Thinking Out Loud

February 21, 2018

Wednesday Link List

This is a thing. See below for the Billboard story or click the image here for a video story.

Welcome to our 10th Anniversary Week Wednesday Link List! First off, if the pictures which usually accompany this list is your thing, be sure to check out all ten posted in our Sunday Microblogging feature. Let the games begin!

Remembering Billy Graham

  • UPDATE: This morning subscribers received a health update on Billy Graham in this space, but the story shifted and early this morning we learned of his passing at age 99. CT has a feature remembering his life
  • Tributes pour in on Twitter, Billy Graham was the #1 trending subject this morning. Follow the live feed.  Now on to the link list as it appeared earlier today…
  • Heaven’s Real Estate: So what’s the deal, do we each get a house or do we just get a room?
  • Liturgical Lament: “44% of Evangelicals have never heard of The Book of Common Prayer.” These and other stats on liturgical worship in the latest from Barna Research.
  • Religious Freedom Issue? You’d have to wait longer than eight days to circumcise a male in Iceland as their Parliament is debating banning the practice altogether.
  • After going it for several months as both a local church teaching pastor and the President of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, David Platt decided to go full out with the latter role. “I don’t believe I can choose between preaching and leading in the local church, and mobilizing and shepherding people in global missions. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that if I am going to serve in this way in the local church, then I need to serve in different ways for the cause of global missions.” …
  • …Also from the Biblical Recorder, three Evangelical council advisors to President Trump,  Ronnie Floyd, Jack Graham and Richard Land have just released a new book on The Faith of Donald Trump and here’s a shocker, “Floyd, Graham and Land say they don’t know whether Trump has trusted Christ as his Lord and Savior. But they’re certain he has heard the gospel. All three recounted a conference call on which Trump said, perhaps jokingly, that he hoped a specific policy initiative would help him get into heaven.”
  • Quotation of the Week: In which the author notes that popular blogger Tim Challies affirms Is Genesis History Director Thomas Purifoy’s attempt to make Young Earth Creationism a Reformed distinctive and then takes Martin Lloyd-Jones out of context, there’s this. “I would like to see us put our focus on what classical Christianity regarded as the central matters within the doctrine of creation: for example, creation ex nihilo, the goodness of creation, and the imago Dei. These issues distinguished Christianity from its rival alternatives, properly ordered the Creator/creation relation, and substantively contributed to Christian theology and worship.”
  • Late for Lent: Admittedly, that was so last week, but if you haven’t decided what you’re giving up, this article pulls no punches and offers you a serious agenda for the remaining 33 days.
  • Every week we watch a live stream church service where are constantly amazed at the “culture of applause” which permeates their church culture. They clap for music, for the announcements, for sermons. They applaud things that wouldn’t warrant it in other churches. So while the theme is somewhat different, I had to include this piece: Ministers and the Lust for Applause
  • Money Matters: Four ways in which some churches are guilty of poor stewardship.
  • …Also at Christian Post, the head of the Seventh Day Adventist Church tells local church pastors to steer clear of politics in the pulpit.
  • I believe in a God who heals and is able to do exceedingly above anything we could ask or expect; however, with mental health issues we also need to recognize the value of medical science. Problems with BCM, the Biblical Counseling Movement.
  • KidMin: The 2018 Children’s Ministry Conference runs April 30th to May 3rd in Brighton, Michigan
  • Movie Review: This guy saw the movie Samson rather like a bad haircut.
  • I have deliberately avoided anything related to guns and school shootings here, though to see the disillusionment and disappointment on the face of the students yesterday afternoon when Florida decided to table any debate on an assault rifle ban was one of the saddest things I’ve seen. Later in the evening, it got me thinking. Don’t believe it’s within the realm of possibilities for a U.S. government to break up the NRA? Check this out. They broke up Bell Telephone in 1982, an act described as, “the breakup of the biggest corporation in American history.” So yes, it’s definitely possible.
  • Leadership Lessons: Here are 7 ways local church pastors and associate pastors can do better at connecting with their church kids and teens.
  • The notion of “spiritual but not religious” under the microscope: “Those words are organized religion in themselves, a thought-structure of the vilest duplicity. Their pithiness shapes our thoughts, organizing our hearts to believe we can do Christianity alone. They say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’
  • Essay of the Week: Jasmine L. Holmes, the daughter of Voddie Baucham talks about growing up as a stay at home daughter. She also talks about her husband: “He equips me to make my own choices, even when I’m afraid. He deals with every growing pain that I should have had ten years ago and am just now having. He removes the shameful burdens that I’ve operated under for a good half of my life. He pushes me harder than anyone I’ve ever known, even when I fight back. He’s helping me grow up. Not for him, like I always thought I should, but for myself. For the pursuit of holiness and wholeness. He won’t let me stand quietly in his shadow, and he won’t let me take the easy way out.”
  • Youth Ministry/Church Life: Your game plan when a kid has been a victim of sexual abuse.  
  • Not the Canada Corner: Rather, for readers elsewhere, a full and complete explanation of the angst the ‘attestation’ on the Canada Summer Jobs application has unleashed for churches and Christian charities.
  • Lakewood Church (Joel Osteen) Associate Pastor John Gray defends the riches of wealthy pastors. ” [I]f they have saved their money and want to do something nice for their spouse or they want to live in a home, you’ve got one life.” So basically he’s saying: YOLO. (7 minute video.)
  • Going back to the well: The Charlotte Observer, as the hometown newspaper, hauls out the Jim Bakker/PTL Club story one more time, just in case anyone’s new to the neighborhood.
  • Read carefully because I’m only going to say this once: A Lutheran transgender pastor who has re-identified as ‘Peter’ is walked to the baptismal font by the area bishop for a renaming blessing. Got that? Church council member Daniel Stoll told the Huffington Post, “[Gay and trans individuals] have every right to be their authentic selves as anyone. God didn’t make a mistake.” 
  • ♫ New Music: This one should be to the liking of many of you – Seth & Nirva perform an unplugged version of We Won’t Back Down.
  • Tweet of the Week: A good news story.
  • Steps to Stardom: Justin Bieber’s early years are the subject of a museum exhibit in his hometown. (Or click the image above for a video coverage.)
  • Certain Evangelicals just shouldn’t do interviews with major news media. Like Joel Osteen, Jerry Falwell, Jr. falters in front of the camera, in this case trying to defend the indefensible (aka ’45’) with CNN’s Erin Burnett.
  • Finally, death is just around the corner: “A new app, We Croak, notifies you five times a day that you could die at any moment.” A writer at The Guardian tries it for seven days.

