Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Day after day, John had been diligently working on building a house. Although he felt discouraged, he kept working. . .and working. His father had given him this assignment, and he wanted to do his best.
Yet, strange as it may sound, John worked without good tools. While John had many tools he could have used, he seemed intent on using a hammer he'd crafted out of a stone. His hands were raw from trying to split and nail wood without proper equipment.
Though it may sound stranger still, John apparently worked without consulting his father's blueprint. The house looked strangely lopsided, testifying to John's tendency to work wherever it seemed best that day, instead of according to a plan.
"Say, John, what are you doing?" The question came from Michael, one of John's neighbors.
"Just building," John replied, hardly looking up from his work.
"I can see that," Michael consented. "But with what are you building, John? Didn't your father give you tools? Why aren't you using them?"
John paused for a moment to process this question. It was true: His father had given him tools to help him build. And, for that matter, his father had given him a blueprint. But John hadn't paid much attention to the things he had been given by his father. Oh, to be sure, he looked at them everyday. He admired their beauty. He even talked about them and their uses at his local building society. But when it came to the daily chores of building, he'd just set about it the same way everyone in his town did: coping the best he could with tools of his own making, and choosing where to build according to what made the most sense.
After waiting for a minute for a reply, Michael continued, "John, don't you realize how valuable a gift your father has given you? He gave you all the equipment you need. Here you are, struggling and scraping on your own, when your father has given you a gift beyond description you can use right here in the middle of this rubble. The blueprint you left home--it contains his very words and thoughts. Why would you ever set out to work without it?"
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105 (KJV)
Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? Jeremiah 23:29 (KJV)
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)
MICHAEL REITZ CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Lake Stevens Journal
Do you maintain a personal blog or website? Beware—government regulators may come knocking.
The Internet has become the preferred venue for people to voice opinions about every conceivable subject. Few issues generate as much heat as politics and legislation.
Washington State is now eying Internet communications as a field for new regulation. The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), the state campaign finance agency, is discussing guidelines for what it calls “Internet lobbying.” Lobbying can consist of someone who is paid to influence legislation and interact with legislators on a regular basis. But the PDC also regulates “grassroots lobbying”—when a person or group urges the general public to contact their legislators.
The PDC recently announced the proposal to clarify that lobbying regulations apply to Internet activity. In order to stimulate discussion, several questions were distributed:
• Are Web sites established to provide lobbying information and to encourage others to lobby for or against a particular bill or rule engaged in a reportable activity?
• Are expenditures related to grass-roots lobbying directed to the public via e-mail reportable?
• Are lobbying postings and responses on blogs reportable?• Are funds provided to “tip jars” (donation links) on lobbying blogs reportable?
Are funds provided to "tip jars" (donation links) on lobbying blogs reportable?On Dec. 4, the PDC held a meeting to review the proposed regulations. The Evergreen Freedom Foundation joined others in urging caution because of free speech considerations. The Washington Constitution says: “Every person may freely speak, write and publish on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right.” Many individuals use the Internet to exercise their democratic rights. They voice their opinions and contact their legislators. Many bloggers serve a “citizen journalist” function, reporting stories not covered by the mainstream media.
The proposed regulations could have the unintended consequence of stifling legitimate citizen speech. Suppose a person living in Spokane blogs about the legislative session, but hears that she might be classified as a lobbyist. Rather than running the risk she might simply shut the blog down. Or consider a Seattle sports blogger who comments on a proposal for a publicly-financed stadium. Is he a lobbyist?
Regulators point out that “these guidelines would help bloggers determine whether their actions are permitted.” But private individuals shouldn’t have to review agency regulations to reassure themselves that they can speak out about a public policy issue!
Also, with rapid developments on the Internet, the PDC is aiming at a moving target. While the guidelines dealt with blogs and e-mail, there is no mention of live webcasts, instant messaging, micro-blogging sites like Twitter, phone text messages, and a host of other communication tools used every day.
The PDC could offer all the clarification needed by simply stating: “Activities that are reportable as lobbying do not enjoy an Internet loophole.”
After discussing the issue at its December 4 meeting, the PDC tabled the proposal. Two commissioners (Ken Schellberg and Dave Seabrook) favored adopting the guidelines, while two (Jim Clements and Jane Noland) felt there was no problem, and wanted more time to consider the issue. The fifth commissioner wasn’t present, so the issue stalled.
