Thinking Out Loud

December 26, 2017

Of a Christmas Yet to Come

Filed under: Christianity, Christmas, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:31 am

This is the third of the four stories we’re presenting over the Christmas season; two by myself and two by my wife.

by Paul Wilkinson

The Winterfest parade snaked its way down the main street and stopped near the town hall where, as had been the custom of the past few years, local performers entertained the crowds which had followed the parade’s last float.

You could still sense a little unease, particularly among the older residents at the changes which had taken place. By the start of the 2020s the so-called “silly debates” about saying “Merry Christmas” had ceased and had been replaced with genuine interest in the historical roots of the season. But now, here we were a decade later, the few remaining local churches had lost their tax exempt status and the mere verbalization of partisan religious sentiment had become a misdemeanor.

I was so relieved not to have to have this event as an assignment. The reporter for the regional news organization I work for didn’t dare use the C-word, and even when covering things in an historical sense, or clarifying the laws, I had to get special permission to include it in an article.

Especially upset were those who had held membership in local churches which had closed. I stood next to two men who I’d seen in one church the week of its final services.

“Sure ain’t what it used to be,” said the one.

“No it isn’t,” said the other.

They left it at that, speaking a forced code because city police were milling about and any sustained references could constitute an unlawful assembly. Better to save that for the living room of a private home.

It is strange though how they look the other way sometimes. It was widely rumoured that a few weeks before the 25th about 60 of the faithful attended a house meeting in a suburban neighborhood, parking their cars at the mall to avoid attention. When nearby residents confronted the situation the town said they knew about the event and that it was a “discussion of philosophical and ethical concerns” to avoid it escalating into a mass confrontation.

I remember just a few years ago when business owners were told that signs and decorations bearing “Merry Christmas!” should not only be removed, but that they should be taken to large bins where they would be pulped and recycled. “Season’s Greetings!” and “Happy Holidays!” replaced them, but in quiet whispers I often would tell friends that the word holiday actually means… well, you know. I don’t think anyone envisioned how far things would go.

As the talent portion of the program began, I chose a spot standing next to Mayor Jason Herold whose reputation is such that everyone else is afraid to be anywhere near him. We know each other personally, and generally get along.

The selections this year were especially traditional and they had invited some talented younger vocalists from other cities to participate; I wondered if perhaps they had won a contest or something like that. First, a girl from a nearby city did a jazzy version of Winter Wonderland and then a boy from a town several miles west with an incredible vocal range did Sleighride and at one point we all sang Deck The Halls.

Next, a young man stepped to the platform and completely unaccompanied began to sing,

Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed
Where a mother laid her baby
In a manger for his bed.

Everybody knew where he was headed with this and a few people turned around to glance at Mayor Herold at the same time as two members of the police also looked as though waiting for a cue from the Mayor.

“Let him finish it,” was all he said.

…Mary was that mother mild.
Jesus Christ, her little child.

Mayor Herold left the spot where we were standing and slipped backstage as the young man, his voice shaking, sang all five verses. As he left the stage he was escorted by the two uniformed officers into a waiting cruiser, his eyes filled with tears.

As my colleague would post to our website, “The talent portion of the Winterfest parade was marred when a guest ameteur artist performed a song which was deemed inappropriate. He was charged under the recent act banning public religious expression and released several hours later to await further trial.”

In the meantime, I decided to walk nearby where the two men I’d seen earlier were standing.

“Sure ain’t what it used to be,” said the one.

“No it isn’t,” said the other.

As I made my way to the parking lot, I heard more than one person humming the tune. It seemed that with each try to suppress Christmas it seemed they were making it stronger. As I keyed in the code to unlock my car I heard a woman singing openly,

…Mary was that mother mild.
Jesus Christ, her little child.

Seconds later, who should walk by but the two men I’d been watching all day.

“Mayor Herold seems quite upset,” said the one.

“Yes, they must have contracted out the printing of the evening program to some place where they don’t know him,” said the other; “They’ve misspelled his name without the letter “l” in all three places.”

I turned around to go back to grab a souvenir copy of that since it was a sure bet he’d find a way to get them reprinted before the event started.

“Sure ain’t what it used to be,” said the one.

“No…” said the other, “If you look back, I think it’s always been like this.”

 

 

Advertisements

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.

 

 

 

December 8, 2014

Mid-East Persecution Continues to Increase

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:25 am

I don’t always share the emails I get from the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) but I think it’s important to raise awareness of what’s taking place, especially when bloggers are so focused on the American/Canadian church.

ACLJ Petition Dec 2014

It’s hard for me to even put this into words.

ISIS jihadists are now barbarically beheading Christian children.

The Christian Vicar of Baghdad is reporting that ISIS terrorists demanded that four children recant their faith and “say the words that you will follow Muhammad.”

