July 23, 2020
July 9, 2020
As tempting as that sounds, it’s unwise. Of course, Christians must remember that our ultimate citizenship is in Heaven, not with any country on Earth. Thus, we must avoid placing any nation-state on a pedestal and should acknowledge America’s unavoidable imperfections.
On the other hand, God chooses to place each individual in a particular place at a certain time in history. That means He intended for Americans to be Americans. And patriotism isn’t a sin. We can genuinely love and appreciate the beautiful aspects of America – past and present – and also admit its failures – past and present. We can hope, pray, and work for constructive change and also decry illogical, unnecessary destruction. It’s not a matter of either/or; it’s about both/and.
And for the sake of our kids, we must stay engaged and find that middle ground.
I have only a few vivid memories of growing up in the 1970s – but every one of them is tinged with angst. I recall President Nixon’s depressing resignation speech. I watched coverage of Americans evacuating the US Embassy in Vietnam. I heard about gas lines and 20% interest, packed up my belongings as my parents’ house was foreclosed upon, and fretted over Americans held hostage in Iran. My parents didn’t talk with me about any of it, so I absorbed the general malaise that hung over the nation. And I entered into young adulthood with a very unhealthy, skewed view of America.
The chaos of current events certainly rivals that of the ‘70s. And it has stressed our kids. Children and teens are resilient; they can come through trying times with hope for the future. But they need our example and guidance to do so.
It’s our job to listen as they express fears. It’s our job to answer their questions as best we can. It’s our job to show them a broader, historical perspective and to direct them toward seeing things from God’s point of view. It’s our job to pray with and for them, maybe now more than ever before.
When our current turmoil passes – and it will – you’ll want your kids to emerge clothed in optimism, hope, and peace. “So, let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” (Galatians 6.9)
Photo Credit: Dome Poon
June 25, 2020
We did have our spring formal, and we did hold a (live) graduation ceremony. Both events looked somewhat different than originally anticipated, but the ceremony was beautiful and the dance was arguably better than a “normal” one. I survived the initial shock I felt about the elopement – we are thankful our new son-in-law is a very good man who loves the Lord – and we’re currently planning a July reception. My husband is still ensconced in the basement, and our other daughter’s life hasn’t yet returned to any sense of normalcy. But she’s gearing up for a new adventure at Bible college this fall, and we’re fervently praying it won’t be hindered.
I haven’t yet owned my new identity as a “retiree.” In fact, I still feel strange about no longer keeping daily learning logs for the girls. But perhaps all the uncertainty, upheaval, and change with which I’ve dealt over the last thirteen weeks will actually facilitate that process. I’ve certainly had much opportunity to remember Proverbs 3.5 in recent months, and that’s as good a lesson as any to continue applying as I go forward from here.
Photo Credit: Rays of Bliss
April 14, 2020
March 31, 2020
As I write, our nation is consumed by COVID-19. It’s the only topic substantively addressed in the media, and related posts of all sorts – from data to rants to irreverent memes – abound on Facebook and Twitter. As testing increases, many results come back negative, some positive. Of those who contract coronavirus, some have no symptoms, many feel horrible for a time but recover in rather short order, and some become seriously ill and even die.
In particular hot-spots, medical personnel are stretched to their limits, and the governors of many states have enacted executive orders limiting freedom of movement to greater or lesser degrees. Most institutional schools are closed, leaving parents to figure out homebound learning on the fly. Workers who can do their jobs via virtual means have been sent home for the duration, computers in hand, but hundreds of thousands of others have been furloughed or laid off, spiking unemployment claims and jeopardizing their financial security. Some who’ve been deemed “essential” and must continue working worry that their health and that of their families may be at risk. Small businesses struggle within narrow profit margins to stay afloat, the stock market has tanked, and Congress recently passed a multi-trillion dollar “rescue” plan. People are either petrified or livid, sometimes both.
March 3, 2020
How, though, do we each go about teaching our children what we believe? And how can we maximize the potential that they will choose to adopt similar values?
This is a complicated matter, of course. The Judeo-Christian principle laid out in Proverbs 22.6 tells us that taking time to consciously disciple our children will generally result in their choice to adopt good (godly) values.
However, the existence of free will means that the verse is a principle, not a promise. Some who are trained well still choose to go astray, and that reality can be disheartening and scary. However, despite the risk of a child deciding to reject his parents’ values, it’s still our responsibility to impart them; we can’t abdicate just because the desired result isn’t guaranteed. And we must do this directly and indirectly – in what we say and what we do.
