Thursday, May 25, 2006

85% Of A True Story

Just finished Chuck Klosterman's Killing Yourself To Live: 85% Of A True Story... which reminds me a bit of Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation and Donald Miller's Through Painted Deserts.

Let's play a matching game! Which one of these books contains:

a. the author's neurotic worries about being compared to Dave Eggers & Nick Hornsby

b. the author's musings about simply "moving for motion's sake"

c. the author teaching their nephew to be morbid

I find I like these kind of books - offbeat travelouges that morph into a cross between personal introspection & social commentary. Klosterman (a) is a writer for Spin magazine, so his book is laced with expletives, drug use, and obscure rock references, including an entire chapter on how the band KISS is the perfect template for his romantic life. Vowell (c) is a commentator for NPR and uses trips to track down the history of the first three presidential assassinations as a jumping off point for political & social commentary, leavened by her razor sharp wit. Miller (b) is a follower of Christ who uses his road trip from Texas to Oregon to ponder the meaning of his life and the presence of God.

Now, would I recommend Killing Yourself To Live? Well, not if you're easily offended - it's a pretty relentless drumbeat of R-rated behavior with very few echoes of Jesus. For me it's mainly a picture of how empty life can get, held together with pop culture references, fine writing & wry humor.

OTOH, everybody needs to read the following quote... Chuck absolutely NAILS it. I'm gonna use this quote the next time I preach on marital faithfulness.

Don't ever cheat on someone. I'm serious. It's not worth it... The reason you should never cheat on someone is because you won't enjoy it. No matter which person you're with, you'll always be thinking of the other one. You will never in the romantic present tense; your mind will solely exist in the past and the future. Let's say you sleep with your mistress on Friday & your wife on Saturday: To an epicurean, this is the dream lifestyle. This is sexual utopia. But it never works that way. When you're having sex with your mistress on Friday, you will find yourself thinking about your wife. You will be thinking about how this act would destroy her, and how humiliated she would feel if she knew the truth. But then on Saturday, when you're back in the arms of your trusting wife, your mind will immediately drift toward decadence. At the height of your physical passion, you will think back to how exciting things were 24 hours ago, when you were with a new, strange body. Except that it wasn't exciting to be with someone else; it's only exciting in your memory (at the time, it just made you wracked with guilt). So now you're having sex with someone who loves you, but your mind isn't even in the same room. And suddently it's Sunday; you have now had sex with two people on two consecutive nights, and you didn't appreciate either episode.

Of course, this is the same guy who relates the story of the first time he did cocaine with two-half naked strippers, so don't go basing your theology on the book.

Of Mullets, Mary Magdalene & Movies

Well, OK, one particular movie - the ubiquitous "The Da Vinci Code". As far as media goes, the dang film is like the Borg - you WILL be assimilated.

I read the book late last year... and saw the film last night with our Under 30's small group. I wasn't impressed with the book because, aside from the utter nonsense about church history & theology, Dan Brown is simply not a good writer. (Anyone wishing to argue this must separate his skills as a plot creator and his skills as an actual writer... a good plot does not make a great book.)

But this post is about the film... and in honor of David Letterman's Top Ten Tuesday night ("
Top Ten Things Overhead Outside 'The Da Vinci Code'"), I'm creating my own Top Ten List. (Best bit from Letterman's list: 4. "Nine bucks a ticket, now that's blasphemy - - am I right, people?")

Top Ten Reactions of Mark To "The Da Vinci Code"

10. Go to the bathroom before the movie - while it isn't Lord of the Rings long, it is 2 1/2 hours.

9. I think the Catholic Church has shown admirable restraint in dealing with this film... the "religious" characters in the film are:
  • an albino monk into self-mortification & killing in the name of God
  • a secret society of cardinals & bishops who will kill to cover up the "truth"
  • a bishop who's willing to pay an anonymous source $20 million in tithes to cover up said "truth"
  • a police officer who is willing to beat up innocent people on the word of the bishop

Not exactly a recruiting film for the Vatican, eh?

