goodrich quipped, “You can add up your blessings or add up your troubles. Either way, you’ll find you have an abundance.” So let God help you focus on the blessings instead of the troubles, remembering that the latter don’t have to outweigh the former. When we do, it will go a long way towards helping us live as the sort of kind and compassionate people his word calls us to be (Ephesians 4:23). Will that describe you today?

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Why marijuana might be just what the doctor ordered

Posted by    |    April 26th, 2017 at 10:10 am

If I told you that doctors in Israel had begun giving marijuana to kids, what would be your first response? Anger? Curiosity? For many of those children’s parents, their first response was joy. Studies around the world continue on the possible medical benefits of marijuana on issues from pain management to PTSD and beyond, but one particularly interesting bit of research is currently ongoing in Israel. There doctors seek a better understanding of the degree to which cannabis oil, largely separated from the THC component of marijuana that makes people high, might help children suffering from autism.

As USA Today‘s Yardena Schwartz writes, there has long been anecdotal evidence that medical marijuana could help people with autism function at a higher level, but it’s never been studied in a way that could satisfy the scientific community. Given that autism now affects one in sixty-eight children in the United States, for example, just providing parents with hope for a better alternative to the antipsychotic drugs most commonly prescribed today is a welcome change. As one parent described, such medications turned her daughter into “a zombie. She would just sit there with her mouth wide open, not moving.” No parent wants to see a child in that state, but the alternatives of life without medication are often equally unbearable.

So far, the early results seem promising. Cannabis has already been proven to help with seizures, a symptom that afflicts roughly thirty percent of autistic children, and some parents have reported that their kids have been calmer and more responsive since beginning the trial. As the study doesn’t end until 2018 and parents aren’t told whether their children are in the placebo group or the group getting the cannabis oil, it’s difficult to know exactly how much of an impact the drug is really having at this time. That said, the possibility that it could help in a way no other medications have is encouraging.

The positive early results also serve as a good reminder that there’s nothing God created that he can’t use for good. Of course, that these possible benefits could be so easily obscured by the potentially harmful effects of recreational marijuana use also demonstrates that there’s nothing God has created that Satan can’t twist through our sin to use for evil. The same plant can serve both ends. What determines its benevolence or malevolence is how we choose to use it.

In truth, most things in life are like that. There is very little around us that is innately either good or bad. That truth should both encourage and challenge us today, as it means that God has given us a great deal of power to decide the state of our world. I think that’s why, throughout Scripture, he places such a large emphasis on teaching us to live responsibly.

From the very beginning, the Lord tasked us with stewarding his creation (Genesis 2:15) and it’s vital that we remember our lives are part of that creation as well. Far too often we fall into the trap of thinking that our time on this earth is ours to do with as we please when the reality is quite different. We are stewards of our lives, but they ultimately still belong to God. And, like the rest of his creation, each of us was created with the innate capacity to be used for good or evil, and our decisions will ultimately decide which end our lives will serve.

Joshua’s call to the Israelites remains ours today: “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). What will your answer be?

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Daily Briefing: April 26, 2017

Posted by    |    April 26th, 2017 at 6:43 am

T O P   N E W S

White House slams ‘egregious’ ruling on sanctuary cities (Politico)

“Earlier Tuesday San Francisco-based U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick blocked President Donald Trump’s administration from enforcing a portion of its Jan. 25 executive order that would halt federal funding to municipalities that did not uphold federal immigration laws.
“Today, the rule of law suffered another blow, as an unelected judge unilaterally rewrote immigration policy for our Nation,” the statement read. “This case is yet one more example of egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge. Today’s ruling undermines faith in our legal system and raises serious questions about circuit shopping.”

