Sunday, July 31, 2005

November 15 is "I Love to Write Day"

Attention Writers:

November 15 is "I Love to Write Day"

The World's Biggest Party For Writers

November 15, 2005
will mark the fourth anniversary of I Love To Write Day, a grassroots effort to have people of all ages practice their writing skills. Created by Delaware author John Riddle, I Love To Write Day is an opportunity for people of all ages to write something: a poem, an essay, a letter to the editor, a short story, start a novel, finish a novel the possibilities are endless! On the first I Love To Write Day, 11,328 schools all across the country held special writing events and activities. Last year, we signed up 15,123 schools. This year our goal is to have an I Love To Write Day program in over 20,000 schools. Please help us spread the word: tell schools, libraries and bookstores in your community about I Love To Write Day. You can read more about I Love To Write Day and learn how to register (it's free!) by reading the Media Kit.

Stress and Summer

It's been a bit quiet on the homefront lately. My agent is back from vacation tomorrow. I'm looking forward to coming up with our game plan.

Someday, I promise, I will finish the post I started a few months back about my head injury. The most frustrating aspect is that I need to ask others to tell me what happened. I just don't remember. It's like a friend telling you about something that happened to them. You know the facts because you've heard the story, but you don't have a personal emotional connection to the event. I have a vague awareness of things, but it feels like someone else's history. I went back and looked at some of my old journal entries and they're gibberish. Funny, I thought I was recording such profound thoughts at the time!

I'm very grateful for the progress I've made and for the most part, I really do feel like I can function at 100% again. It was a year ago that I had my major relapse and had to start recovering from scratch. The difference I notice pre-injury and post-injury is my ability to adapt. If I get in a situation that I'm not prepared for, I can tell when I'm slipping back into that state of fog and disorientation. My thoughts and emotions get all jumbled up and I have to retreat to the silence and sanctuary of my home (or that of a trusted friend) to restablize. Generally, this means a lot of sleep. Which means I'm not getting done the things I want to get done, which stresses me out. So I'm learning to expect less of myself, kind of a stop and smell the roses or fall into the thorns proposition. It's a frightening feeling to know that certain triggers can render me helpless, but I'm grateful that those episodes are becoming more rare. Many thanks to the friends whose truthful words and loving companionship bring healing to my spirit and body.

Last summer I was off work. Other than trips to my neurologist, physical therapist, speech therapist, occupational therapist, opthalmologist and neuropsychologist, I'm not sure what I did to fill up my days. For the last couple of years, I've wanted to be a visitor in my hometown...check out all the places that visitors go, that sort of thing. Two years ago I was finishing my book and I don't think I even saw the sun! Last year, I had time, but not the health. So this is my year.

For starters, I've been golfing. My dad owns a driving range and I like the idea of golfing as a way to connect with him. He lives in Minnesota, so mostly it's me out hitting balls or playing a round, and calling him for pointers. I recruited a friend of mine to play with me this summer and our goal is to try every course in GR at least once. We've been at it for 3 weeks already and in addition to the exercise, it's nice to see my score come down a bit. The increased frequency has convinced me that I can invest in a few things on my wishlist. I replaced the golf bag I ran over a few years ago (oops!) and finally bought a pair of real golf shoes. All I need is a Sonic Boom and I'm ready to go pro!

My favorite sport of all is volleyball. In my 20s, I had a great group of friends whose play really improved my own. I have many fond memories of Sundays grilling out and watching the Packers, and then hitting a park of play on the sand court. Or Saturdays that we'd rent out a sand court and play til midnight, utterly exhausted. That was a sweet season of life.

I've played in various placed around GR, but haven't been able to find a good sand league. The great news is that a few weeks ago I was invited to play on Tuesday nights. It's not league but it's sand. The first week we played threes for a couple hours and last week we played quads in the rain. Toward the end it was like playing with a ten pound bowling ball! I was exhausted and sore the next day, but it was a good hurt. I hope we continue to play year-round because there's no better exercise for me. If you're local and looking for competitive play, send me an email and I'll let you know how to join us.

In addition to my grand plans for physical exercise, I've been challenging myself to meet new people. I'm such a homebody and would probably be perfectly happy to never leave my house, but God doesn't call us to live solitary lives. We're designed for community so I need to make myself available. As I write this, I'm sitting at Barnes and Noble instead of my office at home.

I was actually here last night with some friends playing Settlers of Catan. It's my favorite board game. Strategy like Risk, but more about building up cities than world domination. The Cities & Knights expansion pack is even better. I'm looking for fellow fans, so if you're a player (or want to learn), let me know and we can set up a game night.

The other priority I've made of late is visiting other local churches. I love my home church and I'm not looking to change church membership. It's been a long season of struggle with my health and now with my book. I feel a bit lost and off track and am looking for direction. God promises me in the book of James that if I draw near to Him, He will draw near to me. I know, from looking at the fourteen years of faith in Him, that this is true. The last 18 months have been hard because He has been hard to find. It's been a winnowing season as friendships and priorities have changed. I want to be available to Him, but need a renewed sense of vision. A friend and I have been visiting other churches (in addition to our own) as a way of drawing near to God. For the last few weeks we've attended a church that is doing a series on connecting: with God, with others, with family, with friends, etc. It's been hitting home. It would be nice to connect with some of the people there, but the teaching makes the trips valuable alone.

And now...time to response to the 100 or so emails in my box...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Late Great Generation Ex

I seem to have the most insightful ideas after my laptop is shut down and I'm settled in bed. Last night, my last thought was, "Oh! That would be a great post for my blog."

