Thinking Out Loud

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.

 

April 9, 2016

Podcasts and the Migration from Literacy to Orality

Filed under: children, Christianity, parenting — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:03 am

Keyboard from steampunkworship dot com

There was a pastor whose blog I enjoyed reading about ten years ago. About five years ago, I think his keyboard stopped working. The blog still exists, but only to post video clips from his sermons. Other bloggers are using their blog solely to post their weekly podcast.

Inherent in podcasting is the right to ramble. Listeners get the nuance that’s missing in a traditional blog post (and this is one of the great liabilities of email) but they have to take the time to wade through the host(s) stream-of-consciousness narration. There’s no concision, a quality that decades ago Noam Chomsky had predicted would be, moving forward, a key asset in communications. A great concept that’s probably a seven or eight paragraph blog post instead becomes a 53 minute podcast.  Andy Warhol’s comment that “In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes;” might be modified to, “In the 21st century, everyone will have their own talk show or be the host of their own radio station.” 

Nobody writes, ergo nobody reads.

Our discretionary time is spent on our screens: The one we carry in our pocket; the tablet, laptop or PC; and the 42-inch one in the living room. Our discretionary income goes to the various service providers who make these devices possible. 

Books? The problem isn’t eBooks, the problem is that nobody is reading. Especially men. The time has been used up on screens. The money has been spent on screens.

Add to this the damage being done to the written word due to:

  • texting
  • spell check
  • predictive text
  • visual media: Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, etc.
  • diminished attention spans
  • screen fatigue
  • reduced educational standards

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but if that’s true, a picture also replaces a thousand world.

Facebook, 2006: We just picked up a great deal on a used car. 5-years old. 4-door sedan. Only 40,000 miles. The body is in great shape, and we love the aquamarine color. Powerful 6-cyl engine. And we literally got it for a song.

Facebook, 2016: Look what we got! [posts picture]

English is eroding, and I suspect other languages in technology-infused countries in western Europe, Asia and South America aren’t faring much better.

Dads: When is the last time your kids saw you sitting in a chair reading a book?

I want to develop several aspects of this theme in some different ways over the next few days, we’ll consider this a brief introduction. Feel free to leave comments here or via email if you want to weigh in on this one.

 

March 14, 2016

Untitled*

Filed under: Christianity, culture, parenting, Religion — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:41 am

*Because of the large amount of traffic this blogs gets from search engines, I did not want to add to the frenzy described below. I’ve deliberately left this article completely without tags and without a title, which means perhaps only subscribers will initially see it; but we’ll also link to it on Wednesday and on Twitter.

img 031416

This article started out as part of my weekly scan of blogs and news sites looking for material for the Wednesday Link List, a process which usually starts late on Sunday afternoon and continues right up to Tuesday evening. In the process this week I discovered that much has been written lately about the suicides of gay Mormon teens, youth who are part of the LDS Church who are also LGBT, or perhaps LBGT-friendly.

I started to type the link item:

  • Trend-Spotting: Suicides among LGBT Mormon teens under-reported?

Preston Sprinklewith the link, and then realized I had a much bigger subject to wrestle with. Coincidentally, last week I picked up a title in a recent review book box, Living in a Gray World: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Understanding Homosexuality which I have to assume is the youth edition of People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue released the same week in December by the same author, Preston Sprinkle, and the same publisher, Zondervan.

I’ve been reading the chapters a little out of order, though I did listen to the interview Preston did on the sometimes irreverent Drew Marshall Show (scroll down to February 13) which discussed the adult version.

I realize that for everyone this is the biggest social issue facing the church right now. It’s to the present generation of Christians what divorce was in the 1960s and ’70s. And for a variety of reasons, it impacts tweens, teens and twenty-somethings in a major way, though many of those reasons have either a direct or indirect connection to the social changes that have been brought about because of the internet.

Recognizing that much has already been written on this elsewhere, I want to return to the present item, the impact on Mormon teens. Here are just a few stories from January and February and some opening paragraphs.

The first is a general news story that has been reproduced in various forms in various media over the past two months:

Unraveling the Truth Behind Gay Mormon Youth and Suicide

While there are conflicting reports regarding numerous suicides involving LGBT Mormon youth, there’s no question that there’s been an increase of suicidal teens and twenty-somethings following the Church’s new antigay policy.

