Thinking Out Loud

April 2, 2016

Being Needy While Wanting to Help Others in Need

Filed under: blogging, Christianity, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:44 am
Crowdfunding websites make it possible for ordinary people to get financial help and support when needed.

Crowdfunding websites make it possible for ordinary people to get financial help and support when needed.

Because of the particular path our lives have taken, there have been times when we have accepted financial help from friends and acquaintances. In the process, we’ve often said that the people who are least able to help are usually the ones who give. I’m not positing this as a universal truth, I’m just saying that it’s been the case in our situation.

In Wednesday’s link list, I felt moved to post a story about a family who faced unusual financial hardship during Lent because of their daughter’s illness and are asking for help. You can read that link here. 48 hours earlier, my wife showed me a crowd funding page that was set up by students (or former students) in a local high school for a guy who part of our church plant ten years ago and has had a medical diagnosis that will result in unexpected costs. You can read that one here.

I’m reading these through the lens of our own situation.

My wife came to me a few weeks ago — she’s our family and business bookkeeper — and said, “We have enough in the savings account to last us one more month, and then we’re done.” By ‘done’ she means we don’t have a back-up plan, unless we cash in one more savings fund — which is currently locked — and take a huge penalty for so doing.

I announced in Monday’s column here:

We’ve never monetized Thinking Out Loud, but this labor of love — along with our Christian bookstore — have totally depleted our savings. Still, how does one do effective fundraising in the face of other families and individuals with seemingly far more urgent needs? After our US/Canada 800-number, toll-free, call-in-a-pledge appeal failed last year, we’re looking for something that will actually help us keep going. We hope to have an answer late this week. 

But as the week went by I keep fighting taking this particular approach. Surely the two stories listed above are far more worthy of my readers’ support, right? Still, I know there are longtime readers both here and at Christianity 201 who might give if we created the right vehicle for processing donations.

Within the Christian realm, there are bloggers like Tim Challies who is able to blog full time because of referral income and sponsored posts. Author Skye Jethani is not currently on staff at a church (or at CT) and is supporting his writing and podcast ministry (and his family) through the sale of monthly devotional subscriptions, and eBooks. (Check out, How Churches Became Cruise Ships.)

Because of my involvement in a brick-and-mortar Christian bookstore (which loses money almost every day the doors are open) I still can’t bring myself to be a referrer to A-zon or even CBD, both of which have contributed greatly to the closing of such Christian shops all over North America. So I’ve never monetized the blog in that manner.

And there is the pride issue. As a twenty-something, I was told that I have difficulty accepting hospitality in all its forms. Plus there is the fear of putting it out there only to find the donations embarrassingly meager. Add to that wanting to be hero; wanting to be the one helping others, not the one asking.

So the announcement I was going to make this week is postponed for now. I leave you the comments section — if you wish — for two purposes today.

  1. If you can recommend a crowd funding type of website that isn’t time-limited and would allow people the opportunity to support Thinking Out Loud and Christianity 201, I’d love to hear it. Bear in mind that I’m in Canada, but nearly 80% of my readers are in the U.S., so it has to be American-based, but able to pay us up here.
  2. If it’s got a Christian connection, feel free to mention any fundraising page you’re aware of that’s running now. Honest! I don’t mind. (I might delete the comment after any relevant expiry dates.) Today is one day you can use the comments to promote a cause.

 

 

 

 

 

March 24, 2016

How the Internet Accelerated Change in the Church

close-to-home-on-blogging1This is part two of a two-part article.

In the setup in part one, we indicated that the influence of rock music in general and The Beatles in particular caused some sweeping changes, particularly in the U.S., in terms of fashion, drugs, war resistance and the sexual liberation. Some of this may have been inevitable, and there were certainly other influences at play, but the 1960s were essentially two decades worth of change sandwiched into one.

So what about another media (for lack of a better word) which influenced the Church?

The effect of the internet on Christianity or Evangelicalism varies depending on which aspect of the technology you’re discussing.

Email simply replaced snail-mail. Communications happened instantly, and at a fraction of the cost, but it’s hard to argue that this changed anything within church culture.

Church websites simply replaced the marquee at the front of the church building, allowing churches to opt instead for larger changeable letters adorned with pithy sayings. No need to post the pastor’s name or the service times, since all that was now on the website.

