Thinking Out Loud

November 25, 2020

Katy Perry Echoes Her Musical Roots

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:49 am

I stopped watching music award shows a few years back. I see the Grammys, Billboard and American Music Association award shows appear in my television listings with a passing nod. But on Monday night, after the NBC Nightly newscast ended and Entertainment Tonight came on, I watched the first five minutes, to see what made news in their world over the weekend. It’s a refreshing contrast to the politics of Nightly.

And there it was. A Praise and Worship chorus from the past. “As the Deer” by Martin [Marty] Nystrom from 1984 is based on Psalm 42. It is a “scripture song” type of worship composition with the original lyrics borrowed from the King James. The Psalmist is speaking to God, but the song came out before it was de rigeur that all the songs we sing in church be “vertical” in their lyrical orientation.

As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longs after You
You alone are my hearts desire
And I long to worship You.

Singing the song was Katy Perry. This didn’t come entirely as a surprise. Born Katy Hudson, she is the daughter of a husband and wife pastoral team, and made a Christian music album under that name. I have two copies of the CD in their original shrink-wrap that I’m waiting for the right time to sell, but alas, I digress.

The song was used as an introduction to the song “Only Love.” (What’s the opposite of a coda?)  It’s from her new album Smile and you can hear the original at this link.

Eighty-six thousand, four hundred seconds in a day
I swear lately most of ’em have been a waste
I feel ’em come and go, bury my mistakes
But time just goes on and on in a way

It’s a song of lament, to be sure. The chorus is:

Oh, I’d call my mother and tell her I’m sorry
I never call her back
I’d pour my heart and soul out into a letter
And send it to my dad
Like, oh my God, the time I’ve wasted
Lost in my head
Let me leave this world with the hate behind me
And take the love instead

The song continues. The second verse contains the s-word, but make no mistake, she’s christened this song to be sung at youth group on Friday night, assuming the group is still meeting in person.  You can read the full lyrics here.

The song ends,

…Yeah, give me
Only love, only love
Let me leave this world with the hate behind me
And take the love instead.

In a Facebook group for Praise and Worship leaders to which I belong, Marty Nystrom himself chimed in on Monday:

As I watched the American Music Awards I was baffled that a scripture song would be on the same platform as the other performances. My hope is that this is a small indication that Katy Perry is growing dry in her pursuit of this world’s accolades and thirsting for the refreshing she knew in her youth. Let it be Lord! And let her lead millions to Jesus!

…Lots of today’s top musicians got their musical start in church. I follow a band on YouTube called Pomplamoose. It’s fronted by Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte, the latter known for creating a fundraising platform for artists called Patreon. Nataly recently mentioned getting her start in church music.

About an hour east of where I live is a town called Napanee, where a young Avril Lavigne attended the Christian school. There, she would have been surrounded by Contemporary Christian Music and Modern Worship.

There are many more examples like this in the world of R&B music.

I don’t know what prompted Katy Perry to expose her musical roots on the AMA awards show, but can’t help observe that she’s now a mom, and parenthood does cause a lot of people to think about things they hadn’t considered since childhood. On that, I’ll leave the last word to Marty Nystrom’s interpretation of Psalm 42:

I want You more than gold or silver
Only You can satisfy
You alone are the real joy giver
And the apple of my eye



November 16, 2020

Why There’s Never Been a Typhoon in The Caribbean

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:01 pm

Today’s header is a bit of a tease; click-bait if you will.

There has never been a typhoon strike The Dominican Republic or Cuba. It’s never happened. It’s not that the conditions necessary for a typhoon-like storm have never developed there.

Rather, it has to do with the word. By definition, a typhoon is a tropical storm that develops and makes landfall in the western part of the Pacific Ocean, or the Indian Ocean. The Caribbean is affected by the Atlantic Ocean weather systems.

Could the word be changed over time?

The word marriage certainly did. Contrary to some of my more conservative Christian friends, I don’t have a problem with governments recognizing civil unions. But historically — and I know some will get upset with me over this — I’ve objected to gay or lesbian unions being called marriage because as a writer, I valued the original intent of that word just as much as I would strenuously interrupt you if you proposed that south Florida had just been hit by a typhoon. In other words, do it if you are compelled to, give it a name, recognize it for tax purposes, but don’t call it marriage.

(I now have just as many progressives upset with me for objecting the use of the word in an LBGT+ context as I have conservative Christians upset over the resignation in my laissez faire phrase, “Do it if you are compelled to.” I’m not gonna win on this one, am I?)

