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3-Two grandpas - CopyMy dad is my hero.  He is not my only hero, but he is my first. 

At 93, he continues to be my hero because, as my father, he is still teaching me what it means to be human.  In other words, he is teaching me what it means to be a person created in God’s image.  

I’ve always looked at my dad as my hero, but until recently I didn’t truly understand the reasons why.  Early last summer, I asked Dad if he would write his story; a kind of autobiography, if you will.  I promised that I would serve as his editor, creating a book for his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  Bless my dad’s heart!  He did it!  His willingness to record history and his perseverance to stay on task gives evidence of his respect for family.  More so, it is an act of obedience.  “[T]ell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He has done” (Ps. 78:4). 

The wonder of my father’s life is that he is a common man set apart for uncommon use.  He writes about a very ordinary life, but therein is the truth about being human.  From ordinary dust of the ground, God formed man to reflect His own extraordinary image.  Dad is the first to admit that he is a poor reflection of God’s image.  In his poor, sinful condition, he could have chosen to follow the pattern of the world.  But he did not because he sees his human identity in light of the fact that he was formed by God’s own hands for God’s own purpose.  My dad’s story proves to me that to be human does not mean to be self-defined, but God-defined.  And in each ordinary life experience recorded by Dad, I see that his identity affects his attitude and behavior. 

As you think about my dad writing his story, bear in mind that he writes with two hands, his left needed to steady his right.  One day, he appeared at my door, asking, “Do you still have that portable electric typewriter?”  By the end of summer, my hero entrusted to me a precious bundle of typewritten papers.  “Here!” said Dad with a knowing grin.  “You have some work to do!”

To be human means to be given work to do.  Work was a privilege given to the first man by His Creator.  It was God’s design that Adam work in the garden and keep it.  As a farmer, my dad has shown me the “thorns and thistles” that sin brought into this world.  I’ve seen the sweat on his brow, but also heard his sigh of accomplishment at the end of a long, hard day.  My dad has shown me that work is neither a punishment nor unpleasant.  When done to the glory of God, it is a source of contentment. 

To be human means to be male or female.  My parents did not preach to me when I was a child about the differences between men and women.  Rather, the behaviors and interaction of my mom and dad demonstrated to me that male and female are the two eyes of the human race, each needed for their unique perspective.   My dad valued my mom’s opinion and help.  He respected her even when she frustrated him.   My dad might not realize it (and perhaps I didn’t either until now), but he showed me that men and women are more than sexual.  God does not say: Be sexual, for I am sexual.  He says, “Be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”  Men are especially tempted by sensual thoughts and desires, but my dad showed that because of Jesus Christ, a man (or woman) is not captive to them.

To be human means to have choices.   Dad helped me understand that choices are best made in light of our relationship to God and with trust in His Word because to be human means that Satan will surely slither up to us at the moment of decision, asking: “Did God really say…?”  Adam was given the instruction for life and the warning against death, but he failed to engage Satan with that Word for the sake of his bride.  My dad, being mindful of this, nurtured my respect for men because he’s never stopped trying to lead his family away from harm. 

To be human means to be forgiven.  My dad knows the consequence of sin.  But he also knows that because of Jesus Christ, God’s mercies are new every morning.  If I were to thank my dad for one thing, it would be for helping me understand the free and willing desire of Jesus to be my crucified Lord and Savior.  Easter, for a human being, means nothing without the Cross.

To be human means to suffer.   The only way for God to save humans from themselves was to become one of them.   The Lord Jesus Christ suffered as a human… and He died.  In this sinful world, we suffer, too.  And because of sin, we will die.  But my dad also taught me that to be human means to have hope.  Jesus rose from the grave, ascended back to heaven, and will come again to take God’s weary, but faithful children home.

To be human means to persevere.   Dad has experienced hardship, disappointment, and the loss of his wife, my mom.   But he is my model of daily perseverance no matter the circumstance.  “Keep calm and carry on” is a quote of Winston Churchill, but it is a way of life for my dad.  He has watched this culture change at warp speed, but because he knows that his call to think, act, and live like a Christian changes not, he continues to “run with endurance the race that is set before [him]” (Heb. 12:1-2).

Finally, for the human, “the greatest of these is love.”  Just as God defines humans and makes them unique persons, so also He defines love.   So, thank you Dad, for not loving carelessly.  Thank you for your patient, kind, and selfless love (1 Cor. 13).  Thank you for showing me “what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1). 

