Thinking Out Loud

February 16, 2015

Design Team on the Ground in Haiti

Filed under: education, missions, parenting — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:33 am
Image captured on Flight Aware mid-trip. I don't consider this helicopter parenting, it's more like satellite parenting.

Image captured on Flight Aware mid-trip. I don’t consider this helicopter parenting, it’s more like satellite parenting.

Though he’s been away from home off and on for many years, this is the first time we’ve ever been cut off from our son electronically.  It’s going to be a long week as we wait for the first communication when they return to the US and then Canada, though I recognize that for some of you reading this, Haiti is just a stone’s throw away compared to places in the world where you have close relatives.  If you’re coming in part-way through this story, I wrote about his 4-month internship with the organization at this blog post.

emi logo brickThe more I hear about Engineering Ministries International, the more impressed I am with this organization and the unique role they fill in world missions.  I’m so excited to be able to passionately tell their story.  At 9 minutes, this video is a little long, and requires you to read the captions, but it defines exactly what a design team does in the various countries in which EMI serves. They’re not doing the actual building, which means they’re not taking away work from locals.  They’re also living within the realities of the budgets the host organization is working with, and the construction materials that are available. In Haiti, the latter is a daunting prospect.

The director of the team he’s serving on wrote about all the things they’re taking with them.

We get 1 suitcase each. Between our 4 and the 2 belonging to the interns also leaving from Calgary, we’ve managed to pack:

  • water test kits, a pocket penetrometer, a TDS meter, measuring tapes, a portable printer and all sorts of other engineering-type stuff
  • first aid kits, headlamps, plug adapters
  • craft items, both from our own stash and donated by our church to do a craft day with the kids there
  • several quilts sewn by kids from our church
  • pillow case dresses and shorts sewn by a friend with a heart for orphans
  • hats knitted by [our daughter]
  • t-shirts from a friend of eMi
  • some hand-me-down clothes
  • small toys and school supplies from [our daughter’s] friends
  • some hot chocolate (a special request!) & peanut butter
  • toothbrushes donated by a friend and toothpaste donated by our dentist
  • donated soccer balls and a pump
  • more school supplies [donated]
  • oh – and our own clothes and toiletries and such

There’s a ceremony that engineers go through — family are not allowed to attend — in which they are given a ring. My son wrote about that recently:

As my graduation neared, I was given a steel ring to wear as a tangible reminder to double-check my work because, in engineering, I will often have people depending on it for their safety, but I’m finding that I don’t need the reminder. The spectacle and gravity of the work, and the humbling and uplifting character of the cause, are enough.

Anyway, this has been somewhat random, but I hope you’ll remember the team in prayer this week, and if you have engineers, surveyors, architects or people with similar gifts in your faith community; EMI is always looking for people to go on short-term trips.  If you know a student who is studying any of those fields, there is opportunity to do a internship — the other intern on his team is doing a co-op term — for professional credit. You can link to the various websites at these links:

 

 

February 6, 2015

Rethinking The Baby Factory

This article first ran here 4 years ago, but seemed timely given Pope Francis’ comment last week, “Some think — and excuse the term — that to be good Catholics, they must be like rabbits.”  So we found this article and as a bonus, all the links still work!

This is the second of two blog posts inspired by subjects covered by Ken Gallinger, ethics columnist for The Toronto Star. This one, at this writing, is still available online under the self-explanatory title: It’s Time to Rethink Call To Go Forth and Multiply.

He begins:

Back in the days when my wife and I were spawning our three kids, that was a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Indeed, back then, couples who failed to produce were looked upon with suspicion; we wondered “what was wrong with them,” even opining, if only in private, that if they were “able” to have kids and chose not to, that was pretty selfish.

But today’s truth is self-evident: There are enough of us. Likely too many. And if there aren’t too many now, there soon will be.

The reason for this discussion of course, is the sheer size of the number of us that populate this planet vis-a-vis an ever decreasing stock of natural and physical resources.

Gallinger is concerned about this, but equally concerned about the ones, “judging those couples and individuals who choose not to spawn their own replacements.” He finds both positions somewhat untenable.

I remember feeling that judgment one time about a dozen years ago when, after explaining that my wife and I had two sons, was told by an individual, “So you replaced yourself.” He meant those words in the sense of, “You’ve accomplished nothing so far.” We had clearly violated “Go forth and multiply” in his eyes, I’m not sure that our two offspring constituted having gone forth and added.

There are still denominations of Christianity wherein people are encouraged to have large families, and I’m not simply referring to old-school Roman Catholics or Mormons. In typical tongue-in-cheek style, Darrell at Stuff Fundies Like notes that “fundies” (i.e. conservative fundamentalist Christians) join the Amish in this category. (Of course, he points out that this becomes more cost-effective as the kids get older if they all learn to play a musical instrument.)

