Thinking Out Loud

August 10, 2014

Just Checking In…

When you post every day at a fairly fixed time, and then you take a day off, people do start to wonder… So first, a random graphic from my previously-unused files…

For the word of God is living

 

…followed by a joint-post with Christianity 201 which, ironically was titled “What to Write.”  (The ‘random’ graphic serves as reminder that what we do write is much more powerful when it is saturated with scripture content.)


This morning our speaker opened in prayer quoting Psalm 19:14

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

No pastor, teacher, preacher, author wants to overstep the boundaries of what would be acceptable to God. Many begin Sunday sermons with the prayer, “Hide me behind the cross;” expressing the desire that the cross of Christ be seen first and foremost, not the speaker.

A few days ago, blogger Scott Fillmer quoted from the introduction to The Journals of Jim Elliot.

What is written in these pages I supposed will someday be read by others than myself. For this reason I cannot hope to be absolutely honest in what is herein recorded, for the hypocrisy of this shamming heart will ever he putting on a front and dares not to have written what is actually found in its abysmal depths. Yet, I pray, Lord, that You will make these notations to be as nearly true to fact as is possible so that I may know my own heart and be able to definitely pray regarding my gross, though often unviewed, inconsistencies… these remarks are to be fresh, daily thoughts given from God in meditation on His word.

Elliot had no idea through his martyrdom how many people would want to read his writings. It reminds me of this story:

6While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 7a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

8When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9“This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

10Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11The poor you will always have with you,a but you will not always have me. 12When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Verse 13, which I’ve underlined is interesting because the woman had no idea that what she was doing would continue to be remembered in perpetuity; but also the agency by which we know the passage that we call Matthew 26; the writer of the gospel could not possibly realize the means by which that story would become part of what we call the New Testament canon, which in turn is part of the bestselling book of all time, which we call The Bible. (Today, many print books are remaindered, declared ‘out of print’ after as little as one year.)

Pause for a moment: Imagine creating something that lives on long after you are gone; of leaving a story so significant that becomes part of the core literature for all generations that follow.

I try to both write God-honoring material here [at Christianity 201], and select God-pleasing material here on the days we borrow from other devotional bloggers and authors. But the totality of my computer output on any given day can contain a variety of topics not all of which are enduring or lasting. Just check Thinking Out Loud, and you get a glimpse of some of the controversies that dog the contemporary church, and each Wednesday at that blog we note some of the stranger things that take place in the name of Christianity. Many of these posts have a “best before” or what the Brits call “sell by” date that’s just a few hours after the post has been published. [That's why I created C201; I needed the personal balance.]

Elliot’s wish was that God would, “make these notations to be as nearly true to fact as is possible so that I may know my own heart and be able to definitely pray regarding my gross, though often unviewed, inconsistencies.” He desired to be truthful and he desired to be consistent. The gospel of Matthew strived for accuracy. The woman with the alabaster jar courageously broke with tradition as he broke the jar sacrificially, probably not fully realizing the prophetic significance of her actions.

Truth, consistency, accuracy, courage, sacrifice. This is what pleases and honors God.

July 30, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Amish Gone Wild T-Shirt Design from Kaboodle dot com

By the look of it, this “internet” thing could be really big someday. Here’s this week’s highlights:

Remember, every time you share the link list on Twitter or Facebook, an angel gets its wings.

Paul Wilkinson hunts for devotional writing each day at C201, rants at Thinking Out Loud and tweets to a vast army of followers. (They keep leaving the “K” out after the number.)

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

March 9, 2014

The Possession of Ideas, Part 2

The corollary to yesterday’s discussion is that if I do choose to copyright my blog writing here, I am basically saying this is mineI wrote this, I created it, it was my talents and my gifts that went into creating it.

I’m glad the Biblical writers didn’t feel that way. If you believe in plenary inspiration — that God birthed ideas within them but they stylized it and added their individual touch to the writing — then even if you hold that “all Scripture is inspired” (which I do) you could still make a case that they could copyright the particular words used.

copyright 2But some would argue that even if you say, “This came entirely from God and I shouldn’t really take any credit for it;” if you want your writing to reach the greatest number of people, then you’ve got to put somebody’s name underneath the title.

That’s essentially the case with Jesus Calling. I don’t want to get into the larger debate on that book, because it’s been done elsewhere  (with 100+ comments) but if, like the classic God Calling, the “authors” feel that this book is the equivalent to Dictation Theory in Biblical inspiration, realistically, nobody’s name should appear on the cover. I wonder if “by Jesus” or “by God” would sell more or fewer copies than “by Sarah Young.”

You can however engage the commercial marketplace and at the same time take no money (or very little) for your wares. Keith Green is a name that some of the younger generation don’t know, but Keith basically said that if anyone couldn’t afford his records or cassettes, he would send them copies free of charge. It was radical at the time — and would be even more so today — and Keith took ribbing that perhaps he was also going to ship stereo systems to people who had nothing on which to play the music.

