Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I think I'm computer-cursed. If I own an electronic, something is bound to go wrong with it within a few months. I've actually been lucky with my laptop, it took 6 whole months to mess up on me. About 2 weeks ago, something happened to MSN messenger and I've not been able to use it since. Then, today, the same thing happened to Internet Explorer (I'm borrowing a friend's laptop right now). I'm hoping to have it fixed by the end of the week, but my reaction to my loss of Internet shocked me and made me realize just how dependent on it I'd become. So, what with today being Shrove Tuesday and all, I've decided to give up pleasure surfing the Internet (which, for me, is defined as Blogger, Facebook, and MSN. I will allow myself to email and do homework, but that's it) for Lent. Although my computer will almost certainly be fixed before the 40 days are up, I've realized that I need to cut down. So, accordingly, I'd like to apologize for not posting in the next 40 days and, since I won't be back until the Easter season, I wish you all a blessed holy day.

He is risen indeed.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Redeeming Love

Since the beginning of February, a group of girls from my residence has been meeting in my room (chosen because I'm the messiest of us and this is incentive to keep my room clean) to study the book of Hosea. It's a really powerful book about God's love for His people, even when they turn away from him and look to other gods (whether Baal for the Israelites, or money and comfort for us). The first three chapters tell the personal story of Hosea, whom God tells to marry a prostitute named Gomer, even though she will cheat on him and he will not know whether all his children are really his or not. Even though she leaves him and sells herself into prostitution, he goes after her and redeems her (the word literally means to buy back). As odd as it may seem at first glance, it's a beautiful allegory of God's love for us.

Francine Rivers' book Redeeming Love tells the story of what Hosea might have looked like in an 1850s setting. I first borrowed it from the public library, and it was fantastic on so many levels. It not only gave me a new picture of just how much God loves us, it gave me a new love and compassion for women who are trapped in the sex industry. So when my Bible study group decided to study Hosea, I finally picked up my own copy. We're taking turns reading it right now, and the other girls are loving it as much as I did when I first read it. I highly recommend it both as a story, and as a study tool for gaining further insight into Hosea. To quote Larry the Cucumber: "I laughed, I cried, it moved me Bob." I think the main this book did was show me just how much I had been forgiven, which in turn increased both my love for God and my love for people I would otherwise have judged and dismissed as "worse sinners than me."

This song is by an awesome singer/songwriter called Michael Card, and it's called Song of Gomer. I've already forwarded it on to my Bible Study crew, but I'm sharing it with you now. I think it's beautiful.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy V-Day...A Week Late (Plus a Sneak Peek at THE Bible for all your Gangsta Friends)

So I've decided that February 13th and 14th brings a sudden influx of guys into a Christian bookstore. Usually our customers are mostly female, except for pastors who come in to buy the ESV Study Bible (word to the wise, if you're trying to attract an Arminian girlfriend, avoid using the ESV- it practically screams Neo-Calvinist) and the complete works of Charles Spurgeon. On the eve of V-day, however, guys suddenly realize that they still haven't bought their wife/girlfriend a card and that copy of Fireproof she wanted. So what do they do? They flock to the Dayspring section of their local Christian bookstore in droves, pick out a card, and buy it using the reward points their wife has spent months accumulating. I kid you not. We actually had a couple of wives come in later that day asking what had happened to their points. Good times. But anyway a happy belated Valentine's Day to you all.

For those who follow SCL, you may have seen yesterday's post where Jon compared Bible translations to G.I. Joes. Now I have an interesting translation to add to the mix, but unfortunately my knowledge of G.I. Joes is sadly limited so I can't offer a corresponding character. If you have any ideas, bring 'em on. I would like to introduce you to...drumroll, please...the Word on the Street. Of all the Bibles in my personal collection, this is the only one I read for personal amusement. If the Message is considered a paraphrase of the Bible, this is a paraphrase of the Message. I like to call it the gangsta Bible, interspersed with British slang. It's pretty great. The only downfall is that Rob Lacey never got around to doing the whole Bible. He paraphrases some passages, but often summarizes pages and pages in one paragraph. To quote the back of the book, "Bible stories are retold as mini-blockbusters, psalms as song lyrics, epistles as emails, Revelation as virtual reality." I could describe it to you in more detail, but I may as well show you. Here are some well known verses in WOTS form (the links on the reference will bring you to the NIV translation in BibleGateway, if the verse isn't one you can quote offhand).

Genesis 1:1. "First off, nothing...but God. No light, no time, no substance, no matter. Second off, God says the word and WHAP! Stuff everywhere!"

Psalm 23.
You're my guide and my guard, my minder, my mentor.
What more do I need? What's better at the centre?
You sit me down, put my best CD on,
And my soul remembers who I am again.

