Thinking Out Loud

February 22, 2010

Unresolved Past Issues from Junior High School

Filed under: pornography — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:40 pm

Two years ago, when I originally submitted the manuscript of The Pornography Effect to a psychologist for professional review, she came back with the comment that I wasn’t spending enough time on what it is that motivates men to spend hours online seeking out images.   Given that the publishers I’ve spoken with feel the current length — even though we’re deliberately aiming for a short-read, crisis-book — is too short, I’ve been looking for other dimensions of the subject that might make up additional chapters, if and only if I can figure out where to fit them in within the flow of the book.    This is one of them.


The high school Creative Writing teacher thought it would be a good idea to bring in a guest speaker from the seniors’ home who could articulate for her students some of his memories from when he was in their place in life.   She found one who was able to both visit the school and tell his stories clearly.

Mr. Watkins spoke mostly about the upper elementary grades and first year or so of high school.   He told stories of being picked on, a fight that broke out in the hallway, a girl he liked a lot but was afraid to speak to, a camping trip with another boy’s family, a school dance, swimming and fishing at the cottage…

It went on and on, but he had been chosen because he was a competent storyteller and he made some jokes, explained some cultural things he knew they wouldn’t understand, and then he ended with, “You know, I can remember all those things so clearly, but I can’t remember things from five years ago, or one year ago, or two months ago.”

Memory experts can probably tell us reasons why this is so for seniors, but even if you’re only in your twenties or thirties, there are probably experiences and images from middle school or junior high that are simply permanently “burned in” to your brain.

There’s a saying that many people don’t regret the things they did as much as they regret the things they didn’t do. In a discussion of teenage sexuality it’s probably a good thing that there are things most of us didn’t do.   There are others who bore the consequences of a more liberated lifestyle in terms of unwanted pregnancies, disease or an inability to find lasting love. (more…)

January 6, 2010

Think Links

Once again the lynx is back, so it must be a Wednesday link list:

  • Jim Martin wrote this letter to a young girl graduating from college, but it’s great new year’s advice for anyone in their teens or twenties, from the blog, A Place for the God-Hungry, check out Dear Son/Dear Daughter
  • Scott Russ has a long piece on his blog looking back at 2009 — the whole decade actually — and forward to 2010 and what follows.   There’s some good stuff here, but if you have to choose, scroll down halfway to the “future” section of Looking Back, Looking Forward.
  • Abba Productions  of West Palm Beach, Florida is committed to doing a film version of Francine Rivers most popular book, Redeeming Love. You can navigate around their site from this page.
  • N. T. Wright explains to Trevin Wax at Kingdom People why his new book is titled After You Believe in North America, but titled Virtue Reborn in the U.K., in this blog interview.
  • Quitting Church author Julia Duin reports that the next film in the Narnia series will appear with much of its Christian sentiment somewhat compromised in the screenplay.   Read her article for The Washington Post about the picture, releasing Christmas 2010.
  • Kent Shaffer at analyzes the Top 100 search criteria used by kids — including kids under age seven — on the internet.   Then again, you may not want to know.    Otherwise, continue here.
  • On a not too dissimilar theme, a number of bloggers have linked to this article by Carolyn Plocher at NewsBusters concerning the “not so hidden agenda” of the American Library Association.   Their buzzterm, “Authentic Literature” masks another agenda.  She writes, “…  The ALA, for whatever reason, has taken up the cause of normalizing homosexuality and advancing the gay agenda.  Just this year alone, the ALA awarded more than forty pro-homosexual books; at least seven of those books received two or even three ALA awards.”   Check out this important article here.
  • In the search for a weekly cartoon (or two) with a Christian perspective, it’s easy to forget how many times Charles Schulz touched on church-related or Biblical subjects.  Assembled in one place, the sheer volume of his output on religious subjects probably exceeds most of our contemporary Christian cartoonists. (See below)
  • No link on this one, just a warning:  If you’re a fan of John Ortberg as I am, and you purchased his Faith and Doubt last year, do NOT purchase the new Know Doubt as it’s the same book.  (Both Zondervan.)   Why do publishers do this?
  • I don’t know anyone who puts more work into their daily devotional website than Stephen and Brooksyne Weber writing daily from Amish country in Pennsylvania.   Each day’s readings contain spectacular photography, music tracks (optional), or you can hear an audio version of the thought for each day.   The link is always in the sidebar here, or you can connect here for Daily Encouragement.

    September 16, 2009

    The Links and Depth of the Situation

    Deep links.   Links with depth of writing and feeling.   Prepare to be challenged and changed this time around.  Don’t miss these.