Nick Note: Did you know President Trump has a Coke button on his desk? With the push of a button, a butler delivers a Coke with no penalty. The same cannot be said of tuna. On Tuesday, the World Trade Organization ruled in Mexico’s favor, allowing it to impose trade sanctions worth $163 million a year against the US. The WTO says that’s how much money Mexico has lost from the US unfairly penalizing Mexican tuna. Trade issues persist on the northern border as well. For more on our taxing Canadian lumber and Trump’s stand with dairy farmers in Wisconsin, click here. Mr. Trump stands with the dairy farmers and former President Obama stands to make some cheese with his latest speech. He reportedly agreed to a $400,000 fee for a speech to a Wall Street bank. Watch this clip from his White House Correspondents Dinner speech where he jokes about what he is now doing. He is being criticized by some but he is not the only one being criticized. Yesterday, the lead Democrat and Republican on the House Oversight Committee issued a rare bipartisan rebuke of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn after seeing private information that confirmed the former administration official failed to disclose foreign income from Russia and Turkey. And finally, speaking of disclosing, President Trump will disclose today his tax cut blueprint. All of this is happening as a government shutdown looms just two days away.  Oh, and all 100 senators were invited to attend a classified meeting later today at the White House to discuss the North Korea. These are interesting days. We have tall tasks internally, determined enemies externally, and a God of Eternity who stands ready and willing to give wisdom immeasurably (James 1:5). More accessible than a Coke button, the God of the Universe has been waiting up all night to talk with you and satisfy you in the morning with his unfailing love (Psalm 90:14, Psalm 121).

In surprise TED talk, Pope Francis embraces science, but urges humanity (Axios)

“His key message: We should be doing more to put humans at the center of our technology and not relegate caring for our fellow humans to “social work.”
“Embraces immigrant roots: The pope notes that he was an immigrant whose father and grandfather left Italy for Argentina. “I could have very well ended up among today’s ‘discarded’ people. And that’s why I always ask myself, deep in my heart: ‘Why them and not me?’”

Nick Note: Watch it here. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1:27).”

Dean And Faculty at Southwestern Seminary Pose As Gangsters In Controversial Photo

“The men, dressed in variations of gold and silver chains, bandannas, hoodies, and askew ball caps, appear to be White. Several of the men shared the image online….
“I apologize for a recent image I posted which was offensive. Context is immaterial. @swbts stance on race is clear as is mine,” Allen’s brief statement reads.”

Nick Note: As a disclaimer, I graduated from Southwestern Seminary. As for the tweet (seen here), besides being offensive it is also ironic. In preaching classes at Southwestern, your appearance mattered greatly. For example, we had to wear a suit to class, were told to keep both feet on the floor when sitting on stage, wear black socks whenever possible, button our coat when we preached, etc. The tweet is offensive but God’s grace is abounding (2 Corinthians 9:8).

C U L T U R A L   N E W S

Where College Seniors Are Falling Short (WSJ)

“Among other things, employers reported that one-third of all applications for entry-level roles come from unqualified candidates.
“More than 60% of employers in the survey said applicants ought to be more familiar with the company and industry, and must ask better questions in interviews. Plus, those employers say, three out of four applicants fail to send thank-you notes after interviews.
“The mismatch extends to hard skills, too. Engineering, business and computer science majors are in highest demand, with at least two-thirds of employers seeking graduates in those fields, according to NACE. But fewer than half of the students surveyed by iCIMS majored in those subjects.”

Nick Note: 34 percent of millennials have a college degree and 51 percent are underemployed. Do we lack the soft skills necessary to succeed in the workplace? Has technology played a role in this lack of development? College seniors may not be ready, but Christians are admonished to be ready in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2).

Be Nice — You Won’t Finish Last (NY Times)

“In one study, Dr. Prinstein examined the two types of popularity in 235 adolescents, scoring the least liked, the most liked and the highest in status based on student surveys. “We found that the least well-liked teens had become more aggressive over time toward their classmates. But so had those who were high in status. It was a nice demonstration that while likability can lead to healthy adjustment, high status has just the opposite effect on us.”
“In analyzing his and other research, Dr. Prinstein came to another conclusion: Not only does likability correlate to positive life outcomes, but it is also responsible, he said, for those outcomes, too. “Being liked creates opportunities for learning and for new kinds of life experiences that help somebody gain an advantage,” he told me.”

