Thinking Out Loud

August 13, 2012

Jumping Off the Precipice With Kay Warren

Today you’ll have to hop over to Pete Wilson’s blog for an amazing interview that he did with Kay Warren, author of Choose Joy and wife of Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren.  The interview centers on Kay’s decision to take on the AIDS orphans in Africa as her personal cause, and leaves a somewhat ‘wowed’ Pete Wilson committing his church to get involved.  Here’s your jumping off point. If you know about Rick, but not Kay, you’re in for a surprise.

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January 9, 2012

Our Post-Christmas Credit Card Crisis

Each year we say that instead of giving gifts to each other, we’re going to do something significant to help the third world, and a couple of years ago we got more serious about this and began a Christmas tradition of donating to water projects — the repair and restoration of fresh water wells — through the organization Partners International.

This year Partners sent us a catalog containing a variety of projects to which we could donate, and I decided to let the family have greater input into this than in previous years.  The various needs  in the Canadian organization’s mailing called Hope in Action were divided into different categories such as,

  • Children and Education
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Justice Issues
  • Women’s issues
  • Christian Witness
  • Health and Wellness

while Partners in the U.S. has a greater variety of potential giving themes in their catalog called Harvest of Hope.

The family seemed especially interested in projects which keep young women out of the sex trade overseas, or projects which help them not end up there to begin with.  One of these is listed on my receipt as item 8007C — Mahima Home — A Refuge for Girls Rescued From the Sex Trade — $300.00

We selected three projects that were certainly more expensive than our previous investment in water wells, and then added one more to top it off to an even number, a number that was larger than I expected when we first sat down around the computer.  “Oh well, it’s only money;” I remember saying at the time.

But then, like so many other families that overextend themselves over the holidays, we got a credit card bill which contained both our Partners projects and our regular expenses, not to mention the Christmas gifts that we actually gave.

And it’s all due on Friday.

“I think we need prayer;” I said to my wife when she read me the bill.

I then told her, “I think we should ask the pastor for prayer because I’ve run up our credit card on prostitutes.”

It would be funny if it were funny.

It got me thinking however, what about the person who does find themselves with an impossible credit card bill because they did spend too much on hookers?  You’ve got the sin of fornication combined with the sin of overspending, and they don’t cancel each other out.

I might just leave the prayer request at our church’s prayer email address anyway.  We’ll call it increasing global awareness.

December 8, 2011

Fill the Kettle: Salvation Army Christmas Appeal

Filed under: charity, philanthropy — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:25 am

My loyal Canadian readers will recall that for the last two years we’ve done a Salvation Army iKettle on this blog.  This year, we’re inviting you to be part of national website, “Fill the Kettle” which allows you to donate online or find the location of a physical collection kettle near you.

For 120 years, The Salvation Army’s Christmas kettles have been synonymous with the holiday season and the spirit of giving. Kettles are already on the streets in more than 2,000 locations across Canada, collecting spare change and cash from passersby to help us serve more than 1.7 million vulnerable people in 400 communities across the country each year.

This year, there’s a new way to give back. Donors can locate and donate to their local kettles online at www.FilltheKettle.com.With more than three million Canadians living in poverty today—including one out of every 10 children—the need has never been greater. But, we know we can count on the overwhelming generosity of Canadians to help fill our kettles this year! You can even sign up to host your own virtual kettle by visiting www.FilltheKettle.com/iKettle.

Visit www.SalvationArmy.ca to learn more about how you can help this Christmas season.

Donations are allocated to stay in your community, and no matter where you are, there is a Salvation Army presence not too far from where you live.  Step up to meet needs of others less fortunate.

For my American (notice the red, white & blue effect) readers; you thought you were off the hook on this one, right?  No way — there is a secure online donation website just for you.

September 23, 2011

The God Pocket: Intentional Generosity

I had watched this video a couple of times; but wasn’t sure I get where Bruce Wilkinson — no relation — was going with The God Pocket.  Was there some ancillary item called a “God Pocket” we would see in a bookstore display next to the book itself, or was he speaking figuratively?  The video had me confused and I didn’t get a review copy of the book, so I checked the publisher marketing:

God wants to put a face on giving – and the face he has in mind is not yours, but his. What if you could take something out of your pocket today that would make God wonderfully personal and absolutely real to someone who, only minutes earlier, had been secretly calling out to God for help, for an answer, for any shred of evidence that He cares?

Discover the incredible resource that’s small enough to fit in your wallet or purse, yet big enough to change someone’s life – starting with yours. In “The God Pocket,” Bruce Wilkinson tells you what that little something is, explains how to deliver God’s provision to someone in need, and shares how God is ready to reveal Himself through you.

