Friday, August 20, 2010

The Power of the Skittle

It is amazing what a little bite sized piece of high fructose corn syrup can do for a family dynamic. Simply amazing. Lately I have been employing some positive reinforcement in my child rearing. Turns out you can get a kid to do (or not do)  A LOT with just a bright, shiny, sweet piece of delight called a SKITTLE.

Disciplining my kids has been one of THE hardest things I have ever done, and done, and done, and done. I saw myself before kids as not being willing to take a lick of slack and mellowed a little after the delivery. I decided I wanted to be lovingly firm, establishing authority early on so as to earn a place of influence in those later years. Yeah.

I still believe all that, it is just the practicality of all of it that is so dang frustrating. I mean you can't *"shepherd the butt" in the middle of Target... or can you?
(*this is a little term a friend and I coined after reading a great book entitled "Shepherding a  Child's Heart" by Ted Tripp)

I was a little stressed in the beginning about being ultra consistent with our first child. She was a VERY smart and wonderful 18 month old and although I knew all my childhood developmental stages, this girl knew WHAT she was doing - just not TO WHOM she was doing. Hey little girls out there, listen up: It is not wise to cross a very pregnant female who is in an 1100 square foot house with 12 inches of snow on the ground 9 months out of the year AND whose husband works 120 hours a week while she is unemployed, in debt and developing a waist measurement that is TWICE her age. Not wise. Not one bit. But, live and learn. She lived to learn.

By the time our son was born and not even 5 months old, we "discovered" we were again expecting. The situation was not developing into one where being consistent and kind was going to come easily. Plus, momma had to go back to work before I did permanent damage to the psyches of those I loved most dearly. Sometimes, you should just shut your mouth and leave the room. So, I went back to work part time in the evening.

I suffered what I like to call post partum, antepartum, intrapartum and post-post partum depression. I use the term ' like' loosely here. It was a dreadful time for me, my husband and my kids. The anxiety, frustration, guilt, fatigue were all consuming. I thought I was never going to be normal again. This did not add anything helpful to my desire to be a great mom, loving disciplinarian and rich communicator. I literally had difficulty even talking. I could not read because the inability to concentrate was so severe.

But that is nothing a little Zoloft could not help!

I am being funny about this but it was very serious. I never wanted to be the type who had to take medication for mood. I mean, I understand it, I prescribed it for crying out loud and I would recommend it.... for someone else. I thought for me it would be a slippery slope of medication, medication side effects, counseling that would make me talk about "my childhood" and I just thought it was all a bunch of hooey.

My imagined self was going to have to come to terms with reality.

So, I decided that the price of crucifying the image, by going to a psychiatrist and beginning medication, was worth gaining the ability to be able to hear God's voice again in my life. I wanted to be able to read my Bible again, pray and have a conversation. It was the THIRD best decision I ever made. First was Jesus, second was my husband.

I don't think God made me have depression, but I wonder if it was a tool of discipline for me? I wonder sometimes. It definitely knocked me down a notch in the pride and self sufficiency department. I think it totally increased my mercy for others going through similar situations. Here is what I know though... I don't think I could have learned what  I did and come away with what I did any other way. Was the season of depression worth it? Not sure. But I do like what I have going on now.

There is some pain involved in parenting. I wonder if God is pained by what I went through.

There is some serious power in parenting as well. I have spanked my kids bottoms in one day more than I ever dreamed  I would in a year before I had kids. I hate doing that. But I also hate the idea that they would grow up thinking that their wisdom and direction is all they have. That obeying their impulses is the only way they have to learn. No thank you. I have the power to grow them into adults who love God and serve Him, or I have the power to literally destroy them. I cannot fathom doing the latter intentionally. It is the unintentional that I fear.

So what I do with that is apologize OFTEN and quickly - both to God and my kids; not as some "pass" to mess up again and again, but because I have a real desire to be a reflection of the One I love. It's called a new heart. I gotta keep it real. I think if I do that, God will cover the rest. Mercy is NOT getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you DO NOT deserve. God is both. I trust Him to pour this out over my family and all my relationships. This is how He interacts with the affairs of men. He makes beauty out of ashes, He gives strength for fear, gladness for mourning, PEACE for despair.

