Thinking Out Loud

February 23, 2018

Ten Years of Thinking Out Loud

Today and tomorrow we’re celebrating ten years of this blog’s existence; ten years without missing a single day, as far as I can remember. Because the anniversary falls on a Saturday, I thought we’d spread this out over two days, but then again, we might take our cue from the wedding at Cana, and just let things go on for a week. Here’s some things gleaned from earlier anniversary notes.

Year Zero – The blog began in 2008 by accident. It was a continuation of a newsletter I was sending to a rather limited number (about 250) of people. Someone commented that they really didn’t like the newsletter itself, but they liked the little editorials I would add to it. I had a huge catalog of material to post so there were at least two items daily. In December, 2008, there were 70 posts. Not sure I could do that now.

Year One – Blogging was a big thing in within the Christian community in 2009. People were actively leaving comments all over each other’s pages and there were fewer trolls. Much of my best material was posted as comments on other blogs. There was a huge connection to whatever Christian publishing was releasing. Bloggers made many Christian bestsellers happen. As a book guy, I was now being flooded with review copies that had never happened in Christian retail, even though the stores need to sell the product for the system not to collapse.

Year Two On that anniversary I wrote, “I also want to continue to make this a blog for the ‘spiritual commoner.’ That’s the person who feels he or she has a real contribution to make to the life of their church, Christian fellowship or broader community, but isn’t as resourced as today’s modern pastor who, already equipped with both an undergrad and graduate degree, is still taking courses and jetting off to conferences.” In 2010 a lot of people were still on dial-up internet, so we were the blog that was kind to them and didn’t embed videos. We made up for it later.

Year Three – I began with, “I remember years ago participating in a discussion about the ’emerging’ internet where the main concern ran something like this, ‘How are they ever going to get enough content to keep those websites supplied with fresh material?'” I guess that problem solved itself. Thinking Out Loud enjoyed a good run in terms of blog stats due to posting things about the financial problems at The Crystal Cathedral and pictures of televangelists homes. No other blog writers found either interesting at the time, but if you needed to know Google was quite happy to send you here. Also noted, “Some of the best things that happen as a result of all this online activity are never seen online.” So true today as well.

Year Four – Blog anniversaries were routine by then, so I could be more whimsical: “On our stats page, ‘Akismet has protected your site from 294,600 spam comments already.’ I don’t know how that compares with the big boys, but I’m honored just to think that on 294,600 occasions Russian models and manufacturers of imitation European handbags found this particular blog so worth spamming. And while the rest of the blog stats may pale in comparison, just think how quickly they are about to rise now that we’ve used the phrase ‘Russian models.’”

Year Five – At the 2013 anniversary mark, I took time to mention the blog’s greatest spinoff effect: “And then there’s Christianity 201, which is very much a part of the Thinking Out Loud story. If you have trouble maintaining a steady Bible study and devotional habit, then start a Bible study and devotional blog. Seriously. Even if nobody shows up to read, it is its own reward…” I’m not the poster child for spiritual discipline, so doing this blog’s ‘little sister’ faithfully every day — even if some days I work on three articles at once — since April, 2010 has probably contributed to my own spiritual walk and, dare I say it, preservation. Christianity 201 is something I needed to force myself to do. A few days after that anniversary, I also joined Twitter.

At one time, blog counters were quite the rage, but you could rig the starting number before it kicked in.

Year Six – For 22 months, the Wednesday Link List became part of the Christianity Today family. I will always be grateful for that opportunity; it has always had, and still has, a stellar group of writers associated with it. In 2014, I wrote,”I still believe it’s a greater thing to make the news (in a good way, not the weird stories) than it is to simply write the news. But I don’t mind playing scribe if it means I get to choose some things I think are worth noting as part of each week’s passing scene… I enjoy simply giving away content here each day as long as people come by even though this, combined with my equally non-remunerative vocation was recently calculated to represent a loss of income over the past 20 years in the neighborhood of $1,000,000.00; The phrase “Do Not Attempt” should be at the bottom of each page.” This was one of my most candid posts, and one where I began to lament the situation whereby the blog has visibility and is read by people in many different countries, but in terms of local churches here, I’ve never been invited to the ministerial table. I still don’t get that.

