Thinking Out Loud

May 18, 2015

Praying Like Opposite George

Filed under: prayer — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:57 am

This jumps you into the middle of an article by Benjamin L. Corey at the blog Formerly Fundie, where he takes a fresh look at prayer. If it whets your appetite for more, click the link at the bottom.

Opposite GeorgeTake a season being Opposite George with your prayer life.

My favorite Seinfeld was the Opposite George episode  (which became a chapter in Christian Outsiders) where George started using his opposite instinct to make life choices. I’ve found this “opposite instinct” to actually be helpful for prayer life. Have you been approaching prayer in the same way since your childhood? Try doing the opposite for a season.

If you grew up in a highly structured, liturgical culture, try getting rid of all of the canned prayers you’re used to, and just talk to God from your heart. Or, if you grew up completely unstructured and find that’s not helpful right now, try adding structure to your prayer by trying either of the following: using a prayer book and praying prayers written in the book, or pick a Psalm and pray that particular verse as a personal prayer. If neither of those options ring your bell, you could even write out your own “life prayer” to ritualistically pray each morning. The key here is to try something different.

…continue reading Rediscovering Prayer When Your Prayer Life is Dead

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April 4, 2013

A Lesson Learned Too Late is Still a Lesson Learned

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 22 years ago, 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.
The smiles and hellos that are so superficial
Filter the feelings we never let show.

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/aside: 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 got 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 smoke. I got to teach a year at a Christian school. My wife got to start a number of 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.

October 10, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Monday was Thanksgiving Day in Canada, and we were away, so the list is slightly smaller. Remember to have your submissions in by 8 PM EST Monday night.

If you blog on blogspot, you should know that your blog address here in Canada automatically redirects to a .ca ending instead of .com and manually changing links to your blog is somewhat time consuming! We’re just assuming it flips back for our U.S. readers.

February 10, 2012

How “Love One Another” Plays Out in the Real World

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:25 am

July 4, 2011

The Lord’s Prayer — Extended Remix

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:53 pm

This was sent to me last week as an e-mail forward.

It is in two parts, the prayer (in blue type)
and GOD (in red type) in response.

  *********

Our Father Who Art In Heaven.

Yes?

Don’t interrupt me. I’m praying.

But — you called ME!

Called you?
No, I didn’t call you.
I’m praying.
Our Father who art in Heaven.

There — you did it again!

Did what?

Called ME.
You said,
“Our Father who art in Heaven”
Well, here I am..
What’s on your mind?

But I didn’t mean anything by it.
I was, you know, just saying my prayers for the day.
I always say the Lord’s Prayer.
It makes me feel good,
kind of like fulfilling a duty.
Well, all right.

Go on.

Okay, Hallowed be thy name ..

Hold it right there.
What do you mean by that?

By what?

By “Hallowed be thy name”?

It means, it means . . good grief,
I don’t know what it means.
How in the world should I know?
It’s just a part of the prayer.
By the way, what does it mean?

It means honored, holy, wonderful.

Hey, that makes sense..
I never thought about what ‘hallowed’ meant before.

Thanks…

Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in Heaven.

Do you really mean that?

Sure, why not?

What are you doing about it?

Doing? Why, nothing, I guess.
I just think it would be kind of neat if you got
control,of everything down here like you have up
there..We’re kinda in a mess down here you know.

Yes, I know;
but, have I got control of you?

Well, I go to church.

That isn’t what I asked you.
What about your bad temper?
You’ve really got a problem there, you know.
And then there’s the way you spend your money — all on yourself.
And what about the kind of books you read ?


Now hold on just a minute!
Stop picking on me!
I’m just as good as some of the rest

of those people at church!

Excuse ME..
I thought you were praying
for my will to be done.
If that is to happen,
it will have to start with the ones
who are praying for it.
Like you — for example ….

Oh, all right. I guess I do have some hang-ups.
Now that you mention it,
I could probably name some others.

So could I.

I haven’t thought about it very much until now,
but I really would like to cut out some of those things.
I would like to, you know, be really free.

Good.
Now we’re getting somewhere.

We’ll work together — You and ME.
I’m proud of You.

Look, Lord, if you don’t mind,
I need to finish up here.
This is taking a lot longer than it usually does.
Give us this day, our daily bread.

You need to cut out the bread..
You’re overweight as it is.

Hey, wait a minute! What is this?
Here I was doing my religious duty,
and all of a sudden you break in
and remind me of all my hang-ups.

Praying is a dangerous thing…
You just might get what you ask for.
Remember, you called ME — and here I am.
It’s too late to stop now.
Keep praying.  ( pause … . )
Well, go on.

I’m scared to.

Scared? Of what?
I know what you’ll say.

Try ME.

Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.

What about Ann?

See? I knew it!
I knew you would bring her up!
Why, Lord, she’s told lies about me, spread stories.
She never paid back the money she owes me.
I’ve sworn to get even with her!

But — your prayer —
What about your prayer?

I didn’t — mean it…


Well, at least you’re honest.
But, it’s quite a load carrying around all that
bitterness and resentment isn’t it?

Yes, but I’ll feel better as soon as I get even with her.
Boy, have I got some plans for her.
She’ll wish she had never been born.

No, you won’t feel any better.
You’ll feel worse.
Revenge isn’t sweet.
You know how unhappy you are —
Well, I can change that.

You can? How?

