Category Archives: Faith

“After School Satan” Is No Joke

crow silhouette

This morning, I was watching a video by Matt Chandler on the theme of “Recovering Redemption” for a Bible study. My nine-year-old son heard part of it and asked a question that led to a short discussion about how God created all things good, but how we have a tendency to misuse or abuse those good things God created. Food. Drink. Belongings. Education.

Right after that, I was scrolling through my phone’s news feed and saw an article about a new after-school program created by The Satanic Temple. The title of the program? After School Satan, intentionally created as a push back against Christian after-school programs, and targeting the areas that have “Good News Clubs,” which the Satanic Temple accused of having “Twisted Evangelical teachings.”

Two concerns come to the foreground in my mind as I consider this overtly “Satanic” thrust.

The first one is personal. When I was 11, certain dark influences entered my immediate environment. These influences affected me deeply. I was a sensitive child, and began having nightmares and experiencing extreme fear. I never felt safe, especially at night, but I was afraid to go to sleep because of the nightmares. Looking back over 20 years later, it is clear to me that children need to be protected from negative and dark influences. It can save them from years of fear, anxiety, and escapism. The Satanic Temple group stated that evangelical teachings rob “the innocence and enjoyment of childhood, replacing them with a negative self image, preoccupation with sin, fear of Hell…” I can only speak from my personal experience, but the thing that most robbed me of innocence and enjoyment, the things that gave me a negative self-image, the thing that inundated my life with fear was not biblical teachings, but the occult and related influences.

The second concern is more intellectual. One of the focuses the Satanic Temple highlighted is their promotion of “a scientific, rationalist, non-superstitious worldview.” An “After School Satan” program is not promoting scientific or rational views. By its very label, and by the title of those creating the program, it is promoting Satanism. Satan. If Satan is real, what does that mean? It means the Bible is real. And what the Bible says about Satan is no joke. He is called the Father of Lies. He is called the adversary of souls, not the promoter of “fun and free thought.” He is known as the “accuser” of God’s children and of mankind. Tempting and then accusing.

And if Satan and the Bible are real, only one thing brings hope. Only one thing brings freedom from fear and spreads light in a world where darkness and violence is prevailing more and more. That is the truth of grace. Instead of spreading “fear of Hell,” Jesus came to bring a hope of a world made new. Instead of giving a “negative self image,” the beauty of the Gospel shows that as flawed as we are, the Creator of heavens and earth stepped down from eternal beauty and gave up his honor for us. That is how much we are loved. Nothing can bring a higher image of our worth than a hero stepping into a broken world, laying down his life that we might live.

We cannot protect our children from every negative influence. We cannot save them from every lie or hurt or bit of darkness. But we can do our best to provide a safe place, where love and light prevails. Where children can learn the truth about what they already know. That in their hearts there is darkness. There is self-will. There is selfishness. These things are in all of us. No amount of denial or smiley faces or focus on scientific rationalism can replace the knowledge of this brokenness.

But there is also beauty. There is redemption. There is the true story of a love that transcended heaven and earth to lay hope at our feet and spread light in our hearts. If all we manage to do is lead our children to the foot of the cross — where all things are made new and we receive the promise of forgiveness, grace, and eternity — we give them the best thing they could ever have. A hope that will never leave. A love that triumphed death and is alive. A story that is never-ending. A grace that is ever-reaching. A Savior. A Redeemer. Jesus.

Frederick Buechner on Abortion

Jessica, Two Months Old, Smiling

SPEAKING AGAINST abortion, someone has said, “No one should be denied access to the great feast of life,” to which the rebuttal, obviously enough, is that life isn’t much of a feast for the child born to people who don’t want it or can’t afford it or are one way or another incapable of taking care of it and will one way or another probably end up abusing or abandoning it.

And yet, and yet. Who knows what treasure life may hold for even such a child as that, or what a treasure even such a child as that may grow up to become? To bear a child even under the best of circumstances, or to abort a child even under the worst—the risks are hair-raising either way and the results incalculable.

How would Jesus himself decide, he who is hailed as Lord of Life and yet who says that it is not the ones who, like an abortionist, can kill the body we should fear but the ones who can kill body and soul together the way only the world into which it is born can kill the unloved, unwanted child (Matthew 10:28)?

