Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer

Already Gone

A friend dropped this book off at my desk a while back and I finally had time to read it. This book is worth your time. Don’t stop, go get the book and read it this week. OK?

The subtitle of the book is this: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it. Is that provocative enough for you? The scary part is that they are correct! In my circles, kids are less likely to stop going to church; they are more likely to migrate from very conservative churches to more standard evangelical churches. So I’ve been asking the question: why is this generation leaving conservative churches. Ham and Beemer ask a more fundamental question: why is this generation leaving church?

The answer is the same: a lack of relevancy in modern churches. And by relevancy, I don’t mean “cool,” but rather “useful for life.” Ham and Beemer have done a series of studies on twenty-somethings who attended evangelical and conservative churches as children and now rarely if ever attend church. (Beemer is a professional pollster and has real-world experience creating legit polls and evaluating the data.)

The results might surprise you; they ought to shock you. Most of these young adults have a good view of the Bible and evangelical theology; they’ve left because the perceive the church to be less than useless to their lives. The book begins by attacking Sunday School as the main culprit. I disagree with that assessment (though I do think we screw up by teaching Bible “stories”). Sunday School may have implementation problems, but Sunday School is just a manifestation of a larger issue. Really the problem is twofold. First, there is a lack of spirituality amongst Christians. Second, there is a refusal to utilize logic and critical thinking skills.

To the first point, may Christians set their spiritual lives on autopilot and refuse to rock the boat. This shallow approach to Christian living teaches the young that the Bible is a great morality tale and is sorta useful as a guideline to life. Ham makes an interesting point at the end of the book. It is insufficient to read your Bible each day. You must study it and more importantly you must think about it. I’ve noticed that the times that I am called on to teach are the times that my walk is deepest. Before I teach a Sunday School class, I spend 10+ hours in preparation with most of that time thinking through the meaning and purpose of the text. So yeah, I think he’s right on that point and that this case can be made from the Psalmist as well. (By the way, in Psalm 15:2, we find that the righteous man “speaks the truth in his heart.” I recommend you spend time thinking about the ramifications of that point.)

How many Christians do you know that look down on those who smoke, drink, have sex outside of marriage and sniffle about that great sinner? How many of those Christians lie, cheat, play politics for position in the church or generally whine or snap at people? Which is worse: worrying or stealing? Matthew 6 implies that worrying is the defining characteristic of unbelievers…. Kids see this hypocrisy and recognize that while the people might be nice/good people, they aren’t trustworthy role models.

To the second point, failure to utilize logic and critical thinking skills leaves children with unresolved dichotomies. A friend once told me that though he grew up in a good home and in good churches, he assumed evolution was true. This was not because his parents or church taught him it was true, but because it was what he learned non-stop in school. It was not until college when someone detailed the scientific case for creation that he realized the fallacy of evolution. So here was a child who believed that God created in six days and that evolution was true. He kept that as an unresolved dichotomy for years.

The surveys taken by Beemer discovered that many kids (starting in upper elementary school) begin developing these dichotomies. Often authorities tell them: the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it for me. That’s no answer! That’s blind faith and we have a reasonable faith. Give the kids a reason to believe. Unfortunately, we seldom do that. Kids want to know the pros/cons of smoking or drinking, they want to know why premarital sex is bad, they want to know why their parents believe the Bible is true, they want to know how they can trust the Bible to be error-free and what inspiration means. They want to know! They need to know why they should base their belief in this book that their friends tell them is useless for anything more than moral guidance. Tell them! and don’t tell them that this is what the church or pastor or someone else believes. Don’t tell them that you said they should believe it and never question it again. Have honest open and forthright discussions. Ensure that your answers are grounded in logical thinking.

I remember a fight (or four) I had with a friend growing up. I was taught not to do things like attend the theater or listen to “bad” music. I look back on these fights/debates today with chagrin. My reasons were simply parrotings of illogical statements. My friend was pointing out all the myriads of holes in the arguments I had used. So don’t tell me that kids won’t see through stupid arguments. They do. And when you tell them that they should believe something or not do something and back it up with illogical fluff, don’t be surprised when they ignore you. You let them down and you gave them no reason to believe you.

Pat answers won’t cut it.

I’ve been arguing for some years now that my generation is leaving our churches because they don’t get answers. (If you spend any time in very conservative churches, you’ll discover that they this makes me unpopular….) The truth is, this survey confirms that idea and reveals that the problem is much greater than I had imagined. What are you doing about it? I know where I need to work personally.