One of the favorites from my picture file from 2011: Adam and Eve at the Creation Museum win an award for the Best Placement of Lily Pads.

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February 20, 2018

The Parable of the Shopkeeper

Once there was a shopkeeper who sold very expensive widgets, some of the best widgets you could buy. While people came from all directions to purchase his widgets, he had only two customers who he would consider regulars and they would both arrive every other Friday.

One came in usually shivering in the cold. His cloth coat just wasn’t enough to keep the winter temperature from getting through. Fussing with a packages of tissues for a runny nose, he would usually buy two or three or sometimes four widgets, paying the price that was on the sign above the counter. Occasionally, he would say he was buying four, only to find himself short on cash, and have to put one back.

The other arrived in a luxury car, the car was obviously quite warm, because he never shivered. He would buy in multiples of ten; usually sixty, eighty or a hundred and he never paid the price on the sign. Instead, the shopkeeper would sell him product at a generous discount, or he would charge him for 60 but give him 20 free, for a total of 80.

Until one day.

The shopkeeper had been listening to the words of the one called The Master or sometimes called The Teacher. He had some interesting stories, but none about shopkeeping or widgets or retail pricing. But there was a tone or a tenor to his teaching that seemed to reach beyond the specific stories and have all manner of ethical ramifications.

So one of the alternate Fridays rolled around and the first customer came in and asked for four widgets. “This is your lucky day;” he told him. “You only need to pay for two and you get two free.” The customer was quite pleased. He asked if he could pay for three and get six. “Absolutely;” said the shopkeeper, adding with a wink; “Remember, I said today is your lucky day. But we have another lucky day coming up two weeks today!”

