Thinking Out Loud

September 30, 2009

What Really Matters to You Right Now?

Filed under: blogging, theology — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:20 pm

question-markSo I’m blog-hopping looking for something creative to post today and suddenly realizing how easy it is to be caught up in someone else’s issues.   There are discussions and debates going on about a wide range of topics that, if I am reading these blogs correctly, are so critical that the fate of civilization as we know it is hanging in the balance.

Sometimes a topic intersects an area of personal interest.   Other times, I think of something clever — okay, at least I think it’s clever — to add as a short comment.   But the next day that blog will be off on a different subject which really isn’t something I see as critical to my own personal walk with Jesus.

Many Christian blogs are caught up in discussions that make your head spin.   I love surveying the issues and seeing what matters to some people.   (A blog like Internet Monk — see the blogroll — will do that for you and give you a crash course in theological hot topics.)   But often I feel like this is someone else’s discussion. Maybe I just haven’t reached a level of spiritual maturity to burden myself with certain topics.   Or maybe — and this is a BIG maybe — they haven’t written their argument in such a way as to evoke from me a response out of the depth of my understanding and connection to that particular concern.

So…what really matters to you right now?   What topic would you like to find on a Christian blog that would hit you right where you’re living at this moment?

Break up into groups of 3-4 and discuss; OR leave a comment!   (Or both!)


September 29, 2009

Why You Should Have a Church if You’ve Been Shot (and more links)

I was thinking out loud today about the importance of having a church, a church family and a pastor if you get home from work and take off your shirt only to discover that there’s a hole in your stomach.

“I think I’ve been shot;” I announced to my wife.

Our immediate concern was for the shirt I’d been wearing which, although it is already dark red, is my newest shirt and one that I like very much.

“The funny thing is;” I said to her, “I don’t remember being shot.” I certainly didn’t feel anything.

She produced a paper towel and some warm water and determined that I had probably scratched at some kind of mole earlier in the day.

Still; if I had been shot, I realized that nobody would come to visit me and I wouldn’t appear on a prayer list at any church on Sunday, let alone make it on to a prayer chain.   It would be nice to pretend that somebody cared.

So all you freewheeling readers out there who are currently “between churches” should definitely get one soon.

Today’s Links:

  • Kathy aka Kaybee quotes an excellent piece of poetry from Mother Teresa in this post, Who is Jesus to Me?
  • More thoughts on Bible meditation, this time from a site with a name similar to ours, Thinking With Purpose; part of a study on Spiritual Meditation.
  • Sherry at the blog Soiled Wings would get along great my wife, who has made an art form out of dodging the greeters at the door of the church.   Sherry spiritualizes it however in this post, God, Greeters and Germs.
  • It’s been awhile since we linked to Nashville pastor Pete Wilson’s blog.   In this post, he talks about the expectations we have for people in our churches, that they will fit into a certain mold; or as he calls them Cookie Cutter Souls.
  • Despite my attempts at trying to sell a “booklet” which is shrinkwrapped into packages of four or five, it’s been suggested again that The Pornography Effect, really could use more chapters, or some serious padding, if we’re going to find a publisher.   So in a new chapter (ignore the post date) we look at the idea of Detoxification.

A New Way To Read Scripture Aloud

Filed under: bible, Church — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:21 am

scripture_readingNothing strikes terror in the hearts of churchgoers like being asked to do a scripture reading.   Even some progressive, non-liturgical churches are trying things in the middle of the sermon which involve having the reader seated with a live microphone to jump into the middle of the sermon to read texts as needed.   (The change in voices might actually keep some from slipping into their Sunday slumber.)

Laypersons so asked to participate will often make a panic purchase of a resource with a title like, “How to Pronounce Bible Names;” only to find the pastor saying the names with completely different vowel sounds and syllable emphasis than what they read to the congregation moments earlier.

And then there’s always the critical question, “What should I wear?”  This usually transcends any consideration of the words being uttered.

