I can't say that I'm the biggest fan of John Stuart Mill, but he has said some things worth repeating. Today, as I'm here thinking on what the upcoming Memorial Day is all about, I'm reminded of one of my son Devon's favorite quotes from Mill:
"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
I'm so grateful for the men and women in our armed services who have been willing to fight for America. I'm grateful for the freedoms I get to enjoy because of the sacrifices these people have made.
Well God's been answering my prayers in ways I didn't expect.
I've never considered myself a Christian bigot. I've always said that as long as someone has received God's provision for our sins through Christ's death on the cross, and is follower after Christ, that this is all that matters. I have friends who participate in varied forms of Christianity; Independent, Protestant, Catholic. There are authors I adore reading who fall into all the categories of Christianity.
By doctrine, I would fall into what could be termed Calvinistic. I am comfortable in many Protestant or Independent churches.
But several months back when my oldest son decided to convert to Catholicism, I was surprised that this bothered me. I found myself praying a lot about it. I know that Devon's faith is real so he has the Holy Spirit to guide him, that just because he may believe some things which I do not, is not relevant. Yet, I really am ashamed to admit this, but it was a struggle for me. However, I left it up to God and had stopped thinking about it.
However, when we were at West Point these past few days, the Holy Spirit reminded me about my concerns when I attended a Catholic Baccalaureate service with Devon.
The service was so crowded that we had to stand in the back of the chapel. As I stood there next to Devon throughout the service some things hit me. One was the beauty and rich symbolism of the the service. As an "outsider" I noticed that Mass appears to have some set types of activities that take place, and some set responses from the congregants. Standing next to Devon and hearing him speak those responses and sing those songs from his heart, I was struck with his sincerity. These were not empty rituals for him, but rather affirmations of a faith deeply entrenched in his heart. My own soul was moved by the beauty of the service. I was convicted that perhaps I'd unknowingly held religious prejudices that may have hampered by ability to interact with others in the ways God wanted.
I'm still thinking about all this. Still trying to be receptive to any things the Holy Spirit may be trying to show me.
What about you, have you ever found ways that you may have religious prejudices? How has God used this knowledge to change the way you are used by Him?
We ending up staying a day more because of issues with our airline tickets (a long story but it all ended up OK in the end).
There was just so much, I'm kind of still taking it all in.
Here's a hodgepodge of highlights in chronological order:
* Feeling so grateful during a Math department reception (Devon got his degree in Math) as I watched how that department at West Point interacts. It's like they're all a bunch of smart people who love math and get excited about it together. The department head commented about the commitment level of the professors; how periodically they'll come to him with a student or two requesting to teach some specific topic that really interested both the professor and student(s). As department head he explained that he always reminds the professor that they still need to teach the core curriculum and that the professor is always fine with that, he or she just wants to teach an additional class simply because of an interest in that topic. I felt like the relationships there were much more similar to what most people get in graduate school than at the undergraduate level; the deep investment of the professors into their students amazed me. Devon has already had the opportunity to get published a few times in scholarly journals (the type most of us don't read but still, if you're into that, it's a big deal). I'm so grateful that God blessed him with such a mentoring situation.
* Deeply moved during the Catholic Baccalaureate Service (I want to write more about this later).
* Being both fascinated and proud as I watched the parade the day before graduation that symbolically depicted the separation of the graduates from the core of cadets.
* Awed as I observed my son and 19 other people including myself partake of the rehearsal dinner that Devon absolutely insisted on buying. As we sat there in that room to ourselves in a Japanese restaurant celebrating, talking and enjoying one another, I couldn't help but recognize that my son really is now an adult. It's a feeling that I don't know how to describe.
* Feeling honored and humbled during the formal graduation banquet the night preceding graduation. Recognizing the noble tradition of which Devon is now a part. Enjoying the opportunity to watch the awe of Devon's 2 younger brothers during the festivities.
* Totally overwhelmed by the graduation. So many people, such pomp & circumstance, listening to President Obama speak and watching him shake the hand of my son after Devon received his diploma. I couldn't help but think how cool it will be for Devon to be able to tell his children some day that he got to shake the hand of the president of the United States when he graduated.