Then the second regular customer rolled up in his expensive car. “I’ll take a hundred widgets today;” he said; so the merchant went to the cash register and keyed in 100 at the price on the sign above the counter and told him the total.

“Wait, that’s not right;” said the wealthy customer, “That’s full price.”

“Today;” said the shopkeeper,  “We’re offering generous discounts to people who truly can barely afford to buy, but people of means like yourself, are able to pay full price and today are paying full price.”

The customer was in a state of shock and —

–and what do you think happened next?  …

Three days ago, we asked the question if offering certain bonuses to some customers but not other customers was the type of thing that Jesus had in mind when he gave the Sermon on the Mount and other teachings, inspiring James to write about what we call The Sin of Partiality.

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

The gospel is all about inclusion. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Accept the one whose faith is weak,”and while he was speaking to something specific, accepting the one whose pocketbook is weak is also a good fit.

The widget salesman’s decision to rethink who was getting preferential treatment in his shop was well founded; it was a very Jesus thing to do.

But the retail economy does that. It rewards volume buyers. The grocery store near our house offers “multi pricing;” giving those who buy two (or four) a much, much better price than those who buy one (or two). It’s unfair to those who live alone such as singles or seniors; or people on fixed income; or couples where one has a diet restriction that means they can’t share the same meal items or meal ingredients.

My wife and I automatically boycott “multi” offers, which is hard because they are many each week.

A couple of full disclosures are necessary here.

First, I own and manage a retail store and we do have a year-round “Buy 4, Get 1 Free” program that covers well over half the items in our store. It’s flexible, there are modifications throughout the year, and I don’t think it excludes people from the margins, but at the first sign of complaint, I would sit down and talk with them and work something out.

Second, we do have a situation from time to time involving one or two people who are like the second customer in today’s opening story. We appreciate being able to participate on volume deals. I think we are able to obtain competitive prices. They might feel they’re doing us a favor, or supporting us in an industry that is often in survival mode. We feel we’re helping them get pricing that is compatible with what they have already seen online. Sometimes there are complications in these orders, and then we have to eat some extra expenses. There are days I’m not sure who is blessing who, or if it’s totally mutual. But I often think about the principle behind the story above and wonder if we’re doing right. I don’t think saying, ‘Today you’re paying list price for all these items’ is a viable option in this case. But I fret these issues.

Also, we have a policy to never offer to one person a deal we’re not prepared to offer to anyone making a purchase at a similar quantity. Or even if they aren’t a similar quantity. The last such deal involved 40 units of an item, but I ordered 45 and sold the extra 5 to 3 different individuals for the same price as the larger customer had paid for the 40. It seemed like something right to do.

In the story, it’s pointed out that The Master aka The Teacher doesn’t say anything directly about retail marketplace ethics, though he wasn’t very charitable to some profiteers at the Temple. But the key word is directly. I think Jesus sets us up with other ethical teaching that asking the proverbial ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ question in a wide variety of situations isn’t usually a stretch…

…The story is all mine, as far as I know, so don’t go searching online for the ending. If you have one, feel free to leave a comment.

 

 

 

February 19, 2018

When the Cries Bring About Change

Heather Booth is a professional book editor. On the weekend, she tweeted out a rather remarkable story and I quickly sent the link to several people I know who are connected to major media because I wanted to help “get this story out there.” Then, on Sunday morning it occurred to me that Thinking Out Loud is also media, maybe not major media, but instead of asking others to share this story, I could be part of making it happen.

I have a thing to say about growing up after tragedy. When I was a senior in high school, seven of my classmates were killed and 24 injured. It was an awful day full of fear, confusion, and pain. Press swarmed. News helicopters hovered overhead all day filming footage of the carnage.

Nothing made sense. Over the days and weeks that followed, we went to vigils, wakes, and funerals. We openly wept in the hallways. People who had never spoken before embraced, clinging to each other. We felt broken.

People said the things that are being said now. “I put him on the bus and sent him to school. He was supposed to be safe.” Classrooms were rearranged so the empty desks weren’t a constant reminder.

Time passed. We started living with loss, but we still startled at the noises that reminded us of that day. We were now people that THIS had happened to.

