Thinking Out Loud

January 28, 2016

What’s On Your Fridge?

Filed under: Christianity, family, prayer — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:53 am

Prayer2

Sometime during the summer I posted a small list of prayer requests to our refrigerator. It was during one of those periods where the needs of people around us seemed to be growing and I wanted to make sure that nobody fell through the cracks of forgetfulness. This doesn’t mean that other requests aren’t shared at mealtime as needed, but it’s a core list that is glanced at every time someone reaches for food, and it hasn’t changed much over the past six months.

Prayer Requests on RefrigeratorThere are 17 requests on the sheet. What’s below is going to have some considerable overlap into a few different categories.

  • 2 are for people living outside North America. I wish our world concern was higher. One is a family from our church who are in Africa for two years; the other is my oldest son’s Compassion sponsored child. (And yes, we prayed intensely for Saeed’s release, but somehow that transcended the list.)
  • 3 represent our family; two of these are our sons and one is extended family.
  • 2 would fall into the category of prayer for salvation for someone yet to cross the line of faith.
  • 9 would fall into the category of prayer for healing, 8 for physical healing, 1 for mental health. Since the list was posted, 2 of these have improved to the point I wouldn’t add them to a future list, one is facing final days.
  • 4 I would categorize as prayer for God’s direction in life.
  • 1 would be a prayer for finances, and another 1 is a health situation that is affecting finances.
  • 1 had to be amended since the list was posted; the request for prayer in my friend’s life involved a name that was crossed out and was replaced with another name.
  • 1 is more institutional, the other 16 are names of individuals or families.

So what’s on your fridge?


Image: Couldn’t find what I wanted, so did some cutting and pasting. Full disclosure as required by FTC rules: Our own fridge door opens the other way.

January 12, 2016

Book Review: The Looney Experiment

Nested among the advance reading copies from Zondervan last fall was a book for younger teens. I kept wondering why it was included, but after a conversation later into the year I flipped through the book and formulated a plan.

So today, I bring you a guest reviewer (who I don’t think I’ve met) who is in the same grade as the student in the story, and has a similar first name to the author. I guess it was meant to be!

The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds
Zonderkidz, 2015, Hardcover, 208 pages

reviewed by Lucus Wood

The Looney ExperimentAtticus is a young boy in middle school. He is a target for the school’s bully. He likes a girl that doesn’t really know he’s there. Because of the fighting his dad has left his family and Atticus feels confused and angry. Atticus’s teacher leaves to have a baby and they get a supply teacher named Mr.Looney. Mr.Looney seems to show up with Atticus’s dad out of the picture and helps him stand up to the bully at school. He stands up for himself and he makes life better and he goes on to be happy.

I really liked Mr.Looney. He is probably one of the funniest book characters that I have ever read about. Mr Looney has a wacky personality and is very wise though he makes his points in the strangest ways possible. He was my favorite character hands down. My favorite part was when he was jogging around the class room.

My thoughts on this book are: Amazing! Having a crazy teacher in a book is my favorite part of fiction books. I would recommend The Looney Experiment to others because it contains lots of laughs and a valuable life lesson. I enjoyed this book even though I thought I wouldn’t like it. I hope the author will write a sequel. (If he does, I’d love to read it.) I wonder if this book reflects the author’s childhood?  It was a great book and I will definitely read it again.


Read more about the book at Zondervan.com
See what other reviews are saying at BookLookBloggers.com

January 8, 2016

New Christian Video Series with Talking Owls is a Hoot

OwlegoriesFirst there were talking vegetables. You may have heard of them.

Now we have Owlegories with talking owls.

Owlegories is a series of videos where the allegories are a parallel between things found in nature and foundational principles in scripture. In the first DVD, there are three episodes.

  • The Sun – about the nature of God
  • The Seed – about our relationship with God
  • The Water – characteristics of God’s Word

Each episode runs about 16 minutes and preceded by some banter between kids (live actors) and then moves into the episode itself which is entirely animated. The target audience is clearly young children — my guess would be ages 3-9 — but knowing that older kids and parents are watching alongside, there is a very short teaching segment at the end. One the first DVD, those presenters were Jen Wilkin, Matt Chandler and Tony Evans.

The animated sections begin in the classroom; Theowlogy 101 to be precise. The owls are given both a quest and an assignment, but always face the potential of their mission begin thwarted by Devlin, whose name is a bit of a giveaway. They complete the assignment in the course of trying to complete the quest.

Owelgories was the brainchild of husband/wife couple Thomas and Julie Boto who also make brief appearances. In addition to what’s on the DVD there is an offer to download an additional episode for mobile or tablet, as well as a smartphone app.

