Thinking Out Loud

May 19, 2018

Sometimes a Chart or Diagram is Worth 1,000 Words

Posting a bestselling book chart Friday reminded me of some material from the early days here, where I confessed I was attracted to material presented in chart form. Just as pictures/images/diagrams convey material efficiently, I think so also do charts. I was reminded of that this week reading a new book, Sam Chan’s Evangelism in an Age of Skepticism as he uses them extensively. Bruxy Cavey and Skye Jethani are other authors I follow who recognize the power of an image. But today we’re talking charts.

Because this post is late — a combination of sleeping in, a long weekend in Canada, and the Royal Wedding — I’m running it as it appeared here in 2011. Some of the links have changed and were removed.

  • C. Michael Patton may call his post Why I Am Not Charismatic, but he’s more Charismatic-friendly than most. Besides, I have a thing for charts:

  • This post on theological systems isn’t very long, but makes a good point, and besides, I’ve got a thing for charts. Go to Matt Stone’s blog and double click the image there for a clearer vision.

  • Will Mancini says that when you break down Jesus’ spoken word content, his influence boils down to the use of metaphors. As a matter of fact, this blog post even has a chart:

  • This was in my image file and I truly have no idea where I got this — but like I said, I have thing for charts:

And while we’re going chart crazy, here’s one from the archives of Christianity 201. A guy I knew locally, Paul Kern, was pastoring the Highland Park Wesleyan Church in Ottawa, Ontario the capital city of Canada. I decided to see what he was up to by checking the church’s website and got more than I bargained for.

This chart shows their purpose as a church. The third horizontal section is about their particular ministries and won’t make a lot of sense to you and I, but I left it intact, since it shows how a theoretical purpose is played out in practical ways through their weekly programs and special events. It begins: Our purpose at Highland Park Wesleyan Church is simple: We want to be disciples who go out and make disciples.

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September 8, 2017

A Group Exercise in Transparency

In what will soon be ten years of blogging, I’ve been privileged to meet a number of other online writers, but only on rare occasions have those meetings been in-person. Diane Lindstrom is one of those exceptions. Although my wife and I don’t have grandchildren yet — note to the boys if you’re reading this — Diane’s Nice One, Nana web-page really resonates with me, plus she often finds some great Christian music videos that others have missed.

I was reading this item on my phone on Thursday night and immediately ran down to my desktop to email a request to use it here, which she kindly granted. Clicking the title below will get you there directly.


Thorn, Rose and Bud Exercise

The painting, “Rose of Thorns” by Feyi K. Okwudibonye is available for purchase in multiple media at Fine Art America. Click image to link.

Here’s a wonderful idea.

Recently, my husband and I spent the evening at a friend’s cottage. When dinner was over, my friend announced to everyone at the table, “Time to talk about our thorns and roses. Who wants to go first?” 

And the conversation was fascinating. I had never heard of this mindfulness exercise.

First, the thorn (pain points) – doesn’t have to be anything “bad”. It could be an opportunity you missed taking that day, some mistake you made or an uncomfortable feeling that you experienced. I shared about a big batch of freshly made peanut butter cookies having been burned that morning and I indirectly blamed Chris for it. Someone else shared that he got splashed in the canoe and it wasn’t very comfortable being wet for the remainder of the paddling time.

Second, the rose (bright spots) – doesn’t have to be some huge event. The rose can be the simplest pleasure, a moment of delight, a sense of accomplishment or a kindness given or received. I distinctly remember climbing into the motor boat and heading to the cottage that afternoon. It was such a delightful moment that I spread my arms out wide and yelled out loud, “Yahoo!” Definitely a rose moment. For someone else, it was the delicious dinner made that night.

What a wonderful experience for everyone at that dinner table. The two young boys were as captivated by everyone’s comments as the adults. We all listened well and learned much about each other.

Apparently, there’s another part of this experience that could be used either after the evening meal or after breakfast. Everyone can share their “bud” (potential) – that is, their hope for the day ahead.

What a great way to debrief the day, hear from everyone involved and feel connected as a family or group.

By reflecting on the highlights and low points of the day, you start to realize that:

  • there are always things to be grateful for
  • sometimes, things don’t go according to plan and that’s OK.
  • there are events you can and cannot control. The true wisdom lies in knowing the difference and taking action on those things you CAN control.
  • there is always room for improvement.
  • you can model mindfulness and care for others to younger people who participate so that self reflection becomes more natural.
  • you can practice active listening to and empathy for others’ stories.

Try it!


Diane Lindstrom is the author of Sisters in the Son: Reconnecting Older and Younger Women

April 11, 2016

How Are You?

