The front flyleaf of The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of Godmakes a rather bold statement: "There has never been a book on marriage like The Meaning of Marriage." That seems a rather audacious assertion; but by the time I finished the book, I think I'd concede to read that claim on the back flyleaf, as well. Contents Many marriage books leave me scratching my head, banging my head, or really, really thankful I'm married to the man I am. This book did leave me doing the latter, but also left me thinking this would have been a very profitable book to have read if it had been available as premarital reading (not to mention less head-banging).
Timothy and Kathy Keller pack a lot of experience and exegesis into this book, packaged into eight chapters:
One: The Secret of Marriage
Two: The Power of Marriage
Three: The Essence of Marriage
Four: The Mission of Marriage
Five: Loving the Stranger
Six: Embracing the Other
Seven: Singleness and Marriage
Eight: Sex and Marriage
(The book also contains an Introduction, Epilogue, Appendix: Decision Making and Gender Roles, Notes)
Although I've yet to meet a Tim Keller book I didn't like, this book pleasantly surprised me in what it had to offer. The style is certainly Kelleresque, yet unique to his other published works. (It is co-authored with his wife Kathy, with Kathy writing the entirety of Chapter Six.) Unlike many marriage books, this book is not written with only married couples or soon-to-be-married singles in mind; it is written to a broad audience, but with particular portions of it specifically addressing singles. The Essence of Marriage One aspect of the book that I greatly appreciated was the Kellers's emphasis on the marriage covenant as the foundation of marriage. And really, this is the essence of marriage and the essence of the book. (Maybe that's why Chapter Three is entitled, "The Essence of Marriage." :))
While I think most contemporary Christians teaching on marriage would acknowledge the covenantal importance of marriage, there is often a subtle shift to teachings that seem to indicate that "keeping the passion alive" is the way to have a healthy marriage. (This is what Keller includes in his assessment that we most prize "romantic fulfillment" [see quote below] as the key to a happy marriage in our culture.) This is spiritualized and then marketed in numerous ways, coming across in emphases including:"If you practice abstinence before marriage, you'll immediately have amazing sex on your wedding night and beyond," "If you have a weekly date night, you're sure to have a healthy marriage," "If your marriage has stopped sizzling, your marriage has failed and is doomed," and can this misplaced emphasis in parenting and marriage books can often make young parents perceive a dichotomy of the family into the couple vs. the children. And even while many of these books/teachings, if Christian in name, will attest that "love is a choice," it is often portrayed that choosing to love is best displayed by acts of romance. While Keller doesn't address all of these teachings individually, he clearly notes that this type of misplaced preeminence of romance detracts and confuses the essence of marriage.
Keller speaks of some of the way marriage has come to be perceived in our culture (as well as comparing and contrasting with traditional societies):
"Traditional societies made family the ultimate value in life, and so marriage was a mere transaction that helped your family's interests. By contrast, contemporary Western societies make the individual's happiness the ultimate value, and so marriage becomes primarily an experience of romantic fulfillment. But the Bible sees God as the supreme good--not the individual or the family--and that gives usa view of marriage that intimately unites feeling and duty, passion and promise. This is because at the heart of the Biblical idea of marriage is the covenant." (80-81)
(Keller also quotes C.S. Lewis stating, "People get from books the idea that if you have married the right person you may expect to go on "being in love" for ever. As a result, when they find they are not, they think this proves they have made a mistake and are entitled to a change—not realizing that, when they have changed, the glamour will presently go out of the new love just as it went out of the old one..." (104))
"Sociologists argue that in contemporary Western society the marketplace has become so dominant that the consumer model increasingly characterizes most relationships that historically were covenantal, including marriage. Today we stay connected to people only as long as they are meeting our particular needs at an acceptable cost to us. When we cease to make a profit--that is, when the relationship appears to require more love and affirmation from us than we are getting back--then we "cut our losses" and drop the relationship...Covenant is therefore a concept that is increasingly foreign to us, and yet the Bible says it is the essence of marriage, so we musst take some time to understand it." (81-82)
Personal Helpfulness For me personally, I think I had enough of a foundational understanding of marriage to hold the covenantal model of marriage above the consumerist model. Yet, hearing and reading in my pre-marriage preparation, I was often led astray by the syncretization of a covenantal view of marriage and the primacy of romance in marriage.
