Thinking Out Loud

September 21, 2017

Hope for Beachgoers

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:31 am

We worked our way down the trail to the local beach. It was September already, but high water levels earlier in the year meant that we changed our routines a little, and this would be our first trip.

“Isn’t there a bench somewhere here?” I wondered aloud. I remember sitting on it in the late afternoons soaking up the sun.

“There it is;” my wife advised. Only when we got to it we discovered it had been mildly re-purposed. Someone had left a set of gel markers — I guess they don’t dry up in the sun as quickly — and a collection of small rocks and stones, one of which was inscribed with an invitation to write something to share with everyone. I guess they see this as a way of making a difference.

Ruth bought in immediately, choosing a stone and a marker while I continued to make my way down to the water where she joined me two minutes later.

“Did you write ‘Jesus loves you’?” I asked.

“No;” she replied, I wrote, ‘Don’t give up.'” 

“Are you ashamed of your Lord?”

Okay, I didn’t say that last one.

She said she wanted something that would be relatable for most people. She felt ‘Jesus loves you’ would make for a lot of eye rolling. It may be true, but it’s trite. Furthermore, I’m sure that message, ‘Don’t give up,’ is exactly what some broken people need to hear.

Would I have written ‘Jesus loves you?’ Honestly, probably yes. I would have seen this as a ministry opportunity. I would have seized on the time and place to be salt and light. I would have set down the marker and walked away proud of having ‘done my bit’ for the Kingdom of God that day.

And yet… perhaps someone would have picked up that particular stone and tossed it down the hill into the lake. This is Canada after all. We don’t have Chick-fil-a and Hobby Lobby and K-LOVE and the Republican party. We make no pretense to be a Christian nation. 

So isn’t that all the more reason to proclaim Christ’s name? Yes and no.

See, I agree with her, and I agree with me.

It’s complicated…

Just because you can use something as a ministry opportunity doesn’t mean you should.

…Don’t give up.

“I tell you,” [Jesus] replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” – Luke 19:40 NIV

 

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September 20, 2017

Wednesday Link List

This picture of Czemna Chapel in Poland is featured in an article at a Gothic website titled “Bone Churches of the World” where we’re instructed that “Pelvic bones become a chandelier.”

This is theme to Wednesday’s list, the opening theme to Wednesday’s list. Paul called me up and asked me, ‘Would you write a theme song?’ This is the theme to Wednesday’s list. (I think we’re past the part now that shows up as a preview on Twitter…Did anyone get the reference?)