These brave Christian children – all under 15 years old – refused, saying “No, we love Jesus.”

ISIS cut off their heads.

Evil.

There is no other word to describe the horror.

As people of faith, we must not allow this to continue. We must defend Christians from ISIS genocide.

Christian children are willing to face death for their faith in Christ.

We must defend them.

We demanded the Obama Administration take action, and it is, but not nearly enough.

Be heard for these persecuted Christian children.

Sign Our Petition: Stop the Genocide of Christians in Iraq.

Jay Sekulow
ACLJ Chief Counsel

November 20, 2014

What if…

Filed under: current events — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:45 am

Huffington Religion Nov 18 2014

What if instead of a Jewish prayer book, that was a Bible or a hymnbook that you recognized in the picture?

What if instead of happening half a world away this took place in a Christian church a few blocks from your house?

What if instead of the victims having foreign-sounding surnames, the names were people that you knew personally?

…Religious terrorism always happens somewhere else, but what if…?

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 27, 2014

Religious Persecution in America: The Gay Wedding Trap

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:33 pm

Whether it involves a wedding cake, printed invitations, or floral arrangements, everyone has heard a story involving a principled store owner who refused to do work for a gay wedding. But this story has a few twists. First, the proprietor, Barronelle Stutzman, had in fact done work for the couple previously; she was simply uncomfortable with doing the flowers for the actual wedding. Second, the couple didn’t file the complaint; if I understand correctly the state’s Attorney General heard about the situation on social media and filed its own charges.*

This video was produced in March by ADV, Alliance Defending Freedom. It’s newsworthy today after being shown hours ago in Nashville at a conference of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, where the owner of the flower store then greeted attendees in person.


*I hope I got that right; as a Canadian I don’t always get the nuances of U.S. law, but clearly there wasn’t the normal “plaintiff” that you usually find in stories like this.

September 24, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Pope Clement Coffee

The links are on me!  Actually, the Religious Newswriters Association people were all at a convention last week, so mysteriously, there was no news.

Our closing graphic is from eScapegoat, which allows our Jewish friends to transfer their sins to a goat roaming the internet collecting sins for Yom Kippur.  (Note: No actual Halachic atonement implied.) Click the image below to visit.
eScapegoat

 

December 28, 2013

Holiday Link List

edited Christmas cardr

With both Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on a Wednesday, we offer this mid-point link list today, with the regular schedule returning January 8th. (Actually, I think that’s supposed to say, “returning, Lord willing on January 8th…”)  If you’re new here, there was a corporate takeover of the link list in July, so all roads below lead to Out of Ur, the blog of Leadership Today magazine.

 

April 22, 2013

Pray for Saeed Abedini

Filed under: prayer — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:01 am

This is an update of an appeal we ran here on March 26th.

Pray for Saeed AbediniWe need to pray.

And we need bloggers and people on social networks to mobilize their followers to pray.

The American Center for Law and Justice reports:

It began last week. American Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is serving an eight-year prison term in Iran because of his Christian faith, has been suffering from internal bleeding for months – injuries received from the beatings in prison. In what could only be viewed as a cruel act of psychological abuse, prison officials took Pastor Saeed to a hospital last week – only to be turned away – and brought back to Evin prison without receiving medical treatment for his internal bleeding.

Now, comes word out of Iran, that the beatings and physical abuse are intensifying. Pastor Saeed reported today that last week he was severely beaten the same day the prison officials took him to the hospital. During the weekly prison visit today, Pastor Saeed’s family reported that his physical condition is worsening – seeing first-hand the marks and symptoms left by the recent beating. These beatings and the internal injuries are causing Pastor Saeed frequent fainting spells.  Iranian officials are telling Pastor Saeed it could be an additional two months before he will receive medical treatment. Such a delay is inhumane and a gross violation of Iran’s international obligations. 

In addition to refusing to give Pastor Saeed the medical care he needs, it now appears authorities are stepping up their physical abuse and psychological torture. Pastor Saeed reported that cellmates, who appear to have connections to the Iranian intelligence police, recently threatened they would suffocate Pastor Saeed in his sleep, making his death look like an accident.  The daily threat that his life could be taken by his internal injuries or by the hands of cellmates, weighs heavily on Pastor Saeed.  

Christianity Today reported Saeed was being pressured to renounce his faith.

Iranian officials have pressured imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini to renounce his faith in Jesus even as they have stepped up their physical abuse and psychological torture of him, including taking him to a hospital but denying him medical treatment, according to recent reports.

In a letter obtained by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), Abedini—a U.S. citizen of Iranian descent—wrote that he was told by Iranian prison officials, “Deny your faith in Jesus Christ and return to Islam or else you will not be released from prison. We will make sure you are kept here even after your 8 year sentence is finished.”

Abedini’s response, he wrote, is Romans 8:35-39, which says persecution and death cannot separate a believer from Christ.

