Thinking Out Loud

December 30, 2015

Wednesday Link List

The creator of Veggie Tales and What's In The Bible has a thing for Truck Stop shopping.

The creator of Veggie Tales and What’s In The Bible has a thing for Truck Stop shopping.

Normally we take a week off around this time, but there were a few things in the file; and then we found a few more. And then a few more.

The Unofficial Bible for Minecrafters

December 7, 2015

Building Margin into Your Schedule

About five years ago in a Sunday morning service our pastor was talking about the importance of having margin in your life. Margin to hear from God, to wait before Him and to expect miracles. That’s vital at a time of year when margin is slim because of the busy-ness of the season.

But then he picked up his Bible and talked about the margin that exists on each page of the book; space to add your own notes and record observations. I’ve thought of margin on several levels but never from a printing or graphic arts perspective, a field in which I have some familiarity.

In printing, margin is necessary because sometimes the paper gets trimmed a little off center, just like the time runs out on some days (and weeks, and months, and years) a little unexpectedly. Without some white space, there is the risk the text would simply get cut off.

But if your house is like mine, you probably got flyers, circulars, brochures or whatever they call them where you live delivered to your door or mailbox; and if you examine different types of printed matter, you see that in many cases there is no margin at all because the photo or background color is meant to look like it runs right to the edge. In fact it runs a good inch (2 cm) over the edge and is then trimmed back.

In graphic arts, this is called a bleed, and the designer will markup the text with the word ‘bleed’ to tell the printing people that the background gradient or pattern should overrun the page to be cut to size in the trim process.

And that, is my message to my readers for this Christmas, straight from the graphic art and design industry: If you don’t have margin, you bleed.

[Yes, it’s pithy remarks like that which keep readers coming back!]

If we don’t (literally) take the time to build margin into the busyness of the holiday season, we pay the price for it. If we try to do too much, there’s pain. If we fail to accomplish essentials we should have prioritized, there’s tears.

no vacancyWhich is odd considering the potentially frantic story of incarnation — in a crowded village that has run out of hotel accommodation because of a census registration — begins on what we regard as such a peaceful, silent, holy night. Christmas card images look so tranquil, but if you’ve ever driven into a town as we have only to learn that every motel and hotel is booked because of a sports tournament or a convention, you know that for Mary and Joseph, it was a very, very stressful day.

The celebration of the birth of Christ was never intended to drive us crazy on an annual basis. We’re celebrating the coming of Christ, not reliving the search for lodging that led up to it. Slow down — you might just hear from God — and take a cue from the printing industry: If there’s no margin, you bleed.

November 13, 2015

Before the Kids are Born, Decide Which December Story You’re Going With

Filed under: Christianity, Faith, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:38 am

jesus_asks_santa

Had an interesting discussion yesterday with the grandmother of a young girl who, although she has grown up in a Christian home, has been saturated with the Santa Claus story as well. And now that she is getting older, the reindeer are coming home to roost, so to speak.

The grandmother, caught between a North Pole and a hard place, is trying to ease the pain by — wait for it — buying the girl some extra gifts for Christmas this year. I hope she signs the cards as being from Grandma and not Santa.

This girl knows that Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. But the jolly fat man with the red coat and white beard seems to be an equal part of the story. And if Santa isn’t real, what about the thing about the baby, the manger; and shepherds and wise men and sheep, oh my? In her brain, she is probably wondering when that ‘myth’ gets deconstructed.

So why do we do this to our kids? What do we introduce a narrative as if it’s true, knowing that at some point we are going to have to tell them it is false. Did you grow up with Santa? What are you telling your kids?

November 25, 2014

Holidays and Holy Days are All About Retail Spending

Filed under: economics — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:12 am

Retail 2014 11 23

The war vet said something to the effect that ‘Veterans Day should be about more than just buying a mattress.’

We’ve seen the advertising for Memorial Day or Veterans Day specials on furniture and appliances, and we’ve become accustomed to it.  Nobody blinks an eye. But the day was intended to remember the people who given life and limb; the people who have served to defend the values we hold sacred, not the least of which is freedom.

