Thinking Out Loud

September 1, 2014

Resting From Our Labors

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:41 am

Here’s what’s going on here as we take a day off…

  • Tomorrow, a review of You and Me Forever co-authored by Francis Chan and Lisa Chan. This book is rich in scripture as it looks at the spiritual nurture of couples as being the most important thing. If your local Christian bookstore doesn’t carry it, tell them it’s only available wholesale through Send the Light Distribution.
  • Slow ChurchI’m currently reading Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus  by Christopher Smith and John Pattison. I don’t usually get InterVarsity Press books to review, so this is a rare delight, especially since I worked for IVP on two occasions (and two locations) in Canada. The book is an analogy to the “slow food” movement, popular in some parts of North America and beyond.  The publisher annotation reads, ” In today’s fast-food world, Christianity can seem outdated or archaic. The temptation becomes to pick up the pace and play the game. But Chris Smith and John Pattison invites us to leave franchise faith behind and enter the kingdom of God, where people know each other well and love one another as Christ loves the church.
  • Because of the holiday, the link list for Wednesday is already done. I appreciate those of you who send suggestions, and for PARSE, Leadership Journal, and Christianity Today for allowing it to reach a wider audience. The only problem is having to make you wait until Wednesday to read it.
  • wordpress_iconsSome of you know that I work in a Christian bookstore. We don’t have a lot of money, and it’s a fairly small town, so our website essentially bounces people to a WordPress blog, that serves the purpose. Last week a woman phoned to say she wanted to order the wall hanging we had advertised. I assured her we don’t do online commerce on our site, but as she described it, I realized that Christian Book Distributors (CBD) was paying WordPress for an advertisement to appear on our store blog. As if they don’t own enough of the market already. And as if this doesn’t raise some ethical questions. Say what you will about Amazon (and we do say things) CBD has been the cause of the demise of local Christian bookstores for more than two decades now; their damage really predates widespread use of the internet. We’re thinking of advertising that we’re now accepting orders from their site to fulfill here. They just have to copy and paste the shopping cart and email it to us, and then delete the cart. We figure what we lose on the deeper discount stuff we’ll make up where their discount isn’t really that great. (Their shipping charges to the frozen north are a flat 25%; which really adds to the price.)
  • Our youngest is back to school today. The Christian university he attends in Ancaster, Ontario supposedly reported a decrease in enrollment for this academic semester, but in three of his course selections, the classes were full. Not enough seats? Probably just profs that don’t want to mark more than a certain number of tests and essays. Really frustrating for us, because I want to help him with book costs but can’t, not knowing if he’s in certain courses or not. #overgrownhighschool  Parents: Really check out the schools your children are considering carefully. Schools: The parents of existing students can be your best advertising, or your worst nightmare.
  • c201bFinally, I just saw the August stats for our companion blog, Christianity 201. It’s truly growing quickly. Devotions and Bible studies are posted daily, including weekends, usually between 5:00 and 6:00 PM EST. (It’s the afternoon blog, this is the morning blog.) Devotional writing that is based in scripture is actually really hard to find, so we’re always looking for people who already have a writing history online who would be willing to submit articles. We also have a regular, weekly contributor now, Canadian pastor Clarke Dixon, whose writing style seemed a good fit for what we’re doing.

 

August 20, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Christian Coke

Time for your midweek break and some news and opinion pieces you may have missed:

Paul Wilkinson is available to speak or sing on any dates you had previously booked with Mark Driscoll, Vicky Beeching or Gungor and may be contacted through his blogs, Thinking Out Loud and Christianity 201.

May 21, 2014

Wednesday Link List

John Wesley quotation

Out of several hundred potential links, these were some things that got my attention this week. Clicking anything below will take you to PARSE, the list’s owner, a blog of Leadership Journal in the Christianity Today family. From there, click the stories you want to see.

When not hunting down links for you, Paul Wilkinson blogs at Thinking Out Loud, Christianity 201, and Christian Book Shop Talk.

