Sunday, October 12, 2008

as time passes

It is Thanksgiving Sunday today, and I have been thinking about how we get caught up in certain things. Several years ago when my 15-year-old son was about 8, there was a great furore among Christian circles over the Harry Potter books -- were they occult and dangerous, or were they getting your kids to read. Which was the lesser of two evils?

It started me thinking about the role of parents in their children's discernment, which ultimately led to writing a book about making wise discernments with your teenagers (it has not been published, nor raised any interest, but that's another story). After an incredible amount of research and several rewrites, my son finally turned 13, but it was only in the past six months or so that I have come smack up into the face of the teenager, and can truly write and know what it's like.

And for all that research, and all that experience, the sum of it is this: love. Sounds simple, love them and they will turn out fine, but it's hard. When children know they are loved, they are more inclined to be good. When we spend time with them, reassuring them of their worth, they will know it when they hear that their Heavenly Father loves them and values them. When you really love them, your discipline is in their best interest and not out of anger.

St Paul really had it right on when he wrote:
1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

It's also incredibly difficult to follow.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Willpower and Kids

Every so often I get a newsletter for dieting, exercise and so on. The article on it this morning caught my attention because of what the author said about willpower.

"...being aware of your emotional triggers so that you can avoid them, Jillian says. She is not a big believer in the concept of willpower...thinks it is far better to control your environment to guarantee success. For instance, instead of telling yourself you are not going to eat any bread when you go to a restaurant, make an immediate request to the waiter not to bring any bread to the table...willpower just amounts to temporary moments of bravado."

I think she's right -- and it makes a really good argument for controlling certain behaviours and attitudes in general. We can talk all we like about training our kids to resist temptation, but let's face it -- it's hard. It's doubly hard when there are no holds barred on the things available for them to sample.

Where does that leave us parents? In the unenviable role of removing some things from our children's reach -- much as we would a pot on a hot stove when the toddler cruises by.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Heading to Integrity

Today while sitting on my rain-washed deck and tossing the ball for my obsessive white lab, Emma, I read my daily devotions. I've been working through the Psalms, and today I read 26. I usually have to read the Bible chapter over and over just to get the proper feel and understanding and today was no different. Finally on the second or third read, the key words started to sink in. For me to acquire integrity (does one acquire this like your taste for martinis?), there were a few things I would have to do.
-- trusted in the Lord without wavering
-- walk in faithfulness to you
-- singing aloud a song of thanksgiving, and telling all your wondrous deeds
-- love the house in which you dwell

In order to gain integrity, it seems we must trust in God, be faithful to Him, sing his praises, thank Him for all things, and love the house in which he dwells (and that would mean His church, even though we all know that God is not restricted by actual walls and ceilings).

And so, integrity comes from worship.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Darwin by any other Name... still the same.

Ah, yes, dear old Darwin. We keep coming smack up to him. When most scientists have long since given him the boot and moved on to more sophisticated methods of understanding evolving species, the Darwinists and neo-Darwinists are still kicking his can.

Is it possible they are doing this out of a defensive reaction to the Creationists and their loud fanfare? Or as a reaction, albeit a tenuous one, to Bush and his evangelical coterie? As I said to my dear atheist, Bush-hating husband the other day, whatever will you have to complain about come November?

Anyway, I digress. There's a new movie out called Expelled, which I read not such good reviews about. Do I send my 15-year-old to see it without vetting it? Bad movies only make bad impressions even if the intent is good. And he's pretty mature about movie quality (and hates to be reminded of his love of Barney only 9 short years ago.)

I see that Louisiana has effected a bill that the left claims undercuts the teaching of evolution, while those who proposed adding creationist/intelligent design in addition to evolution sounds pretty reasonable to me. It's not as though they're removing evolution from the curriculum. I don't really quite understand their fears -- seeing as ID promotes evolving species, just not in as simplistic a manner as the Darwinists, but also sees it with a guiding hand.

Usually, people dig in their heels for two reasons, or one really: they feel insecure in their position. So either, they worry that the future holds only a nightmare of right-wing evangelical thought control, or they worry that ID will legitimately erode the non-theistic Darwin theory, (neo or otherwise).

While I champion the rights of people to ensure their children get taught the way they want them to, (and personally I am a proponent of ID because I think it's the only reasonable choice between evolution which has the scientific evidence on its side, and creation which has a deep understanding of how God operates with the world He loves), I also worry that the approach taken is accomplishing little, and possibly creating a large wake of unreparable damage.

Extreme Makeovers

There was another story in the NY Times last week about an extreme makeover that caught the public attention, as if they don't as a matter of course. This particular story was about a woman, a former correctional officer, who took on her sister's ten children after her sister died of cancer and the dad disappeared. Felicia Jackson had four children of her own, which brought the tally to 14.

Jackson's sister Cassandra died in 2004. In an interview, 'Jackson was plain-spoken about her life since then. "We've been moving every year to a different house," she said. "I had to resign from my job with the government. And I got divorced."'

Whenever I see or hear stories like this one, my immediate reaction is what a good thing for EM to do, and for the building company to absorb the whole cost themselves. There was another EM a few months back about a young family with 3 or 4 kids all of whom had the same rare disease, which drove the dad to study for medical school at night after he finished work so that he could find a cure for his sick children, when there was a hospital right in Pittsburgh halfway across the country with the best specialists in his kids' disease.

After the emotional hit of all those nice EM people helping out, and the pathos of the story they find (they get about 1,000 requests a week, apparently), I find myself critical of a "system" that we the people have created whereby people fall through cracks every day of the week. In the sick children's case, why aren't the Extreme Makeover people making the link between the failing American health care system and the fact that a dad is trying to reinvent the wheel? In the case of the single mom with 14 kids -- where are those dads? where is the community? why was that mother left languishing with 14 kids, having to be one step ahead of the rent police?