There is perhaps no better illustration of the truth that in an imperfect world there are no perfect solutions. All we can do, as Luther said, is sin bravely, which is to say (a) know that neither to have the child nor not to have the child is without the possibility of tragic consequences for everybody yet (b) be brave in knowing also that not even that can put us beyond the forgiving love of God.

Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark

Happy Mother’s Day!

My Mom at 16

My Mom at 16

Compared to some mothers (my mom, for starters), I’m fairly new to the motherhood game. This is my tenth Mother’s Day as a mom.

It seems the first where recent months have been filled with never-before-faced issues with my children. If you are a parent, the fact that I’ve been at it for roughly ten years has probably clued you in on an important factor: my oldest is a “tween.”

Up until now, I looked back on my teen years and comforted myself with the thought that, “By the time I was 12, I knew what I wanted to do in life. By the time I was 15, I was doing it.” (Never mind the fact that it was over ten years later that I discovered what I REALLY loved doing: writing. The experiences leading to that discovery served and helped me in a thousand great ways … but I’m rabbit trailing.)

In any case, I never went through a horrendous, wrenching “teen stage” and simply assumed the whole teenhood-filled-with-angst was overrated. Something modern culture welcomed with open arms to the detriment of expecting a progressive development of maturity.

But up there on my soapbox, I neglected to clearly glance back at my own tweenhood. It started when I was about nine. I dealt with self-doubt, anxiety, comparing, and questioning. A lot of it went on in my head because I rarely felt comfortable venting negativity about myself, my siblings, and my sorry lot in life. After all, someone might have actually talked some sense into me, and who wants to see clearly when they’re taking a mental mud bath?

So I’m remembering those tween days and looking with increasing trepidation upon my children entering that very stage. (My oldest is now nine.) Considering the moodiness, sullenness, and downright contrariness I have been facing regularly, I’m wondering if it’s too late to have second thoughts about this stage of parenting. (Are other options available?)

As my mom drove me to a book sale last week, I talked to her about some of my parenting concerns. She listened, gave me a bit of advice and insight on what my kids might be thinking. She brought up considerations I hadn’t thought of. And she listened some more. Because that’s just what moms do.

I looked over at her. She survived those years. Looking at some of the things she faced with the six of us, she passed with flying colors! Then, after acing her motherhood career, she began a new career that is remarkable in every way.

My Mom, at a birthMy mother is now a home-birth midwife. I don’t know how many babies she has “caught” over the past fifteen years, but I know that her love, concern, and prayers have blessed scores of mommies, babies, and dads  in countless ways.

I’ve got the world’s best mom. I know that for a fact. I also know that with her faith and prayers, this parenting thing will turn out okay. Yes, even parenting tweens. And beyond that, teens. And beyond that …

Okay, I’ll try not to get ahead of myself.

Today is today … and it’s Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day! To my terrific mom, and to all you awesome mothers, of babies, kids, tweens, teens, or adults. They’ll always be your children. And your love for them is unconditional.

Because that’s just what moms do.

Mistakes are a Part of Life

Gaby Story Pin

The First Day of Preschool – Mother’s Day Contest Entry

Sharada's DaughterThe First Day of Preschool

By Sharada

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I would surf the internet for information on babies and children and what to expect from motherhood. I came across an interesting article that explained that the importance of early learning especially for infants and had flash cards for numeracy and reading skills. I was thrilled to come upon this information and started building high hopes and expectations of what I was going to do for my child. I was going to be this super mom, who would do flash cards right from infancy, never use disposable diapers, only feed her organic homemade food and basically be a perfect, flawless parent – creating a perfect, flawless babyhood and childhood for my soon-to-be-born baby.

Enter reality with childbirth and all my high aspirations went flying out of the window. My determination to not use disposable diapers didn’t last more than a few days. I couldn’t remember where the flash cards were, and used that as an excuse to not do them. And although my daughter’s first solid meals were all homemade, I relied on store-bought baby food later. I had settled to what I thought was mediocre parenting.