March 12, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Prophecy Class

Yes, it’s true; Target does have people who visit Wal-Mart and link list creators do drop in on other link lists to see what’s making the rounds. If you find yourself craving more of this sort of thing by Saturday, two of my weekend favorites are the Saturday Ramblings at Internet Monk and the Saturday Links at DashHouse. I only borrowed one from iMonk, but linked three stories from church planter Darryl Dash, so this week’s lengthy intro was mostly guilt-induced. Clicking anything below will take you to PARSE, the Link List Overlords; then click the stories you want to read there.

The Wednesday Link List is a production of Paul Wilkinson with proofreading assistance from Mrs. W. who is actually the better writer in the family.

T on the Wall

October 2, 2013

Wednesday Link List

This is what greeted worshipers as they arrived at church on Sunday; Mrs. W. snapped a picture.

This is what greeted worshipers as they arrived at church on Sunday; Mrs. W. snapped a picture.

[B]link and you’ll miss it!  As per usual, the links are missing in all the stories below. You have two options: (a) spend hours using search engines to try to figure out where the pirate treasure is buried (see above) or (b) visit the Link List’s new owners at Out of Ur

  • Usually the video links come near the end. But not when it’s a new song by Gungor.
  • So why does Compassion invite online writers to apply for one of their overseas trips if they only choose A-list faith bloggers?
  • Apparently a respected Canadian Bible college has some history with the world’s favorite funeral protestor.
  • If 150 churches donated $1,000, it would buy a home for Saeed Abedini’s family. Meanwhile, Billy Graham asks Iran’s President for Saeed’s release, as does President Obama.
  • Two architectural firms are set to begin the transformation of the former Crystal Cathedral into a Catholic-friendly facility.
  • Seven years later, the wife of the Amish schoolhouse shooter breaks her silence.
  • A Chinese pastor thinks Rick Warren needs a lesson in cultural sensitivity, while the blogger known as Naked Pastor discusses the same adapted Red Guard propaganda poster.
  • A Wisconsin truck driver has so far spent over half a million dollars funding a billboard ministry on major highways.
  • A pastor in Louisiana was shot to death during a Friday night church service. Then, after reading that, the story gets worse a few days later.
  • When their daughter’s wedding was canceled, the parents of the bride invited 200 homeless people to the four-course meal that would have been the reception.
  • Essay(s) of the Week: A tie between two pieces by Hannah Anderson, her piece on Childlessness, and an open letter to her insurance company.
  • Married people remember their single days with affection, but for those still single, their experience doesn’t match the stories.
  • Why clergy shouldn’t dispense medical advice: Women who drive automobiles risk damaging their ovaries.
  • A Church planter proves the axiom that hindsight is always 20/20 .
  • History Lesson: Once upon a time, people wrote music reviews of new albums.
  • Some pastoral leadership errors can be overcome, but there are three mistakes you really want to avoid.
  • Church. It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. But it’s the best because of what Jesus is doing.
  • Speculative Church History Department: Would U.S. President Barak Obama bomb the Canaanites?
  • Speculative Music History Department: What if The Beatles sang theology?
  • The problem with prostitution is that we sugarcoat it instead of seeing it as a form of rape.
  • Bible Translation of the Week: The International Standard Version, version 2.0 (that would be the ISV-V2.0)
  • Alternative Bible Version of the Week: God is Disappointed in You; by humorist Mark Russell along with a cartoonist from New Yorker magazine.
  • Also in the humor section of your local e-bookstore is  Joel Osteen’s Jokes: Collection of Joel Osteen’s Funniest Short, Clean Jokes. Apparently this is the latest in the potentially copyright-infringing series called Joel’s Gems.
  • Seems like everywhere you turn, there is a television show with a faith-based theme.
  • Finally, there are some great articles online promoting Christian higher education, and then, on the other hand, there’s hype and propaganda.

Now you’re curious, right?  Click over to Out of Ur, a website of Christianity Today.

I love this photo of the work done by the girls at this year's Fine Arts Edge Camp at Camp IAWAH in Ontario, Canada

I love this photo of the work done by the girls at this year’s Fine Arts Edge Camp at Camp IAWAH in Ontario, Canada

September 18, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Glasbergen - preaching

My pappy said,”Son, you’re gonna drive me to drinkin’ if you don’t stop readin’ that Wednesday Linkin'” *

With that* we begin another round. To read this week’s list with the actual links, you must click over to Out of Ur.