Year Seven – I was becoming increasingly aware of the tribalism in Christianity at the same time I noted that, with some exceptions, blog platforms like WordPress were losing readers to short-form platforms like Facebook and Twitter. I also noted that, “I am forced to read the widest variety of Christian news and opinion pieces from a vast field of writers I might not otherwise consider. I may disagree totally with what they wrote Thursday and Saturday, but if they make some good points on Friday, I want to be able to celebrate that. I’d like to think that I am capable of sitting down for coffee with any writer who has trusted in the atoning work of Christ on Calvary for salvation. I do know that some of them might not want to reciprocate that. That is unfortunate and I believe grieves the Holy Spirit… I guess I’m just grateful for what this writing platform had done for my own Christian growth and understanding of the Church, the body of Christ. I’m also thankful for the books it compels me to read which enhance my understanding of God and His ways. And last, I’m thankful for you, the faithful readers whose page views and link clicks demonstrate a shared interest in these things.” That’s true today as well.

Year Eight – By design, I don’t talk much about my personal life or include pictures of myself here. Two years ago, I did a Q&A format anniversary article and attempted to fill in some blanks: “My beliefs are each rather hybrid in nature. On church government, I’m congregational but I believe in structure and accountability. On women in ministry, I am more sympathetic to the egalitarian position, but with a recognition of God-ordained differences between men and women. On eschatology, I believe ‘we see in part and we prophesy in part’ and that many of the models currently taught are still somewhat insufficient. On worship, I prefer doctrinal substance over empty emotion, but at the same time think that we can be passionate about God, about Jesus and about theology in general. On supernatural spiritual gifts such as miracles and tongues, I calculate that if 50% of the people are faking it, that means that 50% are having some type of genuine experience… Some doctrinal issues are above my pay grade. This is one of the few blogs that has risen to prominence that is written by someone who is not a pastor, not a seminary professor, not a local church pastor. I believe we can appreciate the complexity of a subject like substitutionary atonement or divine foreknowledge without having to dissect it, just as one can be a connoisseur of fine foods without necessarily being a great cook. If I can, in my lifetime, fully master just two things — incarnation and atonement — then I will have accomplished much.”

Most of our readers either love or hate the Wednesday List Lynx, Thinking Out Loud’s most recurring character. But he (or she; we’re not sure) wanted to wish us a Happy Anniversary.

Year Nine – Eventually you start repeating material, so last year I mentioned the value of all the books I have been privileged to review; the off-the-blog interactions; the development of the C201 blog project; but I began with, “First you guys have forced me to discover who I am. Yes, the various labels are annoying sometimes or a caricature of what people truly believe, but writing every day and interacting with such a broad base of news stories and opinion pieces have helped me clarify my positions on a variety of doctrinal subjects and crafting a personal theology. Thank you for keeping us among the top Christian blogs in North America.” (The anniversary post last year was a day late, because of the sudden impact of the Family Christian Stores closing. I do try to respond to breaking news, though not each and every story.)

Year Ten – Which brings us to today, or more accurately, tomorrow. Not sure what we’ll do. I would have liked to include some quotations, but most of what appears here only works well in its full, original context. Besides, that would be a bit narcissistic. If you’re away tomorrow, don’t forget March 7th is the 400th edition of the Wednesday Link List.

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February 23, 2013

And Then We Were Five

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:07 am

Have I really been doing this for five years?  Apparently.

What do I want as a birthday present?  More comments.

Why am I using this awkward question and answer format?  I have no idea.

Blog AnniversarySo here we are at the five year mark. Marks for consistency, right? Like the student whose marks are influenced by the fact they had perfect attendance. But an exercise in consistency and personal discipline isn’t a bad thing, right?

Generally, although it is a lot of work some weeks, I am really happy that I launched Thinking Out Loud all those years ago. I have met some of the greatest people, been encouraged to read some of the most interesting books, have been kept abreast of some of the most bizarre religious news stories, and mostly, I have been forced to think about things that I might have never considered.

