“I Want a Love Like Mom and Dad Have”

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Good, they’re both home.

He parked the pickup behind his parents sedans already in the driveway. I’ll remember the code when I get to the door. With only a two-day break before second semester started, it seemed right to surprise them. Climbing out of the truck, moist grass welcomed his feet. One easy hop took him up the three steps to the door.

Yes! 9158. Music, ever so faint, leaked from inside, hurrying him in. In the quiet front hall, a familiar warmness flowed over him. So good to be home. He hung his coat on the stair rail and headed in the direction his nose usually pointed him. Mom’s famous soup! The almost intoxicating aroma intensified the closer he got to the kitchen. And the music swelled too. They’re home alright.

You’re just too good to be true….Can’t take my eyes off of you.

You feel like heaven to touch, I want to hold you so much,

You’re just too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off of you.”

The moment seemed sacred, them not knowing he stood watching. His dad swayed his mom to the song as if nothing else existed. She smiled up at him, totally engrossed in his embrace, until he twirled her around and she caught sight of her youngest son in the doorway.

“Uh, hi, Dad, Mom… sorry to barge in, but it is only five, and I didn’t think I’d be… but, dang it, you told me last year to start knocking… I’m sorry… I forgot.”

“Hey, hey, Bud, no problem!” John hugged his boy and then dropped into the closest chair, grinning. “We’re decent, aren’t we? Good to see you, Son! Come on in, sit down…what brings you all the way from Virginia?”

As the three chatted about “the latest” in the tiny den by the kitchen, Jay soaked in his surroundings. This was the life he left behind almost four years ago. Why would he just now see it? They’d always shown love for each other. So why the lump in his throat just now? Could it be the non-breakup, break up he’d just been texted last week? Could it be the series of divorces he’d heard about lately? Or maybe he’d talked to enough girls now- dated enough- to find only a few who said their parents truly liked each other.

“Mom, Dad, I hope I have a marriage like yours. You guys make it look easy to be happy…”

Can there be a higher compliment than this? One of my sixty-something friends shared this story while we chatted over coffee. Her son had toasted a similar version at their 40th wedding anniversary party. Then she said this:

“Our kids are jealous of us. They see us kiss in the kitchen, dance in every room, and laugh wherever we are. They wonder out loud when will it be their turn!”

Growing older isn’t on anyone’s bucket list. But it happens to most of us. And it presents a double challenge. Is my purpose in life bigger than my age, and am I in love with my mate?

Do you have that marriage? Did your parents have that marriage? Who do you know with that marriage? I can’t wait to hear about it!

Purity Culture, Kissing, and a Look in the Rear-view Mirror

GoforthFamily1992

Our Family in 1992

     When any event brings our family together, you won’t hear munching around the table. As each one vies to get a word in edgewise, the discussion is always lively. But one topic quiets me — the parenting of our first teens.

My rear view mirror reflects the phenomenon known now as the Christian purity culture. It marched into our lives just as our older kids hit puberty. Banners waved “The Answer.” “No Dating.” “No Kissing.” The new standard fascinated us. We joined the revolution.

Thankfully, our kids know what motivated us – a safer path for them. During the sexual  revolution of the 60’s and 70’s, my husband and I dated dozens of people –and kissed most of them. So what that we attended church regularly? We carried scars. And we desperately hoped that our kiddos could avoid the pain and peer pressure of our past.

As pendulums do, we swung toward legalism. Surely, we thought, raising our teens in a kissless culture will hold temptation at bay. Of course we knew that only a personal relationship with Christ could navigate them through the minefield of romance and sex. Yet the lure of “do’s and don’ts” seemed irresistible

And for the first time in modern history, purity culture brides walked to the altar kiss-less. To be fair, many couples gladly chose to save their first kiss for the wedding. But what makes me blush now is that we believed the kissless formula would provide a better chance of a strong marriage. We knew it wasn’t that simple, but yet…

Gradually, when our last two entered the teens, we walked out of the fog. Although our first two married in the thick of it, our new insight showed that purity movement rules were often founded on Fear (that kids would stumble as we did) and Pride (in our enlightened methods). As a sad result, many parents struggled to fully release their children to adulthood- to God’s design for an independent, new home.

Today, our guinea pigs, children of the “revolution,” give us a lot of grace. No words can express our joy in watching them graciously parent our grandchildren, some already teens. Gingerly navigating the internet, texting, and social media, they boast no easy answers. No formulas. No piece of cake. Just lots of communication and love. Looking into my rear view mirror isn’t really so bad. I am proud of them, in spite of our bumbling and stumbling.