Then, not more than a handful of years ago, stores wanting to jump the gun on Black Friday started opening the evening of Thanksgiving Day itself. And being open all day followed.

Christmas is next. There can be no denying this. In Canada, the day after Christmas is called Boxing Day and it’s traditionally been a huge draw for consumer electronics and clothing reductions by retailers not wanting to have to count a lot of stock on their December 31st inventory.

While Black Friday’s mentality has now saturated the Canadian retail scene, Boxing Day is still strong, and it’s easy to foresee stores opening the evening of Christmas to beat that rush, though stricter labor laws than apply in the U.S. prevent that from happening in most jurisdictions.

But in the U.S., the economy is King. You can’t do anything to impede business. And no day is sacred, holy or sacrosanct.


 

The comic above is Retail by Norm Fuenti who frequently looks at this issue from the point of view of the retail staff being denied even the single day with their families. Many are caught in contracts which prevent any days off being taken during a window from now until after January 1st, which includes time off for family crises such as visiting someone out of town who only has days or weeks to live.

November 24, 2014

The Original Nativity Scene Probably Looked More Like This

Filed under: Christmas, music — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:14 am

This was composed and recorded by a very good friend of mine. Kick back for five minutes and consider what the scene at the back of the Bethlehem Inn really looked like those first few nights.

I have a little manger scene I unpack every year,
I put it on the mantle way up high
Safe from puppy dogs, little hands and wrestling adolescents,
Who might break a piece and make me want to cry.

I’ve had that little manger scene of china and of glaze,
Since I was just a kid of 4 or 5
For years and years I looked at it believing every line,
Cause it made the ancient story come alive

It makes me sentimental, Though I know it didn’t happen quite that way
A little poetic license is OK.

In my little manger scene Mary’s got blue eyes,
she’s dressed in silk and satin like a queen
Joseph’s beard is neat and trim, just like his fingernails,
And everybody’s handsome and serene

The swaddled baby’s smiling up at three wise men standing guard,
So noble, not a sunburn neath their crowns
They’re hanging with the shepherds who are kneeling squeaky clean
on golden straw carpeting the ground

It’s all sleek and smooth and shining,
Tho’ I know it wasn’t quite like that, don’t you?
The truth is not quite so pretty, but it’s true

I bet Mary, she was saddle sore and Joseph couldn’t sleep
The wise men smelled like camels and the shepherds smelled like sheep
And the stable smelled like cattle and the things that cattle do
The baby woke up hungry every morning, half past two
And the straw got into everything, your shoes and in your hair
In the food and in the beds and on your nerves and everywhere

But our Mary, she’s no china doll, she’s a fighter through and through,
Joseph knows he has a job to do
There isn’t any stopping them, there isn’t any doubt,
Together they will see this journey through.

‘Cause she, she was a warrior, he was her strong right arm,
In a battle that they couldn’t comprehend
That baby was a treasure who would ransom all the world,
They’d carry him until he took his stand.

Even though Mary, she was saddle sore and Joseph couldn’t sleep
The wise men smelled like camels and the shepherds smelled like sheep
And the stable smelled like cattle and the things that cattle do
The baby woke up hungry every morning, half past two
And the straw got into everything, your shoes and in your hair
In the food and in the beds and on your nerves and everywhere

So if in my little manger scene, they look a little glazed
A little poetic license is OK.
Though I know it didn’t happen quite that way.

©2011 Ruth Wilkinson

November 21, 2014

The Hardest Days

Filed under: Christmas, Church, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:59 am

Doug and Gary were always the last to leave the office.  Doug always turned off the lights as Gary set the alarm, and on Fridays, Gary always asked Doug if he wanted to join him for church that weekend.

“Actually, I’m going to church with my wife on Sunday,” Doug replied.

“Oh right. I forgot you’re a CEO,” Gary said smiling.

“A CEO?”