Here it is the next morning and I have no idea what I was going to write. Seeing that I haven't made an entry in a week (not that I think anyone's waiting with bated breath for my next inspired words, I'm not too worried), I thought I should at least post a quick update.

* Absolutely no word from my publisher, even about how the meeting (that was supposed to take place last Tuesday) went. However, Generation Ex is no longer listed on Random House or WaterBrook sites, or on one of the main retail sales sites. In fact that site lists it as "Out of Stock Indefnitely." Many, many thanks for those who have written me and/or my publisher. Three thoughts comfort me.

#1 - There are 130,000 some books published each year. Most don't stay in print more than a year. Most don't even sell 5,000 copies. My books was a success on both accounts.
#2 - I didn't write the book to make a lot of money, or for my own pride or anything else but to be obedient to what I believed God called me to do. I walked through the door of opportunity that God opened for me at WaterBrook and I know that lives have been changed because of it. I sleep well at night.
#3 - If WaterBrook is in fact putting Generation Ex out of print, we can push to get rights reverted and it's possible that another publisher will pick it up. Since I have a few other books I'd like to write along these lines, it may be the best thing for GE, if not the most ego-affirming for me!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Good Steward

A week ago I was in Denver, CO for the International Christian Retail Show (formerly and fondly known as CBA). I was there as both an author (Remember that cool new group I posted about? I'm now a member) and for my work.

The days were a blur of meetings and taking in trends on the exhibit floor. But what I like most about CBA is that it has a family reunion sort of feel. I've worked in Christian publishing for eight years, at 3 different companies in 3 different capacities. And I'm not alone in my migrations. The adage is especially true in this industry: Never made an enemy, you never know who you'll be working for.

Although I did have a few work-related meetings, for the most part, I attended as an author, which was nice since I didn't have my luggage for most of my trip. But authors can wear whatever they want.

The "out of control" feelings continued when I stopped by my publisher's book. It's always fun to see what's new. The Jesse Butterworth book I endorsed was on display and it was a cool moment to see my first endorsement in print. I was able to introduce myself to staff and it was very gratifying that I didn't always have to say, "I wrote a book for you."

The bummer of the deal, and people of prayer, I'd appreciate your intercession on this one. I found out that my book is out of stock. That wouldn't be a big deal, except that the powers that be may be deciding not to print another run.

What hurts is that the reason behind all this is that one particular chain took in an optimistic amount of my books. Then I sustained a head injury and wasn't able to do much by way of promotion. The retail chain then adjusted their stock levels and sent a whole lotta books back. In fact, in 2005, this chain returned more books than other stores have sold. This does not create a profitable picture. My sales are still in the postive numbers, though, when you look at lifetime, but that's not the way of publishing today. The painful part is that when books come back to a publisher from multiple stores, they aren't generally shipped in full boxes. In fact, the book can get pretty beat up in the shipping as it's boxed with other books from my publisher. It costs more money to sort out the books and decide which are re-sellable and which aren't, which means, GULP...they're usually tossed. Now there's a ego booster.

So...I only have a few copies of my book. Most physical stores don't have any. (Thank God for Amazon and online stores!). And now that my health is recovered enough for me to take advantage of all the things I had to decline, we don't have books to sell.

This, my friends, is a sad state of affairs.

The book's not dead yet, and I did send an extensive list of upcoming events and angles for WaterBrook to consider. I'm hoping that I'll have good news to share, but certainly appreciate your prayers on my behalf. There are other books coming out so I know the word will get out about the message of Generation Ex. But you know, I don't want to bow out quite yet.

In the meantime, I did learn that some of those returns didn't get trashed. My new best friends at are in the business of giving books a second chance. They may not be as pretty, but they're cheap.

Save a dying book, pick up your copy of Generation Ex today!
Northwestern Bookstores
Dad's Bookstore

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Songs for Recommittment Ceremony

The other night I gave into a guilty pleasure--on of VH1's countdown shows. This one was "Top 100 Most Awesomely Bad Love Songs." Listening to songs that were popular when I was younger showed me just how naive I was. I can't believe how I missed some of the rather bizarre themes in these songs. Yikes, God was really protecting my mind!

On the flip side, on occasion I hear a song that really blows me away with its depth (pretty much anything by Nichole Nordeman, for example) or unique approach to a topic.

A recent song that comes to mind is the Ray Boltz song, "Let Begin Again." This is a great song for a couple back from the brink of divorce. This is the kind of song that celebrates true love:

Let's Begin Again
Lyrics: Ray Boltz -
Album: Moments for the Heart

I can still remember
When we said our wedding vows
We gave the Lord our hearts and our home
But lately we've been so busy
It's changing us somehow
I wonder if that's why we feel alone

Let's begin again
Trust in Him and not our feelings
Let's leave the loneliness behind
Take my hand and then
We can find a new beginning
Let's begin again
While there's still time

Jesus made a promise
If two of us agree
The Father up above would hear our prayer
He is still the healer
Of hurting families
And there is hope as long as He is there

Repeat chorus twice

Friday, July 15, 2005


One of the points I make when speaking is that often parents are the last two people to whom a child will honestly confide their feelings about divorce. Here's a great article to elaborate:

London Telegraph
July 7, 2005

What does a child really feel when his parents divorce? The BBC gave10-year-old Ben a video camera and asked him to confide in it. For hisfamily, Olga Craig learns, the results add up to an uncomfortable evening's viewing

Boarding school, Ben Gedye has decided, could solve all the anxieties and dilemmas of his 10-year-old life.