* Scarcely able to take it in as I watched and took part in the "pinning" ceremony that symbolically marked my son's taking on the vocation of a second lieutenant in the United States Army.
* Totally unable to take it all in, overwhelmed to the point where it took on a surreal feel as I watched Devon and Ginger get married amid all the beauty, symbolism, ritual and tradition of a Catholic wedding. (I want to write more about this later)
* Grateful throughout the entire wedding reception as I observed all the true blue friends, support, and mentors that Ginger and Devon have in their lives. There were 2 friends of Devon's that he's known since high school who graduated from West Point 3 years ago and are currently stationed in Germany, who flew all the way there just to be present for Devon during his graduation and wedding. He had 4 friends from high school who are from extremely modest financial situations who were there for graduation and the wedding. Ginger had an entire family of 6 who the father is an enlisted professor at West Point who was Ginger's official "sponsor" but who became so much more. Both he and his wife wanted to especially welcome Ginger into their family and lives because they desired the strong role model she could provide for their daughters. The fact that they became a second family for her was evident throughout the rehearsal dinner,pinning ceremony, wedding, and reception. I adored the fact that Devon's friends were such total dancing fools without even the presence of alcohol. Because of the timing following graduation, the wedding was at 10:30AM and the reception at 1PM. Due to these times of the day, the reception involved all the elegant hors d'oeuvrs, delicious buffet, and music & dancing of a normal wedding - minus the alcohol. I found this lack refreshing.
For me these experiences of watching the separation of my son from our family into his own family, the consciousness of his adult standing, the knowledge that my son has entered into a profession of service to his country during a time of war - these are all new experiences. These somewhat overwhelm me to the point of not really seeming real.
What about you, have any of you already had those experiences of watching your child become an adult? Leave the nest and get married? Enter into a dangerous profession? What was it like for you?
I'm leaving on a jet plane, but I do know when I'll be back again - after midnight this Sunday. So I won't be posting this week.
I'll be going with my husband John and 2 younger sons to see my oldest son graduate from West Point on Saturday and get married on Sunday. We decided to go a couple of days earlier so we could tour around West Point, enjoy Devon's last drill team performance, and sight see in Newbourgh. Wonder if I'll bore you to tears when I return with stories and pictures?
Or, more to the point, does my "religion" get in the way of people coming to God? Some things the pastor said during his sermon this morning got me to thinking about this question.
When Jesus was on this earth He was frequently encouraging, loving, and healing people. But there are a few times we see Him angry in the gospels, and these always involve religious people.
There's the account in Mark 11:15-18 where He turned over the tables of the people in the temple who were changing money and selling Doves for sacrifices. He asked them why they'd made His house a den of thieves when He wanted it to be a place of prayer for the nations. Jesus' heart was that He wanted His followers to be in prayer for the nations and instead they'd turned seeking God into a money making enterprise.
There's also the account in Mark 3:1-7 where one Sabbath Jesus is in the synagogue and a man with a shriveled hand was there. The Pharisees were watching to see if Jesus would break the religious laws by "working" on the Sabbath by healing the man. Jesus became very angry at their stubborn hearts. It's easy for me to be blown away at the Pharisees, to think that God in the flesh was right there with them, wanting to bring restoration and healing, and they were upset because he wasn't following the laws of their religion that were supposedly to follow after God. It's easy for me to think how this just doesn't make sense!
But what about me? Are there ways that I have inadvertently become steeped in religion to the point where I don't see what God wants? Am I missing out on being an agent of love, restoration, or healing into the lives of others around me because I'm too caught up in my own agenda?
These aren't questions that I can just answer. Instead, today I'm praying, and will be for the next few days, that the Holy Spirit would help me become sensitive and aware. That He would show me if my "religion" is displeasing to Him.
Have you ever had a time in your life when God showed you that you were more caught up in the trappings of religion than in pursing Him and loving others?
Today's a significant day for me because it's Devon's 22 birthday. Devon is my oldest son. Today I'm thinking about how much I love him, and how grateful I am to God that He blessed me with Devon for a son.