More time passed. I did the memorial layout in the yearbook. By then, our shock and raw pain had changed to anger and questioning. Why did this happen? What went wrong? Whose fault is it? Investigations, we learned, were ongoing.

A federal official said, “The thing that upsets me most–we teach our kids to learn the importance of accountability. In this, there was a failure of accountability by a number of organizations.”

And then, things changed.

29 recommendations were made by the NTSB and implemented from the local to federal level. Because this wasn’t a shooting. It was a train hitting a school bus. One train. One bus. Seven deaths. 24 injured. One year. 29 changes for 16 organizations.

And as kids, here’s what this meant: we saw something awful happen, then we saw adults support us, then we saw them make change happen to keep that awful thing from ever happening again. Now, I’m an adult who grew up having seen adults fix things.

Think about the worldview we create for youth when their awful experiences result in nothing but hand wringing and despair. Thoughts and prayers. When a tragedy hits that’s far more deadly and far less accidental than what Cary-Grove High School experienced in 1995 and nothing changes?

What kind of lifelong scars do we inflict on youth when the adults who are there to protect them don’t force change in the wake of preventable tragedy? What kind of foundation do we lay when their world breaks and no one fixes it?

I don’t care which avenue you pursue to change the scourge of gun violence against youth. There are plenty. Pick one. Do something. Call your reps. Donate. March. Volunteer. Vote. Force the issue. Empower teens. Don’t let them down. Make change happen.


Story reference:

Chicago Tribune: October 30, 1996.

To repeat, “One year. 29 changes for 16 organizations.” Changes were made to ensure that this type of thing would never happen again. Adults responded to protect children. Need we say more?

I am not aware if Heather has a particular faith-connection or if she does not. I felt this was worth sharing today irrespective of our usual considerations.

February 18, 2018

Microblogging

This post contains ten images. If you’re reading on your phone and your data plan supports it, click “enable images” or “show images.”

Haven’t done this in awhile… The first one was a screen-grab from a music video. If you were in Southern California looking for Rainbow Church in 1967 — a name that might or might not be avoided today depending on your perspective — it might be hard to find amid the clutter.

Then there’s this one. These superimposed captions are called chyrons and you’ve got to wonder if the person who did this knew exactly what they were doing.

It turns out Olympic figure skaters have a lot in common with the way people express themselves in modern worship. This was sourced at InterVarsity’s TwentyOneHundred Productions‘ Facebook page, which is often a treasure trove of creativity.

I posted this one on Twitter earlier in the week (and it has appeared here once before) without mentioning that it was Taco Bell, though I think that’s clear. It’s for real from Lent, 2009.

Not sure what I had planned for this one. In my house it’s the opposite. Mrs. W. scans everything I show her so swiftly, I don’t know how she absorbs any of it.

This next one isn’t meant to be amusing, but I had already created the graphic for one of my other blogs. This is what Christian radio is playing this month. The chart ranks airplay, not sales and the titles are the names of songs not albums. The data is collected by MediaBase for USAToday where it appears frequently in the print edition…

…Which puts it into the same category as this one, also work-related. Based on sales data from NPD Bookscan (formerly Nielsen Bookscan) the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association recently posted the Top 25 Bible Sales chart for 2017. NLT had four spots in the top ten, NIV had three, and NKJV, Amplified and KJV had one each. When the entire Top 25 is considered, the situation with NIV and NLT reverses: “There were a total of seven NIV editions in the Top 25 Bibles Bestsellers, followed by six editions of the NLT (Tyndale).” Click this link to see all 25.

Speaking of Bibles, this — The Babylon Bee Study Bible — left us confused. We’re not sure if Scot McKnight wrote this for The Babylon Bee, stole it from the Babylon Bee, or is planning to submit it to The Babylon Bee for consideration. Read all 66 entries at this link.

On the more serious front, this was on a friend’s Facebook page, and I didn’t note the source, but I wanted to save this picture, and the title I gave it was Worship Moment because that’s how I reacted to it. God makes stuff like this.

