Thinking Out Loud

January 21, 2021

“I” vs. “We” — Couples, Families in God’s Presence

So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
– Romans 14:12 NIV

And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak.
-Matthew 12:36 NLT

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
-2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV

All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
-Matthew 25:32 NIV

Before we begin, apologies to those of you who are single, separated, divorced, or widowed. I wrote this with couples in mind, but as you see from the title, have expanded it slightly to include the concept of entire families.

I have several married couple friends who have shared social media accounts. It isn’t something I recommend. It was hard enough for Ruth and I to share an email account until she finally got her own computer. But I realize that, with Facebook in particular, there are sensitivities that some couples overcome by not having any contacts or communications apart from the other.

The problem is that many times all of us express opinion on Facebook and Twitter, and believe me, husbands and wives don’t always agree on everything, and this is probably a healthy situation. Some work around this by presenting names in parenthesis, such as: “I (Paul) thought the show was funny.” And of course there are things on which we do agree, not everything should be a battleground.

Beware of “We”

Almost every day at this site’s sister blog, I begin with something like “Today we’re featuring the writing of a new author…” Of course we is me. I produce and edit and format the daily devotions on my own; it’s a one-person project. “We” in this case is sometimes referred to as an editorial “I.”

But it can be overused. I tend to type, “Today we want to consider…” first and then, taking a moment to reconsider, realize I need to own the content more, and re-type, “Today I want to look at…”

I have some friends who share a few social media accounts. They use “we” a lot. I decided to call them out on it. Friends will forgive, right?

And they did. While they made it clear that I was making assumptions, they also assured me that while I may see them speaking with one voice on various things online, they do hold and value individual opinions on various issues, including theological ones. Honestly, I was relieved to hear that. I really shouldn’t have expected anything different.

When the stakes are higher

But then I think of another couple who recently gave up on church and I would say perhaps for one of them even any pretense of deism.

I opened this article with several scripture verses. (I know some of you thought I’d written this for my devotional blog, but I actually wrote it for you guys!) I keep thinking of the idea of each of us standing before God individually. We don’t get to have our spouse stand next to us.

This is also true for families. We don’t have the option of an inherited faith. Perhaps growing up your parents rooted for one particular college sport team and so you just joined them in that passion. Or liked one late night talk show host over another. Or one local radio station’s format better than another which played similar music. This is the stuff of good humored banter at the dinner table. Dare I mention political parties?

With faith, you stand on your own. I am aware that there is a passage in Acts from which is derived the idea of household salvation, and I know it does happen where an entire family turns to Christ at the same moment and is perhaps all baptized on the same day; but from that point on each of us is on an individual journey.

This leads to the possibility of one member of a family, or one spouse attending church and being faithful to Bible reading on their own, and I do frequently run into personal contact with a woman who is the wife of an unsaved husband or the man who is the husband of an unsaved wife. I feel deeply for people in that situation, and try to point them to resources written specifically to address this.

But let me clear on this: That’s better than not attending weekend services because your husband or wife won’t attend. Or not being active with a local congregation because your brothers, sisters, parents or children don’t want to take part.

In the end, when I stand before God, I simply can’t use the word “we” as any possible line of defense.

 

April 7, 2020

In Times of Transition: Secure a Job, Then Relocate

Many of the job losses people are suffering right now are not temporary. For various reasons, they work in vocations which either won’t recover from the present crisis, or will recover but operating in a different paradigm.

This is our story. It’s appeared here twice before, in 2010 and 2013, but there are new readers who haven’t seen it. A lesson learned too late is still a lesson learned, right?

Was this the one time we disobeyed God? …Okay, maybe there were lots of times…

The time in particular that I’m considering is the time we moved to the city where we now live. It was 1989, and we came with some “push” factors (wanting to get out of our 9th floor apartment in the city of three million) and some “pull” factors (liking the look of the town, as seen from the highway).

Later, I would write a song with an opening sentence that talks about the “pull” factors:

The part of the town that you see from the highway
Is never the part that the people there know…

When the business we were going to start in this town didn’t happen, we got caught up with the momentum of the “push” factors and decided we would move anyway. We would go into this foreign place and trust God to work out the details for employment and income. Not so smart.

(Tangent: Never move to a town where you plan to raise a family if you don’t know anyone and therefore don’t have your potential babysitters or family supports lined up ahead of time. Ours included teenage girls who were (a) completely inexperienced — “You mean I was supposed to change him?” — with kids, (b) dealing with medical crises, (c) dealing with severe emotional breakdown.)

