Thinking Out Loud

December 25, 2015

Christmas in a Small Town

Filed under: Christmas, family — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:58 am

I’ve reblogged this today from Diane Lindstrom at Nice One Nana. Send her some link love by clicking the title below to read at source and leave comments.

Small Town, Big Connection

I couldn’t figure out how to get my [reward card] points at the local gas station pumps so I decided to ask the lady working inside about the procedure. I mean, free groceries are free groceries, right?

The lady who was working behind the counter had very kind eyes and a gentleness in her ways. She greeted me with a smile and as I fished around my purse for my wallet, she asked me, “So, are you ready for Christmas?”

I told her, “I’m ready. These days have been a quiet countdown to Christmas day. I’m not running around at all. Feels good. How about you? You enjoying the season?”

I was really taken back with the woman’s response.

“Usually, I love this time of the year but my daughter’s husband has been mad at me for the past four months and he won’t let my husband and I see our two grand-kids.” I’m just heartbroken about it.”

I was about to express my sadness about her situation but she began to cry and continued to talk.

“Why do people have to win? Why do they have to be stronger and more powerful and more right? Why can’t people just love each other?

I offered the woman a Kleenex and I just stood with her for a few seconds.

Neither of us talked.

I could see that the woman was embarrassed and as she wiped her eyes, she joked, “This is what happens when you come to a small town gas station!”

I smiled and asked her, “Are you and your husband alone on Christmas Day? Would you like to come to our place?”  I also joked back with, ” An invitation for Christmas dinner at a stranger’s house is also what happens when you serve customers at a small town gas station.”

“Oh, you’re so kind but no…we’re not alone. We have nine children and a handful of grand-kids. We’re going to be eating so many turkeys this Christmas, my husband and I are going to start gobbling. I just can’t understand why people don’t choose love. Not just at Christmas. All the time.” 

I nodded. I couldn’t have said it better.

“Thank you for blessing me with your words. I hope you and your son-in-law reconcile.”

She smiled, handed me a candy cane and said, “Merry Christmas.”

I leaned over the counter and gave her a big hug.

“And to you.”

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12.31

Diane Lindstrom lives in a small town in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Sisters in the Son: Reconnecting Older and Younger Women.

September 20, 2015

We See Trends and Stats; God Sees Individuals

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
-Matthew 6:26

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.
– Matthew 10:12

And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury…”
– Mark 12:41-42

The Star Trek mantra that “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” is very noble in context, but Christian ministry is all about the few. That’s hard to reconcile in at a time in history when people are preoccupied with stats and even in the church, pastors meet each other at conferences comparing notes as to average attendance and annual budget.

At the Breakpoint blog, Leah Hickman writes:


Do these numbers mean anything to you?

They’re casualty numbers. 9/11. Gettysburg. American soldiers in World War II.

I don’t have much of a head for numbers, but I know enough to know that that’s a lot of people–a lot of individuals.

But when we see numbers like this, what do we do? We rationalize. In comparison to these massive numbers, the deaths of one or two individuals seem like nothing. A small fraction of humanity. A blip on the screen…

She then links to an article by Jim Tonkowich at The Stream,

Given a world with more than seven billion people, it may be only natural and reasonable for us to think of nameless, faceless masses. The crowds of Middle Eastern immigrants marching from Hungary to Austria seem to be just that: crowds, mobs, hordes, multitudes. But it’s merely a coping trick of the mind, not reality.

Where we see crowds, God sees individuals. Each has a name and a face, a history and a future, a family and a purpose. “There are no ordinary people,” C. S. Lewis declared in The Weight of Glory. “You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

He continues,

You shall love your neighbor,” said Jesus, “as you love yourself (Mark 12:30a).” How do we love ourselves? With knowledge, respect, and sacrifice. The refusal to love our neighbors with knowledge, respect, and sacrifice results in a coarsening of our souls and a distortion of the image of God in us.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses,” Lewis said in The Weight of Glory, “to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations.”

We end today with another snapshot of Jesus separating an individual from the larger crowd (emphasis in text added):

Luke 8:40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him…

42b…As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

45Who touched me? Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

46a But Jesus said, Someone touched me…”

scriptures: NIV

May 10, 2015

Dan Macauley

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:05 am

Last night we went to a concert by Dan Macauley. Here’s a song he performed live which was synchronized to this video:

You are our hope
You’re always close
You are the one sure thing we know
We rise and we fall
You’re steady, You’re strong
You’re loving us all

You’re faithful through and through
No one compares to You
In You our heart’s content
Your love is permanent
You’re our absolute
Jesus, the living proof
Our song will never end
Cause Your love is permanent

We would be lost
Shaken and tossed
If not for Your hands surrounding us
God You are great!
And with You we’re safe
Now and always

You’re constant through all generations
Our way and our destination
Always enough
Jesus we lift You up!