Instituted in November, the new rules label any Mormon in a same-sex marriage as an “apostate,” which could include excommunication from the church, and bars children of all same-sex couples from being baptized. Reaction to the new rules was swift, with thousands severing ties from the Church of Latter-Day Saints in response.

Three months on, the mental effect on Mormon youth is becoming clearer. “Therapists have seen an uptick in clients who reported suicidal thoughts,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported recently. “Activists have been bombarded with grief-stricken family members seeking comfort and counsel.” …

[…The substance of this article also appears here and here.]

The second piece introduces the official change that took place in the church that has triggered the present situation.

How the Mormon Church can (and will) overturn its new policy and embrace LGBTIs

[Note: This article is from a gay website]

I’m not your typical gay man – but I’m also not your typical Mormon.

From 2011 to 2013, I served as executive secretary in the bishopric of my home congregation in San Francisco as my authentic self – an openly gay man.

A major emphasis of what I’ve worked to accomplish over the past several years is mending the fences between the LGBTI community and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the wake of the Church’s misguided and damaging involvement in California’s Proposition 8.

And progress was indeed being made…

…But that took an abrupt turn in November of last year, when the church announced a new policy making apostates (people who renounced or abandoned their belief) of any LGBTI individual married to someone of the same gender.

…If that wasn’t bad enough, in January this year, a talk given by Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and next in line to be prophet and president of the entire church, pronounced the administrative policy a revelation from God, elevating it to near doctrinal status…

The third item indicates the problem is very widespread and goes beyond the number of kids who resort to suicide.

“Safe and Sound” seeks to get LGBT teens off the streets

A disproportionately high number of homeless youth trying to survive on the streets in Utah identify as something other than “straight.”

Homeless youth counselors say a large number of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens also come from Mormon homes — kicked out because they are gay.

“It’s awful. The stories we hear are just terrible,” said Marian Edmonds, the director of Ogden OUTreach, an LGBT community center in northern Utah.

At a panel discussion Tuesday night, Edmonds and others who work with these children spoke out about the problem — noting that as many as 40% of the estimated 1,000 homeless youth in Utah identify as LGBT…

I do not for a minute believe that the problem is limited to the LDS Church. I think it is a microcosm of what’s taking place when we extended the broadest definition of Christian, but that the recent Mormon pronouncement simply caused rapid acceleration of a trend that was already there.

img 031416aFor the rest of us, the issue is fraught with complexity. We don’t want to drive kids away from the church or from Jesus. Condemnation does that. On the other hand, we want them to see God’s ideal for family life. I often discuss this people in terms of

  • good
  • better
  • best

It avoids the use of “wrong” and is in fact closer to the Biblical definition of “missing the mark” (sin) which I touched on briefly in this article.

But we also don’t want to see parents, grandparents, siblings and extended family go through the pain and loss caused by suicide; or live with the knowledge that their son or daughter’s perceptions of the Christian message drove them to that act.

It’s easy to dismiss this as a “Mormon problem” when in fact I believe we haven’t yet seen the full impact of today’s Junior Highs and Middle School children who daily face social realities that are 180-degrees opposite to traditional Christian teaching.

I don’t — and I hope you don’t — believe for a minute that the intention of Jesus is that the standards set in Leviticus or in the Sermon on the Mount or in Paul’s writings were ever intended to drive children to live on the streets or even end their lives.

Compassion, not condemnation is what is needed at this stage.


title slide: Patheos

 

 

March 6, 2016

Preparing Your 10-Year-Old for College

Filed under: children, Christianity, education, parenting — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:41 pm

Christian Camp

Christian CampingToday we were treated to lunch, and the subject of college and university experiences (both our own, and that of our children) was the main topic for about 15 minutes. One thing we agreed on strongly was this: The kids who have a summer camp background have a huge advantage over the kids who don’t have camping experience.

They are better equipped to deal with independent living (in the sense of living away from home) but also in the sense of communal living (in the sense of being in a dorm or student apartment). They also have a confidence that comes from wider and deeper living experiences.

