Family: I am Sister Lily’s Granddaughter. Where I’m From, that Counts for a Lot.

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Where I’m From: Daddy worked here.

I don’t remember if I told you this, but my grandmother was a Pentecostal Holiness Preacher.

She had a radio show (this was back in the 1940s and early 50s) that covered several states. She was what they called a “church planter.” She went from place to place, starting churches, getting them up and going, then moving along to the next place. She planted several of the churches in the house district that I represented for 18 years.

I remember back when I was running for office the first time — this was in my anti-God period, when I was pro choice — many of the preachers in that district dedicated their Sunday morning sermons to excoriating me from the pulpit. If they’d stuck with the truth — I was pro choice and pro ERA — they might have beaten me.

But they didn’t.

The attacks got crazy and crazier, as they called me everything but a nice person. I was a communist, a lesbian, a slut, a this and a that, a deez and a doz.

Finally, one Sunday, individual congregants in more than one church just spontaneously, without any coaxing from me, stood up in the middle of these sermons and started yelling at the various preachers. They said that they had known me since I was a baby, and the preacher was a liar.

You see, I was from there. These preachers were not.

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Oklahoma National Stockyards. My mother was a weigh master here. 

I was Sister Lily’s granddaughter. I was Charlie and Bessie’s granddaughter. My Daddy worked at the Stockyards and they all knew him … and his brother. My uncle was in the Masons. They’d gone to school with my mother, me, my sister, my cousins.

That is the power of family.

I don’t mean family connections. I mean the power of identity that comes with being connected by blood to a particular group of people.

Family is identity.

It is also home.

I remember (this post is going to be a series of reminiscences, so get ready) when I told my cousin, my Daddy’s brother’s kid, that I had converted to the Catholic Church. He told me, “It doesn’t matter. Nothing you do matters. I love you.”

When I was anti-God, it didn’t matter.

When I was Oklahoma Director of NARAL, it didn’t matter.

When I met Christ in a profound conversion experience and became a Christian, not one thing changed with my family.

When I started my life as a pro life advocate, it was still the same.

When I was in office, a stay at home mom, now, there was no difference.

My friends dumped me, accused me of “betraying” them for my followership of Christ. In fact, many of my bestest buds turned 180 hard about and began attacking me and lying about me the same way those preachers had done years before. The people who had attacked me and the people who had supported me switched places.

All except for family. Nothing changed with them. Nothing has ever changed. Nothing will ever change.

I remember when another cousin of mine decided to come out to us as gay. He got us together; was hyper tense when he called and told us to be at my aunt’s house at a certain time and date. We were scared. We all thought he was going to tell us he had cancer or something.

When he did his big reveal — I’m gay (sniff) — we were dumbfounded. I mean, was he telling us that he thought we didn’t already know???

Duhhhh.

That’s family.

Families are where people who are for gay marriage and people who are opposed to gay marriage, where drug addicts and tee-totalers, Republican and Democrats, all love one another because, at bottom, they don’t care about that stuff. Not when you’re family.

My same cousin who told me he didn’t care if I was Catholic had been a total male chauvinist pig back in the days when I was an all-out feminist activist. Didn’t matter to either of us. He supported the Viet Nam war, I demonstrated against it. No problem.

Robert Frost said, “Home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in.”

Home, in that sense, is family. And family is the people who don’t care about your disgraces and aren’t impressed with your successes. You don’t have to clean up the house before they come. It’s ok if you’re overweight and you’re still welcome to be there even if you’ve just been caught — again as we say in these parts — in bed with either a live boy or a dead girl.

I am well aware that there are families who spend all their time picking each other apart, who compete with one another and criticize one another and who actually are anything but comforting. That’s not my family. My family is the “it doesn’t matter” crowd who just sticks with you, even when they all flat-out know you are wrong.

But even those other sad families, the nit-picking, pretend-perfect families, still usually stick with one another against the outside world.

I could go on and on about family as a social construct or whatever.

