Monday, April 28, 2008

Rambo, sigh... MY hero.... HARDLY!

Okay, if you're reading my blog for up-to-the minute news flashes, you're not very good at assessing your sources. I'm usually behind the times, and that doesn't just refer to my fashion sense. However, I've been meaning to blog about this for some time, it just hadn't made my priority list. For some reason, perhaps reading about more killing in Africa, it finally has.

See, Sylvester Stallone is my enemy. I have to pray for him. I really do. I was never a fan of his, but then about a year ago, I read a book entitled A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of A Boy Solider by Ishmeal Beah.

That was the icing on the cake. My status changed from not-fan to enemy.

As I read the sobering story of Ishmael Beah, the tremendous loss of his family and the unbelievable destruction of life in Sierra Leone, Stallone revealed himself to be a real problem. Definitely not Good America. I learned how one makes boy soldiers from reading this book, and I learned how the adults running the war hyped the boys up to kill and slaughter entire villages of innocent people. The adults would get them high, and then have them watch.... Sylvester Stallone movies. In fact, the boys would watch the movies to get ideas of how to kill people, and try to re-enact scenes from the movies when they were attacking villages!

I'm sure Sylvester's very proud of what he's inspired. What a legacy.

Well, now, my enemy (God love him), is offering his services, in the form of Rambo, to some poor Christian missionaries. Really, this was never front page news when the movie came out in January because, well, Rambo is so.... yesterday anyway. But, in search of a plot for yet another Rambo movie, this was the best they could come up with.

Never mind the fact that Christians are supposed to love their persecutors and pray for them, Rambo has to save them! Never mind the fact that God is WAY MORE POWERFUL than their enemies and could easily save them if that was His intent.

What is really disturbing, though, is that people who call themselves Christians have actually watched this movie and given it a positive rating!

Here is a quotes from christiananswers.net:

"I was simply overjoyed by its obviously Christian themes and good portrayal of justice and allegorical display of God's wrath.' -- yourmom, age 25

I wonder what Christian themes she means? Turning the other cheek? Praying for your persecutors? Loving your enemies?


How about this one:

What bothered me about the movie, and this may seem trite, (and it don't mean for it to) is that Stallone is apparently a new Christian. I don't know if he was converted before or after filming. However, Stallone used the f-word several times in the movie, and it stunned me hearing this, if he is a Christian. --Bill Boylston, age 49


First of all, I think if Rambo has truly become a Christian then the public would see a completely repentant Stallone who would openly disavow all Rambo movies and put his wealth into stopping what his movies have inspired in Sierra Leone. He would repent like Zacheus.

Secondly, what in the world is wrong with the world view of a person who can watch hours of bloody violence, anti-christian choices, rape and who-knows-what else and be offended at someone using the F-word!!!!!!

This website listed 11 positive/neutral reviews by people who had watched the movie, and only
2 negative (including a Christian who walked out of the theater while it was still playing).

What is wrong/sick/disturbed with the church in America that people don't see how the theme of this movie is completely anti-Christian? That people don't see that killing people is worse than saying the F-word? That people think that justice and God's vengeance (which, from my understanding belongs to God, not humans) win out over Christ's love, and mercy. That people don't understand that it takes MORE courage to be Christ in those situations that to be dumb stupid violent Rambo?

I guess we can apply the gospel when we want to and then hire Rambo to kill whenever the gospel doesn't fit us. Maybe we can even run a war that way --- and claim it's God's call to bring peace by killing...

We're really really messed up.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Spring is Here!

Spring is here, and how do I know? Because I looked out the window this afternoon to see birds in the trees, a bunny hopping in my neighbor's yard, and my 11-year-old tied to a large rope that was slung over a branch of our backyard tree. His 10-year-old friend attached to the other side.

Now, they weren't attempting a double suicide (although that might have been the accomplishment if it had continued). They were attempting to climb the tree using the rope. One child stood firmly on the ground while the other used his leverage to climb the rope up the tree.

It struck me as a bad idea, but I wasn't sure. See, just about everything they do strikes me as a bad idea. So, I wasn't sure if it was really a bad idea, or just me being an overprotective mother. I called my husband and described the scene.

"What you're seeing," he told me, "is what you would call a 'bad idea in action'."

What I was really afraid of, though, is that they would succeed in getting into the tree. The first branch was high enough that I knew they wouldn't be able to climb back down. Then, that would be an even bigger problem because I'd have to call my friend and tell her that we had treed her son!

After that what would I do? Call the fire department for a rescue? Do they rescue hapless little boys who climb trees with ropes, or do they just tell you you're own your own with this one?