Finally, two Academic publishers (University of Tennessee and Duke University) have released titles about snake-handling churches. U. of Tenn released In the House of the Serpent Handler: A Story of Faith and Fleeting Fame in the Age of Social Media by Julia Duin. Given its location in The American South, it shouldn’t surprise us that it’s the 4th such title for that press. (Sidebar: Julia is a religion writer for The Washington Post but that didn’t stop them from calling her up to report on the Amazon Go! store which opened in her hometown. I guess one needs to be flexible!) Test of Faith: Signs, Serpents, Salvation by Lauren Pond released through Duke University is a photographic collection, and was a subject less typical for them. It came about as part of prize Pond won in 2016. Both books apparently offer “an insider’s perspective.”

More of this sort of thing — and much more — appears regularly on my Twitter page.

February 17, 2018

The Sin of Marketing Offers

Early in the week, I was contacted to see if I knew how someone could get their hands on a song by Casting Crowns titled Listen to Our Hearts. They believed it was on the album Come to the Well, but they couldn’t locate it there.

A little research later, I determined that the song was a bonus track which was only sold to people who pre-ordered the album on iTunes.

It’s not the first time something like this has happened.

In the past few years there have been entire albums by Christian artists which were only available at LifeWay stores. Here, I need to point out that there are no LifeWay stores in Canada or the UK, so fans of the artists in questions simply could not obtain the product, no matter how hard they tried.

There’s something about this that just strikes me as wrong.

I saw an article the other day about “The Sin of Partiality.” Not surprisingly it began in the book of James (2:1-4):

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

My brain connected the article with the song request.

I know Casting Crowns needs to make money, and I’m not saying they should give their songs away for free — the influence of Keith Green notwithstanding — but somewhere between open source and restricted access there should be a balance.

I posted a fan-posted YouTube edition the song on Twitter as a type of protest. That way some people got to hear it that day. I added that a year, or two years later, “the song never surfaced in any form.” That brought this reader response:

To which I responded,

I realize that Christian retail is fraught with moral and ethical perils. The one I hear the most is, “The Bible should be free.” (I always have free copies to meet that objection.) I don’t expect the people at iTunes to live by Christian standards, but surely the people at LifeWay must know, in the back of their minds, that at the same time they’re doing something for their customers, they are denying others, right? (In a future article, we’ll look at the related idea of giving greater discounts to people buying in quantity, which is always an ethical dilemma.)

I just think anytime you say “exclusive offer” you’re letting some people in and shutting some people out.

At that point, the connection to what James says about favoritism is valid.


Note: The song was a collaboration between three artists. The versions by Steven Curtis Chapman and Geoff Moore have proved equally elusive in 2018.

February 16, 2018

Movement Caught in Freeze-Frame

Which one would you buy a used car from?

It’s those same old guys again.
Where are the up-and-coming leaders and teachers?
Does the movement have a succession plan?
Are there any rising stars?
If so, would they get an opportunity; a chance to gain a platform; or is it a closed shop?

Part of the payoff in doing this blog for ten years has been introducing people to communicators whom they might not have otherwise encountered to that point. I’m always interested in hearing what new people have to say; how they take the classic truths of scripture and breathe something fresh into it.

Right away I can hear some people thinking, ‘If it’s new it’s not true.’ This instant dismissal of the unfamiliar is valid if someone is propagating a different doctrine, but if it’s just a matter of clothing the gospel with different terminology, there should be no issue with that. God has gifted multiplied thousands of people, many of whom are exercising those gifts even as you’re reading this. I like to see a shared platform.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the perceived new-or-true dichotomy, we get emotionally bonded to certain words and phrases. I’ve told the story before of Bruxy Cavey speaking for 40 minutes on “the King-ship of Christ” and then being raked over the coals by a woman because he never once mentioned “the sovereignty of God.” She was in bondage to that phrase, and if she didn’t hear it, she tuned out everything which was said, even though it was exactly the same thing.

The same is true with authors and speakers. People get into a rut where they have their favorites, and it’s a closed set. There’s no room for succession. Sometimes these same people will stay home if it’s not the pastor preaching that Sunday. They might tell you they’re longing for “a fresh word from the Lord,” but they’re not interested if the Lord uses a fresh voice to make the delivery. Sometimes an entire movement can be failing to think in terms of succession. Or how frustrating it is to be a pastor in a particular movement with decades of experience and hundreds of stories, and yet never even be considered to share in that forum.

