Thinking Out Loud

May 29, 2016

Yesterday We Graduated from University

Filed under: Christianity, family, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:26 am

He graduated in terms of actually taking the courses and getting the diploma. We graduated in terms of parenting him through the process. His undergraduate years as a student are now behind him, as are our parent-of-an-undergraduate years.

James Dobson frequently talked about the role of parents to “just get them through it.” I have mixed feelings about that phrase. I like the idea of parents seeing their offspring through the different stages of life, and going from A to B to C to D. But I think there’s more a parent can do. We can encourage them to completion of A and B and C, but we can also enrich the process so it isn’t reduced to a fatalistic ‘let’s get this over with and then we can relax.’ Women reading this are free to comment something like, ‘Only a male would say that parenting is just getting through it,’ because according to the stereotype, men are more goal oriented, and women are more process oriented. I would agree, there has to be more than just reaching graduation day, in the four or five years which lead up to it.

So yes, we worked to get him through it, but hopefully we also contributed to making it a life-changing experience regardless of the outcome; though, for the record, he did pass every course.

Congratulations, Aaron.


This also seemed like a good place to reiterate some text which has appeared, I believe, three times here now.

no vacancyOur kids hated road trips. We would get to a city, walk into a motel, pull out our coupon book, and then be told that due to a soccer tournament, there were no motels with openings anywhere within an hour radius. Back to the car, hungry, hot, tired, and another hour’s drive.

Later on, we discovered the joy of planning destinations ahead, and making reservations, though by that point, the kids were older and opting out of our excursions.

Their road trip phobia later turned into an interesting object lesson.  I told them that somewhere in the future, they will find themselves in situations that will tempt them to compromise their principles, or do something foolish and unsafe. We said that like our motel example, they need to pre-book their choices. That way they won’t regret something done in the heat of the moment. Decide now what they will and won’t do.

May 9, 2016

Meet Evangelical Vaughn Ohlman: Ranker.com’s Worst Person of the Week

Girls-are-like-apples-on-trees

Image: Raw Story screenshot from Let Them Marry

vaughn-ohlman-photo-u1Last Wednesday we linked to a story at HomeschoolersAnonymous.com, a website we’ve been aware of for a long time. Two newer stories focused on concern over the invitation to early marriage advocate Vaughn Ohlman to speak at a homeschool conference, as well as an updated story concerning a decision by a Salvation Army camp in Kansas to retract a previous arrangement whereby his organization, Let Them Marry, would have hosted a “Get Them Married…” 3-day ‘conference’ at their facility. That got us curious, so we started to delve into the story on the weekend.

Let Them Marry has stripped their website to bare bones, apparently unable to handle the recent publicity.  More details were available at Vyckie Garrison’s Patheos blog No Longer Quivering which we’ve also been aware of for a long time. In a May 6th piece she links to an article in the Kansas City Star.

…Vaughn Ohlman, who works as an ambulance driver in Schulenberg, Texas, operates a blog and website devoted to “the idea of Christians focusing more on young, fruitful, Godly marriages – getting rid of some of so many of the obstacles that stand in the way,” he said in an e-mail.

According to biblical interpretations  posted on the site, supporters believe it best for girls to be married before age 20, and that their consent is not necessary.

“Scripture speaks of the father of the son ‘taking a wife’ for his son, and the father of the bride ‘giving’ her to her husband,” Ohlman writes, citing passages from Jeremiah, Judges, Ezra and other books.

“It gives example after example of young women being given to young men, without the young woman even being consulted, and often, in some of the most Godly marriages in Scripture, the young man is not consulted.”

How early should girls marry? For some, as young as age 13, says the Let Them Marry website.

According to Ohlman, a girl is ready for marriage when she has breasts, which “promise enjoyment for her husband.” A girl also should be “ready to bear children” and “ready for sexual intercourse sexually and emotionally,” Ohlman writes.

“We do not endorse marriage at ages as young as twelve.”

After news of the Wichita retreat began circulating online Thursday, Ohlman took to his blog to address critics who said the concept of the retreat was offensive and possibly illegal.

