Monday, May 26, 2014

Running on Empty

Running on Empty, Barbara Bancroft

I was sent this book by New Growth Press, and very much enjoyed this one of their latest offerings.

Barbara Bancroft is a ministry wife in the US, who with her husband Josiah has been involved in parish ministry, church planting and mission work. So in writing this book for women in ministry, you know she understands the joys and challenges that face wives and women in a variety of ministry situations.

Subtitled The Gospel for Women in Ministry, Bancroft brings her reader back again and again to the gospel, emphasising that this good news is one we also need to hear repeatedly; and while we are often tempted to rely on our abilities (or despair at our lack of them), in fact we must keep relying on the work of Christ for us and the Spirit working in us.

She does not want us to shy away from the role or position we have, whether paid or alongside our husband, in fact alerting us to the reality that “those in ministry are in a unique position to deeply affect the life of the church” (p65), yet “being in ministry places us in a battle for our faith and faith of others... All who work in the in harm’s way and feel the effects of the battle. The difficulties of ministry are real and many have fallen. We all know stories of adultery and secret sins, children who have left the faith, and burn-out, just to name a few.” (p58)

I found myself resonating with many issues Bancroft raised. In truth many of them would be relevant to all Christians and to Christian women generally, but they do hold a power over many women in ministry.  Some of the issues she dealt with in detail were:
  • How women in ministry and ministry wives are viewed differently from the rest of the congregation. This includes people’s expectations and stereotypes, and expectations you place on yourself. This also affects friendships and how honest you can be with people about your own life and various situations.
  • Some of the unique dynamics missionaries face, including raising support and people’s view that you are somehow spiritually superior
  • The ways our culture affects us and our ministry, and the need to be able to see the culture we are in and be able to critique it.
  • The trap of feeling entitled to more or envious of those around us - be it money, skills, support, or appreciation.
Yet amongst all these issues, which are very real, Bancroft keeps bringing us back to the cross and the message of the gospel. We are reminded of our very real sin, our great need for a Saviour, the need to forgive for we have been forgiven and the joy it is to serve our Lord.

I wrote many notes on each chapter and could easily have given you a whole list of great quotes. I found myself often smiling in wry acknowledgement and nodding in agreement as I read along. It should be noted that it is written with a strong North American emphasis, but mostly can be easily converted to our Australian situation. She also assumes a complementarian view of ministry and I loved how she addressed even some issues women can face here: “In the church, humbling ourselves under the leadership of men may be one of the hardest things women do, particularly if we are competent leaders ourselves.” (p108)

Bancroft has also structured each chapter very helpfully. She sets up the issues, clearly identifying it and how we find ourselves in it, then asks some diagnostic questions for our own personal assessment and honesty; then she delves into a bible passage to help re-orient our thinking. I felt many issues were dealt with well and at length and not just glossed over.

In the end, the overwhelming positive emphasis of this book is that she keeps bringing women back to the gospel, encouraging heart change, confession and a desire to let Christ do his good work in us through the Spirit.

A very helpful book.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Out of my mind

Out of my mind, Sharon M. Draper

We have discovered another excellent book for upper primary students, as good as Wonder (high praise indeed!).  Wonder is the story of a boy with a facial disfigurement; this is the story of a 11-year old girl with cerebral palsy.  Melody is confined to a wheelchair, unable to move her body with precision (except her thumbs), and unable to talk.  While a very intelligent girl with a photographic memory, no-one except close friends and family have ever seen past her disability to acknowledge what her mind contains.  That is, until she gets a talking computer which all of a sudden challenges school friends, teachers and others to realise that just because someone’s body is limited is does not mean their mind is.  There are also two big twists in the story which left us both completely surprised and very keen to read on.

I read this to my 11 year old son and he loved it.   It is more serious than Wonder (although that has very serious parts, it is also very funny). In some ways the pain for Melody is more raw, I struggled to read numerous sections through my tears, although my son is used to that now!

This should also be on all school reading lists, it would provide excellent material for discussion amongst upper primary and also high school students about both the realities of living with a disability, and how people can be unkind and thoughtless as they make incorrect assumptions. 

Highly recommended. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

How and When to Tell Your Kids About Sex

Can you tell the age my kids are getting to? I am reading cyber parenting books and lots of pre-teen children’s fiction.

When I did a series in 2012 on teaching children about sex, my husband was reading What’s The Big Deal? with our 9 year old son, now it's my turn to read it with our 9 year old daughter.   My husband is also about to the read the next in the series, Facing the Facts, with our now 11 year old son.

This is my first foray into giving detailed information about God’s view of sex, and the realities of sex outside of marriage with one of our children.  It’s going well so far.  In order to feel a bit more prepared to do so, I read a book for parents by the same authors: How and When to Tell your Kids About Sex.

It was very helpful.  I had realised that although I wanted to be open and address issues factually and without either squeamishness or fanfare, I wasn’t entirely how to do so once the conversation and questions turned to more specific questions. This was a great resource in helping me think through such things, with sample conversations and ideas for age-appropriate information.

They deal with 4 stages: infancy to kindergarten, pre-puberty, puberty and adolescence. Over all of these stages, they have developed 12 principles of sex-education with can be applied to across these stages. These principles include:
  • Parents are the principal sex educators
  • First messages are the most potent
  • We should seize teachable moments and become askable parents
  • Stories are powerful teaching tools
  • Positive messages are more powerful than negative messages
  • We must inoculate our children against destructive moral messages
  • Sexuality is not the most important thing in life
I finished reading this book with much more confidence about how to address topics and seize teachable moments. We are committed to being open, honest and very positive about sex and God’s design for it with our children; this book gave me some extra tools to actually be able to do it.

Just like with the cyber parenting book reviewed last week, I am reminded that being a parent requires us to be pro-active in many areas.   Here is another area which I want to be prepared, ready and willing to teach my kids a helpful, godly way forward and to be able to point out the contrasting morals of our world.   This book is a great help in enabling us to do so.