Parents… send your kids to camp! My advice: Make it a Christian camp. In the U.S. click the link in the graphic at right for the CCI (Christian Camping International) directory to find a camp near — but not too near — you. (Just enter your zip code in the field at the right of their page; a similar site exists for Canada.) Will your child get homesick? Ask yourself which is easier to deal with: A homesick 10-year old or an 18-year old homesick college freshman? Choose the former to avoid the later.

If your kids are Jr. High or High School youth, start right away with a weekend spring camp experience. Contact a local church that has a vibrant youth ministry, or a branch of a parachurch organization like Youth For Christ or Young Life.

Bonus: It is said you can accomplish as much or more in the spiritual life of a child with one week of camp than with 52 weeks of Sunday School.

summer camp campfire

March 1, 2016

Some Day My Prints Will Come

Filed under: children, Christianity, parenting, personal — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:51 am

memories on slidesMost of the pictures of my childhood were developed as 2¼ x 2¼ slides. It was the newest technology of the day, and the feeling was the “wide screen” offered a higher quality image than standard slides.* Every year or so, we would go down memory lane as a family by setting up the projection screen and the projector and watching one after another, possibly along with a few 8mm family movies.

Today, the film and slide canisters sit in a box somewhere. We have the projector, but I’m afraid to try in case the bulb goes. Replacements might be difficult to find.

My wife and I took a different route, developing pictures the old-fashioned way and placing them in an album. (Well, not totally old-school, later on we would send digital files out for printing.) Reliving our family memories is as easy as opening a book.

For those reading today, this is a cautionary tale.

Too many people have too many memories which are currently parked on various social media accounts or worse, sitting on the devices that captured the image on the day they were taken. You are dependent on the technology of the day which may or may not exist tomorrow.

For example, when the opportunity came, my Dad backed up our family movies to VHS. Our wedding is on VHS, and one of the two copies unspooled one day when we were rewinding the tape. (Be kind: Please rewind.) I’d like to transfer the VHS to a digital file, but I don’t want to have another tape get lost in the plastic shell.

And how do today’s digital files compare to whatever it is we’ll have tomorrow?

I realize the analogy has its weaknesses, there is no print-equivalent to movies, but in terms of our other (still) pictures, it’s been about three years now since we last sent a file out for printing.

We do print off a few on the home computer so that my mom can keep them in the facility where she lives, but even they, though done on proper photo paper, are rendered in ink-jet, not laser, which means they are extremely vulnerable. I fear a computer crash could just wipe out everything. 

Furthermore, there’s a great irony in the fact that while the new technology means that camera ownership (via phones) is at a record high, new technology means that so many of those memories stand to be lost when people change or even misplace devices.

Again, this is a cautionary tale. Nobody is paying me to say this. But go through your SD-card computer, or your laptop and pick a few images and create a file that your local photo shop can run for you.

I believe you’ll thank me some day.

memories slide


*This is an argument that is somewhat meaningless. Beta had superior picture quality to VHS, but lost the market war. Blu-Ray is considered much better than standard DVD, but again, the market favors the latter. In this example, the wider format slides simply never caught on. The projector we owned was capable of showing both types, a concession to this situation.

January 21, 2016

Losing Our Church Kids

img 012116

On a recent Focus on the Family interview, Kevin Leman said something to the effect that they’re now seeing behavior in middle school kids that previous generations didn’t manifest until early college. I think you know the kind of thing he’s talking about.

I don’t want to talk about that here today. I don’t want our minds to go there beyond a passing understanding that today’s kids are experimenting with sex at very, very young ages. (And drugs, too; he mentioned the prevalence of heroin in the suburbs because the richer kids can afford it.)

What I want to talk about is the idea that a kid — and remember we’re now talking middle school, so grades five to eight — begins a routine of sexual activity or drug use that also, running along a parallel track, begins an estrangement from God. Leman says that even the most church-immersed kid will do anything to fit in with his other friends; the ones at school.

Obviously, anything that the church is teaching at this point may become either objectionable or convicting. Nobody wants to hear all that moralism if it’s starting to stand in contrast to an emerging behavioral lifestyle. So they make excuses why they can’t attend weekend services or mid-week groups.

  • “I don’t feel well.”
  • “I have an assignment due tomorrow.”
  • “I need to take a week off.”

