Thinking Out Loud

May 7, 2015

Thursday Link List

Monday night we went to see Do You Believe? but it’s so late into the theatrical run, that I decided to hold comments until the week the DVD releases. For now, suffice it to say I think that in many ways it improves on God’s Not Dead which is by, I think, the same producers.

So there was no blog post scheduled for today, and rather than a re-run, I thought we’d just do what we do best, with some material that didn’t make it in time for yesterday.  But first, a random page from The Brick Bible:

Brick Bible

Amy Julia Becker at the Washington Post on the National Day of Prayer:

But if Christians want a National Day of Prayer that invites people from various faith traditions to join together in what we hold in common — a belief in a good, active, creator God — and implore that God to work through us and in us for the good of our nation and our world, then we need to do so in a way that creates common ground rather than reinforcing the theological points that divide us.

Thom Rainer’s list of 10 Things Never to Say to a Guest at a Worship Service:

“That’s not the way we do it here.”Of course, you can’t have a worship service where any behavior is acceptable. Most of the time, however, the varieties of worship expressions are absolutely fine. I heard from a lay leader recently who witnessed that sentence spoken to a guest who raised her hand during the worship music. She never returned.

Pete Wilson’s 4th book launched Tuesday, What Keeps You Up at Night?

It’s easy to feel paralyzed by uncertainty.  We want our questions answered, our decisions affirmed, and our plans applauded.  But life doesn’t come with an instruction manual and rarely follows a straight path. How would your life change if you learned to lean into uncertainty instead of waiting on the sidelines for just the right moment or opportunity?

For an international body concerned with religious freedom, Russia is now on their watch list.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom reports Russia is now a country to watch. The USCIRF issued their report April 30. According to the 232-page document, there are 17 nations listed at Tier 1 abusers of religious freedom. There are 10 on the Tier 2 list, including Russia. Mission Eurasia Director of Religious Freedom Issues, Wade Kusack, says Russia being on the list is a big deal. “This is a first official announcement, or recognition, of the persecution from the U.S. government’s side.”

Purposeful Parenting: 5 ways to avoid raising ‘It’s all about me’ children.

A recent study on the origins of narcissism in children concluded, “narcissism in children is cultivated by parental overvaluation: parents believing their child to be more special and more entitled than others.” The abstract of the study further explains, “children seem to acquire narcissism, in part, by internalizing parents’ inflated views of them.” Unfortunately, the “you are so special, so smart, so beautiful, so talented, so gifted—you can do anything you want to do and be anything you want to be—mantra” is often believed, and our children suffer because of it.

“I’m into Jesus, but not all the technical, big-words stuff.” Sorry, but in many circles,doctrine really matters.

Indifference about doctrine is the mother of every heresy in all of history, and in our day indifference about doctrine is spreading like wildfire in the pulpits and pews of our churches. Ironically, the assertion that doctrine doesn’t matter is in fact a doctrine in itself. When people tell me they are into Jesus but not into doctrine, I tell them that if they are not into doctrine, they are, in fact, not into Jesus. We cannot know Jesus without knowing doctrine, and we cannot love God without knowing God, and the way we know God is by studying His Word.

 

 

Songs with substance
If you check the right hand margin over at Christianity 201, you’ll see that all of the various music resources that have appeared there are listed and linked alphabetically. Take a moment to discover — or re-discover — some worship songs and modern hymns from different genres.

 

 

 

April 10, 2015

Staring at the Screen

Filed under: writing — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:40 am

Albert remembers that afternoon in 1975 as if it were yesterday. He was 15.

It was July, hot and humid as you would expect. The sofa had been positioned to face the television set and he was jammed into it with his brother Barry, 13, sister Cathie, 10 and youngest brother Douglas, 8. They were all wearing shorts and tried not to let their legs touch because of the sweat the hot farmhouse was causing.

Short StoriesTheir father Ernie had resisted getting TV saying it was “the devil’s instrument;” and that “nothing good would come from having it;” but he couldn’t resist when a neighbor farmer offered him his old console set for $20 so he could make the move to one with better color.

The siblings spent their summers doing chores, but this day was so hot they had stripped down to shorts and t-shirts for lunch, and because the intensity of the noon-day sun, Ernie allowed them to take a rare full hour break, so they headed to the family room and settled in front of the television.