Video on demand or live-streaming of weekend services simply replaced buying time on local TV outlets, or for the blessed few, on a network of stations.

No, none of these things changed anything in and of themselves.

The real change happened on social media. Online bulletin boards, chat rooms, etc. made it possible for dialog to happen and made it easy for people to enter the conversation regardless of where they lived or their level of education.

But the biggest change occurred with the type of thing you’re reading now: Weblogs, or as they are better known, blogs.

While I can’t cite specific years as I did in part one of the article, here are some effects that I would say took place from about 2003 to 2009.

Blog ChildBlogs and BooksIt wasn’t Christian publishers who came up with using social media to promote new releases, rather the conversations simply started happening over the latest title or the newest author. For reasons I’ll get back to in the final point, the period was a golden age for non-fiction books and publishers were tripping over themselves to place new voices under contract.

I specify non-fiction because the publisher relationship with social media today tends to be more focused on mommy bloggers critiquing and giving away spoilers in the latest Amish or romantic or historical fiction title. Some of these make it through three books a week and publishers are quite willing to supply even relatively small blogs with freebies.

But that wasn’t always the way. The original discussions were all about doctrinal, or Christian Living titles. Maybe a devotional. Eventually, the one Christian children’s book that ever got serious blog review, The Jesus Storybook Bible.

The Growth of Calvinism – This really isn’t anything new, neither should it come as a surprise. Any advance of media technology, or any general cultural shift in communications has been seized on by the Reformed community. Just look at one of the first megachurches (Crystal Cathedral, Reformed Church in America), one of the first TV ministries (Day of Discovery, Christian Reformed), the organizations which dominate our present publishing community (Zondervan, Baker, Eerdman’s, etc., all Reformed); look at these and you see that Reformers have always been there in any available media. (My running joke: Why are there no Salvation Army bloggers? Because while everybody else is writing about it, the Salvation Army is out on the streets doing it.)

But while the internet promoted Calvinism, in some ways the form of the doctrine that was promoted was also changed by it. There exists a type of militant Calvinism today that has polarized the broad Christian community. Reformed parents couldn’t give their children the comic book The Action Bible until the publisher provided a sanctified edition with text from the English Standard Version, the Reformed community’s new Bible of choice.

blogThe Internet Celebrity – The blog Stuff Christians Like launched Jon Acuff overnight. The blog with the weird name, Without Wax, introduced the world to Nashville pastor Pete Wilson. The Naked Pastor developed a cult following, especially when some of the characters in the illustrations turned out to be actually naked. John Shore, Bill Kinnon, Tim Challies, Skye Jethani, Zach Nielson, and others like them were must reading for their constituencies. The Pyromaniacs aka Team Pyro proved that graphics matter, with their first-rate images appearing throughout their articles and attracting new followers.

But in a recent Happy Rant Podcast, Barnabas Piper and Ted Kluck noted that many of the Reformed blogging superstars have churches that are not as significantly large as their digital footprint might indicate. They enjoy a fame disproportionate to their church attendance. Furthermore some pastors, like Willow’s Bill Hybels, didn’t blog at all.

There’s also the few — of which this blog is one — that managed to attract a following without the author being a pastor or a published author. Voices that might not have been heard if this form of social media had not existed.

Homogenization – Despite the plethora of Christian blogs out there, there was a sense we were all reading from the same page. Re-blogging material was more common and more accepted in the early days, and the water cooler topics in church offices — especially among younger leaders — tended to mirror the topics being discussed on the blogs.

Emergent / Emerging – While the terms are now in disuse, there is much evidence that whatever the Christian blogosphere did for Calvinism, it did even more so for the various strains of the Emergent Church, including the Ancient/Future mini-movement that I feel was Emergent’s best byproduct; along with kick-starting the whole missional conversation.

I’m not sure if  it was Tony Jones or not, but recently a writer from that era wrote a piece saying that Emergent was, in effect, now past its sell-by date. I have to agree, which makes it more interesting when some watchdog blog starts slamming the now non-existent movement. Which brings us to…

bloggingdogs-thumbDiscernment / Watchdog Ministries – The blogosphere in general, if nothing else, is all about being offended, so the discernment bloggers, the watchdog bloggers, those champions for truth and right doctrine (as long as it’s their truth and right doctrine) are a natural fit for social media.