I wonder if your grown kids talk much about their dating rules. I’d love to hear your reflections from the rear-view mirror.

Don’t Mess Up My Picture!

jessicas painting     What quirky traits have you inherited from your mother? And what about your girl from you? I bet you can think of quite a few. As for me, take school art.

In my elementary grades we had an easel or two at the back of the classroom. When we finished our work, fresh white paper and nice mixed paints awaited. Maybe if I had worked faster or smarter, getting back there more often, I would have had a different experience…

But each and every time, without exception, I drew the same thing. A big tree on the side, a house in the middle, and a swing set beside the house. It never occurred to me to put a car beside the house, or children playing on the swing set. That level of drawing, totally out of my reach.

I remember more than once, standing in front of blank paper in the 3rd grade, having this conversation with myself.

Me: You dummy, why can’t you paint something different this time? You’ve been waiting for this chance all day. Be brave, be creative!

Me: But I can’t be brave or creative. If I draw something other than my tree, swing set, and house, it will look horrible. I’ll hate myself for making a mess of the paper. No, I have to do what comes out of my brush.

Now, fast forward twenty-five years to my daughter’s kindergarten class. The teacher sent home special paper and issued a challenge for all the students to enter a painting into the state fair. The rules, however, required all the paintings to begin with crayon drawings, then washed with broad stripes of watercolor in varying hues over the top.

So on a Saturday morning Wee One and I assembled our supplies on the kitchen floor, so she’d have plenty of room. Then I informed my budding artist she could draw anything she wished with the crayons. Without hesitation, you guessed it– a tree. Then a house. Finally, the swing set.  My smock-clad five-year-old’s brain worked just like mine!

But when the rules added a twist, the twist quickly became a tornado. The conversation went something like this:

Wee one: Mother, Mom! Not paint on top! Maybe stripes on the top and bottom. That might be nice.

Me: But that doesn’t finish the piece, Dearest.

Wee one: No! I will mess up my paper!

Me: But we have started a project, and the paint won’t mess up your art at all. It will make your crayon picture look different and lovely.

Wee One: (sobbing) But… but, I know I will mess up my paper!

 

Looking back at that moment, I think of how many times since then I’ve gotten stuck thinking I know what lovely looks like.

“This was to be our special weekend to do the river together. Now a major back ache, really?”

And we read an awesome book together– and we learned important stuff…

“I’m settled and happy here! Don’t make me make this huge move!”

And the move turned out to be so wise- especially for the children.

“No, Father! You know I just finished menopause; things look much better now. Do I have to go through breast cancer?”

And cancer unearthed, for healing, important realities in a stuck heart…

On and on it goes. Loveliness so often doesn’t fit our picture of it. God has to wash over our routines, schedules, and goals. Kicking and screaming, I follow his rules. For I am not really my own. I am His.

My Wee One won second place in her division. Her stripes of color must have impressed some judge. For there it hangs now on her wall. As a mother of five, soon to be seven, she lives with a constant reminder that His version of loveliness trumps ours- if we let it.

 

Five Things Your Girlfriend Must Have

051An Open Letter to My Son

Hello, my most wonderful son. Got a minute? You know, I say it often and don’t need to tell you again how I love our conversations. Often I’d rather sit and talk to you than eat. And since I birthed you in my autumn years, get to mentor you in my autumn years, it is especially sweet that you are just as okay with talking during daylight hours as the wee hours of the night, when most sons are in the zone! I guess it all boils down to this: You love to talk, I love to talk.  So I won the son lottery.

Yeah, we mostly talk about girls. Isn’t that all there is these days?  Even though you have your moments when instant gratification seems the only way to go, I’m so glad you haven’t dumped the idea of being securely, complicatedly, married – that this old institution which was always meant to mean stability, safety, and commitment is still your dream.

And after our conversation recently about the girl you are looking for, I want to recap some of what we talked about.

When you were six, she had to be strong. Strong enough to have 15 kids, you said. So as much as I balked at your number, we prayed for her to be strong.

When you were 15, she had to be just beautiful. We prayed.

When you were 19, she had to be beautiful, cool, and smart. You asked me to pray. And I did. Our conversations centered around your getting ready for her.

Now, you want her to be all the above, and fun. A good match.

You are scared you’ll “settle,” and you don’t want to.

Of course, no guy sets out to marry a flaky, hardly-knows-what-she-wants, nothing-between-the-ears, drop-dead-gorgeous “Babe!”

