Thinking Out Loud

February 19, 2015

Movie Review: The Drop Box

The Drop Box

The Drop Box is a 77-minute documentary film that is having a very limited (2-3 day) run starting on Wednesday, March 4th in theaters in North America. At first, I wondered how I would fare with a documentary; don’t people go to the movies to be entertained? And then I was concerned how I would navigate the two-thirds of the film that are in Korean with English subtitles.

The Drop Box photoThe story however is so compelling, so completely other than what you’re expecting, that you can’t help but be drawn in.

Lee Jong-rak, hereafter referred to as Pastor Lee, is the creator of South Korea’s only “baby box” for collecting unwanted infants, a role that was somewhat thrust upon him when an abandoned baby was left at the door of his church, something not uncommon in that culture. The box itself resembles one of the large depository boxes you might see at a bank. The pastor heard of a similar box in central Europe, but after getting no reply from that organization, gave up and built one from scratch.

The film begins with a child abandonment in process. In an interview with the filmmaker at Focus on the Family it is revealed that each such ‘drop’ sets off a door chime and as they run to the box, a camera is rolling. Some of the footage from various events is in the film. Often someone will also run outside to see if the mother is still nearby. In the case of the film opener, there is no note and the mother is gone, which means the child will go through life with no medical history, and if the baby is more than a few days old, no precise date of birth.

Hundreds of children have come to Pastor Lee in this way, and 15 of them have been formally adopted; he and his wife are their legal parents. There are concerns for the pastor’s health because of years of sleep deprivation caring for babies abandoned in the night, or crying in the facility.

While at least the first half hour of the film is somewhat all about babies, the script changes to look at one of the longer residents, one of the older of the adopted children. And then there is another story dynamic that is introduced closer to the end. All this to say that the film maintains a high level of intensity. As you try to catch the names and positions of people superimposed on the screen while at the same time keeping up with the subtitles, your viewing mirrors the relentless pace that Pastor Lee, his wife and the facility volunteers face every hour of every day. The film can leave you somewhat out of breath.

The filmmaker, Brian Ivie, shared with a Focus audience how his original motives were somewhat selfish. He read a newspaper story and figured Pastor Lee’s story was a vehicle that would help him accomplish a personal goal of getting into the Sundance Film Festival.

The book about the making of the movie

The book about the making of the movie

Instead, the film changed his life, and that of many of the crew of eleven he took with him to South Korea. His own story is told in a David C. Cook book releasing March 1st, The Drop Box: How 500 Abandoned Babies, an Act of Compassion, and a Movie Changed My Life Forever

This is one of those stories that is meant to leave you challenged, and it does. Some people wholly define what it is to give their all to a cause, and Pastor Lee of South Korea is one of those people. 

If you want to be part of a very special audience to share this experience, save the date and check out TheDropBoxFilm.com in the US or in Canada, TheDropBoxFilm.ca

February 18, 2015

Wednesday Link List

Morality in the 21st Century

Morality in the 21st Century

 