Make no mistake, however. This issue will surface again. Whatever action the Public Disclosure Commission takes, it should respect the paramount right of individuals to express their views on all topics.
Michael Reitz is general counsel of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a free-market policy institute in Olympia
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
In the twentieth century, society undertook a vast experiment. Women sought to free themselves from the pain, the work, the exhaustion of big families. They took “control” of their biological systems, and in the process, they put all their female organs on the shelf, refusing to breastfeed their children, and even refusing to bear those children in the first place, with the exception of one, or maybe two, when the timing was just right. Later, the small family philosophy was reinforced by the “Population Bomb” scare of the seventies, leading many women to think that having a large family was simply irresponsible. It was the century of birth control and formula feeding, when motherhood was placed in the hands of science, and women were liberated from the chains of their own biology.
But then, after a while, disturbing things began to surface. We discovered that science had not done such a good job at feeding our children. Year after year, new research came out on the miraculous nature of human milk, and slowly the pendulum swung back as more and more women returned to breastfeeding as the very best beginning they could give their babies.
Yet, the other part of the experiment, the part about refusing to bear those babies in the first place, has remained for the most part unquestioned. Sure, there have been a few “religious nuts” here and there who’ve preached that the Bible teaches that children are a blessing, but mainstream science never seemed to back up the idea.
What’s going on, why the turn away from such a treasured idea as birth control? Well, to be blunt, women are dying. Those female organs we put on the shelf turned out not to have quite the shelf life we had assumed. They started to fall apart, victims of cancer. Breast cancer rates are soaring. A 2002 article in New Scientist proclaimed that modern women in the UK were facing breast cancer rates as high as those of childless nuns in the nineteenth century and said,
Western women could reduce their breast cancer risk by nearly 60 per cent if they returned to pre-industrial levels of fertility and breastfeeding….For each child a woman has, her risk of the disease declines by 7.0 per cent. On top of this, for every year that she breast feeds, her risk declines by 4.3 per cent.
Birth control is a strange issue. Like breastfeeding, it’s a matter of health. And for many women, it involves putting chemicals into their bodies, which ought to make us wary enough to talk a lot about it. But it also has to do with marital intimacy, and the highly personal and emotionally charged questions of family size and the timing of births, and because of that, there’s a general reticence to discuss it, a squeamish, hush hush feeling of “whatever you and your husband decide must be fine for you.”
But here and there, I’ve come across these alarming articles, tidbits of indicting information that have led me to the conclusion that birth control is not good for you. I’m of the quiver-full mindset, but I’ll save those “religious nut,” Biblical arguments on the blessings of children for another post. Today, I really just want to share what I’ve learned from a purely health related perspective, the kind of information that should be readily available for everyone to weigh whether or not they’re open to having as many children as God gives them.
You see, the choices we make for how we use our bodies, what we put into them, what we ask them to do day by day, all have an effect on our health. Most of us are used to hearing about how important it is to eat right and exercise. We’re aware of the research that shows that whole grains are better for you than refined flours. We may make the lifestyle choice to buy Wonder bread instead of Aunt Millie’s 100% whole wheat, but at least we don’t get offended at the idea that it should be an informed decision. Same for choosing not to exercise. When you choose not to exercise, you are choosing to put your health at risk. And it’s time we got over the squeamishness and were willing to talk about the fact that when you choose not to have children, you are also choosing to put your health at risk.
So how does this work? Why would a “return to pre-industrial fertility” help save women’s lives? Why is it that any decrease in childbearing, or postponement of childbearing increases your breast cancer risk? It’s because estrogen itself is a carcinogen. Every month a woman has a menstrual cycle, she is exposing herself to estrogen. That’s dangerous any time it happens, but it’s worse if she hasn’t had a full term pregnancy yet. This is why delaying childbearing “until you and your husband have gotten to know each other,” or “until you get your career established,” is actually risky business. The earlier you have your first baby, the lower your breast cancer risk. According to Daniel B. Kopans, M.D., Director of the Breast Imaging Center at Massachusetts General Hospital,
…a woman who has her first full-term pregnancy by the age of 18 has about one-third the risk of developing breast cancer as a woman who has her first full-term pregnancy after age 30.