"If I went away to school,'' he says solemnly, "that way, I wouldn't hurt Mummy when I wanted to spend time with Daddy. And I wouldn't hurt Daddy when I wanted to be with Mummy. I would be, like, away at school not hurting either of them.''

Life, as Ben discovered somewhat painfully when he was just seven years old, is full of such difficult choices.

His problem is that even if he had the opportunity to make them for himself, he would still be torn.

He would, he admits, tell his parents what he thought would make them both happy, not what he truly felt.

When, five years ago, Ben's parents became another statistic in Britain's toll of separated or divorced couples, he and his older sister Melita became part of the "shuttlecock'' generation, whose week is spent commuting between their Mum and Dad.

''All we ever do is go back and forth, back and forth,'' Ben says glumly to camera, his brown eyes widening in sorrow behind his owlish glasses.

Shifting uncomfortably as he turns a toy cube over and over in his hand, he says: "It's like we are a toy for them to play with, that they have to share.''

In the silence that follows Ben looks away from the video camera on which he is recording his thoughts. He looks anxious. With a 10-year-old's logic, he feels that his words are in some way a betrayal of both his parents.

That Ben loves both his father and mother is obvious: he says so many times. What he and thousands of children in his situation are unable to tell them, however, is the harrowing effect their separation has had on their lives: the truth remains locked inside.

For decades child psychologists have written on the effects divorce has upon children. Yet few children will tell an adult, no matter how closely connected, how they truly feel.

Now, through a series of BBC documentaries, children have been given their voice. Throughout the summer of 2003, 21 children were given, with their parents' permission, video cameras on which to record their thoughts about their worlds.

Their private confessions vividly depict life through the eyes of a child. For Ben, the experience was both bewildering and painful. As he gazes thoughtfully at the camera, hesitant, at first, to reveal too much, he tells of his fears.

But first, he wants to speak of his love for Rowena, his mother, and Robin, his father. "I love my Mum lots because she always understands if something is wrong, that's why she is the best ever,'' he grins.

He loves his Dad, too, and his big sister Melita, 13. "We fight all the time,'' he says, eyes rolling, "but she's my sister and I don't know what I'd do without her.''

Then, over the months of July, August and September, Ben reveals the traumas of his new life: his worry that his new step-brother is "stealing'' his family; his jealousies and the insecurities he endures.

For many young children, the introduction of a parent's new partner is upsetting. Ellie, 10, who like Ben made a video diary, told how, though she liked her father's new girlfriend, she felt "my tummy churning and upset'' when she was around her.

Her younger brother, staring straight into the camera, explains his sister's discomfort with disarming clarity: "She stole my Daddy,'' he says.

Uppermost in many of the children's minds, however, are their shuttlecock lives. Practicalities are always important for a child. Yet Ben's words reveal a more thoughtful analysis.

"Monday, Tuesday and Sunday,'' he says, "I go to my Dad's, the other days I am at my Mum's. It's not much fun, them being separated. We never get to choose, it's Mum and Dad's choice. They come to the arrangements. Being shared, it's not nice.

"But even if we did get to choose we might not tell them what we really want. Because if I wanted to be at Dad's, Mum would feel bad, and if I said I wanted to be at Mum's, then Dad would feel bad. So we just say: 'I don't mind.' ''

Ben's simply shot footage portrays a boy equally at ease with his mother and his father. His "new'' family, however, involves a sharp learning curve.

On holiday with his sister, his Dad and his Dad's new girlfriend, Jane, and her son, Rufus, who is the same age as Ben, his anxieties surface.

''I am a bit worried,'' he confides. "I have to share a room with Rufus. It's sort of not so nice. Because I feel that he is taking my place. But then I suppose he feels the same, because his Dad is not here.''

The next day Ben is more troubled. "I am happy this morning because it is a nice day,'' he begins valiantly. Then, in a conspiratorial whisper, he leans towards the camera and says: "But I am a bit sad. I feel a bit left out because I have to sleep on the floor and Rufus and Melita, oh, they are ...'' Ben falters. Then, in a high-pitched imitation of his sister's voice, he says: "Oh, Rufus, stop hitting me.'' His eyes downcast, Ben clearly feels excluded. His conclusion is clear: even his sister is no longer his own.

''Sometimes I feel Rufus is stealing everyone,'' he says. "Everyone is really nice to Rufus. He is taking my friends away from me because they always used to be my friends. And now Rufus comes along and they are his friends.''

Rivalry inevitably rears its head. "We played golf and Rufus is really good at golf and he whacked the ball really far. I am really bad at golf so I whacked it off the tee and did really badly and everyone was laughing at me.''

By the end of his holiday Ben concludes that boarding school could be the answer. He had talked to two friends who were boarders and he saw that as a solution.

"I am getting bored going from Dad's to Mum's and to school,'' he tells his camera. "I have been
finding it really hard and I think if I board then that might be quite good for me.''

For Robin and Rowena Gedye, Ben's divorced parents, watching the final version of his film has been both informative and distressing. Both thought long and hard about the ethics of allowing a child to confide his private thoughts for thousands to view. Both concluded that it was likely to be a positive experience.

''And it has been,'' Robin says. "Yes, of course I felt a little sliver of pain as I heard Ben open the film by telling how much he loved his Mum. And the realisation that he felt he had so little input into the choices was painful. But the sad fact is that no matter how hard you try, there is no right or easy solution to that. When the children are not with me, I miss them. When they are here, their Mum misses them.''

