Thinking Out Loud

October 15, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Sunset - Mark BattersonThis is another photograph in a continuing series by people known to readers here; this sunset was taken Monday night by author and pastor Mark Batterson.

 

On Monday I raked leaves and collected links; you could call it my own little feast of ingathering.

Paul Wilkinson’s wisdom and Christian multi-level business opportunities — “just drop by our house tomorrow night, we have something wonderful we’d like to share with you” — can be gleaned the rest of the week at Thinking Out Loud, Christianity 201 and in the Twitterverse

From the archives:
The problem with out-of-office email notifications:


Lost in translation: The English is clear enough to lorry drivers – but the Welsh reads “I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated.” …Read the whole 2008 BBC News story here.

August 13, 2013

Keep the Story, Lose the Illustration

This is a rebroadcast of a piece from September 2011…

Having become previously acquainted with the addictive properties of the internet’s dark side, I can identify with the AA mantra that “one drink is too many and a thousand drinks are not enough.” I have experienced moments where one online image essentially gives you permission to then delve deeper into more of the same, a task easily undertaken when you have the road map memorized.

Of late, this has not been an issue. Facing job uncertainty, the loss of a friendship, or a medical challenge has a way of keeping you focused on things that matter, and making a renewed commitment to purity of thoughts and actions. For me, anyway. I know there are others for whom the same stresses are what drives them to find a way of escape. But lately I have been relatively detoxified and in fact, there are parts of the above-mentioned roadmap that start to fade over time.

But it can only take one idea, one article, or one photograph; and the process can start to unravel. I know this because, about a week ago it happened to me

On a Christian website.

The woman in question, who I believe has written some Christian books, had posted to her site/blog an article about a particularly disturbing trend taking place. I won’t name it, because I don’t want to drive anyone to find it. She posted a number of pictures including one that I don’t feel was absolutely necessary. Furthermore, in the limited internet exploration which did follow, I discovered she had posted a picture that many secular bloggers and media sites had shied away from.

And then, there was the temptation to go back and see how some hold friends are faring, if you get my drift. Heck, I had already started down the road, and I might as well see how the old neighborhood was doing.

But instead, I just sat at the computer, not once, not twice, but several times with my hands hovering over the keyboard, but unable to complete any actual keystrokes. Some would say there was a battle raging. If so, the battle probably stretched out over about three days. In the end, while I somewhat danced around the outskirts of what is for me, the internet’s forbidden zone, I did not actually revisit the old haunts.

But none of this — absolutely none of it — would have happened if a certain Christian internet writer had been content just to report on a problem without feeling the need to add pictures. It was just completely unnecessary. And it was, to at least one person, a huge potential stumbling block.

We all want more readers. We all want to think our particular blog or website is a relevant source of breaking trends and opinion on current issues. The stats provide that affirmation.

But not at any price.

April 4, 2013

A Lesson Learned Too Late is Still a Lesson Learned

Was this the one time we disobeyed God? …Okay, maybe there were lots of times…

The time in particular that I’m considering is the time we moved to the city where we now live. It was 22 years ago, and we came with some “push” factors (wanting to get out of our 9th floor apartment in the city of three million) and some “pull” factors (liking the look of the town, as seen from the highway).

Later, I would write a song with an opening sentence that talks about the “pull” factors:

The part of the town that you see from the highway
Is never the part that the people there know.
The smiles and hellos that are so superficial
Filter the feelings we never let show.

When the business we were going to start in this town didn’t happen, we got caught up with the momentum of the “push” factors and decided we would move anyway. We would go into this foreign place and trust God to work out the details for employment and income. Not so smart.

(Tangent/aside: Never move to a town where you plan to raise a family if you don’t know anyone and therefore don’t have your potential babysitters or family supports lined up ahead of time. Ours included teenage girls who were (a) completely inexperienced — “You mean I was supposed to change him?” — with kids, (b) dealing with medical crises, (c) dealing with severe emotional breakdown.)

I think there was some element of God’s leading us to where we moved. We thought we were moving to start a business, but instead, we ended up getting involved with a church that really needed us. I got to write a newspaper column every weekend for ten years which paid for our groceries. My wife got to raise her boys in a house and not the apartment in the big smoke. I got to teach a year at a Christian school. My wife got to start a number of ministry projects which have made a big difference in the lives of people.

But did God just allow us to “make the best of it?” Was there a principle we missed?