So, I nixed the idea of tying people to the rope for leverage and they spent another 40 minutes trying to figure out what they could do with the rope. a large tree and a group of 8 children of various sizes and ages. Finally, they moved on.

Now, they're out there playing a wiffle ball game that they organized on their own and have made totally inclusive. It's moments like these that I absolutely love my kids and their friends. They've divided themselves into two teams, marked their bases and have adapted the game to prosthetic legs (two kids), 1 wheelchair, a missing arm and some limited hearing, and none of it matters. They're just playing away on this beautiful spring day, and not one of those disabilities matter -- to the kids who have the disabilities or the kids who don't. It's just a great thing to watch.



Of course, we've already had our first injury, yet another sign of spring. Our princess came running in yesterday with blood dripping off her big toe. There were no tears, only shear fascination that a toe could bleed so heavily. It turns out she stubbed her toe on a neighbor's driveway while racing a kid who was riding his bike. Why not run a barefoot race against someone riding a bike?

The real sign of spring, though, is my children's love/hate relationship with the great outdoors. They love to be outside right now, but then after about an hour, they come running and panting into the house.

"It's just SOOOO hot out there!"

What am I going to do with them in August?

Friday, April 25, 2008

One Night with The King -- Gag Me With a Spoon!

Last night my husband and I watched the movie, "One Night with the King", which is supposed to be about the story of Esther. It's based on the Christian romance novel "Hadassah". (Does anyone else find it unnerving that a man is writing romance novels?) If I had known that it had been based on that, I never would have bothered with the movie. But, I unwittingly believed that it was going to be the story of Esther.

Let's start with what was good about the movie.

The costumes and the set.

Okay. Now that we're done with that, we can progress.

First of all, the writer felt the need for Esther to wear this crystal pendant that was passed down from her mother and father. It contained her cultural identity. When light hit it, Stars of David shown all over the room -- but only people who could "get it", not people like Haman, could see the stars.

Oh please!

In fact, that's how she reveals to Xerxes and Haman her true identity. Never mind that the Jews didn't adopt the Star of David as an official sign of Judaism until 1000s of years later. So neither Haman nor Xerxes would know what the stars meant. With Christian fiction, accuracy is just not necessary!

Another hilarious part was King Xerxes. King Xerxes, who banished his first wife Vashti because she refused to parade about in front of his friends, falls in love with Esther. The implication is that he was faithful to her during the year of choosing a bride (not sure what he did with all those other women showing up expecting him to perform his magisterial duties), and after their marriage, scoffs at the idea of using one of his concubines.

Of course, if he's not planning on using them, then why does he have them?

The influence of Mordecai is totally downplayed in this story and they totally fabricate a story line of Esther desiring to go back to Jerusalem because of her intense desire to connect with her heritage. They invent a couple characters, one of which is a boyhood friend that they imply Esther was falling in love with until he is forced to be a eunuch. Perhaps his story would have been more interesting than hers.

This movie was a sad sad joke. Why would you take a great story and then get all Hallmarky about it and change it into something different? Good heavens! This was never a love story! It was a story about a beautiful woman who used her wiles to protect her people! She did what was right, at her own risk, and allowed God to work through her action of approaching the king. At this point in time, the Jews could return to Jerusalem if they so desired. The ones who remained were not the ones who were desiring to "connect with their heritage" or were devoutly dedicated to God, or probably even their own people.

In addition to the inaccuracy in the story, the acting was terrible. Esther came off like a child, and then never seemed very regal. Xerxes had some kind of bizarre accent. Lots of people mumbled (maybe I'm getting old and my hearing is bad). The scenes jumped around and they used lots of weird camera angles. It was confusing for me and I know the story, so I can only assume it would be very confusing for someone who didn't know it.

As my husband said at the end of the movie, "I think we just watched the Amish Romance Novel Version of the book of Esther."

"One Night with the King" -- 2 thumbs and 2 big toes down.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ethanol: Enough to Make Me Throw Things At My Treadmill

Let me start this blog entry by saying I really don't understand the American fascination with big cars, luxury cars, "sporty cars" or trucks. I really don't get it. Talk about temporal. A car loses value faster than most any big thing you can purchase, will inevitably break down, and, deep down, everyone knows that the more expensive the car you drive, the lower your self-esteem. We know that because it is the God-honest truth. People who are secure in who they are have no problem driving a simple vehicle that will get you safely from point A to point B. Yet, as a nation, we just can't shake this big car thing.

Or the driving to the moon and back each day, thing, either. It's a really telling issue.

And, now, we're paying for all our stupid driving, our big useless vehicles, and we're making innocent people pay as well.