(backing) You're with me, you comfort me. (x2)
(lead) And you hold my swaying heart - so soft, so strong.
(backing) You're with me, you comfort me. (x2)
(lead) You stop them tearing me apart - I fear no wrong.
You show me where to go, without telling me;
You set a value on my life, without selling me.
(backing & lead) You're with me, you comfort me. (x2)

You call me to the streets; you show me such good things,
Right things with no hidden strings -
Just your name on, and it's game on.
Your great repute, like a distant flute, it comforts me.

Repeat Chorus

I crawl through the alley of the shadow of cancer;
I know you know the answer, and the battle won't rattle me
You're around, and I've found there's something about your empathy
Your symphony of sympathy, that comforts me.

Repeat Chorus

You lay out a table, you set me down
My rivals arrive from the greatest to least
But my cup's kept full and my head's held high
And you boast about me, your least priest
And make them toast me right through the feast
Boy does it comfort me!

Repeat Chorus

End Song:
I know that your good, your best, your love and your passion
Will stalk me, steer me, stand alongside me
Outlast every fad and fashion, though all eternity
For I'm going to live with you
See heaven's great views from my own cosmic mews
No lease to renew, no terms to review, no one else to view -
Just me and you, me and you, me and you
Right through, to the end of time.

John 3:16-17.
"Cos God's so passionate about the planet that he donates his one and only Son. Whoever invests their life in the Son doesn't die, but gets given this limitless life. D'you think God sends his Son to slam people down? No! He sends his Son to liberate people."

Revelation 1:5-7.
"All the credit, all the clout- give it up, full on, forever to the one who loves us and liberates us from our mess by donating his blood and making us immigrants into his New Nation of God's reps to work for God the Father. Absolutely!

Look up! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a computer game gone 3D?

No, it's HIM, surfing the clouds, full orbit so everyone gets to see.

Even the ones who cut him deep.

Everyone's gutted, 'cos of him.

Bring him on! Absolutely!"

So there you have it. The Word on the Street. I can see some of the benefits of it for looking at the Bible in a fresh way, and I realize it's not trying to pass itself off as a proper translation per se, which is good. But, I'm not gonna lie, the "Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it some computer game gone 3D? No, it's HIM" line cracks me up every time. I can just see Jesus in a Superman cape... So, which G.I. Joe character would the WOTS be? Any other major passages you'd like to see paraphrased?

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Doppler Effect

This isn't directly tied to Christian retail, but even as an arts major I find it way too funny to keep it to myself. These clips are from a TV show called the Big Bang Theory. I've never watched it, but my Geology prof showed the clips today in class.

I'm the Doppler Effect Part 1 (Embedding on this video was unfortunately disabled, so follow the link.)

Monday, February 9, 2009

The 2009 VBS Awards

So I realize I haven't written anything in a shamefully long time, and I can only offer two words in my defense: Annotated Bibliography. Annotated bibliographies are not fun, especially if your professor expects really long annotations. Especially especially if you're dumb enough to wait until the last weekend because you had counted on finding journal articles about your topic, and instead get stuck reading 10 full-length academic books on your topic. If the bibliography had been on anything other than C. S. Lewis, I would have hated my topic by the time I was done.

But enough about that. It's February, and in the Christian retail world, February marks the start of Vacation Bible School. Really, mid to late January is the start of VBS season, since that's when we were given the list of resources to study but, as you may have gathered from the first paragraph, I'm somewhat of a procrastinator. Anyway, this means that last week I went through the websites of our main suppliers and tried to determine the pros and cons of each new VBS program offered. It's actually a pretty cool job. VBS has been a hallmark of my summer ever since I moved to English-speaking Canada. I was 11 at the time, and it was my first exposure to themed VBS. I lived in in Quebec before then, an French Christians are lucky if they get a VBS at all, forget cool themes. Since then I've gone from student to helper to full-fledged leader, and loved every minute of it. Some of the themes were great, like the "Around the World" VBS (I was also doing the drama with my sister for that one, and our roles involved eating large amounts of chocolate) that focused on a different country everyday. Others, such as Jesus to the Rescue (affectionately called the Fireman VBS) were less so. So how do this year's crop of Vacation Bible School Programs stand up to their predecessors? I decided a competition (culminating in a mini-awards ceremony) was in order. So, without further ado, I give you the 2009 VBS Awards.

Here are your contestants:
From David C. Cook Publishings, Wildwood Forest: Discover the Untamed Nature of God
From Group Publishing, Rome: Paul and the Underground Church
From Group Publishing, Crocodile Dock: Where Fearless Kids Shine God's Light
From Gospel Light, Kingdom of the Son: A Prayer Safari
From Standard Publishing, Studio Go! Game Show
From Regular Baptist Press, Polar Extremes: All of Me, All-Out for God

The websites do quite a respectable job summarizing the programs, so I won't bore you with that. Instead, I'll skip right to the awards, as chosen and presented by me :).

