Thinking Out Loud

December 21, 2014

What Goes Into a Mind Comes Out in a Life

Filed under: relationships, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:23 am

For several years the Christian Booksellers Association* adopted the phrase

What Goes Into a Mind Comes Out in a Life

as a promotional tool to encourage reading.  The idea was that as you saturate your mind with the truths of God’s Word, Christian literature, and Christian music, you will be changed by what you listen to and read.

However, the opposite is also true.

If your mind is saturated with unhealthy thoughts and ideas, it will manifest itself in several ways:

In your conversation: We all have heard the Biblical principle that out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. Even the most guarded, careful, filtered person will let something slip that betrays where their heart is wandering. Or they may lose interest in topics that would normally engage them.

Stresses: For the Christian, having made poor choices in the area of inputs and influences will result in an inner conflict that may come to the surface in being short or snappy with the people we love or people we’re close to. The inner turmoil may simply result from a feeling of personal failure.

Distractions: A mind focused on things below instead of things above will inevitably be un-ordered, resulting in forgetting to return a phone call, missing a payment deadline, forgetting the directions to an appointment. Time allocation to responsibilities may slip noticeably.

Acting Out: Experts say that people dealing with online addictions often end up taking some action as a result of the content they have been viewing, but we tend to think of that as more overt. In fact, acting out often takes places in subtle ways that are more tangential to the addiction than direct. It’s possible that only the person themselves knows that the behavior trigger.

Reticence: Other people whose mind is otherwise preoccupied will simply become withdrawn. An unhealthy mind condition will manifest itself similar to worry and anxiety. For the Christian who senses that they are moving away from The Cross instead of moving toward The Cross, they may opt to retreat from their fellowship group or simply be less animated than is typical.

…Of course, I write all this not out of extensive reading in Christian counseling or a background in Christian psychology, but out of personal experience. The dictum to know thyself, means we ought to be able to identify some of the danger signs when we’re in the middle of mind-battle, or when we’re losing that fight. But a concerned friend or a discerning acquaintance will also be able to identify these signs and then care enough to confront the individual in question.


*It was either the CBA in Canada, the U.S., or both that used this phrase, it was very effective and ought to be brought back. What goes into a mind overflows to what is spoken, visible, etc.

For a previous article on the idea of “moving toward the cross” versus “moving away from the cross” click here.

December 4, 2014

Post #3000 — Reflections on Writing

Filed under: blogging, internet, writing — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:33 am
Yes, that averages to less than two comments per item, and bloggers at all levels of engagement report that comments are in decline.

Yes, that averages to less than two comments per item, and bloggers at all levels of engagement report that comments are in decline.

You write a short email to a friend dealing with a specific topic when it occurs to you that you know someone else who might be interested in the same topic.

You copy them in and then you add a name of someone who lives outside your state, and realize you need to clarify some local references.

You then think of someone with whom you have had this conversation before, but they are an older person and you need to explain a tech reference.

You have a friend overseas who might want in on the discussion, but you’ve used a word here and there that means something different where they live.

You copy your father-in-law in on the email, but realize you’ve used a word that he finds too edgy and so you rewrite that sentence.

…You now have an email that started out going to one person, but now you’re sending it to twelve, and while what you have is probably more polished and objectively better, it’s nothing like the email you started to write.

In a sense, that’s blogging. Unless you use a password-protected site, or password-required posts — all possible with WordPress — there’s no such thing as narrow-casting. You’re broadcasting to the whole world, everyone who wants to read, everyone who wants to leave a comment, and all the people misdirected to your site because the same word can have many different meanings.

Tuesday night I forwarded a link to a page about guitarists to five people I know who are guitarists. Using the ‘reply all’ function, there was a brief interaction even though the people don’t know each other.

It occurred to me later that it might have been beneficial for them to leave their comments on the site itself. Engagement and community in the blogosphere ain’t what it was. Perhaps the drive to ‘write on someone’s wall’ isn’t the same as it was in the early days of the Internet.

As I write this, I can think of one Christian blogsite where there a great deal of engagement, almost a continuous party going on in the comments by people who have the common denominator of having survived one particular type of oppressive church environment. But I can also think of another one that is, if anything, a victim of its own success because there are so many comments that need to be moderated from a much wider swath of readers, so much administration, and so great expectations for more quality content each day.

Tempted as I am to say, ‘But readers here have no such expectations,’ I am grateful for the number of people who stop by here and allow Thinking Out Loud to enjoy enough traffic to land on a few Top 200 or Top 300 Christian blog lists, but not enough where it becomes an idol.

In Kenneth Taylor’s original edition of The Living Bible, Proverbs 27:17 reads, “A friendly discussion is as stimulating as the sparks that fly when iron strikes iron.” The second part of the verse is also translated, “one person sharpens the wits of another;” in the NRSV and “a person sharpens the character of his friend” in The Voice. Several translations talk about a person “sharpening the countenance” of another which the CEB modernizes to “so friends sharpen each other’s faces.”

I can’t exactly apply the verse about people “dwelling together in unity,” because there is a lot of disagreement online, even among Christian writers. (Or is that especially among Christian writers?) But even there, I feel there is much to be gained in the discourse.

To my fellow online writers: I am richer for having gotten to know all of you.  To readers here, thanks for your interest, and a special thanks to those of you who visit the devotional/study blog I curate, Christianity 201.

So on then, to post 3,001.