I think there was, but I didn’t know the particular chapter and verse at the time. The verse is found in Proverbs 24:2 –

Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house. (NLT)

First plant your fields; then build your barn. (Message)

Fix your business outside. Get your fields in shape and then build your house. (rough English translation of Louis Segond translation in French)

In other words, get a job, know where your mortgage payments are going to come from. Heck; know where your next dollar is coming from. Settle your career in that place first, then talk about your residence. Don’t move to Dallas, or Lisbon or Sydney without having a job waiting.

But we were young, we were idealistic, we were acting on a mix of faith and foolishness. I think we prayed about it — a bit — but earnestly praying together as a couple hasn’t been our strong suit. If you’re a younger married couple, and the shoe fits, take that as a personal admonition to do better than us when it comes to prayer. Starting now.

Joshua 9:14 — the story of Joshua’s ill-advised treaty with the Gibeonites — makes an even stronger case:

The Israelites … did not inquire of the Lord. (TNIV)

So the men … did not ask counsel from the Lord (ESV)

I really feel that God has journeyed with us and blessed us so many ways. But there have been some uphill battles that I believe trace back to not adhering to a basic scriptural principle. In many ways we’ve lived like monks who have taken a vow of poverty, nonetheless we’ve been blessed with some family circumstances that made it possible for us to live what appears from the outside to be a comfortable lower-middle-class life.

But my advice to people today is always the same: Prepare your work in the fields and then build your house.

December 29, 2012

Men and Pornography: Keeping the Discussion Going

In July, 2008, I posted a draft version of The Pornography Effect online, and spent a great deal of energy trying to increase awareness of this plague which has spread via technology and has had particularly damaging effects on men. A few months later, popular blogger and writer Jeff Goins interviewed me on the subject, and today I can’t honestly recall where the interview appeared; but after finding a copy of it yesterday, I thought it helpful to spread this message yet again. Besides, we need to keep this discussion going. This is the first time this material has appeared at Thinking Out Loud.

You can read The Pornography Effect here, it uses a blog format but reads like a book with the chapters in proper order and a ‘next page’ type of click necessary to get to the second of the two screens.  It takes about 55 minutes. There’s also a ‘Cliff Notes’ version of the key points here.

The Interview

What is your personal experience with pornography? What did your own struggle look like?

We owned a computer that was connected online for about ten years before anything remotely pornographic ever crossed the screen.   Up until that point, I would say I was probably in the “This could never happen to me” category.   One Saturday afternoon doing a relatively random search, I ended up in the middle of an erotic novel.   A few days later I decided to read the whole thing from the beginning.   When I finished the story, nearly two weeks later, a link took me a site which contained photographic porn.   At that point certain walls of resistance had already collapsed.   Like the proverbial “guy with a remote control” who “wants to know what else is on,” I was determined to explore this alternative universe.   The internet was more than willing to oblige.   Even though I was leading worship in my church on Sunday, I was on the way to becoming a hopeless slave to internet pornography addiction.   But I rationalized that I was balancing the two worlds quite capably and getting away with it.

After what I consider a wake-up call several months later, I was able to break free for several months.   And then I went back for several weeks.   And then broke free again.   Today, there is a short-term freedom in being able to honestly say I’ve forgotten the internet addresses of most of those sites.   But in the long-term, the fact remains I know the search criteria that got me there.   For anyone, the internet’s dark side is never more than a few clicks and keystrokes away.

When did you realize that this was a systemic problem in a lot of men’s lives?

After remaining free for a longer period, I decided to (a) go public, and (b) create a forum for women to know more about the mechanics of how the internet porn industry functions.   There are millions of pornographic web pages, but each has one thing in common:  They were all put there by someone.  That person had a reason, a motivation, and I thought it would be helpful to create more understanding of why the stuff is there in the first place.   Perhaps I’m wired to want to share and apply knowledge once it’s acquired.   Perhaps I was trying to redeem a bad personal experience.   I just figured there were already seminars for men who were dealing with a multitude of addictive behavior, but nothing for the women who were, as I termed it, the collateral damage in the sphere of internet addiction.

teen with computer I found out really fast that this is truly “the elephant in the room” both within and outside the church.   Tell people this is what you want to discuss, and the room gets really quiet.   Plus, I’m in Canada where there isn’t the same transparency about personal struggles.   We don’t talk about our spiritual lives here in the same way that people do in the U.S.  I have always know that this was a hot topic, but once I was trying to create open discussion, it was initially the silence that told me I had struck a nerve more than anyone’s particular admission or confession.

For a younger generation of internet sex addicts, though, this is a non-issue.   Images of naked people — even images of their classmates — have been available online all their lives.  An entire generation is being raised without a sense of shame.   It was once the case that humans distinguished themselves from the animals by our ability to blush, but slowly, an entire generation is losing that.   They would say there is no problem at all here.

