Thinking Out Loud

March 15, 2018

“What Are You Like?”

A girl once asked me the question, “What are you like?”

I had basically forgotten this, until I watched something last night where the main characters were updating online dating profiles which basically answered the same question, “What are you like?” Or if you prefer, “Describe yourself.”

It occurred to me that the order of things is now reversed. Back in the day, there was some context in which you got to meet someone: Work, school, church, neighborhood, etc. There had already been superficial contact and visual recognition.

Then you decided to deepen the relationship by probing deeper — getting to know each other one-on-one — by asking questions like the one above.

But today, couples share their self-description of their personality, guiding principles, experiences, aspirations, preferences, etc.; long before they ever come into physical proximity.

Another way of putting this: Instead of the kid you met at camp who agrees to become a pen pal (a dated notion if there ever was one), it’s the pen pal who agrees to meet up (which admittedly did happen from time to time; hence the ‘Pen Pal Wanted’ ads in the back of magazines). Intimacy (in terms of personality and mental insights) precedes contact.

There is a lot riding on your writing ability, and no, I’m not offering to help you draft your profile description. If you can say what you want to say, the way you want to say it, that’s great; but the chances of misinterpretation are many, and with some people, spelling counts as does grammar. It’s the ultimate creative writing assignment.

It’s the same with a picture. Without a budget allocation, your best bet is to at least have someone take the picture for you, and in good lighting. But no picture tells it all. I was once set up on a blind date by a friend with a girl who happened to have 8 x 10 head-shot glossy pictures. (Not sure what you call them in Europe, but the size of an A4 sheet.) I found that rather strange, but she did look good in those poses. So I said yes. She was indeed the same as her picture, but Barry, my friend at the time, had held the picture out to me at the same height as he was standing, whereas the picture should have been held somewhere around his stomach. She was short. Very short. Can’t-get-past-it short. She deserved a guy who was more on her level.

Given an hour of angst to sweat it out writing a description, with thesaurus nearby, you can probably come up with something rather appealing. But asked live and in the moment, “What are you like?” you’re probably going to be more authentic, once you get past the shock of the question itself. And better to do this sooner, than later; better to not like other things — like the physical attraction part — get ahead of really knowing the person.

My answer? I honestly can’t remember what I said in the moments that followed.

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November 29, 2016

Growing Up in a Porn-Saturated World

22 Ways Your Kids’ World is Much Different Than Yours

kid-at-computerLongtime readers here know that adult content on the internet was once a more common theme here. Despite some publisher interest, when the book project didn’t move to the next steps, I moved on to other activities. What would have been very much needed at the time is now more widely covered by other writers, both in print and online. Plus, it’s a topic I no longer wish to be strongly associated with.

Nonetheless, I’ve continued to watch a certain aspect of the topic if only from a distance; that aspect being to try to gauge what is happening to kids who have simply always had access to graphic images of people clothes-less and/or involved in various types of sexual activity.

The world has changed. I believe this is one of the most important articles I’ve written, and I hope you’ll share this with others.

Here, in no particular order, are things I believe every parent needs to think about. I’ve put keywords in bold face type for those who find this longer than most posts here.

1. They have way too much unsupervised time after school. With both parents working, there is often two to three hours from the time they reach home to the time the parents arrive for dinner. Not at your house? Then perhaps at the home of the friend they head to after classes end. Unless they’re playing after-school sports, or are diligent at working at scholarship-level rates on homework, parents often are unaware where the idle time might take their children. This is an important factor in several of the items which follow.

2. They have experienced an utter and complete loss of sexual innocence and mystery which was not common to previous generations. Heck; I still feel there are dimensions to sex which I don’t fully understand, not because I lack the general knowledge or intellectual capacity, but because I grew up at a time when it was all meant to be mysterious. But they grew up with access to all the videos they needed to demystify every possible human sexual activity and all their variants. Fact is mom and dad, they could probably answer some of your questions.

3. Many of them believe that what isn’t intercourse isn’t sex. Maybe we can (indirectly) credit Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman” for that attitude. So even within the church (or maybe especially within the church) we have a very high per capita rate of technical virgins who actually have an incredibly high degree of sexual experience.