November 18, 2014

The Baptist and The Bar

Filed under: Church, family, marriage, prayer, Uncategorized, writing — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:07 am

Just three short months before they asked him to consider being on the short list for appointment as a deacon, Ray got into a habit of dropping into McGinn’s Wings on the way home from work. Although he had a more liberal attitude toward drinking than some in the church, it wasn’t about the alcohol. On about half of the days he went with a bottled grapefruit drink they served that was non alcoholic. It was more about having a buffer zone between work and home, though during the process his Sunday morning church attendance was starting to wane.

McGinn’s customers tended to walk around more than sit. There were some novelty pool tables, one sized extra long and the other extra square; not to mention some vintage pinball machines, foozball, and a prototype of a Wii-type game that never made it to market. There was also a red-haired woman who said her name was Blaine.

Short Stories“Isn’t that a man’s name?” Ray asked.

“I’m all girl;” she replied, “Want me to prove it?”

Ray made a fist with his left hand and aimed it toward her. “See that? That’s a wedding ring. Don’t forget that.”

And then, two days later they would repeat the same dialog, almost word-for-word.

Ray’s wife Kallie was aware of all this. What was obvious by the smell of his jacket when he came home after 30 minutes at McGinn’s — a mixture of the hot sauce served with the chicken wings and the smell of beer — was also confirmed by Ray. He made no attempt to hide what he called his “new hobby.”

“What happens,” asked Kallie, “If someone from North Hills Baptist sees you coming out of there?”

Ray didn’t care. The pastor arranged for a joint meeting of the current deacon’s board along with all six people on the short list for serving the following year. Only three of those would be chosen, but they got to see an actual functioning meeting which dealt with a couple of budget issues, a few room rental requests, and the issue of a member who had written a rather strange letter to the editor of the local newspaper which, while it was mostly political, had the potential to do some damage.

Ray enjoyed the meeting and even made what all considered some good suggestions during a time when the prospective members could make comments; but the next morning he called Pastor Clements to ask that his name be removed from the short list and curiously, the pastor didn’t ask for a reason.

Ray made some friends at McGinn’s. He helped one guy move on the condition that it not involve a piano, and another was a mechanic and did some electrical repairs to his passenger side car window for free. They told him that Blaine was harmless, she actually had a different birth name which she hated, and every few years she came up with a new identity that she field-tested on bar patrons. Still, her flirting messed with his head, and she wasn’t the only woman at the bar who enjoyed playing mind games.

But several months down the road, McGinn’s closed. They were facing three civil lawsuits, there was a threat of a sexual harassment charge by a former waitress, some health code issues, and the proprietor was dealing with charges of federal tax evasion; though it must be said that the last item — the tax dispute — got cleared up really quickly when the owner sold the property to a condo developer for what everyone felt was far above market value.

Ray spent a week visiting other bars in town, but found them “shallow” and decided to go back to driving straight home from work. He also resumed a more regular pattern of church attendance.

Ray’s employer had a deal where if there were five Fridays in a month, they got the last one as a day off. So he was enjoying an extra hour’s sleep when Kallie informed him that she needed him to drive Claire Gibbons from her house to a florist shop to order the decorations for the women’s fall banquet.

“Why can’t you do it?” Ray asked.

“I’m on a writing deadline for one of the magazines.”

“The fashion one or the cooking one?”

“The parenting one. And I have some bad news, you have to take my car.”

“I can’t drive your car, my knees start killing me after two minutes in that thing. Did you tell Scott he could take the SUV?”

“No, you did.”

“Your car is too low.

Claire Gibbons was a weird blend of hipster and 1950s Baptist and you never knew which version of her you were getting at any given moment. Her contrasting themes ran through everything from her opinions on church matters to what she wore. Ray thought Kallie should be giving her some of the complimentary copies of the fashion magazine that were delivered each month, because her fashion style could best be described as contradictory.

The route to the florist shop from Claire’s house went by the former home of McGinn’s Wings. The windows were boarded up and there was a large ‘For Sale’ sign in the parking lot, even though the locals knew about the property selling to the condo company.

“Glad to see the end of that place;” Claire said.

Ray gulped. “How’s that?”

“Our Bible study group was praying that place would close.”

Ray took a slow, deep breath and asked, “Is that the group Kallie’s in?”

“No;” Claire offered, “She goes to Tuesday, I lead the one on Thursday.”

Ray kept his eyes on the road.

They were praying against the bar.

They were praying against the place where I spent my time.

A few minutes later the route took them by the home of a longtime member of North Hills Church.

“Look over there;” Claire said with much excitement, “Alan Richards got his car back.”

“I didn’t hear this story,” Ray responded, “What happened?”

“Alan got his license pulled when the eye doctor told him he couldn’t drive anymore until he got glasses, and the frames he wanted took six days to come in. In the meantime, his son borrowed the car and immediately heard and felt something not right. The mechanic found some kind of brake issue that could have been disastrous. I forget what they called it, something about –“

Ray had to slam on his own brakes when a dog ran out from nowhere, retrieved something from the road, and disappeared again.

Claire didn’t finish her sentence and Ray’s mind went back to Alan and his car.

His six day inconvenience prevented him from driving a broken car.

His inconvenience meant he was prevented from something worse.

Buds, Bulbs and Blooms, the florist shop was now in sight. Ray wasn’t sure where the women were getting the money to decorate the church multi-purpose room with expensive flowers, but the $28 they were charging the women for tickets offered a clue.

For her part, Claire noticed a silence had descended inside the car, and felt she should say something or do something, but she wasn’t sure what.