The set however, was not on.

After capitulating to pressure of the culture of the day, Ernie had second guessed himself after installing the set in its place. The set connected to the wall plug by way of a utility cord that was actually detachable — something they did back then — and he had yet to turn the set on for more than a few second to determine it had survived the move on the back of the pickup  and was capable of receiving a few off-air stations. Then he removed the cord and placed it somewhere out of sight.

So Albert and his brothers sat staring at the blank screen. Cathie found the TV listings in the Sunday paper that was still sitting by the fireplace, a routine placement for kindling for fires that weren’t needed in July. “Let’s see, it’s 12:30 PM on Friday, so what would we watch?” The kids talked about shows their friends often mentioned as the screen simply stared back silently, showing their reflection in the glass. They had television, so to speak, or at least they were making some progress.

Forty years later Albert remembered the absurdity of that summer lunch hour. A few days later his father caved in and the kids sat glued to it at every opportunity. It was harder for Ernie to get the kids to do their chores, but it also brought a wealth of information into their home which they had lacked for so many years.

Why remember this now?

The day came back to mind as Albert stared at the blank, blue screen on his computer, wondering who he should call to get it working again.

April 4, 2015

Weekend Link List

Pull up a chair and join us for some weekend links

Pull up a chair and join us for some weekend links

Featured Stories

David Cameron’s Easter Message – While both U.S. President Barak Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper both claim Christianity as their own, I haven’t heard of either one penning a faith-centered message for Easter. Was the British Prime Minister in over his depth? “I’m hardly a model church-going, God-fearing Christian. Like so many others, I’m a bit hazy on the finer points of our faith.” Theologically, I suppose this is a bit of train wreck, but full marks for trying. He ends, “I hope everyone can share in the belief of trying to lift people up rather than count people out… That after all is the heart of the Christian message. It’s the principle around which the Easter celebration is built. Easter is all about remembering the importance of change, responsibility, and doing the right thing for the good of our children. And today, that message matters more than ever.” The heart of Easter at your church may vary slightly.

Responding to a Spouse’s Sexual Sin – Part of a video series, The Mingling of Souls where Matt Chandler and Lauren Chandler answer questions. Lauren: “Although it feels intensely personal, it is not. It is an issue in her husband’s heart that’s rooted in sin, it is sin; it’s coveting; it’s rooted in choosing the creation over the creator; it’s against God, and though it feels very personal, it’s not personal… What a privilege, as painful as it is, that she gets to be a part of his reconciliation to the Lord and to her, and how she gets to be the hands and feet of Jesus; that she gets to be a minister of the gospel to her own husband. It’s hard, and it involves a pouring out, and it is very much like Jesus did for us… You will have to sustain something that feels very offensive, but Jesus did it first for you.”

The Wedding Cake Issue Just Got Exponentially More Complicated – Benjamin L. Corey thinks there’s more than just one reason for a Christian to refuse to do a wedding cake. He’s got ten, one of which is: “The Bible clearly states in Deuteronomy 24 that a man cannot serve in the military during his first year of marriage. If you sell a cake to that young military couple, you will be endorsing a lifestyle that is directly rebelling against God’s inerrant word. Don’t do it!” Plus, according to Ezekiel, you shouldn’t do the cake if one of them works at a bank.

Children’s Ministry Reveals Much About Adult Ministry – “I truly believe that you can get a sense about how your church feels about the Bible by looking no further than the children’s wing of the church. In a way, Sunday School is a great litmus test to see how important the Word of God is to the larger church… Do children have Bibles in their hands at church? Do they open those Bibles when they are in Sunday School? …Make sure to peer behind the aesthetics of children’s ministry. Take an interest in what is being taught and don’t let visual appearance fool you.”

Faith Focused Film Announcement of the Week – “Hugh Jackman will be playing the role of Paul, and he, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck will produce the film under their Pearl Street Films production company. The film is believed to cover Paul’s conversion to Christianity on the road to Damascus, his ministry to the gentiles and his imprisonment. Jackman told Parade magazine in 2009 that he is a student of transcendental meditation … His father, however, became a born-again Christian after attending a Billy Graham crusade in Australia, which Jackman attended as a young boy.”

