Book Review: Girls Gone Mild by Wendy Shailt

18 04 2008

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As Wendy Shalit explores in her newest book, Girls Gone Mild, we’re now living in a new paradigm where — unlike pervious generations with bad boys like James Dean or the Fonz — “badness” isn’t regarded as “daring” or “cool” or “sexy”; it’s become the new social norm, which Shalit explains has created a new kind of repression among girls.

In the same way young women of pervious eras were expected to be good, pure and well-mannered.  Today’s girls are faced with the social pressures and expectations to be wild, brought on by the media, skimpy teen clothing, sexualized toys like Bratz, boyfriends, cliques, and sometimes even their own parents.

In this much needed book, Shalit takes on the challenge of making a case for the “good girl.”  To help — as her subtitle says — Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It’s Not Bad to be Good.

Wendy Shalit’s goal, she says “is not to attack those who want to be ‘wild,’ but rather to expand the range of options for young people, who I believe are suffering because of the limited choices available to them.” In other words, instead of trying to ban “wildness,” she wants purity and innocence to be acknowledged for what they are – valid, practical options, even or especially in our sex-saturated culture.

I was originally under the impression Girls Gone Mild was written to middle school and high school age girls, but although there are short exercises and pop quizzes at the end of each chapter that have a vague teen magazine flare to them, Shalit talks more about girls then to them, and it’s written in more of an upbeat report-style – very well researched and insightful, but not exactly the sort of thing I could see most middle school or high school girls wading through just for fun.  It’s also rather long.

In the first couple of chapters, when Shalit emphasizes how sex-saturated our culture has become, some of the examples (bad examples, but they’re still in there) wouldn’t be appropriate for a lot of preteen or early high school girls. Because of this, even though Shalit doesn’t go into much detail, I wouldn’t feel comfortable giving Girls Gone Mild a recommendation to girls (maybe a select few, but not a general recommendation). 

Although, it isn’t the book I’d originally thought it would be, I do think Girls Gone Mild is a great, eye-opening resource for parents, teachers, youth workers and anyone else hoping to help girls and young women successfully navigate their way through their school years and beyond.  And I hope, for the sake of the girls in their lives, they’ll take advantage of it.

I could also see Girls Gone Mild being a good resource for girls planning or considering living on campus while attending college, because it could provide them with a chance to think through some of the potential problems college students can encounter (co-ed bathrooms, the hookup culture, roommates wanting to hookup in your room, etc.) and how they could handle some of the things they won’t hear about on their college tour.

Wendy Shalit is an Orthodox Jew, but this book isn’t written to those who are religious or conservative in their morals — it’s written to the general population, which I believe is its best feature because in questioning our culture’s view on sexuality, modesty and being good, Shailt has opened the door for further discussion sparked by the question — “Is it so bad to be good?” 

Recommended Age: 17+





Andrew Murray on Surrendering to God

7 03 2008

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“May believers think that when they receive Jesus, He saves them and then helps them in times of trouble. Then they all but deny Him as their Master!  They think they have a right to have their own will and their own way in a thousand different things… they are their own masters and would never dream of saying, ‘Jesus, I forsake all to follow You.’”

– Andrew Murray, From Absolute Surrender





The Teen Sexuality Crisis

18 02 2008

Copyright 2008 Kelsey Hough.  All rights reserved.

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“How could someone possibly be so stupid?” exclaimed the critical voice of one mother as she rolled her eyes in disgust. “What on earth was she thinking? I mean, for crying out loud, kids look up to her! Even my twelve-year-old daughter watches her show every day after school.”

“Yes, so does my daughter.” Her friend chimed in. “But my daughter’s smart.” she said proudly. “She’s a good student. She knows right from wrong. She’d never make that kind of mistake.”

Like many parents with young preteen girls, these two mothers were bent out of shape over the most recent celebrity gossip to hit the newsstands – one of the celebrity starlets, adored by preteens, was pregnant.

In their minds, the young starlet had fallen from her pedestal, and these self-righteous mothers blamed it almost entirely on her lack of intellect – she wasn’t smart like their daughters. But brain power really had nothing to do with the latest teen celebrity pregnancy, what I’m sure was missing in this starlet’s life – like many other teens who find themselves in similar situations – wasn’t brain cells, but guidance.

The Cultural Storm

You don’t have to live on the Vegas Strip to be aware of the fact that purity isn’t exactly “in.” Our culture idolizes celebrities whose daily lives resemble an ongoing frat party, even clothing in the preteen departments seems to be screaming, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it!,” and words like virgin, pure and modest — that in previous generations were regarded as something of value — have become synonymous with prude, sheltered and even socially inept.

Not only has our culture’s moral compass gone right out the window, but in a culture that promotes “it’s good to be bad,” even our very ideas of right and wrong have been stood on end.

