Collaborative Review of “Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations the Church Forgot” by Mo Isom

This is my first ever collaborative review which I am so excited to share.  Just as I began this read, a friend, mentor, minister, and coworker (?) shared she was reading as well.  We have recently begun meeting together for lunch which make up some of my favorite days.  So we met together to discuss this read and coauthored our review.

But let me start with my manners and first, introduce my friend Erin to you.

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Erin Moniz, M.Div. serves as the Assistant Chaplain and Director of Student Ministries at her alma mater, Berry College.  I first met Erin as a student and have since had the privilege of leading many ministry events and experiences alongside of her working in college ministry.  She has commiserated with and encouraged me in the Master’s of Divinity process while also serving as a safe place when those classes are not always the most welcoming for women.  I recently overheard a student in my kitchen describe Erin stating, “Ya know, she is the most badass minister I know.”  And I’m convinced nothing could describe her better.

Discussing Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot with Erin was a great dialogue as we approached this book both as women raised in the Church, working in ministry, yet one of us married and one of us single, both with different stories and experiences we brought to the literal table we were dining at.  Not to mention, I am an Enneagram 2 and Erin an Enneagram 8, so the balance was extremely beneficial and occasionally ironic.


What we loved about Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations the Church Forgot was its honesty and candidness, specifically bringing into the light that Christian women struggle with pornography, masturbation, and sexual desires in general.  So many “struggles” of sexuality have been gendered as men’s issues in the Church, yet as Isom shares her story she openly reveals these are not only issues guys face and they are temptations girls are facing at extremely young ages.

Furthermore, Isom elaborates on the emphasis of abstinence and purity culture in the Church.  She shares from her own story that she crossed every line imaginable, yet sought to keep her “purity” in tact by only avoiding vaginal penetration.  While some may drop their jaw we just used such words on a blog, this is a common misconception that we have both heard from girls, describing their physical boundaries in dating relationships.  Isom highlights sexual purity is so much more and begins so much sooner, reaching to so many different areas of our lives.

We were thankful that Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations The Church Forgot acknowledged singleness, upholding its value as Scripture describes.  Yet, (Emily Katherine here-) Isom seems to explain singleness from the point of view of chosen singleness, never addressing those of us in a season of singleness that is not chosen or preferred.  She describes a season of singleness when she felt closer to the Lord than ever before and free of so many complications and complexities- yet this is more a chosen fast from dating and her only time of singleness according to her story.  (My single sisters, here’s your trigger warning.)

“We don’t need a partner to assign us value when we feel worthless.  We need a soul reawakened to its worth in our Father’s eyes.”

I, (Erin here-) valued Isom’s explanation that sex in marriage is not a magic thing that comes together just because you followed the rules of purity culture.  While Isom lacks a full emphasis on how a theology of intimacy creates the way for success in marriage, she at least dispels this HUGE myth we are still trying to sell people.

Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations The Church Forgot is a valuable read I have already recommended to mothers, small group leaders, and student ministry workers, specifically those who work with girls.  Yet, Erin and I ended our conversation by summarizing while we are so thankful for this book and the great conversations it has begun, this book is only an appetizer for what we were looking for.

Isom leads openly and honestly with her story throughout the text.  I (Emily Katherine) so valued her rawness and authenticity, yet this story driven nature sometimes led to theological points which drew me to check for her seminary education on the back of the book.  The story driven nature of Isom’s book to me (Erin) somewhat limited the issues that could be addressed by leaving out the narratives of victims of sexual abuse and narrowing the focus to one persons’ story, limiting the Church’s ability to respond with better conversations pertaining to sexuality.  The author takes so much personal responsibility for her struggle with sexual sin that she overlooks affects of her environment and family, perpetuating the Western narrative of private salvation overlooking the fullness of the message of the gospel which openly points to the effects of environment and generational sin, along with the Church’s role in sanctification.  Erin and I also discussed many students we counsel’s stories of sexuality include same sex attraction or wrestling with gender identity which were not even acknowledged as this book focuses on Isom’s story rather than issues of sexuality and Christianity as a whole.