However you smile as you read SFL, there is another view, as stated by Craig Carter, professor of theology and ethics at Tyndale University in Toronto, that God has never rescinded “go forth and multiply.” He bases this on the idea that the Genesis commandment predates Israel, and is thereby not Old-Covenant specific. (In an earlier blog post, he speaks in terms of what he calls “The Contraceptive Mentality.”)

So the question — with the paragraph below notwithstanding — that I intended to ask today is this: In light of the population stats and the depletion of scarce resources; but also in light of the command given to Adam and Eve; should Christians keep making babies to the height of their ability, or is there a time when we say, “enough is enough?”

…And now the twist.

Views on this subject in the last couple of decades have been moderating lately because of data showing that the Muslim population is expected to double worldwide in 20 years. There is an us versus them mentality that would want to suggest we must continue to procreate lest we be outnumbered.

Should this be a factor in our thinking as we try to answer the “How many” question?

About the first chart: Not all experts agree. Some see an industrialization of the rest of the world contributing to a slowing of birth rates with a peak population of about 9.5 Billion.

January 2, 2015

#the15 and Calvinist Hate Speech for Children

First of all, I promise we’ll do our best to move away from #the15 as a topic tomorrow and look at something else. I also modified yesterday’s post mid-afternoon yesterday slightly so as to not characterize the whole thing as a Reformed-based or Reformed-centered. More blurry lines. But you don’t have to follow TULIP to have that spirit, but again, as I said, the issue here was LifeWay, not who specifically was calling them out. The nuances to this story are endless…

However, from the beginning, I kept thinking I’d seen the name J.D. Hall somewhere*, and then I found this on my own blog, from Summer, 2013. The books in question indoctrinate children to fear Arminians (i.e. in this case, people who believe a different ‘religion’) so I wonder if a good lawyer here could prove that under Canadian law, they constitute hate speech, and it could actually be illegal to bring them across the border. I’m not about to find out.

Tag this “grieving the Holy Spirit…”


Help Arminians Are Giving Me Nightmares Again - Sample

Help Arminians Are Giving Me Nightmares AgainI hate it when I hear of children waking up with Arminian nightmares. Yes, seriously. Do I look like the kind of person who would make this up? From the description at Amazon:

Book Description
Publication Date: April 15, 2013

Come along on a journey with Mitchell, as he recalls his nightmare for his mother. Mitchell was in a land of darkness and gloom, when due to no cooperation of his own, a Knight in shining armor saved him and all the other captives He intended to save. “Help! Arminians are Giving Me Nightmares Again!” is a children’s allegory designed to teach your kids the Doctrines of Grace through the use of creative story-telling.

About the Author:

Hall is the pastor of Fellowship Church in Eastern Montana, where he lives with his wife, Mandy, and three children. JD is a co-founder of Reformation Montana, a network and mission society consisting of Reformed Baptist churches in Montana and the surrounding region. He is a columnist for the Intermountain Christian News, and operates the Pulpit and Pen website. JD received his B.A. in Christian Education from Williams Baptist College and M.A. in History from Arkansas State University.

Help Mom There Are Arminians Under My BedOh no! It’s part of a series of books…

We heard about this at the blog Spiritual Sounding Board which did an analysis of the doctrinal war going on in the comments section — and remember this is for a children’s book — at Amazon.

…We’ve talked about the idolatry of doctrine before. I believe the idolatry of doctrine can create an environment in which abuse is allowed to continue in churches. The obsessive focus on doctrine can become a distraction to the message of Christ and what it really means to live out the life Christ intended: loving God and loving others.

I have a problem with training children (sic) this stuff at such a young age. What is the purpose? To raise up little like-minded warriors to defend your brand of Christianity?…

…LDS carry their Bibles, too, along with the Book of Mormon when they go to their wards to worship. I have seen some combo versions that include the Pearl of Great Price and The Doctrines and Covenants. These are all part and parcel of LDS.

The way I’m seeing it, there are some Christians who behave the same way as Mormons. They have their Bible along with the Institutes of Calvin. I wonder if there is a combo Calvin Institutes/Bible in publication yet?…

Staging this doctrinal battle in the pages of a children’s book is indoctrinating kids at the earliest against anyone who is part of the Arminian tradition. It’s almost what we in Canada would call hate speech (which is illegal here) against groups such as the Wesleyan, Free Methodist, Anabaptist, Salvation Army, Church of the Nazarene, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Four Square, Pentecostals, Assemblies of God, Free Will Baptist, Charismatic, and many, many others.

Sadly, while the blog post at Spiritual Sounding Board — who is now over 450 comments since Saturday — gets a little worked up on this, we have to agree with her. The Reformed movement just sunk to a new low. This is unconscionable. This type of book is simply not of God.

