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I have one of those lesser order heroes in my life. He has not yet been in a life-or-death crucible, but I have no doubt that when that day comes, he will enter the ranks of those men and women who make the sacrifice of self for another. I am confident of this because he daily models this noble behavior to me and others, and has done so for years.

He gets up and gets coffee for me or others, interrupting what he’s doing, even if he’s not getting some for himself. He gets up in the middle of the night, losing sleep, to get an ice pack for my headache-from-hell. These may seem like trivial things, but I have deliberately chosen the trivial to show that his sacrifices are in the everyday, mundane things of life.

More significantly, he gives to others to his own hurt: surreptitiously paying the months-behind mortgage of a man who has treated him ill, when he could have helped his soon-to-be-a-father son. Or driving across town to help a stranded friend who is too poor to repay in any way, and who has, in a pique of emotion, cut off all who might have helped. Exchanging his very nice, paid-off car for his son’s older, less “healthy” one, because his son needed a reliable car in his new position, in his new state, with his new wife.

He’s been a hero for decades too, removing the boots of this long-ago pregnant lady who could not bend over; spending his meager enlisted man’s wages to travel to his 17-hour-away mother’s house to put in a sidewalk, or side the garage, or side the peak of the house, or finish her new windows; dropping everything in an instant to fly across the country to his sister’s side the morning after her husband took his own life.

Today, he lays down his life and home to help the suddenly-moved, or suddenly-homeless, or not-so-suddenly destitute. He obeys his King to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, James 1:27 (and he keeps himself unspotted from the world too, but I digress).

I am blessed to be married to this man for 30 years. Last week was our anniversary. It is an unspeakable blessing to be yoked to a man who takes the Lord’s commands seriously.

Thank You, Lord, for the gift of a good husband.

http://image.patriotpost.us.s3.amazonaws.com/2011-03-08-humor-toon4.jpg

For the last two years, the rainy spring has lingered on into the normal planting time, and we’ve taken to covering the garden with black plastic, trying to keep it from getting more water-logged. And hey! added bonus! All the garden books and blogs say black plastic mulch will warm the soil sooner, and kill the weeds, because they’ll be starved for light.

But both last year and this year, each time we’ve pulled the plastic back, those supposedly dead weeds sprang back to life licketysplit.

This seems metaphoric for how some folks try to get those oh-so-elusive “good kids” I talked about in my last post: cover them up before any “bad” gets in them.

You see this in some home school circles, and in some conservative Christian circles (and in Muslim culture too, I might add). “We don’t let our children spend the night.” “We don’t let our children go to camp.” “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, and the companion of fools will be destroyed, so we don’t let our children play with other children unless we are right there.” “Facebook is just hanging out with other children, so no facebook for my child.”

The thinking goes something like this: “if I can keep my child from negative peer pressure, exposing them to only the things and people of the Lord, then the sinful nature of those others won’t rub off on my child. They won’t pick up how to curse, or a desire for bad music or bad companions, etc., if they are kept from the bad peer influence of others.”

This covering them up can get extreme: the head/face/body of the girl must be covered to keep boys from sinning. And it can last a long time. No boy-girl interaction after puberty until they are marriageable age. No driving until they are 18, or 21. It’s like leaving the black plastic on the garden for months, in the hope that those persistent weeds will have finally succumbed, and will give us a totally weed-free head start on the season.

I live very near Amish country, and several times a year I go out there to buy cheese, bulk herbs, and other items. On the way there, I pass under a few covered bridges, and pass over a few uncovered bridges. The only folks out that way are pretty much all Amish. They have their own school, their own smith, their own ironworks, and these folks, and especially their children, rarely leave the area. But in painted graffiti on and inside the bridges, you see “POOP”, “HECK” and other such mild (to our ears) euphemistic words scrawled in childish handwriting. These are the words that are considered “naughty” on the playgrounds of Amish schoolyards. And little Amish children, well-covered and protected from “English” sinners, manage to grow into vandals anyway.

How? The weeds of sin were sown in them in the Garden by their forefather, Adam.

The weeds of sin in our children are not planted by other people. They are there from birth, and will grow, unaided, even if no one else is in their life. No matter how long we leave the black plastic of “protection” over our children, the weeds of sin just pop right up again, and sometimes with even more vigor than before.

In my own (non-Amish) experience, I have certainly seen more than one young person explode in sin “weeds” soon after the plastic was drawn back. They get their first job, and are quickly smoking cigarettes or pot with the co-workers. They go off to college, and are soon spending as much time “hooking up” or with a hangover as their friends in whom the weeds were left to grow unimpeded. Some “outside” boy notices them at the park, the store, or even church, and before too long, they are climbing out the window at night to meet clandestinely.