Daniel White turned off the car engine and just sat in his car for an extra 30 seconds before walking into the church. On entering the church lobby there was a rush of sound as children carrying Sunday School take-home papers ran through the lobby, a woman at a table spoke loudly selling tickets for an upcoming banquet, and people engaged in conversation while drinking coffee from the church’s new café, open five days a week besides Sunday.

Fred Smits, the director of mens ministry spied Daniel coming in and with a big smile and a firm handshake asked Daniel how he was doing.

“Fine;” Daniel replied. But Daniel was far from fine. As he said the words, he was looking at Fred and internally screaming, “Help me!” The mental scream was so loud he wondered how Fred could not hear it.

“Good to hear;” replied Fred before noticing another member of the mens group arriving through the same door.

There is better acting done in that church lobby than you’ll ever see on the great stages of London and New York. People saying things are ‘fine’ when inside they are screaming.

So what about Fred and Daniel? Is it up to people who are hurting to be more honest, or is it up to the people who ask the question to probe deeper, to spend more time beyond superficial greeting?

September 16, 2014

“I’m Fine — Not”

Filed under: writing — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:49 am

Guest Post

Today I want to introduce you to Diane Lindstrom who blogs at Nice One Nana!  To read this at source, click the title below.


The Fog of a Broken Heart

Apparently, the two most common lies are “I’m fine” and “It’s OK.”

Casual conversation seems to trap us into a practiced script that alienates us from exposing the truth about who and how we really are.

It’s difficult to be honest with others because to do so, we need to believe that others care and that it will be safe to expose the restlessness in our spirits, without fear of rejection.

image 0916A young woman walked into the store last week and I greeted her with a friendly, “Hi – how ya’ doin’ today?”

She walked up to the counter, took my hand,  looked me straight in the eye and asked,“Do you REALLY want to know because if you genuinely care, I’ll tell you about the sh–ty day I’ve had so far.”  

It was quiet in the store — no customers around — and because I had engaged in conversations with this woman before, I decided to pursue the dialogue.

“I care, Susan. I care” was my response. I put down the pricing machine and postured myself in a way that said, “Talk to me. I’m listening.”

The young woman began to speak.

“So, here’s the story. My mouth says ‘I”m OK.’ My fingers text, ‘I’m fine’ but my heart says, ‘I’m broken.’ There’s a good chance I’m going to lose custody of my two kids because of my drinkin’ and my mother is giving up on me. I’m not fine. I’m not OK. I feel like I’m gonna’ die.”

With those words, the woman began to weep.

Oh, how humanity is groaning all around us. (Romans 8. 22,23)

The Holy Spirit breathed Jesus’ familiar words into my conscience.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me . . . I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. ~ Matthew 25:35-36,40

I have learned that it’s a costly choice to care.

Consciously allowing our hearts to break goes against not only our natural tendencies, but also against the grain of our culture. Myriad distractions lure us from embracing pain. There are so many places to hide so that we need not heed God’s beckoning to share in the suffering of impoverished people.

But the pain and empathy I felt moved me to action.

A person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. ~ James 2.24

I walked around the counter and held her in my arms. Thankfully, no other customers came into the store and I was resolved to be “all there” for this hurting woman. She didn’t need advise or exhortation. I couldn’t be the answer to her pain but I certainly could be “Jesus with skin on” for those precious minutes that she needed to be held.

The fog of a broken heart is a dark fog that slyly imprisons the soul.

If we can be a beacon of light that breaks through the fog, even for a short moment, it is good and honoring to God.

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.    ~   2 Corinthians 4.7 NLT


Diane Lindstrom is a Canadian author who looks for Almighty God in the ordinariness of life. She has been blogging daily since 2010 and has recently published her first book, Sisters in the Son.  She thrives on bike rides, laughter and homemade chai tea with lots of froth.

July 3, 2013

Wednesday Link List

lynx 3Today we kick off a new chapter; the link list moves to its new home at Leadership Journal’s Out of Ur website, a ministry of Christianity Today. I’ve been reading Out of Ur since long before I started blogging, so this is a real honor. Here’s a link direct to today’s Wednesday Link List. Please be sure to click through. (They didn’t take the List Lynx pictured at right however, at least not so far…) Also remember it’s just the Wednesday list that’s moving; we’ll be back here tomorrow with the content you’ve come to loathe love here at Thinking Out Loud!

UPDATE: In November, 2013, we updated the July WLL posts here to restore the links. (The first month never had them at all here in any form.) I might periodically go back and update older ones just so we have a record here of the original sources.

