Thinking Out Loud

December 8, 2013

Reconsidering Christmas Shoeboxes

Operation Christmas Child BoxesSeveral years ago I wrote a post here asking some questions about the whole Operation Christmas Child (OCC) thing. As I said a year later, I didn’t want to be a “grinch” when it came to OCC, I just wondered about some big picture issues.  Then last year, I reformatted the whole article to include some points that a reader had left in a comment.

This year, I was prepared to lay the whole subject to rest. Besides, collection for the boxes in our local churches has come and gone. But the article keeps attracting readers, and last week Lucy, a reader, left a comment that reminded me that as OCC grows — now with an online component that allows you to pack and ship a shoebox from the comfort of your own home right up to a much later deadline — people still have misgivings and second thoughts about the program.  Here’s what she wrote:

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I thought I was the only one who had serious reservations about the OCC program. I just see it as a well-intentioned venture that, in reality, exports Western materialism. Even given the potential spiritual good, do we want children associating Jesus with wrapped goodies? Isn’t that enough of a problem here in America?

I’m a Christian who thinks Samaritan’s Purse has done wonderful things in helping people around the world. But let’s help children by really making a difference in their lives. World Vision and other ministries have programs where you can contribute toward gifts such as farm animals, wells, small business opportunities for women, etc. Much, much better than trinkets.

And thank you, Lucy for that comment. Organizations like Compassion, Partners International, The Christian and Missionary Alliance and Gospel for Asia are among the many — and I chose ones with both American and Canadian websites —  that allow you to make significant, life-changing donations to an individual or an entire village of the type Lucy describes.

Shoebox sized giving will produce shoebox sized results, and furthermore runs the risks she described in her comment. If you’re reading this on a computer — even in a library somewhere — you are among the richest people in the entire world. This Christmas, literally share the wealth.

There is a saying, Do your giving while you’re living, so you’re knowing where it’s going. The Christmas “gift catalogs” of the four organizations listed above allow you to know exactly where your money is going. Don’t lose this opportunity.

Comments can be made at the original article — first link above.

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October 19, 2012

The Shoebox Thing Again

No post here ever got me in so much trouble as this one, when it ran in 2009 and 2010 and I became the Grinch that stole Operation Christmas Child.   I just wanted to be “thinking out loud” and look at the thing from all sides.   That doesn’t mean I would never fill a shoebox. I might just fill it differently. Besides a good blog is nothing if not provocative, right?   Or would you rather not think at all?

Comments are again closed here, but there’s a link to the original November 24, 2009 post where you can add your two cents, or whatever the equivalent is in euros. HOWEVER, this time around we’ve added some additional questions and concerns that came about when Sarah posted her comments. They begin with number 9 in the list below; items 14-16 are from an article she linked to in her comment.

For many years now, I’ve been a huge fan of Franklin Graham’s Operation Christmas Child project. To see the look of ecstasy on the faces of the children in the promotional videos is to really know the joy that comes with giving even something small.

To critique the program would be unthinkable. It would be like criticizing motherhood or apple pie or little kittens. But I have some concerns about this that I had not seen in print or online when I wrote the original post and thought I’d wade out deep into dangerous waters:

