Lunchtime Links: January 5, 2010

A new year and one more resolution? Before you discount it as just another suggestion, perhaps this is the year for you or your children to learn an instrument. Where do you start?

Tom Smallwood had every reason to think he would be just like the thousands of people who have lost auto industry-related jobs in Michigan. Smallwood lost his assembly line job two days before Christmas 2008. He could have panicked. Instead, he got busy at the bowling alley and, wow, did it ever pay off.

Willow Creek Community Church outside of Chicago has been a well-known megachurch for decades. It has gained attention for its efforts at breaking down racial barriers in establishing a racially diverse congregation.

One thing Muslims and Baptists have in common is that they are often identified by their extremists, according to a documentary airing on ABC television stations in January and February. “Different Books, Common Word” offers an alternative message to both violence by Muslim terrorists around the world and demonizing of Islam by evangelicals in the United States.

The French village of Gesté is facing an increasingly common dilemma across the country. Eighteenth- and 19th-century churches are being tabbed for possible demolition as maintenance and upkeep are balanced against dwindling congregations and increasingly fewer priests.

Yemeni forces clashed with Al Qaeda fighters Monday, leaving two militants believed to be behind threats to the U.S. dead, a security official told Reuters. “These elements are believed to be behind the threats directed to the U.S. embassy,” Reuters quoted the official as saying.

More than half of Americans are optimistic about the future of the United States over the next few years, a new CBS News poll finds. Survey respondents are less optimistic about their own opportunities than they were 10 years ago.

A risky fake punt deep in its own territory sparked Boise State to a 17-10 win over Texas Christian in the Fiesta Bowl on Monday night. The win capped the Broncos’ second undefeated season in the past four years and fuels further debate about the need for a college football playoff system.

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