Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Little Lambs and the Big, Bad Wolf

Once upon a time, there was a family by the name of Lamb. The Lambs were a happy family made up of Mr. and Mr. Lamb and all their little Lambs given to them by their loving Shepherd. When the Lambs were tiny, they would stay in the pasture with their parents and eat what they ate, walk where they walked, and sleep where they slept. As they got older, Mr. and Mrs. Lamb realized the Shepherd wanted them to teach the little Lambs how to love the Shepherd and take dominion over the Pasture. That would require skills like math, science, writing, and history. At first, Mr. and Mrs. Lamb did what the other families around them did. They sent them to the highly acclaimed Wolf Academy to be educated like all the others in their neighborhood. However, as the little Lambs spent more time at the Academy, they began to forget how to drink from quiet waters, how to lie down in green pastures, and how to fear the Shepherd. They didn't want to eat what their parents ate or walk where they walked or sleep where they slept. Instead, they became adept at things they learned at the Academy, like baring their teeth and attacking the other Lambs. Mr. and Mrs. Lamb were very alarmed, and one day, they decided to pull the little Lambs out of Wolf Academy.

But, oh, the uproar! The teachers at Wolf Academy were angry with Mr. and Mrs. Lamb. "There is more to life than knowing your shepherd," they snarled. "Why, we don't even know if he exists. We have never actually seen this so-called shepherd." This only served to make the Lamb family more determined than ever to teach their own children. It was very hard. They didn't always have the right books, and it took a great many hours of their own time reviewing what they had learned when they were little Lambs themselves. But they were motivated by their love for their Lambs and their desire to please the Shepherd. And the Shepherd said, "Fear not. I will gently lead those that are with young." So, in spite of the very hard work, they applied themselves diligently and loved the Shepherd and understood the Pasture. Other Lamb families began to notice this, and they, too, educated their little ones themselves. And those little ones, too, grew up to be intelligent, articulate Lambs who walked with the Shepherd and took care of the Pasture.

But then something dreadful happened. As the years went by--about twenty to be exact--the big Lambs forgot why they were doing all this work. They envied the ease and leisure of the parents who sent their little Lambs to Wolf Academy. They complained of the long hours it took to teach their children expertly about the Shepherd and the Pasture. But they were still intelligent enough to know that the Wolf Academy would take the 'lambiness' out of their children. Oh, what to do, what to do? They grew discontented and lazy. And their complaining and laziness dulled their once sharp minds....

Then one day a new Lamb came into the pasture. He was a very intelligent Lamb. Why, he was so smart that he had actually taught at Wolf Academy. He had even taught at Wolf University! His name was Mr. Ram, and not only was he very smart, he was very shrewd--and quite the businessman. One day, he called a meeting of all the Lamb parents in the Pasture.

"As you know, I have spent lots of time outside the pasture honing my amazing math skills and then teaching them to other little ones. I can see that you parents really do not know how to teach math to your little Lambs. In fact, you are very poor at it. If you keep trying to do this yourselves, your little Lambs are not going to be good at all at taking care of the Pasture when they grow up. Then what will the Shepherd say? He will be very disappointed in you, of course."

The parent lambs were very sad. They knew how much time it took to teach their children. And math, as everyone knows, is nearly impossible to teach without just the right college degree. While they could not justify sending the little Lambs to Wolf Academy, they considered that no harm would come to the little Lambs by only spending one hour every week taking pre-algebra with Mr. Ram. So they acquiesced. But still, there were some who regarded Mr. Ram with caution. He had bad breath, and they thought they caught an occasional glimpse of fangs.

And another year went by. And still the Shepherd reminded the flock, "I will gently lead those who are with young."

Then, one day, Mr. Ram called another meeting. "Your kids have been with me for a year now, and you now know for yourself just how amazing I am. You also now know just how preposterous was your own intention of long ago to teach your children math. But there is another problem. Your children also need science. You know you don't have the credentials to teach your own children science. It would be foolish for you to think you could, just as it was foolish for you to think you could teach them math. And you do not want to disappoint the Shepherd. Therefore, I will help you please the Shepherd. I will teach science to your little Lambs." So the little Lambs left their parents each week now for two hours, one for math and one for science. And how the mother Lambs rejoiced in two hours of free time, and how the father Lambs rejoiced in not having to talk anymore about math and science! But some Lambs still smelled the bad breath and saw glimpses of fangs.