One harmful message that came out during my pre-marriage reading/counseling classes was, "if you remain abstinent, then sexual relationships in marriage will come naturally, immediately, and amazingly." This, of course, was very confusing as a newlywed, specifically for someone whose conscience was bound to the point that when I felt we'd "gone too far" by holding hands before we were married, I felt that in order to avoid further "temptation" that my husband [then fiance] and I should no longer drive places in the same vehicle until we were married. Added to that dynamic, my husband and I also grew up in homes were "The Talk" did not take place, and when the discussion of physical intimacy was scheduled in our pre-marital counseling, we were told that we'd figure things out on our own. Although we weren't completely in the dark, I carried a lot of baggage from some puritanical ultra-purity teachings into our marriage, and carried a lot of guilt into the early years of our marriage when I couldn't flip the switch mentally to go instantaneously from to "purity/"shame to passion. Of course, neither could Tim and Kathy Keller, and neither can many who enter marriage similarly.
Reading this book helped me in dealing with a lot of the self-imposed guilt and confusion I've felt over this area, in particular. Somewhat related, I was reminded in yet another and great way in which my husband's patience and gentleness has been manifested toward me over the years as I've wrestled with some of this baggage. And I more clearly see his faithful commitment to continue to love me in the way that Christ selflessly loves the Church.
It was, as mentioned earlier, also a reminder to me of God's mercy in giving me the husband I have in Daniel. Though only a few days shy of six years into marriage, there are many aspects of our marriage vows that we lived out much sooner than we had anticipated. My husband has faithfully, selflessly loved and served me through those times, both tragic and triumphant, and this book gave me a deeper depth in the appreciation of his commitment and love.
I remember at a time when we had just come through a painful, difficult season of life (from external sources), I saw an article in Time Magazine called "Who Needs Marriage? A Changing Institution." I remember specifically thinking, "I do. I needed my vows and I need that covenant." Though the storm we weathered didn't originate from our marriage, there were definitely some very deep and low times—times where we were both hurting so deeply we didn't even know how to help one another, and times when it may have been tempting to say "maybe you [and the world] would be better off without me." God's grace brought us through, and our marriage grew and flourished in ways we couldn't have even anticipated. (And yes, I know, our marriage is still quite young and has many, many more seasons of life to grow through, permitting death do not us part.) And while Time's article prompted me to think of how deeply we needed our commitment to one another,* I would have loved to have read this book at that time, as well.
There were many additional areas in which the book was helpful, refreshing, encouraging, and challenging. I was glad to be able to read this at the same time as my husband, and it is one we think we will return to through the years. Final Thoughts Of course, the emphasis is not merely on physical relationships in marriage, and to draw that out as the bulk of the book really does disservice to what this book is all about. *Due to my personal emphases above (on covenantal commitment and the false importance of romantic fulfillment), I also want to clarify that Keller does not teach that the Bible claims divorce is never an option, nor does he teach that covenant commitment equals passionless, emotionless duty. Contrarily, he takes time to explain both in a way that brings clarity to some of the harmful and hurtful misapplications in both areas.
Like many books by Keller, readers will be challenged to think about more than just the specific theme of the book, and to yearn for a deeper knowledge and walk with God. Some themes I grew from in this book were 1) growing in the Fear of the Lord (and an explanation of the Fear of the Lord), 2) a healthy (but not overzealous) explanation of how "love languages" and family upbringing can affect and/or create and avoid misconceptions and misunderstandings in marriage 3) the depth of the book without depicting opinion as law, 4) the emphases that neither the models of conservative approach nor the secular approach to marriage will lead to a satisfying marriage—only the Christian principle of Spirit-generated selfishness. I really view my first read as an overview/survey, and as I read through again, I know new and different parts of the book will stand out to me.
Beyond a careful handling of Scripture, Keller also draws on the wisdom of theologians, philosophers, and numerous books, past and present. And, of course, not only does this book reflect the imprimatur of C.S. Lewis on Keller's teaching and writing, but he also shares how C.S. Lewis was a common thread in influencing the early relationship between Tim and Kathy.
Certainly, there are aspects of the book with which I don't agree, Scriptural connections that I don't necessarily see, and analogies which I think break down. But, none of these are issues that I believe would detract from the overall message of the book, even in areas in which there are notoriously dichotomized perspectives among Evangelicals....more
In The Ministry of Motherhood: Following Christ’s Example in Reaching the Hearts of Our Children, Sally Clarkson looks at Jesus’ pattern of teaching aIn The Ministry of Motherhood: Following Christ’s Example in Reaching the Hearts of Our Children, Sally Clarkson looks at Jesus’ pattern of teaching and training of the disciples and makes application to the discipling of our children through the ministry of motherhood.