“Ray…” she began. But then she stopped unsure where she was going with this.

She started up again, “…We’ve been praying for you. Kallie told me about…” but then she suddenly seemed distracted as Ray pulled in the lot.

“Yeah;” Ray began, “I don’t know; I guess–“

Claire interrupted, “We’ve been praying since Kallie mentioned the thing about your knees. I really appreciate you doing this even though your son had your SUV. I don’t need a ride back, but you should park and walk around if they’re hurting.”

With that Claire hopped out and shut the car door.

They were praying for me.

They were praying for my healing.

Ray was deciding to where he could walk nearby and was just getting ready to shut off the engine when he noticed something.

His knees weren’t hurting at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 14, 2014

Skepticism of Another Kind

So yesterday there were four of us, all male, in a room; two of whom I had never met before and one I had only met the week prior. He was the one who was holding the letter.

The letter was posted (that’s mailed for Americans) in the UK and urgently requested his aid in helping someone in Nigeria claim a $4,000,000 US inheritance. You know the pitch. The type of letter you get as an email perhaps as much as once a day.

Only this guy doesn’t have email. So they tracked down a mailing address for him. It was reminiscent of chain letters. He had never seen anything like this. Imagine never owning a computer and being unaware of the barrage of appeals that are sent out using this same scam.

“They should teach skepticism as a school subject;” I said; but then immediately regretted my choice of words. I thought of the various skeptic clubs and societies which scratch at the door of Christian faith; the people for whom doubting is a default response. Did I want to encourage more of that?

trust1We speak of healthy skepticism, but that implies an unhealthy counterpart. There is after all, a place for trust. I’m glad I never was required to do that team-building exercise where you lean backwards off a chair or table and trust your friends or coworkers to catch you. I don’t think I could commit fully.

“Don’t you trust us?” they would ask; and I would reply, “No, I don’t.”

There is also a place for faith.

If a constant stream of email solicitations leave you simply unwilling to trust, commit, or put faith in anything — let’s say anything other than yourself — you are to be pitied because it implies you can’t find anything good or trustworthy in the larger world.

The next action we take with our scam mail is to press the delete button, and at the urging of a 5th person who waded into the conversation, the letter’s recipient was told to shred it — the physical equivalent — and minutes later the sound of an office shredder was exactly what was heard.

I guess my proposed skepticism class would ultimate teach that it’s all about what you put your faith in. Knowing how to discern truth from lies. And knowing that sometimes it is indeed difficult to tell the difference.

 

October 25, 2014

Peeking Inside Paul’s Computer: Christian Blog List

Okay, you need to be a Christian blog nerd to appreciate this, but I thought today I’d give you an inside look at my computer; specifically, all the Christian blogs that I have bookmarked there.  The blogroll you see in the right margin of Thinking Out Loud is just a small part of a bigger picture.  So here they are in no particular order, except that the first 40 or so are kinda on speed-dial — remember that Seinfeld episode? — and the bottom 40 or so have been added more recently. But otherwise, there’s no predictable pattern.  If you see anything here that’s not a blog, or a link that’s become corrupted, let me know. Also note that missing in this list are several blogs that I consider more as news sites, a handful of Patheos blogs, and also missing (because they’re in another directory) are about 30 blogs that do things similar to the Wednesday Link List. Have fun!

