Thinking Out Loud

May 17, 2018

Thursday Link List

It’s a great weather day where I live, so for some of you, these are the only links that matter.

A few things seen the day after I would like to have included yesterday. Some of the items below are perhaps of greater interest to people in vocational ministry, but I chose things that I think all of us can connect with. If you missed the bigger list yesterday, click here.

  • Canada’s John Stackhouse guests at Lorna Dueck’s website and looks at the composition of the Willow Creek church board and how the choosing of board members can influence outcomes in situations like the one the church just faced. “From what I could read … the website indicates that the Board of Elders of this large, globally influential church features eight impressive people who are long-time members of Willow Creek and who bring a range of gifts and experiences to the Elder Board. All well and good. Collectively, however, they list not a single year of theological education. Nor do any of them have experience in pastoral ministry.”
  • Egalitarian in theory, but not in practice: Canada’s Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada — the country’s direct equivalent of the Assemblies of God — has been at the forefront of ordaining women and even having women as senior pastors. But it doesn’t always translate into actual positions being granted with what the denom would like to see. So, at this year’s annual conference in Victoria, BC, they affirmed their stance: “Two decades later, we recognize that although our accepted, official position is one of equality between men and women, that position has not translated to reality. Women continue to be vastly underrepresented both as vocational pastors and in governing roles at District and National levels, despite female students consistently attending our Bible Colleges in significant numbers. There is a gap between our official position and our lived reality.”
  • Following up on a link from yesterday, we listened to the most recent John Mark Comer sermon online. If nothing else, listen to the first 5-10 minutes. We also linked yesterday to a piece about “data dumping” where pastors simply unload a great volume of information in a non-academic, church environment. With that in mind, check out how this is done in Comer’s sermon. It’s a friendly, unthreatening approach with an admitted theology “nerd” sharing what he learned and recognizing some people may temporarily tune out. I think however, it’s also the degree of sermon prep which attracts people to his church.
  • Andy Stanley has been the most recent target of the label Marcionite, because of a sermon in the “Aftermath” series wherein he spoke of the first generation church ‘unhitching’ itself from the Old Testament way of doing things. Peter Enns addressed this a few months back, noting that God’s so-called “split personality” isn’t just apparent along the OT/NT divide: “Different portrayals of the one God are self-evident, not simply between the two Testaments but within each Testament. Israel’s Scripture does not present God in one way, but various ways—depending on who is writing, when, and for what reason. Same with the New. This is what keeps theologians so busy, trying to make that diversity fit into a system of some sort.”
  • Staying with the OT for a minute, what is the last book of the Old Testament? Did you say Malachi (the Italian prophet)? “The Bible that Jesus was familiar with, what we now refer to as the Old Testament, did not end with Malachi. In fact, it wasn’t even a single volume book. Rather, it was a collection of separate scrolls that were made to be read as a unified collection, and the book designed as the concluding crown jewel was 1st and 2nd Chronicles! Your favorite book of the Bible, I’m sure.” We don’t know how the change happened but we do know the “The general picture we get from the book is that the long years of Israel’s exile did not fundamentally change the hearts of the people. They’re still in rebellion against God, the temple is corrupted, and it leaves the reader waiting for some kind of resolution.”
  • An Arminian website offers “Five Biblical Texts that Calvinists Can’t Wiggle Out Of.” The outline parallels TULIP, and at the end, they admit their strongest case is made with “L” — an argument against limited atonement.
  • Still continuing with the number ‘5’ an article by a lawyer at Christianity Today offers five things your church should purchase before adding a coffee bar, or making another such purge. (This article may be pay-walled soon.)
  • Got an hour to think about comedy? We listened to this over two nights. Christian stand-up Jon Crist was the guest on The Wally Show (WAY-FM) and they left a camera running in the studio as they recorded the segments.

January 2, 2017

The Perfume at Church Problem: There Ought to be a Law

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:47 am

Part One: The occurrence.

