My Two Dads

I’ve got two dads. Or rather, I’ve had two dads, one my biological father and one my adopted father. One gave me my life, the other my living. Both contributed to me in immeasurable ways. I’ve never written about my two dads aside from my own personal journaling. Now seems like a good time to talk about the two of them.

My mother married Harold Stoesz on May 31, 1951. They went to the same high school, fell in love and decided to marry while my dad was a student at St. Paul Bible College in Minnesota. After finishing St. Paul the following year, my dad decided to continue his education at Wheaton College. The summer before they moved to Wheaton, Harold and my mom moved to Shell Lake, Wisconsin, where my dad filled in for the pastor of a little church, and where I was born.

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The Golden Age of Reading?

Selling books used to be easy. I did it for more than 20 years as a manager of a successful Christian bookstore chain.  It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time in the not-too-distant past when the bookstore—Christian or secular—was about the only place you could buy a book.

In the secular space, there were chains like Walden Books and B. Dalton Bookseller, a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble. There were also thousands of independent bookstores, including a few that rose to legendary status among serious bibliophiles—such as Powell’s in Portland, Tattered Cover in Denver, Davis-Kidd in Nashville and Oxford’s in Atlanta. In the Christian world, even though the chains were smaller and the independent stores fewer, you could count on almost every community in America having at least one Christian bookstore.

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Church Is Useless

“Church is useless.”

I might have expected such a comment from my 24-year-old nephew who insists that living with his parents in the room he’s occupied since birth, whose passion is playing FPS (First Person Shooter) games and whose sole means of gainful employment is a part-time job at a local restaurant. But my nephew, as far as I know, has never said that. Though he was “raised in the church,” he doesn’t attend with any regularity. But as far as I know, he’s never said the church is useless.

Instead, the quote came from a 28-year-old—let’s call him Michael—who has a really good job, is married to a very successful marketing executive and who has nothing in common with my nephew except that he was also raised in the church.

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The Extremes of the Abortion Issue

I have never been one who has fought against abortion. By that I mean that I have never carried a sign that says, “Stop Abortion Now,” nor have I ever participated in a pro-life rally.

However, that doesn’t mean I waver in my belief that abortion is wrong and is tantamount to taking the life of a precious, innocent, fully alive though not fully formed human being. I believe that completely. I’m just not an active opponent of those who believe in a woman’s right to choose (to use the common language of those who favor abortion rights). Instead, I’m a passive proponent of a child’s right to live.

And you know what? I’m ashamed to tell you of my passivity, especially after reading two articles that came across my radar recently.

The first was a disturbing piece entitled, “The Three Deadliest Words in the World: It’s a Girl.” Reported by A.G. Harmon on Patheos.com, the piece focused on a new documentary produced and directed by Evan Grae Davis. I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch the film trailer, but be forewarned. It will disturb you, not because it’s so graphic (it’s not), but because it shows everyday people in India and China admitting to killing their newborn daughters in what is known as gendercide, “the culturally-based killing of a child (overwhelmingly female) on the basis of sex.” It is estimated that as many as 200 million girls are “missing” from the world’s population--whether killded, aborted or abandoned--due to gendercide.

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Why Jesus Matters in Relationships

When you think of Jesus, what word comes to your mind? Many people equate Jesus with religion, which has caused a backlash from many on both sides of the religious divide. Jeff Bethke made a video, "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus," that's been viewed by more than 21 million people, showing just how provocative both Jesus and religion are (especially when they are combined).

It's not surprising that for many people, Jesus represents organized religion. After all, he is the central figure of Christianity, the world's largest religion. And he is recognized as a prophet in the religion of Islam, the world's second largest religion. In fact, Jesus figures in the doctrine of many religions and cults. So, it's reasonable to equate Jesus with religion, but that's not the word Jesus would want to be associated with.