December 16, 2014

A Good Question

This published a month ago at Just a Thought, the blog of author and church planter Rick Apperson in British Columbia, Canada. I thought readers here might appreciate this; click the title below to read at source.

A Good Question

“What does that teach you about God, Daddy?”

This is the question my son has been asking lately. He likes to sing praise and worship songs. He also likes to make up new songs about God. Invariably he will end the song and ask what that song has taught me about God. It is a good question and will often cause me to think, what is the meaning of the song and what does it teach me about God? It is a great exercise.

I also realized, it is something I never used to ask. I love to sing and will belt out a song anywhere and at any time. Yes, I am that guy walking down the street singing to himself. I will sing at work, in the car and yes, in the shower. Until my son started asking his question, I never put much thought into what the song was teaching me about God. Now I can’t stop.

I have also begun applying the question to my reading as well. When I dig into God’s Word, I have asked myself, “What does this passage of Scripture teach me about God?”   According to God’s Word, the Scriptures are a light for my path (Psalm 119:105) and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training. (2 Timothy 3:16)

It is all that and so much more. As I read the Old Testament, I see a God who is long-suffering and filled with patience and loving kindness. Moving into the New Testament, we see a God who loved us enough to send His Son to earth, to die on a cross for you and me!

God’s love, mercy and grace are all things that I have been taught through the reading of His Word.

My son has challenged me to go deeper in worship and in reading the Bible. Hopefully you will be asking yourself this same question he asked me. “What does that teach you about God?”

October 27, 2014

Central Theme: The Cross

One of my strong beliefs is that instead of shutting down for the weekend, perhaps some blogs and websites should ramp it up a bit. For many people, the days off work are lonely and depressing. For several months awhile ago I actually ran extra posts on the weekend.

This week we ran what I thought was a fairly solid series of posts on Friday (parenting kids in the internet age), Saturday (a massive blogroll), and Sunday (one busy family’s activity log). But the rush to do all that left me crashing in terms of what to run on Monday morning. As I went through the archives, I found what you see below. When all the newsy stories, scandals, book releases, church statistics and leadership advice is done and dispensed with, this is what matters:

“I must die or get somebody to die for me. If the Bible doesn’t teach that it doesn’t teach anything.” ~ Dwight L. Moody
“The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on his shoulders. If he bids us carry a burden he carries it also.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
“Jesus now has many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His cross.” ~ Thomas a Kempis
“In many respects I find an unresurrected Jesus easier to accept. Easter makes him dangerous. Because of Easter, I have to listen to his extravagant claims and can no longer pick and choose from his sayings. Moreover, Easter means he must be loose out there somewhere.” ~ Philip Yancey
“God proved his love on the cross. When Christ hung, bled and died it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.'” ~ Billy Graham

January 6, 2013


Filed under: Faith — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:35 pm

All from the writer who calls herself Free Spirit and blogs at With Unveiled Face. The first line of each section is also the link.

If I have to be encouraged to “share Christ’s love…”

 … I don’t have it to begin with.

Put Up or Shut Up

 If you don’t SHOW them Father’s love,

then don’t be surprised when they don’t believe a word you say.

There is really only one way to touch another life.

Manipulation: Akin To Witchcraft

 If manipulation is a viable option for getting good behavior from another individual, then you’ve got the wrong God.

How Then Shall We Live?

 Heard this today:

We weren’t called to teach the scriptures, we were called to preach Christ.


Teaching scriptures with the desire to obligate people to a certain set of (“Godly”) expectations is the polar opposite of preaching Christ.

I want everything about my person to preach Christ…  with or without the scriptures.

Christ’s Life Multiplied

 The best way to teach your kids not to live a life consumed with self is to not live a life consumed with self.

Letting Truth Rest

 Contrary to religious public opinion, you are under no obligation to beat anyone over the head with truth. If they are not interested in hearing it, feel free to let it rest, and wait to feed it to the hungry ones.

“Man Can Never Fully Efface the Image of God in Him”

 Came across this interesting quote today:

“Because man was made in the very image of God, man is not ultimately a liar.  He may pervert the things of God for his own ends, but he can never fully efface the image of God in him.  He can never really be satisfied with lies.  He can never escape who he really is.”

                                                                                                     J.R.R. Tolkien

Wrath: An Important Definition

 Wrath = Love’s extreme passion coming against that which seeks to destroy the object of its affection.

Gonna keep chewin’ on that for awhile.  It’s worthy of my understanding.

Wrath IS an expression of Love.  Period.

The author/collector of all these appeared previously at Thinking Out Loud exactly one year ago here.