Stuff Fundies Like
Marketing Christian Books
Hear the Voice Blog
Without Wax
The Tony Jones Blog
ToddRhoades.com | Pastors and Church Leader News and Opinion
Phil Vischer
internetmonk.com
Blog |Philip Yancey
On Faith & Culture | Jonathan Merritt’s blog at Religion News Service
Parchment and Pen | Making Theology Accessible
Blog – ReKnew
Red Letter Christians – What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said?
The Master’s Table
blog.worship.com
NewSmallChurch.com
SKYEBOX » the weblog of Skye Jethani
Jon Acuff — Author | Speaker | Awesome
The Wartburg Watch
FBC Jax Watchdog
FaithVillage | MOVE YOUR FAITH HERE
holy heteroclite:
holy heteroclite
Bene Diction Blogs On
Beliefs of the Heart
The blog of Matthew Paul Turner
Rachel Held Evans | Rachel’s Blog Articles
Darrell Creswell’s Blog
Lorna Dueck: Her thoughts on world issues from a Christian Perspective
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove —
Passionately His
churchrelevance.com
ThinkChristian.net – Blogging about the intersection of faith and culture
Another Red Letter Day
onehandclapping —
LeadingSmart
Trey Morgan.net
Refine Us | To remove impurities from something…
Blog In My Own Eye
Jamie the Very Worst Missionary
Blog and Mablog
Reclaiming the Mission :: The Weblog of David Fitch
THE ORPHAN AGE
Brad Lomenick
One Passion One Devotion
Eric Metaxas » Blog
Kouya Chronicle
The Thinklings
rob bell
Red-Letter Believers
Cindy by the Sea
IVP – Andy Unedited
Lifestream Blog
Bruxy | The web site
The Heart Of The Matter
Donald Miller’s Blog — Best-Selling Author Of Books, And Stuff
Shaun Groves
Reformed Arminian Blog
Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace – Christian Apologetics
learning my lines. . .
David Kenney – Reciprocal Ecclesiology in a Pseudo Post-Modern Malaise.
Karen Spears Zacharias
The Bible and Culture — A One-Stop Shop for All Things Biblical and Christian
Pastor Steven Furtick
The Church of No People
City of God -
Soulfari
BadCatholic
Revitalize Your Church
Cain’s Wife Answer
Digging a lot
LarkNews.com
Quantum Tea – UK God Blogs
Glocal Christianity
Theophilus Monk’s Christian Faith & Theology Weblog
the Jesus Manifesto
Prodigal Magazine
Faith Blogs
http://catchjohnfischer.wordpress.com/
Losing My Religion
jonnybaker
A Living Alternative Our Missional Pilgrimage
Kruse Kronicle
Soiled Wings
300 words a day
Homebrewed Christianity
Zac Hicks – Worship. Church. Theology. Culture. – Zac Hicks Blog
My World
Will Mancini
CBMW » Gender Blog
http://jennicatron.tv/
TheWorshipCommunity.Com – Worship Leader Resources, Articles, Forums
Rumblings
Activate CFPL – Blog
Clarion: Journal of Spirituality and Justice
http://5ptsalt.com/
Sand in the Gears
Jesus Creed
American Jesus
Daily Christian Quotations
Semicolon | Books we must have though we lack bread.
God Is My Constant
Growing in Faith
reboot christianity
Mockingbird
The Bible and Culture
Calvinistic Cartoons
The Bible Hunter
Church and Family Cartoons by Tim Walburg
Simply Church: A House Church Perspective
Searching for grace
Strengthened by Grace
Journey of Worship | Thoughts and experiences on the journey of worship
Cake Or Death (Christian Church cartoons by Alex Baker)
People of the Second Chance | Overthrow Judgment. Liberate Love.
More Christ
Murray’s Musings
Till He Comes | Bringing Scripture and Theology to Life
God Discussion | For Seekers Who Don’t Go To Church
whyismarko — life, faith, youth ministry, emerging church, leadership, whimsy
Zombies. Theology. Whatever | Pastor Matt
http://goandmake.ca/
Faith In The Journey
I’m Waiting
Newgenesis Resurrection Ministries
Right Wing Watch
Living Proof Ministries Blog
Blog | Zondervan Author Mark Buchanan
jeff mikels
Musings by Robert
A Joyful Noise
Big Ear Creations
America’s Next Top Mommy
Dan White Jr.
Practical Faith
God Speaks I Listen
5:21 | Life & Gospel Reflections
the blue fish project (dave bish)
Wayne Stiles
Based on a True Story | Nathan Colquhoun
http://dbts.edu/blog/
Tall Monastic Guy
Gay Christian Movement Watch
JANELLE KEITH
Blue Letter Bible: The Blog | the official blog of blueletterbible.org
Straight-Friendly
Truthinator’s Blog
Glory to God for All Things
Mike King
The Radical.net Blog
Coming Out Christian — Conversations about being Christian and gay in America
RenaissanceNow | Ubi Caritas et Amor, Deus Ibi Est
Chilly Chilton | Christian | Husband | Father | Mentor | Pastor | Friend | Detroit
Jesus, I will follow you.
The Domain for Truth
A Deeper Story | Tales of Christ and Culture
FROM LEE IN TENNESSEE
the gospel side | The ruminations of a kyriarchist.
The King’s Presence
extraecclesiam…
The Journeyman’s Files
Bob Hostetler’s Prayer Blog
Created to Give God Glory
Looking Through the Windshield
The Prodigal Thought | Pointing prodigal thoughts towards the truth.
Sometimes a Light – Blog
Sue’ s considered trifles
ISTORIA MINISTRIES BLOG
Ralph Howe Blogs
connexions
Reflections | The High Calling
Digging the Word
once for all delivered
The Lewis Crusade | Fighting for human dignity, the worth of the disabled, the salvation of souls and the Gospel of Life
Blogotional
Daily Devotionals, Free Christian Bible Devotions Online
The Bridge Chicago
supersimbo | Christian/Husband/Blogger/Designer/Beard Enthusiast
Modern Reject – Nicole Cottrell: Writer, Speaker, Button-pusher
Christian Film Blog: CFDb’s Blog – Annelie’s Christian Film World Blog | Find Christian Movies on CFDb: Largest list of Christian Films
Prodigal Magazine – The Christian Magazine For Storytellers
Just My Thoughts
efcgraceblog | Thoughts on my never-ending search for grace.
Gestating A Church | Reflections on planting a new church for sinners, saints, and skeptics who join God in the renewal of all things
FaithsMessenger.Com
Bob Rogers | Pastor, First Baptist Church of Rincon, Georgia
Sunday| Magazine – A free online mag all about the creative side of Sundays.
Andy Stanley | Helping Leaders Go Further Faster
The High Calling
More Christ
Bouncing Back — Bouncing back from adversity; Moving forward with hope.
anabaptistly | attempting missional anabaptist living
Java Juice Blog House – FaithVillage | MOVE YOUR FAITH HERE
Doctrine Matters | Bible truths from www.BibleDebates.info
The Palmer Perspective
The Nuance | trailblazing beyond black & white
ChristianBlessings | CLICK A BLESSING TODAY
Pastor Dave Online | Reflections on Christ and Culture
the gospel side | The ruminations of a kyriarchist.
Please Convince Me
re-Ver(sing) Verses | reading, singing, analyzing verses
GrowDeep
Church Curmudgeon (ChrchCurmudgeon) on Twitter
