[Note: This is my old JustThinking Web site. I'm no longer maintaining it. Click here to see my new one.]
If any of the ideas below are not too loopy for words, please feel free to help yourself. For all I know, someone may have already thought of them, so I don't claim to be the first one to whom these have occurred.
If you are curious why I'm doing this, I'm curious too. I think I just want to have a virtual piece of paper on which to scratch down random ideas, some of which I imagine, perhaps vainly, may be of use to the Kingdom of God (I'm a Christian), and others which may be of more general use. And, of course, some of them may be good for nothing at all. But I'll let you decide that...
-- Brad Haugaard
A Very Variable Width Font
The world needs a very variable width type font. There are some tasks, primarily performed using a spreadsheet, where you need to scan columns of similar appearing account IDs or numbers or whatever to find either groups of identical ones or exceptions within a grouping, or both. The easy way to do this is to scan rapidly down the column, watching the right edge. Identical code numbers will have a nice straight right edge, and different code numbers will generally have a ragged right edge. It's the "generally" that is a problem. With similar IDs or code numbers, things could slip by. This can happen especially when letters already look alike (S and 5, E and F, I and 1). So, a typographer should come up with a font in which the characters are of distinctly different widths. This would make the right-edge-scanning method a lot more reliable. It might not be an attractive font, but it would be useful.
Symbols for Easter
For Christmas we have some good, Biblical symbols, such as the manger and the star that led the wise men. But what do we have for Easter? There are bunnies and eggs, but virtually nothing I'd call Biblical. About the only "Christian" image I can think of is the lily, for which I see but the most distant relationship (if any) to the resurrection of Jesus. I'd love to see a graphic artist do a symbolic rendition of the open tomb, or the Easter sunrise, or the angels announcing that Jesus' has risen, or something, and make it freely available on the Internet.
A Balloon Cathedral
I drove by a car dealership recently and noticed that over the lot were a series of balloon arches. These arches were a bit different from other balloon arches I'd seen because at the high point of each arch was a larger balloon, which pulled the arch up slightly into a kind of gothic style. Which, of course, reminded me of a cathedral. And then I thought, Wow! What if for some special occasion, perhaps an Easter sunrise service, a church rented an outdoor area and had a whole series of balloon arches, creating a true balloon cathedral. Maybe you could even create a balloon steeple at one end. I think it would be awesome! And let the newspapers know. It'd make a great picture!
Critical to Understanding
I went to an online bookstore the other day and came across a description of a book by St. Anselm, I think it was. The blurb said something like: "This classic by Anselm is critical to understanding the development of medieval philosophy." I see this kind of description frequently, and I never like it. I am so not interested in the development of medieval philosophy. What I am interested in is whether Anselm had some insights. I don't care a fig when he lived. Did Anselm write so people could better understand the flow of medieval philosophy? No! He wrote because he had something to say. Dear booksellers: If you're going to try to sell me a book by writing a blurb about it, kindly tell me what the book is about, not just where you think it belongs in the grand scheme of literature.
Why Men Need Knitting
If I'm sitting at home with nothing to do, I find my eyes begin to glaze over. I feel I need to do something productive. Something I could pick up in an instant and lay down in an instant. Something that could fill a few spare minutes. Nothing messy, though, so I could do it in the living room. Something that would let my mind be somewhere else. Something like, well, knitting, except, uh... masculine. I know. I know. Men can knit. But I just wish there was something more like, say, carving, but without the shavings.
Finding Something to Do
Sitting around bored, wondering what to do? Here's the solution (no, not knitting): spend 15 minutes in prayer. As soon as you resolve to do that, you will remember the car needs washing; that there's a book you've been meaning to read; that you need to pick up a toothbrush from the grocery store. You'll think, "It really would be nice to have a cup of coffee about now," or, "I ought to call my brother. I haven't talked to him in ages," or, "I wonder what's on television." Amazingly effective.
A Better Dishwasher
I'll bet somebody has already invented one of these, but if not... How about a dishwasher that has a little humidifier in it. Just a small element that heats a tiny bit of water to keep the humidity high inside the washer. This would keep the food from drying out and getting welded to the dishes, so when you do wash, the dishes really get clean.
Ban Daylight Savings Time
Many of us in the United States have something called "Daylight Savings Time," where we adjust our clocks an hour forward or backward or something that I can never keep straight. But I've got to wonder; is it really necessary? Couldn't we just stick with Standard Time? I feel as if I'm missing out on the seasons. Just as a season begins to change and I get to come home from work while it still feels like afternoon, they go and change it on me. And for part of the year, I think it would be nice to get up while there are a few stars still out, or have a leisurely morning breakfast at other times. In addition to being confusing (and an inconvenience for programmers who need to record local times, I might add), it's homogenizing. It makes every day as much as possible like another. If companies really want to homogenize their days, why don't they just tell people to come in an hour earlier or later.
