Thinking Out Loud

April 20, 2018

The Year Summer Never Came

I’ve run this picture 3 times now. On New Year’s Day 2009, Ippswich in Australia was expecting a high of +38C, which is about 100F. Meanwhile, back at home, my Weather Network indicator on my computer is showing that we’re heading to a low of -18C, which is about -1F. Their high temperature on a summer mid-afternoon Thursday would be occurring at the same time as my Wednesday mid-winter night. That’s 101 degrees F difference. That day I was asking, “Are we even on the same planet?”

As I’m writing this, it looks like temperatures are going to break out of the single digits (°C) here this weekend, though nothing spectacular is promised. The sun is shining for the first morning in six, so there’s reason to hope.

But what if never summer never came? What if you didn’t know why? In 1816 there wasn’t the communications we have today and certainly not weather forecasting. The first video below is short, to whet your appetite for this story. The second one is 16 minutes, talks about the role of the church in the face of meteorological disaster, and even notes a small connection between the winter of 1816 and the birth of Mormonism.

I’m sure the people of that day felt they were witnessing the end times. Later, they would learn the scientific reason that winter truly never came that year.


February 12, 2018

Winter: A Test of Faith

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:51 am
On New Year's Day 2009, Ippswich in Australia was expecting a high of +38C, which is about 100F. Meanwhile, back at home, my Weather Network indicator on my computer is showing that we’re heading to a low of -18C, which is about -1F. Their high temperature on a summer mid-afternoon Thursday would be occurring at the same time as my Wednesday mid-winter night. That's 101 degrees F difference. That day I was asking,

101 Degrees of Separation: On New Year’s Day 2009, Ippswich in Australia was expecting a high of +38C, which is about 100F. Meanwhile, back at home, my Weather Network indicator on my computer was showing that we were heading to a low of -18C, which is about -1F. The Aussies high temperature on a summer mid-afternoon Thursday would be occurring at the same time as my Wednesday mid-winter night. That’s 101 Fahrenheit degrees difference. That day I was asking, “Are we even on the same planet?”

While every post here every day is supposed to be faith focused, a lot lately have had the church life tag. Today is no exception. The pictures are repeats that I’ve now used four times here — I find the contrast fascinating — but the written part is new.

It’s anecdotal and it’s subjective, but it seems to me like whenever a massive storm system is moving through our region, it impacts Sunday morning church attendance. Yesterday was the second week in a row where the crowd size was down in our part of the world. The week before it was a snowstorm. Yesterday it was a threat of freezing rain.

The word threat is key here. The Weather Network seems to send out more warnings than necessary, but of course each time you tap the prompt on your phone, they are selling more advertising, I guess. I use something called Weather Underground, which I’m told is connected to AccuWeather. They seem to be in panic mode fewer times each month.

Threat is also important because as Canadians, we know how to drive in winter, and part of that knowledge is that sometimes you just stay home. We’re just that extra bit laid back so that if we don’t make the sales appointment, or don’t make it to the office, it’s not the end of the world. I get the impression that most Americans think they can just force their way through the elements to get where they perceive they need to be. And then the 6:30 newscasts in the U.S. are peppered with accident video. Cars spinning out of control, trucks flipped over, wreckage being towed away.

But back to our subject.

I would think pastors get discouraged with weather developments. After all, they’re playing on God’s team. It’s not supposed to be that way. Talking to a Children’s Ministry director yesterday, I also considered that if your kids are local, and therefore make it to church, but your volunteers live a greater distance away, then you’ve got other problems. There are also fewer visitors. Lower offerings. And preaching a series means that some people, if they don’t catch up online, have missed key developments in the teaching sequence.

So Sunday at lunch I prayed and asked God if he would at least consider arranging the weather elements so that churches in our area could catch a break next week. These storm systems take days to develop and migrate, so I figured a week’s notice was giving him a lot of time to put something together.