The problem is that the average Christian, doing a Google search, has no idea when he or she has come upon one of these, and may not catch the watchdog’s own biases. The blogosphere, like the entire internet, has few filters.

Furthermore, there are so many targets for these writers, so many ways to instill fear, so many common enemies, that it’s easy to go on the attack and forget that those attacked are real people with real lives and real families. I think it’s harder to hate a person after you’ve shaken his hand, but I may be wrong.

Did Christian internet bullies contribute to the suicide of a pastor’s teenage son? We asked that question here a few years ago. We’ll never know the answer, but some are willing to speculate.

Connections – I met British Columbia blogger Rick Apperson somewhere in the comments section of my short lived Religion blog at USAToday and we still keep in touch and occasionally I steal articles from him! Dare I say that I’ve made dozens and dozens of contacts through blogging, some of which I consider the most significant in my life, even though we’ve never met face to face.

I’ve also discovered an affinity toward people with whom I think alike and with whom I think quite differently. And I am so grateful for having spent nearly two years doing a column (albeit a news feed) for Christianity Today. I love those guys!

Eccesiology – One of the main benefits of the early years of Christian bloggers was the rapid increase in the number of people who started planting churches. Called “the extreme sport of ministry,” church plants turned up in various shapes and sizes, with lay people who had never had a previous interest in Ecclesiology — and who had certainly never been asked — were writing and turning out blog posts and print books on the subject of doing church and creating a different kind of church (a phrase that if Googled, probably results in millions of hits.)

Growth of BloggingI listed this last, even though it could have been first, because it sums up a lot of what was taking place in a very short time: There was an explosion of ideas. Conversations were flying fast and furious about church governance, leadership models and worship styles. That the average parishioner cared so much about what was taking place drove all us into a deeper consideration of what it means to be Christ’s church.

The discussions and ideas were reflected in books and especially in a parallel  explosion of conferences. People loved their church and loved the church. No idea wasn’t worth consideration. No speaker or writer wasn’t worth hearing.

It was the best of times.

 

February 25, 2016

Thinking Out Loud: The 8th Anniversary

Filed under: blogging, Christianity, personal, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:14 am

Blog Birthday 8

TOL square

So, Paul; it’s been eight years.

Yep!

…and…?

Yes?

What are your thoughts?

Sorry, I thought you were going to ask me questions.

I thought you were going to write out your own questions and then provide the answers.

Shhh!

So did you ever think you’d be doing this eight years later?

Yes and no. I was doing this and Christian Book Shop Talk and a local-interest blog where I lived and a consumer advocacy blog and using a blog platform for our business and doing a local-interest blog in the community and setting up a blog for a specialty daycare center where we live and writing a book on internet addiction which was using a blog format and then later adding Christianity 201.

At that point anyone could have said, ‘You’re going to burn out doing all these things at the same time;’ and they would have been correct, but fortunately I jettisoned a few of those projects. If you only post to your blog once a week, or if you don’t bother to fact-check things you’re referencing or quoting, then I suppose it’s easy to sustain that for the better of a decade. But to post fresh content to two blogs every single day and to do this for free for eight years is probably, for the average person, somewhat inadvisable.

TOL Welcome YellowWhat about the free thing? Why not monetize the blog?

I did ask for donations at one point. Our business has a toll-free number that works across Canada and the U.S., and I thought if people were enjoying what was happening here they could make a donation using their credit card and we set up a day for that, but the phones didn’t exactly ring off the wall.

First of all, I’m not going to be a referrer to Amazon or even CBD because I have too many friends and too many years invested in brick-and-mortar Christian bookstores. I believe in doing everything I can do to help these stay in the communities where they are doing ministry.

Second, I don’t think you can run advertising on WordPress.com; so that just isn’t an option.

To be really honest, there are a number of components of my life, not just my writing that I thought I would be able to monetize at some point and it’s never worked out. For whatever reason, God has kept us hovering around the poverty line for more than 20 years now, and while I don’t remember answering a call to be a missionary, I’m realizing now that I’ve become one by default. Maybe that’s why I relate to Randy Alcorn, who for different reasons, is in the same situation.

