faith

On being thankful when there’s nothing to be thankful for

The first holdiay season after Mattias died was the hardest. Not just because it was the first without him, but we lost him at the beginning of December.

being thankful when there's nothing to be thankful for

I was still in shock. I remember standing at the checkout at Kohl’s with an ice cream maker we were buying for my daughter for Christmas when the checker asked, “How are you today?” I froze. He had no idea. He was just doing his job. He asked and had no idea how much he did not want to know the answer. But my little auto-play “fine” was broken. I had no answer. I wanted to scream, “My son is dead and I’m buying an ice cream maker!” But it wasn’t his fault, so I just shrugged. “Merry Christmas!” he said cheerfully as he finally handed me my purchase. I took a deep breath. “Merry Christmas to you, too.”

My tone wasn’t so cheerful. In fact, he looked startled. But I meant it, probably more than any other time I had wished somebody a Merry Christmas. I stood at the door, watching the mass of cars out for the holiday rush. The whole world was rushing buy and I hadn’t quite yet accepted that any kind of life went on after my son’s had ended. I wanted to scream at them all, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is utterly meaningless.” Except that all this was because of the birth of another baby. Sure, many of the people rushing about had no knowledge of that baby. Others had lost sight of Him. Some were distracted by the season. And yet . . . it is because of the birth of that baby boy that hope came down. And it is because of His death and resurrection that Mattias’ death on an operating table was not the end of his story.

I am thankful for the time we had with him. I am thankful for our memories. I am thankful that my children still count him when people ask how many brothers and sisters they have. I am thankful for a savior who grieves with us in our sorrows. And most of all, I am thankful that, because of his sacrifice, we have hope because death is not the end.

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you would like to listen more about being thankful through tragedy, Dr. Jay Wile gave an excellent sermon on what we can be truly thankful for. My little Mattias even makes a cameo appearance at the end, so I may be a tiny bit biased.

On Parenting Teenagers and Peace

A very wise woman and teacher once told me that all the teenage “attitude” we see is the release of years of parents attempting to control their young offspring.

“Lead, don’t force,” she said.

It made a lot of sense to me at the time, when I had only two children, both of whom were still young. But even then I recognized a serious flaw in her theory.

parenting teenagers

She had no children of her own.

The only people I have ever met who have this parenting thing figured out are those who have no children. Those with only one are close behind them.

When I was in the midst of dealing with the talking back and sometimes irrational outbursts of my first teenager, a very wise man who had raised four teenagers of his own gave me another piece of advice.

“The cure for 13 is 15.”

And it turned out to be true. Because sometimes, patience is all that’s required but patience is the hardest thing of all. Because it requires a fair bit of faith as well.

All that is to say, be careful with parenting advice. No one on the other side of a computer screen has a clue what is actually going on in your home or what is best for your child. That doesn’t mean you can’t brainstorm together.

But listen closest to those who are a few years ahead of you, walking the same path you find yourself on and who have the grace and compassion to tell you that sometimes, it’s just hard. You don’t know what’s right and you just have to do the best you can with what you know and have faith that love truly does cover a multitude of sins. And perhaps the hardest lesson of all is realizing that your teenagers are young adults, capable of their own decisions and their own mistakes. It isn’t always about you and what you did right and what you did wrong.

So what’s my advice? I don’t give a lot of that around here, but if you want a few principles that I believe help make the teenage years more peaceful, get a grain of salt ready and I’ll share. A cup of tea would be nice, too, because I’m having one right now and all the best parenting conversations occur over tea or coffee.

Recognize the teenage years for what they are: a period of transition.

Teenagers are going through a world of changes as they come into puberty. Their bodies are developing fast enough, it can throw off their coordination. Their brains are expanding, grasping new ideas and exploring abstract concepts. Just like their two year old selves might have had to try on every item of clothing in their wardrobe at the same time, they need to try on these new ideas. They are starting to recognize themselves as a person separate from you. A year or two ago, their entire existence was under your control, from when they woke up to what clothes were in their closet, from what food was on the table to what kinds of books they were allowed (or even required) to read. In a few short years, you will have no say in any of those decisions at all. In these few years of transition, it’s time to begin loosening the reigns. letting them take on more responsibility and helping your home be a soft landing for their mistakes.