  • She was a victim once, and then the Christian college where she was a student made her a victim again, several times over. “To me it feels like a David and Goliath situation, only this time Goliath wins. I just want to forget all this and go back to…when I was happy and safe and optimistic.” Furthermore, she had been studying to be a rape counselor.
  • Podcast of the Week (1): You’ll never hear scripture quoted more frequently or as helpfully on a difficult issue than in this podcast, “The Bible and Intersex Believers”  with Megan DeFranza, researcher and lecturer. (49 minutes)
  • Podcast of the Week (2): John Mark Comer sits down with Gerry Breshears to look at situations involving self defense, home invasion, Christians as police officers, and even pepper spray from an Anabaptist mindset of non-violence. (43 minutes)
  • Hazing happens at Christian colleges, too. Chicago Tribune: “Five Wheaton College football players face felony charges after being accused of a 2016 hazing incident in which a freshman teammate was restrained with duct tape, beaten and left half-naked with two torn shoulders on a baseball field.DuPage County Judge Joseph Bugos signed arrest warrants and set $50,000 bonds against the players…They are expected to turn themselves in to authorities this week.” 
  • More tributes and articles remembering Nabeel Qureshi:
    • Sadness – Nick Peters: “There is a picture going around Facebook of Nabeel after his baptism. He has his arms raised in his air in victory. In the past, it brought joy, but today it brings me sadness. I know it should bring me joy, but it doesn’t because I want to see the happy and healthy Nabeel again, and I don’t.”
    • Apologetics Associate – Justin Brierley: “Firstly with his friend David Wood, and then latterly as a speaker with RZIM he went on to speak to thousands of Christians, Muslims and skeptics and saw many come to faith as a result. His books, which married his intellectual pursuit with his own testimony, were widely read. In person he was robust in his exchanges but gracious in his demeanor. He was endlessly patient with his critics, who were vociferous especially within parts of the Muslim community.
    • The Question – Frank Turek: “Nevertheless, while it seems insensitive to ask this while we grieve, people are wondering why didn’t God heal Nabeel. After all, he was a brilliant and charismatic young man taken away from his wife Michelle and daughter Ayah, and the rest of us, far too early. Nabeel had so much more to give to his family and the Kingdom of God that his death seems senseless. So why didn’t God heal Nabeel?
  • Attending a Christian University & College Fair can be the first step for many students when searching for the right college or university. There are over 120 fairs throughout the U.S. and Canada each year…
  • …Related: A critical (at first) and then positive (the larger balance) look at the value of Christian higher education
  • I’ll let Ann Brock explain this one: “Christianity still exerts a powerful force in many black communities, but some young women are turning their back on the faith and returning to the older, traditional religions of their ancestors. The use of social media is letting the younger generations learn of our history and how the religion of our oppressor was more a tool to control and oppress than benevolent religion.” Check out Jesus Hasn’t Saved Us at the website Broadly.
  • Times of Transition: “We’ve all heard the stories of churches losing members, losing funding, losing their ministries in the wake of a pastor leaving…Perhaps the greatest reason for so much hardship during the point of pastoral transitions is because most pastors fail to plan for their departure. Unless you kill the church, you won’t be their last pastor. You’re just a temporary leader. There’s a guy coming up behind you…” This and four other causes for the pastoral leadership void.
  • Horrific Headline Department: Christian Refugee Children Denied Food Unless They Recite Islamic Prayers in Sudan.
  • Religious Journalism: Is rooting around a spiritual community’s founder’s past relevant? An analysis of a New York Times profile of Zarephath Christian Church in New Jersey‘s rural Somerset County.
  • “‘Praise God, I have NEVER changed my beliefs. I am seventy years old and I still have the exact same beliefs I had at age twenty — fifty years ago.'” That’s a common sentiment, but “In most spheres of life, learning new things and discarding old beliefs, practices, and ideas is desired and expected. Not in Evangelicalism. Evangelicals cherish certainty.”  (Be sure to read the full article, past the video.)
  • 🎬 Video of the Week (1): In a 4½ minute confessional, Crosspoint Church (Nashville) pastor Kevin Queen shares the discovery that his random act of kindness could have been a whole lot kinder.
  • 🎬 Video of the Week (2): This 2½ minute commercial aired in Canada during the last SuperbOwl game and celebrates the value of a shared meal.
  • 🎬 Video of the Week (3): David Platt says inviting people to “accept Jesus into your heart” is dangerous, damning, unbiblical and superstitious. (Just not sure why Charisma News has this as “news” since the clip was first posted in 2012.)
  • Buried in the Last Paragraph: It’s a short article by a pastor who empathizes with survivors of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, but he notes that PTSD may set in months down the road.
  • I don’t have a link for this but North Point Community Church has kicked the bucket; the offering bucket that is. With so many people automating their giving online, they announced this week that they have decided to end taking up the collection at weekend services… 
  • …On the other extreme is the church that decided to recognize it’s Top Three Tithers. [insert fanfare music here] Before you say, ‘Well that was in Nigeria,’ not every Nigerian thinks this is a good idea, including the guy who dumped his church over this action.
  • Quotation of the Week: “For most of humanity’s past the Bible was not a book. For most of humanity’s future the Bible will probably not be a book. Many of our fears about the future of the Bible are based on careless thought about its history. We assume that since we first encountered the Bible as a book, this is how it has always been and how it must always be. Now, as the printed book begins to fade, many are worried that the Bible will fade with it. But it won’t because the Bible is not essentially a book. It is essentially God’s recorded words to humanity, and those words transcend any single medium.”
  • John Stackhouse isn’t sure he can trust an auto mechanic who drinks Pepsi. A look at the present culture of unfriending.
  • Coming this Saturday, September 23rd to a Planet Earth near you:  “‘Researcher’ David Meade says a hidden planet called Nibiru will crash into Earth that day.” End-times date-setting hinders the cause of Christ.
  • ♫ Music: This song has a weird title if you don’t listen. Mandisa with guests TobyMac and Kirk Franklin on Bleed the Same
  • ♫ Music: New artist Heather Schnoor’s just released video for All In.
  • Not enough links for ya? Check out Links to Go at Timothy Archer’s Kitchen of Half-Baked Thoughts. (There’s been several installments lately!)
  • Penultimate Finally, A liturgical dancer has tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.
  • Finally, during 2017 I’ve often ended these lists with something from Matthew Pierce simply because you all read The Babylon Bee anyway, right? So this time around M.P. has something he calls Worship Leader Power Rankings, where I learned that, “According to LifeWay research, by the year 2031, all of the old people will be dead and we won’t have to keep shoehorning that one hymn into the worship set list because we’re afraid they’re going to get mad and stop tithing.”

We missed Parenting Place, Missions Moment, Leadership Lessons and Canada Corner two weeks in a row. There’s always next week. OR…you could email your suggestions. [Hint!]

September 19, 2017

Sobering Stroll

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:13 am

Ruth wasn’t feeling like cooking last night so we grabbed our coupons and headed off to Subway®. We then walked to see what was being built at the other end of the retail complex, and then looking across the road I noticed a cemetery. I have bicycled through it when the kids were young, but I suggested we go for a short walk.