Childbirth Imagery in The Cross – “Early and medieval Christians were less reluctant than many of us to imagine God in motherly terms…Imagining Easter as a kind of childbirth offers us another way to understand Christ’s suffering on the cross. Birth is not passive, pointless, cruel suffering. It is active work—labor. Women who have given birth sometimes speak of the great sense of strength and triumph they feel when their baby finally emerges. These mothers suffered pain, perhaps even risked death, to bring forth someone new, to bring forth new life. And so when Jesus goes to the cross “for the joy set before him,” as the writer of Hebrews puts it, it’s not masochistic, nor is it passive. He puts forth strength and endurance; like childbirth, it is a commitment to struggle.”

Street Preacher Told Not to Use Certain Verses – “A street preacher has been told by a judge which Bible verse he should have used when discussing homosexuality, as he was convicted of a public order offense at Bristol Crown Court…In court Judge Shamim Qureshi told Overd that he should have used Leviticus 18 instead of Leviticus 20 to make a point about homosexuality, the Christian Legal Center said. Overd commented: ‘I am amazed that the Judge sees it as his role to dictate which parts of the Bible can and can’t be preached. This is not free speech but censorship. The Judge is redacting the Bible‘, he added.”

Bible Reading Blues – “I always felt like I was drinking from a shallow well in every single Bible Reading Plan I picked. I’d lose steam and feel guilty that I wasn’t checking off my daily reading, I’d forget where I was reading, or forget the narrative line. I found myself spending more time trying to piece together things than actually reading and ingesting what I was reading. I loved the Word of God, but I mostly loved it because I knew there was life in it, not because I actually felt life in my reading.” But then the scene changes, “I saw themes I hadn’t seen before, and I understood Paul as a person in a way I never had. It was as though my Bible reading went from watching a drama take place on a stage to actually being a part of the play.”

Churches Have Bullies, Too – Thom Rainer: “They wreak havoc and create dissension. They typically must have an “enemy” in the church, because they aren’t happy unless they are fighting a battle. They tend to maneuver to get an official leadership position in the church, such as chairman of the elders or deacons or treasurer. But they may have bully power without any official position. Church bullies have always been around. But they seem to be doing their work more furiously today than in recent history.”

Finally… – On Easter Sunday, if you’re doing Children’s ministry, you can offer to bring both the craft and the snack.

From Stuff Fundies Like: Gospel Baptist Church wants to make extra special sure that you don’t think women are in charge of anything more important than the nursery. They want to make so sure that they had an extra banner made just to point it out.

From Stuff Fundies Like:  Gospel Baptist Church wants to make extra special sure that you don’t think women are in charge of anything more important than the nursery. They want to make so sure that they had an extra banner made just to point it out.

Short Takes

  • That moment where your 21-year old son, who was in to Dubstep and Electronica writes you from college to say this is his favorite song right now.
  • New York City churches are allowed to rent schools, for now. The Mayor: “While we review and revise the rules, groups currently permitted to use schools for worship will continue to be able to worship on school premises.”
  • Tweens and porn in the UK: “Shocking new figures reveal that one in ten 12 to 13-year-olds believe they may be addicted to pornography, and 12 per cent admit to having made or taken part in a sexually explicit video.”
  • Passover like you’ve never seen it. A 2-minute video.
  • It’s a different type of small group, one that is a faction that forms against the pastor. “28 percent of pastors have been pushed out of their churches by attacks that originated from a relatively small group of people… Nearly half of those pastors who had left then seriously considered abandoning ministry altogether.”
  • It’s been out there for a while, but I just noticed that 3 of the Top Ten bloggers on this Top 100 Christian blogs list are Canadian, including the first two.
  • I get what Fred Clark’s doing with this series, but the series itself needs a better name.
  • Finally, from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s media division, TwentyOneHundred Productions, we finally know how the Apostle Paul drafted his letters:

Paul's Epistle Template

 

 

February 18, 2015

Wednesday Link List

Morality in the 21st Century

Morality in the 21st Century

 