The same is also true of the word Evangelical. It meant something, but a few Evangelicals themselves shot the category in the foot when they — intentionally or accidentally — made it mean conformity to a particular political agenda. The word has been damaged goods for some time now, and a combination of Evangelicals, journalists and linguists are constantly looking for a new adjective to replace it. (Or collective noun, depending on where it lands in the sentence.)

(These same Evangelicals used to knock on doors two-by-two to share The Four Spiritual Laws or invite your children to hop on the Baptist bus for Sunday School, but then Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses eventually owned the whole going-to-the-door-in-pairs thing. So the meaning of actions change just as words do.)

Words change. I’ll grant that. Often they lose their original force or are reduced to something less than they started. (It’s the second law of thermodynamics again.) Hence we have the word pejorative to describe the depreciation of meaning.

But while Evangelicals may find a new word, what will replace the longstanding man-plus-woman heterosexual marriage?

Maybe we’ll call it classic marriage.

Here’s the advertising copy: “Looking for a new twist on relationships? Consider a classic.”

Or something like that.




November 13, 2020

Moody Publishing Author Skye Jethani Latest Victim of Book Pirates

For Friday the 13th, I can’t think of a scarier story than this one. You spend months (or years) working on a book only to find that your content has been stolen and republished. Sometimes they don’t even bother to change the title.

Moody Publishing author Skye Jethani posted this on Twitter last week:

The unscrupulous publisher, Mithi Press House, successfully eliminated Skye’s name twice in the description (see blue underlined copy), but missed the last one (circled), an admission of guilt if ever one existed:

The publisher has 41 pages of Amazon results, many of which appear Christian themed. A few have titles similar to popular Christian titles. The Amazon URL, which usually contains an embedded ISBN-10, appears to indicate the book has no ISBN assignment.

Here we are, a week later, the stolen book is still available for purchase. Amazon has a procedure authors must complete to have cases of copyright infringement resolved, but their system, despite their protests to the contrary, is almost by design bound to make things like this happen. In my mind, they are complicit in every one of these cases. The first notification from the author should be sufficient for it to strike the title from its database.

…If customers buy the counterfeit edition, they may be in for a disappointment. It’s listed in the description at 100 pages, whereas the original is listed at 144 pages. They either cut the illustrations — which are the heart of this book — or eliminated some of the Sermon on the Mount.

• Review of Skye’s book: Adding New Life to the Sermon on the Mount (July, 2020)
• Our story of Tish Harrison Warren’s title being pirated: IVP Author’s 3-Year Labour of Love Lost to Counterfeit Sales (July 2019)

Skye Jethani’s website

November 11, 2020

Alex Trebek and Donald Trump: A Tale of Two Exits

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:41 pm

This was sent to me this morning via email, and to the best of my knowledge, this is its first appearance online. They said they weren’t sure they had the courage to post it themselves, asked me not to attribute it, but then kinda dared me to post it.

I thought about it for several hours. And here it is. Mind you, comments are switched off.

November 4, 2020

Pray for Tim Challies and Family

Filed under: Christianity — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:46 am

Canada’s foremost Christian blogger Tim Challies ( posted this in the last hour:

My Son, My Dear Son, Has Gone To Be With the Lord

In all the years I’ve been writing I have never had to type words more difficult, more devastating than these: Yesterday the Lord called my son to himself—my dear son, my sweet son, my kind son, my godly son, my only son.

Nick was playing a game with his sister and fiancée and many other students when he suddenly collapsed, never regaining consciousness. Students, paramedics, and doctors battled valiantly, but could not save him. He’s with the Lord he loved, the Lord he longed to serve. We have no answers to the what or why questions.

Yesterday Aileen and I cried and cried until we could cry no more, until there were no tears left to cry. Then, later in the evening, we looked each other in the eye and said, “We can do this.” We don’t want to do this, but we can do this—this sorrow, this grief, this devastation—because we know we don’t have to do it in our own strength. We can do it like Christians, like a son and daughter of the Father who knows what it is to lose a Son.

We travelled through the night to get to Louisville so we could be together as a family. And we ask that you remember us in your prayers as we mourn our loss together. We know there will be gruelling days and sleepless nights ahead. But for now, even though our minds are bewildered and our hearts are broken, our hope is fixed and our faith is holding. Our son is home.

Remember the family in prayer today. 