I think we’ve only done this on foot one other time. It’s not like a stroll in the park or a walk on the beach. I tend to talk loudly, but in this environment, I kept my voice lowered. Even carrying the beverage from the restaurant felt somewhat disrespectful. There are names on tombstones and each one is a story, some of them obviously quite tragic with the lives of both children and soldiers cut short.

I was reminded of Ecclesiastes 7:2: “Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies–so the living should take this to heart.” (NLT) Looking it up at BibleHub.com, the site offered a cross-reference for Psalm 90:12: “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” (NLT)

If you’ve been reading here this week you know we’ve found ourselves tracking with this, but my thoughts last night were broader than this one particular loss. At the same time, there was something peaceful about our walkabout; those buried there have left behind the pressures and trials of human existence, though as Christians we know that that they may be experiencing widely different afterlives.

While we stopped to read less than 2% of the grave markers there, only one that we saw hinted at a better promise, simply stating, “With Jesus.”

 

September 18, 2017

Heroes

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:43 am

by Aaron Wilkinson

to read this at Aaron’s blog, Voice of One Whispering, click this link.

I had never been one to have heroes, or “idols/role models/etc.” My classmates in school would admire celebrities or athletes but I never really got that. I recognized good traits in the grownups around me and I would feel appreciation and respect but never anything like awe.

Such remained the case until last summer. I had just graduated university and I stumbled into the world of apologetics and I quickly discovered Nabeel Qureshi.

Nabeel’s powerful testimony was a bestseller and his personality and academic prowess strongly impressed upon me. I watched his debates and lectures, always admiring how he could be so firm and passionate in the truth and yet respectful and irenic at the same time (and the world of Christian apologetics can be rather deprived of irenic personalities.)

There’s a scene in The Hobbit where Balin, upon seeing the heroism of Thorin, says “There is one who I could follow. There is one I could call king.” My impression wasn’t quite that strong but I think I now know where Balin was coming from.

I felt rather insecure for a while. Perhaps I had put the man on a pedestal. Basically I felt as though I could never be content with myself until I had reached his level. There was a jealous corner of my heart that thought “I just have to be like him.” Specifically, just as smart as him.

Then, after only a few months of getting to know his work, he was diagnosed with advanced stage stomach cancer and given a grim prognosis. He vlogged his experience over the next year and his physical conditioned worsened. Then on the 16th of September, 2017 he passed away. Obviously this is to be taken seriously and his and his family’s experience of all this is what matters most, but I hope the reader won’t mind if I share my own experience of this.

In a year, Nabeel went from being someone I new nothing about, to being the person I admired the most ever, to being dead. So what happens to a man of such reserved admiration as myself when his hero suffers like this?

In my case, he only admires him more but that admiration changes. The hevel (the word in Ecclesiastes that is translated ‘vanity’ or ‘meaninglessness’) of health and academic achievement blow away and we see what really matters – a soul that loves God. Doctorates are hard but loving God is accessible enough a concept, I think. We also see a spirit that hopes and trusts in the midst of suffering which is a far more important (and more practical) lesson than anything taught in the halls of academia.

I wonder how Jesus’ followers must have felt the day after his crucifixion, having seen the great man they had followed and in whom they’d hope die.

As for my own experience, I now get how how unabashed childlike admiration for a person can transform you. I was drawn to Nabeel for his knowledge of books and histories and theologies, but he taught me (and I hope all of us) a greater lesson: He showed us what it looks like to love and hope in Our Father.

As for my envy over academic accolades, I now feel that disquietness lifted. While his mind was impressive, it is for his heart that I will remember him as being great. Perhaps that is the more effective apologetic. As the church does, remembering great writings from her history such as the letters of Clement or the 95 Theses of Luther, I hope we also remember Nabeel’s Vlog 43, his last public words to the world, as a pattern of conduct for how we are to share our faith.

If you allow yourself to admire a person you might just get hurt. You might just agonize over their suffering. But the strength of God is made perfect in the weakness of man and I cannot at all reflect on the life of Nabeel Qureshi without seeing the love and the power of God behind it all. The Spirit of God has not left us. And He just as might shine through us as well.

Choose your heroes well. I know I did.


September 17, 2017

Remembering Nabeel Qureshi

Filed under: apologetics, Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:52 am

On Saturday, this world lost a key Christian apologist. CBN News reported,

Ex-Muslim turned Christian apologist, Nabeel Qureshi, passed away Saturday after a year-long battle with stomach cancer.

The 34-year-old left behind a wife and two-year-old daughter.

The very man who led Nabeel to Christ, David Wood, announced his death on Twitter saying, “My beloved bother Nabeel, rest in peace and joy with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ.”

…Qureshi made the official announcement of his cancer diagnosis August 2016.

“This is an announcement that I never expected to make, but God in his infinite and sovereign wisdom has chosen me for this refining, and I pray he will be glorified through my body and my spirit. My family and I have received the news that I had advanced stomach cancer and the prognosis is quite grim,” he said in a Facebook post.