  • Where are the frogs?  For Glen Eyrie, a Christian conference center in Colorado operated by The Navigators, last year it was fire, this year it’s flooding.
  • The latest story of a child’s death alleging a connection to a controversial parenting book has international repercussions. (I’ve been tracking the book’s story for four years now.)
  • Sermon of the Week: Steve Carter at Willow finds a common thread between postsecrets.com and the life of Moses.
  • Testimony of the Week: Jessica Kelley shares an intense story of suffering and loss with the congregation at Greg Boyd’s church. 44 powerful minutes.
  • Essay of the Week: Andy Hall finds himself in the middle of the same type of story as Jessica, and connects what happened at Eden to the suffering we experience in a fallen world.
  • Saeed Abedini appeals to the new President of Iran to release him from prison; while his wife speaks at Liberty University.
  • Is there a difference between women preachers and women bloggers? Much depends on how the women bloggers view their role.
  • Jamie The Very Worst Photographer attempts to show us highlights of her trip to Guatemala.
  • At some point in 2014, Hillsong is planting a church in Southern California. Maybe some day Justin B. will visit that Hillsong church also.
  • Parents in Scotland want to be able to have a say in whether or not their children receive gay sex education.
  • Just weeks before classes started, Canada’s Trinity Western University canceled a filmmaking course because the teacher couldn’t sign on to TWU’s statement about the fate of unbelievers.
  • Got last minute company arriving tonight? Take the references for the top sixty most searched Bible verses at topverses.com and turn it into a trivia game.
  • While the Pope is suggesting the possibility of married priests, for some, the big story is his purchase of a 1984 Renault. (Bumper sticker: My other car is the Pope Mobile.)
  • Christena Cleveland is running a series of essays on the experience of African-American students at Christian universities.  Here’s  some  samples.
  • For I know the plans I have for who? A look at the context behind a much-quoted Bible promises.
  • Before he could burn nearly 3,000 copies of the Quran, Pastor Terry Jones and an associate are charged with firearms and vehicle registration issues. The story does raise the question of what happened to the kerosene-soaked copies of the Muslim holy book.
  • Equal Time Department: In a Reformed-theology-dominated blogosphere, someone dares to offer Ten Reasons Why I Am a Wesleyan. (Some Arminians may not be drawn to these particular reasons.)
  • Sigh! Another case of a church wanting to part company from their denomination, but wanting to keep the property.
  • In a world where unusual church names are the norm, it’s hard to distinguish yourself from the pack, which is why I like this one from the UK: Everyday Champions Church. (Do they have the breakfast cereal Wheaties there?)
  • If you’re going to read an apologetics book review, you want an apologetics website; hence this link to Apologetics 315’s review of God’s Not Dead, a primer on the subject by Rice Broocks.
  • If you’re planning your Christmas services and need design ideas, you can always hang Christmas trees upside down.
  • Len Wilson, who serves at an Atlanta church called Peachtree, has written an excellent series of articles about visual arts in the church.  (He ought to be easy to track down; how many things in Atlanta can possibly be named Peachtree?)
  • Jordan Michael Taylor gets downright preachy at a recent Blimey Cow video on the subject of loving your enemies. At the same time, only days in, his Kickstarter CD campaign has already doubled its goal.
  • For the Christian, when is a glass of wine, one glass of wine too many?
  • Double sigh! Another youth pastor crosses a line with teens. I won’t even include the summary for this one.
  • A pastor friend of mine said this article was guilty of stating the obvious, but here are ten reasons leading a church is tougher than running a business.
  • A Mormon dad goes to great lengths — or in this case, shorts — to show his daughter what immodesty looks like.
  • Unstoppable, Kirk Cameron’s lastest film will play one night only — next Tuesday — in selected U.S. theaters.
  • Not to be taken seriously, the blog Celebrity Pastor offers five essentials to look for in a worship leader.

*I want to be really clear that the Commander Cody intro this week was my wife’s idea.

What Happens in Vegas

 

http://www.outofur.com/archives/2013/09/wednesday_link_11.html

September 3, 2013

The Money Spent on College Recruitment is Mis-Spent

A measurable percentage of what your son and daughter pay in tuition fees to their private college or university will be spent on getting other peoples’ sons and daughters to attend the same school in successive years. It’s a truism that is similar to the one that a notable number of pennies out of every dollar given to relief and development agencies is spent trying to get other people to give dollars to the same relief and development agency.