Update (Nov. 30): A Family Update Four Weeks Later

October 27, 2020

Evangelical, Exvangelical, or Christ Follower?

Filed under: Christianity, culture, evangelism, Faith, politics, Religion — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:07 am

I remember it as though it were yesterday. Two middle-aged, well-dressed men walking up the driveway to my parents’ house. I eavesdropped on the conversation. They were from a Baptist Church several miles away — one would need to drive past about five churches to reach it — and were inviting families in the neighborhood to church. Already being part of another church my father politely declined their invite and wished them well in the door-to-door evangelism.

Fast forward several decades and Christian denominations don’t bother going two-by-two in communities as before. The form was “co-opted” by Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons (as they formerly preferred to be called.)

Today the same situation rages with regard to the word Evangelical. It’s been co-opted by a few whose political leanings often overshadow their allegiance to Jesus. So some are looking for another label.

That’s a shame. The “people of the good news:” (the evangel) had it first before those whose God is politics “co-opted” it. Perhaps instead of looking for a new moniker, they should be telling the political Christians to leave the camp and let them come up with a new word to describe whatever the heck that fusion of Christianity and conservatism is. Then inform the media who the true Evangelicals are.

This is not an American problem. The politicization of various issues among Christ-followers has spread. Where I write, north of the 49th Parallel, we see this polarization occurring frequently in non-U.S. contexts.

Our first identity must be to Christ. Not a political party. Not a fiscal or political ideology. Not an opinion on race, gun ownership, or dare I say it, even abortion. Christ, and Christ alone.

October 19, 2020

Be Careful What You Curse

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:49 am

Ed Cash via WAY-FM on YouTube

Early last month I was watching a YouTube mini-concert where radio station WAY-FM invited the members of the band We The Kingdom into the studio for some music and light-hearted fun. (The series of musician visits is called “Songs from a Mug;” you can watch this one here. Jump to 14:00 for the story which follows.)

I didn’t realize that the band is fronted by Ed Cash. If you are a music publishing nerd likes me who reads the fine print credits on the worship slides at church, you’ll recognize his name on a number of popular songs, including co-writing some with Chris Tomlin. (You really should be focusing on the worship, though; not reading the copyrights!) The band also includes a number of his family members.

The subject came up about Tomlin and he told the story of being contacted by him the first time about doing some work — production or composing; I can’t remember — with him and Chris sent him a cassette. (I guess this was quite awhile ago!)

Cash was extremely disappointed as he listened. He wanted to get involved in the music scene in Nashville, but here he was listening to the simple, four-chord, repetitious type of songs that were everything he didn’t like about modern worship. He wanted to be involved in something more sophisticated. In fact, when he first heard, “How Great Is Our God” he laughed out loud.

And then it happened.

He says he really felt God speaking to him — in ways he’s never heard so audibly — these words: “How dare you curse what I have kissed.”

For some reason, I haven’t been able to get that phrase, as I remembered it after listening to the WAY-FM interview, “Do not curse what I have kissed” out of my mind. I think it applies to so many areas of Christian endeavor. How many things that we think are beneath us are things that God uses nonetheless?

Think about it.

October 14, 2020

The Most Uncomfortable Seat I Ever Had at Church

Arriving at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California for the first time in late 1979, I decided I wanted to have the whole Jesus People experience.

Calvary is known as the birthplace of Maranatha! Music and the Pacific Ocean baptisms in Pirate’s Cove. It’s the place where rather than hear the old guard complain about the rivets in the hippies’ blue jeans scratching the pews, they simply removed the pews.

But by the time I got there, the Sunday morning service was fairly traditional. They sang from Inspiring Hymns, the same hymnal my parent’s church used back home. Despite what the band Love Song sang about the “Little Country Church” with “Long hair, short hair, some coats and ties;” there were actually a lot of men in sport coats and ties. It took some adjusting.

One remnant still remained from the earlier days in their older building — which by that time was the Maranatha! Village bookstore — and that was the remnant of people who sat on the floor at the front.

I had to discretely shift my position a few times during the sermon. The floor was plush carpeting but I wasn’t a little kid who could sit cross-legged for an hour school assembly. I think I was somewhat sprawled out by the final one-third of the message. Probably a bit undignified, but I wasn’t alone.

