Beautiful Body

Beautiful Body

My body isn’t beautiful

Because it’s 5’11” and 35-22-35

Or even 5’11” and size 10

My body isn’t beautiful

Because it only wears 21 years

Or because it’s free of scars

And extra flesh

My body isn’t beautiful

Because of what flashes past on

The Silver Screen

Tested and molested and ogled and analyzed

By those that count themselves powerful

And Important.

My body is beautiful

Because it is strong enough to climb mountains

Give life, bear scars, feel pain

Yet walk on.

My body is beautiful

Because with its eyes I have seen wonders,

with its feet walked city streets, and run countless miles

With its arms

Carried heavier loads than I thought I could bear,

Held sweet babies,

Hugged my children,

And Loved my husband.

With its hands

Spoken, held flowers

And served those I love

My body is beautiful

Because with its nose

I have smelled the fragrances

Of my childhood home

Distant lands and simple flowers

My body is beautiful

Because with its mouth I have tasted

The glorious sweet of delicacies,

The bitter and the sour and the spicy.

My body is beautiful

Because it is a gift

From my Maker

To experience this glorious and frightening

And magnificent world.

My body is beautiful

Not because you say so

But because I say so.



Knocking Each Other Down in the Race

hamblin dagostino 2

My family loves the Olympics. My husband and I plant our chubby bodies firmly on the couch and watch super-athletes perform the most incredible feats, while we eat ice cream topped brownies with hot fudge. As we watch these young people compete, we are truly amazed what a human is capable of. But sometimes, something really special happens in the Olympic games-and it isn’t always about winning a medal. British runner Mo Farah, for example. Coming into the 2016 games he was the reigning men’s 10,000-meter gold medalist. During his race he stumbled and fell. A fall usually means a runner can say goodbye to a medal, don’t even think about the gold. But Farah understood that the race is long and you for sure can’t win the prize if you stay down, so he got up. And then he won the race.

But an even cooler thing happened during the women’s 5,000-meter qualifier. Two runners, Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand and Abbey D’Agostino of the United States collided causing both runners to hit the ground. Hamblin, dazed, was unable to immediately get up. Still in shock from the sudden fall, she felt a hand on her shoulder and heard a voice say, “Get up, we have to finish this.” Of course it was D’Agostino. With this encouragement, Hamblin was able to get up and continue her race. However, once they were both running again, that is when it became clear that D’Agostino had sustained an injury. Hamblin hung with her a while, but then had to go on to complete her race. After crossing the finish line, Hamblin turned to see the D’Agostino was still running. She was injured, she was limping, but she kept going until she crossed the finish line-where Hamblin was waiting and cheering, ready to embrace D’Agostino when she crossed that line. By choosing to help one another, both allowed precious seconds to tick off the clock towards the goal of making the finals. D’Agostino did not yet know how injured her leg was. Hamblin hung back to make sure D’Agostino would be okay before moving ahead with her race. As a wannabe runner who has run a few races, I know that D’Agostino would have urged Hamblin to go on with her race.

The Bible likens the Christian life to an endurance race. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Philippians 2:16 talks about not wanting to run in vain. 2 Timothy 2:7 says, “I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” So, if we think about the Christian life in these terms, what is the takeaway? It is important to note here that Hamblin and D’Agostino ran into each other. Actually, it is very likely that D’Agostino is the one who ran into Hamblin, given that within the crowded pack of runners it was D’Agostino who was running just behind Hamblin. In the end, though, they caused each other to fall. We often think of falling more in terms of Mo Farah’s situation. He stumbled, whether it was a faulty foot fall, shoe lace, whatever it was, a circumstance lead Farah to fall and he got back up and finished his race. And that is a great analogy. But very often the reality of walking out our Christian faith is much more like Hamblin and D’Agostino. They were in a tightly packed crowd of runners, everyone staying tight in so as not to lose ground. These runner packs are the most dangerous times for runners because of how close they are, it is extremely easy for one runner to inadvertently trip another runner or even collide with anther runner. It happens all the time. The same is true in our own race as believers. When we are running close together, it is inevitable that we will accidently trip each other up. Miscalculations happen. Sometimes our timing is just a little off or our judgement slightly skewed. But what is important is what we do after the fact. When I saw the photos of those two runners, the one reaching out a hand to help the other up, then embracing at the end of the race, I thought-that’s it! That is exactly how the Christian life should look. When D’Agostino tapped Hamblin on the shoulder and said, “Get up! We have to finish this,” there was no discussion of who tripped who, no worry about how helping the other would affect their own chances at a win, there were simply two fellow Olympians standing back up to finish the race. This is much like the Scripture which tells us “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4, ESV). We do not run our race alone. God expects us to run the race together and He knows that we will cause one another to stumble, so he gave us a long list of “one anothers” to cover every circumstance:

  • Accept one another-Accept one another then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Rom. 15:7)
  • Admonish one another-Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Col. 3:16)
  • Bear one another’s burdens-Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2)
  • Put up with one another-Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. (Eph. 4:2)
  • Build up one another-Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (Rom. 14:19)
  • Care for one another-So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. (1 Cor. 12:25)
  • Comfort one another-Therefore encourage each other with these words. (1 Thess. 4:18)
  • Confess faults to one another-Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)
  • Be Devoted to one another-Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. (Rom. 12:10a)
  • Encourage one another-Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thess. 5:11)
  • Fellowship with one another-But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. (1 Jn. 1:7)
  • Forgive one another-Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph. 4:32)
  • Be Honest with one another-Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices . . . (Col. 3:9)
  • Honor one another-Honor one another above yourselves. (Rom. 12:10b)
  • Be Hospitable to one another-Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Pet. 4:9)
  • Be Kind to one another-Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph. 4:32)
  • Love one another-Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another . . . (Rom. 13:8)
  • Members one of another-So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Rom. 12:5)
  • Pray for one another-Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)
  • Be of the Same Mind with one another-May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves (original=same mind among each other) as you follow Christ Jesus . . . (Rom. 15:5)
  • Serve one another-You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (Gal. 5:13)
  • Spur one another on-And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Heb. 10:24)
  • Submit to one another-Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Eph. 5:21)

Within these verses is the forgone conclusion that we will need to practice what they contain. These verses are not talking about how we treat the world, (though that is important as well) they are talking about how we treat each other! We will need to confess faults, forgive, encourage, pray for, serve, be kind, build up, put up with and love one another! And when we knock each other down, let us, like D’Agostino and Hamblin, waste no time with vain arguments and blame but rather “Spur one another on to love and good deeds.”

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16, ESV)

It’s a Hate-Hate Relationship: Social Media and the Political Season

On this 14th 9/11 commemoration I am taking a break from my marriage series to reflect on some other issues that have been on my mind recently.

Earlier in the week I read a post that clearly stated that the entire constituency of a particular political party “thinks poor people are poor because they are lazy.” Presumably this statement is aimed at conservative republicans. While it is true that there are constituents of the party that are simple-minded enough to boil poverty down to one reason—laziness, it discounts the millions of party members that understand that poverty is a complex issue, that it blends a mixture of long-standing social and governmental constructs that contribute to its perpetuation in our culture. I point this out only to say that we, all of us, have a tendency to over-simplify how others, with views differing from our own, see and understand the world. For instance, I subscribe to a couple of conservative blogs. I never re-post their articles because know them to be insulting to liberals and an over-simplification of some of their views. One of these blogs frequently refers to Hilary Clinton as “Hildebeast.” I am no supporter of Hilary. Indeed there are issues over which I so deeply disagree with her and concerns I have about her that the divide will not likely be bridged. Yet I refuse to dehumanize her with those kind of insults. This is a dangerous game. The more you simplify how another sees the world and the more you dehumanize them the more likely you are to create a divide of hatred between yourself and that person. This will happen in your own heart and it will happen in the other person as well. You really don’t have to agree with or believe the same thing as another person in order to hear them. And you don’t have to shout out (or click out) insults in order to be heard.
Freak out gif
This brings me to some grave concerns that have been roiling in my spirit the last several weeks. I have this sense of greater hatred and deeper divides than I have felt in my many years on the planet and in this country. It feels more racially divided. It feels more politically divided. It feels more philosophically divided and certainly more socially divided. It feels like different groups and factions are moving farther and farther into their perspective corners. Each one seems to send out a fighter to beat living crap out of each other in an all-out philosophical brawl. It seems like since the advent and proliferation of social media the divide has grown again to a greater extent than it has since the days before and during the civil rights riots of the sixties-though I wasn’t alive then, so I couldn’t truly say how things were.