Best Name:
This one goes to Crocodile Dock. It's ridiculously fun to say. Sometime, if you're really bored and desperate for ways to amuse yourself, try it three times fast. For extra rhyming fun, try shortening Crocodile to Croc. Croc Dock. Maybe my physics was right after all, and small things do amuse small minds.

Best Theme:
Unquestionably Rome. The early church is an uber cool theme, and I don't think it's been done before. I used to play early church when I was little (okay, so I was an evangelical poster child) and I'm stoked that this VBS will introduce this fascinating period of church history to a new generation of kids.

Best Snacks:
Best Snacks goes to...Wildwood Forest. Seriously, the snacks are easy to make but tie in really nicely to the themes. As a plus, the allotted snack is ice cream at least once. My personal favourite snack is on Gideon Day, and it’s called Battle on a Bagel. The bagel is spread with a sweetened cream cheese or some fluff, then half of it is completely covered in chocolate chips to illustrate the enemy army. Gideon’s army is shown by a couple of butterscotch chips and one colored one (representing Gideon) and presto: Battle on a Bagel. I may actually steal some of the snack ideas for when I have kids of my own.

Best Potential for Decorations:
With some creativity decorating for any one of these themes is sure to be a blast. However, I think the prize for Decorator’s Dream goes to Kingdom of the Son. I mean, who doesn’t want to decorate for an African Safari. Plus, leaders can choose to wear binoculars. How cool would that be?

Best Bible Lessons:
These are actually all well done. My only reservations are that RBP and Gospel Light use the KJV in Bible Lessons. I think Gospel Light could have won this one without the KJV focus, because I love the way they go through the Lord’s Prayer and what we can learn from it (God Listens, God Provides, God Forgives, God Protects, God Rules). RBP also had an excellent survey of the lives of 5 people from the OT and NT who embodied various "extreme" characteristics such as faith and obedience. In the end, I think I have to go with David C. Cook’s Wildwood Forest, because it does a great job of combining Old and New Testament stories, and covers what 2 or 3 of the other VBS’s are trying to teach combined. A close second would be the Rome VBS (theme: God’s Love).

Best Music:
I'm going to have to give this one to Studio Go! Game Show. Is the music my personal favorite? Not really, but it's catchy, easy to sing along to, and lends itself well to actions. I think the kids will love it. Kingdom of the Son would have been great, had it used a more contemporary and understandable translation than the KJV for the Scripture memory songs, because I love the African rhythms. But honestly, there are few better ways to spoil otherwise good VBS material than to use the King James Version of the Bible. I love the KJV. It's beautiful, it's poetic, it sounds grand and educated, but if you're teaching 5 year olds it's completely useless. It's absolutely vital that you use a translation that they can understand.

Best Crafts:
At risk of sounding repetitive, this one goes to Wildwood forest again, mostly because this website has the most detail as far as crafts go. The other VBSes have crafts planned, but I can't see what they are without purchasing the material. But there are some pretty cool ones in the Wildwood Forest program, and they also offer crafts with different levels for each day, which is a nice bonus.

Leader’s Choice Award (Meaning the one Christina would like to do if she was in charge of choosing for her church):
Rome. No question. The theme is fantastic, leaders get to dress up as New Testament characters and the families (or individual classes) tiptoe off to their secret caves (or classrooms) for their meetings. As well, one very lucky guy (ten to one if my church does this they'll ask my dad. Sometimes I hate being a girl.) gets to play Paul, who is under house arrest. The classes visit his "house" one by one and he talks to them. There's also a marketplace setting where kids get to practice sharing their faith with leaders who pretend to be at different stages in their faith walk.

Cool Extra Feature:
Studio Go! is put out by Standard Publishing, and their VBS programs tend to be service-based. This means that every day kids can choose to do one thing to serve their family, friends, or community. Not only does this help the kids learn the importance of serving, it provides leaders with cute stories about what their kids consider "service." Our church did a standard VBS last year, and each day they had to serve a different group. Monday was family, Tuesday was friends, Wednesday was neighbours, Thursday was community. One little 4 year old guy somehow managed to fit taking out the trash (his daily chore) into all 5 of those categories and wouldn't hear of anything else.

So that's it for this year's crop of VBS programs. Anyone have any memories from either teaching or being a student during VBS?

Edit: I've just been told that Regular Baptist Press offers their curriculum both in KJV and NKJV. Good to know, because it makes the curriculum a lot more accessible to the younger students.