The fracturing of the body of Christ continues…stay tuned.


* [Update] It turns out that was the only place I knew the name from. (Remember, I track about a hundred stories weekly.)  It gets worse: read more about him at this story.  This guy is a menace.


 

Related post: Drawing the Body Together, Tearing the Body Apart

October 26, 2014

The Busyness of Life

Filed under: family, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:53 am

When Life is Busy

This is the three day schedule for a family we know that lives north of Toronto, Canada. My first reaction when I saw this was, “Hey, this is nuts!” But my second reaction was, “Hey, this is fairly normal for a lot of families.” I’m sure when their kids were younger it was no different, only it was about soccer practice and music lessons and youth group. So how is it in your family? To read this at source with additional commentary at Murray’s Musings, click this link.

Now that we’ve moved north of Toronto our daily ritual is figuring out who needs to be where and when and who their going to carpool with to minimize the number of cars that leave the driveway. With four cars and five people this could be easy — if money was no object — but the rising price of gas forces us to do our best to minimize movement.

However, we have three kids, in three different schools, me at work in the city most days, and my wife who has commitments in town at the Pregnancy Care Centre and visiting her Mom, so it makes for interesting schedules and planning.

For instance this is how our schedule has looked (or will likely look) this week:

Monday:

  • M, N, T & B leave at 6:30am
    • B gets dropped off at the bus stop in Newmarket (and this didn’t even work, as the bus got B to school 15 minutes late!!!)
    • T gets dropped off at school in North York
    • M gets dropped off at work in Scarborough
    • N takes car and visits Mom and goes to PCC
  • D takes leaves home at 8:00am
    • D parks at Don Mills and takes subway to school downtown
  • N picks up M at 4:30pm and drives home
  • D picks up T at 7:00pm and drives home
  • M picks up B at 10:15pm from bus stop in Newmarket

Tuesday:

  • B leaves for work at 6:30am in Newmarket
  • M & T leave at 7:00am
    • T gets dropped off at school in North York
  • D leaves for school at 10:00am (parks at Don Mills and takes subway to school)
  • N stays at home and works
  • B returns at 2:00pm
  • D returns at 6:00pm
  • M picks up T at 5:00pm and travels home

Wednesday:

  • B leaves for school at 6:00am and drives to Newmarket where she catches the YRT bus to York
  • M & T leave at 7:00am
    • T gets dropped off at school in North York
  • N & D leave at 9:00am
    • D gets dropped off at Don Mills subway and goes to school
    • N runs errands, visits Mom, and has a meeting in the evening in Scarborough
  • B returns from school at 3:00pm
  • M picks up T at school at 4:30pm
  • M & T pick up D at friends at 5:00pm and drive back
  • N returns from meeting at 10:00pm

October 24, 2014

Parents Possibly Clueless to Kids’ Online Account Activity

img 102414

In the 1960s a generation of parents, concerned for their teenagers told the kids to stay away from alcohol. It was turbulent time with seismic shifts taking place in culture which pitted adults against their children, but certainly some of the kids listened.

Instead they turned to drugs.

In the 2010s another generation of parents, concerned for their children told their youngest ones that they didn’t want their time or mental energies consumed with Facebook. This was also a turbulent time with technology in general and social media in particular changing communication and community. Certainly some of the kids obeyed.

Instead they opened Twitter accounts. And Instagram. And Tumblr.

As a researcher and writer who spends several hours each day online, I thrive on rabbit trails. I love seeing where they lead. In an earlier stage of life, when internet addiction consumed me, I referred to myself in terms of “catch and release.” I wanted to feel the thrill of the catch, but had no interest in eating the fish. The statement did not correspond 100% to what I was experiencing, but the sentiment was fairly accurate.

So last week when a series of rabbit trails led me to a handful of rather surprising Twitter accounts, I was rather shocked at the ages — both stated and masked — of the users. A UK survey published in The Guardian a year ago confirmed that “83% of the 11 to 15 year olds whose internet usage was monitored registered on a social media site with a false age…with one even claiming to be 88.”

Meanwhile, in a more recent article, published last week in Atlantic Monthly titled Why Kids Sext, it was reveal how rampant sexting is among both high school and middle school (junior high) youth.

Within an hour, the deputies realized just how common the sharing of nude pictures was at the school. “The boys kept telling us, ‘It’s nothing unusual. It happens all the time,’ ” Lowe recalls. Every time someone they were interviewing mentioned another kid who might have naked pictures on his or her phone, they had to call that kid in for an interview. After just a couple of days, the deputies had filled multiple evidence bins with phones, and they couldn’t see an end to it. Fears of a cabal got replaced by a more mundane concern: what to do with “hundreds of damned phones. I told the deputies, ‘We got to draw the line somewhere or we’re going to end up talking to every teenager in the damned county!’ ”

While 15 minutes of cursory observation by a layperson isn’t sufficient to explain everything, the general sense I got was that for the students concerned, this is normal, this is expected and this is not a problem. This is what you do. Welcome to life in 2014.

