Thinking Out Loud

September 20, 2014

The Last Post

Filed under: blogging, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:50 am

No, we’re not talking today about the bugle call known as “The Last Post,” although there is a similarity of theme.  Wikipedia reminds us about that song which originally connoted the end of day for soldiers and then crossed over into memorial usage: “In all these countries it has been incorporated into military funerals, where it is played as a final farewell, symbolizing the fact that the duty of the dead soldier is over and that he can rest in peace.”

Neither are we saying this is the last blog post here at Thinking Out Loud, though perhaps some of you were hoping!

Rather, what got me thinking was a Twitter post from Keith Brenton last night:

If I had just one social media post left in my life, to bring joy and wisdom and love to a sad, stupid, hateful world …this wouldn’t be it.

Okay. But what if you had one post left?  In the endless stream of social media history you’ve created on WordPress, on Facebook, on Twitter, on tumblr, on Instagram, on YouTube… and on everything else; what if you had One Final Post. Your own famous last words. The thing everyone would remember you by.

What would it be? 

Note: These words, phrases and sentences are already taken

If you don’t want anyone to see your response, use the form below; otherwise leave a comment.

  •  Related: Two years ago I posted the lyrics to a song I wrote as a much younger person. I was basically asking the same question, “What will my life be remembered for?” It’s a fair question to ask yourself periodically.

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.

August 18, 2014

From the Diary of Isaac Wotts, Church Janitor

Filed under: charity, Church, writing — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:47 am

Isaac writes:

One of the things I hate is when someone comes up to me on Sunday morning and says, “There’s something in the men’s room you need to see.” I try to dress up a little for Sunday, but there’s a great deal of wisdom in actually attending a different church than the one which employs you, especially if you’re the church custodian. (But if you’re the pastor; then it doesn’t work out too well.)

Short StoriesIn the handicapped stall, someone had carried in a chair from an adjacent Sunday school room, propped it up underneath the ventilation grate and then apparently knocked the grate down, bending it somewhat.

“Would you like to know what happened here?” I asked the man who had located me. He nodded so I continued. “This happens every two years. A bunch of middle school boys are in here and hear the sound of the toilet flushing in the adjacent women’s restroom. They realize the rooms are not totally soundproof and then they recognize the voices of middle school girls they know talking loudly. They are determined to either hear more or see more and so they climb up here only to discover the vents point away from the floor and the whole exercise is pointless.”

I thanked him for letting me know about the problem, and then, since the chair was already in place, I climbed up to see if the grate could be fitted back on and when I determined it wasn’t too badly bent, I opted to go get a soft mallet so I could deal with it right away. Just before I climbed down, I discovered firsthand how clear the sound is when you are close to the ventilation system…

“…I don’t know how she manages with all those children.”

“I know, and she wears that same blue and white outfit to church week after week after week. Like, doesn’t she have anything else in her closet.”

“Well at least when those brats are acting up they don’t have to put her number on the screen; the ushers can always find her in that same white shirt and blue vest thing…”

At that moment someone came into the restroom and I thought it better to climb down lest I be accused of the very thing the middle school boys were up to.

About three minutes later I was back standing on the chair, ready to hammer the grate in place, and just as I was about to strike the first blow I realized there were different people in the rest room next door…

“Hi, Wendy how is it going?”

“Well, my brother Tom is being released from the hospital on Thursday, so then he says he’s ready to take the kids back over the next month; so we’re going to very slowly work our way down from six kids to just my three.”

“It must cost you a fortune to feed them.”

“Yeah, and they’ve all grown over the summer and need back-to-school clothes, and the hand-me-down thing doesn’t work because of the girl/boy distribution. I’ve got $75 to spend on all six of them. And that leaves me with nothing. I’ve got three changes of clothes to wear to work, and I don’t know how many times I’ve worn this one to church.”

“Why don’t you come by the thrift shop?”

“Oh I practically live there, Olivia; but not the one you work at, we go uptown because there’s free parking.”

“No, I want you to come to mine, downtown. I’ll use my manager key in the cash register and authorize the cashier to give you 50% off everything; I’ll explain it in the log somehow. Come next week, and park in the Jefferson Street lot, and bring the parking receipt into the store and I’ll get it authorized.”

“That would be awesome. I’m not gonna turn you down. I really appreciate…”

…And then they must have walked out the door.

