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Black Lives Matter

I believe that black lives matter.

I think I have believed this since the time I was old enough to know that there were black people. Since I grew up in very small towns in rural Oklahoma and then rural Kansas, where I never actually saw a black person, this dawning awareness happened when I entered Jr. High in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where there was a black community. This was in the 60s. And even in a University town, there was considerable racial prejudice, but very little racial unrest that I ever knew about. I was ignorant of black culture, but I wasn’t bigoted toward it.

I grew up believing the words of the old song, “Jesus Loves the Little Children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are all precious in his sight.” As far as I knew, these words were true. I still think they are.

I believe that black lives matter.

I do not believe the Black Lives Matter movement is legitimate, though. I will perhaps lose friends and followers with that statement, but I think you deserve to know. I don’t believe this organization’s name honestly describe their mission. It may have started to inspire equality, but by now, it’s more of a political hand grenade than a compassionate show of solidarity and support. You don’t have to share my belief about this. You have every right to believe whatever you want to about it.

But, still, I believe that black lives matter.

I also believe that yellow lives matter. So do brown lives. And red lives. And, yes, so do white lives.

I don’t want to be misunderstood in this. I do not believe racism has been eradicated in America. It’s still here. Still harming people. Still dividing communities of all kinds. It’s still an obstacle to equality. (By the way, I do not know of a culture which has no racism. I’m not a sociologist, but have done pretty extensive travel around the world. It’s been present in all the cultures I’ve ever traveled to. Though it was not always a bias against black people, it was an ethnic bias, and thus, racism.)

I have friends who have been directly impacted by racism here in the U S of A. Their lives have been made ugly and unnecessarily more difficult. Far more so than if they had been born into a Caucasian family. They have experienced discrimination and barriers to career and professional growth and mobility. They’ve been boxed out of opportunity because of the color of their skin. This is wrong. There is no excuse for it.

Theologically, the standard for equality stands firmer and taller than in any other arena of thought and practice. The New Testament, the New Covenant, proclaims that all are equal. All people and people groups are equally loved by God. And all are equally in need of His grace. Here’s the best part: His grace is poured out for all races, all peoples, all nationalities, without regard for their origin or ethnicity.

Have Christians lived up to this? No. Not as salt and light in our culture. Not as a community of people. Not as churches that are supposed to be living under the rule of the One Who made all of us equal and died to save every person, with no regard to their color. We’ve done poorly with this.

We want to think that our commitment to God is as high as we know how to make it, and that treating everyone equally is part of that commitment. I can say all the churches I’ve ever been affiliated with want this, at least emotionally. And some of them are pulling it off. But not all.

Not because they make any particular ethnic origin an issue. Not intentionally or consciously, anyway. “Please come and join us,” the biline of their signs or Sunday bulletins say. They want to mean this. It’s their emotional intent.

But for most, a more honest statement would be, “If you’re enough like us, you’ll really like what we do here, and we’ll eventually get used to you. So give us a try.” If you’ve ever tried to break the shell of a church like this, you know that it’s not really about ethnicity, although ethnicity may be a significant part of it.

It would take someone with a better education and deeper background than I have to pinpoint the many causes for this. And there are many. But I’m convinced that at the root, the cause for this kind of artificial inclusiveness that cloaks exclusivity is at the heart of all racisism, inside and outside of the church. I can identify it in one word: S I N.

Well, of course! You can pretty well point to sin as the cause of every broken part of the world and its systems, can’t you? Yes. Yes, you can. Sin broke the world and it keeps us broken.

I believe the specific sin that keeps racism alive and well is PRIDE. Pride says, “You’re not, and you never will be as good as me. And because of that you don’t deserve what I deserve. I will make sure you don’t get there, too. If you can somehow prove to me that you’re somewhat as good as me, we’ll see about releasing some good things in your direction, but just know that you’ll never be able to be that good.”

The other side of this coin of pride is, “You’re no better than me! I’m just as good as you, and I deserve everything you get. In fact, I deserve more than you because you’ve been holding out on me for centuries! You owe me! And I’ll fight you about it.”

You can make a case for both of these perspectives. You can do this intellectually. In fact, shelves are full of books that do this. But you’ll have a much better impact if you make it emotionally. And, really, an emotional case is much easier to make and keep gathering momentum with.

But the problem with this particular coin, the coin of pride, is that it’s useless for bringing health, wholeness, love, joy or peace into any life. It can only produce a counterfeit of these things. A shadow of them, a poor immitation of them, at best.

We could spend the rest of our lives looking at the problem and diagnosing its causes. And it might be beneficial to do more analysis. But that won’t fix the problem. Racism will not be fixed by creating a more thorough understanding of it as a sociatal problem. Yes, “A problem well-defined is half-solved.” But only half-solved. The other half of the formula is DOING SOMETHING ABOUT SOLVING THE PROBLEM.

Until my pride is broken, until it is, in the words of the King James Bible, “mortified,” racism as a sin-problem in my life will never be solved. That’s what makes racism so gnarly. It can’t be solved by making laws and policies. It can’t be solved by more research. It sure can’t be solved by making it more publicly visible. Social media and mass media have put it in our faces 24/7 and instantly, as it happens. That hasn’t fixed anything. While it may have highetened awareness, what it most stimulated was more fear and anger.

What makes racism and the evil it causes one of the most difficult problems to solve in a society is that it can only be eradicated on an individual level. One life, one heart at a time. As if that weren’t hard enough, it won’t go away with one good smack. It will, like all systmeic sin, go away and come back and go away and come back. Until one day, by the power of the Spirit of God at work in me, it will finally be mortified. But there’s no magic formula or incantation to make it instantly go away and die. There’s no prescribed prayer to overwhelm it. Just humble, sincere prayers of repentance, and daily partnership with God as He completes the work He began in me.

And then there’s this: I don’t get to decide to mortify racism in anyone else. It’s about me, not my wife or boss or neighbor or kid. They have to choose it for themselves. My choice is for me, and no one else.

But with my individual choice, I make a difference. I make a difference because of how I relate and interact with a person of any ethnic origin orhter than my own. I make a difference in that person’s life. And there’s a chance the example of my life can be an influence in someone else’s life.

I can make speeches about it, write blogs about it, buy TV time to proclaim the value of it. And all these things have some value. But unless I’m living out a life that expresses the truth of that old song I wrote about up at the top of this long blog, everything else, including my emotional intent, is useless, wasted motion.

So here’s my challenge, in the words of St. Paul: “Let us live up to what we’ve already obtained.” (Philippians 3:16 NIV) We certainly need more information about other people’s real needs, but we don’t need any more data regarding racism and its destruction. We’ve got all the information we need on that. We’ve already obtained more than adequate information about it. We’ve got the first half of the formula. Now let’s move on to the second half and DO WHAT IS RIGHT SO THAT WE CAN BE PART OF SOLVING THE PROBLEM.