But you and I both have been noticing the surprising, sad failure of many fresh, young marriages. After a year or so, one of the two becomes so disillusioned with all that marriage demands, like self-less-ness and hard work, and decides to bail. We both wonder if something might have gone wrong in earlier stages. Like in the process of vetting.

Yet, you admit it… you do tend to stop your vetting at beauty and fun. Well, maybe plus smart.

You admit that things like character and faith mean embracing (pun intended) what you think you hate- a Puritanical Pollyanna smile, strict dating rules, tight-lipped-or-non-kisser, and lover of home.

All of that means: No Fun.

And that brings up all those hours we’ve talked about why you want to find Miss Amazing and get married….why you can’t kick the conviction that finding her will make so many of your problems go away.

Yet, in a lucid moment you admit, excruciatingly, that if your reasons are all about getting your emotional needs met, your vetting will sorely lack— and will likely produce a sorry outcome. So, besides beauty, fun, and adoring eyes, if both of you don’t bring more, much more, to the altar, you are in for a sad and/or short union.

So, let’s look at her. You have wisely said you want a Christian girl- a good starting point!  Beautiful, fun, as well as forward-thinking, smart, and stable.

Well, here’s your mom, summarizing all we’ve talked about.

God doesn’t hate fun. Good marriages are a lot of fun!

That being said, the girl who is already beautiful in your eyes must also have the following qualities, or you will have huge problems. You can call this whatever garbledygoop you want…but pay attention to these specifics, because our world has thrown them out at horrible cost.

1. She should have a good, strong relationship with her dad –and if she doesn’t you need to know why. She herself should realize the importance of this relationship, and be willing to dig as deep as necessary to heal her heart. So how does a guy discover this? By both asking and watching. But take my word for it, this issue is bound up in her ability to trust. It is huge.

2. She must dislike and resist explicit sexual images in movies (or any other form)– for reasons which she should be able to express. Look for these reasons to come up in conversation.

    This stuff makes me want sex when I know that is not in my best interest.

   Dwelling on this stuff skews real marriage in my mind, so it’s bad for me.

   Watching this causes me to stumble because it brings up unhealthy memories from my past…..(She should be able one day to explain appropriately — and it should, as with “dad issues,” be an in-progress journey toward healing.)

3. Her Selfconfidence must be apart from her looks. She will be thoroughly feminine, but will not look to men’s eyes to complete her. She can carry a few extra pounds or have a unique mark of some kind – and be beautiful. For she knows there is more to her than body. Heart and mind dwell in an incredibly-made earthsuit, connected, but body doesn’t rule.

4. She must live outside herself, outside her little world. To love hard work, sports, or music is great; but especially she must love people: kids, old people, authorities, generally giving them attention because of God’s love in her. But this doesn’t mean being a people-pleaser. Being a lover of people is good, and is of God. A people-pleaser, however, refuses to go “against the flow” for fear of losing popularity. The girl with courage to do what’s right in a respectful way is worth more than a fortune. (…a boatload of rubies…)

And to top off my list, here’s the craziest “must have” of all…

5. The girl should be like you in character. What? Not fair, you say? Yes, it would make any red-blooded guy mad to even think his character would be mirrored in his girl. Arrogant. Unrealistic. Because you are a man, kind of bad. She is woman, very good.

Sorry. That’s sexist. You have no excuse.

You see, your good character makes you worthy of a great girl.

If she finds out later you’ve been putting on your best behavior to win her, heaven help you both! You will either catch up, drag her down, or live a very unhappy existence. So, whether starting in earnest now, with a humble, repentant heart, or over the long haul, only God can build good character in both of you. He wants to do it, because marriage is God’s way of changing the world for the better.

He Loves Fun. He just has a better way of providing it.

Become the man, then choose wisely. The potential fun will be worth it.

Much love,

Mom

Slow Down

      girl clockAhhh, Fall…the chilly nip in the evening air (occasionally, anyway, in Texas) the blinding lights of the football field behind us, the restarting of schedules, plans for the holidays. Don’t we always speed up after more leisure days of summer? We speed up to get out the door in the morning, speed up to accomplish the “To Do” list.

    And then, in the midst of all the hustle, a gift. The undeserved, automatic windfall of an extra whole hour. I think it’s delicious.