Under Kansas law, no one under the age of 15 can marry. Eighteen is the minimum age, although 16- and 17-year-olds can get married with parental consent…

Ohlman’s Book What Are You Doing? has a website (possibly also recently sanitized), and the Amazon page doesn’t provide previews. However there are two reader reviews:

I have often been tempted to write a book on covenant, Christian marriage that I would call, “I Kissed Courtship Goodbye.” The reason for the title would be to address a particular definition of courtship that in essence, operates as two families “dating” each other. It subconsciously goes something like this, “we’ll let our children court for awhile and see how things go, but if things don’t go the direction that we want to, or we discover that they just aren’t “compatible” we can just cut it off and there is no harm done.”… My wife’s and my relationship and attraction grew naturally and as time went by after our covenant making we both revealed and discovered how we, over time, came to the point where we could not see ourselves marrying anyone other than each other. That simple. Relationships are complicated. They are complicated because we complicate them. But as we grow spiritually, mature, and become more like Christ and wisely meditate on the words of God which were not spoken vain, we apply the principles resulting from this learned understanding to gradually and incrementally casting off the complications that man creates and simultaneously embrace the simplicity and beauty of God’s created order. “What are you Doing?” is a casual, and I believe, effective tool of exercising our minds to think more biblically in the realm of how two people covenant together in marriage…


…The basis of the book’s betrothal solution is that any man and woman who are not celibate and are willing to “do good” to a mate are eligible to be married to one another. Further, since this sexual interest is present, they should not seek a potential spouse themselves since that will inevitably lead to some sort of sexually charged relationship. Even a merely verbal relationship will lead to sexual thoughts that defraud the couple if they do not eventually become man and wife. Therefore, the fathers should be the ones to initiate any possible discussions of marriage. The man and woman can certainly have a friendly relationship, but considering each other as potential mates can lead to trouble.

Some will decry the involvement of parents in the choice of a spouse as “arranged marriage”. But careful readers will understand that the author is not proposing a medieval plot where a young girl is chained in a dungeon awaiting puberty and marriage to a toothless old man. Rather, sensible families will welcome a reintroduction of a multi-generational vision in which parents guide their children through life’s major milestones…

Ohlman’s own daughter-in-law describes the process in her blog PrinceCharmingDiapers.com in a post entitled The Betrothal Story:

…I should note that people often get the impression that we got married on blind faith, simply trusting that God would miraculously sort out any difficulties which came along afterwards. I think this is, in large part, a product of people’s own insecurities: they cannot imagine trusting in a vetting process in which they did not directly participate. But when I say “months” of communication went between the two fathers, I hope it’s obvious that we weren’t doing anything on “blind faith”.

Indeed, what really happened is that Joshua and I trusted our respective fathers to do the vetting for us… and to do a much better job than we could have done. Our dads weren’t dealing with raging hormones, crazy emotions, or an overwhelming desire to ignore important issues simply for the sake of getting married. My dad was able to take a serious look at Joshua’s character in a way I would have been unequipped (and unlikely) to do.

Finally, the entire Ohlman family -excluding Joshua- arrived one Wednesday in August (Joshua couldn’t fly in until Friday due to work). The days before Joshua arrived were mildly awkward because everyone was pretending they didn’t know what was going on and that the Ohlmans, a family from Texas, “just happened” to have stopped by to visit a family they’d never met before… in Michigan. At the same time, however, our families hit it off immediately and we felt like life-long friends right away.

When Joshua finally arrived my dad met him at the airport, took him out to lunch, and “grilled” him. Satisfied that he’d done his due diligence, my dad brought Joshua home and introduced him to us all. Dad then took me on a walk and nervously asked me to assure him I was all right being betrothed to someone who was still, emotionally and practically, a stranger. I assured him that I was more than “all right” with it and that I had already grown to love his family.

Less than two hours later we held a small ceremony in our back yard. My dad and Mr. Ohlman gave a short sermon/admonition, each to their respective children… and then my dad put my hand in Joshua’s, thereby giving me away to the man I henceforth have had the privilege of calling my husband! Barring family members, I had never held a man’s hand before. It was so special to do so with only one man, and only after being covenanted with him for life.