8. Tom Hanks' mullet-y haircut is not nearly as distracting as I feared it would be.

7. For a thriller, it isn't all that thrilling.

6. The "historical flashbacks" are some of the most disturbing parts of the film... the killing of 'free-thinking women' in the name of witch-hunting (complete with a bound woman screaming underwater), the supposed persecution of non-Christians by bloodthirsty Christians (including a lovely shot of someone hoisted in the air on a spear), the image of the Council of Nicea as a bunch of bishops screaming at each other (which, sadly, reminded me of some church business meetings I've attended). It's good film - it conveys the "point" of the story - but it does so in an insidious way. The power of image & symbol are pretty heavy duty... and in response to each of these images the film offers no opportunity for rebuttal.

5. The cast uses all of their considerable skills to try & create characters out of the cardboard cut-outs Dan Brown created... but it's a sad waste of Jean Reno in a thankless role. And don't get me started on Ian McKellan gnawing on the scenery. (Every set he's on has teeth marks, as if some hyperactive beaver was let loose.)

4. The curator is one fiesty guy... gut-shot, he manages to get naked, paint himself in his own blood, lie down like he's imitating the Vitruvian Man drawing by Da Vinci, scrawl on the floor & next to the Mona Lisa, and hide a passkey for a safety deposit box behind another painting. Sheesh - there are some days I don't do that much work in 8 hours.

3. One of the reasons the movie feels so darn long is that there is literally NO tension for the last 1/2 hour of the film. (Though I was worried a bit when the Priory folks showed - the zombie-ish look in their eyes made me feel like the whole film was going to take a weird turn into Invasion of the Body Snatchers Land... they were all going to open their mouths & start pointing.)

2. The "discussion" at the core of the film (when Teabing & Langdon "explain" the Grail to Sophie) actually made more sense in the book. On film, where it's necessary to do something visually interesting, it looks like Teabing has been waiting around to explain this to anyone stupid enough to ask him the question. Gnostic gospels are sitting on bookstands, open to the correct page... "The Last Supper" is digitized & easily manipulated to make his points... sigh. (BTW, when I say that this scene "made more sense", I'm not referring to the actual theological & historical content. Dan Brown can't keep his facts straight to save his life.)

1. Why make such a big deal about a stupid film?! I cede my last point to G.K. Chesterton, who wrote the following quote more than 70 years ago:

If a man is repelled by one book, he can shut it and open another; but he cannot shut up a theatre in which he finds a show repulsive, nor instantly order one of a thousand other theatres to suit his taste. There are a limited number of theatres; and even to cinemas there is some limit. Hence there is a real danger of historical falsehood being popularized through the film, because there is not the normal chance of one film being corrected by another film. When a book appears displaying a doubtful portrait of Queen Elizabeth, it will generally be found that about six other historical students are moved to publish about six other versions of Queen Elizabeth at the same moment. We can buy Mr. Belloc's book on Cromwell, and then Mr. Buchan's book on Cromwell; and pay our money and take our choice. But few of us are in a position to pay the money required to stage a complete and elaborately presented alternative film-version of Disraeli. The fiction on the film, the partisan version in the movie-play, will go uncontradicted and even uncriticized, in a way in which few provocative books can really go uncontradicted and uncriticized... And most of those who are affected by it will know or care very little about its being brought to book by other critics and critical methods. The very phrase I have casually used, `brought to book', illustrates the point. A false film might be refuted in a hundred books, without much affecting the million dupes who had never read the books but only seen the film. [emphasis added]

Thanks to Peter T. Chattaway for pointing out this quote on his blog, Film Chat

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Hot Seat

1. What are you reading right now?

Two books, actually... (sometimes I read three or four at a time.) 2. Who is your favorite band this week?

I pulled out a CD by Rhythm House (mid-90's CCM w/a groove) and gave it a couple of spins this weekend... but the music I'm playing most is by Caedmon's Call.

3. Newest game in your collection?

Leinen los... a classic boat racing game by Haba that is sadly out of print - and thanks to the Geek Marketplace, I found a copy of it in great condition!