Lead. Don’t Force.

Wait. Didn’t I lead off with that as problematic advice? Yes, but not because I thought it was bad on its own. The premise is off. If a perfect father like God can end up with Adam and that conniving wife of his, it can happen to anyone. Teenagers are almost adults and they need to be treated like almost adults. They need more freedom. They need more opportunities to make their own mistakes. And they need someone who will help show them the way. It won’t be long and you will only have the influence over them that they allow. That’s already beginning to be true, but think about what you want your relationship to be when they move out. Lead by example, lead by encouragement, lead by stepping back and allowing them to make those first faltering steps of independence before they leave the shelter of your home.

The cure for 13 is 15.

Or, like I said above, be patient. Be consistent, be loving, be kind, be faithful and be patient.

Get to know them.

Don’t get so focused on child training and behavior management that you don’t take time to find out who they are becoming. Step into their world a little bit. Get to know their friends (not just the ones you like), play their video games with them, read a book they recommend to you. Somewhere in these years, you are going to start to transition out of your role as parent and into the role of friend. I don’t mean you get all buddy buddy with your kids, becoming enablers rather than parents. But remember, when they move out, all of your authority leaves with them. This new found freedom will be a lot easier to navigate if they received it in small doses over a few years.

Know that sometimes, it’s just hard.

We are sinners in a fallen world dealing with other sinners who can’t seem to figure out how to put the lid back on a gallon of milk. (Please tell me I’m not alone in this.) We make mistakes. They make mistakes. We question our parenting. They make more mistakes. We wonder where we went wrong. They make more mistakes. Sometimes we lose our temper. Sometimes they lose theirs. Sometimes, we just want to cry. Sometimes, stepping into our room and just crying is probably the best choice in that moment. And that’s OK. Always strive to be better. But be quick to forgive.

Err on the side of grace.

Our savior does. Each day is a new day. I think that verse about forgiving your brother 70 times 70 times is relavent here. Particularly if you are struggling with ongoing behavior problems, disrespect or downright defiance. When the consequences are served, let it be over. Christ removes our sins as far as the east is from the west. Try not to see your teens as nothing more than the mistakes they are making. Don’t bring up last week’s issues while dealing with this week’s. Drop the words “always” and “never” from your behavior discussions. Try to find a way to connect in the calm periods. Build your relationship. Give them something to look forward to. As another wise person once told me in relation to raising toddlers, “If time-out isn’t working, make sure the time-in is worth working toward.”

Pray continually.

Pray for them. Pray for their friends. Pray for people to be put in their lives to draw them always nearer to Him. Pray for their future spouses. Pray for your relationship. Pray for patience. Pray for your own growth. Pray for grace. And especially pray when you just don’t even know where to begin anymore.

And finally? Love them.

Fiercely. Gently. Sometimes mama bear, sometimes mama robbin. Because love really does cover a multitude of sins. And the more they feel that love, the less the mistakes matter as they mature.

#MeToo and Why it should matter to the church

When #metoo first popped up into my facebook feed, I decided not to comment. A quiet little #metoo isn’t going to change anything. Anyone who cares doesn’t need #metoo to not harass a woman. Those who don’t will roll their eyes and talk about how a little flirting isn’t harassment. But then I read this in response to a post:

“[They] just need to suck it up. If they want to avoid it then don’t interact with society.”

#metoo and why it should matter to the church
Yeah. You know what? I’m overweight and over forty. One of the greatest blessings of those two facts is that I don’t have to deal with “it” any more. I “sucked it up” most of my life. I don’t think about it all that much. I don’t talk about it at all. In fact, there are things I’ve never told anyone and I don’t really know why. Perhaps because of just that attitude. I learned to “suck it up.” Tell me, to, however, and apparently I find my voice.

I’m about as far from a feminist as you can get. I stay home with my children. I homeschool. I vote Republican. I go to church and that word “submission” in the Bible doesn’t bother me all that much. And most of my life I’ve known that to interact with society, you have to “suck it up.” Because you can either let it get to you or you can swallow the venom and go on with your day.