    Each year since becoming a mom in my late twenties, the fall time change has loomed large in my mind. Each year, as the wonderful Saturday approaches, a sort of warm balm, along with a sense of power, flow all over me. While others may not even know when the day is due, I circle it on my calendar, twice. While others grab a Sunday morning catchup of sleep, I lie awake, soaking in the gift. While others fuss about having to change a dozen clocks around the house, I gleefully climb on chairs and counters, aging knees notwithstanding, giddy. Sure it’s great simply driving to work in daylight again, but I usually have plans for making my extra hour count. And, of course, my goals for this glorious gift have changed over the years, depending on my season.

   During the 80’s, toddler bedtime could mean toddler badtime. Summer totally shot their sleep schedule. Daylight savings turned into twilight mayhem. “No bed, Mommy! It’s still day!” (I always thought daylight savings time -robbery- should be punished by a national boycott of the first hour of work.) So in mid October,  bone tired by 7:30, I looked forward to payback, when their darling little bodies would automatically fall asleep one hour earlier.

    My plan, concocted in my own little brain, would hopefully garner not one, but two extra hours out of the deal. It worked this way: If the wee ones usually fell asleep at say 9:00, too late for my happiness on this earth, today I would feed them a bit earlier, at 5:00, get them bathed a bit earlier, by 7:00, and read to them until about 7:30. A little song, a bit of extra rocking, tonight they’d fall asleep closer to 8. Then, triumphant, I’d change the clocks back to 7! See, two hours for the price of one. Sweet deal, if I could stick to it. Did I mind them getting up early? No, because breakfast, dressing, and play adjusted to the new time on the clock, thank you very much. A reprieve all the way around.

    By the 90’s those toddlers were teens and two more babies graced our home. So each year, as a team, we attempted to work the same magic, getting little ones asleep extra early. But during that time my own agenda had drastically changed. Life ramped up to high gear. Tonight I would get to bed earlier, get up earlier, grab the mission of getting more stuff done, with a vengeance. I even made lists for what I would accomplish: menus, an extra load of wash, a few papers graded. While I thought I was grabbing the gusto from the extra hour, it probably felt more like real “vengeance” to everyone else. Looking back I can just see the eyes of the older kids rolling, “And she’s off! The Great Mommy Machine!”  How did the gift become a curse? “Give the lady an extra hour and she beats everybody up with it.” Ouch.

    In the 2000’s two married children began their families, and we had two left at home. Breast cancer ushered in two years of treatment, so also two years of the extra hour. “Oh, good. This will be a help,” I thought. “The kids can get up easier…less for hubby to do and me to think about…”  As the early light flooded my room after dark October mornings, I often heard breakfast cacophony downstairs in the kitchen. Their conversations, inaudible but sweet, lifted my spirits. “Yes,” I thought, “the mornings will get dark again soon; but for now we get a few weeks of easy-out-of-bed days.” Just a little thing, maybe; but it felt good.

    Today, autumn comes to a house with no full-time kids. Ten grands joyously spin in and out through our revolving door, and we find a multitude of blessings to count. Yet, although my hero sometimes dances me with twirls and dips around the kitchen radio, we can easily find ourselves weighed down with concerns and heartache, just from regular life in this world. And again I receive my gift. An extra hour. What to do? What to do?

    The last few years have spoken clearly to me. The days are evil and I must slow down. With our final nestlings, two single twenty-somethings,  flying out on their own, I need to be on my knees. Of course, the extra hour will be swallowed up in no time. Of course, eyes opening a full hour before the alarm rings will fade in a little over a week. Unless I slow down and grab it.  Not rushing to start the day. Not choosing to sleep it away. But slow down. To pray.

 

 

Five-Point Intersection

crossroads1    The following email from a dear friend appeared in my inbox this morning. With permission I share it here, because at some point we all wake up to the uncomfortable day when our identity is, let’s say, a bit shaky. A clear past role vanishes, opening up to, well, choices which often seem fuzzy. That period doesn’t pass quickly. Some of us have been pondering the Five-Point Intersection for a long time. Here is her letter in part.

    First snow today!  So…I awaken to the challenge.  Cancel the hike that was scheduled to take the greater part of the day and…wait for it…oh yeah, that’s right.  I find myself without a plan.  Without even an idea really of what next. … plenty of the ordinary from which to choose I suppose… Here I am again, feeling like a life which once was useful…now, not so much.   Oh..I’ll pull through…persevere…do something… Like always…got to CHOOSE that joy! But it’s sad…and hard!  You know because you have lived with me long. Please pray that my mind will be renewed…..that my body will do whatever it is called here to do with sensitivity to the leading of the holy spirit.”