December 22, 2012

Where is God When Trouble Strikes?

In February, 2011, I ran a piece at Christianity 201 by David MacGregor, a pastor in Brisbane, Australia; the area which had been hit by record flooding over the preceding months. The same day, I also linked to another of his articles where he is most honest about the trials of dealing with the flood’s aftermath. The unsettled feeling he gets looking toward the future makes it hard to sing certain songs, like “It Is Well With My Soul.” I recommend reading it again today, as well, in light of more recent events here in North America.

After stumbling on his blog, I decided to scroll back and read more of his writing, and uncovered this post and poem, written more closely after the catastrophic weather events there. I think that both articles combine to show that we can be broken, and yet still see the presence of God even in the middle of it all. He called this piece, Christ Shows His Face: A Flood Reflection.

Long time since I last posted. Combination of post-Holy Land acclimatization, everything Christmas, helping out at NCYC 2011, beginning a holiday at Hervey Bay, coming home prematurely because of Brisbane River floodwaters entering our house, moving back into our home just two days ago and finally getting power restored just two hours ago.

This has been an incredibly draining time – and that’s without the massive hardship and loss experienced by so many. It was SO hard being stranded for those days at Hervey Bay, yet unable to get back to Brisbane due to flooded rounds between there and Brisbane. I reckon it’s been some of the hardest few weeks of my life.

We had no option – from afar – to leave the evacuation of our home (either to the top story OR the church OR friends’ places) to an incredible armada of folk from our church, longtime friends and of course Joel and Jeremy back at the ranch. Like so many others, I find myself not starting the year anywhere near refresh. I feel totally drained.

I was taken by a Facebook posting by radio station 96.5 FM’s Billy Diehm last weekend. Billy was asked basically, “Where was God in all this?”. His marvelous answer was loosely along the lines of: God was there in every volunteer, every emergency services worker… So true.

So – the song that had been ‘coming’ for weeks finally poured out yesterday – Christ shows his face… This song is dedicated to all of those “face of Jesus” folk these past weeks, and especially those who ministered to us…

Christ shows his face


Christ shows his face
when lives are pained
weary hearts are breaking.
shows God’s grace
while troubles rise,
past foundations shaking

Every smile
Every hand
Every soft embracing
Christ shows his face
when lives are pained,
hope is hard, displacing

Christ shows his face
in thirsting souls
When hunger’s met with feeding
When nakedness for all to see
is met with love, with clothing

Offered rest
Offered home
Offered hope’s new morning
Christ shows his face
when all seems dark, the
light of Christ keeps shining.

Christ shows his face
in community
extending past their comfort
Sharing steadfastly as one
Self-giving for another

Every smile
Every tear
Every soft embracing
Christ is found
when all seems lost, when
When love’s true heart
When love’s true hope
When love’s true light keeps shining.

© David MacGregor 2011
Willow Publishing

click the article link in the introduction to locate a link to a lead sheet for the music for this poem

the link to 96.5 was added because way up here in frozen Canada, I’m actually a regular listener

December 17, 2012

We Look for Clarity; We Need Certainty

Pastor Ray Johnston, Bayside Church, Granite Bay, California:

…Our nation experienced the second worst school shooting in American history. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and everyone affected by this senseless tragedy. I, like all Americans, am devastated.

During tragic times like this there is inevitably a mad scramble for clarity. How could this happen? Why would a good and loving God let this happen? Who’s to blame for this senseless violence?

The problem – Shallow Christian clichès fall short and ultimately Clarity never comes…because at best, we see ‘through a glass dimly…’ During times like this we think we need Clarity when what we really need is Certainty.

I am certain that this senseless act breaks the heart of God because…

  • I am certain that God understands what it means to lose a son.
  • I am certain that every one of [the] victims was precious to God
  • I am certain that God is near to the brokenhearted
  • I am certain that no life ever is devoid of meaning no matter how short.
  • I am certain that Jesus meant it when he said, “Let the little children come to me”.
  • I am certain that life is precious and that every day with your kids is a gift.
  • I am certain that America needs to rediscover a reverence for life.
  • I am certain that a day is coming when suffering will cease and God will reign.
  • I am certain that when anyone closes their eyes here for the last time and wakes up in the arms of Jesus – they will be more alive than they have ever been.

November 13, 2012

The Shack’s Paul Young Returns with Cross Roads

The original distribution target for The Shack was about 15 copies. So it’s not surprising that million-copy-selling author Paul Young refers to Cross Roads as the first novel he intentionally wrote.