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Erin and I were extremely thankful, Isom aims a few arrows toward purity culture and offers some great examples of how it is falling vastly short in the conversations the Church offers regarding sexuality, especially for girls.  Yet, as Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations the Church Forgot is driven by Isom’s narrative, it lacks in undoing some of the conversations the Church has had regarding sexuality, and providing recommendations of conversations the Church should be having.  Isom explains feeling isolated and alone, trying to fish for her Mom to see how many questions she had, offering a charge to the Church to step up, but between the pages I (Emily Katherine) found Isom less often explaining how the Church can better communicate about sexuality and rather continuing to describe through vivid details of her own story why sex outside of marriage is wrong and damaging.  And if I’m honest, that’s a conversation the Church has overdone.

We need a theology of intimacy.  A healthy and honest theology of gender, sexuality, identity, and a lack of fear of what is appropriate because individuals beginning at early, early ages are being told from every avenue what to believe about these things.  We have to stop separating boys and girls and using clichés, hoping their parents explain more.  Church, we cannot be silent in a sexually saturated culture.

Erin and I are thankful for Mo Isom’s courage to open up this issue and direct our attention to how the Church is or is not addressing sexuality and honored by her rawness in Sex, Jesus, and Conversations the Church Forgot.


FullSizeRenderThanks for stopping by!

My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

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Guest Blog: Five Steps to Plan Repeatable Events

This guest blog is written by a dear friend, coworker, and my supervisor, Preston Tippett.  Preston has worn many hats in the WinShape College Program including Event Planner, Small Group Leader, Event Specialist, and now serves as a Coordinator of Programming.

Everyone who works around us thoroughly enjoys laughing at our dynamic as Preston is definitely the “how” to my “wow”.  While I am most excited to meet new people and dream up new ideas, Preston keeps us grounded, on track, and productive.  Below he shares practical insights on planning repeatable events!


As a ministry leader of students, you know very well how often events take place.  All. The. Time.  As soon as one is finished, your focus and energy shift to what is next on the calendar.  Often, you are forced to think about and plan for multiple events simultaneously.

I’m here to give a few thoughts about how you can go about planning for events in a way that could alleviate your future to-do list.  Because let’s be honest, who wants to reinvent the wheel or duplicate work every time you gear up for an event?  Me neither!  Below are five essentials for creating repeatability in planning events.

  1. Have a trackable task management system, something that you can refresh and reuse each time.

    Ideally, this system should track how far out from the event (days, weeks, or months) you need to complete the task.  Once you input that information for each particular task, you won’t have to take the time to think about when you need to do that certain task, nor are you feeling overwhelmed in looking at every task that needs to get done for the event to happen.  Rather, the system is reminding you when you need to complete that task.  I recommend your system to have a filtering or ordering option, where you can select which parts you want to view based on how far out from the event that task is to be completed.

  2. Know your budget.

    We are called to be good stewards of what is entrusted to us.  Planning events usually comes with stewarding a good bit of money and using that money wisely.  It is important that you keep track of how much you are spending throughout the planning of your event.  The benefits to tracking your spending are twofold: you know on the latter end if you spent more or less than you were allotted, and you have a very accurate estimate of how much to allot for each line item the next time around.  I would recommend not just tracking the overall amount spent, but know how much you spent on each individual aspect of the event.  Break it down as specifically as you can.

  3. Take notes!

    Have you ever had a great idea and think, “There’s no way I’ll forget that, that’s too good of an idea,” only to later have no recollection of it?  One of the easiest ways to limit your ability to create repeatable events is to forget what you’ve done before.  This might sound slightly like the part above regarding task management, but the difference here is not just knowing the task that needs to be done, but knowing how to go about completing that task.  Let’s say, for example, that you used an outside vendor to provide supplies for your event and you would love to use them again.  You would want to take note of that company’s name, the specific vendor’s name and contact information, as well as any additional notes about the specifics of what you did.

    Bottom line: take note of how you completed tasks, and create a reminder in your task management system to review those at the start of your next event.

  4. Evaluate and refine.

    This step is crucial if you want to create repeatable events and maximize your efforts.  If you don’t evaluate what you are doing, how would you ever know if you are creating the best version of what you are doing?  Don’t just do it the same exact way year after year.  You could be left with designing your programming around a theme to a TV show series that none of your students have context to because it’s that outdated (yes, my team has made that mistake).  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t strive to replicate what you do year after year, but rather to do so with discretion.  Essentially, you should schedule time after each event to sit down with your team and evaluate what you believe went well and what needs to be improved.  I have a practice of creating a new note in my phone during events where I can quickly jot down anything that comes to mind in the realm of tweaking, improving, or removing.  This helps me when I come to the team’s evaluation meeting, as I can pull up that note and see the list of items I think should be reconsidered to make better.