June 23, 2013

Backstage

Filed under: character, writing — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:11 am

Awhile ago, my oldest son wrote a piece that continues to be one of this blog’s top ten posts for traffic; so it seemed only fair to have you meet my youngest son…

the part nobody sees

Backstage

by Aaron Wilkinson

Every now and then I have a dream that changes the way I see myself. It’s like when I fall asleep and stop trying to overthink the world my subconscious mind gets a chance to offer a new interpretation or understanding of something I’ve been entirely blind to. Recently, there has been one in particular that I keep remembering.

I’m on stage. In a play. The audience is every friend, every acquaintance, every person I have ever met or interacted with at all. Being my egotistical self, I was playing the main character. The audience ‘ooh’ed and ‘aah’ed and gasped and laughed as I recited my lines and went through the motions with precision and artistry. The performance ended. Standing ovation. Myself and the other faceless actor’s bowed. After the curtain closed I stepped through the curtain and invited my friends backstage.

Suddenly the expressions of awe and admiration were replaced with confusion and disappointment. Some went backstage. Others just left. The ones that did inspected the scene and the props. They spoke with the other actors. Then I approached a group of them that were my closest friends. They introduced themselves. They had no idea who I was and no interest in finding out. Then I woke up in tears.

I think the moral of the story if fairly obvious. I don’t actually believe that no one knows who I really am but I believe that I often make that knowledge hard to achieve. I get scared of what people will think of me when I’m not ‘performing’. When there’s no objective, no expectation, and no script what’s left of me? How much of what people know of me is a character I play or an imposter I’m unaware of?

How often do I invite people backstage? How often do you? The tagline for this blog is ‘a library of unfinished works’. Some of my friends will know that I love the idea of what I call ‘thoughts without conclusions’. Just bouncing ideas and asking questions for the purpose of figuring out what we don’t know. Seeing what we still need to see. Recognizing what is still unfamiliar. With that in mind I’m still trying to figure out the answer to the questions: what is backstage and how can I let people in there more often.

April 7, 2013

When Things Aren’t “Fine”

Daniel White turned off the car engine and just sat in his car for an extra 30 seconds before walking into the church.  On entering the church lobby there was a rush of sound as children carrying Sunday School take-home papers ran through the lobby, a woman at a table spoke loudly selling tickets for an upcoming banquet, and people engaged in conversation while drinking coffee from the church’s new café, open five days a week besides Sunday.

Fred Smits, the director of mens ministry spied Daniel coming in and with a big smile and a firm handshake asked Daniel how he was doing.

“Fine;” Daniel replied. But Daniel was far from fine.  As he said the words, he was looking at Fred and internally screaming, “Help me!”  The mental scream was so loud he wondered how Fred could not hear it.

“Good to hear;” replied Fred before noticing another member of the mens group arriving through the same door.

There is better acting done in that church lobby than you’ll ever see on the great stages of London and New York.  People saying things are ‘fine’ when inside they are screaming.

So what about Fred and Daniel?  Is it up to people who are hurting to be more honest, or is it up to the people who ask the question to probe deeper, to spend more time beyond superficial greeting?

January 20, 2012

Are You Authentic?

If you’re a recent arrival to the Christian blogosphere you might wonder how some of your favorite blogs got their names.  Pete Wilson had an explanation on his blog header as to how he came up with “Without Wax.”  But when he changed his blog design the explanation got lost.  I emailed him and asked him to send it to us, but Pete’s a busy guy.  Then I discovered an old screenshot of the blog.  So here’s the story:

The word sincere comes from the Latin phrase sine cera,which means without wax.  The phrase comes from a practice where people would hide the cracks in cheap pottery with wax in order to pass the pottery off as being worth more than it actually was.  Quality products were often stamped with the words sine cera to show that it had not been doctored, that it was in fact authentic.

I can’t think of a better name for a blog that is, above all, authentic and transparent.  If Pete’s not in your blog reading routine, check out the pastor of Nashville’s Cross Point Church by clicking the image below; but the site you open has changed greatly since this image was saved!

Using something to hide your faults? Maybe it’s time to be sincere. I believe transparency is contagious. Reading writers like Pete Wilson compels the rest of us to set the bar higher for honesty in our own lives.

August 23, 2011

Students ‘Fess Up To Teacher 15 Years Later

Summer re-runs; what can I say? But a great link list tomorrow, I promise!

A decade and a half ago I was just finishing a one-year part-time contract at the local Christian school, teaching Bible, art, music, language and spelling.

Split grade seven and eight spelling to be precise. A weekly list. A weekly test. The one piece of the job I could farm out to my wife, whose spelling is dead-on accurate. (And proofreading, if you have anything that needs doing.)

This morning we visited the church where, at the time, half of the students in the Christian school attended; and one of them, who was not in my class, informed me that both my wife and I had been had.