As a writer however, I’m thankful I was able for 22-months to create a synergy with a version of the Wednesday Link List created just for Leadership Journal at Christianity Today and the one that appeared on the blog. That income was not huge, but it helped buy some weekly groceries.

TOL sidebar Sept 2013Thinking Out Loud is very much faith-focused. Snippets of personal life are few or even personal spiritual life.

I try to write at least one of the Christianity 201 devotions each week. If there isn’t a name attached to it, then I wrote it. And obviously I’m not listed among the many Calvinist bloggers. But beyond that I realize I’m somewhat of an enigma to people who don’t read every day, and even those who do.

My beliefs are each rather hybrid in nature. On church government, I’m congregational but I believe in structure and accountability. On women in ministry, I am more sympathetic to the egalitarian position, but with a recognition of God-ordained differences between men and women. On eschatology, I believe “we see in part and we prophesy in part” and that many of the models currently taught are still somewhat insufficient. On worship, I prefer doctrinal substance over empty emotion, but at the same time think that we can be passionate about God, about Jesus and about theology in general. On supernatural spiritual gifts such as miracles and tongues, I calculate that if 50% of the people are faking it, that means that 50% are having some type of genuine experience.

Some doctrinal issues are above my pay grade. This is one of the few blogs that has risen to prominence that is written by someone who is not a pastor, not a seminary professor, not a local church pastor. I believe we can appreciate the complexity of a subject like substitutionary atonement or divine foreknowledge without having to dissect it, just as one can be a connoisseur of fine foods without necessarily being a great cook. If I can, in my lifetime, fully master just two things — incarnation and atonement — then I will have accomplished much.

For me, it’s about whether or not something resonates with me, in light of other teaching I’ve heard, other reading I’ve done, and the general apprehension I have of the ways of God. Is that subjective? You bet it is.

TOL sidebar March 2014Why not do the pastoring thing?

It’s now been two years since I last did pulpit supply in a church; though with our bookstore ministry, I get to preach several times a week; it’s just the crowd size is much smaller. Over the past year, my goal was simply to completely memorize a 35-minute sermon, and I think that’s ready to go now. Otherwise, there’s no way I would want to take what local church pastors take on, either in terms of time or the emotional energy that must be spent.

I would like to be ordained however. I know that sounds strange, but I’m looking for an Evangelical organization that offers some accountability beyond paying $50 a year for a clergy card so you can perform weddings. I don’t want to do funerals, weddings or pastor-for-hire events, but I would like to be able to sit at the same table as clergy and have a collegial relationship that I don’t have now despite the blog or the bookstore or time spent in itinerant ministry.

On the other hand, I’ll take an honorary degree from a recognized Evangelical institution. They can present it to me in ceremony, or just let me know if one falls off the back of a truck, Proverbs 25:27 notwithstanding.

Number One WidgetNext on the blog?

There’s always a breaking story or issue waiting to happen, and always someone in the widest sphere of Christianity about to have their fifteen minutes of fame. At a deeper level, there are always trends resulting from the continuing tension between Christianity and popular culture. Rather than just jump in on the story that’s the flavor of the week, I think we should carefully choose the issues that use our mental energy.

Anything else to add?

Tonight I’m speaking about the blog to a group of students at Canada Christian College; but I’m doing it pre-recorded, which means if you’d like to learn more, click this link. It runs about 18 minutes and it is audio-only with a few quickly-put-together slides. I’ll leave it up for a limited time.

 

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February 23, 2016

Deconstructing is Easy; Building Takes Skill and Time

Filed under: blogging, issues — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:39 am

Blog Birthday 8

This was actually the 4th item posted when I launched the blog eight years ago, not the first, but I think it reflects what online opinion writers should strive for, especially when it is so easy to write and post critique. The comments following the poem itself were on one of the websites where we located this version of it.


Builders and Wreckers

I watched them tearing a building down,
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a ho, heave, ho and a lusty yell
They swung a beam and a wall fell.

I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled?
Like the men you’d hire if you had to build?”
He laughed as he replied, “No, indeed,
Just common labor is all I need.

I can easily wreck in a day or two
What builders have taken years to do.”
I asked myself as I went away
Which of these roles have I tried to play?

Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by rule and square?
Or am I a wrecker who walks the town
Content with the labor of tearing down?

Oh Lord, let my life and labors be
That which build for eternity.

Why do so many of us find it gratifying to be sideline cynics smothering ideas in a relentless barrage of “what ifs” and warnings? As the poem points out, it’s much easier to be a wrecker than a builder.

Of course it’s wise and necessary to challenge assumptions, test theories and predict problems, but that should be the beginning not an end. We should measure our value by the number of balloons we helped launch, not the number we deflated.

A builder sees problems as challenges and seeks solutions; a dismantler sees problems in every solution. A builder sees flaws and tries to fix them; a dismantler sees flaws in every fix.

 

January 5, 2016

2015 Was Not Worth Remembering

Filed under: blogging, family — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:20 am

I’m told I don’t “write myself” into enough of this blog. Trust me, it’s not worth reading. It would just depress you. In reviewing 2015, would I mention the robbery? Our car was broken into in May — the day before my birthday — resulting in the loss of many things my wife held near and dear that were in her purse at the time. Or the 7 weeks work she lost this summer after falling down the stairs and wrecking her ankle? Or my litany of medical specialist appointments in the first half of the year? Or that the Christian bookstore we apparently own lost money just about every day we unlocked the doors? Or the fact we never got a vacation this year? (Honestly, not one night spent in anything but our own bed.) Or that increasingly, none of our cars are very driveable?

And then there’s the dark cloud that kinda hung over Christmas as it looked like my mother was in her last days. (She’s seems to have recovered, again, for now.)

For my kids however, a much better memory. Our oldest did a 4-month missions excursion in the first third of the year that took him to Denver and then Calgary and then Haiti and then back to Calgary. He ended the year landing a really nice, permanent job.

Our youngest got the lead in the college’s annual play in January and went on from there to have two of his best semesters yet after some rocky residence experiences in his freshman and sophomore years. So for both boys, 2015 weren’t so bad. (Yes, I know it should be wasn’t. Heck, the youngest is an English major.)

But basically, we’ve never been the Christmas newsletter type of family. We have a number of friends who do this; some still by snail mail and some electronically. Often, it all looks so perfect. The Wilkinson Family Newsletter would seem more like a desperate cry for help.

I honestly thought of just making stuff up one year. I think an imaginary life would be rather funny. Or we could introduce fictional characters: ‘Merwin is finally out of rehab and Jocelyn has decided she’s going to keep the baby after all.’

But right now, I can’t see myself writing humor. You have to be in the mood, and when you’ve just spent two weeks in the middle of family crisis, you just can’t shake it off overnight. You need time to heal; like maybe all of 2016.

 

January 1, 2016

How to Disagree Theologically

Filed under: blogging, doctrine — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:49 am

As another year kicks in which is sure to bring more heated doctrinal discussions online, or even among your circle of church friends and acquaintances, I can think of no better way to begin the year with the quotation.

You know, brethren, that there is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer, I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it. But, my dear friends, far be it from me even to imagine that Zion contains none within her walls but Calvinistic Christians, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views. Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him, that while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself, I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitfield and John Wesley. The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one of whom the world was not worthy. I believe there are multitudes of men who cannot see these truths, or, at least, cannot see them in the way in which we put them, who nevertheless have received Christ into their hearts, and are as dear to the heart of the God of grace as the soundest Calvinist out of heaven.

– C. H. Spurgeon, The Man With the Measuring Line

Sourced at Soteriology 101

November 27, 2015

More Blogs 4 U

bloggingdogs-thumbTime for another update to my ever expanding list of bookmarks in my computer. But first; if you’ve missed any…

Here’s the link to part one. (The really big one. You have to be a major blog nerd to go through all these.)

Here’s the link to part two. (Spring, 2015 update.)

Here’s the link to part three. (Late Spring, 2015, included my news sources.)

Here’s the link to part four. (Summer, 2015 update including “aggregators”, which are basically blogs that do things like the link lists we do here.)

So this would be part five.