Nabeel Qureshi was the author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Answering Jihad, and No God But One, and was a sought-after speaker and radio talk show guest.

In a thorough, lengthy, well-written tribute by Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition which I recommend you read if you didn’t know of Nabeel, this is but a small excerpt detailing his journey to Christianity:

In August of 2001, while a student at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, Nabeel observed fellow student David Wood reading the Bible in his free time. Nabeel regularly read the Qur’an, but it struck him as odd to see a Christian reading the Bible on his own.

Nabeel challenged David’s belief in Christianity, beginning with the charge that the Bible had been corrupted over time. Wood aspired to be a Christian apologist, and the two young men formed a friendship and engaged in debate that lasted for several years.

In working through David’s arguments and examining the evidence for himself, Nabeel eventually became convinced of the general reliability of the New Testament.

He next raised the objection that Jesus never claimed to be God. After being shown this was untrue, Nabeel challenged David that Jesus had never died on the cross. Again, by being willing to investigate the evidence, Nabeel changed his mind.

It was now two and a half years later, and Nabeel raised the greatest stumbling block for accepting Christianity: how could one man die for another man’s sins? And how could the one true God be a Trinity? He was now reading the Bible and considering Christ’s claims for himself.

In return, David began to challenge Nabeel’s confidence in the claims of Islam. Intellectually, Nabeel held to Islam for several subjective reasons (like the kind of life it produced), but objectively, the central claim was that Islam was true because Muhammad was a true prophet of God. But after studying primary sources and biographies, Nabeel eventually concluded that he could not reasonably hold to the idea that Muhammad is the greatest of prophets and history’s most perfect man.

From December of 2004 to April of 2005, Nabeel experienced three vivid dreams that strongly suggested to him that Christianity was true and that Christ should be followed.

Later that year, he traveled to Washington D.C., Canada, and England to search out knowledgeable Muslims who could answer the arguments against Islam that he had encountered. “I heard various replies running the gamut from terribly unconvincing to fairly innovative, and I encountered people that ranged from sincere to condescendingly caustic. At the end of my research, the arguments for and against Islam still hung in the balance, but one thing was abundantly clear: they were far from approaching the strength of the case for Christianity.”    continue reading at TGC

Nabeel was a longtime friend of the ministry of Ravi Zacharias, and Ravi personally as well. This was posted yesterday at the RZIM website:

…September 16, our dear brother in Christ Nabeel Qureshi went to be with the Lord following a year-long battle with cancer.  We received this news with deep sadness and yet profound hope that he is finally and fully healed in the presence of his Savior.

Please join the RZIM team in praying for Nabeel’s wife, Michelle, and his daughter, Ayah, as well as for his parents and extended family.  We know this is Nabeel’s gain, but a tremendous loss for all those who loved him and were impacted by his life and testimony on earth.

We are reminded today of what Ravi Zacharias wrote after seeing Nabeel back in May for what would be the last time in this life. To Nabeel he wrote,

You will be freed to the joy of life where there are no more fears, no more tears, no more hate, no more bloodshed, because you will be with the One who has already shed his blood for you, where love is supreme, grace abounds, and the consummate joy is of the soul. The smile of God awaits you: ‘Well done.’

‘Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for them that love him,’ 1 Corinthians 2:9 promises.

Your eyes will now see and your hands will now touch that which is the only Real estate.”

We are grateful for the outpouring of love and support shown to Nabeel and his family over these past several months, and we ask that you continue in prayer in the days ahead. May God bring comfort as we cling to our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.

Tributes continue to pour in on Twitter. A GoFundMe campaign started four months ago will now continue to provide support for Nabeel’s wife and daughter.  To read my son Aaron’s reflection on how the life and death of Nabeel personally impacted him, click this link.

September 16, 2017

Reaching Outside Your Megachurch’s Bubble

So let’s pretend that you go to a megachurch in a large urban area. Oh wait, that’s not a ‘pretend’ for many of you. Now let’s pretend that your church is one of the really “hot” churches in town; you’ve got a great children’s, youth and college and career program; the type of church where nobody would consider missing a single weekend service if at all possible.

But let’s pretend — and it’s not a stretch at all — that if you were to take a drive and head about an hour out of town, you would find people in a small town or village who simply didn’t have the same exposure to an urban church like yours. And let’s pretend that you took some other people with you, and also took some of the passion and excitement you have about your faith.

Maybe your end product would look different than the kind of “road show” that the man pictured at right was part of. Russell Wilkinson lived in a different era to be sure, but his weekly trips to the little town of Mount Albert were no small adventure. It was a long, long drive northeast from the city of Toronto; especially on the rare occasions where they picked up children and teens there, drove them to a special service in Toronto, drove them home to Mount Albert and then drove back again. In a post-war time before freeways or even good roads.