    • We start with Jim Upchurch and a story from his past titled I Am Third“This is the motto of the servant. This is the motto of one who places others before himself. This is the motto of those who follow Jesus Christ.”
    • Philip Yancey writes about spending a week visiting his brother in hospital.   “Sadly, some patients had no visitors. Different rules govern wealth and status in a hospital: the currency is not cash, but visitors and love.” The post is entitled Intensive Care Week.
    • Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church tells of visiting his father in hospital.  “…this experience reminds me of the fact that life and the world we live in aren’t what they’re supposed to be. This isn’t the perfect world God created before we filled it with sin…” He quotes a hymn lyric which was new to me but is known to many others, It Is Not Death To Die.
    • Kaybee writes: “The winds of pressure rise and I’m tossed this way and that, until it seems my very being will break under the strain.  The downpour strikes at my heart with icy spears of apprehension and dismay.” What about you?  Dealing with heavy circumstances.  A frequent commenter on this blog, she writes about going through The Storm.
    • Maybe your storms are part of your past, but the thunder still echoes in your mind.  “…one in four young girls and one in six young boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18!… If those numbers of kids got cancer or some other disease that ate away at the body the way sexual abuse eats away at the soul, there would be public outcry like you would not believe.” Read more at Rick Apperson’s Just a Thought Blog as he continues his “Five Questions” series with NFL fullback Heath Evans.
    • Life circumstances can fill us with fear.  A few days ago I reviewed the book Fearless by Max Lucado.  “Imagine your life, wholly untouched by angst. What if faith, not fear, was your default reaction to threats?” This is a 60-second commercial the publisher produced and posted on YouTube.
    • Imagine fear replaced by hope.  Hope is the subject of a new book forthcoming from Rick Warren.   Normally that wouldn’t excite people outside the book industry, however, “Published in 2002, Purpose Driven Life became the No. 1 all-time best-selling hardcover nonfiction book in publishing history.” Warren himself adds, “My motivation as an author has always been the message, not the market, and I have been waiting for the right time, until I had something to say that would speak to the personal and societal problems we all face…” Read more here.
    • Maybe we should end with something lighter.   After all,  those are some fairly heavy blog posts.   Brant Hansen is back blogging at Letters to Kamp Krusty.   He tells of being asked to speak at a church in July. “I spoke about some powerful things.  I spoke about some things that really hit home.  I made people laugh, and then cry, laugh again, and then suddenly — quite suddenly — stop and consider their lives.” Read the whole story here.

    Feel free to send me URLs for blogs you think have content that may be worth linking to in the future.

    July 22, 2009

    Paying Someone to Pray for You

    Filed under: prayer — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:47 pm

    Joel wrote and asked if I would promote his website on my blog.   I get more of these requests lately as the readership grows, as well as people wanting me to promote books.

    I took one look at and frankly I was appalled at the idea of people setting up a commercial enterprise to “prey” on those who wanted someone to pray for them.    Without questioning the authenticity of whether any prayer would ever actually happen, I was concerned that this site would simply exploit people who were disconnected from a local church, or from friends or family who would pray for them.

    “Generally,” my wife said, “You pray for people you are in relationship with.”   I agree with that sentiment; though I have done several shifts at a prayer counseling center.   We didn’t charge people.  The “pray-ers” didn’t get paid, either.   But probably 90% of the people I’ve prayed for have been people who I knew more than superficially.

    I made up my mind I would not promote Prayer Helpers here at Thinking Out Loud; something I admit I am now inadvertently doing.   I want to know what my blog readers think.   [At this point, you might want to click on the link to the site, above…]

    First, here is part of Joel’s letter to me:

    …I was hoping that you might be willing to consider reviewing my new Christian website, on your site.  I think the concept of pay-for-prayer may be controversial and interesting for your audience.  My goal is to bring easily accessible prayer partners to people who may not have them available.  I would happily answer any interview questions you might have.

    Interesting, yes.   Controversial, definitely.    Deeply disturbing, incredibly.  Maybe somewhat guilty-by-association.   I wrote back:

    Yes it is controversial.
    Too controversial.
    This is why people need to belong to a local church.

    That left Joel wanting more.   He replied:

    Why do you say it is too controversial?  Also, some people are either too far from a local church (alaskans, etc) or for some reason are physically disabled and unable to go so the online community needs to be there for them.

    I’m sure Sarah Palin would get a chuckle out of the (small ‘a’) Alaskan stereotype.  (This is the closest I came to thinking I was being “had” in this entire exchange.)   I wrote back:

    “Freely you have received, now freely give.”