Contradicting Bible Contradictions | Answering Bible Contradictions
Home | Ratio Christi
Christ Hold Fast
john pavlovitz | Stuff That Needs To Be Said
Bethany House Fiction | Connecting you with your favorite authors.
Stumbling Zombie | Insights of a zombie stumbling towards the Light.
“…a better country”
Vic the Vicar!
jamesedwardsharp | Abundant, passionate, honest, thought provoking musical take on the world.
Disciple All Nations | Implications of the Great Commission for the 21st Century
Redeeming God | Rescuing Scripture, Theology, & Church from the Shackles of Religion
Her View From Home
Pilgrim’s Rock – Worldview Apologetics Online Courses Books
Uniting Grace | Grace is the gift that unites us to Christ, and to others in Christ
Janet Mefferd | A Christ-centered look at life
The Christward Collective
Acculturated
Slowing Down and Speeding Up Time | Shalem Mental Health Network
Welcome to the BreakPoint Blog
justinpetrick.com
ChurchPOP | Make holy all the things!
Brain Pickings | An inventory of the meaningful life.
GoodOleWoody’s Blog and Website
Purple Theology | The Blog of Austin Fischer
Art of the Christian Ninja
Enrichment Journal
Unsettled Christianity
Junia Project Home | The Junia Project
Gender Equality Blog | The Junia Project
The Evangelical Calvinist
Technology, Christianity, Culture | Second Nature
east coast veritas | Living, breathing and wrestling with truth while church planting in Atlantic Canada
Devotions — Proverbs 31 Ministries Devotions
Blessed are the Poor in Spirit | “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise” -Proverbs 13:20
Jeff K. Clarke – Jesus (RE)Centered
Life in the Kingdom
Teaching Nonviolent Atonement — Mimetic Theory’s Wisdom for Building Cultures of Peace
Theology in the Raw
The Mordecai Blog
CaroleMcDonnell
Liturgy of Life | Sacramentally Cultivating a Household
christianityincollege
Alan Rudnick | Pastor, Author, and Speaker
Uncommon God, Common Good —
Christ Almighty!
Blog – What’s Best Next
a Life Overseas | — the missions conversation
Sheep To The Right | Whatever you did for the least of these … Matthew 25:40

Random media links. I have no idea what the criteria was for this particular set of bookmarks. Unlike what’s above, these haven’t all been checked lately, so if you find a dead link let me know. Others are used on a weekly basis like Drew Marshall and Phil Vischer; and His Place (from Cornerstone Television) has been the subject of an entire blog post.

Worship House Media: One-stop-shop for your church media and video ministry
96five – Brisbane, Australia. Family’s Number One!
WAY-FM Media Player
TitleTrakk.com – Christian Books, Christian Music, Christian Fiction, Christian Movies
The DREW MARSHALL Show – Canada’s Most Listened to Spiritual Talkback Program
WVMC FM – Christian Hit Radio – Mansfield Ohio
Listen Live! « newlifefm.ca
Welcome – Ancient Faith Radio
Church Solutions Magazine: Christian Business Resources to Grow Your Church
A Christian and an Atheist podcasts
His Place
The Phil Vischer Podcast
Christian Rock & Christian Hip Hop Radio Online ::  NGEN Radio
My Christian Hits – Your Place For New Christian Music – Home

 

November 8, 2015

Behind the Scenes

Filed under: blogging, personal — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:16 pm

Some of you know that much of my time weekly is taken up with the operations of a Christian bookstore, and when I say operations, I mean everything from buying, merchandise, marketing, bill-paying and cleaning the restroom. We’ve had up to three stores, currently have one, and that store has been going for 20 years now, though the business itself had a previous 20-year history on the day that store opened, some of those early years having all the financial scope of a child’s newspaper route.

On paper, the store made a very modest profit each year, and that constituted our family income. Fortunately our help and sustenance has come through other means, but that fund will be reduced to zero by the end of the year, and the operating debt of the business will hit a record high around 4:00 PM tomorrow; money that at this point, even with Christmas coming, we will not be able to fully pay back. And even the modest paper profit disappeared the last two years.

In other words, periods of denial notwithstanding, our little bookstore is not immune from the factors that have hit so many other stores, and is no longer sustainable.

The problem is, if I share this with my customer base, the assumption is that the store is immediately closing, which through the miracle of “broken telephone” communications, becomes already closed, which then becomes closed last month.

