We have so much to be thankful for, pandemic notwithstanding.

I’ll begin with a link that will take you to our seminary’s site to read stories of our students pastoring during the pandemic.

Speaking of “pastoring” – these doctors are doing it right:

As coronavirus cases spike, a national group that represents thousands of evangelical Christian doctors and other healthcare providers is asking churches to stop holding services in person.

In a statement provided to NPR, titled, "A Plea to Our Churches," leaders of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations say that Christians who persist in holding large gatherings at this time could "appear to care only about our individual freedoms and don't care that we may be contributing to others getting this illness because of our selfishness."

Churches in several states have violated local rules or filed lawsuits claiming that coronavirus restrictions that limit in-person gatherings violate their religious rights.

The Christian Medical & Dental Associations statement asks congregations to consider meeting online until the current surge is over. The organization had previously urged churches to obey authorities who've implemented coronavirus restrictions.

The statement, prepared for release on behalf of the group's 20,000 members nationwide, also says that the group is "saddened to learn not only that many churches have ignored our guidelines but that congregants have become infected with SARS-CoV-2 as a result of those decisions."

In an interview with NPR, Dr. Jeff Barrows, the group's senior vice president for bioethics and public policy, said Christians are commanded to love their neighbors as themselves.

"And one of the most tangible ways that we can do that at this moment in time is to avoid any in-person gatherings, especially as larger churches," he said.

Marg gets it right:

She responds to Don Carson and Tim Keller and then says:

I don’t have a “problem” with Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2:8-15. I don’t think they should be as controversial as they are; Paul corrects and silences both men and women a few times in his letters.

Paul silences disorderly and unsound speech. (See 1 Cor. 14:26-40). But his overall theology of ministry does not limit gifted women and might be summarised as, “You have a gift; use it to build up others.” (See Rom. 12:6-8; Eph. 4:11; 1 Cor. 12)

Is this music/worship guy doing it right?

Pop music is not written to be sung by a congregation. It is not textually driven, which is part of the necessity for a poem set to music to function as a hymn. Even if the text is good and important, the music is driven by a band, usually a constituted rock band, and the vocals are handled either by a soloist or a small ensemble. The singing is done very individualistically, usually with heavy ad libbing, soloistic singing. The singers are generally theatrical, even when they don’t mean to be. It’s the style of music. Your favorite pop singer sings this way, and so when this sort of music is done in church, the singers are theatrical. More technically, and I’m drawing on my own training as a vocalist here, it is technically sung in a high-larynx position, which creates a feeling of emotive singing that, unfortunately, often borders on being either whiny or glib.

If you’re singing a hymn text in this style, you’re not really singing a hymn. You’re singing a pop worship song that happens to use old words. Those words may be good, but they aren’t being done in a style that unifies the congregation. They aren’t being done in a way that emphasizes the text. They’re being performed at an audience, some of whom might be crooning (or, more to the point, emoting) along from their pews or stadium-style seats, but who aren’t being trained in the discipline of singing.

Hymns sung in liturgy are generally accompanied by an organ, which when played well will draw the singing out of a congregation and articulate the rhythm of the text. There is no ad libbing by the singers, either in the choir or congregation, and there is no soloist wailing into a microphone. The point of the exercise is singing together as one voice a strong theological text that complements the liturgical day and lectionary readings. It isn’t to give a good theatrical performance. It isn’t to express emotion toward God, though emotions can certainly be stirred by singing fabulous hymn texts. Stirring up emotions isn’t the point.

The fact that we’re raising children in churches that no longer sing like this is a tragedy and a travesty. We are depriving our children of learning how to heartily raise their voices in singing doctrinally rich texts in a liturgical environment where authenticity is based on the truth of the Word of God, not in what the music makes them feel.

”But Jonathan! Our churches our shrinking! Attendance is declining! We have to reach out to younger people with music they can relate to.”

That strategy is fifty years old. Look around. Is it working?