Nick Note: Mark Twain found that kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).”

Marriage in America is going out of style—unless you’re rich (QZ)

“By 2014 the share of the US adult population that was married had dropped to 50%, from 69% in 1970. In the same time period, the share of tax receipts that came from married filers dropped too, but by much less. In 2014, payments from married people accounted for 74% of total US income tax receipts, just 6 percentage points lower than in 1970. Married people accounted for much less of the population, but were still putting the majority of funds into the national tax pot.
“Married Americans, who can file their taxes jointly or separately, pay almost three-quarters of the nation’s income taxes because they’re richer than non-married people. The average adjusted gross income of an unmarried filer was $35,200 in 2014. Among married filers it was $115,100.”

Nick Note: I guess love and marriage no longer go together like a horse and carriage. But consider this: after marrying, men typically work harder and smarter. They are less likely to be fired. They make about $16,000 more than their single peers with otherwise similar backgrounds. In general, marriage seems to increase the earning power of men on the order of 10 to 24 percent. Research suggests that men who get and stay married live almost ten years longer than their unmarried peers. Elderly men who enjoyed good marriages reported significantly less depression, better moods, and more satisfaction with life. Marriage may be going out of style, but he who finds a wife finds goodness (Proverbs 18:22).

Clear Topshop Jeans Spark Internet Reaction on Twitter (Teen Vogue)

“Think outside the box with these out-of-the-ordinary clear plastic jeans — guaranteed to get people talking,” reads the description. “In a straight leg cut, they feature classic pockets detailing and are cropped at the ankle bone. Ideal as a statement piece for a festival or costume party, take the look to the extreme with a bikini and sequin jacket or dress down, layered under an oversized jumper or asymmetric hem dress.”

Pitts Point: If clear jeans aren’t your style, Nordstrom’s is selling muddy jeans for $425. Personally, I don’t think I have anything to go with clear jeans and I wouldn’t have a family to go home to if I spent that much money on muddy jeans, so I will pass. (Titus 2:7)

N E W S   Y O U   C A N   U S E

Photo Of Husband Supporting Wife With Cancer Has The Internet Weeping (HuffPo)

“My mom has to stay in her room in isolation for her cancer radiation so my dad set up a desk at her door to keep her company and I’m crying.”
“Jon goes to every doctor’s appointment, every blood test, every surgery, every radiation…And, as you can see, if he can’t be by my side he is as close as he can get!”

Nick Note: This photo reminded of Edward from Sense and Sensibility when he said: “I come here with no expectations, only to profess, now that I am at liberty to do so, that my heart is and always will be…yours.” (Ephesians 5:21-31)

Grandparents Discover Photo Booth

Nick Note: Watch it here. It’s amazing what we will do when a camera is on us, but what will you do knowing that the Lord is watching you today (Romans 12:1-2, 2 Chronicles 16:9)? As William Carey noted: expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.  


Little Debbie and Big Nick became great friends in the 8th grade. In a shocking twist, she makes you feel good but run slow. I discovered this in Coach Fuqua’s gym class. Like dial-up internet, I was slow. I was in shape…just a rounder shape. At the start of class, Coach Fuqua made us run laps around the gym. Mission Impossible was a great movie and also an accurate description of my running. After a few laps, I stopped and faked an injury. I either pulled my pride or strained my spirit. But when I stopped, Coach Fuqua glared. I obviously couldn’t run or hide from him. His eyes showed his displeasure. We didn’t agree about running, but we did agree on the displeasure. So I did something about it. I got home from school that day and got on a stationary bike. Each day, I would ride that bike. I made my fat cry and my brother complain because I played Blink 182 too loud. Coach Fuqua didn’t say much to me but sparked a fire in me. He awakened a discipline in me that still manifests itself each day.Thank you, Coach Fuqua. Unlike a Swiss Cake Roll, you challenged me and got the best out of me. #TeachingNickWasThePitts

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Daily Briefing: April 24, 2017

Posted by    |    April 24th, 2017 at 6:35 am

T O P   N E W S

French Presidential Runoff Heralds New Political Era (WSJ)

“The independent centrist Emmanuel Macron has topped the first round of the French presidential election and according to projections will face the far-right Front National’s Marine Le Pen in a standoff marked by anti-establishment anger that knocked France’s traditional political parties out of the race.
“Macron, 39, a political novice, now becomes the favourite to be elected as France’s next president. He is the youngest ever French presidential hopeful and has never run for election before.”

