Well,I thought I had seen it all. Does this zip-line entrance into church by Pastor Rod Parsley qualify as “by any means” or is it a step too far?

What’s next? Pat Robertson’s hair catching on fire while he records a commercial for the 700Club — while moonwalking?

As a pallate cleanser, try out this stirring rendition of “Skyfall” — by the Granger Community Church worship band. In church. Took me back to my post Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church.

Big HT to A Little Leaven.com

What do you think? A step too far or is it all OK if James Bond finally gets into church?

After all, The World Is Not Enough. And we should go To Russsia, With Love to turn Dr. No into Dr. Yes, even if we have to preach The Living Daylights out of them. Sorry, but perhaps the gospel wasn’t meant For Your Eyes Only.



WhenI first stepped into the theater to see Skyfall, the latest James Bond extravaganza that released in the US on Friday, November 9, 2012, I got worried.

A quick glance revealed I was surrounded by senior citizens. If my math was right, many of them likely watched Dr. No when it first hit the big screen in 1962. Maybe that’s because I went to the matinee. I’m guessing so because some critics have called Skyfall one of the top five Bond movies ever. As a Bond afficianado, I must agree.

It’s definitely one of the best movies in the franchise as Daniel Craig continues to stake his claim to being one of the best Bonds ever. But the stellar Skyfall will appeal to die-hard and fresh fans alike.

From the usual high-action opening sequence (all I’ll tell you is that I’m pretty sure it includes the largest use of construction equipment while on a moving vehicle in Bond history) you get the sense that the safeties are off in this Bond episode, number twenty-three in the official series. And you’re right. Anything can and will happen. I found it made for a slightly unerving, yet refreshingly unpredictable movie-going experience.

The traditional soaring theme song, already made famous by Adele (and getting Oscar chatter) along with the accompanying iconic imagery reminded me of Golden Eye in its homage to Bond opening traditions. Its emphasis on deeper images of life, death, and resurrection had me thinking the film just might cross generations and break out of the action genre a bit into more substantive issues. And it did just that — without taking itself too seriously.

Skyfall pays tribute to all the usual Bond traditions — exotic locales, beautiful women, elaborate villainous hideouts and schemes, and even a cool car that blows stuff up. But it forges new ground in character development for the series as it explores the roots of Bond’s affection for “M” as a surrogate parent-figure and of her own attachment to him, as well.

After all, what mother would enjoy giving the order to kill a pseudo-son? One of the funnier scenes has M tersely asking Bond where he’s been while she’s been under attack. His laconic reply? “Enjoying death.” All you guys will be pleased to know that’s as close as Bond ever gets to an “I love you” in this one.

Dame Judi Dench shines in her central role as Bond’s indomitable boss “M.” This time around, she is the object of mysterious attacks that threaten to bring down the British intelligence system and force her into early retirement. As an extra twist, the incomparable Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient) makes his entry into the series as Mallory, a politician with his own secretive intelligence background who has just been given oversight over MI6. Not to ignore the younger tech-savvy millenials, a fresh Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and a trendy-but-geeky “Q” (Ben Whishaw) arrive with an eye on the future of the Bond franchise. Both are welcome additions.

It’s all about getting back to the basics in this one as Q’s exchange with Bond shows after supplying 007 with the most basic of gear: “Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don’t really go in for that anymore.” “A brave new world, ” Bond replies. Indeed.  Dame Dench even gave me shivers when she read Tennyson — and not just because I was an English major. It made for gripping drama about our need to stand in the face of terror “and not to yield.”

Don’t get me wrong, Skyfall has its harrowing escapes, blazing fireballs, and the usual death-defying physical feats, but as one blast from Bond’s past puts it, “Sometimes the old ways are the best.” The story even takes a surprise turn to revisit Bond’s family roots in the Wild West of Scotland that might remind some of Craig’s turn in Cowboys and Aliens. The trip back home for Bond ultimately reveals more about the current nature of the loner agent’s true family.

And the best part is that Skyfall succeeds with any gratuitous — well, without gratuitous anything. Nothing seems overdone in this one. As a father and a conservative man of faith, I was expecting to find more scantily-clad women, profanity, and violence than I would have liked. Not to say there isn’t any, but it’s kept to a few kissing scenes, implied off-camera activity, a handful of words tossed here and there, and no blod-and-guts-stomach-turning kind of violence. One new sexual wrinkle has the male villian (Javier Bardem) flirting with Bond.