When a girl reaches puberty, her breasts start to develop, but they don’t actually finish developing until she begins making milk for her first baby. The immature breasts of a woman who has not yet gone through pregnancy and breastfeeding are composed of type 1 and 2 lobules. (A lobule is a milk duct and several milk producing glands around it.) In fact, 70% of this woman’s breast tissue is type 1. Type 1 lobules are the most susceptible to breast cancer. 80% of breast cancers are formed in Type 1 lobules. 10% form in type 2 lobules. When women reach the last eight weeks of their first full term pregnancy, at least 70% of their breast tissue matures to type 3 lobules, and then when they begin nursing, their breasts fill with milk and become type 4 lobules. Type 3 and 4 lobules are cancer resistant. The sooner a woman’s breast tissue matures to type 3 and 4 lobules, the safer she will be from breast cancer because she will have exposed her cancer-vulnerable, immature breasts to fewer menstrual cycles, and therefore fewer onslaughts of estrogen. And the more babies she has, the more lobules will mature. (For more information, click here and read the excellent FAQ.)
But not only do many women delay and/or decrease childbearing, they do so through hormonal contraception (like the Pill), which contains steroidal estrogen. And while it is claimed that estrogen given with progesterone (as it always is in hormonal birth control) is not dangerous, there have been numerous studies linking hormonal contraception with increased breast cancer risk. A Mayo clinic meta-analysis of 23 studies found that 21implied increased risk, and combining the studies gave an estimated 44% increase in pre-menopausal breast cancer risk in women who used the Pill before their first full term pregnancy. The World Health Organization, in its own studies, found the risk to be slightly lower (24%), but still high enough to be scary, to me anyway.
Is it possible that we’re killing ourselves, dying to avoid a large family?
Obviously there are many, many women who struggle with fertility issues, who actually cannot have more children. But this should not stop us from sharing the information on the risks of choosing not to let natural fertility take its course any more than the fact that there are people with medical conditions which prevent them from exercising should stop us from declaring the benefits of exercise for the rest of us. For most human beings, exercise is necessary for good health, and choosing not to exercise because it’s not the lifestyle you want is going to come with health risks. No one minds if we say this. We need to come to the point of being willing to tell the truth about birth control, too. It was a bad experiment. God designed women’s bodies, not for years and years of monthly cycles, but for pregnancy and breastfeeding. And choosing not to have children because it isn’t the lifestyle you want is going to come with health risks.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
There may be nothing more soul damaging about the whole postmodern thing than its snarkiness. Sure, post-modern epistemology is immediately and obviously stupid, so much so that not even they believe it. No one believes it true that there is no truth. But this attitude, this mood, this posture, where we’re all too cool to care about anything, where sincerity is the high crime, that’s bad news. It’s corrosive, destructive, and likely lurking in your heart. (One of my favorite titles for something I wrote was a piece for Every Thought Captive touching on this theme called “The Impertinence of Being Earnest.”)
As I write it is snowing outside. Snow is one of my great joys. It is, as I have described before, liquid manna. It is God behaving as a grand Tom Bombadil, whistling and singing as He walks across the globe, tossing snow as fairy dust out of His pockets, for the sheer extravagant delight of it. This is what the scornful miss. This is how our sophistication poisons joy. The modernist sees snow as a problem to be solved. The postmodern can’t even see the snow.
Snow was a prominent part of my childhood, growing up in the mountains of western Pennsylvania . I wrote of its glory first when writing a friend from my childhood a letter. She was, at the time, studying art at a university. As a girl she had been my next door neighbor, and had shared in the joy of being raised in the context of a covenant community, at the old Ligonier Valley Study Center . I waxed eloquent about those blessings, those precious memories of shared life. She wrote back, explaining how utterly embarrassed she had been when, reading my letter, those memories reduced her to tears, right in front of her friends. I wrote her once more, and explained that if she had any hope of being an artist, she must aspire to beauty. And beauty cannot survive scorn. If she had not the courage to enter into beauty, she would never be able to capture it on canvas.