But family is both more and less than that. Family is personal. it’s about us as people. It’s who we are, whether we want to be that or not. Divorce is a disaster because it shears family from itself. It atomizes these broad extended tribes of safety into us and them and takes away the only real emotional security to be had from other people in this life.

I can tell you for a fact that friends will throw you away like leftover fish because of your politics, religion or anything else they consider to be the elemental you. There are a few — I had three, now I’m down to two — friends who will stick, even when I go from anti-God to Catholic, from pro choice to pro life — but the rest of them will not.

Friends can become enemies in the time it takes to say Get Out!!

Friends, however much fun they may be, are not family.

And family, if it is torn asunder with betrayals, is not family, either.

The tragedy of our times is that we have atomized and particularized family to the point that many families provide no more loyalty and emotional safety than friendship. Families turn on one another now, too.

When that happens the world is a cold place where the winds of isolation and aloneness howl through people’s lives and warp them into less than who they are meant to be. We become vicious and cowed, like a society of stray dogs. Like those stray dogs, we run in packs and we become dangerous to the order and safety that surrounds us.

Family provides security and safety. It keeps us safe and gives us confidence to go on adventures and take healthy risks, secure in the knowledge that succeed or flop, family is there for us when we want to venture back.

People without family truly are like stray dogs. The packs they form are destructive to the larger world and straight-jacket limiting to those who run in them. No one goes on adventures or takes risks that run against the rules of the pack, because that would result in expulsion. The pack would turn on them and attack them.

That is the source of the crazy viciousness I sometimes see — and delete — in the com box commentary on this blog. It is the cause of the hive mind thinking that is driving our society to the brink of self-destruction. It is the cultural anomie of a society that has torn family from itself and is now running loose and lost in mindless packs.

Family, real family, is the antidote to all that. Family is the most freeing thing possible, because it gives you the safety to try and fail and then try again with the certainty that no matter what happens, you will have a place in this world and you will be loved.

Home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in. I’ve never read a better definition of family.

Illegitimate Pleasures

Ravi Zacharias on the most precious things in life.

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Where They Have to Take You In

Thanksgiving weekend is an annual opportunity to kick back and enjoy the people who matter most.

Robert Frost said, “Home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in.”

The same could be said for family. Just for today, let’s not trot out the laundry list of “bad” families and family dysfunctions and remember instead that when, as we say in these parts, push comes to shove, your family members are the only people who will stick by you.

As a long-time/small-time public figure, I can tell you that there are days when home is not only where the heart is, it is also the only safe place.

Enjoy your family this weekend. Your life will be better for it.

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Real Feminism Begins at Home

This video addresses what I’ve long believed is the forgotten core need of women: the ability to have a family and a home and still use their full capacities in life.

Ironically, this is also a core need of men.

People need home and family. The deepest fulfillment in life is looking in the face of your own beautiful child.

How did we get so turned around that we think these things are burdens rather than gifts?

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Book Review: Coming Home to Wholeness

To join the discussion about Atchison Blue, or to order a copy, go here

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Life is hard. 

Life for Americans is not only hard, it is usually frantic. 

We are frantic, almost driven, people. I did not realize this until I went to a country where people live by a different internal clock. The contrast was stunning. 

Americans are certainly not the only people who race from deadline to goal to commitment to task. And we have a sense of self about how we do it that is our special grace among the driven places on this earth. But living here is a tough boogie.

Life is hard and it is fractured and in some ways desperate. Our nation is divided between the drop outs who just sit, and the doers who never sit at all. In both cases there is a kind of desperation and overwhelmed thing going on. In the case of the drop outs, overwhelmed is where they live and what they do. But for the doers, overwhelmed is the demon they fight every day. 

Judy Valente, the author of Atchison Blue, is an overwhelmed fighter. She is an astonishingly high achiever who has managed to carve out a flourishing career for herself in two competitive worlds: free lance writing and human interest broadcast reporting. 