The Bible and the Greeks
It is interesting that ancient Israel and Greece were so close to each other, yet gave civilization such different ways of thinking. The Greeks took a logical, step-by-step approach, trying - with fair success - to build truth upon truth and arrive at greater knowledge. Compare that with the Bible. For example, its opening verse: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." The contrast is stark. This is no examination of the evidence, carefully sifted and compiled and logically debated. This is a herald of the king making a anouncement! Kings don't debate; they proclaim! And this is exactly what you'd expect if the king of all creation was to communicate with us - a proclamation.
The Music Industry and 'You Shall Not Steal'
I find it ironic that the pop music industry, which has frequently been... how can I put this delicately... has frequently been rather adversarial towards Judeo-Christian values, has suddenly discovered that it approves very highly of the commandment, "You shall not steal." With the advent of Napster and other technologies, sharing bootleg music on a massive scale is trivial, and the only barrier between a person and the music he or she wants is that person's own morality. Too bad that morality is exactly the thing that many (not all) in the pop music industry have spent decades tearing down. Despite the irony, don't cheat the music makers. Pay for your music and (soon, with increasing bandwidth) videos.
Moses and Mt. Nebo
I read today a book review of what must be a rather silly book, which, sadly, the reviewer took seriously. The book apparently sought to discredit the Bible, at least partially, on the grounds that nobody has ever found any evidence that Moses had been at Mt. Nebo. Sigh. Last weekend I went to Krispy Kreme and got a doughnut (actually, I got a few, but we won't get into that). Now, if in four thousand years an archeologist digs up that Krispy Kreme store, he could gleefully pronounce that he hadn't found a single shred of evidence that I had been there. My whole family, including all the neighborhood cats and dogs and 10,000 of my best friends could have been there and he'd still be able to make that silly claim. How forgetful of Moses not to have left his business card.
Holy Land Jigsaw Puzzle
Why doesn't somebody make a jigsaw puzzle of the Holy Land? I keep thinking there must be some out there, but I never seem to see any, and I think it would be a great way for kids (and adults) to learn the geography of where Jesus walked. There's nothing like looking at a picture for four hours to burn it into your mind.
Missionaries on Board of Directors
Sometimes I wonder if Christian organizations loose their dedication to Christ because they are led by people whose devotion to Jesus is halfhearted at best, for whom their job is just a job. Just thinking out loud, but perhaps it would help churches and non-profit agencies if they required that a hefty percentage of their boards of directors be made up of those who have won people to Christ in the 20 poorest countries of the world. Well, I don't mean precisely that, that's just a single concrete measure, but, in other words, if boards of directors were at least partially made up of people who have suffered to advance the gospel. I'll bet the job wouldn't just be a job to them.
A Monument in the Middle of Nowhere
I think it would be neat to have a giant monument in the middle of nowhere, depicting an event in Jesus' life, or a 20-foot-tall wall with a verse from the Bible in giant letters, or ... I don't know what, I'm not an artist, but something. Maybe it would get listed in travel guides (especially if there's not much else in that state or region), and people would come and visit and perhaps be touched by the message it conveys. I've occasionally been very impressed by monuments. Think of the Vietnam War memorial, for example, and how touching it is. Why should people not be touched in a similar way by the message of Christ? Maybe it could even bring a bit of economic life to some declining rural town nearby.
Historical Christian Calendar
I just saw an "inspirational" historical calendar. The historical entry for Valentine's Day was the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Kind of an odd notion of what's inspirational, but nevertheless, it got me thinking. Why not have a calendar with famous dates in Christian history? Each little blurb (and I don't think you'd need one for every day) could teach people a bit of history or inspire them with what God has done through the lives of great men and women of faith. And it would be in front of them throughout the year.
Be a Mini Expert
Some time ago I read what I thought was a wonderful bit of advice. The writer suggested that every Christian have a lesson in mind, ready to teach. That way, even if you're not a regular teacher, you'd always be able to help out in a pinch. My experience doing this is that as you study (and limit it to a brief passage of the Bible or a narrow topic) you want to teach it, and your fear of getting up in front of people is overcome by all this great information your heart is burning to communicate. By spending a few minutes studying here and there over the course of many months, you can become quite an expert in a narrow field, and in the process be a blessing to many. Ya know, I haven't done this in a while, but I think I'm beginning to talk myself into doing it again.
Chain Store Churches
I don't mean to be crass and commercial here, but what if churches were spread the way chain stores are spread? What if an organization or denomination was to recruit a pastor to open a new church, then supported him for a few months or a year or whatever with a special start-up team, including, perhaps, an evangelist, counselor, musicians, publicist, manager, recruiter, fund raisers and whatever other people are necessary to get a church off to a good start. This start-up team would then hire and train a local staff. Then, with the pastor's permanent staff in place and operating well, the start-up team would move along to a new city to help found another new church.