How does pornography affect men’s relationships with their wives, family members, and God?

I don’t think anyone who has had exposure to pornography is ever the same.   Over an extended period, I think exposure rewrites the brain programs of our minds, to the point where, for guys, any female is just a body to be exploited.    I don’t think any man who is deeply hooked can look at his wife or girlfriend, his sister, his daughter or even his mother the same way.   Yes, I’m saying it changes all relationships that a man has with all females.  The girl serving at the fast food place.  The woman in line at the bank.   The kindergarten teacher at the elementary school.  All females. 

In terms of spousal relationships, the problem — and fortunately this wasn’t exactly the issue for me — is that men are intended to find sexual fulfillment in their wives. (And likewise, wives in their husbands.)   So immediately the relationship is encountering damage.   But where the internet habit is also a secret habit, there is an additional wall of separation building between the husband and wife.   Trying to get “alone time” on the family computer can also cause friction between other family members.

Spiritually, sin is sin.   While we can admit that God probably ain’t too happy, we can use all kinds of rationalization to justify that what we’re doing isn’t such a big deal.   After all, aren’t a lot of popular songs played on radio somewhat pornographic when you read the lyrics?    If a person is really tuned in to their own spirit, I think they’ll recognize that, like Adam in Eden, we’ve somewhat hidden ourselves, and hurt the relationship in the process.   There are other indicators of spiritual life and growth that will start to flash warning lights.

 Have you encountered women who have struggled with porn?

Once I went more public with my desire to speak to this subject, I had a number of women who came to talk me.   While at first discussing a husband’s or a son’s addiction, they eventually shared with me that they had struggled with this themselves.   Yielding to female stereotypes of soap operas and romance novels, I assumed they were speaking of text pornography, like the novel that had initially hooked me.   But they were saying no such thing.   They were into the pictures just like the guys were, and one woman in particular hinted at a very deep addition that had tied up hundreds and hundreds of online hours.

However, one of the main ideas I want to advance is the idea that text pornography is every bit as dangerous and harmful as drawn or photographic pornography.  It is able to convey ideas that either (a) cannot be expressed in a picture, or (b) would still be considered taboo graphically.  Text pornography, which includes but is not limited to erotic literature, puts forward ideas which in some cases are intended to change societal norms.  It ought to be the focus of more concern.

 What does it mean for a porn/sex addict to discover grace? What does that look like?

I think that the grace of God comes in the form of the strength that we don’t have within ourselves to walk away from the internet, either figuratively or literally.  Apart from Christ’s power working in us, there’s no compelling reason to break free, let alone the strength to do it.   But with Christ’s power, I believe that breaking free of this particular addiction can be a relatively painless process.   If we see our sin as being sin against God, we will strive for holy living.   The man who desires to do the will of God positionally does not sin.  

Grace can also appear in the form of a friend who has walked the same road, or a friend who is simply brave enough to wade into the topic with you.   Grace can be a pastor willing to devote a Sunday morning sermon to the topic; and grace can be a congregation that doesn’t judge when you walk towards the altar at the pastor’s invitation.  Grace can be an understanding spouse who desires to encourage you towards freedom from addiction.   Grace can even be a young daughter who catches a glance of an image on your computer screen and asks, “Daddy, how would you feel if that were me?”

Can you share at least one story of someone you know who was able to break out of a porn addiction?

It’s interesting to think about that question apart from the various things I’ve read in books and magazine articles that were all U.S.-based.  The Book Porn Nation by Michael Leahy, and the book I Surrender All:  Rebuilding a Marriage Broken by Pornography by Renee and Clay Cross share two stories that I believe to be representative of stories that are common to so many.  In my country, what I’ve experienced is hushed voices, speaking in low tones, whispering, “Been there.  Done that.   Free now.”  

I think the curiosity factor engages a great percentage of men at one time or another, particularly as the computer changes the way pornography is accessed.    The question is how long are you going to stay in Sin City?   Some stay a long time.   Some reading this are there right now.   No… make that many reading this are there right now.  Thankfully,  I think there are probably more stories of spiritual victory out there than we realize, but far too many men are afraid to admit the problem existed in the first place.   A person has to simply determine not to go back there. 

What resources are available for those who are struggling?

If a person has a trusted friend who can serve as an accountability partner, I think that accountability software like Covenant Eyes is probably the best resource we have right now.   I know pastors who serve as accountability watchdogs for each other.   If a person is really fighting the addicitive nature (which can be part of the human condition) then a program like Celebrate Recovery is also helpful.