The Psalmist promises that he will not sit in the seat of the scornful. We, however, having drunk deep from the world around us, are ashamed of sincerity, embarrassed by earnestness. We would rather argue over the nature of beauty than to be carried away with it. We would rather complain about shoveling snow than make angels in the snow. We would rather be thought of as worldly than be thought of as uncool. We would, because God is true and every man a liar, rather not be the blessed man who does not sit in the seat of the scornful.
There is, according to God’s Word, blessing for the earnest. There is delight for those brave enough to delight. If we would put away such foolishness, we have the promise, the unassailable promise that we will bring forth fruit in its season, that we shall prosper. If we would no longer heed the counsel of the ungodly, if we would instead delight in the law of God, He will bless us. If not, the way of the ungodly will perish. Go play in the snow, not ironically, but sincerely. Blessing will come.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
President of ParentalRights.org.
Dear Friend of Parental Rights,
I was in the United States Senate this past week meeting with lawyers for a Senate office. They told me directly what I have been hearing indirectly on a regular basis ever since the election.
Those who want to change family policy in America to comply with international law are preparing a full-scale effort to seek ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child during this next Congress. Barbara Boxer recently told a planning group that they intend to use children’s health care as leverage to seek ratification of this UN children’s rights treaty.
Please link to our website to see a succinct summary of the problems with this UN treaty.
The strength of their forces has been greatly increased with the addition of Hillary Clinton as the nominee for Secretary of State. She will have direct control over the submission of this treaty to the Senate and will acquire the authority under international law to sign any other treaty on any subject.
Hillary Clinton was the person who made the announcement for the Convention on the Rights of the Child when her husband’s administration signed the treaty. Seeking its ratification is a lifelong dream for her.
Our situation is grim if we were to look only at the position of the elected officials.
However, recent post-election polling demonstrates that almost 70% of Americans do not believe that the use of international law in American courts on such matters is appropriate. Less than 20% favor the use of international law. (The rest are undecided). Virtually every sub-group in America opposes this kind of use of international law.
America is on our side. However, we have to be able to get the word out to help people hear the truth about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Our proposed Parental Rights Amendment will permanently stop this treaty. So we have a one-two punch planned for the internationalists.
First, we must build a huge grassroots movement of patriotic Americans who believe that good families should be able to raise their children without worrying about compliance with international law.
Second, these same grassroots forces need to convince our elected officials that we are not content with defeating this treaty for today alone. We insist on a permanent solution. We need the Parental Rights Amendment.
I need you to do two things to help this become a reality. First, please send a copy of this letter to everyone you know who believes in parental rights and American patriotism.
Second, we need to raise a war chest to get prepared to launch a massive grassroots campaign. The other side has millions of dollars left in their campaign coffers, and they have the President of the United States, the Secretary of State and all the media waiting to carry their message.
We can win the debate because we have the truth on our side. And we have public opinion. But we won’t win if we can’t reach people.
Will you please make as big a gift as you can to support Parentalrights.org? Here is what they are saying about us. At the hearing which featured Barbara Boxer, one of the speakers said that the people who will oppose this treaty are the “narcissistic sovereignty crowd.” In other words, those who love America first are so guilty of excessive self-love that he describes us as having the mental illness of narcissism.
This is their real heart. Not only do they want international law to control our families. They think that we are mentally ill for loving America.
It is time for those of us who believe in loving our families and loving America to rise up! We will not surrender this country or our children to such people.
Get involved today! The battle is about to begin.
For God, family, and America,
Sunday, December 14, 2008
It was a perfect day to go looking too...it was snowing!! (I am really glad Ralph decided to get a four-wheel drive.) We set out late morning, as a family, to find the perfect tree. We headed north and drove for about 45 minutes, we found the tree farm that we went to last year. It is about 40 acres of trees. You just roam around until you find the tree you like, then cut it down. We walked around for about 20 or 30 minutes until we found the tree that we wanted. Ralph got the cutting started, Hannah tried her hand at it, next was Alicia's turn, Christopher then finished it off. Ralph and Christopher started carrying it back to the car until a young man in a truck drove up and took the tree back for us, while we finished the walk. It was a beautiful time. We enjoyed each others company and loved the great outdoors that God created for us.
