The world today sure seems like a frightening place…

The very act of painting a sign and protesting would get these people killed in much of the world. My guess is these people are protesting on their own behalf, not for the tormented minorities of Iraq, persecuted by ISIS.

The very act of painting a sign and protesting would get these people killed in much of the world. My guess is these people are protesting on their own behalf, not for the tormented minorities of Iraq, persecuted by ISIS.

…especially if you consider yourself a Christian.

Everywhere I look, as I click through my news feed, it becomes apparent that Christians’ freedom of religion is under attack. If there is one subject that I can find constant anecdotal evidence, it is that Christians’ freedom of expression, conscience and speech is being halted left and right. There are protests and demonstrations everywhere, as a cultural majority feels itself becoming a minority. It makes the future a frightening prospect, as even Franklin Graham predicts that persecution against Christians will increase in America.

No doubt, American culture is more hostile toward Christianity than it used to be.

I have come to another conclusion, however.

Our love and passion for our freedom of religion will be our undoing.

It has become our sacred cow…

…our freedom is our idol.

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You know what all teachers love about teaching?

The students go away for a couple of months.

Don’t pretend you don’t understand. By the end of the summer, the kids are climbing the walls and parents can’t wait to get them back to school.

Of course, teachers are happy to see the kids again. A summer break does everyone a lot of good.

Teaching is unique like this, in that it has an end and then a beginning. Every year, there is a chance to start fresh. There is a time set aside for rest, for thinking creatively about the future. There is a time for desks to get scrubbed and fresh paper to be put up on bulletin boards and a time to dream of new possibilities. It’s like a giant reset button. I don’t know what we teachers would do without the reset button.

The reset button comes at a cost though.

This weekend was graduation, and so after the ceremony, I made the rounds to open houses, to celebrate with kids. It’s sad to see kids go. Senior year is an extraordinary time for most of them, and us as teachers. They are the most “adult” of all the students and they often do the most to take charge in the school.

Every year, it’s bittersweet to send the seniors away to college, just like it is for their parents. Every year, seniors will be seventeen and eighteen – it is only us teachers who get older. This year, I am one more year further away from the seniors than I was last year.

Some of us shake our heads and wonder what we will do without these kids.

But then summer comes. And a new group of kids. And you start all over. And just when you are getting into a groove, graduation happens.

Most of your lives probably are not ordered this way, but I can tell you, it is a wonderful, albeit sometimes painful rhythm. Getting to have a giant reset button, a “new beginning” every year is like that. But if you can find a way to give your life, your career, your relationship a reset, a rhythm, a new beginning, I highly recommend it.

endings

There is a “crisis of masculinity.”fistbump

I read about it years ago: the confusion, lack of drive and antipathy that seems rampant among young men today. It was scary then. It’s even scarier now that I have a son.

The problem is that “masculinity” is a loaded word now. You can’t talk about there being a “crisis” without dealing with the argument that masculinity comes in many forms. It’s true, and I’m no lumberjack. I am a kind of man, but I don’t meet everyone’s standards of manliness.

But what we mean by a crisis is that a generation of boys are growing up and failing to meet any definition we have of masculinity, or rather adulthood. It’s not that they are confused about their gender. We mean that they lack ambition, obsess over video games, watch porn instead of date women, and generally lack the hustle that young men are supposed to have.

I don’t think it’s too early for me to be thinking about this, because God only knows what my son will have to deal with when he is a teenager. But I’m going to do my best to help my son grow up to be a whole, happy, healthy man.

There are a few things that all boys today need to become men.

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Kids need a lot of things.

The current statistics say that it takes something like a quarter million dollars to raise a child. That, obviously depends on your neighborhood and standard of living.

While Cheri was pregnant, people got us started with a lot of stuff that the baby would need. There is one advantage to being the last among your friends to have a child. Everyone is ready to loan and give away their stuff. Boppies, bumbos, bathtubs, bassinets, and a two-month supply of diapers filled our home.

But our kid is going to need a lot more stuff.

He’s going to need a big-boy bed, and some big-boy toys. He will need school supplies and school clothes. He will need braces and a car. He will need all of these things.

But all of these things are just stuff. Important stuff, but just stuff.

In the years leading up to the birth of our son, I knew there was one thing that would the most important for Cheri and I to have. It is the greatest asset of any married couple. If we did not have it, all the stuff in the world would not be able to compensate for it…

The greatest thing for us to have is our marriage.

So much of our culture seems to tell us that the secret to great parenting is to give up your marriage. Give up your life, your identity, sacrifice all of your time and happiness, because that is children demand. 

We simply did not believe it then, and we do not believe it now. The greatest thing I can do for my son? It’s not take him camping or give him a car or teach him the value of a dollar.

father

 

To me, this is what Mother’s Day is all about. It’s about priorities.