 

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rainbow flagIt’s likely that we have Christian neighbors, family or church members who celebrate the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex “marriage.” Perhaps we know because they have publicly “waved” a rainbow flag on Facebook.  How can we respond?

As an ezerwoman designed by God to be a helper, I would like to pass on some questions that Kevin DeYoung of The Gospel Coalition has carefully shaped. If asked with kindness and respect, these questions might help brothers and sisters in Christ to slow down and think about the rainbow flag they are flying. Here are 20 of Kevin DeYoung’s questions. (You will find all 40 at The Gospel Coalition.)

1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?

2. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?

3. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?

4. Why did Jesus reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?

5. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?

6. Do you believe the passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven?

7. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?

8. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?

9. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?

10. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?

11. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?

12. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?

13. Does the end purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?

14. How would you define marriage?

15. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?

16. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage? If not, why not?

17. If “love wins” (as some say it did with the Supreme Court decision), how would you define love?

18. What [Scripture] verses would you use to establish that definition?

19. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?

20. How has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?

 

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grandparents & grandchildrenAs a grandmother, it is difficult—no, impossible—to stomach the arrogance of those who seek to make marriage what it isn’t.
Each of us is alive today because of fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers who believed in and practiced the “one flesh” union of what only God can define as marriage.

We live, breathe, speak, relate, and contribute to this big world because of the Masterly design and institution of marriage. If there are no complications, the flesh of one man joined with the flesh of one woman creates the flesh of a child–new life! For that, a son or daughter can be forever grateful.

How can a society thrive if two men or two women set up housekeeping and call it “marriage”? What vitality is there in this unnatural pairing? Sure, it may produce certain emotions (“I feel so loved!” “I am so happy!”), but it is the “one-flesh,” male/female pairing in real marriage that produces generational fruit even as it perseveres with patient, kind, and selfless love.

Those who practice same-sex pairing and call it good exist because of those of us who do not. They can continue to define marriage as “two people who love each other,” but marriage isn’t really about love. It is about commitment—one man and one woman to each other and (should God bless their “one flesh” union with new life), that father and mother to their son or daughter.

Even the Greeks, with their tolerance of “man-boy love,” knew that marriage was the bedrock for family and society. When young men grew up, they were expected to marry a woman and father sons and daughters. Aristotle and others understood a “natural law” and the importance of building up rather than tearing down.

For our society to thrive, we need men and women who (pardon me) do it the old-fashioned way: in their marital bed, by design of God, acknowledged by man, and with commitment to birthdays and anniversaries to come.

 

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supreme court gavelThis morning, when I woke up, nothing had changed. God is still in heaven and the Supreme Court of the United States is not.

Yesterday, June 26, 2015, a majority of nine men and women in black robes made an attempt to redefine marriage, but they cannot. God created marriage, therefore, only He can define marriage. That is just the way it is.

This morning, when I woke up, nothing had changed. I am still living in a fallen world moaning under the weight of sin. Here in this world, my neighbor might choose to call his dog a cat. But when he tells me I must do the same, I cannot join him in calling something what it is not.

Some of us may feel completely unnerved and shaken to the core. We ask: What now? How shall we live?

In 1973, the Supreme Court legalized abortion for all nine months of pregnancy and for any reason. Black-robed judges made an attempt to redefine the killing of an unborn child, but they cannot. Some church-attending folks decided to accept the court’s decision and tolerate a practice they did not “personally support” so that women could have “the right to choose.” But many of us never accepted the decision even though we embraced the women who mourned their aborted children.

That is how it is in this world. Until Jesus comes to take us from this earthly place to our heavenly home, we will see wrong things called “right,” evil marketed as “good,” and what is contrary to nature called “normal.” That is how it is in this world when the truth of God is exchanged for a lie (Ro. 1:24-27).

So, how shall the people of God live here on earth under the court of this nation?

  • With continued trust in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Some may say the Court’s ruling will draw down divine judgment; others may say the ruling is divine judgment but either way, we are called to a life faithful to God in every circumstance.
  • As people of God unafraid to be set apart or different as we speak what Jesus Himself said about marriage from the beginning (Matt. 19:4-6) and live in a way that may cause others to ask: Why do you do what you do?
  • With confidence that marriage is not government recognition of two people who love each other, but the complimentary union of one man and one woman. We can literally say that in this union part of man flesh joins with part of woman flesh to become the one flesh of a new life. This new life— son or daughter—is not the by-product of a sexually romantic relationship, but the connector of mom and dad in the institution created by God for that child’s benefit.
  • As men and women who strive to honor the covenant of our own marriages and seek after the best interests of generations of children.
  • As people who affirm the sanctity of all human life, including those who see themselves as gay, and who love our neighbor as ourselves, speak well of him, and no matter the disagreements, discuss everything in a kind and thoughtful way.
  • As praying people who ask God to turn hearts toward Him and nurture a desire to rebuild a culture of marriage and life.

