Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Difficult Decision

What thoughts and feelings does the phrase ADHD evoke in your mind? Hyperactive? Unfocused? Child who is not disciplined enough? Over medication? Misdiagnosis? too. Which is why I am having such a hard time dealing with Nathan's recent diagnosis of ADHD. We had been having issues with his behavior and inability to focus for some time now. As early as Kindergarten, the teachers had trouble getting him to focus on a task, and to sit still for any appreciable amount of time. We dismissed it as a function of his age and his creativity since he was doing well academically and was even placed in the gifted and talented pool for 1st and 2nd grade.

The most challenging part for us was dealing with the discipline issues he was having at school. From all accounts, he was never defiant or willfully disobedient, but he was constantly getting in trouble for not keeping his hands to himself, playing at inappropriate times and generally not having any impulse control. It was difficult because the child we had at home did not behave this way. This is not to say that we have a model child who never acted out or threw a fit. It does mean that we had a healthy boy who enjoyed imaginative play, and would forget himself in the moment. We were constantly reining him in as he became increasingly hyper with the ever present reminder to CALM DOWN!!

Early this school year, his teacher mentioned in passing that Nathan had real difficulty sitting in his desk and following what was going on in class. For the first time I had the thought that maybe there was more to his behavior than I first thought. When he was younger, I figured it was just hard for a small child to sit still and not fidget all day long in school. But he was now entering the realm of elementary school where he would be expected to sit still and pay attention. For the first semester of school, his grades varied wildly. He still made As and Bs, but he would have a 97 one six weeks, and then it would drop to 82 the next.

He continued to have issues with his behavior, and I appealed to the expert on all things education in my life, Mama. I figured that earning her doctorate in education qualified her to give advice on this subject, so I called her. It wasn't the first call, but it was the first time that I was really seeking guidance. She suggested several things to try and help him focus better, but the one that we really did was puzzles. I bought several puzzles and we began to put them together. Nathan had no problem sitting for an hour doing a puzzle, but it was not without much bouncing up and down in his chair and getting up to stand while he worked.

We tried positive reinforcement for good days at school, and did our best to react appropriately to the bad days. It didn't seem to matter what we did, Nathan's behavior and attention to his academic work did not change. We called his teachers for a conference in February, just to get a feel for where he was socially and academically and to see if they had any suggestions. The conference was very enlightening, and his teachers clearly had a passion for teaching and for seeing each child do their best. They had many good things to say about him, including the fact that he was always polite and that he never lied. Even when faced with punishment, he would not lie about doing something wrong. More than anything else, that made me proud because it made me feel like the really important things we are teaching him are actually sinking in.

In spite of their praise for his manners and intellect, they both expressed concern at his inability to focus and to sit still. Both had tried changing the location of his seat and the people sitting near him. We saw that his desk was in the back of the room next to the teacher's desk. She said she finally put him there so he could stand up or kneel in his chair while he was working and not distract the other students. What we found was that both teachers had tried alternative techniques to allow him to work in a way that made him more comfortable, but it still was not working. They were still having the constantly redirect him to his work or to what was going on in class.
Trevor and I made the decision to take him to the pediatrician to have him tested for ADHD. We did it with trepidation, because of personal family experience with a cousin who was misdiagnosed with ADHD, treated for several years with no success, then correctly diagnosed as bipolar. We were understandably concerned about misdiagnosis. What if he was really just acting like a normal almost 8 year old? He was certainly able to focus for hours when he was creating something with his Legos.

Our pediatrician carefully examined him, and then ordered blood work to rule out any metabolic problems like diabetes, thyroid issues or hypoglycemia. The blood work came back completely normal, and we were asked to fill out a form designed to measure the different qualities of ADHD. We had one and so did his teachers. We filled them out, and brought them back to the MD yesterday for evaluation. She reviewed them, and then graphed the data for us so we could see where Nathan fell in terms of exhibiting the signs of ADHD. The higher the score, the more likely the child had ADHD.

Not surprisingly, Nathan scored very low on cognitive ability and on response to authority. Those scores were well within the normal range for a boy his age. But with the behaviors related to hyperactivity and attention deficit, he was clearly within the range of ADHD diagnosis.

Can I just say that I was devastated? I really though that we were going to walk out of there with some suggestions for behavior modification, and we would just keep on keeping on. But when she pulled out the prescription pad and started writing it out for a ADHD drug, I seriously wanted to cry. Were we about to become a statistic? One of the many parents whose child was misdiagnosed and improperly medicated? How could we be sure? Were we doing the right thing?

So many things ran through my head, and as I sat there with tears welling in my eyes, I had to give myself a good mental shake and say, "You're being ridiculous! She didn't just say that Nathan has cancer or an incurable disease! She carefully and thoughtfully diagnosed him with ADHD! GET A GRIP!" That calmed me a little bit as well as a quick prayer sent heavenward, reminding me that God is in control.