The series was launched in October, and the end of this month sees a release of Volume 2: The Ant, The Fruit, The Butterfly. You can watch a short trailer here:

After watching the first episode, my wife and I discussed the similarities and differences between the owls and the aforementioned vegetables. While there is some humor in Owlegories to make the adults smile, Veggie Tales was a little more sophisticated in that respect, thus its secondary appeal at middle school sleepovers. The biggest difference we noticed was that the main building blocks of VT episodes were Bible narratives, whereas the Owls are teaching doctrinal principles. Despite this, I would stick with my age 3-9 recommendation.

For those who want to see a strong Christological element in their children’s ministry products, you’re more likely to get that in the teaching segments appended to each episode. In the first DVD at least, the principles taught are somewhat general.

You can learn more about the series at owlegories.com

 

 

 

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.

 

December 25, 2015

Christmas in a Small Town

Filed under: Christmas, family — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:58 am

I’ve reblogged this today from Diane Lindstrom at Nice One Nana. Send her some link love by clicking the title below to read at source and leave comments.

Small Town, Big Connection

I couldn’t figure out how to get my [reward card] points at the local gas station pumps so I decided to ask the lady working inside about the procedure. I mean, free groceries are free groceries, right?

The lady who was working behind the counter had very kind eyes and a gentleness in her ways. She greeted me with a smile and as I fished around my purse for my wallet, she asked me, “So, are you ready for Christmas?”

I told her, “I’m ready. These days have been a quiet countdown to Christmas day. I’m not running around at all. Feels good. How about you? You enjoying the season?”

I was really taken back with the woman’s response.

“Usually, I love this time of the year but my daughter’s husband has been mad at me for the past four months and he won’t let my husband and I see our two grand-kids.” I’m just heartbroken about it.”

I was about to express my sadness about her situation but she began to cry and continued to talk.

“Why do people have to win? Why do they have to be stronger and more powerful and more right? Why can’t people just love each other?

I offered the woman a Kleenex and I just stood with her for a few seconds.

Neither of us talked.

I could see that the woman was embarrassed and as she wiped her eyes, she joked, “This is what happens when you come to a small town gas station!”

I smiled and asked her, “Are you and your husband alone on Christmas Day? Would you like to come to our place?”  I also joked back with, ” An invitation for Christmas dinner at a stranger’s house is also what happens when you serve customers at a small town gas station.”

“Oh, you’re so kind but no…we’re not alone. We have nine children and a handful of grand-kids. We’re going to be eating so many turkeys this Christmas, my husband and I are going to start gobbling. I just can’t understand why people don’t choose love. Not just at Christmas. All the time.” 

I nodded. I couldn’t have said it better.

“Thank you for blessing me with your words. I hope you and your son-in-law reconcile.”

She smiled, handed me a candy cane and said, “Merry Christmas.”

I leaned over the counter and gave her a big hug.

“And to you.”

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12.31


Diane Lindstrom lives in a small town in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Sisters in the Son: Reconnecting Older and Younger Women.

December 15, 2015

Fear of Abandonment

This month’s short story is a true story. Names have been changed.

Grant wasn’t exactly a friend from church and I was told that he and his mom attended somewhat sporadically. I knew him more by reputation than by sight, though we were approximately the same age.

Linda, his mom was in the process of getting a divorce. I think I saw Grant’s dad once ever, and there was also an older brother who wasn’t living at home, which meant that functionally, Grant was an only child.

Short Stories 2Divorce was rather rare in that church at that time. I don’t know if Linda was the only one, but she was the only one I remember. Looking back, I’d like to hope that some people in the church reached out to her, but this was a long time ago and those divorced were treated like lepers.

We reached out to her. Once, anyway. The family situation necessitated going to a downtown lawyer’s office to sign some papers. Lawyers didn’t make house calls back then. They still don’t. It was summertime. No school. So my mother suggested to Linda that she drop Grant off at our house and “the boys could play together.”

I have no idea what that meant. I have a rather vague memory of getting some fresh air in the backyard, and I’m sure that television watching was part of the afternoon.

There were no cell phones back then. It seems strange typing that, but it’s an essential part of the dynamic of the story that it’s easy to overlook today. Linda was overdue to return and suppertime was fast approaching. Linda’s lawyer may have run late. Perhaps traffic was bad. It’s possible she went somewhere after signing the papers to have a good cry. Or even a stiff drink.

Either way, Grant started to get concerned. That quickly changed to worry. Worry led to a full out panic attack. Shortness of breath. Tears.