    The example of Jesus driving out the profiteers from the temple is sufficient evidence for me that we can’t exploit a person’s spiritual quest for the sake of deriving income.    (Trust me, being in the Christian bookstore business, I’ve spent countless hours working through that whole situation.)   I know that pastors are paid, and spend some of their time in prayer, but the idea of taking a need for prayer and the clicking “add to cart” is crossing a line, I think.   And it’s reminiscent of the Catholic church asking people to pay for indulgences before the Reformation.  Or televangelists asking people to send in their prayer requests on a special form, and then there is suspicion as to whether any prayer was offered or if the forms just went out to the dumpster, where the network TV crews found them.

    Plus, we’re supposed to pray with as much as possible, not just pray for.

    I just don’t see the convergence of internet technology and prayer being best applied here.

    Joel ended our dialog with:

    Thank you for your response.  I respectfully must disagree with you.  I see no difference between your christian bookstore and the website.

    And for me, that response clinched it.   I wrestle on a daily basis with what I do vocationally and the things done by the Christian bookstore industry in general.   Some of the marketing, the branding, the excesses, etc. are downright shameful.

    Joel saw no difference.

    That pretty well sums up what Prayer Helpers is all about.

    ~Related post at John Saddington’s Church Crunch blog.

    …but sadly, it gets worse at… (wait for it)… Christvertising.   Seriously.   Or maybe not so seriously.  You never know these days.

    July 2, 2009

    Random Items

    First of all, today is the day the story went national.   The CTV Television Network, The CBC TV and Radio Network and The Toronto Star finally picked up the story of the removal from television of Ronald and Reynold Mainse, formerly hosts of Canada’s national Christian television program, 100 Huntley Street. There’s also a report today from  This is all a full month after you read it here and here (sort of) and everywhere here in the blogosphere.    Today’s publishing flurry seems to have been precipitated by a news release from Crossroads Christian Communications, Inc. itself.    Why bother now?


    Meanwhile, I was just wrapping up yesterday’s post when I decided to pose a small-print, trivia question concerning Jehovah’s Witnesses in the U.S.    Do they stand for the national anthem?   Some here in Canada don’t.   I couldn’t picture anyone getting away with that in the U.S.    A couple of people wrote in right away to explain the JW position.   This link takes you directly to the post with the comments, and you’re still free to jump in.    Should any Christian — in the broadest sense of the word — pledge allegiance to a political entity such as a state, republic, or any other kind of country?    Leave your comments on that post from yesterday (July 1).


    When I was baptized — along with 107 other people at The Peoples’ Church in Toronto, Canada’s one and only megachurch at the time — my ‘testimony verse’ was Proverbs 3: 5, 6.   Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding.   Acknowledge Him in all your ways and he will direct your paths.    At least that’s what it was then.   We’ve since learned that ‘he will make your paths straight’ might be a more accurate translation.   Some would interpret this as, ‘he will make your paths smooth.’    But ‘smooth’ is just not reality for some people.   The last few days for me have been anything but smooth.    I really think I need to quit my job.   I’ve typed my letter of resignation, but there’s nobody to give it to, since I own the company.

    We all want to increase our blog readership, but please note that posting comments to a half-dozen items in one day won’t work here.    In most cases, the system will limit you to three comments per update period.    If the comments aren’t really productive to the discussion, it’s assumed your really only promoting your own blog.   For the rest of you regulars, it’s blog community as usual.

    May 20, 2009

    Why The Life/Choice Stats are Shifting: Time Magazine

    Filed under: family, issues — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:15 pm

    Time Magazine Nancy Gibbs May 18_09“…When the folks at Gallup announced that, for the first time, more Americans are pro-life than pro-choice, there were all kinds of ways to misunderstand what that means.

    “..Most people are neither pro-choice nor pro-life, but both; we cherish life, we value choice, and we trade them off with great reluctance. Good luck explaining that to someone who is politely requesting a binary answer over the phone.

    “…For 35 years, a majority of Americans have wanted abortion to be, essentially, legal with limits. But the movement toward greater restraint is clear.

    “…I think the numbers, inadequate and simplified though they may be, reflect deeper changes — some generational, some legal, some technological. People under 30 are more opposed to abortion than those who are older, perhaps because their first baby pictures were often taken in utero. I also wonder if younger women are now sure enough of their sexual autonomy and their choices generally that they don’t view limits on abortion as attacks on their overall freedom.

    “…The President appeared to understand this… addressing the possibility of common ground and the need for ‘…open hearts, open minds, fair-minded words….I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away,’ he said.  ‘Because no matter how much we may want to fudge it — indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory — the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.'”