Sunday is Mother’s Day, and it definitely snuck up on me this year. Does it seem to anyone else that it came a week early or something? No? I must be crazy then.

Either way, I have cards and flowers to buy, but there were a ton of people who were on the ball, sharing good stuff in time for the holiday. Here is what I enjoyed most this week.

Mother’s Day Giveaway

The ladies at Grace For Moms have generously shared their space with Cheri and I, and are putting on a huge holiday giveaway. It’s a whole bunch of books, and even a big handful of cash. If you like books or money, you’ll want to go check it out.

In My Blog Reader

Elsewhere in the world, my reader was filled with different kinds of posts about mothers, parenting or family.

If you are a mom who is struggling with a lack of sleep and wondering how to love your family well.

If you have a mom who drives you crazy…and isn’t that most people?

Beautiful words from Erika Morrison on suffering from a mother’s perspective.

A discussion about parental discipline, inspired by that viral video of the woman slapping and shaming her grown son in public.

Affirmation that, indeed, mothering is a wonderful job.

A reminder that in our modern world, issues of life are extremely complex. If you consider yourself pro-life, it is no longer enough to say that life begins “at conception.”

And finally, for all the mothers, and there are many, whose children only got to be born into heaven.

Happy Mother’s Day, ladies. Whether you have your own children or not, if you are pouring into children somewhere in your life, you deserve to be celebrated.

In four months of being a dad, I have realized one unequivocal fact:Processed with VSCOcam with b6 preset

Being a dad is hard.

I have probably had more chances to be humbled in the last four months than in the previous four years. And I suspect it’s going to get harder before it gets easier. Right now, all we really have to do for Calder is meet his physical needs. It’s going to get harder when he begins to have more emotional needs and spiritual needs. It’s going to be hard when we have to talk about sin and death, about money, about sex and relationships, and about all the things that turn sweet little boys into unhappy young men.

The other unequivocal fact that I have noticed is this:

Parents like to talk about just how hard parenting is.

What Did We Expect?

Whenever I go to Google to ask a question, about how to not inadvertently kill my child, I can easily get entangled in endless blogs and message board posts about how hard all this parenting stuff is.

I can get on Netflix and find endless sitcoms and standup comedy routines about how hard it all is. Bedraggled parents who are “just barely hanging on,” barely clinging to their marriage or their sanity in the midst of raising their horde of children.

But I wonder…

I wonder how many of us, upon entering high school or college, actually believed that it was supposed to be easy. I laugh a little bit whenever teenagers complain about how difficult high school life is. It’s not supposed to be easy, I tell them.

I say the same thing to my third graders or even kindergarten students when they comment that the work I am having them do is hard.

I wonder how many of us actually believed as we met our spouse at the altar, that it would be easy.

I wonder how many of us secretly thought that raising kids might actually be easy.

Was It Supposed to Be Easy?

Perhaps none of us actually, truly believed that any of these things would be easy. But maybe we are surprised at just how difficult things actually turned out to be. At this moment, I actually think my life has never been harder.

But…

That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

There are so many shows, blogs and resources that talk about how hard parenting and marriage is. There are blogs and books about how hard faith is. There are resources about how hard building a career or a business is.

But how many shows or books, blogs or message boards told us this is the way life is supposed to be?

Parenting is supposed to be hard. A day with a toddler isn’t supposed to be productive. Life is supposed to move slower with a child. Chores are supposed to take longer. Parents are supposed to be tired at the end of the day.

Marriage is supposed to be hard. Marriage is this miracle where two different people become one flesh, and that is a miracle that takes a lot of work. Nine years in, I think I work harder at my marriage now than I ever have before.

Life Was Created To Be This Way

It’s great fun to bond with other parents over discussions about how hard parenting is. I’m sure that this Mother’s Day, Cheri will have at least one conversation about the challenges of mothering, and on Father’s Day, I’ll tell at least one guy the reality of fatherhood.

It’s a good release to watch a sitcom and see a little bit of yourself in that fake TV family. (Sitcoms have come a long way, and families have become much less perfect since the Cleavers went into syndication.) It’s hilarious to listen to Jim Gaffigan or Louis CK joke about the drudgery of raising kids.

But what the blogs and the comedians rarely say is that it wouldn’t be beautiful if it weren’t so hard.

Easy things are not satisfying. Easy things are not memorable. People don’t bond over the easy times. But God made life to be like this. God made us to do hard things, like raise children.

People bond and faith is grown as we clench our fists and try to hang on through the storms. I cannot imagine where my marriage would be if it had all been easy. I probably wouldn’t remember any of it.

If you are in a hard time today, remember, it’s supposed to be this way. We were born for this. An easy life would not be one worth remembering or writing about.

There is beauty in the hard.