Thinking Out Loud

May 2, 2016

This Sunday’s “Mother’s Day” is Better as “Women’s Day”

One of the things that struck me when reading Pete Wilson’s book, Plan B, was the many mentions of infertility. I remember thinking, ‘This is a big issue among people in his congregation.’ And maybe for some of you.

With Mother’s Day happening this Sunday in many parts of the world, Russell Moore has written an ever-timely article on infertility. We link to Dr. Moore quite often here, but I don’t know if we had ever committed wholesale theft of one of his blog posts before stealing this one three years ago. But it needed to be seen, and still does. You are encouraged to click through to read it.

Mother’s Day is a particularly sensitive time in many congregations, and pastors and church leaders often don’t even know it. This is true even in congregations that don’t focus the entire service around the event as if it were a feast day on the church’s liturgical calendar. Infertile women, and often their husbands, are still often grieving in the shadows.

Mothers Day and the ChurchIt is good and right to honor mothers. The Bible calls us to do so. Jesus does so with his own mother. We must recognize though that many infertile women find this day almost unbearable. This is not because these women are (necessarily) bitter or covetous or envious. The day is simply a reminder of unfulfilled longings, longings that are good.

Some pastors, commendably, mention in their sermons and prayers on this day those who want to be mothers but who have not had their prayers answered. Some recognize those who are mothers not to children, but to the rest of the congregation as they disciple spiritual daughters in the faith. This is more than a “shout-out” to those who don’t have children. It is a call to the congregation to rejoice in those who “mother” the church with wisdom, and it’s a call to the church to remember those who long desperately to hear “Mama” directed at them.

What if pastors and church leaders were to set aside a day for prayer for children for the infertile?

In too many churches ministry to infertile couples is relegated to support groups that meet in the church basement during the week, under cover of darkness. Now it’s true that infertile couples need each other. The time of prayer and counsel with people in similar circumstances can be helpful.

But this alone can contribute to the sense of isolation and even shame experienced by those hurting in this way. Moreover, if the only time one talks about infertility is in a room with those who are currently infertile, one is probably going to frame the situation in rather hopeless terms.

In fact, almost every congregation is filled with previously infertile people, including lots and lots who were told by medical professionals that they would never have children! Most of those (most of us, I should say) who fit into that category don’t really talk about it much because they simply don’t think of themselves in those terms. The baby or babies are here, and the pain of the infertility has subsided. Infertile couples need to see others who were once where they are, but who have been granted the blessing they seek.

What if, at the end of a service, the pastor called any person or couple who wanted prayer for children to come forward and then asked others in the congregation to gather around them and pray? Not every person grappling with infertility will do this publicly, and that’s all right. But many will. And even those too embarrassed to come forward will be encouraged by a church willing to pray for those hurting this way. The pastor could pray for God’s gift of children for these couples, either through biological procreation or through adoption, whichever the Lord should desire in each case.

Regardless of how you do it, remember the infertile as the world around us celebrates motherhood. The Proverbs 31 woman needs our attention, but the 1 Samuel 1 woman does too.

May 12, 2013

On Mother’s Day, Remember Married Women Who Aren’t

One of the things that struck me when reading Pete Wilson’s book, Plan B, was the mentions of infertility. I remember thinking, ‘This is a big issue among people in his congregation.’  And maybe for some of you. For Mother’s Day, Russell Moore has written on this subject. We link to Russell quite often here, but I don’t know if we’ve committed wholesale theft of one of his blog posts before. But this needs to be seen. You are encouraged to click through to read it.

Mother’s Day is a particularly sensitive time in many congregations, and pastors and church leaders often don’t even know it. This is true even in congregations that don’t focus the entire service around the event as if it were a feast day on the church’s liturgical calendar. Infertile women, and often their husbands, are still often grieving in the shadows.

Mothers Day and the ChurchIt is good and right to honor mothers. The Bible calls us to do so. Jesus does so with his own mother. We must recognize though that many infertile women find this day almost unbearable. This is not because these women are (necessarily) bitter or covetous or envious. The day is simply a reminder of unfulfilled longings, longings that are good.

Some pastors, commendably, mention in their sermons and prayers on this day those who want to be mothers but who have not had their prayers answered. Some recognize those who are mothers not to children, but to the rest of the congregation as they disciple spiritual daughters in the faith. This is more than a “shout-out” to those who don’t have children. It is a call to the congregation to rejoice in those who “mother” the church with wisdom, and it’s a call to the church to remember those who long desperately to hear “Mama” directed at them.