Church CustodianI banged the ventilation grate into place, picked up the chair and emerged from the men’s room, noticing the two Grade Seven boys on the opposite hallway looking at me and laughing. Suspicions confirmed.

Inside the maintenance room, I replaced the mallet, and then grabbed a roll of masking tape from a nearby shelf. I reached in my wallet and pullet out a gift card from Sears that I knew had about $48 left on it. Not much, but still…

I placed two strips of tape on the card, and on the first I wrote, “$48 — Treat yourself;” and on the second “Use this for YOU.”

Wendy was easy to spot. She was wearing the aforementioned blue and white thing. “This is for you;” I said, “From someone who wishes to remain anonymous.”

She read it and said, “Oh I’ll bet this from Olivia.”

“No, I said;” It’s not from Olivia; when were you talking to her?”

“In the women’s room this morning.”

“No, Wendy, this totally predates that.”

I walked away. It predated it by about three minutes to be sure; it was part of the earlier conversation I overheard, so it wasn’t a lie, right?




August 10, 2014

Just Checking In…

When you post every day at a fairly fixed time, and then you take a day off, people do start to wonder… So first, a random graphic from my previously-unused files…

For the word of God is living


…followed by a joint-post with Christianity 201 which, ironically was titled “What to Write.”  (The ‘random’ graphic serves as reminder that what we do write is much more powerful when it is saturated with scripture content.)

This morning our speaker opened in prayer quoting Psalm 19:14

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

No pastor, teacher, preacher, author wants to overstep the boundaries of what would be acceptable to God. Many begin Sunday sermons with the prayer, “Hide me behind the cross;” expressing the desire that the cross of Christ be seen first and foremost, not the speaker.

A few days ago, blogger Scott Fillmer quoted from the introduction to The Journals of Jim Elliot.

What is written in these pages I supposed will someday be read by others than myself. For this reason I cannot hope to be absolutely honest in what is herein recorded, for the hypocrisy of this shamming heart will ever he putting on a front and dares not to have written what is actually found in its abysmal depths. Yet, I pray, Lord, that You will make these notations to be as nearly true to fact as is possible so that I may know my own heart and be able to definitely pray regarding my gross, though often unviewed, inconsistencies… these remarks are to be fresh, daily thoughts given from God in meditation on His word.

Elliot had no idea through his martyrdom how many people would want to read his writings. It reminds me of this story:

6While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 7a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

8When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9“This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

10Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11The poor you will always have with you,a but you will not always have me. 12When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Verse 13, which I’ve underlined is interesting because the woman had no idea that what she was doing would continue to be remembered in perpetuity; but also the agency by which we know the passage that we call Matthew 26; the writer of the gospel could not possibly realize the means by which that story would become part of what we call the New Testament canon, which in turn is part of the bestselling book of all time, which we call The Bible. (Today, many print books are remaindered, declared ‘out of print’ after as little as one year.)

Pause for a moment: Imagine creating something that lives on long after you are gone; of leaving a story so significant that becomes part of the core literature for all generations that follow.

I try to both write God-honoring material here [at Christianity 201], and select God-pleasing material here on the days we borrow from other devotional bloggers and authors. But the totality of my computer output on any given day can contain a variety of topics not all of which are enduring or lasting. Just check Thinking Out Loud, and you get a glimpse of some of the controversies that dog the contemporary church, and each Wednesday at that blog we note some of the stranger things that take place in the name of Christianity. Many of these posts have a “best before” or what the Brits call “sell by” date that’s just a few hours after the post has been published. [That's why I created C201; I needed the personal balance.]

Elliot’s wish was that God would, “make these notations to be as nearly true to fact as is possible so that I may know my own heart and be able to definitely pray regarding my gross, though often unviewed, inconsistencies.” He desired to be truthful and he desired to be consistent. The gospel of Matthew strived for accuracy. The woman with the alabaster jar courageously broke with tradition as he broke the jar sacrificially, probably not fully realizing the prophetic significance of her actions.

Truth, consistency, accuracy, courage, sacrifice. This is what pleases and honors God.