About a year ago, I read an article on the use of ethanol. When I first heard the idea, I thought it was a great idea. One that could potentially keep us from being so dependent upon foreign oil. That's because I was buying into the consumer idea that we can have lots of something without SOMEBODY having to pay for it at some point. The Walmart Nation Way: Get lots of Stuff Cheap (and don't concern yourself with what the actual cost is to the people who produced it, the environment or our sense of morality). That article quoted agriculture experts who warned that the cost of using ethanol was too great to justify.

Why? Because you are talking about tapping into a nation's food supply in order to fuel vehicles. Corn, of course, is the plant from which ethanol is derived. Corn is also the plant from which about 85% percent of our food is derived -- even foods such as baloney and applesauce have some trace amounts of corn (via syrup) in it! Pigs, Cows, Chickens and all other meat animals are feed corn before being slaughtered.

So, if you tap into a nations corn supply to use it to make gas for your car, what happens to the supply? It diminishes, and therefore becomes more expensive. Voila! You have rising food prices across the board.

Of course, food prices are also rising because of the recent natural disasters and the increase in oil prices. However, why would we, as a culture, continue to even consider using ethanol when we've already had a taste of the potential problem?

Then, this morning, while innocently walking the treadmill at our Y, I became incited to the point where I was nearly throwing my water bottle at my neat little personal TV attached to the front of my treadmill. It was pictures of women in Cameroon physically fighting over a bag of corn that started my protest, then pictures of mothers holding their starving children that rose the ire even more. The food crisis in developing countries has escalated to the point where food is so scarce people are fighting over it! Where food is available, the prices have escalated so high that people are spending 80% of their income on what little food they can get.

Humanitarian aid agencies are simply not getting the amount of donations that they used to get, and the number of needy people has increased. What are they attributing this problem to?

1) Natural disasters wiping out crops
2) Increases in oil costs causing increases in food costs (at that point I was lifting my water bottle)
3) Weakening of the U.S. dollar, so therefore less donations from the U.S. (now I'm aiming the water bottle)
4) Use of corn for ethanol production (ready- aim- fire)

Okay, I didn't throw the water bottle, but I was pretty close. What really saddens me is that the U.S. did once have a reputation for donating generously to humanitarian aid, but apparently we've become a nation that would rather drive around a lot in bigger cars than we need, go home and play on $500 gaming systems, and send our kids to circus camp than to share our blessings with people in need.

In addition to all the other problems, from an agricultural stand point just about the last thing our nation needs is to grow more corn. The number of monoculture farms across the nation are already creating soil problems, and creating problems with animal waste (which was once a natural fertilizer for polyculture farms) soiling ground water.

But, I guess we still get to drive a lot, and all the other people who go to the Y between 6:30 and 7:30 will continue to get a little entertainment from me when I see the news reports.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Showdown at the Mount of Olives: Judge Roy Moore

I've never thought that I would have to choose between the Sermon on the Mount and the Ten Commandments. Nor, do I have to. If I did, though, I would go with the Sermon on the Mount. This is an issue raised in Grand Theft Jesus, although McElvaine is hardly the first to address it.

Long ago I read Randall Balmer's Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical's Lament. While I found much of the book lacking in solid research and riddled with vast generalization -- although in a much much more mature voice than Grand Theft Jesus -- Balmer had some very interesting insight. Some of that was in regard to Judge Roy Moore.

During the great scandal of Moore's refusal to remove the 10 commandments from the Alabama State Supreme Court Building, the first thing that caught my attention was the film footage of protesters that had surrounded the court house. At one point a woman threw herself down on the ground and said something to the effect of , "Don't take my God out of this government."

"My." I thought to myself, "Judaic Law is not my God. I wonder what religion she is."

Sadly enough, she believed herself to be a Christian. Last I checked, God is not the 10 commandments, and Jesus is Lord. Perhaps I'm confused.

After Moore was removed from office, I was struck by all the unnecessary pity that rose among many evangelicals for their fallen hero. In their minds, he had sacrificed, he had suffered. He lost his job, his income.

Malarkey! Baloney! I knew from the start he'd have a prolific speaking career (and he does) and that he'd probably write a book about it (and he did) and that he'd probably go on to practice as a lawyer (and he does). I've even heard talk about him running for political office.

If that's all sacrifice, boy, count me in! I'm all for sacrifice of that nature.

In addition to all that, when reading Balmer's book, I learned more about the start of the entire controversy, part of which was Moore's unwillingness to place other monuments in addition to the 10 commandments at the court house.

His lack of grace towards homosexuals, his ability to profit from his "sacrifice", his misunderstanding of who the real God is, and his lack of flexibility in dealing with people of different backgrounds would certainly keep him from my hero list.