Her private demons are a nagging dread of death and the great bugaboo of everyone; family problems. The major betrayal of her life was being laid off from her job at the Wall Street Journal the year after she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Based on what she writes in this book, losing this job was an earthquake for Ms Valente, a wake-up call about trusting career to be the all-in-all of life. 

Her solution for her human woes is to seek the thing we lack in our American society: Wholeness. 

It is a simple fact that the abundant life that Christ offers us is based on a spiritual and emotional wholeness that the larger society (any larger society) can never provide. Anyone who wants to be whole must find a way to retreat at intervals from the squabbling bitterness of our workaday lives. Without these retreats, we slide into a kind of fractured insanity without being aware of it. I see this insanity quite often in the exceedingly fractured world of politics. In fact, there was a time, back before Jesus rescued me, when I was pretty sick with it myself. 

There is no permanent cure for this fractured-ness. It’s causes are so thoroughly woven into this fallen world and the way it treats people that no one anywhere can completely escape its pull. However, for overworked, over-stimulated Americans, it is particularly ubiquitous. We are a driven people. The fact that we in large part drive ourselves does not change this. 

Without retreats, stopping places, we become so fractured that the insanity of life becomes our own insanity. 

My retreat is simply going home. When I walk into my house and shut the door behind me, I leave the frantic outside world. Nobody inside those walls is going to attack me or betray me or go on the internet posting lies and accusations about me. Inside these walls, I am free of that. 

Ms Valente sought something akin to this when she went to the Benedictine monastery, Mount Scholastica, in Atchison Kansas.

I’m beginning to think that monasticism is a particularly good fit for writers. After all, writers are already contemplatives by nature and avocation long before the monastery bug bites them. 

For someone like Ms Valente, who is a poet and human observer writer, walking into the monastery must have been something akin to what I feel when I walk into my house. She must have known at some level that this was home. 

Atchison Blue is a lovely book written by a journalist-poet whose writerly skills enable her to tell the story without letting the poetry overwhelm it and still keep the romance of the contemplative life in the midst of the story. It’s a delicate balance; the kind of writing that probably comes naturally to a journalist-poet. 

Reading this book makes me want to pack my bags and head off to Atchison myself. I imagine it will do the same thing for many of its readers. 

Love stories are like that. They make you want a love of our own. 

In the final analysis, that’s what Atchison Blue is; the love story between one woman and monasticism. It is the tale of her homecoming to wholeness in the contemplative life at a Benedictine monastery. 

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The oblates of Mount Scholastica, Benedictine Monastery. Ms Valente is the one on the bottom right. 

Being There: The Magic Means of Passing on Your Faith to Your Kids

Family prayer

You can not control what other people do. That includes your adult children.

However, if you are lucky, and you’ve done a good enough job raising them, chances are that the things your adult children end up doing will be consistent, at least in an overall fashion, with the values you hold yourself. That does not mean that your adult children will always make the choices that you would make in the same situation. It also does not mean that they are going avoid all the mistakes you wish you’d never made.

One of the hardest lessons any parent has to learn is that you can’t always save your kids from the hard knocks you gave yourself when you were their age. You can’t — and this is hard to accept — impart the wisdom you gained from getting your nose bloodied to keep them from getting their noses bloodied.

Sometimes all you can do is sit back and watch and be there later with a cold wash cloth and an abundance of love. A lot of times what you will see when you do this is that your children are more like you than you would wish.

The best you can do as a parent is to give your children the tools to manage their own lives productively when they grow up and love them passionately, no matter what, after they do grow up.

My husband and I decided when I was pregnant with our first baby that the tools we could give that mattered the most were, (1) a stable and solid marriage between their mom and dad, (2) a strong grounding in faith in Jesus Christ, (3) a good education, (3) the security of knowing that we would always love them, no matter what mistakes they made in life.

My greatest fear as a parent was that I would lose one of these precious little ones that God gave me to the larger culture. I can’t imagine how anything else in life could matter if you mess up your own kids, and for me, messing them up would mean that they lose their immortal souls.