As Robin glances across the table towards his son, now about to turn 13, they both grin. "It can be crap sometimes Ben, can't it?'' he says. Father and son nod, then laugh.

For Robin and his new partner, compromises have been made, though both have been wary of over-compensating. "I knew there was some jealousy there so I would try not to pay too much attention to Rufus,'' Robin says.

"Then I would worry I was excluding Jane's son. At other times Rufus would complain to Jane that he felt left out.''

For Rowena, too, the film has been a revelation. "Knowing that you and your children's father have failed to give them a secure family is soul-destroying,'' she says.

"All the books one reads to them when they are very young are about happy, nuclear families. That is what they believe and want their lives to be. They want to be like their peer group. When Robin and I separated I went to see the children's headmaster to explain the situation. Both Ben and Melita desperately didn't want their classmates to know. Yet many of them were in similar situations.

"Listening to Ben say he felt pushed out by Rufus is difficult. I'm his mother, of course it is painful. But I wasn't surprised. Everyone has had to work at all our different relationships now. The fact that Jane was nothing to do with our separation has helped - not just me, but the children.

"Of course it is odd to hear them talk of her, but I'm just glad that they have such a good relationship now. The fact that Jane's son is the same age as Ben was always going to be a difficulty. But Ben has rationalised that. It only saddens me that, at his age, he has had to. That we have forced that situation upon him.''

In the 18 months since his film, Ben's home life has become relatively settled. "Things are more flexible now,'' he says. "I still find it hard that they no longer live together, but Mum and Dad are more relaxed about things and that has made it easier for me to speak up. Before, there was a tension, so I only opened up to the camera, I felt I couldn't be really truthful to anyone else. Now I can. But then again, now I am older I am more aware of my parents' sensitivities, I have learned to navigate them.

"It is still difficult at times. If there were six days in a week instead of seven it would be easier to spend the same amount of time. And even though Jane treats me and Rufus as equals she does get more involved with him - but then she is his natural mother. Just like I have my natural mother to spend more time with me.

"And some of the jealousy thing is still there. Rufus still beats me at sports. He always will. And I am a sore loser. But we share a bedroom now and we're definitely closer.''

As Ben watches the concluding moments of his film he ponders on how his life has changed. "Jane has helped,'' he says suddenly. "When Mum, Dad, Melita and me were a family we could split into twos sometimes, which was good. But when there were just three, one could be left out. Jane evens things up.''

The boarding school option would not be a solution, Ben now believes. In September he will begin as a day boy at a London school. "One of the things I learned from making the film was that things move on, they change. And sometimes it is for the better.

"I don't want to live away from my families now. I know, too, that my Mum and Dad don't really want me to board. Dad would worry that he and I might become distant and Mum would miss me. And I would miss them. "I've learned that life moves on and you can't dwell on sad things. And one important thing that making the film taught me is that it is not all about me.''

Thoughts for Those Considering Divorce

For when you don't know what to say....

New book for ADULT Children of Divorce

Today's mail brought a galley of a new book releasing in January. The author, Brooke Lea Foster, and I crossed cyber paths when I was writing Generation Ex and she was preparing her proposal for The Way They Were: Dealing With Your Parents' Divorce After A Lifetime of Marriage (Crown, 2006).

I'm excited to dig in. There is such a need for books that focus on those who are adults when their parents divorce ("grey divorces"). I think it's a great thing that more and more publishers are releasing books on this topic. The issues are so varied and complex, I'm happy to cross-promote other voices if it gets our overall message across: Divorce HURTS!

I'm sure I'll post more on this one later.

Snoop Dog on NOT Getting a Divorce

Snoop Dog on NOT Getting a Divorce

It's nice to have something nice to say.

University of Utah Study on Child of Divorce

Here's a study on the effects of parental divorce on the grown child's marriage:

Children of divorced parents often vow not to repeat the same mistakes. They want to avoid putting themselves and their own children through the pain that comes from the dissolution of a marriage. But these children's aspirations face unfavorable odds, a University of Utah researcher says.

The divorce cycle, in short, can be thought of as a cascade. Ending a marriage starts a cycle that threatens to affect increasing numbers of people over time, a sobering thought in an era when half of all new marriages fail.


Full Article:
University of Utah
June 27, 2005

Children of divorced parents often bitterly vow not to repeat the same mistakes. They want to avoid putting themselves and their own children through the pain that comes from the dissolution of a marriage. But, according to University of Utah researcher Nicholas H. Wolfinger, these children's aspirations face unfavorable odds.

"Growing up in a divorced family greatly increases the chances of ending one's own marriage, a phenomenon called the divorce cycle or the intergenerational transmission of divorce," says Wolfinger, assistant professor in the University of Utah's Department of Family and Consumer Studies.

Wolfinger has spent a decade studying the marriages of children from divorced homes in America. These children are more likely to marry as teens, cohabitate and marry someone who is also a child of divorced parents. And they are also one-third less likely to marry if they are over age 20.

Wolfinger's new book is devoted entirely to the divorce cycle. "Understanding the Divorce Cycle: The Children of Divorce in Their Own Marriages," published by Cambridge University Press, contains important information for those interested in divorce and its repercussions and for policy makers who determine family and divorce law.

"Divorce is an important topic because it has so many consequences for well-being," writes Wolfinger, also an adjunct assistant professor in the university's Department of Sociology. "Its transmission between generations adds a whole new dimension by perpetuating the cycle of divorce. … The divorce cycle, in short, can be thought of as a cascade. Ending a marriage starts a cycle that threatens to affect increasing numbers of people over time, a sobering thought in an era when half of all new marriages fail."