Here’s the thing about social media. It is so easy to click those keys and say the most outrageously insulting things to one another or about one another. It is easy to grab images and memes and GIFs, laugh at and share them. These images, memes and GIFs almost always boil down an issue a person or a group into one thing and rarely ever take into consideration the complexities that lead any given group or person to their beliefs, philosophies or situations. Then again, I have seen people post images supporting a group or person or idea and have seen others respond to that post, greatly offended merely because of the fact that they didn’t agree with the idea, group or sentiment. It wasn’t because the sentiment was particularly offensive toward any other person or group but merely a post that was positive towards a particular person or group. Fights and divisions then crop up because people take offense that you dare to support something that they do not.

So, now we find ourselves well into the campaign season for the upcoming presidential election. I both love and hate the election season. I love the election season because every few years we are given an opportunity to make changes we believe need implementing, to start fresh, so to speak. Or we are given an opportunity to continue with policies and elected officials we believe are doing a good job or are perpetuating our particular political philosophy. It is a time that can and should be filled with great honor, considered a great privilege and be filled with optimism. Instead, it has become a time of anxiety, anger and hatred. Facebook feeds suddenly become filled with those very memes and GIFs I was talking about earlier. Those broad brushing, sweeping statements that insult an entire group and paint them in the worst possible light.

I say that if you have to broad brush my political viewpoint, religious beliefs or philosophical stand using insults then you must have a very weak argument to support yours (or lack thereof). This political season I would like to post support for my chosen candidate from time to time. I am excited about a few people in the field of candidates. I am a political conservative. I am a Christian. I never want to misrepresent myself or what point of view I will defend and uphold with my support and vote. There’s nothing that forces me to tell you that. I want to tell you that because I welcome honest and respectful discourse.

I want to commit to something this election season. I hope to encourage others to commit to the same thing as well. I commit to posting things that are in support of my chosen candidate(s) that make a positive argument for my political point of view. I will refrain from posting insulting or broad brushing posts about any other political party or candidate(s) with opposing views. I do not promise to refrain from asking real questions about candidates that ought to be asked of each of them. But the questions will be regarding real issues that have to do with their integrity, stance on issues and ability to lead, not in an accusatory or insulting way, but in a way that gives anyone the opportunity to give a real answer. Sometimes the answer to the question will be that a given candidate is indeed weak in a particular area or there may be a valid answer.

I want to encourage anyone who will listen, begin considering what you are posting before you click. Is it worthwhile? Does it openly or sarcastically insult entire groups of people? Does it promote unity, does it further knowledge, or does it bring laughter or a smile? If it does, great, post it. If it tears people or groups down, if it promotes greater divide, if it promotes violence or hatred then please, ask yourself, is it really worth posting? And when someone else does post in support of something you disagree with, ask yourself if you really need to respond viscerally before you’ve had a chance to take a look at the world from that person’s point of view. They probably didn’t post their support in order to directly insult or oppose you. They just wanted to show support for a cause close to their hearts. See that—understand that before you fling the insults.

Having said all this I am sure I may still be tempted when an issue really fires me up. And It sure is hard to resist making fun of one particular candidate. I won’t say any names but he may have floppy hair. See what I did? I’m not perfect. Nonetheless I shall endeavor to both support my party, my faith and my philosophy with all of my heart while practicing the principles I laid out here. I want to take a moment to acknowledge that we, in America, have a long history of political satire in our country. If you are really skilled writer and satirist, then have a go. But you probably aren’t. You probably just sound rather ignorant. So be careful!

