Thinking Out Loud

April 6, 2020

You in Your Small Corner, and I in Mine

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:07 am

Many years ago Cliff Richard recorded a gospel album titled Small Corners. The name was evocative of a children’s hymn originating in a era before I was born, the first verse of which was,

Jesus bids us shine with a clear, pure light,
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness, so we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.

As I started to write this, I was also reminded of another children’s hymn that is probably just as ancient, the chorus of which is,

Brighten the corner where you are!
Brighten the corner where you are!
Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar;
Brighten the corner where you are!

For many of us, the last few weeks have brought our focus down to our little corner of the world. Yes, we’re tracking the global trends, but we also want to know what’s happening in our county or our municipality. It reminds me of a saying that journalism students are taught — which I’m not saying I agree with — that “all news is local news.”

But we also have an opportunity to reach out beyond our own four walls and “brighten the corner” of the world where we find ourselves, thanks to the devices on which you are reading this right now.

Basically, we need to say to ourselves, ‘If I can’t do ________; then I will do ________.’

“In this world of darkness, so we must shine.”

If you’re curious about Sir Cliff’s album, there’s a YT playlist of all 12 songs at this link.



February 5, 2018

An Unexpected Blessing

Filed under: Christianity, family — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:03 am

After dealing with Saturday morning’s flat tire fix — see Saturday’s post — my wife returned from worship team practice to remind me that her sister and her husband were arriving within the hour, something that had slipped my mind in the busyness of the morning.

The plan was for them to bring us some Thai food ingredients available where they live — Canada’s capital city — but not available where we are, and then to cook them for us in our kitchen.

We’ve done Asian grocery shopping in Toronto, but nothing they brought was anything we’ve ever used. It was a morning of new taste sensations and textures, something we’re quite open to. And yes, it all sat well as the saying goes.

You can’t make it all out in the picture, but the meal included:

  • Philippine spring rolls called Lumpia. (We love these; there are many variants.)
  • Hot and sour soup with enoki mushrooms and gigantic red shrimp
  • Thai eggplant and Thai green curry and calamari with coconut milk on basmati rice.
  • Dredged and deep fried butter fish with a lime juice, vinegar, shallots (type of onion), chili pepper sauce.
  • Jasmine tea and saki (which my wife provided)
  • Peanuts (my lame contribution; I was the only one who ate any, but peanuts and cashews do go well with Thai food.)


And we got to keep all the leftovers.

They drove 3½ hours and spent over an hour cooking everything and then drove 3½ back just to bless us.

And they did…

…One of the hardest things I have had to deal with in my life is accepting hospitality. This one was especially different, since it was our house, but they brought all the fixin’s. I’ve known other people in my life like this where they had to be the giver, the provider, the person helping the person in need.

I had an employee once who would never go to the store next door or across the street to get change for the cash register because she thought being a Christian meant that we were the ones meeting needs, not the ones in need. I tried to suggest that it was a wonderful context in which to get to know our neighbors; that we could build a relationship out of a contact that began when we had a need, but she would hear none of it, and would drive to the bank each time she ran out of quarters or $5 bills.

A friend and I were in Pennsylvania very late night one night and a family that we had met at a Christian music festival offered us the couch to sleep on. But I was so taken up with my own self sufficiency and so unfamiliar with accepting hospitality in this type of situation, that I insisted we leave at 12:30 AM and press on to Virginia, a strategy which nearly got us both killed, as the state freeways there fill up with fog on June nights like that one.

I was told later that I had obviously never learned to accept hospitality…

…So if someone offers to cook a dinner for you, let them! Plus now we get to put our creative energy to use to see if there’s a way in future we might return the blessing.

May 12, 2015

Jesus of Mercy

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:01 am

Kindness - Billy Graham quotation




Image: The Meeting House

December 25, 2009

The President’s Not So Politically Correct Christmas Message

…No, not that President; Ronald Regan in 1981.   The blog One Man’s Thoughts reminds us what life was like 28 years ago.  Though you still have to go a long way to match Charles Schulz scripting the speech Linus gives in the first Peanuts Christmas special.