The Amish Rumspringa is in essence a time for Amish youth to decide if they will go back under the black plastic, or live the “English” life of self-indulgence. There doesn’t seem to be a third choice, to teach our children to walk uncovered by the plastic, in trepidation before the Lord, looking to Him to provide their righteousness. The choice seems to be to teach them to gain the faux-righteousness of keeping away from other sinners, or out-right unrighteousness.

The root of the problem (pun intended) is that weeds need to be pulled, but instead are left in the ground because the gardeners (mom and dad) wrongly think that the weeds come from without, instead of from within.

There are no shortcuts to a productive garden. We have to do the hot, dirty work of pulling weeds.

More on that later, I think.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/12/us/12prom.html?_r=1&src=ISMR_AP_LO_MST_FB

How do kids grow to be “good”?

So many of them seem to be spoiled, the way an apple is spoiled: soft, wormy, and inedible. And the ratio seems to be escalating: so many more of the kids seen in public seem to be selfish, angry, demanding. And not just little ones. Ten year olds. Fifteen year olds.  Twenty year olds even.

All parents want “good” children. So how are some of us getting them, and some of us are not? And why do the numbers of the “spoiled” seem to be rising?

And what is “good” after all? It seems “bad” is easier to define. It’s certainly easier to spot. The child who is screaming on the floor of the cereal aisle “I hate you” certainly grabs our attention more than the one who quietly goes along with mom in the grocery store. Maybe the “good” child was just too tired to be “bad” today. Maybe they are developmentally too delayed to act out in this manner. Whatever it is, we tend to not even notice those “good” ones. But we sure notice the bad ones.

So, how did they get there? Are some just “destined” to be bad, and others just “destined” to be good? This seems to suggest a sort of Calvinist¬† method of child training, “just leave them alone, and they’ll come home, wagging their tails behind them”.

But, certainly the teaching of the Word belies this itself. All are born evil. All. Children don’t grow into “good” adults by some metaphysical chance. Left alone, they turn selfish, brutal, barbaric. That’s why The Lord of the Flies rings so depressingly true to our ears. And we’re certainly seeing more of those traits in the young of America today.

No, all are born evil, with the guarantee that, unattended, they will grow into “bad” children. No-one has to teach kids to be bad. They come to it very naturally. What parent teaches their first born to lie? To be sneaky? To arch their back and scream when they want to get down at 8 months old, or to scream “I hate you” when they want Fruit Loops at 3 years old, or to invite their friends over for a drug and drinking party at 15, when their parents go away for a weekend celebration of their 25th anniversary?

And that is the crux of the matter, I think. All are born with seeds of sin. And those seeds naturally grow into weeds: strong, resistant to pulling, and deep rooted.

No, weeds never “just go away” by ignoring them. That’s why the “leave em alone” method of training ALWAYS results in a “soft, wormy and inedible”¬† result. The vegetable garden is certainly parabolic illustration of that. Just try “leaving the weeds alone” there for very long, and they will squeeze out the life of the vegetable plants! In the same way, “hands-off parenting” (the kind advocated by the “experts” all too often) does not produce the “good” kids that we’re all after.

So just how DO we get those “good” kids? Still mulling that over. More to come.

Heroes

I’ve been thinking about what makes a hero.

Many of the men on the Titanic were heroes of the first order. Many of the men and women in war, especially wars in the past, it seems, were heroes of the first order. The first responders at 9/11 were heroes of the first order.

What makes a hero of the “first order”? When the stakes are the highest, potential loss of ones’ own life, the hero of the first order chooses to risk their own life or safety for another person’s life or safety.

When the men on the Titanic had the most to gain by being self-protecting, they chose to lose their own lives in order to spare that fate to others. When men and women are willing to go to war, to protect others at the risk of their own lives, they are heroes of the first order. When the first responders raced in, it was without thought for self, but with single-focused thought for the rescue of others.

There are heroes of a lesser order, men or women who have not had their mettle tested with the ultimate test. But they live their lives daily putting others before themselves in smaller ways. Essentially they are not narcissists, but are principally other-focused. But these folks are just one catastrophic event away from being a first order hero, and they will make that hero’s choice, even then. Because one cannot become a first order hero in the crucible. If it’s not there in the second and third and fourth order difficulties of life, it won’t suddenly appear in the first order crush.

And it won’t suddenly disappear in the moment of greatest heat.

What’s This?

It’s an answer to a long-running request by a dear friend.

I’ll explain more about that in a later post, but in case you’re wondering, liberatidadio is Liberati da Dio, or Freed by God.

That’s my most significant attribute: I am freed by God.

Edit: everything dated before this entry is an import from my old blog at Xanga, which must either be folding, or mad at me for not posting there anymore. But I didn’t want to lose those posts, so I put them here.