It happened again yesterday. We thought we would take in a New Year’s Day service at the church my son attended for several years. I know these people well. I love what they do.

My wife didn’t make it through the first song. The perfume was overwhelming. This is a church which has for years posted signs, placed notices in their bulletin and had a message included in their pre-service worship slides.

People who wear perfume to church don’t give a damn about those things. They ignore the messages. That’s for someone else, not them. Many of them belong to an older generation who feel they have already capitulated to too many changes in the modern church, perhaps.

But the culture has changed. Allergies and — in my wife’s case — Asthma triggers are more rampant now. That’s the reality of environmental reactions to common chemicals. Oh… and the perfume used today is probably cheaper and more synthetic than its predecessors several decades ago; pure unadulterated fragrances don’t actually bother her.

So here, for the umpteenth time, is her perspective. I might just have to boycott that church myself in solidarity from now on.


This is the Air I Breathe

This is what an asthma attack feels like.

First, you get a tickle in the back of your throat, way down in your chest. It’s annoying, and makes you cough.

But when you cough, it feels different. Like the air’s going out, but then not coming back in again. So you breath deeper, which moves the tickle deeper in your chest and makes you cough several more times.

At this point, you realize what’s happening and your chest starts to feel tight. Like you’re being squeezed in a giant fist and everytime you take a breath in, you can hear it, like a wind tunnel or a storm.

You start to feel a bit dizzy, light headed and need to lean on a wall or a friend for balance. Then, if you’re still standing, your arms start to feel weak and your legs get shaky because there’s not enough oxygen getting that far.

And every bit of focus you’ve got goes into breathing. Just trying to get enough air into your lungs.

So you dig out the puffer. The ‘rescue medication’. You shake it well, like the directions say, then empty your barely functioning lungs, put the puffer to your lips and, with your oxygen deprived mental faculties, try to squirt and inhale at the same time.

Then, to add insult to injury, you have to hold your breath so the medication stays in your lungs for a few seconds. Then, in 5 minutes, you do it again.

It takes about half an hour for the medication to do much good. At which point, you can at least stand up again.

I didn’t have asthma as a child. Like many, I developed it as an adult. Keeping it under control means taking meds everyday, as well as identifying and avoiding triggers. Which for me, includes perfume.

Your perfume.

That stuff you bathed in yesterday before you left the house for church.

I smelled it as soon as I walked in the lobby and my first response was a knot in my stomach. Oh, crap. What do I do? Do I sit in the parking lot while my family worships? Do I insist we all leave? Run down the road to a pharmacy and buy a face mask?

Being a stoic, I decided to soldier through. I thought, How bad can it be? Stupid question.

Did you notice me shaking my inhaler and taking a dose? Did you find it distracting?

I was sitting near you unable to breathe. And it’s your fault.

I spent the rest of the service just waiting for the moment when I could stagger across the parking lot to my car. And it’s your fault.

I couldn’t listen to the sermon, couldn’t sing, couldn’t enjoy the solo. And it’s your fault.

I couldn’t stay afterwards to talk to people in the lobby. And it’s your fault.

I went home and spent the next hour in bed. I’ll need 2 or 3 days to fully recover. And it’s your fault.

I will never ever again visit your church. And it’s your fault.

Don’t bother to tell me that you have the right to wear perfume, that much perfume, to church because I don’t care.

I just want to breathe.  


…This time my wife spent the entire 1 hour, 45 minutes in a coffee shop across the street, allowing us to enjoy the service. If there’s ever a next time, we’re all — all four of us — walking out. 

Part Two: The Denominational Factor.

There is a very non-coincidental thread to all this. It happens only at one particular type of church. And yes, they’ve received copies of the previous blog posts I’ve written on this, such as this one:

It happened again this morning to my wife. Mrs. W. figured that by attending a “camp meeting” style service where the side of the “tabernacle” is all windows she would be safe. Sitting at home it was a fair perception, the reality when we got there proved quite different.