thehopeforlife | Finding true freedom through Jesus
:: We Are Soma » Blog ::
CROSS-SHAPED STUFF | i want to see more stuff shaped like a cross
Joel J. Miller — Where Christian Theology Meets Daily Life
FAITH BOGDANlive well-loved by God! – Blog
Both/And. | Seeking–or making–a third way.
Canadian Writers Who Are Christian
Breaking News Pimp Preacher.com & The Church Folk Revolution
A Geek in the Wilderness – One geek/nerd hybrid journeys through history and the world in an epic search for truth, justice… and great pizza.
July | 2013 | ItsTholhuGospel
dianelindstrom | Overflow
As the Deer
(32) twentyonehundred productions
EerdWord | The blog of Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
PiH Today
Gordon Rumford Ministries
Adam Young
Incourage — daily devotional for women
Reason for Change | Theology isn’t science; it’s art.
Tall Skinny Kiwi » Brand spankin’ new site for tsk
Christian in the Rough — Finding fun in the middle of dysfunction, action at the end of distraction, and grace at the end of disgrace.
Given Breath
lotharlorraine | 4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site
[iDisciple] – Abiding in Christ, Growing in Community, Bearing Fruit
http://www.thepoachedegg.net/
Christian Funny Pictures – A time to laugh
A Parched Soul | Grayson Pope’s blog
Crossroad Junction
the banksyboy brief
when love comes to town
Stand to Reason
Roll to Disbelieve | Grab your 20-siders. We’re going in.
Home – Denison Forum on Truth and Culture
emily t. wierenga
Rebecca Writes – Rebecca Writes
The TallSkinnyKiwi Daily
MEETING IN THE CLOUDS | CLOUDWATCHER’S LIFE STORY and inspirational thoughts
Twitter / AbandonedPics: Abandoned church seems to still …
Christian Forum Site – Welcome to a Friendly Fellowship
the Cripplegate | for a new generation of non-conformists
Author Tricia Goyer
Restoring Significance
Peter Chin – husband, father, pastor, writer | Home
Blogging Theologically | Jesus, Books, Culture, & Theology
The Revangelical Blog – Revangelical Blog – Brandan Robertson- Rethinking. Reforming. Renewing.
Redemption Pictures
Blog – Jeremy Binns
the kiddy pool
Formerly Fundie — Insights, Hopes and Laments on American Christianity
Wordgazer’s Words
Receive with Meekness
Words of Life | Empowering Conversations to Help You Apply the Lifechanging Truths of the Bible
Blogs | Going Beyond Ministries
Catholic Memes
The Ironic Catholic
Defeating the Dragons | overcoming a fundamentalist indoctrination.
reformation 21 | Online Magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals
Thoughts about God – Daily Devotionals
Feeding on Christ – Reformed theological resources
Adrian Warnock — Patheos Evangelical
SharperIron | Thinking is fundamental
Love, Joy, Feminism —
H . A | Welcome to Homeschoolers Anonymous.
thatmom.com
Abundant Life Now
Blog | Vince Antonucci
JASON JOHNSON | BLOG
Well Spent Journey
Sandra Stanley
Sam Storms: Oklahoma City, OK > Enjoying God Blog
Abnormal Anabaptist | Come and read what it means to be abnormally Anabaptist. It might surprise you.
TALITHA KUM
Mormon411
Worn Pages
Curious Christian
Church Marketing Sucks
VergeNetwork – YouTube
thexiansatirist | because Xians can be worthy of ridicule…
The Wardrobe Door
Red Letter Believers – Christian Answers for the Curious and the Thoughtful
John H Armstrong | Reflections of a Missional-Ecumenist
No Longer Quivering —
For His Glory | If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…
Holy Soup – Innovative approaches to ministry.
Faith and Theology
Web devotions
Running the Good Race | “Let us run with perseverance …
The Bible Hunter
clarke’s SOAPBOX – . . . as if I don’t say enough on Sunday mornings!
The thought just occurred to me
Tim’s Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another
Theo-sophical Ruminations | Theological and philosophical musings
A Cry For Justice | Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence
Agog4God | A Gathering of Girlfriends & Guys for GodAgog4God
Confessions of a Funeral Director » @ the Crossroads of this World & the Next
More Than Coping | Mental Illness And The Christian
MANTURITY.COM — REDEFINE MATURITY
Ask Sister Mary Martha
Good Question | A blog by Christopher R. Smith,
Ben Irwin
Liz Boltz Ranfeld
James Pedlar
Pastoralized
The Revangelical Blog – The Revangelical Movement Blog, Podcast, Review
Sermons from a Psycho
Of Dust & Kings – Empowering Faith. Transforming Culture.
Revitalize Your Church
These Christian Times | Prophecy, bible, entertainment and current events
Get Along With God | A blog about discovering a God worth knowing.
Imago Dei
Blog | Practical ShepherdingPractical Shepherding
The Roundabout Way
reboot christianity
The Wanderer | “As I walked through the wilderness of this world . . .”
FaithsMessenger.Com
The Sometimes Preacher | Reflections on Jesus, Scripture, Theology, Ministry, and Church.
Glory to God for All Things | Orthodox Christianity, Culture and Religion
martyduren.com
I am Phoenix
Joy Phenix’s Blog | Joy : Defined
Launch Clarity
InsaneFaithNow | Aspects of life in a post-modern world…
Andrew Knott.org | Empowering Prayer, Encouraging People
ALIFESANCTIFIED.COM
Christianity | Not For Itching Ears
Christian Blog
Liberate
Christian Crier — For Ye That Have Ears To Hear
Gloria Furman
Ben Irwin
Brian Zahnd – Full-time pastor. Occasional author. Would-be mountaineer
BHBlog – Telligent
Christian Gravy
The Church of No People
Blog | CPYU
MomLife Today | EVERY MOMent COUNTS!
Missio Alliance
Blog – The Malphurs Group : The Malphurs Group
Youth For Truth U.S.A.
nish weiseth
The Narthex — Medium
Do Right Christians | WHAT KILLS YOU MAKES YOU STRONGER! ROMANS 8:13, 7:24-25 |AN IFB MINISTRY
Blog — Nancy Beach
Create With Joy | Infuse Creativity In All You Do
Blog | Mere Orthodoxy | Christianity, Politics, and Culture
Faith Beyond Belief
Borrowed Light – that Christ may be the only boast of this generation
Psephizo – scholarship. serving. ministry.
Eugene Cho
theologygrams | Theology explained in diagrams
Ministry Matters™
Mercy Not Sacrifice — The blog of Morgan Guyton
Back Row Online | #BeUndignified
ItsTholhuGospel | I Love God, I Love People, I Love Music…I Am TholhuGospel
Blog | Kate Conner
Real World Worship Leading | A Blog For Worship Leaders Who Lead Normal People In Normal Churches ||| RealWorldWorship.Org
Theoblogy — The Tony Jones Blog at Patheos
Simplify This Life
SonWorshiper | Literary Karaoke
Faith & Frivolity
Possessing the Treasure
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September 27, 2014

