Category: children

13ReasonsWhy

I didn’t want to write this.  There are plenty of other sites to read about this show.  But I’m not getting anything done so I guess I need to get this out of the way.  I’m not going to take time to summarize or comment on filming etc.  You can read other posts for all of that.

There are two sides quickly emerging on this show:  Those who are adamantly against it on one side and millions of high school girls (and maybe boys) on the other who have watched it and probably read the book and experience some form of it every day.

I’m going to point out my 13  issues with the show but don’t stop until you get to the end.

  1. The “F” word is used 258 times.  I don’t know if that is 100% accurate.  It feels like it was said 5 million times to me.  If you don’t hang around high schoolers its not the “F” word that we grew up.  Our “F” word was really bad.  Today it is just a word that comes out with every other word.

2. Gay issues.  Regardless of how you feel on this subject it’s here now.  Our generation didn’t discuss it past “ewww”.  This generation is bombarded with it and they need to make decisions on it.  This show has at least 6 people dealing with it and everyone else around them needs to deal with it too.

3.  No communication with parents.  Zero.  Not one kid in this show has an honest life giving relationship with their parents.  Is this realistic?  If it is realistic we are doomed.  I didn’t count how many times parents said to their children: “You’re a good kid”.   Yeah parents – your kid is good,  it’s everyone else’s kids that are “bad”.

4.  No honest supportive relationships with friends.  At best they are superficial.  At worst they are selfish, hateful, confused and abusive.  The relationships are a means to an end and everyone is fighting to get to the top.   What is the top by the way?

5.  Pre-marital sex.  Pretty similar to the “F” word – there’s a lot of it and “everyone” is doing it.  No signs of birth control.  No signs of protection from disease.  No healthy relationships – it’s just jump in the bed.

6.  Rape.  Not one rape but two.  It’s graphic and it’s brutal and it makes your stomach turn.

7.  Drugs.  This is not a druggy show.  There is some drug usage but that isn’t the main point.  In some ways the issues would be easier to accept if drugs were the starting problem.

8.  Alcohol.  What ever was missed in the way of drug usage, alcohol took its place.  There was more drinking in this series than I have done in my lifetime.   Add this to the previous 7 points and it makes life a drunk driving exercise.

9.  There is N0 God in this show.   Hear me out – there is nothing close to spiritual enlightenment beyond the spirits in the bottle.    Some critics see this as the main reason not to watch this.  I see it as a reality in many teens lives.  Maybe it is the worst point in all of this mess.  Maybe it is the cause for all the other ones.  There is no Truth and there are no Absolutes.

10. Jealousy and hatred.  Yes.  A lot of it.

11. Lack of understanding from adults.  Same goes with the audience.  The response I get from teenagers about this are totally different from responses I get from adults.  Teenagers simply say “Yes it happens”.  Adults try to explain everything going on so they can understand it.

12.  Lies.  I told my kids “if you do something wrong at least admit it.  If you lie about it, it only makes it much worse.”  Yes.  There is a lot of lying with everyone in this show.

13.  Violence.  Slapping, hitting, hitting again, threats, oh and more hitting.  I guess everyone is angry about the first 12 items on the list.

Oh, I forgot.  The big issue in this show is a teen suicide.  This time it is not romanticized or just spoken about.  This is HD living color, brutal, ugly, screaming, bloody suicide.  Let me put it this way – I covered my eyes.  I couldn’t watch.  I probably should have cried.  I was already depressed from watching the show – this just put me over the edge.

Friends have said to me, “how can you watch that?”  You see if you don’t know me I was one of the parents in episode 13.  My wife walked into our son hanging by a wire.  My wife was the one yelling to me to come.  I was the one picking him up telling him to come back saying “No no no no”.  One critic of the show makes a point that his neighbor did this at age 16 so he understands.  No you don’t.  I had friends that committed suicide.  It’s awful.  But there is no comparison to picking up a dead child that seemed fine a minute ago. By choice they are now dead.   There is no way to understand.   Their battles are done, yours are just beginning.