Wolfinger's research also suggests that if one spouse comes from divorced parents, the couple may be up to twice as likely to divorce. Spouses who are both children of divorced parents are three times more likely to divorce as couples who both hail from intact families.

Besides observing the marital stability of the offspring of divorced couples, Wolfinger's 180-page book provides perspective on how parental divorce affects offspring marriage timing, mate selection, cohabitating relationships as well as historical trends in the divorce cycle. Wolfinger also explores the divorce reform movement in America and argues in favor of no-fault divorce laws, arguing that a return to an age of tough divorce laws would recreate the social conditions that used to make divorce harder on children.

"One reason children from divorced families get divorced more often is because they have a tendency to marry as teenagers," Wolfinger reports, adding "the older you are when you marry, the less likely you are to get divorced. It's good advice for everyone."

On the other hand, the more transitions children experience while growing up, the more they will experience as adults, Wolfinger notes. "What is the hardest for kids is how many disruptions they experience -- the up-and-down cycles. Many will have stepparents, and some will see their new families dissolve. A disruption occurs any time they lose a parent -- except from death. That's different, and doesn't have the same negative effects on children. Whereas divorce is ambiguous. Children wonder whether the divorce was their fault or who is to blame. And they wonder 'Is he coming back?'"

Wolfinger writes, "It is certainly good news that people are less likely to stay in high conflict marriages than they used to." However, "ending a low-conflict marriage may hurt children as much as staying in a high-conflict family," and the odds of divorce transmission are actually highest if parents dissolve a marriage after little or no conflict.

"The most interesting finding," Wolfinger says, is that "some of the negative consequences of growing up in a divorced family, including stigmatization, are less severe because divorce has become more common."

Ultimately, Wolfinger shows that the divorce cycle can primarily be attributed to the lessons children learn about relationship skills and marital commitment, and secondarily to the effects of parental divorce on offspring marriage formation behavior and educational attainment.

Wolfinger's research is based on the National Survey of Families and Households, which included detailed information on family background for 13,000 people, and the General Social Survey, which surveyed 20,000 people over a 30-year period.

Understanding the Divorce Cycle: The Children of Divorce in their Own Marriages by Nicholas H. Wolfinger (Cambridge, 2005)
Adult Children of Divorced Parents: Making Your Marriage Work by Tom and Beverly Rodgers (Resource, 2002)
Adult Children of Legal or Emotional Divorce: Healing Your Long Term Hurt by Jim Conway (InterVarsity, 1990)
Generation Ex: Adult Children of Divorce and the Healing of Our Pain by Jen Abbas (WaterBrook, 2004)

A nod to the new parents in my circle of friends

by Steven Simpson
850 WORDS OF RELEVANT :: 06.21.05

This is where God lives. And sometimes I hate that.

It's 4:17 a.m., the morning after we brought home our first baby. By "first," I don't mean we plan on having more someday; I mean that there are three more at the hospital that belong to us. My wife had quadruplets three weeks ago, and since the babies were premature, they come home one at a time, when each can handle eating and breathing on his or her own. Emma Grace made it out first, since she goes through a bottle of formula like a frat boy chugging beer.

Having a newborn baby home has been a tremendous blessing ... and a total nightmare. On the one hand, having four healthy babies has been a miracle. Since quad pregnancies are high risk for mom and the babies, anxiety filled the 33 weeks running up to the birth. When they were all born healthy and beautiful except for some typical preemie woes, we rejoiced along with a host of family and friends.

But I'm not rejoicing right now. My wife woke me up at 3 a.m. because the baby needed to eat and our dog was freaking out because some diminutive creature making earsplitting sounds had invaded her territory. I grumbled, rubbed my eyes and went to do what I must. I chilled out our dog, told my wife to go to bed and finished feeding the baby. Since she needs to take some medicine at 5 a.m., I figure I'll stay up instead of sleeping just long enough to get started on a really good dream. Something involving the Caribbean, room service and lots of sleep.

See, I'm not good at this stuff. Don't get me wrong—the love I feel for my children has motivated me to do things, like changing a diaper that looks like a Hershey bar exploded, that I previously thought unbearable. But I hate it when anything messes with my schedule. Make me do something that interferes with my daily workout, and I get pissed. Mess with my sleep, and you'd better bring a weapon. But I can't be like that anymore. I have four little helpless people and an insecure dog depending on me. If this is hard with just one, I’m dead once all four get home. I'd buy stock in Red Bull if I were you.

But this is exactly where I need to be. I accepted Christ at age 7, but I have a feeling that this is where I become a Christian. I have to do something hard just for love rather than glory, money, pleasure or even some spiritual epiphany. For maybe the first time in my life, there's no kickback. Of course, loving my children and watching them grow in wonder and discover awe are huge rewards, but it's gradual. I can’t stand doing something painful and difficult with no immediate gratification. Even when I exercise, I get the immediate removal of guilt for the pizza I ate the day before. When I take care of my kids, I do it just because.

And that's what's going to make me a Christian.

I've been working for The Man in some form for a long time. I was president of my youth group by age 14, an InterVarsity leader in college, a youth pastor by 22, and now I'm a Christian psychologist who writes and speaks in public about Christian things. But if I'm honest, I mainly do that stuff for me. I usually check myself and give God the glory by the end, but I begin most things because something is in it for me. I like the adrenaline rush of tackling tough issues in the name of Christ. It makes me feel cool and smart. I feel neither of those things right now. I feel overwhelmed, jittery from too much caffeine, and my ears are ringing from the last time Emma was screaming.

