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22-year old selling her virginity to pay for graduate school? (hit to marko)

Okay, top 5 thoughts:

1.  What?  Did I read that right?

2.  She’s waited 22 years and NOW she decides to SELL it?

3.  Mmm… that’s definately playing to your assets…

4.  I wonder if it would be getting as much press if she weren’t a very beautiful 22-year-old virgin

5.  Why didn’t I think of that?

Yes, I know, I hate to admit that in the thoughts that raced through my brain in that initial moment, one of them was “there’ve been worse ideas…”  I guess I’m glad that I didn’t think of it.  Goes to show my mind doesn’t work that way, and I for one am happy it doesn’t.  BUT it does work in such a way that I can understand the motivation behind her actions.  After all, why is it that prostitution is the oldest profession?  It’s because women realized a long time ago (with the help of men) that their bodies and their sexuality have a high value. 

It makes me sad, though, to realize that, while she’s a virgin, her innocence is already lost.  A girl who’s a virgin at 22 must have (and she admits) been romantic and idealistic enough to believe that her virginity was worth saving and cherishing.  It’s sad to see her grow into a woman who has obviously been caloused into believing it’s only a commodity to be auctioned off.

For me, that’s the interesting aspect of this story.  Where did the loss of innocence come in?  I can understand that taking control of your sexuality is empowering (Marko, I think that’s empowering for anyone, male or female.  Being able to harness and use your sexuality will always be empowering, we’re sexual beings).  However, I don’t think she’s thought this all the way through.  It may SEEM empowering, however a sellor is always indepted to a buyer, controlled by the buyer… ever heard “the customer is always right?”  Without a demand, there’s no need for supply.  The customer is always the one in the most control.

How do you convince someone, in the world in which we live today, that the true empowerment of sexuality is to embrace and own your own sexuality, not use it, abuse it, sell it, barter it, or buy someone elses?  How, as youth ministers, do we explain to our students, especially girls, that sexuality is a precious gift, and while it might appear all glittery on the outside and “empowering” to use that to an apparent advantage, that is the worst way that we can cheapen that gift?

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There was an interesting post on YPulse the other day regarding new trends in the younger generations.  Some things I found fascinating:

  • It’s no longer a valid argument to say studies show cohabitation increase your risk for divorce.  Newest studies have found that women who cohabitate with ONLY their future spouse before marriage actually have a lower risk of divorce.  The risk increases, however, if they’ve cohabitated with someone else besides her eventual spouse.  Some new research even suggests that divorce rates IMPROVE with cohabitation across the board.
  • Morals and values are playing less of a role in a couple’s decision to cohabitate than economics are.
  • “Hooking up” with people young adults have meet online isn’t as prevalent of an issue as some would believe.
  • It doesn’t mention “hooking up” with people you do know.  And something that I’ve been learning in the years that I’ve been doing youth ministry is that the younger students (not necessarily the older high schoolers who are generally in the study censuses) are the ones who are doing the experimenting.
  • Using alternative birth-control to condoms is the “new engagement ring”?  While that seems a bit of a stretch, the trend of making a conscious, thought-out, and planned commitment to go sans-Trojan is something to note.  It seems to show a higher morality and value on one’s person and sexuality, and it’s probably going to be a more difficult trend to combat than random “hooking up” is on a moral front.

 

Teens and young adults seem to be making more intentional decisions about their choices in respect to sexuality, dating, etc.  Which, on the outside, seems like a good thing.  I think that someone telling me the chances of my marriage lasting would improve if I lived with my fiance and that our decision to have sex (outside of marriage) sans-condoms, as long as it was an active decision made out of trust and communication and we’ve been safe and taken necessary precautions, is actually a sign of love and commitment sounds appealing.  Not only do you still have the age-old argument (it FEELS good), you now have emotional, moral, economic, and statistical support as well?

Kind of makes it harder to convince someone that God’s way is best.  Especially for those who don’t already love Jesus.

I have not been able to follow The Secret Life of the American Teennearly as much as I would like since I’ve been working almost every Tuesday night recently.  However, I hope that it will come out on DVD so that I can watch it in its entirety.  The episodes I have gotten to seen have blown me away in their portrayal of High School, High School Christians, the role of God in people’s lives, etc.

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Interview

Since I’m writing about Thirteen Reasons Why, I thought I’d link an interview I recently found on the YPulse Site.

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*Spoiler Warning: Though I don’t get into TONS of plot details, I’m not trying to write a “read this book please” account, but an account of the elements that would help me decide whether this book is appropriate for middle-schoolers”

Side 1

Likes:  We really start to know our suicide victim and our narrator

Dislikes:  Even with the type-style changes, it’s hard for my mind to switch back and forth between Clay’s mind/actions and Hannah’s monologue.  I’m unsure whether I might eventually like this.  I’m fairly certain we’re only going to get to know Clay through the filter of Hannah.  It won’t be a complete Clay, most likely, but will it be enough of Clay for us?