And then there’s Christianity 201, which is very much a part of the Thinking Out Loud story. If you have trouble maintaining a steady Bible study and devotional habit, then start a Bible study and devotional blog. Seriously. Even if nobody shows up to read, it is its own reward; which I realized last week when an hour’s worth of research and quote-pasting disappeared completely. It was frustrating, but I knew that time was primarily for me, and that perhaps the full text I had prepared was never meant to be seen by the blog readership.

So while we don’t have cake and ice cream, I hope you’ll take some time today to pick a few blogs and websites from the list that appears on the right sidebar here every day, and pay a visit to some of my online friends and acquaintances.  (Just keep coming back, as they don’t open in new windows.)

5th Anniversary Reader Testimonial*

I was suffering from a case of general malaise and, punctuation issues and was several weeks between jobs and just not very happy. Then I started reading Thinking Out Loud. I noticed an unquantifiable change began to take place as I was reading. Within the next five days I was able to get a job and even though my new employer may not be operating legally, my malaise disappeared and was replaced by a blissful feeling of indifference, which I believe is better.  So I wrote to you and you told me to write this testimonial and to embellish the facts a little.~ B. R.

*an actual reader response from an actual reader which we made up ourselves.

So there you have it.

And I believe that reader speaks for all of you.


Archives: Jeff Larson’s The Back Pew has appeared many times at this blog, but this was not only the first cartoon, but the first graphic.  Apparently it took me a month to add pictures, it appeared on March 22nd, 2008 and it’s been here so long the page is starting to yellow:

Jeff Larson - The Back Pew

Special Shoutouts:   Clark, Cynthia, Martin & Nancy, Cloudwatcher, Regent Jon; and everyone else who comments and sends link suggestions — Thanks! You know who you are!  To Ruth (aka Mrs. W.) thanks for the typo spotting and transcribing.

Finally: For those feeling disappointed that there’s no actual content here today, or certainly nothing new, we want to introduce you to Derek The Cleric.   (I had a hard time choosing which panel to include!) Be sure to check out his website and Facebook page.

Derek The Cleric - Pope Envy

February 23, 2010

Thinking Out Loud — Two Year Anniversary

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:15 am

Wow!   It’s hard to believe it’s been two years.

I’m typing this for the second time, because WordPress, up to its old tricks, decided to stop auto-saving everything I was typing for the last 15 minutes.   At least this time it might be more concise.

Thinking Out Loud began the same week as two other blogs, 22 Words and Stuff Christians Like.   Both of them are somewhat viral by comparison with this.    It’s taught me the difference between starting out by having a platform and working hard toward gaining a platform.

It’s also interesting to note that — as far as Canada is concerned — each day, I get to speak to six times as many adults than half of all pastors here see on Sunday morning.

Still, it’s lamentable that comments are down, not just here but everywhere.   Internet literacy has been reduced to 140-character Twitter remarks and even fewer-character Facebook updates.     Building readership in the second year has been a lot tougher than the first year was,  and apparently it’s going to get harder.

It seems that Google has just announced that it will add weight to the page ratings it gives blogs that use interactive elements, such as embedded videos from YouTube, a company that it just happens to own.   This blog, in deference to the many people out there on dial-up access, doesn’t embed videos, though my book industry blog — mostly read by people at work — uses several each week.

I also want to continue to make this a blog for the ‘spiritual commoner.’   That’s the person who feels he or she has a real contribution to make to the life of their church, Christian fellowship or broader community, but isn’t as resourced as today’s modern pastor who, already equipped with both an undergrad and graduate degree, is still taking courses and jetting off to conferences.   Uh… when do they have time to do the actual pastoring?

So with a mix of opinions, devotional pieces, breaking Christian news, I will soldier on until I run out of things to say.   I want to thank all of you for your comments — both on and off the blog — and for the sense of community I get each week from you while doing this.  Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for after a time we will reap a harvest of blesssings, provided we are faithful and don’t give up.

If you’re ever about an hour east of Toronto, Canada, I’m available for coffee any weekday except Tuesday.

… To celebrate I was going to do a radical overhaul of this blog’s theme, only to discover that I’m using the widest possible space available from WordPress, and any other theme would have seriously chopped some of the photo images.  So here’s a tribute to a few of the blogs with the same name as this one who have better graphics:

Read how it all started in the one-year anniversary post.

