Thinking Out Loud

February 8, 2019

Turnabouts

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:34 am

In addition to Thinking Out Loud and Christianity 201, I edit a small blog which is read by Christian bookstore owners in Canada. Sometimes we borrow some lighter fare from a site called Not Always Right.

The site takes its name from the phrase, “The customer is always right;” which of course, retailers know simply isn’t true. I wonder sometime if they should call the site Turnabouts because in many of the stories, the customer thinks it’s going one direction, when it quickly goes against what they’d expected.

I was scanning for any new bookstore stories — the site allows you to choose from a large number of categories — and noticed one called ‘Religion.’ Some of these had nothing to do with the selling of goods and services, which makes me think the site has broadened in its scope. Anyway, for the first time here at Thinking Out Loud, this story which was posted just this week. Click the header below to read it at source.

Born Again Hypocrite

(A few years ago, my wife’s father became a born-again Christian. At first, everyone was happy he had found something that made him happy and that he was passionate about. However, over time his personality drastically altered and he became far more outspoken and critical towards his family. Over time he changed from being a laid-back guy to an almost fanatical Christian. Before our wedding, he was a nightmare to deal with. He blew a fuse when he discovered we weren’t getting married in a church and briefly threatened not to come before his wife made him see sense. My wife was badly affected by this as they used to be close and now she was scared to visit him. He became particularly unwelcoming towards me over time, as well, but thankfully, our wedding day was wonderful and incident-free. Six months later we are visiting her parents for the first time as a married couple. From the moment we get there, we can tell it will be a difficult visit since her father gives us a frosty reception. At dinner, he says a grace which is ten minutes long and contains a lot of ranting about sin; he shoots me several nasty looks in the process. After eating, we look to move our luggage upstairs.)

Wife: “Okay, we’re just going to take our stuff upstairs.”

Father-In-Law: “[Wife], you’re in your childhood room; [My Name] will have the room at the end of the hall.”

(Both of us pause for a second to see if he’s kidding, but soon it dawns on us he’s serious.)

Wife: “Uh, Dad, we’re married now!”

Father-In-Law: “I repeat: [My Name] is at the end of the hall!”

Wife: “Are you serious? Dad, we’ve been married six months. He will sleep in the same bed I do, end of discussion.”

Father-In-Law: “This is my house and I will not be disrespected! He sleeps in the room I tell him!”

Mother-In-Law: “Oh, for goodness sake, [Father-In-Law], they’re not dating anymore! They’re husband and wife. Lighten up!”

(Suddenly, he bangs the table with his fist and sends a couple of glasses off the table.)

Father-In-Law: “NO! UNTIL THEY’RE MARRIED IN A CHURCH UNDER THE EYES OF GOD, AS FAR AS I AM CONCERNED, THIS IS NO MARRIAGE AND MY DAUGHTER IS NOTHING BUT A W*****!”

(The mood in the room turns very unpleasant. My wife is barely holding it together while her mother has an angry look that could melt ice.)

Mother-In-Law: “Well, looks like I’d better go check into a hotel, then!”

Father-In-Law:What? What are you talking about?”

Mother-In-Law: “WE GOT MARRIED IN VEGAS WHILE YOU WERE ON LEAVE FROM THE ARMY, YOU IDIOT! THERE WAS NO GOD OR CHURCH INVOLVED!”

(Her father goes quiet.)

Mother-In-Law: “Funny how you’ve spent the last 35 years happily overlooking the fact that you’re apparently married to a w****, and yet your own daughter is apparently a human being who disgusts you! On second thought, maybe you should go somewhere else if you can’t stand to be around all these sinners! The choice is yours: be nice or go away!”

(Her father went an angry shade of crimson and then stormed out. He spent the rest of the evening hiding in his office. For the rest of the visit, he was sulky and withdrawn and wouldn’t even say goodbye to us. Sadly, her parents divorced less than a year later due to several other traumatic events, one of which resulted in him assaulting one of his openly gay cousins. As a result, most of the family has cut ties with him and my daughter refuses to speak to him. It saddens me how much his persona changed and how unapologetic he has become.)


Cartoon: Dave Walker (Hey, it was already in our files!)

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October 6, 2017

Teenage Rebellion is not Mandatory

It didn’t happen to our kids — now 23 and 26 — and it need not happen to yours, but many parents take the perspective that teen rebellion is simply to be expected. It also didn’t happen to Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach, author of the book Why I Dind’t Rebel: A Twenty-Two-Year-Old Explains Why She Stayed on the Straight and Narrow and How Your Kids Can Too (Nelson Books) which released in paperback just a few days ago.