    Read the entire Time Magazine article by Nancy Gibbs here; complete with an observation in the final paragraph I’ve left unquoted for you to consider on your own.

    I have nothing to add to this… now it’s your turn…

    May 17, 2009

    Engaging Life’s Big Questions With Rainn Wilson

    Filed under: Christian, Christianity, issues — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:50 pm

    ctrl_zWhat if you had the chance to read a blog that had fresh, daily content, and dealt seriously with the big issues of life, but was written from a somewhat atheistic perspective?    Many Christians only read blogs written by other Christians, which is rather sad, because it is in coming in contact with the broader population that we are kept, for lack of a better phrase, on our toes spiritually.

    And what if, as an added bonus, the blog in question was written by an actor currently appearing in America’s #1 comedy series, Rainn Wilson of The Office (NBC)?

    Seriously, you should check this guy out!  The blog is called Soul Pancake.  He is asking all the right questions, confronting all the right issues, and is being brutally honest with believers, non-believers and himself.

    And if you’re a pastor, and you like to be current, and you like to connect with the thoughts and ideas that are “out there,” then this is a blog you should keep in touch with on a regular basis.      Admittedly, sometimes Rainn simply kickstarts a topic and then lets readers take care of the rest, but oh, what great topics those are.   Sometimes an anecdotal incident or even one of the many great pictures and graphics — see image at right — is all it takes get the discussion going, with lots of great answers provided.

    While the blog is packed with great material — like this blog, scrolling back ten pages may only take you back a single month — here’s some interesting elements from the current home page:
    A list of five needs is interesting in light of # 2:

    I “NEED”
    1. Caffeine – Without my morning Americano, it’s hello Headache-ville.
    2. Prayer – I may turn to prayer only as a last-ditch resort, but it never fails to bring me a sense of resolve.
    3. Focus – One of the things I find difficult is giving people my undivided attention. I pride myself on multi-tasking, but every now and then I wish I found it easier to focus on one thing.
    4. My iPhone – It is my connection to the world. I need my hourly dose of tweetfacespacemailing.
    5. Adventure – I am constantly seeking new experiences and challenges. I am scared of being complacent and missing out on something.

    A quote from Lewis Smedes:

    “You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.”—Lewis B. Smedes

    And this very telling moment of truth from May 11th:

    God’s not showing up today. I’ve been artistically flat for a week, without idea or inspiration, unimpressed and unmotivated. And it doubly sucks because as an Atheist, I can’t count on a helping hand from heaven above.

    So I hit the streets, damning the nonexistence of God and the consequent lack of divine intervention in my art (while simultaneously dodging all of the speeding buses). If only I could tap into God for a hot artistic second and then go back to being a nonbeliever. And then epiphany strikes: How many of us secret away our beliefs and reach for them only in our self-absorbed, egotistical moments of need—when it serves us best, it’s advantageous, or, frankly, it’s the last chance we’ve got?

    That’s the big knock on Atheists, you know—that as soon as we step into the crosswalk and see that flame-engulfed motor coach careening right for us, we’re secretly praying, “Please, God. Not today, God! I believe, God… I BELIEVE!!!” As if some split-second sanctimonious tribute to a superior being that you’ve spent a lifetime denying is going to make that much of a difference now.

    But that’s the rub: When their backs are to the wall, most Atheists will hedge their bets and start praying. If God’s a loving God, perhaps he’ll show forgiveness and spare an Atheist or two in that last second. Some believers say he will. Most, however, are busy saying, “Damn! Did you see that speeding bus totally crush that poor Atheist?”

    But I’m open-minded. I’m sure that within the universe of Atheists, there are a few of us who secretly believe in God. When all the other Atheists aren’t looking, these interlopers cast faithful eyes toward the heavens and whisper a private penance. The law of averages says there must be at least a couple of Atheist posers out there who are just trying to look existentially cool. And since real Atheists love flaunting their certainty, I felt obliged to do a little investigating. It’s not as if I was making any headway on my artistic endeavors.

    …to keep reading this one link here.

    But probably the finest moment in the most recent fifteen or so pages of Soul Pancake is Rainn’s take on The Simpsons.

    So, your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to follow this blog throughout the week.   Maybe become a commenter.   Then report back here in a rainn_wilsonweek.

    In the meantime, if you’re one of my regular readers, what non-Christian bloggers do you read regularly that you would like to share with everyone else here?

    Graphic:  From an April post at Soul Pancake

    HT: Dave at Big Ear Creations blog.