Then came the biggest and most painful decision of my life; I had to go back to work, leaving my nine-month-old baby at daycare. My ambitions for a perfect motherhood were crushed. What was worse was that those aspirations, dreams, and ambitions lingered in my mind and heart as failures. Although my beautiful daughter was friendly and cheerful and adjusted very quickly to daycare and the kids there, I constantly battled motherhood with feelings of incapacity, inadequacy and failure.

Two years passed and my little girl was ready to join preschool. I was confident that she would have no problems going to a new place and meeting new kids. She was always friendly and excited to see new people and never really showed separation anxiety. On the big day, in her new uniform and school bag and school shoes, her dad and I proudly walked with her to the new school.

When we kissed her and said bye she began to … CRY! We tried telling her about the fun things she would do and the new friends she would make. She calmed down a little but was still clearly upset. I couldn’t believe it and was heartbroken. The teacher asked us to say bye again and leave calmly so we did. As miserable as I was leaving her at daycare, I had a tiny consolation that she wasn’t going through separation anxiety and was happy. Now that she was upset and crying made it all the more difficult and painful for me.

But as I walked out of the gates, something happened. Seeing my daughter cry on her first day of preschool pushed something in me to be strong, not just for her but myself too. I realized this was life. I cannot predict or control everything. I could go to work feeling worried and upset for her, or I could go to work praying for her and feeling proud that my daughter has entered preschool. I could choose to be strong and positive instead of weak and sad.

That one change in thought brought a whole new outlook to my parenting and my view of me as a mother. I might not have had the opportunity to be with her at home fulfilling all those super mom dreams. But I made the most I could with every minute I had with her. I wasn’t able to do flash cards or other great early learning programs, but I managed to read to my baby every night. I taught her colors, numbers, shapes and the alphabet while juggling a full-time job and housework. I might not have taught my child to read by age two but I did imbibe in her an important love for learning. I did not have quantity but I did give her quality.

That day, as I walked out of the gates of that pre-school I realized I was a supermom! I just had to let myself feel it!

P.S. Six months after starting preschool, my daughter is well adjusted and happy!

About Sharada: I am a mother of a three-and-a-half year old girl. I am married to a caring and loving man and live in the UAE. I work as a Teaching Assistant in an American school and I love my job, but I love being a mom the most.

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My Mother’s Love is Priceless – Mother’s Day Contest Entry

My Mother’s Love is Priceless

By Surunda Franklin

Someone special to me is my mother.  I am the firstborn of six siblings.  My mother told me that she wanted two children and my father wanted four; they both got what they asked for.

When I was eleven years old, I began having excruciating headaches.  She took me to see many doctors trying to get me help but no one knew what was wrong with me.  Some said, “Maybe it is her eyes,” and others said, “It might be her menstrual cycle beginning.” One doctor suggested seeing a neurologist at Semmes Murphy Clinic.  The doctor ran many tests and found nothing.

He told my mother there was one other test he could do but it was life threatening.  My mother and father discussed the situation and spoke to a minister. They took his words and had the procedure done.

When the doctor received the results, he told my parents that I had a pituitary tumor and it was mandatory that I have surgery.  During the surgery, part of my pituitary had to be removed.  The operation went fine; afterward, I had many doctor visits and cobalt radiation treatments.

On one of my doctor visits to remove my stitches, my mother mentioned to the nurse that it looks like she missed a stitch. The nurse told her it was only the scar of healing skin. My mother continued to watch the area on my head and noticed it was not healing and that it was sore to the touch.  She immediately took me back to the doctor.

The doctor examined my head and said that a stitch had been left and it was under the skin and need to be removed.  A nurse came in and proceeded to remove the stitch. It was so very painful, I could hardly keep still.

My mother held my hand and I squeezed hers. The stitch was out before I knew it.

Months passed and it was time for another checkup. When the doctor was examining my head, he noticed the place where the stitch was had still not healed.  Many procedures were done to examine my head. When the doctor got the results back, he told my mother that I would have to have surgery to remove the bone from my head because it had become infected.