Forgive Ann.
Then, I’ll forgive you;
And the hate and the sin,
will be Ann’s problem — not yours.
You will have settled the problem
as far as you are concerned.

Oh, you know, you’re right.
You always are.
And more than I want revenge,
I want to be right with You . . (sigh).
All right, all right . …
I forgive her.

There now!
Wonderful!
How do you feel?

Hmmmm. Well, not bad.
Not bad at all!
In fact, I feel pretty great!
You know, I don’t think I’ll go to bed uptight tonight.
I haven’t been getting much rest, you know.

Yeah, I know.
But, you’re not through with your prayer, are you?

Go on.

Oh, all right.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

Good! Good!   I’ll do that.
Just don’t put yourself in a place
where you can be tempted.

What do you mean by that?

You know what I mean.

Yeah. I know..

Okay.
Go ahead.. Finish your prayer..

For Thine is the kingdom,
and the power,
and the glory forever.
Amen.

Do you know what would bring me glory —
What would really make me happy?

No, but I’d like to know.
I want to please you now..
I’ve really made a mess of things.
I want to truly follow you..
I can see now how great that would be.
So, tell me . . .
How do I make you happy?


YOU  just did.

August 1, 2010

Drew Marshall: Losing His Faith?

Drew Marshall,  host of “Canada’s Most Listened-To Spiritual Talkback Program,” with online listeners around the world, has always been upfront about the vagueness and uncertainties of the Christian faith.   If anything, that is the 4-hour weekly radio show’s trademark.

As someone who places a premium on honesty and transparency, I can say on behalf of listeners everywhere that this is a main reason that we tune in each week to the live broadcast, or catch recent interviews online.     While the running joke has been that ‘It’s all about Drew,’ guests from the worlds of faith,  politics and entertainment could not be wrong for suggesting that Drew extracted from them some of the best interviews they have ever given.

But on the final two broadcasts of the eighth season of the program (7/24 and 7/31), things got more severe as Drew suggested that he was at a point where “If God doesn’t come through;” he was ready to “pack it all in.”   Given that the program is broadcast on a Christian station, this type of rhetoric is a little more shocking than the usual provocative material we’ve grown accustomed to hearing on the show.

In an interview with Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias, Drew asked, “What makes a good apologist?”  (i.e. someone well versed in Christian apologetics, the defense of the Christian faith.)   Zacharias chose to answer first in the reverse, “A bad apologist is someone who deals with the question.  A good apologist is someone who deals with the questioner.

Those remarks proved prophetic as moments later, Drew confessed to the ebbing or waning of his personal faith.     Ravi offered him encouragement and told him that such questioning was common among great Christian thinkers of the past.

Still, the nature of Drew’s comments were closer to atheistic skepticism than anything usually broadcast on Christian radio, including Drew’s own program.

It might be argued that Drew Marshall is so steeped in entertainment culture that this could be his version of a “cliffhanger” ending for season eight.  Drew was very non-specific about what need he is facing that he expected God to “come through” on, and certainly did not broadcast any specific emotional, marital, financial or physical problem that he is directly facing.

There is also the question, as to what would constitute the answer he is seeking.   One person suggested to him that then he would have certainty, but no longer have faith.

But it was hard to ignore the desperation in his voice, which continued into subsequent interviews on that program with Darrin Hufford and Jim Henderson.   While we didn’t catch all of the 7/31 broadcast, the theme was strongly evident in portions of interviews we were able to hear.  (That show goes online on Friday (8/6) as interviews are posted on a delayed basis.)

Another aspect of the “cliffhanger” is, will the radio station want to continue to broadcast a show hosted by a man who appears riddled with spiritual misgivings and, what Philip Yancey calls “disappointment with God?”   Marshall purchases the four hours of time outright and “brokers” the show, selling his own advertising and promoting some of his other causes.

Methinks that God is in the business of “coming through” for us multiplied times a day.   He is answering prayers that we never got around to praying.   He is aware.  He cares.  He loves.   His first response, to say “yes” to everything we ask Him, is tempered by infinite wisdom.

Doubts and misgivings that invade our soul should be shared, yes.   Transparency is something badly needed in the church today.   But there are some people whose platform is so huge that there has to be some kind of gap between their public and private position, or they could bring others down into the depths of their spiritual despair, especially those new to the faith.

Pray for Drew Marshall, that he will find the spiritual assurance he is seeking; and pray for wisdom for Joy 1250 Radio to determine if they have an issue they need to deal with.

July 25, 2010

Checking The Vital Signs

Prayer is the source of the Christian life, a Christian’s lifeline.  Otherwise it’s like having a baby in our arms and dressing her up so cute — but she’s not breathing.  Never mind the frilly clothes, check the child’s vital signs.   It does no good to talk to someone in a comatose state.   That’s why the great emphasis on teaching in today’s churches is producing such limited results.   Teaching is good only where there’s life to be channeled.   If the listeners are in a spiritual coma, what we’re telling them may be fine and orthodox, but unfortunately spiritual life cannot be taught.

Jim Cymbala in Fresh Wind Fresh Fire (page 50); Zondervan, 1997

April 9, 2010

The Time We Disobeyed God

…Okay 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 over 20 years ago, 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.
The smiles and hellos that are so superficial
Filter the feelings we never let show.

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/aside:   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 got 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 smoke.  I got to teach a year at a Christian school.   My wife got to start a number of 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.

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