Thinking Out Loud

November 30, 2010

Post Deleted

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:42 pm

Today’s post at Thinking Out Loud contained a leak of classified information including communications previously known only to a select number of high security personnel, including the audio frequency at which the glass in the Crystal Cathedral shatters, and has been removed at the request of the U.S. State Department and one church janitor.


November 29, 2010

Social Media Overload: Sabbatical or Sabbath?


/səˈbætɪkəl/ [suh-bat-i-kuhl] –adjective

5. ( lowercase ) any extended period of leave from one’s customary work, esp. for rest, to acquire new skills or training, etc.


/ˈsæbəθ/ [sab-uhth] –noun

2. – the first day of the week, Sunday, similarly observed by most Christians in commemoration of the Resurrection of Christ.

I think you know where I’m going with this.   There would be a lot fewer people burning out on social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) if they practiced the concept of Sabbath.   Then they wouldn’t need a sabbatical.

I grew up around people who had all kinds of arbitrary Sunday rules:  No television, no sports, no swimming, etc.   I always swore I wouldn’t be that kind of parent.   But early on we sensed the need for a Sunday computer Sabbath.     Now that the kids are in their late teens, we don’t have full compliance every week, but as for myself, the computer doesn’t get switched on until around 4:30 PM.

You really do need to take a break now and then.

Here’s a post about the actual words used to mandate a day of rest

Related post from last month about working at home on Sunday

November 28, 2010

James MacDonald’s “Merry Christmas” Comeback

This was sent out by Walk in the Word to e-mail subscribers this week:

I look forward to having a great time with a new response to ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays.’ When people say that to me, I will answer, “It’s a boy!”

You should try it out. These three words will help you point to Jesus and lead you into some great conversations with both believers and non-believers.

It’s so easy to forget that Christmas is about the fulfillment of prophecy: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6). It’s a boy!

And the miracle of a virgin birth: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:23). It’s a boy!

And the mission accomplished by this baby: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). It’s a boy!

Why do I like this response so much? It’s God’s answer for the universal problem of sin in the world. It’s what makes it possible for me to look forward to eternal life. It’s what gives me the peace and joy so I can have a Merry Christmas. It’s a boy!

So try this response. It’s just one way to stay focused on the real meaning of Christmas.

~James MacDonald

November 27, 2010

Self Editing: Careful Monitoring of What You Say

My oldest son made an interesting comment about a speaker we heard recently:  “I appreciated what she had to say, but she doesn’t self-edit.”   Self-editing involves that little 2.3 milliseconds between what your brain is thinking, and the actual movement of your lips.   It’s a brief allowance in time for you to decide what you’re about to say is not really in your best interests.   The wisdom to make this decision might arise from maybe reading a little book called Proverbs.

It happens all the time…

  • the husband who knows how to answer when his wife asks, “Does this make me look fat?”
  • the car dealer who is careful not to let slip that the $11,000 used car only fetched its previous owner $2,000 as a trade-in
  • the gift recipient who doesn’t want to admit that she already has two George Foreman grills; neither one out of the box
  • the student who doesn’t want to tell her math teacher that he has bits of his lunch on his sport jacket

…and other situations of that ilk.

What I’ve found is that sometimes we are more careful to avoid potentially awkward situations than we to avoid ones that are more blatantly hurtful.  In other words, we’re more likely to censor ourselves, or if you prefer the term, self-edit, for reasons other than those that would cause direct pain.

Maybe we think the amended adage “Sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you” is true.   But neither it nor its original version comes close to the truth.   Names do hurt, and they cause damage that causes people to shut down socially, or even end up in counseling for years following the hurt.

I am always amazed that otherwise seemingly intelligent people are capable of self-editing in so many different business, educational and social situations, but lack the grace to stop their mouths in situations where they are clearly bringing hurt to someone else.

Why do they do this?

There are a number of reasons, but one of them might be that they believe that certain people are impervious to pain and injury.

And one of the groups they believe fit this category is pastors, clergy,  and people generally in ministry.   We believe they are tough enough to take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain, our words are like a cloud, bring a lot of rain.  (Wow! I should copyright that line.)   We believe that something in their seminary training gave them rhinoceros hides — skin so thick that nothing can injure them.   We believe that as God’s representatives on earth they will just smile and nod and continue to say, “God bless you.”

