Monday, January 24, 2011

100%Curfew Free

I was starting to get a little bit antsy. Brett and I were laying in bed like a couple of old fogies, reading glasses perched at the ends of our noses, books in our laps. "Do you think she's okay?" I asked.

"Of course she is. We know exactly where she is," Brett assured me. Our 18 year old had left the house to visit some friends a couple hours ago. I had expected her home long before this. It was past midnight, and still no Alex.

"Well, don't you think maybe we should set a curfew for her? I mean, it's past midnight. Why would she still be over there?"

Brett replied, "She is trustworthy, and she's with other trustworthy people. There is no need to set a curfew. Leave her alone; she's having fun." Hmmm. Still, I tossed a bit, and Brett finally texted her just to relieve my worries. Sure enough, she was still with our friends, laughing and talking and having a grand time. There had been no need to worry.

Brett's opinion about curfews, though, started me thinking. He had a point. Curfews are for people who can't be trusted hanging out with people who can't be trusted. They aren't for Christ-honoring, parent-obeying kids like the ones we are trying to raise.

Douglas Wilson, in his excellent audio series on raising teens, says that parents these days have parenting backwards. We let the little guys slide, laughing at their "cute" sin, and then we have to come down hard on them when they become young adults. Rather, he challenges, we need to ride our little people hard, not letting one sin register on the giggle-meter, and when they become young adults, we take off the reins, open the doors, and say, "There's the big, wide world. Have at it, kiddo!"

I couldn't agree more.

A few years ago, when our oldest had just learned to drive, we sent the older three off to a graduation party that lasted...and lasted...and lasted...all afternoon and into the night. We had a similar conversation that night, Brett and I. And that had been the first time Brett had said, "No way. We're not calling them. We know where they are and who they're with. They're having fun. Leave them alone." And you know what? He was right. They were having fun, swimming, playing speed volleyball, pigging out on lasagna. And they were with good people.

I've come to understand that the goal for young adults is not to set a reasonable curfew. It's to have instilled such a hunger for integrity in them that curfews are simply not necessary. It's to train them to understand that bad company corrupts good morals and that no friends are better than bad friends. It's to help them understand that character is who you are when no one is looking.

If we can succeed at that, we can have homes that are 100% curfew free. do we do that, exactly?...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

2010 CC Song of the Year

I have a soft spot for sacrificial leaders. I think they're amazing, wonderful, tireless, selfless people--who also happen to be an endangered species. And there is no sacrificial leader quite like a dad. The home that has one, like mine, is typically a happy home. The home that doesn't, well, good luck with that.

The movies that hold my attention are the ones that tell the stories of these amazing men. My all-time top movie is Life is Beautiful, a film by Italian actor and filmmaker, Roberto Begnini. LIB is a most amazing portrait of a most amazing father who navigates his son through the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp, while buffering him from all the hatred around him by using humor. It was a gutsy undertaking, this use of a concentration camp to produce comedy, but it is the most powerful cinematic experience I have ever had. Likewise, my favorite Pixar film is Finding Nemo. While Marlin may start off as a dunderhead, prompting a 'what did you expect from Hollywood?' type of reaction, the story shows his transformation into a father who overcomes his own fears and shortcomings and demonstrates he is willing to go anywhere, do anything, to rescue his son. Just lovely, really.

In literature, who can fail to be moved by heroes willing to risk it all for the weak like Sir Percivale Blakeney? Or Jean Valjean? Or Sidney Carton? (While the French revolution(s) produced practically nothing of any temporal value, they at least gave us fodder for some great works of fiction.)

My pick for the 2010 Song of the Year should not surprise anyone. I came upon it quite by accident in the car one day while I was listening to the radio. I rarely listen to Christian radio, for two reasons. First, "pop" is not my musical genre of choice. I prefer straight rock: electric guitars and non-electric drums. Second, Christian music, like Christian books, tends to be theologically limp. I really just can't stomach much of it. So it was just jaw-dropping when this song came on the radio.

