Tuesday, March 24, 2009

FREE Autographed Book by L.L. Barkat!

Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places by L.L. Barkat was one of the best books I read in 2008. It won a prestigious CPYU Bookshelf Award, and I’ve given it to many people as a gift. In fact, my mother-in-law was so moved by the book, she started a small group book discussion at her school.

The book is a memoir. Barket tells her powerful and penetrating story of finding grace, God and faith in the midst of pain, hardship and struggle. She is open and honest about some really dark “places” in her life but she doesn’t become cynical or trite. That’s not always easy. She writes gracefully and points readers toward hope.

It turns out that Barkat enjoys reading this blog, and was especially interested in the FREE BOOK GIVEAWAYS. (Who isn't, really?) So much so, she is offering a FREE autographed copy of Stone Crossings! (Be sure to check out L.L. Barkat’s blog!)

Here’s the question for your chance to win a FREE copy of Stone Crossings:

What is your favorite memoir?

(There needs to be at least 10 comments to qualify. Winner will be chosen randomly from list of participants. Only one comment per person.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mindy Meier: Sex on Campus

It’s probably not surprising to learn that a hookup culture of casual sex exists on college campuses. What might be shocking are two discoveries made by sociologist Donna Freitas in her groundbreaking research and book Sex & the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America’s College Campuses. After many years of surveying and interviewing college students, here’s what she learned: First, most students don’t want to participate in the hookup culture, but feel pressured to for lack of an alternative. Second, while many students identify themselves as “spiritual,” their spirituality has very little influence on their sexuality. Third, even though most students are frustrated and have been hurt by the hookup culture, they have very few places to openly discuss their concerns.

Freitas also interviewed students at evangelical colleges. While the hookup culture was not as prevalent, students still felt like they had limited ways to discuss sexuality on campus. There was intense pressure to be engaged before graduation (“ring by spring”) and students who were in sexual relationships didn’t have many people who they could confide in. Freitas concludes, “The prevailing religious message about sex among students is either to guard purity with one’s life or to see sex as irrelevant to one’s spiritual practices and religious commitments.” Because we must address this sobering sexual reality, I spoke with Mindy Meier, author of Sex and Dating: Questions You Wish You Had Answers To, about Freitas and her research.

Derek: Before we talk about Donna Freitas’ book Sex & The Soul, tell us about your work and what led you to write your book, Sex and Dating: Questions You Wish You Had Answers To.

Mindy: I work for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an interdenominational parachurch ministry that serves college students. Part of my job is meeting with students and the topic of sex and dating frequently comes up. I found that the same questions come up over and over again in student appointments and during Q & A sessions on sex and dating. I simply took these questions and gave brief 3 or 4 page answers to help college students think through theses issues. Each question involves a personal story of someone who is wrestling with the issue raised. Students are very busy and a book written in a Q & A format allows them to zero in on topics of interest and skip the ones that do not intersect their lives.

Derek: From your own experience, do you think Freitas provides an accurate picture of the sexual culture on today’s college campuses?

Mindy: Yes, I think Freitas presents a very accurate picture of the sexual culture on today’s college campuses. She interviewed students from a wide range of schools. The fact that she allowed students to answer in written form and also did personal interviews makes her research very enlightening. She is an academic researcher but also captures subtle nuances with colorful narratives used to describe the people she interviewed. I found her book very engaging to read. The student stories rang true with my experience on college campuses...

Read the entire interview in the spring edition of Engage: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU (starting on page 6).

Monday, March 9, 2009

FREE Book Winner!

The winner of the FREE book giveaway is: Joel Owen. Please claim your prize by sending an email to: dmelleby(at)cpyu.org

Joel suggested Andy Stanley's It Came From Within! The Shocking Truth of What Lurks in the Heart as one of the best books to give as gifts to graduating seniors.

The following books received multiple mentions:

Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper

The Message by Eugene Peterson

Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

Two books were mentioned that are available at the CPYU Resource Center:

The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness coauthored by CPYU's Derek Melleby

Can You Keep Your Faith in College by Abbie Smith.

(Both books are currently being offered at a discounted price of $11, includes shipping!)

Thanks for playing. Be on the look out for another chance to win a FREE book!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Walt Recommends Books: Four Minutes with Jonathan McKee

CPYU friend Jonathan McKee recently walked through a YS bookstore with Walt Mueller and has a video to prove it. Read Jonathan's blog entry here.

The first book Walt recommends is The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness, coauthored by CPYU's Derek Melleby. The Outrageous book is currently being offered at the CPYU Resource Center at a discounted price of $11, shipping included! Click here for details.