I want to put the information out there, so our total demise is not without warning, but don’t want people abandoning us in droves. My blog readership and my customer base have a very, very small overlap, so basically, I’m practicing here how to share the news there.

Plus, I think I need to see this in writing to remind myself that it’s true. Every fiber within me wants it to not be, but the measure of miracle required at this stage would be rather dramatic and unlikely.

That’s all for now on that subject…

…My oldest son asked me this week if all the blogging is tiring me out. I thought about it and last night realized that there is a cost/benefits balance here, and that if the blog network I created ever shut down, one thing I would miss greatly is the review books.

Yeah; I know. The book thing again. I like books. And CDs. And of course, Bibles. We don’t do a lot of reviews here, but publishers know that when I like something, I can get really passionate about it.

The business and the blog share one thing in common, however: Decline. Blog stats for one month this year were about half of what they had been for the year prior. Ouch! I know of very few people who are gaining blog readership, such is the reality of a fragmented social media market.

And of course engagement (i.e. comments) are severely down, which affects online community.

Much wisdom needed on both fronts, I guess.

October 11, 2015

Sometimes, Life is Short

Filed under: blogging, Christianity, Faith — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:12 am

If you like happy blog posts, please skip this one, okay? …

…Today at 5:30 PM I’m posting an article at Christianity 201 from John Richardson, who blogged for years as The Ugley Vicar. That’s not a typo for Ugly, it’s a place in the UK. The article was quite long, so I’m running about 40% of it.

The way it works is that, like Thinking Out Loud, with C201 I give myself permission to go back a year and instead of repeats (like we do here) I simply go back to writers we used before to see what they’ve written anything lately that fits the C201 style. So right now, any repeat pictures or articles or sources there or here have to relate to October. (At C201, some writers who fit really well fall under a six month rule instead, and I now have a regular writer who has been featured every Wednesday for the past year.)

So I was back in October 2013, and I found the post in question, and then linked for an update and thought the one I was seeing was from March of this year, though it was actually from 2014. Anyway, I liked the content and did the necessary formatting. But something about the post haunted me. I couldn’t get past the three rather serious spelling errors in the title:

Christrian Csomology; Incarnarion and ‘Evil’

instead of:

Christian Cosmology; Incarnation and ‘Evil’

Hmmm. In the comments section, someone named Father Ron asked “What, on earth, does this title mean?” The reply was:

Father Ron,
In answer to your question, I point you here:
Pray for the Ugley Vicar
Let all of us pray for John at this time.

The link went to a sad update from Richardson which contained so many spelling errors as to make the headline above look skillfully edited.

A very short online search led me to the information I had already assumed, a mass on the brain from which John did not recover.

…I think the thing that bothered me the most about this — and death isn’t exactly something new that was invented yesterday — was when I looked at the last things John had posted on his Twitter feed:

  • OK, so I can’t remember the bit in “Journey Into Life” where it says, “and your life will work out OK.”
  • Either there’s more than one “Valley of the Shadow of death”. Or, “We’re LOST!”
  • Am I going mad? Or did the cat not just say, “You’re in my spot.” Certainly she thought it – nothing new there.
  • Off fora brain scan
  • Wqiting to hqvew my canula tk
  • And my spolling’s gonw to pitt.

And finally,

  • Off to speqk qbout evangeliSm. Being driven. Pray I zpeak clearly.

I wonder how that speaking engagement went.

I can’t imagine having enough clarity to want to write, ‘And now my spelling’s gone to pot;’ and yet not be able to type the words clearly.

I have no idea what the second post in the above list means. Any suggestions?

Life is short sometimes.

As Christians, we do not sorrow as those who have no hope. Still, the death process can be long, or agonizing, or painful, or debilitating. For most of us who have faith in the promise of resurrection, it’s not death that is the issue, but the process by which we get there.

(I really hope there are no typos in this piece…)

John was right. There is no promise that “your life will work out okay.” But there are far greater promises to those who put their trust in Christ alone.

Ugley Vicar - John P. Richardson


End-notes:

  1. The scripture reference allusion is to I Thess. 4: 13-14
  2. My wife suggests there is another issue at play here which has to do with the difficulty of taking down social media after someone has died. Today, I am very thankful that the article we’re using at C201 was available, but you could make a different argument for the Twitter feed.
  3. The C201 post is now available; click here to read.