Keith GreenKeith Green would have loved blogging — he’d have about ten of them — and would be fighting hard for the open source blogosphere we talked about yesterday,  and also almost exactly two years ago. (The post then was triggered by an irate blogger at C201 as well, so we’re running one complaint every 700+ articles, which isn’t bad.) In fact, Keith would argue for open source thinking in a variety of Christian media and art.

Bottom line: We have to be careful about holding too tightly to the things of this world including possessions that are tangible and those which are intangible such as intellectual property.

March 8, 2014

The Possession of Ideas

The Bible has a lot to say about the accumulation of wealth and the hoarding of possessions. Probably the classic statement of scripture on the matter is,

NASB Matt. 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal…

or

MSG Matt. 6:19-21 “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.

The Bible doesn’t say, ‘Don’t have any treasure whatsoever.’ True, when Jesus sent his disciples out he told them to travel light, advice that extends through all of life:

NLT Matt. 10:9 “Don’t take any money in your money belts—no gold, silver, or even copper coins. 10 Don’t carry a traveler’s bag with a change of clothes and sandals or even a walking stick.

But in everyday life, the Bibles teaching presuppose you will have a home or a donkey or bread that you may or may not choose to give your neighbor when he comes knocking late at night.

CopyrightThis week it occurred to me that at the time the Bible was written, one thing that we can possess that they didn’t was intellectual property. There was no Copyright Act; no Letters Patent. Did Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph the Carpenter have a special way of doing a table that would cause him great consternation if Murray the Carpenter down the road started copying the idea? You get the feeling that everything was open source.

The whole premise of the sister blog to this one, Christianity 201, is that we search the internet for sources of daily Bible exposition and discussion. Unlike the Wednesday Link List, where some people click and some people just read the list, I think it’s important that these devotional meditations get seen in full, and statistics bear out the reality that most people don’t click through.

Most of the bloggers are thrilled that their work is being recognized. C201 doesn’t have quite the readership of Thinking Out Loud, but it possibly represents ten times as much as some of the writers see on their own pages. We get notes of appreciation, and a handful of readers also thank us regularly for putting them onto reading a particular writer.

So this week when, for the second time in about 1,450 posts someone strenuously objected to their material being reproduced in full — don’t look for it, it’s been removed — I started thinking about the whole intellectual property issue in the light of Jesus’ teachings.

I think it’s interesting that in the prior verse of Matthew 10, Jesus makes the often-quoted statement, “Freely you have received, now freely give.”

Personally, there’s nothing on this blog that isn’t up for grabs, provided it’s cited properly and quoted properly and being used non-commercially. Like this article? Help yourself.  Yes, I have been paid to write and could thereby consider myself a professional writer; but this is only a blog and it’s vital not to get too caught up in your own sense of self-importance; and I say that not out the spirit of someone who is loaded with wealth, but as a person who has had no specific fixed income for 19 years.

I also thought it was interesting that the person who was so upset about the use of his material on other than his own website was complaining about a particular article that was about 50% scripture quotations. More than 50%, I believe. Oh, the irony. I can just hear Jesus saying, ‘Uh, could you just link to my words in the Bible rather than print them out on your own website?’

That said, I am consciously aware that a double standard exists in the Christian blogosphere. We both permit and excuse the copying of text, but there is far less grace for poachers of cartoons and photographs. (I guess a picture really is worth a thousand words.) If you take what belongs to them, it’s like trying to wrestle a t-bone from a pit-bull.

In the early days of this blog, the weekly link list included cartoons from Baptist Press. Not any more. Baptists can be very litigious, which is too bad, because the cartoons were worthy of an audience beyond a single denomination. Everybody loses, but that’s the Baptist way, I guess.

Words are cheaper however. I respect intellectual property rights in general, but hey, guys, it’s only a blog.

I really think when the writer is a little older, they will look back and see the foolishness of trying to hang on to what really isn’t yours to begin with.

Think About It: Some things simply didn’t exist when the Bible was written, such as smoking cigarettes or driving over the speed limit. It’s the same with intellectual property. We have to appeal to the timeless, grand themes of scripture to make behavioral determinations.

There is a Part Two to this which appeared the next day.


Irony: The copyright symbol used today was already in my computer before I worried about such things…

March 2, 2014

I’m Writing This For Me

Filed under: blogging, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:54 pm

One of the concerns I have about using the WordPress platform is that when an item here is complete, the button I click at the end says “publish.” This has a number of unfortunate nuances, not the least of which is that it makes me out to be a “publisher,” with illusions of grandeur that the world waits with baited breath for my latest tidbit of wisdom. Perhaps my readers even begin with a prayer, “For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful.”

weblogThe word “blog” is actually short for “weblog” and the “log” part is evocative of a “journal.” When, as happened here, the writing starts to attract a worldwide audience, it’s easy to be consumed with the statistics and think of yourself as a publisher who now has to meet a daily deadline.