Chicken Soup for the Mothers Soul

Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul

Contents: This book is a collection of short stories composed by four authors from readers who have sent them in, or just stories they have found.

The stories are in ten different sections “On Love,” “A Mother’s Guiding Hand,” “A Mother’s Courage,” “On Motherhood,” “Becoming a Mother,” “Special Moments,” “Miracles,” “Letting Go,” “A Grandmothers Love,” and “Thank You Mom.” (As you may have noticed, this book is directed toward women, but men will like it too, I think)

I love this book, it was a great read. The stories are so inspiring and funny, a few are sad, but inspiring at the same time. It makes you look at your mother, and grandmother, in an entirely new fashion.

One story in particular concerns grandmothers, and how they seem to have all the time in the world for their grandchildren. They don’t brush them away, or skip pages when reading a book, and are willing to read the same book repeatedly. That made me look at the way I treat my four-year-old cousin in an entirely new way. I have been trying to make sure that taking a few minutes to read a book does not become a frustration in my busy day, but a time to teach and spend time with him.

Most of these stories include something happening that shows the child just how much their mother loves them. This, I think, brings out the point that underlines all these stories; you must spend time with your children if you want a lasting relationship. One mother sent love notes with each of her children, every single day, without fail, even when they grew older and said they did not need them. All her children took that little action of love with them for the rest of their lives.

You only have one life to live, so live it in a way that brings glory to God and joy to others.

DO HARD THINGS by Alex & Brett Harris

Do Hard Things

(disclaimer of relation: I was so encouraged by the message of this book, as described on their website, that I volunteered to run the Do Hard Things Portland conference tour. And, their father, Gregg Harris, is the founder of the group of churches that I and my family are members of).

This book is the print version of a vision that has been in place for many years in the Harris household. When Alex and Brett were 16, their father sat them down with a heaping stack of non-fiction books and told them to start reading. Most teenagers might see that as a summer of drudgery, but these twins took the book list as an opportunity to learn more about the world in which they (as the future generation) would live. Learning about all the issues in the world today (poverty, economics of scale, pollution, adult-essence, monetary systems, political processes), they began to wonder how other people in their generation (my generation) could cope with it all if we continued to do the stereotypical teenage thing; sleep in and ignore the world issues in favor of celebrity gossip. Then they started a little blog called “the rebelution”, combining the terms rebellion and revolution to get a new meaning; “rebelling against rebellion”. Then it became a website with 5,000 hits a day, then a movement that spawned conferences in multiple countries, then a modesty survey that crashed their internet server with 500,000 views in the first two hours, and now a book.

DO: The teen years are not a vacation from responsibility, but rather, a training ground for future leaders. For centuries, there was no middle ground between “child” and “adult”; once you started looking like an adult, you were expected to act like one. We need to act like the adults we want to become, because, newsflash fellow young adults: we’re adults. And if we want things to be different from the present we must make changes in the present. Young, yes: need to work on competence, yes; freed from responsibility because of the aforesaid, no. “To make changes in your life requires you to make changes in your life.”—Alex Harris.

HARD: Hard doesn’t mean “hard for other people” (i.e., unless you are recovering from alcoholism, staying sober isn’t an achievement. It’s a good thing, but not your hard thing), or “stupid” (jumping off a cliff) . Don’t, however, think that just because its hard (keeping your room clean every night) or big (starting a business) or both (fighting modern slavery) that you can’t. At the same time, there is a place for small hard things (like keeping your room clean, which is hard because you have to keep doing it every day for the rest of your life) and unseen hard things (not harboring anger, or giving in to lust). If God is calling you to do something, whatever it is, pray and do it.

THINGS: They give lots of examples about teenagers (throughout history and today) who used their teen years to the max and reaped the benefit. And of “typical teens” who need to be renewed in their vision for their own lives. What I loved about all the examples was how simple the concepts were, and yet, I could see a piece of myself in each teen they profiled (and they are all real people). Some were cause for rejoicing, others, for disappointment. But each chapter helped me get closer to finding my “hard thing” that God would have me do with my life.

Overall, this was a very easy read that has challenged my thinking on many levels. I honestly didn’t think this book applied to me when I picked it up. I’m a good young adult (not a teen), who is trying to be more Christ-like (not there yet, but trying), living in a Christian environment… so how does “Do Hard Things” apply to me? The answer lies in the question, “what is hard for you?” There will ALWAYS be something that God wants me to do that is hard. “If you always do what you’ve always done you will always get what you’ve always got.” – Brett Harris. God wants the best for us, which will always involve change in my life.