4. It gets worse: For many sex is simply only sex; in other words, it’s not such a big deal. They might see your views on politics or environmentalism as a more powerful reflection on who you are as a person than your virgin/non-virgin status. The now-considered-quaint notion that teens should “want their wedding night to be special” is becoming as outdated as the notion of a wedding itself.

5. Which brings us to the point that whether consciously or sub-consciously, many assume they will have multiple partners in their lifetime; even among kids in Christian families. (I should qualify here and note that “the divorce epidemic” predates the internet, though the net has been an agent for what I term accelerated social change, something we’ll deal with again in a future article.)

6. They see themselves as sexual beings. There is a strange phenomenon right now where pre-teen and teen boys remove their shirts for their profile pictures on Facebook or Twitter. (A good place to remind everyone that younger ones are not officially allowed to have FB accounts; but we know that guideline isn’t always followed. The magic number is also 13 on Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit and others.)

7. They have full access to everything online with a data-plan enabled smart phone that you have on your computer. The notion that the kids need to be sitting in front of a PC or laptop in order to access the Internet’s dark side is somewhat outdated. They aren’t looking for 42-inch picture quality, instead they’re exploring and discovering a new, exciting world of possibilities.

8. They live in a world where sexuality is fluid, but fail to foresee that the present fluidity means there could be future fluidity. Kids on the fringes of traditional, mainstream sexuality see their LGBT-etc declarations to be permanent and greatly resent adults or friends suggesting that their views or attractions may change when they get older. (There may be an element where pride — in the more traditional meaning of the word — prevents them from recanting of previously categorical or dogmatic statements about the tribe with which they have the greatest affinity.)

9. They are empowered by the choices of sexual or gender identity. They get to pick and choose who they are off the rack in the same way they choose the colors and patterns of the cases for their phones. In the wrong body? That’s easy, there are drug therapies and surgeries to fix that. (This takes place even within church communities or even Bible Colleges; many youth workers are aware of people who were or are currently in their group who are undergoing gender reassignment; most also have at least one or two youth who are pushing boundaries.)

10. In all probability they have been photographed naked even if they took the picture themselves and immediately deleted it. For some it may be a body-image obsession and for others it’s simply something silly to do with that surplus of after-school time mentioned earlier. The cell phone camera is the new mirror and the unclothed image isn’t subject to any particular fashion trend or wardrobe budget.

11. Even among Christian kids there is a compartmentalization of the sacred and the profane. For example they may not see a contradiction in an actor or actress being photographed nude while wearing a cross. Many church tweens and teens live a double life, being a different person at home and youth group than they are at school or at their part-time job. In a way, that’s nothing new, but many church tweens and teens are also living a blended life where they opt in some of the Bible’s moral teachings but not others.

12. While they know some online images aren’t safe for school or home, they fail to realize that through constant exposure to the images, their worldview is being totally reprogrammed. Their opinions on everything from premarital sex to incest is subject to whatever online websites have been allowed to influence them.

13. Their sources for advice and counsel are often online forums. Rather than seek out their parents, youth pastor or guidance counselor; they are more likely to converse about vital life issues with people on chat rooms and forums, which means in many case they are getting peer counsel only; they are essentially sheep without a shepherd.   

14. Sadly, they are not particularly impressed with information about societal norms in previous generations. When their parents speak of life in the ’80s or ’90s, you might as well be describing the 1880s or the 1790s; to them it’s all ancient history and is therefore somewhat irrelevant, unless they need to know to understand a novel which is part of the literature exam.

15. Many of the ones who are sexually active are not likely to stop. As is often heard concerning this issue, once escaped it’s almost impossible to put the genie back in the bottle. 

16. Some of those who started early being sexually active are already sexually bored and are therefore looking at alternative sexualities, fetishes, or even asexuality. (Can’t help wondering if recruiters for convents and monasteries might want to note that last one.)

17. Underlying some of the sexual acting out is the fact that many of them of hurting. Their lives are not the Leave it to Beaver or The Brady Bunch type of lives of past generations. Many have had friends die — probably more than you did at their age — through accident, illness, criminal activity or at their own hand.  Others are broken by a home life that involves being passed around like a football due to joint custody arrangements, or suddenly sharing a bedroom (and a life) with a step-sibling as a result of a parent’s remarriage. For others, it’s the pressure of academic life which can start in the junior high or middle school years. Sexual activity provides a distraction or a release from those pressures.