We asked some questions about dosage, side effects and length of use and then it was over. She instructed us to call her if he had any of several symptoms she mentioned, and that she wanted him to try the medication for 30 days. At the end of that time, she wanted to re-evaluate him.

So, here I am at the end of day 1. I thought about him all day long, and was thankful that he has teachers who understood my concern and kept me informed all day about how he was doing by email. There was not a dramatic difference in his behavior, but the MD said that it would take some time for Nathan to settle into the medication. Relieved that he did not experience any adverse side effects today, I feel a little better about giving it to him tomorrow.

Every time that I called a friend or family member to tell them what was going on, I felt like I needed to explain myself. It was like I was trying to convince myself that we had done the right thing, and was pleading that we not be judged. With all the kids who are labeled hyperactive and medicated for just being children, we were afraid that we would be judged as bad parents for even considering medication for Nathan.

The bottom line is that I trust his pediatrician, and I trust his teachers. Giving him medication is scary for me, but I know that we still have the authority as his parents to stop it at any time if we feel it is having an adverse effect on his mental or physical well-being. The fact of the matter is that we know Nathan better than anyone besides God, and we really feel like we are doing what is best for him right now. We are loving, committed parents, equally involved in his life and we are not substituting medication for good parenting and biblical discipline.

So, we'll see what happens now. Our family is supported by an army of prayer warriors, and I know that no matter how dimly I see the future, God is working all things for our good.

And the path that be my portion,
May be through flame or flood
But His presence goes before me,
And I'm covered by His blood.
Many things about tomorrow,
I don't seem to understand
But I know Who holds tomorrow,
And I know Who holds my hand.

"I Know Who Holds Tomorrow"--Ira Stanphill

Monday, February 23, 2009

Spectacular Sins (Chapter 5)

It's week six and John Piper is still hitting me hard with some incredible truths and giving me so much to think about regarding sin and God's sovereignty. This post is a little late, but I felt sort of lukewarm about this week's study. Maybe because I was ready to answer the questions on Monday when I was off, but didn't get the questions until Tuesday. It sort of put me in a funk, and I didn't want to answer them at all (I wonder what category of sin pouting goes into?) but then received a concerned text from a friend who was checking in because she knew that I had not posted my answers.

I realized that there was absolutely no reason that I should be putting this off. Lisa and Missy are very busy with husbands, children and LIVES, and getting my nose out of joint because they didn't get the questions to a book club posted by an imaginary time in my head (thus upsetting the delicate balance of OCD and normality in my brain) was just ridiculous. So I offer a heart felt apology to Lisa and Missy who never would have known what a freak I am if I had not posted this, but somehow felt that I needed to confess. I truly appreciate the hard work and effort you guys put into this study and for suggesting it in the first place!

And Linda...thanks for the text and for reminding me what friends are for!

1) What were the primary motivations of the people who endeavored to build the Tower of Babel? The love of praise and the love of security, which I think all sort of stem from the sin of pride.

2) Why did God consider is a sin to live in a city? Because they were trying to exalt themselves to the place of God, instead of dispersing and filling the earth with his glory. They were being disobedient to the command God gave Noah after the flood to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth by "clustering" together in a city. I have to believe that we are not so different often do we follow the "mob mentality" instead of doing what we know is absolutely right? We need acceptance and friendship, and will sometimes go to great lengths to be part of the in crowd despite the still small voice telling us otherwise.

3) Of the five ways that Christ's glory is magnified by the spectacular sin of the Tower of Babel (pp 69-72) which one resonates with you the most, and why? Christians guarded; I never thought of the story of the Tower of Babel in quite this way. Piper says, "God's division of the world into different languages hinders the rise of a global, monolithic anti-Christian state that would have the power to simply wipe out all Christians. We humans are far too evil to be allowed to unite in one language or one government." I guess it resonated with because it was such an utterly new thought for me.

4) Can you provide an example of the way that the Gospel of Christ takes root in literally thousands of different cultures, despite language barriers, social mores, existing religious practices, etc.? What does this say about the "uniqueness" of Christianity? I have friends from high school who are now living in Germany, and in their last update were talking about attending church in a place where the language is not well know to them. In spite of the barrier, they were still able to worship and praise God alongside a congregation of German speaking people.

5) How are you also guilty of sin in the ways the Tower of Babel builders were? Where do you seek comfort apart from the Lord? I have the spiritual gift of service, and I like to think that I always seek to serve others from a sincere heart and a love of Christ, but the truth is that I enjoy the praise that comes from serving others. I crave approval and validation for my work, and sometimes I let the lack of recognition simmer in my heart as the sin of pride. Sometimes it's easier to overcome than other times, but the bottom line is that I should resist those feelings altogether. The only approval I need is from God, and any recognition or praise from man should be secondary to knowing that I glorified Him and that He is pleased with my efforts. If anything, I should try to serve others in such a way that they only see Him and not me.