The thing is, the life and ministry of Jesus was all about hanging out with the people who were the most overt sinners in his time and place. No kid should feel that Jesus is the enemy, but they do. They are starting to recognize there is a cost to following him, and part of that cost is going to involve not doing what it seems that everybody else is doing. 

img 012116bThe other aspect of this is that depending on how your church allocates staff responsibility, it’s often the children’s ministry director who is now working with kids dealing with issues that formerly were the exclusive purview of the youth ministry director. Plus, youth pastors are generally more wired to track down a kid who starts skipping youth group and trying to get to the heart of what issues may be arising. A KidMin director may assume that the parents have any situation under control.

For parents, observing the pattern shouldn’t take long, but understanding the reasons may take some research. Who are his/her current best friends? What are they talking about at lunch or on the school bus? What are they watching online? What type of things happened at the Friday night party he/she went to; or the party before that?  

Keeping a healthy dialog going is key to knowing your middle schooler’s heart and mind. One thing said on the Focus broadcast was that the place for some serious discussions is often while you’re on the Interstate. The kids have nowhere to go. Get them to lose the earbuds for a few minutes and find out what is central to their world. 

But please, hear this: Don’t let their spiritual life die in the middle of a time of peer pressure and temptation. This is when they need an anchor.


I’ve wandered in a different direction today — looking at the child/church relationship — but you can listen to the program with Kevin Leman at Focus on the Family in two parts, starting with part one*; or in his book Planet Middle School.

*many of the citations above are actually from part two

 

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 2, 2016

It’s Not Just a Story – Part Two

"Jonah Leaving the Whale" by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1600. Do our children treat the story as a record of a true event or do they mentally classify it with Jack and the Beanstock?

“Jonah Leaving the Whale” by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1600. Do our children treat the story as a record of a true event or do they mentally classify it as fable, along with Jack and the Beanstock?

I didn’t set out planning a second part to Friday’s post here, but Bruce Allen put so much thought into his comment, I decided we needed to share it more visibly. This is a response to part one, however, so if you haven’t read that, click this link. He lives in Nova Scotia and owns and operates Time Zone Media which does communications work for a variety of ministry organizations and businesses.

••• Guest post by Bruce Allen •••

In our English-language-world, words come and go and even reverse their meanings, such as “wicked” which meant “wonderful” for at least a few years. There is a long list of English words reversed meanings or held captive. People who blow themselves up in crimes against humanity are called martyrs by their fellow zealots and the news media picks it up and repeats the word until the general population accepts the new definition: Martyrs are cold-blooded killers rather than those murdered. Older English speaking Christians may sort out those “reversed meaning” words but what about a younger generation that stares blankly at their cell phones while texting and doing “selfies?” How should Bible translators deal with a language in flux? Is a “wicked” king now an “awesome” king rather than an evil king?

When the time arrived for Christian leaders to jettison words from earlier eras, there was a lot of brain-storming by Bible orality ministries to figure out what would replace “Bible story.” For my work with the words Bible and Bible stories, I came up with Bible chronicles.

Dictionary: Chronicle – noun, a chronological record of events; a history.

Wow! History, events, and accounts all sounded serious enough words to be Christian so I bought the Bible Chronicles web address and launched my Bible story word revolution with positive vibes.

After using Bible chronicles for several years, I discovered that fellow believers could never remember our web address: BibleChronicles.org . Whenever I felt duty-bound to tell church goers that “Bible story” didn’t cut it in today’s changing world, they fretted and worried. After tiring of explaining, I abandoned the revolution and returned to using Bible stories.

When a word like story is so embedded in a language, it is difficult to suddenly abandon it for other words, especially when the general population is unaware of the Christian world of words and their meanings. As far as teaching our own children, maybe we could begin with not telling them that Santa is real. If Santa knows that we are naughty or nice, who needs God? And what about the Easter bunny and a host of other fables? Do we set our kids up to think we never tell the truth?

Whatever we parents are, our kids become. It may not be so obvious during the teen years, but give it a decade and they become like mom and dad. If they come to understand that we parents truly love them and that we love Jesus and believe his words, we are on solid ground.

Of course we need to teach by the example of lived day to day. We also need to teach them from the Bible and about the Bible. If we see on TV that ISIS just took sledgehammers to Jonah’s tomb in Nineveh, that is a good historical lesson. Who would put a tomb there if there were no Jonah?