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Fear, Superstition and Faith

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

It doesn’t matter what topic you happen to be thinking or talking about—the economy, politics, religion, the environment or morality—if you read too many blogs or listen to one too many media pundits, you’re likely to come away with a deep sense of dread over questions like these:

  • Is the economy going to take another tailspin?
  • Will the wrong candidate become president?
  • Is traditional marriage doomed?
  • Will Iran blow up Israel?

Nobody knows for sure how to answer these vexing questions, but the answers—even if we knew what they were—aren’t the problem. Truth be told, it’s the uncertainty of not knowing and the fear it inspires that has a fierce stranglehold on many people, and it’s threatening to undo us all.

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The bestselling books of all time are stories

I've always been fascinating with Top 10 lists, especially when they involve books. I suppose that comes from being around books all my life: selling them, writing them and now publishing them. Just this week I ran across a Top 10 book list that made me stop and reflect on what makes a book a bestseller. Thanks to a post from Justin Taylor, I found a graphic showing the Top 10 books over the last 50 years (If you can't quite read the graph, click here for a closer look). It's a fascinating and instructive list for one very simple reason: 8 of the Top 10 books are stories.

Number one, of course, is the Bible, the greatest Story of all (and the bestselling book, not just in the last 50 years, but for all time and by a wide margin), followed by Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Alchemist, The Da Vinci Code, The Twilight Saga, Gone With the Wind, and The Diary of Anne Frank. The only exceptions are Quotations from Chairman Mao (otherwise known as The Little Red Book), and Think and Grow Rich (one of the bestselling "self-improvement" books of all time). And if you throw out Quotations from Chairman Mao, mainly because it's probably required reading in Chairman Mao's home country, you're left with just one book in the Top 10 most popular books of the last 50 years that isn't a story.

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What if Jesus Is Still Dead?

There have been a lot of great religious teachers throughout history. Confucius, Buddha and Mohammed are three of the most recognizable, and all have millions of followers to this day. Yet there's one thing about all three--and every other great teacher from the past--that should be somewhat disconcerting to their followers: they're all dead.

Then there's Jesus, the greatest teacher of all. Like Confucius, Buddha and Mohammed, Jesus died. But unlike the other great spiritual leaders and self-proclaimed prophets who have walked the earth throughout history, Jesus came back to life.

Now, this may not matter to some people (and by the sheer numbers people who follow dead teachers and prophets, it must not), but it should matter to you. if you are a follower of Christ, you need to know that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the most important part of your faith. 

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Every Day is Leap Day

Today is Leap Day, the so-called "extra day" that pops up every four years in order to keep our Gregorian calendar synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year. Technically it's not an extra day in the sense that it's added to your life. Most likely you're living today like any other day, doing the same kinds of things you normally do.

But what if you really had an extra day that wasn't just a calendar adjustment, but a truly unique day that was added to your life, where you could do things you normally don't do because you don't have time for them? How would you spend your "extra" time?

King Hezekiah, who ruled over the Southern Kingdom of Judah at the end of the 8th century BC, was given a bunch of extra days--15 years to be exact. He was dying, and the prophet Isaiah told him to get his house in order. Like a lot of people (especially powerful people), Hezekiah wasn't ready to go quietly into that good night. He wanted more time. So he cried out to the Lord, saying, "Please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight" (2 Kings 20:3). Amazingly, the Lord answered Hezekiah's prayer and added 15 years to his life.

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Trend Forecasts for 2012

I’ve never been big on making predictions for any particular New Year. I suppose it has something to do with not wanting to be wrong, but 2012 seems different (and it’s not just because the Mayan calendar has the world ending on December 21). Because there are so many significant global trends that seem to be converging in a way that could produce more change and opportunity than any of us have seen in quite some time, I’m very interested in the future.

So, for what they’re worth, here are seven “trend forecasts” for 2012, and why I think they matter:

1. The 2012 U.S. elections will be contentious and bitterly fought (like it takes a genius to predict this one). We’ve all been disheartened at the way the political process has been working in the last few years, and the elections in 2012 may hit a new low point.
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About
Stan's entire life has been wrapped in content: selling, writing and publishing books and resources that help ordinary people capture a glimpse of extraordinary things.