I can’t tell you how deliriously happy I was at that point. To have blissfully skipped through all of the nerves, awkwardness, and — even worse — possible heartbreak of courtship in just two hours. To be completely secure in my relationship with Joshua from day one…

Ohlman’s blog, The Practical Theonomist records the text of the covenant — this is the first half — as posted in August, 2013:

It is with great joy in the mighty blessing of the Lord that we, the undersigned, in obedience to God do Covenant or Witness thereto that:
Joshua Phillip Ohlman
and
Laura Marie Camp
Are this  the 23rd day of August, 2013 bound in the sight of God and man in the unbreakable Covenant of Betrothal; are now husband and wife to each other; and await the blessed day when they will come together physically.
In this covenant we bind ourselves or our children to the following:
A lifelong continual sexual union in which the body of each spouse belongs to the other.
A union which shall be ever open to the blessing of children; and where the children shall be raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
A union in which the husband shall love his wife, as Christ loves the Church; washing her in the water of the word.
A union in which the wife shall love and respect her husband, love her children, and keep the home; helping raise her children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
A union, under Christ, with the husband as its head, the wife as his submissive helpmeet, and the children bound in obedience to their parents…

On the Progressive Atheist channel at Patheos, the blog Progressive Secular Humanist was able to capture some of the scriptural basis for Let Them Marry before the website was wiped:

Doesn’t a legitimate marriage require the consent of both the people marrying?

Scripture speaks of the father of the son “taking a wife” for his son, and the father of the bride “giving” her to her husband (Jeremiah 29: 6; Judges 21: 7; Ezra 9:12; Nehemiah 10: 30; 1 Corinthians 7:36-38). It gives example after example of young women being given to young men, without the young woman even being consulted…

A “bride price” is anything paid or given by the man or his representative at the time of his betrothal or receiving his bride.

Scripture certainly teaches about it… The law concerning bride price (Exodus 22:16-17) indicates that . . . the bride price was a normal part of the marriage process.

The bride price plays a significant function: It shows the woman’s value, and the point isn’t that the father gets the money but that he keeps it for his daughter, if her husband should ever abandon her.

At the website ChristianToday.com, we learn there is also an historical claim:

Perhaps his most controversial teaching is his advocacy of “young marriage”. He cites Calvin’s view that a woman is in “the flower of her age” between 12 and 20, John Gill’s figure of 12 and a half and Martin Luther’s of 15-18. However, he says: “We do not endorse marriage at ages as young as twelve,” and he flatly denies endorsing paedophilia. He adds: “But we are certainly in agreement with the commentators that marriage (in order to be timely and to accomplish its purposes) ought to happen before the age of twenty for almost everyone.”

While Ohlman’s website has been cleaned up, we do have the benefit of a Google Cache of his FAQ page. This question and answer were carefully worded:

Can a betrothed couple sleep together? No one that is not betrothed should have sex. Such sex is either fornication, adultery, or sexually perverse (as in Sodomy).

What is usually meant by this question is if the couple who is ONLY betrothed can have intercourse, or engage in other sexual activities. My answer would be that the action is legal but not possible.

You see, what separates being ‘only betrothed’ and being fully married is the consummation. So the question is kind of like asking if you can paint on a blank canvas. You are allowed to, obviously, assuming it is your canvas, but if you do it isn’t blank.

Traditionally, including Biblical tradition, the time of consummation includes a celebration called a wedding, marriage supper, marriage feast, or the like. The friends and family of the bride and groom come together to celebrate the new sexual union, the potential for offspring, the joining of the families, and the like. In our modern age we have come, erroneously, to see that ‘wedding’ as the event that authorizes the physical joining (at least in the Church—the world now largely sees the ‘consent’ of the couple as what authorizes sexual union, consent focused on an event by event and sometimes even intra-event basis—a complex subject and beyond the scope of this FAQ).