September 26, 2015

Some People Want Their Gospel Served A Certain Way

So it all started when our friends at Flagrant Regard posted this graphic image on Facebook.

Ligon Duncan on Preaching the Gospel

At first, I kinda tensed up because Ligon Duncan is very highly revered among traditional Reformers and New Calvinists alike. You’re very likely to see him speaking at things like the Together for the Gospel Conference. So my immediate reaction was, if he hates it, I’m probably for it.

So I was pleased when some people I know immediately weighed in, the first being my wife:

There are a few places in the Bible where God says he reveals himself, wordlessly, through creation. If he can do that, he can certainly show who he is through our grace and love and giving. It’s our job to then answer when asked, and to speak when the opportunities arise. Maybe the problem is the word ‘preach’, which can be narrowly interpreted by some. It might be better to ‘live’ the gospel. This quote strikes me as being a melodramatic over-correction to people who never speak Jesus at all.

The next was our friend Carol:

It seems, understanding the Biblical intent initiated by St.Francis d’Assisi in the top statement, one would see the incongruity of the the second. When Jesus said to Peter “Feed my sheep”, he did not expect Peter to run out and give hay to a flock of sheep. His intention was more inclining to nurture persons to learn of God’s love through actions and example. “Nurture” and “Nourish” come from the same Latin verb root “nutrire” so actual giving of food is not excluded But St.Francis seemed to be alluding to the spiritual side. We can “preach” the Gospel without words by our actions and attitudes toward others. Matt.5:16 “Let your light so shine……..”. Mark 12:31 “Love thy neighbor…..”. Matt. 6:14-15 “For if you forgive…..”. + many many more examples. These, to me, seem to portray the concept to which St. Francis was alluding.

These 2 statements do not belong together !!!

To that, I say a hearty “Amen.” (We’re not sure if St. Francis of Assisi gets the credit for this, though; but that detail is trivial.)

But on the FB page from which my friends at FR obtained the graphic, there was some support.

I’ve heard the above-the-plate nonsense spewed by evangelicals. You have to wonder just how this anti-biblical Pabulum made it into the mainstream?

Notice the difference in the tone of that remark versus the two above. But even there, this comment:

…The meaning though isn’t that you should never preach, but that your actions toward others should be consistent with the Gospel. It’s a paradoxical statement meant to make a deeper point.

For my part, the quotation appeared in my Twitter feed:

Ligon Duncan quote exchange with Eric Carpenter
I suggested reading the two responses at Flagrant Regard, and got the answer you see above. I looked up the person with whom I found myself in this rather heated exchange (that’s not my usual style) and noted that they seemed to have an affinity to other writers that would tend to want to support Ligon Duncan at all costs. We have an earlier blog post here devoted to the fact it is in the nature of people within a certain doctrinal strand to protect the brand at all costs.

But alas, the doctrinal strand to which I refer is a version of Christianity that is all about words, and words only. To their credit, these are the people who founded many Christian publishing companies. To their detriment, these are the people who dominate the Christian internet with their cheering for the home team and endless re-blogging of articles written by their heroes in that movement.

For me it always comes back to the rhetorical question, “Why are there no Salvation Army bloggers?” (Actually there are a small few.) The answer to the question is, “While everybody else is writing about it, they’re out doing it.” I raised that point in this post, where I also noted that those on one particular side of the fence seem to have a militant wing that doesn’t exist on the other side. Worse, this internet domination and barrage of words often becomes the only thing people see.

I guess the thing that ticked me off the most, was the guy in the above exchange on Twitter saying, “Sorry, but I don’t have time to read rebuttals.” Reminds me of the number of bloggers in that same doctrinal system who no longer accept comments.

I just fail to see anyone would be attracted to that brand of Christianity.

Ligon Duncan is not one of my spiritual heroes. I’m not part of that movement, he doesn’t speak for me, though I did take some time to listen to him in one of the T4G live feeds in the interest of open-mindedness. His remark may make for a nice Twitter or Facebook graphic, but it’s a great adventure in missing the point. It has an air of logic and spirituality but is actually a giant put-down of people who don’t fit his extremely narrow view of who God is and what God can use.

To which I say, “Preach the gospel, and then if necessary, know when to shut up.”

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