4. Biggest hope for your trip to Kublacon this weekend?

I want to play Cleopatra & The Society of Architects... and, hopefully, see prototypes for the new Memoir '44 stuff.

5. Taylor or Katherine?

Katherine needs to be doing movie musicals & Taylor needs to go back to singing lead in a cover band. But Taylor's gonna win... sigh.

Genesee Home

Thanks to the good folks at NewLife Community Church, Shari & I had the wonderful privilege of enjoying a 6 day retreat up in the Sierras a couple of weeks ago at Genesee Home. (And when I say thank you, I mean more than "thanks for budgeting money so I can go on retreats." I mean "thanks for the way you graciously love us, pray for us, encouraged us to do this, and worked together to take care of our kids while we were gone." Man, do I pastor a great church or what?!)

The picture you're looking at is a view from the back yard of the house - the building on the right is the Prayer Barn. I took a lot more pictures, but this one best captures the breathtaking beauty of where Genesee Home is located.

So, for those of you interested enough to read this post but not interested enough to follow the link, here's the skinny on Genesee Home. It's a 120+ year old home, renovated into a bed & breakfast esp. for pastors & their wives. The host couple (Charly & Bev) along with some staff, care for up to five couples each week. Unlike some retreat centers, the schedule is very open - there is plenty of time to spend as a couple and/or with God. First class meals, all kinds of recreation equipment, plenty of room to hike & explore... can you tell we enjoyed ourselves?

Highlights of the week for me:
  • driving along the Feather River Scenic Byway, which is a canyon with a river running down the middle of it... stunning!
  • finding our room (Hoselknuss) was exactly the kind of room we wanted... the pictures on the website don't do it justice. (We esp. liked the sitting room, which gave us lots of space to spread out when we were both taking time to study & pray.)
  • hiking across the meadow in the dark... well, there was a full moon out, so it really wasn't that dark, but it was a pretty big adventure for city folks like us. At one point, we stood still and realized that we'd hiked right up on the herd of deer we'd seen earlier - wow.
  • laying in the double hammock, talking & looking at the stars in the sky and the mountains in the moonlight
  • driving up to Antelope Lake and having a picnic (complete with plates, glasses & tablecloth, thanks to the folks at Genesee Home) by the lake
  • making some big breakthroughs in our relationship with each other - being away from Braeden & Collin and from the pressures of home & church gave us time to really talk through some issues from our past and our hopes for the future
  • reading James Emery White's Embracing the Mysterious God... it set a really good tone for my times with God during our week away
  • spending major time studying Psalm 40... but more than just digging into commentaries, I spent time soaking in the psalm - memorizing it, praying through it, paraphrasing it, waiting for God to speak to me through the Scripture. Best of all, I wasn't doing it to prep a Bible study or shore up a sermon point, I was just spending time with Jesus. (Yes, this is the song U2 used for the song "40".)
  • simply having time with Shari Jo that wasn't under the gun of life pressures - it was a wonderful reminder of why I fell head over heels in love with this woman nearly 18 years ago... (our 16th wedding anniversary is June 16th - whoo hoo!)
Of course, there was a lot more to our trip than this... but that'll give you a brief idea of what the week was like. A couple more items:

First, a HUGE "thank you" to Anna & Canaan Campbell, who came to live with our boys that week. Canaan is one of Braeden's best buddies, and his mom, Anna, is an amazing young woman who gave us an incredible gift. (We were worried Braeden might be a bit freaked out by us being gone so long... Shari asked him a night or two before we left: "You know we'll be gone 5 nights, right?" He replied, "Mom, as a special treat, could you be gone 7 nights?" Yeah, he was traumatized by the experience... not.)

Finally, a closing quote from my journal:

May 12, 2006

Our last morning here begins... I feel a sadness about that. This has been such a wonderful place to draw close to you, Jesus. I've felt utterly stripped and yet also wonderfully healed by Your love.