The trick to child rearing is to do such a good job giving them the right tools that they can manage their own lives and make the right decisions for themselves. This should begin long before they fly the nest. In terms of my Christian faith, that means I wanted to teach them to love Jesus and to give them some basic tools for discernment in matters of faith. The rest, I knew, was between them and the Holy Spirit.

I think it’s important for parents to raise their children. I don’t mean that it’s important for parents to send their kids off to daycare or school and let the people there raise their children. I think parents should do it.

Little league

That means a lot more than being your kids best chauffeur and activities manager. When my kids were growing up, they each had one organized activity. At some times, it was chess club. At others, it was swim team or Boy Scouts or Little League. They picked and my husband and I came up with the scratch for the uniforms, lessons or whatever. We also went to tournaments and swim meets and games, etc.

But that was it. I did not want to spend all my precious years with my kids driving them from one activity to another. I saw parents who did this and in my opinion, they weren’t raising their kids. They were scheduling and chauffeuring them.

Kids need time with you. They need time in their own homes where it is safe and they can just play. They need unscheduled down time in which you are just with them and they are free to be.

Families need this, too.

So, the first thing I would advise is don’t-overschedule your kids. Let them be kids. And be there with them.

This business of being there with them leads to the single best way that I know of to raise your children in your faith. Do it as a natural part of interacting with them on a daily basis.

Read Bible stories to them, say prayers with them, take them to church. But don’t think that those are the ways you teach them the faith. Those things model faith in action, but teaching faith is something else.

You teach them the faith by being there when they have questions and giving them faith-filled answers. For instance, I have never been troubled by questions of evolution vs the Bible. I know people who have actually lost their faith in God over this quibbling nonsense.

The reason it never troubled me was that when I first had a question about it when I was little, I asked my mother. She explained to me that God’s days were not simple 24-hour solar days. God’s days were infinite. Later on, I realized that if God created time, that meant that God was outside of time. It all just fell into place from there. The result: No religious crisis over evolution.

The same thing happened with the story of Abraham being called to sacrifice Isaac. My mother told me that God asked Abraham to do this to make it absolutely clear to him and his descendants that God did not want human sacrifice. I learned later that there were other meanings to this story, but I’ve always thought my mother was basically right about this.

The point here isn’t that my mother is a great theologian. The point is that she was there to answer my questions and she did answer them in simple ways that insulated me for life from a certain set of attacks against the faith. All this took place as part of the casual give and take of daily life and living. It was not scheduled.

That’s the way it is with kids. The best and most important moments; the ones that determine who they are going to be, are not scheduled. They just happen, and when they happen, mom or dad need to be there. If you don’t want the larger culture or the mixed up kid from down the block raising your kids, then you’re going to have to step in and be there so you can do it yourself.

Homeschool

I made the decision to homeschool my kids. I think that was one of the best things I ever did for them. All the things people claim will happen to homeschooled kids — bad education, unable to associate with others, etc — did not happen to my kids. You have to work at it a bit, but the payback for protecting your children from the evil that’s out there until they are old enough and their personalities are formed well enough for them to handle it themselves are on-going and enormous.

My husband and I have somehow managed to raise a couple of fine young men who are good people and who have never caused problems for us or for themselves with their behavior or attitude, not even during the dreaded teen years.

How do you pass on your faith in Christ to your children? As nearly as I can tell, you do it by being there in their lives to answer the questions they have when they ask them. You do it by protecting them from being drafted into the sicko values of our larger culture when they are too young to fight back on their own. You do it by reading the Scriptures aloud with them, beginning with Bible story picture books when they are little and working up to the real thing when they are a few years older. You do this with a readiness to put down the book and chat about what it means at any time.

Pray for your children. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself praying for them and for wisdom to be their mom or dad in the way that God wants you to be their mom or dad several times a day. Pray with your children. Take them to church. Protect them from the world. Put them in places where they will have the opportunity to make friends with kids from families with values similar to yours.