September 7, 2017

Special Report: Barbuda


Map makers, amateur and professional alike, disagree as to what is included as part of the Leeward Islands. This map traces back to Pinterest, but wasn’t properly sourced.

As we prepare this, images are just starting to come from Barbuda which are similar to this CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) image of Sint Maarten (the name of the country on the island of Saint Martin) showing damage there. (Click to link.)

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, we’ve learned that up to 95% of the structures on the island of Barbuda have been damaged; but many of us weren’t aware of this island at all until these reports surfaced.

We checked Wikipedia*:

Barbuda (/bɑːrˈbjuːdə/) is an island in the Eastern Caribbean, and forms part of the state of Antigua and Barbuda, which in turn consists of two major inhabited islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and a number of smaller islands — we counted 46 in the list — including Great Bird, Green, Guiana, Long, Maiden and York Islands and further south, the island of Redonda. The larger state has a population of 81,800, out of which Barbuda has a population of about 1,638 (at the 2011 Census), most of whom live in the town of Codrington, which is the 10th largest town overall.

You’ve also heard references to The Leeward Islands, which describes the whole region. In English, the term refers to the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles chain. As a group they start east of Puerto Rico and reach southward to Dominica. They are situated where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean. The more southerly part of the Lesser Antilles chain is called the Windward Islands.

Barbuda alone consists of four (or five) islands and in more normal years, generally experience low humidity and recurrent droughts. The country is a unitary, parliamentary, representative democratic monarchy, in which the Head of State is the Monarch who appoints the Governor General as vice-regal representative. Elizabeth II is the present Queen of Antigua and Barbuda, having served in that position since the islands’ independence from the United Kingdom in 1981. The Queen is represented by a Governor General.

The populace consists of people of West African, British, and Madeiran descent. The ethnic distribution consists of 91% Black & Mulatto, 4.4% mixed race, 1.7% White, and 2.9% other (primarily East Indian and Asian). Most Whites are of Irish or British descent. Christian Levantine Arabs, and a small number of Asians and Sephardic Jews make up the remainder of the population.

Islands of Barbuda (; click to link)

An increasingly large percentage of the population lives abroad, most notably in the United Kingdom (Antiguan Britons), United States and Canada. A minority of Antiguan residents are immigrants from other countries, particularly from Dominica, Guyana and Jamaica, and, increasing, from the Dominican Republic, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Nigeria. English is the official language. The Barbudan accent is slightly different from the Antiguan. About 10,000 people speak Spanish. There is a greater than 90% literacy rate. In 1998, Antigua and Barbuda adopted a national mandate to become the pre-eminent provider of medical services in the Caribbean.

Of special interest to readers here is religion, with a majority of 77% of Antiguans being Christians; Anglicans (17,6%) being the largest single denomination. Other Christian denominations present are Seventh-day Adventist Church (12,4%), Pentecostalism (12,2%), Moravian Church (8,3%), Roman Catholics (8,2%), Methodist Church (5,6%), Wesleyan Holiness Church (4,5%), Church of God (4,1%), Baptists (3,6%) and Mormons (<1,0%). Non-Christian religions practised in the islands include the Rastafari, Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Bahá’í Faith.

With the devastation witnessed after the hurricane, The Los Angeles Times headlined an article, “Once there was an island known as Barbuda. After Hurricane Irma, much of it is gone.” The Prime Minister is quoted as saying, “…on a per capita basis, the extent of the destruction on Barbuda is unprecedented.” 

There are currently three hurricanes in the region including Hurricane Katia and Hurricane Jose.

*We are grateful to Wikipedia, without which we could not bring this report to you as quickly, importing and patching together large sections from the pages linked below. Click on the following pages to learn more:





April 8, 2017

When April Showers Come Your Way

Filed under: Christianity, personal — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:21 am

For years I’ve watched American network news and witnessed the increasing number of weather based stories. Flooding in The South and Midwest are common, but also occasionally on the west coast. I’ve always been thankful that I’ve lived in a part of the world where the roads and freeways are articulated in such a way that they don’t flood, and that homes are built to withstand the toughest winters.