In one minute you are angry about water running over the tub into the hallway.  The next you are facing a life devastation that you will never fully recover from.  How do you reconcile that in your mind?

Here is a good place to breathe….

I am not a psychologist.  I am not running stats on whether this show is helping or hurting the teenagers.  I can say if you are a parent you might want to watch this.  It is awful and it is depressing and it will make you feel terrible.  Do it anyway.  You may even want to watch it with your teenager.

Hug your children today and do your best to fight or understand all 14 of these issues.  It’s that important.

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Person of the Year 2016

The first person that came to mind this year was the “Aleppo Boy”.

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He was the young boy pulled from debris in Syria.  I decided to go bigger and considered an award to all children of war and began gathering photos.  The most iconic photo I remember is from my childhood war (Vietnam) and is called “Napalm Girl”.  Anyone over 55 in America knows who this is.  I wanted to know where she is today and what became of her.  After reading her story, I easily decided to nominate her as “My Person of the Year.”

Her name is Phan Thi Kim Phuc or just Kim Phuc.  She was born on April 2, 1963 (three years younger than me) in South Vietnam.  Kim lived in the village of Trang Bang and on June 8, 1972 at age nine she was hit by a napalm bomb.  She became famous for being photographed by Nick Ut as she was running naked.  Mr. Ut won a Pulitzer prize for the photo and it was featured in the New York Times and Life Magazine.

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Kim was badly burned and tore off her burning clothes. In an interview many years later, she recalled she was yelling, Nóng quá, nóng quá (“too hot, too hot”) in the picture. She was taken to a hospital in Saigon where it was determined that her burns were so severe that she probably would not survive.  After 14 months in the hospital and 17 surgical procedures she was sent home.

Phúc was removed from her university as a young adult while studying medicine and used as a propaganda symbol by the communist government of Vietnam. In 1986, however, she was granted permission to continue her studies in Cuba.  She had converted from her family’s Cao Dai  religion to Christianity in 1982.  After arriving in Cuba she met another Vietnamese student who she began dating and later married.   On the way to their honeymoon in Moscow, they left the plane during a refueling stop in Newfoundland asked for political asylum.   The couple now lives in Ajax, Ontario near Toronto and have 2 children.   In 2015, it was reported that she was receiving laser treatment at a hospital in Miami, Florida to reduce the scarring on her left arm and back. The treatment was provided free of charge.  She has continued these treatments even though they are very painful.

 

Kim has said, “Forgiveness made me free from hatred. I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days but my heart is cleansed. Napalm is very powerful, but faith, forgiveness, and love are much more powerful. We would not have war at all if everyone could learn how to live with true love, hope, and forgiveness. If that little girl in the picture can do it, ask yourself: Can you?”

 

Kim Phúc Foundation

In 1997 she established the first Kim Phúc Foundation in the U.S., with the aim of providing medical and psychological assistance to child victims of war.  

In 2004, Phúc spoke at the University of Connecticut  about her life and experience, learning how to be “strong in the face of pain” and how compassion and love helped her heal.

On December 28, 2009, NPR broadcast her spoken essay, “The Long Road to Forgiveness.”  In May 2010, Phúc was reunited by the BBC  correspondent  Christopher Wain, who helped to save her life.

There are pictures on the internet showing Kim’s burns.  I chose a happier current photograph.  I have been touched by Kim’s life since 1972 and again now reading about her courage, faith and forgiveness.  I hope this Person of the Year blesses you as well.  Please pray for ALL the children facing war around the world.

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Most of this information is edited from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phan_Thi_Kim_Phuc

Just go to sleep

I had the great pleasure of babysitting two of my grandaughters last night.  The youngest is three and recently had the earth shattering experience of losing her nuk AND her crib at the same time (she has very bad parents 🙂 ).  I had the challenge of getting her to sleep and for an hour while I laid on the floor beside her tiny little bed and she held my hand (finger).  Fortunately, the bed was the perfect height for me to rest my elbow on the floor and rest my arm against the bed without holding it up in the air.