I think there was some element of God’s leading us to where we moved. We thought we were moving to start a business, but instead, we ended up getting involved with a church that really needed us. I was invited to write a newspaper column every weekend for ten years which paid for our groceries. My wife got to raise her boys in a house and not the apartment in the big city. I was asked to teach a year at a Christian school. My started a number of local area ministry projects which have made a big difference in the lives of people.

But did God just allow us to “make the best of it?” Was there a principle we missed?

I think there was, but I didn’t know the particular chapter and verse at the time. The verse is found in Proverbs 24:2 —

Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house. (NLT)

First plant your fields; then build your barn. (Message)

Fix your business outside. Get your fields in shape and then build your house. (rough English translation of Louis Segond translation in French)

In other words, get a job, know where your mortgage payments are going to come from. Heck; know where your next dollar is coming from. Settle your career in that place first, then talk about your residence. Don’t move to Dallas, or Lisbon or Sydney without having a job waiting.

But we were young, we were idealistic, we were acting on a mix of faith and foolishness. I think we prayed about it — a bit — but earnestly praying together as a couple hasn’t been our strong suit. If you’re a younger married couple, and the shoe fits, take that as a personal admonition to do better than us when it comes to prayer. Starting now.

Joshua 9:14 — the story of Joshua’s ill-advised treaty with the Gibeonites — makes an even stronger case:

The Israelites … did not inquire of the Lord. (TNIV)

So the men … did not ask counsel from the Lord (ESV)

I really feel that God has journeyed with us and blessed us so many ways. But there have been some uphill battles that I believe trace back to not adhering to a basic scriptural principle. In many ways we’ve lived like monks who have taken a vow of poverty, nonetheless we’ve been blessed with some family circumstances that made it possible for us to live what appears from the outside to be a comfortable lower-middle-class life.

But my advice to people today is always the same: Prepare your work in the fields and then build your house.

September 5, 2019

When Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy Collide

Filed under: Christianity, culture, doctrine, ethics — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:54 am

Orthodoxy = Right belief.
Orthopraxy = Right practice.

I mentioned on Twitter that I would love to write an article with this title. I’m not sure this is the one. It seems to me that this is a topic that deserves a much fuller treatment.

Today, I simply want to document the observation that sometimes, even though we are dogmatic about what the Bible says on particular issues, and we’ve got our doctrine absolutely certain, advancing that is not always the best approach where real people are involved.

I think the popular phrase is, “Welcoming but not affirming.”

When you know real people, especially in your family, workplace, church community, or neighborhood, it’s hard to trumpet the judgment of God when the person involved is sitting right there in front of you.

Our approach is going to vary. Jesus didn’t always minister to people in similar situations in exactly the same way.

One of my regular C201 contributors shared this:

I like to think of God as Heavenly Father. My experience of fatherhood is that what is best can vary according to situation and the maturity of the children etc. I also have an expression: What is right is not always what is best.

I used the illustration in a sermon that it was completely fair how my brother and I took turns on the Atari 2600 depending on how long your guy lasted. It seemed that my brother played for hours while I played for minutes.

What is right is not always what is best.

It would be difficult for some Christians to wrap their minds around that. We’re supposed to be champions for truth, right? 

Some of you will sense that I had something else in mind when I first considered this, but Paul’s message in Romans 14 is certainly applicable:

13 In light of this, we must resolve never to judge others and never to place an obstacle or impediment in their paths that could cause them to trip and fall. 14 Personally I have been completely convinced that in Jesus, our Lord, no object in and of itself is unclean; but if my fellow believers are convinced that something is unclean, then it is unclean to them. (The Voice Bible)

Choosing a graphic image for these articles often adds an extra dimension. Today’s image (from MGM Ministries) reminds us that our words and actions can point people in one of two very different directions. 

The graphic below (from Christian Paradoxes) is a reminder that there is actually a trio of factors, but to delve deeper, I encourage you to use a search engine, as this topic is well covered online.

November 6, 2018

The Fifth Friday in the Month

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:00 am

Just three short months before they asked him to consider being on the short list for appointment as a church deacon, Ray got into a habit of dropping into McGinn’s Wings — affectionately called ‘McGings’ — on the way home from work. Although he had a more liberal attitude toward drinking than some in the church, it wasn’t about the alcohol. On about half of the days he went with a bottled grapefruit drink they served that was non alcoholic. It was more about having a buffer zone between work and home, though during the process his Sunday morning church attendance was starting to wane.

McGinn’s customers tended to walk around more than sit. There were some novelty pool tables, one sized extra long and the other extra square; not to mention some vintage pinball machines, foozball, and a prototype of a Wii-type game that never made it to market. There was also a red-haired woman who said her name was Blaine.