Here’s a suggestion if you need one to get started. Begin with a prayer from you own heart and mind, asking God to shine the light of His truth into every corner of your heart and expose any racism that’s there. And then ask him to give you grace to repent. He wants to give you every resource you need to respond to every person, red and yellow, black and white, as the person He loves so much He chose to die for them. In partnership with Him, live our your prayer.

It’s simple, but it’s not easy.

You Give Love A Bad Name

Flashback Friday: You Give Love a Bad Name by Bon Jovi - Music ...

You’ve got to be old, or listen to Classic Rock radio, to recognize this title of a Bon Jovi hit. Ah, the pathos of love gone wrong…

Almost every time I hear this song played on my car radio, it makes me wonder how many times I’ve given the One Who is Love Itself a bad name by how poorly I’ve loved. I suppose in one sense, one time is too often. Unfortunately, I’ve done poorly at this far more than once. But, hey, so have you.

The heartbeat of the New Testament and the drumbeat of the New Testament church was Love. Jesus said His followers would be identified not by how often they were right or how well they obeyed, but by their love (John 13:35). It’s supposed to be the defining mark of a Christian. Often it is. But there are too many times when Christians give Love a bad name. Sometimes (OK, often) we fail to live up to our name (which means “little Christs) not because we don’t preach love enough, but because we don’t practice it well.

The Apostle Peter (you remember him. The guy who hacked off the ear of Malcus, the servant of the High Priest, in the Garden the night Jesus was betrayed…) wrote in what we have as 1 Peter 3:8-9, Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

I’m thinking, after days and nights of riots, looting, hateful speech and tweets, these two verses would be a good thing for Christians all over the country, regardless of their race, color, political persuasion, gender or denomination to revisit and make a serious attempt to embed them into our lives. There’s no instant or magic solution to the division and anger that are being expressed and then transmitted in real time into our homes, phones, laptops. But if we began practicing these ideas seriously, even if we do it imperfectly, don’t you think the bonfire of hatred could be doused?

More close to home for most of us is the fact that virtually every problem in a marriage or family life can be addressed toward effectively being solved by the ideas in these verses. When husbands treat wives and wives treat husbands in these ways, deep hurts can heal and affection can flourish. When moms and dads treat kids in these ways, wounds and roadblocks to healthy family life can be healed and pushed aside.

Because I don’t believe more knowledge will fix the brokenness in my life or yours, I’m suggesting a very concrete application here. Go back through the list in these two verses and see the individual behaviors and attitudes, one at a time:

be like-minded, This is about tuning in to the other instead of expecting them to get what you’re saying, because you know what you mean by it. Refer to Dr. Chapman’s The Five Love Languages for some good help on what this is about. And practice Stephen Covey’s Habit Five: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

be sympathetic, You have to slow down and observe the other to be sympathetic. There’s no such thing as drive-by sympathy. Notice the sorrow and difficulty in the other’s life. You’ll have to take the focus off yourself to do this.

love one another, There it is. The defining mark of actual Christians. No relationship can be healthy without love as the primary motivation. One of the best questions to ask yourself and then answer with your behavior is, “What would someone who loved them do?” Just a thought.

be compassionate Compassion is more messy than judgmentalism. The word literally means to come along the side of the passion (the emotion, the feelings) of another. You’ll rarely see compassion without sympathy.

and humble. Humility is the means by which we access God’s grace. It’s what makes it possible for us to experience it. And it’s what makes it possible for us to pour it out on others. Pride (the direct opposite of humility) will always demand to get it just the way you want it. Humility doesn’t have to have it just the way you want it.

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing How many families and marriages are working off of the insult script? LOTS! We give ’em and we get ’em. Sometimes they’re uproariously funny. But unless you’ve got uncharacteristically thick skin, even a funny insult hurts. And hurts widen the gap between hearts. Learning how to return insults and injuries with blessing is a very difficult skill to acquire, but it can make a haven of grace and peace out of a war zone in your home.

And it just might do the same in a riot-torn, anger-filled neighborhood that’s smoldering from violence.

But until you and I internalize this truth, it’s just another wonderful short passage from the Bible that would be nice to see in other people’s lives. So I’ll expand my challenge to this: DO THE THINGS THESE TWO VERSES TELL YOU TO DO.

I don’t expect these things to be the general rule for all people’s behavior. As much as I might wish it would be, that’s an unrealistic wish. But I’m convinced God expects His children to rule their lives and behavior with them. These aren’t just a handful of nice human relations concepts that Peter dreamed up on his own. These are from The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God. They are God’s word to us. We can’t afford to ever blow off God’s word to us. So back to my challenge: DO THE THINGS THESE TWO VERSES TELL YOU TO DO.

I’ve got great news on this. Nobody wants this to happen more than God, Himself. He wants to partner with you and me. He wants to give us all we need to be able to make our lives demonstrate these divine words and live them out in our relationships. Not just theoretically or philosophically, but in the actual behavior of our lives. So in humility (I think we just thought a little about that…) reach out to the One Who can and will transform your heart and mind. And then join Him in the partnership for changing your world.

The Truth Hertz pt. 2 – Some Resources

Using Resources Around You (No Matter Where You Are!)

If you didn’t get to read my post, Sometimes the Truth Hurts, click on here and take a look: https://homeworkwithst.com/2020/05/28/sometimes-the-truth-hertz/, It’ll give you some context for this.

I think we’re living in a time much like Dickens wrote about in A Tale of Two Cities. “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. There’s so much about where we are culturally and societally that is about as bad as it’s ever been. So much division and hate. It’s very distressing for me.

But in some other ways, it’s as good as it’s ever been. One of the best things about this moment is how technology has made so much available to us that in times past was far more difficult to come by. Specifically, resources for learning and growth. And more specifically, learning and growth in marriages and families. That’s what I’m writing about today.

When I closed out Sometimes The Truth Hertz, I promised a listing of resources that I recommend. So here we go.

First books. I realize that few men read books without pictures. And that even books with pictures are a struggle for many. No offense, but most of you who say you just can’t read need to get over that and start reading. You don’t need to read 120 words per minute. You don’t need to read a book a week. But if you don’t grow the habit of reading, you’re cheating yourself out of some potentially incredible growth.

Women purchase and read more books than men do. So I have come to learn in my counseling that when I recommend a book to a couple, the wife will likely read it, but not the man. It’s not about men not being as smart as women. And it’s way not about men being more broken than women, so don’t go there with it. It is what it is. That’s all.