When the blog is spiritual in nature, it’s easy to fall into the trap that says, “This is a major ministry I have built and now I must be faithful to it.” After all, God is depending this particular enterprise to reach the world; He has no other plan, no other servants.”

It’s so easy to be caught up in a false sense of your own self-importance.

We do this in churches as well. An old song may have talked about “You in your small corner, and I in mine;” but in our minds, our small corner starts to take on epic proportions. An entire city may be eternally doomed if we miss choir practice or don’t get the audio-visual equipment we need for the next Sunday School lesson. And don’t even talk to me about the possibility of doing the next worship set without a drummer. We must find a drummer. We will find a drummer.

The world will not stop if I miss a day; but I have, in fact, desired to remain faithful to this. But I don’t have to cover every breaking story, or comment on every Evangelical trend.

At the end of the day, this is a journal of my thoughts and opinions, and where my heart was at in March, 2014.  “Publish or perish?” That’s not the Biblical way. Better to pause, to rest, to be still, to meditate. 

 

February 24, 2014

Six Years of Thinking Out Loud: A Blogversary

TOL Banner Teal

Today Thinking Out Loud begins its seventh year.

Whoda thunk it? What does one say on such an auspicious occasion?

I guess today I’m struck by the contrast between this blog and most of the others I personally read, which are written by pastors and Christian authors. Is the difference here what brings in so many readers each month? I don’t really think so, but I think it’s important that other people have a voice at the online table. I also know that six years (plus a few reading others and writing an e-newsletter that predates this) of delving into the various issues that occupy space in the Christian blogosphere have been like a graduate school education in both theology itself, ecclesiology and the tension between Christianity and culture.

TOL blogversaryI have allowed myself to be shaped by the writers I read, but by also trained myself to unlearn some things some of them have said when, with the passage of time, their perspectives have become questioned. To paraphrase something my wife’s brother said on Twitter, ‘I’m not here because of what I have to say, rather because it gives me a reason to eavesdrop on so many interesting people.’

I’m also thankful that this summer, Thinking Out Loud gained a greater platform itself by becoming a weekly part of life at Leadership Journal, a division of Christianity Today. I still believe it’s a greater thing to make the news (in a good way, not the weird stories) than it is to simply write the news. But I don’t mind playing scribe if it means I get to choose some things I think are worth noting as part of each week’s passing scene.

So with all the writing that happens here, do I wish I was a published author? I think everyone has a book or two in them.  But not six. The Christian publishing establishment loves to take someone who has a hit title and make a brand out of it. But often the spinoffs are never as vital or passionate as the original. Still, I tried it once, the material is now dated, and I enjoy simply giving away content here each day as long as people come by even though this, combined with my equally non-remunerative vocation was recently calculated to represent a loss of income over the past 20 years in the neighborhood of $1,000,000.00

The phrase “Do Not Attempt” should be at the bottom of each page.

Do I wish I was a local church pastor? Not a senior pastor, though I often wonder about the church plant I did before starting this blog. What if it had been allowed a longer run than its 18-months existence; if a few more months might have made it into something more sustainable, or if a co-leader would have appeared on the horizon to boost the project and give me an occasional break?

As it stands, my local church participation is limited, as in non-existent. Am I a prophet without honor in my own community? That sounds noble. Maybe the supply of able-bodied people willing to serve outstrips the demand — at least for my gift set — so the opportunities go to the younger and better looking. (Think about it, when have you actually seen my picture here?) Heck, they don’t even hand me a plate and ask me to help take up the offering. I think the pastors here have banded together to create a no-fly zone where I’m not allowed to come within 20-feet of a live microphone; a sort of restraining order only I wasn’t served with my copy.  This would explain why all the pulpit supply requests I get are from out of town.

But again, to return to where I began, I think that living in that tension is what gives Thinking Out Loud its unique perspective. Most people who come here have never written a book or preached a sermon, or even served on a church board.

Pastors and Christian authors are great. I’m a fan of many of them, and of the process that gets them their platform. I do truly believe the cream rises to the top. But interacting with your Christian friends and your small group also provides an “iron sharpens iron” experience that can be equally enriching.

In that sense, I think the group of bloggers called “Mommy bloggers” have it right. These women — some, but not all of whom are also home-schoolers — share a ‘Christian life in the trenches’ experience each day that might be dismissed by the academics and Biblical scholars and religious ‘professionals,’ but feeds them daily with spiritual nutrition enriched by everyday life and the lessons that our children and extended families teach us.