But in the last few hours, I’ve read as many diatribes against what random posters don’t think qualifies as harassment as I have #metoo stories. Or should I say, “harassment?” Because those little quotes around someone else’s experiences are oh so convincing to their arguments.

I know it has to be a little difficult for men dealing with a changing culture, where what once was considered chivalrous is now considered belittling. And in a culture where women who were once taught to be coy and passive just might turn around and tell you what they think of your cat calls, your whistles and your sweethearts.

Honestly, though, I know more what it’s like on this side. To be pushed against a wall in a soccer hall by a man three times my age. To be afraid to call out because I’m not sure if the other men standing outside would come to my aid or his. To marvel at just how quickly I wasn’t there any more. To become a passive observer of what was happening to my body. Fortunately, a good deal of alcohol was involved on his part and despite his weight and strength and violence, I was able to get him off balance. I was out the door before he was off the floor and found myself standing in the midst of a dozen other men who in that moment seemed no different to me than he. Because he was also my neighbor, a respected member of the community, the director of the soccer league who unlocked the building so I could use the restroom. To get home, I had to walk through a small wooded area that took me on a dark path right by his house. So I stood there in the midst of the celebrations, unsure what to do or where to go, even as he left the building, locked up and so casually offered me a drink.

I sought out the assistant coach. At least he was safe. He offered to walk me home. For the price of a kiss, I found out when we arrived. But what’s a little harmless flirting? I laughed nervously and started to walk away. He didn’t think it was so funny and fortunately for me, all he did want was that kiss.

I know what it’s like to work drive thru late at night. To have strange men order though the speaker system, “I’ll have a Whopper with cheese . . . and one of you if you’re good looking.” I know what it’s like to swallow the ire. The customer’s always right. To stand there taking orders as he pulls to the window, undresses me with his eyes, strokes my hand as I hand him his sandwich. I know what it’s like to have him ask me for a little smile. But the thing is, it’s my smile and I’ll give it to whom I please. Not to you and not to the countless men after you, some of whom are arguing in my feed about whether telling me to smile is harassment or if I should “suck it up.” You know, so I can “interact with society.”

But this is the thing. No one has ever “just” told me to smile. It’s really the eyes and that smile. That filthy smile and those penetrating eyes that look right through my clothing, leaving me feeling naked while he asks for, just a little smile.

And that’s just “harassment.” In quotes. Because the easiest way to demonstrate that air of condescension on the internet is with quotation marks.

I know what it’s like to have a manager get into my file for my phone number, start requesting I come into work early, before anyone else is there. To have him use any excuse and no excuse to step into my personal space, to touch me as he reaches across for things that are there on his station as well, to endure the constant comments . . . the “innocent” flirting . . . that no one would think constitutes “harassment.” And as I got more and more forceful about defending my personal space and warding off the advances of an older (and married) man, I was the one who ended up in the office, talking to the female restaurant manager.

Because she knew he could be “annoying,” but I really just needed to “suck it up.” It was my atitude that was affecting the workplace environment.

It wasn’t until he cornered one of the 16 year olds and kissed her that he was finally seen as the problem and let go. It never really surprised me he chose her. She had been molested when she was younger. She didn’t know how to deal with him, bit her tongue and was silent. She tried to stay out of his way but never made any waves. She never landed in the manager’s office because her attitude toward one of her superiors was affecting the workplace environment. She “sucked it up” way better than I ever did.

I know what it’s like to have a male coworker start crossing the lines between a friendly workplace and being a little to familiar. I know what it’s like to wrestle with what exactly constitutes harassment, to know that I could ruin a career and a marriage if I say anything. And yet . . . no means no. Not interested means not interested. Back off means back off. I started saving the emails so I would have evidence if I ever decided to do anything. I was relieved when my husband found them and thought I was having an affair. Because most of my “suck it up” training had told me I was overreacting.