July 15, 2014

Unfamiliarizing Familiar Texts

Filed under: prayer, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:46 am

We ran these on the blog six years ago…

The Beatitude Creed

How about this for a novel creed:

I believe that the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of Heaven.
I believe there will be comfort for those who mourn.
I believe that being meek is a good thing and that those who give everything will inherit the earth.
I believe that those whose heart is set on seeking righteousness will find it.
I believe the merciful will receive more than they think they deserve.
I believe the pure in heart will be blessed and will see God.
I believe that those who long for peace and do more than others think is safe are children of the living God.
I believe in a place of safety for those who are hurt for trying to do the right thing.

I believe that being poor, and ignored and weak, and sick and tired and broken and messed up and kicked around is not as spiritually dangerous as being self-satisfied and clever and well-clothed and well-fed and degreed and creed-ed and important.

~posted July 17th, 2008 at A Life Reviewed blog – Joe and Heather live in Coventry in the English West Midlands

A different version of The Lord’s Prayer

The following is a version of what is commonly known as ‘The Lord’s Prayer.’ However this version is one translated from Aramaic, rather than Greek.

Oh Thou, from whom the breath of life comes,
who fills all realms of sound, light and vibration.
May Your light be experienced in my utmost holiest.
Your Heavenly Domain approaches.

Let Your will come true
in the universe
just as on earth.

Give us wisdom for our daily need,
detach the fetters of faults that bind us,
like we let go the guilt of others.

Let us not be lost in superficial things,
but let us be freed from that what keeps us off from our true purpose.

From You comes the all-working will,
the lively strength to act,
the song that beautifies all and renews itself from age to age.

Sealed in trust, faith and truth.
(I confirm with my entire being)

Some say that the Aramaic is the original, some say the Greek. I don’t know enough to say. The Lord’s Prayer does seem to have its origins in the Jewish Kaddish, a liturgical prayer developed in Babylonia and spoken in Aramaic.

I think it’s a beautiful version, whatever the logistics are.

~ from Kay at The Crowded Handbasket blog on July 25, 2008

Why The Poor In Spirit Are Blessed

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:3)

Author and theologian Monika Hellwig gives us the following:

  1. The poor in spirit know they are in need and can’t help themselves.
  2. The poor in spirit know not only their dependence on God and on powerful people but also their interdependence with others.
  3. The poor in spirit rest their security not on things but on people.
  4. The poor in spirit have no exaggerated sense of their own importance and no exaggerated need of privacy.
  5. The poor in spirit are less interested in competition and more interested in cooperation.
  6. The poor in spirit instinctively appreciate family, love and relationships over things.
  7. The poor in spirit can wait, because they have learned patience.
  8. The fears of the poor in spirit are more realistic and exaggerate less, because they already know they can survive great suffering and want.
  9. When the poor in spirit have the gospel preached to them, it sounds like good news and not like a threatening or scolding.
  10. The poor in spirit can respond to the call of the gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated totality because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything.

~found in files; original source unknown

June 22, 2014

Beating the Heat: I’m Getting Along Swimmingly

Embracing the Heat

It’s been 25 years now since we first moved to our present location from the big city. We are connected to two different small towns, just a few miles apart. One we sleep in. One we work in and attend church and it has the school our kids attended. Give me about three minutes I can name the location of every traffic light in both.

But we’ve never established any kind of relationship with anyone who has a swimming pool.

This isn’t a big problem; summer is fairly short here. But there’s something about a hot day that makes you long to be near a body of water, and the Great Lakes don’t really warm up until late July.

On a hot day, I can be heard asking, “How can we know so many people and not know anyone well that has a pool?”

Until last year.

One day, I simply went out on the back deck and decided that instead of fighting the heat I’m going to embrace it. Fortunately, I don’t sunburn easily. For 20 minutes I simply laid in the sun, and then I went inside for a drink of ice water. And then, I took the watering can, filled it to the brim, and went back outside and poured the water over my head.

Tap water here comes out very cold. Most people don’t do the keeping-a-pitcher-in-the-fridge thing because there’s no need. It felt good. It doesn’t cool the body down as much a swim might, but like the label says, you can always, “Rinse. Repeat.”

A swim in a pool is still attractive, but not as great a need. I thought of that yesterday morning while reading this quotation from G. K. Chesterton:

There are two ways to get enough. One is to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.

