The Choice To Start

I wrote the other day about how disappointed I felt in myself for not following through with some things I wanted to do last year. The biggest one for me by far was not making the time to sit down and share with my boys things that I felt would be helpful to them in their walk with Christ. There were a few books that really impacted me, books that deal with this crazy upside down culture and our role as Jesus-followers in it. If you have kids, you know the feeling: I want them to get this! I want them to understand this! If they can just see through all this nonsense to the truth… maybe they won’t fall for the lies… maybe they will be different…

I spend a lot of time floundering around in the sad reality that we live in a world that is basically amusing itself to death, sacrificing everything meaningful for superficial ‘likes’ and virtual approval from total strangers. This isn’t the world I grew up in and it’s hard for me to relate to how deeply this affects them sometimes. The things I struggled with seem like small potatoes compared to what my kids have already seen first-hand. You Tube influencers confound me. Idol-worship of people so completely in love with themselves makes me cringe. The absence of the ability to think for themselves scares me. G.K. Chesterton said, “We shall soon be in a world in which a man may be howled down for saying that two and two make four, in which people will persecute the heresy of calling a triangle a three-sided figure, and hang a man for maddening a mob with news that the grass is green.” We are there, and sometimes I feel like an eighty year old grandmother who can’t adjust to the times. The reality though, is that I am a Jesus-follower and a parent who is charged with discipling two young men in a world turned inside-out. The reality is that God never changes, even when culture does. The truth is, in the past I have let it overwhelm me to the point of inaction. It’s so much easier to just cruise on through the days, dealing with things as they come, but never really being intentional about getting to the heart of it all. What’s that old saying? “The days are long but the years are short.” It’s true. Suddenly I have a high schooler. In a moment he will be out on his own. A minute after that, his brother will follow. What do I want them to hear from me before they go? We spend our time doing the best we can, telling them what not to do, lecturing them on the dangers that lurk behind every corner, but are we giving them something to actually live for?

Proverbs 29:18 says “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint.”  We have to have a vision from God, something positive and promising to go after, if we are going to really live. Without it, we just run wild without any direction or intent. This explains why “good” kids do really dumb things. Adults too, for that matter.

So this morning, I decided to just get going. I sat down and began a little folder for each of my boys. I don’t really have a well thought out plan, and that’s ok. The problem I encountered last year is that I had so much I wanted to share, I didn’t share anything. I couldn’t organize my thoughts, so I did nothing. Today, I started with this verse and a C.S. Lewis essay called “Men Without Chests” about how head knowledge is no match for the unbridled passions in our belly that override our reason. We need a chest to help the head rule the belly. Strong men know how to keep the fire in the belly from burning down the house. Seemed like something good for young men to hear. I crudely typed out some thoughts, printed them out and stuck it in a folder for each of them. I boldly asked for 20 minutes of their time, which in a world where online games rule the day, is a bigger deal than it may seem. We started. They were mildly interested, and that’s ok. I hope we can build on it.

We put too much pressure on getting things just right before we start anything and we wind up doing nothing. I liken our time today to the first time a person exercises in awhile… kind of a hot mess, but better than nothing. Little moments of faithfulness every day, like exercise or a good daily vitamin, is worth far more than sporadic moments here and there. I have a vision based on God’s promises and that gives me hope that we can grow together in His wisdom. It’s never too late. There will be eye rolls along the way to be sure, there will be dramatic whining and bad attitudes at times, and that’s ok. It won’t be perfect, but with time and faithfulness, I hope that they can have a prophetic vision all their own to keep chasing after.

In Defense Of That Little House On The Prairie

Happy Monday friends! Someone who knows me well wrote me about this and sure enough, I can’t leave it alone. There are things on a daily basis that we have to let roll off and then there are hills to die on… here’s my hill: Little House on the Prairie.

Somewhere in America over the weekend, a group of librarians got together and decided the annual childrens book award they give out that carries the name of Laura Ingalls Wilder must be immediately renamed. You see, it turns out that she was a terrible racist and this nonsense must be stopped. Their statement reads:

“Wilder’s body of work continues to be a focus of scholarship and literary analysis, which often brings to light anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments in her work. Her books continue to be published, read, and widely used with contemporary children. ALSC recognizes the author’s legacy is complex and Wilder’s work is not universally embraced.

ALSC works to promote excellence in literature for children that aligns with our core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness, as well as to our strategic plan. While we are committed to preserving access to Wilder’s work for readers, we must also consider if her legacy today does justice to this particular award for lifetime achievement, given by an organization committed to all children.”

You can read the details for yourself on Twitter under the hashtag #alaac18. There was apparently a standing ovation when the vote went through. An entire “task force” was dedicated to this outcome,  and great “tears of joy” were shed over the change. Tears of joy… seriously. Yikes. I have tears of joy at weddings, graduations and the occasional sports game, but I’m clearly not very woke.

Now, before we go any further, lets address a couple of facts: nobody with a brain in their head thinks racism is ok, at any time. Years ago, Wilder herself changed some of the “problem passages” so readers wouldn’t be upset by them. That doesn’t actually matter, however, because this is not about righting a wrong, it’s about that “strategic plan” they talk about, one that requires they control the material and in which everyone else conforms to it. You see the tweet about “decolonizing” literature? Now we are getting somewhere. Drag Queen Story Hour is a thing in several cities now, but that crazy Laura Ingalls has got to go. Amusing that a group of people whose job it is to maintain a love and access to books is suddenly feeling the need to police what everyone is reading.