So having accounted for that, there are so many great books about growing healthy and whole marriages available today, from a Christian and biblical world view. Here are a few of my favorite ones:

The DNA of Relationships, by Gary Smalley
Love Is A Decision, by Gary Smalley with John Trent
The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman
Cracking the Communication Code, by Emmerson Eggrichs
His Needs, Her Needs, by Willard Harley
Love Busters, by Willard Harley
Boundaries, by John Townsend and Henry Cloud
What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women, by James Dobson (this is an oldie but goodie; some of the same information as in Men Are From Mars, but from a thoroughly Christian perspective)
Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, by John Gray (this is not a Christ book, but it has some very insightful help for the difference between how men think and how women think)
A Kiss On The Lips, by Dr.s Les and Leslie Parrott
Reconcilable Differences, by Jim Talley

OK, that’s enough to keep most people busy for a long time. Most of these are available in audio format as well as in print. If you have a commute to and from work, listening to audio books is a smart way to go. Virtually all of these are available on audio format.

There are also a ton of good videos available. Many of them, in part or in the whole, are available at no charge on the Internet. Others can be purchased, downloaded or streamed at a cost. Here’s a short list:

Laugh Your Way to A Better Marriage, Mark Gungor
Here’s the first session on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=ntk1Tl7dscI
You can purchase the entire seminar at https://markgungor.com/products/laugh-your-way-to-a-better-marriage-1
Love and War, John and Stasi Eldredge For purchase: https://www.christianbook.com/finding-marriage-youve-dreamed-participants-guide/9780310889618/pd/889618?en=google&event=SHOP&kw=dvd-studies-20-40%7C889618&p=1179710&dv=c&gclid=CjwKCAjw8df2BRA3EiwAvfZWaM7GUzazYLT9Bdv034656HDf4w9SmO0ipnDlYHAMxIcc_f7Wmnc9EBoC6dAQAvD_BwE
Staying In Love, Andy Stanley The ideal way to get this is through Right Now Media, if your church or a church you know of makes Right Now Media available to you: https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/Series/234
For purchase: https://store.northpoint.org/products/staying-in-love-dvd

Dr. Henry Cloud has many helpful marriage videos available online at no cost (some as short as 3 or 4 minutes). Just Google Henry Cloud Marriage Videos.

My favorite conference for marriage is Weekend to Remember. They host these fantastic weekend experiences all across the country. Here’s the link to the Family Life website: https://www.familylife.com/weekend-to-remember/
I have seen real miracles happen in and for couples here. It is an expense that is actually an investment. I can’t say emphatically enough that you and your spouse should go to the Weekend to Remember!

This is so not an ultimate list. But it’s enough to get your started.

There’s really no reason for your marriage to end up like Hertz. None of these resources will rescue you, though. They’re nothing more than tools. If the stress fractures are severe enough, you may need the help of a godly counselor. But even he/she can’t rescue you, no matter how godly, trained and skilled they are.

Rescue comes from the grace of Christ, as you partner with Him to make choices that will bring healing and health to your marriage. Start with a sincere cry for His help. Ask Him to guide you to the right resources – books, videos, conferences, counselor. And then make it your business to follow His lead.

Heavy Hearted

Being Sad Is Actually Good For You, Psychologists Now Reckon

If you have a TV, a radio, a computer or a smart phone that connects to the Internet, you’ve seen the reports. I’ve seen more of them than I need to see. Stores, restaurants, police stations in flames and shambles. Lifetime effort and savings in ashes. Grown men and women smashing and grabbing. Pent-up anger erupting in senseless violence. And not just in the city where an unconscionable atrocity was committed by a man who was sworn to defend and protect. The anger and violence has spilled into the streets of cities all across our country.

Forgive me for venting about what thousands of others (many of them more articulate and more well-educated than me) have written and said about these things.

I am saddened by the fact that these things have happened at all, and that the angry violence continues. I’m saddened that so much of the anger in this is rightful. I’m saddened that the crime and violence that is being perpetrated is being done by grown adults who, if they have a conscience, have gagged it for the convenience of looting and pillaging. And I’m further saddened by the fact that the agency that reports itself to be the source of truth-telling has forgotten how to tell the truth in favor of selling more advertising on their 24/7 networks.

My heart is heavy for the country I love.

I honestly do not care what the color of the skin or the ethnic origin of the people I see on my news feed is. To me, this is immaterial. Although main stream media outlets promote the idea that this is racial, I DO NOT CONSIDER THIS TO BE RACIAL. I saw a meme on social media that said, “This isn’t about skin; it’s about sin. This isn’t about race; it’s about grace.” I believe this is the truth.

There are reasons for the anger. Real reasons, not invented ones. There is still a racial divide in our country. Racism still exists. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, dream of people being judged for the quality of their character and not the color of their skin is still a dream. I think a case can be made that progress has been made toward this noble dream in the last 40 years. But there is still far to go to make the dream a reality.

You’ve got your own list of things about this that sadden you. I wonder how many innocent lives will be deeply wounded by the lighting and relighting of this powder keg?

This is not the first time we’ve seen riots and looting. It’s a repeat. This does not make it any less heartbreaking. In some ways, it makes it more heartbreaking for me. Have we not learned anything since the last time violent anger took to the streets to loot and destroy? Apparently not. Or at least not enough to make a difference.

Fixing this isn’t about making more laws so that it won’t happen. There are already laws in place that make it illegal. You can’t make it any more illegal than it already is. Projections I’ve seen are that thousands of arrests will be made. I don’t have much confidence in this projection. Hundreds maybe, but thousands? Most of those who broke the law will have done so with no worries of punishment. More laws won’t fix this any more than more anger will.

So what will? All of us should feel free to share our opinion on the nature of the problem and its effect on our country. The First Amendment is still in effect. But stating and restating a problem is only the front porch for solving it. In this case, I’m not sure I agree with the old adage, “A problem well defined is half solved.” In this case, well-defining the problem only gets us to the front porch, not even through the front door. I think it’s a long way from being even half solved. We’ve been identifying and defining the problem for more than a century. It’s not half solved yet.

This is the nature of a soul problem. Soul problems are more difficult than any other kind of problem. I believe they are impossible for us to solve. Theologically, if this soul problem could be solved by us, we wouldn’t need a Savior. Jesus’ coming, living, teaching, dying and coming back from the dead would all be wasted motion.

But we can’t solve this (and so many other) soul problems. We DO need a Savior.

I know it sounds like a Sunday School answer, but to actually solve the real root problem from which all the anger and violence we’re seeing in full eruption is Jesus. Only Jesus can reconcile and restore us. Attempts at racial reconciliation and restoration without the redeeming love and blood of Jesus is well-intentioned effort ending in failure. Wasted motion.