  1. A lot of people fill their shoeboxes with trinkets from the dollar store. When these items break — which they will — how will third world children deal with the disappointment that Western kids are accustomed to? Especially if they don’t own much else.
  2. Which begs the question, how are such items disposed of — sooner or later — in countries that don’t have an active recycling program? What happens to all those boxes? As barren and arid as some of those places are, dotting the landscape with red and green boxes seems a bit irresponsible. Maybe they can use the boxes for something.
  3. What’s the mileage on some of the trinkets and toys? Check out the country of origin, factor in the purchase point in the U.S. as an example, and then plot the destination point. We’re talking major carbon footprints. And not the Margaret Fishback Powers kind of footprints.
  4. What about the inequities of what the kids receive? One kid gets a cuddly Gund-type plush animal, while another gets socks. I would be the kid getting the toothpaste and cheap sunglasses, while my friend would get some kind of awesome musical instrument toy. Socks don’t make noise. I would learn jealousy and covetousness all in a single day.
  5. Which begs the question, is there ever theft? World wars have started over lesser things. Do kids in faraway places take the inequities into their own hands? Do they revere the licensed pencil case more than the one with geometric shapes and colors? Is there trading? If so, who sets the rules?
  6. Maybe not. Maybe they share better than kids in the West do. But somewhere along the line, it’s got to create a situation of personal private property. I live on a street with ten houses where everybody owns a lawnmower. We all could probably get by with one or two. What I really need is access to a lawnmower. But human nature being what it is, it rarely works that way unless you’re Shane Claiborne, or you live on an Operation Mobilization ship, or you’re one of the aging hippies living in the Jesus People project in inner-city Chicago. (Apologies to Glenn Kaiser.)
  7. What about expectations? If my kids don’t get what they’re hoping for there is always a great disappointment, and trust me, this year they aren’t getting what they’re hoping for. Reminds of me that old song, “Is That All There Is?” Some people get downright depressed after Christmas. BTW, anyone remember who the artist was on that song?
  8. What’s the follow-up for the giver? None. Unlike sponsored children — which is another discussion entirely — the gift is really a shot in the dark, unless in next year’s video you happen to see a kid opening a box containing a rather unique action figure and a pair of furry dice which you know could only have come from your attic storage the year before. (But furry dice? What were you thinking? The kid’s expression is going to be somewhat quizzical…)
  9. Does this encourage children to value Western cultures more than their own?
  10. Do “shoebox” gifts become better than something simpler made lovingly by a family member?
  11. Are they introducing commercial gift-giving into a culture that doesn’t celebrate Christmas in that way?
  12. Do they respect people of other faiths who don’t celebrate Christmas at all? Is our intent to evangelize or convert with our gifts?
  13. Do they portray one race/culture as being better or more successful than others?
  14. When we include personal care products such as soap and toothpaste in our gifts, are we sending a message that we feel they are not able to maintain their personal hygiene?  Toothpaste may be perceived as candy. Should we be rethinking some of our efforts to help people?
  15. How do they work to bring about real change, in places where the needs are for justice, peace, and access to the necessities of life?
  16. Imagine yourself as a child living in a family where all resources go to obtaining food and shelter and suddenly you receive a package with a doll or a toy car. What does it feel like to receive something from someone who has such excess income that they can buy something that is not needed?

The link Sarah provided contains many, many position papers on the Shoebox program, that are good reading for any thinking person. Click here to access the .pdf file which contains notes from people who were actively involved in the distribution. Sadly, that article is no longer online.

Okay, so maybe there is  good that outweighs any potential downside. I am NOT saying don’t do this.  But it’s philosophy that I majored in, so somebody’s got to view things from outside the box — the shoebox in this case —  once in awhile. That’s why I call it thinking out loud.

Comments are closed here so that you can add your comment to the original collection on November 24, 2009. Click here.

October 29, 2010

Rethinking Rethinking Shoeboxes

Hey, give me a break.   I don’t want to be the Grinch that stole Operation Christmas Child.   I just wanted to be “thinking out loud” and look at the thing from all sides.   That doesn’t mean I would never fill a shoebox.   I might just fill it differently.   Besides a good blog is nothing if not provocative, right?   Or would you rather not think at all?

This time around, comments are closed here, but there’s a link to the original November 24, 2009 post where you can add your two cents, or whatever the equivalent is in euros.

For many years now, I’ve been a huge fan of Franklin Graham’s Operation Christmas Child project. To see the look of ecstasy on the faces of the children in the promotional videos is to really know the joy that comes with giving even something small.

To critique the program would be unthinkable. It would be like criticizing motherhood or apple pie or little kittens. But I have some concerns about this that I haven’t seen heretofore in print or online. So I thought I’d wade out deep into dangerous waters:

  1. A lot of people fill their shoeboxes with trinkets from the dollar store. When these items break — which they will — how will third world children deal with the disappointment that Western kids are accustomed to? Especially if they don’t own much else.
  2. Which begs the question, how are such items disposed of — sooner or later — in countries that don’t have an active recycling program? What happens to all those boxes? As barren and arid as some of those places are, dotting the landscape with red and green boxes seems a bit irresponsible. Maybe they can use the boxes for something.
  3. What’s the mileage on some of the trinkets and toys? Check out the country of origin, factor in the purchase point in the U.S. as an example, and then plot the destination point. We’re talking major carbon footprints. And not the Margaret Fishback Powers kind of footprints.
  4. What about the inequities of what the kids receive? One kid gets a cuddly Gund-type plush animal, while another gets socks. I would be the kid getting the toothpaste and cheap sunglasses, while my friend would get some kind of awesome musical instrument toy. Socks don’t make noise. I would learn jealousy and covetousness all in a single day.
  5. Which begs the question, is there ever theft? World wars have started over lesser things. Do kids in faraway places take the inequities into their own hands? Do they revere the licensed pencil case more than the one with geometric shapes and colors? Is there trading? If so, who sets the rules?
  6. Maybe not. Maybe they share better than kids in the West do. But somewhere along the line, it’s got to create a situation of personal private property. I live on a street with ten houses where everybody owns a lawnmower. We all could probably get by with one or two. What I really need is access to a lawnmower. But human nature being what it is, it rarely works that way unless you’re Shane Claiborne, or you live on an Operation Mobilization ship, or you’re one of the aging hippies living in the Jesus People project in inner-city Chicago. (Apologies to Glenn Kaiser.)
  7. What about expectations? If my kids don’t get what they’re hoping for there is always a great disappointment, and trust me, this year they aren’t getting what they’re hoping for. Reminds of me that old song, “Is That All There Is?” Some people get downright depressed after Christmas. BTW, anyone remember who the artist was on that song?
  8. What’s the follow-up for the giver? None. Unlike sponsored children — which is another discussion entirely — the gift is really a shot in the dark, unless in next year’s video you happen to see a kid opening a box containing a rather unique action figure and a pair of furry dice which you know could only have come from your attic storage the year before. (But furry dice? What were you thinking? The kid’s expression is going to be somewhat quizzical…)