18. Their sexual decisions may be taking place in atmosphere fueled by alcohol or weed. The latter, while now legalized in a small handful of U.S. states, is available everywhere even to kids at a young age if they are determined to gain access. 

19. Because of their access to all types of video files, their desire is to emulate what they see in triple-X-rated videos or what they read about celebrities doing. Whereas in past generations a kid might dream of being on stage or on television or recording an album like their entertainment industry idol, now their wish is to do all the things their idol is reported to have done (and by implication, get away with it on some level and continue to enjoy a career and a generally good reputation.) 

20. For some of them the catalog of possible sexual activity is like a bucket list and they want to experiment and see what they like; what works for them and what doesn’t. Furthermore, if you’re still harboring ancient stereotypes, this is as true for girls as it is for boys. (Increasingly, boys will talk about being raped by a girl; the language wasn’t extensively used that way in the past.) Some of this activity starts at an early age, with much taking place at weekend parties, though there are many possible venues. 

21. Many tweens and teens are at a point where they feel no need to cover-up; there is no sense of modesty. Someone once said that humans are a unique species as we are the only ones capable of blushing. That unique characteristic is slowly disappearing. 

22. Finally — and I know some of you have been reading through the whole list wondering where this one was — they may have been abused. There may have been one incident or many which means there are no sexual frontiers to protect and everything is fair game, especially if they are now in control. Conversely, their abuse may have very much diminished their self-worth propelling them into a pattern of increased sexual activity.

…I know there are some people who will read this and feel things are being overstated, said too generally, or that the whole point of this is to paint a ‘the sky is falling’ type of panic. That’s not the intention. I’m open to have people quote studies proving that things are no worse now than they’ve been in the past. I doubt that’s the case however, and I’ll come back to the topic of accelerated social change here in the future.  

What I do hope is that for parents, grandparents, neighbors, teachers, concerned friends I’ve raised some topics here that present a clearer picture of what’s being evidenced online in various formats and platforms. 

So what do we do? Many times people who try to put the brakes on a trend that seems spiraling out of control are simply laughed at, even within the church. ‘You can’t stop that; it’s inevitable;’ is the response heard so often, an echo of a previous generation’s, ‘Kids will be kids.’ 

Whatever my response or your response, it has to begin with awareness.

If you’re a parent whose children are not going down this road right now, be very thankful; but also be aware that some kids simply repress sexual thoughts and actions and then everything explodes when they enter college or university. I would say that you need to have some conversations, but not have others. The advice of Song 8:4, “Do not awaken desire before its time;” is useful here, but there is also a place for warning — Book of Proverbs style — your kids what is going to happen down the road of life. That seems like a good place to reiterate some text which has appeared on this blog many times:

no vacancyOur kids hated road trips. We would get to a city, walk into a motel, pull out our coupon book, and then be told that due to a soccer tournament, there were no motels with openings anywhere within an hour radius. Back to the car, hungry, hot, tired, and another hour’s drive.

Later on, we discovered the joy of planning destinations ahead, and making reservations, though by that point, the kids were older and opting out of our excursions.

Their road trip phobia later turned into an interesting object lesson.  I told them that somewhere in the future, they will find themselves in situations that will tempt them to compromise their principles, or do something foolish and unsafe. We said that like our motel example, they need to pre-book their choices. That way they won’t regret something done in the heat of the moment. Decide now what they will and won’t do.

May 11, 2011

Wednesday Link List

How about changing the name to “Linkerama”?  Just kickin’ around some ideas.  Looks like the links lynx is back!

  • What is about church life that gives us so much material for everything from Christian satire sites to cartoons?  This one is from Tim Walburg at ToonFever.com aka Church and Family Cartoons:

May 9, 2011

Pornography Changes Worldview

I’m at a point where I often forget that I have an online book, let alone a book about a devastating social problem.  But then I’ll hear a sermon where someone discusses the effects of pornography, and I’m reminded of some of the unique things my manuscript had to say on the subject, and aspire to see the material reach more people.