And now he’s the one I think about every time I read another post about the difference between innocent flirting and workplace harassment. Because it may be clear to anyone who isn’t experiencing it that it’s harmless. But it isn’t so easy to put into words when you are on the receiving end and you ponder filing your complaint and even in your own head it all sounds so petty. Except he makes your skin crawl every time he’s near and all of your internal sensors warning that this person isn’t safe go off. Because it isn’t any one comment or any once glance. It’s all of it together, coupled with the fact you know his wife and kids.

Getting from 16 into my mid thirties was a gauntlet of unwelcome gestures, comments and contact. No, it wasn’t all men. It wasn’t all the time. But for a conservatively dressed young woman who stayed away from the party scene in high school and college, declined sex until she was married, who worked in professional environments and who never flirted with anyone she wasn’t already romantically involved with, it happened to me often enough that it is hard for me to imagine that there are very many women out there who haven’t experienced it to some degree.

Because it’s part of growing up female. Just look what happens when a few women come out and talk about what it’s like on this side. We’re told to #suckitup. We’re treated to lectures about “harassment.” We’re dismissed, marginalized, blamed and even mocked.

But that’s not the message I want to teach my daughters. And it most certainly isn’t the message I want to teach my sons who have far more control over how the women in their lives will be treated than my daughters will.

What I’m not as sure of is how to teach them any differently in a sex-saturated culture which seems to scoff at any separation between what is private and what is public, what is intimate and what is superficial.

And you know what’s even harder? Trying to figure out how to teach them any differently when so many of the scoffers are Christian. Sure, there are good men out there. Lots of them. But this isn’t about them. We cannot fix the problems in our culture and in our churches by sweeping them under the rug and “looking for the positive.” We can’t fix them by belittling those who come forward or by dismissing their testimonies with quotation marks. We can’t fix them by asking them to “suck it up.”

When I imagine Christ in heaven watching as woman after woman shares a small, frequently hidden piece of herself with an unassuming “#metoo,” I don’t see Him responding with, “Oh you silly little thing. That’s not ‘harassment.’ You just need to look at all the good in the world!” When we hurt, He hurts. When we weep, He weeps. When we grieve, He grieves. And that is what He calls His church to, as well.

In fact, it is the very heart of compassion.

com = together, passion = suffering

Compassion literally means to suffer together. To bear one another’s burdens. To offer a whispered #metoo when it’s appropriate and an it-grieves-me-that-this-is-your-story when it isn’t. Because that’s what the church is supposed to be.

1 Peter 3:8-9 — Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

Matt Redman CD review and giveaway!

Update: Entries are closed for the giveaway, but you can still read the review and hear a sample song from the CD below!

I recently had the opportunity to receive Matt Redman’s new album, Glory Song, in exchange for this review. One of my favorite songs we sing in church is by him, so I thought, “Yes! Of course I will do that!” Especially since they were also so kind as to offer a second CD to give away to you!

Glory Song

Fortunately, this also coincided with a four hour drive down to Hutchinson, Kansas for a field trip to the Cosmosphere. Four hours with six kids late at night. It isn’t always the most “blessed” of experiences, and as you travel down through central Kansas, flipping through all the dead air on the radio, a good CD is a nice thing to have. Unless you like country music. There is plenty of that to be found along the entire route.

I am not a huge praise and worship fan. OK, I’m Christian. I like “praise and worship.” Just as a music genre, it doesn’t get me THAT excited. If you don’t like listening to K-Love, you might not like this CD. But I did enjoy it. It was easy to listen to. The music is nice, the lyrics are good and the doctrine is sound.

Plus the kids liked it. Nisa gave it 8 out of 10 stars, but she was singing along with the songs and asking me, “Who is this again? He’s good!” And she is my child who ALWAYS has music of some sort going, either on her mp3 player or just in her head. If she isn’t talking, she is probably singing and this CD definitely connected with that side of her.

Plus, anything that all the kids like on a four hour drive through central Kansas in the middle of the night has to be good.

And Matt Redman performing the best song on the album, Gracefully Broken, atop the Capitol Records Tower in LA.