Okay, so maybe the good outweighs any potential downside. I am NOT saying don’t do this.  But it’s philosophy that I majored in, so somebody’s got to view things from outside the box — the shoebox in this case — once in awhile. That’s why I call it thinking out loud.

Comments are closed here so that you can add your comment to the original collection on November 24, 2009. Click here.

November 24, 2009

Another Look at Shoeboxes

For many years now, I’ve been a huge fan of Franklin Graham’s Operation Christmas Child project.   To see the look of ecstasy on the faces of the children in the promotional videos is to really know the joy that comes with giving even something small.

To critique the program would be unthinkable.   It would be like criticizing motherhood or apple pie or little kittens.   But I have some concerns about this that I haven’t seen heretofore in print or online.   So I thought I’d wade out deep into dangerous waters:

  1. A lot of people fill their shoeboxes with trinkets from the dollar store.   When these items break — which they will — how will third world children deal with the disappointment that Western kids are accustomed to?   Especially if they don’t own much else.
  2. Which begs the question, how are such items disposed of — sooner or later — in countries that don’t have an active recycling program?   What happens to all those boxes?   As barren and arid as some of those places are,  dotting the landscape with red and green boxes seems a bit irresponsible.   Maybe they can use the boxes for something.
  3. What’s the mileage on some of the trinkets and toys?    Check out the country of origin, factor in the purchase point in the U.S. as an example, and then plot the destination point.   We’re talking major carbon footprints.   And not the Margaret Fishback Powers kind of footprints.
  4. What about the inequities of what the kids receive?   One kid gets a cuddly Gund-type plush animal, while another gets socks.   I would be the kid getting the toothpaste and cheap sunglasses, while my friend would get some kind of awesome musical instrument toy.   Socks don’t make noise.  I would learn jealousy and covetousness all in a single day.
  5. Which begs the question, is there ever theft?   World wars have started over lesser things.    Do kids in faraway places take the inequities into their own hands?    Do they revere the licensed pencil case more than the one with geometric shapes and colors?   Is there trading?   If so, who sets the rules?
  6. Maybe not.   Maybe they share better than kids in the West do.   But somewhere along the line, it’s got to create a situation of personal private property.    I live on a street with ten houses where everybody owns a lawnmower.   We all could probably get by with one or two.   What I really need is access to a lawnmower.   But human nature being what it is, it rarely works that way unless you’re Shane Claiborne, or you live on an Operation Mobilization ship, or you’re one of the aging hippies living in the Jesus People project in inner-city Chicago.   (Apologies to Glenn Kaiser.)
  7. What about expectations?   If my kids don’t get what they’re hoping for there is always a great disappointment, and trust me, this year they aren’t getting what they’re hoping for.   Reminds of me that old song, “Is That All There Is?”   Some people get downright depressed after Christmas.   BTW, anyone remember who the artist was on that song?
  8. What’s the follow-up for the giver?   None.   Unlike sponsored children — which is another discussion entirely — the gift is really a shot in the dark, unless in next year’s video you happen to see a kid opening a box containing a rather unique action figure and a pair of furry dice which you know could only have come from your attic storage the year before.   (But furry dice?  What were you thinking?   The kid’s expression is going to be somewhat quizzical…)

Okay, so maybe the good outweighs any potential downside.   But it’s philosophy that I majored in, so somebody’s got to view things from outside the box — the shoebox in this case — once in awhile.    That’s why I call it thinking out loud.

December 1st update:  Don’t miss the comment here by Sarah and the link it contains.