She notices these things more than I. But this time, before we even got inside — which is most unusual — I was aware of the distinctive scent of artificial fragrances. When we walked in the lobby, it hit us like a wall. We headed immediately to a seat on the side under a ceiling fan where we figured everything would blow away from our direction, but it was already embedded deeply in her lungs and was slowly wafting over to the side from the center of the auditorium. We settled on a seat next to an open window. She made it through the service without standing for any of the hymns or choruses; but at home, eight hours later, is still short of breath.

Perfume1As she said — or perhaps whispered — on the way home,

  • it doesn’t happen at the grocery store
  • it doesn’t happen at the bank
  • it doesn’t happen at the kids’ school
  • it doesn’t happen at the post office
  • it doesn’t happen at other types of churches.

The last point is significant. There is a very definite spike in perfume at this one denomination; and our schedule takes us to many, many, many churches in the course of a year, so we ought to know. Three of her last major attacks have taken place in churches of one particular denomination. Sorry… but that’s the way it is.

And these people don’t care.

I say that based on something else that happened this morning. About three “items” into the service, it was time for the opening prayer; what some of you know as the invocation prayer. At that exact moment, a woman walked up to the woman in the row in front of us, grabbed her hand and started into a prolonged greeting and attempt at conversation which lasted throughout (and drowned out) the entire prayer, which wasn’t just a few seconds. Complete and total disregard for anything and anybody else. Or God.

My first impulse — and trust me, I don’t know why it was these particular words — was to say rather firmly, “He’s praying, damn it.” I guess my brain was figuring that the d-word would be appropriate to the urgency of the moment. I didn’t. This means that I would have been swearing during the invocation prayer; which someone would argue is far worse. I let the impulse pass.

“So;” you say, “Why don’t you get the message and stop going to churches of this particular stripe?”

It’s not an easy decision to make. This is a denomination wherein my wife and I have a lot of history. Our youngest son has also recently made his home among this same group of people.

However, I think that, in terms of going to worship as a couple, we made that decision absolute and final today. 


no-scentsApparently, with the passing of about six and a half years, we forgot our resolution yesterday. Time to renew our resolve on that, I guess. Will I send them a link to this? Not this time. I give up. 

Also consider posting notices like this where you worship; make your church a fragrance free zone.

 

 

.

 

October 16, 2015

Imagine Being Told to Spend 3 Hours a Day Standing in the Corner for 3 Years

My mom lives in a long-term care seniors facility. I haven’t written much about that here because frankly, I am saving up a lot of the things that have happened there for a much, much larger media forum. I’m a writer after all, and for the sake of those who will follow her, which in a sense includes you and me, I want to try to do some good.

On her floor there are two dining rooms, each one seats about 30 people. When she arrived there, she was assigned to the table in the farthest corner, and in the seat that faces the corner. She really can’t see anything else that goes on in the room, nor can she tell when a server is nearby or approaching so she can ask for something. There is a window, but the tables are on an angle, so her best view is of the roof of the adjoining part of the building.

In her previous facility, they had a great system. Each person rotated one seat to the right every month. Once or twice the whole bunch of them got to move to a different table. It made for change, and it also created equity.

seniorsIn this facility, nearly a year went by and she started to feel the inhumanity of her seat assignment. So I started asking questions on her behalf. The treatment I got was about equal to what she was experiencing.

“In order to change her seat, we would have to contact the families of the other three people at her table;” I was told. Really? Seriously?

I told them that I would not want or need to be contacted if her seat at the dining room was being changed. I don’t even see the relevance of family being part of which table she sits at. In that exchange, I really felt I was being played for a fool.

Soon it will be three years. She’s a rather slow eater, so we’re talking three hours a day. Every day. Every week. Every month. For three years. Staring into the corner. No visible indication of what’s going on in the rest of the dining room. Not given the dignity of honoring her request for a change…

…On Wednesday she told me that a woman at her table had spilled some soup. She cleaned it up herself with a paper napkin, and then proceeded to eat the napkin.