When I look back to my own teen years, I can only say that when someone handed you a camera, your first instinct was not to strip and take pictures of yourself. My earliest memories of photo taking were pictures of my friends, a trip to Niagara Falls, my new bicycle, and the kittens that our cat birthed in the basement. (Okay, the cat photo thing hasn’t changed much.) There were boundaries, there was personal privacy, there was modesty. On a high school trip, I remembered the horror when the people billeting myself and a friend put us in a room with a double bed. As soon as they went upstairs, we went out to their station wagon, which contained sleeping bags for a later part of the journey, informing them in the morning that they needn’t change the bed since nobody had used it.

Even in our pajamas — yes, we packed and wore those on this trip since we were guests in peoples’ homes — the notion of same sex contact of even knees or elbows had a certain yuck factor to it.

Today, parents should consider the possibility that their son or daughter’s first kiss may not have been with a person of the opposite sex. And kissing may be the least of their worries. If you can’t picture that, then I suppose denial helps.

You simply can’t talk about all that is taking place for more than about ten minutes without the internet factoring into it. Technology is driving a cultural shift at an unprecedented rate, and telling the kids they can’t use Facebook is simply missing the point.

August 11, 2014

The Divorce Effect — Part II

Jeff Snow As good as today’s article is, I want to strongly encourage you to click to read part one if you have not already done so. This is the second of three parts; part one dealt with the effects of divorce. Today we will focus on the theology of the topic, and part three will look at practical suggestions for the church to minister to teens of divorce.

divorce effect2Jeff Snow has spent the last two decades working in youth and young adult ministry in southern Ontario, Canada, both in a local church and parachurch context. For his Masters thesis, he wrote on the impact of divorce on middle-school, high-school and college youth.


by Jeff Snow

In our last article, we looked at the effects of divorce on teens as spelled out by researchers who have studied the subject. An overarching theme is the sense of loss that teenagers feel in various ways as the result of parental divorce. There are a few ways that those wanting to help teens affected by divorce can help them deal with these losses. We can work to replace the social capital they have lost, giving them the physical resources and support they need to heal and thrive. We can give them psychological support by way of helping them think properly about the divorce and their place in the situation.

Both of these are good and necessary. But divorce brings about more than an economic, intellectual, or psychological loss. Divorce brings with it a sense of loss that strikes much deeper into the soul of a teenager and impacts his life in different ways for years to come. These spiritual and existential losses are important to understand, for they lie at the root of the painful effects of divorce experienced by teens. As those involved in Christian ministry to youth, we are uniquely positioned to speak to these issues and minister to this less tangible sense of loss.

Divorce brings to a teen a loss of their sense of community. The most basic form of community is the family. Divorce pulls children out of that most basic form of community and by doing so, it strikes at the very nature of how God created us to live.

Marriage ripped apartGod Himself, by His very nature, lives in community, a community of mutual love among the three persons of the Trinity. Humans, created in the image of God, are created to live in community. Living in relationship is essential to our humanity.

Genesis 1:27 and 2:23 tell us that both man and woman and their one flesh union reflect the image of God. The early church father John Chrysostom expanded this idea to include children. In his view, “The child is a bridge connecting mother to father, so the three become one flesh.”

Divorce destroys this “one flesh” community of parents and children. Divorce does damage to the image of God as reflected in marriage. Though a teenager may yet find community within which to live, and still within his own being reflect the image of God, he is nonetheless impacted greatly by this loss of community, the loss of love, and the loss of the active model of the image of God in his life represented by his parents.

This loss of community strikes at the very core of the teen’s sense of self, his sense of being. Andrew Root, in his deep yet excellent book The Children of Divorce: The Loss of family as the Loss of Being, writes, “When that community (of mother and father) is destroyed, it is a threat to the child’s being. Divorce, therefore, should be seen as not just the split of a social unit, but the break of the community in which the child’s identity rests.” Root maintains that the effects of divorce cannot be limited to social and psychological factors. The root of the loss inherent in divorce is the loss of being and the subsequent anxiety resulting from that loss.

Sad TeenRoot asks the question, “Can a person be at all, now that those who are responsible in their union for creating that person are no longer together?” He goes on to say that “there is no community more primary than that of mother and father, than those responsible for my being. When their community is not, my being is shaken.”

Divorce brings into question in the mind of the teen his very identity. If existence is found in relationship, then the removal of the key relational community in the life of a teen will impact their identity. The refuge and protection that family is meant to provide is pulled out from under the teen, and the safe harbour in which they can discover who they are no longer exists. They are left to figure out their identity on their own, caught between the two worlds which their parents are creating for themselves rather than for their children.