“Christmas and Easter only.” They both laughed, and Gary continued, “You know it’s good that you’re going, but you always pick the two hardest days.”

image 211114“I know,” returned Doug, “The parking at that church is miserable at Christmas.”

“No, that’s not what I mean; you always choose incarnation and atonement. They’re the toughest ones to grasp.”

“Wait a minute, I thought you wanted me to attend church.”

“I do, but think about it; if you show up for The Good Samaritan, the message is ‘love your neighbor,’ that’s easy!  And if you show up for ‘husbands love your wives,’ well two minutes in and you’ve got that one. But incarnation –“

“Do you mean the flower or the canned milk?”

“No it’s the idea of God becoming man, God becoming one of us. See, God is like those triplicate materials requisition forms we send to head office. The kind where what you write on the top part goes through to all three. But then God Himself rips out one of the pages — let’s call it the middle one — and then the letter to the Philippians tells us that that part of God took on the role of a servant and entered into the human condition even to the point of experiencing human death, and a rather excruciating one at that.”

“So you’re talking about Jesus. You’re saying he was 50 percent man and 50 percent God. Like a centaur?”

“No it’s not 50/50, more like 100/100.”

“So that’s gotta hurt. Why would he do that?”

“Well that’s the Easter part, the atonement part. In another letter, to a young disciple named Timothy, the same writer wrote that ‘Christ came into the world to save sinners, of which I’m the worst.'”

“The guy who wrote part of the Bible said he was the worst?”

“Jesus himself said he ‘came into the world to look for and save people who were lost.’ In another part he said that he came into the world to give his life as a ransom payment for many; and in yet another written account of his life we read that he didn’t come to condemn — which is what a lot of people think church is all about lately — but that through him everybody could have eternal life.”

“So you’re talking about going to heaven when you die?”

“Well, actually, eternal life starts now.”

“How come I never heard that at a Christmas service before?”

“You did, but you probably weren’t tuned in to it. You heard the carols, but missed the connection between incarnation and atonement, and you can’t have the one without the other. Ultimately, Jesus — the baby in the manger — came to die for the world, for me, for you.”

“Wow;” Doug said, “I never heard it like that.”

 

 

 

Phil 2, I Tim 1:15, Luke 19:10, Matthew 20:28, John 3:17

December 26, 2013

Rethinking a Sanitized Christmas

Filed under: Christmas — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:45 am

This appeared three years ago as a special article to CNN’s Belief Blog. The authors are well-known to readers here: Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.  This is not the full article, you need to click through to read the remaining two-thirds of the piece.

It’s not all that strange this time of year to see Christians outside in bathrobes, trying to keep a little baby warm in the straw of a cattle trough. (Truth be told, it’s usually a doll; but we get a real donkey from time to time.)

We Christians like to re-enact the birth of Jesus and hear the angels sing again, “Peace on earth, good will toward men.” This is our good news. It feels good when our neighbors pause to listen.

But we rarely tell the whole story. The baby in a manger is cute. The shepherds in their field are quaint. The magi from the east give the whole scene some dignity.

But most of our churches are “seeker sensitive” when it comes to retelling the Christmas story. Our kids don’t dress up like the undocumented workers who do shepherds’ work today. We often fail to mention that Mary was an unwed mother. When we re-create the manger scene, we don’t reproduce the odor. We like to clean the whole thing up a bit. It makes it easier to go home and enjoy Christmas dinner.

As much as both of us love a good meal with our families, we’re pretty sure Jesus didn’t come to initiate a sentimental pause in holiday consumption. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” John’s gospel says. Jesus moved into the neighborhood, and it wasn’t necessarily good for property values.

Christmas reminds us how Jesus interrupts the world as it is to reveal the world as it ought to be. When we pay attention to the story, it exposes our desperate need for a better way. This always makes some people mad.

When King Herod got the news that Jesus had been born in Bethlehem, he issued a national security directive that every boy two and younger should be killed. As we remember this part of the story, we take in the harsh truth that there was and still is a political cost to the incarnation of God’s peaceable love.