This isn't the experience I'd dreamed about or planned -- it's better. I want so much of what I've learned to carry over, to spill into my day-2-day life... I want to keep the correct order of things straight in my head & heart. I know that my history leans the other way -- that I put the created above the Creator. Instead, Jesus, I want You first -- and then I want to completely enjoy the good gifts (Shari Jo, the boys, NewLife, gaming) IN LIGHT of my relationship with You.

In the words of Charlie Peacock, "I want to be in the light as You are in the light." I want to dance w/You as my gracious King. I want to strip down to my BVDs and dance before you undignified... trusting my dignity & personhood only to You.

The question now - will I? Or will this just be another "good week" that recedes into the distance as I go back to the grind? Forgive me for how often I've taken Your gift of "good weeks" and turned them simply into mountaintop experiences and sermon fodder.

And that's still my prayer - to live in the light rather than in the grind. Easy to say, hard to do.

Man, I need Jesus.

Summon the Butler: the Clue DVD Game

I still have my original copy of the board game, Clue. It's in the old Parker Brothers long box format (which, btw, is a pain to fit on shelves) - it's brown, with a magnifiying glass & fingerprint on the cover. The pictures of the suspects are 70's-ish cartoon style which look like they were drawn by the same guy who did the Pink Panther shorts. And the game has seen lots of play... it was one of my favorites growing up. (There are now a number of different editions of "vanilla" Clue, much like Monopoly: Simpsons Clue, Haunted Mansion Clue, Alfred Hitchcock Clue... and, most inexplicably, Dungeons & Dragons Clue.)

As a young man, I purchased Clue: The Great Museum Caper, which is a wonderfully thematic game of stealing art masterpieces. (Well, for one player, that is - the rest are museum guards trying to stop the theft.) Using a hidden movement system (similar to Scotland Yard or Fury of Dracula) on a molded plastic board, the game was/is a nail-biting experience for the thief and a puzzle for the guards. Sadly, it's out of print.

There are other Clue games...

  • Clue: The Card Game was released in 2002. (This version is by Phil Orbanes - evidently, there was another Clue Card Game prototype designed by Mike "Mystery Rummy" Fitzgerald in consideration as well. Being a HUGE Mystery Rummy fan, I'd love to play it!)
  • Clue: Master Detective was Clue on steroids (extra suspects, locations & weapons).
  • Clue Jr has been released in at least three different editions - I'll have more to say about it in a few weeks after Braeden gets it for his birthday. (It's already hidden in the closet - a present from Grandma & Grandpa.)
  • Clue FX (a "talking" Clue game) and Clue: Mysteries (prepacked with 50 mysteries) are both on my wish list... I keep waiting for them to go on sale. (Alternately, I put them on my birthday & Christmas wish lists, as people who can't find a specialty game store can actually locate copies of either of these games.)

Which brings us to the newest Clue game, Clue DVD. It's kind of a "Pimp My Ride" version of the original Clue. The guys from Hasbro took the original "street ride" game, stripped it down and then built it back into a "muscle car" version of itself.

What's the same:

  • The map is still Mr. Boddy's mansion.
  • The map still has secret passages.
  • You still have a hand of cards which tell you what isn't the correct answer.
  • You still make suggestions & accusations.

What's different:

  • No dice - you simply move from room to room.
  • Rooms can be "locked" at the beginning of the game... and later unlocked by the DVD.
  • It's not a murder, it's a theft.
  • There are four categories to figure out: who did it, where they stole it from, when did they steal it, and what did they steal.
  • There are ten possible suspects - the original six plus four new folks.
  • There are new locations including some outside on the mansion grounds.
  • When you make suggestions, you only use three elements of the crime.
  • When you make suggestions, you do NOT move the person you are suggesting to that room.
  • You must move back to the Evidence Room (in the center of the board) to make an accusation.
  • Not all of the cards are dealt out at the beginning of the game - the item cards become available through use of the DVD.