I like that they (a) identified a group of people who were unable to connect with the church ministry programs going on in the city, and (b) did something about it. The term “missional” may not have existed back then, but this was textbook “missional” thinking. I am sure that their willingness to do this also had some measurable impact on the parents of the youth they got to know.

They didn’t just absorb all the great music and teaching that went on at their big-city church, but they shared the gospel of Jesus Christ out of the overflow of all they had received.

And here’s a big component of this: Churches of all size would do this. They would send teams out to bless both rural and inner-city small(er) churches. Or even unaffiliated people — in this case youth — in small(er) communities. Instead of being focused inward, part of their church culture involved being focused outward. Not in a one-week mission trip to an exotic destination sense (which requires extensive fundraising) but in an ongoing, low-key manner.

I still have the trumpet in the picture. Until today, I’ve always thought of it as a musical instrument, but it was an instrument of ministry, too.

What are you doing this Fall to connect people with Jesus?

September 15, 2017

When Information Took a More Leisurely Route

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:01 am

There was a time before the internet. It seems like long, long ago but in fact most people had no knowledge of the net 25 years ago. It was a land before dial-up.

Working in the Christian bookselling environment back then was probably much more frantic than it is now. Stores had more staff working each shift. There was more buy-in from individuals and churches, and far less market fragmentation. From a marketing perspective, Christian publishing may not have had the sophistication it has today — nobody was talking about branding back then and not much was making the New York Times lists — but there was a great deal of product movement.

Customers were just as pumped about the latest album from The Imperials as they were the newest commentary from Warren Wiersbe; it wasn’t that Fred only bought music and June only bought books.  Christian bookstores had line-ups at the cash register and sometimes line-ups at the doors in the morning waiting for the store to open.

So in a pre-internet age, how do you keep these customers updated on current and forthcoming releases? Historically, the answer was printed catalogs and order forms. But there was one other tool at the bookseller’s disposal: A microfiche subscription from Spring Arbor Distributors.

The Spring Arbor microfiche arrived in the mail weekly. As I remember it, Title (sets of usually 3 – 5 sheets) came weekly. Author sets arrived every other week. Music and Video were monthly, and there was a long wait for Category coming once every quarter. Actually, the Category sheets provided the most interesting diversion; after all, if someone liked one type of book, they just might like something else which was similar, and the category codes could be quite specific. (This was a precursor to today’s “Other customers also bought…”)

So information traveled at the speed of the U.S. Postal Service. Even then, in the small store where I worked we didn’t think we needed that data with great immediacy. So we shared a subscription with another store. They got them first and mailed them to us. Then we took our set and sent it off to one of our satellite stores. (We were a chain of three stores at the time — too cheap to buy our own subscription — and libraries were always selling off fiche readers as low as $25.)

Fast forward a few years: The ability to search online made the fiche readers redundant, as the ability to order online made the Spring Arbor Telxon units redundant. These weren’t the same Telxon units you see in the grocery stores today being used to check inventory. But we’ll save that one for another day, since the kids probably won’t believe we placed a suction cup on our phone to place orders.


More background:

By this point Spring Arbor was the leading independent distributor of Christian products in the United States, having also acquired smaller companies like Gospelrama (music) and Unilit (magazines), owning warehouses in several states, but also having competition from companies such as Riverside and Anchor Distributors. Spring Arbor itself was acquired many years ago by Ingram Content Group which is the largest independent book distributor in the world.

The microfiche reader was a great tool, but there were several different manufacturers. This is important because you always wanted to have an extra bulb on hand. Having the bulb blow without owning a back-up basically shut down your ability to do sweeping look-ups for customers, resulting in having to fall back on print catalogs. But which catalog to choose first? If you lived in a smaller town, it could be a week or two before you made it into the city to buy a new bulb. Imagine a store today telling customers their internet will be back up in ten days.

The reference at the end to suction cups? Quite true. You placed the unit’s large black rubber piece over the phone’s mouthpiece, and listened to the earpiece for a signal to press the button that would send your purchase order consisting of numbers you’d previously typed in. We did this. We did not think it strange. We were embracing the brave new technology. But the black suction cup left us thinking it probably wasn’t exactly cutting edge. When it was time to pack up the units and ship them back, I kept wondering what the Telxon people did with them next.

September 14, 2017

Practical Advice for the Aspiring Actor, Poet, Playwright, Singer, Songwriter

Good news for the aspiring artist: You don’t have to starve. Furthermore, Jeff Goins believe there are four financial paths an artist can follow, with poverty and starvation being simply one option!

Real Artists Don’t Starve isn’t the usual type of book we cover here. Because I review books for HarperCollins Christian Publishing, it’s offered through their distribution system. I asked for a copy so I could read it for my son — an aspiring actor and writer — and then pass the copy on to him.