Lastly, this election season as I reflect upon 9/11 my mind keeps turning to the picture of a woman, trapped above the impact floors. She stood in her business skirt looking now over the raw and jagged precipice created by the destruction, making a choice. Burn to death or jump to my death? She took her fate into her own hands and rather than be consumed by the flames she chose to jump. As she did so, she placed her hands on her skirt to stop it from flying up. How exquisitely human, this gesture of modesty even in the face of certain death. As I think of this I think about the many suffering and hurting humans in the world today, I think about the things that make us feel so divided, about where we have come since that horrible day. I reflect on the fact that social media has contributed to this divide, people willing to say the meanest things at the click of the button or to broad brush entire groups of people based on the actions of some. And I think today, I want only to reach a hand across a divide and say, I know you don’t think exactly like me, we may even vehemently disagree on some issues, but I acknowledge your inherent value as a human being. No matter what. This doesn’t mean I think the world should be consequence free or that all ideas are equally beneficial, it means only that all humans are of equal dignity and value.

Particularly this morning, I read a post that said “NEVER FORGET, NEVER FORGIVE.” To “never forget” I say, yes! Yes, never forget the sheer magnitude of loss that day. Never forget the decimated potential. Never forget what hatred, unforgiveness and enmity causes. It causes 9/11. To “never forgive” I say vengeance should not be the motivation for chasing down terrorists with extreme prejudice. Love is the reason we do it. Love for those that are in harm’s way because of the bitterness and hatred in men’s heart. So, no, I will not hold the credo “never forgive” in my heart because I always want to leave room there for both love and peace whenever it may be had. It may not always be had, but it will not be because I chose to hold on to hatred, it will because someone else did and innocent lives need protecting. It will be because good people cannot stand by and watch while evil insinuates itself on the world. So I encourage you to speak out on issues you hold dear. Fight for your values, stand up for your principles but never do so at the cost of dehumanizing someone else, even if you feel you must take a very strong stand against them. May THIS 9/11 bring you peace.

“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Romans 12:18

“Do not accuse anyone for no reason– when they have done you no harm.” Proverbs 3:30