  • Mama Mea Culpa? – Ravi Zacharias on President Obama’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast: “For those who did not hear the talk, it is sufficient to say that it was the most ill-advised and poorly chosen reprimand ever given at a National Prayer Breakfast. I have been to several and have never, ever heard such absence of wisdom in a setting such as this…Citing the Crusades, he used the single most inflammatory word he could have with which to feed the insatiable rage of the extremists. That is exactly what they want to hear…
  • When You’ve Lost the Calvinists, You’ve Lost the Battle – Justin Taylor at no less than The Gospel Coalition is not on-side with ‘literal’ six day creationism: “It is commonly suggested that this is such a “plain reading” of Scripture—so obviously clear and true—that the only people who doubt it are those who have been influenced by Charles Darwin and his neo-Darwinian successors…So it may come as a surprise to some contemporary conservatives that some of the great stalwarts of the faith were not convinced of this interpretation…I want to suggest there are some good, textual reasons…”  (Of course, not everyone agreed.)
  • When It’s Time for a Time Out – A look at what it means to be “disqualified from ministry” and the related issue of restoration. “My point is that those who minister for God don’t live unimpeachable lives. By “unimpeachable” I mean perfect. But the sins we are often quick to use to disqualify someone from ministry are far less severe than denying Christ [or] adjusting the Gospel to make it square with our prejudice.”
  • If a First Century Christian Time Traveled to Your Church - “If Americanized Christians were to see how the first Christians lived, it would be denounced as some sort of communist cult being led by folks who distorted the Gospel…If Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort were to fly back in time to see how the first Christians– those who walked and talked with Jesus– were doing things, they’d say they were totally doing it wrong, and have succumbed to liberalism.”
  • Essay of the Week: What Makes a Movie/CD Christian? – “[William Romanowski] argues, when [Amy] Grant began to abandon explicitly Christian lyrics in favor of ones focused on romance, many Christians became uneasy and were forced to reconsider their paradigm for Christian art. Was Amy Grant enough of a Christian singer? The fact that Grant resisted easy categorization prompted discussion and debate. She defied the strict sacred/secular bifurcation. Of course, the only difference between Christian Grant and secular Grant was the lyrics. Christian art, the logic went, is Christian art only if it explicitly communicates its Christian-ness.”
  • Reinventing The Christian Bookstore – Even as the Family Christian bookstore chain enters Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, a former university textbook store has been re-purposed as a center for the Christian community in Winnipeg, Manitoba that is part retail, part library and includes many other parts: “Materials from the lending library, owned and operated by Mennonite Church Canada, sit in the middle of the spacious store, with catalogue stickers indicating the items are for loan, not for sale…” The university president adds, “We didn’t want to build only a library, but we wanted to build a public gathering place.”
  • Missing the Moment - We’ve all seen the pictures where people are so busy with their smartphones they miss something awesome taking place right next to them. Tyler Blanski addressed this and many other social media challenges in a November article that we just discovered: “…Mixing social media with daily life diminishes daily life. When I’m with my son, I want him to be able to take for granted that I am there. And no matter how often I might look up from my phone, if our time together is material for social media, I will never be more than half there. I want him to grow up in a home that is a safe haven, not a stage.”
  • Lost in Translation? - The NIV, ESV, Amplified, KJV and several others get together for a dinner party. (I hesitated to title this link, ‘If Translations Could Speak.’) A great premise if you’ve always wondered what they all think of each other. [NIV to ESV] “Look, I know you’re the new kid on the block, and that a bunch of pastors are all like, ‘Rah, rah, ESV, our study Bible can beat up your study Bible.’ But just because you’re new and polished doesn’t mean you’re better. Some of us have been around for a long time and have seen a lot of things.”
  • The Vanity and Toxicity of Conversation Toppers: “We may not realize it, but there is an art to making good conversation. Such artistry is not simply the goal of talk show hosts and salesmen but should be something that each one of us practices, especially those who serve as pastors.”
  • One for the Road - Next Sunday’s worship: Looking for something new that is both hymn-like and chorus-like and also lyrically deep? You could do this song with a driving rhythm section or a classically trained choir.

Short Takes:

Sometimes preachers talk about people being "too busy for God..." I found it interesting that in December, when we get busy, readership at Christianity 201 drops noticeably. When things get hectic, we do put spiritual disciplines on the back burner.

Sometimes preachers talk about people being “too busy for God…” I found it interesting that in December, when we get hectic, readership at Christianity 201 drops noticeably; some of us do tend to put spiritual disciplines on the back burner at busy times.

February 17, 2015

Book Review: The Happy Christian

In November of 2013, I reviewed a book by David Murray, Jesus on Every Page. When I was contacted about reviewing a new book by David, I immediately replied in the affirmative, only to receive an email that The Happy Christian was on its way. Wait, what? All I could think of was all my online friends who would cringe at the idea of reviewing something like “10 Ways to be a Happy Christian;” and then the book arrived and I was horrified to see that there were indeed ten sections, and the book’s cover art certainly alluded to a smiley face. Surely, I must find a way, to ditch this review obligation, right?

Happy ChristianI decided to read a few pages and before long, David Murray won me over. If anyone picks up this title looking for something trite or pithy, they are going to be ambushed.

If anything, I would call this book “An Encyclopedia of Fulfillment.” It looks at the things people crave and were made for and how society at large tries to find that satisfaction, but then shows how acknowledging Biblical principles where were there all along is the only way to find that satisfaction in life.

Each of the chapters also uses a cute mathematical formula, but the book is anything but formulaic. There’s also a healthy dose of reality in each chapter which eliminates any chance of this being characterized as a tome on positive thinking.

I hope I don’t offend the author or editorial team by saying this, but The Happy Christian is a book that pretends to be shallow but isn’t! In other words, it’s constructed along the lines of one of those “ten things” listicles but turns out to be much deeper.  There is an examination in each chapter to the writings of a secular psychologist (or similar) but they are used as a motif for deeper consideration. The book is highly footnoted — 381 end-notes, I counted them — and many of these are scripture references.

A few days ago I ran an overview of the second chapter, which looks at our media diet and how that shapes us. You can read that short excerpt by clicking here.