One point, raised by Balmer and then by McElvaine and a plethora of others, was that no one ever argues to keep the Sermon on the Mount in any public buildings. Now, that has captured my imagination.

What would our culture be like if we, as a group, were striving become the meek, to be poor, if we looked for blessings in our mourning, if we hungered and thirsted for righteousness and justice, if we strove to show mercy, if we were constantly reminded that we need to be peacemakers....

Of course, those things haven't shaped our civil law, and they are more ambiguous than "Thou shalt not steal" or "thou shall not covet". But, really, if we were pursuing the beatitudes, wouldn't so much of the 10 commandments follow? If you're content being poor in spirit, are you going to covet? If you are striving to be meek, would you steal?

Wouldn't we live in such a great society if everyone was encouraged to live out those values? Of course, it would be impossible to enforce (imagine being arrested for arrogance!), therefore, not law. But, wouldn't the most amazing laws come from those ideas!

The Wheelchair Saga, An End in Sight!

If I were to have one piece of advice to give to any parent, whether parenting a special needs child or not, it would be this: If you believe, deep in your heart, that what the experts are telling you is wrong, you need to listen to your heart.

When we first started looking into getting "medical" help for Nappy, our youngest daughter who happens to have arthrogryposis in all her limbs, we were steered in the wrong direction. I'm not blaming the doctor, at least not completely, and I'm not blaming the system. Neither is perfect, so in the end, you need to rely on the Holy Spirit to lead you down the right path.

About this time last year, a doctor who had only spent about 1/2 an hour looking at our daughter's arms and legs, made the decision that she would not be able to work a manual chair, and therefore, in order to "keep up" with her peers, needed a powerchair.

This doctor had no idea how this would impact our family.

First of all, it would mean changes to our van. If we wanted to cart the chair inside the van (which is what the salesman told us we would need to do), it would require purchasing a new vehicle. To transport our family of 7, would require a 15 seater van. Then the van would have to be customized to the lift/tie-ins. The estimates for that were anywhere from $15,000 to $65,000.

Then we learned that we could cart the 350lb wheelchair on the back of our van. A lift and installation would be anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000, depending upon who you talked to.

Then, there was the question of where she'd use this 350lb behemouth. It wouldn't work at home (not safe for the other children or toys), and she couldn't use it in a her Sunday School class or Co-op class -- again, for safety. She would need direct supervision, so she couldn't play with it outside unless I was with her. So, again, when would she use this chair? In therapuetic preschool. That would mean she, who only just joined a family one year ago, would be separated from us about 40+ hours a week (including transportation).

There was the cost of the chair, too, a $3000 co-pay (in addition to all the house and van work). So, this chair would have easily put our family anywhere from $5000 to $85,000 into debt.

What would that mean for our children? A total lifestyle change. Gone would be the days of relaxed homeschooling, time with mom and dad and opportunities to pursue their talents and interests. To pay off all the debt, I would have to go back to work full time, and, chances are, one of us would have to work a second job.

What would all that mean for their relationships? Certainly there would be resentment on that part of the other children -- they lost their beautiful childhoods because of a wheelchair. It would also teach Nappy that our family revolves around her needs. There's a great lesson.

Long term, what would that have meant for Nappy? Well, she would've never learned that she could work a manual chair. She would have never learned that she could climb into and out of a manual chair. She wouldn't be able to climb steps. She wouldn't have such a strong cardiovascular system. She would think that her enviornment must always be adapted to her, rather than she conquering her enviornment.

Now, if she wasn't able to work a manual chair this would all be different. For someone who's not able, a power chair is a liberating and beautiful thing, and I am so thankful that they have been invented!!! But the thing that was crazy is that no one checked to see if she could, it was just assumed she couldn't. The number one cardinal rule of working with the disabled was broken: NEVER ASSUME THAT A PERSON WITH A DISABLITY CAN'T DO SOMETHING!

So, now here we are a year later, and I have been proclaimed "right." Several days ago we ordered her a manual chair, under the direction of her doctor and a PT, that is fitted perfectly to maximize the workings of her unique body. Through out the entire wheelchair evaluation, the same people who, before, were telling me that I was in denial over her disabilities, that I was holding her back, that I was denying her the chance to keep up with other kids, were now telling me that I was "right." "This is the best situation for her." "Working the wheelchair will help with building the muscles that might help her to walk."

