Thinking Out Loud

April 9, 2014

Wednesday Link List

New Pews

I am a linkoholicSo, if I go to see one of the many faith-focused movies currently running, can I skip church that weekend? While you ponder that, here’s this week’s link-o-rama:  Clicking anything below will take you to PARSE, the link list’s benefactor.

Paul Wilkinson’s writing the rest of the week is made possible by readers at Thinking Out Loud and at C201, and by viewers like you.

Between Services - Sacred Sandwich

Above: After a forever away from posting something new, Sacred Sandwich awoke as from a giant sleep.

Below: This is from the Abandoned Pics Twitter feed: @AbandonedPics and is a wooden church somewhere in Russia. 

Click the respective images to link. (Or the irreverent ones.)

Abandoned Wooden Church in Russia

January 29, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Bible is like a software license
A lot of people are critical of short-term missions, but right now, a plane ticket to somewhere warm would look really appealing. In the meantime, here are some links to keep you warm, clicking anything that follows will take you to PARSE at Christianity Today and then you can click through from there.

We leave you today with “the thrill that’ll gitcha when ya get your picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone.”  In this case, Pope Francis in the current issue; click the image to read the story.

Pope Francis Rolling Stone Cover

Paul Wilkinson is based in Canada — “You liked the first Polar Vortex so much we’re sending you another one” — and blogs at Thinking Out Loud and Christian Book Shop Talk

January 8, 2014

Wednesday List Link

Amish Vampires in Space

Lloyd the Llink Llist Llama Crashes the Party Exactly One Year After His First Visit Here

Lloyd the Llink Llist Llama makes his annual January visit

The list is back, though there was a link list on Saturday, December 28th at both Out of Ur and Thinking Out Loud you can scroll back to. If you caught that one, then you’re ready to kick off another year of link love. First, about the picture, it’s one of the “winners” — if you can call them that — of the Worst Christian Book Covers for 2013. (Click the link, then work your way to number one.) I don’t know where they found these — though this might help — but the list for 2012 did contain some you might recognize.  The rest of the links here will switch over once Out of Ur goes live with the list.

Thinking Out Loud Media CentralI’d like you to think I oversee the Christian internet in a command center like Christof has in The Truman Show, pictured at right, but in reality, it’s a refurbished PC on a cluttered desk next to the fireplace in the rec room. The fireplace has negative efficiency, however, so it’s not on during the polar vortex deep freeze. Hey, it could be worse…I could be blogging in my underwear in my parents’ basement.

If you clicked over here from Out of Ur; be sure to look around; a lot more happens here than link lists; you never know what you’ll find. (Be on the lookout for a lost reader from Iowa, who was last seen in the archives somewhere in the summer of 2010…)

Christian Artist Pop Cans

December 16, 2013

Christian Radio Stations and the True Meaning of Christmas

Christmas Banner 2

Because I spend part of my week in a Christian retail environment, I hear a lot from customers about their frustration trying to buy Christmas cards that contain anything even remotely resembling the Biblical Christmas story, and as I mentioned here a few days ago, the birth narrative from Matthew or Luke is just the beginning of what we, as Christ-followers, would want to convey.  Fortunately, the Christian bookstores — and their online equivalents — are able to offer products that aren’t about Rudolph, or Frosty, or one-horse open sleighs.

So now that we’re into the final countdown to Christmas, I’m at a total loss to understand how it is that the customers who so decry the secularization of Christmas can handle what Christian radio is offering during the final weeks of December. Biblical narrative? Idea that Jesus came to save us? Concept of God incarnate? Some songs, yes; but in many others that are sucking up valuable Christian radio airtime, it’s just not there to be heard.

Now let me say at the outset there are two realities present here.

The first is that successful Christian music artists either feel compelled or are compelled contractually to make a Christmas album. This provides them with extra visibility, extra radio airplay and extra revenue. And I’m sure that these artists really do have deep personal memories of song of these songs from their own childhood years.

