Thinking Out Loud

March 24, 2021

The Value Added to Your Life in Reading About Others’ Lives

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:16 am

You’ve already met Jeff Snow several times on this blog. He wrote about being a campus minister, did a book review for us, and twice we ran his 3-part series on the impact of divorce. Jeff is a voracious consumer of books in general, but especially biographies, the ones which focus on sports history, Canadian history, and key people in Christian history. What’s the attraction to biography? I asked him if he would share that with us.

guest post by Jeff Snow

I’ve never been much of a fiction reader. Most fiction I’ve read are books I was made to read in high school. I wasn’t actually much of a reader when I was young, but the genre I did gravitate to then, and even more now as I’ve become more of a reader, is the genre of biography.

A well-written biography can be a number of things. It can be interesting. A well-written biography about fascinating person can be as riveting as any fictional book.

A biography can be inspirational. As you read about a person’s character, their story can serve as inspiration for our own lives. One of my professors in seminary made us read biographies of a number of people from church history. His goal, he said, was to help us find “dead mentors”. Biographies can introduce us to people who can inspire us in our Christian walk and in other areas of our lives.

A well-written biography can teach about history. A good biography sets the main character in the context of their times, teaching us not only about the person but also about the historical era he or she lived in.

A biography of someone from the past can educate us about our decisions in the present. Reading about both the triumphs and the mistakes of great people in the past informs us as we make decisions and draw conclusions about our present day lives. As revisionist history and “cancel culture” take root in our society more and more, it is important to sink our teeth into reputable biographies from the past so that we can make sound judgments in the present.

My tastes in biographies tend to be a bit narrow, but allow me still to share five fascinating and interesting people that I think you would benefit from knowing through biographies.

1) Billy Graham. Those of us who are Baby Boomers and Gen Xers may not realize that there is quickly coming a generation who may never have heard of Billy Graham or understood his impact on evangelism, the worldwide church, and even on American politics. An important “dead mentor” for all pastors and evangelists, and for all Christians.

2) Jackie Robinson. Here I betray one of my narrow interests – baseball. But the story of Jackie Robinson transcends sports. In 1947, Robinson broke the “colour barrier” that existed in baseball and became the first African-American to play in the major leagues. A man of Christian faith, Robinson’s battle against prejudice and racism went beyond the baseball diamond and into business, politics, and activism. An important civil rights pioneer whose philosophy is summed up in the quote on his tombstone: “A life is not important except in the impact if has on other lives.”

3) Abraham Lincoln. You will not have a hard time finding biographies of Lincoln. He is probably the most written about person from the 19th century. His is a story of how great leadership evolves. He went from a young lawyer who refused to take out membership in a church to a president whose 2nd inaugural address reads like a sermon. From having a grade 2 education to being the most powerful man in the USA. Even his attitudes toward slaves and African-Americans evolved. As a self-assured president, he gathered together most of the men he ran against and put them in his cabinet. His was a life we can learn from in many ways.

4) Sir John A. MacDonald. MacDonald more than anyone else had a vision of what Canada could become as an independent country that stretched from sea to sea to sea. He was a complex man. He had his faults, as the subjects of all important biographies do. They should not be glossed over, nor should they serve to overshadow one’s positive contributions. His treatment of natives was in some ways deplorable, yet in other ways he was far ahead of his time, as in his desire to give them the vote. As MacDonald increasingly becomes a victim of today’s cancel culture, it is even more essential for us to understand the full extent of his unparalleled contribution to the Canada we know today.

5) Alexandra Deford. You probably never head of Alex, but you need to get to know her. Her father, Frank Deford, was one of the top sports writers in America in the late 20th century. Alex was born with Cystic Fibrosis, and her father chronicled her life in a book called “Alex, Life of a Child.” It’s the only book written about her life, and it may be hard to find, but if I had to choose only one biography for you to read, this is the one. A heartbreaking story, yet one of incredible courage and grace. Have tissues handy.

There are dozens of others I could recommend, but part of the fun is the discovery. So consider your interests, find a person that connects with them and start reading about their life. Between the covers you will find interesting stories, inspirational mentors, historical guides, and people who will impact the way you look at the world today.

March 8, 2019

What’s Missing in the Modern Church Experience?

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:15 am

This is about half of an article by guest writer Mike Glenn at Scot McKnight’s blog, Jesus Creed. You really need to click through — click the header below — to read it all, and the follow through to his conclusion. (I’m not including the spoiler.)

Church Attendance is Down, But Why?

…Fewer people are going to church.

Yes, there are reasons. For one thing, streaming services have impacted church attendance. If the weather is bad (meaning it has rained, might rain or … well, you get the picture), I’m sure to get several screen shots of people watching the services on line while wearing their pajamas. Not long after, a lot of these people will discover they can stream the service regardless of the weather.

Organizations that used to respect Sunday morning no longer do. Children have field trips and sporting events on Sunday morning most every weekend. Travel teams take up family weekends as the entire family follows the dreams of one of their children to play hockey, football, baseball, debate or gymnastics. Stores that used to be closed on Sunday start opening at 1pm. Now, they’re open all day.

Entertainment has discovered Sunday morning. The NFL kicks off at noon, but if you’re going to go the game, you have to go early for the tailgate. Concerts in the park, music festivals, food festivals, book festivals, and classic car rallies now consider Sunday morning to be prime time for their events.

I guess this is to be expected. Churches should not expect any culture to support the practices of their faith. Yet, there’s more.

