It’s Out: Fifty Shades Darker

Parents, With the release of Fifty Shades Darker, sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey, I believe it’s important that Christian educators and parents are up to speed with what our kids may be talking about or planning to watch. I choose to see neither, so I am referring you to some other sources: Here’s a good article on Crosswalk.com: Why Fifty Shades Darker Should Make Us Cry The books sold beyond the author’s wildest imagination. The plotline fueled many a lunchtime chat. The first film caused a flurry of delight among both young and old. And discussion boards are trembling with anticipation as the 2nd in the erotic trilogy prepares to hit the big screens tomorrow. There’s no doubt about it, the Fifty Shades phenomenon has made quite an impact on our society. How should Christians respond? Perhaps you feel appalled, or disgusted. Perhaps you feel tempted (Christians are by no means automatically immune to the allure of this genre—but that’s a subject for tomorrow’s blog post). Instead, I want to suggest that Fifty Shades Darker gives us reasons to cry. Read more…. Focus on the Family: Plugged in Blog: Fifty Shade of Abusive Influence “A new study out of Michigan State University (published in the Journal of Women’s Health) indicates that young women who read the bestselling bondage-and-S&M-laced story by British author E.L. James were more likely to engage in a range of risky behaviors compared to those who hadn’t read it.” Read more…. When Fifty Shades of Grey was released, my daughter wrote a thoughtful blog on her observations that is worth reading again: Erin MacPherson’s Post about...

A Personal Letter (Continued)

Dear Readers, Thank you for your encouraging responses to last week’s post.  It helped to open up about the struggles related to caring for my mom.  Your uplifting words not only lighted my spirit, but also helped to alter my perspective. The cry of my heart is to see things from God’s perspective – to have the eyes of my heart enlightened, so that I may daily know His hope and the immeasurable greatness of His power.  (Ephesians 1:18) God reminded me of another season in my life when a different set of circumstances felt difficult to bear… and how He graciously intervened to alter my perspective.  Back in 2005, I had been hired to be the administrator of a brand new, uniquely-styled school – Veritas Academy.  Doors opened that fall to a larger-than-expected first year enrollment of over 130 students. I was excited to see what could be accomplished, although I only planned to stay on for the two years I had committed to. Not a day more. Little did I know then that God had far deeper – and longer –  plans that eventually would include the rest of my family in some form or fashion. God also used (and is still using) my tenure at Veritas to grow and purge me of perspectives that had gotten in the way of my relationship with Him – namely being too much of a people-pleaser and a propensity to manage things in my own wisdom and strength. I will never forget that first year back in 2005-06: The exceedingly long hours. The daily problems that required immediate attention. Striving to meet the expectations of...

A Personal Letter

Dear Friends, Today I offer a personal letter – and a confession of sorts – to those of you who know me and also to those of you I have never met, but take the time to read my blog. Thank you! I find myself in a somewhat dark season right now, a time when I feel like I am going nowhere and unable to accomplish much. Even writing a blog feels difficult. I find myself posting less and the blogs I do write feel hollow. My mind feels like it’s stuck in neutral and has been for over 8 months. That’s when my life took a “detour” with my 89-year-old mom moving in with us. Immediately the pace of my life slowed down. I no longer had the freedom to come and go as I pleased or to do much outside the home, except for those activities that could be done with a person in late stage Alzheimer’s. My greatest challenged morphed into how to find contentment in these circumstances –  In doing the same things all day long, day after day.  In trying to be interested in the same limited, circular conversations.  In serving my mother even in the most simplest of tasks.  In maintaining the simplest of schedules in order to accommodate her needs.  In continually having to answer the same questions.  In keeping her safe while allowing for her need to be independent. I consider myself pretty tough. Resilient. I am a Finn with SISU. I have learned how to meet major challenges and to rise up when I have fallen, but God is teaching...