The type of happiness David Murray is describing here isn’t a passive thing that happens to you, but rather more of an activist happiness, a state of satisfaction and fulfillment in life that comes from entering into the life Christ offers, rather than sitting back waiting for happiness to arrive like a check in the mail. 

There are also a number of unexpected issues that the author raises which might challenge the reader, such as the idea that if the situation allows for it, Christians should select retailers or tradespeople from among fellow Christians. In the chapter on grace, he writes:

God blesses the world for the benefit of the church and every Christian in it.  His multiple varied blessings of industry, business, government, science, friendship, art, food, music, water, seasons, talents and gifts, conscience, courts, medication, air conditioning, and more are ultimately working together for the good of those who love Him.

That’s why we shouldn’t be ashamed to use non-Christians for goods and services.  Sometimes Christians and churches may decide to buy a certain good or service from a company simply because it is a Christian company.  The product or service may not be the best, but it has a Christian owner.  That’s faulty thinking, thinking that results from failing to understand God’s everywhere grace.  If God has enabled a non-Christian to make the best product or provide the most efficient service, we should gladly buy from him or her and regard it as God’s grace to that person and to us.  (p.112-3)

My only criticism is that perhaps in an effort to shape the book into a “top ten” format, the teaching on generosity and forgiveness were combined; I think each really deserved its own chapter.

The Happy Christian: Ten Ways to Be a Joyful Believer in a Gloomy World releases February 24th in paperback from Thomas Nelson. Look for the somewhat smiling cover where you buy quality books.

February 16, 2015

Design Team on the Ground in Haiti

Filed under: education, missions, parenting — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:33 am
Image captured on Flight Aware mid-trip. I don't consider this helicopter parenting, it's more like satellite parenting.

Image captured on Flight Aware mid-trip. I don’t consider this helicopter parenting, it’s more like satellite parenting.

Though he’s been away from home off and on for many years, this is the first time we’ve ever been cut off from our son electronically.  It’s going to be a long week as we wait for the first communication when they return to the US and then Canada, though I recognize that for some of you reading this, Haiti is just a stone’s throw away compared to places in the world where you have close relatives.  If you’re coming in part-way through this story, I wrote about his 4-month internship with the organization at this blog post.

emi logo brickThe more I hear about Engineering Ministries International, the more impressed I am with this organization and the unique role they fill in world missions.  I’m so excited to be able to passionately tell their story.  At 9 minutes, this video is a little long, and requires you to read the captions, but it defines exactly what a design team does in the various countries in which EMI serves. They’re not doing the actual building, which means they’re not taking away work from locals.  They’re also living within the realities of the budgets the host organization is working with, and the construction materials that are available. In Haiti, the latter is a daunting prospect.

The director of the team he’s serving on wrote about all the things they’re taking with them.

We get 1 suitcase each. Between our 4 and the 2 belonging to the interns also leaving from Calgary, we’ve managed to pack:

  • water test kits, a pocket penetrometer, a TDS meter, measuring tapes, a portable printer and all sorts of other engineering-type stuff
  • first aid kits, headlamps, plug adapters
  • craft items, both from our own stash and donated by our church to do a craft day with the kids there
  • several quilts sewn by kids from our church
  • pillow case dresses and shorts sewn by a friend with a heart for orphans
  • hats knitted by [our daughter]
  • t-shirts from a friend of eMi
  • some hand-me-down clothes
  • small toys and school supplies from [our daughter’s] friends
  • some hot chocolate (a special request!) & peanut butter
  • toothbrushes donated by a friend and toothpaste donated by our dentist
  • donated soccer balls and a pump
  • more school supplies [donated]
  • oh – and our own clothes and toiletries and such

There’s a ceremony that engineers go through — family are not allowed to attend — in which they are given a ring. My son wrote about that recently:

As my graduation neared, I was given a steel ring to wear as a tangible reminder to double-check my work because, in engineering, I will often have people depending on it for their safety, but I’m finding that I don’t need the reminder. The spectacle and gravity of the work, and the humbling and uplifting character of the cause, are enough.