September 19, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Hard to believe we’ve completed six months under the new Wednesday Connect banner. While it may seem similar to the old Wednesday Link List, there have been more behind the scenes changes than you might notice, particularly in how the links are gathered. I think each week’s list offers the best of things that you might not see in other places, and I hope you agree. – Paul.


♦ Before we begin, Remembering Nabeel Qureshi. If you haven’t seen it, there is now a third edition* available of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Abdu Murray, North American director for RZIM, posted this picture below. He is also a converted Muslim.


♦ The “petite bottle blonde from Arkadelphia.” The Atlantic profiles Beth Moore.

For decades, Moore never broke stride. In the past few years, however, she has felt out of step with the evangelical community. During the 2016 campaign, many of its leaders not only excused Donald Trump’s boorish behavior but painted him as a great defender of Christianity—evangelicals’ “dream president,” in the words of Jerry Falwell Jr. More recently, a series of high-profile pastors have been toppled by accusations of sexual misconduct. The deferential reserve that defined Moore’s career has become harder for her to maintain… This may seem like an uncontroversial stance. But in the wake of her tweets, the staff at Living Proof Ministries, Moore’s tight-knit organization, “could not hang up the phone for picking it up.” She got messages from women who had read her Bible studies for years but said they’d never read another.

♦ Continued developments in the imprisonment of American pastor Andrew Bronson as Turkey names a new prosecutor in a case hampering relations with the United States.

♦ Essay of the Week: A proposal for a new type of short term missions trip. Excerpts:

Just between you and me, nothing we do is particularly reliant on outsiders and we don’t need people to come in and play with local children or teach them – we have trained up local people to do that. And they do it really well…

…When there is a constant parade of outside trainers who aren’t willing to learn, we send the message that local people have nothing to offer. We reinforce their sense of inferiority, while patting ourselves on the back — emotionally boosted by the high status role of expert.

♦ Saying “Farewell” to the traditional sermon. This article really, really resonated with me. I’ve been saying this type of thing for at least two decades now. “…the intriguing thing about Apple Events is that no video or speaker ever takes more than 10 minutes at a time… According to University of Washington Medical School molecular biologist John Medina, our brains have a built-in stopwatch that ends at around 10 minutes. And he cites peer-reviewed studies to prove it… This will be heartbreaking to preachers who are currently preparing their 30-minute sermon for this Sunday. Michael Frost calls this piece, Learning How to Preach in the Church of Apple.

Who is paying Bill Hybels’ legal bills? Which leads to…

♦ …the above item links to detailed, multi-topic Q&A page posted this weekend at Willow… which brings us to this addition to the list:

♦ …Breaking: Former Willow teaching pastor Steve Carter breaks his silence. (Updated 9:00 AM EST)

♦ Hurricane Help: With a congregation dispersed over many states, a pastor’s Facebook posts are a link to conditions back home.

♦ When the network news changes its focus to new stories, the only way to keep focused is through prayer.

God does not stop hearing the cries of the afflicted when our news feed changes topic. Black lives matter today as much as they did five years ago and five hundred years ago. Refugees will always be close to God’s heart, whether the government embraces them or not. God’s command to “administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another” and to “not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor” (Zechariah 7:9-10 NIV) does not budge when we we max out our capacity to hear more stories of suffering.

♦ Praying for healing for Anne Graham Lotz as she faces a health challenge. Anne was scheduled for surgery yesterday, and we’ll update this if anyone has new information.

♦ Penal Substituationary Atonment (PSA) or just Substituionary Atonement (SA)? That is the question. “When U look to the cross in your mind’s eye, where do you spatially locate the Father? Do you see him hovering over Jesus, pouring out his wrath upon his Son? I don’t think that is a biblical image, not the image God the Father wants us to imagine.” Part two of a Gospel Coalition Canada interview with Bruxy Cavey.

♦ Quotation of the Week:

[Google’s] stated company mission is to store all the world’s knowledge, which starts to sound like omniscience. And if we consider that in today’s personal-information economy, knowledge is power, we could add omnipotence to our list. Such words are usually reserved for the other Big G.

A look at Search, Artificial Intelligence and the company that controls 75% of our online quests for information.

♦ Shoe Box Compassion: I posted this around the same time last year, but here we go again: Ten alternatives to Operation Christmas Child. [If you’re new to Thinking Out Loud, this is a recurring theme here. Start with this short post, then move on this concise, 14-point discussion.]

♦ Yet another look at Willow. This ice climbing analogy isn’t perfect, but it did get me thinking about two things. First, how your ‘fall’ can end up hurting others. Second, about how you might not want to ask God to ‘enlarge your territory’ to the point you can’t handle what’s put in front of you. “Lord, please don’t grant me more power than my character can handle.”

