BOOK REVIEW: More than just THE TALK, by Jonathan McKee

Family Christian offered me the opportunity to review the book “More Than Just The Talk” by Jonathan McKee.  While Family Christian sent me the book for the purpose of the review, the opinions in this review are entirely my own.

thetalkFor a Christian book, More Than Just the Talk, is pretty raw.  It was not what I was expecting, at all.  At the same time, it was exactly what I needed. I am a mother of three daughters, one of which is sixteen… and has a boyfriend.  A great kid.  Who despite how much we love him, still wonders when we will “trust him” and “trust them” to be alone together.

I say, when they are married.  My husband, he claims never. HA.

This book is so entirely relevant not just to my sixteen year old… but to my twelve year old… and to my eight year old.  All of which are exposed to the sexually charged media of the world we live in.

It’s time to be real, parents, the influence the world has our kids … even from those who sit in our church pews … is a struggle we not only need to fight against, but a fight that has to start sooner.  We can not afford to give up.  This is a real battle, that will not be easy to win.  Some of us won’t.  Thank God for grace.

Recently I was in a discussion regarding 1 Corinthians 7.  In this letter, Paul basically says it is best to be unmarried (to remain fully focused on God and His calling), if you can’t avoid temptation to get married, and if you get married to stay committed to that person for ever.  Pretty straight forward, but we have to understand WHY Paul wrote this letter.  The Church at Corinth, was in the midst of a city full of sexual sin.  The Church at Corinth, was itself spiritually immature.  This is exactly the situation we find ourselves in, in the United States.  We are country, much like Corinth, that is a hub of various cultures and religious beliefs.  With many different views as to what is and isn’t moral, pure, and good.   We are influenced by those around us, because the further we draw away from the New Testament days, the less mature we are as a body of believers.  We no longer have that same fervor that the early Christians… those taught by Christ and his immediate disciples had.  That fervor gets watered down each generation.

Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth, could easily be a letter written to every church in the United States.  This is what our youth today face. They face music, television and movies that are sexually charged.  We have phones with apps that can allow us to secretly view materials and participate in conversations, and many parents are blissfully unaware.

And, as author Johnathan McKee points out in the book, we are not alone.  This temptation and these materials are making their way in to the hands, minds and hearts of Mennonite and Amish communities.  It’s flooding in from everywhere, and even the “good kids” are getting exposure to it when they are at a friend’s home.  Even when that friend is another Christian.

Many parents are familiar with giving “The Talk” about sex.    It might be very technical about how the body works, coupled with scripture and religious views.  Some may delve in a bit deeper talking about the consequences (physical and emotional).  Some parents may be stricter teaching abstinence only, where as others will support abstaining coupled with information should the child choose not to.  It is a subject talked about at church, school and also home.  Usually, but not always.  In fact there is still some uncomfortably in talking with our own kids, about such a big topic.

If you are hoping this book is going to make you more comfortable talking to your kids, let me forewarn you…. it won’t.  In fact you are probably going to find yourself a little comfortable reading it, let alone thinking about talking to your kids about it.  However, with that uncomfortably … you will also find yourself feeling a sense of urgency to act.  You are going to realize that you need to do more than just talk about it, but actually take some steps.

Investigate what your kids are reading, what music they are listening to, and watch television shows they are watching.  Understand the way teens are looking at sex, and justifying what is and isn’t ok.  Be honest with yourself about not only what they are being exposed to at school… but what is seeping into the home (what channels are you subscribing to, that show late night content that is pornographic).   Take a moment to really understand that those lyrics you think you kids don’t understand the context, they know more than you think.

When your 8 year old asks you, “Mommy… what is 50 Shades of Grey about?”  …. when you don’t own the books, didn’t watch the movie, and don’t talk about in your home.  That tells you, this stuff is everywhere.  They are seeing it & learning about it, somewhere.  Someone is talking to them.  The radio?  Their teachers?  Their fellow students?

There is a lot of influence and we need to be prepared and proactive with our children.  More Then Just the Talk is not a comfortable read, but a necessary one.   Whether you are a public schooling mom, or a Pastor’s wife…. your kids are exposed, they are in need of real … straight forward … and sometimes explicit truth.

First, More Than Just the Talk, exposes that the content of “the talk” has changed.  We are also given tools on how to talk about it with our kids, with chapters specific to sons and daughters.  Each have their own approach, own needs.  However, I wouldn’t advise skipping one of those chapters.  Even if you only have daughters, you need to read the chapter on sons.  Your daughters will one day have boyfriends, and the sons chapter gives you some perspective, and you may… at some point… find yourself having a conversation with him.  This chapter will be beneficial.  The book also helps us navigate through the tough and uncomfortable questions they will surprise us with.  Because, right now, statistics show us that Google is where they are getting most of their information.