Turns out, if they didn’t know how to spell a word, they would simply write down some other correctly spelled word. My wife would mark the word as correct, never suspecting that they were up to something. (And not noticing the variation in words, since she was doing two grades at once.)

Isn’t church like that. We give right answers, not so much to direct questions, but insofar as we say the right things and use the right words and phrases. Even if we’re giving the answer to a question that’s not being asked. (“It sure sounds like a “squirrel” but I think I’m supposed to say “Jesus.” *)

As long as we’re providing responses that are not stained by the messiness of misspellings, we’re given the proverbial red check mark by our church peers. Nobody ever suspects the possibility that they are being had.

We’ve lost the ability to say, “I’m not sure;” or “I don’t know;” or “That’s an issue I’m wrestling with in my own spiritual life.” We’re too proud to say, when we don’t know a particular ‘word,’ something like, “That’s a part of the Bible I’ve never studied;” or “That’s an area of theology I’ve never considered;” or “That’s a particular spiritual discipline that isn’t part of my personal experience.”

So we just give the so-called “right” answers that will get us by. Or we change the subject. Or we say something incredibly complex that has an air of depth to it.

Today I read an article in a newspaper, The Christian Courier which quotes Rob Bell as saying, in reference to his church and preaching style, “…We want to embrace mystery rather than conquer it.” In many churches they want the latter. And if someone does “conquer” all things spiritual, we give them some letters after their name which mean Master of Theology, or Master of Divinity.

Years ago, when our youngest son didn’t know the answer to a question I would ask at our family Bible study, he would just say, “Love?” It was a good guess. (One night it was the right answer.) He figured he couldn’t go wrong with “Love” as the possible answer, though he always raised his voice at the end admitting he wasn’t quite sure.

Well guess what? I haven’t mastered it. I’m working on it. I don’t know.

And I have one more thing to say to all of you: Love?

* One Sunday a pastor was using squirrels for an object lesson for the children. He started, “I’m going to describe something, and I want you to raise your hand when you know what it is.” The children nodded eagerly.

“This thing lives in trees (pause) and eats nuts (pause)…” No hands went up. “And it is gray (pause) and has a long bushy tail (pause)…” The children were looking at each other nervously, but still no hands raised. “It jumps from branch to branch (pause) and chatters and flips its tail when it’s excited (pause)…”

Finally one little boy tentatively raised his hand. The pastor quickly called on him. “Well,” said the boy, “I know the answer must be ‘Jesus’ … but it sure sounds like a squirrel!”


May 6, 2011

From the Best-Of Vault

Things have to be a year old to get reposted here, so a new month brings new possibilities.  Here’s some things from May, 2010:

The Best of Christian Blogging
I think real Christian blogging is being transparent. It’s sharing our lives with others. It’s relating to the struggle that some find themselves in. It’s celebrating what God is doing through local churches. It’s dreaming about what churches could be doing. It’s spreading the word about a new Christian book or CD or DVD. It’s encouraging one another. It’s confessing our faults. It’s keeping great quotations and stories alive on the internet. It’s laughing together. It’s praying for someone in the online community who is facing a great need.It’s about helping, informing, inspiring. And all of it aligning with Scripture; God’s word that must be carefully studied; must be correctly interpreted; must account for the past, present and future; must be defended from time to time; and must leave us somewhat ‘apart’ or truly ‘different’ from the world if we live out its teachings.


From a comment I posted months ago at Beauty of the Bible

This is a series of charts and graphs that got posted when I got carried away doing a link list:

  • C. Michael Patton may call his post Why I Am Not Charismatic, but he’s more Charismatic-friendly than most. Besides, I have a thing for charts:

  • This post on theological systems isn’t very long, but makes a good point, and besides, like I said, I’ve got a thing for charts. Go to Matt Stone’s blog and double click the image there for a clearer vision.

  • Will Mancini says that when you break down Jesus’ spoken word content, his influence boils down to the use of metaphors. As a matter of fact, this blog post even has a chart:

  • This actually isn’t part of the Wednesday Link List — It was in my image file and I truly have no idea where I got this — but like I said, I have thing for charts:

And while we’re going chart crazy, here’s one from Christianity 201, from a year ago: A guy I knew locally, Paul Kern, is now pastoring the Highland Park Wesleyan Church in Ottawa, Ontario the capital city of Canada. I decided to see what he was up to by checking the church’s website and got more than I bargained for.

This chart shows their purpose as a church. The third horizontal section is about their particular ministries and won’t make a lot of sense to you and I, but I left it intact, since it shows how a theoretical purpose is played out in practical ways through their weekly programs and special events.  It begins: Our purpose at Highland Park Wesleyan Church is simple: We want to be disciples who go out and make disciples.

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