Secondly, I realize that for Christian radio stations, they are most likely to attract new listeners at this time of year with a playlist that is more recognizable to the average listener. Maybe some of those new listeners will stick around in January, and hear the Good News in a way they’ve never heard it before. One of my favorite radio ministries is 96five in Brisbane, Australia. They play a mix of Christian and secular family-friendly songs that has earned them top ratings in their market.

Despite both of these realities, I believe there is an expectancy on the part of regular listeners, who are also in many cases financial supporters that the station will take the opportunity to communicate the message of the Gospel at this time of year. Furthermore, I think the broader community feels that in many ways they own lyrics like “Joy to the world, the Lord is come” in a way that they don’t relate to “How great is our God,” and are therefore quite content to stop tuning across the radio spectrum and allow their car radios to stop at any station that’s playing the traditional carol.

I’ve deliberately avoided mentioning names of artists or song titles here, but the one which grates on me (and others) most this year is a recording of a new song called “Merry Christmas, Baby.” Sorry, but there are so many better uses for that three minutes. I realize the song goes into what we might call vertical ‘worship-inclined’ lyrics — lyrics that can be taken two ways — but that isn’t clear to listeners in the context — and title — of the larger song.

There is also an argument for the radio formula where only one song in three is a Christmas song, and listeners traveling to the mall or to family events get to hear the kind of Christian radio that is broadcast the rest of the year, instead of re-branded “Christmas” format that disappears on December 26th. That strategy, is something my Christmas card customers would support. Right now they’re just bewildered.

What’s your relationship to the whole Christian Christmas-album genre?

December 11, 2013

Wednesday Link List

antisocial

Once again, it’s time to hit the links: You can catch this week’s list at its home at Out of Ur, a blog of Leadership Today magazine.  Click anything below:

 Story of Jesus SUV

November 20, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Times of Testing

If your work week runs Monday to Friday, by noon on Wednesday you’re ‘over the hump,’ but the Baptist in me still blushes when someone says, “Happy Hump Day!”  With that, I think we’d better quickly move on to the links which you’ll find at Out of Ur.

The Wednesday Link List is written by Paul Wilkinson who blogs the rest of the week at Thinking Out Loud and Christianity 201.  Professional stunt blogger. Do not attempt at home. Offer not valid in Wisconsin or Hawaii.

Sister Mary Clara Vocation Doll

September 4, 2013

Wednesday Link List

peanuts

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a link list without any links!  To see the interactive page, click over to Out of Ur.

The interwebs were moving slower over the Labor Day weekend — and we stepped outside our rolling 30 day window — but hopefully what we lack in quantity this week we make up for in quality…