But Biblically, this was not so. Of those marriages where we have some details, only some of them take place in the context of some kind of celebration. And no law requires, or even hints at, these celebrations. Instead, it speaks of special protections for the betrothed man, so that he can immediately consummate with his new wife before going off to battle, etc.

So there’s an overview, all of which brings us to Ranker.com’s #1 rating of Vaughn Ohlman as the week’s worst person

So is this just a fringe movement? Again at Patheos blog, Love, Joy, Feminism, writer Libby Anne writes:

I really wish I could just gawk at this, I really do, but I was homeschooled and I knew families who were into things like this. If this had been around when I was a teen, it is very likely that families I knew would have gone—and it is barely possible that my own family might have considered it (though I very much hope they wouldn’t have). These are real people we’re talking about, and the number of fellow homeschool alumni I know who entered into early marriages like these and are now divorced seems to be growing by the month. Need I add that young women typically exit these marriages with little in the way of education, skills, or career prospects?


Media coverage: The video below contains some errors; online consensus seems to be that Ohlman is not connected to the Duggar Family. Warning: There are also language issues in the commentary.

 

May 2, 2016

This Sunday’s “Mother’s Day” is Better as “Women’s Day”

One of the things that struck me when reading Pete Wilson’s book, Plan B, was the many mentions of infertility. I remember thinking, ‘This is a big issue among people in his congregation.’ And maybe for some of you.

With Mother’s Day happening this Sunday in many parts of the world, Russell Moore has written an ever-timely article on infertility. We link to Dr. Moore quite often here, but I don’t know if we had ever committed wholesale theft of one of his blog posts before stealing this one three years ago. But it needed to be seen, and still does. You are encouraged to click through to read it.

Mother’s Day is a particularly sensitive time in many congregations, and pastors and church leaders often don’t even know it. This is true even in congregations that don’t focus the entire service around the event as if it were a feast day on the church’s liturgical calendar. Infertile women, and often their husbands, are still often grieving in the shadows.

Mothers Day and the ChurchIt is good and right to honor mothers. The Bible calls us to do so. Jesus does so with his own mother. We must recognize though that many infertile women find this day almost unbearable. This is not because these women are (necessarily) bitter or covetous or envious. The day is simply a reminder of unfulfilled longings, longings that are good.

Some pastors, commendably, mention in their sermons and prayers on this day those who want to be mothers but who have not had their prayers answered. Some recognize those who are mothers not to children, but to the rest of the congregation as they disciple spiritual daughters in the faith. This is more than a “shout-out” to those who don’t have children. It is a call to the congregation to rejoice in those who “mother” the church with wisdom, and it’s a call to the church to remember those who long desperately to hear “Mama” directed at them.

What if pastors and church leaders were to set aside a day for prayer for children for the infertile?

In too many churches ministry to infertile couples is relegated to support groups that meet in the church basement during the week, under cover of darkness. Now it’s true that infertile couples need each other. The time of prayer and counsel with people in similar circumstances can be helpful.

But this alone can contribute to the sense of isolation and even shame experienced by those hurting in this way. Moreover, if the only time one talks about infertility is in a room with those who are currently infertile, one is probably going to frame the situation in rather hopeless terms.

In fact, almost every congregation is filled with previously infertile people, including lots and lots who were told by medical professionals that they would never have children! Most of those (most of us, I should say) who fit into that category don’t really talk about it much because they simply don’t think of themselves in those terms. The baby or babies are here, and the pain of the infertility has subsided. Infertile couples need to see others who were once where they are, but who have been granted the blessing they seek.

What if, at the end of a service, the pastor called any person or couple who wanted prayer for children to come forward and then asked others in the congregation to gather around them and pray? Not every person grappling with infertility will do this publicly, and that’s all right. But many will. And even those too embarrassed to come forward will be encouraged by a church willing to pray for those hurting this way. The pastor could pray for God’s gift of children for these couples, either through biological procreation or through adoption, whichever the Lord should desire in each case.

Regardless of how you do it, remember the infertile as the world around us celebrates motherhood. The Proverbs 31 woman needs our attention, but the 1 Samuel 1 woman does too.