    The second step to evaluating is refining.  The reason for evaluating is to know the areas that need refining.  Use the energy and momentum from your evaluation meeting to put the refining into action.

  5. Celebrate!

    This isn’t necessarily a tip for planning for repeatability, but it is an important step that, surprisingly, can easily be overlooked.  After you’ve accomplished your event and evaluated its success, it can feel natural to simply move on to the next event that needs attention.  However, I would highly encourage you to schedule time for you and your team to celebrate the completion of your event.  Set aside a specific time in your calendar for your team to enjoy a meal together or create a shared experience.  Be sure to clarify the connection between the accomplishment and the celebration.  Celebrating with your team is a great way to create a natural close to the event you have just planned and executed.

16 Books I read in 2016

I’m getting a little audacious to make this an annual thing, but maybe that’s because that’s the title of the very first book I read this year.

(P.S. You can purchase the book by clicking the photo!)

1.) Audacious by Beth Moore

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Read my review of Audacious here.

2.) I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

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I am all about some girl power.  And while many believe gender inequality has been provided to all, there are still so many girls who need to be empowered.  Girls who have believed in themselves because one girl did, named Malala.  Malala’s story is eye-opening, touching, and moving.  Yes, I’m a little behind on this book trend, but I would give this book to any girl 10 and up for them to know what a privilege it is to be educated and what some girls go through just to learn.

3.) Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler

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Read my review of one of my favorite books I’ve read in a while here.

4.)  Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey

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Behind on the book trends again, I know.  I grew up in a world where the word “feminism” was overwhelmingly hushed.  I was a little fearful of finding this book to be an angry feminist ranting about the Church and faith I love, but I absolutely loved this book.
Sarah Bessey shares of story of growing up in a gender neutral world, then navigating moving to the States and being placed under societal norms of the roles of men and women in the Church.  Read it and let me know what you think.

5.) The Sabbath by Abraham Heschel

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This is anything but a light read.  A Rabbi shares traditions and stories passed down within his family, along with principles within Jewish tradition that paint the picture of the deep value of the Sabbath.

6.) Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs

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Read my review of Looking for Lovely here.  Also, this summer I was invited by Annie to come attend a weekend in Nashville, TN walking through all of her important places from this book.  Annie is forever throwing a party for Jesus and it was a joy to be a part of.

7.) A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis

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This was the first and one of the only books I could read following losing my Dad suddenly.  C. S. Lewis shares his very real and raw thoughts and wrestlings following having lost his wife to cancer. It put words to a lot of the depths I was feeling and if you have ever grieved anyone, read it.

8.)  A Heart Like His by Beth Moore

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This is a Beth Moore Bible Study on the life of David.  I loved how she brought David’s life to light and made it so real and relatable.  It can be done as a daily Bible Study as the chapters are around 4 or 5 chapters, but I got sucked in and just didn’t really want to sit it down as Beth made David feel like my best friend, she just made him so real.  I’ve since bought it for multiple friends.

9.)  Life Together in Christ by Ruth Haley Barton

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I am a big Ruth Haley Barton fan.  In this book, she highlights the value of Biblical Community using the story of Jesus’ appearances on the Emmaus Road. She wrote so many truths from this passage I hadn’t thought of before and made beautiful connections between this account in the gospels and the modern Christian life.  This is a great resource on the value of other believers in the Christian life.

10.) Conversion & Discipleship by Bill Hull

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This was required reading for a seminary class this fall, but I really loved it.  Bill Hull explained so well that walking with believers does not end once they come to know Christ, but that is only the beginning, highlighting both parts of the Great Commission.  Great read!

11.) Transformational Discipleship by Eric Geiger and Michael Kelley

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This book was similarly a book for a seminary class, but I enjoyed its very practical principles of discipleship presented.  The authors focused on how growth takes place in the life of a believer through various stories of individuals’ transformation.  Also a good read!