“Isn’t that a man’s name?” Ray asked.

“I’m all girl;” she replied, “Want me to prove it?”

Ray made a fist with his left hand and aimed it toward her. “See that? That’s a wedding ring. Don’t forget that.”

And then, two days later they would repeat the same dialog, almost word-for-word.

Ray’s wife Kallie was aware of all this. What was obvious by the smell of his jacket when he came home after 30 minutes at McGinn’s — a mixture of the hot sauce served with the chicken wings and the smell of beer — was also confirmed by Ray. He made no attempt to hide what he called his “new hobby.”

“What happens,” asked Kallie, “If someone from North Hills Baptist sees you coming out of there?”

Ray didn’t care. The pastor arranged for a joint meeting of the current deacon’s board along with all six people on the short list for serving the following year. Only three of those would be chosen, but they got to see an actual functioning meeting which dealt with a couple of budget issues, a few room rental requests, and the issue of a member who had written a rather strange letter to the editor of the local newspaper which, while it was mostly political, had the potential to do some damage.

Ray enjoyed the meeting and even made what all considered some good suggestions during a time when the prospective members could make comments; but the next morning he called Pastor Clements to ask that his name be removed from the short list and curiously, the pastor didn’t ask for a reason.

Ray made some friends at McGinn’s. He helped one guy move on the condition that it not involve a piano, and another was a mechanic and did some electrical repairs to his passenger side car window for free. They told him that Blaine was harmless, she actually had a different birth name which she hated, and every few years she came up with a new identity that she field-tested on bar patrons. Still, her flirting messed with his head, and she wasn’t the only woman at the bar who enjoyed playing mind games.

But several months down the road, McGinn’s closed. They were facing three civil lawsuits, there was a threat of a sexual harassment charge by a former waitress, some health code issues, and the proprietor was dealing with charges of federal tax evasion; though it must be said that the last item — the tax dispute — got cleared up really quickly when the owner sold the property to a condo developer for what everyone felt was far above market value.

Ray spent a week visiting other bars in town, but found them “shallow” and decided to go back to driving straight home from work. He also resumed a more regular pattern of church attendance.

Ray’s employer had a deal where if there were five Fridays in a month, they got the last one as a day off. So he was enjoying an extra hour’s sleep when Kallie informed him that she needed him to drive Claire Gibbons from her house to a florist shop to order the decorations for the women’s fall banquet.

“Why can’t you do it?” Ray asked.

“I’m on a writing deadline for one of the magazines.”

“The fashion one or the cooking one?”

“The parenting one. And I have some bad news, you have to take my car.”

“I can’t drive your car, my knees start killing me after two minutes in that thing. Did you tell Scott he could take the SUV?”

“No, you did.”

“Your car is too low.

Claire Gibbons was a weird blend of hipster and 1950s Baptist and you never knew which version of her you were getting at any given moment. Her contrasting themes ran through everything from her opinions on church matters to what she wore. Ray thought Kallie should be giving her some of the complimentary copies of the fashion magazine that were delivered each month, because her fashion style could best be described as contradictory.

The route to the florist shop from Claire’s house went by the former home of McGings. The windows were boarded up and there was a large ‘For Sale’ sign in the parking lot, even though the locals knew about the property selling to the condo company.

“Glad to see the end of that place;” Claire said.

Ray gulped. “How’s that?”

“Our Bible study group was praying that place would close.”

Ray took a slow, deep breath and asked, “Is that the group Kallie’s in?”

“No;” Claire offered, “She goes to Tuesday, I lead the one on Thursday.”

Ray kept his eyes on the road.

They were praying against the bar.

They were praying against the place where I spent my time.

A few minutes later the route took them by the home of a longtime member of North Hills Church.

“Look over there;” Claire said with much excitement, “Alan Richards got his car back.”

“I didn’t hear this story,” Ray responded, “What happened?”

“Alan got his license pulled when the eye doctor told him he couldn’t drive anymore until he got glasses, and the frames he wanted took six days to come in. In the meantime, his son borrowed the car and immediately heard and felt something not right. The mechanic found some kind of brake issue that could have been disastrous. I forget what they called it, something about –“

Ray had to slam on his own brakes when a dog ran out from nowhere, retrieved something from the road, and disappeared again.

Claire didn’t finish her sentence and Ray’s mind went back to Alan and his car.

His six day inconvenience prevented him from driving a broken car.

His inconvenience meant he was prevented from something worse.

Buds, Bulbs and Blooms, the florist shop was now in sight. Ray wasn’t sure where the women were getting the money to decorate the church multi-purpose room with expensive flowers, but the $28 they were charging the women for tickets offered a clue.