January 28, 2016

What’s On Your Fridge?

Filed under: Christianity, family, prayer — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:53 am

Prayer2

Sometime during the summer I posted a small list of prayer requests to our refrigerator. It was during one of those periods where the needs of people around us seemed to be growing and I wanted to make sure that nobody fell through the cracks of forgetfulness. This doesn’t mean that other requests aren’t shared at mealtime as needed, but it’s a core list that is glanced at every time someone reaches for food, and it hasn’t changed much over the past six months.

Prayer Requests on RefrigeratorThere are 17 requests on the sheet. What’s below is going to have some considerable overlap into a few different categories.

  • 2 are for people living outside North America. I wish our world concern was higher. One is a family from our church who are in Africa for two years; the other is my oldest son’s Compassion sponsored child. (And yes, we prayed intensely for Saeed’s release, but somehow that transcended the list.)
  • 3 represent our family; two of these are our sons and one is extended family.
  • 2 would fall into the category of prayer for salvation for someone yet to cross the line of faith.
  • 9 would fall into the category of prayer for healing, 8 for physical healing, 1 for mental health. Since the list was posted, 2 of these have improved to the point I wouldn’t add them to a future list, one is facing final days.
  • 4 I would categorize as prayer for God’s direction in life.
  • 1 would be a prayer for finances, and another 1 is a health situation that is affecting finances.
  • 1 had to be amended since the list was posted; the request for prayer in my friend’s life involved a name that was crossed out and was replaced with another name.
  • 1 is more institutional, the other 16 are names of individuals or families.

So what’s on your fridge?


Image: Couldn’t find what I wanted, so did some cutting and pasting. Full disclosure as required by FTC rules: Our own fridge door opens the other way.

January 12, 2016

Book Review: The Looney Experiment

Nested among the advance reading copies from Zondervan last fall was a book for younger teens. I kept wondering why it was included, but after a conversation later into the year I flipped through the book and formulated a plan.

So today, I bring you a guest reviewer (who I don’t think I’ve met) who is in the same grade as the student in the story, and has a similar first name to the author. I guess it was meant to be!

The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds
Zonderkidz, 2015, Hardcover, 208 pages

reviewed by Lucus Wood

The Looney ExperimentAtticus is a young boy in middle school. He is a target for the school’s bully. He likes a girl that doesn’t really know he’s there. Because of the fighting his dad has left his family and Atticus feels confused and angry. Atticus’s teacher leaves to have a baby and they get a supply teacher named Mr.Looney. Mr.Looney seems to show up with Atticus’s dad out of the picture and helps him stand up to the bully at school. He stands up for himself and he makes life better and he goes on to be happy.

I really liked Mr.Looney. He is probably one of the funniest book characters that I have ever read about. Mr Looney has a wacky personality and is very wise though he makes his points in the strangest ways possible. He was my favorite character hands down. My favorite part was when he was jogging around the class room.

My thoughts on this book are: Amazing! Having a crazy teacher in a book is my favorite part of fiction books. I would recommend The Looney Experiment to others because it contains lots of laughs and a valuable life lesson. I enjoyed this book even though I thought I wouldn’t like it. I hope the author will write a sequel. (If he does, I’d love to read it.) I wonder if this book reflects the author’s childhood?  It was a great book and I will definitely read it again.


Read more about the book at Zondervan.com
See what other reviews are saying at BookLookBloggers.com

January 8, 2016

New Christian Video Series with Talking Owls is a Hoot

OwlegoriesFirst there were talking vegetables. You may have heard of them.

Now we have Owlegories with talking owls.

Owlegories is a series of videos where the allegories are a parallel between things found in nature and foundational principles in scripture. In the first DVD, there are three episodes.

  • The Sun – about the nature of God
  • The Seed – about our relationship with God
  • The Water – characteristics of God’s Word

Each episode runs about 16 minutes and preceded by some banter between kids (live actors) and then moves into the episode itself which is entirely animated. The target audience is clearly young children — my guess would be ages 3-9 — but knowing that older kids and parents are watching alongside, there is a very short teaching segment at the end. One the first DVD, those presenters were Jen Wilkin, Matt Chandler and Tony Evans.