It wasn’t that Grant was worried, the way you worry about someone who is only a fifteen minute drive away and is now an hour late. It was a different thing, the concern they say that dogs get when you leave them at home: A belief that the person is never coming back.

Grant was freaking out. My mom — and I think my Dad who was home from work by this point — were trying to protect me from viewing the full impact of Grant’s freak-out. I never once had to deal with that, but for the one time I returned to an empty house and my imagination took over with a mix of car accident and rapture scenarios.

When his mom finally did show up, Grant was a mess.

Linda thanked my mom for letting him stay there, and my mom assured him that the afternoon had not at all been what she witnessed upon her return.

I had little contact with Grant after that, and really have no idea where their story took them. I think Linda distanced herself from the church beyond that point; it just wasn’t a good environment for a lone divorced person; especially with all those sit-com-ready perfect families with 2.4 kids following a faith with sacred texts that say things like, “God hates divorce.”

…So why does this story come back to me all these years later? I think that for kids in splintered or fractured families, the fear of abandonment is very real. They want to believe that everything will always be as everything has always been, and yet there is this underlying, nagging suggestion that perhaps someone isn’t coming back.

And if they’re not coming back at Christmas, or after Christmas, that just makes it all so much worse. There is a great vulnerability there that kids in intact families can’t imagine.

December 6, 2015

With Christmas Coming, Do Your Kids Feel a Sense of Entitlement?

We never gave our kids an allowance. Not once. Working for ministry organizations and then owning a commercial ministry where we don’t pay ourselves a salary may have precluded it somewhat. But at the end of the day, I just didn’t see the point. Some kids are paid for being good. Our kids were good for nothing. [Rim-shot!] I just didn’t want them to think that we owed them anything.

We rarely bought our kids much of anything when we went to the mall. Perhaps never is a bit strong. The general presumption was that we were going to look, that the mall was a recreational destination where we would also do some comparison shopping and if the mood hit us, actually make a purchase. There was never the expectation that we would emerge carrying packages. The kids never thought that they were going to come away with increased personal possessions.

As a result, I think my children have a balanced perspective when it comes to materialism. In their mid-teens, they learned to pick up the tab for the things they needed or wanted on their own. It helped that both had paying jobs in high school. A part-time job at that age in our town is nothing short of a miracle.

Now they’re in their 20s. Both have a VISA card, and are well-versed in online banking. My youngest told me he feels guilty when he makes a large purchase. Maybe we need to tweak that attitude a little.

I felt both of them had a head-start when it came to money given the part time jobs. Some start even earlier. I wasn’t ready for the young girl who came into our store with a debit card. I think she was about nine years old. Okay, maybe ten. Not much more than that. It was one of those split-second moments of seeing something almost comedic, like when little boys would dress up in their father’s jackets and ties, back when their fathers actually wore jackets and ties. Maybe the analogy today is wearing their father’s shoes. (Not sure what the girl equivalent is; can tell me?)

The other side to consumerism is that I’ve tried to do is encourage our kids not to waste, because I believe the issue of materialism and the issue of waste go hand-in-hand. Maybe rationing the squares of toilet tissue is a bit much,* but certainly there’s no need for the second glass of the expensive treat we bought, such as Welch’s Grape Juice — the real stuff, not the Grape Cocktail their flogging now — or even a second glass of the cheaper apple juice.

Mind you, they’ve inherited that from me. I see food on the table and feel this desire for more. I had no siblings growing up, yet I seem to be in this constant competition for my fair share. At church potlucks, I tend to position myself close to the food table. I have a sense that all the other people in our congregation are people who will eat my share of the dinner if I do not guard it carefully. Not sure where I got that. But like father like son(s); the kids don’t like to miss out.

My youngest, aka Kid Too, was usually the first to take a piece of chicken or roast beef from the platter, a luxury of choice I was always taught is reserved for the cook, aka Mrs. W. He chooses well. He has taken a culinary course and knows the good pieces. The tender pieces. I always complain at that point that he just took “the best piece.” I am not trying to cause trouble. I sized up the platter before we said the blessing and already saw the piece that I considered the finest, and he took it. More competition.

At this point, I’m thinking of the title of the book by Francis Shaeffer’s daughter, Susan McAuley Schaeffer, How To Be Your Own Selfish Pig. I have been mastering this art for years, but not through actual pigging, but by ranting about the perceived pigging of everyone else.