We got the tree home, Ralph and Christopher cleaned it up and then they brought it in the house. The girls put the skirt around it, Ralph and Christopher put the lights on, we all put the ornaments on and then Ralph put the angel on the top. Now we are enjoying the tree and all the lights and ornaments and the two inches of snow that is glistening outside on the lawn.
We are so thankful for this time of year. It reminds us of why we are here and Who put us here.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain....” (1 Corinthians 15:10, NKJV)
Every once in a while, when I am feeling extra sorry for myself (we all do it sometimes), I wonder why God wasted His time on me. In fact, it seems He still does it. Every day He gives me the grace I need to get through the day. He blesses me with food, shelter, clothing, beautiful children, and a husband who loves me. He has blessed me with health, a lovely home, a wonderful church family, and immeasurable joy. But why? Doesn’t He know who I am?
It happens at night. All my sins, undone projects, fears, childrearing failures, and secret flaws invade my thoughts. I think about the cellar I have wanted to clean out for months now, the garden that just didn’t quite make it this year, and the fact that William still isn’t potty trained! (You didn’t expect me to tell you my worst fears, did you?)
Then I idolize my friends and their families. I think about others who seem to have it all together and I dwell on how I will never measure up—then anxiety comes. I don’t know about you, but I find it impossible to be thankful when I focus on my failures, or when I compare myself to others. In fact, when I focus on myself this way, I am more likely to give up, become depressed, or grow angry and bitter toward those I have idolized. And when I compare myself to others, I either blame myself or I blame others for being so…so perfect! The nerve!
But deep down I know the truth. You know the truth. They are not perfect. Jesus is the only perfect One. Don’t do it! Don’t compare yourself to others. No matter what it looks like from your vantage point, the people in the family you have idolized still sin: the children are not perfect; the mom sometimes says unkind things; the father speaks in sinful anger from time to time; and their family creates messes that have to be cleaned…just like yours.
Regaining a Right Focus
So how do you take your eyes off other people? How do you break the habit of comparing and placing burdens upon yourself—burdens that God didn’t put there? How do you keep from having those late-night anxiety attacks? First, repent. Turn your eyes away from your own works and off your feeble idols and turn them toward your Lord God—the only perfect One!
“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” (Psalm 119:37, ESV)
Focus on Jesus and His grace toward you. As I reflect on God’s redeeming power and providence in my life, I stand amazed. I’m so undeserving of His grace and so deserving of His wrath. But then again, it is not about me.
In my weakness, I occasionally forget that God’s mercy toward me has nothing to do with me. It is all about His grace. And I must remember that “His grace toward me was not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:10). This is where I must be in order to truly be thankful for the work He has done in my life and for any blessing He gives me.
God is Faithful, Even When We Are Not
I am reminded of His faithfulness toward me when I recall that He has never left me nor forsaken me—even during those times when I thoroughly deserved it. As unworthy and insignificant as I am, never once did God forget me.
“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5, NKJV)
As I sat in a foster home as a baby, awaiting a family to adopt me, God was there with me. He was my Comforter.
When He put it on the heart of my parents to adopt me, even though they knew it would mean many future doctors’ bills, God was caring for me. He was to me a “Father to the fatherless.”
When I endured my first major back surgery at five years old, God guided the surgeon’s hand, keeping me from being forever paralyzed. He was my Healer.
When I cried out to God as a young teen, “Why did you make me this way?” He heard and He answered; though He had not yet opened my ears to hear Him. He was my Creator.
When I left the home of my parents and rebelled against the good things I had been taught, He shielded me from total destruction (1 Corinthians 5:5) and taught me hard lessons I would need later. He was my merciful Protector.
A few years later, God pulled me out of the pit. I didn’t “find Jesus.” He found me—kicking and screaming.
Looking back, I don’t believe I have a “salvation date.” I think it took me a good two years before I surrendered my life to God and truly trusted Jesus for salvation. It was a process. I was spiritually broken, bruised, and bleeding. I was like the bird with a broken wing—trying desperately to fly away on my own (Obadiah 4).
Even when God brought me to my knees, I would have fled if I could, but God had me where He wanted me. As I lay struggling, He bandaged my wounds, healed my hurts, and won my love (Psalm 147:3). He forced me to see me my sinful stubborn heart, and I repented. He forgave me and life finally truly began.