  • A pastor leading a Financial Peace University course realized that along with everybody he was teaching, he and his wife needed to create a budget.
  • “In the Church…”  is the definitive blog post for anybody who finds themselves planted squarely in The Church, but at the same time wanting to distance themselves.
  • In most jurisdictions, kids need to be vaccinated to attend school, but if they’re home schooled… Furthermore, if immunization is dismissed for fear of autism, is spreading measles a valid trade-off? (Also, a related opinion piece at Religion Dispatches.)
  • Yes, you can write a song. Here’s a primer on the form and structure of modern worship compositions.
  • Essay of the Week: Perhaps instead of looking at the five points of Calvinism as dry doctrine, we should think of TULIP as a narrative.
  • There’s always been a campus version of The Alpha Course, but now a Canadian group has completed Alpha Youth, scheduled for January release across North America.
  • So exactly what can be extrapolated “just because the bloggers of the Gospel Coalition happen to be in agreement with Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe and authoritarian Russian boss Vladimir Putin”?
  • Considering we usually think the ethnic churches have it all covered, it’s interesting to read an article concerned with the ‘white church’ looking for a Latino evangelism game plan.
  • Carlos Whitaker has five or six things he wishes worship leaders would stop saying, followed by 200 more reader suggestions.  (Somewhat related quotation.)
  • It’s small group start-up time again, making this the link you should most want to forward this week.
  • Flashback – One year ago: Psalm 42 in the Pirate translation.
  • Jamie The Very Worst Author talks about a book project that is apparently having trouble getting off the ground.
  • Niche blogging reaches new heights of narrowcasting (Oops! Mixed visual image) with the blog edition of Bearded Gospel Men. Possibly related piece at Christianity Today.
  • Interview of the Week: A Vancouver, Canada journalist talks to Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove about intentional, New Monasticism communities.
  • A Mormon websites trumpets the new stat that a majority of Latter Day Saints now live outside Canada and the U.S, where the religion began.
  • The artist who gave us the 2011 song “Blessings” (and “Indescribable”), Laura Story has a new album on the way.
  • Here’s a blog archive ‘find’ from earlier this year at Adorate: You hear a lot about ‘sheep stealing,’ but not so much about ‘shepherd stealing,’ or ‘pastor prostitution.’
  • It’s a frequently covered topic, but if you’ve got time, this is one of the better articles on taking a social media fast.
  • At a blog for pastors’ wives, a book promo video for Speak Love also becomes a lesson in journalism for Pete Wilson’s son Gage Wilson. (The Zondervan book by Annie Downs sounds good, too.)
  • Just in case you’ve never heard the music of Johnnyswim, enjoy Heartbeats.
  • We leave you with this weekend Tweet from Church Curmudgeon: “Headed over to the seminary barbecue this afternoon. Otherwise known as casting a pig into a herd of D. Mins.”

Hope you enjoyed today’s selection. Our goal is to celebrate people you know and people blogging in relative obscurity. Suggestions accepted by 5:00 EST through the contact page.

Peanuts on Theology

August 4, 2013

It’s a Beautiful Love – Shine Bright Baby

Every once in awhile you need a song that brings a smile to your face and some movement to your feet. I discovered this song Friday night listening to NGEN Radio in Texas. The band is called Shine Bright Baby.

I’ve been staring at a sunset sky
All the wonder just fills my eyes
Everything inside of me is bursting out
“I believe!”
The same One who paints the clouds
Is the One who turned my life around
You’ve given me a melody
A song to sing

You’re not looking at where I’ve been
Not looking at what I’ve done
You’re taking me as I am
It’s a beautiful love, beautiful love…

June 15, 2013

The Homogenization of Ideas

Many years ago, when my life was more about music than about books, I met a girl — name truly forgotten — who had written a children’s musical that she hoped I could help her get published. Despite the fact that I worked in the broadest sectors of the Christian music industry, my interest lay more in breaking new territory for contemporary Christian music, not in the choral music product market.

But then I listened to the tape she gave me.

Without any formal musical training, this girl had conceived an entire cantata for children — theme unfortunately forgotten also — that was truly awesome.

I made an exception and got to work on collecting contact names for choral publishing companies I was already in working relationship with, and some expressed interest in pursuing this talented young woman further.

Greetings from NashvilleProvided she was willing to relocate to Nashville.

This is the part of the story that amazed me, and one which I fought tooth and nail at the time. “What good does it do,” I asked, “If everyone in the industry is waking up in the same town, driving on the same freeways, shopping at the same malls, walking in the same parks, going to the same churches, and dare I say listening to the same music? Isn’t this going to lead to music that all sounds the same?”

Nobody listened. In the end she decided it was too big a move that was not guaranteed to offer sure returns. Your loss. My loss. Kids who would have learned and performed her musical; their loss. Don’t know what happened to her.

The other night we were listening to overseas radio stations online. Norway. The Netherlands. England (but not the BBC which is geo-blocked in Canada). The one thing we noticed was the decisive absence of the telltale Nashville influence. The American guitar-based country sound — that permeates rock and other genres here whether we admit or not — was replaced by the Euro music sound of keyboards. It was a nice change.