Suggested reading:
The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity
(Amazon.com) Our Identity Matters

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Mussmann Anna croppedAnna Mussmann and I have never met.  So it was with great surprise that I received the following review of my book from her blog Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife.

Linda Bartlett has worked in the pro-life movement for years. Among other positions, she has served as the national president of Lutherans For Life and as chairman of the LCMS Sanctity of Life Task Force. As a pro-life leader; a mentor of young women; an instrumental participant in the launch of Word of Hope, a post-abortion ministry; and a parent, she has come to believe that the foundational philosophical approach behind modern sex education is in utter conflict with Scripture. This month, I read her book, The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity: Questions and Answers for Christian Dialogue.

Initially, I found myself somewhat resistant to her message. Two issues distracted me. One was my own background. After growing up in a homeschooling community that included a large number of fundamentalist families who tried to “ensure” their children’s purity by rejecting the world entirely, I have seen overly-controlling parents and overly-sheltered (adult) children. There was no outward immodesty, no dating, and no “sex education” in these households. I remember one woman whose son wanted to become a doctor. She would not agree to his going to medical school because there is “so much nudity” there, and she hoped that he could find a nude-free, apprenticeship route to medical training with a Christian physician. These families sought protection from sin through ignorance, and their legalistic attempts did not usually work out as they hoped. Because of all this, I was hesitant when Mrs. Bartlett argued that children ought not to receive “sex education.” I even shied away from her use of the word “purity.” After all, we and our children are all sinners. How can we be “pure?” However, as I completed the book, I came to realize that what Mrs. Bartlett advocates is different from the errors I saw growing up. Mrs. Bartlett’s arguments are insightful, thoughtful, counter-cultural, and deeply important to parents and to the church as a whole. Her writing is well-worth your consideration.

She argues that the modern understanding of sexuality (itself a loaded modern term) is the result of “sexual social engineering” based upon the discredited and deeply flawed research (some of it involving shocking child abuse) of sexologist Alfred Charles Kinsey. Due to Kinsey and his followers, the world has accepted the idea that human beings are “sexual from birth” and that sexuality (as opposed to sex, in the sense of being male or female) is key to each person’s identity. Believing that these arguments (and all that they imply) were proven science, the church changed its approach to sex, sexuality, and human identity and sought to provide a Christian version of the same flawed sex education that became universal in the public sector. This, Mrs. Bartlett says, was a well-meant but tragic mistake.

She points out that, while God created humans as male and female, Jesus also said that there is no marriage or giving in marriage in heaven. We know that we will not lose our humanity or our identity in heaven. Therefore, our “sexuality” is not essential to our humanity and identity. When we focus only on our sexual identity instead of our identity as a man or a woman, we lose out on the broader picture of who we are. She says, “We are fully human—male or female—whether we are a child or an adult, whether we are married or single,” and that, “To accept that children are human beings and therefore sexual beings is to accept wrong teaching that leads to wrong practice. It bestows a mistaken identity that compromises faith and purity.”

When Christian parents and Christian teachers believe that their children are sexual beings, they teach the wrong things at the wrong time. Instead of focusing on teaching children what it means to live out the vocation of man or a woman in the broad sense (and providing appropriate sexual information in one-on-one conversations at appropriate times), sex is overemphasized. Children are placed in mixed-gender classrooms away from their parents and told how to have sex, how to prevent physical side-effects of sex, that sex is wonderful, and that they will no doubt think about it a great deal and want to have it, but that they must wait for marriage. Twelve years of sex education, added to an oversexed culture, is unhealthy. She argues that this approach is more likely to stir up lust and inappropriate desire than to help young people relate to each other in a Christian manner. It is like surrounding them with wonderful-looking candy and saying that they must not eat it!

She also argues that children and young people’s natural delicacy and modesty about such topics is a good, healthy, and protective thing. “Christians should know that due to sin’s corruption, having sexual information is not sufficient to make good sexual decisions.” A system designed to desensitize them (even if well-meaning and based on the assumption that they are already hardened to sensuality and sexuality because of the culture they live in) does no one any favors at all, and is in fact harmful—it can “actually weaken the child’s resistance to sexual temptation.”