Statistically, most of the people reading this reside in the U.S., where the ‘long hot summer’ is a fact of life. “Hot town, summer in the city, back of my neck gettin’ dirty and gritty.” Maybe you’re wishing someone from the city would come by and open up the fire hydrant.  Perhaps you dream of winning a trip to a resort or beach town. Rob Bell told a story about taking a bunch of kids from Grand Rapids to Lake Michigan. Most had never seen the lake even though it was only an hour away and marveled how the body of water seemed to keep going without end.

Possibly the humidity and air quality are making it hard to breathe. Perhaps your property overlooks that of a neighbor who has a pool, and the inequity of it all — plus the fact they’ve never invited you over — just gets you angry.

Just embrace the heat (making sure to limit exposure and use sunscreen.)

Oh, and I just looked in your fridge and you’re out of milk. Head over to the grocery store and take a long, long time to make your purchase. Walk up and down every aisle. It’s not as cooling as a swim, but you might even run into someone else who’s working the same strategy. Maybe the two of you can spend fifteen minutes over a lemonade or a sundae comparing notes. You might even make a friend. Or make a difference.


June 17, 2014

When Outrage Becomes Fashionable

Last week Leadership Journal — the same organization that publishes my Wednesday Link List — stirred up a hornets’ nest when they published an article by a former youth pastor now serving time in prison for sexually abusing a girl in the youth group.

For people who have had to deal with any kind of sexual abuse, this article struck a lot nerves, but not in the way you might think. Rather, there was a groundswell of feeling that the language in the piece elevated the author beyond what he deserves, that it appeared to be prescriptive at a time the author should not be giving advice, and that it somewhat soft-pedaled what took place using words like affair or relationship when the legal system would clearly define it as rape.

To publish or not to publishThat Leadership Journal is a division of Christianity Today, Inc. only added to the controversy.

I became aware of this taking place on Twitter — where readers seized the hashtag #takedownthatpost — and followed it early on in real time since I now have more than a passing interest in what happens at LJ and CT. Later Tweets revealed that several Leadership Journal staffers were away at the time, but eventually a three-paragraph disclaimer was added to the beginning of the story, and then, about a day later, the six-page post was removed entirely with an apology.

I think, at that point, removing the article was the only sensible thing to do.

Rather, what concerns me is something I felt while all this was going on, namely that being outraged by this particular article became a Twitter trend. People, some of whom I am quite sure have never paid LJ any attention prior to this, simply joined the bandwagon because that was the correct thing to do.Again, I don’t want to minimize the seriousness of the subject the article discussed. I merely want to make an observation here that for a few days last week, moral outrage became fashionable.

protest signSocial media has the potential to raise issues that are important, but when objection to a particular piece becomes trendy, I have to wonder if the outrage stems from deeply held convictions or if the the publication that is the subject of the outrage is simply being bullied into trashing the piece. As a regular reader of the weekly column by the Public Editor of Canada’s largest newspaper, I know that “You should never have published that article,” is an oft-heard refrain.

The article had it its issues. But as I pointed out in another blog post last week, the rule caveat lector always applies: “Let the reader beware;” or more literally, “be wary.” The author wrote what he felt about the whole issue, and yes, perhaps he is in denial about some aspects of what he did. Then again, maybe he simply wanted to write something that presented himself well.

The other question is one of the appropriateness of the forum the author was given. No doubt some felt that anything in the CT family simply gave the article too much profile; but the outrage that followed would only add to the website traffic.


So…we have guest posts here sometimes. Would I have printed the article?

I think I would have been attracted by the idea that a convicted felon — incarcerated for something he did while on staff of a local church — would want to use my blog to tell his story. The inside nature of the story, or the exclusive release of the story would probably temper my desire to do some careful editing; and communication for the purpose of making changes might have been difficult.

Faced with objection and outrage, I might at first dig in my heels; and then I probably would start thinking about damage control after several days; basically exactly what CT did.

The situation would only complicate if I were working with a skeleton staff during summer holidays.


The writer wanted to do something that would be redemptive for other student pastors who are vulnerable to temptation.

Instead we ended up with something that was prescriptive for editors faced with the temptation to run a story which perhaps should have stayed in the closet.



June 6, 2014

It’s All About Me!

Filed under: Humor, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:15 am

James RubartWe’ve previously reviewed four books by James Rubart here: Rooms, The Book of Days, and The Chair. Recently James shared this story on his blog:

A man is enjoying watching a Seattle Mariners game when he finds himself thirsty and decides to get himself a Coke.