♦ Liberal churches keep losing numbers:

“Across cultures, religious communities that expect more from their members thrive (or religious communities in which members face greater consequences for leaving). Meanwhile, lenient religious groups struggle to maintain membership. Why is this? Wouldn’t you assume most people would want to join the easiest religion? Recent research suggests that strict religions are sociologically and psychologically predisposed to succeed.” A 7-minute video on why the strict churches succeed.

♦ Movie Trailer of the Week: [Don’t watch if kids are in the room.] A look at The Road To Edmond with Tripp Fuller and Nathanael Welch

♦ Testimony of the Week: She lives with OCD and Tourette’s Syndrome. Here are eight things she wants you to know.

♦ Provocative Title of the Week: Is the Christian Faith, Strictly Speaking, Biblical? “…this Jesus movement, which, once again, has its roots in Judaism, also make certain moves that don’t really follow that ancient tradition.” Peter Enns on an issue that’s top of mind right now (partly due to the book we reviewed on Monday.)

♦ “The Black Church has historically been a source of hope and strength for the African American community.” With that opening tag line, blogger Ann Brock provides an excellent summary of relevant stories on The Old Black Church. (We often steal story ideas from there, and thought you’d like to see our source firsthand!)

♦ Parenting Place: Another school year, another round of bullying, right? But this mom nailed it in a heart-to-heart with her sixth grade son. Read and learn.

♦ When the people who write the stories are the story. Sexual harassment at Christian writers conference.

♦ Challenging: Why climbing mountains should be part of teacher training.

♦ Canada Corner: Congratulations to Canada Christian College on the occasion of their move from Toronto to a beautiful location on the waterfront in Whitby, a town east of the city. (Ruth and I attended an opening barbecue last night; a formal grand opening will follow.)

♦ In Christian publishing news, Hachette Book Group (home to FaithWords, which in turn is home to Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer) has purchased Worthy Publishing, including all the Museum of the Bible titles.

♦ For two years she said nothing. But a former FBI agent says she saw angels at the 9/11 crash site.

♦ I often find I can’t read anything unless it’s in short paragraphs and peppered with bold face, italics, bullet points, numbered lists, etc. Believing others feel the same, I did a reworking on a classic commentary by Alexander MacLaren on an interesting scripture passage, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”

♦ Science confirms it: Church is for the birds! Actually the piece is about the biodiversity found near churches, and not just about the tall spires and steeples that you thought were just there to mask cell phone towers.

♦ After TIFF there was CIFF. Not long after the Toronto International Film Festival, the city hosted the Canadian International Faith and Family Film Festival. (Wouldn’t that be CIFFFF?) Featured films are shown in the event poster below:


*This is the edition of the book now shipping, but it’s absent from the Zondervan website when you do a search.


What would you like to see more of? What would you like to see less of? Let us know how we can improve this list. Also, would you like the music videos returned to the list? Let us know in the comments or via the contact page.

September 13, 2017

Wednesday Link List

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

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

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

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

 

December 26, 2016

Moving from Charity to Justice

Filed under: Christianity, social justice — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:34 am

I didn’t want to rain on anyone’s parade in the run-up to the 25th — even passing on the annual Shoebox Rant — but now that you’ve delivered the food hampers, and (hopefully) done your annual year-end giving to overseas mission projects, it’s time to ask the larger questions. After all, Christmas, 2017 is only 364 days away. This first appeared here in December, 2009 without a link or further annotation and may have originated here. Don’t rush through this; take the time to consider each point and how it might find application in your community in 2017.

Charity - Justice

 

April 28, 2016

Camp Memories (3)

Filed under: Christianity, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:58 am

parent child - Wikipedia commonsThere are certain junctures in life as one emerges from girl to woman or boy to man where one finds themselves in a middle ground between adolescence and full adulthood. A person is perhaps in a place of leadership and yet they are forever the child to their parents. One of the lessons I am learning now that my own kids are in their 20s, is the axiom that you never stop being a parent.

At the camp I worked at, the junior staff had varying degrees of relationships with their families. Many went back to the city on weekends; others had family cabins — what we refer to as cottages — in proximity to the camp. My objective during the three years I was on senior staff was to spend every possible moment on the camp property. Summers are short in Canada and what we call “cottage country” in Ontario is beautiful, and I didn’t want to miss a moment of it.

In my first and third years there I was able to accomplish this. But in the middle year, I had to return to the city to complete some obligations I had with the individual who was employing me through the fall and winter months; the first time to catch a train for a week Winnipeg, the second time to catch a flight for eight days in England.

At all other times though, I was happy to spend my time at camp, and missing home never entered my head.