…Redemption comes in various forms. The redemption of a period of several weeks being counted among the this-could-never-happen-to-me addicted to the internet’s dark side, was a book manuscript that would help females understand what’s going on in the lives of some male they know.

screenshot - book online The Pornography Effect is available online as a free internet resource.

Sadly, this is totally defeating the point. The original idea was that as a crisis resource — which describes the under-24,000-words length — this book would be a print product that would be given to women who might be completely unfamiliar with the workings of the internet. Having the book online is helpful, but that help is now limited to those who can get online to find it.

The original publisher contact — who told me his company did over 400 titles in 2007 — took this one step further and suggested that the book be shrink-wrapped in packs of four or five, so that pastors and counselors could have copies on their desk to put in the hands of those dealing with this problem. But then came the “backhanded complement” that this project was “too big” for his company to handle. Hmmmm.

Sadly, I’ve been unable to find a publisher who would catch that vision and meet two industry criteria as to its distribution to retail stores. And now, three years later, I’d want it to be a rather different version of the text instead of this Version 1.0 edition. In the meantime, people needed help; and they need people to start the conversation.

So here are the highlights of my book for those of you that don’t want to click the link at the beginning and end of this article. If you do click; allow about 50-55 minutes to read the thing fully, and since it’s formatted as a “reverse blog,” click on “previous entries” to find chapters 7-15.

These are the Cliff Notes, or for those of my fellow-Canadian readers, the Coles Notes.  Chapter by chapter, the book goes something like this:

  1. Any exposure to internet pornography results in immediate changes in relational dynamics between men and women. A man who watches this stuff over time will look at his wife, or girlfriend — and perhaps even his sister, or daughter, or even his mother — differently.
  2. Addition to porn is at the extreme high end of the spectrum of addictive behavior and addiction consequences. Its availability is not unlike the cigarette company is standing outside the junior high school passing out samples.
  3. After much exposure, the tastes of porn viewers “skews” to interest in things they would have previously considered reprehensible. I don’t believe anyone just gets up one morning and says, “I think I’ll look at pictures of naked eight-year-olds.” Doesn’t happen instantly like that. But does happen over time.
  4. The long-term consequences of pre-teens and teens growing up with pornographic images freely available won’t be known for at least 20 years.
  5. Immersion in pornographic and related websites will eventually change your worldview on a number of issues connected to family and sexuality.
  6. Porn is more than pictures. The guy in the office staring at a screen that is all text may well be reading erotica. Text sites can also be a gateway to visual or photographic porn.
  7. For all the pictures on pornographic websites, don’t expect to see shots of people in love. Porn sites are all about people “using” other people. Nobody “cares” about anybody else but themselves and their own personal gratification.
  8. Whether it’s passive viewing on internet sets, or the more interactive nature of chat rooms, the “next step” of “acting out” on something seen online is just a heartbeat or two away from happening.
  9. There is a limitless number of formats that pornographic websites can take. Many are inter-linked and all of them eventually want to you to produce a credit card number so that you’ll pay for what was formerly free.
  10. Just because it’s set up as “photography” or “art” or “modeling” or “recreation” doesn’t mean it’s not porn. Many of these are just shallow attempts at establishing legitimacy.
  11. Cartoon pornography is porn nonetheless. Aimed at kids, it’s actually more dangerous. And it has a mission: The incest agenda. Promoting the acceptance of incest. (Betcha those other books on this subject didn’t tell ya that one!) And the kids are watching. And downloading.
  12. While psychologists debate genetic predispositions to homosexuality, a lot of same sex attraction begins with the internet and is based somewhat randomly on the type of website — and surrounding online community — that gets to a young person first.
  13. If a family member is caught up in online porn, you are — whether you like it or not — engaged in a battle. You have to start fighting back, for the sake of that person and the sake of nuclear and extended family. The forces you are fighting are giants and you are David. But…
  14. …Faith can be the slingshot you’ve got to go up against the giant. Pray, yes; but pray very specific prayers. Teach your kids self control and delayed gratification. Be intentional about the spiritual formation of yourself and your family. But always remember that many people clicked on that first website because of personal hurts that also need to be addressed.
  15. You are not alone. There are number of different types of resources available to help.