    If Spring were called the season of growth, Summer the season of work, Autumn might rightly be called the season of change. Do you ever feel you are inadvertently reinventing yourself? Not by choice, but by necessity?

    Kids grow up and leave empty, tidy, quiet rooms – glorious sometimes, but depressing often. (No one has to tell us that is why we raised them!)

    Skin gets thin and spotted, eyebrows mysteriously disappear. (Just because it happened to mom doesn’t mean it had to happen to me!) Regular, solid, sleep, now a thing of the past. Joints find voice and talk with a whine.

     Parents, formerly our rock, now lean, beginning to crumble.

     Grandchildren discover legos left behind- just the other day, right?- by their daddy. (My son, a daddy?….)

     Going out? Takes a rather long time these days.

     And cooking seems to makes sense only when it’s for company. No more, what’s for dinner, Honey? It’s where do we want to go tonight.

     On and on the changes.

     And what about time? A whole new world. Balance, a greater challenge than ever. We either juggle way too many activities, or find ourselves with too much time to think. We have options, yet none lasting very long. Because changes change the schedule. Changes change the mood. Changes change the priorities.

Before, life told us what to do. We did what all moms do. Then one day, the one main road of summer hard work spreads out into a five-point intersection of autumn.

     So… how are you doing with the choices this season has set before you?

Restoration

Joel 2:25–”I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten….”

There he was, standing by the kitchen door, sweaty and red-faced, filthy from stained sandpaper, smelling of harsh stripping chemicals, and obviously frustrated. Three hours earlier my ambitious hubby had salvaged from the garage two rejected pine chairs, dumpster-bound but not quite trash yet. However, in his determination to restore them to their former glory, something went badly wrong.  The chemicals produced a gunked-up mess! The longer he worked, the messier both he and the chairs became!

You guessed it, they were now in the dumpster, and I was biting my lip to hold in the giggles.

“Maybe I should give up furniture refinishing,” he groaned. “ I don’t think it’s my specialty.”

I couldn’t help but think how different it is with God. There stood my hubby, in all his “glory,” not “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound,” but strong, and loving, and capable– my refinished, restored spouse!

How so? Many years ago his mother had prayed this very verse in Joel regarding her far-from-God son. And since restoring people truly is God’s specialty, He fulfilled that promise! Reclaimed from years in the deep recesses of drugs’ trash heap, my man went on to begin and run a successful business, raise a wonderful family, and tell others how God had not only saved him through faith in Jesus Christ, but also “restored the years the swarming locust” had eaten!

“Father, thank you for your specialty, changing and restoring people! Keep working on me as I yield my days to you. Amen

Sex and the Church: The Problem of Public Secrecy

     Contrary to our media-driven culture most Christians agree that sex is much more than entertainment. We agree it should be private, sacred, and precious. We know it is abused. But we are a schizophrenic lot when it comes to being decisive about how to handle the topic– in our homes, in our churches, in our relationships, especially in our marriages- and sadly, in our culture.

    From all my years both in the pew and in Bible study groups, the message has usually been some version of the following: If you are single, try not to do it. If you are married, go ahead, but we never want to hear about it. These days, however, things are a bit different. The last part has remained, the part about being quiet, while the first part has sort of melted into the last. We do tell kids, those under 18, not to do it. But in varying degrees and circles, we almost expect that those over 17 are most likely doing it-  they’re just not open about it around “adults”- as though they belong to a separate culture. Young, excused, normal.

     I call this phenomenon “public secrecy.” But it’s not very secret. It could even be compared to our military’s DADT policy. If you can’t justify a behavior with scripture, but it’s a socially controversial, personal matter, you just call it gray, and look the other way. It’s only marginally private, and only marginally secret. And only marginally wrong? Something’s off here.

    The old Jewish nation, chosen to be the beloved bride of God, a precursor to the eventual inclusion of the New Testament (gentile) church as the bride of the Lord Jesus, would squawk loudly at this pseudo “public secrecy” about sex. For in their world, sex was definitely a public matter. Rabbis taught the marital sexual relationship carefully, even graphically, to the young men in the synagogue as part of their regular training– actually instructing them how often not to “have a headache,” as sex was the right of all brides throughout married life. (I know, ironic…)

     Jews celebrated sex publicly in their wedding ceremony, even going so far as including a private consumation while the wedding guests partied; then observing, publicly, a proof of virginity- the bloody cloth- as a part of the proceedings. (What a way to teach the little ones the “facts of life!”) It was also a public thing when the rules were broken, consequences outlined in precise detail.