The God Pocket Prayer
Dear God,
Today I ask to be sent to show Your love and deliver Your funds to the person You choose. I carry Your provision in my God Pocket, and I am ready and willing. I am Your servant, Lord. Whenever You nudge me, I will respond! Here am I – please send me!

So I realized he was talking about giving, and the God Pocket had to be some kind of ‘wrapper’ for a money gift which is a token of financial encouragement, which I suppose you could design or create yourself; but in the giving process, there would have been some advance preparation and prayer.

But at that point, I was still guessing.  There were no consumer reviews online for the hardcover from Multnomah with the full title: The God Pocket: He Owns It. You Carry It. Suddenly Everything Changes.

So it was time for some serious research, i.e. Google. One blogger mentioned that the concept of “the God pocket” is introduced in You Were Born for This:

One concept that was very inspiring was the God Pocket.  He encourages Christians to set aside an amount of money (maybe $20) that they always keep tucked away in the billfold or pocketbook.  That money is to be used in the lives of others as needs present themselves.  He told the story of feeling led to leave all $20 as a tip for a waitress.  She came to him before he left in tears explaining that she was a single parent and had prayed God would provide the money she needed for medicine for her ill child.

Another wrote about You Were Born…:

A buzzword he coined “God Pocket” blessed my socks off.  I have a tendency to be what is kindest to call “thoughtlessly generous”– generous without giving thought to if it is how the Lord would want me to give.  I’m a need meeter.  If I see a need, I have the funds/ability, I try to meet it.  I love to try to help meet needs.  However, just because there is a need, and just because I can meet it, doesn’t mean that I am the best one for it and it’s hard to know when/where/how.  His idea of  the “God Pocket” really encouraged me to become deliberate in preparing to meet needs rather than reacting to the needs in front of me.  I think it is what I’ll take from the book and use/value the longest.

So my guess wasn’t too far off.  My next step is to place a bill in a special part of my wallet so that I am prepared to do what Uncle Bruce — we might be related, Prayer of Jabez made a lot of money after all — recommends in terms of planned or intentional generosity. 

Or I could simply read the book and see how one might craft a short note that would accompany the gift.  I think it’s publishing mid October.

August 6, 2011

Partnering With Partners

After our charity diversion two nights ago, we ended up making our Africa Drought donation to Partners International.  This is the organization I’ve mentioned a few times at Christmas, and I’ve already written here about my disdain for giving money only to have it eaten up by subsequent donation solicitations by mail.   The link above is to the Canadian office, but Partners is active in the U.S. as well.  Both Partners and Food for the Hungry in Canada are registered with the government for 1:1 matching of each donation with government funds.  And then just before I sent our modest donation, my teenage son came downstairs with a $10 bill to increase our gift.

I just feel like we had to do something.  Especially in the face of the enormity of the need. How can we not?

February 27, 2011

Compensation for Charity CEOs: How Much is Too Much?

In a very recent article that unfortunately wasn’t picked up for inclusion in the online newspaper, The Toronto Star’s ethics columnist Ken Gallinger raised the issue of the top compensation paid to CEOs of humanitarian charities and relief an development agencies.

Perhaps it’s just as well that the article isn’t available, because the Canadian examples he cited probably pale in comparison to the figures paid to those holding similar posts in the United States.

And he was quick to remind us that many heads of non-profits do, in fact, give back. The salaries quoted would, in that case, only tell us half the story.

In my world, the largest financial donors in some small churches are the ministers themselves, many of whom work 60 hour weeks.

But, to answer the question, the figure he kept tossing around was $200,000.

On the one hand, these are donor dollars, and it must be hard to take home this kind of paycheck when your ads are full of starving children; at $30 a month, that one check would sponsor 550 kids. Ethically, that’s got to cause angst.

But let’s be fair, Nobody is well served by bad, lazy or visionless leadership. These charities are huge. In 2009, World Vision spent over $37 Million (CDN) on employee compensation alone. Heading up such an oranization, whether it manufactures widgets or builds wells in Africa, requires wit, wisdom and experience. And you tend to get what you pay for.

He also pointed out that in Canada’s for-profit sector, the top 100 execs’ average just under $7 Million (CDN) each, noting that the average minimum wage earner gets 0.3 per cent of their boss’s income.

So again, I ask, “How much is too much?”

December 23, 2010

An Incredible Act of Generosity

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

As we come within hours of a day marked by believers and non-believers alike with a spirit of giving; here’s an example of that kind of giving spirit in action.  Today I want all of you to click the links. I dare you. The first one will take less than 1:00 to read and will make you want to click the second.  But it’s not for the weak of faith.