Anyway, this has been somewhat random, but I hope you’ll remember the team in prayer this week, and if you have engineers, surveyors, architects or people with similar gifts in your faith community; EMI is always looking for people to go on short-term trips.  If you know a student who is studying any of those fields, there is opportunity to do a internship — the other intern on his team is doing a co-op term — for professional credit. You can link to the various websites at these links:

 

 

February 15, 2015

Weekend Link List

Crossing the Red Sea - 21st Century Edition

Crossing the Red Sea – 21st Century Edition

Some really good story teasers here; pick a few and click through to read…

  • Paying the Price of Criticizing Your Church – Byron King, who is what we would call a district superintendent in the Mormon Church, has informed popular Mormon podcast John Dehlin that he is no longer part of the LDS church: “‘I acknowledge your right to criticize the Church and its doctrines and to try to persuade others to your cause,’ King writes in the letter. ‘But you do not have the right to remain a member of the Church in good standing while openly and publicly trying to convince others that Church teachings are in error.’ In addition to the charges listed in the letter, Dehlin claims he’s being targeted for expressing public support for same-sex marriages, and the ordination of women.”
  • Sermon Feedback in Real Time – “Whatever your background, most communicators…enjoy having people in the audience provide feedback… Verbal call and response feedback. Responding in the moment… [S]ome of you that are immediately thinking if anyone spoke up during our Sunday services that they would be immediately removed… Now in the church I group up in, there were only a few folks who had ‘permission’ to respond to the sermon on a Sunday morning, and they usually went with the traditional  ‘Amen’ or ‘Hallelujah…'” What follows this introduction is a wild and wacky list of 50 alternative words or phrases you can use to encourage the person up front. (Or throw him or her completely off their game.)
  • The Pendulum Swing of Ministry - “1. I’m doing an awesome job vs. I’m doing an awful job. 2. I’m completely overwhelmed vs. I’m so bored 3. Things are going great personally vs. I’m in the ditch. 4. I love the church vs. I’m so frustrated with the church. 5. Micromanagement vs. Abdication.” “Knowing the pendulum swings of ministry and leadership can help you manage the pendulum swings of ministry and leadership.”
  • Proof-texting the Quran – “Instead of taking the time to actually read the Quran ourselves and listen to faithful Muslims tell us what their faith is actually about, we’ve allowed ourselves to buy into the hate-filled lies of fear-mongers on the Internet, cable news, talk radio, and even the pulpit. We cling to the cherry picked verses they throw out from a book they’ve never read and rally around the converted outliers they parade out to confirm our suspicions of a secret Muslim conspiracy to take over the world.”
  • Anatomy of a Transition – “…The all-white church moved to its current location in a mostly white neighborhood in the early 80s — and its new neighborhood began to change. In addition to a racial change, the neighborhood’s major employers moved to other places. And we realized we needed to bring in younger, more diverse members to help our church thrive. Our church had to make big changes or die…While our diversity is increasing, we must continue efforts to reflect the racial makeup of our neighborhood. But after much prayer, strong lay leadership and a willingness by many to be courageous, change has come… We have made the change from survival mode to the hope of thriving.”
  • A Different Take on Free Will – A book review: “I also wonder if [author Vincent] Bugliosi has thought about what the elimination of free will would accomplish. This of course would not be difficult for God to do. He would simply reoccupy the space He has created between us and Him and would force us to do His will. Whatever God wished to do with us, whatever task He had in mind, we would simply do – without complaining, without resisting, without evading. We would be, in effect, machines. If God ever does listen to Bugliosi and grants this wish, I certainly hope that He also eliminates our self-awareness. I can think of no worse fate than to spend endless time being controlled, directed, adjusted, worked – totally devoid of any ability to plan or to choose or to accomplish.”
  • Christian Fiction Sales Down 15% – Publishers Weekly reports the drop in one particular category of Christian book sales, “Many see what [Tyndale’s Karen] Watson calls ‘a winnowing away’ of Christian houses publishing fiction as part of the reason for the drop in sales. Moody Publishing’s River North imprint moved from 8-12 releases in 2013 to 3-5 in 2014. Abingdon Press ‘paused’ in acquiring fiction in August 2014, pulling back from its 25-35 fiction titles per year; and B&H Publishing Group ‘realigned’ its fiction strategy to only publish novels tied to brands such as B&H Films or other cross-platform initiatives.” But the article stresses that the publishers are “not in panic mode.”
  • Describing Your Dream Church – “Talking about one’s “dream church” is–increasingly, I’ve come to think–an exercise in not only futility but flat-out gospel denial. The church does not exist to meet our every need and satisfy our various checklists of tastes and “comfort zone” preferences. If anything it exists to destabilize such things. The church should draw us out of the dead-eye stupor of a culture of comfort-worship. It should jostle us awake to the reality that comfort is one of the greatest obstacles to growth. The two years I’ve attended my current church have been difficult and full of discomfort, but also probably the most spiritually enriching two years of my life.”
  • When a Social Media ‘Friend’ DiesHow do you mourn someone you only knew as an idea?” Right there, you may disagree with the premise. The article continues, “I will experience more death than my parents, because I know more people than my parents. People I haven’t given any thought to in years, people who – for all generations before mine – would have simply slipped out of mind, can remain on my social radar simply because there they are, archived. Here, look: a wedding album. There: a birthday reminder. And inevitably, at some point: a death.”
  • Atheist Reaps Huge Profit from Bible App – “A self-professed atheist is reportedly making over $100,000 a year selling a Bible app that he designed… Trevor McKendrick found a gap in the app market for a Spanish translation of the Bible and made the app for about $500. He now makes about $6,000 a month for his app and has added an audio version as well. The Mormon-raised app designer said that he feels guilty about profiting from a book that he believes to be a work of fiction.”