It’s beautiful loving moments like these when the writing side of my brain takes over and I begin comparing this love to God.  Thoughts like – He is right beside us, there is nothing to fear; All God wants is for us to hold His hand and be loved; God’s love is so simple, we don’t need to do anything to win His approval; Don’t complicate God’s love, just reach out and take hold of Him; There is nothing we can do that will separate us from His love.

And then she sneezed all over my face!  You got it, those beautiful tender thoughts kind of vanished very fast and I had enough.  Those tender loving thoughts turned to “just go to sleep!”

Don’t get me wrong.  I was and I am still joyful about my grandkids (I’m babysitting again this weekend).  I do love those tender moments just like God loves tender moments with His children.  But there are times, I’m sure, when God is tired of hugging and rocking and just wants us to get on with what we are supposed to be doing.

“Just do what you are told to do”.  It might be getting some sleep.  It might be eating our food.  It might be cleaning our room.  Just do it.  Savor your love moments with God but when its time to get up and do something; get up and do it!  Don’t hang around and milk the love moments when it is clear that you have a job to do.

Exodus 14:15
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.
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I’m tired of going to church

I am 56 years old which means that I have lived through approximately 2,912 Sundays.  I have been in church on at least 2,000 of those (I’m guessing).  I am tired of going to church.  I have no major complaints.  I’m just tired of going.  Over the years there have been pro-church times and anti-church times.

High school was a plus time because I wanted to see my friends in youth group.

College was a down time because youth group is over and not really feeling a part of anything.

Marriage was a good time – building new relationships and having children.  You get a lot of support for child rearing at church.  Babysitters, advice, clothes, etc.

Disasters and crushing times are a good time to be at church – when we lost our son, the church was at it’s best.  I can’t say enough for how they cared for us.  I can’t imagine going through a natural disaster or difficult time in life without having the support of a church.

Empty Nest – This is my period of life.  When I was a child, my parents made me go.  When I was a parent I made my kids go (which then included me!).  Now there is no one to make me go and sometimes I just don’t want to.   I don’t have any major complaints.  No church is perfect.  If it was perfect I would ruin it as soon as I stepped in.

I’ve listened to over 2000 sermons and sang enough hymns and worship songs to last awhile.  I went from a conservative church to a contemporary one.  I’ve gone from an old congregation to a young one.  An old stone structure to meeting in a gym.  From Mennonite to Baptist to a cell based charismatic.  Pews and folding chairs.  I’ve been in just about every denomination at one point or other.  I’ve seen scandals, blow ups, deceit, back stabbing, crying, yelling, grace, forgiveness and mercy.   I’ve seen a lot of love and a little bit of hate.  I’ve been in churches that spoke in tongues and churches that said they are of the devil.

The point is, I’ve seen almost all that can be seen in a church and heard almost anything you might want to hear (or not hear).  Unless something radical comes along, I’m just a little bored with the whole thing.  It’s not a matter of right or wrong, good or bad.  I’m just a little tired of it.  Sleeping in on Sundays at my age and going out for coffee with my wife is pretty nice and I may just do it again this Sunday!

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Love, Peace, Joy

My last blog for 2015 – a big shout out thank you to all of you who wandered through my thoughts this year!

Take a look at these commands:

Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Facts: we will have enemies – get over it.  There is evil and good, righteous and unrighteous – you’re not going to stop the evil – it’s here to stay.  Anyone can love the loveable.  Go out and love the unloveable.

We are children of our Father in heaven.  Let’s try living like it.  Love someone.  Make peace.  Spread joy.  Be a light to your corner of the world.  Whether you affect one person or millions it doesn’t matter.  The fact that you are influencing is what is important.

Give a hand up.  Give a smile.  Carry someone’s bags.  Love like a child with innocence.

Love, peace, joy – they are very simple instructions.  See if you can make a difference.

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Refugee children in Syria/ wikimedia
Source
DSC_0871 (Syria 1, Emergencies 6)
Author
Trocaire from Ireland

 

A Heart for God

I wrote this four years ago.  I forgot about this experience until reading it again.  I hope you enjoy it again too.