Regardless of race, creed, color, political affiliation or motivation, the people on the world stage here are human beings, made in the image of God. All of them. Every single man and woman whose images flood your feed. And even though many (most, maybe) don’t know it, or might not acknowledge it, what they want more than anything is to find a healing for the deep wounds in their souls.

I’m guessing an apology would be nice. It won’t fix the problem, but if it’s offered sincerely and without condition, it surely wouldn’t hurt. I know that even a finely tuned and well crafted apology won’t fix it, though.

The Bible word for what will change this whole deeply hurtful thing is REPENTANCE. It is the one and only doorway to solving this soul problem.

The repentance required here isn’t for just one side. It’s for all sides. For those who promote and practice racism. For those who promote the division and hatred for some twisted gain. For those whose anger has exploded into violence and rioting, outside or above the law. For those who sit on the sidelines and just watch it play out, but make no attempt to make a difference. So did I leave anybody out? Only one group. The people who are stepping into the conflict with the genuine love of Christ to be ambassadors of reconciliation on His behalf (who, by the way, you’re not likely to see in the news broadcasts). The rest of us must repent.

And then there’s this. Never mistake remorse for repentance. They’re two different things. Being sad that you did something wrong, or didn’t do something right isn’t repenting. Repenting happens when you actually turn from sin and turn to God. It’s not a feeling, but a doing. John the Baptist was talking about this when he said to the Jewish leaders in Luke 3:8, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” (NLT)

All of us can do this. I’d say start here. Take a few minutes and prayerfully ponder if you’re ready to repent of any racism in your heart. Some of us who think we don’t have any probably do…

Then take a few more minutes and ask God to show you how you can prove by the way you life that you have repented. Ask Him to do what He already wants to do: to work in you toward living out your repentance.

The racial divide and hatred won’t likely be healed with a rally of thousands. Or even a sting of them. It’s much more likely to happen one heart at a time, one person at a time. And who knows, maybe you and I can be useful to God for that.

Sometimes the Truth Hertz

Car Rental — Mountain Travel Symposium

If you’ve been reading or watching the news, you’re probably aware that Hertz has filed for bankruptcy. The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article about this. It opened with this very insightful sentence: The coronavirus has been the proverbial tide going out, exposing who’s swimming naked.

The bankruptcy comes as a shocker to most of us who use rental cars in our travels. Hertz is, after all, a 102-year-old company that began “as a fleet of 12 Ford Model-Ts in Chicago and helped pioneer the rental-car business.” At its 2014 peak, Hertz’s market value exceeded $14 billion. I’d say that was solid! But over the past few years, it hovered around $2 billion. And these days, it’s way not there. The threat of bankruptcy sent it below $500 million. That’s not solid. And 2014 wasn’t that long ago!

I’m not an economist, so I’m not qualified to speculate on what the future might look like for Hertz, if there’s any future at all for it. But from what I’ve read, the slide and fall isn’t surprising to the financial community. It happened in a few years (6), but not over night. And not in one big cataclysmic collapse. Poor leadership and management decisions caught up in a relatively short time. Looking through the rear view mirror, even someone as uneducated in finance as I am can see that the end was predictable.

On one level, the Coronavirus put Hertz over the edge. But on another level, it was only the catalyst for what was probably inevitable because of poor leadership and bad decisions at the corporate level.

If you’re interested in more details and a pretty good assessment, you can read the article in the Wall Street Journal here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/hertz-was-already-in-terrible-shape-the-pandemic-finished-it-off-11590434631

So why am I writing about Hertz in a Marriage and Parenting blog? Simple. Because the Hertz story is similar to all the marriages and families I’ve seen crash and burn in the 46 years I’ve been in ministry. I can’t think of a single one that happened in one big event, over night. All of them had been crashing for a long time, even though they didn’t seem to show it. By the time we smelled the smoke, it was too late for most of them. The spiral had begun many decisions before we saw the crash. And when the crash happened, there was lots of hurt and damage to lots of people.

In my marriage counseling, I generally see couples somewhere between 6 weeks to 6 years too late. By the time a couple comes to see me, they’re usually already in deep yogurt. Usually only one of the spouses really wants to come in for counseling. The other comes under some duress. Either they felt they had no choice or they come so that they can say they did all they could when the whole thing finally ends.

The scenario is generally disappointing. “Fix us,” is usually the theme. More often, it’s “Fix them.” Because they’re the problem. If they could snap out of it, we’d be good. So snap them out of it. Me? Oh, I’m not the problem. They are.

You probably already know it, but in case you didn’t get the memo yet, it doesn’t work that way. I can’t fix anybody’s marriage. I can’t snap anybody out of it.

Virtually every mental health issue is worse across the board than before the Covid outbreak. Some are disturbingly worse. More suicide attempts and successes. More violence. More depression. More anxiety and panic. And more marriages are in trouble today after close to 80 days of “Stay At Home” than ever before.

Here’s my theory for why this is. Intense stress will always seek a weak spot. And when it finds it, it will expose existing weaknesses and issues. Ala Hertz’s crash and burn.

So what do you do about the weaknesses this stress has exposed? I’ve read about two or three approaches. One is to ignore them and just make the best you can of a bad situation. This approach subscribes to the “This, too, shall pass” philosophy. Oddly, for lots of things, this is true. Often, it’s not a great way to go with marriage and family, though.

Another way is to make your weaknesses irreverent. This is one that gets a lot of print in business and organizational literature. The concept is that you work to leverage your strengths and work from them so that your weaknesses just don’t matter. I had a guy once tell me, “Go with your strengths and bag your weaknesses.” There’s some reasonable logic in this. In many business settings it works well. In my experience, though, not so much in marriage and family life.

The third way I’m familiar with is to address your weaknesses and do what you can to strengthen them. This method costs more effort and investment than the other two. In my opinion, it has a better chance of working out well in marriage and family life.

There’s a whole book in this idea. I’ll only unpack a little bit of it here, though. Starting with the fact that you can’t address something you haven’t identified or can’t identify.

Lots of the couples I work with in counseling know they don’t like their marriage, and that they’re getting more and more alienated from each other, and more and more hurt and hurtful toward each other, but they haven’t really identified the problem. They know they’re driving each other crazy, but they can’t really get much further than accusing each other of various crimes and misdemeanors in the relationship. These accusations may have real substance. They may have actually have been committed. But they’re generally not the problem. They’re expressions of the problem.

The starting point for me as a counselor is to help people identify the issues that are behind the stress fractures they’re experiencing. I do my best to not tell them what these are, but to help them discover them for themselves. This takes lots of patience on their part and mine. And it takes the work of the Holy Spirit to bring light to dark areas. This is why I like being a Pastoral Counselor. I don’t have to beat around the bush and hope and pray that the client will bring it up so I can speak into it. I can start there, unrestricted.