"Lead Me" by Sanctus Real nearly reduced me to tears with its spot-on doctrine and its heartfelt cry of a father to overcome his own human-ness and be the man his family needs him to be. Even healthy homes need a sacrificial leader. As if to add depth, I found out that the songwriter, Matt Hammitt, was inspired to write this song after he and his wife found out their pre-born son had a serious heart defect. (I have previously blogged about Matt here)

Without further ado, Carmel Conversations 2010 Song of the Year:
"Lead Me" by Sanctus Real.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

King David and Me

I admit it. I've never been a fan of David's. As in King David.
Yeah. That David.

For years, I have heard Christians singing David's unending praises. Oh, he was such a man after God's own heart. Oh, he was such a psalmist, such a worshipper, such a great leader... which my usual response was to cross my arms, arch my eyebrows and shoot back, "Let's walk through his rap sheet, shall we?"

Yes, he was the amazing boy-warrior who killed Goliath. Pow. Right between the eyes. And being the bully-hater that I am, I admit that's one heck of a story. Love it. But that was only one story about David.

Quick-tempered, he almost slaughtered Nabal's whole family for not giving him...wait for it...lunch.

He was Mr. GQ, strutting on his roof and ogling the hottie taking her bath. Behold, the king becomes the wolf.

He's the scheming "other guy" who put aforementioned hottie's hubby out on the front lines on purpose to cover up his villainy. Dirty deeds done dirt cheap.

And his children. Yikes!
Absalom: thankless, rebellious, dishonoring kingdom-usurper
Amnon: sister-raping thug
Solomon: 700-timing, pagan-god-worshipping pleasure-seeker
Not much quality discipling by Dad back at the old palace, huh, boys? The best shepherd has his black sheep. Even Jesus had Judas. But three? For.crying.out.loud.

So. It's pretty easy to see that King David was no saint. What was it, then, about this man who could fall so fast and so far that made him a man after God's own heart? It has long been one of my irksome questions. I've read the life of David and scratched my head often over this puzzling description.

But I was determined to find the answer. And as I began to search, I made this startling discovery. David hated his sin. He hated it with a passion. When he was rebuked, one thing was sure. He was repentant. He was not one to toss a trifling "sorry" at God and go on with his day. No, David's sin would prostrate him on his face, grieving and repenting before the Holy God he knew he had sinned against. David's response to his sin wrung all the angst we find in the Psalms from him. David hated what God hated: sin.

And he basked in God's forgiveness.
I finally get it.

I'm finishing up a private study of Romans--with a little help from my friends Matthew Henry and Johnny Mac--and I'm taking one final trip through each chapter. Yesterday, I read through Romans 3 and substituted myself for every place it talks about "them." Sobering results:
"My throat is an open grave, with my tongue I keep deceiving.
The poison of asps is under my lips.
Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness;
My feet are swift to shed blood,
Destruction and misery are in my path,
And the path of peace I have not known.
There is no fear of God before my eyes." (Romans 3:13-18)

Seems I've got a rap sheet of my own, hauntingly similar to David's. And if I hate my sin, truly hate it and grieve over it, I can be a woman after God's own heart, too.

Today, I read Romans 4:7-8, which says, "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account." Guess who penned that sentiment? King David.

Maybe one day in Heaven, the King of Kings will look out over the crowd of His worshippers who are casting their crowns before Him. And maybe he'll see two sinners, saved by grace, standing beside each other and basking in His forgiveness: King David and me.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Beauty and Grace

I've always been one of the guys. I don't know why, except that I've always just been more comfortable with them than with females. Guys talk about interesting things, like sports and current events. Women talk about cooking and decorating. Blech. Guys eat interesting things, like red meat and beer. Women eat zucchini and crepes. Blech. Guys do interesting things, like play Capture the Flag and hike. Women sew. Blech.