This is the Christmas Sunday service at Cross Point church in Nashville, Tennessee where Pete Wilson pastors.

To prepare you for what you’re about to read, here’s the short version.

Now that you’re ready for it, here’s the detailed version.

That is one amazing Christmas service people will long remember.


And what better time to remind my Canadian readers that we have two days left to contribute to the Salvation Army iKettle. Click here to donate. Your donations stay with the S.A. branch closest to your community.

Watch or listen to the service at Cross Point.  Go to their media page and select December 20th.

November 25, 2010

Our Now Annual Appeal for the Salvation Army

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

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

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

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

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

So here’s where you go to contribute*.

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

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

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


May 6, 2010

When Excellence Gives Way to Expediency

For several months now I’ve been kicking around the idea of writing on a subject that has distressed me personally, but I’ve hesitated knowing that I’ve already touched on the issues of (a) radio and television preachers asking for money, and (b) the difficulty of getting off mailing lists once you’re on them.

The current frustration revolves around the fact that over the Christmas period, I made some donations to some organizations, but the value of my donation has been reduced to nil in light of the subsequent solicitations they have sent me to try to get more donations.   I know what mailing pieces like this cost to produce (and mail) and any “ministry credit” that was in my “account” has reset back to zero, or even gone into a negative balance.

Let me pause at this point, and add that, following Biblical instruction, I have gone to them directly on this, and at least one agreed to work with me to solve the problem.   The others did not write back.

There’s one list I’d like to remain on, albeit more minimally.   They produce a devotional booklet that we’ve been using with our family for several years now.  (We read two days at a time, and do other readings on other days.)

The book is produced by a popular radio ministry organization,  but it is multi-authored; that is to say, it is shared around by a number of other organizations with contributions from their key spokespeople.   That said, the producing organization makes sure that it’s man always has:

  • The first word; the lead devotional of each month
  • The last word; the closing devotional of each month
  • The word on any special holidays or other significant days

So yes, it’s a little biased towards the one organization, that happens to be the one from whom I obtain monthly copies.

So I’m at a crossroads, because they’re telling me that if I don’t make a donation soon, I’m going to be cut off from receiving future issues; and many of the devotional commentaries are working well with our family.

But now I have new issue.

We’ve noticed in the last three or four copies a number of glaring typographical errors.   Little things.   Little foxes spoiling the vines, so to speak.   Stupid, trifling, trivial errors that should have been spotted in simple proofreading.

Tonight’s was the worst.   The devotional was based on Psalm 8 with the key verse:

O Lord , our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.  Out of the mouth of babes and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.  (vs. 1-2, ESV)

So far, so good.   But the devotional title is, “Stinkers Minding God’s Store.”   Huh?

I waited through all six paragraphs for the title to kick in, but it never did.  I checked ahead a few pages to see if the header had been transposed from another article.   I even considered the possibility that the reference to “babes and infants” somehow lined up with the word “stinkers.”  (C’mon now, you would have made the same conclusion.)

I get the feeling that this whole thing is being rather haphazardly thrown together.   I haven’t red-lined the other errors, but now I wish I had been keeping score.  (Actually, if you approach your devotional time with a red pen in your hand, that’s not exactly a good thing…)    I’d like to do a mark-up on the text and send it back to them.

While this sentiment might be true, we're talking here about something a little more serious than a compulsive need to make corrections.

We’re all going to make mistakes.   Me.  You.  All of us.   But we need to strive for excellence.   And the more public the forum, the higher the standard we need to aim toward.

I’m just not sure I should be contributing to — and thereby encouraging — something that isn’t more carefully considered before it goes to press.   However, like I said, the nightly readings are registering with my sons, and when you have something that’s connecting with a couple of teenagers, you don’t want to be too dismissive.


January 1, 2010

Bottom Drops Out of Donations at Saddleback: $1M Debit Crisis

The bigger they are, the harder it gets during a recession,  as USAToday reports:

Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Community Church

Evangelical pastor Rick Warren appealed to parishioners at his California megachurch Wednesday to help fill a $900,000 deficit by the first of the year.

Warren made the appeal in a letter posted on the Saddleback Church website. It begins “Dear Saddleback Family, THIS IS AN URGENT LETTER.”

“With 10% of our church family out of work due to the recession, our expenses in caring for our community in 2009 rose dramatically while our income stagnated,” the letter reads.

Still, Warren said the church managed to stay within its budget, but “the bottom dropped out” when Christmas donations dropped. “On the last weekend of 2009, our total offerings were less than half of what we normally receive…”

[continue reading the story at USAToday Religion]

Related story at Godvertiser blog discusses the announcement — just one day earlier — that Warren’s magazine is discontinuing its print edition and going digital.

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