One Third Off by Irvin S. Cobb

One Third Off
Have you ever tried to lose weight? More than a few pounds? It takes more than a special diet as Irvin Cobb discovered. Cobb thought that he was just “big boned” and that his size was genetic. His family always filled out in their thirties….

Cobb recounts the true and humorous story of his attempts to reign in his weight. Cobb wasn’t a lazy glutton. He just had a sedentary lifestyle and a special relationship with his food. He and his food had a special bond he told himself. (The bond was more obvious to everyone else.) Interestingly, Cobb describes the various self-delusions that he went through to convince himself that he wasn’t overweight.

  • The suit didn’t fit anymore cause it was cheap and shrunk.
  • The weight gain was a family trait.
  • He wasn’t fat, just well developed.

But, lest you think that this short work was boring, it was anything but that. Cobb eventually went to several doctors who were apparently quacks. Only a quack would call him obese. Cobb went to the gym and the steam room. He tried running. He tried everything but changing his eating habits.

His mealtimes were sacred.

It wasn’t until an obviously obese friend and he both got on scales together that his self-delusion started to crack. When Cobb realized that he was only a couple of pounds shy of the man he always viewed as obese, reality struck.

Eventually, Cobb owned up to his obesity and decided to solve the problem. He read every book on the subject and found that each generation of doctors and dieticians had a different philosophy. Some said that meat was evil. Other that you should avoid starch. Still others said to eat starch and meat to excess. In the end, they only agreed on one point: boiled spinach was acceptable.

You will empathize with Cobb, well I did anyway. Let’s just be perfectly clear: I have never EVER had to take One Third Off, but I have to be careful. I have also found that Cobb’s solution is correct. The only solution to drop 10lbs or 1/3 your body weight is the same regardless of who you are: eat less, eat healthy and exercise. Gag. None of it is fun, but then life isn’t about having fun.

You can hit the above picture and buy it from Amazon (and support the site) or you can do like me: free audio or free text. 🙂

One Third Off

The Price of Love by Arnold Bennett

Arnold Bennett
After reading The Card, I assumed/hoped that this would be a similar story. It was, in that it was set in the Five Towns. Other than that, there was not much similarity. This was a much more serious work. There seems to be conflicting elements to the story as if the author and the editor went a few rounds over the ending. While, this thought of a battle over the end is purely supposition, I suspect that it occurred and that the editor won.

This story is about a young lady named Rachel Fleckring, a house maid to a moderately wealthy and somewhat eccentric old woman. As the story opens as a local businessman deposits almost 1000 pounds at their house overnight. Shortly thereafter, the two nephews come for a birthday party. One nephew is brutish, but has strong moral character (i.e. quite trustworthy). The other, Louis Fores, is charming while lacking in the moral fortitude department. The scene is set and that night the money vanishes from the house.

This story studies many aspects of love and relationships through the microcosm of these few characters and the theft of the money: the elderly and upstanding Mrs. Maldon, the unscrupulous businessman Thomas Batchgrew, the brutish nephew Julian Maldon, the nephew Louis Fores, and the star Rachel Fleckring. Throughout the story, Bennett opens the readers eyes to the many aspects in which a person can be both wise and foolish in their interactions. We’ll look at that more in a minute.

The story does not have a strong drive towards a climax. In many ways it meanders along seemingly without direction. The key to the story is to study the relationships between the characters instead of seeing it as a mystery novel. There are a few twists, but overall this isn’t a “mystery” story.

I found this a difficult read as it reminded me of the foolishness of some couples I have known. Sometimes one cannot quite get their head wrapped around the seemingly foolish decisions that people make. Why do people turn off their brains when it comes to love? Why do people ignore the sage advice of their elders and become attracted to foolish spouses? I think that teenagers should read this book before they begin dating.

Mrs. Maldon tries to warn Rachel of the flaws in Fores, but cannot bring herself to do so as Fores is family. Rachel, an eminently practical young woman, refuses to listen to any opinions that speak against the character of Fores. She even ignores her own practical nature because Fores makes her feel “wonderful.” Batchgrew is not a model citizen but cares for Rachel and would have helped her if she had listened.

And so the relationships shift and change continuously with Rachel justifying her love of the foolish Fores. Even when Fores treats her poorly, she clings to him as if he was a life preserver and she a drowning soul.

Why? Who knows, but Rachel learns the price of her love.

You can get the audio book here and the text here.