New Beginnings Each Year

I like January. As much as I enjoy the holiday season, I relish the chance to slow down, reflect on the year gone by and to ponder the up and coming New Year. I look through my previous year’s journals, and then record all the answered prayers. I marvel at God’s faithfulness. I take time to ponder unanswered prayers and unmet goals. Plus I acknowledge my personal failures and shortcomings in the past year. But then I let it all go. I thank God for His faithfulness and allow His grace and forgiveness to wash over me. That’s what January means to me – a new beginning. I think of what the LORD said to the Israelites in Isaiah 43, that they were not to consider the things of old because He was doing a new thing for them. So I put down the past year and anticipate with hope what the New Year may hold and how I can personally walk in newness. What growth will take place in my heart this year? How will I be different by year’s end? Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Actually each day offers us a chance to restart…. ….to put aside the previous day, will all its struggles and regrets,  and begin with renewed energy the next day. “His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning and great is His faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3: 22-23) I can’t change the past or erase my mistakes. Nor can I take on tomorrow...

The Gift of Listening

If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.   Proverbs 18:13 Listen first. Then speak. That was Jef Fowler’s  advice to me early in my employment at Veritas Academy. As I would go to him seeking advice on how to address an issue, whether it was with a student, a teacher or a parent, his counsel always began in the same manner: “Make sure to begin by listening attentively. “ I have to admit that at times, I actually believed I needed to get my opinions out quickly in the event I ran out of time. (I think Jef knew this about me!) I learned, however, that the most important way I can actually help another was to give ample time to attentive listening. This gives the person a chance to sort through their feelings and thoughts as they talk through them. Often what they need most is not my “brilliant” advice but a sounding board by which to think through things themselves and to apply what they already knew to be right to their circumstances. If I accomplish nothing else, this in and of itself is the most important aspect of these conversations. Furthermore, by first listening attentively, what I actually have to say is far more applicable to their circumstances. Here’s what Jan Johnson has to say about listening in her inspiring book Invitation to the Jesus Life: “To listen deeply can be a struggle because we have to let go of our agenda and the need to defend ourselves or the desire to persuade people to see things our way....

Teaching Kids the Fear of the Lord—Wisely.

It didn’t go as I had envisioned. Haddie was in tears. Kate clearly did not understand. I had botched what I had intended to teach them about God’s transcendent nature and the “fear of the Lord.” As many of you know, as part of a University-Model School, I teach my grandkids their school lessons at home one day each week. This year I decided to begin each Tuesday with lessons on the attributes of God. For the most part, it has been delightful. We’ve discussed how God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. It’s been fun to break down the words into their Latin roots. We have pondered His sovereignty and His immutable nature. We’ve had great discussions, which I believe have reached their hearts. Last week, by teaching about God’s transcendent nature, I wanted them to view God through a lens of awe and respect. I told them how Moses responded when he saw God in the burning bush and how Daniel responded when he saw God in a vision. I explained to them how both had grown profoundly afraid when they encountered God and then, out of deep reverence, they chose to obey Him. As a follow up, I asked them to respond in their journals to this question: “How does a healthy fear of the Lord make you want to obey?” Joey was close. “If you have a fear of God you will really want to trust Him and believe in Him.” Haddie sat there, with tears in her eyes and fearfully cried out, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.”  She was clearly stressed...

Be Content With Today

Years ago, I read this poem in Linda Dillow’s book Calm My Anxious Heart.   It was spring but it was summer I wanted; the warm days and the great outdoors. It was summer but it was fall I wanted; the colorful leaves and the cool dry air. It was fall but it was winter I wanted; the beautiful snow and the joy of the holiday season. It was now winter but it was spring I wanted; the warmth and the blossoming of nature. I was a child but it was adulthood I wanted; the freedom and the respect. I was twenty but it was thirty I wanted; to be mature and sophisticated. I was middle-aged but it was twenty I wanted; the youth and the free spirit. I was retired but it was middle age that I wanted; the presence of mind without limitations. My life was over but I never got what I wanted. The author of this poem, (a 14 year old boy!), has no idea how much his words have touched my heart over the years.   I recently re-read it, and again the inherent wisdom spoke to me deeply.  I think of days gone by when I would wish time away – wanting to get past diapers, past busy kids schedules, past homework, past teen social issues, past stressful work, past conflict, etc.  The older I get however, the more I want to squeeze all that I can out of each day – regardless of what it holds.  Perhaps it’s because I watch my mom whose life is now defined by the second to...