Marriage Cancer: Children

couple fighting

When asking the question—what kills marriages—there are some obvious answers. Clearly physical abuse is a marriage killer as is adultery. Secret addictions are marriage killers too. When a wife has an out of control spending addiction, for instance, and is hiding $50,000 of credit card debt, well that’s a betrayal isn’t it? Addiction to porn or physical sexual relationships outside of the marriage, drug and alcohol addiction, physical abuse, these things will all kill a marriage for sure. So yes, these things are great big, terrible marriage killers.
While a lot of marriages fail because of great big, heinous problems, I would say most fail because of more subtle marriage killers. Things we tend not to think of as that much of a big deal and therefore do not guard diligently against. But they are no less dangerous to a marriage. They are a cancer that eats the marriage from the inside, unseen and unknown until the marriage is already on the precipice of death. A frequent and very difficult to diagnose form of marriage cancer comes from the children that are a result of the marriage. Everyone is excited about a new baby, but if mom and dad don’t agree on how to raise the kids, it will become a real source of contention.
There is no doubt that children need discipline. I mean, have you met any of them? Not only is it evident by their behavior and sheer lack of knowledge of what is dangerous both physically and emotionally, the Bible tells us that parents who do not discipline their children might as well hate them. Proverbs 19:18 tells us, “Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.” (NIV).
The honest truth here, sadly, is that sometimes parents cannot even come to an agreement over the fact that a child needs discipline much less what kind is appropriate to administer. Every person must understand that they bring to the marriage a set of preconceived notions. Now these notions may be really good, healthy ones. They may also be very dysfunctional ones. Everyone simply comes into the marriage with an idea of how marriage works, how child-rearing works and it does not always align with what the partner thinks. Some families are loud talkers, some are yellers, some stew quietly in anger. Some families spank, some are very controlling, some are very permissive.
Whatever the case may be, each person will come with these deeply held beliefs. You often are not even aware you have these beliefs. They are not necessarily things you think about. Suppose a woman’s dad always kept her mom’s gas tank filled. Subsequently when she got her license, he did the same with her car. It’s not something she really ever thought about, until she runs out of gas on the side of the road. Now this is an issue because her husband isn’t caring for her as she expected. Well, his mom worked odd hours and was very independent anyway. His family just worked that way. Neither is a superior way of being. Just different. These two did not even know about the expectation until it went unmet. This is also true regarding the question of how to raise children.
Let’s take Mr. and Mrs. John and Jane Smith. (I would love to know if that is your actual name-that would be really great, but if it is I am not talking about you!) John and Jane have been married four years and they have a two year old, Junior. The proud mom and dad take Junior out to dinner with them—a family outing! Junior has learned that he can get a rise out of momma by throwing the salt and pepper shakers on the ground. Momma picks them back and gently says “no-no” but Junior likes this game. He does it again. Momma puts the shakers out of reach. Junior is smarter than that. There are plenty of things close enough to throw on the floor. He does so with all the force his little arms can muster, and does so while looking momma right in the face, In other words, Junior is being defiant on purpose. Dad believes Junior is old enough, and has seen evidence that, Junior can understand perfectly what is meant by “no.” When momma is gone, Junior obeys dad just fine. Dad has enough of the defiance and scoops Junior out of the high chair to take to the bathroom. Jane is upset that John would swat Junior’s butt. She exclaims that Junior is “just a baby” and insists that John put him down. John complies, Junior continues to throw everything within reach and Jane is mortified at his behavior and they leave the restaurant as quick as possible. Jane decides its best to not take Junior out in public for a long while.
The biggest issue here is not whether you believe in spanking or not. By far the biggest issue is Jane undermining John. Whatever your philosophy on child-rearing and discipline, a married couple must absolutely come to an agreement on these matters. While it is not always the mother undermining the father, it frequently is. I have seen too many mothers, believing (sometimes even subconsciously) that their husbands are incompetent or not as capable as they are. In doing so, they interfere with dad’s parenting and discipline, creating a frustrated and emasculated husband who then grows too discouraged to try any more. Dad leaves the child-rearing up to mom. This, in turn creates a mom who, in turn, feels overburdened by the task of child-rearing and then there is a rift between dad and kids, mom and dad and mom and kids.
Further, mom and dad need to discuss what sorts of activities they each think are appropriately safe or have an acceptable amount of risk associated with them. Take football for example. Perhaps the mom grew up with a football coach for a dad. Her brothers all played. She realizes there is risk but thinks the benefit of team sports and her son’s love of the game outweighs the risks. Dad is an academic. He sees no value in football and furthermore, the risks far outweigh the benefits in his mind. This can be a great source of contention within the family. What age is appropriate for children to date? Is the common way of dating even a thing you want for your children? When can kids play outside alone? There are many questions in this arena that can become a source of an argument and hurt feelings. Yet they are infrequently ever thought of, much less discussed before a couple gets married or has children. Suppose your son playing football is incredibly important to you. You really believe that if he wants to he should be allowed to pursue this interest? If you marry someone on the other side of the issue you find yourself having to give up your belief or flat out go against your spouse’s wishes.
Guard yourself against this by doing two things: first, before you get married, find a pastoral team that will conduct in-depth pre-marriage counseling. There are great exercises out there that ask these very sorts of questions to get a couple discussing and coming to a compromise both can feel good about before children ever come into the picture. Second, research some books on child discipline. Get a feel for the view of the author—does he promote spanking? Timeouts? Neither? Perhaps choose one or two and read that book together. Discuss what feels right to each of you and then decide on the discipline standards in your home. Be open to your spouse’s or finance’s thoughts on the matter. Don’t necessarily insist on your own way. Come to a balance you can both live with that combines consequences and mercy, for doesn’t even our God himself display both discipline and mercy? Isn’t his discipline often the same thing as his mercy? Discipline, though it can hurt, is often a much softer consequence than allowing certain behaviors to go on.
These steps are vital. The final step once you have agreed to the methods, boundaries and standards of child-rearing is to avoid undermining one another at all costs! Children are happier, mom and dad are too, when there is unity between the parents. While paying consequences is never fun for anybody, children thrive in a home where mom and dad are at peace with one another and where they stand unified. The child knows what to expect.
The very best guard against this form of marriage cancer is preventative medicine. Get counseling and come into agreement before you ever get married. If you’re already married, but don’t yet have kids, dig up all the information you can child rearing and them come into agreement before they are ever born. If you are already married, have kids and find yourself in contention, don’t just throw your hands up and disengage. This will cause your marriage to disintegrate. Get help. Find a method for problem solving and utilize it. This will bring peace into a disorderly home. Remember though, that if the kids have been getting by with stuff because mom and dad have been at odds, you’re going to get some push back from them. Stay solid, stay united. Your home and your marriage will settle into a peaceful rhythm if you lock arms and stick up for each other.

