Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Divorce and Kids

“It doesn’t take long to figure out that the world’s answers do not work! There is not enough beer, sex, drugs, perfection, academia, counseling—in short, not enough of anything—to dull the pain, much less heal it. But there is an answer. God provides a firm foundation for healing our broken hearts.” This is the message that’s at the core of a hopeful book written by a child of divorce, Kristine Steakley. Painfully transparent in her telling of her own story of growing up in a broken home, Steakley invites readers to understand the dynamics and results of divorce in Child of Divorce, Child of God: A Journey of Hope and Healing (InterVarsity Press).

It is estimated that 50 percent of the children born in today’s world will grow up to experience the divorce of their parents. Typically, they blame themselves although they had absolutely nothing at all to do with it. Divorce hurts. Just ask any kid who’s been through it. Steakley’s own struggle has taken years. Sometimes it was all-consuming. Her parents’ divorce and her life thereafter has shaped and continues to shape who she is today. But the struggle has taken her deeply into the things of God.

Child of Divorce, Child of God
is a book that should be read by anyone working with or ministering to kids. It is eye-opening. It’s also a book for anyone who shares the author’s own experience. The most valuable aspect of the book is that the road to understanding and redemption Steakley lays out is one that is deeply rooted in the character of God.

This is a book that shows how God can repair and re-parent the child of divorce in ways that heal and restore relationships with themselves, their parents and their Heavenly Father. In addition, an online blog for the book can be found here.

-- Walt Mueller

Monday, March 15, 2010

Andy Crouch: Reader Interview

Current position/title: Senior editor, Christianity Today International; author, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling

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

Yes, I was a reader from very early on. I had the great gift of parents who filled the house with music and books. In high school I had a series of extraordinary English teachers, who taught me how much there was to discover in literature. They introduced me to the kind of close, patient attention that the best writing deserves.

CPYU: What are your reading habits and practices?

AC: This may sound incompatible with my praise of close reading, but I'll always be grateful to my systematic theology professor Robert C. Neville for teaching me the basic techniques of speed reading. When I sit down for the first time with a new nonfiction book, I scan through the whole book in a matter of 5 minutes or so, and write down (usually on the title page) any phrases or ideas that I retained from that very quick perusal. I then go through the book again spending about 5 seconds per page (roughly 20 minutes for a mid-length book). It's amazing how much of the book you can learn to grasp in that second reading, and even more importantly you get a clear sense of the book's outline and argument. Then I can decide whether to read the book in the usual way—and if I do, my initial scans have prepared me to read much more interactively and intelligently than I would have otherwise.Last year I realized that my reading was shifting in an unhealthy direction toward journalism and periodicals and away from books. So for the past several months I've been returning much more intentionally to books, inspired partly by a grassroots effort by a few friends called the 5252 Project. We've all made a commitment to read at least one book per week in 2010, and I'm tracking and sharing my reading through a Twitter account called @ahc_is_reading. I won't have any trouble exceeding 52 books, but just paying attention and recording what I've read is keeping me focused on books, which really are still the most information-rich, substantive form of writing we have, even or especially in the age of endless information.

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

AC: Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Newbigin mapped our late-modern context, and the Christian response, with more depth and insight than anyone before or since.

Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son. This book is a model of close attention (to Rembrandt's painting) and a beautiful exposition of the heart of the gospel.

Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb. Capon's jubilant language not only rekindled my love of cooking but modeled how the best writing can be theological, poetic, and prophetic all at once.

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

AC: I think I would want to meet Homer. Of course we are not sure that Homer was a single author, but assuming he was, I would want to talk with him about war—and especially what he himself thought of Achilles and his pursuit of kleos or immortal fame. And I'd want to talk about home and marriage—and what he thought of Odysseus's protracted journey away from home (especially his dalliance with Circe, which seems longer than strictly necessary). We seem to get only indirect, sly hints of the poet's own view of these central characters, but what we sense is a deeply humane imagination at work in the telling of these highly stylized and tradition-bound epics.

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?

AC: Clearly the most important thing is to model delight in reading. When the parents and the kids are tussling over the latest Harry Potter when it's released (as we did with the last several books in the series) the kids learn that reading matters not just to children but to grownups. But it's also important to create a "boredom-free" home, which means a family culture where it is taken for granted that we will create our own entertainment rather than relying on television, the Internet, and videogames for amusement. The great secret to not being bored is not having entertainment technologies readily at hand. So we didn't buy a television until our kids were in double digits, and all the central spaces in our home are intentionally designed to help foster reading, making music and art, and other forms of engaged creativity like cooking. That's good not just for the children but for the parents as well.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Delayed Maturity

Do you notice that it seems to be taking boys longer to mature into adulthood? Do you know of any “basement boys,” emerging adults who “find not only free lodging, meals and security at home but also the freedom to come and go at will and, in the privacy of their converted subterranean lairs where no one will tell them to make their beds, to play endlessly on their Playstation consoles?” Perhaps you’ve also heard the complaint by many young women who ask, “Where have all the men gone?” It was questions like these that motivated historian Gary Cross to write his book Men to Boys: The Making of Modern Immaturity (Columbia University Press). Cross calls many in this generation, “boy-men” who “live for today, disdain pretense and formality, are ever open to new thrills and experiences, but also mocking convention in celebration of amoral fantasy, crude vulgarity, and unrestrained appetite, the boy-man makes a fetish of the ‘cool.’”

Part of the problem is that “rites of passage” that typically aided in the maturation of young people are fading away. Many are having a hard time finding career-oriented work right out of college, marriage and child rearing have been delayed (if not abandoned altogether), and the entertainment industry has made being young so much “fun” that it is hard to let go. Cross traces the history of models of maturity, but does not glorify the past or point to a “golden age” when all boys matured to responsible adulthood.

In Men to Boys, Cross combines historical analysis with contemporary illustrations to reveal a generation of immature young people who need better models of maturity. By reading this book, parents will gain insight into how their children are bombarded by the media to remain “youth,” and pastors will be forced to consider how the church can minister to future generations.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Practice Resurrection

The long-awaited, highly anticipated fifth and final installment of Eugene Peterson’s “conversations” series has arrived. Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ focuses on the book of Ephesians, particularly on themes of church and Christian maturity. Peterson writes, “The human task is to become mature, not only in our bodies and emotions and minds within ourselves, but also in our relationship with God and other persons.” And what is God’s plan for growing His people in maturity? “Church,” Peterson explains, “is the core element in the strategy of the Holy Spirit for providing human witness and physical presence to the Jesus-inaugurated kingdom of God in this world. It is not that kingdom complete, but it is a witness to that kingdom.”

It’s easy to become weary about the church. We all can become frustrated and cynical when we read our Bibles and survey our congregations. If we’re honest, we need to include ourselves in that “mess” as well. While Peterson offers many challenges to the American church, he hasn’t given up hope. In fact, he thinks the church as we see her is exactly what we need to grow in Christ. He writes, “Maybe the church as we have it provides the very conditions and proper company congenial for growing up in Christ, for becoming mature, for arriving at the measure of the stature of Christ. Maybe God knows what he is doing, giving us church, this church.”

This is a powerful book, one that shouldn’t be ignored by youth workers, parents and (even) students who long to grow in faith and understand the importance of the local church. Highly recommend!

Here are the other titles in Peterson’s series, all worthwhile:

Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology

Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers
(A CPYU Bookshelf Book of the Year Winner, 2008)

Be sure to check out a series of blog posts by Scot McKnight about Practice Resurrection.

The phrase "practice resurrection" comes from a poem by Wendell Berry.