It’s imperative that we actively teach our children – in ways that will resonate with them at different ages and through various phases – the precepts of our value system; kids must hear from us directly what we feel is important and why. In fact, Deuteronomy 6.7 challenges us to “teach [God’s ways] diligently to [our] children and speak of them when [we] sit at home and when [we] walk along the road, when [we] lie down and when [we] get up.” In other words, we’re commanded to directly and personally communicate truth to our kids during all of their waking hours.
But the old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do,” is a dangerous lie. If we instruct our children to obey particular rules or follow certain beliefs, yet they see us consistently living contrary to our words, they’ll rightfully see us as hypocrites and likely conclude that our values aren’t worth embracing. Likewise, even if we personally obey everything we preach and hold our kids accountable to, but fail to build strong, intimate relationships with them, we will be to them like the clanging gong of 1 Corinthians 13.
And we’re also called to protect our kids from influences that will contradict the values we aim to teach and model (Matthew 18.6). This doesn’t mean raising kids in a bubble, isolated from the world. But neither does it mean throwing them into situations where their fledgling beliefs are apt to be regularly assaulted. As parents, we are accountable to God for what (and whom) we allow to impact our kids’ minds and hearts.
Living up to all of this is a very tall order! Continually watching what we say, what we do, and the influences we allow into our kids’ lives is surely overwhelming – and we definitely won’t be perfect. But the more we’re consciously aware of our responsibility and calling, the more intentional we can be, and the more success we’ll have.
February 18, 2020
Even with all of that background, though, we might still wonder what to do on social media in the “heat of the moment” – i.e., when some contentious or controversial issue comes to the fore. As a Christian, I endeavor to look to Scripture as my guide in all things, and two passages came immediately to my mind in response to that question:
- Ecclesiastes 3.1, 7b - "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…” Sometimes God will call us to speak up (whether we really want to or not); other times He will challenge us to remain quiet. Both are biblical responses, contingent upon God’s leading in the moment. The key is to be abiding with Christ (John 15) so we’ll be able to discern His will one way or the other. And when we’re supposed to keep our fingers off the keyboard, we can (should) decide to take a matter to prayer instead, so we can feel that we’re still “doing something;
- Luke 10.27 – "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” If we believe we should say something, we must then consider how to both glorify God and demonstrate care for any who will read our words. And in doing so, we can remember how John tells us (John 1.17) that Jesus – our example in all things – is full of “grace and truth.” In other words, true love (as we represent God as His image-bearers and as we interact with other fallen humans) contains a balance between the softness (not spinelessness) of grace and the firmness (not harshness) of truth. We should seek for that balance, too, and need – once again – to be abiding with Christ in order to discern the right mix of the two in any given situation.
Did you notice the common thread there? As with everything else in life, how we interact on social media comes down to a choice – day after day and moment by moment – to abide in Jesus or not. That sounds too simplistic, I know; most of us would prefer a detailed, definitive rulebook. But in all things – including how we use social media – God wants our dependence on Him, not our own (fallible, incomplete) human understanding. If you choose to submit yourself to Him – i.e., by devoting time to studying His Word – you can trust that He will guide you even in the messiness of social media, step by step as you walk along the way each day.
February 4, 2020
Schaeffer died in 1984. But any cultural observer understands implicitly that the curiosity he observed has metastasized even more in the last 35 years. Indeed, we’ve reached a point in some quarters where positing simple, self-evident, scientifically verifiable facts (i.e., carrying XY chromosomes makes one male and possessing an XX pair renders one female) causes relativists to react with extreme vitriol and even violence, and sometimes costs people their livelihoods and reputations.
The ironic “absolutist relativists” – those who insist that the only absolute is that there are no absolutes and who ostracize those with other views of truth – preach “tolerance” but are actually among the most intolerant people on the planet. And they’ve caused no small number who do still espouse belief in moral absolutes to shrink back and keep quiet for the sake of self-preservation. But at what cost?
We’ve already endured more than 100 years of relativism’s reign. And with each passing generation, it leads more and more people astray with its illogical non-truth truths. We see its damage all around us – especially in our kids, who, though they know deep inside themselves (Romans 1) that absolute truth does exist, are berated by the bully of relativism day in and day out.
Relativism is but a worldview perspective – one idea of how the world operates. Even if it’s the current prevailing idea, it’s not the only view, nor the most progressive one, nor the “best.” The biggest, loudest kid on the block is rarely the wisest. And, for the sake of our kids, those of us with different ideas must confront the bully.