Ministry to teens of divorce will focus not only on social and psychological needs, but will zero in on issues surrounding identity, who they are in Christ, and their relationship with God as a Father.

A healthy view of God as Father is another area of loss among many teens of divorce. The idea of God being a father to the fatherless (Ps. 68:5) is not a comforting thought if God is going to be like their father. The idea of God as “Abba” and of the teen seeing herself as Abba’s child (Romans 8:14-16) is somewhat of a foreign concept. Yet coming to grips with these concepts and this understanding of God is important in order for the teen to be able to rediscover their identity and realize who they are as children of God. Our job as ministers to youth is to come alongside teens on this journey of rediscovering who they are in Christ and as beloved children of God. For as we noted last time, divorce leaves teens embarking on these journeys of self-discovery primarily alone.

One of the key roles of the parents within the family is the transmission of values and beliefs to the next generation. This was clearly spelled out in Hebrew law:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

In an intact family, a community exists where the image of God, where the admonition to love God, where the instruction to follow His commandments, can be taught and modeled through the everyday routine of life. In divorce, that community is fractured. That place of refuge where children can have inculcated upon them the values and beliefs that will point them to a relational experience with God has disappeared. Their view of the image of God, their impression of God as Father, becomes deeply marred.

Instead of embarking on this journey under the watchful tutelage of their parents, children of divorce must create their value systems on their own, while living within the dichotomy of the often conflicting value systems being created by divorcing parents, putting teens in a position they were never meant to fulfill.

In divorce, the line of ancestral obligation is broken, and the teen is left to be what Elizabeth Marquardt calls a “moral forger” who has “to grow up quickly … trying to make sense of adult concepts and choices with the tools of a child.” The teen is left to figure out his belief system and to figure out exactly who God is, what He desires of him, and why that matters, entirely on his own.

search for identityIt is the cumulative effect of these losses which often fly under the radar that creates the anxiety in teens of divorce that breeds many of the issues and behaviours we discussed in our last article. All young people wrestle with the existential questions of “Who am I?” “Where do I belong?” “Is there a God and can He be trusted as a Father?” But in the lives of teens of divorce, this search for identity and security is heightened as they pursue these questions alone, without the community of support that God created for them to have.

These losses breed anxiety in the lives of teens. Anxiety is different from fear. Perhaps that’s why we buy into the “kids are resilient” idea and assume teens will survive divorce relatively unscathed. Most teens of divorce are relatively free from fear. They are, for the most part, physically and economically safe. But that doesn’t mean they are free from an anxiety rooted in a loss of a sense of being and security that permeates their lives and exhibits itself in a myriad of issues.

It is this sense of anxiety that God the Father desires to alleviate as the teen of divorce grows in relationship with and understanding of Abba Father, and with the community He provides for the teen, namely the church. As the reflection of divine community, the church can come alongside the teen of divorce, providing him with a community in which to belong, with people who can remind him who he is in Christ and how the image of God is still evident in him. The church can provide a sanctuary where he can safely formulate a value system that corresponds to what God has created him to be. The church can provide a place where the anxiety caused by dealing with the many losses inherent in divorce can be borne by others in the community, and can be alleviated by bringing the teen in to a clear and healthy relationship with God the Father.

In our third and final installment, we will look at practical ways the church can be a divine community for teens affected by divorce.

to be continued…

August 7, 2014

The Divorce Effect

Jeff SnowJeff Snow has spent the last two decades working in youth and young adult ministry in southern Ontario, Canada, and he has become a friend of our family for much of that time. For his Masters thesis, he wrote on the impact of divorce on middle-school, high-school and college youth. Ever since I heard about this, I have been asking if he could summarize some of his findings for us here.

This is longer than we usually roll here, but it’s important to read every paragraph. This is actually the first of three parts, on the effects of divorce. The second will focus on the theology of the topic, and the third on practical suggestions for the church to minister to teens of divorce. We’ll interlink the parts as they appear here.

divorce effectBe sure to forward the link for today’s post to anyone involved in children’s or student ministry at your church or in your community. Feel free to leave questions in the comments section.


by Jeff Snow

A defining moment in my 16 years of youth ministry came a few years into my stint running a drop-in for unchurched teens. I was driving a number of youth home after drop-in one evening when two of them began a discussion in the back seat. They were listing off a number of their friends, maybe 15 in all, most of whom teachers at the high school would identify as “at-risk” youth. At one point, one of them exclaimed to the other, “Hey! We’re the only two who still live with both our parents!”

From that point onward I began to take more careful notice of the connection between youth who find themselves in trouble in various forms and the fact that a great majority of them do not live with both their biological parents. Those observations eventually led me to a Seminary paper on the effects of divorce on teens and an examination of what we as the Body of Christ can do to minister to these young people.