First, the story of how the book came to be. You need to know that Rebecca is the daughter of Sheila Wray Gregoire, a Canadian author whose work includes 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and To Love Honor and Vacuum; the last title also being the name of her popular blog.

In the winter of 2014, Sheila asked daughter Rebecca to write a blog post for her on why she didn’t rebel. At first Rebecca said no — yes, I supppose you could call that small scale rebellion — but later changed her mind. Rebecca dashed it off in 20 minutes, and within the week it had been seen a quarter of a million times on the blog and over a million times on Facebook. You can read that article at this link.  Her mom then suggested she turn it into a book proposal.

Next, I need to explain why I wanted to read this book. Although we’ve never met, Sheila is a neighbor, inasmuch as last time I checked, we live in the same part of South Central Ontario. Or maybe we’re Eastern Ontario. It’s a big place and I’m never sure. I haven’t heard her speak but I’ve been aware of her traveling with Girls Night Out, a relief-and-development awareness program for women which tours Canadian cities. So there was a local-interest factor here, but honestly, I figured I’d read a chapter or two and then leave it there. As often happens, I ended up reading the entire book.

Like your first year Psychology textbook, this book relies highly on anecdotes from two dozen Millennials reflecting on their childhood years, with a very generous helping of Rebecca’s own family memories. Today she’s married and is considered a “self help blogger” at her website, LifeAsADare.com. So while everyone contributing to the book has the perspective of a few year’s distance from adolescent events, the voices in the book are all young.

This brings me to where I’ll probably depart from other reviews and publisher marketing on this title. For example this one: “Why I Didn’t Rebel provides an eye-opening way of raising kids who follow God rather than the world.  It should not be expected that teens are going to rebel, especially if you start to teach them the right way young.  The big key is to teach them right from wrong and consequences from a young age.”

I agree wholeheartedly, but I think there’s more potential here. I think that other Millennials might want to read this, and dare I say it, I think some teens could benefit from this; especially those whose home situation is not exactly perfect. I believe some — not all — adolescents might benefit from seeing some ideal family dynamics, and might also identify with the stories of those who persevered and survived amid family chaos.

Was Rebecca’s home situation the exception to the rule? She’s quick to point out that it wasn’t perfect, but it obviously provided her the security or stability which ruled out going through teen rebellion. In ten chapters she deals with the contributing factors and because of her age provides a refreshing perspective against a backdrop of more mature ‘experts’ writing parenting books.

I’m glad I chose to read all the way through; it’s a book I would recommend.


Read a sample chapter at proud Mom Sheila’s blog.

 

July 22, 2016

Paying Someone to Tell My Wife I Love Her

Greeting Card Rack

The Short Version: Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about a display of blank greeting cards at the local Christian bookstore. Some people love them, but most people would never consider having to write their own thoughts. It occurred to me that at Christmas, Valentines Day, Mother’s Day, birthdays and anniversaries, I have basically been paying strangers to tell my wife I love her.

This doesn’t include cards I’ve sent to our kids, my parents, and others. The costs alone are probably staggering if I add it all up, and eventually the cards are thrown away.

Some Background: For years I’ve known a guy who owns a greeting card store. We were talking a long time ago about the evolution of gift wrapping and he shared this chronology:

  • People would wrap a gift in fancy wrapping paper and then tie it with a ribbon which would form a bow on top.
  • Then people started skipping the ribbon and bow.
  • Next, the gift bag arrived. No wrapping at this stage, you simply toss the gift in the bag and add a bit of tissue paper.
  • Then the gift itself ended. Instead, people purchased gift certificates and gift cards for a store the recipient would like, and placed that in a greeting card.
  • Finally, the gift card was replaced with an electronic substitute, sent by email.

How it Relates to Cards: It got me thinking about the cards themselves. Here’s my conjecture as to a possible sequence:

  • At one time, I’m sure people wrote more letters than we do today. People kept boxes of stationery in their homes and penmanship mattered. Some of these letters might run several pages — admittedly smaller format paper — and were kept and treasured by the ones who received them. Frequent writers dabbled in calligraphy, and people knew how to spell and compose a proper sentence.
  • Wikipedia traces the history of the greeting card — known to the Chinese in the 15th century — to its genesis in the 1850s. The introduction of postage stamps was a key factor.
  • By the late 1990s, the demise of greeting cards was said to be imminent, with the e-card replacing the need to mail a physical product. But when is the last time you got an e-card?
  • At the same time, some people were producing cards on their computers, which allowed them to possibly format a more personal message. This tied in with the scrap-booking trend, where people were making cards from scratch.
  • In 2016, Millennials are less likely to send cards, or even see the importance of them, unless a great aunt happens to send one containing money. Here in Canada, postal rates have skyrocketed over the last few decades. Sadly the tradition of sending thank-you notes (i.e. to the great aunt) has also diminished greatly.