The more southern U.S. the sound — apologies, Third Day — the less I like it. In a shrinking world, we still get to hear too little of what is a staple musical diet for audiences in Europe. Geo-blocking of internet radio and YouTube music videos is not helping. I’d like to know how much of that blocking is European-driven, and how much of it originates with the American offices of multi-national record companies.

The Christian internet of which I am a part is no different. Justin Taylor or Kevin DeYoung writes something and Tim Challies and Zach Nielsen link to it, and then all the Challies wannabes link to it on their blogs. Sixty gazillion Christian blogs all carrying the one story of the day and the same blog referrer advertisement for the $1.99 eBook download of the day.

Yes, people exist on the fringes, and bloggers like this one who try “marching to the beat of a different drummer,” but ultimately, we witness the homogenization of creativity and the homogenization of thought on a daily basis; people striving to carve out an individual  identity, but essentially all waking up in the same town, driving on the same roads, eating in the same restaurants, and playing the same four chords. So to speak.

May 29, 2013

Wednesday Link List

great-commission-revisted

Wednesday List Lynx

Wednesday List Lynx

Atoning every Wednesday for stealing content the other six days a week; since 2008.

  • Is the Pope Catholic? Pope Francis sure shook things up with a statement this week that was perhaps as traditional as it was radical.
  • Philip Yancey, in The Jesus I Never Knew quotes Walter Wink: “If Jesus had never lived, we never would have been able to invent him.” Here’s a tribute to Wink, an author many of us don’t know, who passed away last year.
  • Huffington Post says Joel Osteen’s extensive use of social media makes him a Digivangelist. Except for those nights when email prayer requests are returned to senders
  • The Roman Catholic Church in Venezuela is running out of wine for mass, and the wafers for communion are facing a price increase. Shortages in the country are affecting everything including toilet paper.
  • There’s been a resolution in the conflict between New York City schools, and religious groups wanting to rent space in schools on weekends.
  • If your statement of faith is crafted with such precision that it really only applies to your church, you might be bound by theological legalism.
  • Brian Zahnd writes, “I have more in common with the Egyptian Muslim who prays five times a day than with the European secularist who never prays.” You are what you pray.
  • Found a great article this week on Genesis 1, which wasn’t written to counter Darwinism, but was written that people might believe
  • The cartoon at the top was sourced at Greg Boyd’s blog, where it is credited to Jay Sidebotham.
  • Here’s a great church snapshot: “…25% of St. Jude’s adults have a PhD. Another 25% have done or have a family member who is doing prison time. PhD’s and prisoners. That is St. Jude’s in a nutshell.”  Read more
  • Sorry to learn of the passing of Chris Daniel, the force behind the Old Christian Music blog, a great source of information about the Christian rock of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Someone new may be taking over the site.
  • When your Mormon friend says “Jesus,” and you say “Jesus,” you’re talking about two entirely different people.
  • Nick Vujicic does the impossible and talks about his faith in a stadium rally in Vietnam, a country highly restrictive in terms of religious freedom.
  • A Texas couple are giving away their $4 billion fortune rather than leaving it for their three children.
  • Video clip of the week: Larissa Heatley pays tribute to her grandfather, Dallas Willard.
  • The Christian school at the center of the 4th grade dinosaur test — now ubiquitous online — is dealing with the subsequent publicity
  • Artists to watch: From season 11 of American Idol, Colton Dixon. Here’s a sample from YouTube.
  • As much as 30% of all internet activity may be porn-related; and it seems that it doesn’t matter where your city rates on the religiosity scale.
  • On June 3rd, one of the all-time original Christian bloggers, Tall Skinny Kiwi is preparing to move on to a new social media platform.
  • And lastly, there’s this book

Try to have your link suggestions in by 6:00 PM on Monday, since we start preparing The Feast of Linkage ahead of time.

At My God Is

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