    Rainn’s blog is constantly being updated.   It had changed a few times since this was composed on Saturday.  Your impression may vary depending on what’s up at any given moment.   Take the time to scroll through several pages.

    December 11, 2008

    Top Christian Newsmakers of 2008: Charisma Magazine’s List

    Once again, editor J. Lee Grady and Charisma magazine have chosen their top 12 newsmakers for the year.   Not surprisingly, there are a few names here that may not be recognized outside the charismatic world, but it makes an interesting springboard for discussion.   You can read the list in its original context here.  Here’s the short version with a few comments of my own on the top ten (but be sure to read the original, also):

    1.  The Martyrs of India – Religious violence in this country shows no signs of slowing down.

    2.  African American Pastors – Chosen for their pivotal role in the outcome of the U.S. election (again, the significance on a world scale is lost here, as with other instances where the American Christian media can’t see past its own border.)

    3.  Sarah Palin – Possibly America’s first  political Pentecostal at the executive branch level raised some key issues, but also provided late night talk shows with lots of laughs.

    4.  Alex and Stephen Kendrick – The filmakers from Sherwood Baptist Church responsible for this year’s Fireproof movie as well as Facing The Giants.   (A great film, but the credits tell the film’s own story which is just as interesting.)

    5.  William P. Young – The author of The Shack caused many heated discussions right here on the internet, and a million other places, too.  Probably got more people thinking theologically who had never done so much before.   But remember folks, it’s fiction.   Fiction.   Fiction.

    6.  Bob Fu – Outspoken critic of China’s human rights abuses who Lee Grady says was a “voice in the wilderness” during all the Olympic glitz; Fu met with U.S. president Bush before the games began.

    7.  Jim Garlow – California minister behind that state’s Proposition 8; injecting a traditional definition of marriage into the state consitution.   Google the phrase “Prop 8” to see how huge this issue was and is.

    8.  Irene Gleeson – Didn’t know this story, though presumably Charisma readers did.   An Australian grandmother who started a school for orphans in northern Uganda which became the basis for a movie, Cinderella’s Children.

    9.  Doug Stringer – His organization, Somebody Cares, played a key role after Hurricane Katrina and again this year after Hurricane Ike.

    10.  Joe Stockstill – Youth evangelist sees about 100 kids come to Christ each week through a cell-based ministry.

    So now then, what do you think of the list; the placement on the list; and who do you think ought to have been added??

    November 27, 2008

    The Noise of Life

    Filed under: family, issues — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:01 am

    “It is the noise of life. And it never ends. And, if I’m not careful, the noise will keep me from hearing the sounds. You see, sometimes for me—the noise of life drowns out the sounds of life.”

    Tim Stevens, who blogs at Leading Smart has written an excellent essay on the noise of life that interferes with the music of life we’re meant to hear.    Consider doing a copy and paste and sending this on to some friends as an e-FWD.

    November 6, 2008

    Critically Engaging John Piper’s Theology — errr, make that Politics

    Filed under: Christianity, issues, theology — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:37 pm

    So which issue trumps the other:  A president elect who supports abortion, or a woman as vice-president elect?

    First, Michael Spencer at InternetMonk sets up a teaser for the main article:

    “…While N.T. Wright’s theology has been examined from all sides almost as a test of reformed loyalty, Piper, arguably the most influential conservative/reformed evangelical pastor-theologian of the last decade, has seen almost no scrutiny of his theology and its application. Despite the fact that Piper is a major innovator in theological vocabulary, almost no one in good standing within the reformed camp has disagreed with Piper in print…”   [Continue reading here…]

    Then he links to Justin Taylor’s Between Two World’s Blog:

    [Piper] “. . . a person with my view may very well vote for a woman to be President if the man running against her holds views and espouses policies that may, as far as we can see, do more harm to more people than we think would be done by electing a woman President and thus exalting a flawed pattern of womanhood. In my view, defending abortion is far worse sin for a man than serving as Vice President is for a woman.”    [re-start Justin Taylor here…]

    Sigh!  Michael Spencer had me thinking for a minute that the earth might move here.   Piper is huge.  On the internet at least.   Not so much in our bookstore.   In past posts, I’ve noted that this particular blog never references him, because there’s so much coverage on so many other blog channels. I thought something more newsworthy was afoot here.   But alas, by the time I got to Justin Taylor’s blog, this was more about politics than theology.  Or was Michael Spencer simply seizing the moment to hint at something else that’s on his mind.

    So, back to our first paragraph question?   Which issue would trump the other in YOUR personal theological view?

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