While The Shack took Paul Young into some places that other Christian novels would never reach and started all manner of conversations, the fact remains that the response from some Evangelicals and the Reformed community in particular was less than enthusiastic. I would like to say that Cross Roads clears up all the misconceptions and establishes that Young is definitely not a heretic in their eyes, but much of the doctrinal language of The Shack continues in Cross Roads, though I phrase it that way because this is often a war of words, not theology.

The critics are waiting in the wings for enough information about the book to leak out so they might launch their attack without actually buying a copy, particulars I’m not going to oblige them with here. Frankly, I’m drawn to Young’s picture of a loving God — regardless of the size, shape, age or gender in which he prefers to clothe any member of The Trinity — and would have no problem approving him to teach Sunday School at my church, a proposition that no doubt causes his detractors to shudder.

At the end of the day Cross Roads is a work of fiction, with a very contrived premise or two, but no more extreme than James Rubart’s Soul’s Gate which we reviewed here a few days back. It is well-written, technically accurate, and resolves plot loose ends.  It’s a book about life, and how some people live it, and what is left when life suddenly ends. It contains various aspects of the gospel, and isn’t afraid to wade into doctrinal issues that concern us as ‘church people.’

Nonetheless, I would say about this book what I said about Shack, and that is its greatest value is in giving the book to spiritual outsiders for the purpose of starting conversations; it’s not the last word on systematic theology.

The medical element of the book does not weigh it down; in fact the book is very lighthearted in a couple of places, including one scene that can only be described as comedic. The lead character is delineated vividly in the opening chapters; you cannot help but have opinions about Anthony Spencer. The author isn’t afraid to introduce new subplots or complications in the last quarter. Some Biblical passages are alluded to, at other points you get chapter and verse. The work validates that Young is a good writer and certainly deserving of the success which changed his life so dramatically a few years ago.

If you’re one of the eighteen million people who purchased The Shack you don’t need to think twice about also getting a copy of Cross Roads.

Cross Roads is in release worldwide in hardcover ($24.99 US) on the FaithWords imprint of Hachette Book Group. A copy was provided to Thinking Out Loud through Speakeasy, an awesome social media book promotion agency. The term “Sunday School” used above isn’t literal — we don’t have one — I’m referring to leading a Children’s ministry small group.

Learn more: The author discusses the book in this YouTube video.

October 7, 2012

Max Lucado on Grace

“No other religion or philosophy makes such a claim. No other movement implies the living presence of its founder in his followers. Muhammad does not indwell Muslims. Buddha does not inhabit Buddhists. Hugh Hefner does not inhabit the pleasure-seeking hedonist. Influence? Instruct? Entice? Yes. But occupy? No.”

Max Lucado is certainly one of the best loved and most prolific Evangelical authors and storytellers. He moves freely from children’s fiction to adult non-fiction; and from the pages of a book to behind the microphone for his daily 5-minute radio program. Like a perfect photograph with not a hair out of place, he leaves not a word out of place, providing just the right amount of emphasis so you cannot possibly miss the point.

His new book, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine (Thomas Nelson) will cover territory familiar to more seasoned Christ-followers, but with Christmas rapidly approaching, it also makes the perfect gift for that member of your extended family, that guy at your workplace, or that neighbor who has been so helpful throughout the year.

This is not a treatise on the doctrine of grace, nor does it probe as deeply as Philip Yancey’s What’s So Amazing About Grace.  Rather, Lucado’s Grace is a celebration of the grace we’ve received; all that Jesus Christ has done for us. It also implicitly challenges us to be agents of grace, to be agents of generosity.  There are no Greek words, no textual criticism, no instances of doctrinal tension, and no complicated charts or diagrams. This is a simple, straight forward panorama of the Christian life which always paint Jesus Christ right into the center of the landscape.

All that said, this is a book that is very light on actual content. Each chapter begins with a full-page title page, followed by a blank page, followed by a page containing three or four short quotations, followed by another page that is mostly blank except for a one paragraph excerpt of the chapter. On top of that, once you reach just past the tw0-thirds mark, you discover that the book has ended, and the balance is a group discussion guide penned by a different author. I’m not a speed-reader, but I finished this book in record time.

One surprise however was Lucado’s transparency in a couple of places. He confesses a love of drinking beer that ended at age 21, only to resurface years later; but because of his rather high profile, he found himself enjoying a nightly cold one in a convenience store parking lot for about a week. So it was the hypocrisy, not the drinking itself, to which he quickly called a halt. In a later chapter though, he admits to attempting to bribe an airline clerk so he can get on to a sold out flight. Sorry if he was your idol; I guess we’re all human, and that’s why we need grace. You can decide if such transparency is an asset or a liability.

So the book is a bit of a conundrum.

Read an excerpt here at Christianity 201.

A copy of  Grace was provided to Thinking Out Loud by Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin. Available at your local Christian bookstore from Thomas Nelson.

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