Well it ain’t so.

Pastors and ministry workers are people, too.   They have their own spiritual life which can be devastated by insensitive remarks.   They have their own spiritual formation happening.   If anything, their profession leaves them more vulnerable to hurt.

And they cry.

Ministry profile has its price; and some of that is increased sensitivity to careless remarks or outright criticism.   Some pastors would gladly shed the large round target that is apparently painted on all their vestments.

But for all of us, in every situation, and every type of interaction, it begins with a heightened self-editing mechanism that is set to monitor potential hurt.

Several months ago, someone in ministry I know was dealt an unexpected blow that was actually quite calculated on the part of the perpetrator, who was out to prove a point, and out to accomplish an objective, but never thought to monitor for potential long-term damage. In carrying out their crusade, the perpetrator had a billion times more than the normal 2.3 milliseconds, but never bothered to self-edit themselves.

The recipient of their words is still hurting.

Related post on this blog:  Words Matter.

Another related post: Easy To Be Hard.

November 26, 2010

The Story is Fiction, The Pain is Real

Yesterday, while every other television in North America was tuned to football, I decided to watch Letters to God, a Christian movie about a young boy with cancer.    Not the kind of movie I usually watch.   I tend to watch films that will entertain, and by entertain, I usually mean, films that will make me laugh, as in LOL and ROTF LOL.    And once in awhile, a good mystery, but not if the tension level is too high.

Letters… just isn’t my usual choice.   But there has been a lot of interest in the movie at Christian retail, and who doesn’t have someone in their wider sphere of influence who is dealing with cancer in their immediate family.

I’ve never been one to confront pain willingly.   I have an aversion to all things medical.   I don’t read sad books.   I didn’t go into church ministry because I really suck at hospital visits, and try equally hard to avoid funerals.   But life isn’t a bed of roses.

Watching a movie like Letters… is a reminder of the medical challenges some families are dealing with in general, and pediatric cancer in particular.  Similarly, Pete Wilson’s book Plan B was an eye-opener into the world of pain some people face, but I was especially made aware of the issue of childless couples, whether through miscarriages or infertility, something Pete has had to face many times in both his pastoral career and his personal life.  Bottom line is, lots of people are dealing with many different issues.

I guess that somewhat summarizes my feelings after watching the movie, except for one thing.   This is very definitely a “Christian” movie, but it is so in the sense of Facing the Giants and Fireproof; that is to say, it’s part of the “new,” higher quality generation of Christian productions.   While I thought the first 30 minutes of the 114-minute film were paced a little slower, I found the plot and the dialog moved forward considerably as the story progressed.

Letters to God may not be for everybody, but it is worthy of receiving my full endorsement for both Christian and general audiences.

For more information go to

For info about the book, Plan B, mentioned above, click this link.

Do you like to watch “happy” movies, or are you okay with films that tug at your emotions, and find the “entertaining” movies not all that interesting?

November 25, 2010

Our Now Annual Appeal for the Salvation Army

Filed under: charity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:09 am

We’re back with another year of giving our online friends in Canada an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people in need.   The program is called iKettle. Any of my Canadian readers can host a kettle with a few clicks of the mouse.

Fellow-Canadian blogger Rick Apperson got us on to this last year.  Back then, we decided that if we could raise nearly $4,600 to sponsor my oldest son’s summer working at Camp Iawah, using our mailing list alone, we ought to be able to raise at least $1,000 for the Salvation Army.  We found out quickly that it was going to be a greater challenge.   Not sure why.

Last year we launched this through an e-blast to people in our personal and business e-mail address books.   This year we’re launching it in the blogosphere.

So this is where my Canadian* blog readers kick in. You can’t toss spare change in the kettles anymore because you pay for everything with plastic cards, and you don’t get change. Any bills in your wallet are probably there for emergencies.  Plus, while it pains me to say this, a lot of you shop online and don’t even have the collection kettles in your face anymore.   (Maybe that’s why you shop online!)

So here’s where you go to contribute*.

Donations stay in the community where you live, so if that’s Winnipeg or Calgary or Ottawa or Halifax or some place in-between, that’s where the money will be applied to the Salvation Army Family Services branch; including smaller towns where they have an active presence.