Social Issues: first kisses; rumors; suicide; guilt & blame; parties; friendship

Questionable material:  a tad bit sexually explicit in a couple of areas, but not gratuitously

Passage I loved:

Hannah’s voice: I know what you’re thinking.  As I was telling the story, I was thinking the same thing myself.  A kiss?  A rumor based on a kiss made you do this to yourself?

No a rumor based on a kiss ruined a memory that I hoped would be special.  A rumor based on a kiss started a reputation that other people believed in and reacted to.  And sometimes a rumor based on a kiss has a snowball effect.

A rumor based on a kiss, is just the beginning.

 

Side 2

Likes: Not much (though the writing is good)

Dislikes:  See “tirade”

Questionable material:  objectification of women

Social issues:  objectification of women; “Hot or Not” lists

Tirade: Okay, at this point I’m getting a tad frustrated.  Yes, our actions affect others.  But ultimately, the only one responsible for our actions are ourselves.  I’m hoping there’s going to be some resolution about that fact or I won’t be able to recommend this book to anyone.  Sometimes we can’t control our emotions, that’s human.  However, we areresponsible for controlling our actions.  Though anyone at an emotional point to want to commit suicide isn’t exactly mentally healthy or fully mentally capable and thus, maybe not entirely culpable, I’m not liking how much focus is being placed on projecting blame and, thus, Hanna’s decision seems beyond her control.

I don’t think teenagers need any more reasons to push off responsibility.  “Oh, she called me a bad name, so it’s really HER fault that I’m choosingto start a vicious rumor.”  “Well he told the guys in the locker room that he wanted to kiss my girlfriend, so it’s HIS fault, I chose to key his car.”  “They always make fun of me, so it’s THEY’RE fault I chose to bring a gun to class.”

We have a soft spot for the tormented and our natural tendency (as adults) to want to side with them has US blaming the tormentors as catalysts for the actions of the tormented.  But if we let the underdogs get away with blaming others and shirking responsibility for their actions, how can we expect the tormentors not to do the same thing?  Are they ACTUALLY better than the underdogs?  They’re superhuman and thus the poor little tormented ones had no choice but to torment back?

After all, aren’t the tormentors almost always tormentees to another group of tormentors anyway? 

That’s a hard truth to understand, even as an adult.  So I’m not expecting Archer to preach to his audience here.  But I think he walks a fine line, ready to tip over the edge of enabling and validating the negative actions of youth because “someone else made them.”

The healthiest thing for students to learn (and one of the hardest) is we are only and can only be responsible for our own actions.  We should treat others with respect and dignity.  We should not only think of ourselves, but others as well, and generally, thinking of them first will end up best in the long run.  We should always remember that what we do DOES affect other people and that we can either help or harm. 

We should also remember that not everyone is healthy, and I don’t mean physically.  There are going to be people who are not emotionally or mentally healthy enough to take responsibility for themselves.  But, while we should be sensitive to our actions with this type of person (as with all people), their actions are still their responsibility, not ours, whether they can handle it or not.

Guilt can be good.  It can lead to change and change can be healthy.  But feeling guilt over something completely out of your control, the chosen action of someone else, can simply become debilitating.  It’s pointless and unhealthy to dwell on.

 

Okay, sorry, tirade over.  I hope to be able to tell you this resolves itself.

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I have been trying to read through several of the young adult fiction that Mark O. has suggested on his blog this past year.

Recently I began reading Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  It’s basically a book told from the point-of-view of Clay.  In it, he receives 7 cassette tapes from a past-love, Hannah, who just committed suicide.  She claims in the first lines that these cassettes, all 13 sides, describe the 13 people who had a hand in her suicide and why.

A few nights ago at Barnes and Noble a mother of a 7th grader asked me if I would recommend this book for her daughter.  I told her, though I a only a few pages in to the story, I thought the thematic elements might be a bit much for a middle-schooler (much like I think the thematic elements of the Harry Potternovels are too old for elementary age children once you reach book 5). Thankfully she (the daughter) also wanted to get the Twilight series (I wonder if Mark O.’s done a review on them… hmmm), which I would whole-heartedly recommend, so she didn’t have to walk away empty-handed.