As I write, it occurs to me that I probably wouldn’t be so obsessed about portion control if my youngest had shown more gratitude during those years. Actually, he does this a great deal, but in other areas. If he were to tell me how much he enjoys the times we purchase the more expensive grape juice, I would probably lavish him with more. He is changing with age however. When he comes home at Christmas I expect his sense of appreciation for all we do to have matured even more, though I still feel I should be saying grace with one eye open…

Then it hits me. That’s what God is waiting for. He has many good things in heaven’s storehouse which have me in mind. But he’s waiting for me to say thanks for what I have been given. As the Biblical story of the ten lepers teaches us, the thank-you rate is about 10%.


 

*I don’t actually ration toilet tissue, though I have been known to do calculations as to the number of squares that — hmmm …too much information?

October 16, 2015

Imagine Being Told to Spend 3 Hours a Day Standing in the Corner for 3 Years

My mom lives in a long-term care seniors facility. I haven’t written much about that here because frankly, I am saving up a lot of the things that have happened there for a much, much larger media forum. I’m a writer after all, and for the sake of those who will follow her, which in a sense includes you and me, I want to try to do some good.

On her floor there are two dining rooms, each one seats about 30 people. When she arrived there, she was assigned to the table in the farthest corner, and in the seat that faces the corner. She really can’t see anything else that goes on in the room, nor can she tell when a server is nearby or approaching so she can ask for something. There is a window, but the tables are on an angle, so her best view is of the roof of the adjoining part of the building.

In her previous facility, they had a great system. Each person rotated one seat to the right every month. Once or twice the whole bunch of them got to move to a different table. It made for change, and it also created equity.

seniorsIn this facility, nearly a year went by and she started to feel the inhumanity of her seat assignment. So I started asking questions on her behalf. The treatment I got was about equal to what she was experiencing.

“In order to change her seat, we would have to contact the families of the other three people at her table;” I was told. Really? Seriously?

I told them that I would not want or need to be contacted if her seat at the dining room was being changed. I don’t even see the relevance of family being part of which table she sits at. In that exchange, I really felt I was being played for a fool.

Soon it will be three years. She’s a rather slow eater, so we’re talking three hours a day. Every day. Every week. Every month. For three years. Staring into the corner. No visible indication of what’s going on in the rest of the dining room. Not given the dignity of honoring her request for a change…

…On Wednesday she told me that a woman at her table had spilled some soup. She cleaned it up herself with a paper napkin, and then proceeded to eat the napkin.

“Why;” my wife asked, “Would you want to be party to seeing more of that?”

It’s a fair question. But I think she (and we) should have some choice in the matter.

I’ve appealed this before all the way to the top. Usually, when I do things like this on behalf of people, either logic or a sense of justice wins. Not this time.

Did I mention this is a “Christian-owned” facility? It’s run by the “Benevolent Association” of a large Evangelical denomination. Benevolent to whom, exactly? What’s worse, decades ago she was a long-time volunteer at this same facility. Her own mother and mother-in-law were residents. Her picture appears in their commemorative, anniversary book. And she’s treated like crap.

Right now my prayer is that the people who head up this place find themselves, when they reach that golden age, placed in residence at the facility they now manage.

It will be a most appropriate revenge.

 

September 8, 2015

Spending Quality Time as a Family

Filed under: Christianity, family, parenting — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:32 am

CandlemakingChances are that when the kids come home from the first day of school, there are many stories about new teachers, new classrooms and new subjects; but within days, the novelty has passed, and the kids walk in, drop their stuff, grab their snack and then are connected to a video game of some type until supper.

Screen time has replaced family time, and time in general is something that some kids have way too much of. We’ve written about this in reference to teens in particular. At the beginning of this summer, I also wrote about one alternative, board games; mentioning Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Rummikub and the one we wrapped up the summer with, Bohnanza.

But we also did something really different last week, candle making. We bought some beeswax sheets at a gift store which came with instructions and wicks. The results are shown in the picture. It was cheap, it was fun, and we did it together. (Plus we’re all set for the next power outage.)

…The picture itself, is indicative of what my next hobby should be. I was trying to get our ‘good’ camera to take a picture with the background out of focus, but being the impatient type, told someone just to stand behind the candles holding a sheet of newsprint. Classy, huh? Guess I won’t be winning any photography contests anytime soon.

For the record, the yellow candle in the middle was one of mine…Does writing about candle-making make me a mommy blogger?

August 20, 2015

Andy Stanley: Love, Sex and Dating

Eschewing the standard Christian Television approach, Andy Stanley and the staff at North Point in Atlanta have been buying time on local NBC stations after Saturday Night Live. The repackaged sermon video is called Your Move, and the website is YourMove.Is

Today, if you have 28.5 minutes; we’re going to watch one of Andy’s most popular messages, which is also a book and a curriculum, The New Rules for Love Sex and Dating. This is the first of several episodes and deals with The “Right Person” Myth.

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