I really hope you’ll help us launch this over this weekend.   We will be repeating this appeal on the blog several times during the next few weeks. Our giving can meet the needs both in overseas relief and development and in the cities and towns closer to home. This is an opportunity to do something on the domestic front in yet another year that’s been rough on many people.

*For my U.S. readers — and there are lots of you — I couldn’t find a direct link to the U.S. program, if there is one. Contact the SA in your local area to find out ways an online donation can serve your own community.

November 24, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Here we link again!…

  • Five screen pages is longer by Christianity Today standards, but you should take the time to read this article by Drew Dkyk about “The Nones” and in particular, the group of people in their mid-to-late teens and early twenties who are exiting the church in droves who are termed “The Leavers.”
  • If micro-finance is a key tool for lifting people out of poverty, Shane Claiborne of The Simple Way and Peter Greer of Hope Internationalare featured in this CNN piece asking Was Jesus a Communist or a Capitalist?
  • Is the Pope Catholic?   If you missed this week’s condom controversy, here’s where it all began.
  • Donald S. Whitney brings a list of the top ten things a church can do to have the best worship services.   #2 – Have clear Biblical support for every element in worship.  Read the other nine here.
  • Tim Stafford travels to a would-be “international” Christian conference only to discover that a very western mentality governs all the proceedings.   Read his report from Lausanne.
  • Bene at Bene Diction Blogs On (BDBO) is tracking ongoing developments in the Crystal Cathedral story, and concludes that with the level of compensation the CFO received, “The flock got fleeced.”  Link here.
  • Here’s a second link from BDBO.   It concerns the reaction of a Canadian Christian talk show host to the “It Gets Better” campaign to try to prevent the suicides of gay teenagers.   The typical response which alienates non-Christian gays (and Christian ones alike, of which there are surprisingly many) lacks compassion.  Watch what Michael Coren said and a contrasting response from Wendy at New Direction.
  • Got introduced this week to a new band which does some very current hymn cover tunes.  Check out the MySpace page for Ascend the Hill.
  • Okay, if you didn’t guess by now, the graphic at the top of the post is from Stuff Fundies Like.   Click the image to link.
  • First saw this at Darryl Dash’s blog, but it’s easy to read here at Zach Nielsen’s:  The latest statistics on internet p0rn0graphy.
  • While the radio announcer reports the latest crashes on the rush hour drive home, he could be kept just as busy reporting the moral crashes of movie- and music-industry teen idols.   Here’s some discussion at Streaming Faith with a media and culture specialist at Focus.
  • And what better place to insert this link:  The blog On The Fence With Jesus, where a skeptical screenwriter and a Christian pastor discuss faith, asks the musical (pop music) question, Is Justin Bieber Really Religious?
  • Bieber also talked about how his faith keeps him grounded in the madness of Hollywood and celebrity. He told the AP[Associated Press], ‘Like, I’m a Christian, I believe in God, I believe that Jesus died on a cross for my sins. I believe that I have a relationship and I’m able to talk to him and really, he’s the reason I’m here, so I definitely have to remember that. As soon as I start forgetting, I’ve got to click back and be like, you know, this is why I’m here.'”
  • Church in a box department:   If you want to know where your denomination fits in with all the others, you could do worse than clicking through a couple of times to view The Great Chart of Denominations.   Hey, you’re curious aren’t you?
  • Or maybe you’re more into statistics on mega-churches; after all there’s a whole book in the Bible about Numbers, right?  (Warning to readers outside the 50 states:  The relevance of all this is somewhat geo-blocked beyond the borders of the U. S. of A.)
  • Here’s a great piece on “The Sinner’s Prayer” that is actually part one of two.    This was also at Christianity 201 last night, as I’m really in awe of how this writer cuts to the heart of this issue.
  • For all our U.S. readers who are heading into a weekend of massive gorging on food and massive consumer spending; here’s a re-run of last year’s TG cartoon from Joyoftech…

…Of course, regular readers will despair that this is our first Wed. Link List repeat cartoon, so we’ll have to have a new one — the newest, in fact…

…This, of course will just frustrate my more spiritual readers who will contend that with this addition, I’ve gone off the blog’s mandate; so…

…That one should be sufficient to be offend everyone, not the least of which is Nitrozac and Snaggy, the JOT creators who probably have a two-panels-per-blog limit.

