Thinking Out Loud

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

 

 

 

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July 27, 2015

The Heavens Are Telling: A Review of Story in the Stars

The Story in the Stars

Several years ago I was made aware of First Century Foundations, the ministry of Joe Amaral. Joe and his wife Karen are based in Canada; their ministry is very similar to that of America’s Ray Vander Laan. Both are committed to help people see the life, teachings and miracles of Jesus in the context that his Jewish audience would have seen, heard and understood them. Although I had some early exposure to Ray, it has been Joe’s teachings which most recently have helped me learn more of this type of content, which truly makes the Gospels come alive. In addition to books such as Understanding Jesus and What Would Jesus Read? they lead tour groups to Israel on a regular basis.

So it seemed only fitting that the man who has helped so many see so much of what we miss in our hurried scripture readings wearing Western-mindset glasses should turn his attention to the many astronomical references in the scripture which can be equally overlooked. (Perhaps it was the natural next step, since Joe takes his telescope everywhere.)

“Can you direct the movement of the stars–binding the cluster of the Pleiades or loosening the cords of Orion?
 -Job 31:31 NLT

He who made the Pleiades and Orion And changes deep darkness into morning, Who also darkens day into night, Who calls for the waters of the sea And pours them out on the surface of the earth, The LORD is His name.
 -Amos 4:8 NASB

Story in the Stars is a DVD/BluRay combination which does leave you scratching your head in wonder at the detail that we’ve missed. Even the twelve signs of the zodiac, which is anathema in conservative Evangelical quarters, are rich in relevance when interpreted through a Biblical lens.

But the real payoff in this 41-minute documentary is a section at the end which gets into signs occurring in the heavens relevant to Jesus’ birth — a better understanding of what drew the Magi to the Bethlehem stable — as well as his crucifixion, resurrection and second coming. Having been in the audience for several Story in the Stars live presentations, I can say that this video only begins to whet your appetite for this topic, and as I said above, it serves to warm you toward an area that has been off limits for many church people. Perhaps it’s the similarity of the word astronomy to the word astrology that throws Christians off the trail.

Story in the Stars is available for purchase or download at StoryInTheStars.com and at Christian Bookstores who can order copies through Elevate Entertainment via Send the Light Distribution. It’s a great introduction to a topic that many of us might never have considered. A companion coffee-table book is also available; and even though it’s not about astrology, the move or the book make a gift and conversation-starter for someone who has that passion.

 

 

February 19, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Sisters Jamming Bus


Too much rain in England, too little in California. Snow and ice in Texas, a balmy 70-degrees at the Winter Olympics. Whether you believe these are the end times, or simply attribute it to global warming, either way, it’s time to pour a coffee and read this week’s link list. 

This Wednesday feature is owned by PARSE, the blog of Leadership Journal, a division of Christianity Today.Clicking anything below will take you there, where you can click on individual stories.

Paul Wilkinson blogs daily at Thinking Out Loud, but has been known to name-drop this Christianity Today connection in conversations. Suggestions are welcome, but make sure they’re real stories.

Upper photo: sourced at Matthew Paul Turner’s blog, who got it from Tumblr. Click image to link.

Clark Bunch includes one of these CoffeeWithJesus.com panels in his Monday blog post each and every week.

Coffee with Jesus

January 18, 2013

Review: Awakening of Hope – The Video

Several months ago I reviewed the book Awakening of Hope by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, which looks at several of the elements of what is sometimes called the new monasticism.  While there’s no mention of vows of poverty or silence, and nobody is wearing matching robes (or even hoodies), the book is an excellent study of everyday people who either choose to live in community, or find themselves living communally due to circumstances. The link in this paragraph leads you to a list of the six topics actually under study, which include the concept of a shared meal and the importance of pacifism.

Awakening of Hope - Jonathan Wilson-HartgroveI was quite taken by the book. The text is rich, and JW-H has a wealth of travel and experience to draw from in his writing. But all this time I was dying to know what the accompanying video would be like. Finally, I got my wish.

If your perception of Zondervan curriculum involves packages hosted by Philip Yancey or Andy Stanley, you’d be a little out of your depth with this one. Owing more to NOOMA than anything else, the six 15-minute sessions involve some very raw footage — with varying sound levels — that may or may not be in focus. In the very first minute Shane Claiborne is interrupted by a child at the door of the house where he’s filming, Chris Haw is distracted by backyard chickens and the people whose dining room Shane is using come home to find a film crew in their house.

