and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests

December 23, 2012 on 9:27 pm | In children, Christianity, Christmas, daily life, faith | No Comments

For a few days at least, I want to set aside worries about the fiscal cliff, politicians and their shenanigans, jobs evaporating and general economic chaos. Instead, I am choosing to focus on what really matters.

I am spending the next few days with my family; my children been apart for nearly a year, and we want to savor every hour we have together.

I wish for you and yours a peaceful, blessed holiday season.

A story of survival, resilience and redemption

June 26, 2012 on 3:02 pm | In books, Christianity, history, military, patriotism, war | No Comments

What I have been reading lately:

Laura Hillenbrand is not the most prolific author, but her work is truly outstanding. Her first book, Seabiscuit (from which came the Academy Award-nominated movie) brought to vivid life the true story of a legendary depression-era racehorse and the people whose lives he affected.

In Unbroken, Hillenbrand turns her formidable research abilities and narrative skills to create the biography of Louis Zamperini, a first generation Italian American. From his rapscallion childhood in 1920s Torrance, California to competing as a distance runner in the 1936 Olympics to his service as a World War II airman, Zamperini’s life is at the same time quintessentially American yet extraordinary. At the center of his story is his internment as a Japanese prisoner of war, a harrowing experience heartbreaking to read. Zamperini’s survival and resilience under unimaginable cruelty are a humbling reminder of what far too many men of the Greatest Generation endured.

After the war, battling what would eventually come to be known as post-traumatic stress disorder and struggling with alcoholism, when attending a 1949 Billy Graham crusade Zamperini found the faith that would save his sanity, his marriage, and enable him to spend the rest of his life mentoring and inspiring others.

I can not recommend this book highly enough, both as a vital piece of American history, and as a thoroughly engaging biographical account.

I have no idea if anyone plans to make a motion picture of it, but they should. It would far surpass any fictional tale of World War II.


Decisions decisions…

March 25, 2012 on 11:45 pm | In children, Christianity, education, family, motherhood, parenting, public school, teaching | 3 Comments

Yougest Son has a decision to make.

He’s been attending a ridiculously high priced private school, which provides appropriately elevated academics, arts and sports. Each year his continued attendance is predicated on receiving a generous scholarship. Without that, there is simply no way we can afford the tuition.

As he’s progressed through the past three years at this school, he’s grown wiser as well as smarter. He sees the affluence around him which our family does not share, and the behavior it breeds in some of his peers. And that bothers him. A lot.

Youngest Son, like his brother before him (who also attended this school) tends to see things in black and white. Good and bad. Yes or no. There is very little middle ground in his ethos. In some ways this is a wonderful thing; his moral compass is so strongly fixed that it renders unnecessary most restrictions I might put upon his behavior. In other ways it is problematic though. He can be very judgmental of his peers and of those in authority who fail to meet his exacting standards.

As a result, in his eyes the flaws in this private school often outweigh the benefits.

That this school (though less than most public schools) has students who engage in premarital sex disgusts him far more than the academic experiences delight him. A mid-year trip to San Francisco with the wind ensemble? Nothing compared to the fact that one of the girls he knows admitted to sleeping with her boyfriend of the moment. When another student speaks at an assembly about her chronic drug use (after repeated inpatient treatment, she’s 8 months sober) he is considerably annoyed; by his standards she should have been expelled the first time she was caught.

On one hand, I’m relieved that he’s repelled by rather than intrigued by poor life choices. On the other hand, there’s a fine line between righteous indignation and a lack of grace for those who are weak. I’m not sure (not having seen the things he shares with me firsthand) whether the school really is turning a blind eye to bad behavior or simply trying (albeit in a fumbling manner) to encourage the kids to make better choices by hearing from their fallen peers.

I am sure the administrator’s refusal to hire me (or even interview me) for available teaching positions in the past has helped poison the well for Youngest Son. He’s a loyal kid. He knows how unhappy I was to be overlooked, and that they hired a younger, less experienced and less educated teacher for the last English position did not escape his notice.

Thing is, this school is by far the best available in our area.

