Monday, July 31, 2023

Parenting Ahead

Parenting Ahead: Preparing Now for the Teen Years, Kristen Hatton (New Growth Press, 2023) 

This is a really helpful resource for parents whose children are in the teen years, or will be in the future.

Hatton writes a grace filled message that encourages and challenges parents to consider what their goals of parenting are, and how they are shaped by the gospel. 

Part 1 starts with the reason for “long-range redemptive, hope-filled parenting.” She encourages perseverance and hope (in God’s faithfulness and in our security and transformation in Christ) as our main guides for the journey: 
“What an amazing opportunity you have now to help build that foundation for your younger children with biblical principles, boundaries, convictions, and honest conversations that will help them when they face the challenges of adolescence.”
Part 2 focuses on some of the pitfalls that hinder along the way.
  • Parenting styles - both overparenting and underparenting and the consequences of each. 
  • Idols & the way they impact us as parents, such as a desire for control, comfort, success and the fear of man. 
  • The influence of the world. Here she includes a helpful table that works through the numerous main messages our world today, and then considers them in light of the gospel and how to adapt them to fit God’s truth. 
  • Stop hurrying the hurt - that is, allow things to be hard and for your kids to experience natural suffering and pain. Not only does this reflect the reality of the world, it will grow and mould them. 
Finally, Part 3 considers what living redemptively might look like. This will include confessing sin, being open about our idols and our struggles, and offering mercy and forgiveness to each other - for parents and children alike. She proposes ways to continue to move towards our children: with connection, active listening, no nagging, no shaming, identifying, and normalising taboo topics. She challenges families to consider where their time, effort and money goes, and encouraged slowing down, saying no, and setting boundaries.
“Now we would likely all agree that apart from a relationship with Christ, family is our number one treasure. But I wonder if an honest assessment of our time and finances would show this to be functionally true.”
Hatten finishes with the encouragement and exhortation to grow in grace, manage our own guilt about our parenting, and cultivate compassion for our children and ourselves.
“I hope growing in grace leads to you being an agent of grace in the lives of your kids.”
Each chapter finishes with questions to assist you to apply the content to your own situation. Appendices provide a list of suggested other resources, and a Redemptive Parenting Assessment as a way of considering your own parenting perspective and priorities and things you might want to change.

Hatten is honest about her own failings, mistakes and regrets, but also shares wise choices and decisions that they made. Overall, she strikes a really helpful balance - acknowledging God is in control, we are sinful and will make mistakes, that no parent is perfect, and that there is no foolproof parenting formula. Yet, at the same time, there are things we can do as parents to be proactive, gospel focussed, and intentional. Worth a read for anyone in or entering the stage of parenting teenagers.

I received an ecopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Tackling Trauma

Tackling Trauma: Global, Biblical, and Pastoral Perspectives, Paul Barker (Ed). (Langham Partnership, 2019)

My recent review on The Body Keeps the Score noted that while it was an excellent work, as Christians there are other perspectives to consider that overlay secular thought. These include our view of God in the midst of suffering and pain, what forgiveness could look like, how our redemption in Christ changes us, and how ongoing sanctification could impact the person with trauma. To consider what it means to be a child of God and to trust in him as the God of comfort who truly loves and cares for us, even in our brokenness.

So I was thankful to be given this book which considers trauma from a biblical, theological and pastoral perspective. Paul Barker has edited this volume of 20 diverse essays from various scholars, pastors and trauma professionals. It has been compiled with the goal to "help, equip, and encourage pastors who are preaching, teaching and exercising care for people who face potential trauma or indeed have experienced trauma" (p.ix). However, its real distinction is its global perspective. So many resources concentrate on the developed and first world, with a focus on individual and personal traumas. Those are certainly real, significant, and require sensitive pastoral care. However, this book addresses larger scale traumas that communities face of civil war, conflict and natural disaster. These range from the war in Ukraine, civil war in the DRC, and the impact of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, to Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines and extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. As such, it encompasses a broader view of the impact on communities, not just individual people.
“in non-Western societies, where survivors usually experience suffering in spiritual, religious, family or community terms, there is a need for interventions that facilitate conditions for appropriate communal, cultural, spiritual, and religious healing practices" (Ch 12, p.192)
While every chapter was valuable and had helpful perspectives, there were some that stood out:

Chapter 2 - Praying the Psalms - using the Psalms devotionally to promote post-trauma resilience, for the Psalms are "God’s poetic gift to us that has a powerful therapeutic dimension when prayed in light of the Christian faith.” (p. 17). Indeed, post-traumatic growth and resilience include:
“the ability to find meaning in adversity, gratitude, the ability to forgive, a willingness to seek special support and a capacity to follow one’s own inner moral compass. These resilience factors, in particular, would seem to be things that are part of a faithful Christian life.” (pp.13-14).

Chapter 7 on forgiveness succinctly explores what it might look light in our fallen and not yet redeemed world. 

"The overall scheme and structure of the biblical story suggest that in order for humans to live in consonance with reality, and in order for human actions to respond appropriately to broken reality, they must be forgiving. Thus forgiveness is the most appropriate existential posture, mind-set and roadmap for negotiating through life in this world." (pp.121-122)

Numerous chapters further consider forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing:

"A Christian theological rhetoric of forgiveness ... is one that challenges and encourages people to be disposed to forgive without requiring prior repentance, because God in Christ forgave without requiring prior repentance” (Chapter 5, p.100)
“One of the techniques for processing traumatic memories is to repeatedly return to an envisaged place of safety. The idea of God as The Place in which the world dwells, and therefore as the dwelling place of God’s people and the the individual, offers a truly safe place.” (Chapter 4, p.61)
"Forgiveness is closely related to the themes of sin, repentance and new life and is perhaps the most essential task of Christian living. Nevertheless, forgiving and being forgiven are not simple but rather extremely complex practices...Christian forgiveness is “love practised almost those who love poorly”, which should be distinguished from pardoning, condoning or forgetting." (Chapter 9, p.141)
“God is interested in wholeness and wellness, He designed the human being in a marvelous way, interlinking the spirit, mind and body to work together perfectly. Such a worldview is more holistic and relational, interrelational and positive in nature” (Chapter 17, p.274)

There are also chapters that explore how churches and mental health workers can play a role in traumatised societies, with both practical and pastoral suggestions.

While I read this book cover to cover for the purposes of this review, I see its real value as a resource to dip in and out of. It will have particular application for those ministering to communities of trauma. Yet it has is relevance for all Christians, and especially those who preach and care pastorally. A broader understanding of trauma and a theological understanding of the issues surrounding it and its and implications, will only improve our care for those living with it. This wouldn't be the first book to read on trauma (The Body Keeps the Score would be good for that), but if you want to extend your Christian thinking and consider theological and pastoral responses to it, this is an excellent option.