In other words, if you’re not a relativist – if, for example, you profess instead to be a Christian – it’s imperative that you know the philosophical underpinnings of your faith and that you actively “teach them diligently to your children and speak of them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6.7). You are allowed – relativists’ rants notwithstanding – to hold a worldview that believes in the existence of absolute truth as presented to us by the God of the Bible, and to train up your children in that truth. But you must take responsibility – by studying Scripture and supporting documents such as a solid catechism – to know what you know and why you know it. It’s foolish – and irresponsible – to coast along without doing so.
When you take the time to ground your beliefs in facts and evidence, you’ll have the confidence to openly share them with firm but quiet grace in the marketplace of ideas populated by angry relativists and those who espouse any number of other worldviews. Even more importantly, you’ll be able to train up your children as you see fit, which is your God-given right and responsibility as a parent.
It all starts with figuring out how to know what you know. Where will you begin?
January 21, 2020
Of course, sharing one’s views isn’t a bad thing. In fact, feeling free to speak one’s mind has been ingrained in the American psyche since the Founders penned the First Amendment. But with any right comes responsibility – in this case to handle the “weapon” of words properly – and acting irresponsibly carries dire consequences. Tragically, our society’s new knee-jerk habit of reflexively spouting off is anything but responsible. And it’s hurting us, individually and collectively, in many ways.
As with any other behavior, the remedy comes down to a personal choice to change – an individual’s conscious commitment to stop spouting off and begin, instead, to speak responsibly, sharing logical, evidenced-based ideas in a mature, respectful manner. It matters not what “everyone else” is doing. The direction of a river is changed little by little over time as rocks are placed – one by one – in the current’s path. If we want the tenor of our cultural discourse to change – and who doesn’t long for today’s ugliness to cease? – we can’t wait for “everyone else.” Each of us must, instead, decide to take personal responsibility and commit to planting current-altering pebbles, rocks, and boulders.
If that thought irks you – “Why should I have to watch my words when [name your personal nemesis] never does?” – purpose to look forward for motivation. Without a commitment to actively redirect ourselves, human behavior always degenerates over time (see Romans 1); in fact, that truth mirrors the natural law of entropy which God has built into the creation as a whole. This means that the social environment our kids will face as they grow up and then become adults will – without a change in current – be even worse than it is today. Can you imagine?
I hope you can. And I pray the thought of it chills you to the bone and then motivates you to be among those who aim to change the current. If you want your kids to live in and contribute to civil society when they grow up, it’s imperative that they see and hear you doing the same now.
December 10, 2019
For many, this sense of feeling constantly stressed and overwhelmed starts the week of Thanksgiving and carries all the way through December into New Year’s Eve. First, they fret over preparing the “perfect” Thanksgiving meal – and/or having to endure a long holiday weekend with particular stress-inducing relatives. Then they dive headlong into “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” bargain-hunting but still worry right up until Christmas Eve that they don’t have “enough” of the “right” gifts. In between, they hunt down the “perfect” Christmas tree, aim to fill their homes with “perfect” holiday décor, bake batches and batches of “perfect” Christmas cookies, draft a “perfect” family Christmas letter, pour over recipes to plan yet another multi-course holiday meal with the same unpleasant relatives, and try to squeeze in a visit for the children with a mall Santa. They might also haul reluctant kids to practices for the church Christmas program, scour clothing racks for “perfect” family Christmas outfits, and prepare “perfect” goodies for the school or homeschool co-op Christmas party. And as all of this is going on, they surround themselves with streaming Christmas carols and grumble each time they hear a refrain mentioning peace or joy. “If only,” they mutter while pulling gaudy wrapping paper over yet another present they hope against hope its recipient will actually enjoy.
When we stop and think about it, most of us can readily admit we hate the chaos. But we feel stuck. We muddle through because we’ve done it “forever” and because everyone around us is in the same boat. But is that really a good reason to stay on the hamster wheel?
I think not.
Habit, others’ expectations, and cultural norms are never good reasons to partake in activities that make us emotionally – and even physically – sick. It may feel odd to step out of the holiday vortex, and friends and family may question or criticize. But we can still decide to take a different path if we really want to. It’s simply a matter of personal choice and a commitment to follow through – with love and grace – despite possible detractors.
So…ponder what actually brings peace and joy to your home and heart at this time of year, and focus on that and that alone. If a long-standing tradition brings more angst than peace, set it aside this year. If a particular activity steals your joy, take a break or at least tweak it somehow. You can always go back to it next year, but you may find you don’t really miss it after all.
When a society’s behaviors become unhealthy for its individual members, someone has to step out and say, “Enough is enough.” It might as well be you…and me.