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

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.

October 23, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Life is Like a Moving Sidewalk

Not many weird religious news stories this week; try to do something stupid over the next few days, okay?  This is a link list without links. To see them click over to Out of Ur. As for the above graphic, you need to listen to Phil Vischer Podcast

  • According to a CNN story, the head of Christian Copyright Licensing Inc. claims that Chris Tomlin is the most prolific songwriter in the United States right now.
  • Personally, I thought my alternative ending to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference would have been an interesting touch…
  • …but of course, truth is always stranger than fiction.  While I first read about Mark Driscoll crashing the party, I’d not heard James MacDonald’s name mentioned until this.
  • Two pieces on the subject of porn: Eric Simmons at Desiring God with I Hate Porn, and Tim Challies offering some preventative measures with The Porn-Free Family.
  • Did you see marathon swimmer Diana Nyad talking to Oprah? Is it possible to be an atheist and still be “in awe?”
  • Short Essay of the Week: What if modern technology permitted Biblical education to take place individually, and the place we gather weekly was for interaction, coaching, personal support and prayer? Be sure to read David Morrow’s The Flipped Church.
  • Medium Essay of the Week: Dancing as “keeping in step with the Spirit;” a metaphor for a life of faith, unless of course you believe that, “the praying knee can’t belong to a dancing leg.”
  • A Minnesota Pastor takes 20% of the revenue from a land deal and creates entrepreneurial opportunities for young people. Read the original CT article and this response (with video).
  • Most Provocative Title: From Catholic writer Tony Agnesi, are you Living Your Resumé or Your Eulogy?
  • Starting Over: For Jon Acuff, this particular blog represents Day Zero.
  • Academic Article of the Week: We all know what the gospel is, but if you’re studying alternative texts, what exactly is a gospel?
  • …and aggregate the Tweets of some well-known Christian academics, and you might find yourself reading Bible Gateway Bible Profs News.
  • Kid Min Corner: Unlike many children’s DVD series, Phil Vischer didn’t stop at the end of Acts. So what themes from Paul’s letters did he feel were worthy of inclusion in a kids video?
  • Youth Ministry Corner: Apparently some parents would rather just write a check to pay for missions trips, and the kids don’t want to do fundraising, either.
  • Know any Aspies? That’s a term for people with Asperger’s Syndrome; people for whom the church can feel like an alien place.
  • The blog Sliced Soup found this 18-month old guide to Hebrew pronunciation of YHWH, but as it turns out the video channel it’s from is a goldmine of instruction in Ancient Hebrew.
  • What should worship leaders do when the keyboardist who wants to join the team is a classically-trained pianist.
  • Pastors: If that illustration you’re using is actually debunked on Snopes.com, look out! Turns out Millennials like to fact-check sermons.
  • Video(s) of the Week: Two beautiful acapella song covers on YouTube by David Wesley — One Thing Remains and the more recently posted (last week) How Deep the Father’s Love.
  • People You Should Know: Another edition of the Young Influencers List.
  • Charlotte Church is now 27, but she knows the pressure put on young music stars to be hyper-sexualized.
  • Questions about the film’s ending has caused tension for the March, 2014 movie based on the life of Noah.
  • Music Flashback: From our Lost Songs collection, the worship of Calvary Chapel Downey, with the hauntingly beautiful song To be Like You.
  • Denominational stereotypes? Christianity Today answers the question, ‘Why are Google searches so much fun?’
  • Finally, if you’re going to steal stuff from a church, don’t try to flog it at a yard sale only a few streets away.

Link list curator Paul Wilkinson blogs at Christianity 201 and Thinking Out Loud, the latter of which still sports its original look and theme, an actual functioning blogroll that is updated regularly, and a merry-go-round that still operates. (Not that last thing…)

Main branch of the Kansas City Public Library.

Main branch of the Kansas City Public Library.

October 12, 2013

The Corruption of Online Journaling

Filed under: blogging, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:27 am

What if instead of keeping a written diary or journal, someone offered you a free software package that allowed you to do the same at your computer; and instead of storing your writing on your computer and having to transfer files every time you bought a new machine, it allowed you to store your thoughts in the cloud, where they could also be accessed by friends and family?

bloggingdogs-thumbThat’s the theory behind the original weblogs — later shortened to blogs — such as the one you’re reading right now, and names like Blogspot and WordPress, and SquareSpace became synonymous with being able to do this in a time when the new meanings of words such as “share” and “like” hadn’t been fully developed. Blogging also replaced the Bulletin Board (or BBS) means of posting information to a wider audience (which is why foreign spammers often use the word ‘board’ in their message) and also absorbed people whose sense of online community was previously developed in online forums or chat rooms (in an age when that term didn’t only have sexual connotations).

In the last 12-24 months however, we’ve seen a big change not only in blogging, but in the various other forms of social media that have arrived more recently. As I said a few days ago, you can only be creative on so many fronts at once, and some great writers online have gravitated to fortune-cookie-length writing on Twitter, while others simply say it with pictures on Instagram. But as time goes by, platforms get corrupted as the purveyors of the free programs need to show revenue to satisfy their personal bottom line or the demands of shareholders.

Thus, you’re seeing advertising on this page you never saw before. At least I think you are. I use Firefox as my browser with the AdBlock add-on, so I don’t see advertising here or anywhere else. But WordPress will remove it entirely if I pay them $30 per year. Or at least, $30 for this year, with fees certainly due to rise. And on the Facebook page for my small business, that company is now asking for $5 every time I write something, or $30 per post, if I really want it “boosted.”

My online diary lately, for lack of a better word, has been my Twitter account. But even there, the emails I receive from them seem obsessed with the idea of me building a following, and sometimes I get people following me on the chance I will go to their Twitter and follow them, and then quietly un-following (there’s no email notification for that) once enough time has passed, or they realize they didn’t really care what I had to say.

blog-awards-humbleBlog comments (even the good ones) and Twitter ‘follows’ are essentially a new form of spam. Not in all cases, but many times.

We want to be heard. We want to be seen. We want to be somebody. We want to have significance.

Of the writing of blogs there is no end. Literally. In my quest for daily content at Christianity 201, there seem to be as many blogs — even faith-based ones — as there are grains of sand on the beach. The promise to Abraham is fulfilled, online.

So many voices screaming into the wind.

Still, words communicate. People are listening. You can have a part in what they hear. If the Butterfly Effect can be proven, it can be proven online. Someone writes something and the internet gods are smiling and the article goes viral. Got a video that reached 25,000,000 views? You’re tomorrow’s next author. (To be clear, not undeservedly so; not everyone makes it to Thomas Nelson.)

As I write this, I am active on WordPress (4 times over), Twitter, and manage a Facebook Page (for our business, under my wife’s account) and YouTube. Each has a different audience and a different purpose. I do, in fact write to be heard. I do want people to listen because I feel I have something to offer. But I recognize that I am one of millions of voices screaming into that windstorm.

However, I also recognize that the social media landscape changes rapidly from month to month (even day to day) and if God puts it into your heart to be a communicator — or an influencer –  you have to navigate the current and be willing to adapt.

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