A bonus is that Skyfall won’t leave you feeling like you need to take a shower or go to confessional afterwards. And it’s surprisingly tender when it needs to be — was that a tear in Bond’s eye?

One caution: the final sequence may be a little too emotionally intense for younger teens as it involves the suggestion of suicide. Parents should see it first before watching with children 13 and under and then decide.

Skyfall has more than its share of surprises but an alert viewer should pick up on the hints. Remember I warned you — the safeties are off. Let’s just say I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of Ralph Fiennes in coming Bond films. I for one am fine with that.

Go ahead. Let the sky fall. You’ll be glad you did.

It’s bitter sweet really, that feeling you get when you come home from a long trip. On the one hand, it’s good to be home in familiar surroundings and to get incredibly awesome hugs from each of our six kids.

On the other hand, we had a blessed time with friends in Guam, making new ones and becoming better acquainted with others. My wife enjoyed her time on a tropical island — and has the tan to prove it. I did too.

And the food — well, let’s just say Guam knows food.

One of many fine buffets featured on Guam.

So it’s with mixed emotions that I try to collect my thoughts from the journey of about 18,000 miles over the last two weeks that took us to Tokyo first and then into Guam. I added a little detour to Saipan for a day with some friends. Then back to Tokyo, on to Chicago, and finally home to Chardon, Ohio.

As I reflected on the many conversations and experiences of the trip, I jotted down 10 lessons from the other side of the world that I thought were worth sharing. Here they are, for what they’re worth.

  1. No one takes North Korea’s threats seriously except the Western media. I’m not saying we shouldn’t pay attention when deranged dictators say crazy stuff, but the consensus of all I interviewed in Guam was that there was little to nothing to worry about. One person had just been to the DMZ with a group of school children and found that South Korean troops were not even on high alert. All seemed to see the saber-rattling as attempts to extort more stuff from the West. To his credit, I think, the Obama administration didn’t give in, leaving Kim Jung-un in a rather awkward position.
  2. The consensus of all I talked to in Guam, a territory of the United States, was that US influence is fading rapidly. In their opinion, Asia, specifically the Pacific Rim area, will be the center of cultural and economic influence and innovation in the decades to come. Some of that perspective may reflect bias on their part, of course, but I think they are on to something worth watching closely. America has grown soft and bloated, failing to recognize the implications of a flattened, and therefore highly competitive, world.
  3. Guam is a better place to raise children than the mainland US. Such was the opinion of several families who had lived in the States before relocating to Guam. The word that was used a lot was “safer” to describe Guam as compared to even the heartland US mainland. I’m convinced part of that is the emphasis on family and community that runs deep in Guam. As the Asian and western cultures have blended there, they have managed to maintain strong familial and community networks rather than defaulting to the government. That being said, other islanders flocked to Guam after the late 1990s when welfare options opened up to them. Like the mainland, Guam carries its fair share of off-islanders who have learned how to work the system to get a free ride.
  4. China has irreconcilable differences within itself. The tension between the communistic political system and the burgeoning capitalistic economic system cannot peacefully co-exist. They have created a middle-class which is irreconcilable with communism. The consensus of many in Guam who do business regularly in China is that already there are signs that — surprise! — the money will win. And communism will eventually lose.
  5. In Guam, Ohio is irrelevant. The simple truth struck me when I looked at a map in one of the local churches. It showed Guam at the center with various mission spots highlighted. It struck me, in a sobering moment, that Ohio was not even visible on the map. The center of my little universe didn’t even show up on their map at all.
  6. Americans are loud. All throughout our stay, we were struck by the quiet. As Caucasian Americans in Guam, we were the odd couple in this prime Japanese tourist spot. We didn’t really notice the quiet much until a handful of other Americans showed up here and there. The difference in volume was jarring. I would even use the word obnoxious to describe them. As it happened, my wife was reading Susan Caine’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking so the contrast between introverts and extroverts was even more pronounced in our minds. As we made our way back to Chicago, the volume increased dramatically, so much so that we found ourselves wincing at O’Hare at the deafening decibel levels.
  7. Seven hours in Saipan reminded me that wealth is fleeting and poverty, for much of the world, is the norm. I took a day trip up to the island of Saipan. Not too many years ago, they were rolling in money, cranking out clothes for Western manufacturers. Then China happened. Now the factories and sweatshops are abandoned. Malls, once glittering, first-class tourist destinations, lie crumbling. Buildings dot the island that were begun, but left half-finished when the economic tide turned. It all reminded me of that scene from the James Bond movie Skyfall where an entire island had been abandoned. A few gilded resorts are still on the island — right next to images of poverty and hopelessness.
  8. Time changes everything. Whether it was on the beach at Asan in Guam where US Marines invaded to retake the island from the Japanese or overlooking the Banzai Cliff in Saipan where countess Japanese chose suicide over capture by US forces, I was struck by the simple fact that I was standing at those sites reflecting on the historic events  — right next to Japanese tourists doing the same thing. And there was no animosity between us. In fact, I enjoyed my limited interactions with Japanese tourists throughout our stay. So many lives lost. So much destruction. And now we stand, and sit, and eat together.
  9. Obamacare is bad law. The whole world knows it. During my stay, I was able to talk to a few business people heavily involved in health-care both in the US and abroad. Without betraying confidences, suffice it to say that all share the opinion that Obamacare is a horrible law with staggering implications just now beginning to be realized. Jobs will be lost. Companies closed. Ironically, the consensus was that Obamacare is eliminating the little guy and consolidating power in big corporations through stifling regulations. I say ironically, because Obama claimed he was all about helping the little guy. Apparently, some people actually believed him.
  10. People are the same no matter where you go. Kids are the same, too. As I observed many families from different cultures, I was struck not by our differences, but by how much we had in common. I saw the same child/parent dynamics unfolding, though in different languages than my own. When I spoke with school chapel sessions, the students behaved exactly like students do here in the US. A good reminder for all those times I am convinced that the “other” people are different from me in some substantial way. Christ died for each of them just like He died for me, though I am quick to forget it.