The main differences, however, are part of the DVD innovations. The Inspector interrupts the game at various intervals to give players clues and a variety of new options:

  • You can use the secret passage to move... which activates an animation & a random result. It can be good (getting extra information), neutral or bad (being forced to show other players one of your cards).
  • You can summon the butler - who appears onscreen to give all of the players a clue. As a reward, you get to add one of the item cards to your hand.
  • You can attempt to view an item set in place by the game - this involves a visual/memory puzzle on the DVD.
  • You can read some of the Inspector's notes as he makes them available - sometimes they're very helpful, but it costs you a turn to do so.
  • Finally, you can make an accusation without being knocked out of the game if you're wrong. Using the red magnifying glass and the DVD, you enter your four choices - and, if you're not completely correct, you simply must reveal & discard one card for each part of the accusation that is incorrect.

As the game progresses, the Inspector begins insisting that the detectives pool their resources... in other words, each of you must reveal & discard cards from your hands. This keeps the game moving in two ways:

  1. It forces players to reveal information.
  2. It functions as a game timer for the players - if you must reveal a card when you have no cards in your hand, you lose the game.

Suddenly, there's an urgency in making an accusation, even if you're still a bit unsure. Nice addition, that.

You can solve the mystery the old-fashioned way (without paying much attention to the DVD clues) but they can be extremely helpful. In fact, the best strategy is a combination of the two, using suggestions to narrow options & confirm suspicions.

There are ten cases on the DVD... plus, an additional bonus: a "general case" setting that allows you to play Clue DVD after you've gone through the original cases. (Another nice touch.)

Obviously, I'm a big fan... if you enjoy deduction games at all, this is a must-try!

Full Disclosure: My group playtested the American version of this game for Hasbro.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Collin Blake: Post #200

Back in mid-August of last year, I hit post #100 and celebrated by posting a picture of Collin. I'm gonna do the same here at #200 - this was taken on May 14th at Braeden's T-ball game.

Plan B

Well, hello. When last we talked, I was planning to blog like crazy last week, catching you up on our trip to Genesee Home as well as dropping some tasty bits about boardgames, The Da Vinci Code, TV season finales, and maybe a picture or two of the boys.

Evidently, Plan A (as outlined in the previous paragraph) was an abject failure. So, on to Plan B. Let's just move all of that stuff to this week and pretend like last week never happened.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Hitting the Road

Won't be near a computer for 6 days - I may well go through some kind of serious withdrawal, complete with the shakes & heavy sweating. (Ha.)

Anyway, Shari & I are going to a self-guided retreat for pastors & their wives which is actually more of a bed & breakfast. We're planning on sleeping in (haven't done that since Braeden was born), taking personal study time, and just easing out from under the day to day pressures of ministry. It shouldn't hurt our marriage none, either. :-)

Pray for us as the boys will be staying with friends here in Fresno while we're about 6 hours away - yikes! It's a little scary leaving them behind, but they're in good hands with the folks from our church.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The "M" Word

Shari (my wife) was a math major. (She'd tell you that her major was because she hated writing papers, but she was/is actually a very good math teacher. And, no, "math" is not the "m" word from the title.) But even math majors have to take core liberal arts courses... and so she found herself in a class (Health?) with a guest lecturer on human sexuality, who advocated a number of "interesting" ideas, not the least of which was that the safest sex is "making love with the person you love the most - yourself."

Well... ok, then.

As I wrote last week, I struggled with talking about masturbation during my message Sunday morning on lust & pornography. It felt dishonest to deal with the topic without actually bringing the physical sexual activity that accompanies the use of visual and/or emotional pornography. And yet, I knew that discussing masturbation would mean that the rest of my sermon would end up sounding like Miss Othmar from the Peanuts TV specials - "Wha wha wha wha wha..."