    So, in those “ancient” days sex was important and public, because God, the designer of it all, said it was. As the crowning glory of His creation, male and female, sex had personal, familial, and generational impact. Back then, no one disputed its public nature. And as a physical mark of their ownership, circumcision separated the Jews from the idol-worshipping nations around them.

    Sex and idolatry. The first, a bastion, a pillar, when the rules were followed. The second, the worst form of rebellion. And all through history the two seemed to go together. Those  “other” nations actually used sexual activity in the worship of their gods, even sacrificing the product of temple sex, their children, to the images. The Jews were to stay far away. But because of Adam’s sin infecting the hearts of all people, and the law being but a poor leash, sexual temptation was always huge.

    Envious, covetous, discontent, bored, their moral code, written clearly in heart as well as stone, was always too easy to break. They were constantly drawn to the erotic practices of their neighbors, generation after generation. Sound familiar? Thought so.

     But all through history God punished, and then reestablished His ground rules: Sex is HIS idea. Sex is wonderful.

    Sex is so wonderful it amazingly represents a spiritual reality too marvelous to explain any other way. The wondrous nature of His love is so far above our puny intellects, we can not fathom it— except for one thing. We have an experience here on earth which will give us a tiny taste of His glory. The most amazing analogy: His love for Us—Sexual Union in marriage. The act is private, but the real results– well, a very public thing.

     So how did “public secrecy” get into the church? Just like the Jews: envy, discontent, boredom — our wicked, rebellious hearts. Hearts we must deal with. Thoughts are private, but not habitual ones. They will eventually lead to deeds. And therein lies the problem.

    The church is opting for leniency in our thoughts. We are a feeling-driven lot. Fearing the accusation of legalism, we have adopted a leniency which always leads us somewhere. It leads us to NOW. And we had better look around and take notice. When boldness about God’s Word on sex is lessened or abandoned, for whatever reason, the church loses its savor. And God has words about that-  something about being trampled underfoot.  Is that what is happening today? What are the serious breaches in the wall of God’s standards? Here are just a few that should shake us out of our nice, comfortable couch of “public secrecy.”

     First, even though we tacitly discourage or somewhat denounce sexual activity outside of marriage, we fail to hold the biblical standard for sex within marriage. (I Cor. 7) Not that parents should parade their sexual routines or pleasures–surely that is hardly a problem in Christian homes!  Instead, they should maintain their tender love for each other in a way that children see something to emulate. “Bending” or deferring to one’s mate indicates a soft heart. Doing so for the sake of a sweet home life is a public thing, because “bending” is noticed. It is the outreached hand, the audible whisper, “I was wrong, forgive me.”

     Of course, marriage isn’t easy; it is about the most difficult work anyone ever embarked upon. Besides parenting. But the beautiful results of regular and joyful marital sex are both a private and public delight. Whatever happened to married couples, even “old” ones, holding hands, walking arm in arm, and joking in a romantic way? Kids admit this is almost as much a tonic to their souls as it is to their parents’.

    Secondly, we “wink” at adult sexuality outside of marriage. We certainly don’t promote it. But we buy and watch movies which glamorize such activity, and shy away from discussing the sexual issues of singleness in an open and honest way. Our tacit respect of “adult privacy” constitutes a refusal to take a stand on what God has spoken clearly. And our young folks need our help in preparing for marriage, as most of them openly want this blessing.

     The world of “hooking up” in which our youth live and try to navigate is not preparing them for the sacrificial love that a good marriage requires. Instead of acting as though it is easy to control lust and passion, even though we know it isn’t, let’s talk about the pain of singleness. Getting real about how excruciatingly difficult celibacy is for most, should be the subject of discussions in Bible classes and even around our family tables.

    College sex is so rampant that the evangelical church is becoming just another place where students and singles meet to plan a bar-hopping evening, followed by casual sex. If our leaders know this, are they accepting it as though there is no other choice, that it is status quo for our era? Singles bar-hopping before a nightcap of sex is not private. It’s a public thing. These singles are setting an example for the younger teens who are now videoing their sexual escapades and posting them on facebook.

    And now, in another shocking slice of real life in the media age, we as a church are only slightly different from secular society in our use of pornography. The jolting statistics show that even pastors use porn in almost identical proportion to their secular male counterparts.