What if pastors and church leaders were to set aside a day for prayer for children for the infertile?

In too many churches ministry to infertile couples is relegated to support groups that meet in the church basement during the week, under cover of darkness. Now it’s true that infertile couples need each other. The time of prayer and counsel with people in similar circumstances can be helpful.

But this alone can contribute to the sense of isolation and even shame experienced by those hurting in this way. Moreover, if the only time one talks about infertility is in a room with those who are currently infertile, one is probably going to frame the situation in rather hopeless terms.

In fact, almost every congregation is filled with previously infertile people, including lots and lots who were told by medical professionals that they would never have children! Most of those (most of us, I should say) who fit into that category don’t really talk about it much because they simply don’t think of themselves in those terms. The baby or babies are here, and the pain of the infertility has subsided. Infertile couples need to see others who were once where they are, but who have been granted the blessing they seek.

What if, at the end of a service, the pastor called any person or couple who wanted prayer for children to come forward and then asked others in the congregation to gather around them and pray? Not every person grappling with infertility will do this publicly, and that’s all right. But many will. And even those too embarrassed to come forward will be encouraged by a church willing to pray for those hurting this way. The pastor could pray for God’s gift of children for these couples, either through biological procreation or through adoption, whichever the Lord should desire in each case.

Regardless of how you do it, remember the infertile as the world around us celebrates motherhood. The Proverbs 31 woman needs our attention, but the 1 Samuel 1 woman does too.

December 2, 2011

The Love and Respect Devotional Experience

Working in around books all day, I have been fully aware that the book, Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs by Emerson Eggerichs has been a bit of a sleeper title.  By that I mean a book which releases somewhat quietly, but then builds; and while other titles from 2004 have either become mostly forgotten or been discontinued altogether, Love and Respect shows no signs of slowing down; in some areas it is still taking off.

So when our friends at Graf-Martin Communications were doing a blog blitz on a recently-released spinoff, The Love & Respect Experience: A Husband-Friendly Devotional That Wives Truly Love, I knew I was getting a second chance to view the material up close. 

But how to review a devotional book?  Do I speed-read every entry?  That proved not to be an issue.  Finally getting around to opening the book, I discovered the feeling one might get upon opening a book and having hundred dollar bills (or, for our UK readers, fifty pound notes) fall out of every page.  It’s that rich.  I read chapter one.  Then chapter two.  Then chapter three.  Then, seeing an extensive note on it at the back, chapter thirteen.  Which directed me to consider chapter five.  And so on.

However first, I began with the introduction.  This is a book that aims to cut to the heart of the problems often encountered in the couple devotional genre.  He finds the material too feminine in orientation.  She wants to just read the material on her own.  Either spouse feels they’re being “prayed at” or corrected in the middle of the prayer time that follows. 

Next, I skipped over to page 273, an appendix offering a summary of the Love and Respect concept as taught in the original book, in seminars and available (only) at the authors’ website on DVD.  Since the book has been out for more than seven years, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the L&R concept is:

Without love, she reacts without respect
Without respect, he reacts without love

That’s the great axiom of the book, and there are at least two other corollaries which follow from it directly, the most obvious being:

His love motivates her respect
Her respect motivates his love

The decision to include only 52 chapters implies a weekly time together for couples, though the authors are clear that this is just one of many possibilities and also note that nowhere does scripture mandate that couples read and study the Bible together, much to the relief of a few of you reading this.

Finally, I need to reiterate what is essentially spelled out in The Love and Respect Experience subtitle: This is a book which has, by very strong design, been crafted as male-friendly.  The leather-bound cover (at a very reasonable price) adds to the ‘macho’ feel of the book, but the subtitle is also clear that this is not a men’s devotional book either.

I can’t recommend this book enough, especially at a time of year which is a ripe opportunity for couples to purposely launch some kind of Bible study and/or prayer time together.  And the seasonal gift-giving possibilities here can’t be overlooked either. 

A copy of the devotional was provided by Graf-Martin Communications, a Kitchener, Ontario firm which works with publishers and author agencies to provide additional promotion and publicity for books and book-related products.