So, all of this is not to say that I'm really smart, or the doctors are really dumb (the vast majority of arthrogryposis patients cannot work a manual chair), but to just say that the Holy Spirit can convict and encourage you to see what the experts can't. Through this entire year, I had a weight on my back about the power chair. I knew it wasn't right for her. I knew it wasn't right for our family. It stunk to disagree with the experts. It really did. I had my ability to parent her questioned, and I'm sure, behind my back, my sanity questioned. But, I really believe God used his spirit to convict me that I needed to listen to Him and to do the unusual, and I'm so thankful that I did.

Ultimately, as parents, you're responsible for your child's development. The doctors and therapists can guide and direct, but they only get a small snapshot of your child's life. It's up to you to advocate, to follow God's lead, and to stand up for what you know your child needs.

In the end, our daughter has no clue of all the controversy that's surrounded her. She is, however, really happy that her new wheelchair will be purple with blue and silver accents and front wheels that light up.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Grand Theft Jesus -- Thoughts from the Opposite of the Religious Right

I usually read about three books at a time. That way, I can read a book until I'm tired of it, and then switch to a different book until I'm tired of it, and so on and so forth. Right now I'm reading How Much Is Enough? Hungering for God In an Affluent Culture by Arthur Simon, Lust For Life by an author I can't remember, and the book Grand Theft Jesus; The Hijacking of Religion in America by Robert S. McElvaine.

Written in what is supposed to be a humorous voice, Grand Theft Jesus comes off as flippant, immature and incredibly mean-spirited. The jokes, whether tongue-in-cheek or not are simply not funny. There is really no humor in this book, although many a reader has probably inwardly groaned at a horrible attempt at humor. The only real humor in the book is unintentional. His point in writing the book is how unchristlike the religious right really is. Of course, he's just as unchristlike in his attacks and judgements. His real agenda comes through loud and clear towards the beginning of the book when he says that many Christians voted against Jesus when they voted for George Bush.

Am I the only one who gets to incredibly sick and tired of people on both sides of the political spectrum using Jesus to tell me who to vote for?

He shows a fundamental misunderstanding of scripture by the 6th chapter, when he attacks the inerrancy of scripture -- claiming that all the many contradictions in the Bible prove that it's not the infallible Word of God. While there are debatable points to scripture, one of the amazing aspects of it is that a book can be written by so many authors over such a long period of time and NOT contradict itself. He provides two examples for his purpose, showing a real lack of content that is prevalent through out the book. He starts in Genesis.

Yes, there are two different orders to the creation story in Genesis, and no that doesn't mean it's a contradiction. Perhaps the point isn't the order -- perhaps the point is just that, in fact -- the order of the creation is not what the story is about. Certainly, though, this only proves a contradiction for those who take the Bible completely literally. It appears he hasn't done the necessary research to really go beyond the tip of the ice berg with this criticism.

Then he goes on.

"For now, it should be sufficient to note that Jesus disagreed with the notion that there was no "mixture of error" in scripture. In the Sermon on the Mount, he unambiguously revised some of the early regulations of the Hebrew Bible ("You have heard that it was said to the men of old....But I say to you...").

Wow. That shows a total misunderstanding of the old covenant and the new covenant. Jesus consistently pointed out that things were different once He came, not that things were wrong in the old testament scriptures! Honestly, it leads me to believe that McElvaine has never really studied scripture and has no context for any opinions or thoughts that he shares. This only serves to prove the point that this book is not about Jesus, but truly about convincing people to vote democrat.

When he also points out, in Chapter 6, that God is bigger than "one holy book" (or holey book as he quips -- I told you the jokes were terrible), and bigger than one religion, he points out his own contradictions. Though he's trying to pass himself off as someone who follows Christ, apparently perfectly since he's comfortable judging anyone who isn't a member of the democratic party, he finds no problem in blowing off Jesus' statement, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except through me."

Another thing that I find incredibly annoying with this book is the lack of content. Even worse, McElvaine tries, unsuccessfully, to cover up the lack of content by being extremely repetitive. In that way he's like the leftist version of John Elderidge. If I could edit out every sentence where he says something about how "ChristianityLite" is taking over the country, I'd be reading a 140 page book rather than a 280.

However, all that said, as much as I am disgusted by the attitude and beliefs of the messenger, I agree with a good portion of the message. So, for the next few blog entries, I'm planning on sifting through his junk and studying the nuggets of truth he happens to have stumbled upon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Upstairs Bathroom

We have a bathroom on the second story of our house. Technically, it's a full bath, but the shower leaks terribly due to a crack in the floor, and to replace the shower is too expensive since it's a unique size and shape. So, in effect it's a 1/2 bath. Also, technically, it's not a second story, it's the .5 story of our 1.5 story house. I'm still trying to figure out how a house can have half a story when it has more steps than most 3 story houses.