However, as I continued reading, I began to wonder if I was just being too naive.  Again.  This book discusses the suicide of a freshman, someone not much older than a 12 or 13-year-old middle-schooler.  I remember that when I was in 8th grade there was a freshman (in my small town where the ENTIRE high-school only had 100 kids) who committed suicide over Christmas break.  I had gone to school with her for the last four years, and in a school that small, everyone knows everyone.  It wasn’t because of her home life or some traumatic life event (rape, drugs, etc.) but simply because of the hardships people face socially in high-school (she left a note).  And this was a girl who was in the “popular” clique!!!  Imagine how nervous that made an 8th grade girl who was only on the fringe of the popular crowd in middle-school (and would fade quickly into the actual fringe society of our school in high school).  If life was too hard for a popular girl how could ANYONE survive?

Maybe we should be exposing our students to the impact our actions have on others, even when we’re in a life stage where we only see ourselves.

So, I’m going to try to keep and open mind as I read and record my thoughts.

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Summer Camp 2008

Summer Camp was one of those things I missed out on when I was a youngster.  I went to one week of camp and I think it was in-between my 5th and 6th grade years.  I went to a music camp at Epworth Springs (it was Methodist, in case you couldn’t tell by the name) and we put on a musical about Jesus feeding the thousands.

But that’s really the only experience I have with summer camps.  I have cousins who always rave about their time at Boy Scout camp, and I was always a little jealous, but when you grow up in a family where money was always tight and you have a twin sister with whom you must do everything, summer camps were NOT in the budget.

Last year, I got wrangled into being the dorm mom at a summer camp for 5th and 6th graders.  It was a lot of fun, but, as we all know, my passion lies with working with Jr. High students, so this year I opted to go to Jr. High camp instead.  From Sunday Afternoon-Friday Evening I was at LSCA in Springfield, IL.  I had to still work on Monday and Tuesday, and since it was a Chemo week for my sister, I left camp a couple of times, but for the majority of the week I was at the camp with the 118 Jr. High kids that chose to attend camp that week.

And let me tell you, it was an experience.  There were definitely times when I felt out of place (who knew that riding a broom around a room was a “normal” camp thing?) and there were times when I was blown away by how God shows up at these things (Cross Walk?  Baptisms?  Great!).  But what I really learned this past week was this:

  1. 12 and 13 year olds can hurt the feelings of a 27 year old just as easily as they could when said woman was 12 and 13.
  2. A lot of things have changed since I was in Jr. High, but the core of who people are and the core of the emotions and feelings that affect a Jr. High girl, have not.
  3. Sometimes the maturity of Jr. High kids astounds me.  They can act like either 5 year olds or 25 year olds.  And those really mature moments?  They’re totally worth the disproportionate number of immature moments.

This summer has been a hard time for me in ministry.  Because of things going on in my family I’ve felt angry and rebellious.  And I’ve not been good at leaving those feelings as feelings; I’ve made some poor choices and participated in some activities that are not even close to God-Honoring because of them.  But this week was really good for me, personally.  I love these girls (and guys) so much.  Even when they’re being hurtful and petty and, well, Jr. High kids, there is such potential in them.  They have the potential to make the right choices.  Because the majority of choices made by Jr. High kids are made so that they feel they are loved, accepted, and included.

And how is that any different from me?

I’ve been looking for my love, acceptance and inclusion in all the wrong places, in places I would feel so hurt if a Jr. High girl looked.  So why haven’t I been able to hurt for myself?

I’ve decided that life doesn’t ever get any more complicated than Jr. High.  Yes, the complications change.  As we grow up, the things we have to deal with grow up, too.  But the feelings and emotions and underlying awkwardness and desires we all start developing in Jr. High?  THAT’S complicated, and I don’t think those change much.  As we mature we can choose to make decisions based on more than what rages just under the surface, but there will always remain within us that Jr. High child who wants to make choices based on the need for love, the need for acceptance, the need to feel valued and included.

And so, Summer Camp is over, but the truth I discover every time I live life with Jr. High students remains:  Jr. High students teach me more than I can ever hope to teach them.

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This past weekend a small group of leaders from the Jr. High ministry at my church went on a retreat to dream big about the future of the ministry.  It was amazing.  There are times that I can get pretty frustrated with planned brainstorming sessions.  It can seem like forced creativity and focus and sometimes the best ideas come from spontaneity. 

But this retreat was amazing.  There were definately times when we got bogged down in the “hows” and not the dreams and times when we veered too far to the “whys” and stopped considering the “why nots”, but overall it was one of the most amazing planning events I’ve ever attended.  Our focus seemed to zero-in with a bit more naturality and less forcefulness than I’ve experienced in the past, and you could really tell that the group of people there love the students and the families in our ministry very much.

I’m pretty jazzed about how we’re going to make our dreams realities in the next few years as we expand on this vision of impacting not only our students, but their families.  I look forward to sharing the journey.

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