     It has been shown that when a person uses porn his or her relationships are harmed as secrecy and deceit compound all the other damages of this false intimacy. Marriage is adversely affected, even if the user isn’t married yet. Damages may not show up for a while, but show up, they will. Chemicals released in the body of the habitual user have been also proven to eventually lower libido. The person’s very soul is damaged, rendering him or her unable to emotionally connect to people, as images take over the mind and psyche. This disconnection becomes a public thing.

    If the church doesn’t take a stand and shout from the mountaintops what porn does to the Temple of Christ (our bodies) and to the precious picture of Himself and us His bride, we are doomed to see the day in this generation where sex becomes a purely physical act, lowered to the level of hunting and taking, as for prey.

    This is actually happening now as we sit in our public secrecy. How? Hundreds of third-world countries host public sexual perversion as a part of their everyday culture. The sex industry is a billion dollar market- not yearly or monthly, but daily. Women are kidnapped all over the world to become sex Workers. (A more socially acceptable term than “prostitution?”) As Sex Work is considered legitimate work in so many emerging nations – not just third-world- we are only small steps away here in America.

    Where are you, Church? Privacy and secrecy need to be replaced by Truth, Biblically-based education, and an outcry against the practices which have always been rejected by God. The future health- the very souls- of our families, churches, and communities are at stake.

     And that is a very public thing.

Wondering About “To The Wonder”

    It’s not often than an art film makes a clear point, other than to make you wonder about things. Though a couple of brief sex scenes make me hesitant to recommend it, this film does contain a clearer message than its dream-like smoky tone would seem to indicate. Even with grand, epic music and breathtaking cinematography, will Hollywood reviewers dare to give a thumbs up?

     Let’s look at the “wonder” this film might be showcasing. The “wonder” of feminine beauty fairly floating among grassy fields and the cobblestones streets of  modern Europe? Check. Terrestrial splendor, shimmering sea, radiant sky? Check. What about the “wonder” of youthful romance? Interestingly, missing. And that is rare in the offerings of Hollywood these days.

    Two young women (one played by Rachael McAdams) and a middle-aged priest (Javier Bardem) narrate this human drama in mostly short, sometimes cryptic sentences of drawn-out, pitiable grief. Even with sprinklings of joy and hope, the story moves slowly, agonizingly.

     Scriptures used in the priest’s homilies present to us a clear standard for a fulfilling human relationship. A standard which requires, and without which it cannot survive– commitment. And here, played out before us, is the glaring truth: commitment is the one thing the male lead (Ben Affleck) somehow cannot, will not give.

    The young women, in love with him at separate times, are seen as giving their all, in the deepest sense of the word,  in a yearning for not only intimacy, but the security and confidence that only comes with the “C” word.  And their complete rapture in finding their perfect lover is portrayed through scene after scene of playful abandon mixed with a kind of sensuality that would be possible only through emotional nakedness. Yet this film is skimpy with overt sexuality.  We see a picture of its utter futility in the relationships here, another rarity in Hollywood offerings.

    The priest never meets either couple, though they attend his parish. We see him as a secondary character. A hard-working, kind man who, devoid of deep human connection himself, seeks to see the face of Jesus in his poverty- stricken Oklahoma congregation. We see him grapple with the temptation to give up hope.  Is the “wonder” in our gladness that he doesn’t? That in his commitment to daily sacrificial service, his honest doubt will someday give way to a harvest of fruit?

    So the moments of ecstasy in the “love” relationships are juxtaposed to the abject needs fulfilled by the humble priest. And the emptiness of the former is a fascinating contrast to the pain of the doubter.

    True to art film form, the Affleck character rarely speaks. Silence is the refusal to make a solid commitment to either love. Do men relate to this problem? Do women relate to these two women more than they would like to admit? The film tacitly wonders that if in putting the cart of vulnerability before the horse of commitment, are women’s lives doomed to one failed attempt at intimacy after another?

    And all of us are thus left “wondering,” is the “C” word quietly slipping away?

 

Grand Grandparenting?

Easter for us was, still is, a blur. All of our grands, affectionately called The Cousins, normally separated by several hours, were descending on Saturday. Never able to get enough roughhousing and chasing and building together, they were beside themselves with excitement.  But, were we ready? A week or so earlier Hubby and I had looked at each other across our placid kitchen table, sighed loudly, crouched into a fetal position, covered our heads (as if the sky were falling), and mumbled, “W-we c-c-can’t wait!”

