Category Archives: Purpose

“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.

Writing in the Midst of Parenting

the gift of children

There is an element of writing about parenting, in the midst of parenting, that is extremely difficult. Impossible, sometimes. At least for me. You have to take a step back. In order to write something, you need perspective. But then, at the same time, writing (at least for me) is what often brings perspective. Out of the sludge of words and thoughts and conflicting emotions, something rises to the foreground of the mind and is, in itself, some sort of answer. Or at least it is the right question. Or a step in that direction.

I took a sabbatical from writing in this blog for about a year. In 2014. I couldn’t write about parenting. I felt engulfed in the very thing I was writing about. How can I give perspective if I feel I have none? What’s the purpose? But it always comes back. Not the obligation to write, but the desire to do so. My very own therapeutic process, for all the world to see. Okay, not exactly. There is more of a purpose for this blog, I would hope.

To connect with parents who, like me, are often in the thick of parenting and feel they can’t step back enough to get perspective. It happens to us all. We all need some outside help at times.

Like today, when I was teaching at my kids’ school in the morning. They were playing at recess and one of the younger girls came up to the table where I sat. She was near tears, saying that Aiden looked angry at her and didn’t want to play with her. Aiden is my son. He’s nearly seven. I wanted to get to the bottom of the issue, so waved him over.

He was upset. He said that he didn’t want to play with kindergarten students because they always want to play their game and even if they play what he wants to play, they change it to make it their game. I understood where he was coming from, the youngest in our family, often expected to join in what the older two are playing. He’s the “older” kid on the playground, at least compared to the kindergarten students; shouldn’t he be able to control the game? I understood, but I didn’t agree.

I explained to him that it wasn’t nice to make someone feel that you didn’t want to play with them. I didn’t delve into the deeper issues that might have been going on in his head. I simply asked him to let his friend know he wasn’t mad at her.

He didn’t. And his face grew angrier. I didn’t know what to do.

His main teacher was sitting at the table, and she called him over. She shared a story about having to choose anger or forgiveness in a personal situation she had faced. I think he got it. Whether he took it to heart or not, I appreciate her effort. Stepping in and trying to help my son understand, not only the effects of behavior, but the importance of choosing to have a happy heart.

It’s not that everything was solved that instant. Another issue rose later that day at school, and I heard about it when the kids got home. My husband and I talked with Aiden together. We prayed with him.

We don’t have the answers to every situation that arises. Sometimes we feel a little stuck in the middle of things, when all we can do is pray and trust God to work in the hearts and lives of our children.

But in all of it, we are blessed to have friends and teachers and family who care about our kids, who want to see them grow up to make a positive difference in the world, who tell them that God has a plan for their lives. Because it’s so true, and who knows? Maybe hearing that one story, or listening to that one song, or sermon, will be that thing they remember years later. The things that reminds them, and helps them believe they have a unique purpose. That they can change the world. That God loves them no matter where they go or what they choose in life.

Writing in the midst of parenting is something like parenting in the midst of parenting. You don’t really have much of a choice. You take it one day at a time. And you’re grateful that you’re not alone.

Motherhood, a Caravan of Complications

caravan of parenting

The life I have chosen as wife and mother entrains a whole caravan of complications. … It involves food and shelter; meals, planning, marketing, bills, and making the ends meet in a thousand ways. … It involved health; doctors, dentists, appointments, medicine, cod-liver oil, vitamins, trips to the drugstore.

It involves education, spiritual, intellectual, physical; schools, school conferences, car-pools, extra trips for basketball or orchestra practice. … It involves clothes, shopping, laundry, cleaning, mending, letting skirts down and sewing buttons on.

It involves friends, my husband’s, my children’s, my own, and endless arrangements to get together; letters, invitations, telephone calls and transportation hither and yon. …

My mind reels with it. What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives. …

This is not the life of simplicity but the life of multiplicity that the wise men warn us of. It leads not to unification but to fragmentation. It does not bring grace; it destroys the soul. …

The problem of the multiplicity of life not only confronts the American woman, but also the American man. And it is not merely the concern of the American as such, but of our whole modern civilization.

– Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Wife of Charles Lindbergh

Gift from the Sea

A Father’s Day Letter to Dad

My Dad, with Jessica (22 months), at Yosemite. 2006.

I was 18, on a one-month visit to my family in California. I would be heading back to India in a week or two. My dad was driving me to the DMV to get my ID card renewed. I don’t remember the details of our conversation, but it went something like this:

“You’ve been in India for nearly two years now,” my dad observed.

I didn’t really need him to do the math, but I knew he was getting at something. “Yep,” I answered.

“Your mom and I were missionaries for a while. Sometimes it takes a lot out of you. I want you to know that we are proud of your, whatever you choose to do. We do everything we can to support all our children.”

“I know,” I told him.

“If you ever want to pursue a different path, we will fully support you. You can stay with us for as long as you like.”

I nodded. “Thanks.” I didn’t say much more. I wasn’t very communicative in my teens, especially in matters of the heart or mind, matters I didn’t completely understand or hadn’t fully worked through on my own.

But my dad’s words stayed with me, because I was struggling at that time. I held the struggle inside, as I did with so many things. For my first few years in India, I felt very alone, even when surrounded by people. I struggled with my sense of purpose and the way it seemed to mingle freely with depression.