October 3, 2008

July 25, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Click the image above to learn more about the comic book version of the book In His Steps, where the whole WWJD thing originated.

June 19, 2012

Teenagers are Soy Beans

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:22 am

One of my recurring theses here on the blog is that teenagers are like stem cells.  In June, 2009, I wrote:

…[J]ust as stem cells are useful in research and applied medicine because they can pick up their orders from surrounding cells … so I believe that pre-teens and early-teens are also “in formation” and their … identity is largely shaped by early exposures and experiences. 

I like to think of this analogy as best expressing the vulnerability of youth. But on the weekend I heard a story that made me rethink this particular thesis. I decided that the stem cell analogy was too respectable for some kids.

So instead, we’re going with this one:

Teenagers are Soy beans.

Soy beans pick up the flavor of the food that surrounds them. Combine them with something else and they take on that taste.

What (or who) gets added to the melting pot of your kids’ lives determines what the end product is like. Good influences will produce good results, but being around people of negative or dubious character will produce not-so-good results.

  This post appeared earlier today as Teenagers are Lima Beans; it was late Monday night and I got my beans mixed up.

January 18, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Lloyd the Llink Llist Llama

In case you missed it, there was an epic link list here on Saturday, too.  Well, we thought it was epic. Or mega. Or just plain large.  And if you’re reading this on the actual Wednesday, between 00:00 and 23:99 EST, you’re reading it in an internet world without Wikipedia.

January 11, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Wednesday List Lynx as seen in Australia

Time for another one!

  • Actually going to kick off with an internal link, because when I wrote this review back in May, I never imagined that Kyle Idleman’s book, Not a Fan would do as well as it has.
  • You may have seen Jessica Latshaw in A Chorus Line, or you may have seen her on YouTube singing on the A train in the New York City subway with hair in pigtails. The daughter of a Maryland pastor, JL explains how it all went down.
  • A Danish study shows that victimization of children on the internet is significantly reduced when parents are aware of the kids’ online activity.
  • Buried in one of those articles about all the new laws that came into effect in 2012: “California also becomes the first state to mandate the teaching of gay history. A new law requires schools to include in the public-school curriculum the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, along with disabled persons and others…”
  • Mark Driscoll’s book on sex and marriage — which now has a video trailer —  is being overshadowed by Ed & Lisa Young’s latest sermon series and book, Sexperiment. One blog suggests it’s not necessary, while another, Master’s Table, agrees with Internet Monk that it’s hard to think over the noise of the Evangelical circus.
  • I swore we were done with Christmas links, but this is so good and I want to be able to track it down 11 months from now.  This is The Christmas Story as told by the children of St Paul’s Church, Auckland, New Zealand.  HT: Walt Mueller.
  • Matt Chandler offers a gospel-centered interpretation of the story of David and Goliath; and you’re not David in the story.
  • Country music fans: Canada’s Ali Matthews has released the full — nearly six minutes — video of her song Carry Me Home.
  • Hope the churches using older wireless microphones got the message that they now risk fines of over $100,000 US and imprisonment.
  • I’ve heard a number of people talk about the Biblical emphasis on hospitality.  But not so much lately.  I remember Jesus Movement icon Lonnie Frisbee telling me, “The early church fellowshipped from house to house and we fellowship from restaurant to restaurant.”  Here’s a short article to start the hospitality discussion where you live.
  • This just in: Preachers sin.  Who knew?  Some encouragement for those in pastoral ministry from Peter Mead, which is part of a series on issues which can disqualify people from ministry.  And here’s a classic from March I had bookmarked where Peter talks about moralism as preaching element which can strangle the gospel
  • Also for people in vocational ministry, here’s a list of Rick Warren’s ten things to remember as we begin a new year, as reposted at Leadership from The Heart. 
  • And we don’t want to leave out worship leaders: Here’s Chris Vacher’s take on a possible alternative — in some instances — to using CCLI as a source for legal worship song charts and parts.
  • If your church is wrestling with the idea of ditching Sunday morning children’s ministry, you should read this apologetic for Sunday Kid Min.
  • B o n u s :   W a t c h   f o r   m o r e   l i n k s   o n   S a t u r d a y !

December 20, 2011

The Five Dislike Languages

Filed under: family, marriage — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:51 am

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman is a bestselling Christian book which invites readers to understand which type of expression of love their spouse or partner best responds to, and to learn a bit about their own expectations in the process.  Briefly, the five love languages are kind words, spending quality time, thoughtful gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. You can even take a free assessment online to learn where you fit.