If you’ve discovered stress fractures in your marriage, I suggest you consider getting the help of a godly and wise counselor who is able to address the spiritual side as well as the psychological side of your life. Getting another set of eyes and ears on your situation, and having the careful guidance of a mature believer to help you identify your stress fractures and give them names could be the best first step for you to address the issues that stress has exacerbated, and then move toward addressing them so as to strengthen the weaknesses.

There are tons of good resources for this process available to you today. Books by the ten’s of thousands. Some of them are even good. There are DVDs and Internet streaming and podcasts and blogs. Many of them are good and helpful. You can’t just type in “marriage help” into your browser and take the first ones that come up, though. I don’t think I’d even say to go with a web search of “Christian marriage help.” Internet searches can be pretty indiscriminate and some things that report themselves to be Christian aren’t. So you have to be wise and careful. But when you connect with good resources – and for me this means ones that are rooted in biblical philosophy and practice – they can help you make great progress toward addressing the things that are holding you back in your marriage and family.

I’ve already used up all my words for this installment, but next time I’ll give you my list of go-to resources for figuring out how to identify and address the stress fractures that Covid-19 and the lock down may have exposed.

Smart Phones pt. 2

Caution Pattern Stock Photos, Images & Photography | Shutterstock

The irony isn’t lost on me.  I’m writing about the dangers of too much screen time while using the medium I’m using requires you to log in screen time to read it.  How oxymoronic.

In Part 1 of Smart Phones May Not Mean Smart Kids, I wrote about the negative effects of extended screen time, but I didn’t offer much in the way of interventions for it.  Too much screen time is bad for our kids.  Got it.  So what do I do about it?

That’s the right question.  And the answer isn’t mysterious.  One word.  BOUNDARIES.  The only way to step up to the challenge (which is a euphemism for the problem) of limiting your kids to reasonable and healthy screen times is by setting, enforcing and living with boundaries.

Oh, well, that solves it, right?  Well, no.  But it’s the place to start.

I first read John Townsend’s and Henry Cloud’s book, Boundaries, years ago, now.  It’s become one of my several go-to books.  I highly recommend it to you.  Boundaries apply to virtually every aspect of your life.  Your marriage, your family, your career, your church.  Boundaries will govern your life.  Either your boundaries or someone else’s.  If you don’t have reasonable and solid boundaries, you’re at the mercy of whatever is the most pressing issue coming from the most compelling person in the moment.

I’ll go theological for a minute here and say that as a follower of Jesus, you and I are commissioned by the Savior to steward our boundaries.  He intends for us to thoughtfully set and manage boundaries, with the values of Scripture as our constraints.  This is a complex way of me saying God intends us to apply His standards to how we lead our lives, and as parents, how we lead our families.  Boundaries are not optional in this endeavor.  They’re not a good thing to have in your back pocket.  They’re essential.

So let’s do some thinking about setting and keeping boundaries.

Tip number 1: decide where you want to set the boundary for screen time for your family.  How much time do you think is appropriate?  How much feels healthy for you?  You’ll want to have a conversation with your spouse about this.  It might need to not be a quick one, but it doesn’t have to be a shoot-out at the OK Corral.  You’ve got to be a team on this.  If you’re step-parenting, realize that you have no control over what happens at your ex’s house.  You’re not setting boundaries for them.  You’re setting boundaries for your household.  The one you get to lead.

So have a conversation with your spouse.  Think and talk objectively and observationally, not judgmentally.  This will help you not have a fight over it.  Accusations rarely move the ball down the track well.

Tip number 2: call a family meeting.  If your kids are preschoolers, they don’t need any background information about the new rules and boundaries. Just tell them that they won’t be able to use Mommy’s and Daddy’s devices as much as they like.  Tell them that you’ll be the one telling them how much they can and when they can use them.  Secondary Tip: never negotiate with a preschooler. It won’t work out well.

If your kids are in grade school or older, call the family meeting and tell them what the new boundaries are.  The younger your kids are, the less they can handle of the rationale for your decisions.  But by the time they get into middle grade school, most kids can begin to connect the dots enough that you can tell them how and why you came to your decisions on these boundaries.  Bear this in mind, though.  Most kids aren’t going to be excited about you setting limits and boundaries on their screen time.  So don’t expect them to be happy with the new boundaries.  Be prepared for resistance and stand your ground.

Tip number 3: negotiate consequences for violation of the boundaries.  This may not be fun, but you need to do it if you want to make this thing work.  My suggestion is that the older your kids are, the better it is for you to let them help you decide on consequences.  I wrote “help you,” because you’re the final word on it, not them.  And they need to know that.  But you’ll help yourself by getting their input.  You may be surprised that they may even suggest more severe consequences than you would have.

Call them consequences and not punishments.  Yes, they will probably be punishments, but this is a great place and time to introduce a biblical life concept: you reap what you sow.  There are consequences for our choices.  Good choices usually bring good consequences.  Bad choices usually bring bad consequences.  Punishment is a valid thing.  Don’t get me wrong.  But this is a good place to develop the vocabulary and concept of consequences.

OK, that was the more difficult part.  Here’s the most difficult part.

Tip number 4: Enforce the boundaries.

I believe the best way to do this is to make each child who is middle grade school age and older their own monitor.  Make them responsible for keeping track of their own screen time.  I’d do it with a chart on the fridge.

And then I’d follow Ronald Reagan’s advice: trust by verify.  Keep your eye on the clock and your kids’ screen time.  You don’t need to become the screen time cop, but you’ll have to help them observe the boundaries.  Hey, they’re good kids, but they’re still kids.

For younger kids, use the “5 Minute Warning.”  When they’re getting close to the end of their screen time, tell them they’ve got 5 more minutes.  It’s a courtesy, really.  That way they have a warning that they need to wrap up what they’re doing, instead of just getting their water cut off in the middle of something that’s important to them in the moment.

For older kids, I’d just say, “How ya doin’ on your boundary?”  That’s not the accusatory, “You better be watching your time!  Don’t make me come in there…”

You may want to set your boundaries in stone, but be sure you set your plans for holding to them in sand.  People change.  Needs change.  Don’t lock yourself in on things you’ll regret being locked in on.

So you can see, there’s no fool-proof way to enforce screen time limits and boundaries.  But if you approach it experimentally, and with a measure of maturity and confidence, along with God’s help, you can find a moving target, and hit it more times than not.  And that’ll be very good for your kids and for you.