Most importantly, enjoy them. Have fun with them. And love them with all your heart.

Then trust God with the rest. After all, they are His children, too.

The Hookup Culture and Searching for Love in all the Wrong Places

Mother and daughter

Dr Gregory Popcak, who blogs at Faith On The Couch, wrote a fascinating post discussing the whys of our hook-up culture.

His conclusion?

Babies and young children aren’t getting the love from their parents that they need. Specifically, they don’t get the cuddling, kissing and touching love they need when they’re little and so they spend their young adult lives trying to feed the resulting hunger for affection and touching through endless, mindless, destructive sexual hook-ups.

Dr Popcak theorizes that little boys have historically been deprived of this cuddle time. He says that moms and dads have tended to withdraw physical affection from little boys when they reach toddlerhood in a misguided effort to toughen them up and make men out of them.

Mother and son 3

I think he’s onto something here. I can’t count the number of times someone scolded me when my two or three year old little boy ran to me for comfort over a skinned knee or whatnot. “He’s too attached to you,” they opined. “He’s got to stand on his own two feet.”

I thought they were nuts. Little children need to attach absolutely and deeply to their parents, moms in particular. They need that safe place of momma’s arms and momma’s lap to cuddle, get rocked to sleep and loved. I am not saying that fathers should withhold affection from their little boys and girls. Far from it. Babies need to be doted on by both their parents.

Parents

This makes them feel safe. It insulates them from the world and its craven values, its cruelties and its indifference. That gives them the space to grow up into the people God meant them to be when He created them. 

Dr Popcak says that the reason for the hook-up culture is that little girls are now also being deprived of the cuddling and physical closeness with their parents, I think their mothers in particular, by being shipped off to daycare at young ages.There’s no surprise here. Institutions do not and can not give the kind of nurturing and bonding that young children get from their own parents.

When they reach their teens, they go searching for the cuddling they missed by engaging in repetitive hook-ups. They are searching for love in all the wrong places.

I left a great career in the legislature where I was chair of a powerful committee and flying high to stay home and raise my kids. This thrust our family into one-income poverty for years. It also loaded the whole responsibility for supporting our little clan onto my husband’s shoulders. 

Mother and son 1

My husband and I both paid a price for our decision to provide 24-hour, non-stop Mommy attention to our babies. He had the enormous pressure and oftentimes misery of having to stay on a job no matter what because he was the only one bringing home the bacon. I had to give up the prestige and power of my former position. Our whole family was stripped of all the little things that money can buy. 

We didn’t go hungry, but the kids wore a lot of garage sale clothes, and we used the library instead of buying books. I bought food once a month and made every meal from scratch. There was no eating out, the only movies were at the dollar movie theater and that was once in a while and we sneaked in canned drinks in my purse. (I lived in fear of my youngest blurting out in his baby voice — Mommy, make sure no one sees the Cokes in your purse!)

There is a price for putting your children first and all the things you can buy last. But there is also a pay off. That pay off is: No drugs, no promiscuity, no teen-aged rebellion, no self-destructive kids, no eye-rolling dissing of parents, and adult children who actually like their parents and come to us to talk over their problems with an absolute trust that we will be there for them and that they can tell us anything. 

Father and child 2

Parents are starving their children emotionally in order to buy them things. The payback in terms of messed up kids is enormous.

It is not absolutely necessary for mom to stay home for the kids to turn out ok. I have friends who managed to do the two-income hop step and still raise children who turned out to be loving, non-promiscuous adults who could marry and raise children of their own. 

However, not one of them divorced; mom and dad stayed together. And not one of them put their kids in a daycare. And not one of them engaged in other activities when their babies were little. The ones I know also had strong support, including child care, from their extended family. They worked while family members cared for the kids, and they came home and were a tight little family that absolutely adored and doted on their child. Also, all of them were well-educated people who rode the wave of good jobs that this country used to offer. They all had positions that paid enough that they could support their families without working more than 40 hours/week. 

