Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Confession 266: Children of Babylon

After being absentee awhile, I've come back online with a new series on Christian parenting entitled, "Children of Babylon".  Over the next several weeks, I want to explore how it is we, as Christians, tackle all of the negativity our culture throws at our children.  I want to think about how it is, in the midst of this contemporary "Babylon", we can raise children of God.  I will have several guest authors sharing their thoughts.  I would love to engage in this conversation with you, so let me know what you think!

Blessings and Peace, 

After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
Nehemiah 4:14
I’ve been sitting on this post for awhile now, trying to gather my thoughts and be clear on what I want to say.  I’ve always considered myself to be a fairly liberal and progressive person.  I tend to vote mostly Democrat, support same-sex unions, affirmative action, easier immigration laws and healthcare reform.  I try to be open minded about issues and look at both perspectives.  Yet lately, as I look around at our self-indulgent, materialistic, violence obsessed and hyper sexualized culture, I have to wonder if progressiveism hasn’t gone too far.  Our media sells us a surplus of violence, greed, consumption, over-indulgence and sex.  Unfortunately, we are buying it in bulk and our children are paying the price.

Let me give you a few statistics.  Granted, numbers aren’t everything, but I think these numbers warrant some consideration.
1.   Self-esteem of the average American girl peaks at the age of 9 and then plummets.
2.   81% of 10 year old girls are afraid of being fat.
3.   1 out of 4 college age women have an eating disorder.
4.   A girl is bullied every 7 minutes.
5.   1 in 3 teens is a victim of dating violence, with young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experiencing the highest rate of partner abuse.
6.   57% of rock music videos portray women as a sex object, a victim, or unintelligent.
7.   46% of U.S. high school students have engaged in sexual activity.
8.   By age 18, a U.S. youth will have seen 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence.
9.   Children younger than 8 "cannot uniformly discriminate between real life and fantasy/entertainment… They quickly learn that violence is an acceptable solution to resolving even complex problems, particularly if the aggressor is the hero.” American Academy of Pediatrics
10. Boys are 30% more likely than girls to flunk or drop out of school.
11. Boys are 15 times more likely than girls to abuse drugs and alcohol and twice as likely to die in a car accident.
The prophet Nehemiah urged the Israelites to fight for their children.  In America, we are destroying them.  And I am a culprit of this. 

Truth be told, I let my boys watch too much T.V.  They watch between 30-60 minutes in the morning, another 30-60 minutes after school and then more minutes (hours) than I care to admit on the weekends.  I justify it by telling myself that it’s all age appropriate programming.  It’s Disney channel or Nick Jr.  But even the shows on Disney and Nick Jr. can have some very negative messages.  And then there’s the onslaught of advertising they’re exposed to.  They also spend 30-45 minutes each day playing stupid games on my tablet while I disengage with them, occupying myself with the laptop or household chores.  Not that chores are bad, but when I let my kids sit zombie like in front of a screen while I do them, it sends the wrong message.

I’m also an absolute hypocrite in my own choice of programming.  I love night-time soaps.  My top three shows are Revenge, Nashville and Scandal.  Of course I never watch them until after the kids are in bed.  And, I’m fully aware that the actions taken by the characters are not actions to emulate in my own life.  I’m intelligent enough to separate reality from fantasy.  However, by watching these shows I’m telling media advertisers that I’m okay with the immorality and promiscuity presented in such programs.  I’m supporting a fundamental set of beliefs that I do not agree with.  And I do it because “it’s entertaining”.

Somewhere along the line, I’ve stopped fighting for my own family.  I’ve bought into the lie that “it’s just T.V.”, or “it’s just music”, or “it’s just…whatever…”  I watched T.V. and I turned out fine, right?  But I wasn’t exposed to as much through television as my children. 

As a woman, as a mother—as a Christian woman and mother—I need to do better.  I need to fight for my children.  I need to do the hard work of educating them to think critically about what they watch instead of just letting them absorb it in.  I need to encourage their creativity by pushing them to play, to read, to draw, to sing…  I need to actively work in teaching them about our faith and to help them come to know the God I love and want them to be in relationship with.  I need to help them become confident and secure in themselves, yet empathetic and kind and generous as well.  And I can’t do that when I (or they) are sitting in front of a T.V. or computer sucking in all of the negative images and ideas the media puts out.