Choosing a Christian CollegeBut the choice of a school is often based on superficials.  It’s not, “This one has the course I want;” or “The faculty of this one include some renowned authors;” or “Graduates from _________ are often recruited by the best employers.”  Rather, the kids go where their friends are going. Or they take a two hour of the academic facilities only to choose a winner based on the promised dorm life.

The problem is, sometimes the dorm in question fails to deliver; and the schools are often structured so that the administration of residences isn’t a high priority, or it is contracted out completely. A negative residence experience casts a shadow over the school year, over the school itself, and over academic performance. A student who is coping with the interpersonal dynamics of mismatched roommates and dorm-mates is going to be seriously distracted from higher grades. A school with loose noise and curfew guidelines is left with a free-for-all that is merely a playground for spoiled rich kids. A school that only matches student personalities in their first year dorm choice is undermining the experience of upper-year students.

Once the school has cast their spell on the student, they then step back and allow dorm life to take whatever course it follows; while the academics preoccupy their thoughts with loftier things. Besides, they’ve blown a wad of cash on recruitment, and nothing is left to pay people to deal with problems when they arise.

And everybody suffers.

Any guesses why I’m writing this today?

January 23, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Christmas production at  First Baptist Church in Curitiba, Brazil as seen at Church Stage Design Blog.

Christmas production at First Baptist Church in Curitiba, Brazil as seen at Church Stage Design Ideas Blog. That’s one huge choir.

It all begins with a design template that looks like this.

It all begins with a design template that looks like this.

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

Lloyd the Llink Llist Llama crashes the party exactly one year after his first visit here

For the last couple of weeks there has been a weekend link list here. Some of the most interesting articles this month have been listed in those two editions.  So be sure to check them out.

  • I never know for sure when I check out new blogs if the writer is on our side or not, especially when the first post I see looks like this one at Loon Watchman.
  • Deans at other schools are fighting the possibility of accreditation for what would be Canada’s first Christian law school at Trinity Western. 
  • Why swear an oath on one Bible when you can swear an oath on two?  A writer at Think Christian notes: “What I like about these [Bible] selections is the way they point to public and private figures who influence or inspire President Obama, and whose faith probably all shape the way he approaches his faith and his work.”
  • You’ve heard of the dog who shows up for daily for a church service its late owner regularly attended. If not Fr. Z blogs the story, but notes that the dog’s appearance at the altar risks affecting the church’s ‘sacral character.’ 
  • Sometimes it’s hard to become a Christian knowing that, if you do, someone is going to starve to death. Here’s a dilemma for missiologists.
  • Don’t miss this one: J. R. Briggs gets an inspiring lesson on grace when he has to ask his 6-year-old son for forgiveness.
  • Tyler Braun notes that summing up the gospel as “Jesus Loves Me” is too me-centered, unless we include spreading that love as part of the gospel mandate. 
  • Zac Hicks has an interesting article about the role of Worship Pastor as Emotional Shepherd and the dangers of manipulating the congregation.
  • A central Pennsylvania Wesleyan church officially opens a $4M expansion including a fitness center, jungle gym, café restaurant and Christian bookstore.
  • So what exactly does it mean when you find a dead bird on the steps leading to your workplace?  Especially when you’re looking for more than, ““A dead bird on the step means either a cat loves you and has brought you an offering of food, or it means a bird flew into the window/door and killed itself…” 
  • By now you’ve probably had occasion to look up a favorite TV show, movie or actor at IBDb, but did you now there’s now a Christian Film Data Base (CFDb)? The site also has a blog that’s updated daily with reviews and interviews.
  • I’m writing this listening to an at least five year old song by Starfield – Reign In Us. Just clicked replay for the fourth time. 
  • And news last week that Jason Dunn from Hawk Nelson has a solo album releasing in May.
  • Meanwhile at American Idol auditions in Chicago Curtis Finch, Jr. impresses the judges with a brief gospel performance.
  • For church leaders and pastors, Dave Kraft’s website, Leadership from the Heart is must reading. Here’s a piece outlining three temptations that can undo you and your leadership
  • And here’s more good leadership advice from 9Marks on counseling people who haven’t crossed the line of faith.
  • Looking for a career in ministry? Check out ChurchJobs.tv
  • I suspect that Christian bands like Sidewalk Prophets love it when bloggers take one of their songs and use it as springboard for a devotional piece; like the writer at Journey of a God-Follower does with their song, He Loves Us Anyway.
  • Not So 31 is the name of a blog based on a reference to “the Proverbs 31 woman.” She does a lot of book reviews and book excerpts in particular, including some recent ones by Steven Furtick and Chris and Kerry Shook.
  • We linked to this picture — one of my favorite images of 2012 — late last year but never included it. Until today.  It was taken by Andreas Solaro for the Getty wire service and is captioned: Pope Benedict XVI caresses a lion cub as thousands of participants in the “Pilgrimage to Rome” festival – circus professionals, carnival people, street artists, pavement artists, bands and folk groups – gather at the Vatican on Dec. 1, 2012.  We think the Pope should have a few kittycats running around the Vatican the way the Queen has her Corgis at Buckingham.