Furthermore, if Christians accept the idea that their primary identity is that of a sexual being, it become far more “excusable” for them to engage in sex outside of marriage and even to have abortions. How can they be expected to live chaste lives if that is contrary to their nature? How could anyone believe that they can really wait years and years to engage in an essential aspect of their humanity? After all, “If we are ‘sexual from birth,’ then one may believe that his current lusts and desires were created that way by God, rather than being horribly corrupted by sin. If people believe their current desires are God-given, it would follow that no one has the right to tell them how to define or express their ‘sexuality’.” Because of this, she objects to the term “God’s gift of sexuality” because it leads to misguided emphasis. If instead we talk and teach about “God’s design for sexuality,” the emphasis is far more Biblical.

Opponents of Mrs. Bartlett’s view would probably claim that her approach will lead children to think that sexuality is shameful. However, she quotes C.S. Lewis’s comment that, “There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips.” She wants to teach a positive, active approach to life, and says,

“Abstinence says, ‘I must wait for sex until marriage.’ Purity says, “I don’t have to wait to be the woman (or man) God created me to be.’ Abstinence says, ‘Because we are sexual beings, I must be cautious with the opposite sex.’ Purity says, ‘Because we are persons more than sexual beings, I can respect, talk to, learn from, work beside, and be patient with the opposite sex.’ …. Purity always journeys toward hope with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit. In fact, because of Jesus Christ, we can be restored to a life of purity even after we’ve failed to abstain.”

Mrs. Bartlett provides a great deal to think about. It took me a while to realize that her approach was not the legalistic one that I have witnessed among some critics of the modern world, in part because her text is composed of (often overlapping) questions and answers, so it felt more like reading material from an online forum than a traditional book, and it took me some time to grasp the overall context of her ideas. She fully recognizes the sinful nature of humanity and the need to provide children with appropriate information at appropriate times. Yet she challenges the church to completely rethink the way we approach sex education and human identity. I find it fascinating that even though most Christians would agree that our culture is over-sexualized, many people respond with alarm to the idea that children should be taught less about sex. We are much more attuned to the danger of insufficient than of over-abundant information on this topic. Mrs. Bartlett’s book offers an explanation for why that is, and suggests an alternative model that could be used to train our children.

 Anna Mussmann is the editor of the
blog Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife;
a teacher and enthusiast of classical education;
a wife and mother of an infant son.
Her blog What’s Wrong with the Phrase,
“God’s Gift of Sexuality?”
(12-9-14)
is reprinted with permission.

Please visit Our Identity Matters.

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love your neighborWho is our neighbor? In God’s world, our neighbor is more than the person who lives in the house next door. Our neighbor is the stranger in need, the student in our class, our associate at work, our parent or grandparent, and our child. Our neighbor may not think and act the way we do. We may feel awkward with them because our beliefs are polar opposite. But, in God’s world, they are our neighbor.

What are we to do with our neighbor? Jesus says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). This love is second only to the love we are to have for God.

I am thinking right now of four Christian friends. Each one is the parent of a son or a daughter who has admitted they are in a gay or lesbian relationship. These parents love their children but, with the desire to live under the character and authority of God and His Word in Christ, these parents cannot accept the behavior and lifestyle of their children.

My friends, and others like them, agonize, asking: What can we do? How do we embrace our child but not their behavior? How do we nurture a godly relationship with our child? In fact, how do we even engage in conversation with our child on some kind of common ground?

Glenn T. Stanton, author of the new book Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor, offers six truths that he defines as “mere Christianity.” These points, writes Stanton, “are the great equalizers of humanity, putting us all in the same boat for good and for bad, proclaiming that no one person is better or worse, loved more or less, nor more or less deserving of love than another.” These truths are:

  • Everybody is a human person. No exceptions.
  • Every human person is of inestimable worth and value, none more than another. No exceptions.
  • Everyone is deeply and passionately loved by God. No exceptions.
  • Unfortunately, everyone is burdened with a terminal illness: sin. No exceptions.
  • All, as children of Adam, are tragically separated from God, but this does not diminish God’s boundless love for us. But it does devastatingly hinder our relationship with Him. All of us, no exceptions.
  • Therefore, everyone is in desperate need of repentance, healing and a new life that comes only in surrender and submission to Christ. No exceptions.