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31, ESV)
It was during this time that I realized God had been with me all along. His handiwork had been woven into the very fabric of my life—even before I was born.
Although I was called to walk through many painful and difficult things, most of which I brought upon myself, God guided and protected me in the midst of it all. I live with many consequences of a sinful past—consequences that are daily reminders to me of His grace in my life; but God has redeemed it all and is using it for His glory. That is what it is all about—His glory.
His providential hand in my life has never slowed or weakened. There's no way to deny it—God leads and protects us, ordaining our steps from the very beginning.
Before I ever knew Him, He knew me, and set me apart for His own purpose (Jeremiah 1:5). Every one of His children is set apart in this same way. How awesome is that?
Enter His Gates With Thanksgiving
“But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, NKJV)
And every one of us, each of His children, is a work in progress. We may be in different places on the path of sanctification, but we are to be one in Christ, as a testimony of God’s Truth to the world (John 17:22-23).
If we rely on our own miserable works or blind ourselves by idolizing the imagined “perfect” works of others, we will never be thankful, only hopeless and covetous.
Remember, by God’s grace, we are what we are. He has redeemed our past; He is sanctifying us now; and He has secured our future. His grace toward us is not in vain. For that, we should all give Him thanks and praise.
“Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.” (Psalm 107:8-9, NKJV)
Copyright 2008 Homeschooling Today magazine, November/December 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Words and Music by Bruce Ballinger
We Have Come Into His House And Gathered In His Name
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
As with so many virtues, hospitality begins in the home. And, not just when guests turn up. Hospitality begins with the family. Are you always ready with a freshly baked pie or batch of cookies for your weekly bible study? Try treating your family to the same delights. Do you light scented candles when your girlfriends come over for the evening? Maybe your family would feel appreciated if you made such an effort for them on a dreary night. Do you always find kind words to offer to that "difficult" someone at church? When's the last time you bit your tongue around your husband or kids when you wanted to give them a piece of your mind? You see where I'm going with this.
Your family ought to be the primary recipients of your ministry of hospitality. God has entrusted you with the especial care of your husband and children (or eldery parents or in-laws or whoever else may dwell within the four walls of the place you call home). It is always important, as Christians, to reach out to guests, neighbors, strangers--but never to the neglect of those nearest and dearest. Additionally, it's infinitely easier to serve those guests and neighbors and strangers with skill, ease, and a generous heart when we gain through praciticing hospitality on the members of our own families.
I'm not just talking about becoming a good cook or baker through practice in the kitchen each day, though practice does make...well, if not perfect, then certainly better. I'm not talking about having a clean house when unexpected visitors stop by because you keep it regularly in order for your family; though who wouldn't want to give up the perennial greeting, "I'm sorry the place is such a mess"? What I'm talking about is the heart of hospitality, the attitude, the discipline. The more we offer hospitality in our thoughts, words, and actions to our family members each hour of each day, the more practiced we will be in offerring a hospitable spirit to others.
One of the primary ways we can cultivate a spirit of hospitality in our homes is with our words. The beginning of Chapter 3 of the Book of James has a lot to tell us about the power of the tongue, namely that it can do as much damage as a forest fire! Jesus Himself takes a similar stance on the power of words to do evil, or at least to reveal that evil which is already present in our hearts:
"Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man...” (Matthew 15:17-20a, emphasis mine)
Here, we find that from the evil of our hearts, evil words are spoken. And, from these evil words, all sorts of sin may follow. Words are powerful. Whoever started the whole "sticks and stones" thing never took a good look at this passage from Matthew. Words can hurt--and not only the ones they are directed at but those who utter them, as well, since wicked words are the utterance of wicked thought and can lead to wicked action.
Incidentally, the most common occurrence of words that "defile a man" in families are often not intended to be evil or even unkind. They are intended to be funny. That's right: sarcasm, jokes, name calling, teasing. These things may not be malicious, but they proceed from evil thoughts--no that's not too strong a term--and they can lead to dischord and sin within a family.
