Monday, September 28, 2009

I agree with the French President...who'd of thought?

I wrote this note a week ago during the UN summit and after recent statements by French President Nicolas Sarkozy I've decided to post my own commentary regarding current U.S. foreign policy. Here goes:

President Obama’s foreign policy appears naive at best and dangerous at worst. The administration’s most recent decision to scrap the ground base missile defense shield for Eastern Europe telegraphs a posture of indifference toward our allies and panders dangerously to our enemies. Likewise our approach to strategic arms reduction at this point in time puts our national security and that of our allies at great risk – at risk because those to whom we would make ourselves vulnerable do not adhere to the same rules.

We endanger our own citizens as The United States caves to world pressure to be nice and play fair. Our longtime allies – Poland, The Czech Republic and Israel sense betrayal, and these friends are certain to bear the brunt of our attempts to court dictators like Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Kim Jong-il. And for what do we trade our friends? Is it the reputation as a tolerant, world-conscious United States, or is it for treaties with pompous leaders who would use our Chamberlain-like acquiescence to move forward with their own maniacal plans – nuclear proliferation and the like?

Has history taught us nothing? Is it possible that diplomats think so much of themselves that they believe they can make mad people sane by catering to their whims and entertaining their lunacy? This is the height of arrogance. This pride and denial of reality is what put Europe in danger in the 1930s and set the stage for fiends like Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini.

I suppose many are tired of hearing references to the WWII era, but they bear repeating. We are following in the footsteps of a weak and woeful Great Britain weighed down by the ineptitude of Neville Chamberlain. But the stakes are far greater today as we deal with an unparalleled access to information and technology – technology which can cripple and kill from thousands of miles away or be carried lightly in a suitcase.

Have we imagined that man’s consciousness has evolved since the 1930s? Have we gone mad? Evil is still evil. Men still thirst for power and will seek to promote themselves to the detriment of others when left unchecked. There is no negotiating with mad men. They understand nothing, but their own lusts. They respect nothing but the fear they incite, and they will hear no voice but their own.

Appeasement is futile.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Delinquent Tooth Fairy

You know your kids are growing up when they begin to dispense with make-believe characters like the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Now Santa Claus is a little more difficult to let go of, but the Tooth Fairy – let’s just say my son has no problem throwing her under the bus.

My oldest son is nine and reason is beginning to settle in his mind leaving less room for childish notions. Recently he lost a tooth, and like most children his age, he assumes this means money in his pocket via his pillow. We have yet to address this sense of entitlement.

After the initial excitement of the lost tooth began to fade my son approached me with a look of diplomacy. “Mom, since we both know who the Tooth Fairy really is, I just want to remind you that I’m putting my tooth under my pillow tonight. I don’t want you to forget because last time I got really frustrated when the Tooth Fairy didn’t come – for a LONG time.” After this tender reprimand, he walked off to examine his toothless grin.

I had been dressed down by my nine-year-old son. He was right of course. The tardy Fairy was derelict in her duty by about two weeks (please don’t judge the Fairy). Poor boy kept looking under his pillow every morning to find nothing but his little baby tooth. I kept telling him the Tooth Fairy probably couldn’t get into his room because all the windows were closed. He wasn’t buying it.

Eventually the tooth disappeared, but nothing took its place. We would discover later that it had slipped down into the abyss under my son’s bed. I determined this time I would not forget about the tooth. The Fairy had been put on notice.

Throughout the rest of the day I continued to receive little notes from my son delivered on scraps of paper and napkins. The first note was delivered via airmail. It spiraled down from the loft and landed at my feet. I picked it up and read, “De-spare tooth...under pillow.” My son explained that it was an adaptation of a joke about a very sad car tire, De-spare tire. Ha!

After a long day I crawled into my bed ready for a good night’s sleep. I leaned over to my nightstand to grab a book and found scrawled on a napkin, “Don’t forget about my tooth.” A smile caught my lips; I shook my head in disbelief and proceeded to read my book.

After all of that, there is no justifying the inaction that followed. Despite many reminders the Tooth Fairy remained true to form. Attribute it to ADD or pure exhaustion, but the Fairy did not visit the pillow of the toothless boy that evening or the next. Lazy Fairy! The Poor little tooth was bound to lie in despair under my son’s pillow a little while longer. And due to the Fairy’s gross negligence, taxes, and tooth inflation, I suppose my son is now “entitled” to a larger payday.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Do Over!

We homeschool.

This statement elicits a myriad of responses and suggests as many teaching styles.

Homeschool stereotypes are not hard to come by. Some suit us, others do not. I’m not sure that you could label us a typical homeschool family, because no two are alike. The most common characteristic of families who homeschool is they are Independent.