It's wonderful that EM took them on, and I'm not criticizing them at all, just feeling a little helpless when I see unmonitored tragedy going on.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Me, Joseph, and the Technicolour Coat

Friends often tolerate my "consumer" rant, about how we spend, spend, spend and let tomorrow take care of itself. They also tolerate my comparing our current consumer times to Joseph and his dream interpretation of the seven fat calves and the seven lean ones.

An article I saw today reminded me exactly of the pharaoh's dream:
WORLD LEADERS assemble in Rome today for a three-day summit on the global food crisis. The sense of urgency surrounding the meeting is appropriate. With commodity prices at their highest levels in three decades, some 100 million people who had been lifted out of chronic poverty are at risk of slipping back. Famine once again threatens vulnerable countries such as North Korea. Until relatively recently, producing more food was not thought to be much of a problem.

The real problem was lack of foresight and preparation:
During the era of cheap and abundant food, Western donors and multilateral aid organizations neglected agricultural research and rural development in favor of more fashionable development trends.

Things haven't changed much in the last three, four thousand years.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mirror, Mirror in my hand

The other night, after I said goodnight to Anna, my 8 year old, I poked my head in the door again and saw she was sitting up hunched over something in her bed. So I went in, noticed the pocket mirror in her hand, and asked what she was doing.

She told me she had a dream in mind, and wanted to be in it, so she was memorizing her face, and keeping the mirror handy so that if she forgot what she looked like while dreaming (and thus could not dream about herself) she could sit up and look in the mirror again!

It made me think about how much God might study our faces, so that when he has a dream to unfold he can imagine us acting in this divine play.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Gamer Teen

With a 14 year old son in residence, we've been up, down and sideways on this video gaming subject in our house. We tried to resist as long as possible (though what exactly that means is that we're as weak as jellyfish), and we've denied certain games (with ritual torture, women and authority bashing like Halo), but we've allowed others (like Solid Gear Metal Honor, or something like that).

We've tried to impose daily limits -- an hour and a half on weekdays, and 3 hours on weekends -- but no one had the ability to monitor this closely. We tried no screen on weekdays, and unlimited on weekends, but that fell by the wayside, because both of us work from home and we're still at our computers when sunny-boy comes home. And since I don't have much replacement activity, I can't very well say he can't plop down in front of the tube and watch.

When he saved up his own money and purchased the PS3 last summer, just as school was winding down, he sat tethered to it for two solid weeks. At first, Teenboy seemed a little quiet, and certainly kept to himself. Then he seemed isolated. And by the second week, he was rude, angry, impatient, obsessed with the game, and completely cut off from us and his friends. He didn't step foot outside, and we had fight after fight over the thing.

Then a magic and wonderful thing happened -- he went to Pioneer Camp for two weeks, which was just long enough to break the addiction, and to return him home in a semi-normal, semi-pleasant state. Then the cycle started again.

I've talked to him about addictions, and he admits it is one. I've given him stats: teens need 9 hours of sleep and for every lost hour the IQ goes down by 8 points; for every 15 hours of screentime, your IQ goes down 10-15 points (not sure if you could quote me on those numbers, tho); after six hours of video games, the academic ability is negatively affected, but it's not the same for TV. Because with the teen brain developments, and the brain adapting to what it's learning, what they are doing is developing very good brains for playing video games but not other, higher function things. I've told him all this, and the best he could do was promise to keep video games to six hours a week, and then unlimited TV time.

And his father thought this was a good plan! No wonder I'm fighting a losing battle. I agreed to try it for a week or two, and then revisit the plan.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Diet of Real Food

Since it's January, and we're all gung-ho on being healthier, you can see a lot of ink spilled over the latest diets, so it was with great interest -- and a whole lot of relief -- that I spotted a review of two books on food, telling us, basically, that we need to eat food.

Duh, you say, of course we eat food. But these books, The Myths, Misconceptions and Truths about the Foods We Eat, by Joe Schwarcz and In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, by Michael Pollan, are loudly proclaiming that all these latest fad diets of super-omega-3-rich diets, and so on with their obsessive calculations of carbs, versus proteins, versus calories, and so on are not to be listened to.

Hallelujah is all I can say! They're basically saying get a wide variety of fruits and veg, and avoid the next greatest mega-whatever that comes around the bend. The reviewer says "nutritional science is essentially about as advanced as nuclear physics was in pre-industrial Europe."

Monday, January 07, 2008

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I may have posted this at some point already, but given I'm so forgetful these days -- mid-life hormones and overwork I'm betting -- I'll just post it again, cuz it's cute.

It was probably last year sometime, but my daughter (now 8) was outside on the porch and my husband, who happened by the open screen door, saw her looking up at the sky and saying: God? Where are you? Are you there? God? Gawd? Where are you?

A week or so before then, she and her dad were having a conversation about Joseph -- who he was. Her dad said he was Jesus' father, and Anna said no, that God was Jesus father. So her dad explained that he meant Joseph was the earthly father. And Anna said no God was that too. Then she said to him: You don't know these things, Daddy. You don't know Jesus. You used to know Jesus when you were a child, but you don't know him now.

She's also a nag! A while later, she asked (on the way to church) why Daddy didn't go to church, and when I said it's because he doesn't believe in God, she was shocked. "Whaaaat? He doesn't believe in God? How could you NOT believe in God?!?! He's EVERYWHERE!!!! He's in the car, beside me, he's outside, he's on the sidewalk, in the trees, in heaven,........"

And then when we got home, she asked her dad point-blank why he didn't believe in God and he told her because he didn't believe in God, which started up the hue and cry anew.