And another year went by. And still the Shepherd reminded the flock, "I will gently lead those that are with young."

The next year, Mr. Ram called another meeting. "My dear parents, now you know how amazing I am at teaching your lambs math and science. But the Shepherd does not want your lambs to only know math and science. He wants them to know how to write. If you let me have just one more hour with your children every week, I will teach them how to write. After all, you don't really think, do you , that you are qualified to teach them to write? What would the Shepherd say?" And so the Lambs spent three hours every week being tutored by Mr. Ram. And the parents now had three uninterrupted hours of peace. But some of the Lambs remained stubbornly suspicious of Mr. Ram and continued to keep their little Lambs close. His wool seemed to tilt oddly to one side.

And another year went by. And still the Shepherd reminded the flock, "I will gently lead those that are with young."

The following year, Mr.Ram again assembled the parents and again reminded them of his amazing skills and vast knowledge. "Poor silly, stupid Lambs," he gently scoffed, looking through his spectacles and over his long snout at them. "After all these years, do you still insist on trying to teach your Lambs? The most important things your Lambs need to know in order to take proper dominion of the Pasture is how to think and how to view the world. If you cannot teach your little ones math or science or writing, do you still kid yourselves that you can teach them the most important thing? How to think? Why, you're not even certified!!!" The Lambs shook their heads in shame. Of course, Mr. Ram was right. What were they thinking? And they turned their little ones over to him for history and worldview and literature and anything else that required deep, difficult thought. The parents sighed happily and contentedly. Now they could do the things that really pleased the Shepherd, like work and ministry and Bible studies. And their little Lambs would grow up to be amazingly brilliant just like Mr. Ram. How pleased the Shepherd must be with them now! But still, some of the lambs clung to their little ones and appealed to the Shepherd for assistance as they rolled up their sleeves and trudged on teaching math, science, writing, history, literature, and worldview themselves.

And the years went by. And the Shepherd reminded the flock, "I will gently lead those that are with young." But only a few of the families were listening anymore. It was easier to listen to what Mr. Ram said about the Shepherd than to what the Shepherd said Himself.

And before anyone realized it, the little Lambs were full-grown adults! And all of them were ready to go off to University so they could come back and take serious dominion over the Pasture. And the little Lambs taught by their parents were intelligent and articulate and wise. They encountered fangs, bad breath, and lopsided wool at University, but it was repulsive to them, and they wisely kept their distance. Most importantly, they loved their parents, and they loved the Pasture, and they loved the Shepherd. They were strong and good. They took wise dominion over the Pasture and pleased the Shepherd. They enjoyed eating what their parents ate and walking where their parents walked and sleeping where their parents slept. The Shepherd was very pleased. He blessed them with little Lambs of their own and whispered to them, "I will gently lead those that are with young."

The Lambs who were taught by Mr. Ram went off to University and met a pack of wolves. But they were not at all alarmed by the sharp teeth or the bad breath. And sadly, the Lambs put themselves in the path of the wolves. And the wolves, being wolves, devoured the Lambs. Many of them died of their wounds. Some, beaten and bloodied, limped home to the Pasture. But they did not seek help from their parents. Hadn't Mr. Ram repeatedly reminded them how unqualified their parents were? Besides, now they were unaccustomed to what their parents ate and where they walked and where they slept. They did recall some occasional mention of a shepherd. But that was only minimal. And what could he do, anyway? And so, the bruised lambs left the Pasture and the protection of the Shepherd for good. The saddest thing of all was that their parents never did figure out why they lost their precious little ones to the wolves.

And the Shepherd cried.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Baby K

"What is my only comfort in life and death?
That I, with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own but belong to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins and delivered me from all the power of the devil and so preserves me, that without the will of my Heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head..." (Heidelberg Catechism, question #1)

My friend Scarlett is a mom much like me. She loves her baby. She loves his baby smell. She videos his silly interactions with his older siblings. She takes lots of pictures of him in her arms or wearing his glasses or being adored by one of his relatives. She laughs when he laughs and hurts when he hurts.

Baby K is a baby much like mine. He's got fuzzy Woodstock hair, soft skin, and dark eyes. He loves his mom, his dad, and his big brother and sisters. He cries when he's uncomfortable and coos when he's happy.

