Thinking Out Loud

April 1, 2015

Wednesday Link List

Pete Wilson teaching on the birds and the bees. These are bees.

Pete Wilson teaching on the birds and the bees. These are bees. (Select week 3 at this link.)

Featured items:

As tempting as it was to come up with something in lieu of today’s date, I decided that the stories and articles here are often strange enough. Besides, I felt bad five years ago when some people went for this one.

A Different Type of Creation Debate – The UK’s top Christian podcast, Unbelievable?: “John Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, Illinois, has authored the book The Lost World of Adam and Eve. He argues that Adam and Eve were intended as archetypes for humankind, and the story is not mean to be taken as an account of our material origins. Stephen Lloyd, who holds to Young Earth Creation, argues that Walton undermines Christian theology as a whole with his view of Genesis.” 80 minutes of agree to disagree. (John is also a guest on this week’s Phil Vischer Podcast.)

On Taking Notes During the Sermon – Jerad Wilson: “I first began thinking about note-taking in relation to what preaching is when I heard Tim Keller, echoing Lloyd-Jones, say in a sermon, ‘I don’t mind if you take notes at the beginning of a message, but if you’re still taking notes at the end, I feel like I haven’t brought it home.’… I began discouraging note-taking (not forbidding it) and relieving my church from the duty of note taking (meaning, saying they didn’t have to) because I want them to see preaching in the worship service not as a lecture or as primarily an educational transmission to their minds, but as prophetic proclamation and as primarily aimed at their hearts.”

Church Decor That Welcomes Men – David Murrow: “Men are intensely visual. The way a room is decorated tells guys whether they are welcome in that space… The typical church is decorated grandma-style: Quilted banners and silk flower arrangements adorn church lobbies. More quilts, banners, and ribbons cover the sanctuary walls, complemented with fresh flowers on the altar, a lace doily on the Communion table, and boxes of Kleenex under every pew… This femme décor sends a powerful subconscious message to men: you are out of place. The moment men set foot in the vestibule, they look around get the same uneasy feeling they experience in a fabric store, flower shop, or any other female-oriented locale.” Be sure to click the two photo galleries.

Welcome Gifts for Your Church Visitors – “You are inviting guests to come to your church and a great way to indicate to them that you expected them is to have a gift ready just for them…A gift for your guests gives you the opportunity to explain what makes your church tick … you can give them an inside look at what it means to be a part of you community.” A 9-minute podcast with notes, plus a look at what’s in all those church gift bags.

The Bible on Disabilities – A short teaser for a short article: A new look at who are the weaker members of the body in I Corinthians 12.

God with a Capital G – Terry Mattingly, who notices such things, thinks we may be seeing a subtle shift in style occurring in Associated Press news stories. As it stands right now at AP: “Capitalize God in references to the deity of all monotheistic religions. Capitalize all noun references to the deity: God the Father, Holy Ghost, Holy Spirit, Allah, etc. Lowercase personal pronouns: he, him, thee, thou. Lowercase gods and goddesses in references to the deities of polytheistic religions. Lowercase god, gods and goddesses in references to false gods: He made money his god.” But rules change. (I now find myself vacillating between ‘He’ and ‘he.’)

Proportional Giving Isn’t Always Sacrificial – “I knew a preacher who mentioned the challenge he and his wife had experienced, trying to increase their giving by 1 percent each year. And I wonder, Why am I satisfied to give only what I’m giving today? …Stewardship is about managing every dollar, every asset, every possession, every experience to please God and lift up his name. The fact that I give doesn’t make me a good steward.”

Down is Up – People with Down Syndrome often report the highest levels of happiness. “The lives of people with developmental disabilities speak sermons and image the great mysteries of life. How can we prepare ourselves to be taught discernment and wisdom in this way? People with Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities are just people. I often hear others tell me that they couldn’t do my job. Most of the time, I quickly correct them: ‘Yes, you could. You can treat humans like they are human.’ We don’t do it perfectly, but we make sure to get involved.”

When Your Childhood Hobby is Satanic – On a new book about Dungeons and Dragons: “I think than fantasy role-playing games really can function like a religion, in the sense that players work together to construct an alternative world in which they can meaningfully dwell. As sociologists of religion know, when people can imagine an alternative world they tend to see the social order differently. Much like religion, these games create a new mental space from which players can look back on the world and their lives from a new perspective. The converse of this comparison is that a religious worldview can be compared to a fantasy role-playing game: As long as the adherents of the religion ‘play their roles,’ the world of the religion is ‘real’ and does not require empirical confirmation.”

One for the Road – You know you go to a cool church when Stevie Wonder drops in for a visit. And you know that means you’re gonna hear a song.