I don't know how you were parented. God is a great Father. He doesn't let go, He's perfectly consistent, appropriately applies the pain, constantly calls in a small voice, has ALL the answers and gives encouragement  when it is least expected for even the smallest successes. Who needs Skittles.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Christopher Hitchens has cancer of his throat.
If you don’t know who he is you are probably not alone, but he writes for many well known periodicals and the Washington Post. He frequents many news programs as the token, intellectually rigorous atheist. He wrote a book entitled “God is NOT Great: How religion poisons everything.” I have not read the book. But, someone I love dearly has.
I recently watched a debate he participated in at a college in Virginia on September 9, 2008. Why? Well, I was driving to visit my in-laws and happened upon Hitchens’ opponent, Frank Turek. I liked what I was hearing summarized by him and he referred to this debate, so being the curious person I am, I logged on.
I won’t summarize too in depth the two plus hour debate, but in a nutshell...
It was lively. It was so relevant. Both theism and atheism have some really hard questions to answer. Mostly the types of questions we no longer ask because we have convinced ourselves that the answers have already been established (via science, technology, enlightenment), or the question is just irrelevant to our daily lives... What am  “I”, WHY am “I”, What is life? WHY is life?
But has it really been settled?  Is it really irrelevant? Do you think it matters how these questions are answered:
How did the universe arise from NOTHING?
How did precision like order arise from chaos?
How did life (“living things”) come from non-life (rocks)? 
How did morality (a standard by which we know “right” from “wrong”, other than just one’s opinion) arise from materials (like carbon atoms)?
How do reason and logic arise from matter, mind from mud, math from molecules? 
How did human freedom arise from blind repetitive forces (mutation, natural selection and the like), and how did consciousness arise from chemicals?  (Turek, Frank. “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist”) 
Hitchens says he is “here (at the debate) to satirize the idea that we (humanity) are here by Someone else’s permission.” He is such an eloquent and effortless speaker. I enjoyed listening to his voice. But his opening remarks came after Mr. Turek’s remarks and I have to say that Hitchens’ comments mostly centered upon the atrocities of religion. He seems to see no distinction between man-made, institutional doctrines which were responsible for historical (and present day) atrocities and a timeless, immaterial, creatively powerful Being Who perhaps gives a rip about him.  
He states that God does exist, without argument from him, in the sense that He is real to those who believe in Him. But I think he insinuates that those who believe in Him are simple and unaware of recent knowledge and advancements which, he states (without naming any supportive sources) answer every single question about life and existence. 
I found it very intriguing how completely and passionately devoted he is to being free from control and servitude. Interesting.
His speech seeps of the worship of knowledge, and although he is witty, there is an arrogance and condescension that does battle with his likability.  That, seemingly unbeknownst to him, is a biblically primitive reality. I mean, there was, “in the beginning”, a very tempting Tree in a very beautiful Garden that contained some appealing Knowledge. Even if you don’t concede that, just go with me on this one for a moment. 
Christopher Hitchens has determined that he will serve himself, and whatever he decides is right for him, he will do. He requires no guidance or permission and he answers to no one. Seems fair. He may choose some things that are benevolent and charitable, he may choose some things that are not. But he has all he needs wrapped up in his DNA. He is fulfilling, within himself, the role that a theist would say is reserved for God.  I wonder how well he is doing at his job, because he certainly does not have a high approval rating of God's performance thus far in the history of religion.
For the Christian, our God provides an alternative to this "doing the most good with what we know." I have experienced it as very life giving, like that OTHER Tree “in the beginning.”  God provides protection (and that is not the same as a life free of pain and loss), wisdom, truth, perspective, and hope - and not because I need Him to in order for me to make sense out of my existence. He tears down the notion of enslavement (to self) and builds a brand new inner creation. He proves that KNOWING good is not the same as BEING good. As I believe ON Him and trust Him, I am remade more and more into His image. And He alone IS good.
But, believe WHAT and trust WHOM? Believe and trust YOURSELF and the ‘fact’ that YOU are all there is, or believe that you were made, you are seen, you have purpose and that the One who gave that to you, loves you because He said He did. And He demonstrated He did. 
So the choice in life is arguably, will you know ‘god’ by serving your intellect and understanding and expend your energy achieving what you determine life is to be about, or will you know God by allowing Him to give you meaning?  The former is seen by Hitchens as freedom, independence and truth. The latter seems to him to be very juvenile, controlling and irrational - oh, and downright evil in that it takes away from humans their RIGHT to control their own lives free of religious control. 

Hey, I am for that! I am free of religious CONTROL. But he assumes that a humans unfettered choices bring freedom. Really? Look at the choices people make around you. Look at your own choices. How much REAL freedom have those produced for you?

You know what? I have lived that life of control, calling the shots, making the best plans I could contrive. IT sucked. Really, it did. It looked all right from the outside looking in, but it was completely empty and without meaning. Why, if I were really just a collection of atoms, would I care about meaning? I cannot deny that I do. It is a reality. And you do too. Maybe it might be more wise to start having the shots called by Someone who knows a little more than you do. Worked for me.

Giving a free will offering of your life over to God's control is GOOD, not evil - in spite of the millions of examples of people doing evil in the name of God. All that proves is that people can get it wrong.  I still get it wrong in a wide variety of ways everyday when I lose my patience with my kids, exhibit selfishness and self-centeredness. These things are wrong FOR ME, they harm ME (and others). And that is why God cares about them. He knows that there is LIFE in being free from these inclinations. He has the wisdom to do something about it.
Christopher Hitchens is a servant wether he likes it or not. Everyone serves something or someone - be it self or outside of self. That is a fact. But God, as I know Him in Christianity, came to set us FREE from servitude, not enslave us to Himself or anyone else. He came to set us FREE from ourselves, our ambitions, our limited wisdom, our narrow perspective and deadly addictions. Without Him, that is all we have. He gave us an alternative to living that way. Before that gift there was no choice to make. 
God came in Christ to demonstrate His LOVE for us, to demonstrate that to serve Him is a life giving privilege. God LOVES us, He is not waiting to pounce on us or punish us. That is not the God of the Bible, in case He was ever presented to you as such. He has satisfied any justifiable penalty we might deserve for our independence. He loves YOU, and Christopher Hitchens and longs to set him free from the servitude and tyranny of knowledge without wisdom.