February 15, 2010

Live Monday: Promote Your Blog

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:21 am

We’re stuck at home for the second Ontario installment of “Family Day.”   Everything in the province is shut down for the day.   Nothing to do.   Nowhere to go.

So from 10 AM to 11 PM (EST) today, I’ll be back and forth between the computer, minus the times we’ll be watching some movies from the $3 bin at Blockbuster.

This is your chance to promote your faith-focused blog or website, or just say hi.   Let us know where in the world you live and what the weather’s doing or what you enjoyed about your church service on Sunday.

Go for it.

December 27, 2009

Post 1,000 – Thinking Out Loud

It is with a mix of gratitude and humility that I realize that anybody should want to read my thoughts and opinions on anything enough to provide the readership base that this blog now enjoys.    Though it’s small in comparison to the “biggies” in the world of Christian blogging, some of you — including some people in the worldwide Christian community whom I greatly respect — have even bothered to subscribe to this particular online voice.

One thing I have tried to do is stay focused on faith issues, religious news and devotional concepts.    I don’t talk about tech, or gear, or blogging itself, and I’ve tried to leave my wife and family out of this, but still give the blog enough ‘personality’ that it represents my heart, and isn’t just an exercise in Christian news journalism.    That said however, there have been a few stories that I thought were significant that other bloggers didn’t pick up, and so I’ve tried to be faithful to importing some things from news pages into these blog pages that people might have otherwise missed.

I’ve also tried not to rant, though that can be difficult.   (I have two other blogs for that very purpose!)    There are times when it’s just too easy to complain about that which isn’t ideal, but I’ve tried to make those comments enlightening and constructive.

In a way, writing — whether it’s correspondence or keeping a journal (or weblog) — is very much what separates us from the animals in general and is rooted in Christian tradition in particular.   “Bring me the scrolls;” the Apostle Paul asks, “and especially the parchments.”    Much earlier, Solomon notes, “There is no end to the writing of books.”   And to think that was before the printing press or any other kind of “mass” distribution of the written word, let alone  print-on-demand which as of now releases more titles than conventional book publishing.

Which means there are so many voices competing for your attention that I am, as I said at the outset, thankful and humbled that you should happen to stop here.

I once wrote the biography for a Christian musician’s press kit.   He described the early part of his life this way, “I had a message, I just couldn’t carry a message.”

It’s easy for me to sit at the keyboard and have a daily message for my readers.   But I have to be the kind of person who is a spiritually viable carrier for the message I want to bring.    I need to be able to carry the message, and like all of us, I am learning as I go.


November 1, 2009

Paul Wilkinson — Thinking Out Loud

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:19 pm

thinking out loud

If you’ve landed here from a search engine tag, welcome!

This is Thinking Out Loud, the blog of Christ-follower Paul Wilkinson, a half blog half webzine-wannabe, with the tag line, “Matters of Faith Because Faith Matters.”   It’s been running for nearly two years with fresh posts almost every day, breaking Christian news, occasional cartoons and a wide range of links, reprints and original content.    Take a minute or two to scan back through previous posts, click on the header at the top for today’s post, or pick a month at random from the sidebar menu and see what we were thinking about back then.

If you got to this particular post from a search engine, click here to view the most recent posts.

Innocent Victims of Pornography

 

It’s been several months since I linked to my online resource, “The Pornography Effect — Understanding for the Wives, Mothers, Sisters, Daughters and Girlfriends.”   As the long title implies, this is a resource that allows people who are the silent victims of someone else’s addiction a chance to consider the issues that affect them.   The entire book can be read online in under 55 minutes.   It’s set up like a blog, only the chapters appear onscreen in book sequence.  The link opens to the first six chapters, chapters seven to fifteen appear by clicking on “previous page” at the bottom.   It’s not perfect, there are still some rough edges in the 2nd draft edition that’s online, but it will help begin the conversations that need to take place.