(Interested in ordering 10 or more copies? It does make a nice graduation gift! Call 1-800-807-CPYU for even deeper bulk order discounts!)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Abbie Smith: Reader Interview

Current Position/Title: Graduate student (Talbot Seminary—Masters in Spiritual Formation) and writer/author

(Abbie’s book Can You Keep Your Faith in College? is currently available at the CPYU resource center at a discounted price of $11, shipping included)

CPYU: Have you always been a reader? If not, how did you become one?

AS: I have certainly not always been a reader. And still wouldn’t call myself a terribly “good” one. I read a lot, but am still trying to learn the act of retaining. I actually don’t remember reading much before high school, and even then, I was most privy to Cliff Notes (maybe explaining my 2 on the AP English exam?). In college I started reading a decent amount, probably because I found something that awakened my soul. My controlled, containable world of high school, all of the sudden met this flirtatious ground of college, where immeasurable amounts of intellect, experience and passion surrounded me. I took to the flirting well and, well, I guess that’s what made me a reader.

CPYU: What are your reading habits and practices?

AS: I’d love to say there’s continuity here, but that would be a lie, and I’m trying to at least practice the habit of honesty. Certain seasons tend to lend more, or less, time for pleasure reading, often dictated by certain seasons requiring more, or less, time requiring research and/or school-related reading. I can readily admit to a book, reading, or knowledge addiction—or maybe all of them. Something of it is met by a discipline (and developed enjoyment) of reading every day, whether it’s blogs, books, or the LA Times, but something of it remains unmet, evidenced by dusty piles titled, “want-to-read-but-will-realistically-never-have-time.”

CPYU: Name 3 books that have been very influential in your life and one sentence that explains why.

AS: The Bible, by God: Call me over-spiritual, or simply trying to impress you with my heights of spirituality, but I promise neither is true. I simply find this text one of the most magical, difficult, centering, superior acts of literature ever to take ink.

The Shack, by William Young: This is a contemporary work, and one that has taken a more recent influence on me. I’ve found it to offer a healthy treatment to some of man’s most dehabilitating questions.

The Poetry of Saint Therese of Lisieux, translated by Donald Kinney. I initially bought this book because it had the English translation, as well as the original French (I often toy with the idea of polishing-up ma Française, unsuccessfully). The wisdom and divine vigor in this young girl astounds me.

CPYU: If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would it be and what questions would you ask him or her?

AS: This is a tough question and probably one that could change on the hour, but for now I’ll say C.S. Lewis. I find that he’d be exceptionally entertaining, as well as incredibly insightful. We’d probably meet over pints at some quaint little pub, where I’d offer the most mundane questions I could think of, like reasons he’s been frustrated this week, or how he proposed to his wife. Oh and I just can’t resist giving another one here—Maya Angelou. I would ask her just to start talking.

CPYU: According to a recent study by the National Endowment of the Arts, very few young people are reading. Do you have any ideas on how to get young people to read?

AS: I watched the Disney Channel today, for the first time since I was probably twelve. With one eye on the screen and the other on the mesmerized kids on my lap, all I could think was, “Wow, we’re up against a lot.” Reading was once considered an entertaining and enjoyable medium, whereas nowadays, it seems that its considerations are scholastic at best, and a boring waste of time at worst. A slow afternoon perusing pages in front of the fireplace has been traded-in for the fast-paced immediacies of Xbox and MySpace. One embraces a journey, while the other expects a gratifying jump into a finale.

So might we as leaders, parents, or educators do? First off, I think we must accept the reality that we’re fighting a world of instant gratification that will beat us if we take the traditional path. Contemporary culture “does not have the time” that reading a book requires—they want the start, climax and finish in one sitting. And when that sitting is over, or becomes stale, they’ll find the next edition. That said, I think we’ve got to be open to the reality that, a) some will never join us and b) some just need a creative bridge to get there. Whereas one kid might light up at Keating and Tolstoy, ten others could take every effort to engage with a comic book. Today’s youth are more apt, or attracted, toward activities allowing them to lead the story, whereas books require the ink and margins to hold these reigns. And for this time of our generation, at least, blogs and audio books may have to allow themselves into our paradigms of “reading.” I think such doing would not only value the playing ground of our audience, but it would also, at some point I suppose, bridge them into longings for further awakening—and maybe less instant and ecstatic ones.

I mine as well throw this in, but I personally don’t own a television. Such an option seems ludicrous for the average American family (click here for a heyday of TV stats), but maybe we could take smaller steps, like “unplugging screens” during mealtimes, or limiting hours watched per day? Like it, or not, there will be an element of discipline, if we expect anything to change. Increasing one statistic requires the decrease of another. I’ll say this and then be done, but as with my story, people change because their souls have been awakened. To transform this generation, we must first learn to see eye-to-eye with their stories, studying their ways and grasping their realities. And then, as we slowly grow to know them, and they slowly grow to trust us, invitations into journeys of the written word will undoubtedly awaken.

Past Reader Interviews
Paul Robertson, CPYU Associate Staff