But let’s face it, some of us guys are far better at finding out what pushes our spouse’s buttons in the opposite direction.  It’s not so extreme as looking for “five hate languages,” but we’re really good at not expressing love or even like in certain situations:

  1. Ignoring or not hearing — Probably a good one-third of all the things my wife says to me in any given day at best have to be repeated a second time and at worst don’t register with me at all.  It’s not that her concerns are not important to me, it’s just that whatever I’m doing at the time is more important.
  2. Questionable motives — This is when you do something really nice, but it turns out you’re doing it for some deeper reason. Once this mixed motivation surfaces, while transparency can be a good thing, it completely undoes any ‘points’ you think you’re scoring.
  3. Not sharing the experience — My wife has invested herself over the years in a number of hobbies and interests that she has invited me to participate in, but for various reasons the subjects or activities have never grabbed me. Later, I will wish I had done together what she did apart.
  4. Being helpless — Often we get into patterns where we feign ineptness or defer to the other person’s expertise, when in fact, we could have pushed the load halfway ourselves. Or something like that. Don’t make me explain this one, okay?
  5. Telling the other person what they like — A sort of opposite to #3, this one involves imposing your personal tastes and interests on someone who hasn’t demonstrated the least affection for that subject. “But honey, you’ll love the Indy 500! Powerful cars going around and around and around all day long!”

With help from Mrs. W., we came up with these fairly quickly on Sunday night.  What did we leave out?

December 14, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Christmas List Lynx

Here’s this week’s list; remember to have your suggestions in by 8:00 PM on Mondays to make sure that they get considered.

  • North Point Community Church’s “Be Rich” campaign breaks all previous records for giving to local charities as reported at CBS News Atlanta.
  • For those of you who missed the last decade completely, the BBC re-traces the history of the WWJD slogan in light of its re-emergence in the Occupy Protests.
  • This week’s top music video release introduces recent Nashville resident, singer-songwriter Jesse Santoyo.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling means the end of churches meeting in schools in New York City and eventually, beyond.
  • Vital question for worship leaders — and others — at Zac Hicks’ blog: Is the Lord’s Supper a Funeral or a Feast? s
  • Churches in Santa Monica, California are almost completely shut out of the 21 spaces where they normally erect nativity scenes because of strategic planning by atheist groups.
  • If you’re into Bible translation issues, here are three academic presentations on video by NIV, ESV and HCSB representatives, and a Q&A and response video with all three, from Liberty University’s Bible Translation Symposium.
  • Lost files found: This has been bookmarked in my computer since February; it’s a short article by a Minneapolis author, Tyler Blanski who has a book with Zondervan forthcoming later in 2012.  This deals with rethinking sexuality or you could check out his blog.
  • Lost files found #2: Another February flashback, Perry Noble asks if there’s anything you’re holding on to that God wants you to let go.
  • From our Pastor True Confessions Department, Kevin Rogers gives his personal reasons for not practicing the spiritual discipline of fasting.
  • Video recently posted, but apparently dating back to 1989, here’s a cultural artifact guaranteed to make you smile. Or something.
  • A Kentucky pastor reports he has canceled a church vote banning interracial couples. But you get the impression this fight ain’t over.
  • This video is from last year, and we may have linked to it then, but I needed something seasonal, right? Enjoy The Digital Story of the Nativity.
  • Mark Galli says there’s a need right now for more chaplains and fewer leaders. Sample: “We find ourselves in an odd period of church history when many people have become so used to large, impersonal institutions that they want that in their church as well.” This discussion really swims against the current.
  • Another Christianity Today item: Anthony D. Baker surveys what’s going on in church life, particularly as it affects our children, and finds us doing all manner of things except actually teaching the gospel.
  • First there was Rachel Held Evans’ 2010 list of 13 things that make her “…A Lousy Evangelical,”  and now it’s Michael Camp’s 31 reasons why he “…Left Evangelicalism and Became a Progressive, Not a Liberal.”
  • Big Bang Theory Department: Scientists working at the Large Hadron Collider believe they have confirmed the existence of The God Particle.
  • Ever been in a group of people where someone outside the circle only asks the husbands the “What do you do for a living?” question? Michelle Garred guests at Eugene Cho‘s blog.
  • Sadly for some, this time of year is just an excuse to drink, even if they do so in the name of remembering ‘the reason for the season’ as this advent calendar found at Ironic Catholic indicates:

Older Posts »

The Silver is the New Black Theme. Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.