12.) Teenage Girls by Ginny Olson

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While we’re on the topic of seminary books, I absolutely loved this one.  While it is a little dated, the modern psychological research included sets this book far above many I have read on ministering to teenage girls.  It did a great job of discerning what ministers should encourage parents to reinforce in each stage and issue of teenage girls’ development and what is important for the minister to recognize.  I would say this is a must read for anyone who works with teenage girls!

13.) Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

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This book put words to transformation in my life I had just experienced or was currently undergoing.  I immediately felt like I could better explain myself through beautiful metaphors and stories used in this book.  I have continued to reference it since I’ve read it and bought it for multiple friends.  This book is all about showing up even when you’re imperfect and I think we all need to do so much more of it.

14.) Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

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I listened to this book on Audible, which I would highly recommend.  Lauren Graham shares her story of how she so deeply identified with the character of Lorelai Gilmore in my favorite TV Show Gilmore Girls.  She watched every season and talked about what was going on in her life.  She shared a little about Parenthood and the shared more about the Revival with interesting details and beautiful stories in between.  Y’all these are my shows and I loved this.

15.) The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

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I mean, just read this.

16.) Hidden Christmas by Tim Keller

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This was a good read for this Christmas, as Tim Keller highlighted many of the not so romantic details about the story of the night in Bethlehem when Jesus was born.  He beautifully wove a good deal of Old Testament anecdotes and details and did a great job of bringing the story to life while shedding a great deal of new light on typically overlooked pieces of the story.


So those are my reads from this year.  Comment below with yours!  Also, click FOLLOW in the left column for book reviews hot of the presses.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Review of Cherish: Cultivating Relationships with Parents, Friends, Guys, And More

cherishCherish: Cultivating Relationships with Parents, Friends, Guys, And More by Vicki Courtney

In case you don’t read any further, let me go ahead and say that if you work with  or are raising girls, specifically teenage girls, this is a book to have on your shelf.

The week before this book made it to me, I was approached by a mom on how to handle a situation with a girl she knew that was sending inappropriate photos to a boy.  After our conversation, she asked if there was any good resource to share and I was at a loss.

What book is even up to date enough, I thought, to be able to talk about the expectation girls feel to send photos, better yet all of the other pressures they face?

And the very night I received this book I was planning to talk to my girls about relationships with parents, but again was at a loss as to what a good resource would be to be able to share with them.

Needless to say, Cherish met me exactly where I needed it to, and if you work with girls, I’m sure it can meet you in the same way.  Also, if you are a middle school or high school girl, go ahead and click that picture above and press purchase.


 

Cherish reads a good bit like Seventeen Magazine to me.  It’s full of quizzes, “5 Ways to Know if…”, and other fun articles.  Within the topics of Parents, Friends, Guys, and God, Vicki provides a variety of short little articles and snippets that are quick to read, insightful, and hit on a wide variety of topics all geared toward about a 7-9th grade reading level.


I     L O V E: 

  • This book hits on a wide variety of topics.
    Specifically within the context of families, Pam Gibbs provides some great insights on and advice for living in a family with non-believing parents, growing up in a blended family, an unsafe home environment, etc.  I love seeing a resource that approaches families with some intersectionality.
  • The boys chapter isn’t all about your husband.
    Few things bother me more than a resource emphasizing the value of purity that solely focus on the effect your present purity will have on your future husband.  Instead, Cherish talks about the risk of STDs along with the very present ramifications of sexual impurity, while taking a beautifully redemptive approach to such a difficult issue.
  • It’s up to date.
    Let me tell you as a small group leader to 16 year olds, if your book talks about life and doesn’t talk about Instagram, it truly hasn’t talked about anything.
  • It shares some hard truths about friends.
    I think teenage girl-hood is such an important time to recognize and practice what healthy friendships are.  Articles included touch on some hard truths of friendship- even when it’s time to let go of one.
  • It takes on the uncharted territory of teenage hormones.
    From mood swings to shame and everything in between, articles included touch on putting words to the craziness of a teenage girl’s brain hormone wise and even how to interact with parents about it!

 

I     D O N ‘ T     L O V E:

  • QR codes.
    Some videos can be found  online as a supplemental resource to Cherish, but they are linked through QR codes in the book.  I personally hate QR codes, because I never have enough memory on my phone to download a QR scanning app.