Author Jeff Goins is someone I ran into years ago in the Christian blog world, and he himself got some early mentoring from Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson. Some of you will recognize his name from the cover of the 2015 NIV Bible for Men, hence the inclusion here, but for the most part, he’s followed the trail to writing business and marketing titles, albeit from a Christian perspective. His catalog includes The In Between (Moody Press, 2013), The Art of Work (Thomas Nelson, 2015) and now Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Surviving in the New Creative Age.

The book is divided into three sections, (a) developing the right mind-set, (b) approaching and understanding the market, and (c) the thorny issue of money; getting paid. In each are four chapters and overall the book is well-crafted reading.

Goins relies heavily on both anecdotal accounts from artists alive and well and historical biographies of artists from past centuries, the latter mostly from the visual arts. (I would have liked more composers in the mix, but that’s my only criticism.) Some of this was accomplished through regular research, but he also was able to obtain a number of face-to-face interviews to give this project much original content.

So what’s his advice?

Some of it flies in the face of what the non-artist might conclude. Be original? Goins says it’s okay to steal, though he does qualify that. Be good at one thing? Goins says you need a diversified portfolio. Be generous just to get your art out there? Goins tells artists never to give their art away for free. Find a Patron? (Or Patreon, but he doesn’t say that!) Goins suggests it’s a great way to go, but you might have to be your own patron, at least at the start, earning income through regular work that supports you and your art.

In other words, this is realistic. But he also says that there are steps you can take so you don’t starve.

Unable to wait to send my son the book, I sent him a few excerpts:

Starving Artists wait for their Big Breaks.
Thriving Artists become apprentices in their crafts. (p.40)

[on Zach Prichard]  But let’s not misinterpret what happened here: talent did not do this; tenacity did. If you want to see your work succeed, you must be stubborn. You must be willing to keep going, even in the face of adversity. On the surface, stubbornness may look like a liability, but in creative work, it can be an asset.  (p. 65)

Once we have mastered our mind-sets, we must tackle the market. Here, we cross the threshold from being creative to doing creative work. This is the place where we become professionals and learn how this works in the real world. This is where we network and advertise our talents to the masses. And if we do this well, people will not just pay attention, they will also pay us. (p. 69)

All creative works need influencers who will vouch for them to an audience who doesn’t know them yet. But it is not enough to meet a patron; you must cultivate one… If you are going to create work that matters, you are going to need an advocate — a person who sees your potential and believes in your work. (p. 75)

We hold in our minds a certain picture of a professional artist as a lone creator, some solitary genius who executes a vision all by himself, slaving away at the work with only his thoughts and brilliance to keep him company. But this is a gross misunderstanding of how real artists get their work done. As creativity researcher Keith Sawyer says, “You can’t be creative alone. Isolated individuals are not creative. That’s not how creativity happens.” (p. 110)

Those are all from the first half. I don’t want to give too much away here. But the book is full of many, many nuggets of wisdom like this. And yes, I did finish the book, all 232 pages, even re-reading some sections at the beginning after turning the last page. (Sidebar: The way the bibliography was set up — almost conversationally — was absolutely brilliant.)

To be clear to regular readers here, this isn’t “Devotions for Artists.” Jeff Goins is a Christian writer, but the book is published under the Nelson Books imprint. Again, it doesn’t conform to my usual reading habits, but it was interesting and edgy enough to keep me turning pages. Reading it through my son’s eyes made a lot of difference as well.

 

September 13, 2017

Wednesday Link List

LongBay Adventist Church in Anguilla after the roof blew off and walls were destroyed from Hurricane Irma on Sep. 6. Click image to link to story.

Welcome to Link List #375, and it’s a good one! I promised a tighter number of links, but this post actually runs longer because of the excerpts.