Pope Benedict XVI - With Very Large Cat

January 4, 2013

How a Community Goes About Helping

Think of this as a Part Two to yesterday’s post. It’s easy to curse the darkness, but requires slightly more skill to light a candle. How would a community go about helping one of the students mentioned here?

We live in a very small town.  I grew up in Toronto where resources are more abundant. Actually, we are two adjacent towns with a population of approx. 16,000 each, separated by about four miles (eight kilometres).  In the one town there are three evangelical churches and in the other there are five. I envision these eight churches being able to come together for a project of this nature, though as stated yesterday, the initial reaction I got to this proposal doesn’t bear out that possibility so far.

Twice this year, at one of the churches we took up a cash offering after the service to meet two very specific needs. Some churches call these “retiring offerings.” You don’t get a receipt for tax purposes in this type of giving. Some would call it a “loose change offering” even though you’re tossing in bills as well as coins; it’s money you won’t miss.

One offering was for a guy who needed help paying his rent that month. He isn’t a member of that church, and a very infrequent adherent. But he asked. He had a need. We helped him collect the $200 he  needed and had $100 left over.

The second was for a family that hit a somewhat sudden financial crisis that left their next mortgage payment in doubt, and this is a family that’s never been flush with money to begin with. They are not members of this church either, nor do I believe they have ever attended.

In both cases, I was the only one who knew both recipients and was responsible for delivering the cash to each. I’m not sure that even the pastor knew who the second family was. They trusted my judgement on this.

I thought it would be nice to do a third project like this before the year was over, but then I reconsidered. I don’t want people to think I’m running some kind of scheme here. (We decided it would be a bad time to buy a car!) Actually it would be nice if someone else came up with a third project.

Anyway, this church has an average Sunday morning attendance of around 90 people, and each time we raised around $300.  With some adjusting for the demographic makeup of the congregations, I’ve estimated a typical attendance for each of the three (given letters) in the one town and five (given numbers) in the other, with a suggested offering total.

Benevolent Cash Offering From Eight Churches

Yes, that’s right; we live in a really, really, really small town; we have really, really, really small churches. The combined attendance from all eight churches (1,230) wouldn’t even fill one section in some mega-churches you’re familiar with.

And yet, possibly without even knowing who they are giving to, we’ve raised $4,000; a significant chunk of what R., N., and T., in yesterday’s example would need to kick-start a semester payment. Plus, I’m thoroughly convinced that knowing more details, people would give more generously. (The people in the two stories I mentioned were giving “blind” so to speak; even the nature of the need had to be somewhat veiled to protect the identity of the people concerned.)  I’m also convinced that people currently on the fringes — not presently attending a church — could hear about this via a newsletter — the very newsletter that gave birth to this blog five years ago — and add another $1,000.

And think about what a group of churches in your much larger community could do with a similar project and what a HUGE difference it could make to a student.

Spontaneous, New Testament-styled giving. Approval needed, yes; but no budget committee needs to meet on it, because it’s off-budget.