More to the point, the segments are more of an extension to the printed book. When you’ve read the chapter and people have gone around the circle and discussed the various take-outs, you then start the DVD and are immersed in the topic on a whole different — and probably unexpected — level. The interviews — including one with L’Arche founder Jean Vanier — complement rather than continue what the book was discussing. (The book also contains the DVD study questions, there is no additional resource needed.)

I asked Gary O’Dwyer, a local pastor friend who is working with both the book and the DVD to confirm this and he agreed,

“The video is not tied directly to the book. The main portion of the video does offer some very interesting/inspiring individual examples of Hope as well as living Christ’s message.”

The six segments are somewhat equally hosted by Shane and Jonathan, and the DVD also contains nine short bonus clips, including Shane’s story of how The Simple Way got started.  Running time is about 90 minutes total with a U.S. retail of $26.99. Click the image above to watch a three minute preview. If you can only choose one item to purchase, I would suggest getting the book.

September 6, 2012

October Baby Releases Direct To Video

Last night my wife and I watched the movie October Baby which releases here in Canada direct to video on Tuesday; i.e. without the benefit of a prior run in theaters and the buzz that situation normally affords.  We don’t watch a lot of Christian films, but after seeing Facing the GiantsFireproof and Courageous, my wife noted, “Okay, we’ve had the football players, the firemen and the policemen… how about something for women next time?”

In a sense this film is the answer to that request.  Heavy on characterization and emotions, but not very complex in terms of plot and light on action.

The lead character in the picture is Hannah, consistently played by Rachel Hendrix a first year college student who is devastated to learn that she is the survivor of a botched abortion. Predictably, the movie then takes on a road trip theme as she with the help of Jason the friend that “has always been there” for her, played by Jason Burkey, an actor with extensive film and commercial credits. The other central character is Jacob, her father, played by popular actor John Schneider.

The spiritual meaning of the picture has more to do with forgiveness than any particular abortion-related message. There’s also an interesting twist regarding Shari Rigby, the actress who plays the role of Cindy, but for that ‘real life meets art’ moment you don’t want to miss the credits. (That’s not a spoiler, but it’s worth the risk since most people shut off the DVD player as soon as the credits begin to roll.)

The cast also has a minor role for Chris Sligh, who you’ll remember from the 2002 season of American Idol, who also provides several songs for the soundtrack.

The connection to the aforementioned Christian movies is the involvement of Provident Films, who also produced Flywheel and Second Chance. Because of the success of Fireproof and Courageous, many people will, like us, pick up this one to see the latest offering by that franchise. And hopefully some women viewers will find a storyline with a more feminine appeal and direction, though some, like my wife, may wish a few football players or firefighters had played a part after all.

June 23, 2012

The Quest for Family Friendly Entertainment

While admittedly we had some fun earlier in the week with the Southern Baptist Convention resolution to ban the sale of a DVD from its denominational retail chain’s stores, the story raises the more serious issue of finding quality entertainment for the whole family that’s not too boring and not too ‘edgy.’

The Christian bookstore — in either its traditional form or its modern, online counterpart — is supposed to be the place where you can trust that the products carried have gone through appropriate filters. Similarly, Christian radio stations — especially a few years ago — regularly applied the word safe to their tag lines to describe the type of music they offered.

But with DVDs being the only real growth area for the Christian products industry, an opportunity was seized very quickly. Chain “A” will verify that Chain “B” is carrying a particular title, and include it in their catalog. But it is hard to know how many people were part of the wisdom to promote the title at Chain “A.” 

Furthermore:

  • There are retailers selling family-friendly DVDs that would never consider selling family-friendly fiction books; they would contend there is simply too much good product from Christian publishers
  • There are companies selling family friendly DVDs that would never consider the idea of family-friendly music; they would question the idea of anyone being qualified to make that decision and the wisdom of investing their inventory dollars in secular music
  • There are Christian stores selling family-friendly DVDs that would never consider selling family-friendly plaques and picture frames; they would (rightly, I think) argue that there should be something distinctive (Christian symbol, verse of scripture) that makes the product something a Christian store would want to include.

But the dramatic movies and children’s DVDs somehow break through the wall; which means you as a customer don’t know for sure what you’re buying until you’ve read online reviews and studied the product packaging for warnings; and the people who do make product specifically targeting the Christian consumer now have to compete with every other family-friendly video producer out there.

April 18, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Welcome to WLL #100 !!  The list lynx is back for the party.