So, I decided to offer my thoughts & opinions here on the blog. (BTW, this is the cue for some of you to quietly sneak out before finishing the article. Those of you who came here looking for gaming content will be sorely disappointed today. I'll take care of y'all tomorrow.)
  • The Bible doesn't say anything specific about masturbation - and if somebody brings up Onan, tell them to read the story, for crying out loud.
  • Calling masturbation "self-abuse" or perpetrating old wives tales is beyond not helpful.
  • For a long time, I personally believed that the physical act of masturbation was morally neutral. In other words, if you could "indulge" without resorting to fantasy and/or pornography, it was no big deal. Of course, I knew that 99.9% of people don't satisfy those conditions - almost by definition, masturbation & lustful thoughts are linked.
  • I've come to believe, however, that the biggest problem with masturbation is that it teaches people to make the orgasm/release the highest value in sex. When we go that direction, our expectations slide toward "take care of me" rather than the mutuality that Paul clearly teaches in 1 Corinthians 7.
  • The adrenaline & endorphin release that accompanies orgasm can easily become addictive - I know. That was the story of my own sexual addiction issues for a number of years.
  • So, if the Biblical admonition is to "avoid sexual immorality" (1 Thessalonians 4:3), then we need to carefully examine whether our choice for "self-gratification" leads us toward or away from lust.
  • I guess it's pretty obvious that I think it does.
  • And, as I write all this down, I'm well aware that many of you are recoiling from my conclusions... working to dismiss me as a Bible-thumping yahoo or one of those nutty "recovering addicts" who can't simply deal with his own junk but instead has to make sure everyone else makes the same choices he has. Look, this is up to you - but I encourage you to look at the subject through a different lens than we usually use: how would your spouse or potential spouse view your satisfying your "urges" through fantasy & masturbation? (Once again, you need to take a look at Paul's teachings, excerpted below.)
  • Finally, is it easy to choose not to masturbate? I'm not going to lie to you - it's not. But just because something is difficult doesn't make it impossible and/or a bad idea.

Here's some quotes on the subject:

  • Frequent masturbation can... form us in strange & false understandings of sexuality -- not the least the idea that sexual pleasure is an individual, and individualistic, undertaking. Masturbation teaches us that immediate gratification is a part of sex, and masturbation removes sex from a relationship. Indeed, the whole point of masturbation is to provide the release and pleasure of orgasm without the work & joy of a relationship. Laura Winner, Real Sex
  • A man has only so much sexual energy. Especially once he's past his sexual peak and easing into his thirties, it's not easy to reach orgasms two or three times a day. Many men are drawn to pornography because it's an emotionally and physically easier route to sexual satisfaction than pleasing her. Yet pornography further drains men of sexual and emotional energy. In the 2004 poll, 45 percent of men who used Internet pornography for five or more hours a week said they were masturbating too much, and one in five confessed they were having sex less often with their partners. Which isn't surprising, given that 35 percent said real sex just couldn't compare to cybersex anymore. Pamela Paul, Pornified
  • It's good for a man to have a wife, and for a woman to have a husband. Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder. The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality--the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband. Marriage is not a place to "stand up for your rights." Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out. Abstaining from sex is permissible for a period of time if you both agree to it, and if it's for the purposes of prayer and fasting--but only for such times. Then come back together again. Satan has an ingenious way of tempting us when we least expect it. I'm not, understand, commanding these periods of abstinence--only providing my best counsel if you should choose them. 1 Corinthians 7:2-6 (The Message)

Oddly enough, last night on The Late, Late Show, host Craig Ferguson got into a very PG-13 rated discussion about masturbation with author Frank Court. (Frank argued that masturbation is economically productive for the church... huh?!) Ain't the world weird?

Overhead View

Google Earth is a very cool toy... here's where we live!

The house on the left is the parsonage... though things have changed a bit since this picture was taken. The driveway now extends to the street and the big white thing in the backyard (the concrete pad for the well & pump) is now outside the fence. And, yes, we are surrounded by dirt.

On the right hand side of the photo is the church. The big building with a white roof is the family life center (that churchese for "gym & classrooms"), the building next to it is the worship center & social hall, and the white roofed building by itself is the mobile home (which is where my office is).

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Minefield, Part Deux

I've already posted my personal pilgrimage when it comes to lust & pornography (entitled 9 Years Ago). This may come as a surprise to some of you, but it's almost physically painful to write stuff like that. I am right on the edge of being an introvert, yet my role as a pastor leads to doing stuff that runs roughshod over that side of my personality. Having to be blisteringly authentic is one of those "run-over" areas. Given my druthers (what are "druthers" anyway?), I'd never open up like that.