Blank Cards: Again, I can’t overstate what I see as the value in blank cards. The idea of writing something from the heart and not relying on what someone, sitting at a desk at a greeting card company office wrote.

In the Christian field, I continue to be appalled at what is offered by the dominant card company, Dayspring. Their texts seem to me as too flippant, too cute, and usually quite irrelevant. It never ceases to amaze me how they continue to rule this particular market in North American Christian stores.

It also occurs to me that with greeting cards in general, unless you add at least three sentences of your own at the bottom, you are basically outsourcing your expression of love, gratitude or respect.

Admittedly, sometimes it is hard to find the words. Sympathy cards are always needed because you want to do something, but don’t always know what to say. But even there, I think even a half-literate person could take a blank card and write down a memory they have of the person who had died. Imagine yourself asked to say something at a funeral or memorial and commit it to writing; to print

Also, it needs to be said that many today in North America don’t know how to spell or write. Computers and phones are contributing to the de-evolution of the English language. So people avoid the possibility of disaster by letting someone else do the heavy lifting.

Why I Will Continue to Purchase Cards: All this said, I think that the effort of going to a store and selecting a card means something to my wife. The absence of a card would be noted. It’s one of the things we do when we love someone. Sometimes there are flowers, and they don’t last much more than a week, but it reminds her (and me) that I took the time, that I was thinking about her, and that I didn’t mind spending the money to show my love.

Cards and flowers represent terrible financial stewardship. In our economic situation, we can ill-afford to do this. But so is an expensive meal in a nice restaurant, and every once in awhile, you need to do these things. You do it just because.

However, I will continue to try to insert my own thoughts into the card. I really don’t want to outsource my expression of love; I don’t want to pay some stranger to tell my wife I love her.

August 19, 2012

“Heather Has Two Mommies” is So Last Century

Filed under: family, marriage, media — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:47 am

Wikipedia family tree for the television show Modern Family

Forget it, Heather. Your family is now so commonplace that it’s time to push the envelope once again. And Lily in TV’s Modern Family, this applies to you, too. Melinda at Stand to Reason wrote this piece (also below) in response to this news story.

Heather Has How Many Mommies?

A California bill could allow judges to recognize more than two parents. 

Stories like this about continuing to change the family gets me to thinking about the roots of the idea.  And the fundamental idea we need to keep defending. The reason people can propose such a bill – and all sorts of other things these days – is because the fundamental idea of family has changed.  And we’ve accepted the idea that sex is not intrinsically related to marriage and children.

I’m sure there are further antecedents, but it seems to me one of the fundamental disjunctions between sex and reproduction was birth control in the 60s, hailed by feminists because women no long risked the “burden” of children when having sex.  Birth control allowed people to think of sex without the consequence of reproduction.  With that risk managed, sex and marriage became detached. Also in the 60s, no-fault divorce became common.  Legally, marriage was no longer a lifelong contract that required sufficient reason to void.  If you didn’t love someone anymore, divorce.  So marriage became about love, not commitment.

Of course, we end up with children born out of wedlock and the idea became accepted that two parents weren’t necessary.  Feminism touted the idea that there were no differences between men and women, so why would a child need two parents – or parents of each sex?  They’re interchangeable. 

When we’ve walked this far, marrying whomever we love and mix-and-match parents don’t seem very outlandish. 

Ideas have consequences.  I think very often we’re fighting skirmishes over ideas that fit in a bigger picture.  And we have to go back to the roots and talk about family and how sex, marriage, and children are best served in that natural and God-given unit.

January 29, 2011

Relationships and the Internet’s Dark Side

Although the online version I posted exactly two-and-a-half years ago no longer resembles the print version I would still like to see published, I am convinced that The Pornography Effect: Understanding for the Wives, Daughters, Mothers, Sisters and Girlfriends contains information and ideas not being discussed elsewhere.

To bring those ideas to a wider audience, and to help confront what is still, 30 months later, a most serious problem, I’ve decided to occasionally reprint chapters of it here where there is a much larger readership.  The full text of the current draft is set up in a WordPress blog, but reformatted so that it reads like a book from start to finish.  It takes only 50-60 minutes to read and uses only two full screens to present the fifteen chapters in that draft edition.   You can link to the whole book here.

As a guy trying to write something that is intended to read by a dominantly female audience, I know that women are into relationships. So I thought that beginning there would be a good jumping off point. The point is that when guys view internet pornography it changes the relationship… (wait for it!) …with their computer.

I see two possible responses here.

Jim has done a bit of gaming, he knows how to check his stocks and mutual funds online, he has a friend who blogs, he’s got two e-mail addresses and he’s looking into switching his long distance from a standard carrier to VOIP on cable. Then he discovers the internet’s darker side.