The scary thing about the woman who attacked the Pope on Christmas Eve isn’t that she tried the same thing the year before, but that she was wearing the same outfit.  Especially when you think she could have been doing something creative, like the Bowen Beer Bottle Band did.  Then again, when it comes to Christmas and beer bottles, it would be hard to beat this Chinese project.

A more nobler project however, is the kind Nashville pastor Pete Wilson heard about while watching the news last week, only to discover the people showing kindness were from his own church!

But when it comes to doing good, it’s easy to not see the big picture, have wrong motives, or misplaced priorities.   Jumping into the Shoebox debate with what I believe is one of her best blog posts ever, Ruth Wilkinson (who may be related) discusses charity vs. justice and introduces a third possibility — presence — into the mix.

Sadly though, sometimes those who give themselves to the service of others pay the ultimate price.  Pray for the family of Little Rock, Arkansas Salvation Army Major Philip Wise who was shot and killed — in front of his three young children — in a Christmas Eve robbery.

And while you’re praying remember blogger Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, and proprietor of Boars Head Tavern –two of the most popular Christian blogs — as he faces some uncertain health challenges;  blogger and pastor Matt Chandler facing a battle with cancer; Canadian blogger and former sports chaplain David Fisher; and Stephen Weber, writer of the Daily Encouragement devotional site recovering from hernia surgery.

See ya back here in 24 hours, Lord willing.

July 7, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:38 pm

Wayne Jacobsen posted this on his Lifestream blog, back on June 24th.   I was going to just reprint the poem, but I wanted to include Wayne’s introduction also.

Do It Anyway

Someone reminded me of this sign today posted on the way of Shishu Bhavan, a children’s home in Calcutta. I quoted it in the front of Authentic Relationships, a book I wrote with my brother, Clay a few years back.

I really needed to hear these words again today. Maybe the will re-inspire some of you as well. Our actions are not about the outcomes we desire. Someone can completely destroy or repudiate a gift of kindness or an attempt to serve. This poem is about living with love and grace in a world filled with self-interest, that can easily treat our love with contempt. Love anyway!


People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Be good anyway.

Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People need help but may attack you if you try to help them.
Help them anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

October 3, 2008

Mystery Man and the Gift of Encouragement

Filed under: Christianity, Church, Faith — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:15 pm

For a dozen years now, I’ve carried a secret that is only known to my wife and two kids.   The secret concerns the identity of a guy who was used in our lives to be an encouragement to us at a time when no one else filled that role.

We had been several months into our retail store in a market where three previous stores had failed over the past six years.   In fact, we were the fourth Christian bookstore and the sixth location in six years.   The first and last of these were “second” stores for established retailers, the middle one was a family with a strong retail history.   We figured we didn’t stand a chance.   Heck, we didn’t even bother installing a telephone.   I figured three to six months and it would be over; but the pre-existing business would at least have a chance to blow out some inventory in the process.

And then Mr. ___ walked in.   Carrying about six bags of groceries.   Interesting groceries, too; stuff we didn’t know what to do with.   Lots of pork.  And cabbage.   And those little cubes you put in water to make beef broth.   But it was all so very encouraging.   A week later Mr. ___ showed up again, with more cabbage and more broth cubes.   And the next week, too.   And so on for about six months, and then later it switched to a weekly thing with a little bit of cash here and there to buy similar amounts of groceries.

When we finally realized why the other three Christian retailers had failed in this particular small town, we decided to wrap it up.   The problem?   How to tell Mr. ___ that it wasn’t working.   I did not want to break his heart or make him feel like he’d been used, or that he’d contributed to something that wasn’t going to last.   So we deferred the decision another week.   And kept deferring it.

About three years later, we were a chain of three stores in three cities.   All because we didn’t quit.   Or more accurately, because we were so surrounded by encouragement, so pumped by someone cheering us on in the stands,  that we just kept running the race.

His weekly visits lasted over a year.   I learned later that he could ill afford to be buying us groceries.   He said that God would tell him when it was time to quit, and once we rounded the corner financially, his visits stopped.   I only ever saw him two or three times after that.

This guy did not want to be known.   This was our secret.   He and his wife may have been the last people on earth that you would guess would play a pivotal role in a ministry that would bless the entire Christian community in three towns.   But my wife and kids know differently.   God used this couple to get us to keep going when everything around said it was time to pack it in.

The world needs a lot more people like Mr. ___ .

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