I returned to India a couple weeks later, but it meant a lot knowing that I had a home to return to if ever I chose.

***

I was 21, sitting in a chair, a friend across from me helping with a last-minute application of eye shadow. It was the big day. My wedding day. The phone rang and a friend ran it over to me. “It’s your dad.”

I don’t remember much about the exchange, only that he wished me well, told me that he loved me, and that things would turn out okay. I tried valiantly to hold back the tears. I was in India, 8,000 miles from my family. None of them had met the man I was about to marry. Most of them were very concerned about that fact. We were in a Catch-22 because my husband could not get a visa to visit the U.S. unless we were married, so I hoped my family would trust my judgment. But the distance and uncertainty wasn’t easy … for any of us.

In some ways, I felt like I was having to choose between marriage and a supportive family, and I hated that. At 21, it was a hard decision, especially not knowing whether my husband would be accepted into my family. I knew that they just didn’t know him; if they knew him, they would love him, like I did. All they knew was that they didn’t know him. And he was marrying their daughter. Or for my siblings, their little sister.

When my dad called, I felt for a moment that connection with home. I knew things would turn out okay.

And they did. That uncertainty I felt is a distant memory. Twelve years later, we as a family are very close … in location, and in heart and spirit. (And everyone in my family prefers my husband’s cooking. Including me.)

***

It’s Father’s Day, and I was thinking that if there was a single word that could describe my dad, it would be supportive. The support that he has given in countless ways, to me and my five siblings, has shown a lot of things about his character. His reliability and loyalty. His love and concern.

His trust in God.

Over the years, I’ve realized just how much my dad’s supportive nature has been grounded in a deep faith in God, that everything would work out alright. That God had things in His hands. The whole world, as the song goes, and his children as well.

My kids are not yet teens, but when those years come, I only pray that I will have a portion of the faith and trust that my dad has shown over the years. I pray that I can show them, through my words and deeds, my faith in God’s perfect plan, my trust in God’s purpose for their lives, and my love for them no matter what roads they take.

To my dad: Happy Father’s Day! Thank you for being the best example a father can be, by pointing the way to the Heavenly Father with your words, your actions, your life.

My Son’s Dream – A Place to Buy Friends

icy cold place

Photo Credit: Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel

My six-year-old son usually wakes up around 7:30. This particular morning, however, he slept in until nearly nine. As soon as he woke, he ran to me and told me about his dream. I asked a couple questions along the way. It went something like this:

In my dream, there was a place you could buy friends.

I chose a little girl in a place that had a door and it was freezing cold there. She didn’t like it there, so I chose her so she didn’t have to be there anymore. If I didn’t get her, they would still replace her with another one and put her in a warmer place. That was the most freezing place. All the water she had there was frozen water.

She had a pink dress, and at the bottom of her shoes, they were purple. If you were there and you thought she was candy, you would think those things of purple looked tasty. There were lots of other girls. Actually, there were only girls. I mean, like, only girls. If you saw on the top of the door, only girls allowed in those things.

Her hair was golden and she had blue eyes … wait. It was brown eyes.

(Do you remember anything else?)

There was another girl that had dirt brown hair. She was really pretty because she had a white necklace and blue and purple earrings, and the best part was that she had green shoes and a green dress.

(Did you talk to the girl with the golden hair?)

I talked to her when I brought her here, because it was warmer here.

(How much were they being sold for?)

Twenty cents. Actually, they were free. The people that brought them there didn’t want them to be so, so, so expensive, especially that girl in the really cold place, so they had her for free, and the rest were free.

It was part house and part shop where you can get friends. Do you know why they sold them? They didn’t have any families so they took them from their homes and all their things, put them on their shelf, and kept them there. That’s why I brought her and her things here.

The thing that was too bad was that it was a dream. I wish it wasn’t a dream.

It’s too bad that I have to be an adult to do that. Can you drive me to a place in America to where I can look at all the houses and see if there are any children that don’t have anyone to take care of them? We can bring them here.

His focus then switched to other things. But that dream paddled me sideways, reminding me of a few things. It has been exactly one year since the idea of foster parenting grabbed hold of me. The feeling was very strong that first month, in June of 2014. It’s faded but never completely disappeared. Another dream that has been with me for far longer, and has also never disappeared, is the desire to be involved in ministry for young mothers and their children. What kind of ministry? I don’t know. There are opportunities all over the world. We send money to some of them when we can. We support a child through Compassion, but I don’t think that’s all I’m meant to do. I don’t think that’s all any of us are meant to do.

Yesterday, I was reading a Bible chapter with the kids. Matthew 25. I read them the end passage, about Jesus’ call to feed the hungry, take in the stranger, visit the sick, clothe the naked, and visit the prisoners. Then I read them the story right before it, the parable of the talents [See Matthew 25:14-30]. We made the connection between the parable and His statement, in that the “talents” — the gifts and skills — that God gives us are meant to be used for His glory, and for us to make a difference in the lives of others.

Was our discussion of those passages and the Compassion Magazine stories we read afterwards the cause of my son’s dream? Part of it, perhaps. Part of it might also have been a nudge for me, that we do need to do more. More for others, for those who suffer needlessly because of the lack of those who care and who can help. As I was looking up Compassion’s website, I noticed something I had never seen before, a page titled “Help Mothers and Babies.” Maybe that’s a place to start.

If your son had a dream like that … if you had a dream like that … where would you start?