But in one important way, Scarlett is walking a mom journey unlike any I have walked. And Baby K is in a fight for his precious life.

Baby K has Cockayne's Syndrome type II.
That means Baby K is aging prematurely.
That means people stare at him because they know intuitively something is different.
That means Scarlett finds herself educating people around her about this disease that only currently infects 200 to 300 people on the planet.

And, currently, it is both incurable and terminal.

Scarlett is one of those people who sees beauty in the world around her. God has gifted her with creativity and the eye of an artist. And while words are my vehicle for expression, Scarlett is incredible at being able to express a wide range of experience with beautiful materials. I never cease to be amazed at what she creates.

And now, Scarlett has turned her art into a way to bring awareness to Cockayne's Syndrome. She is turning the times when people gaze in curiosity at Baby K into an opportunity to educate them about this disease by handing them beautiful hand-drawn cards that explain his syndrome. She has also begun a way to raise money for the disease.

The symbol for Cockayne's Syndrome is the butterfly. Right now, she is selling butterfly cards and other related items on her site to promote awareness of Cockayne's Syndrome and raise money for a cure. If you are artsy and would like to give of yourself to this worthy project, please see Scarlett's site here.

It is hard to sit on the sidelines and watch as your friend must carry a burden you cannot help carry. I cannot make her heart stop hurting. But I can--and do--bathe Scarlett, Baby K, and the rest of her family in prayer. And I can get the word out about Scarlett's work on behalf of Cockayne's Syndrome.

So, give if you are able.
Pray for Scarlett.
Pray for Baby K.
And know that they are in the care of my good and sovereign God, who is our only comfort in life and death.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Extreme Parenting

Call me crazy.

I just don't think skateboarding on stair railings is athleticism. Nor do I think BASE jumping teaches unique skill sets. Since when, after all, is falling an acquired talent? In my opinion, extreme athletes hover somewhere on the scale between 'idiot' and 'pothead.'

But I've got extreme tendencies, too. And I can be as idiotic as a Flying Tomato. Extreme parenting I call it. It's found on both sides of the path.

The first one is the child-centered home. The parents in this home often operate by this maxim:I'll say 'yes' unless I have a really good reason to say 'no.' You'll know this home right off the bat. Junior runs the show; Junior has Dad and Mom wrapped around his little finger; and what Junior wants, Junior gets...because Junior's got talent, don'tcha know? Unfortunately, Junior's also got an overblown ego and an underdeveloped character. The parents in this home are typically lovely people who just want the best for their children.

This ditch, which creates little megalomaniacs who grow up to be big megalomaniacs, makes about as much sense as cliff-diving. This ditch rarely tempts me.

But darn it if I didn't nearly walk straight into the ditch on the other side a few weeks ago: the parent-centered home. The parents of this home often operate by this maxim: I'll say 'no' unless I have a really good reason to say 'yes.' These parents are serious about discipling their children. But the children seem doomed to live their dreams vicariously. I'm not quite sure if the parents serve the children in these homes...or if the children serve the parents.

Ah, this is my ditch. And when I'm stuck down in this ditch, it's hard for me to see that I am taking big risks with my children--risks that are no less dangerous than bungee jumping because they are risks that jeopardize my children's ability to take dominion.

So I remind myself of my dear friend Karen...
who would rather be sipping coffee and discussing history...
who would rather be grading essays...
who would rather be reading aloud...

This year, Karen went where she didn't want to go and did what she didn't want to do. And she did it because it was what was best for her son. But the most inspiring thing about it has been Karen's winsome, cheerful attitude about the whole journey.

It's foolish for me to let my children's whims determine the climate and the commitments in our home...but it's equally foolish to let my own whims do the same thing. Ironically, the Christ-centered home feels most risky but is most safe, while the parent- or child-centered home feels most safe but runs the most risk.

So now when I take my child to a place beyond my comfort zone, I will think about Karen. I will focus on what is best for my child and not what is best for me. And I will remind myself that I am here to serve my children. They are not here to serve me.

Bungee jumping.
Cliff diving.
Extreme parenting.
Foolish choices and dangerous consequences.

Like Karen, I need to resist both the child-centered ditch and the parent-centered ditch. I need to minimize my risk and embrace the Christ-centered home.