As he’s returning to this seat a few minutes later, he hears a voice cry out from high in the stands above him.

“Hey, Tony!”

The man stops and squints into the seats with a frown on his face. A few seconds later, he resumes his path back to his seat when the same voice bellows again. “Hey, Tony! Up here!”

The man turns and glares for a moment at the spot the voice is coming from, then trudges on.

Not more than three seconds passes before the voice calls out a third time. “Tony! Hey, Tony!”

The man stops, turns, and shouts in the direction of the voice with full force, “My name’s not Tony!”

Part Joke, Part Sobering Truth

We smile when hearing this joke because of the absurdity of the situation, but there’s a bit of truth in there that gives me pause.

The man who bought the Coke has also bought into a deadly lie. He thinks he’s the person the voice high in the stands is calling for, because he thinks the world is all about him.

Can you relate? When we walk into a party or a group of friends who are we fixated on? Yep. Ourselves. We’re thinking about how we look (or don’t look). We’re wondering if people will be glad to see us, or give us a bored glance and go back to their conversations.

When we post on Facebook, are we hoping what we say will encourage someone, or are we more focused on how many likes we get?

I could go on, but I know you understand what I’m driving at.

Ignore the voice from high in the stands. The idea of life being about us is woven into our culture so deeply it’s paralyzing. Advertisers are masters at convincing the masses that life is about them.

But if we’ve surrendered our lives to Jesus, it’s not about us. It’s about others. It’s about walking into the party asking Jesus who we should love on. (Because beyond the brave faces, people are hurting all around us. They need the Life we carry.)

It’s called dying to self. And there is such freedom when we do.


Review: Rooms
Review: The Chair
Review: Book of Days
Review: Soul Gate

June 3, 2014

Rural Reflections

Filed under: writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:00 am

So now we’re into day five of sheep-sitting. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

It’s really quiet here.  No trains. No freeway traffic in the background. No sirens from police, fire and ambulances. No having to listen to the neighbours arguing over who used the last of the milk, or the expletives that accompany that conversation. No listening to the baby crying at the home daycare a yard over.

It’s too quiet to sleep. I can’t sleep without some background noise. I turned on a fan, but felt very guilty doing so. Also, my wife hates the fan.

It’s a slower pace in the country. Urban life is simply more frantic and it acts as a contagion, unless you find a way to seal out the city with airtight doors. I’ve been in homes in the middle of towns where you enter and everything is peaceful and serene and the only sound is the grandfather clock ticking, its chimes breaking the silence on the quarter hours. But most people’s homes reflect the pace of the city which surrounds them.

The hens and the sheep know where they’re supposed to be. The written instructions we were left were good and helpful, but the animals have a way of letting you know if you’re doing it wrong. Some of this is instinctual, but some of it is simply the routine that has evolved here. Go off script and they look at you as if to say, “There is a disturbance in The Force.”

The dogs require more work than the sheep and chickens. Maybe it’s because they’re just one step removed from the humans in the household pecking order. The humans of course are the most demanding, the most complicated; but the dogs are a close second.

City people know nothing of the intricacies of agriculture. So this week I learned about the difference between fertilized and unfertilized eggs. Who knew? Country people knew.

The cat seems to be in charge of everything. I get the distinct impression that the cat is watching our every move and is going to file a report when the farm owners get back. There were no instructions left for us in terms of giving the cat food or water, which is rather suspicious, don’t you think?

Closer to nature is not closer to God. I would imagine that there are, in the farm properties near here, some atheists. Getting back to nature does not assure one will make the creator-connection. I think that rather, one interprets what one sees in whatever ways they are predisposed. That said, I think with a longer visit, a person would see nature acting out parables that would point to the divine plan of God, more clearly defined in contrast to man’s attempts to render that plan null and void, which is evidenced only upon reflection. But there are agnostics, atheists and skeptics down on the farm.

Living in someone else’s house for a few days speaks to their character. It’s not a matter of neatness and order, but sometimes I have experienced what can only be called a “house of peace.” It’s not just the rural setting — although I know that adds to it — that makes this a relaxing environment. Visitors to our home might find it reflects something more chaotic.

I love it when people have large libraries. I’m not one of these people who goes poking around medicine cabinets, but I do get downright nosy when it comes to bookshelves. You realize that these are the writers and the ideas that have helped form and shape people into who they are today.