Because we live in such a sexualized culture, there is need, I think, to explain what it means to be a “human person.” In this culture, sexuality is “central to being human.” But the Christian parent is called to see their neighbor; indeed, their child, differently. Parents of a son or daughter who struggles with any kind of sexual desire (for the opposite or same sex) will best love that child in light of how God sees them.

To be human means to be male or female created in God’s image. Although fallen from that perfect image (and burdened with the terminal illness called sin), God still wants His people to reflect His holiness. Nowhere in Scripture does God say: be sexual for I the Lord your God am sexual. What He says is this: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1Peter 1:14-16). Sexuality is not the central part of being human. Sexual describes feelings, desires, thoughts, and physical intimacy. Because of sexual procreation, life goes on. We have birthdays and anniversaries. But sexuality is not the sum total of who we are as male or female persons.

Here is the evidence. Who we are in this temporal life is who we will be for eternity. If we were fundamentally “sexual,” then this would hold true not just before the resurrection but also after the resurrection. (Otherwise after the resurrection, we would be less than human.) But what does Jesus say? When asked whose wife the widow of seven deceased husbands would be in heaven, Jesus answered, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:29-30). Therefore, being sexual, that is, capable of sexual activity, is not part of what it means to be human after the resurrection. And if it is not part of our divinely-created human identity in the resurrection where everything will be made perfect, then it is not the central part of our divinely-created identity now. In heaven, there will be no act of marriage, no “one flesh” union. So, do we lose our identity in heaven? No! Our true identity will remain intact. We will be as He created us—fully human, but perfect in every way, sons and daughters at the Father’s table. We will still be His treasures in Christ but, at last, able to truly reflect His magnificence.

Our human yet holy identity is the common ground for even the most awkward discussions between one neighbor and another, between parent and child. Failing to see our neighbor or child as God does will ultimately affect the way we fear, love and trust God. It may cause us to love conditionally rather than unconditionally or close doors rather than open them.

It’s true that I am not facing the same challenge as my four friends. If they said to me, “You speak so easily of all this, what can you possible know,” I would have to confess that I know only what Jesus tells us all: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How we see our neighbor—indeed, our child—matters. It changes the way we approach them, welcome them, speak to them, serve them, and endure with them.

(“Six truths” from “The Odd Couple” by
Glenn T. Stanton in CITIZEN, March 2015.)

Suggested resources:
The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity by Linda Bartlett (Amazon.com)
and Out of a Far Country by Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan

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50 shades of greyold fashioned movieIt has been said that good is opposed to evil in such a way that a good thing always eliminates evil as far as it can.

This Valentine’s weekend, we have the opportunity to choose a good thing and, in doing so, help eliminate evil as far as we can. I can promise you that our sons, daughters, and grandchildren will be better for it.

Fifty Shades of Grey, based on the book trilogy, will be showing this weekend in theaters across the country. But, in my hometown (and perhaps in yours), so will the movie Old Fashioned. The contrast between the two is black and white. The one slides into evil. The other strives for what is good.

The contrast, I think, is best illustrated by the leading man in each story. Men fascinate me, perhaps because I believe that God has created them to be the defenders of life. For as long as I can remember, I’ve carefully listened to men and watched what they do. Do they lead women and children to the edge of the abyss or keep them far from it? In Fifty Shades, Christian Grey uses manipulation, jealousy, intimidation and violence to control Ana. In Old Fashioned, Clay Walsh gives up his reckless carousing of college days to practice the patient and self-disciplined love of God and, in so doing, honor Amber Hewson.

Ideologies and behaviors are in contrast all the time. This weekend, ticket sales may tell us a lot about the ideology we claim and the behavior we choose to mentor. Choices have consequences. In this case, Hollywood is glamorizing violence and abuse, then tacking on an unrealistic fairy-tale ending. There is evidence to prove that real life is different.

A study published last year in the Journal of Women’s Health shows the relationships between health risks and reading popular fiction depicting violence against women. Researchers from Michigan State University studied more than 650 women aged 18-24. Compared to participants who didn’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, those who did were 25 percent more likely to have a partner who yelled or swore at them; 34 percent more likely to have a partner who demonstrated stalking tendencies; and more than 75 percent more likely to have used diet aids or fasted for more than 24 hours. Those who read all of the books in the Fifty Shades trilogy were 65 percent more likely than nonreaders to binge drink—or drink five or more drinks on a single occasion on six or more days per month—and 63 percent more likely to have five or more intercourse partners during their lifetime. (Excerpted from “Reading Fifty Shades linked to unhealthy behaviors,” by Carolyn Moynihan, http://www.mercatornet.com, 3 February 2015)

Society pays a price when we teach men to inflict pain and sexualize violence. It pays a price when women are taught that abusive sex is “normal.” Remove the glamour and deception from Christian and Ana’s relationship. What is left but hopelessness?