Anna Wells is doing it right:

A quick Google search for men’s bible studies on gossip yields almost no results. Several studies address gossip in general, but none were marketed specifically to men. Conversely, the same search for women reveals a host of Bible studies addressing gossip and the need for women to control their tongues. For example, a 2015 study entitled Keep it Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All focuses on the myriad of ways women should and should not use their words. According to the study’s description “From Bible times to modern times women have struggled with their words.” It claims that “Christian women struggle with their mouths. Even though we know that Scripture has much to say about how we are–and are not–to use our words, this is still an immense issue, causing heartache and strain not only in family relationships, but also in friendships, work, and church settings.” It seems that from a Christian perspective, something is inherently wrong with women’s words.

So how did women’s speech gain such a negative connotation? Sandy Bardsley provides an answer in her book Venomous Tongues: Speech and Gender in Late Medieval England. While Bardsley points out the church’s longstanding concern for “sins of the tongue,” she argues that the association between women and problematic speech “grew more intense and more tangible in its consequences” during the late Middle Ages.[1] Unlike the Bible study quoted above, the relationship between women and words has not been viewed as an eternal struggle. Instead, particular socioeconomic and cultural changes facilitated the rise of this connection, the legacy of which clearly continues today.

Bardsley’s work focuses on the creation of scolding as a punishable offense, a crime for which the defendants were 80-95% women. By surveying legal, literary, and artistic sources from the late fourteenth to early sixteenth centuries, she analyzes the development of this discourse which associated speech with evil, social disorder, and, most consistently, women. Bardsley locates the intensified scrutiny surrounding female speech in the decades following the Black Death, when social and economic upheaval fostered a sense of uncertainty and anxiety, especially about the roles and status of women.

The latter half of the fourteenth century witnessed significant legal changes regarding women’s speech such as the decline of hue and cries. The hue and cry mechanism allowed anyone, regardless of gender, class, or wealth, to bring a charge against someone else by raising their voice publicly when they witnessed or experienced a crime. Records indicate that women utilized the hue and cry most frequently against men, and their accusations were typically deemed valid by the courts. As the use of hue and cries disappeared from the courts, women lost access to the legal system as victims and were increasingly present in court as defendants on charges of defamation. Women’s voices could no longer contribute positively to public discourse.

Well done Vermont:

In the middle of March, while many Americans were panic-buying milk and toilet paper, Michael Redmond had other things on his mind: how to safely house the dozens of people who rely on his organization for a bed to sleep in every night.

The executive director of the Upper Valley Haven social service agency in White River Junction, Vermont, had read the reports that the new coronavirus could easily circulate among people living in close proximity — retirement homes, prisons, or homeless shelters like his.

So he contacted the state to ask for advice. “‘Don’t worry,’” he recalls an official telling him. ‘“We’ve entered into contracts with local motels. If you feel you can’t operate your shelter, everyone can be given a room in a motel.’”

Within days, Redmond was able to cut the number of beds in his shelter to reduce crowding and divert additional clientele to state-subsidized motel rooms. His nonprofit also organized outdoor dining and meal deliveries to further support social distancing.

Eight months into the pandemic, Redmond has seen no Covid-19 cases among his patrons. Overall, there have been fewer than six cases in Vermont’s homeless population, according to the state health department. That’s far less than a 1 percent infection rate — a stark contrast with the 25 percent infection rate among the homeless across the US.

Vermont has also remained an island of low coronavirus spread generally. Even with a recent surge — from fewer than 10 cases per day in September to 57 on November 18 — it’s consistently had one of the lowest infection rates in the continental US: 14.6 cases per 100,000 in the last seven days compared to 27 in New York, 74 in Georgia, 84 in Colorado, and 185 in North Dakota. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, has called Vermont “a model for the country.”

Radner on books:

Books are profoundly powerful entities, and many of the aspects this little story indicate something of their power, their depth, their meaning, their use: books are personal, they contain wisdom, they carry someone along, they befriend and accompany as companions, they connect with people and pasts, they remind and restore, they strengthen and correct, they embody some of the fullest elements of our life — whatever their content, whatever their origin. They uphold the movement of the human spirit as it runs through time, even into death. Books are not people; but they are, nonetheless, a kind of person.