A Database Party
How about having a database party? To come to this party, you'd have to enter likes and dislikes on a form, perhaps an online form, and then when you show up at the party you'd be given a set of colored cards (each corresponding to a preference) and the moderator would tell everybody with, say, a green card, to get together and try to figure out what it is they have in common, while the rest of the people mill around. Then the moderator would have the green group break up and he or she would call out another color to repeat the process.
Memorizing Scripture Made Easy
I've memorized some scripture in my life, but it has always been difficult. But it has always been pretty easy to memorize songs. There is just something about songs that makes them easy to remember. So, if a musician took a set of verses and made them, word for word, into songs, it might help thousands of people more easily memorize scripture. I realize there are songs featuring scripture, but frequently the scripture is abbreviated or modified to make a good song. But if the object was not to create a great song, but to help people memorize scripture, the songs would not have to be great, they'd just have to use the passage of the Bible literally and have a simple tune.
I had an idea once for a small spiral-bound book for travelers. It wouldn't have a word in it, but would have simple symbols of things travelers might need: a telephone, taxi, train, airplane, hotel, restaurant, etc. The symbols would be categorized under, perhaps, Travel, Lodging, Food, Clothing, etc. So, for example, you might go in a restaurant in Tadjikistan and when the waiter comes around, point to an image of a fish in your book, and hopefully get a fish dinner. Or when you get in a taxi, you'd point to a picture of an airplane taking off, hopefully getting you to the airport. Kind of a universal translator.
Do you suppose the church should adopt the color red? I mean, since we focus on Christ's blood shed on the cross, it seems the ideal symbolic color. I know it has been associated with communism, but I think the communists are through using it (Are you guys done with it yet?), so I don't think they'd mind.
Population and Abortion
I think pro-life people have failed to use a good argument against abortion. It is, simply: The American economy needs workers. The US grants work visas to people from other countries because we can't find enough people here, partly because we've killed so many of them. We should stop abortion for the economy! Yes, I realize this is not the core issue. The core issue is that we shouldn't be killing innocent people, and I agree with that, and I wish more people agreed. But if a pocketbook argument sways people's minds in favor of what is right, I'll take what I can get.
I recently read an article that said that when various monastic groups modernized to be more attractive to modern people, fewer men wanted to join. Somehow, I don't find that very surprising. If I had a group devoted to the propagation of peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and we decided to be broadminded and promote all edible substances, I suspect what little membership I had would rapidly decline. If a group doesn't stand strongly and clearly for something specific, why should anybody join? People have better things to do than join pointless groups. I think that is a lesson both to the church and other organizations: You've got to have a clear reason to exist.
While the church should stand strongly by its beliefs, I think in other ways it should be as innovative as it can. Why not open churches in malls, open seven days a week? I wouldn't go, but if you want to fish, that's where a lot of the fish are. Maybe mall churches could have places for weary shoppers to rest their feet and watch videos or listen to music and get a free cup of coffee or cocoa and a kind word. Maybe there could be 10-minute services four times an hour, or five-minute prayer services.
I hate getting sales calls during dinner. Actually, I'm not wild about them at any time. I wish someone would offer a device you hook up to your phone (maybe part of an answering machine) that lets callers know before the phone even rings, that: "I'm having dinner. Please don't complete this call unless it's an emergency. Try back at seven." or "No solicitors, please." (Do I think solicitors would pay any attention to such a message? No, but then they've started off being rude, and I'd have less trouble saying goodbye.)
Praying and Newspapers
At his request, I prayed for a non-Christian friend the other night who is facing medical difficulties. I think a lot of people appreciate being prayed for. Apparently unrelated topic: I went to a little church once because of an ad in a newspaper. The people were amazed. Nobody had ever responded to the ad in all the years it had been running. I suspect most church newspaper advertising is about as effective. So let's change it! What if these newspaper ads said: "How can we pray for you?" and had a blank space to write a prayer request, the address of the church and a note (very important!) saying, "We won't contact you unless you request it (except to confirm that we've prayed for your request), and we will not keep a record of your name and address."
Two friends began arguing about prayer. "All right, then," said one. "Prove that it works by praying that you get a $20 bill in the mail." The other replied that the Bible says God doesn't honor prayers for selfish reasons. "Well, give it away then, but let's hear a prayer! Ask your God to give you $20 in the mail - by next Saturday." So, a little reluctantly, he prayed. But later the first man began feeling badly. In the heat of the moment he had put his friend in a hard position. He knew there would be no $20 bill. For a day or two it bothered him, then he slipped a $20 bill into an envelope and sent it anonymously to his friend. "I got it!" his friend said. "See, prayer works!" "Well, said the first man, getting hot again, "I sent it to you, not God!" "Gee ... thanks, but I prayed and here it is!" "But it wasn't God, it was me!" "But I prayed, and ..." And as far as I know, they're still going round and round.
[While I was writing this story, I read it to a friend. He suggested a simpler ending: The pray-er tells his friend, "I got two $20 bills in the mail!"]
© Copyright 2000 Brad Haugaard.