The animated sections begin in the classroom; Theowlogy 101 to be precise. The owls are given both a quest and an assignment, but always face the potential of their mission begin thwarted by Devlin, whose name is a bit of a giveaway. They complete the assignment in the course of trying to complete the quest.

Owelgories was the brainchild of husband/wife couple Thomas and Julie Boto who also make brief appearances. In addition to what’s on the DVD there is an offer to download an additional episode for mobile or tablet, as well as a smartphone app.

The series was launched in October, and the end of this month sees a release of Volume 2: The Ant, The Fruit, The Butterfly. You can watch a short trailer here:

After watching the first episode, my wife and I discussed the similarities and differences between the owls and the aforementioned vegetables. While there is some humor in Owlegories to make the adults smile, Veggie Tales was a little more sophisticated in that respect, thus its secondary appeal at middle school sleepovers. The biggest difference we noticed was that the main building blocks of VT episodes were Bible narratives, whereas the Owls are teaching doctrinal principles. Despite this, I would stick with my age 3-9 recommendation.

For those who want to see a strong Christological element in their children’s ministry products, you’re more likely to get that in the teaching segments appended to each episode. In the first DVD at least, the principles taught are somewhat general.

You can learn more about the series at owlegories.com

 

 

 

January 5, 2016

2015 Was Not Worth Remembering

Filed under: blogging, family — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:20 am

I’m told I don’t “write myself” into enough of this blog. Trust me, it’s not worth reading. It would just depress you. In reviewing 2015, would I mention the robbery? Our car was broken into in May — the day before my birthday — resulting in the loss of many things my wife held near and dear that were in her purse at the time. Or the 7 weeks work she lost this summer after falling down the stairs and wrecking her ankle? Or my litany of medical specialist appointments in the first half of the year? Or that the Christian bookstore we apparently own lost money just about every day we unlocked the doors? Or the fact we never got a vacation this year? (Honestly, not one night spent in anything but our own bed.) Or that increasingly, none of our cars are very driveable?

And then there’s the dark cloud that kinda hung over Christmas as it looked like my mother was in her last days. (She’s seems to have recovered, again, for now.)

For my kids however, a much better memory. Our oldest did a 4-month missions excursion in the first third of the year that took him to Denver and then Calgary and then Haiti and then back to Calgary. He ended the year landing a really nice, permanent job.

Our youngest got the lead in the college’s annual play in January and went on from there to have two of his best semesters yet after some rocky residence experiences in his freshman and sophomore years. So for both boys, 2015 weren’t so bad. (Yes, I know it should be wasn’t. Heck, the youngest is an English major.)

But basically, we’ve never been the Christmas newsletter type of family. We have a number of friends who do this; some still by snail mail and some electronically. Often, it all looks so perfect. The Wilkinson Family Newsletter would seem more like a desperate cry for help.

I honestly thought of just making stuff up one year. I think an imaginary life would be rather funny. Or we could introduce fictional characters: ‘Merwin is finally out of rehab and Jocelyn has decided she’s going to keep the baby after all.’

But right now, I can’t see myself writing humor. You have to be in the mood, and when you’ve just spent two weeks in the middle of family crisis, you just can’t shake it off overnight. You need time to heal; like maybe all of 2016.

 

December 25, 2015

Christmas in a Small Town

Filed under: Christmas, family — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:58 am

I’ve reblogged this today from Diane Lindstrom at Nice One Nana. Send her some link love by clicking the title below to read at source and leave comments.

Small Town, Big Connection

I couldn’t figure out how to get my [reward card] points at the local gas station pumps so I decided to ask the lady working inside about the procedure. I mean, free groceries are free groceries, right?

The lady who was working behind the counter had very kind eyes and a gentleness in her ways. She greeted me with a smile and as I fished around my purse for my wallet, she asked me, “So, are you ready for Christmas?”

I told her, “I’m ready. These days have been a quiet countdown to Christmas day. I’m not running around at all. Feels good. How about you? You enjoying the season?”