Our culture not only doesn’t have a biblical view of purity, it also seems to be entering into a new relational paradigm – The Fast-Food Relationship.

As a culture, we often approach relationships the same as we chose which fast-food restaurant to stop at – “Where can I get what I want in the shortest amount of time?” And sadly, because of this fast-food approach to romantic relationships, committed, meaningful relationships seem to have taken a backseat to casual hookups and one night stands, especially in the media. And at the rate our culture’s relational paradigm is shifting, it seems relationships themselves are in danger of becoming extinct.

Regaining a Christian Worldview

It shouldn’t surprise us then when teens living in the very heart of this cultural storm seem to have no sense of morality or respect for virtue, because culture – mainly through the media – has completely redefined reality for them, even right and wrong. They’re not short on brain cells, they’re simply putting this worldview that “it’s good to be bad” and “do whatever makes you happy” into action.

Because of this, when I look at my peers, what I believe Christian teens and young adults are in need of today is to be presented with a practical Christian worldview. We need to understand what purity is (not just what it isn’t), how God views the covenant of marriage, how every aspect of our lives is to bring glory to God, and how Christianity itself is very practical even in our fast paced, twenty-first century world.

The pursuit of purity – the set-apart Christian life – is very practical, but sadly too often when people give “purity talks,” the focus is on what we shouldn’t do in relationships and in life, not what we should do. In our fast-food, hookup culture, though, what’s needed isn’t a list of don’ts, but a practical Christian worldview that provides us with a destination – holiness – and a practical map to show us the way.

PracticalPurity@gmail.com Drop me a note if you’d like reprint permission.





The Cow That Ate Baby Jesus

10 12 2007

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Copyright 2007 Kelsey Hough.  All Rights Reserved. 

Paper snowflakes and candy canes hung from the ceiling, the windows were now the stage for two dimensional holiday scenes, and a small, wooden nativity sat in a corner.  It was just about as festive and tacky as a two-year-old Sunday school classroom can be in the middle of December … and the kids loved it.

The majority of my small class played with the wooden nativity scene as they acted out the Christmas story — with some minor artistic licensing, unless of course, there was a Lego family and a T-Rex present at Jesus’ birth.

“Teacher, do cows eat this stuff?” asked Nate, a cute little boy who was playing with a black and white dairy cow, holding up a few pieces of hay in his chubby hand.  I said that, “Yes, cows do eat hay.”  So the plastic cow continued munching away on the hay in the feeding trough where the little, wooden baby Jesus was sleeping.

As Nate looked down at the toy bovine towering over the manger, panic suddenly shot through his whole body like a bolt of electricity.  He dropped the diary cow as if he was holding a smoking gun, and asked in a small, shaky voice, “Uh, teacher Kelsey?  Was… uh… baby Jesus eaten by a cow?”

Like a mature and competent Sunday school teacher, rather than laughing, I replied in a confident voice, “No, baby Jesus wasn’t eaten by a cow, Nate. He wasn’t eaten by anything.”

Nate shot another look of horror and fear at the plastic cow as he wailed, “I think baby Jesus was eaten by a cow!” The cow conversation had just begun, but I already knew I was fighting a losing battle.

From Crayons to Chaos 

As Nate’s cry reached the ears of all the other two-year-olds — who’d been happily playing with the Mary, Joseph and T-Rex — their lips began to quiver as they stared with fear and disgust at the black and white baby-eating cow who’d committed the unthinkable act of eating baby Jesus. The looks on their little faces was comparable to if they’d just been told their dear, old grandmother was an axe murderer.

Knowing more tears and hysteria were on the way, I tried explaining to my group of little alarmists how we know Jesus wasn’t eaten by a cow when he was a baby, because he grew up into an adult; he didn’t stay “baby Jesus.” But after that didn’t work, we had an educational discussion about the differences between carnivores and herbivores, and how, because cows don’t eat meat, they also don’t eat babies.

Vegetarian cows chewing their cud rather than gnawing on sleeping, innocent babies consoled most of them, and in a couple of minutes, you’d have never known my entire two-year-old Sunday school class had been on the brink of hysteria only a few minutes before.

While the rest of the class discussed their Christmas lists, Nate, who still wasn’t ready to let the subject go, asked earnestly, “But, Teacher, what if the cow didn’t see baby Jesus?”

Since, as we’d just discussed, babies weren’t a regular part of a cow’s diet, Nate was convinced that some absentminded cow the size of a house, might have accidentally eaten Jesus.  Because after all, Jesus was sleeping in the cows’ food dish.

A Bovine-Free Christmas Story  

It’s been several years since the “cow incident,” but I still can’t help wondering if Nate has an unexplainable fear of cows. At the very least, I highly doubt he’ll ever be a diary farmer.