The price is too high, especially for children and grandchildren. It is a price that does not have to be paid. I wonder. With its aggressive marketing campaign and unashamed attempt to romanticize sexual violence, has Hollywood unintentionally challenged parents to do the right thing? To help their child resist evil and seek what is good? Miriam Grossman, M.D., thinks so.

“Don’t underestimate [Hollywood’s] hard sell on your kids,” writes Dr. Grossman. “Even if they don’t see the film, they are absorbing its toxic message, and need your wisdom and guidance.” She explains that even with the darkest of clouds, there can be a silver lining. “While the ideas promoted by Fifty Shades of Grey are vile,” she observes, “they present a precious opportunity: to explain truths your children must know, but won’t hear anywhere else. Every image of those handcuffs and each TV trailer hold that chance.”

Dr. Grossman is a child and adolescent psychiatrist. She considers it her professional responsibility to help parents deal with the implications of Fifty Shades. I encourage you to visit her website where you will find a series of blogs exposing what might become a blockbuster film. Dr. Grossman includes talking points for every mom and dad who wants to keep their child from harm. She notes that parents talk to their children about junk food, cigarettes, and bullies. Parents, she says, need to warn children about dangerous ideas, too.

Dr. Grossman guarantees “you will have a significant influence on your child. What you believe matters. Your expectations matter. This is so regardless of any poor choices you may have made through the years. Even if your teen shrugs off everything you say with a roll of her eyes, I promise you, she hears every word.”

There is nothing grey about physical or emotional abuse. It is never ok. “A relationship that includes violence is disturbed,” explains Dr. Grossman. “The people involved have emotional problems. A psychologically healthy woman avoids pain. She seeks a relationship that is safe, supportive, and trusting; she wants to feel cared for and appreciated. If there is any hint of danger, she runs.”

There are those who consider Fifty Shades a “romantic love story.” But, “when Ana agreed to be abused, she made a terrible, self-destructive decision,” says Dr. Grossman. “Only in fiction would such a ‘romance’ end happily. In the real world, Ana would pay for her poor choice of a partner.”

It doesn’t have to begin—or end—this way. There are, well, old fashioned thoughts and behaviors that have always led to a much safer and more hope-filled life.

This Valentine’s weekend, some people are daring to bring these old fashioned ideas to the polling place of a theater near you. You have the opportunity—as parents, high school and college students, dating couples, and newlyweds—to “vote” with your ticket in favor of patient, kind, and selfless love (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).

Will it matter? I think so. Good is opposed to evil in such a way that even choosing Old Fashioned can be the good thing that helps eliminate evil as far as it can.

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family praying at tableAnne Fishel is a family therapist. She writes, “I often have the impulse to tell families to go home and have dinner together rather than spending an hour with me.”

Twenty years of research in North America, Europe and Australia, observes Fishel, support the practice of family mealtime. “It turns out that sitting down for a nightly meal is great for the brain, the body and the spirit.”

I am a staunch advocate of family mealtime. The dinner table nurtured trust between my parents, grandparents, and me. My mother and grandmother fed my body, but it was their invitation to engage in discussions about life that stimulated my mind and nourished my soul.

“Dinnertime conversation,” writes Fishel, “boosts vocabulary even more than being read aloud to.” There is also, Fishel notes, “a consistent association between family dinner frequency and teen academic performance.” Older children reap “intellectual benefits from family dinners . . . regular mealtime is an even more powerful predictor of high achievement scores than time spent in school, doing homework, playing sports or doing art.”

The family table, notes Fishel, tends to provide healthier food, but also a healthier atmosphere. However, she cautions, “all bets are off if the TV is on during dinner.”

Regular family dinners are linked, Fishel says, “with lowering a host of high risk teenage behaviors parents fear: smoking, binge drinking, marijuana use, violence, school problems, eating disorders and sexual activity.” A study of more than 5,000 Minnesota teens concluded that “regular family dinners were associated with lower rates of depression and suicidal thoughts.”

There is more. Fishel has reason to believe that kids who have been “victims of cyberbullying” bounce back more readily if they have the benefit of family meals. I have no doubt that being in communication with my mom and dad at our family’s dinner table helped steer me away from some high-risk teen behavior.