Father and child

I do not know one family on the lower income rungs who has been successful at both parents working and raising their children. I’m sure they are there, but I do not personally know of one family where this has worked out.

Jobs at the lower end of our society are hard, often humiliating, and do not pay enough to really support a family. The upshot is that when both parents work, they come home exhausted and beaten up. They are not physically capable of providing cuddling, nurturing time with their babies. They are too tired.

Also, the tsunami of divorce and family dissolution has swept over working class families with disastrous results. Live-in boyfriends and parents with revolving beds are more the norm than the exception. 

Rather than create homes for their children, these bed shifters raise their kids in chaotic environments that are isolating, neglectful and oftentimes dangerous. The children have no one they can trust, since their parents are living the lives of perpetual adolescents, and maladjusted adolescents at that. They often end up abused and battered by the various live-ins. 

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Ironically, working class parents with their reduced options can only provide the kind of nurturing environment that kids need if they ignore the trends of the culture and get married to one another, stay married and put their kids first.

I believe that it is far more important for lower income mothers to stay home with their children than it is for wealthier mothers who can get easier, more rewarding jobs that leave them with the energy to be a real mom when they get home. However, if they want their children to survive their job intact, the wealthier mothers need to forgo most other activities and really be a loving, cuddling, there mom when they go home. 

I have friends and family who went the other way, and fell into all the cultural traps of putting their kids in daycare, and then ignoring them once they got home. I can tell you from watching them, once you mess up your kids, you can’t undo it later.

It is the misery that only gets more miserable as life spins forward. If you don’t want to raise your own kids right, then get ready to raise your grandkids. Make plans for crying all night about the things your teens and your adult children do to themselves and others. Spruce up your speech for the courtroom custody battles and the parole board. You’re going to need them. 

With children, it’s ignore now, pay forever. 

Marriage is a Mess and Homosexuals Didn’t Do It Redux

Marriage

I think we need to look to ourselves first when we consider the post Christian society we are entering.

The move to create a system of discrimination against Christians in this country is well under way in the Western world, including America. Christian business owners are being penalized and forced out of the public square by laws that do not allow any exemptions for their faith. Universities and colleges increasingly demand that Christian groups leave campus. Public figures are scolded and harassed if they mention the name Jesus.

We are going to have to chose who we will serve, and we’re going to have to do more than talk about it or make it into a political issue. If we want to follow Christ, we are going to have to follow Christ in the way we live and what we do in our own lives and families.

Before we begin to deal with the mess we are facing in the larger culture, we need to consider our own contributions to how we got here. One of those contributions is the way we have treated our own marriages and our own families. I am going to write a post soon talking about the way we have abandoned our children to the public schools and the larger culture and allowed that culture to shape their values, thinking and beliefs.

But for this day of fasting and prayer for marriage and religious freedom, I will just use a old post of mine to revisit the question of why marriage is such a mess and who is responsible. Hint: It isn’t homosexuals.

Family

I support traditional marriage. I have a public track record and the scars to prove it.

I voted to put an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution on the ballot that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. I also authored and passed a resolution memorializing Congress to begin hearings on an amendment to the United StatesConstitution doing the same thing. That is as much as I can do to support traditional marriage from my elected position.

It’s not a complicated issue to me, and it has almost nothing to do with what marriage is not. It’s about what marriage is. What marriage is begins with the law. Marriage under the law is and should continue to be a union freely entered into by one man and one woman. But legal definitions are just the scaffolding we use to support the social structures of how we order our lives. The actual edifice, the reality of marriage as it is lived, is something much more complex and important than that legal definition can impart.

We focus our national attention on the definition of marriage under the law. We wear out our keyboards writing about it and revile one another over our positions on it. But despite the accusations and counter-accusations that season our debate, we ignore the home truths of marriage in this country today. The truth is, marriage has been a mess for quite some time. And homosexuals weren’t the ones who messed it up.