  • Okay, the story of the church in Corpus Christi, Texas that gave away cars and flat-screen TVs on Easter Sunday is so incredibly stupid that I absolutely refuse to link to it.
  • How much information is too much for six and seven-year-olds when the subject at hand is VBS stories of the persecuted church from the files of Voice of the Martyrs?
  • Here’s the Christian movie you didn’t hear about: The Church Team is a group of very astute gamblers who use their skills for good and not for evil. The film is The Holy Rollers. [alternate link for preview]
  • A woman with eight kids takes a very different look at the subject of how many kids to have and comes up with a very balanced answer. For some, maybe two is too many.
  • Author David Gregory changes publishers for the third book in the Perfect Stranger brand, Night With A Perfect Stranger.  You can enjoy a free .pdf download of chapter one at this link.
  • Cross Point Church (Nashville) Executive Director Jenni Catron shares the church’s seven staff values.
  • And do you know a new pastor just starting out?  Trey Morgan has 21 tips for a young minister, from a not-so-old minister.
  • Jamie Wright continues looking at the liabilities of short term missions: “Where Jesus appointed, we take volunteers. Where Jesus sent pairs, we send herds. Where Jesus admonished for danger and quiet humility along the road, we opt for vacation destinations and loud self-congratulations.” Amen to that.
  • The latest Top 200 Christian Blogs list is out, but once again, finishing at #201 as I’m sure we did, you won’t find this one listed.
  • Phil Johnson: “It’s my conviction that the worst, most persistent hindrances to the advance of the gospel today are worldly churches and hireling shepherds who trivialize Christianity.”
  • An update from Donald Miller on how the Blue Like Jazz movie is doing at the box office.
  • It’s been five years since BC cartoonist Johnny Hart left this earth, and blogger David Rupert reminds us of Hart’s great conversion story.
  • Looking for the perfect getaway?  You could always rent the home of Robert A. Schuller and his wife Donna for $700/night or $5,000/week which includes continental breakfast.
  • If you sponsor a child through Compassion, here’s what your sponsored child would like to know about you.
  • I finally got to hold a copy of The Voice complete Bible in my hands this week. It’s a really, really different type of translation.  Here’s a passage from Proverbs; I never knew Lady Wisdom was so attractive.  Here’s more about this unique version came to be.
  • UK cartoonist Dave Walker has created another repository for his unique gifts. Check out Dave Walker’s Guide to… which will featured non-church-themed musings. Of course, for everything else there’s the blog we know and love.
  • John Fischer blogs on the “God believes in you” theme that got me in a lot of trouble here when I tried to reiterate Rob Bell’s version of it. Let’s have another go.
  • Kurt Devine steps into a Malaysian brothel only to find that the stereotypical customer isn’t a middle-aged businessman, but someone more like himself.
  • Agitators at Indiana University try to shut down Douglas Wilson’s two lectures on sex and culture, but the show must go on.
  • And now it’s time for… Devotional Apologetics for Scientists, Engineers and Math Geeks. Enjoy Dark Matter and Layered Assumptions.
  • Tween Mania Department: It may not be The Disney Channel, but your 10-16 year olds can audition to be part of iShine this Friday in Nashville.
  • Because People Want to Know Department: Do you and your spouse go to bed at the same time?  Pete and Brandi Wilson do.
  • Speaking of which, of the writing of rather explicit books on sexuality for Christians, there is no end. Here’s an introduction to Canadian author Sheila Wray Gregoire, author of The Good Girl’s Guide To Great Sex, from her blog To Love, Honor and Vacuum.
  • Here’s a 3.5 minute conversation with God on the subject of prayer from Worship House Media uploaded to GodTube. I love the concept; hope the audio is fixed by the time you visit.
  • Not exactly the deepest list ever here, but… have your suggestions in by Monday night for next week’s list.

January 17, 2012

Make Us Courageous

Today Courageous, the fourth movie from Sherwood Pictures — the media ministry of the little church that could — makes it appearance in retail stores.  Because you get to eat cake when you work in a cake store, we got to watch a copy on Saturday night. Here are some observations.

First, the boys (17 and 20) sat through the entire thing. That’s major at our house. For two hours computers beckoned, but were left unanswered. I’d give the movie a 10 out of 10 on that basis alone.