[continue reading here]

December 8, 2013

Reconsidering Christmas Shoeboxes

Operation Christmas Child BoxesSeveral years ago I wrote a post here asking some questions about the whole Operation Christmas Child (OCC) thing. As I said a year later, I didn’t want to be a “grinch” when it came to OCC, I just wondered about some big picture issues.  Then last year, I reformatted the whole article to include some points that a reader had left in a comment.

This year, I was prepared to lay the whole subject to rest. Besides, collection for the boxes in our local churches has come and gone. But the article keeps attracting readers, and last week Lucy, a reader, left a comment that reminded me that as OCC grows — now with an online component that allows you to pack and ship a shoebox from the comfort of your own home right up to a much later deadline — people still have misgivings and second thoughts about the program.  Here’s what she wrote:

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I thought I was the only one who had serious reservations about the OCC program. I just see it as a well-intentioned venture that, in reality, exports Western materialism. Even given the potential spiritual good, do we want children associating Jesus with wrapped goodies? Isn’t that enough of a problem here in America?

I’m a Christian who thinks Samaritan’s Purse has done wonderful things in helping people around the world. But let’s help children by really making a difference in their lives. World Vision and other ministries have programs where you can contribute toward gifts such as farm animals, wells, small business opportunities for women, etc. Much, much better than trinkets.

And thank you, Lucy for that comment. Organizations like Compassion, Partners International, The Christian and Missionary Alliance and Gospel for Asia are among the many — and I chose ones with both American and Canadian websites —  that allow you to make significant, life-changing donations to an individual or an entire village of the type Lucy describes.

Shoebox sized giving will produce shoebox sized results, and furthermore runs the risks she described in her comment. If you’re reading this on a computer — even in a library somewhere — you are among the richest people in the entire world. This Christmas, literally share the wealth.

There is a saying, Do your giving while you’re living, so you’re knowing where it’s going. The Christmas “gift catalogs” of the four organizations listed above allow you to know exactly where your money is going. Don’t lose this opportunity.

Comments can be made at the original article — first link above.

December 13, 2012

The Wonderful World of CT

A couple of interesting goings-on at Christianity Today (CT) this week.

First, there was the piece, Should Churches Discourage Belief in Santa Claus? This is one of those pieces where they simply ask a handful of experts and then arrange their answers on a spectrum, which one expects in this case would run from ‘no’ to ‘yes.’  I had actually seen this when it appeared online and given it the requisite 10-seconds I needed to digest it.

But the I listened Tuesday night to The Phil Vischer Podcast #29, and Phil mentioned that he had been quoted:

“The notion of getting back to a ‘pure Christmas’ is misfounded; the holiday was a hodgepodge from the beginning. We should take those fun Santa traditions and link them back to St. Nicholas rather than getting rid of the fun part of Christmas and stick with the somber part.”
~ Phil Vischer, creator, VeggieTales and What’s in the Bible?

And so had Wheaton College associate professor Mary ‘Scottie’ May who teaches Christian Education and Family Ministry:

“The key word is belief. Emulating Saint Nick is awesome, but I have problems with parents duping their children into believing that Santa exists. A church could acknowledge in a family context the historical person of St. Nicholas. But the figure the culture has created does not belong in church.”
~ Scottie May, professor, Wheaton College

And then he dropped this: Scottie is Phil’s mom.

And the reporter didn’t know.

And neither interviewee knew the other had been interviewed.

And — yes there’s another and — they were quoted at opposite ends of the five-answer continuum even though their answers were very similar if not identical. (Podcast subject begins around 11:30 to about 13:30)

…Meanwhile, over at her.meneutics, the Christianity Today women’s blog, profiles OMG Tees, a product line described as “spiritual and sexy.”

I thought of including the picture that they did, but that would just be gratuitous. We would never do that here.

OMG Tees 1

Okay, too late. But not to worry; some people don’t scroll down this far.  Writer Michelle Van Loon notes:

OMG has created a line of casual tanks and tees designed for Saturday night parties and Sunday morning worship. Founded in 2010, the California company’s website features teen models giving the camera their best PG-13 “come hither” looks, often wearing little more than tees and tanks splashed with slogans like “A Date With J.C.”, “God Knows My Secrets,” and “Worship Crew.” Who knows? Perhaps the “come hither” is intended to be a non-verbal evangelistic tool.