Stronger Than This

I am not generally given to writing much poetry. I wrote a good deal of it in my early 20’s, most of driven by youthful angst. And I feel that poetry is for the young for that very reason. Time and age have worn away that youthful angst and replaced it with calm assurance. However, I do find moments in life when I am driven to write a bit of poetry yet. As it turns out, the following poem was written in response to the tragic loss of the person that drove much of that angst when I was young. But it is different now. I moved on to find not a perfect life but a very happy and peaceful one. He did not. This is for him and the for the daughter that my time with him left me. I can never be sad or sorry for that time for she is a very great gift.

Stronger Than This
Despair. It creeps into your soul slowly, taking it inch by inch.
In silence it stalks the farthest reaches of your mind, the places where
Hope tries to hide.
It lurks in shadow, waiting for long years, not deterred by time or
Human psychology
It watches lustily and remembers all your naked shame
It reaches out its bony hand and gently strokes your face, offering
“Come with me” it beckons the weary traveler, “I will give you rest.”
And violently it breaks the world.
Is anything stronger than this?
Indeed, for despair is not so strong as it is patient and deceitful.
Love is the Truth that can bring despair to its knees,
Send it scurrying back to the dark pit from whence it crawled
Trailing its lies behind
“But I loved,” you say, “and still he died.”
Would that you could understand
It is not mere human love, which perceives the need
To say it will be okay when it really won’t
That says
You deserve to be happy
You are worthy
Hollow platitudes
No, it is the love that knows the deepest recess of your
Broken heart
That reads your every thought,
Sees past your façade and knows your unrepentant
Pride, greed, jealousy, slander and glee
And every action done in the dark, caring only for the moment of pleasure
Though it wounded someone’s soul or body or both
Even, if only, your own
And understands completely your guilt and bore it
It is the love that says, though you are unworthy,
Yet still do I remove your shame
And is the lifter of your head
Look, look, oh, please look
Please look into the face of that love
That is the Love that is Truth.

Perfect Parenting in 7 Easy Steps (Okay, maybe not perfect but they got me through it)

A friend of mine is pregnant and asked a few friends to share some “words of wisdom” about parenting and I was privileged to be among that number. Since you asked and since I’m a writer you get a blog post! This is dedicated to you, Teri, my beautiful friend.
For the new mommy and daddy:
Welcome, friends to the wonderful world of parenting. You are about to embark on a journey that will last a lifetime. Your journey will be filled with adventures and missteps, occasional pain, frustration and frequent joy, if you let it. You won’t do it perfectly, so don’t get caught up in beating yourself up or wasting any time trying to be or look perfect. God has chosen you to be the mom and dad of the brand new person hanging out in your womb. The Lord already gifted you with everything you need to bring him up, so don’t worry too much.

Here are a few things I learned along the way:

1) The first best gift you can give your child is spiritually healthy parents. Don’t place your child before your relationship with God. Your relationship with God will make you a better parent. “And now these three things remain: faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love.” You will need all three in abundance, cultivate them purposely.

2) The second best gift you can give your child is parents who love each other. It is easy to lose yourselves in the mundane day to day business of parenting. Wife, don’t forget to be your husband’s girlfriend and husband, don’t forget to be your wife’s boyfriend. Dream together, talk, plan, hope, commiserate together. Be best friends. Kids flourish under the light of two parents who genuinely love each other. Your relationship creates a sense of security and stability that allows them to grow in the best possible environment. Not only that, they learn what a love relationship ought to look like. Lastly, remember that someday your children will be gone from your home and it will be just the two of you again. Don’t neglect the friend you hope to have in your old age for the sake of the kids that will leave the house.