Am I kidding? Yes. We didn’t crouch into a fetal position. It is always wonderful when we’re all together. And we actually were ready! We were “loaded for bear”- with chocolate chip muffins, gargantuan “soaker” water guns, fistfulls of Polly Pockets, and gazillions of legos. We felt that same rush we always feel when they swoop into the house, pausing for the millisecond kiss, eyes peeled for anything new or exciting. And then, off they go! Mission: Fun. Just because Granddad did sort of disappear a few times, to search out a wee quiet spot, didn’t mean it wasn’t fantastic.

As for me, I only wish I could remember it all…Let’s see, there was cooking, serving the meals, stooping for hugs, pausing for a little snippit of adult conversation, and again feeding the crowd. Oh, and there was the rodeo, where one of our little sweeties was run over by a calf… twice….and there was the auntie-directed egg hunt…and of course I can’t forget the mad scramble for hair brushes (much less ponytail ties) while getting ready for church. Five hairbrushes didn’t quite cover the territory…..Oh, dear, I know there was much more….

And so goes grandparenting…

Maybe you had to wait ever so arduously before this role finally came along. Not me. As it turned out I was still raising little kids when my eldest daughter married at 19, giving birth to our first grandson within a year. The next baby arrived 14 months later, and we were off and running. With a bit more space each time, she has now “presented us” with a total of six. Our son married soon after the third grand, and quickly added his own five. That’s right, eleven amazing gifts in about 14 years..

Is it any wonder holidays are a blur?

So, whether you are a long-deprived, over-achieving Grandma, or full-to-the-brim “relaxed” Granna like me, we have a lot in common. Awed at the mere reality of these miracles, we can talk nonstop about our prodigies, especially who they look like, walk like, talk like. Their artwork is always delightful. Their hugs are intoxicating. Their smile can set the world straight again…

In a word, grandchildren are truly grand.

But the “grand” part of my title is both complicated and elusive. The admirable habits of other grandparents (my own mom and dad included) I can’t seem to emulate. And the habits I don’t admire and wish to improve are the very ones which taunt me. Trying to be grand is not easy. There have to be some concise tips. No big book to read, no huge treatise on this role as either an art or science. I just don’t have time!

So in the spirit of accepting my own uniqueness, giving myself a break, while keeping the main thing, loving well, in constant view, I offer a few tips. Take them or leave them, they are free.

1. I try to ask my kids how to help them the best. Only they know what they need. They have a good grip on my lifestyle and commitments, and thus may hold back, not wanting to take advantage. So I must ask, “How can we help?” They will never refuse a meal (or any food for that matter), and they will never refuse a date night. Those are the absolute given, sure helps.

2. While their children are in my charge, I try to completely obey my kids’ requests. To the letter. A huge role reversal has taken place. They are now the boss when it comes to parenting. If they say no candy, then I try to hide the loot.

3. I try not to think that being old gives me the privilege of sitting back, as though I have done my job, sporting the gray hair and wrinkles to prove it. Grands are a good reason to hit the gym, and I have. Have you? Be you but be a young you. Your kids need that energy and enthusiasm. Our last children were born at 40 and 42, so I have to stay young. There likely will be more coming!  I may not play basketball; but I can be silly and read a book with lots of, um, animation.

4. With a bunch of grands, being completely fair is impossible. Life isn’t fair; but as Christians we see a bigger picture: that in the end justice always prevails. Waiting, deferring to others, cheering for a friend’s good fortune, these are all learned and developed skills. And since I do still have that “where’s mine” mentality hovering just under the surface of my “mature” psyche,  I sure do know the feeling. But, hopefully, that very awareness makes grandparenting more fun than work. Should I indulge my own “where’s mine?” temptation? No, and I shouldn’t indulge theirs either. Besides, without writing down who got what when, or having labels on each saved gift, I would be so discombobolated trying to keep it all straight.

Recently, our seven year old was somehow getting the short end of the stick, missing out on the fruits of my latest shopping. She kindly let me know it just might be her turn. So we went shopping together, just the two of us. Hopefully, she ended up glad for the delay.

5. Beware! After all the talk above of not having to be completely (to the nickel) fair……Whatever it takes, I must avoid favoritism! Girls over boys, boys over girls, older over younger, or younger over older.  As common as it is for grandparents to play favorites, I can’t imagine thinking of preferring one, or one group. But even as I write this, I worry. I can feel the pain of it this very minute. So I pray that if I am guilty in any way, someone will love me enough to point it out

Now let me hear from you. How do you love to grandparent, and how have you seen it done with grace and ease?