Thursday, November 01, 2007

Pullman's latest books

There was an interview with Philip Pullman in the paper today, since he spoke last night at the university of Toronto. His books are bestsellers, not too far behind the Potter series. But Christians have a problem with them because of their anti-church slant. Pullman is a confessed atheist, and I remember when my husband was reading the Golden Compass to our son and I was half listening, I remember feeling alarmed over some of the passages, and that was before I'd heard any criticism of the series.

Yes, it alarms me that there's a growing fascination for darkness, and yes it alarms me that Christian children are being fed a steady diet of the most subtle things that pull in other directions. But it's also interesting that kids -- and adults -- are fascinated by the sheer power of evil and the absolute power of goodness to overcome it. Maybe this speaks to what we in the church have done with the scary events of the Old Testament -- with battles, and visions, and vengeance and exile.

Why is the church ignoring the full range of human emotion and actions in its efforts to be nice, and good guys? The result is a church rendered lifeless, bloodless and ineffectual. Maybe we could take a few lessons from Pullman's book, instead of denying their power.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Battle of the wills

Trying to curtail your teenager's screen time is a little like living through some of the Old Testament prophets and their times. I've been through Jeremiah, Lamentations, Daniel and now Hosea -- just for a little light reading.

Ironically, the notebook I use to jot down thoughts from my daily devotions used to belong to my teenager when he was little -- it started life as a "war" book, and the first page is a highly detailed battle scene, with tanks, and stick figures holding on to their helmets, sandbags and barbed wire.

Appropriate, I'd say. Most days, it feels like charging the ramparts in a tank, or at the very least wearing a pith helmet, scrambling up sandbags, scaling barbed wire, and blasting the enemy media crap with both barrels.

Sadly, the battle imagery is just that -- imagery. You can't use it for real, because it won't get you anywhere. But reason doesn't work either. I'm finding it has to be replacement strategies, just like you did with your two-year-old -- "oh look Timmy there's a bulldozer over there" while you hastily snatch the bag of candies out of reach.

Except teenagers are a lot quicker than toddlers, and a lot more ornery when you tangle with them.

So, instead, we use "incentives" -- cuz money talks.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Married an Unbeliever...

A little over 20 years ago, I met a lovely man with all sorts of good ethics and honesty, but when he told me he was very anti-church and anti-Christian, I merely shrugged it off, secretly thinking that one day, one day..... I would change him!

Oops. Two decades later, and he's no closer to becoming a Christian, and I have to rethink what this means, especially with kids.

I've concluded the following:

1) badgering someone to become a Christian, whether he's your husband or the stranger on the bus, doesn't work
2) try to remember all the good things your spouse does, because good is of God. (and praise him or her for it!)
3) dump the moral superiority -- we've got nothing to be superior about. God forgave us (and continues to forgive us) when he died on the cross, and we continue to let him down.
4) don't barricade yourself into a tight little Christian group that your spouse has no way of joining -- when you entertain, mix things up and add a few non-Christian faces.
5) try to avoid being gleeful when something he'd done that is clearly non-Christian ends up failing
6) pray ceaselessly -- it worked for St Monica (whose son was St Augustine)
7) do not think leaving the marriage will make you happier -- even two Christians on the same page will find plenty to argue about
8) act with grace (love), speak with truth (boundaries, limits, etc.) at all times (at least when you're not tempted to lose your temper)
9) Jesus never talked about being a Christian in his parables, but he spoke lots about becoming fully human, and a little more divine by giving to the poor, treating your neighbour with compassion, planting good seeds, and so on

What about the kids?
For spiritually single women like me, the findings of recent studies on church attendance are grim. Although the numbers vary according to the study, it was found that when both parents take children to church, as much as 75 percent become attenders; if dads only take kids to church, that drops to 55 percent, but when it’s only the moms taking them, the percentage plummets to a mere 15 percent.

