Why I Keep Reading About Abby

Photo © Shay Thomason

Ever since she went “missing” in the Indian ocean, I can’t help but keep up with the story about Abby Sunderland — the 16 year old girl trying to circumnavigate the world in her sail boat. If you’ve followed the story (or heard the news), you know she was basically a little over half way in her voyage when her boat was crippled by rough water and winds. Thankfully, she was equipped with location devices which she manually set off when her mast was destroyed and she laid in wait for rescue. The nearest boat to her was over 400 miles away, but Australian search teams did a fly-by and were able to contact her via radio to confirm she was OK. After about 40 hours of bobbing in the middle the ocean, a French fishing boat was able to rescue her while leaving her crippled boat behind to presumably sink. But however amazing and incredible the story already is, I think it’s just the beginning.

The tide has turned (so to speak) in this saga, and it’s headed straight for Abby’s parents. People everywhere want to know one thing: why would they let a 16-year old girl sail around the world alone? A few years ago they let their son Zac Sunderland attempt the exact same feat which he completed in mid-2009. Zac was 17 years old when he finished and it took him 13 months to make it around the globe. Abby, a year younger and maybe not as experienced as Zac, has now abandoned her quest and it was a dangerous voyage. But I have yet to find an article regarding Zac’s successful trip and blaming his parents for letting him complete the task. Were their parents doing the right thing then by letting him go and now they are to blame for Abby’s failed attempt? — I think not. The problem is not the Sunderland family’s parenting model, it’s everyone else’s.

We’ve long forgotten the days when “adolescence” didn’t exist — that is, this weird time our culture has created between childhood and adulthood. It’s a scary place where teenagers have little to no responsibility and learn to remain in childhood until they are at least 18 and then they’re allowed to venture out on their own. Newt Gingrich wrote a very interesting article in 2008 titled “Let’s End Adolescence” in which he basically gives proof for the failure of this “social experience” we call adolescence. As well he gives examples of young people who accomplished great things with their lives. He writes,

Benjamin Franklin was an example of this kind of young adulthood. At age 13, Franklin finished school in Boston, was apprenticed to his brother, a printer and publisher, and moved immediately into adulthood.

John Quincy Adams attended Leiden University in Holland at 13 and at 14 was employed as secretary and interpreter by the American Ambassador to Russia. At 16 he was secretary to the U.S. delegation during the negotiations with Britain that ended the Revolution.

Daniel Boone got his first rifle at 12, was an expert hunter at 13, and at 15 made a yearlong trek through the wilderness to begin his career as America’s most famous explorer. The list goes on and on.

[via Bloomberg BusinessWeek, originally pubslished Oct. 30, 2008]

That’s why the problem is everyone else. The culture we have created in America doesn’t want young people to go out and do hard things anymore. They’re either “too young”, “too inexperienced”, or any number of excuses we have created for them and there are no longer any expectations on them. The Sunderland family believes that young people have more to offer and they live by that. They understand that young people weren’t designed to sit around and play video games. They’re not here to just be a drain on our economy as the media teaches them to consume, consume, consume. Just because Abby didn’t make it around the globe in her boat doesn’t mean she failed. It means she tried to raise the bar for young people and call them to do something greater with their lives, and just because she didn’t finish doesn’t mean her effort wasn’t worth it. It’s also a call to parents to really look at the bigger picture here and realize that their kids are ready and able to do more than our weak culture thinks they can do. They are ready to be challenged with more than we are offering. They just need a little help from us.

For further reading:
Abby’s blog
“Abby Sunderland Makes it Home” - The Rebelution
Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations by Alex and Brett Harris

Hear, See, and Do – #12

HEAR: The Blessings of Following Christ - A Sermon by Scott Ardavanis

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

SEE: The Denver Post’s Photo Collection “Childhood Poverty in Colorado”
Denver Post - "Childhood Poverty in Colorado"This is probably the best photo journal I’ve seen to date and not really on a subject that I would have expected. The Denver Post has put together a collection of images and stories of families living in some of the poorest conditions right here in America. Often we see poverty photographed in Africa or India, but some of the families photographed in this collection are only minutes from downtown Denver, Colorado. Take the time to not only stare at the photos, but read the captions and hear the stories. It brought me to tears, but I think it’s worth the read.

DO: Buy the book Rules for My Unborn Son
Rules for My Unborn SonThanks to the kindness of a friend, I received the book “Rules For My Unborn Son” this past week and I can’t get enough of it. Jam packed full of simple, smart, and funny “rules” for sons to live by, it’s the perfect present for a dad-to-be like myself. Some gems include: “Spend time with your mother. She’s cooler than you think.” And “Always stop at a lemonade stand. Tip well.>” These are just a few of the great rules for sons to live by. Each page has only two or three rules and scattered black and white photos from yesteryear that give the overall vibe of the book a retro past. You’ll love it, your friends will love it, and if you take to heart some of this “dad wisdom” you just might stay out of trouble.

Ask For Books

Ask for Books

“Ask for books.” Maybe not the most exciting advice to give a bunch of college students who were drowning in a sea of reading in the middle of the semester, but that’s what my professor commanded in class one afternoon. He continued, “For every Christmas, birthday, anniversary, Father’s Day, or whatever…I ask for books.” I remember thinking that seemed pretty boring and lame. “Ask for books for Christmas?! Yeah, right!” was my first thought, followed by, “he must be joking.” But he wasn’t, and I knew it. Why? Because we knew he wasn’t talking about text books for class. He was talking about the books that would further our education and growth beyond the walls of the class — the books that would shape our lives and learning for the years beyond college. And it wasn’t until I was ripping the snowflake patterned paper from my Christmas presents this year that I realized how important that advice was, and how in many ways I’ve wasted valuable time and resources.