Anyway, I was in our living room, reclining on our couch and reading a book when I heard the step stool sliding across the bathroom floor above me. At first I didn't think anything of it, but then I realized that 3 kids were in the basement watching "Little House on the Prairie" reruns and 1 kid was at Boy Scouts. That left 1 kid, and she was in bed.

Or was she?

Slipping up the stairs, stealth as a cheetah stalking it's prey, I made my way to the bathroom door. Quietly I stepped to the doorway. My eyes fell on my victim. Nappy, our 4 year old, was climbing a step stool to try to reach something in the closet. As I entered the doorway, her head turned towards me. Her face fell, and I clearly read the panic in her eyes.

"Mom," she cried, "You weren't supposed to be up here ever!"

"Wasn't I?"

"No! It wasn't in my plan!"

"Are you supposed to be in here right now?"

"No" she wailed, "but I didn't think you'd be in here right now!"

Needless to say, we had a sincere talk (and a bit more), and she is now nicely in her bed. I do believe she'll stay there for the rest of the evening.

It reminded me of another event with the upstairs bathroom from several years ago. Our oldest, Lawyer/Social Advocate Boy, was sent upstairs to get ready for bed. My husband and I were talking for several minutes and then he went up to tuck the boys in bed.

He walked in on an interesting scene. Our son was standing on the step stool, looking into the mirror while slowly emptying his toothpaste tube onto his face -- painting on a beard.

"Ahh!" My husband yelped. "What are you doing???"

"I'm making a beard...." my son replied.

"Why are you doing that?"

"Because I didn't know you were up here."


So, this bathroom has been the scene of many things over the years (not to mention at least one illegal barbershop) , and if it weren't for having the extra toilet, I'm not sure I'd want it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Treasure

I've been thinking lately about what exactly Jesus meant when referred to "treasures in heaven" in Matthew 6:19-24. The obvious answer that jumps out to me is that the only thing you take from this earth to heaven is people, so the treasure would be people.

But are the treasures only people? Over the years, I've met Christians who take that so literally that they "evangelize" everyone they see, passing out tracts, witnessing to every unsuspecting waiter, waitress, cashier and banker they come in contact with, focusing on "converts" as treasures. It draws to mind the image of Scrooge McDuck from the old Donald Duck Cartoons. Whenever he'd see money, he'd get dollar signs in his eyes. These people, in my overactive imagination, get diamonds and rubies in their eyes when they see people. Instead of corporate greed, we get to see gospel greed.

At the same time, as we spent time in my daughter's orphanages, I became overwhelmed with the sense that those little children were treasures-in-heaven. I mean you can spend your money on a lot of things, but how often can you spend money on something (an adoption) and it lead to something eternal? Investing in missionaries, homeless shelters, food pantries, mentoring clubs -- they all have the potential to yield eternal treasures. Of course, treasures would still be people...

So, I want to store up these treasures in heaven and I don't want to spend my money on things that will be destroyed by moths and dust, or stolen by thieves. At the same time, I know that I can't sink every penny I have into adopting orphans, though we've done a pretty good job at that so far. Outside of the physical needs of me and my family, there are other desires as well. If all we do is sacrifice everything, then I know that, eventually, we'd become bitter angry old souls who feel isolated from life. I, personally, think that was the cause of Mother Theresa's controversial spiritual struggle. She sacrificed to the point where she actually denied herself even glimpses of God's treasures from here on earth.

So, I was thinking about what I should spend my "discretionary" income on. For my children, I can blow it all on silly things like Webkinz, dvds, trips to McDonalds, big birthday parties and big wardrobes, or I can use it to give them glimpses of God's treasures. I can take them on trips to places where we can see God's majesty, like the mountains or the oceans. I can purchase curriculum that not only develops their intellect but also stimulates their imagination, and helps them to develop intimacy with God and compassion for their fellow humans. I can also invest in lessons and activities that will give them skills to last their lifetime, giving them an outlet of joy as they minister in a world full of suffering.

For myself, wouldn't it be the same? I should invest in only the things that will bring me closer to God, give me an understanding of majesty and bring me lasting joy as I minister in a world full of suffering.

What I'm wondering, though, is if we confuse the tools we can use to get to God's treasures as God's treasure. Soccer, piano, scouting, duck farming, swimming -- these aren't God's treasures, but the joy that they can produce in us, and the relationships they can bring into our lives are. So, in confusion, we give too much time money and attention to them (we even expand them to things as silly as Circus Camp), and engage in far too many of them for our own good. Or we take something that would be good on a local level, and then extend it to the "select" level, spending our weekends travelling to other cities to compete, or spending thousands of dollars on the "perfect" instrument. Not that those things are always bad, or always bad choices, but that those things start to own us and our schedules, and then we miss the actual treasure that God had for us, the eternal part that can come from those things. We see the gift as the blessing, rather than the relationship with the Giver as the blessing. After all, when we get a gift, the real blessing is in that the giver loved us enough to give the gift.