For her part, Claire noticed a silence had descended inside the car, and felt she should say something or do something, but she wasn’t sure what.

“Ray…” she began. But then she stopped unsure where she was going with this.

She started up again, “…We’ve been praying for you. Kallie told me about…” but then she suddenly seemed distracted as Ray pulled in the lot.

“Yeah;” Ray began, “I don’t know; I guess–“

Claire interrupted, “We’ve been praying since Kallie mentioned the thing about your knees. I really appreciate you doing this even though your son had your SUV. I don’t need a ride back, but you should park and walk around if they’re hurting.”

With that Claire hopped out and shut the car door.

They were praying for me.

They were praying for my healing.

Ray was deciding on where he could walk nearby while Claire was gone and was just getting ready to shut off the engine when he noticed something.

His knees weren’t hurting at all.

September 2, 2018

A “Charmed Life” in Ministry

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:34 pm

For us, many elements of our married life have involved struggle or challenge. While my basic thesis on this is that “everyone has something they’re dealing with;” every once in a while I run into people who seem to be enjoying “a charmed life” when it comes to their vocational ministry career or life in general.

The Free Dictionary notes:

To lead a life characterized or seemingly protected by marked good fortune or luck, without (or rarely) encountering trouble, danger, or misfortune. Celebrities seem to live a rather charmed life, with everything handed to them on a silver platter.

Merriam-Webster offers this definition:

life protected as if by magic charms : a life unusually unaffected by dangers and difficulties.

I write this because I encountered two of them so far this weekend. They weren’t totally flaunting it, but for them, life is good right now.

Perhaps for you it’s not ministry per se, but simply people in your sphere of influence — friends, neighbors, extended family, work colleagues, fellow students, etc. — for whom everything is going g-r-e-a-t.

Here are five things to remember:

▬ Some people have an advantage because of the struggle. The refinement they are experiencing and the learning they are gaining through the challenges makes them better people.

▬ Some people are just good at covering up. They’re the ones whose life on Facebook seems so ideal, and yet the truth of their situation is vastly different from the pictures and picture captions they post.

▬ The key in these moments is to not to succumb to envy or covetousness. It’s not about your life versus theirs but about how you respond to the perceived inequities. In fact, why are you comparing at all?

▬ Life is made up of seasons. Two-to-five years now could find that them and yourselves have actually trade places. Maybe longer. Maybe shorter.

▬ When it’s your turn to experience an outpouring of blessing, don’t allow it to let you become proud or arrogant. Approach the positive seasons of life with humility and thanksgiving.

 

December 29, 2017

Happy New Year!

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:18 am

This is the fourth of the four stories we’re presented over the Christmas season; two by myself and two by my wife.

by Ruth Wilkinson

At 10 minutes to midnight, Meg was sitting in the most strategic place she could find. On the couch in front of the TV, wedged between the armrest and an extremely affectionate couple. She hoped she was inaccessible, having spent the evening dodging the optimistic Ed, a friend of Joyce’s from work who Meg had heard quite enough about over the last couple of weeks.

‘You’d really like him,’ she thought. Ug.

Joyce had invited them both to her New Year’s Eve party, and Ed had decided, after a couple of martinis, that he did indeed like Meg. And with midnight looming, she wasn’t going to be in kissing range. Not that there was anything wrong with Ed, she just didn’t appreciate being set up and wasn’t going to play. As long as the affectionate couple stayed affectionate, she figured she could relax.

She balanced her drink on the armrest, laid back against the cushion. And yawned. She realized how tired she was.

The TV was set to Times Square. It looked like so much fun. She’d love to go, just once. But it was still on the to do list. Like a lot of things.

Like most of last year’s resolutions. She was going to exercise and eat better (including more chocolate) and call her mother more often and go to church more often and read more books and fewer magazines and and and. Most of which were on this year’s list of resolutions as well.

Next year was looking hopeful. Like a new job, maybe. Steadier hours, better money and more interesting, too. She had a good shot. She and Tony had achieved some kind of detente, which took the edge off a lot of things. Shane was doing well in school and wanted to be a vet. And, if she did say so herself, he was a nice kid. A likeable young man.

And, this party notwithstanding, she might be ready for a social life again. She’d see. No rush.

Because for now, here she was standing in Times Square with thousands of cheering people, wearing her favourite sombrero. She looked beside her and there was Mahatma Gandhi. He smiled at her and said something she couldn’t make out. She shouted, “What?”

The affectionate couple jumped and she woke up.