Second, this is a Christian movie that played in mainstream theaters, but everyone knew upfront it was a Christian movie. I mean, the Sherwood logo has a cross in it; so that’s a dead giveaway. (No pun intended; but there’s an interesting song lyric idea there.) So, I don’t think anyone was fooled or tricked or deceived into hearing a bit of a Christian message. The film’s message was about the role of men in families, but the gospel was tastefully embedded. And the phrase, ‘Christian film’  no longer means ‘cheesy.’

Third, those Sherwood people are getting better and better at this. Sometimes the lighting was a little harsh, or the pacing is a little slow; but the overall audio was less sterile (some of the early pictures were crying out for Foley background sound), the camera angles were realistic and the casting and characters were more believable. 

Fourth, even though this is the fourth time around (following Flywheel, Facing the Giants and Fireproof) the closing credits are still moving when you think that this is the product of one local church. Everyone gets a credit at the end. Even the people who babysat the kids of cast and crew.

Fifth, even though this film didn’t start with the letter F — see list above — it could have been called ‘Fatherhood’ because it’s about the family (which also starts with F) unit which was God’s best plan from the beginning. In one scene it’s pointed out that if guys had strong role modelling, actively involved fathers in their lives, many of the policemen in our cities and towns wouldn’t need to be on the streets. And when you combine that with the effect of alcohol, which also accounts for so many police calls, and is referenced tangentially in the plot, it means that so much crime and misdemeanor is so preventable.

So…if you missed the run at the local movieplex, buy a copy; or better yet, buy two and give one away.

December 8, 2011

Courageous DVD Release Date Set

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:22 am

June 3, 2011

Elephant Room Conference: The DVD

If you missed the Woodstock music festival in 1969, you had to wait a full year for the movie; but just weeks after James MacDonald convened the Elephant Room one day seminar which was simulcast to two dozen cities, the DVD is already available for purchase, so we decided to jump in and bought one for ourselves and a couple of extras.

The phrase, “the elephant in the room” is used to denote the thing that is hovering over a discussion, but is never mentioned.   The idea here is that pastors have things they wrestle with that are discussed backstage when they meet up at major events, but are never shared with a larger audience.  The goal was to bring those subjects into open discussion.

The seven pastors were MacDonald, Mark Driscoll, Greg Laurie, Perry Noble, David Platt, Mark Chandler and Steven Furtick who was cast as a bit of a newcomer to this “big league” group.  Actually, Furtick came across very well, presenting some very timely insights into the subjects, and the very nature of the debates themselves.  Topics included:

  • Building numerically versus building depth
  • Responding to culture
  • Compassion and social justice
  • Unity and discernment
  • The multi-site church trend
  • Money issues
  • Loving the doctrine of the gospel but not sharing the gospel

An eighth session dealt with questions that had been texted in during the conference and was actually the most interesting in many ways. 

Over the past few years we’ve seen a growing interest in ecclesiology — the study of what constitutes ‘church’ —  among what would have been traditionally called “the laity.”  Books that would have formerly been written for the exclusive reading of pastors and church staff are now being purchased and discussed by the widest range of Evangelicals, many of whom are forging ahead with startups of home churches or alternative churches.  In a sense, the things the pastors discuss quietly backstage at conferences are being discussed in church lobbies, living rooms and over kitchen tables back home. This DVD set, and the topics it discusses are thereby of interest to everyone.

But it’s not the major takeaway from watching the seminar.

What is most striking is the camaraderie that exists between the pastors themselves.  While they do disagree on some minor points, there is a genuine agreement on the things that matter; what Driscoll well-defines as the difference between national borders (which wars are fought over) and state borders (for which wars are not fought.) 

There were some highlights and lowlights in the video.  One highlight was the overall production quality.  Another was the way they kept the discussion moving, with a moderator and two rotating key opponents followed by a more open forum that allowed the other four pastors to contribute.   Another highlight was seeing that with issues such as multi-site — so much on the minds of people as changes take place quickly — the pastors themselves do not undertake moves lightly, but truly agonize over the ramifications of growth.   A lowlight — and it really has to be said — is the way James MacDonald dominates every discussion, rolling over everyone else like a freight train at times.  I guess it was his party, so he got to call the tune.

I do love the concept, however.  This was a great series of conversations and I would hope that either MacDonald’s crew, or somebody else, would put something like this together this time next year, perhaps with a different mix of pastors and church leaders.  Rather than attempting to describe it further, you can watch a few sample clips here and here

What we call church really matters, and you don’t have to be among the ‘professional’ clergy to care.


Read another review of the conference here.

Link here to an index Trevin Wax provided of participants who live-blogged the event.

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