Nick Note: This was the first time since the postwar period that the traditional left and right ruling parties were both ejected from the race in the first round. Both candidates represent political backlash against the establishment.Two political outsiders, Macron (progressive, socially liberal, pro-business) and Le Pen (anti-EU, anti-immigration, far-right) will now face off in a final round on May 7. Macron quit his government post last year and launched his own political movement, En Marche! (on the move). It was “neither left nor right,” and promised to revolutionize what he called France’s decaying political system. Le Pen campaigned hard against immigration and promised to crack down on “Islamic fundamentalism.” Macron’s supporters wave EU flags at rallies, Le Pen tells supporters “the EU will die”. She wants to leave the euro, return to the franc, and close French borders. She promised a ban on religious symbols, including the Muslim headscarf, from all public places. The global financial markets staged a relief rally after Macron won the first round of voting. However, James Poulos has an insightful perspective: “The real story of France and Europe laid bare by Macron’s whisker of a win is that simply no consensus exists among today’s adult generations about how to refashion a future for Europe.” Or as the Scriptures note: “Where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18).”

Trump and Congress eye shutdown showdown over border wall (Politico)

“The face-off comes as lawmakers return to Washington following a two-week Easter recess. Government funding expires Friday, leaving Congress little time to strike a deal. A White House push for progress on repealing Obamacare will also consume energy on Capitol Hill, even as a vote on legislation this week appears unlikely.
“In the meantime, both sides are puffing up their chests, refusing to budge from their hard-line positions on one of Trump’s most famous campaign pledges.Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly both reiterated during Sunday interviews that Trump would need a down payment on his wall as part of a government funding package.”

Nick Note: The Field of Dreams taught us that if you build it, they will come. Well apparently they weren’t talking about a border wall. The government shuts down on Friday unless Congress can forge a deal. The wall has caused some divisions (pun intended). Here are the dividing linesconcerning the government shutdown. Speaking of lines, Mr. Trump delivered quite a line over the weekend. Regarding the job security of his Press Secretary Sean Spicer, he said: “I’m not firing Sean Spicer…that guy gets great ratings. Everyone tunes in.” In an article that is making its way around the internet, Ashley Parker and Robert Costa note: “For Trump…television is often the guiding force of his day, both weapon and scalpel, megaphone and news feed.” Also happening over the weekend, Defense Secretary Jim Mattiscontinued his whistle-stop tour through the Middle East. He is stressing shared interests with international leaders (like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel), such as fighting terrorism. Mattis continues to strengthen ties with international leaders and today Mr. Trump will have lunch with ambassadors from countries on the U.N. Security Council. Hopefully these conversations with global leaders can continue with Congressional leadership throughout the week. In the Scriptures, working out disagreements is often hard but always good (Acts 15). “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).”

American Airlines in hot water after flight attendant almost gets in fight with passenger

“The flight attendant wrestled the stroller away from the woman, who was sobbing, holding one baby, with the second baby in a car seat on the ground next to her.  He stormed by me with the stroller and I said something like, ‘What are you doing? You almost hit that baby!’”
“What we see on this video does not reflect our values or how we care for our customers. We are deeply sorry for the pain we have caused this passenger and her family and to any other customers affected by the incident … After electing to take another flight, we are taking special care of her and her family and upgrading them to first class for the remainder of their international trip.”