  • Mama Mea Culpa? – Ravi Zacharias on President Obama’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast: “For those who did not hear the talk, it is sufficient to say that it was the most ill-advised and poorly chosen reprimand ever given at a National Prayer Breakfast. I have been to several and have never, ever heard such absence of wisdom in a setting such as this…Citing the Crusades, he used the single most inflammatory word he could have with which to feed the insatiable rage of the extremists. That is exactly what they want to hear…
  • When You’ve Lost the Calvinists, You’ve Lost the Battle – Justin Taylor at no less than The Gospel Coalition is not on-side with ‘literal’ six day creationism: “It is commonly suggested that this is such a “plain reading” of Scripture—so obviously clear and true—that the only people who doubt it are those who have been influenced by Charles Darwin and his neo-Darwinian successors…So it may come as a surprise to some contemporary conservatives that some of the great stalwarts of the faith were not convinced of this interpretation…I want to suggest there are some good, textual reasons…”  (Of course, not everyone agreed.)
  • When It’s Time for a Time Out – A look at what it means to be “disqualified from ministry” and the related issue of restoration. “My point is that those who minister for God don’t live unimpeachable lives. By “unimpeachable” I mean perfect. But the sins we are often quick to use to disqualify someone from ministry are far less severe than denying Christ [or] adjusting the Gospel to make it square with our prejudice.”
  • If a First Century Christian Time Traveled to Your Church – “If Americanized Christians were to see how the first Christians lived, it would be denounced as some sort of communist cult being led by folks who distorted the Gospel…If Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort were to fly back in time to see how the first Christians– those who walked and talked with Jesus– were doing things, they’d say they were totally doing it wrong, and have succumbed to liberalism.”
  • Essay of the Week: What Makes a Movie/CD Christian? – “[William Romanowski] argues, when [Amy] Grant began to abandon explicitly Christian lyrics in favor of ones focused on romance, many Christians became uneasy and were forced to reconsider their paradigm for Christian art. Was Amy Grant enough of a Christian singer? The fact that Grant resisted easy categorization prompted discussion and debate. She defied the strict sacred/secular bifurcation. Of course, the only difference between Christian Grant and secular Grant was the lyrics. Christian art, the logic went, is Christian art only if it explicitly communicates its Christian-ness.”
  • Reinventing The Christian Bookstore – Even as the Family Christian bookstore chain enters Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, a former university textbook store has been re-purposed as a center for the Christian community in Winnipeg, Manitoba that is part retail, part library and includes many other parts: “Materials from the lending library, owned and operated by Mennonite Church Canada, sit in the middle of the spacious store, with catalogue stickers indicating the items are for loan, not for sale…” The university president adds, “We didn’t want to build only a library, but we wanted to build a public gathering place.”
  • Missing the Moment – We’ve all seen the pictures where people are so busy with their smartphones they miss something awesome taking place right next to them. Tyler Blanski addressed this and many other social media challenges in a November article that we just discovered: “…Mixing social media with daily life diminishes daily life. When I’m with my son, I want him to be able to take for granted that I am there. And no matter how often I might look up from my phone, if our time together is material for social media, I will never be more than half there. I want him to grow up in a home that is a safe haven, not a stage.”
  • Lost in Translation? – The NIV, ESV, Amplified, KJV and several others get together for a dinner party. (I hesitated to title this link, ‘If Translations Could Speak.’) A great premise if you’ve always wondered what they all think of each other. [NIV to ESV] “Look, I know you’re the new kid on the block, and that a bunch of pastors are all like, ‘Rah, rah, ESV, our study Bible can beat up your study Bible.’ But just because you’re new and polished doesn’t mean you’re better. Some of us have been around for a long time and have seen a lot of things.”
  • The Vanity and Toxicity of Conversation Toppers: “We may not realize it, but there is an art to making good conversation. Such artistry is not simply the goal of talk show hosts and salesmen but should be something that each one of us practices, especially those who serve as pastors.”
  • One for the Road – Next Sunday’s worship: Looking for something new that is both hymn-like and chorus-like and also lyrically deep? You could do this song with a driving rhythm section or a classically trained choir.

Short Takes:

Sometimes preachers talk about people being "too busy for God..." I found it interesting that in December, when we get busy, readership at Christianity 201 drops noticeably. When things get hectic, we do put spiritual disciplines on the back burner.