Talking about this on the weekend however, we decided that what is usually lacking in these moments is passion.   It’s not that the participant is unsaved or involved in gross sins.   Rather, they just haven’t taken the time to examine the text and draw out its key elements in spoken form.

Which is a great place to interrupt this and add, in case you missed it, the excellent comment made by Jeremy two posts back, in ‘A New Way to Meditate on Scripture’ where he redefined this as:  “…like walking down a highway that you drove on every day.  Longer to look, to feel, to think about.”

So let’s cut to the “how-to.”   Here’s how to slow down on the highway and consider the text so you that can read it with passion.

Photocopy or hand-write the verses you have been asked to read.  Then go through and place EMPHASIS on the KEY WORDS you want to draw out.   You can do this with:

  • underlining
  • capital letters
  • bold-face type (or retracing handwritten words)
  • highlighting in yellow

In other words, whatever works for you; one, some or all of the above.   This is what newsreaders on Top 40 radio stations would do to keep music listeners from tuning out during the newscast.   Punch it out a little!   Sell it!   Make it sing!  (Unless you’re reading from Lamentations.)

In other words, short of doing a dramatic reading — which you probably were not asked to — communicate some of the fire and intensity in the passage.   Because, all scripture is God-breathed.

September 28, 2009

How I Failed The Doctrinal Test

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:43 pm

I am now officially a heretic.

I was filling in an application at to be listed in another blog aggregator.   (Hey, traffic was down on the weekend…)

In addition to the thing where you do a word/character verification, this one impressed me by asking a doctrinal question.

Too bad I didn’t know the right answer.

fishthe[dot]net application

The Tranquility Prayer: Life on Planet Trid

Filed under: Humor — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:14 am

It was a dream that I woke from remembering it vividly.

I was living on Planet Trid, very similar to ours in many ways.   I was an activist, an angry activist pushing for every type of change, from major social change to why the clothing store never stocked enough of the statistically verifiable most common sizes.

I wrote letters.   I left messages.   And they even had blogging on Trid, and not to be outdone, I had a dozen of them; venting each day on a variety of topics that were the target of my latest frustration.   I would be attacking the government for a flaw in its tax plan on line one, while on line two chastising a local restaurant for having seating capacity for 200 but only a dozen parking spaces.

Ranting had become a lifestyle.   It was hard to change this pattern because, for one thing, I was always right.    Not that everybody else was dead wrong, they just didn’t have my wisdom.   How could I see these anomalies, I could I know so many better ways of doing things, and how could I be aware of so much injustice without commenting?

Then some of the Tridians came to me and had the nerve to suggest that it was I who wasn’t getting it.

“Nonsense;” I replied; “Yes, some things are good; but some could be better; others are on the threshold of being great.   What’s wrong with a little concrete criticism?   What’s wrong with a little objective commentary?”

“We have a something here;” the Tridians informed me; “It’s called The Tranquility Prayer, and it goes like this:

“God give me the peace and tranquility to realize that I can’t reform or renovate everything; the insight into those situations and structures that are actually pliable; and the discernment to know which is which.”

I paused and thought about the wisdom that one sentence contained.   You can’t fix everything; certainly not all at once.   And where I came from, only one man ever lived about whom it might be said he truly, totally revolutionized the world.

It was time to relax and experience the tranquility about which the Tridians spoke instead of trying to force my suggestions or my agenda on their lifestyle.

“Alright then;” I said; “We need to get that sentence on some plaques, and maybe some posters and bookmarks and greetings cards, and then after that we need to…”

September 27, 2009

A New Way to Meditate on Scripture

People talk about meditating on scripture, but for many of us, living in an instant age means we simply are in too big a hurry to get to the next verse to slow down enough to consider the verse we just finished reading.

This weekend I was in a part of Ontario that is more predominantly Francophone (i.e. there is a much more French spoken.)  So instead of the regular Gideon Bible in the hotel,  they had a New Testament with Psalms in a parallel French-English edition.