3) Develop a parenting plan. Choose a book, or a few, and read them together. A little study will save you a lot of potential heart break. There are many great books out there. They espouse various philosophies. Some advocate spanking, some advocate time out, some lean toward attachment parenting. The important thing is not so much which approach you choose, but to choose one together and to follow through with it. My personal favorite is Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. And very, very importantly, never undermine one another to your child. This is important, especially for mommies to remember. We often tend to think (not always on purpose) that we know best and too often interfere with daddy’s discipline. Trust your husband. Let him be a dad. Your kids need you both, that is why it took the both of you to make them. Back each other up!

4) Think in terms of the big picture. You are, in reality, launching an adult into the world, not a child. That doesn’t mean you should start treating your new born like an adult. It means that as you think, plan and discipline you should keep in mind how your decisions will contribute to turning your child into the kind of adult you hope he will be. When you are caught up in mounds of laundry, dinner-making, sinks full of dirty dishes and tantrum-throwing toddlers, stop and remember what is most important. Laundry, dinner and dishes will always be there, but your chance to teach your child won’t. In those baby and toddler years, it can be tempting to avoid leaving the house with your child. You feel overwhelmed and that toddler challenges you at every corner. Don’t give in to this temptation. Get out, take the kid with you. Risk a scene in public. Your child learns how to behave because you teach him what is acceptable and what is not. You can’t teach him this if he never experiences being challenged to behave appropriately in restaurants, stores, museums, parks and movie theaters. Sure, you may have to abandon the activity if little Johnny flips out, but you have begun a lesson that will teach him the things he needs to know to get along in the world.

5) Major on the majors and just don’t even worry about the minors. Say “yes” as often as you can so that when you say “no” you aren’t drowning yourself out in too long a set of rules. This is best accomplished by focusing on matters of character. This will grow in importance as your child grows into the teenage years. Give your child plenty of room to be himself. If something interests him or he likes a certain style of dress that you don’t particularly like, ask yourself if the interest is a matter of character and if it isn’t, then why stress about it? Your child is an autonomous being. Let it happen. You want it to. But draw the line when matters of character come in to question. The presumption is that you want to launch a responsible, modest, hard-working, honest, kind person into the world. Hold the line with an iron fist in these matters and practice liberality in the rest.

6) Simply like your child. This may sound strange, like it would come naturally, but that is not always the case. Your child is a unique person, with a unique personality. That personality may or may not be a natural fit for your personality. Get to know your child for who he is. Remember to laugh, play and have fun with your kid as you develop your relationship with him. And, frankly, decide to like him for who he is. A tomboyish mother may get a girly-girl daughter or an artsy dad might get an athletic son, or any combination there-in. Let your kids be who they are and learn to like it! Don’t compare them to other kids, either outside or inside your home. Compare your child only to the best version of himself and help him become that.

7) Lastly, trust your instincts. You will get a lot of advice along the way. Everyone thinks they know the best way to do this thing, but the truth is, every child is unique and even within your own home you will find that discipline techniques that work with one child make no difference in another. In the final analysis, you will be held responsible for the children you were given. So whether you breast-feed, cloth-diaper, wear your baby, spank, give time-outs, co-sleep, or do them all or some or none, don’t worry about what others think of you. You must look into your own heart and soul and after you do, look yourself in the mirror and answer the question, “Am I doing the right thing?” No one else can truly answer that for you. And never forget to enjoy the ride, mom and dad. It’s like a roller coaster with ups and downs and thrills and over way too soon.

The Law of Love in a Shifting Culture

Faith Adrift in a Postmodern Sea

As our society changes and evolves and I and my children and friends and my faith community are faced with ever evolving values and shifting truths and indeed shifting views on the very nature of truth and even outright denial that there IS TRUTH, I wonder, how now are we to live?

Our world has been dominated by the ebb and flow of many philosophies, cultural norms and religious ideas. Many have come and now vanished from the face of the earth. But the Judeo-Christian ethic  is one that has remained through much of human history. Whether one adheres to its philosophy or not , there can be no denying that it has a long, long tradition behind it. For many years, we had been accustomed to that same ethic dominating western thought. But today, that is no longer true. We live in the post-Christian era. This thought may feel…

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