Smart Phones May Not Mean Smart Kids

Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite test and review!I’m trying to think of anybody I know who doesn’t have a smart phone.  Can’t think of anybody.  How about you?  Here’s a word for your vocabulary-building this week: ubiquitous.  It means “everywhere.”  I’m thinking somebody should rename smart phones Ubiquitous Devices.  Nah.  That’ll never fly.  Too many syllables.

I’m a smart phone person, myself.  If it’s not in my pocket or in my hand, I feel naked and handicapped.  I use my iPhone all the time.  Sometimes I even make and receive phone calls on it.  Anybody out there get me on this?

Smart phones and wireless devices have made life better for me in so many ways.  I’d hate to have to go back to the days before iPhones and iPads and their twins from a different mother, the Android devices.  It would slow me down a ton.  I’m grateful for all the good things that technology has put in my lap.

But for families with kids at home, there’s a dark side of technology that every parent needs to know about and think about.  I’ll warn you, though, the truth about technology for kids and families is an inconvenient truth (to quote a very poor scientist from the last century).

Tons of data has been released from studies regarding the impact of “screen time” on children.  None of it is encouraging.  I don’t have the scientific background to write intelligently and authoritatively about the technical aspects of these studies, but I can report what they’re finding in two words: two hours.  These aforementioned studies all agree that the limit for children and screen time is two hours per day.  After that, there is nothing good that comes of time in front of screens.

Bad news here.  This “Screen Time” thing is about all screens, including the TV screen.  Wireless tablets, smart phones, computers, TV.  If it’s got a screen and your kid is watching it, two hours is the limit for positive outcomes.  Two hours, total.  Per day.

There are significant things that happen in a child’s brain as they look at images on a screen for an extended period of time.  Most of which are potentially very harmful.  When images are changing every 1.8 seconds or so, neuro pathways get overstimulated and stay overstimulated for a while, and this generally isn’t a good thing.  How long the effect and the negative aspects of it last depends on many factors, and is different for different individuals.  But the fact that this over-stimulation thing happens is a given.  It happens to everyone.  If you’ve ever had the experience of your kid getting especially feisty and grouchy after a session of video games, you know this brain-thing is real.

With video games, in addition to the screen time involved, the content and theme of the game is an important issue.  Gratuitous violence, sexual innuendos (or blatantly sexual content), inappropriate language (swearing and otherwise), story lines that have to do with executing crimes, and many other themes are part of the video game landscape, and if you want to keep these things out of your kid’s lifestyle, you’ll need to at least consider keeping them out of the game cabinet.  I’m not interested in telling you what games you can have in your home and which ones you can’t.  You’re the parent.  You make that call.  But, please, make a call!

There’s a lot more that can be said/written about video games, but my point on video games is for parents to know what their kids are playing and decide if what they’re playing is appropriate or not.  If it is, you might want to play, too.  But if it’s not, then step up and help them live within your boundaries.  And part of the boundary work needs to include how much time the games you say yes to can be played.

Back to the screen time issue.  I know that limiting your preschooler to under 2 hours of screen time per day will have some challenges for most families.  Especially if the kids have had free reign of devices.  You’re not likely to hear your kid say, “Hey Mom, can you cut me back to two hours with these things?”  You’ll probably end up with weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth when you cut them back.

If you want to limit their screen time to 2 hours a day, you’ll have to have some replacement activities ready.  The younger your kids are, the more supervision they will need.  Duah.  So you’re not going to be able to set them up and go do what you want to do.  You may have to stay there and keep them from finger painting the kitchen or giving the cat a haircut.  And that will cost you time and energy.  Sorry.

When I typed “indoor activities for preschool kids” into Google, according to the message at the top of the screen, I got “about 94,500,000 results.”  Granted, not all of them are good.  Not all of them are free.  Some of them are just way not for you or your kids.  But, really, if you can’t find something to do out of 94,500,000 possibilities…

Back to the brain-thing for a minute.  The same part of the brain that is stimulated by cocaine gets stimulated by screen images.  If you’re thinking there might be some kind of connection there with addictions, you’re right.  Prolonged over-stimulation creates addiction issues.  And that ought to catch your breath.

If you do Facebook, you may have seen posts about teenagers going ballistic over having their devices taken away.  They have a small mental break-down.  Anxiety attacks.  Panic.  Fits of rage.

I’m not making any moral judgment about these kids.  I’m just making an observation that these are responses I’ve seen in addicts.  These are withdrawal responses.

Even if there weren’t these (and more) physiological/neurological issues involved, I think we’d need to take a close look at the screen time thing.  Among many other things, this one is my greatest concern.  Kids who spend hours and hours with screen time are not doing one particular thing that is essential to their development.  One thing that holds the potential to make or break them in their lives over time.  They’re not reading.  Or being read to.  You can make of that what you want, but for me, this is a big issue.  Huge.  Reading is an essential skill that has to be developed through practice.  Of course you’re free to disagree, but I believe if you want to set your kids up for their greatest successes in life, help them develop strong reading skills.  And even if your kid is exceptional, they won’t be able to do this while they have unlimited screen time.

All this has been about the problem, but not much (as in nothing) about what to do about it, other than set limits on screen time.  I’ve got more input on all this, but not until next time.

Safe

Safe Place Program - Operation SafeHouse

We are designed by God to seek safety. This primal instinct is a gift, actually. Without it, the human race wouldn’t have survived past Adam and Eve. There’s a part of every healthy human’s brain whose primary function is to notice when our safety is threatened and sound alarms about it. Thank You, God, for this little spot in our Limbic System that is really only concerned with our safety.

If you’re awake, your brain is scanning your environment for levels of threat. Our need for safety is always spinning somewhere below the surface. That’s how the brain works. Imagine how exhausting it would be if we had to consciously focus on this all the time. In combat, one of the things that causes physical and emotional fatigue is the need to consciously be scanning for threat all the time. The term for soldiers on the front lines who don’t do this is “dead.”

In the last couple of months, safety has come to front and center in ways I don’t ever remember before. It seems like every other commercial on TV is about staying safe. “Stay home; stay safe; save lives.” Products as diverse as insurance and toilet paper have caught the wave and are promoting themselves in light of the need to stay safe. There’s a bit of paranoia afoot about staying safe. Just my opinion. An obsession of sorts. Again, just my opinion. I’ll not go into my personal feelings about this. I’ve got ’em, and I bet you do, too.

Wanting to be safe and to keep our families and friends safe is not a bad thing. It’s a very good thing, in fact. You want people and things you care about to be safe. You’re supposed to. But there’s a thing about safety that we’ve got to factor in. It’s this: nothing and nobody can ever be completely safe.

Do as many things as you know to do, put as many safeguards into your plan as you can, make things as safe as you can possibly make them, and the best you can do is make life relatively safe. There is no absolute safety. I’ll say it again, nothing and nobody can ever be completely safe. Sorry if this makes you mad or sad or feel disrespected. It’s a fact, though. We live in a fallen, broken world. Safety will always be relative. The best we’ll ever be able to do is to make things as safe as we can.