What I’m Hoping to Accomplish Here

Filed under: writing — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:50 am

Thinking Out Loud ScreenshotIn theory anyway, some day I’ll look back at what’s posted here and possibly regret a few articles and might start deleting some. But in the meantime, I try to deliver a decent product 7-days-a-week to my readers.  Here are some questions I must either ask now or ask later…

1. Was it informative?

My opinions leach out all over this blog, but hopefully I also provide raw information, spot new trends, help readers make connections to other resources, and even educate my readership about things they didn’t know.

2. Was it helpful?

The passing on of information by itself doesn’t really guarantee that reading said articles will make any difference in the life of readers. My goal should be to communicate for life change; to write in the hope that the day’s topics and focus is not only interesting but practical and beneficial.

3. Was I authentic?

People create all types of false personas on social media. I don’t want people to meet me in the real world and find me to be anything less than what my online trail would indicate. That includes the possibility of me deceiving myself into thinking that by virtue of this blog — and its numeric success — that I’m something I am not.

4. Was it fruitful?

The first three questions were probably sufficient, and I could have left it there, but one of the things I long for on a personal level is to see the fruit of the various endeavors that occupy my time. It’s not a matter of looking for validation as much as simply wanting to experience that organic moment when the seed takes root in the lives of people both individually and collectively. I think it’s a question we need to ask of anything we’re involved in.

September 21, 2014

Climbing the Ministry Ladder

Filed under: Church, ministry, writing — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:25 am

Conrad sat in the living room staring at the “yearbook” that Central Church had given him when he resigned several years ago. Well, “resigned” wasn’t exactly the right word, but other than that, there was nothing about his time pastoring the 700-member church that did not evoke fond memories.  He was only the third pastor Central had ever known, and while he did not experience the rapid growth of his predecessors, he’d seen the church grow from 556 members to 703.

Not that it was about numbers.  Well, maybe it was. His first church was 168 members, but he was only there for three years. Then he jumped at the opportunity to go to a 289 member church, where he stayed for five years. Next, he entered a four year term with the 374 member — oh, my goodness; it really was about numbers; he couldn’t believe he had remembered all that detail.

Short StoriesBut Central was the pinnacle as it turned out, twelve years, and average weekend attendance just under a thousand in two services, with 703 of those people full members.

And then he got sent to East Valley on an interim pastor assignment, that ended up lasting six years. Smaller numerically. A little backward culturally. He was balding now and the 414-member church was an older demographic that signified, along with his own age, the numbers might start dropping. And then it did.

Before he knew it, he was doing a meaningless job in the district office waiting out the years to retirement. He had ridden the entire parabolic curve of church size.

He put the yearbook down and sighed.

“You’d better get ready to go;” his wife Carla admonished from the kitchen, “The service at Whispering Willows starts at 2:00 PM.”

So this is what it comes to, he thought.  Sunday afternoon chapel services in the local seniors’ home.

The pianist assigned from the Salvation Army didn’t know any of the hymns he’d bookmarked. “We tend to do Army music;” she confessed, “But I can do Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art.”

“That’s all they ever want to sing anyway;” Conrad told her, and at 1:55 Whispering Willows staff started wheeling in the dozen-and-a-half women and three men who had signed up to go to chapel that week, plus two staff. Okay, a few of the residents used walkers, but he noticed that everybody that week had some type of appliance necessary to get them around.

At 2:00 he opened in prayer.  At 2:01 they sang How Great Thou Art. At 2:05 they sang Amazing Grace. At 2:08 he asked the pianist if she would play a little number from her Salvation Army hymnal. She gladly obliged, but the tune was unfamiliar and the melody was incomprehensible. But now it was 2:10.

Conrad checked his watch again. These services ran an hour, usually 40 minutes of singing and a 20 minute message. He knew he needed to stretch, so he asked if anyone had any prayer requests. “Just put your hands up.”

Surprisingly a woman in the second row did just that. He nodded toward her to share anything with the group and she said, “This isn’t the dining room.”