Sometimes preachers talk about people being “too busy for God…” I found it interesting that in December, when we get hectic, readership at Christianity 201 drops noticeably; some of us do tend to put spiritual disciplines on the back burner at busy times.

December 1, 2014

While You’re Cleaning Up From Thanksgiving

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:01 am

Kids are back at school today, relatives are back at work, but the house is a disaster, right? Actually, it’s all in how you look at it. Credit for this goes to Chelsea Lee Smith; click the image below to explore her blog.

It's All In How You Look at It

October 29, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Orange Curriculum Parody Poster

Our graphic image theme this week is parody. The upper one is a supplement to the Orange Curriculum, a weekend service Christian education experience for children. You can click on the image and then surf the rest of the web page to learn more.

A bumper harvest this week; get coffee first.

The rest of the week Paul Wilkinson offers you a daily choice between trick at Thinking Out Loud, or treat at Christianity 201.

What a Mug I Have of Coffee

October 22, 2014

Wednesday Link List

John Calvin Pumpkin

Can you guess who that is in the pumpkin?  Details below.

Welcome to the World Series of Christian news and opinion stories. Two teams: People who are screaming to be heard, and people with stories they wish we didn’t know.

 We leave you with the many creative camera angles of The Phil Vischer Podcast. (Bonus points for naming the guests in the comment section.)

Phil Vischer Podcast YouTube

 

October 15, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Sunset - Mark BattersonThis is another photograph in a continuing series by people known to readers here; this sunset was taken Monday night by author and pastor Mark Batterson.

 

On Monday I raked leaves and collected links; you could call it my own little feast of ingathering.

Paul Wilkinson’s wisdom and Christian multi-level business opportunities — “just drop by our house tomorrow night, we have something wonderful we’d like to share with you” — can be gleaned the rest of the week at Thinking Out Loud, Christianity 201 and in the Twitterverse

From the archives:
The problem with out-of-office email notifications:


Lost in translation: The English is clear enough to lorry drivers – but the Welsh reads “I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated.” …Read the whole 2008 BBC News story here.

August 9, 2014

“Oh, are you any relation to John Piper?”

I would not want to grow up in the shadow of a famous person, let alone a celebrity in the present Evangelical/Christian milieu, so after listening to several episodes of The Happy Rant Podcast, of which Barnabas Piper is one of three hosts — I decided it was time to see how iconic Calvinist John Piper fared in his son’s book, The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity.

The Pastor's Kid - Barnabas PiperDespite a rather intense introduction from the elder Piper, no family secrets were revealed, in fact there is such a universality to this story that perhaps it should be titled, The Church Leader’s Kid, or The Board Member’s Kid, or The Sunday School Teacher’s Kid, or even The Usher’s Kid. (Note: This list was not presented in descending order; I am not implying that ushers are any less important than board members.) The point is that all of us who grew up in church sometimes feel undeniable pressure to be good.

The book itself is rather light reading, though this is not a light subject. The younger Piper comes at this from various perspectives and with absolute transparency. The ministry life is an individual calling, but as I know from my own household, spouses and offspring get dragged into that life whether they want it or not.

The immersion into ministry life for a child is not simply a matter of meshing a church schedule to a school and sports schedule. The expectations are gigantic.

In some sense the “Bible expert” identity is one that PKs can’t help. It takes very intention effort not to learn biblical facts and references when it is your parents’ full-time job and home life both. We absorb biblical knowledge passively whether we care to or not. And the higher expectation naturally follows.

When you combine this ever-present reality with the fact we are the progeny of clergy, a further challenge arises — PKs are often expected to be theologians (sometimes by our parents, usually by the church). This is distinctly different than being a “Bible expert,” someone who knows the facts of Scripture. Being a theologian is a discipline, a cause, a passion. People expect that one of our great passions will be the systematized exploration and explanation of God. And while it is good for everyone to give careful thought to the things of God, the expectation of “theologian” placed on PKs is much more than that.  (pp. 52-53)

The book also is strong in its examination of the relationship of the PK to the pastor/parent.