What a horrible Christmas story it would’ve been if Jesus hadn’t survived “barn life”: God loved the world so much he actually left all the five star comforts of Heaven to live on our dysfunctional, germ infested little rock, but sadly, He forgot to take into account the giant, baby-eating, dairy cows, so God became lunch for a hungry, absentminded cow. Thankfully, though, Jesus didn’t end up stuck in some cow’s teeth.

Emanuel, God with us, came to be the light into the world, to bring redemption and hope.  And no, he wasn’t eaten by a cow; not even accidentally.

PracticalPurity@gmail.com Drop me a note if you’d like reprint permission.





Book Review: Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot

6 11 2007

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Copyright 2007 Kelsey Hough.  All rights reserved.

Because there are so many relational/purity books in print, I think it’s easy for Christian singles desiring a Biblical world view regarding romance and purity to feel at a loss of where to even start reading.  Most of us don’t have the time, money, or desire to wade through a stack or relational/purity books looking for a few diamonds in the rough.

So where do you start if you’d like a thoughtful introduction to romantic relationships?  I believe Elisabeth Elliot’s Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control is an excellent starting point for both singles and dating/courting couples desiring to, as the subtitle says, bring their love lives under Christ’s control.

In Passion and Purity, Elisabeth Elliot honestly and openly shares with the reader the story and lessons learned from her five-year courtship with Jim Elliot while addressing topics such as dealing with loneliness and impatience, how we’re to view singleness, putting God’s desires ahead of your own, men and women’s relational roles, the importance of purity, and much more.

I appreciate the fact that although Elisabeth Elliot talks candidly about purity and relationships, the way she addresses these topics is never inappropriate, so a preteen could read Passion and Purity without losing a piece of their purity and innocence in the process, and a single adult could read it without feeling talked down to.

Unlike some relational/purity books, Passion and Purity never makes the mistake of over-spiritualizing romance and relationships, but Elisabeth Elliot also makes it evident through sharing personal stories and journal entries she does understand from personal experience the joys and pains of singleness.

I originally read Passion and Purity in early high school.  It was one of the first books I read on the subject of purity and relationships, and I found it challenging, thought-provoking and encouraging.  I’ve since reread it several times, and in each new stage of life, I’ve found it just as applicable.

Passion and Purity has remainded my personal favorite relational/purity book on the market, and one I regularly recommend to other Christian singles.  If you haven’t read it, I wholeheartedly recommend you give it a whirl.

Recommended Age: 13+

PracticalPurity@gmail.com Drop me a note if you’d like reprint permission.





Charles Spurgeon on Our Reasonable Service

20 09 2007

 

“A man who is really saved by grace does not need to be told that he is under solemn obligations to serve Christ. The new life within him tells him that. Instead of regarding it as a burden, he gladly surrenders himself–body, soul, and spirit–to the Lord who has redeemed him, reckoning this to be his reasonable service.” ~Charles Spurgeon





Transparency: Behind the Painted Smile

23 08 2007

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Copyright 2007 Kelsey Hough.  All rights reserved.

“I can’t let them know who I really am, Kelsey,” she said with pain in her voice, “Because they’d be so disappointed if they knew I wasn’t doing as well as they all think I am — if they knew I don’t have it all together.”

I tried pulling her out of the mental hole she’d fallen into; I said she was merely human, just like everyone else, so she wasn’t perfect, just like everyone else. But the topic was closed and she had no desire to be thrown anymore ropes.  She wanted to stay in her hole.

Like so many other people, this young girl had decided she couldn’t allow anyone to see the scared, broken, hurting person behind the mask.

Life: The Masquerade

We learn at a young age that life is a large and elaborate, 24/7 masquerade ball, and if you’re going to play the game, you have to hide your shortcomings, struggles, pain and imperfections behind a painted smile, just like everyone else does.

Unfortunately, while we watch the endless parade of smiling, confident faces stroll past us, we often forget we’re attending a masquerade ball, and that almost every face is completely hidden from view behind a bucket full of paint. Everyone else appears beautiful and put together, so we desperately cling to our own masks a little tighter, hoping no one will notice the confident, perfect grin we’re showcasing will smear the next time it rains.

It’s the domino affect in action, and it starts with just one person deciding to sport a mask. The people around them then analyzed their own wrinkled, pimply faces in the mirror and decide they’re falling short, so they invest in masks, as well. Before long, there isn’t a single person left who even remembers what it’s like to be transparent, honest and real.

Broken and Scary  

We’re told we’re suppose to be as normal and all-American as The Brady Bunch, but if people truly knew us, we’d all probably come closer to resembling The Addams Family – eccentric, dark, a little scary, and just downright weird.

People are hurting, grieving, living, and dying alone.

And the most heartbreaking part is there are others who are just as scary and broken as they are, but they’re also hiding behind a painted smile.  Just like everyone else.

PracticalPurity@gmail.com Drop me a note if you’d like reprint permission.