That’s the bullet-point version. But you may know someone who needs to read this in full, with the topics fully discussed. For them, here’s the link one more time to The Pornography Effect.

June 30, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Check your calendar:  The year is half over.   Just eighteen months left until the world ends in 2012.    Here’s where we were this week:

  • Without question my number one link this week is Francis Chan’s children’s book trailer — that’s right, a kids book — for The Big Red Tractor releasing in September from David C. Cook.
  • Pete Wilson pays tribute to a retiring staff member who he hired seven years ago to bring some experience and wisdom to an otherwise younger team; sharing some valuable lessons he learned from Tom Tyndall.  Here’s a sample:

    Great sermons will get you pats on the back. Savvy leadership skills will win you admiration from your colleagues. Hard work will catch peoples eyes as you separate from the pack. But if you don’t love you’re nothing more than a noisy gong, or a clanging cymbal. If you don’t love the people God has placed in your life nothing else really matters.

  • Andy LePeau at InterVarsity has a surefire way to increase the earning potential of your children and it’s not (directly, at least) education.   Check it out.
  • I really enjoyed Rick Apperson’s Blogapalooza throughout the entire month of June at Just a Thought, but especially this guest piece by Clay Crosse.  (Check out the other posts, too.)
  • Mark Wilson has a hilarious hypothetical conversation between God and St. Francis on the subject of lawn maintenance.

    GOD : They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?
    ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.
    GOD:  They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

  • Know somebody who is giving your pastor a hard time?  Probably not anything like this story.   This guy was a terrorist.  This is a book trailer for an upcoming non-fiction book, The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Alonzo; releasing August 1st.
  • A 2006 iMonk column by Michael Spencer showed considerable insight in trying to bring balance to the young-earth/old-earth tensions in science vs. creationism.  He felt the Bible was a book about God and Jesus, not a book about science.
  • Here’s something you don’t see every day; a book about the ascension of Jesus and why it matters.   Check out Jeff Loach’s review of He Ascended Into Heaven.
  • First it was the hymn people versus the chorus people.  But recently there’s been more visible unrest within the modern worship community itself.   Michael Krahn comments,  in a blog post inspired by one by Canadian Chris Vacher.
  • New Blog of the Week:  Contrast by Terry Foote in Florida.   No particular post, though you might read a father’s perspective on the loss of a child.
  • Atheists have put the “under God” part of “One Nation Under God” back on the agenda with a billboard campaign .
  • There are parts of the Christian internet I’m sure some of you (us) never get to see. Not sure what to make of this one: The blog Enoch Route introduces us to “Billy” who offers some signs you might be in a cult.
  • Can you handle one more Drew Marshall Show link?   When the new archived interviews (from last week’s show) go up on Friday, it’s Drew’s first “Gay Day” with Justin Lee of the Gay Christian Network, Wendy Gritter from New Direction Ministries, and singer-songwriter Derek Webb, just back from a tour with Jennifer Knapp.  Click here after 7.2.10 and select the show from 6.26
  • Ruth Graham observes that the themes in Christian young adult fiction are creeping into the mainstream book market.  (Some critics felt it was the other way around.) Check out her article at Slate.
  • Some people have all the answers until you start asking spiritual questions.   Check out this Soul Chat promo.   More Soul Chat video content here.
  • If you’ve read the last chapter of the book version of Stuff Christians Like (as opposed to the website) you know the (somewhat) serious side of Jon Acuff (pictured at right). CNN’s Belief blog had him back again, this time to tell everyone why some Christians act like jerks online.
  • Late breaking item:  With too many contradictions in his Muslim-turned-Christian story, when Ergun Caner’s current term as dean of Liberty University Theological Seminary expires today (6/30) the job won’t be renewed, though he gets to stay on staff.   The Washington Post tells the story, additional background is at World Magazine.
  • Our cartoon today is a classic — in internet terms, it’s actually only from 2008 — Hi and Lois by Brian and Greg Walker.

If you were listed in the blogroll here at Thinking Out Loud, and your blog name begins with “The,” don’t panic, you’re still here.  Look for your blog’s title without the “the.”  (Requests to have it reinstated will be considered by a bureaucratic committee that meets in Switzerland twice a year.)