Well, I have many more thoughts on this idea, but my 11 year old (Lawyer/Social Advocate Boy) is trying to make spaghetti sauce and my kitchen may not recover from his attempt if I don't go help him now.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Magnetics in the Toilet and Missing Greek Mythology Papers

Our youngest daughter, whom we often refer to as Nappy (short for Napoleon -- she's quite a dictator, although not a very successful one), has, of late, been spreading her wings. Her most recent outstanding accomplishment was climbing into her wheelchair, but the list goes far beyond that.

She has also discovered the joy of pulling step stools where 'ere she wants to climb. This new freedom and confidence is great. However, it's leading to some fairly easy to solve mysteries.

For instance, Swimmer Girl (my nine year old) had spent a week writing synopsis of information on various Greek Gods and mythology about them. A week. For her, that's a significant chunk of her lifetime. The papers, which were kept on her desk, are now no where to be found. Needless to say, she wasn't happy about going back to the drawing board, and I'm still not sure where they went, except that I suspect a cute little blond girl toting a step stool may have had something to do with the disappearance.

Not long after that we had the "mystery of the missing bracelets". My poor persecuted Swimmer Girl could not find her bracelets that she had left on the dining room table. Oddly enough they turned up under the table cloth, near Nappy's seat. Again, I can't be certain, but I believe this was a crime branded with a capital "N".

Then, there were the magnetics in the toilet. I saw them as I was about to lift her onto the toilet.

"Hey," I observed, my Sherlock Holmes nature shining through, "There are magnetics in the toilet! How'd those get there?"

Totally innocent blue eyes, eyes wide with shock and horror, looked back at me.

"I have no idea."

"Did you put them in there?"

"No."

I called to whatever kids were nearby and all but my 5-year-old princess came in. I looked at the 4 of them. The truth was fairly obvious.

Looking at my 11, 10, and 9 year old, I said, "Well, I know it wasn't you, you, or you... so you all can leave."

Nappy looked at me. I said, "It's pretty obvious isn't it."

"Yes," she replied, eye lashes batting. "It must be ****." Of course, blame the sister!

I called our princess in, and asked her what she knew about it. Nothing. I looked again at Nappy.

"Sorry mommy, I think it was me that dropped them in the toilet."

"Why?" I asked. I'm a glutton for punishment, so I always ask that question. Really, I understand that there is no reason why. But, somewhere, deep in my heart, I just have to believe that children do have a reason for what they do.

"Because." She responded.

"Not good enough." I said, "Why did you drop the magnetics in the toilet."

"Mom," she sighed. "You know...." She looked at me, pursed her lips and shook her head. "It is what it is."

I had to ask, didn't I? I hoped that perhaps a natural consequence would drive the point home. Unfortunately, having her retrieve them didn't produce the repentance I had hoped. There was no sadness about sticking her hand in the toilet -- only mild curiosity and something akin to.... pride?

"Guess what guys!" she told her siblings, "I stuck my hand in the toilet and MOMMY told me to!"

Ya, right. Show me a Dobson book that addresses a kid like that!

Friday, April 4, 2008

How Do You Climb into Your Wheelchair? "By My Own!"

Climbing into a wheelchair might not seem like a big accomplishment, but to us it is! We were told, almost a year ago, that our youngest daughter would not only never be able to climb into a wheelchair, but to also wheel one! Now she can do both!


video

Her accomplishment makes me think of Helen Keller's famous quote, "Though the world is full of suffering, it's also full of the overcoming of it."

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Blue Jays, Exercise and Spritual Growth

Over Christmas, we got the wonderful privilege of paying a plumber thousands of dollars to rip up our front yard and replace the main drain leading to our home. The result was a nice rescinding of the sewage in our basement, and a terrible increase of mud everywhere else. Now,what was once our front yard became a mound of mud (to which I was always telling green bottle boy, "no, you can't climb it, no you can't climb it, no you can't climb it. Okay, fine, you can."). After a month of heavy rain, it took on the look of a giraffe grave yard -- one long hole in the ground with dirt mounded around the hole. Then, after my husband and three oldest kids shoveled for a while, it looked like a big slop of mud. And, now, that's where it's staying until the weather is such that we can seed the grass.