Christian kids need to be taught by parents that the world of Christians and Jews is rooted firmly in history – and with the war in Syria and Iraq, history is right in front of our biblical noses. Recently, tens of thousands of Christians have been driven from the city of Mosul and the Nineveh plain by the ISIS murderers. Why not find out about those ancient Christian churches and why they celebrate the Jonah fast? Why not tell the story of those Christians and then read the Biblical account to anyone who will listen – including our children? We have the best stories ever – they are in the Bible and they are true.

From Wikipedia:

Nineveh’s repentance and salvation from evil is noted in the Christian biblical canon’s Gospel of Matthew (12:41) and the Gospel of Luke (11:32). To this day, oriental churches of the Middle East commemorate the three days Jonah spent inside the fish during the Fast of Nineveh. The Christians observing this holiday fast by refraining from food and drinks. Churches encourage followers to refrain from meat, fish and dairy products.

Here is a video of ISIS smashing the tomb of Jonah. Scroll down the page to view it. 


Bruce Allen is a Christian communications consultant to ministries using solar audio Bibles to reach an estimated 3 billion people who cannot read God’s written Word. He is also a software developer who has created ToucanChat for ministries and businesses. A simple installation of Toucan Chat helps ministry workers connect with visitors on their website in real time. Bruce’s personal opinion in the “Bible story” article is his own and does not reflect the views of any particular ministry. 

Stephen Rue, Jonah in the Whale, oil on canvas, 26.25″x25″, 2006. Say what you will about Jonah, packing the waterproof matches was good foresight.

Stephen Rue, Jonah in the Whale, oil on canvas, 26.25″x25″, 2006. Say what you will about Jonah, packing the waterproof matches was good foresight.

 

 

 

December 31, 2015

It’s Not Just a Story

Is the story of Balaam and his donkey something that actually happened or just a story the Bible tells to make another point? It's possible to accept it as something that happened, but be sending your kids a completely opposite message through your choice of words. Image: Source

Is the story of Balaam and his talking donkey something that actually happened or just a story the Biblical writer tells to make another point? It’s possible to accept it as rooted in genuine events, but be sending your kids a completely opposite message through your choice of words. Image: Source

Several weeks ago I attended a Saturday morning breakfast organized as part of a national initiative, the Canadian Christian Business Federation. They are currently operating in six provinces here, and this was my second time at the local chapter.

Some of the best interactions in situations like this happen outside the boundaries of what was formally organized. It turned out that the person sitting next to me at breakfast was from Florida, where he is part of a Creation Science ministry.

We met up later in the morning at the Christian bookstore, and he was looking at Children’s products. I started talking about some of my recent conversations with parents on how as kids, we learn the ways of God through narratives. Adam and Eve. David and Goliath. Jonah and the large fish. Joshua and the Wall of Jericho. Three men in the fiery furnace.

At one point, I used the word story to describe these, and at that point he corrected me, and it’s a correction I’ve been very consciously aware of over the past few weeks. Better, he suggested to use the word account.

The problem with story is that in some peoples’ minds it is synonymous with tale or myth. Now, I realize as I write this, that there are some people — even among readers here — who do in fact see some of these as allegorical tales. Especially the creation narrative with which he works so closely. I suppose we need to save that one for another day.

I also realize that the New Testament in particular is full of parable. There wasn’t ever a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son; right? Or had this played out somewhere? Were there several prodigal sons? Or is the parable an amalgam of things that have actually happened at different times in different places?

There’s even a classic Old Testament parable, told by Nathan, that we could call The Farmer and the Lamb.

So how do little children — who are being taught things that are myths and tales in their English classes — separate fact from fiction? Can a Christian kid say categorically that there was a David, a Jonah, a Joshua? Or are they just reading these things as literature?

Much of our attention in the church at large is currently focused on establishing the authority of the New Testament gospels. We know the disciples were willing to die for what they believed; what they had heard and seen with their own eyes and ears, or the testimony of witnesses they considered to be reliable.

But what about the authority of the Old Testament historical books?  Are the children in our sphere of influence as confident in the story account of the three men in the fiery furnace, or in their minds, is it in the same class as the one about Goldilocks and the three bears?

By better controlling our use of language, and especially thinking in terms of scriptural accounts we are testifying to the verity of the people and situations described.

 

 

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