I've messed up more times than I care to think about, both as a person, and as a mother. But here I have this absolutely incredible son - it is truly a testament to the grace, mercy, and greatness of God.
I want to tell you about some of the things God has taught me through Devon:
That our relationship with God is real and it's good to share about it with others so they can come to know Jesus too. I believe that faith is one of the greatest gifts we can pass on to our children. I know that some acquaintances of mine would disagree, that they see raising your child in church as pushing religion on them. But I think it's giving your children a great big step up, if they choose to accept it. Devon never doubted that God was real, because from the time he was born he was hearing about the wonderful creator of the universe. But I distinctly remember the change in Devon after the night he realized that he had to act upon the truth that God loved him and sent Jesus to die on the cross in his place, that he personally had to ask Jesus into his heart as his savior and to make him the Lord of his life and choose to live following after him. Even though Devon was only 6 years old at the time, I can still remember him coming home from a program called AWANAs at church excited about the fact that God loved him and had saved him from hell. Right away Devon started telling all the other kids in the neighborhood about Jesus and how He loved them too and that they could accept Jesus into their hearts too. Even though he was so young, he understood that the good news of Jesus is meant to be shared.
That love doesn't keep score of the sins of others and when your friend messes up, you still love him and do not talk about his mistakes or misdeeds. I didn't have a lot of money when my sons were little so we never did the Birthdays at Chuckie Cheese's or bounce-a-lots at our home; but we did have simple little birthday parties. The year Devon turned 9 he became a "big boy" so his party could include a sleep over where they enjoyed pizza and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies. There was one young man who was a friend of Devon's from both school and the YMCA where Devon went for summer programs while I worked. I noticed that this young man lived with his grandmother who obviously loved him dearly, but alluded to difficulties with him at school. Once, when I questioned Devon about what it was that this young man did to have so much trouble at school, Devon looked grave and sad and said "I don't want to talk about it". Devon showed me that when you love someone, you don't want to go around broadcasting their problems.
That if you really want something, you do what it takes to obtain it, even if it's inconvenient and difficult. From the beginning of High School there were three things Devon wanted - to participate in the PACE program at Poly High in Long Beach California, to be actively involved in Jr ROTC at Poly, and to go to U.S.M.A. West Point after he completed high school. Because he was accepted into PACE, it was fine with the school that we technically lived out of district, but there was not a school bus to the area where we lived. Because of my job schedule, I was not able to take Devon to school and only rarely was able to pick him up following his school day. So Devon took the public bus, including transfers, to and from school every day - a trip that lasted a bit over an hour in each direction. PACE is an extremely demanding academic program that requires a lot of work. Some days Devon would leave for school around 6:30AM and not get home until around 6:30PM because he had Jr ROTC things he was doing after school (typically drill team practice). He'd be so exhausted that he'd eat dinner and go to bed by 7PM. But he'd set his alarm for 2AM so he could get up and do his homework and be prepared for school that day. He pushed and pushed and pushed to obtain the appointment of our local congress woman when he was applying to West Point. After being blown off numerous times, when he received an acceptance letter from West Point pending his congressional appointment, he was finally able to obtain a meeting via one of her assistants and, when she saw that he was already accepted but still required someone to appoint him, he finally got the appointment. All along he did what it took to reach his goals, he kept pushing himself, and it is to his credit that on May 22 of this year he will be graduating from U.S.M.A. West Point. When people ask me if I'm proud, I tell them that I respect him. It seems to me that being proud would somehow indicate that I had something to do with all of this; but it is Devon who did what it took to achieve what he wanted.
That God always provides. Since I managed to mess up big time when it came to significant relationships with the men in my life, Devon did not have a father who was actively involved in his life. But God brought him not one, but two, incredible men with hearts after God's own, who invested into Devon. They were Mr. Welty and First Sargent.