Short Takes

 

Literal Bible

 

Inclusion of stories here does not imply endorsement.

February 14, 2015

Love That is not Recognized: Thoughts for Valentine’s Day

Filed under: children, family, marriage — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:06 am

heart sandwich

I have a favorite lunchtime sandwich consisting of at least two types of lettuce and a mix of tomatoes, peppers and cheese.  My wife makes them for me, and if my schedule required me to need to take a lunch every day, I could eat them every day. Sometimes they’re on a Kaiser bun, and sometimes, they’re on a whole wheat bun like the one in the picture.

Not too long ago, I was having a post-lunch phone call with Ruth and I commented that the way she had cut the bun and placed the sandwich formed a heart shape.

“Did you know that today’s sandwich forms a heart?” I innocently asked.

“Yes…” she replied but there was something implicit in the short reply that I needed to pursue.

“How long have you been doing this?”

“Years.”

And then after a long silence, I said, “I guess I never noticed; I just opened up the package and started eating.”

We have a word for love that is not returned, unrequited love, but what about unnoticed love? What about the person who pours love into a spouse, a child, an elderly parent; and that love simply flies over their head?

Using The Five Love Languages as a template, this would consist of words of affirmation that aren’t truly heard, physical touch that is misinterpreted, gifts that are not appreciated, quality time that isn’t seen as an investment in the other person, or acts of kindness that are written off due to a sense of entitlement or are simply missed as in the example above due to distraction?

Put yourself in my place for a moment. I would have to ask myself, What other little acts of love am I missing? Probably more than just than one. What about similar ‘messages’ from my children, or my co-workers, or people in my church?

But then again, perhaps this is partially about unrequited love. Simply put, we talk a lot about the ‘I love you return.’ Someone says ‘I love you’ and there is an expectation that the context or the relationship is such that the other person will say it back. When they don’t, there’s that awkward silence.

So basically, there’s a situation here where someone has been saying they love me to me every workday at noon, and I wasn’t responding. Instead, I would phone after lunch and say things like ‘Did you remember to pay the water bill?’ or ‘We’re having a really slow day today and what’s making it worse is that…’

So I need to say something like, ‘Thanks for today’s sandwich; I love you, too;’ and by rough estimates, I need to say it about 500 times to make up for past deficiencies.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Ruth.

I love you.


For everyone else, here’s a summary of the love languages from FierceMarriage.com; click the image to read the accompanying article and check out the book by Dr. Gary Chapman where you buy quality Christian books.

love languages


We were also married on Valentine’s Day.  I’ve written about that twice before:

Given the nature of Canadian winters, we celebrate on a 6-month offset, on August 14th.


The weekend link list appears tomorrow

 

 

February 13, 2015

Family Christian Stores Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection

The management team at Family Christian Stores — the largest chain in the United States — believes that its best option to keep the stores open is to file for Chapter 11 protection.  Here’s the first few paragraphs on the story from Christianity Today:

Family Christian Stores (FCS) has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Yet the ministry assured customers yesterday that it “does not expect” to close any of its more than 250 stores or lay off any of its approximately 4,000 employees.

“We strive to serve God in all that we do and trust His guidance in all our decisions, especially this very important one,” stated FCS president and CEO Chuck Bengochea. “We have carefully and prayerfully considered every option. This action allows us to stay in business and continue to serve our customers, our associates, our vendors and charities around the world.” …

With 266 stores in 36 states, FCS is the nation’s largest chain of Christian stores as measured by locations, not sales…

Continue reading at CT Gleanings (news page).

The CT story also links to this FAQ page concerning the filing.

An article at Publishers Weekly itemizes the major creditors:

Publishers are on the hook for millions of dollars led by HarperCollins Christian Publishers [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan] which is owed $7.5 million. Other publishers owed large sums include Tyndale House ($1.7 million), B&H Publishing Group ($516,414), FaithWords [Hachette Book Group] ($537,374), and Barbour Publishing ($572,002). Ingram’s Spring Arbor distribution arm is owed $689,533.