And the scholarship Youngest Son received for next year is unexpectedly generous: 50% of the tuition cost.

I thought he’d take that news as confirmation that he’s meant to continue his education there, but he was not excited. Instead, he was somewhat dismayed. I think  he hoped the decision would be made for him by an insufficient amount of scholarship money. And that tells me that a significant part of him wants to go somewhere else. Where, he has no idea, but he thinks the grass must be greener elsewhere…or at least the other students won’t come from homes six times the size of ours.

It would be easy to nudge him one way or the other. Economically, not having to pay another dollar for uniforms, textbooks, or extracurricular opportunities is attractive. I have student loans to pay off from my own education, and no prospect of full time employment.

Spiritually and socially, I don’t want him in public school. It has always been my goal to put all four of my kids through 12 years of private school education, though Younger Daughter endured (and I use that word deliberately) one year of public school, and Older Son coped with two years.

I had hoped either of them would have some wisdom to share with their little brother as he tries to decide what to do next. Stay or go?

Whatever they’ve said, he’s still wrestling with the decision. I think perhaps attending the local public school for a day might help inform his decision somewhat. Or not. It’s hard to say.

This parenting stuff does not get any easier, even after 25 years and four children.

Driven by our desires…or not

March 4, 2012 on 10:30 pm | In abortion, celebrity, Christianity, entertainment industry, ethics, faith, family, Homosexuality, morality, parenting, religion | No Comments

I wasn’t going to write about this, because it was obvious to me that Kirk Cameron was only being used to stir controversy. But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to warrant discussion.

I’m not sure why Kirk was on Piers Morgan’s show in the first place (perhaps to promote his upcoming documentary “Monumental,”) but I’d bet real money that nobody said to him, “Come on our show and answer our questions about homosexuality and abortion.” It’s obvious from Kirk’s body language that the questions weren’t anticipated by him, and that he was a little uncomfortable with the direction the interview took.

I’m also absolutely certain that this interview was geared to fit an agenda, the agenda being to stir controversy. It’s an election year, and anything that can be used to polarize voters–particularly sexual and religious issues–will be used. Look,  Conservative Christians are homophobic! They must be exposed, mocked (and never elected to office)!

It’s a bit unfortunate that Kirk got drawn into such a discussion, but he’s capable of dealing with the fallout. Not that GLAAD can do anything substantive to him anyway; his professional life is not dependent upon their good graces. And his personal life, well, they can’t begin to fathom the kind of man he is.

I can though. Youngest Son went to elementary school for six years with the Camerons’  eldest son and considered him a close friend. Thus I came to know Kirk and his wife Chelsea personally, to spend enough time with them that I could deeply appreciate the kind of people and the kind of parents they are.

Honestly, Kirk is an anomaly in Hollywood. He’s the sort of celebrity who is antithetical in every way to everything Hollywood embraces.

He’s actively involved in outright evangelism.

His  2008 indie movie Fireproof cost $500,000 to make (spare change in the world of multi-million dollar films) and yet earned $33 million.

He, his wife and their six children (yes, six, four of them adopted) do not spend their summers on some remote island or a European getaway, but at a SoCal camp they run for terminally ill children.

The Camerons are absolutely nothing that Hollywood admires nor aspires to.

How dare they have beliefs that don’t echo those of the liberal entertainment industry?

And how dare Kirk answer direct questions about his beliefs by calmly stating those beliefs?

Piers Morgan asked him what he’d say if one of his sons told him he was gay. Kirk answered that he’d tell his child, “Just because you feel one way doesn’t mean you should act on everything you feel.”

That is the most succinct answer to the “I can’t help myself” argument I’ve ever heard. When it comes to any behavior–any behavior whatsoever–either you control it or it controls you. How many times do we hear “I can’t help it, it’s what I want.”  Or, “It makes me happy so I’m going to do it.”

How many marriages are destroyed under that rationale?

How many children are hurt?

For that matter, how many children are aborted…but that’s a whole other issue.