  • Op-Ed Essay of the Week: This is both hard to read and must reading at the same time. How I Became a Heretic (or How the Evangelical, Conservative Church Lost Me).
  • The Justice Department on the gay wedding cake case: “This case happens to arise in the context of expression regarding same-sex marriage. But the First Amendment principles that control here transcend, and will long outlast, the nation’s current dialogue about same-sex marriage.” The case reaches the Supreme Court later this Fall.
  • A Houstonian on what happens when Hurricane Harvey hits:
    ► “When your husband sends you and your kids away from Houston, you will not see him again for two weeks. You will have brought enough clothing for two days…”
    ► “On your unexpected cross-country “Hurrication” (patent pending), you will cry in a Target and a McDonald’s. All in the same day. You will yell-weep at the elderly man ‘in charge’ of the safety mask section at Lowe’s because he doesn’t know if they are mold-proof or not…”
    ► “You will not care what Joel Osteen did or did not do. You will be too tired for that.”
  • Nabeel Qureshi enters the final stages of life.
  • This article on Gateway Church contains many revelations, including that “…[Pastor Robert] Morris has always been clear about his target audience: businessmen and entrepreneurs.” And that, “Gateway Church has been accused of erasing the line between church and state, and there is merit to the charge.”
  • Missional church planting advocate and prolific author Michael Frost:
    • “You don’t seem to read or hear many ministers quoting Jesus’ words about family while trying to defend traditional marriage.”
    • “Jesus completely redefines family. His is a radically new social order, a welcoming, open community not forged by bloodlines or betrothals, but by repentance and discipleship.”
    • “And when he says that, he means it. Not like all those churches you’ve visited that said they were a family but no one talked to you.”
    • “And in a cold and brutish Roman empire where all men had three women at their disposal…where orphans and childless widows were as good as dead, where sojourners and strangers weren’t welcome, the new social order embodied by the Christian community was gold!”
    • Check out “Jesus wasn’t real big on the biological family.”
  • Regular readers here know I’m not a fan of Operation Christmas Child, the “shoebox ministry” of Samaritan’s Purse. (If not see this plus its comments section.) But it’s concern over the politics of Franklin Graham that are leaving some looking elsewhere this Christmas. Baptist News offers, looking a little closer to home this year, Ten Alternatives to Operation Christmas Child.
  • Overcompensating: Citing an Ohio University study, the website Science Alert reports that atheists are nicer than Christians, but for a reason.
  • Retro-Link: Going all the way back to May, Timothy Archer posted this link last week, and I decided it was worth sharing: 3 Quick Ways to Improve Short Term Missions Trips:
    1. Stop calling it a “Short Term Mission Trip”
    2. Put away your wallet.
    3. Think beyond the short term hit and run.
  • Another study reported that while acceptance of evolution is widespread, when you look only at stats from atheists and the non-religious showed that one in five have problems with that science in the UK and that jumps to one in three in Canada.
  • Church History Department: Meet Benjamin Lay, the 18th Century Quaker dwarf abolitionist: “…only four foot seven in height; his head was large in proportion to his body, the features of his face were remarkable … He was hunch-backed, with a projecting chest, below which his body become much contracted. His legs were so slender, as to appear almost unequal to the purpose of supporting him…” He opposed slavery and racism.
  • The times we feel we lost faith: “This can happen at any age in life and when not given enough attention, the phase can last multiple seasons, even several years for many individuals. These periods of time can produce drastic effects on our attitudes and behaviors. They have the ability to change the way we act and respond to both situations and circumstances. A loss of faith can be powerful enough to tear families apart and end life-long friendships. Even worse, they create separation with God.”
  • When Henri Nouwen left his academic job to work for L’Arche, he joined an organization headed by Jean Vanier. Meet the Templeton Prize winning advocate for the value of each person. (Links to a series of seven videos.)…
  • …also at Englewood Review of Books, some cartoons with a difference. Sabbath Wanderings by John Dease.
  • Latest Barna Research: 71% of respondents say sex education should include practical skills reinforcing abstinence.
  • Are some kids too young to make life-altering decisions? “At just 12-years-old, Patrick Mitchell, begged with his mother to begin taking estrogen hormones after doctors diagnosed him with gender dysphoria – a condition where a person experiences distress because there is a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity.” Now, he’s reconsidered and is changing back.
  • Provocative Title of the Week: “Heroin in the Hymnals” a review of the Netflix series, Ozark.
  • ♫ Welcome another church promoting its worship resources a la Hillsong, Bethel, Gateway, etc. The Belonging Co. is a church in Nashville with lead pastors Henry & Alex Seeley. From their debut worship album, All The Earth, this video is titled Peace Be Still featuring Lauren Daigle.
  • Stuck at cocktail parties to describe what you do for a living? Peter Enns doesn’t have that problem, he now tells people he’s a Bibliogian©.
  • A fire at an Assemblies of God church in southwest Arkansas is believed to be arson; an attempt to cover up a burglary.
  • One more about Nashville, asking the musical question, “Can We Stop Making Statements on Sexual Ethics?” 
  • Video of the Week: A full interview with Pastor Lim, held in prison in North Korea for over two years.
  • In Italy, a ten-year old girl is washed out to sea by a rip tide and is rescued by a 17-year old with Down Syndrome.
  • Not Lost in Translation: First year students in theological colleges across the UK will get a glossary to help translate the Book of Common Prayer.
  • ♫ New Music: Real Love by Blanca.
  • ♫ Vintage CCM (from 1974): I’ve Been Wanting To by Pat Terry.
  • They are 104 and 92 respectively. They’ve been married for 75 years. Their names will sound familiar this week: Harvey and Irma
  • I have a friend who regularly frequents the religion and Christianity pages of Reddit. In one forum, the question, “Protestants, if the Catholic and Orthodox Churches were to join back together, would you join the Cathodox church?
  • Finally, rather than link you to this video, we’re embedding it here. Can a robot be a priest? Meet Pepper, the Robo Priest.

Parenting Place, Catholic Corner, Canada Corner, Leadership Lessons, et al will return.

September 12, 2017

When the Color of the Carpet Actually Matters

While touring a church on a recent vacation day, I was taken to this church library where I simply had to take a picture. I love books and am a product of the power of Christian resources.