Being one of the guys got me into trouble on more than one occasion back in my college days, as my bantering and joking were sometimes (mis)interpreted as amour. What is THAT? A rose? NOOOOO!!!!! This was supposed to be a game of Monopoly. Now you've gone and ruined it. I can never buy Boardwalk from you again! And so would end a beautiful friendship. Blech.

The Lord has blessed me with five daughters. They are beautiful girls and young women. Most of them are feisty and enjoy a good game of Capture the Flag, for which I am eternally grateful. But one of them, my middle daughter, goes against the flow of the other females in my home. She is quiet and even-tempered and loves all things feminine. Her name is Grace, and I can't think of anyone more aptly named.

My Grace is really a Chanel girl. She is the one who comes downstairs dressed for church in pearls and a chignon. She is a budding artist, who has a knack for seeing the beauty in the world around her. Not only can she sketch the rose on the table in front of her; she can also draw things from her imagination, like Edwardian gowns or intricate pastoral scenes. Grace is also teaching herself the piano. And she doesn't pick movie themes like her siblings do. Rather, she chooses classic pieces like "Angels from the Realms of Glory."

While the rest of the family enjoys the great outdoors, Grace does not like camping. I sense that my friend Susan has been having toxic conversations with her about sleeping on the ground or going without air conditioning. (I can always tell when the Queen is trying to groom a princess.)

Even Grace's mode of communication is gentle. When I asked her if she would like to join our speech club next year, she didn't give me the snide response typical of our family. (They get that from their father's side...) She simply shrugged her shoulders and said, "Well, no, I don't think I'm interested in that." No sarcasm, no rolling eyes, no I'd-rather-have-bamboo-shoved-under-my-fingernails snarky response. Just a simple, straight-forward answer. Grace observes a lot of what her mother likes and thinks, "Blech."

For someone like me, who tends to keep the nose to the grindstone, I find that I am challenged by Grace to be one of the girls. I am learning from my beautiful daughter and her gentleness and gentility to stop every once in a while and smell the roses. This world needs more Graces. But I'm just thankful to have some special Grace in my own home.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Poof! My 2010 Reading List

Poof! It's the sound a book makes when you finally reach the end. Sometimes, it's with relief, like when I find myself slogging to the end of a tortuously boring book. But, sometimes, it's with sadness, like the first time I finished the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. After three books, my heart was completely entwined with Sam and Frodo--mostly Sam. Turning the final page was like saying goodbye to a beloved friend.

The year 2010 proved to be a good year in books for me. Looking over the list, I can see that "theology" was the thrust of my reading. There's a smattering of fiction here, mostly classic but some twaddle, and a couple "politics." I'm already amassing books for the coming year. Last night, I sat in Brett's study and wondered what I'll read next when my pile begins to dwindle. Then some titles on his shelves caught my eye. So I think I'm set for 2011, at least for now.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Jillian Dare by Melanie Jeschke
Moses: America's Prophet by Bruce Feiler
Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
Crazy Love by Francis Chan
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris
The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen
What He Must Be (if He Wants to Marry My Daughter) by Voddie Baucham, Jr.
Maid of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen
Men of Iron by Howard Pyle
Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage by Paul David Tripp
End the Fed by Ron Paul
Finally Alive by John Piper
What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert
The Gospel for Muslims by Thabiti Anyabwile
The Law of Kindness by Mary Beeke
Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris
Unquenchable Flame by Michael Reeves
Fear Not! by Ligon Duncan
Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan
The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne
Katherine Parr: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Reformation Queen by Brandon Withrow
The Consequences of Ideas by RC Sproul
The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love by Jonathan Leeman
The Plight of Man and the Power of God by Martin Lloyd-Jones
He is Not Silent by Albert Mohler
Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy Sayers
The Holiness of God by RC Sproul
What is Reformed Theology? by RC Sproul
The Good of Affluence: Seeking God in a Culture of Wealth by John R. Schneider