Given that disclaimer, it shouldn’t be too surprising that my children are fairly independent learners, but like any child they require good instruction to point them in the right direction.

One particular morning my newly initiated second-grader was demonstrating just such independence. She had been attacking her math all morning, completing three days of assignments (6 pages) in one sitting without my prompting. While I busied myself with varied household duties she moved on to Grammar.

Between Laundry and dishes I wandered over to check on her and discovered that she had entered unfamiliar territory. She was faced with putting a group of words in alphabetical order.

The directions were clear enough to me but baffled my daughter. Being the self-starter that she is, she moved forward performing the task as best she knew how without asking for my help.

She took the list of five words she was given – EAT, ORANGE, ABOVE, GRAPE and BANANA and instead of placing the group in ABC order, she alphabetized each word. EAT became AET, ORANGE became AEGNOR...well you get the picture! She had done an excellent job in HER assessment of the situation, and I praised her for her ingenuity; however she did not complete the task assigned. She had misunderstood and consequently had to do it again. It was an understandable mistake, but a mistake nonetheless, which resulted in having to start over.

How often have I with the best of intentions moved forward on my own accord doing just what I thought was best or necessary and made a great mess of things simply because I misinterpreted a situation or flat out didn’t understand? I wish life was as easy as Grammar. Just read the directions, follow the instructions, and at the end of the day wad up the pieces of life that I did wrong, throw them away and start over.

I spend so much time agonizing over the consequences of my actions real and imagined that I often make things worse through my worry or attempts to make things right. Though I can’t cite a “do over” and change my past I can admit to my error and ask forgiveness for a wrong and clear direction for the future.

The Psalmist King David writes of God:

"he does not treat us as our sins deserve or
repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:10-12

John writes:

"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.' But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, 'If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.' Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.

Jesus straightened up and asked her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' 'No one, sir,' she said. 'Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. 'Go now and leave your life of sin.'"
John 8:3-11

What incredibly good news! Through Jesus, God has given us a “do over.” If we confess our sin before him and leave it behind, he no longer holds it against us. We may not be able to undo our mistakes big or small, but we can start over with a better understanding.

That is why I am thankful for the Bible which introduces us to God, reminds us of his faithfulness through past generations and enlightens us of his promises for our future. Through this guide He provides clear direction for anything we will encounter and grants us an unparalleled opportunity to start over – with better instructions!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Moms Stink!

“I don’t like Moms.”

Just four careless words that tumbled out of my 5-year-old’s mouth last week. I’m sure no parent relishes hearing that their child dislikes them, but here was my daughter swearing off a whole class – not one mom but all moms! I suppose I should find comfort in this. She doesn’t want another mom; she was just stating her perspective – Moms stink! Ok, so I’m feeling a little vulnerable and hyperbolic.

I posed the obvious question.

“Why don’t you like moms?”

“Because they make us do things like clean up our rooms, and they don’t let us eat candy, and they don’t let us have Gatorade whenever the boys do,” was her honest reply.

Fair enough.

Like my daughter, I remember not liking my mom very much at times and even making similar statements (sorry Mom). I also remember vowing NEVER to do many of the things that I now do with great ease and justification. So let me join the ranks of the guilty that look back over their childhood and cringe at how they treated their parents. I now see with clarity much wisdom in many of the actions my parents took.

The statement at hand has also caused me to reflect on my father/daughter relationship with God. I don’t think I’ve ever told God that I don’t like him, but too often my actions display just that sentiment. Like a wayward preschooler I whine and drag my feet toward my appointed task resisting with every excuse that comes to mind.

The truth is I don’t want to clean up the mess of a room that lies within my heart. It’s too much work. It’s overwhelming. There are so many other fun things to do. In addition, it’s so tempting to eat and take in things that aren’t good for me. Wouldn’t it be easier to be my own boss and do things my own way? So I essentially say, “I don’t need you God. I don’t like you. I can do it on my own.”

But like my 5-year-old who cannot sustain or protect herself, neither can I sustain or protect my spirit. Like my daughter who generally functions out of self-motivated desire, I function in that place too. Though I am grown and would assume to know more as master of my own destiny, the context of my world most often revolves around me and my understanding of it. But my understanding is flawed and falls short making me a lousy god.

The apostle Paul writes of his own flawed understanding:
“When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:21-25

Additionally Isaiah writes:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my
ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9

I recognize the truth and power of these words as I read them, but I only experience peace and freedom as I relax and submit myself to God’s authority. My struggle only creates confusion and pain.

I realize that natural human instinct moves us to fight for independence and strive for our own way; so I wait paitently for a quiet moment when I can wrap my arms around my daughter and hold her - as God holds me. For as long as I can I will attempt to comfort and guard this little one from those things that might bring her harm, and I will pray that she finds rest as she yields to these arms of love.