Especially heartbreaking is to see families returning to damaged homes only to find that everything they’ve held near and dear has been impacted by water damage and that all such furniture, linens, pictures, toys; even sections of wall must be broken up and carried to the street before mold sets in.

And then two Spring seasons back we noticed water coming in our basement.

It was our turn. Our basement floor seems to be disintegrating.

This year it was particularly bad. Yesterday my wife filled and emptied the wet vac over 100 times. I had to work and wasn’t home to help her.

The water was never more than a couple of inches (4 cm) deep, and it was not as bad as the woman who told me of opening the door to the basement only to find the cat sitting on the top step of the stairs, as the water was up about five feet.

Complicating matters is that the basement is filled with a lifetime of files and memorabilia belonging to myself. Some of these are clearly trash, but as I go through them it’s hard not to get stuck reliving memories, or worse thinking about accomplishments for which I really have no other proof that they happened…

…In western society, a house is the most valuable asset people own. To realize its vulnerabilities is simply heartbreaking. We need to actually patch the cracks in the concrete this year and think about landscaping the front of the house to draw the water away from where it’s saturating. Neither of us are terribly skilled in these areas, but I suppose we’ll learn by doing.


September 7, 2009

Was God In Charge of the Storm?

Filed under: issues — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:23 am

The disciples are on the sea of Galilee.   A storm comes up out of nowhere.   Jesus is asleep in the back of the boat.     You know the story.

Jesus rebukes the weather.   That’s what it says.    But you thought God was in charge of the weather, right?

Let me do this topic justice by sending you to the source of my thoughts today.

  1. Go to the sidebar for this blog and click on “Sermons – Greg Boyd, Woodland Hills”
  2. Click on ‘recent sermons’
  3. Select the one for August 22; it was a Saturday night Q & A they had when Rob Bell could only make the two Sunday services.  (Some of you might also like to hear Bell from August 23rd…)
  4. Listen to the first 15 minutes.    Let me know what you think.   (To save it, right click and choose ‘save link as’ or ‘save target as;’ but you should also be able to just listen live.

It really helps put some things into perspective.   Boyd would argue that we attribute far too much to God’s direct involvement that is really the product of natural forces.    Like the tornado that whipped through his hometown while the Lutherans were voting on ordination of gay clergy, for example.   But let him tell it…

And now for something completely un-stormlike:

This picture is by a friend of mine, Vancouver artist Timothy Clayton from a collection titled, In God’s Country: Vancouver Landscapes.    See, and you thought you lived in God’s country!

Timothy Clayton

For you Canadian left-coasters, Timothy has a show October 25th to November 7th at the Havana Gallery.   Of note:  Timothy is married to actress and film producer Gina Chiarelli.

January 1, 2009

100 Degree Difference in Temperature Last Night

Filed under: Christianity, weather — Tags: , , — searchlightevents @ 6:06 pm

Last night I was listening to 96Five, a Christian radio station in Brisbane, Australia that plays a mix of general market and Christian music.   Check it out here.   It was already mid-morning into the new year there, and I figured that I could beat the rush into 2009 and already have an idea what the new year looked like.

Anyway, they did a weather forecast, and it most places they were expecting a high of +34C, but in this place called Ippswich, they were expecting a high of +38C, which is about 100F.  Meanwhile, back at home, my Weather Network indicator on my computer is showing that we’re heading to a low of -18C, which is about -1F.   Their high temperature on a summer mid-afternoon Thursday would be occurring at the same time as my Wednesday mid-winter night.

101 degrees difference.   I mean, are we even on the same planet?


One picture is Canada, the other is Bondi Beach, Australia.   Can you tell which is which?    (Airline tickets for a family of four to Australia or New Zealand gladly accepted. )

August 28, 2008

Accurate Science

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:34 pm

Another great cartoon from Dan Lietha, who draws for the ministry website of Answers in Genesis.

Blog at