Which brings us to the picture above. Personally, I can’t begin to imagine why people would go back, year after year, to a convention with the same speakers as the year before, and the year before that. If you get it then you understand something important about the Together for the Gospel (aka T4G) mindset. If not, I’ll leave you to figure out what’s really taking place here; why the club is closed to new members.

(Even Bob Kaufflin, the music guy — one guy at a piano, not pictured above, for the entire weekend — is making his sixth consecutive appearance. Is there no one in this movement capable of bringing something different to that aspect of the conference? Trip Lee will be there to lead a seminar. That would be interesting.)

I look at the picture and I ask myself, ‘Which of these people would I buy a used car from?’ Chandler, maybe. Mohler looks like he’d be the one who owns the dealership. Platt looks like he just got promoted from the Service Department into sales; at least he’d know if the car is good mechanically. But DeYoung knows something about the car he’s not telling me. And Dever is charging me about $1K too much; I need to switch sales reps. Anyabwile was the first rep I talked to, but when I came back to ask for him, I couldn’t pronounce his name

Yeah, we’re better to stay with the used car analogy, because if we cross over from analogy to truth, it gets ugly. You’ve got a guy there who even people within the movement say needs to address things in his past before being a featured speaker. You’ve got a guy who has been tweeting nonsense, some of which makes Trump look sane by comparison. You’ve got a guy who’s got so much hate toward people outside the club. You’ve got people who’ve got to be part of this club by an accident of circumstances, and might have done better had they aligned with a different tribe.

But in April, they will gather; five Sola’s in one hand, five TULIP parts in the other, to declare the supremacy of The Gospel™, which of course they all agreed on before they arrived; and then head out to the bookstore to purchase the latest title from Crossway which will then be placed on their bookshelves, but not before they blog or tweet about how exciting it is to see a new release from ________ with some phrases copied and pasted from an online review and an overview of the Table of Contents.

Okay, that was over the top cynicism. I just have a passion for younger leaders, and there’s nobody on the T4G schedule that would cause me to board an airplane and fly to Louisville, Kentucky in mid April.

If you’re into this and you’re going, enjoy the convention. Tickets are now on sale.

From an outsider perspective, it looks like a bit of a yawner.


In 2014, I did a much longer article about T4G — after watching several days of the live feed — which you can read at this link. It resulted in the creation of this graphic; asymmetry is intentional.

February 15, 2018

To Our American Friends, Again

You can’t fix this.

I’m sorry, but the intricacies of your political system have painted you into a corner and now you are trapped and can’t get out.

You will never fix this.

I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but try to imagine a scenario or series of scenarios that would result in enacting, for example, a repeal of the 2nd Amendment. It’s just not possible.

You, as a nation, don’t have the political will to fix this.

The system is broken and all your politicians know this. It’s a given that is whispered in hushed corridors of power, while the external message is, “Thoughts and prayers.”

…Just over five years ago, in December of 2012, I wrote the first “To Our American Friends” article. At that time I earnestly believed with all my heart that the U.S. had had a wake-up call and would start the conversation that would result in social and constitutional change. I wrote:

…Please accept our heartfelt sympathies.

Even though we’re close neighbors, we don’t fully understand the U.S. gun culture that is part of the DNA of those with whom we share this continent. And before we start to sound judgmental, we don’t always get it right up here, either; neither have we been immune to gun violence.

But we don’t think the framers of the U.S. constitution had yesterday in mind when they drafted the 2nd Amendment. Rather, I think they would be appalled, provided they were not completely bewildered trying to process where things presently stand.

This is only going to get worse. And worse and worse…

In June of 2015, I quoted President Obama:

“But let’s be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it.” – President Obama

Does he really believe “it’s in our power to do something?” By October of the same year, the President’s tone had changed. It was more a lament. I wrote at the time,

President Obama went on television for the 16th time in his presidency and said, “Somehow, this is becoming routine.”

Gun advocates say that people need to have guns to defend themselves, but where are the headlines where a mass shooting was aborted because some civilian took out the shooter?

Again, it’s not my place to comment on the laws of another country. But know this: To those of us outside what Pope Francis reminded Americans is called “The land of the free,” we don’t believe the authors of the U.S. Constitution had days like these in view. Not for a moment.