Yup, this is where I become a Christian, because I can’t pretend I’m doing this for someone else while I lap up all the glory on the sly. I have to do this only for love. I always imagined that God had some Great Thing for me to do before I croaked. I was pretty sure it was writing a best seller or keynote speaking that changes lives. I was wrong. If I can survive being the father of quadruplets, that will be my Great Thing. Not quite as sleek and sexy as having a book crawling up the best-sellers list. Not nearly as hip as speaking at conferences where people tell me how witty and wise I am.

Thank God, because all that other stuff would only make me more full of crap. Even if I accomplish a Great Thing for God, changing a diaper in the middle of the night will do more to make me a real Christian. Jesus sacrificed Himself for the glory of God and the love of humanity. He didn’t do it to make money, to look cool or to feel smart. Learning to sacrifice for my children will go a lot further toward making me like Him than becoming a pithy, popular sage who dispenses edgy Christian wisdom.

Oops, 5 a.m. Gotta give Emma her medicine. I get to do something that isn't about me right now. There's something freeing about that. I don’t have to stress about getting my book published or my next speaking gig. I get to forget about my career for a while. I get to forget about me for a while. I’ll hold Emma Grace in my arms, look into her beautiful eyes and feel a deep, potent love that I’ve never felt before.

This is where God lives. And sometimes I love that.

Dr. Stephen Simpson is a psychologist and the Clinical Director of Fuller Psychological and Family Services at Fuller Theological Seminary. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Shelley, and the quadruplets. Simpson is now addicted to caffeine and bouncy seats.

Recommended Reading:
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
Devotions for Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas
Devotions for Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Catching Up

I've been a bit neglectful of my blog lately, but I have been a busy beaver. In the last three weeks, I've been to conferences in Dallas (3 days), Chicago (4 days) and Denver (4 days). Crazy scheduling aside, I had a few "interesting" experiences:

* My hotel was overbooked in Chicago so I had a bit of an inconvenience shuffling to and fro. (To was The Four Seasons, so I didn't mind horribly).

* My taxi taking me to The Four Seasons hit another taxi. (My head's fine...I'm pretty sure!)

* My luggage broke on one of disproportionately high number of escalators not working.

* My luggage was sent to the wrong carousel in Chicago (but it was found an hour later)

* My luggage was lost in Denver (and not found until the day before I returned home. My slightly smaller colleague is my hero of the week).

* Super Shuttle closed while I was making arrangements for my luggage to be delivered to my hotel. (But it was very cool to pass the time with Steve Saint, Mincaye and crew).

* Get message from my dog sitter that my dog swallowed a chicken bone and was being taken to the vet. Many anxious hours later I learn that she's okay (Vet: "She's got the stomach of a goat!" Bailey-sitter: "Her new name is Bailey Goat." Jen: "I prayed that God would dissolve that bone...and He DID!")

* I woke up at 3am to take a 4:30am shuttle to the airport for a 6:25 flight on NorthWORST...that was delayed to 6:35am because of a gate tunnel issue, then 6:45am for a gate change, then 7ish because the air conditioner wasn't working, then 8ish because something on the control panel wasn't working.

* Missed my connection in Minneapolis. Instead of a direct flight home with a first class upgrade, I had a "scenic stop" in Detroit on coach.

* Luggage was lost in GR. Delay caused me to lose my ride home. My Verizon phone decided to stop working, as did my brain. Not my best moment. Apologies to all who had to see that.

* Luggage arrived at my step the following morning. Took a "mental health" day.

That's enough venting. Ahhhhhhh...deep cleansing breath. It's all over and I'm home again.

Lots of good things happened too. Denver is a beautiful city (I had no idea...note to self: must return without pesky work meetings). Met some great people. Got some work done. Will report happy thoughts in next post.

30 Days

Just heard about a new reality show from the creator of SuperSize Me (one of my favorite documentaries).

The FX website has some sobering tools:
The Minimum Wage Calculator - I really dislike Flash for exactly this reason. Click the link, then click "The Challenge" on the bottom left. Then scroll up to find "The Minium Wage Calculator."

Here's the article that piqued my interest. A great challenge for all of us.

The show is on Wednesdays at 10 Eastern...anyone catch an episode yet?

Generation EX ponders marriage

Excellent article by Alexandra DeLuca in the July 9, 2005 North County (CA) Times. It's all on target but the title.

Generation Me Ponders Marriage

It seems ironic that our generation is dubbed the "Me Generation" when it was the "self actualizing" choices of our boomer parents that led us down the apathetic, survivalist road. Ah well, we don't care anyway!

Key quote:
By far, divorce is the reason cited by young people for their wariness ofwedlock.

According to the National Marriage Project, 60 percent of young adults intheir late 20s agree that one of their biggest concerns about gettingmarried is that it will end in divorce. Additionally, 52 percent of youngadults say that they see so few good or happy marriages around them that they question marriage as a way of life.

"I have seen so many failed marriages that being with someone who couldpotentially make my life miserable is not something that I'm aspiring to,"said Amy Gomez-Gracesqui, 26, of Albany, N.Y.

Encouraging news:
Data from the National Marriage Institute seem to reflect this attitude: 78 percent of young adults agree a couple should not get married unless they are prepared to stay together for life.

Furthermore, 86 percent of young adults agree that one reason for divorce is too much focus on expectations for happiness and not enough on the hard work needed for a successful union.