On the other hand though, while it was rare for me as a senior staff member to meet the parents of our other 160+ staff, my own parents had their own relationship with this particular ministry organization. This camp had in previous years got themselves in some trouble with various levels of government concerning reporting procedures, which is a nice way of saying they hadn’t filed any paperwork for over a year. People were paid, taxes on accommodation were collected, but the federal and provincial (i.e. state) revenue departments weren’t seeing a penny of it, and they were threatening to shut the whole operation down.

That’s where my father stepped in. For Americans reading this, keeping your tax information in a shoebox and reporting certain deductible items on an honor system may be common, but here in Canada shoebox type accounting doesn’t make the cut, especially at a business or charity level. So over many months my dad did the forensic accounting needed and implemented systems where each department had a cost code and the government started smiling again. The accounting supervisor he hired and trained works there to this day.

For this reason, he and my mother often showed up at camp — there was even a designated cabin for them to stay in — but because I never called home, I never knew they were coming until they had already arrived. “Your parents are here;” someone would inform me; to which I would reply, “Okay, thanks;” and carry on with whatever I was doing.

So now we return to the meat of this discussion as outlined in the first paragraph above.

Closest thing I could find to what we used that year. By the following summer the bikes had mysteriously disappeared.

Closest thing I could find to what we used that year. By the following summer the bikes had mysteriously disappeared.

One summer the director, having served in ministry in Africa, thought the best way for us as senior staff to get around the property would be to purchase a “fleet” of four gas powered minibikes; what I think were called mopeds at the time. They certainly were convenient, and we kept the keys where the campers would never find them. (I’ll skip the story of the day I let a camper ride on my back and we hit a giant hole in the middle of a field and were both thrown off the thing.)

On a particular afternoon, I was riding one of the bikes back to the main office, when at the same moment my parents were arriving from the parking lot. My mother had no idea the camp had even purchased the bikes, didn’t know I knew how to ride one, and totally freaked out, speaking loudly over the sound of the bike’s engine, “Paul! What are you doing? Get off that motorcycle!”

I know those were her words because there were just enough staff members around to hear it that it became associated with me for about a week. Even junior staff who were on their day off that afternoon were walking up to me saying, “Paul! What are you doing? Get off that motorcycle?”

To her credit, I learned many years later that there was some story in her family involving her brother and a motorcycle — a real one, not a little dirt bike — which may have instilled some fear in her. To my credit, I shut off the engine, told her not to worry, started the engine again, and drove off…

…Even when you have your own children, you never stop being your own parent’s child. Furthermore, you never know when parental instincts are going to kick in, even in that moment where you are in a leadership position and don’t see the potentially lethal moment of embarrassment sneaking up on you.

Still, I hope I never do that to my own kids. That’s why I don’t have Facebook. I can’t comment on their status updates or photos. I can let them be themselves as they jettison childhood and embrace adulthood, right?

Well, not entirely. Because the axiom is true, you really never stop being a parent.

 

November 18, 2015

Wednesday Link List

The Cup That Stole Christmas

Of course, there are probably things more important than coffee cups we should be concerned about…

…Time to kick off another edition of the news roundup where other news roundups get their news roundups, unless they get it from another news roundup or don’t borrow from another news roundup… 

…But first, we’re pleased to note another great match on Tinder:

david-bathsheba-tinder-match-featured

 

Actual photo of one Christian bookstore's recommended shoebox items: Operation Christmas Child, saving the world one piece of cheap, useless, breakable crap at a time.

Actual photo of one Christian bookstore’s recommended shoebox items: Operation Christmas Child, saving the world one piece of cheap, useless, breakable junk at a time.

Time to close in prayer:

Kids Praying

 

December 10, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Filed under: links — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:28 am
I left getting the upper image to the last minute, so you'll have to settle for this picture of watermelon shaped raisin bread. Click the image to watch the instruction video.

I left getting the upper image to the last minute, so you’ll have to settle for this picture of watermelon shaped raisin bread. Click the image to watch the instructional video.