“Why;” my wife asked, “Would you want to be party to seeing more of that?”

It’s a fair question. But I think she (and we) should have some choice in the matter.

I’ve appealed this before all the way to the top. Usually, when I do things like this on behalf of people, either logic or a sense of justice wins. Not this time.

Did I mention this is a “Christian-owned” facility? It’s run by the “Benevolent Association” of a large Evangelical denomination. Benevolent to whom, exactly? What’s worse, decades ago she was a long-time volunteer at this same facility. Her own mother and mother-in-law were residents. Her picture appears in their commemorative, anniversary book. And she’s treated like crap.

Right now my prayer is that the people who head up this place find themselves, when they reach that golden age, placed in residence at the facility they now manage.

It will be a most appropriate revenge.

 

May 16, 2013

Pentecost and Beer

Clash of Cultures - May HolidayThis is Steve Kennedy, editor of “T” magazine (formerly the Pentecostal Testimony) writing in the May/June issue:

Pentecost Sunday trails around the calendar tethered to the date of Easter. This year it lands on May 19, which happens to be the Sunday of Victoria Day weekend in Canada, commonly known as “May Two-Four” weekend — a reference to both the official date of Queen Victoria’s birthday and the popular choice of beverage consumed on this first holiday of the warmer weather. It makes for an interesting collision of cultures: the Day of Pentecost and May Two-Four weekend…

July 26, 2009

Keeping Asthma and Allergy Sufferers Out of Church: Perfume

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:32 pm

It happened again this morning to my wife.   Mrs. W. figured that by attending a “camp meeting” style service where the side of the “tabernacle” is all windows she would be safe.   Sitting at home it was a fair perception, the reality when we got there proved quite different.

She notices these things more than I.   But this time, before we even got inside — which is most unusual — I was aware of the distinctive scent of artificial fragrances.    When we walked in the lobby, it hit us like a wall.   We headed immediately to a seat on the side under a ceiling fan where we figured everything would blow away from our direction, but it was already embedded deeply in her lungs and was slowly wafting over to the side from the center of the auditorium.    We settled on a seat next to an open window.    She made it through the service without standing for any of the hymns or choruses; but at home, eight hours later, is still short of breath.

You can read about what this feels like in her February guest post on this blog.

Perfume1As she said — or perhaps whispered — on the way home,

  • it doesn’t happen at the grocery store
  • it doesn’t happen at the bank
  • it doesn’t happen at the kids’ school
  • it doesn’t happen at the post office
  • it doesn’t happen at other types of churches.

The last point is significant.   There is a very definite spike in perfume at this one denomination; and our schedule takes us to many, many, many churches in the course of a year, so we ought to know.    Three of her last major attacks have taken place in churches of one particular denomination.    Sorry… but that’s the way it is.

And these people don’t care.

I say that based on something else that happened this morning.   About three “items” into the service, it was time for the opening prayer; what some of you know as the invocation prayer.   At that exact moment, a woman walked up to the woman in the row in front of us, grabbed her hand and started into a prolonged greeting and attempt at conversation which lasted throughout (and drowned out) the entire prayer, which wasn’t just a few seconds.    Complete and total disregard for anything and anybody else.   Or God.

My first impulse — and trust me, I don’t know why it was these particular words — was to say rather firmly, “He’s praying, damn it.”   I guess my brain was figuring that the d-word would be appropriate to the urgency of the moment.   I didn’t.   This means that I would have been swearing during the invocation prayer; which someone would argue is far worse.   I let the impulse pass.

“So;” you say, “Why don’t you get the message and stop going to churches of this particular stripe?”

It’s not an easy decision to make.   This is a denomination wherein my wife and I have a lot of history.  Our youngest son has also recently made his home among this same group of people.

However, I think that, in terms of going to worship as a couple, we made that decision absolute and final today.

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