Homosexuals didn’t set off the epidemic of divorce in this country. Homosexuals didn’t create the millions of feral children who spend most of their time alone, raising themselves on video games, drugs and interactions with their peers. Homosexuals don’t cheat on our spouses. Homosexuals don’t break into our homes and yell and curse at our families. They aren’t the cause of the rising number of unwed births and the global pandemic of abortion. We did these things. Marriage is a mess and it was heterosexuals who messed it up.

We insist that the legal definition of marriage should be a union between one man and one woman. But we behave as if it says that marriage is a union between one man and one woman at a time.

I know that is tender for many people. I know that divorce cuts people in half and leaves them with broken hearts and shattered lives. I know that some marriages are so bitter, destructive and even violent that they have to end. I know that even if you want to hold the marriage together, sometimes your spouse won’t. I know all this, and it gives me pause writing about these things. I don’t want to pick at half-healed wounds and start them bleeding again.

But the truth is that serial monogamy is NOT monogamy. Serial marriage is not marriage between one man and one woman. And heterosexuals, especially Christian heterosexuals, have a responsibility before God to care for and raise their children, cherish their spouses and build enduring stable homes which can nurture a true family. Heterosexuals who have failed to do this are the root cause of most of the social problems we face today. They, not homosexuals, are the ones who have brought marriage to the sorry state it is in now.

I have a public track record of supporting traditional marriage. I’ve got the scars to prove it. But I think that supporting traditional marriage, especially traditional marriage in the Christian sense, means more than being against same-sex marriage. I think that as Christians we are required to look past what we’re against and find what we are for. It isn’t enough for Christians to be against same-sex marriage. It certainly isn’t enough to do as some have done and whip people up into a rage and then cash in on that rage to advance your political career. That is just cheap demagoguery.

Leadership, especially true Christian leadership, mandates that we don’t just get people worked up against something. We have to lead them forward to something. In the case of marriage, we should be for true Christian marriage and we should live that kind of marriage in our own lives. Christians must be FOR marriage as a loving, giving, living institution that cocoons young children in a world of stability, positive discipline and love so that they can grow up and create loving homes of their own.

The bond between husband and wife, as the Bible says, makes them “one flesh.” This doesn’t refer just, or even primarily, to the physical union of marriage. Sex, apart from this bond of love, is a physical act. But true marriage is a spiritual bond. The deep, life bond of trust and mutual dependence that is marriage nurtures everyone within its reach. Marriage creates not just family, but home. I  do not mean a building where you sleep. Christian marriage creates home that is a refuge from the coldness of modern life.

This isn’t a hypothetical for me. My home and my husband are the living sanctuaries of my life. I could not endure the pressures of being a Public Catholic and all the controversy and criticism that engenders if I wasn’t able to go to my house, shut the door, and be Home.

Marriage is the progenitor of life, family, emotional safety and abiding peace in this life. It is a sacrament, given by Our Lord, to enable us to walk through life together and not alone.

If we are going to “save marriage” in this country, we certainly do need to resist efforts to alter its legal definition. But we also need to begin living the sacramental love and fidelity of marriage with our spouses and within our homes. We need to do this because it is what God intended for us. Marriage is His blessing on our lives and through it we can become blessings to our whole society.

Frank Weathers has another take on this question here.

Why Are So Many of Us Unable to Stay Home, Even for One Day?

More and more stores are staying open on Thanksgiving.

Black Friday sales were pushed back to Thanksgiving Day in a lot of places yesterday so that eager shoppers could forego the necessity of staying home with their families and go buy things.

What does this say about us and our sense of family, community, and even our ability to just stop for one day and be at home?

The National Catholic Register ran an interesting article on the topic today. More than one priest, including Cardinal Dolan, has weighed in on the subject. From what I read, it seems that they see this trend as another attack on the family.

I think they’ve got the emphasis in the wrong place. I think that rather than being the retailers’ fault, this phenomena of Thanksgiving shopping is another symptom of the deteriorating home lives and interior peace of a lot of Americans.