While the video is very optimistic, this development highlights the seriousness of the state of the Christian publishing industry. The amount of exposure that HarperCollins has in this means that it and other creditors will be watching closely to see what they can expect to get out of the restructuring.

February 12, 2015

The Sin of Embellishment

Filed under: Church, ethics — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:55 am

Brian Williams NBC Nightly NewsNightly News host Brian Williams was in a war zone traveling in a convoy of airplanes. One came under attack. It was not the plane in which Williams was a passenger. But over time the story morphed into one in which the aircraft he was in sustained mortar fire. Or something like that. The allegation is that the story was therefore falsified by a person of trust, a network news anchor.

He certainly embellished the story. Or fell victim to false memory syndrome. As a result, he’s been suspended, without pay, from hosting the NBC national newscast for six months.

Some say it’s the end of his career.

For readers here, I couldn’t help but notice the similarity between Williams’ embellishment and Mark Driscoll’s plagiarism, though in Driscoll’s case, it may have been but one of many issues that brought down the end of the Washington state megachurch franchise known as Mars Hill.

But when it comes to embellishment, we do this don’t we?

By this I mean both we as individuals, and we as the church.

Individually, we paint an artificial picture of ourselves on social media. We idealize our children’s accomplishments and our recent vacation. We make sure our profile picture minimizes silver hairs or bags under the eyes. We minimize reports of failures and defeats.

Corporately, churches are known for enhancing numbers: Attendance figures, budgets, baptisms, altar call responses, and the number of kids on the Sunday School bus. Whether you call it an ethical lapse or deliberate dishonesty depends on how you interpret what’s been said, where you set the bar, or perhaps recollection of your own failings in this department.

It’s certainly akin to the fishing story; each time around the size of the fish caught gets larger and longer.

We can avoid being guilty of deceit or falsification — those are harsh words after all — by using terms like “approximately” or “as I remember” or even the euphemistic “evangelically speaking;” but the fact remains we tend to recollect the data in an upwards, not downwards direction.

So we need the Brians and the Marks; they serve to remind us that being ‘lax with the facts’ can catch up to us, that sometimes we have to pay the price for not being people whose accounts of things are reliable and dependable. We have to face the consequences of what scripture might describe as not ‘letting our yes be yes and our no be no.’

February 11, 2015

Wednesday Link List

The classic photo archive, Shorpy.com called this photo "Church of Meteorology." Here's why: "Going to church to pray for rain. Grassy Butte, North Dakota; July 1936."

The classic photo archive, Shorpy.com called this photo “Church of Meteorology.” Here’s why: “Going to church to pray for rain. Grassy Butte, North Dakota; July 1936.”  Click the image to view at source.

Each week we begin with a blank slate, never knowing what direction the week’s links are going to take.