For Christmas this year I got books. My family usually asks me for my “Christmas list” so they can go out and purchase the things that I really want — at least what I think I want, and even though I provided a small list of things it wasn’t like past years. For the past few years I’ve asked for electronics, gadgets, and games, but this year I referred them to my Amazon.com Wish List which is appropriately titled “Books, Among Other Things”. That wish list has become a collection of books (among other things) that I would one day desire to own and obviously read. Anytime my pastor or a speaker I hear mentions a book he’s read, I add it to my list. Any time my wife says she “heard about this book,” we add it to the list. Any time I read about a book or a friend mentions a book, I usually add it to the list. Sometimes I just purchase the book right on the spot because I don’t want to forget it. This practice, combined with generous friends and family, has allowed my wife and me to receive at least a dozen or more books in the past year alone. These are the books that are continuing to teach, grow, and shape us by great thinkers and minds that we would otherwise be unable to communicate with.

Books are tools in an ever growing toolbox of literary helps and guides for the growth of our hearts and minds in a world that would just rather sit back and lazily learn about the world passively on a television screen. It’s because reading is hard — it’s not an easy task. It takes patience and practice, and in world that wants everything NOW, it just doesn’t have the right marketing “buy in.” When was the last time you saw a commercial about a book? Probably not that recently unless you were watching the “Oprah book club channel” (doesn’t exist), and even then I wouldn’t recommend them. That same professor who advised us to build our personal libraries would often boldly exclaim that “the world belongs to those who read!” It’s 100% true — no doubt about it. The world will never belong to Suresh Joachim and Claudia Wavra who “achieved” a Guinness World Record for the most time watching movies, unless of course they can learn to spend their time a little more wisely — like reading maybe? Books will take you beyond the limits of a ninety minute film and give you a breadth of information to which you can actually use your mind to work through. If it’s a good book, it will take you to places you’ve never been, meet people you’ve never met, and introduce to a world that is definitely bigger than the planet that your probably living on now if you aren’t making a regular practice of reading.

Don’t sell yourself too short because life is already short enough. Find something your interested in and read about it. Set a goal or two, make a schedule, and be a little disciplined in your reading in 2010. A great way to start and finish books is to simply read twenty minutes a day. In the grand scheme of the day that’s a very small percentage of time. I’ve read enough to know that I need to be doing the same thing, and the more I read the more I realize that I don’t read enough. Had I actually taken to heart what my college professor was urging us to do that day, I probably could have read a hundred more books between then and now. I could have learned any number of a million subjects, but I have only just begun to apply this simple advice. But you gotta start somewhere, so why not start today? As usual, I’m writing this for myself than anyone else, so if you need someone to join you at the library (yes, they still exist) then I’ll be ready with my library card and a good book in hand.

P.S. I’ve mentioned this topic before, so if you’re looking for “further reading” (hint, hint) then my post titled “The Way I See It #111” might interest you.

If I Made a Book Cover…

I shot this photo of my friend’s baby a few months back and I thought it would work perfect as the cover of a book… I don’t know?


Can’t See the Forest for the Screens

Dr. Al Mohler re-posted an old article he had written that I thought was relevant for us today. In the article titled “Nature-Deficit Disorder — Have Our Children Forgotten How to Play Outdoors?”, he reviews a book called Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv in which Louv describes our current culture as one depriving children of time outside. Be it exploring the woods, playing in the yard, or even in the street he explains that “….the current generation of American children knows the Discovery Channel better than their own backyards — and that this loss of contact with nature leads to impoverished lives and stunted imagination.” Well, I don’t know if my own outdoor experiences are to avoid an “impoverished life,” but I can definitely understand this line of thinking, especially as it relates to children.


When I was growing up, I remember playing “cops and robbers” or “hide and seek” around the entire neighborhood. My friends and I would build “marble tracks” which were basically piles of mud that that we molded and shaped in to highways to roll marbles down — complete with loops. One time we even filled a huge hole in the ground with water and went for a swim! The only time we wanted to really be inside was when we were playing Legos, and that was only to build the Star Ship Enterprise which ultimately ended up outside, usually to find out if it could actually fly. Needless to say, we had a world outside that couldn’t be found inside, and I agree with Dr. Mohler when he writes that

“We have allowed our children to be so seduced by entertainment and information technologies that many believe that without electricity, experience is virtually impossible.”

I recently went on a camping trip (photos here) and I was reminded of this in my own life. As we were there, the only electricity that we had was in our flashlights, cameras, and air bed pumps (I know, I know…not exactly “roughing” it). Our cell phones didn’t have service, there were no hot showers, and we cooked food over a fire. It was actually nice to be disconnected from the world for a change. No computer to check email or Twitter, no phone to distract from the conversations I was having with my friends, and no TV to eat up my time with mildly entertaining programming. No, we were just outside experience God’s amazing creation and enjoying each others company. The lack of electrical outlets and devices didn’t take away from us enjoying ourselves and having a great time together, in fact…it helped.

I think we would do well to listen to Dr Mohler’s closing comments and counsel,

“We understand that nature is not an end to itself, and we affirm that the creation exists as the theater of God’s glory for the drama of redemption. All this should help Christians to remember that we honor God most faithfully when we receive His good gifts most gratefully.

Christians should take the lead in reconnecting with nature and disconnecting from machines. Taking the kids for a long walk in the woods would be a great start.”

Read the whole article here.

Page 3 of 4