I was really taken back with the woman’s response.

“Usually, I love this time of the year but my daughter’s husband has been mad at me for the past four months and he won’t let my husband and I see our two grand-kids.” I’m just heartbroken about it.”

I was about to express my sadness about her situation but she began to cry and continued to talk.

“Why do people have to win? Why do they have to be stronger and more powerful and more right? Why can’t people just love each other?

I offered the woman a Kleenex and I just stood with her for a few seconds.

Neither of us talked.

I could see that the woman was embarrassed and as she wiped her eyes, she joked, “This is what happens when you come to a small town gas station!”

I smiled and asked her, “Are you and your husband alone on Christmas Day? Would you like to come to our place?”  I also joked back with, ” An invitation for Christmas dinner at a stranger’s house is also what happens when you serve customers at a small town gas station.”

“Oh, you’re so kind but no…we’re not alone. We have nine children and a handful of grand-kids. We’re going to be eating so many turkeys this Christmas, my husband and I are going to start gobbling. I just can’t understand why people don’t choose love. Not just at Christmas. All the time.” 

I nodded. I couldn’t have said it better.

“Thank you for blessing me with your words. I hope you and your son-in-law reconcile.”

She smiled, handed me a candy cane and said, “Merry Christmas.”

I leaned over the counter and gave her a big hug.

“And to you.”

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12.31


Diane Lindstrom lives in a small town in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Sisters in the Son: Reconnecting Older and Younger Women.

December 15, 2015

Fear of Abandonment

This month’s short story is a true story. Names have been changed.

Grant wasn’t exactly a friend from church and I was told that he and his mom attended somewhat sporadically. I knew him more by reputation than by sight, though we were approximately the same age.

Linda, his mom was in the process of getting a divorce. I think I saw Grant’s dad once ever, and there was also an older brother who wasn’t living at home, which meant that functionally, Grant was an only child.

Short Stories 2Divorce was rather rare in that church at that time. I don’t know if Linda was the only one, but she was the only one I remember. Looking back, I’d like to hope that some people in the church reached out to her, but this was a long time ago and those divorced were treated like lepers.

We reached out to her. Once, anyway. The family situation necessitated going to a downtown lawyer’s office to sign some papers. Lawyers didn’t make house calls back then. They still don’t. It was summertime. No school. So my mother suggested to Linda that she drop Grant off at our house and “the boys could play together.”

I have no idea what that meant. I have a rather vague memory of getting some fresh air in the backyard, and I’m sure that television watching was part of the afternoon.

There were no cell phones back then. It seems strange typing that, but it’s an essential part of the dynamic of the story that it’s easy to overlook today. Linda was overdue to return and suppertime was fast approaching. Linda’s lawyer may have run late. Perhaps traffic was bad. It’s possible she went somewhere after signing the papers to have a good cry. Or even a stiff drink.

Either way, Grant started to get concerned. That quickly changed to worry. Worry led to a full out panic attack. Shortness of breath. Tears.

It wasn’t that Grant was worried, the way you worry about someone who is only a fifteen minute drive away and is now an hour late. It was a different thing, the concern they say that dogs get when you leave them at home: A belief that the person is never coming back.

Grant was freaking out. My mom — and I think my Dad who was home from work by this point — were trying to protect me from viewing the full impact of Grant’s freak-out. I never once had to deal with that, but for the one time I returned to an empty house and my imagination took over with a mix of car accident and rapture scenarios.

When his mom finally did show up, Grant was a mess.

Linda thanked my mom for letting him stay there, and my mom assured him that the afternoon had not at all been what she witnessed upon her return.

I had little contact with Grant after that, and really have no idea where their story took them. I think Linda distanced herself from the church beyond that point; it just wasn’t a good environment for a lone divorced person; especially with all those sit-com-ready perfect families with 2.4 kids following a faith with sacred texts that say things like, “God hates divorce.”

…So why does this story come back to me all these years later? I think that for kids in splintered or fractured families, the fear of abandonment is very real. They want to believe that everything will always be as everything has always been, and yet there is this underlying, nagging suggestion that perhaps someone isn’t coming back.