It certainly is “The home of the brave.” You’d have to be brave, to leave your house in the morning not knowing if you’ll be having supper with your family at night.

Today, I have a different message.

You need to get out.

You need to get out before you’re next.

If traveling through Europe last summer taught us anything, it taught us that geography or place of birth need no longer limit the trajectory of a person’s life. Especially our last two days, as we got to know Prague in the Czech Republic, we remarked a few times, “We could live here.” We could easily envision ourselves uprooting from friends and family and starting an entirely new life in an entirely new place.

And so could you.

English is widely spoken. You’d want to learn the local language, but you would be amazed at how much you can get by in the world with English.

The places are sophisticated. Many have innovations in education, medical services and consumer technology that have not yet become commonplace in the United States.

Your skills as a teacher, mechanic, IT worker, nurse, editor, contractor, dietician, etc. are transferable.

Think about it.

Book a trip. Book it now, before summer while the rates are lower.

If you have a passport in a country that is part of the British Commonwealth, consider England, Australia, or New Zealand. Otherwise, start subscribing to website bulletins posting jobs in Europe. If you speak a foreign language, all the better. You won’t be 100% safe; some of these countries have issues with terrorism, but you will be safer. So will your kids.

You need to get out.

There’s no other solution.

I’m sorry.

 

 

February 14, 2018

Wednesday Link List

I knew Redeemer University College in Canada was a smaller school than some, but didn’t expect to see it reflected in the way job functions like this one are integrated. Dutch frugality?

 

It’s a Valentine’s Day edition of the Wednesday Link List and even though we have absolutely nothing Valentine-related, we hope you will love this week’s list.


Is there a shot you can get to prevent this?


The Canadian in me loved this one.


Euphemisms for death based on obituaries by state, sourced by Mental Floss in 2016 based on 2015 obits. (Click image to link.) Of interest to us here was Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Arkansas. (Boy, talk about being led down the internet rabbit trail…)

February 13, 2018

The Short Term Missionary Returns

Filed under: Christianity, missions — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:29 am

FLL to PAPAt 8:46 this morning, after a layover in Fort Lauderdale, Chris, our oldest son has arrived back for a week in Haiti after an absence of three years.

In 2015, he connected with Engineering Ministries International (EMI), a ministry which comes alongside other organizations for the purpose of designing various types of facilities. His four month internship was centered mostly on designing three buildings to be erected on new land purchased by Welcome Home Children’s Centre, a charity based in Georgetown — about 45 minutes west of Toronto — which operates an orphanage near Marotte, about two hours north of Port au Prince.

This time he’s returning with a team from the charity, not EMI. He’s actively kept in touch with them, and has helped out with their website and some fundraising events. He gets to see the first of the three buildings he helped design which has been constructed in the intervening years.

I love the organic beginnings of this organization:

Camille Otum was born in Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti, and raised in the nearby town of Cabaret. At the age of nineteen she was inspired to embark on an adventure and moved to Canada. She chose to settle in Montreal, Québec, where she had French language and cultural connections. Once married, Camille, her husband Sam and their family moved to the province of Ontario and now make their home in Georgetown.

In 2004, Camille joined a group from her church as a chaperone on a mission to Haiti with young Canadians aged 15 to 18. This was an opportunity for her to help in her home country and to offer her leadership and language skills to the project.

During the trip, Camille visited her old friends in her hometown of Cabaret. She was quite distressed by what she saw. This was not the village she had left many years ago. Now, she was witnessing homeless children begging in the streets, desperate and malnourished.

Camille returned to Canada with this image embedded in her mind and began discussions with her family and friends about the situation in her homeland and her deep desire to help. With the support of her husband, Sam Otum, and her church friends Audrey Hoekstra and Era Ferron and their husbands, Peter Hoekstra and Ezekiel Ferron, and a friend, Caroline Bailey, she shifted into ‘business’ mode. After considering options, they decided to open an orphanage and Welcome Home Children’s Centre was incorporated as a non-profit entity in Canada.