Last week’s link list got bumped from its home page position by another post, check it out here.

June 26, 2010

Education: An Often Forgotten Social Justice Mandate

Shane Claiborne guested yesterday at the CNN Religion blog.  It was a great article and well-written.    I’m torn between just linking it (knowing many of you won’t click) and reprinting the whole thing (knowing it’s quite long.)    I guess I’ll have to do my best with the following excerpt.

Historically, churches founded colleges and universities and made it possible for kids to attend.   Recently Evangelicals have rediscovered social justice and we’re working on the poverty problem on several fronts, but education isn’t currently at the forefront.   I’ll let Shane tell it, but please consider reading the whole piece.  His story takes place at Edison High School in the poorest part of Philadelphia…

Out of about 500 kids graduating in that class at Edison, around 40 will go to a four-year college and about 50 will join the military. That struck me. More kids in the graduating class will go into the military than will go to college.

I also learned that Edison High School holds another tragic record – the most graduates to be killed in the Vietnam War of any high school in America (54 kids), no coincidence that it is located in North Philly rather than the suburbs. Heaven forbid Edison end up holding the record for Iraq casualties as well.

It was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said,

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

And as we see a bankrupt school system we can truly feel the blowback of the bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is that bumper sticker hope that a day will come when the schools will have all the money they need and the military have to hold a bake sale. It’s time for our kids to dream of another future than wars and rumors of wars.

I am reminded of a returning veteran from the Iraq War who told me of how financial difficulties compelled him to join the army. And then my young vet friend said, “We may not have a draft in America, but we have an economic draft… kids like me are joining the military because they see no other future.” And they are dying as they try to build that future. He ended up becoming a conscientious objector and being discharged.

In my neighborhood, military recruitment is very clever and selective – recruiters go door to door with military brochures that say: “They told you to go to college, they just didn’t tell you how… Join the Army.”

It occurs to me that those of us who are Christians and other people of conscience working to end war and violence (and build an “Army of None” as we like to say) have a tremendous burden of responsibility on our shoulders. We must create other ways for kids to go to college than military and ROTC scholarships.

continue reading…

June 23, 2010

Wednesday Link Link

Got a blog post that deserves more attention?   Use the contact page to submit the item you want the world to read.   We promise you at least three or four extra readers!!!

  • Blogger Dennis Muse notes the upcoming 50th Anniversary of Youth With a Mission, aka YWAM.  (Canada’s Brian Stiller once called YWAM, “The Evangelical Community’s best kept secret.”)
  • Cornerstone Television’s home page notes the loss of Ron Hembree.   Although I can’t get their signal, I paid tribute to their quality programming in this blog in March of 2008.
  • USAToday Religion notes the number of pastors in bi-vocational ministry adding fresh meaning to the phrase, “Keep your day job.”
  • A Christian bookstore in Helsinki holds an event where you can trade porn for Bibles.  (And the concept isn’t copyrighted!  You can do this, too.)
  • Justin Taylor gives me a chance to be introduced to the music of Trip Lee; I can enjoy hip-hop more when I can read the lyrics such as on Justin’s blog post and audio of this song, “The Invasion (Hero)“.
  • Jason Boyett reposts a proposal that the thing that’s really missing from your local Christian bookstore is Christian cosmetics.
  • The family that owns the chain of Hobby Lobby stores, according to the New York Times, wants to build a major Bible museum possibly in Dallas.
  • Encouraging Youth Dept.:  The blogger otherwise known as No Bull Noble, offers three apologetics videos on YouTube.
  • Tim Challies runs some analysis on the four available answer options to, “Why Does The Universe Look So Old?”
  • Part two of Matthew Warner’s “10 Types of Blog Comments” is about how to respond.  So once again, here’s part one, and here’s part two.  Which type of blog reader are you?
  • A 5-page CT special report looks at mission in light of technology, with an interview with Al Erisman.
  • Bonus link to Ethix: Business|Technology|Ethics – the online magazine (now in its 70th issue) which Erisman co-founded and edits.
  • New Blog of the Week:  As you know I admire transparency, and here is a blog proudly authored by someone dealing with clinical depression.  Check out ThePrayGround.
  • You’ll have to bookmark this one and return on Friday (25th) but this week’s Drew Marshall Show (19th) was quite a mix with folksinger Dan Hill, Fred Phelps estranged son Nate Phelps (discussed on this blog here and mentioned here) and Hoops for Hope’s teenage founder Austin Gutwein (discussed at my industry blog a few weeks ago.)  So once again you want this link starting mid-day Friday.  (Some people in other parts of the world get up at something like 3 AM Sunday to catch the live stream of the show at 1 PM EST Saturday in North America.)
  • How does a person convicted on child pornography charges, and not permitted to be anywhere there are children, exercise their right to go to church?  Apparently with some help from an unlikely source: the state’s Civil Liberties Union.
  • Macleans Magazine (Canada’s equivalent to Newsweek or Time) interviews Dr. Leonard Sax on the “empty world of teenage girls.”
  • Our cartoonist this week is fellow-Alltop-member Mark Anderson at andertoons.com.  He does a number of family-oriented items; here’s one that hopefully doesn’t take you too long…
  • Okay, Mark’s too good for just a single panel.   Here’s another one I really liked:

May 13, 2010

Kids Have All The Answers, At Least on This Website

Teenagers write in their deepest questions where mature adults try to provide wise answers.   That’s how question and answer forums often work, right?

Not at ihaveaQ.com anyway.   “Concerned mother” in Michigan is 43 and wants to know what age might be right for her teen to get a checking account and debit card.   The answers come from two 17-year olds in Ohio and a 15-year old in Illinois.

After stumbling on this newly launched site just a few days ago, I discover that like the other parents, hey, I have a question.   But I want to know how this unique WordPress blog came to be.

So going beyond the site’s “about” page, it was time to track down Matt, the guy with the answers…


How did you get this started?

The idea for this website came from a conversation I had with one of my Dad’s friends about his teenage daughter. He vented to me about the problems he was having with her for about 45 minutes then asked me what I (teenager) think that he (parent) should do. Suddenly it hit me. Parents don’t understand teenagers because teenagers don’t know how to talk to their own parents! So, why not create a place where parents can learn to understand teenagers and where teenagers can be honest with what they really think?

I had that idea about a month ago and have been creating ihaveaQ ever since. It’s been a lot of work doing this with also trying to graduate school and travel with my worship band Hisnamehigh, but with the help of family and friends it’s been great! I was able to launch it on May 7th and have had major success so far. (If you want the whole story, you can check out the “About me” on ihaveaQ.com)

Where did the initial questions and answers come from to begin?

As I said earlier, I wouldn’t have been able to make this site if it wasn’t for the help and support of family and friends. I sent on a mass message to all my Facebook friends and spread the word to my family to send any questions they had to my email address. After receiving the questions, myself along with many of my friends answered as many as we could. As I stated above, I am in a worship band and we’ve been blessed enough to be touring for the past two years all across the United States and a month in Australia. With that being said, I know a lot of people from different states here in the U.S and a lot of teenagers who I was friends with in Australia. Some of the questions and answers you see will say from Illinois, Michigan, California, Australia, because those people were kind enough to help me out with their questions and answers as well. Since the launch of ihaveaQ I’ve been receiving questions and people who want to answer questions like crazy from all over the place.

How do people hear about it?

The biggest advertisement for ihaveaQ so far has been just word of mouth. All my family and friends have been telling people like crazy and helping support the ihaveaQ facebook page. Along with word of mouth and Facebook I am planning to start advertising in the local newspaper, billboards and maybe even local television stations.

…Thanks, Matt.   To visit ihaveaQ, click the images in this post or click here.

Thinking Out Loud is always looking for new or unusual blogs and websites that can use a boost in getting started. Send info on any URLs worth checking out using the contact page located in the pages section of the sidebar.

March 22, 2010

Bullying: Echoes of a Past Life

It didn’t attract a lot of comments a year ago, but I felt it was one of the better things on this blog, and because I have new readers, I decided to repeat this item today…

no-bullying-circle

This story of an 18-year old in Cincinnati who hanged herself last July after constant taunts from both school friends and strangers had an eerie resemblance to several other stories that have crossed my path lately. We sometimes call it cyber-bullying, but it’s really just harassment, ramped up to the nth degree.