However, I’m not one to give up hope – and here’s why:

-- studies show that children derive their image of God from their fathers – since my husband is gentle, nurturing and ethical, I’m banking that they will continue to see God in a similar light
-- I try to be an informed Christian, so I can talk to my children about their faith as it relates to culture, helping them to discern difficult moral and spiritual issues
-- We attend a vibrant church, filled with children and youth, and alive with the Holy Spirit; I want my children interacting with real people who are Christian – caring, smart, holy, and fun
-- I send them to summer camp to nurture their connection to God’s created world and to a Christian community
-- I pray – a lot – to keep my relationship with God strong, and to ask on behalf of my children (and my husband) that they will come to know and love the Lord

In the Interests of Time

If you're a mom like me, time is usually in short supply, and yet we always want to feel as though we're giving our families the best part of ourselves. For some reason, we also believe that means making homemade bread and canning our own tomatoes.

Well, ladies, let me tell you. The tomatoes you can are no fresh (and possibly less so) than the ones you buy in the can. So instead of spending all that time canning your tomatoes, buy them and use the time to spend doing something fun with your kids, or spouse. (Now, if your idea of fun with the kids is canning tomatoes, be my guest.)

And to save even more time, here's a great recipe for making homemade tomato sauce that's delicious, fresh and so fast you'll feel like a no-stress mama.

Put 2-3 tbsp olive oil in a pot, add razor thin slices from about half a medium onion, a teaspoon of red pepper flakes, two cloves garlic minced (or larger if you're rushed), and a few leaves of dry basil, crushed. Heat that for a few minutes on low, til the onion gets clear. Add about 1/2 cup wine (optional), cook a minute or so. Then add a 28-oz can of tomatoes, then fill can about 1/3, swish around to get the tomato bits, and add to the pot. Cook on medium to low for about 30-40 minutes. (You can also add half a large carrot, grated for extra flavour, but it's optional.)

TIP: Make double the amount, and you have extra for chili, lasagna, or hot lunches.

Hallowed Eve?

So, as usual I'm working on things at the last minute. This is not good when it comes to Halloween, because there's always so much to do -- buy the pumpkin, carve it, hang out a ghost (sheet with a head created out of old socks stuffed into the centre and tied with binder twine), find the kids costumes, and so on.

Inevitably, the costumes change -- many years my son planned one thing two weeks before, only to change his mind the day before. So I got smart with my daughter and figured we could hold off on pulling it all together til the day before, because I was so sure she'd change her mind.

Uh-unh, no change. She still wants to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Which I have problems with. Not only is the cult of the underworld, the nod to death and potential for satanic attraction something that worries me, but what in heaven's name does this girl wear that distinguishes her from any other teenager?

I asked A what made a good Buffy, what this vampire slayer wore. I was told she wears a black shirt, blue jeans, and carries a stake and a cross. How was that going to make her stand out? I tried telling her that she was going to get mighty tired telling every house what her costume was.

Then I got serious and had a mother-daughter talk in the car on the way to gymnastics about how I had a problem with her carrying a cross around. A didn't understand. So I explained even more -- that having a cross as a "magic symbol" to eradicate vampires which don't even exist, seemed to me to be a little insulting to Jesus and the price he paid on the cross.

I watched her reaction in the rear view mirror - eyebrows raised, she said Mom what are you talking about? So I explained even more, that it was only God who overcomes evil, and that a teenager wielding a cross and stake was no match for Satan.

Her eyes popped out even more: Oh mom, you just don't get it.

Me: Yes, I do.

Her: No, you don't. It's Halloween. It's fun. You get candy. Why are you talking like this, about God and Jesus and satan and all that?

Me: You mean, it's a night for getting candy, and why am I getting all serious about the MEANING of life and death and good and evil?

Her: Yes, that's what I mean.

Me: I guess I see your point.
But can you go without the cross?

She sighs, and agrees.
So now she'll be going out in a black shirt (which we don't have), blue jeans, (which we do), and carrying a stake so she looks like the vampire. Oh brother.....