A New Zealand study, writes Fishel, reveals that “a higher frequency of family meals was strongly associated with positive moods in adolescents.” Evidence also indicates “that teens who dine regularly with their families also have a more positive view of the future, compared to their peers who don’t eat with parents.”

Children don’t grow up working beside their parents today. They don’t farm, construct a house, bake, or quilt together. So, as Fishel observes, the family dinner table remains the most reliable way for parents and children to connect.

“Kids who eat dinner with their parents,” says Fishel, “experience less stress and have a better relationship with them. This daily mealtime connection is like a seat belt for traveling the potholed road of childhood and adolescence and all its possible risky behaviors.”

Just gathering at a common dinner table isn’t enough. It’s what happens at that table. Silence between parents or using the time to scold children won’t, as Fishel notes, “confer positive benefits. Sharing a roast chicken won’t magically transform parent-child relationships.”

My own experience at the dinner table with my parents helped me learn when to speak and when to listen. I was encouraged to ask questions, share ideas, and practice kindness. This nourishing of body, mind, and soul was an experience I wanted to repeat with my children and grandchildren. What a privilege to hear what children are thinking, learn what is going on in their life, engage them in dialogue, mentor, and encourage.

It is small moments like these, concludes Fishel, that “can gain momentum to create stronger connections away from the table.”

Quotes from Anne Fishel are excerpted from her article
“Science says: eat with your kids” – Mercatornet.com 1-14-15
Anne Fishel is the author of Home For Dinner and
Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology, Harvard Medical School
(photo image: Pinterest.com)

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Making Gay OkayIn his sane and sensible book, Making Gay Okay, author Robert R. Reilly reveals why and how Americans are being forced to consider homosexual acts as morally acceptable.  He explains the “power of rationalization,” the means by which one “mentally transforms wrong into right,” and the dynamics of tolerating sexual misbehavior.

LGBT activists here in the U.S. push hard for cultural acceptance of sodomy in schools, courts, churches, and the military.  We are labeled “intolerant” if we speak God’s Word that calls the act of homosexuality a sin.  We are labeled “homophobic” or even “hostile” if we voice concern for children, family, and the survival of a thriving society.

U.S. Embassies across the world—in Pakistan, Kenya, Laos, and Prague—have been instructed by the Obama Administration to legitimize sodomy and promote same-sex marriage.  U.S. foreign policy seeks to change the laws of other countries, but there is resistance from nations where homosexual acts are illegal.

Reilly explains, “When the acting ambassador in El Salvador, Mari Carmen Aponte, wrote an op-ed in a major Salvadoran newspaper, La Prensa Grafica, implying that the disapproval of homosexual behavior is animated by ‘brutal hostility’ and ‘aggression’ by ‘those who promote hatred,’ a group of pro-family associations fought back.  On July 6, 2011, they wrote:

Ms. Aponte, in clear violation of the rules of diplomacy and international rights laws, you intend to impose to [sic] Salvadorans, disregarding our profound Christian values rooted in natural law, a new vision of foreign and bizarre values, completely alien to our moral fiber, intending to disguise this as “human rights” . . . . The only thing we agree with from your article, is to repudiate violence against homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, etc.; against these, just the same as against skinny, fat, tall or short . . . . This of course does not mean accepting the legal union between same sex individuals or to add new types of families like bisexual, tri-sexual, multi-sexual and the full range of sexual preferences.  Not accepting the legitimacy of ‘sexual diversity’ does not mean we are violating any human right.  There can be no talk of progress if this is how ‘modern’ is defined.  We prefer to feel proudly ‘old fashioned,’ keep our moral values, preserve our families and possess the clarity of what defines good and evil.”

As for me?  I stand with the pro-family groups of El Salvador.  I pray that I will fear, love, and trust God so that I might love my neighbor without accepting evil as good.  Does this mean that I will be called to discriminate?  Isn’t discrimination bad?  No.  As Reilly brilliantly writes, “The ability to discriminate is, of course, essential to the ability to choose correctly.”

It is not too late to choose correctly.  Bizarre values are not “human rights.”  Inspired by my neighbors in El Salvador, I will persevere for marriage and family.

Making Gay Okay by Robert R.  Reilly,
p. 203, 214

 

 

 

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candle lightTwo thousand fourteen years ago, God came into this sin-tainted world so that Light would shine in the darkness.

But, today, the darkness seems so oppressive.  Will it overwhelm the Light?”