There have been at least two generations of the Christian T-Shirt–the derivative-yet-earnest variety and the darkly ironic–but OMG has created a brand-new category: Sexy ‘n Spiritual. Christians have a long, ignoble history of trading in all manner of religious tchotchkes, but OMG, with its Second Commandment-bending name, takes this bad habit of ours in a new direction, with its products’ odd syncretism between pop religion and hyper-sexualized pop culture.

She then uses this as a springboard to discuss what she calls ‘fan behavior’ recalling the premise of Kyle Idleman’s popular Christian book, Not a Fan which we reviewed here in May.

She concludes:

I doubt that the Christians who are suiting up for this year’s round of court battles on behalf of their local town hall’s manger scene see themselves as kindred spirits with companies like OMG. I think they have one thing in common: They both appeal to the fans of Team Jesus. It might just be time to quit the team, and follow the captain instead.

…Because we’re considered a more progressive blog by some, I thought I’d toss in an extra gratuitous picture; however please keep in mind that (a) this is for educational purposes only, and (b) honestly, this is the only other picture at the site I considered remotely safe; the others being a sequence of pics that begin on a church platform and end with the same three girls lying on a bed together. And no, I am not making that up; the rest of the stuff is mildly pornographic, and the “Princess of Peace” product line is equally blasphemous.

OMG Tees 2

…All of this begs the question as to whether or not we need CT to bring us these articles or if we would be better served by them simply taking an online pass if it’s a slow evangelical news day.

December 12, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Ketzel The Cat Menorah
Happy 12-12-12

  • Ketzel The Cat Menorah can be ordered here and was discovered, with lots of other Hanukkah kitsch here. If you don’t know the story behind this symbol, read this.
  • Speaking of kitsch, I never thought the introduction this fall of Theologian Trading Cards — yes this really happened — would lead to people wanting to collect cards that have been autographed.
  • He seems a bit young, but someone has already written a Rob Bell biography.  Here’s another review of Rob Bell and a New American Christianity.
  • Mark Driscoll’s home state, Washington, recently legalized small-quantity possession of marijuana. He reflects on this, noting, “people tend to stop maturing when they start self-medicating.”
  • Di Jameikan Nyuu Testiment (the Jamaican New Testament) represents four years research work and US$350,000; funded by was the American Bible Society, Wycliffe Group of Companies, British and Foreign Bible Society, and Spring Harvest through the Bible Society of The West Indies. Read more about the Jiizas Buk here and here.
  • Jen Wilkin writes a must-read for parents on guarding Sabbath-rest for your children.
  • Maybe it’s just me, but the idea of someone buried in a glass-sided coffin especially here in North America just creeps me out; even if the guy was/is a saint.
  • Here’s a skillfully-written list by Rachel Held Evans of five things you don’t have to walk away from if you leave conservative fundamentalism.
  • If you show up on Wednesdays looking for pictures to use on your blog, you might want to get to know Catholic Memes (Facebook page) or Catholic Memes (website).
  • “In an irony of history, the time of spiritual preparation and silent waiting has become the busiest, most frenetic season of the year.” Read more from Philip Clayton.
  • Here’s an article I wrote a year ago about what was then the top news story for at least month, concerning a popular college football coach and his inappropriate relationships with kids too young to attend the college in question. It’s interesting to read this now that we know how the story ended.
  • And from exactly a year ago, Steven Furtick bats it out of the park at a Liberty Convocation. I am really enjoying this series.
  • A Jewish music preservation group sets out to make the definitive Hanukkah compilation and ends up with an album dripping with Christmas cheer.
  • And speaking of music, I don’t know who wrote this song, or who is singing, but it gets my award for most costume changes in a four-minute praise video. This had ‘zero views’ when I discovered it.

 

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