Well, that’s a quick recap of lessons learned from the other side of the world. I’m sure I have more to sort through, but what do you think of the lessons I learned so far? Do they align with ones you have learned from your own travels abroad? Any surprises? What matches and what doesn’t?

Hi! Welcome to FaithWalkers at Patheos where I help Christians live a story worth telling–an authentic life of abundant faith while living in, but not of, a fallen world.

Frankly, I don’t think God asks much when he calls us to walk by faith. It should be easier for me to trust Him than to trust myself.

At least you’d think so.

And besides, He promised to work it all out for my good and His glory.

Yet still we struggle.

This blog is all about offering a place where we can speak the truth in love to become better FaithWalkers both in the church and throughout all of life and culture.

In addition to helping people like you live a story worth telling, I’m the Founder and Chief Story Architect of StoryBuilders, a creative group empowering individuals and organizations to tell their stories well and share them with the world.

I write books, both my own and in collaboration with others. A few recent titles include A Story Worth TellingYou Will Be Made to CareDrain the SwampNot a DaycareBig Problems. Bigger God., and numerous leadership, faith, and business titles.

I am a founding partner of Ziglar Family and co-founder of Thrive: A Ziglar Family Community. When I’m not speaking, writing, and leading my business team, I’m hanging out with my family, getting creative in the gardens, or getting my creative juices flowing at my magical second home–Walt Disney World.

Jeff goins 150 x 150“Bill Blankschaen doesn’t just challenge you to live an authentic faith. He paints a picture of what a life fully alive looks like.”


~ Jeff Goins, Best-selling Author, The Art of Work 


More about My Story

For those who care about such things, I hold degrees in English and History from Cleveland State University and an M.B.A. from the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University.

I served a few years as a pastor and a took a tour as a seminarian for good measure.

I led a thriving K-12 Christian school near Cleveland, OH, for twelve years, serving as principal while developing teachers, students, and curriculum toward a fuller Biblical worldview.

That was before God called me to focus on my strengths as a writer and communicator and serve as a Kingdom catalyst for his church-at-large. You can learn more about that journey of faith here.

Because I believe faith connects with all of life, both private and public, I am privileged to serve as the Junior Scholar of Cultural Theology and Director of Development for The Center for Cultural Leadership.

More about My Writing

What God Wants You to Do next eBookExplore some of my latest eBook resources with a click here.