Our society’s greatest problem is the “follow your desires” mentality that pervades ever aspect of our culture. Whether it’s demanding contraceptive protection so one can have an unrestricted sex life, or access to abortion on demand. Whether it’s leaving your wife and kids to shack up with one of your own students, or perpetrating sexual acts on children, the excuse is always–ALWAYS–I’m just doing what makes me happy.

And that’s all that matters, right? Doing what feels good to you?

Morgan asked Kirk what he thought of homosexuality in general, and Kirk’s answer was,  “I think that it’s unnatural, I think that it’s detrimental and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.”

Thing is, he’s right. Biologically, homosexuality is an aberrant behavior. It runs counter to the survival of our species which is biologically designed to perpetuate via male-female sexual relations. We can choose to change the construct of the biological family and scientifically intervene in the reproductive process, but the fact is, human beings were designed (regardless of whether you believe God was the designer or not) to be created and nurtured to adulthood by a pair of parents, one male and one female.Wanting to circumvent this biological norm, wanting to create a baby in a lab environment, use a surrogate woman’s womb, and hand the result to two men or two women to raise as “their child,” only underscores how abnormal and unnatural that altered construct is–it can not exist in nature.

And no matter how many people yell “we’re born this way,” there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support that claim. In fact, homosexual behavior is no different than any other destructive behavior, borne out of a damaged psyche, an effort to find physical relief for emotional wounds.

In nearly five decades of life, I’ve never met a homosexual who grew up having a healthy, loving relationship with both parents in an intact, two parent home. Quite the contrary. I have met a considerable number of homosexual men and women, gotten to know them well enough to hear about their various upbringings, and every single homosexual I’ve ever met has come from a destructive, damaging home environment. Sometimes it’s been emotional abuse, sometimes it’s been an absent/non-existent parent, sometimes it’s been subtle or outright physical abuse, but in every single case it’s left a wound that won’t heal, and left a person who is damaged, unable to form a normal intimate bond with the opposite sex.

The liberal left can deny this all they want, and insist that being homosexual is somehow the new normal, but that is the cruelest cut of all. It is no better than telling an alcoholic, “Go ahead, have another beer. You can’t help the urge to drink. You were born that way.”

(Note: I use the term “homosexual” to refer to both men and women pursuing same-sex intimate relationships.)

Reading into the New Year

December 26, 2011 on 11:51 pm | In books, Christianity, daily life, faith, religion | 2 Comments

Eldest Son is about to be married, so blogging will be light this week.

In the meantime, here are several books I recently finished and highly recommend. They’re part of my ongoing quest to sort out how I feel about church (disillusioned) and Christianity (feeling like I’ve been doing it all wrong). I’ve found these books to be very illuminating.

Beatitude by Michael Paul Turner.

I’m not sure how I stumbled across Turner in 2011, except that I first found his blog, Jesus Needs New PR, and immediately added it to my limited blogroll. With equal parts humor and pointed observation, Turner highlights just why we need to fear “the god with the copyright trademark, the manufactured god we’ve come up with in America.”

After finding his blog I read his autobiography, Churched, and if you’ve ever so much as brushed up against hardcore legalistic fundamentalism, you need to read that book.

I did not come from a fundamentalist background, though my time in the Baptist denomination did flavor my concept of Christianity with a fair amount of legalism. As I read Beatitude I understood just how far I still have to go in really learning to love other people as Christ did. Turner explores his own struggles in loving like Christ, and his realization that faith in Jesus is a journey, not a destination. If you’ve ever experienced doubt, ever felt like Christianity ought to be much more than following a set of rules, this book is a must-read.

Additionally, I just finished Skye Jethani’s With.

Jethani takes apart the ways we attempt to live “under” God, “over” God, “from” God or “for” God, and challenges us to live with God. The idea of really having communion with my Creator is both mindboggling and profound. I can honestly say this book is changing the way I perceive my relationship with Him.

On deck I have Radical by David Platt, a Christmas gift from Younger Daughter. I’ll let you know what I think of it once I’ve read it.

I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people

December 25, 2011 on 12:18 am | In Christianity, Christmas, daily life, faith, family, religion | No Comments

To all my readers, wherever you are, I wish a blessed, peaceful, joyous Christmas.