I hate paying plumbers. I hope I'm not offending anyone with that, because I really appreciate plumbers, I just hate paying them. I hate paying doctors, too, but it's all necessary. I hate how it looks, and I really hate all the mud. No matter what we do, the mud spills onto the sidewalk, the porch and the kids' shoes. It gets on my daughter's wheel chair, and then we have mud all over the house.

While I'm at it. I also hate to exercise. It's just so boring no matter what I do. I used to exercise with this video I bought at half-price books, but after watching the same video again and again, then I got to the point where I was mocking the exercise guy and thinking, "If he says, 'You can do it! This ain't no fluff! If you want fluff go and buy a pillow!" again, I'm going to find him and stuff a pillow in his mouth!" It was worse than the Christian radio host who went through a phase saying, "That gives me glory bumps!" Oh grow up already! Nobody says that!

So, sometimes I can find something interesting to watch at the gym while I exercise. That's pretty good, but then you have to get up really early in the morning if you don't want to wait for a treadmill or take the kids with you. Who wants to get up out of a nice warm bed early in the morning to go work a treadmill? I sure don't! But, in an effort to be Christ-like towards the guy in my workout video, I decided that I have to take the early morning at the gym tactic.

You might be wondering what my dirty front yard, and exercise has to do with anything, especially blue jays, but I really do have a point. See, the dirty front yard also got us thinking about moving again. We've really wanted to move into a bigger and flatter house. However, when it came to the point where we had to pay for the plumbing this Christmas, we realized that we couldn't do both. Even though we feel crunched in our house, and even though we really want to move into something where the girls can be more independent in the bathroom, it's just not an option for us right now. Needless to say it was a disappointment. I hated that mud.

Then, yesterday, as the kids and I were sitting in our living room reading the Bible, one of the kids jumped up and pointed out the window.

"Look!" he said, "Blue Jays!"

Sure enough, on the mud in our front yard were 4 or 5 beautiful blue jays pecking at the ground. They were gorgeous in contrast to all the mud surrounding them. As we watched them, two male cardinals joined them and our little front yard was speckled with brilliant reds and blues. Soon other smaller birds were joining them: robins, chickadees, and finches. Then, one of my kids noticed something else.

"All the birds are only in our yard."

They certainly were! With all the mud in our yard, it was a feast of exposed worms, grubs and pill bugs. If a car passed at that moment, they would've thought that Dr. Doolittle lived at our house. And, if you could've seen the excitement on my children's faces, you would've thought that the Cincinnati Zoo had set up shop in our front yard.

Really, from Green Bottle Boy's perspective, the mud is one of the greatest blessings God has poured out on him! This morning, as I sat in the chair near our front window praying, I started thinking about how the mud is really a blessing for all of us. I really don't want to be an "upwardly mobile"-focused family. I want to teach them to be content where ever we are, even if where we are isn't comfortable, even if it isn't "functional" by our standards. If we really need a different house, God will send us the means to have a different house. Our job isn't to concern ourselves with that, it's to use our current house to practice contentment and endurance.

Now, you might still wonder what exercise has to do with all this. We'll my quiet time this morning came about directly from exercise.

This morning, as the alarm clock went off, my husband and I had a session of mutual submission. I was so tired, the room was so cold and I just didn't want to get up. However, I just didn't want to look like I was a slacker. It seemed like it would all work better if I could make it look like I was only thinking of other people.

"You can go to the Y first, really I don't mind." I said, certain that I could get him to go first, and then it'd be too late for me to go in the morning.

"No, that's okay." Darn it!

Hit the snooze. 9 minutes later there's more beeping.

"You can go ahead, sweetheart. After all, you have be at work by 8:00."

"No, that's okay. You can go first."

Hit the snooze. 9 minutes later there's even more beeping.

"You can go ahead, you should leave now. It's too late for me, but if you go now, then there's still time for you to workout before work." See? I'm a really sacrificial spouse!

Silence.

"I think that I should have my quiet time first."

What a great guy! Here I was thinking about how I could get myself out of exercising, and he came up with the way to get us BOTH out of it (until evening, at least)! It was too late to exercise because we had to spend time with God! Obviously that has to come first!

Ahh! Exercise! See! It can lead to spiritual growth!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Darfur: Another Way to Help

Below you can see my beautiful children, doing their part to help stop a genocide. You can too, by going to this link . The Chinese government, by not only purchasing over 70% of Sudan's oil, but by also supplying the government with the weapons necessary to accomplish their genocide, needs to see that people know what's happening. Savedarfur.org is publishing these photos on their website and will also print them on banners to be displayed at a rally on April 9th in San Francisco. Again, another way to help -- for free!