November 23, 2010

Notations on Galatians — NIV 2011

Technology may not always be as labor-saving as it should be, but in this case, it definitely helps.   This is an extension of something I did last week at Christianity 201, and began with the discovery that in revising the NIV for the new release for March, 2011, some books of the Bible got changed more than others.   The second-most modified text was in III John. The most greatly updated text was Galatians.

The red text indicates 1984 text that was deleted, and the green text indicates the 2011 replacement version.   It’s not just whimsical to play Bible translator and ask yourself what might be behind the revisions you see here, it’s actually good Bible study.

Note:  Section headers, while part of the copyrighted texts of the respective versions are not considered part of Biblical text.   This comparison was done at … Care was taken to place the translations of each chapter in the correct order for comparison purposes, so yes, in the fruit of the spirit passage, “patience” is the current text and “forbearance” is the revision.    32.21% of the verses in Galatians saw some reconstruction.   Some additional verses had other word changes or punctuation changes… Text as accessed 22.11.10 at … For the sake of space, this comparison does not include the footnotes.

Chapters two through six continue after the break.

Chapter One

1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers and sisters[a] with me,

To the churches in Galatia:

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
No Other Gospel
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you byto live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let himthem be eternally condemned!under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let himthem be eternally condemned!under God’s curse!

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men,human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please men?people? If I were still trying to please men,people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Paul Called by God
11 I want you to know, brothers,brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up.of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from birth[a]my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I didmy immediate response was not to consult any man,human being. 17 nor did I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and laterArabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter[b]Cephas[b] and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. 21 Later

21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me. (more…)

November 22, 2010

People Who Have Lived Three Lifetimes

Whether or not a cat truly has nine lives, I know three people who really have lived three lifetimes:

  • Stormie Omartian — Recording artist and songwriter, host of exercise and fitness videos, author of books about prayer.
  • Sheila Walsh — UK recording and touring Christian musician, co-host of The 700 Club, author of books for adults and children and, as of this month her first fiction title.
  • Brian Stiller — This one you may not know, but is the one I know personally:  President of Youth For Christ Canada, Executive Director of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (our equivalent of the NAE), President of Tyndale University College and Seminary.

I’m sure I am also aware of others.   And each one of these qualifies because they did what they did for a considerable length of time.

I started thinking about this today because of the release of Brian Stiller’s new book on leadership:  You Never Know What You Have Till You Give It Away (Castle Quay Books).   Brian’s decade-long commitment to each of the three aforementioned ministries was rich, lasting and significant.

So what are you accomplishing?   Do you feel you’re making a contribution?  The Bible tells us to “redeem the time.”   Other translations say, “Make the most of every opportunity.”    A writer in another generation put it this way:

Only one life, t’will soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

November 21, 2010

Anne Jackson: Permission to Quit Blogging

She’s been at it longer than many.   And more recently, one sensed her experiencing an on-again, off-again relationship with the blogosphere.

Anne Jackson, author of Mad Church Disease (Zondervan) and Permission to Speak Freely (Nelson), and good friend of fellow bloggers such as Carlos Whittaker, Jon Acuff and Pete Wilson (just to name a few) is finally retiring her popular blog and its related Twitter account.    This time, she sounds fairly determined that this is final.

Her reasons are outlined in her November 14th post,  but can probably be summed up in one weighty statement:

I am not a blogger.

Her final post at FD actually makes a strong case for being a writer and not a blogger.   There is a difference.  There’s also the added element that online media can be all-consuming.   Especially when you’re successful.   Every comment you can moderate you must moderate.

But as someone who has been writing for Christian publications since the late 1970s, I can tell you there is nothing like having an audience for your writing.  This particular internet innovation was, frankly, made for people like me and I wish it had existed for several decades.    At the same time,  I respect Anne’s decision, and her right to make that call.

She’s not entirely forsaking her web presence either.   The end of Flowerdust is the beginning of Anne Jackson Writes, which debuted the same day as the final FD post.  (If you’re new to Anne’s journey, the November 16th post is must-reading.)

Anne’s story is among the most complex I’m aware of, but I applaud her transparency and willingness to share that story with all of us.   I wish her all God’s best in everything.

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