Sally divides the main portion of her book into five parts–five “gifts”–each comprised of four chapters and then a study and discussion section at the end of each part.
Part One: The Gift of Grace 1. Out of a Boat–a Model for Grace 2. The Grace of Time Together 3. The Grace of Encouraging Words 4. The Grace of Forgiveness in Action
Part Two: The Gift of Inspiration 5. On the Mountain–a Model for Inspiration 6. Inspiring a Sense of Purpose 7. Inspiring a Sense of God’s Powerful Presence 8. Inspiring a New Kind of Love
Part Three: The Gift of Faith 9. Enough for a Lifetime–a Model for Faith 10. Faith in a Living God 11. Faith in God’s Living Word 12. Faith in the Spirit’s Power
Part Four: The Gift of Training 13. Persistent Miracles–a Model for Training 14. Training Children to Think 15. Training Children to Pray Effectively 16. Training Children for Tribulation
Part Five: The Gift of Service 17. Compassionate Harvest–a Model for Service 18. Serving with a Willing Heart 19. Serving with Hardworking Hands 20. Serving in God’s Strength
Throughout the book, Clarkson takes the reader back to specific stories of Jesus and His disciples and brings out application to motherhood found from those “models.” Similar to the writing styles of Elyse Fitzpatrick (e.g., Give Them Grace) and Sally Lloyd-Jones (e.g., The Jesus Storybook Bible), Sally Clarkson uses a bit of purple prose to fill in the details of what it might have been like to have been an active participant in the Gospels’ depiction of Jesus and His disciples’ interaction. While this writing style is not my favorite and at times makes me uncomfortable, it is generally only present in the first chapter of each of the five parts. (I also know that others greatly enjoy this type of writing, and may benefit from reading Biblical narrative in this style.)
Sally also draws from her experience as a now “older mother” of four and the many lessons she has learned from her seasons of motherhood. In that way, it is helpful to glean from the practical wisdom and experience of a gentle, kind, older woman, as Titus 2 depicts. The book is well-arranged and easy to read. Apart from a few minor applications that I may not see eye-to-eye on in the specifics, I found this to be a very warm and encouraging book as I am in the early stages of discipling and nurturing my own children. In a time when many books on the parenting shelves (at least, books from within the last 100 years of Evangelical Christianity in America) make application to parenting from an authoritarian, parents-are-as-God to children perspective, it was also refreshing to read a book from a perspective that sees some of the parenting parallels in Jesus’ discipleship relationship with His disciples.
“After all, though I desire to live righteously and perfectly for the Lord, I know I will never be able to live up perfectly to his standards or even mine. That is why the grace of God has meant so much to me.” (53)
“Extending grace to our children not only gives them a living picture of God’s love, it also lays for them a foundation for healthy relationships. The greatest commandments, remember, are summed up by Jesus as loving God and loving people (Matthew 22:37-40).” (55)
“Knowing the limitations of my responsibility as a mother has actually been quite freeing to me. I can be God’s agent for cultivating the hearts of my children; in fact, I’m supposed to fill that role. But only God can give them life, strength, and divine guidance.” (132)
“Giving our children the gift of service is not really a matter of teaching them what to do. It’s more a matter of helping them looking at other people through Jesus’ eyes and respond as he did. It really is that simple–though it’s often not easy.” (181)
(This review originally posted at kerenthrelfall.com)
Having worked with children from war-torn regions of Asia who weredealing with Post Traumatic St(This review originally posted at kerenthrelfall.com)
Having worked with children from war-torn regions of Asia who were dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Kim John Payne was surprised to see many of the same external markers and symptoms in children of fast-paced, Western cultures.
One: Why Simplify?
Two: Soul Fever
Six: Filtering Out the Adult World
In Chapter One, the authors look at a definition of simplicity. In Chapter Two, they show how living at a frenetic pace and one lacking consistency can result in what they define as "soul fever" in our children. Much like we would rearrange our schedules and change our treatment of a child who is clearly sick, we need to recognize some of the signs and symptoms of a little life suffering from a life lived constantly at full-throttle.