Usually, people don’t stay in touch with organizations where they’ve served in a short term mission. Chris is different. He has a real heart for this organization, plus he is able to speak both French and Haitian Creole, which gives his time there greater potential. This is his first “vacation” time since starting his career job two years ago, and he was insistent he didn’t want to just do tourism. He wanted to do something which would make his 7-8 days count.

Please join us in praying:

  • for safe flights for the team going through Niagara Falls airport, to Ft. Lauderdale, to Haiti and then for Chris as he flies back solo doing this same route (other team members are staying longer) and has to find his way from Niagara Falls, NY back to Toronto.
  • for safety, security and health for the team (5 people) on the ground in Haiti.
  • for wisdom as Chris looks at the solar panel electrical system he helped design.
  • for a fruitful time that is beneficial to the ministry organization, the children in the orphanage, and their leaders.
  • for some opportunities to interact with the children and encourage them
  • for a sense of God’s presence and leading.

Thanks.

The video below was produced 3 years ago by EMI, but gives a great overview of what Welcome Home is about.

And in case you’re wondering, here’s what he can expect in terms of weather:


Update: The original article didn’t include this, but if you’re interested, here are the links to Engineering Ministries International as well as the Calgary, Canada office he interned with. If you have skills in the field, you don’t have to do a full 4-month internship as he did. EMI is always looking for

  • surveyors
  • architects
  • engineers (often mechanical, structural, etc.)

to go on a one-week trip to a particular country and take part in a highly organized, streamlined design blitz.

 

February 12, 2018

Winter: A Test of Faith

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:51 am
On New Year's Day 2009, Ippswich in Australia was expecting a high of +38C, which is about 100F. Meanwhile, back at home, my Weather Network indicator on my computer is showing that we’re heading to a low of -18C, which is about -1F. Their high temperature on a summer mid-afternoon Thursday would be occurring at the same time as my Wednesday mid-winter night. That's 101 degrees F difference. That day I was asking,

101 Degrees of Separation: On New Year’s Day 2009, Ippswich in Australia was expecting a high of +38C, which is about 100F. Meanwhile, back at home, my Weather Network indicator on my computer was showing that we were heading to a low of -18C, which is about -1F. The Aussies high temperature on a summer mid-afternoon Thursday would be occurring at the same time as my Wednesday mid-winter night. That’s 101 Fahrenheit degrees difference. That day I was asking, “Are we even on the same planet?”

While every post here every day is supposed to be faith focused, a lot lately have had the church life tag. Today is no exception. The pictures are repeats that I’ve now used four times here — I find the contrast fascinating — but the written part is new.

It’s anecdotal and it’s subjective, but it seems to me like whenever a massive storm system is moving through our region, it impacts Sunday morning church attendance. Yesterday was the second week in a row where the crowd size was down in our part of the world. The week before it was a snowstorm. Yesterday it was a threat of freezing rain.

The word threat is key here. The Weather Network seems to send out more warnings than necessary, but of course each time you tap the prompt on your phone, they are selling more advertising, I guess. I use something called Weather Underground, which I’m told is connected to AccuWeather. They seem to be in panic mode fewer times each month.

Threat is also important because as Canadians, we know how to drive in winter, and part of that knowledge is that sometimes you just stay home. We’re just that extra bit laid back so that if we don’t make the sales appointment, or don’t make it to the office, it’s not the end of the world. I get the impression that most Americans think they can just force their way through the elements to get where they perceive they need to be. And then the 6:30 newscasts in the U.S. are peppered with accident video. Cars spinning out of control, trucks flipped over, wreckage being towed away.

But back to our subject.

I would think pastors get discouraged with weather developments. After all, they’re playing on God’s team. It’s not supposed to be that way. Talking to a Children’s Ministry director yesterday, I also considered that if your kids are local, and therefore make it to church, but your volunteers live a greater distance away, then you’ve got other problems. There are also fewer visitors. Lower offerings. And preaching a series means that some people, if they don’t catch up online, have missed key developments in the teaching sequence.

So Sunday at lunch I prayed and asked God if he would at least consider arranging the weather elements so that churches in our area could catch a break next week. These storm systems take days to develop and migrate, so I figured a week’s notice was giving him a lot of time to put something together.

cat-can-part-snow

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