I found myself turning to familiar passages and reading both the English and the French.   My French language skills are somewhat limited, but many of the French words are either roots or extensions of English words we know, and many times they are simply not the English words we would associate with the particular word or phrase.

For example, seeing God as Holy is easy for us English speakers, but seeing Him as sanctified?   In English we tend to use that word for something common which is made holy. God, of course, has no reason to be made holy.  But languages vary in their composition and what matters most is how the word is now used and understood.

But in the process of weighing all this I was actually meditating on the verses before me.

The 73% of readers of this blog in the USA could do the same thing with a Spanish-English parallel Bible.   In fact, I think the less familiarity you have with the other language, the more it might slow you down to an appropriate meditating cruising speed.

You get to see the familiar passages in a different light, and you might even refresh your high-school second-language skills in the process.

September 25, 2009

Worship Team Meeting

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:33 pm

This is something I put together several years ago which appeared one time on this blog.   I know some of you are recent readers or subscribers so I thought we’d run it again today.

a very short play by Paul Wilkinson

King David, dressed in robes and crown, is sitting on his throne holding a clipboard and writing. A servant enters to interrupt…

SERVANT: King David, Asaph is here as you requested.

DAVID: Send him in.
[Servant exits. Asaph enters and bows]

DAVID: Thank you for coming, Asaph.

ASAPH: Your excellency… [bows]

DAVID: I wanted to go over the worship for the Sabbath.

ASAPH: “Go over?”

DAVID: Yes, review the songs we will be singing.

ASAPH: But surely, the Spirit of the Lord only reveals those to you as we are at worship. How can we know this now?

DAVID: Actually, I’ve been giving that some thought and it occurred to me that if the Spirit of God can inspire us as we worship Him, truly He can not also inspire us to choose those songs a few days ahead?

ASAPH: But…we’ve never done it this way before.

DAVID: You’ll get used to it. [Looks at clipboard] So I thought we’d begin with, “The Lord is One” from Deuteronomy, and then go into “Moses’ Song of Triumph” from Exodus.

ASAPH: Actually, we did that one last week.

DAVID: Oh…right.

ASAPH: I’m sorry, oh King, I spoke out of turn.

DAVID: What if we do it before the time of worship has actually begun? As people are gathering. A sort of pre-service song.

ASAPH: To what end?

DAVID: Just to help people get in the mood for worship.

ASAPH: “Get in the mood?”

DAVID: Hey, I’m King. We’ll try this.

ASAPH: You know we don’t have a drummer this week. He has to work.

DAVID: He cannot work on the Sabbath.

ASAPH: His master has introduced something called ‘rotating shifts’ at the brick plant. It allows them to keep the oven fired up all the time and produce bricks around the clock, but the men have to work at all hours.

DAVID: But he is one of the temple musicians. I don’t like this ‘rotating shifts’ thing; it could affect temple worship for generations. …Anyway…let’s move on. What if we open with “The Lord is One” and then go into the one I wrote as a kid, “Blessed is the Man.”

ASAPH: You mean the one you call “Psalm One?”

DAVID: Yeah, I am thinking of combining them into a book with some of the ones you wrote; there’s got to be over a hundred of them. Maybe I’ll get Solomon to do it.

ASAPH: Actually, I’ve been meaning to talk with you about “Psalm One.” With all due respect oh King, we often sing it after “The Lord is One” and well… you see “The Lord is One” is in the key of F, and your “Psalm One” is in the key of E, and when we go down one key it always sounds… oh, I don’t know… it just sounds wrong.

DAVID: Then we’ll do it first, and then sing “The Lord is One” and the musical keys will be in ascending order. This will be more pleasing to the ear.

ASAPH: But “The Lord is One” is the call to worship. “Psalm One” is not, but perhaps we could sing “Psalm 100” which is a call to worship and use the other song later in the service.

DAVID: [picking up clipboard] Let me write that down. [Writes] Well…thank you for coming, I will call you again to discuss the closing of the service.

ASAPH: Do you need to write it? Won’t the Spirit of the Lord remind us of what He is telling us today?