Nick Note: Watch the video here. And in other airline news breaking over the weekend, Kenny G spontaneously performed on a Delta flight for charity.Watch it here. For millennials reading, Kenny G is not to be confused with the hilarious Sexy Saxophone Man. I digress. While the American Airlines video does not show the entirety of the situation, it is clear that tensions are high and civility is low. (Luke 6:31)

C U L T U R A L   N E W S

Engagement with natural environment a significant contributor to life satisfaction (Science Daily)

“The researchers used 13 different metrics to illustrate the relationship between overall life  satisfaction and engaging with the natural environment. Among those metrics were community activities, access to wild resources, stress eased by time outdoors, and trust in policymakers.
“Eleven of the 13 had a positive correlation to overall life satisfaction,” said Biedenweg, a social scientist who studies both how humans benefit from the natural environment and the impact human actions have on it. “The links between ecological conditions, like drinking water and air quality, and objective well-being have been studied quite a bit, but the connection between various aspects of engaging the natural environment and overall subjective well-being have rarely been looked at.”

Nick Note: Luke Bryan is huntin’, fishin’, and lovin’ everyday. I guess we now know why. In the Scriptures, Psalm 19 expounds upon the glories of God through his creation and his law. If you reread Psalm 19, you will notice it is split into two equal portions – creation and law – almost conjoining them together. In the New Testament, when we read about the law, we find out that God’s laws lead to our joy (1 John 5:3). Essentially, the connection between nature and the law should point to our joy, or you might say life satisfaction.

For older people living alone, daily automated calls can mean safety (WaPo)

“Advocates for older people say telephone check-in programs can help seniors remain independent in their homes and give them — and their family members — peace of mind….“It helps ensure for the elderly person or their family that a phone call is being made every morning, that everything is okay. We’ve gotten incredible feedback on this program,” said Cmdr. Jack Vaccaro of the Lighthouse Point Police Department in Florida, which has nine seniors in its automated daily-call program.”

Nick Note: The senior population is expected to grow to 65 million by 2025. Almost half of women age 75 and older live alone. People are living longer and also living lonelier. 1 out of 2 people don’t know their neighbors’ names. In 2004, 25 percent of people said they had no close friend to discuss important matters. That number was 10 percent in 1985. Isolation is fed by distrust. A generation ago, almost half of all Americans felt they could trust the people around them, but now less than a third think other people are trustworthy. Only 19 percent of millennials believe other people can be trusted. Are these machines doing what our neighbors were intended to do (Matthew 22:36-40)?

Four nuns have formed a band at Catholic U. It’s called Force of Habit. (WaPo)

“It shows that we have completely natural, normal, human personalities,” Brother Brad said. “And we don’t really cease being human beings when we put on the habit. We don’t cease to be normal and lovers of fun and music when we put on the habit. The habit is just a different aspect of who we are.”

Nick Note: If you have never seen Sister Act, do yourself a favor and watch this three minute clip. If you have seen it, watch it anyway. These nuns seek to bridge the chasm that can at times exist between the Christians and non-Christians – especially nuns. In the Scriptures, we have been called to remain unstained by the world but to stain the world with the love of Christ (James 1:26-27). We are to be fishers of men (Matthew 4:19), to be in the world but not of the world. As one professor once noted: if you want to fish, you gotta get wet.  

N E W S   Y O U   C A N   U S E

London marathoner offers support for struggling fellow runner

Nick Note: Watch it here. This video is phenomenal. In the Scriptures, our life is likened to a race (Hebrews 12:1-2). In this race, we help each other, train with one another, bear with each other, and encourage one another(Colossians 3:13, Proverbs 27:17, Romans 15:1-3, Hebrews 10:24-25). Run well, friends.

Watch Baseball Mascot Put Himself in Front of Fly Ball to Protect Child

Nick Note: Watch it here. The gator took the pain so the child could enjoy the game. In a similar fashion, God took our sin and the pain required because of it, and in turn, he gave us his righteousness and the fellowship that comes with it. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).”