  • When Bible Superficials are not Superficial – How words and paragraphs are set out on the page can affect the meaning we take away from the passage, so Bible typography — especially punctuation, paragraphing and chapter divisions — actually matters.  48 minutes; some of it quite humorous; and most of it is translation-neutral.
  • Taking the Plus-One Approach – Kevin DeYoung: “Are you just starting out at a new church and don’t know how to get plugged in? Have you been at your church for years and still haven’t found your place? Are you feeling disconnected, unhappy, or bored with your local congregation? Let me suggest you enter the ‘Plus One’ program of church involvement…In addition to the Sunday morning worship service, pick one thing in the life of your congregation and be very committed to it.”
  • Praying Together as a Couple – Last week the Stand to Reason blog had an excerpt from Tim Keller’s book on prayer, in which Keller, in turn quotes his wife on the necessity of prayer: “Imagine you were diagnosed with such a lethal condition that the doctor told you that you would die within hours unless you took a particular medicine—a pill every night before going to sleep. Imagine that you were told that you could never miss it or you would die. Would you forget? Would you not get around to it some nights? No—it would be so crucial that you wouldn’t forget, you would never miss. Well, if we don’t pray together to God, we’re not going to make it because of all we are facing. I’m certainly not. We have to pray, we can’t let it just slip our minds.”
  • When God is Silent – Tony Woodlief at InTouch Ministries: “[O]ver the years I have buried a child, ruined a marriage, and disappointed so very many people. In the midst of this life’s wreckage, there have been many long, dark nights when I scarcely had breath for prayer, let alone presence of mind to formulate the right words. Some nights I have lain across my bed, or on the floor, and I have wept, and hoped that tears suffice where words won’t come.” Tony at his blog: “I’ve talked about saudade, a Portuguese word meaning the presence of absence, which is how you feel, every day for the rest of your life, when you have lost someone you love. Their absence is a weight, it is a presence… This weighty nothing is also what you feel when you cannot discern God’s response.”
  • Saturday Morning at the Inter-Faith Service – This may resonate with some of you: “I am weary from a full and demanding week, and…to say that Sunday’s sermon is “unfinished” would be the height of understatement… I usually feel a little out-of-place at these ecumenical services, standing amidst all of my more impressive-looking clergypersons with their beautiful robes and vestments. I can only imagine how it looks from the pew. Who’s that guy with the scruffy sports coat who forgot to shave?  What’s he doing up there? Who let him sit amongst the real pastors and priests?”
  • Women in the Bible: Entirely New Metrics – “There are 93 women who speak in the Bible, 49 of whom are named. These women speak a total of 14,056 words collectively — roughly 1.1 percent of the total words in the holy book. These are the findings of the Rev. Lindsay Hardin Freeman, an Episcopal priest who three years ago embarked on an unprecedented project: to count all the words spoken by women in the Bible. With the help of three other women in her church community — as well as highlighters, sticky notes and spreadsheets — Freeman painstakingly dissected the Bible’s New Revised Standard Version.”
  • Religious Freedom in Canada – Television journalist Lorna Dueck devotes her half-hour program Context to the background story on the accreditation of the Law School at Trinity Western University by the various law societies in each of the Canadian provinces. At broadcast time, the legal battle was being fought on five separate fronts.
  • Is Christian Music Worth Listening To? – Is it worshiptainment? Jonny Diaz, a popular Christian recording artist, John Thompson, an executive with Capitol CMG Publishing, and Dr. T. David Gordon, a professor of religion joined host Julie Roys on the weekend for a sometimes heated discussion at Up For Debate, a program at Moody Radio. 48 minute audio. Which leads us to…
  • Where They Are Now – Jesus music and modern worship pioneer Kelly Willard talks about her battle with Bipolar Disorder and how it intersected life circumstances: “I KNOW that if I had not been on the correct medication(s) for my Bipolar Disorder, I would’ve ended up somewhere in a padded cell wearing a straight-jacket indefinitely. For you see, in 2004, my father died, my daughter committed suicide, my mother died, my 29 year marriage died (we divorced), and my stepmother took my inheritance from my father away from me.”
  • Finally, Just in Case You Need It – A directory of American churches — no doubt incomplete — where the lead or senior pastor is a woman. “I sense that some people would really prefer to have a woman in the senior pastoral role and the directory can help them find such a church.”

Short takes:

  • Vice.com gets into an in-depth article on Christians and pornography, including a focus on the ministry XXXChurch.com
  • Ten reasons why Jesus probably would be an outcast in today’s church.
  • A mission agency focused on Bible translation is using new methods to get the job done more efficiently as donor dollars decline.
  • David Platt talks to PARSE about his new book, Church and Culture.
  • InterVarsity has won a pivotal sex discrimination court case over hiring practices, with ramifications for other churches and Christian charities.
  • Pentecostal prayer gangs in prison: An interview with the creator of the documentary I Give My Soul.
  • K-LOVE goes video: “K-LOVE, the national Christian music radio chain, is launching a multi-platform video channel through a partnership with TAPP TV. ‘We are thrilled about K-LOVE TV creating another avenue for fans to connect and go deeper with K-LOVE, their faith and the artists they love,’ said Mike Novak, K-LOVE President and CEO. The service costs $9.95 per month.”
  • The band I Am They — named after passages in the New Testament — formed somewhat by accident.
  • And speaking of bands, our video of the week is the song My God by new Canadian band Caves featuring Amanda Cook.
  • If you’re having trouble beating the February blahs, why not relax and enjoy some lighter side reading from author/speaker Phil Callaway. (Though my pick was the more serious items in the interviews section.)

Leonard Sweet tweeted this on Tuesday, calling it “a different kind of last supper.”  The artist is Johan Andersson. Click the image for more information.

A Different Kind of Last Supper

February 10, 2015

A Great Reason for Becoming a Church Member

Filed under: Church, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:39 am

Short StoriesPastor Henders shifted on his chair several times. It had only been two years, but he really needed to ask the church board to consider a replacement office chair. The one he had was less than ideal, especially after a full day of office appointments. Thankfully there was just one left to go. His secretary administrative assistant said that he was on time for the Allerbys, a couple that had been attending for about a year, and then announced she was leaving for the day.