Sexual immorality abounds. Sensuality is an idol. Girls assume that it’s “normal” to be sexually intimate with boys. Planned Parenthood uses the book Fifty Shades of Gray to explain to 15-year-old girls why sadistic and masochistic sex is “okay” if the girl “gives permission.” Pedophilia is on the rise. Sodomy is tolerated as just another expression of “love.” Marriage is assaulted not just by advocates of same-sex “marriage,” but by adultery, cohabitation, no-fault divorce. Children grow up in homes with their mommy and her boyfriend. Grandchildren see their grandparents “shacking up.”

The darkness seems so oppressive… will it overwhelm the Light?  No!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1-5).

But aren’t we living in times more dark than any other? Isn’t darkness more oppressive and evil more ominous than ever before? No!

Alvin Schmidt, the author of How Christianity Changed the World, explains that from early on, Christians have found themselves in cultures that, indeed, “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator,” and because of this, “God gave them over to shameful lusts” (Romans 1:25-26). This is how St. Paul described the Greco-Roman society of his day.

Schmidt writes, “By the first and second centuries after Christ, undefiled sexual intercourse, along with marital faithfulness, had essentially disappeared. Not only were adultery and fornication common, but people engaged in all sorts of sexual methods, many of them obscene.”

He continues, “Roman marriages had greatly deteriorated; they had become a ‘loose and voluntary compact [and] religious and civil rites were no longer essential.’ Marriage was ‘detested as a disagreeable necessity.’ Since people had become obsessed with sex, marital unions were very short-lived.” The Latin Church father, Tertullian, “noted that male/female sex relations had become sadistic and masochistic . . . Heterosexual love had turned into a type of sport.” Prostitution, incest, and mutilation were not uncommon.

The world at that time seemed very, very dark. Overwhelmingly dark.

But, writes Schmidt, “into this immoral sexual environment came the Christians with a radically different sexual ethic and lifestyle . . . [W]hen God instituted marriage at the time of creation, He told Adam and Eve that the sex act made a husband and wife one flesh (Gen. 2:24). The one flesh concept required the married couple to be totally faithful to each other.” Schmidt points to a second-century document that describes how the early Christians differed from the pagan Romans by confining their sexual behavior to married life. The document reads: “They [Christians] marry as do all; they beget children . . . They have a common table, but not a common bed” (Epistle to Diognetus).

One would think that the darkness of the Roman culture was so oppressive that Christians would shrink away and take their Light with them.  But, no!

Schmidt writes that “Galen, a Greek physician of the second century, was impressed with the upright sexual behavior of Christians. He said they were ‘so far advanced in self-discipline and . . . intense desire to attain moral excellence that they are in no way inferior to true philosophers.’”

The Christian doctrine and practice of marriage was “so powerful,” writes Schmidt, that historian Edward Gibbon says, “The dignity of marriage was restored by the Christians.”

The dignity of marriage was restored! And there’s more! Schmidt writes, “The dignity and sanctity of marriage that Christianity brought to Roman culture were mostly due to the early Christian women. They appreciated the dignity and worth that Christ’s teachings accorded them” (prior to Jesus’ earthly ministry, women were too often held in low esteem). Women, “more so than men, understood the seriousness of their biological role as bearers of children in God’s created order. Thus, the wedding rite, the precursor to the fulfillment of that role, needed to be conducted with solemnity and reverence.”

Lest we think this is mere speculation on the part of Schmidt or any other historian, here’s what the pagan Libanius said about the dedication of Christian wives and mothers of that time: “What women these Christians have!”

It is no different today.  A woman who sees herself in the Light of Christ can also see her relationships, choices, and behaviors in that same Light.  As she begins to see the seriousness of her biological role as a bearer of children in God’s created order, she can also help her boyfriend, fiancé, or husband understand this, too.  As she contrasts passionate eros love with patient and virtuous agape love (1 Corinthians 13), she can positively influence not only the man in her life but her children and grandchildren.

It is true that the darkness of sin and evil is oppressive.  Marriage is under assault and weakened by every form of sexual idolatry.  But the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  God is faithful to use men and women who trust the Light to make a difference one person, one family, one neighborhood at a time.  Sometimes, as happened in Rome, even seemingly hopeless and depraved cultures begin to look with favor on wives and mothers, husbands and fathers.

Darkness is oppressive, but the Light cannot be overcome.  And in that Light, the dignity of marriage and family can slowly be restored.

I believe it.

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