Perhaps we're not so cynical after all.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Interview Alert: WISN in Milwaukee on July 17

I just recorded an interview with Mel Lawrenz, Pastor of Elmbrook Church in Milwaukee, WI for this Sunday's "Faith Connections" show on WISN. Mel is not only a Generation Ex-friendly interviewer, he's also an author himself. Both Patterns and Putting the Pieces Back Together were published by Zondervan.

The interview should be available online soon.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

HomeLife Article - What Stepkids Want You To Know

The August 2005 issue of HomeLife magazine includes my article, "What Stepkids Want You To Know."

The article offers five "lessons the Brady Bunch didn't teach us:

1. We need time to adjust.
2. We need to know it's OK to grieve our loss.
3. We feel torn. Don's ask us to pick sides.
4. We need to feel like we have a say.
5. We need to know we're loved. resources for "keeping in step."

HomeLife is a LifeWay publication. If you attend a Baptist church, you're likely to find one of the 375,000 copies in your library. Otherwise the magazine is mostly subscription based. I recommend both HomeLife (family oriented) and Christian Single.

Attitude Adjusting

Another great devotional from my friends at Proverbs 31. I'm reminded of the Chuck Swindoll quote, "Life is10% what happens to you, and 90% your response to it." A good reminder as I head out for another (hopefully much less eventful) trip this weekend.

July 7, 2005
"Living in the Fast Lane and Looking for an Exit!" - Part 2
Micca Campbell
Director of Outreach, Proverbs 31 Speaker Team Member

Key Verse:
Romans 12:2, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and the perfect will of God." (NKJ)

Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over. The problems began when Chippie's owner decided to clean his cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. That’s when the phone rang. The bird owner turned to pick up the phone and barely said "hello" when "s-s-s-s-lurp" … Chippie got sucked in.

The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie – still alive, but stunned. The bird was covered with dust and soot. The owner grabbed him, raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, realizing that Chippie was now soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do . . . she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air. Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.

A few days after the trauma, the reporter who had initially written about the event contacted Chippie's owner to see how the bird was recovering. "Well," she replied, "Chippie doesn't sing much anymore. He just sits and stares." It's hard not to see why. Sucked in, washed up, and blown over is enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart.

Like Chippie, life in the fast lane can make us feel sucked in, washed up and blown over, too. Especially when we have to take a detour for which we hadn’t planned. While detours seem to make life more hectic, I have good news. A few extra bumps in the road doesn’t have to mean more stress in our lives. We can find peace and balance even on a detour. The secret is to trust God, enjoy the scenery, and change the way we think about the detour.

It’s not your circumstance that gets you down. It’s what you think about your circumstance – and we can choose what we think about. No one can make us think ugly thoughts toward someone who has hurt us. No one can make us think jealously about what our neighbor owns compared to what we have. And no one can make us think lustful thoughts about our co-worker … not even the enemy. He may plant those thoughts, but it is us who waters them, coddles them, and causes them to grow. What is the result? Strongholds.

When we allow wrong thinking to guide us, eventually strongholds such as anger, bitterness, pride, arrogance, and unforgiveness will take root and choke out our peace, contentment and joy.

This is why Paul challenges us to “transform our minds” from worldly thinking to Godly thinking. How do we do that? By developing the mind of Christ through studying and memorizing His Word. Once God’s Word is in our minds, it works like a sword and cuts off our old way of thinking. Then, we no longer have to ask, “What would Jesus do?” We can KNOW exactly what Jesus would do in any situation, once we take the time to develop the “mind of Christ.”

Thinking the way God intended is the antidote to wrong thinking. Once you’re in His Word, the scales will fall from your eyes and they will become wide open! Then you will be able to see truth that sets you free from all that binds you. Once again, you’ll find yourself back on the right road that leads to a life of peace and contentment.Author John Maxwell in his book, Thinking for a Change, writes:

Change the way you think and it will change your beliefs.
Change your beliefs and you'll change your expectation.
Change your expectation and you'll change your attitude.
Change your attitude and you'll change your behavior.
Change your behavior and you'll change your life.

God has not taken His hands off the wheel of your life. You have not escaped His attention. He knows where you are on this detour. Though He may seem a million miles away, God is there. He is your ever-present help. You can trust Him in the desert detour. You are not there by accident. It is in the barren land that God is working to break the chains that bind you and restore the song in your heart. So, don’t believe the lies. Instead, accept His divine detour, embrace His plan, and trust His heart. It’s the only way to think.

My Prayer for Today:
Dear Lord, I don’t want to believe lies about you or my situation any more. Help me to trust you while on this detour. Help me to see that you are guiding my life and I’m not alone. Help me to learn what you are tying to teach me so I can be more like Christ. Amen.

If you want to "go deeper" click here

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Divorce, the Supreme Adult Selfishness?

Rex M. Rogers is the president of Cornerstone University here in GR. He has a daily radio program in which he offers 2 minute thoughts on a variety of topics. This weekend he discussed divorce as the supreme adult selfishness. It's hard for me not to agree.

At the same time, one of the challenges in having a good discussion on the damage of divorce is that the divorce decision is so varied. Even thought the effects of divorce on children are nearly universally negative (in the rare cases of abuse, divorce is the lesser of two evils. And while we are resilient, let's not call how we cope a "benefit.") divorced parents can't be so broadly labeled. There are divorced parents who didn't want a divorce, but live in a nation where 1 vote to divorce trumps 1 vote to reconcile. There are those who leave a spouse to save their children or themselves from sexual or physical abuse.