Short Takes:

Musician Cause of Death by Genre

 

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August 7, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Darwin - Cats

Is it Wednesday already? Time for another list of links of interest to people like you from blogs and websites great and small. But wait! None of the links below actually work; you need to click through to the Wednesday Link List’s new home at Out of Ur, the blog of Leadership Journal.

  • How about a 19-second video to kick things off? (Apologies to those who clicked!)
  • Frank Viola offers a completely different take on the spiritual life of John Lennon.
  • What did the Pope really say in that in-flight news conference? One writer thinks it’s not exactly what was reported.
  • You thought there were fewer this year and you were right. Stats on why not as many churches are doing VBS.
  • Got the standard 2.3 kids? John Wesley would not approve. I suppose you could call this an article about being procreative.
  • A UK church organist, 68, was walking to a midnight Christmas Eve service as he had done for 40 years when two men, both 22, beat him to death in a motiveless attack. Now, his widow offers a message of forgiveness.
  • Essay of the Month for June (but you may not like it): The atheist daughter of a noted Christian apologist shares her story so far.
  • Related: An Atheism, Theism, Agnosticism, Gnosticism infographic.
  • Essay of the Week: Ten things church worship leaders want the rest of us to understand.
  • Related: What if we looked at our church’s corporate worship time as a spiritual discipline?
  • The year isn’t even over and already we have a winner for the worst reporting of a religious story in 2013.
  • I’ll let Michael Frost Tweet this intro: “The conservative journal Christianity Today makes the case for welcoming same-sex couples to church.”
  • A blog to know about: Jesus I Will Follow You is a tumblr that answers questions from young readers on tough subjects.
  • From my own blog this week: A blog summary on the Presbyterian Church USA’s “In Christ Alone” hymnbook controversy and a look at same sex marriage in the Anglican Church of Canada.
  • It’s easy to deal with what’s appropriate beachwear for women when you’re on a Christian radio show. It’s harder when it’s your own 13-year old daughter.
  • Rob Bell is offering two more of his 2-day conferences in September and October that are already renowned for their lunch break to go surfing.
  • Music to brighten your day: Shine Bright Baby’s song from their new album Dreamers; enjoy Beautiful Love.
  • A link that takes you to more links: An Arizona pastors offers a 6-part blog series on the sins pastors commit including letting their wives manage everything on the homefront.
  • Here’s a March post which is a link to ten articles at the blog “Canon Fodder” by the author of The Question of Canon on — wait for it — ten things you should know about the New Testament canon.
  • In searching through blogs I had bookmarked months earlier, I landed on this very succinct post which I offer for your prayer consideration.
  • Before you hit the FWD button next time, here’s four reasons that Christians need to stop forwarding hoax emails.
  • A historic Roman Catholic Church that is already a shrine to a saint whose legacy is devotion to animals plans to set aside a memorial space for Fido and Fluffy.
  • Your assignment: Write a modern worship chorus utilizing the titles of television soap operas. [Warning: Consumes 4.5 valuable minutes]
  • Finally, a reminder for the end of the week, end of the month, end of the summer, or anytime you need a reminder.

I have no idea where the first graphic — the premise of which I’m not sure I agree with — originated; but the comic books below are purported to be real.  For additional wit and wisdom, follow me (please!) on Twitter. And one last time, here’s the link to today’s Wednesday Link List without the Linkectomy.

the-pat-robertson-and-friends-coloring-book-9781891053955Christian Conservative Coloring Book

March 15, 2013

Extreme Makeover: Papal Edition

Wednesday night we were reflecting at dinner on all the free television coverage the Roman Catholic Church received as a result of its search for a new leader. I noted that in American terms, this was much like the ‘bump’ the U.S. political parties get after the Republican National Convention or Democratic National Convention. An infomercial that is broadcast free of charge for the parties and seen by the viewer free of any other commercials.

But Mrs. W. pointed out to me that much of the commentary up to the point where they announced the new Pope was actually somewhat undermining what was taking place. The talking heads on the major networks were pontificating (couldn’t resist that one) about how what was needed was a younger leader and someone who would address the changing role of women in society as it affects the church.

And then, switching analogies, she said, “It’s like you’re watching Extreme Makeover and Ty Pennington says, ‘Move that bus;’ and the bus moves out of the way and you find yourself left with the same house you started with.”

In a way, that’s what happened. The older white gentleman who was the Pope was replaced by another older white gentleman, albeit one is from another continent who up until this week insisted on cooking his own meals and taking public transit. Perhaps Pope Francis would bring some major changes and leave an impressive legacy, but on Wednesday evening things looked relatively unchanged.  

By Thursday afternoon however, the first-day reporting on Pope Francis’ tenure was offering some most positive signs. Things that make you go, “Hmm.” Could it be that things are really going to change? And then, this item on Mark Shea’s blog at Patheos concerning “then-Cardinal Bergoglio, chewing out some of his priests for refusing to baptize children of single mothers.”