Chapter Three gives helpful insight into how a cluttered, stressful environment can help or hinder our children's development, looking at both physical and emotional environments. The authors cover what items are important to keep and what is likely just adding to the growing mountain of toys and books. Chapter Four and Five are very helpful in looking at the rhythms and schedules of daily life and how that affects children. From the title, some may think that the authors are asking parents to remove their children from any stress or difficult situation; nothing could be further from the truth. Here, these helpful chapters discuss how the consistency of normal and daily family rhythms help children learn (especially in the midst of normal stress) that home is a safe place to come to, that even in the midst of difficult times they are reassured that some parts of life will continue to operate and flow.
Chapter Six covers many of the ways in which parents knowingly or unknowingly attempt to push their children to see all the adult struggles and trials of life before they are ready. The authors recommend that parents be discerning in what they share with their children, be it through television, adult conversations, or books with too much violence or emotional struggle. They see the importance of emotional intelligence and the need for children to develop such intelligence at a healthy pace.
The authors look at both cluttered spaces and cluttered schedules in a variety of areas and show how too much can overwhelm children (and adults), and then give practical wisdom on how to cut back on the excess in our lives. The book also looks at how too many choices can actually make it harder to make the best decisions (especially in childhood, when this skill has not had time to naturally develop), and how fewer choices generally leave us more confident, satisfied with the choices we make, and tend to keep us from wanting more, more, more.
By far, this book is now one of my top picks for books on parenting. While there were a few things in which I'd take a different stance or approach, overall I thoroughly enjoyed and agreed with the vast majority of the book. It is one I'd recommend to anyone raising a child in a Western culture. This is definitely a book we will return to again as we flow from season to season and the rhythms of our family change.
The book aspect was affirming in many of the choices our family is already making and the direction we've begun to head of the past few years. Simultaneously, it was also challenging and helpful to consider areas in which we may be overwhelming ourselves and our children and has given us a good number of practical tools by which to measure the flow of too much, too fast, too soon.
I realized over the past year or so that our girls had far too many choices in toys and then clothes, but this helped me see how even books can become cluttered and overwhelming (or anything we think "they can never have too much of that good thing"). I was also helped to see some advice in simplifying menu plans. We also try to involve our girls in some of the household work, but this encouraged me to let our girls take a more active role. One area that we've worked on more since reading the book is having our girls be more involved with meal prep, setting the table, and cleaning up afterwards. I was rather taken aback with how much it helped the transition to mealtime because they felt ownership and involvement in this area.
While not written for or from a Christian perspective, I was certainly drawn to many familiar Biblical principles behind much of what this book was promoting. In a culture of affluence, I think it's very easy to see we have a problem. The book was helpful in seeing some of the long-term effects of such affluence, both on us as parents, and as children. It's also easy to allow workaholism to wear the mask of "good Christian work ethic," and to forget the discipline of rest — an area in which it is easy to think that God's fame and success depend on us, rather than specifically making effort to rest — showing both our trust in God and a recognition of our human frailty. Additionally, this is a reminder that as parents, we can use our parental power/authority to empower our children to make their own wise choices and actions, and this book has many helpful insights as how to do so appropriately within a culture that pushes the opposite.
The book is rich, and there is far too much to share here without making this review seem overwhelming and lacking simplicity. It is highly likely that this take on simplicity will flow into many other realms of my life as well, and into aspects I may share on simplifying our home.
I am sometimes wary when I hear the phrase "intentional parenting," because of it's occasional exercised meaning ofobsessive parenting, narrate-every
I am sometimes wary when I hear the phrase "intentional parenting," because of it's occasional exercised meaning of obsessive parenting, narrate-every-move-parenting, helicopter parenting, or the like. However, the focus of intentional parenting in Intentional Parenting: Family Discipleship by Design is what parenting looks like in the context of intentional family discipleship.
Author Tad Thompson uses the metaphor of various rooms of the house to examine what the framework of intentional discipleship should look like within the Christian family. In the metaphorical room of the kitchen, he looks at 7 components that he considers to be must-have ingredients for Christian family discipleship: The Gospel, The Big Story (Biblical Theology), The Big Truths (Systematic Theology), The Great Commission, Spiritual Disciplines, Christian Living, and Worldview. Under the section on "The Gospel," he also examines the common false gospels of "Personal Improvement," of "Prosperity," and “Pray the Prayer gospel"-- false Gospels which are all too common ways the Gospel is presented to children in som evangelical ministries.