She smiled a bit, said “Sorry.” In the corner of her eye she saw Ed carrying two glasses of champagne looking for someone.

One minute to midnight, people were gathering around the TV. She fixed her eyes on the screen as the ball started to drop. 10 – 9 – 8 – 7…

•••

At 10 minutes to midnight, Tony surrendered. Shane had won. He’d just eaten his second scoop of the most painfully hot, the most searing, sinus mining salsa his son had ever made and just couldn’t manage a third. His cheeks were burning, there was sweat on his forehead and chin and nose and his tongue was on fire. He coughed and sniffed and waved across the table at Shane who laughed and downed another scoop.

It was almost not funny. Almost.

They’d just turned the TV to Dick Clark in Times Square. They’d watched movies all evening. A Matrix marathon. Shane had them memorized. This was Tony’s first time. They were pretty good. They’d invited Walt to join them, but he’d had other plans. Just as well, Tony figured. He probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it. Too much fighting.

Tony liked the idea about red pills and blue pills. You take a red pill and wake up in a reality you didn’t know existed, but it was more alive, more true than the one you kept living in if you took the blue pill. Blue pill — same old. Red pill — who knew?

Shane asked his dad which he’d take. Tony thought about it. The red pill had its appeal — adventure, a fresh start, the chance to be a hero. But —

He asked, “If I take the red pill, will you still be there?”

Shane frowned, “I don’t know. Maybe if I took one too?”

Hm. Tony thought for a second and then said, “Nah. Too risky. Blue.”

Shane told him he was boring, but he smiled. Tony thought he’d given the right answer.

One minute to midnight Tony poured them each a glass of sparkling grape juice. The ball was starting to drop. They toasted each other and shouted “10 – 9 – 8 – 7…”

•••

At 10 minutes to midnight, Walt was in bed with a cup of cocoa, the new James Bond novel and a plate of shortbread cookies Meg had given him Christmas Eve, baked by herself and Shane. Made with real butter.

Perfect.

The TV was on. Times Square looked crowded and noisy and glaring. He’d rather be where he was, with warm toes and his thoughts.

The boys had invited him to come watch movies, but he’d said no thanks. He’d already seen The Matrix three times. Loved it, but not tonight. Plus, he knew what Shane put in that salsa and there was just no way.

But mostly, he needed to face this one alone.

Last New Year’s Eve, he’d fallen asleep with the TV on and Esther beside him. She woke him up for the ball drop and kissed him and said, “Here we go again.” He replied, “Here we go again.”

They’d had over half a century of new years together. It was so strange for her to not be here. So wrong.

He put away the book and reached for her picture on the bedside table. His favourite picture. Those blue eyes and silver hair and the wrinkles at the corner of her eyes. She would have been a wonderful grandma. A wonderful mom.

He wondered what she was doing right now. Not watching Dick Clark, anyway. Too bad. She’d liked Dick Clark. He used to tease her about having a crush on him. She’d say, “Don’t be stupid” but Walt knew it was true. For a while, anyway.

He looked at the TV and raised his mug. “But she loved me, Mr. Clark. She loved me.”

Oh, God, he missed her. Just knowing she was there. That she was who she was.

He envied her. He’d always hoped he’d go first. Selfish, yes.

He’d never dreaded the new year before. This was the first one. But he really did. Another year of worrying about what the doctor might say, of taking that stupid cane everywhere, of trying not to be a burden to people who weren’t even family. Good people, but they didn’t owe him anything. Another year of being old and tired and alone and, if he was honest, angry. At the world that he was stuck in and the God who left him there.

One minute to midnight. He took a deep breath, squeezed his eyes shut and with his throat tight and his voice shaking, he said, “Jesus, you know I love you, you know I don’t complain much. But I don’t know if I want to be sitting here a year from now just the same, only worse. I’m not doing anybody any good. I’m not accomplishing anything like this. I don’t want to be… Blast, I don’t know what I want. You better know what you’re doing.”

The ball was dropping. …7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1

He raised his cup again. And took a solemn sip.

On the screen Dick Clark gave his wife a kiss. Walt sighed, whispered, “Here we go again.”

He turned off the TV and the light and settled down to sleep.

The phone rang.

“Hello?”

A horn blasted in his ear and Shane’s voice, “HAPPY NEW YEEAAAR! Happy New Year, Walt!”

He had to laugh, “Happy New Year, Shane. And to your Dad, too.”

Tony shouted, “Happy New Year, Walt!” and blew his horn again.

Walt laughed again in the dark and said, “Go to bed, already.”

Shane said, “‘Night, Walt. Hey…”

“Yes?”

“I love you, you know.”

