Friday, July 31, 2009

Money, money, money

Have you seen Mama Mia!? We watched it, and with the exception of someone--whose only excuse could be a terrible state of inebriation--thinking it was a good idea to have Pierce Brosnan sing, we really enjoyed it.

There is a song called Money, Money, Money with a line that says 'it's a rich man's world.' I hate how important money is. I know the warnings Jesus made shoot right to my very soul. It is so easy for me to make it an idol--a god who consumes and hates me. I spend an embarrassing amount of time dreaming up what I would do with money. I fantasize about being financially independent and moving on with 'real life' from there.

I am so thankful that my Lord is the true provider. Not just of our physical needs, but He has even provided the warnings against relying on money, against storing up things here on earth. He has provided wisdom and resourcefulness so that we can make the most of what we do have.

I praise Him and grip to Him, especially when the mortgage goes up and the pay goes down.

Truth as Fact

So I wrote last night about the idea that we are pushing ourselves and our kids into unnecessary challenges for the sake of the lessons learned from making it through.

We all know recognizing or admitting a problem is only the first p resolving it.

So I know we worship adversity and the triumph we hope it brings Why? The root is still love, wanting the best. We have declared in order comfort and encourage that those who've been through truly harrowing trauma will be OK. They will be better than OK! They are stronger and wiser for this horrible misfortune.

Well we want to be strong and wise, too! We want our children to be strong and wise, right? We sold that recovery by sheer will is so possible that it has clouded the truth that it is possible and desirable to become strong and wise in other ways, too.

So, if it is not through adversity that we gain these valuable and coveted character traits, the how?

And these truly are valuable character traits. Real Adversity does exist and to have generous helpings of strength and wisdom sure would help!

For our children, let's try equipping. Arming them for the inevitable battles that will come about without any foolish wanderings into the darkness. Again, how?

Well, first, set a good example. You avoid needless adversity and make it through the unavoidable trials with your integrity in tact. Show them the wisdom it takes to see trouble before your up to your waste in it. And if it besets you, don't panic. Keep your eyes on Christ, move carefully, don't abandon principles of character. Do your best and admit your failings.

Another thing we can do is teach Truth as facts--as the only facts that really matter. Teach them right from wrong. Teach them about God and Jesus. Teach them about eternal perspective. Teach them about the sermon on the mount. Move their focus outside themselves. Soften their hearts to the plights of others. Teach them to rely on Christ for all things. Teach them the importance of family, and that saving face with friends, or preserving a friendship by doing something wrong isn't worth the friendship.

That will give them roots to which they can confidently grip when the wind blows.

Some who have learned by adversity swear by it. I know people who can't seem to learn any other way. They don't see other people's mistakes as warnings. They don't see red flags. They just have to touch the stove to see if it is really as hot as everyone says it is. I grieve for these people.

While adversity may be an excellent teacher, think about this: not everyone recovers from every addiction, affliction or abusive relationship. Some never return from the woods. Some do, but with scars so deep that they are forever unrecognizable from the person who first entered the forest.

And for those who emerge better, strong, wiser...the time they spent clawing their way out, going to the school of hard knocks, how else could that time have been spent??

Learning? (You know--something other that drugs are bad, you can't change mean and selfish people, that kind of thing. I mean learning about Shakespeare, Fibonocci and Madam Curie.) Growing? Developing into healthy well-rounded people? Serving??

Serving!! You mean, focused on someone else?? Crazy! Aren't teens supposed to be terminally self centered? Isn't that normal? Maybe, but it sure ain't healthy and the mindset does nothing to protect them against needless adversity. Normal has never been a lofty goal--unless your life has been one trial after another, that is.

Get them into service. Let them see the pain of adversity. Let them help those who need it. Let them learn by seeing the consequences second hand. And being in service works as a nice time filler--meaning less time is available to go getting into first hand trouble!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Triumph over Adversity

Triumph over adversity. Sounds good. In fact, in our society, it seems often to be the very meaning of life. And there is plenty of adversity to go around, so if you triumph over one, don't you worry! There is another opportunity for victory right around the proverbial corner.

Two major categories for adversity are addiction and abuse. Toss in a little depression, and you have encompassed most sources of adversity quite succinctly. And if you are a little bored with alcohol and drugs, just peek behind them and you will see that there is a list the length of the road to hell filled with objects of obsession. From video games to food to sex, we can ruin anything!

And who hasn't been abused? I find the longer I live, the more difficulty there is in finding people who have led lives free of physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse. Speaking of hunting for healthy people, too often I find myself in a stark minority as a woman who has never taken antidepressant or anti anxiety medication.

So much adversity. We must triumph! Defeat is not an option!

As a society, we have grown sensitive to all the pain and suffering of our neighbors. That is a good thing! I mean this sincerely. I know it is not long ago that women were trapped in hopeless, fearful marriages from which there was no escape. Children, too, have long anguished at hands with too much power. Those afflicted by addiction have received compassion and mercy rather than being left in the dark to battle demons alone.

In our haste to affirm, protect, heal our loved ones, we have created new laws and counseling programs to bring people from the pits of death. We say it is not that person's fault these tragedies have befallen them. We have trained for physical strength to symbolize the emotional strength needed to stay free, to be triumphant.

We celebrate conquest with such joy and primal pleasure. So much so that just defeating the shackles of an addiction or abuse is reason to publish a book, do the talk show circuit and choose which actress will play you in the Lifetime premier movie.

Good things, all. Needed things. Please don't misunderstand my words below to be in any mocking or belittling the vital importance of swaying of the heart to lift up and empower the weak.