DAVID: Yes… this list is for someone new I am adding our team, someone who I think will make a difference in our temple worship for years to come. I call this appointment, “The Sound Man.”

[Asaph exits, facing the crowd, and rolling his eyes upward!]

September 24, 2009

Currently Reading: The Misunderstood God

Filed under: books — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:55 pm

Just three chapters in, The Misunderstood God by Darin Hufford reminds me a lot of Your God Is Too Small by J. B. Phillips.   Only this time, with I Cor. 13 as a frame of reference.    This is yet another new project from the publishers of The Shack, this one releasing mid November.

I’ll have a full review in about a week.  In the meantime, as we often do at Thinking Out Loud, here’s what the publishers have to say about their own book:

The Misunderstood GodHave you ever listened to a preacher talk about God and thought, “That doesn’t sound like God.” Millions have become repulsed by the God some churches present. From birth, many Christians have been bombarded with so many contradictory teachings and doctrines that their understanding of God resembles a tightly tangled ball of Christmas tree lights. The Misunderstood God throws out that twisted mess and replaces it with the soft, warm light of truth.

With so many confusing teachings about God and countless contradictions, misunderstandings, outright scams, and simplistic, fear-based teachings, how can we really know who God is for ourselves? The Misunderstood God analyzes some of the most common claims about God’s heart and personality, and measures them against what God has called Himself: perfect love.

Currently listening toFearless by Phillips, Craig & Dean.
Currently watching on YouTube:  Clips from the cast of Big Bang Theory at Comic Con.
Current variation of Solitaire from Pretty Good Solitaire: Antares (but Penguin, Tuxedo and Fifteen Puzzle are still my favorites).  If you feel you need 725 variations of solitaire, click here.  (Note to Baptists:  Images of playing cards may appear on screen.)

September 23, 2009

More of the Best-Of From September, 2008

Filed under: Faith — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:42 pm

Keep Your Mind Pure

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

~ Phil 4:8 & 9 – The Message




Are You a Spectator or a Participant?

Are the people at your church participants or just spectators? Cathy Lynn Grossman asked this question on her discussion forum on the religion page of USAToday (linked on my blog, but a new topic may have been introduced, pushing this one back to a ‘previous week’ status). She wrote:

When I looked at the challenges and changes in the realm of megachurches this week, pastors I spoke with were concerned.
They’re proud of the high quality of their worship services — good music, clear preaching, creative artistic touches and lots of talk about serving the world.
But they see a worrisome number of people who come to church the way they go to a movie or concert. A little entertainment, a little something to think about and then it’s time to move back to real life.

But one of the most interesting responses came up this morning from a Mormon woman. Here’s what she wrote:

As a member of The Chuch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you cannot be an active member of the congregation and be just a spectator. All of the adults in the congregation take turns giving talks over the pulpit, we do not have our Bishop preaching to us each Sunday. I personally like hearing from those different people, their experiences, testimonies, and it’s nice to look at new faces across the pulpit each week. Also, we each serve in the congregation to make the rest of the Sunday meetings possible. From serving as adult Sunday School teachers, to teaching a youth class, or one of the many children’s classes. There are people who are asked to play the piano, lead the music, work in the library that provides supplies for the different classes, run a nursery class for the children 3 and under. We are all working together and contribute to have a wonderful Sabbath day experience worshipping at church. I think because of that, we are stronger members of the church and we feel like we need to “practice what we preach”, because we are all doing the preaching in one aspect or another.

There is much being written today about the small group movement and the house church movement, and I believe that the message to those of us who have chosen to remain in the institutional church is to greatly increase the interactive element in our services, and greatly increase the number and degree of lay participation.

The Male Domination of the Christian Internet

Although the blogroll at right lists a handful of sites I think are worth visiting, my personal bookmarks include some 70 + Christian blogs which I try to check out at least every other day. That’s a lot of blogs. And you know what? They’re all written by men. As in males. As in not women.