Here’s an example. Do you feel safe in your car or truck? I generally do. When I get in and start it up, my mind is never on the fact that nearly 1.25 million people ​are killed in ​​car crashes each year. On average, that’s 3,287 deaths a day. Or that an additional 20-50 million are injured or disabled. (https://www.thewanderingrv.com/car-accident-statistics/) It never enters my mind. I assume I will safely get where I’m going. I try to drive wisely (most of the time…), but I’m not all locked up with fear because there is a chance I could be one of 1.25 million.

Believe it or not, thousands of people die on the golf course every year. And at Walmart. And in church. But I still go enthusiastically to the golf course, and perhaps less enthusiastically, but I still go to Walmart and to church.

Now, you may be thinking I’m taking shots at the Pandemic Mentality. OK. Sort of. But the part of the mentality I’m shooting at is the fear-driven part. The part that’s locking people up unnecessarily.

There is science on both sides of the lock-down thing that is involved in what I interpret as paranoia. Some scientists say staying home has dramatically reduced the number of death to COVID-19. But there are other equally credentialed scientists who say, looking at the same body of data, that locking down actually inhibits what will eventually create the greatest amount of safety, herd immunity.

Yes, more than 70,000 people have died from COVID-19 in some form. (Actually, the hard numbers on this are still being processed. Some very astute scientists believe the numbers could be inflated by as much as 25%. You decide what number you want to believe.) My point is that the Coronavirus is an actual and present threat to thousands of people. Especially those in older demographics and those with other serious medical issues. I’m not pretending the Coronavirus is a myth. It’s real.

What I’m concerned with, though, is the level of paranoia from which we react to it. There are many legitimate reasons to respond wisely, and many fairly simple things this involves. Wash your hands. So your best to say “socially distanced.” If you feel sick, stay home. If you show symptoms, get tested. If you test positive, quarantine yourself. Pay attention. These would be wise responses.

What I believe is unhealthy is panicked reactions. Generally, panicked reactions don’t work out very well.

When your Amygdala (the part of your brain in your Limbic System that registers threat and then fires out signals to your metabolic system to make you ready for fight or flight) goes into hyper-mode, it creates a kind of panic and then becomes the engine for you to react. The part of your brain that is capable of responding (your Prefrontal Cortex) gets hijacked by your Amygdala in a nano-second. You don’t thoughtfully process data and choose a response. You just react. Reacting is a non-thinking thing. Again, this is a gift from God, built into us as a means of prolonging us as a species.

If your Amygdala is firing off because there’s a snake in your path, that could very well save your life, or the life of someone you love. That’s a good thing. But if what your visual cortex as a snake is what is actually just a stick, and you react with the same intensity as though it was a snake, well, that’s not as good a thing.

The COVID-19 outbreak isn’t a stick in the path. It’s an actual snake, and it can do actual damage to whomever it attacks. Statistically, it has a somewhat low kill rate. Less than 2% of the population is likely to get it. But if you’re in the 2%, you can not afford to ignore its very real threat.

So we’re on a sort of tightrope. Over reacting will make wise response impossible. If we under react, game over.

OK, I’m getting ready to land the plane. And not on a political landing strip.

Our current situation with COVID-19 is a case study of sorts. If my theory is correct, nothing and nobody can ever be completely safe, then what are we supposed to do in the face of this real and present danger? My answer is what I remember of a line in My Utmost for His Highest, “Trust God and do what’s next.” (This is probably a gross paraphrase, so my apologies to My Utmost… aficionados.)

As Christians, we have an obligation to both trust God and be wise. If I had to lean to one side or the other, I’d lean toward the trust God side. The good news, though, is that we don’t have to chose one over the other. We get to do both. We get to trust God (Who, by the way, the only One Who can keep any of us safe) AND do what wisdom instructs. In some ways, asking which is more important is like asking which wing on the airplane is more important. I saw a meme on Facebook the other day with a Spurgeon quote about which is more important, prayer or reading the Bible. He responded, “What is more important, breathing in or breathing out?” I think that principle applies here.

What I’m promoting here is not an either/or mentality, but a both/and approach. If you’re not trusting God, well, you MUST! Especially if you claim to be a Christian and follower of Jesus. If you’re not acting wisely, you MUST! God has entrusted your life to you as a stewardship. Steward it wisely and faithfully. The Apostle Paul wrote it this way, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise.” (Eph. 5:15)

Let’s do one another a favor, and steward our lives well by being careful how we live. Live wisely. Respond to what happens to us, instead of reacting to it out of fear and panic.

And by the way, if you’re a parent, you’re teaching your kids how to deal with the sometimes intense and dangerous things that happen in life. The stakes on this are high for you. So live Eph. 5:15-ly.

Now go wash your hands.

WWE

WWE Logo | new WWE logo wallpaper by MajinKhaN | Wwe logo, Wwe ...

I grew up in Oklahoma, where we had a weekly broadcast of “Championship Wrestling” – pronounced “Rasslin'”. Bodies flying through the air, launched from the ropes or charging from the corners, on the screen of our black and white TV. Dramatic screams of agony. Heads bouncing off the mat. It was all choreographed and scripted. We knew it probably was, but we were willing to suspend our disbelief and watch the dance as if it were real. And sometimes us boys would adjourn to the back yard when it was over and have our own Championship Rasslin’ match. Often it ended with somebody getting hurt. People my age know what I’m talking about.

In the last several years, rasslin’ has taken quite a turn. In my opinion, a turn for the worse. Bodies still fly through the air. There is still some scripted plot line – good guys vs. bad guys (or girls as the case may be). But the ad libs on the script are more violent, more aggressive, more just plane mean than I remember them from the Championship Rasslin’ days. The advertisements for WWE and it’s competitors all capitalize on the meanness and violence. “This ain’t your daddy’s wrestling.”

I won’t beat around the bush. My problem with this new breed of professional wrestling is that it normalizes violence. It also glamorizes it. These new pro wrestlers are millionaires on their way to being multi-millionaires, and are happy to flaunt it. They play to packed and ravenous coliseums of wild fans. And millions of TV and Internet fans. They’re bona fide celebrities.

I don’t resent them for their income or their celebrity. I don’t really resent them at all, personally. In terms of executing their scripts with believably, they’re actually talented. I’m not advocating that someone launch a campaign to shut them down, either. After all, a fair case can be made that College and Professional Football are equally as violent. So is boxing. So were the Three Stooges. And the Wiley Coyotee and the Road Runner.