But have we gone overboard? Have we lost our way? I think so. I think the pendulum has swung too far and we have forgotten the focus. Have you ever wondered why there are so many addictions? Why are there so many social-emotional medications out there??

Suppose there is one more to add to the list of addictions. Suppose we have come to need triumph. And how do you get that? Ding, ding, ding, ding!! That's right: Adversity, with a capital A!

I cannot believe how frequently it is offered and with what validity it is given that children should go to public school so that they will face Adversity!! We seek Adversity, not just for ourselves, but we lovingly thrust our children--those with whom we are charged to raise and protect--straight into the jaws of Adversity.

Without Adversity, how else shall we triumph? And what is life without triumph? Apparently not enough. There is an old saying. Perhaps you've heard it. It goes something like this: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on....who? Oh, yes! ME! You jump into Adversity, it is your own damned fault! Why on earth do we celebrate and affirm it isn't your fault when you picked up the 10th beer, when you went home with the loser, when you stopped showing up at work?? I don't get it.

I don't get it, and I just am not buying that we are better human beings if we walk headlong into danger. Here is something: I pray my kids will grow up to never have been bullied! I pray they are never sexually assaulted. I pray that no one they would ever call friend would even offer them a drink, a cigarette or anything else illegal and unsafe! Imagine!

With the current societal climate, you'd think I was a hateful mom for wishing and praying such things on my kids. We have gotten so lost in affirming those who have been genuinely beaten down by genuine affliction that we have come to a place where we worship that very affliction!

We hate the idea of anyone feeling disadvantaged; we say those who've been through the gauntlet are better for it. They are stronger and wiser. Now they are equipped to face anything. It sounds so nice! And, really, what else should we say? It is truth, we pray.

There is even Biblical principle in this attitude. Joseph said to his weaselly brothers that God meant their evil acts for good. Paul says we suffer so that we might receive comfort from the Holy Spirit to share with other sufferers. Who isn't going to get in line for comfort from the Holy Spirit, after all?? That's good stuff!

But does that mean it is right to start at comforting someone for surviving evil and go to choosing or advising someone to invite evil right into the center of life? I don't think so, but I think that is exactly what we have done. College parties--oh, let's be honest here--high school parties (and the phenomena seems to be starting earlier and earlier all the time) are a virtual Petri dish of addiction and abuse. Couple this with the permissive, 'blind eye' being turned by parents, teacher, and even law enforcement, and you have the perfect recipe for young people to be dragged down into Adversity.

"Experimenting" in drinking, drugs and sex is portrayed as healthy and normal among even young teens on countless shows depicting and targeting their real-life peers. By the way, just how much do you have to do before we drop the euphemistic "experimenting" tag? Either way, this is considered more than normal. It is healthy and normal!

How many times does a life have to be derailed before we know that getting on the train will lead to pain? Well, I propose we have reached that number, whatever it may be. And I propose that it isn't just the experimenting that parents are permitting. It is the adversity. We don't arm them. We don't teach right from wrong. We don't equip them. We send them to adversity and trust they will triumph and be stronger and wiser for it.

So, who is the wiser, the one who climbs out of the pit, or the one who threw a log across and crossed it unscathed?


I am feeling very restless. Or expectant? I don't know. I can't even yet tell if it is from God or flesh. I can't tell if it is just part of the fickle tide on which my emotions ride, or a mark of something real and deep and not to be eschewed.

Whatever it is, here it is. We are halfway to retirement from the prison system. Ten years in, ten to go. Ten to go?? That puts Max at age 20, Madi at 18. We will be 'done.' I don't want to be done! This is the point where my chest tightens and I don't feel like I can quite get a full breath. I feel claustrophobic--both by time and space. I don't want my kids to grow up their whole time like this. Like what? I am no sure.

I can tell you I am tempted to sell the house, buy an RV and spend at least a year traveling the country, talking to the people in national parks, museums, historical monuments and libraries. That sounds nice and big and open, huh?

Then my husband stretches out to grab my ankles and drag me back down to earth by asking, "How will we pay for gas, food, flat tires, entrance into the museums and camp sites?" Geez. I say that he can audit lectures as we travel to different universities and invite professors of religion, philosophy and such out to lunch. "How will we pay for lunch?"

So my old dream returns to me.

I have off and on thought about running a retreat center of sorts. The nature and focus has changed from time to time, but essentially, I want my family and one or two others (think: church) to run a center for retreat and camps. We live on the property, have the freedom of supporting ourselves—solar panels, windmills, well, large garden, animals—and welcome people for weeks and weekends for education and refreshment. Definitely Christian. Catering to special groups like pastor couples. Brian could host (not lead) round table discussions on philosophy and apologetics. I could run programs for women and children. Together we would put on family events like hiking and horseback riding. Music nights, talent shows etc would be standards. And people would have built into their visit working the land, and being with animals.

Then I saw this website—they host three-week-long high school Christian perspective science camps. Their money page thrills me. Anyhow, got me to thinking that we could play the homeschool slant, and offer something like a week-long Club PALS. We could do outdoor ed, and other weeks and weekends focused on smaller subjects: computers, writing, a country, etc. There are a gazillion sub-subjects in science and history, we wouldn’t have to repeat for years—not that repeating would be bad!

Anyhow, I am all dreamy now. J

But I know my dreams continue to beg the question: how? Do we give up the retirement Brian has already earned? How do we buy property to host retreat guests? How do we feed them? (and ourselves??) How? Is this a human, fickle, fearful worm wriggling in my ear, nudging the escapist in me? Is this Christ moving me to ministry? I now a good answer is to wait for Brian to be moved. Man!! Sometimes that just takes so lo-o-ong!