My writing has been featured with Michael Hyatt, Ron Edmondson, CatalystSpace, Skip Prichard, Hugh Hewitt, Jeff Goins, Blueprint for Life, Erick Erickson, The Daily Signal, and many others.

I partnered with my friend Hugh Hewitt on In, But Not Of Revised & Updated: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World and crafted an accompanying In, But Not Of Leader’s Guide for Group Study for free church and school use.  Download a copy for free here.

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Take a quick tour of my blog. Here are a few popular posts:

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The FaithWalker’s Daily is a quick review of key news stories of the day from the perspective of a conservative Christ-follower living in, but not of, the world.

  • Arab Winter? Egyptian President Seizes Power, Triggers Protest

The Basics —

Newly elected Egyptian President Mosri, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, announced that all his decisions wil now be immune from any legal challenge, giving him more power than his dictator predecessor Mubarek ever had.

Dig Deeper:

  • Via the UK Telegraph, Mosri promises that he will not abuse the unprecedented power as massive protests claim at least one life.
  • Mosri also declared the contitutional committee to be above legal challenges as they draft the new Egyptian Constituion.
  • Hugh Hewitt notes: “The obvious irony is that George W. Bush brought democracy to Iraq and Barack Obama is presiding over its extinguishment under Islamist extremism in Egypt, but the situation is too serious to simply score partisan points.”
  • Via The New York Times, Mosri made the move while basking in his apparent negotiation of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
  • James Brandon says the US has chosen stability over democracy in Egypt and will get neither.

A Few Thoughts…

A basic tenet of a Biblical view of man is that each of us is fallen and sinful. Consequently, none of us should ever be granted too much power. Not because power corrupts, but because we are ourselves already corrupted. A key protest against Obama’s first-term foreign affairs was his rather awkward silence when Iranian citizens took to the streets to try to throw off the oppressive regime that rules them. Once again, thus far, the Obama administration has chosen silence. We chose to cheer when Egyptians rose up against a dictator who was at least one of our allies and a key to protecting Israel. Now we are silent as another dictator, this one opposed to Israel, has emerged with even greater powers than the former one. Leaders of both US parties need to speak up about this travesty against freedom.

Beware those who take freedoms for the sake of preserving them.


  • Record Weekend for Movie-Goers and Food Stamps

The Basics —

Movie-goers posted the highest grossing box-office ever for a five-day period, spending over $288M to top the previous 2009 record.

Dig Deeper:

A Few Thoughts…

Too many will think my observation some sign of callous unconcern for the poor, when I point out the inconsistency in these numbers. Unfortunately these days, offering anything resembeling criticism is often interpreted as being unkind. And so people just stop stating the obvious for fear of being labeled an inconsiderate jerk. But as I noted Thanksgiving Day, we need to define necessity. If a record number of Americans don’t have enough money for food, how do they have enough money to pay exorbitant movie ticket prices — and at record levels?

Are food stamps the bread and movies the circuses of the new America?


  • Teachers Cheat to Pass Praxis Test Requirements

The Basics —

Clarence Mumford, Sr. ran a cheating ring for 15 years, in which he charged young teachers in three southern states between $1,500 and $3,000 to have a replacement take the Praxis tests required for obtaining a teaching license.

Dig Deeper:

  • Via the AP (by way of US News/MSNBC), Mumford is being charged with 60 fraud and conspiracy charges as he crossed federal lines using mail and social security numbers to produce the fake results and IDs in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee
  • Key graph: “Authorities say the scheme affected hundreds — if not thousands — of public school students who ended up being taught by unqualified instructors.”
  • Key quote: “The propensity to cheat on exams both through college and for licensure and certification exams seems to be increasing over time,” said Kingston. “People  often don’t see it as something wrong.”

A Few Thoughts…

As someone who has spent much time in the trenches of classroom instruction at all levels, I take issue with the Praxis exams being used to define whether or not someone is a qualified instructor. The worst teachers in schools today likely have passed all the appropriate exams. Likewise, there are tens of thousands of teachers in private schools who have never touched the Praxis exams, and yet they are exceptional teachers. The rise of such exams has paralleled our national descent into educational mediocrity. Incidents like these point out how easily the quality of any top-down educational system can be corrupted.

It’s harder to fake results in the classroom when you know the people responsible for your evaluation.


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