Mark and Diane Allerby had said they were interested in church membership. This appointment would be quick, especially since the Pastor had found a way to fast-track the process. After some customary small talk with both of them, the balance of the first part of the conversation was mostly between Mark and the pastor, with Diane joining in later.

PH: You’re already getting this in a letter, probably arriving on Monday, but I wanted to thank you for paying for the classroom set of Bibles for the Grade Six class. You were quite generous.

MA: We’re glad to help.

PH: We got an even better deal and were able to purchase more than we expected with the money, so we bought some early reader Bible story books the Grade One class has been asking for.

MA: Glad it all worked out.

PH: So as you know, membership requires you to take the newcomers’ class, but we just started one two weeks ago, and once we start, we don’t add people to that group. So, although you didn’t come here directly from Maple Grove Church, I called their pastor last week and he confirmed that you were members there for ten years, so I think we can call this a transfer even though there’s the three years in-between; but first I needed this office appointment that we would have done either way.

MA: Did the pastor at Maple Grove say anything about us? [Shifts awkwardly] I mean, did he say to say ‘Hi’ or anything?

PH: Well, he’s only been there for four months. So he just went through the records and confirmed the duration of your membership. He said he thought the secretary, er, administrative assistant might know you, but she was off for the week.

MA: That would be Thelma. She’s been there a billion years now.

PH: I’m not sure exaggeration is scriptural, Mark.  Anyway, the main thing we always ask in these interviews is, ‘Why do you want to enter into membership.’  Everyone has their own reasons; at one point you had to be a member to sing in the choir, but nowadays nobody knows what a church choir is. Of course you need it to teach Sunday School or teach in the midweek programs, but not to volunteer for a non-teaching role.

MA: Well actually…we’re interested in sort of getting involved in the issues.

PH: I’m sorry, issues?

MA: Well, yes. We want to be able to be more involved in various issues and concerns that arise in the life of a church and be able to speak to those issues with an involvement that is best expressed by being actual members and not just attenders.

PH. That’s encouraging. Are you thinking you’d like to put your name forward to be on the board? I mean, usually people are here two years, but if you join by transfer…

MA: Well, not exactly. We just want to be able to respond to things in a way that only church members can.

PH: I’m not sure I’m getting this.

MA: Well, for example, if the church was heading in what we were considering an unhealthy direction on a specific issue, we could then pull our membership.

PH: [blank stare]

MA: But we can’t do that if we’re not members.

[at this point, Diane clears her throat to speak]

DA: Basically, Pastor Henders, right now, we have no leverage.

PH: Uh…

MA: Membership gives us the voice we don’t have.

PH: So basically, you want to join the church because it gives you the option of quitting the church?

MA: Yes, that would sum it up, I think.

PH: We do have membership votes on anything that is considered controversial, you know. You can vote for, you can vote against, or you can abstain. It’s not necessary to threaten to withdraw from membership if there’s something you disagree with.

DA: [mysteriously] But it’s far more dramatic.

MA: What my wife means is that it has more impact than if we were just attenders.

PH: But attenders don’t vote at those meetings at all.

MA: No, I guess they wouldn’t.

PH: Is this what happened at Maple Grove?

DA: [in a Mississippi Southern Belle voice] Well now, isn’t that just a lucky guess?

PH: And the church you just came from?

MA: No, we couldn’t get membership there, so all we could do there is threaten to leave. And we did.

DA: And then we did.

PH: But then, why not just do that here? If there’s something you don’t like you can simply threaten to leave.

DA: And then we would.

MA: But it would never show on any records. This way, we’re listed in the official church register as members one year, and the next year–

DA: [in a Kindergarten, sing-song voice] –Now you see us, now you don’t.

PH: Poof! [throwing his hands up in the air]

[Everyone laughs, except the pastor is clearly only pretending to laugh.]

PH: Okay [filling in form while shifting uncomfortably on chair] …’Reason for seeking membership’ …Joining… in order… to be able… to quit… being a member.

DA: It doesn’t get more committed than that.

PH: This form needs to be approved before we can include you our next membership Sunday. Right now I’m not sure–

MA: What about the Grade Four class? Someone said they needed a new classroom set of Bibles as well.

PH: Well we don’t expect one single family to pay for everything.

MA: Well see, there’s a policy right there we could take exception to. We could say, ‘Unless they allow people to throw their money around, we’re going to pull our membership.’

PH: [firmly] You’re. Not. Members. Yet.

MA: That’s just the point.

DA: Yeah, now you’re getting it.

To be continued, unless of course the Allerbys have some objection…

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