I have vivid memories, as many do, of sitting at my desk in elementary school reading about life on the prairie. It was our first exposure to something outside of ourselves, our first understanding of hardships we knew nothing about, our first peek into a history long since passed. Not everyone loved reading the books, that’s ok. We weren’t reading them because we related to/agreed with/embraced a pioneer lifestyle, we read them because we didn’t.

Nobody is naive enough to think the real-life experiences of these people were as clean cut as the book or TV series portray. Let’s face it, Ma was scared to death of the Indians. If I lived out on the open prairie at that time I’d be scared of literally everyone. Crazy things went down. Things the modern woke person would faint dead away at. Pa, it seems, wasn’t as much of an intolerant bigot and had more understanding towards them. Anyone remember that the entire family was saved from malaria by a black doctor? Anyone? No? Chapter 15. Not everything is so black and white (no pun intended).

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These stories are the memories of a little girl growing up in a harsh and different world. Have we lost all ability to put things into any kind of context? Nobody reads these books today and develops a fear of Indians. We read to understand that there was life before us and that there is life outside of us, whether we relate to them or not, whether we agree with them or not. I did my college thesis on the French Revolution, not because I was a crazed Revolutionary, but because it fascinated me. Amazingly, I never once had an urge to go undermine a monarchy or guillotine a nobleman.

My son read To Kill a Mockingbird recently. It challenged him and opened his eyes to something he had never seen. This book is on the no-fly list as well, because, racism, of course. It didn’t turn him into a racist, it showed him what people had to unjustly endure and that not everyone was willing to put up with such nonsense. That’s the problem with this kind of thinking, you are missing out on the other side of the story. For every racist fool, there’s at least one person who comes up against them in standing up for truth. Atticus Finch proves not all white people were awful. Kids should be reading all these things. Not wanting them to feel uncomfortable is not a reason to ban a book or retroactively sully an authors work. How narrow-minded and lazy have we become when we equate reading an authors works with total agreement with their personal world views? It’s insanity.

My humble opinion is that this isn’t really about racism, not as much as they’d like us to think. This is about a culture so self-absorbed they truly believe they have all the answers that thousands of years of humanity were too dumb to figure out. They are ‘woke’ and the rest of us bumpkins are still in the dark ages. CS Lewis called this “chronological snobbery” and we are in the thick of it:

“The uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.” 

We can’t just keep shunning things that rub us the wrong way, whether they are genuinely wicked, somewhat offensive or simply annoying. The logical end to this path is that literally every historical thing is going to be banned. That is nothing to stand and applaud with tears of joy. This isn’t about giving racism a pass or embracing genuinely evil beliefs. It’s about not being so fragile as to be afraid of our own history. Your kid won’t turn into a racist reading about the pioneers. You can actually talk to them about humanity and history and it can be a wonderful thing.

I am literally watching Little House as I write this, lest you doubt my sincerity on the subject:

Obviously, we have a much bigger problem on our hands. I wonder who I can talk to about sexism on the prairie….

Authority Over Darkness

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“Here is joy that cannot be shaken. Our light can swallow up your darkness: but your darkness cannot now infect our light.”

C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

The Bible tells us that our adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8). It doesn’t say he IS a lion. He came in the form of a serpent in the garden and used deceitful, lying words to gain authority from Adam and Eve. He didn’t come in the form of a powerful beast because his ONLY power over us is through our minds. He knew he could never overpower God directly, so he had to get his power from man, who willingly handed it over. On his own, he is completely useless. Sometimes we see him as almost equal with God in influence and power, which he isn’t.  He doesn’t get authority from God to come at us, we have to give our consent and cooperate with him.

His darkness cannot infect our light if we don’t let it. He may be LIKE a roaring lion, screaming “dismal forebodings” into our ears, but he only has power when we take those lies and believe them over God’s revealed word.

He MAY devour us if we give ourselves over to him, but the Bible doesn’t say he WILL. We have a role to play and a choice of who we yield ourselves to (Romans 6:16).

The world is very, very dark. The things going on today probably couldn’t have even been imagined a generation ago. The one true thing we can take comfort in as believers is that Christ has overcome this world and the enemy is already defeated. With so many operating under the influence of satan right now, that is a hard thing to see. We act as if he is all-powerful when he just isn’t. Jesus gave his disciples (and us) the power over these things (Luke 9:1). In all the darkness and evil surrounding us, we can be confident that we have the God-given authority to stand against it and be a light. We can swallow up that darkness. God is waiting for individual hearts to turn to Him and do what He gave us power to do.

“He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:2)

It’s not some kind of metaphor. We really are to preach the Truth of His word and heal the sick. The physically and spiritually sick. In the New Testament, spiritual warfare is always demonstrated as being in our minds. Not outside us in the heavenly realm, but inside our thoughts. The way to overcome these very real battles is by renewing our minds to God’s truth.  (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 6:12). The guys in the New Testament didn’t make it complicated either. No hard doctrine and lists of rules to follow, no required waiting period for answers or miracles, no complicated spiritual warfare rituals like we make up today. They focused on sharing the Gospel and took their authority.

Peter commanded the lame man at the gate to get up and walk (Acts 3:6). He didn’t beg God to do it, he used the authority God had already provided to him as a believer. God’s power, we plug into it.

Luke prays that “with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:29).

The darkness simply cannot overcome the light. It’s defeated. How amazing if we would all individually cooperate with what God has trusted us to do – preach the Word and watch it change lives!

There’s a catchy song we sing in the car about “learning to be the light”… We are imperfect beings with a perfect God who can learn to be that light. Just a little bit of truth can swallow up a whole lot of darkness. And the darkness cannot infect our light if we don’t allow it in. That is a joy that can’t be shaken and it should embolden us to get out there and do what God has given us authority to do!