June 6, 2011

Son of Baptist Elder Feels Forced to Convert to Catholicism

I’ve long since given up reading advice columnists; in fact I now have some strong views as to why you should skip that part of the newspaper, or its vast online equivalent.  (It’s a serious “gateway drug” to other online diversions.) But each week, listeners to the Drew Marshall show get at least one shot at poking into the personal details of someone else’s life, and even get to write in or call in live to offer their two-cents’ worth of advice.  This one got debated on Saturday — the audio will be posted on Friday at this page* — and I sympathize with the young man who wrote in because I know this drama plays out on a regular basis…

“My fiancée and I are getting married soon and we’ve run into a bit of a problem. She’s from a Catholic family and her parents want her to be married in the Catholic Church. I am not a Catholic. As a matter of fact, I have a pretty hard time with a number of things the Catholic Church teaches, never mind the amount of respect I’ve lost for the way that church has handled the sex abuse scandals. I have no problem with her family, and my wife doesn’t want to make this a big deal for fear of hurting her parent’s feelings.

So we’ve decided to just go along with what they want in order to keep the peace, which means that I have to become Catholic. So I’m taking the courses with the family priest.

However, the further into this course I go, the more uncomfortable I am with basically “faking” becoming a Catholic. I’ve talked to my fiancée about my apprehension and she keeps telling me it’s no big deal and just to stick with it. She knows how much it would really mess up things with her family, let alone the wedding plans.

I feel unbelievably trapped. I’m basically pretending to believe something I don’t just to make my wife happy and it’s really messing with my head. Am making too big a deal out of this? I mean it’s not as though I’m changing religions, right? But knowing what I know about the Catholic Church, it sure feels like it!

Oh and here’s the other thing – even though my parents haven’t really said anything, I know they aren’t too impressed with me becoming Catholic either. My father is an elder in a Baptist church and this is putting him in a tough spot with his church. Any advice?”

So what advice would you offer him??


*You can listen to previous segments without waiting until Friday, the feature to look for is called “The Counsel of Many” and you’ll also find interviews with a number of well known Christian figures including authors, music artists and actors.  Here’s that link again! And here’s an article I did about Drew.

June 4, 2011

Kid’s Perspective: Micah in Middle School

This is actually one of about ten videos that Cross Point Church did in a series called Students Speak Out; though I don’t remember reading about it on Pete Wilson’s blog.  You’ll see them all indexed if you click through to the source page; check out the menu on the right side, including videos that were just posted a few days ago.   I heard about this on Justin and Trisha Davis’ blog, Refine Us.   If you’ve checked out the featured pages here, you’ll know them as the authors of Eight Things That Nearly Destroyed our Marriage.   Anyway, from the context, I take it that Micah is their son…  Take a minute to listen to hear his heart and how life looks from a kid’s perspective…

If you’re the parent of a tween or teen, I’d encourage you to click through on the first link above and watch the whole series.  Or, here’s another one to get you started. 

Update:  For reasons we’ll never know, the whole Students Speak Out series of videos was removed.  It’s unfortunate, I think this thing connected on several levels.

June 2, 2011

Which Pornography Is He Looking At?

Today’s article is quite explicit, but it involves a topic that many marriages and families are dealing with.  If that’s not you, feel free to skip this one and return tomorrow for something different…

A few months ago I said I would occasionally post chapters here from The Pornography Effect in order to give it wider exposure than it gets hidden away online.  For about a week now, I’ve been wanting to look at the third chapter which deals with the escalation of pornography viewing; not in the sense of spending more time, but in the sense of moving from soft porn to hard porn, or skewing tastes away from mainstream porn which no longer satisfies to something more extreme.

Rather than reprint the chapter, I want to do a rewrite on it right here and now.  The chapter begins with this analogy:

They say that laughter is actually a surprise emotion. I find that watching comedies on TV, if I can guess where the humor is going, I don’t laugh because I’m not really surprised. It takes some really quirky lines, a plot twist, or a truly funny delivery to make me laugh out loud. Laughter is partly surprise.There’s a parallel here between the comedic form of entertainment and the pornographic form of entertainment.