It took Walt an extra second or two to say, “I love you too. Good night, my boy.”

He set down the phone, lay silent for a moment and said to the darkness, “You think you’re so smart.”

August 13, 2017

For the Grandmas

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:19 am

Her daughter didn’t take the boy to church, so when she heard that he was willing to spend a week with him, she knew that this would be an opportunity to share the Jesus story with him. As an experienced children’s worker, she had no shortage of resources at her disposal to do this.

The boy responded positively, and knowing that her daughter might never give permission for this to take place in a church, she took the boy down to the lake and baptized him, something not entirely unusual in her faith tradition.

The mom was not pleased…

…She never mentioned him again in our subsequent conversations and as it had been at least a year, I got curious this week and asked her how the young boy was doing with his faith.

She said when she saw him recently, he ran toward her and gave her a hug and said, “Hi Grandma. I still have God.”

I still have God.

December 6, 2015

With Christmas Coming, Do Your Kids Feel a Sense of Entitlement?

We never gave our kids an allowance. Not once. Working for ministry organizations and then owning a commercial ministry where we don’t pay ourselves a salary may have precluded it somewhat. But at the end of the day, I just didn’t see the point. Some kids are paid for being good. Our kids were good for nothing. [Rim-shot!] I just didn’t want them to think that we owed them anything.

We rarely bought our kids much of anything when we went to the mall. Perhaps never is a bit strong. The general presumption was that we were going to look, that the mall was a recreational destination where we would also do some comparison shopping and if the mood hit us, actually make a purchase. There was never the expectation that we would emerge carrying packages. The kids never thought that they were going to come away with increased personal possessions.

As a result, I think my children have a balanced perspective when it comes to materialism. In their mid-teens, they learned to pick up the tab for the things they needed or wanted on their own. It helped that both had paying jobs in high school. A part-time job at that age in our town is nothing short of a miracle.

Now they’re in their 20s. Both have a VISA card, and are well-versed in online banking. My youngest told me he feels guilty when he makes a large purchase. Maybe we need to tweak that attitude a little.

I felt both of them had a head-start when it came to money given the part time jobs. Some start even earlier. I wasn’t ready for the young girl who came into our store with a debit card. I think she was about nine years old. Okay, maybe ten. Not much more than that. It was one of those split-second moments of seeing something almost comedic, like when little boys would dress up in their father’s jackets and ties, back when their fathers actually wore jackets and ties. Maybe the analogy today is wearing their father’s shoes. (Not sure what the girl equivalent is; can tell me?)

The other side to consumerism is that I’ve tried to do is encourage our kids not to waste, because I believe the issue of materialism and the issue of waste go hand-in-hand. Maybe rationing the squares of toilet tissue is a bit much,* but certainly there’s no need for the second glass of the expensive treat we bought, such as Welch’s Grape Juice — the real stuff, not the Grape Cocktail their flogging now — or even a second glass of the cheaper apple juice.

Mind you, they’ve inherited that from me. I see food on the table and feel this desire for more. I had no siblings growing up, yet I seem to be in this constant competition for my fair share. At church potlucks, I tend to position myself close to the food table. I have a sense that all the other people in our congregation are people who will eat my share of the dinner if I do not guard it carefully. Not sure where I got that. But like father like son(s); the kids don’t like to miss out.

My youngest, aka Kid Too, was usually the first to take a piece of chicken or roast beef from the platter, a luxury of choice I was always taught is reserved for the cook, aka Mrs. W. He chooses well. He has taken a culinary course and knows the good pieces. The tender pieces. I always complain at that point that he just took “the best piece.” I am not trying to cause trouble. I sized up the platter before we said the blessing and already saw the piece that I considered the finest, and he took it. More competition.

At this point, I’m thinking of the title of the book by Francis Shaeffer’s daughter, Susan McAuley Schaeffer, How To Be Your Own Selfish Pig. I have been mastering this art for years, but not through actual pigging, but by ranting about the perceived pigging of everyone else.

As I write, it occurs to me that I probably wouldn’t be so obsessed about portion control if my youngest had shown more gratitude during those years. Actually, he does this a great deal, but in other areas. If he were to tell me how much he enjoys the times we purchase the more expensive grape juice, I would probably lavish him with more. He is changing with age however. When he comes home at Christmas I expect his sense of appreciation for all we do to have matured even more, though I still feel I should be saying grace with one eye open…

Then it hits me. That’s what God is waiting for. He has many good things in heaven’s storehouse which have me in mind. But he’s waiting for me to say thanks for what I have been given. As the Biblical story of the ten lepers teaches us, the thank-you rate is about 10%.