The Pornography Effect — www.thepornographyeffect.wordpress.com

October 3, 2009

ReBlogging The Best of October 2008

Three posts from one year ago…

My Paraphrase of II Tim 3:16 – The Purpose of the Bible:


Today’s New International Version (TNIV)

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for

  • teaching
  • rebuking
  • correcting…
  • training in righteousness

The Message

Every part of scripture is God-breathed and is useful one way or another —

  • showing us truth
  • exposing our rebellion
  • correcting our mistakes
  • training us to live God’s way

New Living Translation (NLT)

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to

  • teach us what is true…
  • make us realize what is wrong in our lives…
  • correct us when we are wrong…
  • teach us to do what is right

My very loose paraphrase

All scripture has its point of origin in God’s mind, and

  • shows us the path God would have us walk
  • highlights when and where we’ve gotten off the path
  • points the way back to the path
  • gives us the advice we need to keep from wandering off the path in future

What Your Library Says About You:

Today we were asked to stop in at the home of man who was well known in the Christian music community here in the 1980s. He passed away on the last day of August, and because he had some books and Bibles, and because we’re in the book and Bible business, we were asked to help find a home for some things.

We were only there an hour, but it got me thinking about the stuff we own, the stuff we collect, the stuff we purchase, the stuff we save and the stuff we leave behind. Someday, everyone reading this will be gone and perhaps someone else will be going through their stuff trying to decide was is valuable and what is not; what is worth keeping, what is worth selling and what is worth giving away; what ought to go where and to whom.

I have always believed that a man consists of more than the abundance of his possessions. But the things we hold on to, the things we value, say a lot about the people we are. It tells those who follow after us what our priorities were. I remember visiting an artist once who had a vast collection of what artists and printers refer to as “paper stock” samples. He then — somewhat tongue in cheek, because he was a Christian — said, “These are my gods.” Others would not say this as humorously.

The man whose library we went through today was different. He didn’t really own much in the sense of having stuff that was marked for long-term ownership. His name wasn’t written in the front of a lot of books. Instead, he had temporary ownership of things he wanted to give away. Books, booklets, Bibles, sermon audio discs, sermon DVD discs. It’s a nice legacy to leave.

His ‘giving away’ ministry was much a big part of who he was, though. I said to a visiting missionary yesterday, that in our local area, after a dozen years of meeting with the broadest assortment of the Christian community, I have only met about five people who are truly passionately committed to evangelism. This man was one of them Finding someone to fill those shoes is going to be quite a challenge.

The Mystery Man and His Gift of Encouragement:

For a dozen years now, I’ve carried a secret that is only known to my wife and two kids. The secret concerns the identity of a guy who was used in our lives to be an encouragement to us at a time when no one else filled that role.

We had been several months into our retail store in a market where three previous stores had failed over the past six years. In fact, we were the fourth Christian bookstore and the sixth location in six years. The first and last of these were “second” stores for established retailers, the middle one was a family with a strong retail history. We figured we didn’t stand a chance. Heck, we didn’t even bother installing a telephone. I figured three to six months and it would be over; but the pre-existing business would at least have a chance to blow out some inventory in the process.

And then Mr. ___ walked in. Carrying about six bags of groceries. Interesting groceries, too; stuff we didn’t know what to do with. Lots of pork. And cabbage. And those little cubes you put in water to make beef broth. But it was all so very encouraging. A week later Mr. ___ showed up again, with more cabbage and more broth cubes. And the next week, too. And so on for about six months, and then later it switched to a weekly thing with a little bit of cash here and there to buy similar amounts of groceries.

When we finally realized why the other three Christian retailers had failed in this particular small town, we decided to wrap it up. The problem? How to tell Mr. ___ that it wasn’t working. I did not want to break his heart or make him feel like he’d been used, or that he’d contributed to something that wasn’t going to last. So we deferred the decision another week. And kept deferring it.

About three years later, we were a chain of three stores in three cities. All because we didn’t quit. Or more accurately, because we were so surrounded by encouragement, so pumped by someone cheering us on in the stands, that we just kept running the race.

His weekly visits lasted over a year. I learned later that he could ill afford to be buying us groceries. He said that God would tell him when it was time to quit, and once we rounded the corner financially, his visits stopped. I only ever saw him two or three times after that.