It seems that here in the States the supreme adult selfishness is intolerance. We've become so fearful of offending someone that we water down and waver our thoughts and opinions. We don't want to pronounce anything as wrong, then wonder why so much evil is allowed.

Divorce is a supreme adult selfishness, often transferring the tension between parents to the tender shoulders of their children. As I write those words, the faces of friends and family who didn't want divorce, who needed to protect themselves and their kids come to mind. I wrestle with my words. I want them to be strong and weighty and effective to encourage couples to stick it out, but still gracious and loving to those hurt by them. I'm come to the conclusion that my heart's call is to defend the children, especially those too young to speak for themselves. Adults are resilient. They can handle the offense if my words don't apply to their situation.

It seems we all have our pet sin. And we accept God's grace so flippantly. "I can do this thing now because God will forgive me later." I wonder sometimes--and I welcome the feedback from my more theologically-minded friends--if the unforgiveable sin is choosing to sin willfully with such casual care for the cost to Christ.

Yesterday I finished reading Blue Like Jazz. The final chapter really hit me hard. The author writes of a relationship that didn't work because as much as his girlfriend offered love, he wasn't able to receive it. He then reflected on Christ's call to love our neighbors as ourselves. His point wasn't that we needed to love our neighbor more, but rather, we need to be able to receive love ourselves, not only from others, but from ourselves, and most importantly, from God.

I've been chewing on this thought all night. When our inner thoughts are more critical of ourselves that we would let ourselves be toward others, we have a problem. We are not receiving the love of Christ, and our hearts cannot impart that which they do not possess. It's difficult to accept love when you've observed that love must be earned, but to deem yourself as unlovable when the God who created you loves you is an ultimate act of self-righteousness. I'm saying with my thoughts that my evaluation of my worth is more credible than God's valuation. Ouch.

God, forgive me of my pride. Let me love--and receive love--as You intend.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Broken Home Makes Angelina Jolie Self-Reliant

Tuesday, 28 June , 2005, 13:03

Broken Home Makes Angelina Jolie Self-Reliant

Washington : Coming from a broken home has made Angelina Jolie the self-sufficient woman she is today, if she is to be believed. According to Femalefirst, her parents split when she was just three. She had infrequent contact with her dad after the divorce. "I don't know if my childhood was any worse that anyone else's. But it is disturbing and sad when you see one parent figure not respecting the other. That probably had a great effect on me wanting to be self-sufficient," she was quoted as saying. "I was raised feeling that I didn't want the ground to be taken away from me, and so by the age of 14, I was already working. I didn't want to ask for help from anybody, and that extended into my own marriages," she added.

Jen's Jottings:
In 1969, the first no-fault divorce law was passed. Within 15 years, all 50 states had adopted no-fault divorce laws. Marriage & divorce became matters of personal preference and the number of children experiencing parental divorce exceeded one million a year. In the years since, social ideas about the impact of divorce was seen primarily through the perspective of adults, particularly parents who really wanted to believe that their "resilient kids" had adjusted just fine, thank you very much.

One of the interesting trends to see, coming from the other side, is how often our coping mechanisms are lauded as evidence of how well we've adapted, and in some cases, proof that the "divorce was actually a good thing." And the fact that we aren't likely to refute our parents' assumptions only perpetuates the assumption. But what's difficult for our parents to understand is that our internal loyalty conflicts often drive our successes. When Mom and Dad tell us they don't love each other any more, but still love us, we are left with an uncomfortable realization that love is something that goes away. If Mom and Dad love us today, when they loved our other parent yesterday, than really, what confidence do we have that our parents will love us tomorrow?

In my conversations with other children of divorce, 3 common coping mechanisms to this dilemma emerge. Mind you, these patterns are subconscious responses, a way to makes sense of chaos out of our control.

1. The Rebel. The Rebel has received the most attention over the years. Children of divorce are more likely to drop out of school, have behavioral problems, get in trouble with the law, have sex at earlier ages, have children outside of marriage, etc. etc. What you don't hear as often is the driving force behind these actions. If a child believes that love (and the stability it creates at home) can't be trusted, then what motivation is there to "be good?" These kids are certainly responsible for their choices, but those called upon to help them often makes things worse by pooh-poohing the source of the hurt.

2. The Perfectionist. By far the most common, and least understood response, is perfectionism. If a child believes that mom (or dad) doesn't love the other parent anymore, then that parent must have done something wrong to become unlovable. (Most children of divorce don't believe the divorce was their fault, but they do wrestle to believe that their parents love for them will last when the love they chose in marriage didn't). If mom chose to love dad (and vice versa) by marrying him, and now she doesn't, how much more pressure does the child--who wasn't chosen--face to prove their worthiness of love--not only to mom and dad, but to everyone else in their life. Children of divorce are compelled to succeed, because success and goodness gives others a reason to love them. Unfortunately, in our quest for success, we can easily fall over the line to uber-independence. We experience success and then believe that we don't need anyone after all. As adults, we crave love, but realize that success in other forms is much easier to attain and sustain. And far too often, we deny our desire to love and receive love.

3. The Internalizer. This is the fastest growing group. The internalizer, hurt by the break up of his/her family makes a subconscious rule that they won't be hurt again. Instead, he, or more commonly, she, will hurt herself. Again, control is the name of the game. The two most common signs of the internalizer are eating disorders and cutting. With eating disorders, a smaller number on the scale offers compelling evidence of control over one self, and the affirmation of others fuels her motivation. With cutting, she still experiences pain, but at least she is in control of the how and when. Seeing her blood and feeling that pain assures her that she CAN still feel, and again, is in control of her pain.