 

*I don’t actually ration toilet tissue, though I have been known to do calculations as to the number of squares that — hmmm …too much information?

November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Link List

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:05 am

fall-scene

  • Thanksgiving is More Religious Than Christmas – Last week I spoke with a woman whose family—and extended family—exchanges gifts the first week in December, in order that the focus on Christmas Day itself will be all about Christ. I thought of her when I read this article, though as the new car advertisement says, ‘Your mileage may vary;’ we each experience the holidays differently in our family, economic and cultural contexts. See if you agree with 7 Reasons Thanksgiving is Way Better Than Christmas.
  • One Year Ago – We decided to celebrate Thanksgiving with some microblogging. A picture (or 7) is worth a thousand words, right? So if you’re new here
  • Thanksgiving Song of the SeasonAnd here’s a bonus song, just in time for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, My Heart is Full of Thankfulness by The Gettys, or if you prefer a more rollicking version by Stuart Townend.
  • It’s About a Beautiful Time of Year: There’s no denying that photographers love this time of year. Fall leaves contrast so well with blue sky. This worship song by Canada’s Brian Doerksen seems so appropriate on a day like today.
  • One Last Thanksgiving Debrief – Remember that time your high school small group leader asked, ‘What’s the opposite of love?’ and everybody said ‘hate’ and then he explained it’s really fear?  So what’s the opposite of “thanksgiving?” This answer is both surprising and satisfying: “While this may be human nature, nothing good comes of it.  Mark Twain said, ‘Comparison is the death of joy.’  For when we look and see someone else’s blessings, we suddenly have no appreciation of our own.”

With a day off, we thought some of you might be looking for some fall fiction reading…more great book covers at this link…with word the 2015 worst covers list is coming soon!

Lancast Amish Fires of Autumn

Finally this was forwarded from our friends at Flagrant Regard:

Mayflower's competition

May 23, 2015

Do We Have a Right to Happiness? — Part Two of Two

You need to click back to yesterday for part one, but knowing a few of you won’t, I’ve begun by repeating the introduction. Thanks again to Martin and Nancy for allowing us to run this. To read the whole thing at their blog, Flagrant Regard, or leave them a direct comment, click the title below.


C.S. Lewis For The 21st Century (2)

Have you ever, on the recommendation of a teacher, book-review website, or a friend, began to read an old book – a classic – only to discover a few pages in, “I just can’t get into this … the language is so archaic!”

Nancy and I thought it would be a challenging exercise to modernize one of our favourite essays from C.S. Lewis found in his compilation of short works, entitled ‘God In The Dock’.

The essay we chose was “We Have No Right To Happiness”. I set out to rework the article in a way that I thought would align closely with C.S. Lewis’ original style, but with a modern spin via sentence structure and word choices.

Nancy read my modernized version and felt that she too could bring some 21st century life to the piece by structuring it more like a blog post.

Below represents each of our individual attempts to present the powerful, highly prophetic message penned by Mr. Lewis that examines humankind’s pathetic attempts to justify that which is unjustifiable – that we have the supposed ‘right’ to be happy in this world.

Please feel free to provide feedback with respect to our efforts to modernize the essay and, more importantly, share with us your reflections on C.S. Lewis’ thoughts re the society-eroding, self-entitlement posturing that so many among us now eat, breathe and sleep in this present day.


We Have No “Right to Happiness” by C.S. Lewis
Adapted from the article of the same name by Nancy Douglas of Flagrant Regard

“Well, I just think everyone has a right to do what makes them happy …”

So said my girlfriend the other day when we were chatting over lattes. Luke had divorced Laura to be with Michelle who had likewise divorced her husband to be with Luke. They were hopelessly, madly, in love and, barring unforeseen health or employment issues, they were set for life in the happiness department. My friend continued giving her opinion that it was abundantly clear that neither Luke nor Michelle had been happy in their marriages. It didn’t matter that they were in love with their exes at the outset – because life happens, time passes, and looks get lost by the wayside. Things had changed.

There are any number of reasons why marriages fail and people get kicked to the curb but it does always seem to be an outworking of someone in the relationship deciding that they have the right to do what makes them happy.

Sadly, Laura committed suicide some months after her marriage dissolved. Of course, Luke was distraught but never showed regret that he had left the marriage. He always maintained they had grown apart and were floundering in the proverbial loveless marriage. When Luke had serendipitously met Michelle, she was like no one he had ever met before and leaving his marriage was, as he saw it, his only chance – his last chance – at real happiness.

I began to think about the idea of having the ‘right’ to be happy.