American church culture has created a double standard for pastors. They are expected to be dynamic leaders, teachers, counselors and organizational heads. And one of the job qualifications is that they be dynamic family men. These two demands would not necessary be at odds except that both far surpass reality. Pastors are expected to be superior in both roles, even when they are at odds with each other.   (p.  119)

If the church wins the battle for the man’s time, the family (i.e. especially the kids) lose. “What we get are the leftovers. When that happens, while he may be seen as great pastor, he is a flop as a parent.”

Barnabas Piper and John PiperThere is more than a direct hint from Barnabas that his famous father really isn’t drawn to any particular hobbies.  In a rare candid paragraph he laments that “…to this day, I still yearn to have a shared hobby with my father, something as simple as golf or hiking. Such little things have big meanings.” While I am not a pastor myself, I saw myself in this section of the book, especially the notation that, “…what he loved was studying, theology, writing and preaching — not exactly the hobbies to share with a twelve-year old.”

That’s possibly why I said the book really has a more general application, especially for Christian men. I know men aren’t big consumers of Christian books, but the 137 pages of core content here includes 21 essentially blank pages (something publisher David C. Cook is frequently guilty of) so at least the guys will feel they are making progress as they read.

As universal as are the parenting issues this book speaks to, the very designation “PK” shows that the issues are unique.

You can tell we have a reputation because we get our own abbreviation. You don’t see a teacher’s kid getting called a “TK” or a salesman’s kid getting called an “SK.”  (p. 23)

There are two things that are absent from The Pastor’s Kid which I feel are worth noting.

First, Barnabas is the son of both a famous preacher and a famous preacher’s wife. (Some churches even refer to the Pastor’s wife as the church’s “First Lady,” in the same sense as the wife of the U.S. President.) Perhaps he is saving this for a sequel, establishing a brand. (The Pastor’s Wife followed by The Pastor’s Cat and Dog.) It’s also possible that Noël Piper wisely suggested something like, ‘Leave me out of it.’ Either way, there is only a passing reference to his mother.

Second, and more importantly, while the subject frequently arises, there isn’t nearly enough direct treatment of what Barna Research refers to as Prodigal Pastors’ Kids. Perhaps their circumstances make them overly visible, but we all know PKs who have gone off the deep end, either theologically or behaviorally. (See infographic below.)

Those two things said, this is still an important book and one that every elder, board member needs to read, as well as passing it down the line to kidmin and ymin workers who deal with the PKs in Sunday School, midweek club, or youth group.


Thanks to Martin Smith of David C. Cook Canada for a chance to come late to the review party and still get a seat!  For another excerpt from the book, see the second half of this devotional at C201.

Barna Research - Prodigal Pastors' Kids - from infographic

July 14, 2014

You Hear Stories Like This…

Filed under: parenting — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:32 am

The stories like the one that follows are always anecdotal things that have been passed on from unknown sources. You find them in the back pages of Readers Digest or on email forwards or on Facebook. Never from someone you know with zero degrees of separation. Never knowing if the stories are true or just creative writing…

We got to know Jim Forde through a small group we attended a few years ago in Peterborough, a city about 90 minutes northeast of Toronto.  Since everybody was from ‘somewhere else,’ we tended to meet only every six weeks. Recently, I discovered Jim on Twitter and last night he posted this, creatively bending the 140-character limit.

James FordeA year ago a family in our church lost their son in a tragic boating accident. He was just 18. I was asked to do the funeral with the local community youth pastor giving a message at the end. He was the perfect choice to speak. The youth had been trying to figure out how to be a play hard and love God. The speaker nailed the message. Just perfectly.

The Monday before the funeral my wife made a meal for the family and explained to my 4 year old that I had to go meet with this family. She explained that a mommy and daddy lost their son and they were very sad. With very little said he walked outside and started to pick flowers. He picked until he couldn’t hold any more in his little 4 year old hands. He asked Leah for a mason jar. I was to take the flowers with me.

I arrived at the house with the meal another local pastor and this jar of flowers. The food was set on the counter with all the other meals (my town feeds the grieving well!) but the jar was given a special place. Their son loved picking wild flowers and putting them in mason jars for his mom. His way of saying “thank you” and “I love you mom.”

Two days after her son left without a chance for a good bye or “I love you” she felt it one more time with the act of a little boy.

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