I don’t know about you, but I am not ok with that as their primary source of information.

What I also appreciate about the book, McKee recognizes that some of us will be reading this book after the fact.   There will be some of us that have a child that has had a sexual experience to some degree. Instead of shaming, the book helps us point our kids back onto the path.  We help them to realize that their past mistakes don’t negate a positive future.  New choices can be made, new standards put in place.  They can be forgiven and not defined by who they were at that time.  I also appreciate the book addresses children who have been victimized, where they had no control over the decision to become sexually active.  They are not forgotten, and they too are not defined by their past.  There is hope for all of them, for all of us.

More Than Just the Talk, as uncomfortable as it may make you, needs to be in your arsenal.  Use it, don’t just shelve it.  Read through the difficult parts.  Decided, under prayerful consideration, how and when you will begin these conversations with your kids.  Don’t assume it won’t apply to you, your kids, because of your conservative beliefs.

“More Than The Talk” is a powerful tool, that we can use to shape and redirect the path our children are taking.  It opens our eyes, and calls us to action.

#FCBlogger

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WE SHOULDN’T HAVE TO, BUT WE DO…

cpiece

A very commonly reference scripture, that is thrown around for a myriad of reasons, is “be in the world, not of it”.   We use the scripture to explain why we are to behave differently, talk differently, act & react differently than non-believers.  For many it becomes a badge of honor, when ever they are living a “holy” life.  This holy life can be everything from not EVER using a curse word, drinking a drink, homeschooling their kids, dressing your kids in certain attire, not watching television, listening to only classic hymnals vs. contemporary praise music, Christian private schooling, demanding church attendance or service, etc.

So, if you have your daughters, dressed with their long hair in buns, no make up, dresses to their ankles, sleeves to their wrists and collars as high as their jaw line…. and someone of the faith says “hey, why do you do that?” — Your defense is “Duh, because we are to be in the world, not of it.”

And then, you (or I) will get offended that we even needed to say something to explain why we are so “different”.

Now before you get upset with me, just set that aside for a moment.

In the world of tattoos, it’s a common to hear complaints about being treated differently because you have a tattoo.  Same could be said of dying your hair a different color, or choosing to dress a certain way.  You’ll find this same mentality amongst anyone who chooses to be “different” than the status quo.

It’s an interesting paradox.  We act differently or look differently than the rest of society, yet we want to be treated the same way.  We purposefully go out of our way to be different, yet get offended when someone dares to ask us about it, comment about it (especially negatively), or even goes so far as to mock us for it.

As Christians, we make the conscious decision to be IN the world, not OF the world… and then take offense when that gets noticed & talked about.  And yes, I could agree that we shouldn’t HAVE to explain ourselves, but when you choose to be different you are choosing to defend that choice too.

Going a bit deeper, there are two reasons why we are not to be IN the world, that is behaving, acting, thinking, talking, spending, et’al like the rest of the world.

1)  It’s about our personally holiness.  If we do not allow ourselves to be put into places of temptation, we are actively working against sin.  No one will be sin free, Jesus was the only perfect person.  However, we can greatly diminish our sin capacity by removing ourselves from things “of this world”.

2)  It’s about reflecting Christ to others.  Others will take note of that difference in us, and thus are pointed to Christ.  Why, we do something becomes more important than the actual act itself.  When others notice that difference in us, it will cause conversation.  In those conversations, we are able to plant seeds.

Will we be mocked?  Certainly.  Jesus, himself, was mocked.   But, there will be those who are drawn to that difference & want to understand more.

So, when you choose to be “different”… be confident in that decision.  What ever you are doing (or not doing) is a conviction, laid upon you by the Holy Spirit.  There will be those who don’t understand… and some who don’t even want to understand.  And that, is ok.  You cannot expect the world at large to understand, accept or respect that difference.  It’s almost like you are speaking a different language.

It’s equally important to remember that how you respond to those critics is being watched too.  It not only blemishes us, but also the reflection of Christ in us.

We may hate having to explain ourselves, over and over again.   We need to examine the circumstances of our situation.  If it is a new person, then we have to remember that while we may have repeated this info a million times in our lifetime, it may be their first time hearing it (or attempting to understand it).  If this is someone we KEEP having this conversation with, yes it is frustrating, but if they are still asking… they care.   They are trying to understand, and yes… they may be even trying to convince you to change your mind.