The book is divided into six chapters, and reads like a lengthy sermon on the subject:
1) The Need: Look
2) The Mirror: See
3) The Kitchen: The Ingredients of Family Discipleship
4) The Living Room: Contexts for Teaching and Learning
5) The Bedroom: Speaking to Our Children’s Hearts
6) Time to Engage
I found this book to be both encouraging and convicting as we seek to intentionally disciple our now three children. The author strongly emphasizes that the family/home is the primary realm in which the discipleship of children (of believers) is to take place, viewing parents as the primary agents of discipleship. In the current season of our family's life, we've chosen not to outsource the discipleship of our children (e.g., no preschool, Sunday school, Christian daycare, etc..., and so it is an extremely daunting consideration to think that what our children know of God they have either learned from us or by our side (e.g., sitting in a church service mostly geared toward adults). While it is certainly not a formula for a family's spiritual success, I found the emphasis on the components that should be involved as parents seek to disciple their family to be helpful. Instead of a method, the book does more to lay out a matrix through which to view family discipleship.
"Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating."
In many ways, the lack of margin is like being in debt. If you've ever read (or, listened to) Dave Ramsey, just take the same concepts and apply it to our use of time.
The first portion of the book deals with the evolution of marginless living, moving alongside the growth of "progress." Swenson states it well by saying, "Because most of us do not yet know what margin is, we also do not know what marginless is. We feel distressed, but in ill-defined ways. We can tell life isn't quite what it used to be or perhaps not quite what we expected it should be. Then we look at our cars, homes and big screen TVs and conclude that our distress must be in our imaginations." My Encounter with Margin I first encountered the concept of margin long before I knew there was a term for it. But there was a definite need for it. Daniel and I were on the brink of facing burn-out from being too involved in too many areas of life with too little time. At least, the problem I thought we had was too little time. In reality, we had just as much as everyone else: 24 hours in our days, and 168 hour each week.
We had moved into a lower-income neighborhood for the specific purpose of trying to get to know our neighbors and having a ministry with them (that was linked with our church at that time). Our problem of not enough margin came to our attention both gradually, but also through some very vivid instances. We began to realize that we had no time to actually get to know our neighbors--there was always a church activity, school activity, or work scheduled into every hour. We were working with the youth group of our church, and though we often did yardwork as a youth group activity, our own yard was becoming overgrown because we never had time to be at home much more than to head to bed or make and eat a quick meal. My husband was in seminary during that time, and several times a semester he would get so sick that he would just stay in bed and sleep for a 24-hour period. We couldn't hear the "you need margin" alarms elsewhere, and so his body was forcing him to slow down.
Gradually, we began to. I was pregnant, and stopped working outside the home several months prior to the baby's birth. My husband, too, began to slow down, and eventually the problem became much clearer. We heard whisperings of margin as a friend advised, "You don't have to be back in church the Sunday after having your baby--it does not make you more or less spiritual. In fact, it might be the opposite." I heeded her advice, and my first months of motherhood were better for it. Although she intended her advice for a specific season, I began to see that I needed margin in many other areas of life, as well. Busyness was not synonymous with godliness, contrary to my previous belief that more busy equaled greater spirituality.
I was excited to learn that there was also a book by this title, and of course, a much more in depth look at the concept of and need for margin. I came across the book in attempt to do further study on the subject, and am definitely the better for reading this book. Convicting and Encouraging Although I felt we have moved forward in this area, I was reminded of the importance of continual reevaluation in this area, particularly as members of a society that prizes and honors busyness. As Swenson remarks, "Often we do not feel overload sneaking up on us. We instead feel energized by the rapidity of events and the challenge of our full days. Then one day we find it difficult to get out of bed. Not all threshold limits are appreciated as we near them, and it is only in exceeding them that we suddenly feel the breakdown."
Swenson touches on margin far more than it relates to margin in our use of time. He addresses the need for margin in financial matters, simplicity, and many other areas of life. The book is written from a Christian perspective, and I found the latter portion both convicting and encouraging. In the final portion, Swenson broaches on the issue of contentment, taking on a devotional tone.
In some areas, I felt the style of the book to be weak, but overall, the message of the book comes across loud and clear. It is also clear that Swenson practices what he preaches, and is quite passionate about the dire need for lifestyle changes among American people, Christians in particular. The first few anecdotes that open the book are like far too many sermons I have memories of--you get the idea that the speaker has a really good story that he really wants to tell, but then it has nothing to do with his sermon. I felt like this was what happened in the first two chapters; after that, I either noticed it less or the anecdotes actually connected to the theme a little better. :)
I definitely recommend this book for anyone living in our busy culture, and doubt that there anyone who would not profit from it in some way.