Dawn, his wife, asks him to check her e-mail for a message from her mom, and from nowhere, she hears his voice answering her, “I’m not going anywhere near that thing.” He walks out to the patio and shuts the door.

Dawn’s understandably bewildered. Why doesn’t he want to check it? She opens the door, asking, “What’s the matter, did it bite you? Did you get an electrical shock off the keyboard?”

Around the block lives Rick. He loves to play the 300 variations on Solitaire he bought online, has a few friends he e-mails, likes to read articles from major newspapers online, and subscribes to a few comics to brighten the time when he gets home from work. Then a friend sends him a link to a site he thinks Rick will ‘enjoy.’ His eyes grow wide as the first image appears onscreen. His friend sends links to other websites.

Rick’s wife Alicia is unable to ignore what’s happened in the last few weeks. Rick has suddenly become an expert on all things related to the online world. He knows ‘search’ like never before, he’s suddenly an expert on downloading all manner of things, and it’s getting harder and harder for her to get any time online. Sometimes he’s up an hour early in the morning, and sometimes he’s up an hour late at night.

Alicia has entertained some suspicions, but anytime she walks by the screen all seems normal enough. But there’s no doubt in her mind that her man has suddenly transformed himself from a casual computer user to a rabid computer nerd. Or something.

Two guys. Two similar family dynamics. Two computers. But two entirely different responses. In the one case aversion, in the other case, immersion or saturation. One guy is treating the computer the way he might treat the family dog if it bit him. The other guy has suddenly become a handy guy to have around if you have any computer questions.

The point here is that those same reactions – aversion or immersion – can also affect the dynamics in a family. For sake of simplicity let’s ascribe the same reactions to couples with the exact same names.

Jim is suddenly cold toward Dawn. She doesn’t know why he doesn’t find her appealing anymore. She gets her hair styled, but he doesn’t seem to notice. There are fewer hugs. Fewer intentional touches. Jim’s aversion could be because he’s finding sexual fulfillment online. Jim’s aversion could be caused by the fact he simply feels guilty and suddenly finds sexuality – even sensuality – for lack of a better word, dirty.

But over at Rick’s house, Alicia couldn’t be happier. Jim has come alive sexually in ways she’s never seen before. Secretly, she wonders where he’s getting all these new ideas. But things are far too exciting to stop and think about it. She figures that maybe he read a book or an article in a newspaper. At any rate, she’s not going to complain.

Within the context of happy marital relations, Rick and Alicia’s situation would seem to be the better of the two, but what is Rick thinking – or pretending – while all this is going on? And what would a psychologist say about the fact that of the two men, Rick is the one who appears to be ‘acting out’ on his newfound interest?

The ‘acting out’ question is critical here because if exposure to internet pornography changes the relationship dynamics between a man and his wife or his girlfriend, could it have consequences for his daughter, his sister or his mother? Don’t be too quick to discount any of those, because when you see the recurring types of sexuality, and the themes that are dominant on the internet, you soon discover that there is a fine line between using the ‘net to stimulate healthy sexuality between a man and woman who are in relationship, and more overt perversity.

Furthermore, it’s a slippery slope that I’m certain leaves some guys saying, “I never thought that could happen to me.”

I would submit that almost from the first minute of viewing, that exposure to internet pornography is going to change the way the guy – any guy – looks at any female, from strangers to women in close proximity. I would submit that for most guys, if the escalation of interest in online erotica continues unchecked, there would come a point where ‘acting out’ would be considered, if not actually carried out. (In other places of course, you can read stories that indicate just about all the perpetrators of sexual crimes trace their behavior back to exposure to pornography. Logically, that doesn’t mean the story will end there for every man, but it means that with those for whom it did end there, its beginnings are undeniable.)

Even if nothing criminal ever happens, the consequences could be huge. One silly off-the-cuff remark to a female coworker could end a longtime career; a remark that wouldn’t have been made if certain thoughts hadn’t been planted in his head. One indecent suggestion to a friend’s wife, a cousin or a neighbor’s wife could totally destroy families, friendships and neighborhoods; a suggestion that would never have been vocalized if the person didn’t think that such behavior could be considered normal.

Someone once compared the things that enter our thought life to what happens when farmers sow seeds and later reap the harvest. The little verse goes:

Sow a thought, reap an action;

Sow an action, reap a habit;

Sow a habit; reap a lifestyle.

One thing is certain, whether there’s aversion or attraction, interpersonal dynamics are changed. Someone has said, “You are what you eat.” You certainly are what you read or view on television or your computer screen.

I don’t think anybody who stays connected with pornography remains the same person they were.

…Continue reading here…

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