We know that the things God asks of us as a group of believers, or individually, will be tested.  There will be those who speak against us.  How many called Noah a food for building an ark.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if they understand.  It only matters that we are obedient.   The choice to be angry, defensive, etc … that is your choice.  Instead of being surprised or upset by it, choose to anticipate the questions and reactions.  It takes the sting out & you are more likely to respond positively to the negative reactions of others.

“Obedience does not require understanding.” (The Matrix, Reloaded)

PULLING BACK THE SHADES

shades

This month I got the opportunity to review a new book by Dannah Gresh & Dr. Juli Slattery called “Pulling Back the Shades“.  This book is written as a response to the popular 50 Shades of Grey series, and upcoming movie.  This will be different than my usual book review, a little more personal, and not in the format I usually do book reviews in.

Before I begin I would like the make 2 things very clear.

1) I have not read the 50 Shades series, but in my past I have read books of the same genre.

2) I am aware that some of my very own Christian & non-Christian friends have read the 50 Shades series, as well as other series from that genre.

Knowing all of this, I ask you to just keep reading.

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I can’t tell you how old I was exactly when I was first exposed to any type of pornography.  I can pin point it to my elementary years, I’d have to say it was third grade or even younger.  My father kept his collection of Playboy magazines in his living room.  When I say “collection”, I mean it.  It was a dedication shelf unit, of multiple shelves with stacks and stacks of magazines.  My father gave clear instructions to us that we were not to look at them, ever.  Which pretty much means, as some point we were curious enough to do so.  My father gave the classic “for the articles” excuse, and as photography was a hobby of his… I wouldn’t exactly say it surprised me that he would look at the pictures.  As a fan of art myself, from an early age, I had seen plenty of nudes in museums.  While I looked at some of the pages, I was not really impacted by what I saw.    Or, at least I didn’t think I was.

Fast forward a few years, and my mother would bring me with her to a friends house.  It was in their home, when I asked to use the restroom, that I would come across my first “Hustler” magazine.  Unlike my father’s Playboy magazines, these images were a lot more graphic.  I knew I shouldn’t be looking, yet I thumbed through the pages.

By high school I was reading books that were certainly not on the high school reading list, but recommended by some friends.  They would definitely fall into the realm of erotica, even back then.  Let’s be honest, erotica has been around for quite some time.  Just more hush hush, in the background conversation.

As time progressed, and movie and TV standards have loosened, there is hardly anyone I know that hasn’t seen a movie with some sort of graphic sex scene.  Long since have the days of suggested sex scenes passed, and very little is left to the imagination.  This isn’t just confined to mutual consensual sex scenes in movies, but also graphic and violent rape scenes.   And, now, with the release of these books and the upcoming movie… a darker side of sex is being brought to the forefront.  A side that combines violence and sex into a singular encounter, normalizing it, taking the taboo off of it and making it mainstream.

You can’t deny this, as of date statistics state that over 100 million women alone have read one or more of the 50 shades books.  And, there is very little difference between the % of Christians vs. non Christians who are reading it.

Over time, as I became a Christian, I began to find conviction about reading these books, watching these TV shows and movies.  It was easy to convince myself that you can flip past the pages or fast forward through these scenes and enjoy the rest of the material.  There is some naivety to that thought process though, as we have all learned at some point, or another, where that attempt failed.  Not to mention, leaving these tv shows sitting in your DVR is no different than leaving a romance novel (which is a tame erotica) on the coffee table,  or a magazine carelessly on your bathroom counter.

If you do not believe your kids will key into it, you are gravely mistaken.  There has never been a copy of 50 shades in my house, I’ve never talked about the book in the presence of my family.  Yet, my 15 year old daughter knew enough about it that when a promo played at the movie theater about the 50 Shades movie… she knew what it was and questioned how they were even allowed to show it in theaters.

A mom was collecting books for a book drive, and before she sorted through the box herself, one of her daughters sifted through it looking for anything interesting.  The mom had no idea that her daughter, who was probably 12 or younger at the time, had grabbed a few romance novels and shuttled them off to her room.

I also think back to a friend from high school that would tell me about all the “things” her mom kept locked up in her room, in a special chest.  She had been told to stay out of it, but when her mom was a work she found the key.  She wanted to know what her mom was hiding.

Kids are curious.  They will look at things we never expect.  They will disregard rules to satiate that curiosity over what we are hiding from them.  Group all of this with the internet, which can answer (with pictures) just about any question a kid has about a taboo topic from school…. well, there you go.