Mr. Welty was a man's man, a guy who used power tools and who let the boys in his life learn to use them too. Mr. Welty once told me, that outside of the Bible and books that the pastor highly recommended, that he didn't read, that he didn't like reading. Mr. Welty was a plumber, he's been married for more than 40 years and still grows and cuts his wife roses and puts them in the hand vase that is displaying the ASL "I love you" sign, he owns a lovely home, and is an incredible role model. He sincerely loved and cared about Devon, spent time with him. I'll never forget when Mr. Welty asked Devon about his plans for after high school and Devon told him about how he wanted to go to West Point. Mr. Welty said what a great goal that was but what was his back up plan; to which Devon only blankly looked at him, West Point was all that Devon wanted. The day that we were BBQing and hanging out with Mr. Welty and his family and friends in his backyard, and Devon told him that he was going to go to West Point, Mr. Welty was as happy as I'd been upon hearing the news; he'd literally danced about the back yard. He posted the good news in every written communication that our church had.
First Sargent was Devon's high school Jr ROTC instructor. Poly High is in a bad part of Long Beach California, what some might call the ghetto. Many of the young people who live in the surrounding neighborhoods are faced with making the choice of if they will affiliate with the local gangs. Quite a few of the young people who participated in Jr ROTC were those who were trying to stay out of gangs, or who had messed up and now they had to be involved with Jr ROTC as part of their court requirements. First Sargent loved these young people, he and his wife spent hours and hours with them. He especially invested in Devon and taught him how to lead, how to make life work on a practical level, how to be a man of his word. First Sargent helped Devon dream dreams for his future.
That you've got to do first things first. Just the other day Devon emailed me and mentioned that life was hectic and busy. But that, prior to morning formation, he always takes time to read the Bible some and reflect a bit.
So, today, on Devon's Birthday I want to thank God for the wonderful son He's given me and all He's taught me through Devon.
What about you, what are some of the things God's taught you through either your own, or someone else's children that are in your life?
This question has been mulling around in the back of my mind since I read it a few days ago in It's Tough being a Woman by Beth Moore. This book is a Bible Study in Esther and the question came about in reference to the 7th chapter of Esther, specifically the 7th verse where Haman is pleading with Esther for his life.
In case you're unfamiliar with the story, in a brief nutshell, there was a king named Xerxes who was the king of what was then Persia. He got rid of his first wife and his advisors saw that he was lonely so they advised him to let them organize a search of his kingdom for the most beautiful young women and then each young woman, after a year's worth of beauty treatments, would be brought to him to sort of audition to be his wife. He chose a woman named Esther. The king did not realize that Esther was a Jew. A man named Haman who worked for the king hated Jews, he especially hated Mordecai, Esther's uncle and gaurdian. Haman got the king to issue and edict that all the Jews were to be destroyed, killed and their properties given to others. Haman even had a very tall gallows errected for Mordecai to be hung on. Esther gained favor with her husband, king Xerxes, and has just exposed Haman for the evil man that he was in this 7th chapter of Esther. In the 7th verse we see Haman pleading with Esther to spare his life.
So it's a great question in the context of that event. Should Esther have shown mercy and pardoned Haman, or was she more prudent to let him die because he was such a threat to the Jews that, if he escaped his actions this time, he would just be looking for another way to destroy her and her people.
The question really hit me because I've had lots of people throughout my life who either purposefully, or because of their own problems, have done me wrong.
As a very grateful Al-Anon member, I've struggled with this concept many times with the situations involving the alcoholic in my life. As a person who belongs to a family of origin that has poor to no boundaries, when they do something that makes my life unpleasant, I have repeatedly asked myself how I can live toward the person in forgiveness and love, yet set up boundaries to keep myself and my children protected. As a mom of teens, I frequently struggle with the balance between mercy and consequences. As a supervisor, times come up when I must evaluate if an employee misconduct simply warrents counseling or, if that employee has crossed the line and can not be trusted, so prudence would be to sever the relationship.
I find the balance between pardon and prudence a very difficult one indeed.
In fact, I do not know how I'd ever achieve it if it weren't for God's wisdom. James 1:5 tells me that if I lack wisdom I can call on God and He'll give it to me. I'm so grateful to have a God who I can go to with life's questions. Grateful that even if I miss it and make a wrong decision, all is still not lost, because His mercies are new each morning and I can always count on His forgiveness
and start anew.
What about you, do you ever struggle with the balance between pardon and prudence? What helps you?