Anyway, what I promised last week is to share what I taught Sunday morning... so here it goes:

Our culture has been pornified (term courtesy of Pamela Paul's disturbing book,
Pornified: How Pornography is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships & Our Families)... I mean, when Victoria's Secret can do lingerie shows on network TV, when Carmen Electra can market a series of Stripper-cise exercise videos, and where MTV & BET can produce entire specials on the positive connections between porn & rock & rap, something has gone wrong. (I won't even get into the amount of porn on the internet... sheesh.)

But the pornifcation of our lives isn't just about dirty pictures... it's the avalanche of "romance" novels & internet chat rooms & whatever else men and women use to gratify themselves sexually outside of marriage. Lust isn't just about centerfolds.

Lust, in fact, is more than looking... it's strong desire gone out of bounds or out of balance. (The following outline is courtesy of
Dan Allender.)

It's OK to have strong desires (
Luke 22:15, Philippians 1:23). The problem arises when they go
  • out of bounds - into areas that are destructive to yourself, your relationship with God, and/or those around you. (BTW, that really shouldn't be an "and/or" there... stuff that is destructive to you by it's very nature is also destructive to those around you and to your relationship with God.)
  • out of balance - when a perfectly good desire ends up blocking you from doing what God has called you to do. (No surprise - I didn't spend a lot time here on Sunday morning.)
The commands against sexual sin (Matthew 5:27-30, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20) are more than "God sez: Don't Do It" - they are to protect us from harm & provide for the best possible relationships. (See last week's notes.) Specifically, "lust, pornography & all that goes with that" (that's the phrase I settled on to avoid using the word "masturbation" in the sermon) leads us go totally self-focused. If sex is supposed to be about connection & intimacy, then autoerotic behavior is a bad wax museum copy of a good thing. It's all about me, myself & I:
  • fix me
  • fill me
  • satiate me
  • validate me
  • make me feel masculine
  • make me feel feminine
  • satisfy me
  • help me forget my troubles
  • numb me from the pain
So, what do we do now?
  1. start w/God... according to 2 Peter 1:3, we've got all the tools we need for godly living - what we desperately need is Bob Villa to show us how to use them. (At this point, I made self-deprecating cracks about my personal issues with mechanical stuff.) I don't want to sound too AA, but this is the whole "I'm powerless" thing.
  2. with God's help, make wise choices to deal with the problem - shut off the DirectTV, ditch your Internet connection, whatever it takes. (I know that sounds harsh to some of you - but as a recovering addict, continuing to have unfettered/unmonitored access to porn via the internet for me would be the rough eqivalent of giving an alcoholic a job as a clerk in a liquor store.)
  3. don't go it alone... find one or two fellow believers who will walk through the recovery process with you
Here's some quotes from my message prep materials:
  • I made a solemn pact with myself never to undress a girl with my eyes. Job 31:1 (The Message)
  • You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act -- that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us? C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
  • Gary Brooks, a psychologist who studies pornography at Texas A&M University, explains that "softcore pornography has a very negative effect on men as well. The problem with softcore pornography is that it's voyeurism -- it teaches men to view women as objects rather than to be in relationships with women as human beings." According to Brooks, pornography gives men the false impression that sex & pleasure are entirely divorced from relationships. In other words, pornography is inherently self-centered -- something a man does by himself, for himself -- by using other women as the means to pleasure, as yet another product to consume. Pamela Paul, Pornified
Finally, a note: I've included a link to xxxchurch in the sidebar pretty much from the begining of this blog. If you're struggling with internet pornography, I can not recommend this site highly enough. It's edgy, it's "hip", and it's brutally honest about the cost & the "cure" for sexual addiction.

My next post will deal with what I didn't deal with Sunday morning - masturbation. For those of you who wonder if I'll ever stop talking about sex, you're gonna have to wait a day or two more.