My mother came to me and said, “Your father and I love you. It is going to be okay.” I held onto those words as I went through another surgery and the bone on the left side of my forehead was removed. A metal plate was put in place of the missing bone. It was defected and not long afterward, I had to have surgery again.

Through these frightening and life-threatening issues, my mother was with me every day.  She told me many times, “I love you and I will not leave you.”

After going through many surgeries and treatments, I am alive today thanks to GOD and my mother loving me and determining to keep me alive.  That is why my mother’s love is priceless.

 

About Surunda Franklin: I am a devoted homemaker with four beautiful stepchildren and a great husband.  I live in Jackson, TN, and have lived here all my life.  I am five feet, with light brown skin, and long black hair.  I got married for the first time in February of 2013 and I am enjoying life.

[Like this story on our Facebook page to help the author win Positive Parenting’s Mother’s Day Writing Contest! (You’re welcome to “like” it here too! :)]

Snapshot – Mother’s Day Contest Entry

Franklin Kids 2011 School PicSnapshot

By Lindsay Franklin

July, 2011.

I ease my Honda Pilot into a parking space at the local YMCA. Ten minutes until the kids’ swim lessons start. Plenty of time to return a text message I received while driving. I pull out my phone but leave the air conditioning running. It’s mid-morning on a hot summer day in the inland suburbs of San Diego. Even my two-minute text would leave the kids and me sticky and flushed by the time we opened the car doors.

Three-year-old Keira unbuckles her car seat and slithers to the back seat air controls. She plops down in front of the vents and turns the knob to the highest setting.

“Keira!” Six-year-old Jared frowns at his sister and adjusts the air conditioning back to low. “Don’t do that. It uses gas which makes pollution, and that’s bad for the environment.”

An idealist.

Ten-year-old Shane chimes in from his place on the back bench. “Yeah, plus gas costs a lot of money. You’re wasting money.”

A pragmatist.

Keira stares at her big brothers’ faces and, without a word, cranks the knob full-blast.

An independent.

Every once in a while, God gives me a special moment in the midst of the mundane. This two-minute pause in a YMCA parking lot on a hot summer morning was just such a moment. There couldn’t have been a more perfect, distinct snapshot into the unique personalities of my three children.

These moments tend to make me reflective. This particular occurrence first incited giggles because my daughter is unendingly sassy, and sometimes it seems as if she was put on the planet for the sole purpose of foiling her brothers.

But then I was struck with awe that these little people—each with the same biological parents and raised in the same environment—has been distinctively crafted by a Master Craftsman. They all have their own strengths and challenges that filter down to me and their dad as parenting challenges. But mostly, this realization reinforces my belief that these three people were chosen specifically for me to raise. As they are uniquely crafted, I’m uniquely equipped to mold them into the people they’re meant to become.

About Lindsay Franklin: I’m a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of three by day, a YA fantasy and contemporary novelist by night. I moonlight as Senior Operations Manager for Splickety Publishing Group. Needs: more sleep, less backtalk.

[Like this story on our Facebook page to help the author win Positive Parenting’s Mother’s Day Writing Contest! (You’re welcome to “like” it here too! :)]

A Hamster in Heaven

HamsterMy daughter’s eighth birthday was approaching and I had the perfect idea for a gift. A hamster. I suggested it to my husband and he wasn’t so sure. “The kids are so young,” he pointed out. “What will they do when it dies?”

“That’s part of life,” I answered. “They have to learn about it sometime.” That might sound calloused, but I didn’t mean it that way. I just remembered that some of the deepest things I learned about life and love were intertwined with loss or death. Maybe because it’s times like those that we realize how deep love really is … and how enduring.

We got the hamster. Jessica named him Buttercup because at first she thought it was a girl. (Well, at first it was a girl but that’s another story.) Her birthday gift was a winner and it took a few days for her brain to wrap around the fact that she had a little pet to care for and love.

Buttercup became a part of our family. His bright, inquisitive nature fit in just perfectly. He was very friendly for a hamster and the kids had a lot of fun with him.

You probably noticed I’m writing in past tense referring to the little critter. Buttercup died last night. You know how it is when you know something is bound to happen eventually yet you assume it never will? Yeah, me too.