For one thing, everyone is in a time crunch. Families are facing multiple demands from careers, schools and social obligations. The work/life balance has been compromised to the point many Americans can’t tell you when their work day actually ends and their home life begins. Most people are working longer hours than before, and social media demands more and more of our attention. Because of these growing demands on our time, most of us aren’t getting enough sleep.

When the weekend gets here, if we can catch up on some sleep we do.

All of this means when a person or family decides how they are going to spend their time, every investment of time has to be worth the time required. That is, more and more people are spending their time like they spend their money.

Every investment has to have a significant ROI – return on investment – or they won’t do it.

This brings me to a very hard question for those of us in church leadership. Is going to church worth it?

Why would anyone go to church?  …

November 3, 2016

Cubs World Series Win Satisfies our Sense of Justice

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:56 am
For younger readers, we've included both the original and the movie versions

Chicago Cubs as underdogs in last night’s game: For younger readers, we’ve included both the original and the more recent movie version

“It’s not fair.”

That’s what I can hear fans of the Chicago Cubs baseball team saying year after year after year. For 108 years.

Until last night.

I’m trying to figure out why so many of us root for the team that seems to have little odds of winning. As a Christian, I keep coming back to a well-known verse in Amos (6:8) which I learned close to the NKJV which follows:

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly*, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

*often quoted by people as “to do justice” as found in NASB, NRSV, ESV and about 10 others

Perhaps last night’s win satisfies my sense of justice. They deserved this, right? But after waiting since 1908, it also meets the criteria for mercy. [add rim shot]


I don’t know that it’s right to call Chicago the underdog last night, because statistically, they were long overdue for the win. They were certainly the favorite, though, especially among nominal fans and people like me who don’t follow Major League Baseball much at all. (Ask yourself, when have you ever seen a sports-themed article here?)

But then there was Cleveland, whose nearly 70 years since a World Series win isn’t as long, but is certainly significant. Writing this morning at Daily Encouragement, Stephen Weber shares:

One of the great sports scenes I’ve enjoyed since my childhood is that of a winning team gathering on the field to celebrate after winning a championship game, expressing the thrill of victory. Of course it’s all the more meaningful if it’s “my” team but I can even get into the sensation of the moment when it’s not. Watching the joyous celebration last night after the Chicago Cubs win I also experienced the thrill of victory, although due to the very late hour I didn’t watch very much of it!!!

But last night I also noted the profound disappointment and even despair of the players and fans of the Cleveland Indians expressing the agony of defeat. That’s the nature of sports, there are winners and there are losers. However having no specific loyalties last night my focus was on the thrill of victory.

We are now in the midst of a great spiritual contest and sometimes with our eyes what we see sure doesn’t look much like victory. But the Bible informs us (those who follow and obey Christ) that we are on the winning side…

…I’m sure glad to be on God’s team today. Yes, there are setbacks for every believer and even apparent losses in this great spiritual contest. But God turns our losses into gains, our failures into His victory, our conflict into His peace, and our weakness into His strength. The all-surpassing power from God is seen through the endurance of the believer in the midst of life’s ups and downs.

Paul encourages us not to lose heart as he describes the challenging turmoil believers suffer and their  triumphant outcome: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:9). But Paul continues with this spiritual diamond of inestimable value, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).


November 20, 2008

A Sports Role Model You Should Know

Filed under: ethics — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:07 pm

Really enjoyed this story a few minutes ago on ABC Evening News:

J.P. Hayes may be the most admired rule-breaker in America.

“This is a great story for sports and honesty in sports,” said Mike Golic on ESPN Radio’s show Mike and Mike in the Morning.

Hayes, 43, a middle-of-the-road pro-golfer, realized that he had mistakenly used a non-regulation ball for just two strokes in a PGA Tour qualifying tournament last week in Texas. Since the ball was unapproved for competition, Hayes admitted his mistake — and was disqualified.

“I violated a rule and I had to take my medicine,” Hayes said. But Hayes didn’t really have to turn himself in. No one filmed it. No one else saw it and no one would ever have known about the two shots with a prototype golf ball.

J.P. Hayes turns himself in for using wrong ball, disqualified from PGA qualifier

J.P. Hayes hits from the bunker on the 8th hole during the first round of the Honda Classic at PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

(Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

“No one would have known, but I knew,” he said. “And I have some people looking down on me that would have known, so that was the decision I had to make.”

Character, they say, is what you do when no one is watching. While that’s a powerful mantra, it’s easier to say than to live by. And for a player who was working hard to earn a PGA Tour card, admitting his mistake put a full-time spot on the line.

Hayes’s decision to turn himself in is a discussion dominating the world of sports. In a world where NASCAR drivers say, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying,” baseball players take illegal steroids to enhance their performance and coaches make illegal films of their opponents, Hayes could have kept quiet.

“The lessons kids are being taught today, when you talk about sports, is how to get away with things in general,” said Damon Hack, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated. “Often young players are taught it’s not cheating if you don’t get caught.”

Hayes also refuses to place blame on his caddy, who mistakenly gave him the prototype ball from his golf bag. He considers it a personal oversight.

…J.P. Hayes paid a price for turning himself in; he lost a chance to qualify for the 2009 PGA Pro-Tour. But even though he no longer can compete, he has no regrets.

“I am proud in that situation that I reacted how I should of,” he said.

J.P. Hayes’s decision to turn himself in is a small setback for the golfer and an unusual victory for virtues like honesty and integrity.

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