First here are some things from Friday’s PARSE column:

  • It’s a Christmas Miracle – Yes, I know; the rule in journalism is that you usually end with the feel-good story. But this one couldn’t wait: “When a young Filipino girl received a Christmas gift-filled shoebox in 2000, she couldn’t have imagined that one day she would meet the 7-year-old boy from Idaho who packed the box in a small town 7000 miles away. And, she never dreamed that she would marry the American boy, now grown up, 14 years later.” The story even has a letter that was never received. Where do I option the rights to this?
  • The End of Religion – The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the country’s public broadcaster, seems to be targeting one particular part of its Radio National (RN) schedule for cuts: “RN is the home of specialization at the ABC, and religion has been one of its signature specializations, because of the public broadcaster’s ‘cultural diversity’ charter obligation, and the fact that, often and increasingly, there is a deeper religious or spiritual explanation to what is happening in our world that eludes most, if not all, other mainstream media. Yet religion is a particular target of the ‘reshaping’, with a 40 per cent staff loss compared to 10 per cent in other RN program areas.”
  • What the Evening News Means to the Church – Our ears hear “ISIS captured the city;” but we don’t really know what that means in practical terms. “Since taking over Mosul on June 10, Aina News reports that ISIS has destroyed, occupied, converted to mosques, converted to ISIS headquarters or shuttered all 45 Christian institutions in Mosul.” The list includes Catholic, Orthodox and even a Presbyterian Church.  One goes back to the 8th Century.
  • Losing My Denomination – It wasn’t just sexuality or gender issues that led entire congregations to exit.  “Among the broader, longstanding concerns that convinced departing congregations that they no longer had a home in their denominations that Carthage College researchers found were: ‘Bullying’ tactics by denominational leaders;  a perceived abandonment of foundational principles of Scripture and tradition; and the devaluation of personal faith. ‘The ones that left said reform was not possible,’ said Carthage sociologist Wayne Thompson, study leader.” The study focused on churches exiting the PCUSA and ELCA.
  • Everyone’s Overwhelmed but Nobody’s Whelmed – So also with the idea of privilege. I have a friend who says if you’re going to be poor, it’s better to do it in a poor country. In the West, perspectives get confused. “All my life I’ve heard the term “underprivileged.” It was used when we talked about people in impoverished countries or children who needed assistance with school lunches. I’ve never heard anyone take exception to the term. But for some reason when you bring up the idea there are people who are privileged, folks get real bent out of shape. This seems a little crazy to me since you can’t have people who are underprivileged without having people who are privileged.” Jayson Bradley brings a broad worldview and encourages the church to “break out of our intellectual, theological, and sociological cul-de-sacs.”
  • Exciting Ministry Opportunities for Women – At the Seminary Wives Institute of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, those opportunities include courses in Ministry of Hospitality (including etiquette and menu planning) and Hymn Playing (accompanying the congregation at the pianoforte.) But what if it’s the woman who feels called to ministry leadership and it’s the husband who is the supportive spouse? At the blog Spiritual Sounding Board looking at the SBTS options, writer Julie Anne was simply not amused.
  • Any Excuse for a Party – The NIV Bible was first published in New Testament form in 1973 and in a complete version in 1978. So it’s time already for its 50th anniversary. You do the math. Expect 2015 to contain a greater spotlight on issues in scripture translation, such as this summary of a presentation given by Dr. Douglas Moo, chair of the Committee on Bible Translation on the need to go beyond a “word-for-word” translation philosophy. You can read a live blog at BibleGateway, or a shorter summary at Zondervan. To be fair, it is the 50th anniversary of the commissioning of the project though Wikipedia traces its roots to 1956.
  • Another Christmas in Prison for Saeed – Given the U.S. penchant for attaching all manner of unrelated spending initiatives to a single government bill, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the situation involving jailed American pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran is now enmeshed with the nuclear talks with that country. His wife, Naghmeh Abedini states, “I am beyond heartbroken… While I have never wanted my husband to be a pawn in these political negotiations, I recognize that his freedom might be tied to our government being able to reach a final deal.  The thought of waiting another seven months for resolution sounds unbearable at this time.” Saeed is part of the nightly prayer list at our home; Fox News recounts the backstory.
  • One for the Road – When someone leaves 3,600 provocative blog comments in 12 months, he has enough profile, right? Someone thought Atheist Max and others like him deserved to be the subject of an interview.

And here are some things from today’s PARSE column:

  • The Why of Church Social Media – Why you need to work harder to connect people to your church: “Back in the day, back in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, whatever, you would have multiple touchpoints each week with the people from your church.  They’d come on Sunday morning, they would possibly come on Sunday night, they would come on Wednesday, and then there might be one more event during the week that they would come to.  So you would have four touchpoints to get information to them, to announce things to them.  Whereas now, if they’re in the demographic where I am here in Phoenix, we’re lucky to get families to show up to a Sunday morning twice a month.  And so we look at social to make up the difference.” A 48-min podcast that’s worth the time investment.
  • On Having Teacher’s Pets – Jesus built into a select group of twelve, and of those, gave extra attention to three key team members. Most of us have an ideal of being open to everyone. “The most effective leaders play favorites. They don’t treat everyone the same; won’t give access to everybody; spend very little time with low performers or problem people. Most of us want to do the opposite. We long to treat everyone the same; give access to everyone who asks; spend much of our time trying to help problem people or low performers because, well, it’s the right thing to do.” Three ways to play favorites effectively.
  • Preaching Your Way Through 2015 – What does the new year look like in terms of sermon series? Maybe facing a new calendar year leaves you wishing your church used the Common Lectionary. Here’s one perspective: “To be honest, I’ve never thought about my process. Since this is another area about which the Bible is quiet, there is room for many different approaches. What I realized in thinking through my process is that my preaching calendar is the result of answering five questions.”
  • Word-for-Word Narrated Gospels on Netflix – Unlike The Visual Bible which only covered Matthew and John, the creators of The Lumo Project are promoting the availability of all four gospels in different translations and languages, as well as distribution of all four feature-length films through Netflix. But one reviewer notes, “The entire film is simply narrated. Yes. The actors are “playing out” the scenes being described but they are not the ones speaking the dialogue. And maybe it’s just me, but I find that an incredibly dull way to present the dynamic and rich story which is found in scripture. I’m going to assume the decision to have a narrator read the entire thing is down to offering three available “versions” of the movie. Personally, I’d have rather they pick one and allow the actors to bring these words to life. Basically, The Lumo Project: Gospel of John is a really expensive version of a passion play.”
  • Reinventing Christian Television – You know the drill: You buy time on Christian networks or you buy time on local stations on Sunday mornings. For Andy Stanley, a lot depends on what you mean by Sunday morning, as they are on in 13 NBC selected markets after Saturday Night Live. This past weekend, instead of sermon material, they broadcast a live interview with Tindell Baldwin, author of Popular (Tyndale). In her words, “I wrote a goodbye letter to God letting him know I wouldn’t be needing his services anymore.” As Andy explains, “Rather than bury her embarrassing past, she would leverage it for the next generation.” Watch the Dec. 7th episode, a perfect use of an ideal time slot.
  • What’s in a Name? – A complaint to the city of Piedmont, Alabama sent by the Freedom From Religion Foundation meant the end of the ‘Keep Christ in Christmas Parade,’ but only insofar as it was the parade’s name. “The title of the parade was changed back to the City of Piedmont Christmas Parade by city officials. Residents of the city decided to exercise their freedom of religion and speech Thursday night during the parade with their signs that read ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’. ‘This anti-religious group that started all this stuff, I really believe this has backfired on them,’ [Piedmont Mayor] Baker told WJSU. ‘What has happened now is the city of Piedmont…has rallied. They have caused our parade to be bigger and better with more emphasis placed on Christianity.'”
  • The Miracle Crusade Continues – I didn’t realize people were still tracking with Benny Hinn. One writer decided to check out his New York event. “From the musician to his audience to the very God he claims to represent, Hinn exerts control over it all. He orders his pianist to play a certain way, and tells him to stop and switch it up when he wants a different mood. He tells his audience how to worship and how much money to give him.” On the other hand, “But, as you look around the room and see men and women worshiping God with abandon, you realize something. Maybe these people, who trust and believe Hinn, are actually having authentic experiences with Jesus, despite the man guiding them. Maybe these people are actually finding genuine faith in a place that is otherwise tinged by deceit.”
  • Repent! The End is Near! – What was once the domain of fear-mongerers born out of religious zeal, is now the province of secularists. “Today, it’s secularists who predict the end of the world with absolute certainty. If we don’t turn from our environmental sins, global warming will consume the earth in a fiery apocalypse. Just as the priests of old laid out their scrolls, today’s prophets of doom point to their computer models and tell us with absolute certainty that our planet is toast unless we turn aside from our pleasures (i.e. driving, affordable electricity, economical foods) and live an austere life of sacrifice.” Author David Murrow on the works-based religion of secularism.
  • Christmas Scenes Breaking a Commandment – Are Nativity images depicting Jesus not a violation of the second commandment? “I am compelled to avoid all images of Christ. From the statues of Jesus on people’s vehicle dashboards to illustrations on covers of theological books (which I wrap in brown paper), images of Jesus are embedded in even our culture at large… Because what I want is not less Jesus in my life, but more… I am not taking Christ out of my life. Instead, I am making room for more of him.” Reading this article may be the end of every Bible story book in your home.
  • Shameless Promotion of Personal Friends – David Wesley’s album Basement Praise is an a cappella collection of multi-track, layered vocals known to his 21,000 YouTube followers, and makes a great cross-generational gift.

And several other stories tracked this week:

Paul's Missionary Trip Route - Theologygrams

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