Despite a sore back for the rest of the day, I’m glad I did it. I got to share a piece of history. I feel connected to those just a bit a older than me who sensed a call to the “church on the edge of town” to worship with others of their generation.

photo: Calvary Chapel via this story at Premiere Christianity (UK)

October 12, 2020

This Should be the Mission Statement of Every Church

Filed under: Christianity — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:58 pm

Back in March of 2012, I introduced a song and an artist to readers here with the statement, “This should be the anthem of local churches everywhere.” If you check out the lyrics below, you’ll see why.

This weekend, in the rotation of CDs we play during supper, this album by Eddie Kirkland came around again. It’s now playing on the stereo, for the 4th consecutive day. Eddie was part of the worship team at NorthPoint but then left for something much more liturgical.

I thought the timeless quality of this song made it worthy of re-sharing, 8½ years later:

We want to be a church where freedom reigns
We want to be a people full of grace
We want to be a shelter where the broken find their place

We want to be a refuge for the weak
We want to be a light for the world to see
We want to be a love that breaks the walls and fills the streets

All are welcome here
As we are
As we are
For our God is near every heart

Let Your mercy rise
Let Your hope resound
Let Your love in our hearts be found
Let Your grace run free
Let Your name bring peace
Heaven come in the here and now

We want to be a door that’s open wide
We want to see compassion come to life
We want to carry truth that shines a beacon in the night

We want to see the city fill with hope
We want to bring peace to troubled souls
We want to tell the story of a God that we can know

All are welcome here
As we are
As we are
For our God is near every heart
Let Your mercy rise
Let Your hope resound
Let Your love in our hearts be found

Let Your grace run free
Let Your name bring peace
Heaven come in the here and now
Let justice roll like a river wild
Let mercy grow like a burning fire
Let it come in the here and now

Your kingdom come til it rules the earth
Your will be done all around the world
Let it come in the here and now

All are welcome here
All are welcome here
All are welcome here
As we are
As we are
For our God is near every heart

Let Your mercy rise
Let Your hope resound
Let Your love in our hearts be found
Let Your grace run free
Let Your name bring peace
Heaven come in the here and now

Let justice roll like a river wild
Let mercy grow like a burning fire
Let it come in the here and now
Your kingdom come til it rules the earth
Your will be done all around the world
Let it come in the here and now

Let justice roll like a river wild
Let mercy grow like a burning fire
Let it come in the here and now
Your kingdom come til it rules the earth
Your will be done all around the world
Let it come in the here and now
Let it come in the here and now

October 5, 2020

The Dumbing Down of WordPress

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:38 pm
I can think of various reasons why I expected this blog to someday reach its conclusion, but not being able to compose articles the way I have done so here for 12½ years was never one of them.  
I’m typing this in HTML for the first time partly so I can enlarge the font as I’ve been doing for more than a decade. The theme for this blog, which has never changed, was chosen because it allowed an extra wide margin at a time when skinny column formats — no doubt influenced by the number of Blogspot blogs which existed at the time — were more dominant. I wanted something that made the text of the articles front and center. However it came with a very small default font.
I’ve often thought about upgrading the theme but I’ve kinda wanted to hang on to the old-school blogroll and other widgets in the right-hand margin (or at the bottom for those reading on mobile) for as long as I could. Having those links at my disposal when we were on road trips was especially convenient when using my wife’s tablet or laptop.  
But last week WordPress forced the new “block” formatting on me and with only a few hours to post the day’s devotional at Christianity 201, it was like learning a whole new language.   There are things I want to be able to do that I simply can’t.
While their system generously allows me to compose in the “classic” format, I can’t seem to then read what I’ve written in HTML to do things like quote poetry, add pictures, or add superscripts for footnotes such as1 that one! See this: H20. I know how to format that. And now I am being punished for having that ability because I can’t do it and use the visual editor at the same time.  
Poetry? So many times on WordPress blogs you see people quoting song lyrics like this:  

This is a verse  

Of a poem in my mind  

But has all these spaces  

Between all the lines

When in fact poetry should look like:  
This is how
A poem should read.
To eliminate the spaces
I often have need.
[Update: At first the example didn’t work. It forced double spacing not showing on my screen.] [Update to the update: Fixed it using evil ‘div’ tags, not the way it worked previously.]  Up until today I could do that at will.
So now we have WordPress for dummies. If I’m complaining it should mean I’m smart enough to learn the new language, right? Theoretically? But am I motivated? Not really; right now I’m more angry that this “block” nonsense was foisted on everyone.  
There are simply too many programmers out there who are being paid to reinvent things that simply never needed fixing.
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