Last night I was traveling home from Houston to Philly on a late night Southwest flight. I pulled a pretty high number for seating and I was afraid that I was going to get a middle seat in the back of the plane. It turns out that I sat in the first row (with extra leg room YAY) at the window next to a woman with her daughter. Our conversation somehow evolved into world religions and without being mean, this lady had less than a first grade education on the subject. After finding out that I was raised Mennonite, she wanted to continue talking about “Messonites”. I tried to correct her but she continued on her discussion of Messonites and what that means. She didn’t seem to grasp the whole concept and I didn’t want to get into a heated discussion.

You might think that I wasn’t impressed by this person but I was. She was traveling with a 20 year old daughter in a wheel chair. The daughter is paralyzed from the waist down from a car accident at the age of 16. They were traveling to Philadelphia to be a part of a medical study on exoskeletons. She went on to describe the procedure and showed me video clips of a prior fitting. Very interesting stuff. So interesting that I went home and Googled it at 3 a.m. to learn more about it. This mother and daughter are very close – it was obvious. They were affectionate and caring and clearly have a close relationship.

For what this mother lacks in knowledge of world religion, she definitely has a big heart for her daughter. That’s what I came to appreciate about her. That’s what God wants to appreciate about us. We don’t need to be a seminary scholar – we just need to have a heart for HIM. I’m sure He will celebrate Thanksgiving if we can do that. It’s not by outer appearance or by great things that we do but whether we love God with our whole hearts.

(Acts 13:22 NIV) After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

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Where are your gifts?

Every time we visit an orphanage we take gifts for the children.  Soccer balls, cars, dolls, etc.  The children love them and run off to play.  The next time we go to visit, NONE of those toys can be found.  We ask “what happened to the toys that we brought?”

Some of the answers are: They broke, they were stolen, they are lost, they got kicked over the wall, the orphanage workers took them for their own children.   I think it is nearly impossible to keep toys in an orphanage.

Where are the gifts that God gave you?  Are they broken?  Were they stolen or lost?  Did you use them so hard that they were kicked out of your life – lost forever?

God has blessed you with so many gifts and yet you act like you don’t have any.  Prophets come to your church and you ask for more wisdom and gifts.  Maybe those prophets should ask what you are doing with the ones you already have.

Take a look around your house and see what is hiding.  You may be surprised at what God has already given you.

1 Corinthians 12:27-29  (NIV)

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?

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*On this trip to Guatemala, I bought Isaiah new Nike sneakers because his were duct taped together!  I never saw those shoes again and he didn’t remember what happened to them!  He did wear out shoes fast!

Teachers Empowered with Skills and Curriculum

This is a ministry that I am involved in.  Please consider supporting it!

Great update! Thanks!

Springs of Africa

Schools in the Springs of Africa Education Initiative have received a unique boost in the form of children’s workbooks and teacher training.

For the third time this year, teachers from Ziwani Academy in Garissa and Seed Academy in Kitale had the opportunity to come to Nairobi for the 2-day interactive sessions. They were empowered with various approaches for effective teaching of children in the Early Childhood level.

Teacher Martha Onyango from Ziwani Academy play a game. Looking on is Sarah Lee.
Teacher Martha Onyango from Ziwani Academy play a game during the teachers training. Looking on is one of the trainers, Sarah Lee.

The training was full of humor as teachers pretended to be small children and jumped, hopped and sang their way through the course. They undertook numerous exercises and games, which they were encouraged to teach their pupils in their respective schools.

Grace Mulwa, Headmistress of Ziwani Academy, appreciated the sponsors of the training. She said that the workshop was helpful as…

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Religious kids are meaner?

Not one of my typical blogs – please comment your reactions:

Religious children are meaner than their secular counterparts, study finds

From the Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/06/religious-children-less-altruistic-secular-kids-study

The moment of truth. No pressure, kid. Photograph: Allen Donikowski/Getty Images/Flickr RM

Children from religious families are less kind and more punitive than those from non-religious households, according to a new study.

Academics from seven universities across the world studied Christian, Muslim and non-religious children to test the relationship between religion and morality.

They found that religious belief is a negative influence on children’s altruism.