We live in a world where our happiness and, conversely, our misfortune is often predicated on circumstances beyond our control. That being the case, it seems that to expect – to have a ‘right’ – to be happy doesn’t seem like something that can or should be depended on; any more than we can expect or depend on perfect weather every Saturday in June so that all brides will be smiling. You pick your date, send out your invites, and take your chances.

I believe we can have ‘rights’ as far as what is legislated and guaranteed by the laws of the society we live in. For example, we have the ‘right’ to basic education because, here in Canada, we are given that privilege through taxation and public policy. That is why it is called ‘public’ education.

I can also understand a ‘right’ as it relates to a contractual obligation. If someone hires me to design a logo for them and I design it and charge them $100, then I have the ‘right’ to expect to be paid $100 for my work.

Back to my friend’s statement – “Well, I just think everyone has a right to do what makes them happy …”

What my friend was not saying was that, however you need to find happiness, whatever you need to do to be happy, is not to be held up for criticism or judgement beyond a bit of neighborhood gossip – because nobody knows the ‘whole story’.

The American Declaration of Independence laid down at the outset that one of the basic rights of any American citizen is the right to ‘the pursuit of happiness’. That did not mean that people should be entitled to pursue happiness outside of the law (i.e., through murder, rape, robbery, etc.) – but by lawful means. But this is too broad-based for what my friend meant. My friend is not philosophically deep. She watches The Bachelor and thinks the Tea Party is the party at Witzend in Alice in Wonderland. What she simply and solely mused was that people have the right to be happy when it comes to sex. Her view has been ‘trending’ for some time now and you have to look no further than the plethora of partnering change-ups in Hollywood at large.

There is no room for a counterpoint in today’s society. But, if you could get a word in, the counterpoint would be that, happiness aside, Luke’s leaving Lisa for Michelle was done in direct contravention of their marriage vow. That overarching solemn promise made up of subsets of conditions wherein two people promise that they will never leave each other – no matter what. This promissory social contract is sealed either in a civil ceremony or before God and, in both cases, before witnesses. Happiness is not even figured in to the marriage vow which is one of duty of care for the other – again, no matter what.

Today, our sexual impulses and proclivities have been put on a pedestal of preposterous privilege. And where sexual ‘happiness’ is not the order of the day, heinous acts have occurred. When lack of sexual happiness has been the motive behind murderous and unjust actions, the headlines have still – even in this day and age of post-modernism – spoken loudly and clearly in defense of the innocent. We don’t have to look past Susan Smith and the drowning of her two young sons so that she could pursue a relationship with a local wealthy man to find where the utilitarian doctrine of the ends justifying the means is so egregiously lopsided in favor of the means.

The problem with sex is that it makes more towering promises than any other emotion. All our desires make promises – that new car, that new house, that new job, that next You Tube video with over a million views – but none more so than the promise of sex. To be in love involves the irrational yet irresistible conviction that it will last forever and that our beloved will supply us with deep-rooted, passionate, lifelong sexual happiness. Everything is at stake. If we miss the chance to be in love or, as we are speaking of here, to get back in love, life will not have been worth living. Anything in the way has got to go – and fast. So thought Luke and Michelle. So thought Susan Smith.

But, if we establish a ‘right to (sexual) happiness’ which supersedes all the ordinary rules of behavior, we are chasing after the wind because the object of our behavior (erotic passion) is illusory and wishful. In the movie, The Life of David Gale, in a soliloquy on happiness, the main character portrayed by Kevin Spacey warned, “Be careful what you wish for. Not because you get it, but because you’re doomed not to want it once you do. Living by wants will never make you happy.”

As time permits, those experienced at long-term relationships know that erotic passion can sometimes last a good long time but that it will most certainly wane. For those relationships that continue long after erotic passion has waned, it is not because of the promises made at the outset. It is because the two people have found true love and contentment outside of the sex act, and have otherwise strived to make their relationship both mutually beneficial and sustainable.

In a few years, it is likely that Luke will leave Michelle to fulfill another last chance at sexual happiness. Or she him. And, again, my friend will say that she believes they have a right to be happy. That is, if her husband, Chris, doesn’t decide in the meantime that he has a right to be happy with that bubbly new hire in the Corporate Marketing Department. That could change her perspective.

For the here and now, the ‘right to happiness’ is predominantly the dominion of the sexual impulse. But, what if this ‘feel good’ principle creeps into other areas of our lives to the point where every impulse in every person has the ‘right’ to be indulged?

I hear the ticking of the doomsday clock …

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For the original article and other incredible essays and thoughts from C.S. Lewis, you can purchase “God In The Dock” at your local Christian book seller or online via any number of online book retailers.

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