I began to purge my home of anything related to these materials, in essence I asked myself … “How would I feel if my kids walked in while I was watching this?”… “Would I want my teenager to pick up this book and read it?”…. and “What would God think about me watching this?”.   Truth is, I already know what God thinks about it.  His word is pretty straight forward.

I also began to realize the double standard I was setting.  I would never allow my husband to watch porn, go to a strip club, or subscribe to a “mens magazine”.  Yet, somewhere in our minds we can convince ourselves that they are just words on a page.  No pictures.  No harm.  The encounters are part of a bigger story.  I challenge anyone to read any of these books, skipping the sex scenes, and tell me that they are well written books and story lines that hold on their own without the sex scenes.  Fact is, the sex scenes are exactly what makes these books different.  Calling out to a need not being met in the lives of women, everywhere.  Christian.  Atheist.  Pluralist.  Married.  Mother.  Single.   Grandmothers.  Mothers. Daughters.

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When I grabbed the book, PULLING BACK THE SHADES, I expected this would be a book that would tell us all about how awful we are to read such material.  I figured a good finger wagging was in order, anyone reading it would walk away with shame and guilt.

I WAS WRONG.

Instead you find quite the opposite, you find frank discussion about Christianity, sex within the confines of marriage, a gentle approach toward the single woman, and some real honest truth.

The co-authors take turns speaking from their own perspectives … one who read, one who didn’t… one who writes and speaks on modesty and purity, one who helps counsel couples who have struggles in their intimacy.

This is not a book bashing 50 Shades, but dealing with the entire industry of erotica… which is growing.   It doesn’t shame you for being a Christian woman with sexual needs and desires, but instead points you toward HEALTHY sex life within the confines of marriage.  It explores the damage that can come from erotica to your marriage relationship, to your expectations of your future spouse, and your relationship with God.

While it would be great to avoid it, the book accepts that some of us are past that point.  We have been exposed at early ages, or later ages.  They don’t call erotica “mommy porn” for no reason.  So what do you do?  How do you get those mental images out of your head?  How do you stop seeing your husband as someone who doesn’t measure up to the hero or main character from your stories?  Why isn’t a book like 50 Shades safe?  (Guess what… even within the bondage community, the 50 Shades series is not supported and considered inaccurate, and dangerous)

Certainly Pulling Back the Shades is NOT suggesting you should read 50 Shades or erotica, or permissing it as ok.  It doesn’t support the idea that porn is ok, when a husband and wife watch it together.  Instead it gives us permission as women that our fantasies are OK, we don’t need the book or movie… we have our husband in the flesh!

MOST IMPORTANTLY, the book addresses something that is plaguing the Christian Woman today.  The book addresses how over the generations Christian women have been so pressed about sexual purity, that they will find guilt in sex IN THEIR MARRIAGE.   The place it has been reserved for, the very place we are supposed to have sexual freedom… we feel GUILTY because specifics about healthy marital sex have been avoided entirely in the church -OR- so much emphasis on shame that it becomes hard to escape it.

There is a reason women are flocking to erotica.  There is a reason women are flocking to romance novels and movies/tv shows.  They wouldn’t be a success, the industry wouldn’t be growing if it wasn’t meeting a need.

What need is it fulfilling?

Why does it meet it?  Emotionally, physically & psychologically?

What is the truth, we need to hear?  What are the risks?

How can we, as women, gain control of our God given sexuality in our marriages?

What if it’s too late?  What if you are addicted?  How do you overcome this struggle?

PICK UP THIS BOOK.  IT’S A QUICK, EASY READ.  READ IT.  SHARE IT.  RECOMMEND IT. 

50 Shades gained so much popularity that a hotel in Europe replaced all of it’s Bible’s with copies of 50 Shades.  It can’t be denied that society as a whole is normalizing this material, and that Christian women are not apart of their readers.  With online shopping, no one has to worry about their Pastor’s wife seeing them shopping in the Adult Literature section of the local book store.

Personal stories shared in this book clue us into how something as simple as reading a romance novel can impact our lives, relationships and marriages in the long term.

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I wish I could take back the images that have been ingrained into my memory.   I wish I could erase those magazine pages, the things I saw.  Fact is, they did impact me long term.  The way I look and feel about myself, at minimum.  Lord, I pray that you unbind these images from my mind.  Take them from me, let them never be used to distract me again.   There is always hope.  For my hope is found in the Lord.  He has saved me.  He has washed me, white as snow.  Protect my marriage.  Protect my children’s eyes and ears, hearts and minds.  Amen.

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Pulling Back the Shades

Author:  Dannah Gresh, Dr. Juli Slattery

Moody Publishers

ISBN: 13-978-0-8024-1088-7