“No it isn’t;” Conrad replied.

Silence.

More silence. He noticed the ticking of a mantle clock he’d never noticed before. Things had never been this quiet.

“You know;” the retired pastor said, “I come here each month and I’ve never really told you much about myself, so before I share today’s scripture reading and message, perhaps I should share my story.”

So he spoke about his call to ministry late in high school, and how he had gone off to his denomination’s Bible college, and how he graduated and started climbing the ministry ladder. The problem was, as he had done before leaving for Whispering Willows, he was sharing more about the metrics of the various churches than about anything else that had happened in those various communities.

There was no story about Fred, or Jill, or Michael, or Jennifer, or anyone else. It was about the 168 and the 289 and the 374 and the 703 — there’s the high point again — and down to the 414. There was no reference to Carla standing by him in all those years in ministry, or raising a daughter and two sons in those various churches.

And then Conrad stopped. He had been listening to his own story. And he realized that it sounded pathetic.

It wasn’t that all he cared about were the numbers; it’s that he was bitter about never again getting the adrenaline rush associated with being able to speak to a thousand people each weekend. About being bounced down to a smaller church. And then left to deteriorate in a useless administrative position in the district office.

Another resident raised a hand, this time one of the men.

“You left out a number;” he said; “22. There’s twenty-two of us here, twenty-four if you count yourself and the woman who can’t play the piano.” (Of course he had miscounted by one, but…)

“Well actually;” he said, trying to do some damage control, “I think she did those hymns really well, she just doesn’t know the ones that are in your book.”

“Well I grew up Salvation Army, so hey, Miss, do you know Thou Christ of Burning, Cleansing Flame?”

“I don’t think we know that–” he started to say, but the pianist suddenly lighted up and launched into a rather rousing introduction, uncovering previously hidden keyboard skills, and the man stood to his shaking feet and in a loud and clear voice sang verse after verse.

As it turned out the song had a hook, a line that repeated constantly and by the 4th verse, all the residents were singing. Singing loudly, “Send the fire, Send the fire, Send the fire.”

By now it was 2:40 and he was back on schedule.

He read the text for the message, a sermon from the files of the glory days at Central Church, slightly shortened to fit the 20-minute window. In his mind he was back there. Two services. A thousand people every weekend.

One of the two staff members held up a cardboard sign that said “One Minute Left.” He thanked everyone for coming and gave a short benediction.  The staff members started getting ready to pull wheelchairs out of rows and into the hallway.

“Wait a minute! Stop!” yelled the man who had introduced the last song into the service mix; “That number you forgot. We aren’t 703 members, but there’s twenty-two of us, and we’re the best damn twenty-two people you’ve got right now.”

Conrad looked deep into the man’s eyes, and then noticed the smile.

And then he smiled back.

And then time froze and the staff stopped moving wheelchairs and everyone waited for Conrad to say something in return, except he couldn’t think of anything. Nothing at all. So he said the first words that popped into his head.

“This isn’t the dining room.”

 

September 20, 2014

The Last Post

Filed under: blogging, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:50 am

No, we’re not talking today about the bugle call known as “The Last Post,” although there is a similarity of theme.  Wikipedia reminds us about that song which originally connoted the end of day for soldiers and then crossed over into memorial usage: “In all these countries it has been incorporated into military funerals, where it is played as a final farewell, symbolizing the fact that the duty of the dead soldier is over and that he can rest in peace.”

Neither are we saying this is the last blog post here at Thinking Out Loud, though perhaps some of you were hoping!

Rather, what got me thinking was a Twitter post from Keith Brenton last night:

If I had just one social media post left in my life, to bring joy and wisdom and love to a sad, stupid, hateful world …this wouldn’t be it.

Okay. But what if you had one post left?  In the endless stream of social media history you’ve created on WordPress, on Facebook, on Twitter, on tumblr, on Instagram, on YouTube… and on everything else; what if you had One Final Post. Your own famous last words. The thing everyone would remember you by.

What would it be? 

Note: These words, phrases and sentences are already taken

  • Related: Two years ago I posted the lyrics to a song I wrote as a much younger person. I was basically asking the same question, “What will my life be remembered for?” It’s a fair question to ask yourself periodically.

September 16, 2014

“I’m Fine — Not”

Filed under: writing — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:49 am

Guest Post

Today I want to introduce you to Diane Lindstrom who blogs at Nice One Nana!  To read this at source, click the title below.


The Fog of a Broken Heart

Apparently, the two most common lies are “I’m fine” and “It’s OK.”

Casual conversation seems to trap us into a practiced script that alienates us from exposing the truth about who and how we really are.

It’s difficult to be honest with others because to do so, we need to believe that others care and that it will be safe to expose the restlessness in our spirits, without fear of rejection.

image 0916A young woman walked into the store last week and I greeted her with a friendly, “Hi – how ya’ doin’ today?”

She walked up to the counter, took my hand,  looked me straight in the eye and asked,“Do you REALLY want to know because if you genuinely care, I’ll tell you about the sh–ty day I’ve had so far.”  

It was quiet in the store — no customers around — and because I had engaged in conversations with this woman before, I decided to pursue the dialogue.

“I care, Susan. I care” was my response. I put down the pricing machine and postured myself in a way that said, “Talk to me. I’m listening.”

The young woman began to speak.

“So, here’s the story. My mouth says ‘I”m OK.’ My fingers text, ‘I’m fine’ but my heart says, ‘I’m broken.’ There’s a good chance I’m going to lose custody of my two kids because of my drinkin’ and my mother is giving up on me. I’m not fine. I’m not OK. I feel like I’m gonna’ die.”