“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Occupying and Jesus

November 8, 2011 on 10:56 am | In Christianity, crime, economics, faith, homeless, jobs, lunacy, morality, racism, religion, unemployment, unions | 5 Comments

As seen yesterday on Facebook:

“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers… He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” Jesus was the leader of Occupy Jerusalem, and was the Supreme First Occupier.

When I read this, my first reaction was to snort in disbelief. And then I felt a bit angry.

Equating Jesus’ behavior in Matthew 21 with that of the Occupy Wall Street crowd? Seriously? Equating his purpose with theirs? Seriously?!

Not being a timid sort, I expressed my disagreement, politely of course.

And the response was predictable:

[The negative stories about the Occupy movement] is corporate propaganda. They don’t like religion or Jesus. They just want your vote. Anybody who thinks Jesus would take no issue with Wall Street today hasn’t read the Bible. Jesus stood with the beggars, the lepers, and the prostitutes. Jesus would not have rung the Wall Street bell. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:25. The “prosperity Gospel” has impoverished the soul of our country much like it did in India before Gandhi. The tea party movement along with radical environmentalists, abortion clinic bombers and occupy wall street all have their idiots…We all need to look at what folks are angry about and to look closely at those aspects.

My only response to that was to back away slowly, because there’s no rational discussion with someone who sees only what they want to see. And that’s a big problem with the entire Occupy movement.

You want it to be an anti-banking movement? Okay, it is.

You want it to be an environmentalist movement? Or an animal rights movement? Okay, it is.

You want it to be a help the homeless movement? Okay, it is.

You want it to be a pro-communism movement? Okay, it is.

You want it to be a “Christian” movement? Okay, it is.

You want it to be an anti-Semitic movement? Okay, it is.

You want it to be a business opportunity? Okay, it is.

It can be whatever you think it is, because in reality, it’s all of those and none of those things. It’s so unfocused the only way to interpret it is through each person’s own individual desires. And that’s why the Facebook poster truly believes Jesus would be part of–no, would lead–Occupy Wall Street.

Which is where my anger came in. To my mind, there’s little difference between a KKK member or a Nazi skinhead proclaiming that Jesus would be on his side, and an Occupy supporter proclaiming Jesus would back his movement. Both make God a tool of their agenda.

I hate that.

Believe whatever you want about the way our society should work, but don’t try to validate your beliefs by insisting God is behind them, or alongside them, or leading them. Just don’t.

The juxtaposition between Jesus response to those wanting him to stand up to the government and this:

is so stark that it’s mind boggling. Parenthetically, as one who works in a non-union grocery store (and no, I do not think it’s coincidental that non-union Whole Foods was targeted rather than Vons or Ralphs or any union grocery), I find this truly chilling. I don’t want to imagine the fear of the employees trapped inside as that mob attacked their building.

The Occupy crowd does not represent the average citizen, nor the unemployed.

It’s hateful and it’s violent.

Its protesting of “economic injustice” (i.e. capitalism) includes theft and vandalism. Even among their own.

The incidents are not random and few, they are many and growing.

What would Jesus do? Not this.

Elsewhere, Joel Griffith thoughtfully rejects the idea of a OWS Jesus

Would Jesus be camping with the protesters in the city park? Would he be leading an occupy “assembly”, singing solidarity choruses, and heralding the demise of capitalism?  If one takes the time to honestly review the stories in the four gospels, the only possible answer is a resounding, “NO!” Jesus lived under Roman rule.  The Romans oppressed Jesus’ fellow Jews, stationed military in Jewish homes and cities, and exercised political power over Jewish territory, interfered with Jewish religious life, and siphoned off Jewish wealth through tribute.

Though living under such conditions, Jesus never advocated revolution or political upheaval.

Read the entire piece, and if you still think Jesus was an Occupier, perhaps you need to ask yourself why. It may have far more to do with yourself and your own wants, than with the reality of God. You might want to go through the 4 steps Dr. Lina recommends as you consider how your belief in Jesus fits with supporting a protest like Occupy Wall Street.


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