Each of us is unique, but some people do have better lives. I don’t covet this place specifically, but I recognize that while we try to learn to be content in whatever place we find ourselves, there are some situations that are enviable. That said however, I also recognize that the owners of this property worked long and hard to acquire it and maintain it. Coveting is tempered somewhat when you know all the facts.

I will miss this when we’re back home.

May 25, 2014

The Young Girl in the Coffee Shop

Filed under: writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:59 am

After about ten minutes, Joe called my cell phone. It turned out that he had the name of the coffee shop right, but had gone to their west-end location. I told him that I couldn’t promise I might not go ahead and order a coffee.

Short StoriesTruth is, I don’t really drink much coffee, but this place has a non-carbonated peach drink that is a refreshing change, even if it consists of about 200% sugar.

I got us a booth near the window and tried to figure out what Joe might want to talk about. He was both a church veteran and a new Christian, if you know what I mean. The discussion could go many different directions.

The two guys in the next booth were obviously regulars. You could tell it by the way the booth seats seemed to conform to their slouching as they conversed while flipping the pages of a local, small-town newspaper.

“Check that out;” one of them said.

While pretending not to have heard, I looked up to see what had got their attention, but the only change was that a family of four — parents, a boy and a girl — had walked up to the counter. These were not regulars. They had tourist written all over them, and I almost wanted to say, ‘Hey, if you’re going to visit our town, check out one of our good coffee houses.’ 

The conversation next door continued.

“Yeah. What’s that gotta be? Twelve, thirteen?”

“I’d say eleven. Damn!”

Okay. A few things came to mind. First, this wasn’t going to be the ideal booth to sit at when Joe arrived. The place was pretty full, but I saw a guy on his last sip in a similar booth on the other side, and if I could watch for the moment he left, Joe wouldn’t be distracted by anything overheard.

Second, I glanced briefly at the young girl. Her top didn’t quite meet her jeans. Clearly the guys at the next booth had the age right. I wondered what might happen if her parents knew that right at this exact moment two perverts were staring down their daughter. The conversation got a little louder.

“What if you knew you’d never get caught?”

“Seriously? Nobody would ever know? For life?”


“Life doesn’t give those guarantees.”

“What if God Himself promised you it would be a lifetime secret between you and her?”

The guy at other booth had gotten into a newspaper story, but moved the coffee cup off to the side. I was ready to make my move and make it fast. But first, I had endure more speculative theology at the next table.

“Well sure, what guy wouldn’t?” 

“She sure is a cutie.”

Newspaper guy stood up, and as he did, so did I, swooping in like a vulture to claim the new table, sitting on the side he hadn’t. ‘Thank goodness I don’t have to listen to that conversation;’ I said to myself.

Instead, I found myself staring at the young girl and suddenly there was a voice in my head speaking like I had never heard a voice in my head before.

‘So what if I told you, you could have that girl and there would be no repercussions?’

‘Get out of my head, you stupid voice; I’m trying to get focused for my discussion with Joe.’

‘But play along, what if I told you there would never be any consequences for you?’

‘I don’t even know for sure who you are, but assuming that you’re genuinely able to make that offer, you’re forgetting that I’m married.’

‘You would never bear any — any at all — consequences. Never.’

‘Okay. I hear your offer. A fulfillment of every man’s lustful desire is it? The young girl fantasy? Granted. There would be no consequences for me. But there would be consequences for the girl. You forget there is another human being involved here.’

‘Ah! So it is. You have answered well.’

And then the voice stopped as though someone had turned down the channel on a large audio mixing board, while at the same time turning up the channel with the background sounds of the restaurant.

The girl’s father — who had to be at least six foot four — was now seated thankfully blocking my view of her completely.  Had I just passed some kind of test?

Apparently Joe had already arrived, as he showed up at the booth coffee in hand while I continued with my large cup of sugar juice.  Of all the topics Joe could have brought to the coffee shop that day, it turned out he wanted to talk about some career choices he was facing that might involve him and his wife moving a considerable distance.

“I keep weighing the pros and cons of each possibility;” he said, “but it’s like I hear voices in my head and I think it’s God speaking to me, but then seconds later it seems like it’s more like something the Devil would say, and honestly, sometimes it’s not totally crystal clear who’s who.”

“I know;” I responded. “Sometimes that can be difficult…”

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