With those words, the woman began to weep.

Oh, how humanity is groaning all around us. (Romans 8. 22,23)

The Holy Spirit breathed Jesus’ familiar words into my conscience.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me . . . I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. ~ Matthew 25:35-36,40

I have learned that it’s a costly choice to care.

Consciously allowing our hearts to break goes against not only our natural tendencies, but also against the grain of our culture. Myriad distractions lure us from embracing pain. There are so many places to hide so that we need not heed God’s beckoning to share in the suffering of impoverished people.

But the pain and empathy I felt moved me to action.

A person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. ~ James 2.24

I walked around the counter and held her in my arms. Thankfully, no other customers came into the store and I was resolved to be “all there” for this hurting woman. She didn’t need advise or exhortation. I couldn’t be the answer to her pain but I certainly could be “Jesus with skin on” for those precious minutes that she needed to be held.

The fog of a broken heart is a dark fog that slyly imprisons the soul.

If we can be a beacon of light that breaks through the fog, even for a short moment, it is good and honoring to God.

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.    ~   2 Corinthians 4.7 NLT


Diane Lindstrom is a Canadian author who looks for Almighty God in the ordinariness of life. She has been blogging daily since 2010 and has recently published her first book, Sisters in the Son.  She thrives on bike rides, laughter and homemade chai tea with lots of froth.

August 18, 2014

From the Diary of Isaac Wotts, Church Janitor

Filed under: charity, Church, writing — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:47 am

Isaac writes:

One of the things I hate is when someone comes up to me on Sunday morning and says, “There’s something in the men’s room you need to see.” I try to dress up a little for Sunday, but there’s a great deal of wisdom in actually attending a different church than the one which employs you, especially if you’re the church custodian. (But if you’re the pastor; then it doesn’t work out too well.)

Short StoriesIn the handicapped stall, someone had carried in a chair from an adjacent Sunday school room, propped it up underneath the ventilation grate and then apparently knocked the grate down, bending it somewhat.

“Would you like to know what happened here?” I asked the man who had located me. He nodded so I continued. “This happens every two years. A bunch of middle school boys are in here and hear the sound of the toilet flushing in the adjacent women’s restroom. They realize the rooms are not totally soundproof and then they recognize the voices of middle school girls they know talking loudly. They are determined to either hear more or see more and so they climb up here only to discover the vents point away from the floor and the whole exercise is pointless.”

I thanked him for letting me know about the problem, and then, since the chair was already in place, I climbed up to see if the grate could be fitted back on and when I determined it wasn’t too badly bent, I opted to go get a soft mallet so I could deal with it right away. Just before I climbed down, I discovered firsthand how clear the sound is when you are close to the ventilation system…

“…I don’t know how she manages with all those children.”

“I know, and she wears that same blue and white outfit to church week after week after week. Like, doesn’t she have anything else in her closet.”

“Well at least when those brats are acting up they don’t have to put her number on the screen; the ushers can always find her in that same white shirt and blue vest thing…”

At that moment someone came into the restroom and I thought it better to climb down lest I be accused of the very thing the middle school boys were up to.

About three minutes later I was back standing on the chair, ready to hammer the grate in place, and just as I was about to strike the first blow I realized there were different people in the rest room next door…

“Hi, Wendy how is it going?”

“Well, my brother Tom is being released from the hospital on Thursday, so then he says he’s ready to take the kids back over the next month; so we’re going to very slowly work our way down from six kids to just my three.”

“It must cost you a fortune to feed them.”

“Yeah, and they’ve all grown over the summer and need back-to-school clothes, and the hand-me-down thing doesn’t work because of the girl/boy distribution. I’ve got $75 to spend on all six of them. And that leaves me with nothing. I’ve got three changes of clothes to wear to work, and I don’t know how many times I’ve worn this one to church.”

“Why don’t you come by the thrift shop?”

“Oh I practically live there, Olivia; but not the one you work at, we go uptown because there’s free parking.”

“No, I want you to come to mine, downtown. I’ll use my manager key in the cash register and authorize the cashier to give you 50% off everything; I’ll explain it in the log somehow. Come next week, and park in the Jefferson Street lot, and bring the parking receipt into the store and I’ll get it authorized.”

“That would be awesome. I’m not gonna turn you down. I really appreciate…”

…And then they must have walked out the door.

Church CustodianI banged the ventilation grate into place, picked up the chair and emerged from the men’s room, noticing the two Grade Seven boys on the opposite hallway looking at me and laughing. Suspicions confirmed.

Inside the maintenance room, I replaced the mallet, and then grabbed a roll of masking tape from a nearby shelf. I reached in my wallet and pullet out a gift card from Sears that I knew had about $48 left on it. Not much, but still…

I placed two strips of tape on the card, and on the first I wrote, “$48 — Treat yourself;” and on the second “Use this for YOU.”

Wendy was easy to spot. She was wearing the aforementioned blue and white thing. “This is for you;” I said, “From someone who wishes to remain anonymous.”

She read it and said, “Oh I’ll bet this from Olivia.”

“No, I said;” It’s not from Olivia; when were you talking to her?”

“In the women’s room this morning.”

“No, Wendy, this totally predates that.”

I walked away. It predated it by about three minutes to be sure; it was part of the earlier conversation I overheard, so it wasn’t a lie, right?

 

 

 

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