Have you read Margin? Do you see the need for margin in your life?
Blogger Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy wrote Work Shift to share with women the possibilites of combining work and family. She explores what this can look like by looking at the ways 30 different women are doing this. Although there are some exceptions, the majority of the examples show how mother and father can function as the primary caregivers, while also arranging scheduling and work so that both are able to work.
I appreciated this book for a number of reasons, but particularly so because our family has somewhat unique work arrangements (although I am only doing a very small percentage of the "working.") Like a good number of the families featured, my husband works from his home office, and has a small degree of flexibility in the way he is able to arrange his schedule and work location. We have done this purposefully (though we realize it's not always possible), and it was affirming to read of other families doing similarly.
Of course, we have computer-based jobs for the most part, but Work Shift also shows how women and men working more traditional jobs can also arrange their jobs and schedules in a way that allows for a unique blend of work and family. There are excellent examples of families doing these very things.
The beginning of the book focuses on some of the history of the workplace--our current cultural view of work is such that we tend to forget that our current construct not the norm prior to the industrial revolution. Anne then goes through how the work-family blend operates, and then looks at individual examples over a broad variety of family situations and work arrangements.
I found this book helpful and inspiring. Like others have commented, I wish I had spent more of my unmarried and childless years exploring and training for options that would allow me to blend work and family; at the same time, there are still plenty of options to allow me to both spend time being a primary caregiver to my children, family, and home while also exploring creative outlets and income-producing opportunities. This book provides an excellent picture of what such opportunities can look like.
From the beginning of the book, Richard Louv makes it clear that in his titling of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, he is not just trying to add another another opportunity for parents and physicians to diagnose children and prescribe corrective drugs. Yet, anyone who has had a childhood with time spent in nature should know the effect that keeping a child indoors and cooped up would have on that child's development.
Louv assesses our current situation and looks at the various reasons of why children are spending so much less time in nature/less time outdoors. He asserts that although the "stranger danger" awareness (that has been proclaimed over the past few decades) holds some truth, it may have done more harm than good. Similarly, there is a healthy awareness of the natural dangers that nature holds, but then there is also an exaggerated terror. Often the overreaction to such hype is merely an illusion of guaranteed safety, and it comes at a price: the nature-deficit disorder. And then, there is the busyness, the hyper-parenting and over-schooling that all lead to spending less time in nature, as well.
The book is filled with anecdotes, so I'll add my own. For the first eleven years of my life I grew up on eleven acres of land. I loved playing in our creek and taking walks in the woods. I was heartbroken when I heard we would be selling our house and vowed that I would never enjoy living in the city. (Not that it was truly urban--just a town, really; but vastly different from my first years of childhood, nonetheless.) My dad was very safety conscious, and even a bit beyond in some realms (e.g., making us hold his hands to cross the street while in our preteens). At the same time, he was quite reasonable and risk-taking in others (e.g., I was shooting a gun quite early in life, with his careful instruction). But to the point of how my childhood in the country relates to this book: my dad was concerned that there might be rapists roaming in our woods, which was very much a result of the stranger danger campaigns going on during that time. Our creek was accessed via a short walk through the woods, and as a result of my dad's concerns I was never allowed to take this walk on my own (or even with another child). So it definitely didn't happen as much as I wished--I did long for that alone time in nature. And although my dad's overcautiousness meant I was not allowed license to roam the land, I was still afforded many opportunities that many of my city-dwelling cohorts did not experience. (Meanwhile my husband was roaming the mountains, parking garages, and streets of Korea with his brothers, and I'm gradually growing less and less shocked at what adventures they were permitted to have.)
Addressing the busyness factor, Louv acknowledged that it may be difficult for some to think that spending time in nature is essential if it is viewed from the perspective of being leisure time. To correct this, he points out the importance of spending time in nature in how it affects mental and physical health, both for the parent and child. When viewed from this paradigm, parents who make their preschoolers too busy with countless tutoring sessions and lessons to help "advance" the child will be more likely to make sure their children to spend sometime in nature.
