Where Is the Light in Our Darkness?

12308890573_c2c6bf5eb0_zFor most kids I knew, Christmas was a time of anticipation. Even if you hadn’t yet figured out what was happening, you knew it was something. The music changed. Stores overflowed. Things began to sparkle.

Even once you knew what was happening, there remained a sense of delightful oddness. I think it was the lights, which cast everything in bright color or strange shadow. Or perhaps the eyes and hearts of people, likewise lit or darkened.

Christmas brings out the best and worst in mankind. In we small children, it brought forth a good and childlike thing, which is the belief that the world is covered over with magic, and all you need, in order to see it, is a different kind of light.

The world soon obscures that childlike vision. Many of us learned to see Christmas as a time of plunder. For some, it became a season of annoyance, even bitterness. For nearly all it became a gaudy carousel operated by madmen, and we all grabbing hold and clinging, because how can you let go? How can you disappoint those who await presents? How can you not hang the decorations you’ve accumulated in the attic? [Read more...]

Riding the Waves

Woodlief photoMy sons argue over Avengers characters. The littlest insists he’s Captain America. Another claims Hawkeye. There’s an argument over Ironman. They resolve it by awarding that honor to me, given that I’m a smartass and look a little like Robert Downey, Jr.

I argue that I’m the Hulk. I flex my muscles. They roll their eyes, but their mother would understand. She told me once, not long before our divorce, that I am the angriest man she’s ever known. A therapist once told me I’ve been angry since childhood. Another said I’ve been depressed my entire life, like my mother before me. I told him about the first diagnosis. He shrugged his shoulders. Flight or fight, does it really matter when your enemy is yourself? That’ll be 100 dollars.

I don’t remember if October was when the weight always came closest to leveling me, or if that cycle commenced after my daughter died. I suppose no matter which therapist was correct: I’ll always have something to blame my mother for, because she died in October as well.

[Read more...]

Raising Kids in the Creation/Evolution Divide, Part 2

CreatonBlakeContinued from yesterday

At the time of our children’s young-earth themed Vacation Bible School, I was in the midst of writing a poetry collection on Paul and his letters. While I’m no theologian, I can discern one theme that permeates the epistles like nothing else: unity.

Paul prays continually for his brothers and sisters, even the ones who drive him crazy. He tells the Corinthians to live without divisions, “perfectly united in mind and thought.” He exhorts the Ephesians to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all.”

Unlike the creation account, this passage doesn’t present too many differing interpretations. The bond of believers is vital to the health of the church.

What message would we send to our children if we pulled them out of the program? That our family was somehow too good for these loving teachers who stood on stage first thing every morning singing songs with silly hand motions? Did we see ourselves as smarter, more sophisticated, more enlightened?

That night I went online and discovered that the VBS curriculum was developed by the Answers in Genesis organization. According to the IndrediWorld page, the next morning our children would explore this central question: Can your view of creation affect your view of the gospel?

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Raising Kids in the Creation/Evolution Divide, Part 1

VBSTwo summers ago,my husband Jeremy and I decided to cancel our family’s cross-country road trip just days before departure. Our bank account had taken a beating with some unexpected bills. We suddenly found ourselves looking for staycation activities for our children, who were devastated to miss out on hiking the national parks and splashing in the ocean with their California cousins.

Fortunately, several churches in our area offered Vacation Bible School programs,so we immediately set to registering Lydia, 9; Becca, 7; and Samuel, 4. You can’t go wrong with snacks, scripture, and slap bracelets for less than $15 per kid. Later in the summer, I was delighted to find yet another VBS in a neighboring town that offered a curriculum different from those of the previous weeks.

The program was called IncrediWorld Amazement Park: A Thrill Ride Through God’s Creation.  Still pining for Yellowstone’s geysers and Black Canyon’s 2,000-foot, Precambrian drop,the kids welcomed a nature-themed week.

When we dropped our kids off, Jeremy and I were struck by the warmth of the staff and volunteers. While the other VBS programs funneled children into the appropriate groups right away, this church stationed the pastor at the door.

[Read more...]

The Machinery of Cowardice Fails the Children of Rotherham

policeMy children once heard someone address me as “Doctor,” and so they asked me if I am the kind of doctor who helps people. I told them no, I have a PhD. I told them I’d studied why smart people do dumb things in groups. It interested me at the time, but when I see the headlines coming out of Rotherham, England—hundreds of children systematically raped and otherwise brutalized while authorities did nothing—I think the problem isn’t smart people collectively behaving like fools, but decent people becoming cowards.

The details of this tragedy are varied enough to whet any axe: the ethnicity and religion of the perpetrators; their targeting of impoverished children; fear by authorities that cracking down would lead to accusations of racism; the notion among police officers witnessing gang rapes that the victims—some of them as young as eleven—were willing participants; the concurrent persecution by child welfare authorities, even as they ignored these crimes, of foster care families whose political activities were deemed unsavory. The entire story sparks rage and it invites despair.

I am always curious about the decision processes of authorities in the midst of such atrocities. How can an infrastructure of ostensible protection become so dysfunctional that it overlooks mass rapes of children for a dozen years? [Read more...]


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