And yes, ultimately the money goes to some very large institution. I’m not content with that. (See yesterday’s comments.) But it’s the only way to a future these kids can foresee. And what a wonderful statement it makes about Christian community. And what a wonderful thing if those givers covenant to pray for that student throughout the semester. And what a wonderful thing if five years later, graduates are willing to give back something to help kick-start other students on their way to a decent education.

And why not do this not once, but two or three times in a year? And a couple extra times for a family with unexpected medical costs? Or a family where both wage earners are out of work? Or…

Well… why not?

January 3, 2013

Helping Youth Attain College Education

University LibraryThis fall our youngest son began attending a Christian university. In the process, we are quickly learning that higher education really means higher priced education. Dang, this is costly.

When were helping him transfer some funds in September, I really though he was paying for a full year, only to realize later that we had only covered the first semester.  Double dang.

But as hard as this probably was for some of our local acquaintances to believe, I didn’t have Kid Two in mind when I drafted a letter to some of our local clergy suggesting that university and college education is priced out of reach of many kids leaving high school, and where these students are a part of our local churches, if we are really family, we should rally together and offer to help.

By rally together, I’m forming a mental image of some ethnic groups where, when one family wants to buy a house, everybody contributes to help maximize the down payment. That sort of thing.

The actual students I had in mind are difficult to pin down here, since I have a handful of local readers  at a blog that is written with a worldwide audience in mind. So I’ll use initials:

  • R. wanted to attend an out-of-town two-year business program this fall. But in the process of getting housing he was, for lack of a better word, swindled out of much of the money he had set aside and is now working a lackluster job to try to gain enough from scratch to revisit the process next fall. R. has so much potential; I feel like he was simply born into the wrong family, and wish I could just hand him the life he wants.
  • N. has actually completed almost half of a four-year degree program at a Christian college. Her major is her passion and her giftedness in this area is renown among students her age. She would love to go back to this Christian college, but as the days tick by, it seems less and less likely.
  • T.’s story is the one I am least familiar with. Essentially, he was among the brightest and the best in his high school, but university remains just a dream, though I keep thinking that whatever he winds up doing, he’s going to excel; but right now probably feels a little lost with most of his cohort off to school while he works a low-paying job.

So on September 5th, I asked our local clergy if we couldn’t borrow a page from the ethnic house-buyers and have money pooled together to kick-start education (or return to school) for at least one student per year.

…This is a community that stands behind people in crisis.  Is there something we can do for kids in our local churches who need a ‘leg-up’ in the area of higher education?

Currently, a couple of churches offer a small scholarship for kids pursuing Christian education, but this is a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed in the three stories I described above.

I now know this first-hand. [However,] the program that I am envisioning would not be something [our two kids] would subscribe to; rather, I’ve tried to approach this with some objectivity and with a vision for students like the ones I described, two of which find it impossible to get started

Furthermore, I want to recognize that there are young men and women out there who desire to serve God with all their hearts, but have an education vision that does not necessarily involve [various Christian universities].  I also believe that if something were established long-term, there are recipients of this type of help who would be willing to give something back after they graduate.

Is there something more we can do as the body of Christ … to come together to support students in a significant way?

I hope you’ll pray about this; and I would hope that pastors receiving this would be willing to discuss this at the next … ministerial meeting.  While we are often ‘tapped out’ in our giving, and while it would be easy to say we don’t need one more ’cause,’ I believe that this is the kind of project that is worthy of our consideration and viable, but only if we work together.

So that’s what I wrote. And that’s what I believe. And I would love to be able to report that our community established a scholarship fund and this fall one or two students will be able to create a proposal and receive some significant help. And that we now have a structure in place that is going to be of benefit to students for the next decade and beyond.

But it never happened. The response was under-whelming. As in nil. Another email from Paul that got quickly deleted.

There is a saying that “if a man thinks he is casting a vision that nobody is actually catching, he is merely throwing a tennis ball against a brick wall.” 

Well, it should be a saying.

I’ve been tossing visions in our little corner of the world for years, but few have been caught. But maybe, just maybe, someone in some other part of the world is reading this and will adopt something similar that will brighten the corner where you are.

It may not help R. or N. or T., but it may change a student’s life, and that student may change the world.

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