And if they’re not coming back at Christmas, or after Christmas, that just makes it all so much worse. There is a great vulnerability there that kids in intact families can’t imagine.

December 6, 2015

With Christmas Coming, Do Your Kids Feel a Sense of Entitlement?

We never gave our kids an allowance. Not once. Working for ministry organizations and then owning a commercial ministry where we don’t pay ourselves a salary may have precluded it somewhat. But at the end of the day, I just didn’t see the point. Some kids are paid for being good. Our kids were good for nothing. [Rim-shot!] I just didn’t want them to think that we owed them anything.

We rarely bought our kids much of anything when we went to the mall. Perhaps never is a bit strong. The general presumption was that we were going to look, that the mall was a recreational destination where we would also do some comparison shopping and if the mood hit us, actually make a purchase. There was never the expectation that we would emerge carrying packages. The kids never thought that they were going to come away with increased personal possessions.

As a result, I think my children have a balanced perspective when it comes to materialism. In their mid-teens, they learned to pick up the tab for the things they needed or wanted on their own. It helped that both had paying jobs in high school. A part-time job at that age in our town is nothing short of a miracle.

Now they’re in their 20s. Both have a VISA card, and are well-versed in online banking. My youngest told me he feels guilty when he makes a large purchase. Maybe we need to tweak that attitude a little.

I felt both of them had a head-start when it came to money given the part time jobs. Some start even earlier. I wasn’t ready for the young girl who came into our store with a debit card. I think she was about nine years old. Okay, maybe ten. Not much more than that. It was one of those split-second moments of seeing something almost comedic, like when little boys would dress up in their father’s jackets and ties, back when their fathers actually wore jackets and ties. Maybe the analogy today is wearing their father’s shoes. (Not sure what the girl equivalent is; can tell me?)

The other side to consumerism is that I’ve tried to do is encourage our kids not to waste, because I believe the issue of materialism and the issue of waste go hand-in-hand. Maybe rationing the squares of toilet tissue is a bit much,* but certainly there’s no need for the second glass of the expensive treat we bought, such as Welch’s Grape Juice — the real stuff, not the Grape Cocktail their flogging now — or even a second glass of the cheaper apple juice.

Mind you, they’ve inherited that from me. I see food on the table and feel this desire for more. I had no siblings growing up, yet I seem to be in this constant competition for my fair share. At church potlucks, I tend to position myself close to the food table. I have a sense that all the other people in our congregation are people who will eat my share of the dinner if I do not guard it carefully. Not sure where I got that. But like father like son(s); the kids don’t like to miss out.

My youngest, aka Kid Too, was usually the first to take a piece of chicken or roast beef from the platter, a luxury of choice I was always taught is reserved for the cook, aka Mrs. W. He chooses well. He has taken a culinary course and knows the good pieces. The tender pieces. I always complain at that point that he just took “the best piece.” I am not trying to cause trouble. I sized up the platter before we said the blessing and already saw the piece that I considered the finest, and he took it. More competition.

At this point, I’m thinking of the title of the book by Francis Shaeffer’s daughter, Susan McAuley Schaeffer, How To Be Your Own Selfish Pig. I have been mastering this art for years, but not through actual pigging, but by ranting about the perceived pigging of everyone else.

As I write, it occurs to me that I probably wouldn’t be so obsessed about portion control if my youngest had shown more gratitude during those years. Actually, he does this a great deal, but in other areas. If he were to tell me how much he enjoys the times we purchase the more expensive grape juice, I would probably lavish him with more. He is changing with age however. When he comes home at Christmas I expect his sense of appreciation for all we do to have matured even more, though I still feel I should be saying grace with one eye open…

Then it hits me. That’s what God is waiting for. He has many good things in heaven’s storehouse which have me in mind. But he’s waiting for me to say thanks for what I have been given. As the Biblical story of the ten lepers teaches us, the thank-you rate is about 10%.


 

*I don’t actually ration toilet tissue, though I have been known to do calculations as to the number of squares that — hmmm …too much information?

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