But the difference between boxing and football and WWE is that in both boxing and football, there are rules that govern combat. In football, many of the rules have been placed for the protection of players against injuries from unnecessary violence. As far as I can tell, there are no rules in WWE. Except maybe for, “Do unto them before they can do unto you.”

It would be easy for me to tap dance on my soapbox for another hour about this, but that’s not what I want to do – although there is much that I could write. What I want to tap dance a little about is the normalization of violence. This, I believe, is a dangerous trend that we overlook to our harm, as individuals, families and a culture as a whole.

Here’s where my concern starts. Who is the target audience for WWE? They’ll tell you it’s anybody with a TV or Internet connection. And that’s probably true in the broadest sense. But when you look more closely, it doesn’t take a degree in cultural anthropology to figure out that adolescent boys are either the bull’s eye of their target, or very near it. Adolescent boys, who generally have cash at their disposal, and who know how to spend it. They also have an abundance of testosterone and adrenaline. Like 24/7. They have far more physical capability than they have emotional and mental control. Their impulse control neurology is quite underdeveloped.

That’s a recipe for some bad stuff.

I believe the same should be said for the violent video games that are targeted and pitched at teens. I sometimes see quotes and comments saying that no hard evidence exists from empirical research to verify that there is a connection between the violence of TV and video games and the violence that is acted out in society. Frankly, I disbelieve this. The more I learn about the brain, the more convinced I am that there is a very strong (in my opinion, undeniable) connection between what adolescents (and younger children) see and what they do.

If you’re a teacher, you don’t need me to tell you that students are more violence-prone today than they were even 5 years ago. (You don’t need me to say their attention spans have shrunk, too. This, I believe, is a result of the .10 second duration of most images they view on TV. It is even more true and powerful in the video games they play.)

VR (Virtual Reality) games put all this on steroids. The division between the reality of the real world and the fiction of the game world are blurred by the vividness of the images, sounds, experience. Even adults have trouble keeping the two separated.

PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU GE THIS: I am not saying that WWE and video games are of the Devil. You make your own judgment about that. But what I am saying is that when young people are exposed to gratuitous violence, it normalizes violence. And that’s a problem.

If you’re a Christian and a parent, you’ve got the very heavy responsibility to raise your kids to know God and His design for life. The point of raising them is to release them into their own lives and choices, having done what you can to make them ready for those lives and choices. I am not advocating that you control all your teens’ choices. That won’t work. I’m advocating that you set up the appropriate guard rails that will guide your teen to make good choices for themselves.

The younger the child, the more essential it is that you, the parent, set the boundaries. But as your child ages, they must learn how to set and live with boundaries they set for themselves. I’ve got a ton more to say about this. But not all at once in this post.

For this post, here’s my challenge to you, Mom, Dad. Respectfully dialogue with your teens and pre-teens about what they’re watching and the games they’re immersing themselves in.

Those first two words are the operative ones. RESPECTFULLY. DIALOGUE.

The best time to do that is ahead of the curve. Talk about this before a crisis about it.

Unfortunately, lots of families won’t be able to get ahead of it. That train already left the station. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just start where you are. Set up a calm, even relaxed conversation with them and have a respectful dialogue about it.

Before you do that, ask God to put respect in your heart and words, and that He will open your kid’s heart. You won’t get too far on your own. Nobody’s that smart. Not even you.

Ask God to give you the courage to set up a time and open the respectful dialogue, and then humbly follow His lead.

Not a Happy Day

Top 10 Ways to Be an Unhappy Mother of Twins - Twiniversity

Normally, families all across the US would gather to celebrate Mother today. Store-bought cards with sloppy sentiment and home-made cards with Picasso -ish pictures and childish handwriting would express love and gratitude for Mom. If Mom was lucky, she’d be seated at a table at her favorite restaurant, with her adoring family around her, and beam like a Queen on her dais. Or perhaps at her own table, but enjoying a meal prepared by someone other than herself. Usually, the second Sunday in May is a happy day for Moms.

But not always. Not this year. Gathering for a big family dinner isn’t possible for lots of people in America this year. Lots of Moms will be eating by themselves or in the company of their husband in a relatively empty and quiet house. Lots of sons and daughters will be waving and blowing kisses on Zoom or FaceTime or some other video call technology, but not giving hugs and kisses in person. For Moms who are used to the old way, this may not be a very happy day.

But there are other people who may not be having a happy day this Mother’s Day. I know one. She’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. Physically beautiful, and spiritually a giant. For the last several years, she’s been trying to conceive and have a baby. But there’s no baby. She was motherly to hundreds of boys and girls in her ministry. Loved and adored by them and their families. But heaven seems closed to her prayers and ours for a baby. Mother’s Day isn’t a happy day for her. It’s a reminder of what she doesn’t have. Hope dies a little more every Mother’s Day for her.

There’s another woman for whom this is a desperately hard day. She’s a Mom, but not in the way she wanted to be. This is her first year to celebrate Mother’s Day without her baby. He didn’t survive a car crash. She’ll tearfully place a rose on his grave this afternoon. This isn’t a happy day for her.

I have a friend whose mother died just a few weeks ago from cancer. This isn’t a happy Mother’s Day for him. It’s a fresh reminder that he’ll never hear her voice or feel her touch again.

I have another friend whose mother was horribly abusive to him for his entire upbringing. Abusive both physically and emotionally. Mercifully for her, she has no memory of the abuse now. She’s in the late 80s and losing many of her memories. But my friend has not lost the memories. He is in the process of forgiving her, and making amazing headway in the process. But for him, Mother’s Day isn’t a happy day.

There are so many more stories of unhappy Mother’s Days. Moms who are hiding from abusive husbands, living in a shelter until they can find a safe place to try and make a life. Moms who are estranged from their children. Moms who have sons and/or daughters deployed across the globe to keep the world safe. Or who have sons and/or daughters who are deployed in hospitals as front line soldiers in a different kind of war to keep the world safe. Moms who’ve been forced to shelter in place behind the locked doors of a nursing home and won’t see their family this Mother’s Day, unless they can somehow come and wave at her from outside her window.

For many, many Mom’s, today isn’t a happy day. The Proverbs 31 Woman sermons that are preached via video today aren’t comforting and encouraging. They’re just another reminder of sorrow and separation.

If, somehow, this post finds its way into the inbox of one of you who I may have poorly described here, I want to say I’m sorry for your loss, for your grief, for your unfulfilled dreams and your unanswered prayers. I’m sorry that we have no day to celebrate your value, the treasure you are.

I wish I had something creative and healing to say to you. But there are no words that can make the disappointment and sadness you may be feeling on this Mother’s Day go away. Words can’t change your reality.

The best I can do is to pray this prayer of blessing on you, from Numbers 6;24-26.

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”