Books are not yet going out of fashion. In fact, more books are published each year than ever before. But, in the face of a very different culture of knowledge, mostly tied to the swarming and evanescent images and accessibility of the internet, books are rapidly losing their profound role in human life, especially in the Western world of the last 1700 years. The main challenge brought by the information culture is to undermine, through the values of speed and consumption, the quite specific virtues that owning and reading books have in fact provided over the centuries. They are virtues that, if they disappear — and they are disappearing even among book owners and readers today — will seriously impoverish us, our culture, and our future.

Exercise and the brain.

Exercise and penguins:

The past several months have been quite busy for a number of resident penguins at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium.

They've had the chance to visit the Field Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art and their latest stop: Soldier Field.

Four penguins, along with their caretakers, recently said "hello" to the neighboring stadium during an extra-special tour, according to a news release from the Shedd Aquarium.

Penguins "Charlotte," "Darwin," "Izzy and "Tombo" had the chance to experience several new smells and sensations - like the feeling of wet grass as they waddled across Soldier Field.

They even got a sneak peek inside the locker rooms.

The penguins have embarked on several field trips, including some inside their own sprawling home, since the coronavirus pandemic forced the aquarium to close to the public in March.

Thnking of Greenland’s glaciers and our environment:

(CNN)Greenland's largest glaciers could lose even more ice than previously predicted -- a development that could have huge consequences for the rate of global sea level rise, according to a new study published Tuesday.

Greenland's ice sheet is already melting rapidly, and that ice loss is one of the main contributors to rising sea levels. Planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide are accelerating this melt.

But what experts have less information on is how these vital glaciers have changed in the past, particularly in the centuries before satellite records existed. Understanding how glaciers have responded to past changes in climate can impact projections scientists make about how they may respond to future warming.

The new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, has filled in some of those gaps.

The researchers found that Greenland's glaciers are very sensitive to climate conditions, and have lost ice in the late-19th and early-20th century at rates that rival or surpass those seen today. With the planet -- and the Arctic in particular -- expected to warm much more this century, the scientists warn their findings show that ice loss on Greenland could exceed even the worst-case projections.

David Holland, a professor of mathematics and environmental science at New York University and a co-author of the study, said the team's findings show that the Arctic "is undergoing a one-two punch with respect to the loss of its land and sea ice covers in a warming world."

Pox or an ode on jargon?

They're unavoidable — corporate buzzwords and gobbledygook.

Put a pin in it. Circle back. I'll loop you in. Deep dive. Best practice.

These words are the audio wallpaper that surrounds the American workplace. Mind-glazing wallpaper, slightly oppressive.

Synergy. Moving forward. Touch base. Ping me.

This mode of expression has been ridiculed brilliantly for years — in the comic strip Dilbert, the TV showSilicon Valley and elsewhere.

To no effect.

Belittled and unloved, corporate jargon endures, even thrives. There is no movement to rip down the wallpaper. And let's be honest fellow desk jockeys. Not only have we heard these words and phrases. We've probably used them ourselves. (Forgive me, for I have sinned ... against the English language.)

These phrases and buzzwords are worth exploring because they provide insight into the purpose they serve in the workplace.

The use of jargon is often tied to where people stand in a social hierarchy, according to a new paper from three social scientists, Eric Anicich of the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business and Zachariah Brown and Adam Galinsky of Columbia Business School. People with less prestige in an organization are more likely to use buzzwords. Like interns, new hires and first-year students.

"What we show is that the lower-status people are much more concerned about how they'll be evaluated by their audience," Anicich says.

Molly Young, the literary critic for New York magazine, is sympathetic. When interns, for example, use words such as "ideate" they're innocently trying to communicate in an unfamiliar dialect. Not so, for executives who may employ the same terms to confuse or intimidate. Young knows the dialect only too well, having worked at startups for nearly 10 years.

She makes a distinction between useful jargon in specialized fields such as medicine, science and law — and the workplace language so prevalent today, a hybrid of business school lingo and Silicon Valley hype. The latter, she says, is littered with "BS words — like orientate or guesstimate, or omnichannel or core competency."

What much of this language has in common is a slippery, vague quality that allows users to skirt accountability and direct action: words that are so imprecise that they are essentially empty. They give people who use buzzwords an out.