Far too many of us have lost the concept of home. We don’t even know what home is. We think it’s a house, a place to be furnished and shown off. We have no concept of home as a nesting, resting, sheltering place in the storms of life. We’ve destroyed the concept of home as refuge and resting place by destroying the family.

Our families, with all their dysfunctions and bitterness, have become the last people in the world a lot of us want to spend time with. Our homes and families, rather than being safe harbors in a troubled world, have become just another place where the nuts attack and the few sane ones battle for footing. Thus, we have the growing trend of shopping ’til you drop instead of staying home for one day with your family

We have also created a society where large numbers of people are adrift in the world, living as singularities. Our increasingly fractured families and nomadic lifestyles leave a lot of people without families to go to on Thanksgiving. Meanwhile our traumatic lifestyles create an obsessive need to be constantly in motion and an inability to rest.

So many of our families are scarred by divorce, drugs, alcoholism and a hamster-in-a-cage work/buy/work/buy mentality that we are rapidly becoming a nation of home-induced trauma victims. One of the hallmarks of trauma victims that I’ve observed is that they can not sit still. If they are quiet for very long at all, the demons of their mind start jabbing at them. So they go-go-go and make chaotic jumbles of their lives in the process.

The end result is that we’re developing a national inability to stay home with our families for even one day. That’s why I think the priest who’s quoted in this article has identified the symptom but diagnosed the wrong cause. The retailers aren’t causing this phenomenon. They are reacting to it.

These stores wouldn’t stay open if nobody came to buy. We’re feeding this beast. Not them.

The National Catholic Register article says in part:

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Shoppers wait to enter a Best Buy store on Nov. 25, 2011 in Naples, Fla.

– Spencer Platt/Getty Images

DENVER, Colo. — The expansion of Thanksgiving weekend shopping to the holiday itself has raised concerns among both workers and clergy who worry that the change puts family time at risk.

Father Sinclair Oubre, spiritual moderator of the Texas-based Catholic Labor Network, said the store openings are a “disturbing trend” that is “an assault on the family.”

“We have almost completed the evolutionary process of having two classes of workers: those who get holidays off, and can stay with their families, and those who are forced to work, so that those who have holidays off won’t have to stay with their families,” Father Oubre said.

Retailers such as Sears, Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, Toys “R” Us and Gap are increasingly opening their stores on Thanksgiving Day. The following day, known as Black Friday, is one of the most profitable shopping days of the year.

Business analysts cite increased competition from Internet shopping and some customers’ desires to shop on Thanksgiving as motives to open stores on what is traditionally a day off, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In 2011, retailers who opened on Thanksgiving Day earned 22% more over the Thanksgiving Day weekend.

Two popular Internet petitions on the Change.org website are protesting the changes.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/thanksgiving-day-shopping-called-assault-on-family-life?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2012-11-22#ixzz2D3rr2S6C

It’s The Lord’s Day: Pray, Reflect, Love Your Loved Ones

I’ve decided to post a blessing and a prayer from Blessed John Paul II. I feel almost as if I am sending it to you as a gift on this Sunday before the election. It is a call to Christians, everywhere. We were made for these times, my friends. It is our duty, our call, our privilege, to stand for Christ in today’s world.

Pray for our country and our world today. Take time to reflect on what’s before us through the light of the Gospels and our shared faith in Him. But other than that, let politics go for a few hours. Take time to enjoy your friends, family and homes. This is the best of life.

Here is the blessing and the prayer from Blessed John Paul II. Have a blessed Sunday.

I leave you now with this prayer: that the Lord Jesus will reveal Himself to each one of you, that He will give you the strength to go out and profess that you are Christian, that He will show you that He alone can fill your hearts.

Accept His freedom and embrace His truth, and be messengers of the certainty that you have been truly liberated through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. This will be the new experience, the powerful experience, that will generate, through you, a more just society and a better world.

God bless you and may the joy of Jesus be always with you!
[L’Osservatore Romano, 11-5-79, 2]


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