After a little while, the internet images can get stale, and the purveyor of porn is looking for something new. In a 1960’s hit song, Kicks, Paul Revere and the Raiders said it best

It’s gonna seem like kicks just keep gettin’ harder to find
And all those kicks ain’t bringin’ you peace of mind…

I want to do something different here than I did in that version of chapter three and make a rather outrageous statement:  “If all your husband, or boyfriend, or son, or father, or brother is looking at is pictures of naked women, that could be the least of your worries.”  I’m not saying this to minimize the dangerous effects of pornography.  But I’ve found in discussions with people that when they say something like:

My husband looks at pornography.
My son downloads porn online.
My brother has a collection of porn.
My boyfriend is totally addicted to porn.
My father watches porn all the time.

…when people say those things, they are picturing someone looking at online pictures of naked women.  And I’m sorry, but that’s not all they’re looking at.

If porn is your drug of choice, you eventually will get to the point where you’re looking for harder stuff. That’s why some men’s tastes might skew towards something they weren’t expecting like masochism, or same sex sites, or what are called fetishes, which I won’t list here because if you know what that means, I don’t need to, and if you don’t, believe me, ignorance is bliss. Of course, not every guy goes that route, but the preponderance of evidence including the number of sites themselves, and the way that the visual sites are marketed would indicate that for the vast majority of men, tastes skew in only one direction: young.

At least that’s how I wrote that four years ago.  But let’s be more direct here and just say it:  After the initial exposure wares off and the laws of diminishing returns kick in, the person so innocently described as just looking at pictures at naked women, would be better described in sentences like these:

My husband looks at shots of people being tied up and whipped.
My son downloads videos of people urinating.
My brother collects pictures of people having sex in public places.
My boyfriend is totally addicted to gay teen pornography.
My father is always watching pictures of young naked girls.

I know that’s not the usual fare you expect to read here, but it needs to be said.  In fact, read it again and let it sink in.  The second set of sentences is similar to the first, but also so totally different, and I don’t even have space to consider the text equivalent of the themes listed, or to even mention the female porn addiction which is so rapidly growing.

The second set is a window into what kinds of things are really going on online, that is so different from the somewhat generic image of a guy looking at something that could be out of a pornographic magazine circa 1975.  Things have changed, and it’s gone far beyond that in 2011.  Furthermore, the guys viewing this stuff are your neighbors, your co-workers, your extended family, the clerk at the market or fast food restaurant or gas station.

And the second of sentences is statistically closer to the truth; it’s where it all, eventually leads.  Tastes skew.  Addicts look for greater kicks.  And the worldview changes it brings are massive.  And, as I said in an earlier chapter, it means that the guy in question never again looks at any female the same way.

Link to The Pornography Effect — Though set up on a blog, the chapters were posted in reverse order so you could read it like a website; pretend the “previous entries” tab at the bottom of the page actually means “next chapters.”

November 15, 2010

The Effect of Pornography

Back in April 2008, when I posted a then-somewhat-current version of  The Pornography Effect online, I would make a point of promoting this resource on the blog on a monthly basis.

But then the blog took on a life of its own, and I got away from doing that, and in the meantime, we have many new readers here.

So here’s the deal:  The book is called The Pornography Effect: Understanding For the Wives, Mothers, Daughers, Sisters and Girlfriends. It’s a book for women — though it gets lots of male readers — who have some man in their life who is either internet-pornography-addicted or internet-pornography-affected.

It offers somewhat of a description of the kinds of things people are seeing online for people who don’t want to have to experience it firsthand.   It’s intended as a crisis resource; the original publisher we dealt with suggested it be sold shrink-wrapped in packages of four or five, and left on pastors’ desks to hand out to people dealing with the wake of addiction.

Three years since its writing, and two years since its posting online, I believe this resource is needed more now than ever.   I believe it says things that nobody else is saying on this particular topic.    And while I would re-write the entire thing today, it grieves me deeply that this book never found a publisher.   A real publisher.   Who could put the book in stores.   Real stores.

Two years ago, to make the material available, we took a blog, but posted the chapters in reverse order so that it would read more like a regular website.   The last shall be first in order that first shall be first.   Or something like that.     It gets hits daily — which is amazing —  but hasn’t been mentioned here at all for at least a year.

So if this topic is of interest to you, or someone you know, here is the first of two options:

The other option, if you don’t have 55 minutes; or aren’t dealing with this issue right now, but want to read more:

So often we hear of marriages ruined by one spouse’s internet addiction.   We heard about another one last week.   I believe this resource is simply one of many that can offer help and information.     Feel free to forward the link to the book, or copy and past the link to this very blog post.

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