Suddenly, my mind flashed back to a scene in a different era several decades ago… A group of teenagers returning from a weekend at the beach. The cottage, situated on one of the Great Lakes, was owned by a good friend, and his dad was driving us home. He’d dropped people off one at a time and arranged it so at the end it was only my friend and I left in the car.

Then he let us have it. “The way you treated ***** was terrible;” he said. “Don’t you know the boy has feelings?” Actually, no. Mainly because ***** seemed content to laugh along with the rest of us, as we ridiculed his speech and mannerisms. And some of us — like me, for example — didn’t know back then how to let a joke die…

Dear RG

The chances of you reading this are one in a gazillion, but I need to know that it’s out there. Perhaps someone else will read this who isn’t you and doesn’t know me; but they’ll claim it as their own. Perhaps by some miracle you’ll see this and recognize my name and know it’s for you.

We like to think things were better back then. There was no e-mail, or texting, or instant messaging, or Twitter. No matter what people thought about you, you could go home and shut the door and be within the safety of your family. I don’t know if your family provided that kind of refuge for you, or if our remarks were so hurtful that you went home and cried.

We didn’t really mean to hurt you. We thought you were in on the gag. Looking back, you were probably just being brave, just being defensive.

Today, the kids have all this technology and we know that bullying doesn’t have to be physical, it doesn’t have to mean picking a fight. While we didn’t have the technology to invade the sanctity of peoples’ homes and continue the harassment; we should try to remember that we weren’t that innocent in those innocent times. People were mean and cruel and said things they shouldn’t have; and some of us didn’t know when to quit.

So, RG; I’m sorry. I hope you were able to triumph over our high school stupidity and that you’ve made a good life for yourself all these years later.

For what it’s worth, I went to church back then, but didn’t understand the dynamics of living as a Christ follower. I didn’t let my faith deeply impact my behavior. I didn’t know my life was supposed to reflect a difference; a distinctive; patterned after the One I had pledged myself to serve and obey.

Some of that came together during the very last weeks of high school; some I figured out in the second term of first year university; some came together when I was 21; some I learned when I got married and had kids of my own; some stuff I worked out last year and last month; and a lot of what it means to bear the name of Jesus Christ I truly have yet to learn.

Yesterday I read a story about a young girl in Cincinnati and how the taunts of her friends and acquaintances drover her to the lowest point. I read of the agony of her parents; the grief of losing their only child, and all the hopes and dreams and aspirations they had for her.

And suddenly I thought of you; I thought of us; I thought of that cottage weekend when I simply didn’t know when to shut up. I wish I could relive that weekend over again; and I wish I could have been a true friend, instead of using you as a prop for my personal love of attention.

It’s never too late to say you’re sorry. I’m sorry.

~Paul.

==============================================

While looking for a graphic for today’s post, I came across this, which also provides some food for thought.

cycle_of_bullying

March 4, 2010

Homeless Teens: Life on the Street

I stood beside her coffin.  She looked she was sleeping.  I suppressed the urge to reach out and touch her.  I wanted to talk to her just once more.

But she was dead — found in a construction site, in suspicious circumstances, of unknown causes.  She was poor; she was aboriginal; she was a street kid; there would be no further police investigation.

I looked at her young face and remember the times we had share, times when I had hugged her, telling her I loved her.  She had come from a troubled and violent home.  Incest was a way of life for her.  Three months ago, she had given birth to a baby girl.

Once she came to Evergreen particularly distressed.  She cleared a table with a sweep of her arm and grabbed a pen.  Then, with deliberate strokes, she put her heart on paper:  a striking scene of two friends sitting together on a bench.  When she left, she smiled and said, ‘This is the best time I’ve had in a long time.’

She had come to Evergreen the day she died.  Now she was gone forever.

How very hard and short life is for some; how essential is the need to minister the Kingdom of God every moment, because that moment could be the last.

I looked at her once more and through my tears, I said, ‘Good-bye.’

She was only 14 years old.

~from Prayer for the City, a quarterly publication of Yonge Street Mission and the Evergreen Centre in downtown Toronto, Canada.   Pray for the young people at Evergreen for whom life is hard and sometimes very short.  To learn more about YSM, click here.

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