I have been in one fight in my entire life and Mr. McGee saved me from being pummeled to death in said fight. Travis was aggressive like Stone Cold and athletic like Neon Deion Sanders. One day during gym, we were playing football. And by playing football, I mean my team was getting crushed in football. Travis and company were not content to beat us on the field, but also belittle us as they beat us. Since we could not beat them in football, I thought I might try to beat him physically. Unfortunately, my parents did not allow me to play Mortal Kombat as a kid, thus my fighting skills were insufficient. I took a swing, completely missed, and ended up on the ground. Surrounded by a rambunctious crowd and alone in the center with Travis, I was like a peep in the microwave—destined for annihilation. But out of nowhere, Mr. McGee came crashing in like a wrecking ball. I got in trouble, but I was alive. Mr. McGee disciplined me and said something to me that has stuck with me to this day: “Mr. Pitts, you are better.” In that epically low moment, Mr. McGee spoke five words that still ring in my ears. He saw me where I was, expected more of me in the future, but his presence in that moment indicated I would not be alone. Mr. McGee was keenly aware of his students, knowing when they needed help on the football field or in the classroom. I didn’t like asking for help then, just like I don’t like asking for help now. But with Mr. McGee, our lack of asking did not hinder his helping. Not only was he ready to help, but his gentle spirit and strong desire to get the best out of his students helped in ways that I still don’t fully understand. Thank you, Mr. McGee. Your words and actions packed a one-two punch that still have me fighting against the status quo. #TeachingNickWasThePitts

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Erin Moran and the pivotal decision of life

Posted by    |    April 24th, 2017 at 5:59 am

Happy Days was one of the most popular shows on television when I was in high school. The sitcom idealized American life in the mid-1950s to mid-1960s. Ron Howard (“Richie Cunningham”) was the star; Erin Moran played his kid sister, “Joanie.” Now the actress has made headlines once again, but for a tragic reason: she was found dead last Saturday at the age of fifty-six. Moran had reportedly been living in a Holiday Inn Express after struggling with homelessness.

The death of a Happy Days star feels like a sign of the times, but there’s more to the story.

While Erin Moran’s life came to a tragic end, Ron Howard has become a very successful movie director and actor. Henry Winkler (“Fonzie”) is a multi-millionaire with regular television appearances and multiple credits as a director, producer, and author. Tom Bosley (“Mr. Cunningham”) frequently appeared on television; Marion Ross (“Mrs. Cunningham”) has been nominated for several Emmys and continues to act at the age of eighty-six.

How we choose to see the world is usually how we see the world. Consider three examples in today’s news.

One: The French elections

The New York Times calls Sunday’s vote a “full-throated rebuke of France’s traditional mainstream parties.” Since the country moved to a direct popular vote in 1965, the French presidency has been won each time by a candidate representing either the major center-right or the major center-left parties. For the first time, neither party survived to the second round of voting. The outcome would seem to presage more political turbulence for the global economy.

However, US stock futures rose sharply after the results came in. Centrist Emmanuel Macron is widely expected to defeat far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the May 7 runoff. According to one analyst, yesterday’s outcome is “a solid vote in favor of a more solidly integrated Europe.”

Two: American politics

President Trump’s approval rating stands at 42 percent, a historic low. However, 96 percent of those who voted for him say they would do so again; 94 percent of them approve of the job he has done so far.

Three: NASA’s Cassini spacecraft

After twenty years in space and thirteen years in Saturn’s system, the craft’s mission is coming to an end. It will dive through Saturn’s rings and plummet into the planet on September 15. However, the spacecraft has been a spectacular success, providing information for more than 3,000 scientific reports and amassing 1.2 million Twitter followers.

And Cassini has been a daily reminder of the greatness of our God.

The craft traveled some 870 million miles to its current location. However, our sun’s gravitational forces reach out past Saturn to a distance of two light years. That’s 11,757,250,746,267.2 miles. The distance from Earth to the edge of the observable universe is estimated to be 2.7 x 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles.

And God measures all of that with the palm of his hand (Isaiah 40:12).

If you’re a Christian, the most pivotal decision you’ll make today is whether to view your faith through the prism of your world or your world through the prism of your faith. The former limits divine omnipotence to human finitude; the latter says boldly to God, “I know that you can do all things” (Job 42:2).

There is no third option. Choose wisely today.

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