Jessica was doing homework in my room while I was in their room at the computer. While I was editing, I heard a strange recurring noise somewhere behind me. Finally I tuned into it and realized it was coming from the hamster’s cage. I peeked inside his little sleeping spot and he was breathing hard, labored. His body was unresponsive when I picked him up.

I called Jessica and she cried as she asked me if we could take him to a vet. I knew there was no hope for such a little thing so obviously taking his last breaths, but I wrapped him in a warm cloth and tried giving him water and then ground-up pellet-porridge with an eye dropper. I held him until he stopped breathing less than half an hour later.

Then I held Jessica as she said goodbye to her little pet. I told her about a hamster I had when I was 12, and that I cried when it died. She asked what we should do with the body and I told her we could bury him in the backyard. Then she asked if she could sleep with me, and I said sure.

We prayed for the night and Jessica fell asleep quickly, waking up from her half-asleep state to say something about Buttercup with angels and happy in Heaven. I told her I’m sure he is.

Life on earth. Followed by death. That part of existence we feel will never come and often live as if it won’t, yet still it does. Death. Another beginning, yet so often seen as the final act. The end.

But nothing truly loved is forever lost. And though we cannot see it, the end is the beginning.

A Mother’s Prayer

Three ChildrenLord, my children are growing so fast. They’re so precious to you. And to me. Watch over them, Jesus. Their hearts. Their spirits. Their minds. Their bodies.

Only you know what you have in store for them. What you will ask of them. How you have planned to them to learn of you and work with you to change the world.

Work in their lives to prepare them for the future you have designed for each one specifically. Give them strength, wisdom, and joy. Help them to fulfill their unique destinies. To make a different in this world – whether small or great. The difference you have planned in the way you have ordained.

And help me as their mother to watch over them as well. To teach them. To train them. To be an image of your love, your patience, your insight, your care.

Things will come up today that will threaten my peace or theirs. Bring your spirit full and wondrous into this household, your love that veils all things that are wrong or hurtful or sad. Instead, bring hope, a spirit of humility and love, a mind of eagerness and wonder, a heart of strength and purpose.

Help me remember, today and every day, that they are your children given to me on loan for only a short time. Help me love and care for them with my whole heart … and to remember your love and care for them as a Father.

Thank you for your love and your care for all of us, your children.

Rising to the Challenge

Rising to the ChallengeOften parenting seems like a responsibility so great it is easy to feel weary under the daily burden.

I’m reading through a book that instead makes me feel like rising to the challenge. The title is Praying Circles around your Children, written by Mark Batterson.

Chapter one holds an awesome promise for any parent:

Your worst mistakes double as your greatest opportunities.

Those words jumped out at me, because I probably couldn’t count on two hands the mistakes I make as a mom … in one day (and on a not-so-great day, sometimes I make that many mistakes in one hour).

The book goes on to explain why our mistakes are opportunities:

Your mistakes give you the opportunity to teach them one of the most important lessons they’ll ever learn – how to say “I’m sorry.”

I have a very simple parenting philosophy that boils down to just three words: please, sorry, and thanks. If all else fails, I want to teach my kids to be really good at saying these words. … If they master these three words, they’re well on their way to great marriages, great friendships, or great relationships with God.

Those words jumped out at me, as I was just writing last week about the importance of being able to say sorry. The next paragraph jumped out even more. You know how sometimes you feel something has been written just for you?

You don’t have to do everything right as a parent, but there is one thing you cannot afford to get wrong.

That one thing is prayer.

You’ll never be a perfect parent, but you can be a praying parent. Prayer is your highest privilege as a parent. There is nothing you can do that will have a higher return on investment. In fact, the dividends are eternal.

Prayer turns ordinary parents into prophets who shape the destinies of their children, grandchildren, and every generation that follows.

Ever been called a prophet before? Me neither.

But I can think of anything more awesome (or more sobering) than helping to shape the destinies of my children and their children. Helping them to reach – not the hopes or desires or dreams I have for them – but the unique and awesome destiny God has created for them before time began.

To realize that I, as a parent, have such a great calling makes me feel like squaring my shoulders and rising to the challenge, which I can only do by falling on my knees in prayer.