Thinking Out Loud

September 4, 2016

CCM: Where it All Began

Next time you’re in the music department of a Christian bookstore, or listening to 20 The Countdown Magazine, realize you’re seeing/hearing the after effects of a movement which goes back a couple of generations. Today’s featured videos are all from the same YouTube user channel, Donald Gordon, Jr.

January 29, 2010

Leaving Room in Your Schedule versus Just Saying No

The title of this post really highlights the difference in approach between two very popular books of the last decade, Margin by Richard Swenson and Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.    The former’s premise was that you needed to leave some ‘headroom’ or margin in your life, you can’t over commit or over schedule or overtax your energies.    The latter took the more bottom line “just say ‘no'” approach.

Boundaries totally outstripped Margin in sales, but this month, Richard Swenson is back with In Search of Balance:  Keys to a Stable Life (Navpress).    Since Nav doesn’t exactly do the book review thing with bloggers, here’s what their own marketing states about the title:

Most of us live lives of “quiet desperation,” as Henry David Thoreau put it, except we’re no longer so quiet about it. When exactly did “all stress, all the time” replace the “green pastures and still waters”? And what can we do about it? We try to manage all the details thrown our way, but we lack a sense of calm and steadiness at the center. Richard A. Swenson, MD, author of the best-selling book Margin, helps us understand the dangers of living in a post-balance world and gives us hope for recovering a foundational sense of equilibrium.

Dr. Swenson offers not only important organizing principles for making sense of our priorities but also scores of practical tips for finding rest and contentment in a world that emphasizes materialism and busyness. His advice is grounded in the daily realities we all experience, but his wisdom has been honed by the big-picture perspective of an exhaustive study of the stresses of modern life.

October 2, 2009

Opposite Sex Encounters

Filed under: family — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:13 pm

On Thursday, Jon Acuff at Stuff Christians Like told the story of being scheduled to get a ride back to the airport with a woman following a conference appearance.    (To his credit, he requested another driver.)   He then used the story as a springboard to discuss other contexts in which men and women suddenly find themselves in a situation with person of the opposite gender.

If you missed it, you should click here.

Jon obviously struck a nerve, because as of this writing, there are 172 responses to that short article.

I can relate.    In my job I encounter times when I am relatively “alone” with someone of the female persuasion.   But I relate more to his story because there is something much more intimate about being in a car with someone.   When I was doing itinerant youth ministry, guys would sometimes want to talk and the car was probably the best place to get away from the crowds.  And as for girls, well, that’s why guys buy cars in the first place.   The bus and subway is far cheaper.

So while I often experience one-on-one discussions with women, I would estimate that probably only four or five times in the last twenty years have I been driving someone somewhere and it was just her and I.    (A couple of specific people come to mind, and I’m assuming there were probably a couple of others.)

In the one type of case, it’s just a simple matter of conversation and transportation.   In the other type of case, there is a sexual tension so thick you could cut it with a knife.

And in another case, that didn’t take place in an automobile, I was just talking to someone who seemed to, for lack of a better phrase, radiate some kind of sexuality or sexual energy.  She wasn’t “hot” in the sense people use that word today, but there was some other thing going on that’s tough to define.

caution danger

Fortunately, I had bright red “DANGER” signs flashing in my brain during that conversation.

So I already know that Jon’s post resonated with a lot of readers.   I guess my question would be:   What is it that creates the awkwardness or tension in some situations that is totally absent in others?

December 12, 2008

Anne Jackson’s Mad Church Disease Releases in February

Filed under: Christianity, Church, family — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:19 pm

After many years of moving in Christian circles, I’ve gotten to know a lot of  people, but the people I’ve come into contact with this year through blogging are a truly special subset of the larger Christian community.

anne-jacksonAnne Jackson, who blogs at, is one of those people.   I dropped by her website earlier in the year, but it wasn’t until late spring that I became a regular visitor.   I then noticed she has a book coming out with my favorite publisher, Zondervan.

After pulling a few strings with them (note the “favorite publisher” line above) I was able to score an advance galley proof copy of Mad Church Disease Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic. This is a book for anybody who is in leadership or service in a local church or parachurch organization, either at the paid or volunteer level.   It’s not a book just for pastors, though pastors are a kind of flashpoint for the kind of burnout Anne describes.

Not living in a culture where advance ordering is as rampant as it is in the U.S., I want to save a more formal review for closer to its release date, when I think it can do Anne the most good.   Well, not just Anne; I just thing there’s a lot here that many of us can learn from.   My review will definitely have all the stars you can give a book, which is either four or five depending on who you talk to.

mad-church-diseaseWe can get so pumped about our church and witness activities that we fail to set boundaries which will help us set proper limits to ensure we don’t (a) overdose or choke on a diet of too much Christian service, and (b) end up disconnecting ourselves from normal family life.  Because it’s easy to O.D. on spiritual activity, this book can be a preventative; or if it’s too late, this book can help us find our way back to normalcy.   As Anne points out, there is not a lot in print on this topic.

This book rather ‘ambushed’ me a couple of times.

First, although my life is stressful, I don’t consider myself to have ever fully burned out.   Give it a week.  So I appreciate the distinction between stress and more severe forms of meltdown.   But there were some sections, particularly the section on relational burnout, where Anne was “Killing me Softly.”    I expected to read this book in a somewhat detached fashion, not really expecting to identify.

The second ambush came near the end.   I spread the reading out over the better part of a week, and as the book was wrapping up, I wished it had been at least 30% longer.   In particular, I was wishing that Anne had share more anecdotal material, especially more of her own story.    In the end, she did not disappoint.   This is a woman who is willing to bring her own past to print, exposing her vulnerability in the process, and yet still manage to pull of a treatment of a tough subject that is fully professional.

I’ll deal with the chapter arrangement and the whole analogy to Mad Cow Disease when I review the book again in late January.   But for now I do need to mention that Anne shares the spotlight with guest contributors such as Perry Noble, Wayne Cordeiro, Bill Hybels, Gary Kinnaman, Craig Groeschel (who wrote the foreword) and Brandi Wilson (wife of Pete Wilson, whose blog, Without Wax, is linked at right.)

Yes, this is a book that so-and-so needs to read.  (Aren’t all Christian books most ideal for somebody we know…?)  It’s also a book that you need to read.  And so do I.  Mad Church Disease releases in February from Zondervan.   Or you can ask your local Christian bookstore to reserve a copy for you right now.

Photo: Our file pic of Anne is a bit out of date. On her blog she is now decidedly brunette. Be sure to check out FlowerDust, but don’t steal her blogroll. It’s already been done.

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