“The reality of Christian living is that difficulties or problems do arise in our lives,” Abedini wrote. “Persecution and difficulties are not new occurrences, but are seen often in the Christian life. It is through the suffering and tribulations that we are to enter the Kingdom of God.”

I believe we need to pray for an absolute miracle here. We need this story to completely reverse course.  We need to see a miracle release like God did for Paul and Silas in the book of Acts.

But will you pray?

Often on this blog we’ll tell you about some amazing thing you need to see or read or browse and there will be a section that says click here. Out of maybe a thousand visitors here in the first day it’s posted how many do you think actually click? Often less than ten.  Many times just six.  (The link in this paragraph doesn’t exist, it’s an example.) That’s why it scares me to ask people to pray.

Or for my Canadian readers, we went on three different blogs a year and a half ago with the goal of raising $150 for the Salvation Army.  Now remember, Jon Acuff raised $60,000 to build a two kindergarten classrooms in Vietnam in a single day! So I figured we’d go way over our goal.  We raised $135.  That’s why it concerns me about asking people to pray.

You can’t assume it’s all okay, somebody else will cover this.

So today I’m asking you guys to pray, and to pray big; but as type this, I’m wondering how many will actually stop and maybe turn off your monitor right now and intercede — stand in the gap on behalf of Saeed — for God to do what only God can do?

Additional coverage at Assist News Service, Christian PostWorld Magazine

Please, link to this story on your Facebook page or Twitter feed copying this shortlink: http://wp.me/pfdhA-4nJ

If you’re new to this story, here’s a Wikipedia article with some history

January 2, 2013

Wednesday Link List

II Cor 10_13--15  Online Translation

And you thought I would take the day off, didn’t you? Well, the link list crew worked all New Year’s Day to bring this to you.

  • Russell D. Moore has a unique observation post from which to consider the decision by the Russian government to suspend adoptions of Russian children by Americans. I think his two Russian born children would agree with his summary.
  • Hi readers. Meet Matt Rawlings. Matt read 134 books last year. How did you do? 
  • And here’s another Matt. Matt Appling has put together an amazing essay on why the concept of shame is ripe for a comeback.
  • David Murrow has an interesting idea in which popular TV pastors are a brand that is a type of new denomination. He also has other ideas about what the church will look like in 50 years. (Or read the Todd Rhoades summary.)
  • Some readers here also blog, and if that’s you, perhaps you do the “top posts” thing. (I don’t.) But if you had a post-of-the-year, I can almost guarantee it weren’t nothin’ like this must-read one.
  • “This is the most egregious violation of religious liberty that I have ever seen.” Denny Burk on what is largely a U.S.-based story, but with justice issues anyone can appreciate: The case of Hobby Lobby.
  • Can some of you see yourself in this story? “It’s really hard for me to read God’s word without dissecting it. I like to have commentaries and cross references. I like to take notes. I like to circle, underline, rewrite. And then my time with God turns into another homework assignment.” I can. More at Reflect blog.
  • This one may be sobering for a few of you. David Fitch offers three signs that you are not a leader, at least where the Kingdom of God is concerned.
  • “We put people into leadership roles too early, on purpose. We operate under the assumption that adults learn on a need-to-know basis. The sooner they discover what they don’t know, the sooner they will be interested in learning what they need to know…At times, it creates problems. We like those kinds of problems…” Read a sample of Andy Stanley’s new book, Deep and Wide, at Catalyst blog.
  • So for some of you, 2013 represents getting back on the horse again, even though you feel you failed so many times last year. Jon Acuff seems to understand what you’re going through.
  • Dan Gilgoff leaves the editor’s desk at CNN Belief Blog after three years and notes five things he learned in the process.
  • More detail on the Westboro petition(s) at the blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars; along with our get well wishes to blog proprietor Ed Brayton, recovering from open heart surgery.
  • Rachel Held Evans mentioned this one yesterday: The How To Talk Evangelical Project.  Sample: “If Christianese was a language, evangelical was our own special dialect. A cadence. A rhythm…” Click the banner at the top for recent posts.
  • Not sure how long this has been available, but for all you Bible study types,  here’s the ultimate list for academically-inclined people who want to own the best Bible commentary for each Bible book. (And support your local bookstore if you still have one!)
  • Bob Kauflin salutes the average worship leader, working with the average team at the average church. Which despite what you see online is mostly people like us.
  • Flashback all the way to September for this one: Gary Molander notes that the primary work of a pastor is somewhat in direct conflict with the calling they feel they are to pursue. He calls it, Why is it So Stinkin’ Hard to Work for a Church?
  • Nearly three years ago, we linked to this one and it’s still running: CreationSwap.com where media shared for videos, photos, logos, church bulletins, is sold or given away by thousands of Christian artists.

Christian books I hope you never see

Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.