And how can you enter the giveaway? I like simple rules I can keep track of so all you need to do is drop me a note in comments. If you are on a phone and have difficulty navigating the comments, you can shoot me an email. I’ll add a comment for you just so you don’t get forgotten when I drop all the comment numbers in a hat. Or in random.org’s random number generator, as the case may be. And finally, if you would like to make sure not to miss future giveaways, why not subscribe to my newsletter? It doesn’t get you any extra entries. It just ensures that you get a note when I have things like this going on!

Make sure you use an email you will check. Entries close midnight central standard time on Friday, October 6, 2017. I will email the winner by the following Monday and you will have 48 hours to respond before I go to the next person. Good luck!

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

 

Patterns of Evidence, Review and Giveaway!

Update! The giveaway is over (congratulations to the winner!), but if you are interested in the DVD, my review is below and there is a coupon at the bottom!

Patterns of Evidence, Exodus is the culmination of Filmmaker Timothy Mahoney’s twelve year journey around the world to find the truth behind the Exodus story. Was it just a myth? Was it historical fact? Was there any archaeological evidence of this central and foundational Bibilical event? Make sure to read to the bottom for a coupon for the DVD and a chance to get one free!

evidence for the exodus

I confess. This is not an area of Biblical history I know much about. I know what the Bible says and I know that the world says that the evidence for it is shaky at best, but I do not know the arguments on either side. It’s ancient history. We have rags and pottery sherds to piece together into some sort of narrative of ancient events. It surprises me how much evidence we do find in the sands of the Middle East for Biblical accounts of events.

And yet it does seem odd that there is not more evidence for events as great as Joseph saving Egypt from a great famine, masses of Hebrews multiplying through the land, the wholesale enslavement of a people, the plagues and their escape from Pharoah’s might. As Mahoney searches, he discovers that the problem may not be so much a problem of how much evidence is available, but of the time period in which it is found.

The film moves a bit slow at times. The first time I tried to watch it, it was late and my husband and I both fell asleep. It definitely isn’t a film you relax to with a bowl of popcorn after the kids are in bed. My fourteen year old son enjoyed learning the information, but had trouble focusing through the whole film. That said, it is packed with excellent information to inform your faith, your worldview and your appreciation for just what the Exodus meant to the ancient Hebrews, the Jewish people today and our own Christian faith.

I appreciated the interviews with leading experts, giving alternate views of what these and other finds meant in terms of the Biblical account. It isn’t presented as rock solid evidence for every word of the book of Exodus. Maybe I’m weird, but those kinds of presentations usually raise flags with me. When we are talking about history that is thousands of years old buried in the sands of Egypt, the likelihood of uncovering anything that is definitive is too low.

But interesting things have been found. A temple, built almost as if it were for a Pharoah, and in it the remains of a statue of a foreigner? With faint remnants of paint reminiscent of a multi-colored coat? A people living within the borders of Egypt who were malnourished with a shortened life expectancy that was predominantly female? Each piece of evidence on its own is not much. A little paint, ruins of a palace, piles of bones, snippets on an ancient Papyrus. But when lined up together, it begins to look an awful lot like the story as we know it.

I plan on watching this again with the children, but we are going to break it up into shorter segments. There are sort of natural stopping points as Mahoney shifts from one topic to the next and I think this will help my children (and me!) focus more and get more out of the documentary. It will also give us time to look more deeply into each of the issues raised, both by examining the Bible and checking up on what archaeologists are discovering in Egypt and how they are interpreting these finds.

You can find out more about the movie and watch the trailer at it’s website, Patterns of Evidence.

The DVD and other related materials are available at their store. Enter MK1 for $3 off the DVD price!

And for the giveaway . . . The rules are super crazy hard so pay close attention. Leave a comment on this post that indicates you would like to be included in the giveaway and make sure your email address in the field is valid and one that you will check. That’s it!

Entries will close Sunday, September 10 at 12 midnight CST. I will then choose one winner at random (name in a hat or using random.org). The lucky winner will receive an email on Monday and have 48 hours to respond with the required details to mail the DVD out. Good luck!

Disclosure: This DVD was provided free of charge in exchange for a review. My thoughts are my own. My husband was looking to buy this DVD so he was pretty excited when I told him I could sign up to review it!