The book also emphasizes that although nature can include a simple backyard or a park, it is quite important that we also view nature as "the wild" parts of nature, and spend time protecting and enjoying that realm, as well. He gives ideas and solutions, and recognizes that "some of any type" is better than "none."
An interesting aspect that Louv addressed was the spiritual element of interacting with nature, and he even addressed some of the specific concerns that many conservative American Christians have regarding such interaction. I felt that he addressed these well, and seemingly, somewhat unbiasedly (at least, without knowing much more about the author than what is presented in the book.)
As a side point, and in conjunction with some of my other reading, I also thought about the common American Christian response to anything that hints of "environmentalism." The apocalyptic view held by many American conservative Christians has predominately been used as the scapegoat that dominion is a license for destruction and that we can carelessly use nature and the environment without giving thought to how our use or misuse could impact nature and people in future generations. Of course, this is a misguided view, and in this view we show our anachrocentricism (I think I made that word up?), ethnocentrism, and narcissistic view of stewardship.
I did find the book to run on in many points and it could perhaps have been written more concisely (and consequently, briefly). For anyone who already sees the importance of spending time outdoors and in nature, little of the book will contain shocking revelations or new information. At the same time, it is a helpful book and does go over many helpful considerations and solutions. For anyone, though, I think this book is a wake-up call.
Knost's book explores the basic framework of gentle parenting and how it is played out from infancy through adulthood. This book is a helpful read for parents at any stage in parenting (and covers each individual stage), but I think it will be particularly encouraging for those who are in the earliest phases of parenting.
There is a common misconception that if parenting does not include spanking or corporal punishment, that such parenting is permissive and there is no discipline. This book is particularly helpful in that it shows some of the ways that gentle parenting actually builds a platform for loving, consistent discipline in a home. Provided within the book are a few examples of how gentle discipline might look within a home.
Knost also incorporates the importance of connectedness with our children, sometimes referred to as attachment parenting. Knost emphasizes, however, that what is more important than specific parenting practices is the connected relationship. She writes:
Growing independence, though, doesn’t have to mean growing separation. Humans were created to be relational beings. We may outgrow our dependency, but we never outgrow the need for community, interaction, appreciation, reassurance, and support.
Infants, children, and adults alike all share this life-long need for connection. While over time that need will also be met through friendships, business engagements, social interactions, and the like, family relationships are the steady and sure bedrock of secure connection and belonging that ground us and assure us that our needs will not go unmet even in the darkest of times.
Attachment parenting is often misconstrued to be simply about breastfeeding, babywearing, cosleeping, etc. But, while those are possible choices for creating and maintaining a secure parent/child connection in the early years, they are just a small sampling of the relationship-building choices that parents can make throughout their children’s lives.
As little ones outgrow the ‘two thousand kisses a day’ stage, parents can begin consciously creating ‘two thousand connection points a day’ to replace those tender expressions of love with age-appropriate expressions of appreciation and approval, love and support.
From responding empathetically to a preschooler’s whine, to paying attention to a seven-year-old when they tell their endless stories, to listening ‘between the lines’ to the angst of a teen, maintaining a secure parent/child connection beyond infancy is simply about meeting emotional needs consistently, intentionally, and relationally.
The book is written by a Christian author, though the religious tone is not as strong as in some Christian parenting books. I see this as both a strength and a weakness for the book. On the one hand, it gives the book a broader audience. On the other hand, some Christians who may benefit from reading such a book may be disappointed by the lack of "Christianese."
There were elements of the book in which my parenting will look different from the author's, but overall I found this a hugely encouraging, refreshing, and helpful read. There were also many areas in which I was convicted, as well, in the ways I have failed to love my children. (Thankfully, I know there is grace and forgiveness, and the author addresses this, as well!)
Knost is certainly gifted in her emotional intelligence and in her ability to view life from a child's perspective. It is this gift that makes her an excellent adult voice for children and babies, and in a tone that comes across strongly and compassionately throughout the book. (As one of many examples of her ability to view life through the eyes of a child, I found her discussion on how children learn about sharing to be quite helpful.)
The book is brief (114 pages; I read mine on Kindle in just a day and a half), easy to read, and also affordable (just $3.99 for Kindle and $7.99 for paperback). Like many books written for women, by women, and on mothering, there are some emotional appeals. (My husband also read this book, and although he highlighted this element in our discussion of the book, he reminded me that we cannot entirely avoid emotional appeals, and we both considered Knost's to be within the realm of appropriateness.)