As in any other area of study, the research sometimes presents contradictory results. While almost all researchers agree that divorce is a traumatic event that has negative effects on children, particularly in the first year after the divorce, there are some researchers that maintain while some youth face ongoing lifelong effects, most youth will emerge relatively well-adjusted after going through a 2-3 year adjustment period.

Divorce LawyerThe problem I see with this assessment is two-fold. For an adult, three years is just a blip on the radar. But for a teenager, three years is half their adolescent life. A teen experiencing a divorce in junior high school will spend half of their formative teen years trying to adjust to having their world turned upside down. It is hard to believe that this will not have a long-lasting impact, at the very least in terms of missing out on the formative development they would have experienced in an intact family.

Secondly, many of these studies focus on a single factor, such as school grades or adult earning potential, as a means of measuring overall health. They also depend widely on statistical analysis and questionnaires. But surveys that rely on interviews with teens of divorce, that rely on actually listening to their stories, paint a much different, somewhat bleaker picture.

Divorce is not a benign event. Many people like to view its impact like that of a cold, which may knock you down for a short time but which you eventually get over. But the effects of divorce on teens is more like a chronic illness. It may lie dormant for a while, but it flares up at the most unexpected times. It never totally goes away. It can only be managed in order to live life to the full.

The effects of divorce on teens can often be very visible in their behaviors, yet often it is unseen. Elizabeth Marquardt wrote an eye-opening book entitled Between Two World: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce. In another article she writes, “I’ve interviewed dozens of young adults from divorced families … If you gave them a questionnaire and asked, for instance, if they had ever been arrested, dropped out of school or been diagnosed with a mental illness, practically every one of them could respond ‘no’. But that does not mean they were unaffected by their parents’ divorce.”

Divorce is a time of loss for a child...like a death

Divorce is a time of loss for a child…like a death

So, how does divorce impact teens? Most researchers describe divorce as a time of loss for young people. This goes beyond the loss of a parent. They have lost the security of their home. They have lost connection with grandparents and other extended family members. The divorce is often only the first in a long string of losses, as numerous new boyfriends and girlfriends come in and out of their parents’, and their, lives.

Teens lose something as basic as their own room. They end up having to divide their lives in two, splitting their possessions between their parents’ two houses. In the case of step families, teens will end up having to share personal space with step siblings. I still remember a grade eight girl telling me of the difficulty she was experiencing as her mom’s new boyfriend’s family moved in, and she was forced to share her room with someone who was supposed to be a sibling, but who was to her a complete stranger.

Teens experience the effects of what is called “diminished parenting.” As parents deal with their own trauma and grief resulting from the divorce, they have less time and emotional energy to help their children through their grief. As time passes, parents become engrossed in moving on with their lives, and the needs of teens are unconsciously put aside as the parent looks for a new partner. This neglect is almost always unintentional, but the results are the same. The teen does not receive what she needs from the parent, and in fact, at times care-giving goes in the opposite direction as the teen, particularly the teen girl, takes on the role of a support to the parent whose life is falling apart.

Caught in the Middle - DivorceAs the two parents’ worlds begin to move apart, the teen is stuck in the middle, trying to navigate the chasm on their own. They are often faced with divided loyalties, as pressure is put on them by parents to take sides or to report back after custodial visits. They are faced with inconsistent parenting, as each household develops different rules for living. This even impacts teens as they work to develop their own morals and values. In an intact family, the two parents work together to present a united front of morals and values that they present to their children as the way their family is to live. But in families of divorce, the parent’s value systems will invariably start to differ with each passing year, and the adolescent is left to forge their own morals and value systems on their own, at an age where they are not yet able to successfully accomplish this task.

Diminished parenting shows itself in the lack of protection afforded, particularly to teen girls by the non-custodial father. Without a father figure, with less accountability and with decreased monitoring of activities, studies show that girls from families of divorce engage in sexual activity earlier, more often, and often with men older than they are.

Though teens of divorce will achieve grades in school that are close to those from intact families, the issue is in getting them to school and getting them to stay there. Teens of divorce are late for school more often, will skip class more, and get suspended or expelled more than teens from intact families. Teen of divorce are 30% less likely to complete college, as non-custodial parents generally feel that their financial responsibility is over once the child reaches 18, and will rarely provide the funds for college.

Family ConflictSome statistics from the website Rainbows, which is a curriculum for divorce support groups, state that 50-80% of patients treated in Canadian mental health clinics are from separated families, and that teenagers of divorce are three times more likely to be in psychological counseling than those in intact families.

For those of us in the church, it is interesting to see how divorce affects a teen’s spiritual life. Generally, interest in the church and religion will diminish, but interest in spiritual things, even in prayer, will not. One author posits the theory that the increase in divorce may be behind the contention of many under the age of 35 that they are “spiritual but not religious.”