This guy did not want to be known. This was our secret. He and his wife may have been the last people on earth that you would guess would play a pivotal role in a ministry that would bless the entire Christian community in three towns. But my wife and kids know differently. God used this couple to get us to keep going when everything around said it was time to pack it in.

The world needs a lot more people like Mr. ___ .

February 24, 2009

Thinking Out Loud — One Year Anniversary

Filed under: blogging, Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:38 pm

blogging

first_birthdayYou say it’s your birthday.   Well, it’s my birthday, too, yeah!

Twelve months ago today, overflowing with content from an e-mail newsletter, I launched Thinking Out Loud.    I chose the rather drab, gray theme for this because of its wide margin.   Content over aesthetics.    I didn’t realize that locked me into a teeny tiny type size, and didn’t know how to fix it.   Didn’t know how to add pictures.    Didn’t know how to approve comments.

Plus, I figured I wouldn’t write anything; I’d just use a huge backlog of articles I’d developed in other places for other reasons.    Boy, did I get that one wrong.   As every Israelite knows, the manna doesn’t stay fresh for long.

I also figured I’d read more stuff online, but didn’t realize that other bloggers would spur me on to read more books as well.   Do I get a diploma for doing this?   A little academic credit perhaps?

first-birthday-shirtI did figure out enough HTML to get this to a bigger type size;  started adding a graphic or picture or some other visual to every post; but opted, for the sake of those on dial up, not to embed videos, but just link to them.   I’d still like to learn CSS, but enough on that topic since one of the goals of this blog is NOT to discuss gadgets or the technology itself.   (If this blog were a band, we would not do songs about life on the road.)

I think I did my best writing on other peoples’ blogs, though; carefully weighing whether my motive was just to get my link on theirs, or whether I truly had something unique or passionate to add to the discussion.  While I hate to cross-post things written elsewhere, and hate to steal topics; I’ll try to bring more of those subjects back home to this blog in the new year, without sacrificing the crazy T-shirts or the cartoons.

Our two biggest “draws” here — spiking the daily numbers really high — were the bankruptcy of R. G. Mitchell, a large Canadian book distributor and chain of retail stores; and anything to do with Robert Schuller and the Crystal Cathedral.   In the past year I also put my book online using a blog template; started a blog for Canadian Christian bookstore owners;  continued using a blog page — with a single post — to update Christian community events and started a blog dealing with local issues in the community where I live (which actually consists mostly of rants!)

We joined the growing Alltop aggregator and thereby met even more writers and were introduced to a new world of readers.   Don’t forget that there are THREE Alltop sites of interest to you:

first-birthday-cupcakeI’m also thankful for the bloggers who’ve engaged discussion and offered encouragement offline such as Jim Lehmer at Lord I Believe; Anne Jackson at Flowerdust; Pete Wilson at Without Wax; Jeff Goins at Wrecked for the Ordinary; and Dave Fisher at Pilgrim Scribblings.   (too many to link — see blogroll at right)

And Happy Birthday to Abraham Piper at 22 Words who celebrated his first anniversary just a day before ours!

I also need to thank my wife and family, who endure requests like “How do you spell…?” and “Can you guys stop using bandwidth for a minute?” and general explosions when either my computer or the one at WordPress isn’t doing what has “always worked before.”

I’ve added a new page yesterday, it’s called Keys To Taking Your Quantum Leap, aka Christianity & Quantum Physics.   It’s actually an e-mail forward that has gone viral in the last few days; just for those of you who don’t have a lot of “Forward friends.”    I also added a page for pastors that will change every few months; it kicked off with a collection of four posts from pastor Perry Noble.

I also want to thank Rick (see today’s previous post) for writing me this morning and reminding me what can happen online if we submit ourselves to the leading of God’s Spirit.

As the body of Christ, we can accomplish more together than we can alone; and the internet allows us the opportunity to celebrate what each other is doing; to be infomed as to what’s going on in the Christian faith community; and to be inspired to pursue excellence in all we do.

660 posts, and 20,000 page views (at this new address) later, thank you for reading and sharing and encouraging.

thinking-out-loud1


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