“The acquisition of Christian books is necessary for those who can use them. The mere sight of these books renders us less inclined to sin and incites us to believe more firmly in righteousness.” – Epiphanius, 4th Century

In Evangelical parlance, the phrase “the color of the carpet” is used as a euphemism for other superficial issues which can serve as a distraction to true worship and fellowship. It functions in the place of a myriad of other topics which can be divisive in the life of a Christian congregation.

I’ve always sworn I would never be a “color of the carpet” type of person. Some things are worth making a fuss over, and others should be consigned to the periphery of church concerns.

And then it happened.

At some point over the course of the summer they removed the church library and gave the contents to a local thrift store.

And I find myself seething.

So in order to justify myself, I have to be convinced that this is more than superficial; this is not about the color of the carpeting. Here’s why I am so strongly persuaded.

This was someone’s ministry in the church. This was a ministry that someone had poured their heart into for the better part of a decade, receiving an annual budgetary commitment, but little else in the way of enthusiasm. The person was away for six weeks visiting family in another part of the country. They did receive an email warning of what was to come, but little could be done at a distance of thousands of miles. This person deserved some opportunity for closure even if it was one last opportunity to view the boxed-up collection. I list this factor first because as a family, we experienced grieving the loss of a ministry, more than once, at the hands of this same church, and so we identify strongly with this particular aspect of the closure.

The library showed the value the capital-C Church has placed on writings throughout history. Though many weeks less than a dozen resources went out, its presence in the church was iconic in the truest sense of that word. It contained resources for parents, books on basic doctrine and Christian theology, chronicles of the history of the denomination. There were Bibles, videos, CDs, and a host of teaching materials instructive for children.

Donations kept the collection fresh. The people, myself included, who donated resources for this were invested in this particular type of ministry. Some books had been given just weeks before the whole thing was eradicated.

Stewardship was squandered. Because of my vocational role in the community at the local bookstore, I know that several hundred dollars worth of books had been purchased only this year. (But only a few hundred dollars. I have no significant conflict of interest here. My reaction is that of a bibliophile.)

The resources belonged to the congregation. People should have been told about the closure weeks ahead, and had the opportunity to take books of interest and make them part of their home library. They belonged to the people of the church, not the church staff.

They could have helped another church that wanted to have this ministry in their church building. This is a denomination that keeps talking about ‘church planting’ and ‘daughter churches’ and being a ‘network of churches,’ but I doubt any were offered the contents of this already-carefully curated collection. Some would be saddened to know what they missed out on.

They could have sent the resources overseas. Again, as a missionary-minded denomination the idea that the collection wasn’t considered to send to pastors and workers who were unable to take their libraries with them to Third World countries is equally perplexing. On a personal level, as an area volunteer for Christian Salvage Mission, I know the organization would have  embraced this acquisition with open arms and heartfelt gratitude on behalf of North American pastors and English-speaking indigenous workers in Africa and Asia. Instead, I wasn’t given the slightest inkling that this was in the works.

They kept two racks of fiction. This was the most disturbing thing of all; what was kept. These shelves are now located in the church’s new café and someone noted that some were books with exceptionally loud colors on the spines. If you were going to keep fiction, these were some of the worst choices. In other words, these books are props. They are being used solely for decorative purposes, to create atmosphere.

They may be deluded that electronic media has replaced books. This church recently signed a contract with Right Now Media, giving church people free access to a large grouping of video content. This is fraught with issues. Video teaching is not the same as learning off the printed page, nor is long-term absorption of the material as great. Older people in the church won’t bother to sign up for Right Now or figure out how it works. The mix of authors and teachers with online content is totally different than those who work solely in print. The library would have complemented the other service. Now they’ll never know if that would have happened.

The space will not see a higher purpose. Looking at that empty room, I wanted to be optimistic; I wanted to say, “Prove to me that what you’re about to do in this space is better than what you had.” It absolutely won’t happen.

The church bylaws are flawed. Major expenditures require approval in a congregational meeting, but the jettison of a major church asset requires no such approval. Given the number of now out-of-print titles that were displayed alongside more recent titles, I’d put the value of what was effectively trashed at at least $20,000 — books aren’t cheap — and that’s an informed opinion of someone working in the publishing industry. So you need to call a vote to acquire larger things, but you’re free to simply give away previously-acquired larger things? No. Not a good idea. For churches or families. Churches operate on the basis of consensus.

The library was doomed for at least a year. I kept forwarding PowerPoint slides along the lines of “Be sure to visit the church library…” to be used in the on-screen announcement crawl before the service, but never saw them used. Now I know why…

…I’m not sure where I’m going to church this Sunday. I have real issues with this. I’ve become what the church staff may say is a “color of the carpet” curmudgeon.

I don’t care. It was plain wrong. The stakeholders weren’t consulted. A horrible decision.

Now there’s no turning back.

 

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