“In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don’t baptize the children of single mothers because they weren’t conceived in the sanctity of marriage,” Bergoglio told his priests. “These are today’s hypocrites. Those who clericalize the Church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it’s baptized!”

Perhaps it is, indeed, a makeover.

January 7, 2011

Getting the Story versus Getting the Credit

Over the holidays, I got to play a very, very, very small part in a much larger effort to bring both a hot tasty meal and warm friendship and fellowship to people who would normally be alone on Christmas Day.  At some point in the future, I might write further about how important it is to meet both of those needs.

A local reporter was present at the event and interviewed a man that she knows from his involvement in the local business community.  The end result was an article that was genuinely favorable, but one that placed this one individual at the center of the story, when in fact, this was a group effort involving dozens and dozens of volunteers.  To be fair, it’s possible that this person did not know the whole history of the event in question.

It’s the third time in a few weeks that the local paper has not gotten the story right, where the story involved something church-related or of a “religious” nature.  While it’s not objective journalism, I think sometimes the best reporting on a thing like this one can only happen when someone within the story itself does the writing. Also, churches need to be more sensitive when a member of “the fifth estate” shows up and assign a press liaison to that person.  Perhaps everyone else should be told not to speak on behalf of the organization or event, but to refer questions to someone else.

There’s a whole lot I could write here about how the media generally misses the nuances of Christian — and especially Evangelical — event coverage. We need more Christian young people to study journalism.  My wife says the potential for errors multiplies greatly when you’re dealing with small town newspapers.

But I want to put some positive spin on this.

While thinking this over in the 24 hours since I finally got around to reading the story, I was reminded of something seemingly unrelated that Frank Viola has written in many of his books that deal with the house church movement.  (Told ya it was seemingly unrelated!)

Viola says that when you visit a home church, if it’s running ideally, when you walk in you won’t get a sense of who is in charge. Different people participate by contributing different gifts and any teaching you get is organic, springing up from within the community, and possibly coming from different voices on different weeks. There isn’t the compelling need which we have as humans — similar to the need to put things in ‘boxes’ — to identify the “Alpha person” and give them a place of honor. Viola would say that the Holy Spirit is in charge. Not a particular individual.

That’s probably what bewildered the reporter.  She was looking to “get the story” as reporters do. And really, there were a couple of people “in charge” that she could have interviewed if she was doing her job properly, and those two are humble enough that they wouldn’t allow the story to center on them.

The “star” of the show that day was the Christian community — and a few others who were drawn into the current of generosity that was flowing that day — who were manifesting the grace of God being outworked in love and service.

And if you find yourself being interviewed some day, that’s where you should directing the “credit.” The pop and rock stars who accept their award by saying they “want to thank God,” may not always be sincere, but their words have the right idea. That would have worked well in this situation.

A Canadian pastor, Dennis Anderson shared a few years ago in a sermon, and it has stuck with me ever since…

“There is no limit on what can be done for God, as long as it doesn’t matter who is getting the earthly credit.”

March 15, 2010

I Envy You, Mr. Neary

My two boys and my one wife had never seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind until last night.   It’s tough to find a film we can all agree on, and with DVDs, even tougher to find a movie where at least one of us doesn’t leave the room before the ending.

There’s a scene near the end where the French scientist — his name is Lacombe — turns to lead character Roy Neary and says, “I envy you, Mr. Neary.”

But the next line, the line that has been stored in my memory since the picture released was not heard next.    Here’s exactly how I remember the line, “I envy you, Mr. Neary; I study the phenomenon, but you have had the experience.”

After the movie, for 30 minutes, no searching the internet would reveal the phrase the way I am recalling it.   Did I invent this?   Or do I have two movies confused?   Arrrrgh!  I am so sure that line is accurate!

The inference is there anyway and the principle is valid nonetheless. Its applicability to Christians is major.   We are studied and examined by all manner of journalists, academics and those who simply find us to be a psychological curiosity.   But ultimately, their reports are lacking because they don’t have the necessary experiences to fully empathize with the Christian spiritual condition.  (In a previous generation, that sentence would simply read, ‘They don’t have the Holy Spirit.’)

You can also turn this around.

The next time you’re in discussion with someone who you don’t feel is totally on the same wavelength, ask them, “Are you a student of the phenomena or have you also had the experience?”

I maintain that many of the people we come into contact with on a daily basis are simply observers, many watching from the outside.   I often compare it to someone who encounters a log cabin filled with people on a cold, snowy day.   Inside people are standing by the fireplace, laughing and drinking hot cocoa.  The person outside watches with their face pressed against the window while the ice,  snow and drizzle piles up on their winter coat and hat.

Let me make it more personal.

Are you part of this family, or are you observing, as though from outside, with your face pressed against the window?

Why not come inside?

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