Teens who are heavily involved in church activities will experience a retreat from spiritual things. They will wonder why their prayers were not answered, and why parents who said they loved God and believed in Him would then give up on a marriage which was supposed to be sacred. Teens who are nominally involved in church, however, will go the other way and will turn more towards the church as a coping mechanism.

Broken HomeTeens from families of divorce are more likely to be kicked out of the house, more likely to report not feeling emotionally or physically safe at home, more likely to be abused. Anywhere from one third to one half of girls from families of divorce report being sexually abused as children or teens, most often by stepfathers or stepbrothers. Two leading researchers conclude that living with a stepparent remains the most powerful predictor of severe child abuse.

Though there are many effects of divorce, the one most people will refer to first is economic, and while this must not overshadow the devastating effects that are more hidden, economic factors still cannot be ignored. Families of divorce will experience a decline in income of as much as 50% as compared to their pre-divorce lives.

Though as we said, some researchers see divorce as a temporary setback for young people, Judith Wallerstein, from her 25 years of study, has put forth the idea of “the sleeper effect” of divorce. She maintains that many teens of divorce will emerge from adolescence relatively unscathed, only to have the trauma of the divorce hit them when they reach young adulthood when they begin to seek out their own romantic attachments and consider marriage. Without role models, many teens of divorce find it harder to maintain long-term relationships, and are 2-3 times more likely to get divorced themselves.

Elizabeth Marquardt uses the phrase “happy talk” to describe how most of society talks about divorce and its effects on children and teens. We convince ourselves that teens are resilient and that we don’t really have to worry about them. Marquardt suggests that we do that in order to defend our own adult decisions. In view of the pain that I have seen both in youth ministry practice and in my research, this has to stop. There was a time when adults sacrificed for the sake of the children, not the other way around.

We as adults in the church need to have the courage to dismiss the temptation toward “happy talk.” We in fact need to stop talking and start really listening to the pain and hurt that teens of divorce would be willing to share with us if we only gave them the chance, and to find ways to support them as they attempt to navigate their way through life “between two worlds.”

to be continued…

July 14, 2014

You Hear Stories Like This…

Filed under: parenting — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:32 am

The stories like the one that follows are always anecdotal things that have been passed on from unknown sources. You find them in the back pages of Readers Digest or on email forwards or on Facebook. Never from someone you know with zero degrees of separation. Never knowing if the stories are true or just creative writing…

We got to know Jim Forde through a small group we attended a few years ago in Peterborough, a city about 90 minutes northeast of Toronto.  Since everybody was from ‘somewhere else,’ we tended to meet only every six weeks. Recently, I discovered Jim on Twitter and last night he posted this, creatively bending the 140-character limit.

James FordeA year ago a family in our church lost their son in a tragic boating accident. He was just 18. I was asked to do the funeral with the local community youth pastor giving a message at the end. He was the perfect choice to speak. The youth had been trying to figure out how to be a play hard and love God. The speaker nailed the message. Just perfectly.

The Monday before the funeral my wife made a meal for the family and explained to my 4 year old that I had to go meet with this family. She explained that a mommy and daddy lost their son and they were very sad. With very little said he walked outside and started to pick flowers. He picked until he couldn’t hold any more in his little 4 year old hands. He asked Leah for a mason jar. I was to take the flowers with me.

I arrived at the house with the meal another local pastor and this jar of flowers. The food was set on the counter with all the other meals (my town feeds the grieving well!) but the jar was given a special place. Their son loved picking wild flowers and putting them in mason jars for his mom. His way of saying “thank you” and “I love you mom.”

Two days after her son left without a chance for a good bye or “I love you” she felt it one more time with the act of a little boy.

July 8, 2014

On My Bookshelf

bookcase - roseland greene blog

One of the blessings of this blog is that your faithful readership has led to increased generosity on the part of several Christian publishers.  Unfortunately, not every book gets reviewed, but I wanted to mention several to you.

Before we begin, you’ll notice many books for men in this list. Okay, there’s only four, but that’s significant. Men’s books don’t sell well in the Christian marketplace, so this emphasis is a bit of a surprise. Plus, all four are from HarperCollins Christian Publishing group. Hopefully the market can sustain all this activity happening at the same time.

The Hope Quotient – Ray Johnston (Thomas Nelson) — More than just a motivational or self-help book, this California pastor has packed this book with charts and graphics as well as supporting scripture references and comes at a time when many people feel hope is lacking. The HQ test allows readers to test their own Hope Quotient.

Rare Bird – Anna Whitson-Donaldson (Convergent) – The real life memoir of a mother whose 12-year old son was washed away in a nearby creek following a freak rainstorm. This book releases in September from Convergent. To get a taste of this, check out this post on her blog, The Bridge: One Terrible Night. Releases in September.