The Presidental Candidates Demonstrate How NOT to Lead

 I can’t wait for this political season to be over -an ugly smear campaign, void of ethics and values.  Regardless of which candidate wins,  you and I wind up on the losing side –  we, the common parents and grandparents, who are trying our best to raise up children in a country that will be led by individuals caught up in devouring each other in order to protect and enrich themselves.   We lose because we don’t really have a valid choice.  Just in case you are wondering — I am mad.  I find no joy in my privilege to vote this election season.  I am tired of watching our candidates engage in this nonsensical contest in which honesty and fairness and morality have no place. Instead it’s a battle about who can gain control, regardless of personal integrity.  We are left to make a choice between who is the “lesser of two evils.” At least we still have a say in how to lead our own families.   Most of us have very little impact on the political state of affairs in our land.  We are merely the recipients of what our politicians determine is best on our behalf.  But we certainly can impact our own families and purpose to lead them with integrity. We can still purpose to raise our boys and girls to become men and women of integrity, morally grounded and rooted in their faith. We can still teach our kids to take the high road when this is seldom modeled for them elsewhere. We can choose the way of the Spirit rather than the way...

Honesty

Like all kids, my grandkids will try to spin the truth at times, especially if it is to their advantage to do so. “I have no idea who did that” turns to “actually I think so-and-so did it” and then to “well he sort of made me do it.” They haven’t figured out the finesse of deception well enough to get by with it consistently and I hope they never do!  I find them pretty easy to still “read.” Evolving stories. Downcast faces. No eye contact. A fretful disposition. This gives me hope that deception has not become a comfortable pattern for them. Honesty was a virtue my father highly esteemed. I pray that my own grandchildren will come to embrace honestly as well and that they will choose to abide by the truth in Proverbs 10:9 that “whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.” Deception is sadly very common among today’s students, especially as they age. As the school’s disciplinarian, the most common misbehavior my husband addresses is cheating, another form of deceit. According to confidential surveys of our nation’s high school students, 74% admit to cheating on an examination at least once in the past year. And that percentage is merely those who admit to it. Here’s a few other facts about academic cheating from the Educational Testing Service Website. Cheating no longer carries the stigma that it used to. Grades, rather than education, have become the major focus of many students. Students who cheat often feel justified in what they are doing. They cheat because they...

The Rule Above All Rules

On Tuesdays I hold “Oma School” for my grandkids who attend Veritas Academy. On the very first Tuesday, I told them we would be abiding by just one rule this year. “Just one?” they whispered, glancing at each other with amusement. “What rule do you think that should be?” I asked them.                “Not interrupt?”                “Pay attention?”                “Work diligently?” I chuckled silently as they chose rules that had applied to them personally the previous school year.  “These are all good ideas,” I replied, “but you are all wrong.” “This year we are going to abide by the one rule spoken by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:12), ”  I told them. So whatever you wish that others would to you, do also to them. “Now that sounds pretty simple doesn’t it?” I asked them. “But it actually means doing ALL those things you mentioned earlier.” I went on to explain how in Galatians 5:14 this same rule is defined this way: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  It means thinking of others and not just yourself. It’s choosing honor and justice for those around you as much as you desire it for yourself. Sometimes it’s even choosing grace rather than what you think others deserve. The day played out pretty nicely. I had plenty of opportunity to also acknowledge “golden” moments.  Then each time they interrupted or argued, or chose to not listen to instruction, I...