I can’t change our contemporary culture, much as I wish I could.  But I can make some changes in my own life.  I can curb the time we spend in front of the T.V.  I can take my “guilty pleasure” shows out of the rotation for myself.  I can put aside e-mail, facebook, blogging, Smurfs and crosswords during family time and actually engage with my children.  I can reinstitute our nightly devotional time with the kids.  I can actually sit and watch television with my kids and talk to them about what is going on in their programs.  I can join forces with other moms who want more for their children than what our culture is offering, supporting and encouraging one another down the rocky road of parenting. 

Parenting is hard, and it’s scary.  Like the Israelites rebuilding Jerusalem, I look around at our world and think, “Man, how are we ever going to fix this?”  But, like Nehemiah, I stubbornly push through laying one brick at a time.  With a lot of hard work, and God’s ever present help, we’ll get the task done.

Blessings and Peace,

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Confession 265: A Friday Reflection

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Psalm 90:14
This morning was one of those mornings where I profoundly felt the limitations of time and space.  You know, when you have about 1,000 things you’d like to accomplish within the time frame of about 60 seconds.  My mind was running away, and yet not even Einstein could have shrunk the space/time dimensions that would allow my physical being to keep up.  Slamming the skillet on the stove to make my special fat burning pancake, I started in on a self-pitying rant to God. 

“I’m tired of doing the same thing every morning ,” I complained, turning toward the coffee pot.  “I have to make breakfast, make G’s lunch, get….”

And that’s as far as God let me get before he broke into my thoughts.  Apparently, the Almighty One who holds heaven and earth together in his hands did not have time or patience for self-indulgent whining this morning.  I don’t blame Him.

Very clearly and succinctly I heard Him say to my heart, “You need to be grateful that you are able to get up and do the same thing day in and day out.  All of the routines in your life are a gift.  There are people getting up this morning whose lives have been torn apart, people who would give anything to be able to get out of bed and make breakfast for their family.  Get over yourself and get to work.  We’ve got stuff to do!!”

The message hit home.  God was right, He always is.  I need to be grateful for the ordinary days and treasure each and every one of them that I have.

A little later, as I watched my oldest climb up the steps (two at a time) to the “big school”, I was filled with gratitude for the beautiful and precious gift that is this sweet boy.  I prayed to God again, not complaining, but thanking him for my sweet little boy.  I prayed that God would help me work to preserve his innocence, that he would keep his warm and caring heart even into adolescence and beyond.
Then, I thought of the other one.  My wild warrior child sitting at home eating, most likely, his 3rd Popsicle of the morning before Daddy awakes.  I gave thanks to God for this little indomitable spirit.  I prayed that as he grows older, God would give him something noble to fight for.

And then I thought of my husband, still asleep in bed.  I gave God thanks for him—for the ways in which he works to support our family that largely go unnoticed and unrecognized by me.  I so respect and admire the wonderful pastor that he is and I prayed for his ministry and that I may be a true helpmate to him.

When I truly stop and consider my life, I realize that I can be nothing but grateful.  And I am grateful that I am a child of the One God who, despite his vastness and his holiness chooses to enter into my daily life and continues to work in me.

Blessings and Peace,

Monday, January 7, 2013

Confession 264: God Was Here

 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. 
Matthew 5:16

New Year--I love the sound of that, don't you?  A New Year...365 days stretching out before us....blank open spaces waiting to be filled.  New Year is a time for possibility.  New Year is a time for dreams.  New Year brings hope--hope for new directions, hope for positive changes, hope that we can live into the person we so desire to be.  New Year....

When I think about what I hope to accomplish in this New Year, there are some very definitive goals that I have in mind.  However, I often find that God has a way of rearranging the goals that I make.  As my family and I were watching the New Year's Eve festivities on TV, there was a countdown of the top musical performances of 2012.  One of the performances was a song sung by Beyonce at a UN function.  The song was titled, "I Was Here".  I'm including a link to the performance if you'd like to see it.  It was very moving.

As I watched the performance, I found myself thinking, this is what I want to do in my life.  I want to live my life in a way that people know I was here.  As I pondered on that the next couple of days, however, I found myself thinking beyond I was here.  As I look around our messy, broken, hurting world the thing that I really want to do is to live in a way that shows not that I was here, but that God IS here!!

This New Year, I want to bring hope to those who are hopeless, but not from me, from the One who restores all hope.  This New Year, I want to show love to others--not my frail, wavering, dependent love, but the Love that came into the world to Redeem.  This New Year, I want to focus on letting God's light shine through me--through my work and my relationships and my activities and my words.

In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter much that I was here, but rather, that I allowed God to be here through me.  I'm excited about the possibilities of this New Year.  I'm excited to see where God may lead.  But most of all, I am grateful that God is willing to let me go with Him.

Blessings and Peace,

My Family

My Family

My Family 2

My Family 2