So with that in mind, for year seven, I thought I’d devote this space exclusively to recipes and laundry tips. What do you think?

Paul Wilkinson Blogversary


Okay, so that was more personal this year, if you want to know my blog values, there’s this post from last year’s birthday, where you’ll also find I had the energy to write a double post that day.

Graphic: The banners that never were; these are actually from other blogs with the not-so-original name!  (We could have added this one, but you don’t steal images from photographers, at least not consciously.)

If you’ve never done so, be sure to visit this blog’s companion page, Christianity 201. Both are published 365-days a year!

January 13, 2014

Life is Not Like a Box of Chocolates

analogy comparison metaphor simile

Just because you heard the phrase, “Life is like a box of chocolates…” in the movie Forrest Gump, you shouldn’t extrapolate the individual comparison in a single scene in the film to be a general guiding principle for life. In most respects, life is not at all like a box of chocolates. Nor, as Google might lead you to believe, is like an arrow, a bicycle, a camera, a deck of cards, an elevator, a football, a grapefruit, a hurricane, or… I’ll let you work your way through the rest of alphabet.

Comparing things can be helpful to our understanding however. In Jesus’ teaching ministry, he took examples from the world as his hearers knew it — mostly agricultural comparisons — and either made direct connections or taught the principles as parables because they were parallel to things his audience could relate to. In my world, I often will use computer jargon and terminology to create an analogy which teaches a Biblical principle.

Our language generally offers us two options: Metaphor and simile.  (You’d have to be as dumb as an ox not to know the difference. Just kidding! That’s an example of simile. And sarcasm.)  A popular technique in the broad category of metaphor would be allegory, with the most recognizable examples in Christian literature being Pilgrim’s Progress, or the Chronicles of Narnia books; along with a number of contemporary writers in the Christian fantasy fiction genre.

But there is another writing technique I would like to offer here as simply springboard. Skye Jethani does this in The Divine Commodity where he uses the art of Vincent van Gogh to get the discussion rolling, or in the forthcoming Futureville where the springboard is the vision of the future as offered by the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Mark Batterson does this with The Circle Maker, beginning with the legend of Honi.

You could also argue that almost all Christian fiction — while some of it allegorical — is mostly springboard for further discussion; consisting either of internal deliberation, or discourse with friends in your book group, church library or at the Christian bookstore.

This technique does not sit well with all readers.  The purists who prefer expository preaching to topical preaching would, with horror, rate the springboard type of writing even further down the spectrum. It’s just all too easy to criticize; to get lost in the metaphor or allegory and miss the point.

So here are some reminders:

  1. Most metaphors are limited to single aspects of the thing being compared. Any similarity life has to a box of chocolates is overshadowed by other aspects of the box, the wrapper, the plastic inset, etc., and life generally does not come with a complete guide printed on the lid. This is because…
  2. …All metaphors eventually break down at some point. There are a few ‘perfect’ metaphors, but more imperfect ones. This can lead to a situation where…
  3. …Metaphors and allegories are easily misunderstood. Not everybody grasps the comparison first time around, especially if the chosen metaphor is something somewhat foreign.
  4. Borrowing a theme or idea from another world — whether it’s a legend from another religion or a principle of motorcycle repair — does not necessarily imply endorsement.
  5. The placement of a metaphor or discussion springboard in mainstream Christian literature may result in it being seized upon by people on the fringes of mainstream Christianity who want to use the metaphor to say things the author never intended.

However — and this is so important — the use of parables and similar teaching forms by Jesus should be an encouragement to us to find similar redemptive analogies in our modern world.  If you’re a writer, avoid the pressure to be boringly precise and instead, introduce edge into your writing by finding the connection everyone else has missed heretofore.

Communication is only achieved when the hearer fully gets it, and that will involve drawing parallels between ‘A’ and ‘B’ rather than repeating the words of a definition over and over to someone who is missing the point.

December 28, 2013

Holiday Link List

edited Christmas cardr

With both Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on a Wednesday, we offer this mid-point link list today, with the regular schedule returning January 8th. (Actually, I think that’s supposed to say, “returning, Lord willing on January 8th…”)  If you’re new here, there was a corporate takeover of the link list in July, so all roads below lead to Out of Ur, the blog of Leadership Today magazine.

 

November 6, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Link List - Out of Ur

I’ve checked this week and nobody in the Pentecostal community is organizing a Strange Ice Conference. So far.

The last link listed here this week is to an interview that Chrsitianity Today did with me about a month ago that I didn’t think would ever appear. Speaking of which, you can catch this week’s list at Out of Ur; the individual links will take you there now as well.

Wednesday Link List Sign
Yes, blogrolls are now uncool, but if you scroll down the right margin at Thinking Out Loud, for a limited time, there’s a list of a small selection of the places Paul Wilkinson hunts each week for buried treasure.

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