I'll never forget an incident from my youth. My parents and I, all of whom consider ourselves to be accomplished wits, were eating lunch with my friend, Jonathan. Now, Jonathan's family was a bit of an oddity to many who knew them. A nice oddity, but an oddity nonetheless. He and his parents and three siblings were so nice. Oddly nice. They never argued that we could tell. They never called each other names. They loved being together--more than they enjoyed being with their friends. When you consider that at the time of this story they ranged from age 13 to age 21, that is pretty remarkable. What teenagers would rather be spending time harmoniously with their siblings than out with their friends--probably making fun of their parents and siblings or in any case ignoring their existence?
Well, Jonathan joined my parents and me for lunch one day. While we were eating, Jona went on a rather long-winded story about his last hiking trip with his family, during which he had obtained a rather impressive walking stick, which the siblings began calling the staff of Moses. After several minutes of non-stop storytelling, my mother exasperatedly, though not wholly unkindly said, "Hey, Moses, enough!" Well, that was it. Jonathan virtually refused to speak for the rest of the meal. Overly-sensitive he may have been (who isn't at 13?), but the root of the matter goes deeper. Jonathan, unused to sarcasm, name calling, and teasing was deeply wounded by my mother's words--words which in our family would have been laughed off...unless, of course, they hit a nerve. I remember being impressed with this realization even at the time. I told myself that that was what I wanted: a home where unkind words, even in jest, were so out-of-place that I would no longer find such sarcastic comments humorous but see them for what they were: the utterance of some part of my sinful nature that is attempting to pass itself off as cute or clever.
My husband also comes from a family of sarcasm slingers, so I can tell you that it is not easy to implement this in our family. But, I have a vision of our thirteen-month-old baby becoming a thirteen-year-old girl and sitting bewildered at a friend's table, wondering why anyone would find it funny to call someone a name or cut them down with a sarcastic joke. Brian and I may have to work to re-sensitize ourselves to the sinfulness of sarcastic language and teasing, but I pray that we will not work in vain, and that as a result, our daughter will never become desensitized to it and never
With the Psalmist, in the hope of Christ, I pray:
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer." (Psalm 19:14)
Monday, December 8, 2008
Last weekend I read about two women who have made history. One was on the front page of the newspaper and is of the “I am woman hear me roar” school. She is known and admired by many for her intelligence and aggressive pursuit of power. She is tough and politically savvy. She will be entering an international arena to help project the policies of the new Presidential administration. No doubt she will eventually get a sentence or two mention in the history books of the 21st century.The other woman was referred to in a brief paragraph in the obituary section, stating only the time of the family gathering at the funeral home in a tiny village in the hills of southwestern Pennsylvania. The little lady in the casket was my wife’s mother, who died quietly in her sleep at the age of ninety-four on Thanksgiving Day. She was a warm-hearted and kindly person known for her sense of humor, sturdy work ethic, faithful attendance at the church and love for and dependence upon God. She will not be mentioned in any history books outside of a family genealogy.
My wife’s mother, Irene Cromwell Leapline, was the oldest child in her family and she took the prominent role in raising her five siblings after her father died at the age of 29. In due course, she married a coal miner (yes, I married a coal miner’s daughter), and had ten children. The Depression era was a very difficult time to be raising a large family in a poor rural valley but their faith and hard work sustained them. When she died last week, Grandma Leapline could count not only her ten faithful children (two deceased), but forty-eight grandchildren, seventy -three great-grandchildren, and nine great-great-grandchildren.
Among that number and their spouses are missionaries, preachers, mechanics, schoolteachers, railroad men, computer programmers, soldiers, factory workers, and a host of home-makers. She and her husband Lester who died in 1971, instilled in their children a love for God and the importance of family. They saw themselves as a link in a chain that extends into the future and they instilled Christian values that would withstand the trials and tribulations of life and would be just as sure and true to the generations yet unborn.
It’s hard not to notice the contrast. One is a public figure who grasps at power and prestige like a drowning man to a life preserver, who is admired because she can shoulder her way in a world once deemed to belong only to men. She seeks dominance, perhaps for its own sake. And then there is a modest country woman whose success can be measured in the productive lives of her many descendents and the remembrance by hundreds of her steady and consistent virtue passed on to generations. They were both in the same newspaper. Which one has the real power?