Perhaps I felt like I was a pretty good parent with my oldest son. We had quite a bit of tension when he was 17, but he was an outstanding young man and one of the most responsible people I've ever met. But my middle son who is now 17.........a totally different situation.
In all fairness to my son who is now 17, from an outsider's view he is a really good kid. Has close to a 4.0 average in school, involved in sports & has a coaches from some impressive colleges teams talking to his school football coach about him (he's trying for a football scholarship to a D1 college), doesn't smoke anything or drink alcohol.
The biggest problem is that in his mind he knows everything. In his mind he can do whatever he wants whenever he wants. Lest you jump to the same conclusion to which my own emotions frequently jump, there really are actually boundaries in our home. Boundaries which I honestly do enforce; or perhaps I should say try to enforce.
The most recent upset is concerning school attendance. Because of my hectic work schedule at the time when he got his license, I had purchased a reliable, older, vehicle for him to use. A couple of weeks ago I received a letter from his school informing me that he has excessive tardies and that I am legally responsible for his behavior. The letter went on to inform me that if he continues in this manner we will have to show up to something similar to court at the school district office. I brought him in and sat him down and had him read the letter. At the time he told me that he did not realize that it was such a big deal but that now that he did he would not be tardy.
Last week he missed his first 2 periods; he said that they'd completed their state testing and that they were just going to have to watch a movie so he didn't need to go. I called the school to verify and found that he was accurate that he had finished his state testing & they weren't having regular class the first two periods, but that he was still expected to be at school. I understand that for the school to receive their money for his attendance he must be present. I tried explaining this to him and he said it was a waste of his time that was better spent sleeping so he would go in to his third period which was a regular class. I tried to explain to him that there were two problems; 1) That if he hadn't had so many tardies in the past, this wouldn't be such a big deal, but because he did this tardy was viewed differently. 2) Sometimes in life we have to do things simply because they are required, even if we do not agree with them. Of course he and I could not see this situation the same way. I finally explained that if he has any other tardy that I have not approved in advance, that he will immediately lose use of the car and be grounded for 1 week.
Today I found him in his room at 7:30AM when school starts at 7AM. He said that he was not going in until his last period because he had a project due in that class which he needed to complete at home. Last weekend he was out most of the weekend with friends and a couple of nights during this week he went to play basketball with friends and had told me that his homework was done. I confronted him with all of this and took the car keys so he can not use it. He is angry and thinks I make a big deal of everything. I'm frustrated.
When I try to explain to him how important it is that he be at school on time daily he assures me that it's his life and he can do whatever he wants and I am ridiculous to think it's my place to interfere. He flat out told me that even if I take away the keys, if he feels like being late some day he will not get up and I can't make him. I did not argue this point at that moment since I could not think of anywhere positive that conversation could go.
So I'm here writing on the internet instead of yelling at my son like I want to. I pray and know that somehow God is in control, but, to be candid, I sure don't feel like I am.
Anyone out there the parent of a teen? Ever feel frustrated and ineffective? What do you do when you feel that way?
I'm just grateful to God for His goodness to me and want to live my life following after Him. I've been blessed with 3 awesome sons and in July of 2005 I remarried. My husband truly knows me and still loves me - how much more blessed could I be!
"Hope Beyond Hell The Righteous Purpose of God's Judgment " by D. Scott Reichard & Gerry Beauchemin
"Invitation to Solitue and Silence" by Ruth Haley Barton
"Nehemiah; a heart that can break" by Kelly Minter
"Prayers that avail much for leaders" compiled by Germaine Copeland and Lane Holland
"Raising Hell" by Julie Ferwerda
I'll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I've swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember— the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there's one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up. They're created new every morning. How great your faithfulness!
I'm sticking with God (I say it over and over). He's all I've got left. God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It's a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. It's a good thing when you're young to stick it out through the hard times. When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don't ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don't run from trouble. Take it full-face. The "worst" is never the worst.
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Perceptive words spread knowledge; fools are hollow—there's nothing to them. GOD can't stand pious poses, but he delights in genuine prayers. A life frittered away disgusts GOD; he loves those who run straight for the finish line.
You'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.