Small – Craig Gross (Nelson Books) – The founder of XXXChurch.com writes celebrating the ordinary and the insignificant. While the book is general in nature, Gross incorporates story from his rather unique ministry. This book is releasing in August, and unlike the others listed here, I’m already one-third of the way in, so we may end up doing a full review on this one. (Trivia: This is a must-gift book for anyone who serves their local church as a greeter!)

7 Ways to Be Her Hero – Doug Fields (W Publishing) – The author of the classic Purpose Driven Youth Ministry and teaching pastor for the last 22 years at Saddleback is back with seven steps men can take to improve their ability to be a husband. He’s already got my attention with Step #1: Don’t Say Everything You Think.  Oh, oh!

The Dude’s Guide to Manhood – Darrin Patrick (Nelson Books) – The chaplain of the St. Louis Cardinals names twelve different characteristics that can be developed in any man of various stages in life.

Be The Dad She Needs You To Be – Kevin Leman (Thomas Nelson) – One of the foremost experts on family dynamics, prolific author and speaker Leman really needs no introduction as he delves into the relationships between fathers and daughters. There is much practical advice here; fathers of girls might want to keep this book handy.

The Good Dad – Jim Daly (Zondervan) – The President of Focus on the Family comes into many of your homes via radio each and every day, though often while the Dad in the family is at work. (I’m betting at least 70% of Focus listeners are female). The book is somewhat autobiographical as Daly didn’t have the benefit of great role modeling.

Love Well – Jamie George (David C. Cook) – The subtitle is Living Life Unrehearsed and Unstuck and encourages the reader to move beyond the paralyzing effects of fear shame and hopelessness.  This book releases in August.

Losing Your Faith, Finding Your Soul – David Robert Anderson (Convergent) – This book is releasing through the “edgy” imprint of Waterbrook/Multnomah, so it is no surprise that it deals with going through that period of life when lifelong faith assumptions start to unravel and beliefs about God, faith and church are in flux. The Connecticut Episcopal pastor deals with times we experience a “shift in our spiritual foundation.”

Nobody Knows: The Harry T. Burleigh Story – Craig von Buseck (Baker) – That this book is in hardcover adds to the mystery here. The book is subtitled, The Forgotten Story of One of the Most Influential Figures in American Music. In this case, we’re talking about the original American music form, Negro Spirituals.

Crash the Chatterbox – Steven Furtick (Waterbrook) — After getting downright giddy about Furtick’s first two books on this blog, you would think I would have done anything to get my hands on an advance reader copy of his third book. But alas, I’ve allowed myself to become jaded by all the online attention being given to Furtick’s $1.75 million (U.S.) home. I may get to this book yet, or read it privately without doing a review. I guess I’m just too disappointed in how this author’s journey is playing out, and it’s unfortunate because I had high hopes.

June 27, 2014

Your Sunday School Kids Shall Prophesy

The backyard of the house I grew up in had a small rock garden that had been built into a hill to prevent erosion and for aesthetic reasons. They called it “the rockery.”  As a just-turned 11-year old, I never paid it much attention except for the times I was conscripted to help with pulling weeds, a chore I found difficult due to the variety of things planted. “Is this a weed?” I would ask, followed seconds later by, “Is this a weed?”

Great plague of antsBeing too young to have a summer job, one July day I found myself wandering aimlessly in the yard and a section the rockery caught my eye. There were ants, many of them, coming and going and doing what ants do. It’s not that I’d never seen ants before, but this was quite an army.

Not content to merely observe, I focused on the small anthill that was their access point to the outside world, and using a stick opened it up the access point, just a little bit, all in the interests of science.

The colony was huge. I was mortified. I dug further. The earth gave up her ants. The visible ants were just a fraction of what lay beneath in their subterranean quarters.

I decided the authorities should be notified. Something must be done. I ran into the house where my mother was working in the kitchen and informed her that — wait for it — “The earth is being readied for a great plague.”

It’s interesting looking back that I chose apocalyptic language for my pronouncement. I guess that’s what it’s like growing up in church. I blame Moses. But it’s not nearly as interesting as something my sister-in-law once told us our nephew did one Sunday morning, as relayed by his S.S. teacher.

We’re not sure if a question had been asked or if was simply an interjection for that moment, but apparently Zach suddenly blurted out, “Casting brazen serpents into the fire.”

For years now, I’ve tried to figure out how to work “Casting brazen serpents into the fire” into song lyrics, but it never quite fits. I also thought it would be interesting to be speaking somewhere and warn people ahead of time that there is a secret word — a la Groucho Marx — and they should watch for the phrase and then add it randomly into the sermon and award a prize to the first person who jumps up.

It’s truly too good a line to waste.

But as a mature adult, looking back, and looking forward, I do believe the earth is being readied for a great plague.

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