Monday, December 1, 2008
NEW YORK –
In the past year, 30 percent of U.S. high school students have stolen from a store and 64 percent have cheated on a test, according to a new, large-scale survey suggesting that Americans are too apathetic about ethical standards.
Educators reacting to the findings questioned any suggestion that today's young people are less honest than previous generations, but several agreed that intensified pressures are prompting many students to cut corners.
"The competition is greater, the pressures on kids have increased dramatically," said Mel Riddle of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. "They have opportunities their predecessors didn't have (to cheat). The temptation is greater."
The Josephson Institute, a Los Angeles-based ethics institute, surveyed 29,760 students at 100 randomly selected high schools nationwide, both public and private. All students in the selected schools were given the survey in class; their anonymity was assured.
Michael Josephson, the institute's founder and president, said he was most dismayed by the findings about theft. The survey found that 35 percent of boys and 26 percent of girls — 30 percent overall — acknowledged stealing from a store within the past year. One-fifth said they stole something from a friend; 23 percent said they stole something from a parent or other relative.
"What is the social cost of that — not to mention the implication for the next generation of mortgage brokers?" Josephson remarked in an interview. "In a society drenched with cynicism, young people can look at it and say 'Why shouldn't we? Everyone else does it.'"
Other findings from the survey:
_Cheating in school is rampant and getting worse. Sixty-four percent of students cheated on a test in the past year and 38 percent did so two or more times, up from 60 percent and 35 percent in a 2006 survey.
_Thirty-six percent said they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment, up from 33 percent in 2004.
_Forty-two percent said they sometimes lie to save money — 49 percent of the boys and 36 percent of the girls.
Despite such responses, 93 percent of the students said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character, and 77 percent affirmed that
"when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know."
Nijmie Dzurinko, executive director of the Philadelphia Student Union, said the findings were not at all reflective of the inner-city students she works with as an advocate for better curriculum and school funding.
"A lot of people like to blame society's problems on young people, without recognizing that young people aren't making the decisions about what's happening in society," said Dzurinko, 32. "They're very easy to scapegoat."
Peter Anderson, principal of Andover High School in Andover, Mass., said he and his colleagues had detected very little cheating on tests or Internet-based plagiarism. He has, however, noticed an uptick in students sharing homework in unauthorized ways.
"This generation is leading incredibly busy lives — involved in athletics, clubs, so many with part-time jobs, and — for seniors — an incredibly demanding and anxiety-producing college search," he offered as an explanation.
Riddle, who for four decades was a high school teacher and principal in northern Virginia, agreed that more pressure could lead to more cheating, yet spoke in defense of today's students.
"I would take these students over other generations," he said. "I found them to be more responsive, more rewarding to work with, more appreciative of support that adults give them.
"We have to create situations where it's easy for kids to do the right things," he added. "We need to create classrooms where learning takes on more importance than having the right answer."
On Long Island, an alliance of school superintendents and college presidents recently embarked on a campaign to draw attention to academic integrity problems and to crack down on plagiarism and cheating.
Roberta Gerold, superintendent of the Middle Country School District and a leader of the campaign, said parents and school officials need to be more diligent — for example, emphasizing to students the distinctions between original and borrowed work.
"You can reinforce the character trait of integrity," she said. "We overload kids these days, and they look for ways to survive. ... It's a flaw in our system that whatever we are doing as educators allows this to continue."
Josephson contended that most Americans are too blase about ethical shortcomings among young people and in society at large.
"Adults are not taking this very seriously," he said. "The schools are not doing even the most moderate thing. ... They don't want to know. There's a pervasive apathy."
Josephson also addressed the argument that today's youth are no less honest than their predecessors.
"In the end, the question is not whether things are worse, but whether they are bad enough to mobilize concern and concerted action," he said.
"What we need to learn from these survey results is that our moral infrastructure is unsound and in serious need of repair. This is not a time to lament and whine but to take thoughtful, positive actions."
On the Net:
Ralph cutting and weighing soap
Alicia cutting out handkerchiefs
Mom, finally finished my coat, just in time for cold weather!
Hannah wearing her new coat that I made her
Christopher, being silly when the girls wanted to take his photo
(Our camera broke so we have no photos of our hunting/fishing trip, target shooting or Thanksgiving. We hopefully will get one soon though.)