Tonight I landed on a couple of blogs written by women that aren’t part of my bookmarks. I immediately bookmarked both of them. I need to hear their perspective. I need to listen carefully to what they’re saying. I realize there is a certain dimension, possibly even a certain depth of spirituality that I don’t find reading stuff by fellow guys. A different understanding of God’s dealings with us in this broken old world.

I think that much of this has to do with the fact that men “publish” on the internet with the intention of reaching the widest audience. Women tend to be truer to the idea of blogs as online diaries; they write about raising kids, about intimate feelings, about deep personal discoveries in their reading of the scriptures. In that sense, women bloggers often tend to be more “Psalm-like” in their online composing. In the Psalms, David (or Asaph, or whoever) unleashes both high praise and extreme frustration towards God, who is always there as listening friend, whatever David’s mood that day. The Psalmist just wants to express something.

What do you think? Is it just me, or is Evangelical Christianity totally dominated online the way it’s dominated in the church, and in Christian publishing? What percentage of the bloggers you read are female?

September 22, 2009

Lighter Links

Filed under: Humor, issues, links — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:56 pm

Our last link collection was rather heavy.   So here’s some stuff that won’t leave you drained.

  • praying ronald McdonaldShe once was lost, but now she’s found.   Christian music singer Jennifer Knapp has surfaced after being AWOL for what seemed forever.   Read her statement on her website.   “I haven’t actually disappeared.  I’ve been truly corporeal this whole time.”    Betcha the speculation will continue, however.
  • Why is Ronald McDonald praying?   That was the question readers of the blog The Ironic Catholic were asking (and captioning.)    The answer was to be found in the link in the teeny tiny type under the picture as it appeared there, but we’ll spoonfeed it to you here.
  • While some people are talking about Anne Jackson’s future book with Thomas Nelson, Permission to Speak Freely, which borrows the whole Post Secrets concept, here’s a variation on the whole online confessional thing from the folks at Long Hollow Baptist, a three campus church in greater Nashville, TN.   Sample from Anne’s: “I’ve tried so hard not to be the stereotypical Christian, that I’ve sinned against God.”  Sample from Long Hollow:  “God, I miss You and I want to come home.   I’m sorry I chose the world over You.”  (…and to think today we’re doing lighter blog links…)
  • David Keen at the blog, St. Aidan to Abbey Manor (yeah, I know, I wanted that blog name, too, but it was taken) offers us some suggestions for naming the new NIV/TNIV hybrid when it appears in 2011.   Possibilities so far:
    – Tomorrows New International Version (TNIV, not to be confused with TNIV)
    – Newer International Version (NIV, not to be confused with NIV)
    – Very New International Version (VNIV, which is starting to look like a Roman date)
    – Brand New International Version (BNIV, which ceases to be true as soon as you’ve bought it, and so risks making a complete liar out of everyone who owns a copy)
    – New International Version 3.0, which can be released in digital form and updated by download whenever a new bit of translation becomes available.
    – 21st Century NIV: bit of a hostage to fortune, as you then can’t amend it again for 89 years. Actually ’21st century’ already sounds dated.
  • Many years ago I attended a church where the pastor was roundly condemned for wearing Hush Puppies instead of Oxfords and a turtleneck sweater instead of a shirt and tie.  How times have changed.   Well, not everywhere.   The Coral Ridge Presbyterian faction would have new pastor Tullian Tchividjian removed for not wearing a robe.   (No, it’s not like he’s preaching nude; he wears other stuff.)  Anyway, they’re also upset that he isn’t weighing in on political issues.   Guess James Kennedy was more of a headline maker.   Tullian is safe for now, having been reaffirmed with a 69% vote.   Read the silliness here.

…and you thought I was always serious.    We’ll leave you with something from Pundit Kitchen:

church and state from pundit kitchen

Related posts on this blog:
Review of Anne Jackson’s first book, Mad Church Disease
Story explaining the revision of the NIV in 2011 and ending publication of the TNIV

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