“Overall, our findings … contradict the commonsense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind towards others,” said the authors of The Negative Association Between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism Across the World, published this week in Current Biology.

“More generally, they call into question whether religion is vital for moral development, supporting the idea that secularisation of moral discourse will not reduce human kindness – in fact, it will do just the opposite.”

Almost 1,200 children, aged between five and 12, in the US, Canada, China, Jordan, Turkey and South Africa participated in the study. Almost 24% were Christian, 43% Muslim, and 27.6% non-religious. The numbers of Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic and other children were too small to be statistically valid.

They were asked to choose stickers and then told there were not enough to go round for all children in their school, to see if they would share. They were also shown film of children pushing and bumping one another to gauge their responses.

The findings “robustly demonstrate that children from households identifying as either of the two major world religions (Christianity and Islam) were less altruistic than children from non-religious households”.

Older children, usually those with a longer exposure to religion, “exhibit[ed] the greatest negative relations”.

The study also found that “religiosity affects children’s punitive tendencies”. Children from religious households “frequently appear to be more judgmental of others’ actions”, it said.

Muslim children judged “interpersonal harm as more mean” than children from Christian families, with non-religious children the least judgmental. Muslim children demanded harsher punishment than those from Christian or non-religious homes.

At the same time, the report said that religious parents were more likely than others to consider their children to be “more empathetic and more sensitive to the plight of others”.

The report pointed out that 5.8 billion humans, representing 84% of the worldwide population, identify as religious. “While it is generally accepted that religion contours people’s moral judgments and pro-social behaviour, the relation between religion and morality is a contentious one,” it said.

The report was “a welcome antidote to the presumption that religion is a prerequisite of morality”, said Keith Porteus Wood of the UK National Secular Society.

“It would be interesting to see further research in this area, but we hope this goes some way to undoing the idea that religious ethics are innately superior to the secular outlook. We suspect that people of all faiths and none share similar ethical principles in their day to day lives, albeit may express them differently depending on their worldview.”

According to the respected Pew Research Center, which examines attitudes toward and practices of faith, most people around the world think it is necessary to believe in God to be a moral person. In the US, 53% of adults think that faith in God is necessary to morality, a figure which rose to seven of 10 adults in the Middle East and three-quarters of adults in six African countries surveyed by Pew.

On this side of Mourning

If you are faced with a loss, you will find two typical reactions from others – One side will act like ‘time is up’, ‘get over it’, ‘time to move on’ and the old ‘time heals all wounds’.  The other side says ‘take as much time as you need’, ‘you can’t rush healing’, ‘everyone heals differently’, and ‘you will never face life the same again’.

While I may agree with all of these, I also find that there is a healthy balanced approach to life with mourning.  We do heal differently.  Some will cry every year, or at any mention of their loss.  Some move on and look like nothing ever happened.  We all have a different threshold for pain/loss and there are definitely different barometers for what the loss is – for example to me losing a parent when they are 50 years old is much worse than when they are 90.  But to some that doesn’t matter – loss is loss at any age.

One of the struggles that we all have is memories.  I lost my dad when I was 39 and effectively lost my mom around the same age due to dementia.  I still have a strong memory of them but certain things are beginning to fade.  I lost my grandparents at a very young age and don’t really remember them at all.

Is it better to hold onto memories or let them go?  Are they causing pain or joy?  Do we fabricate or ‘puff up’ the person we lost?  Do we make them a hero or a villain in our minds?

As we remember Isaiah this week (at 3 years), we discuss the question, ‘will we remember Isaiah?’  We only had him in our home for 5 years.  It feels like a short time now.  We still laugh at the funny way he said ‘umburger’ and ‘porch’ instead of Porsche.  But we also remember the bad times and the fear that surrounded them.

I can’t instruct you on ‘healthy healing’ or ‘healthy mourning’.  I may be able to tell if you are far out on edge of ‘unhealthy’ but that is only my judgment based on my grid.  Mourning is a part of life whether we do it in a healthy way or unhealthy way.  I pray that you will be able to see the light that has fallen on you for the time that you got to share with your loved one.

Romans 12:15 (NIV)

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

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