When I try to seek comfort apart from the Lord, all I am doing is wallowing in my own sin. Complaining to my husband and friends is just as sinful as loving praise, and I just compound my guilt.

6) My husband often says that at the root of every sin is pride (and I have yet to be able to prove him wrong). Was this true in the case of these people? How can you confront and rebuke your own pride? I think being aware of it is the first step. That sounds so trite, but it's very true. If you are blinded as to why you behave in a certain way, then you'll never be able to overcome it. I think that if we were all willing to stop for a moment and humble ourselves before God and man, we would get a lot more accomplished as the body of Christ. If we stopped criticizing others to make ourselves look better, if we stopped thinking that certain jobs are "beneath" us and just jumped in with both feet to whatever task God has prepared for us, if we stopped....well, the list could go on and on. I really believe that pride hinders our ability to spread the gospel effectively and renders us impotent to fully glorify Him in all that we do.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Making Memories

Trevor and I spent a good portion of this evening playing Canasta. We go in phases, usually jump started by a gathering of his family. We'll play for an afternoon, and then still have the bug the following week so we play one on one for a while.

We had his family over last Sunday for a lunch celebrating his parent's 40th wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful time, and completed the day by playing Canasta. Apparently, playing cards was a favorite past time when his parents, aunts and uncles were younger. I never met his paternal grandfather, but from the stories told round the kitchen table, he was a legendary player of Canasta.

When I married into Trevor's family, I learned how to play Spades, dominoes and Canasta, among other things. There have been so many afternoons spent after lunch at his parent's table talking, laughing and playing games as the bright sunshine faded into the mellow blues and purples of twilight. The lights would be turned on, leftover's taken out between hands and the gaming would continue until our eyes were blurry and the kids were nodding off.

This is the stuff life is made of. The big events are wonderful...birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and graduations...but the most important moments are the ones that we aren't even aware we are creating. The laughing until you cry moments, the small head on your shoulder moments and the cozy evenings by the fire with your family moments. The ones that make up the very fabric of our existence, and that make us who we are.

As we were playing cards in the dining room, Gracie pulled out the dominoes in the living room. She was quietly stacking them and then putting them back in the tin, when Nathan sat down next to her. After a moment, she asked him,

Would you like to enjoy me?
Trevor and I locked eyes over our cards and stifled laughs. She asked him again, and Nathan was so confused he didn't know what to say. I finally explained to him that she was asking him if he would like to join her. Not enjoy her, because that would wrong on so many levels. How's that for a memory?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Spectacular Sins (Chapter 4)

Wow. This week's chapter was rich in theology and really stretched my brain in terms of revisiting the concept of God's permissive will and His causative will. Lots of information to process, and many verses to read and absorb. Lisa only asked one question this week:

You are in a coffee shop reading your Bible. A stranger sits beside you and asks, "How can you believe in a God who allows terrorists to fly into towers or children to starve and die?" Based on all we've learned so far, what do you say?

I have been asked similar questions by believers and unbelievers alike, and I always counter with another question. What do we deserve and why do we deserve it? It all goes back to the fall of man. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Because of Adam’s sin, we are sinners. Not only sinners, but the bible says that “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).

So what we deserve is death for our sin, and it’s because sin entered the world through Adam. Every one born deserves the wrath of God…Paul calls us children of wrath in Ephesians. The horrible things that happen in this world—child abuse, murder, rape, terrorism—are a result of our sinful nature. The bible tells us that when people reject Him, he gives them over to their sinful nature (And because they did not think it worthwhile to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong. They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, disputes, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful. Although they know full well God's just sentence—that those who practice such things deserve to die—they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them. Romans 1:28-32). The logical conclusion is that in His sovereign will, he also restrains people from indulging in the sinful desires of their hearts.

When we hear about the atrocities committed on a daily basis, we should praise God that He restrains men as often as He does. It’s when we see the outpouring of our sinful nature in the form of abuse and attacks, that we can fully see how God does far more restraining than He does permitting. He bears patiently with us, but sometimes uses horrible things to display His glory more fully, and to show how sinful man really is.

“Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles” (Rom. 9:21-24).

So how do I believe in a God that allows such things to happen to “innocent” people? None of us are innocent. Not one. Not even those of us who are saved by grace, but that is the beauty of salvation. We deserve to die, and yet we live by the gracious outpouring of love and mercy at the cross.

I guess the better question would be, "How do you believe in a God who made a way for you to live, even though the thoughts and intents of your heart are evil continually?" This was really heavy theology and I hope that I made my point without appearing callous to the despair and misery of those who are abused, starving and suffering. I only mean to say that we are all deserving of God's holy wrath, and the miracle is that He offered salvation at all.

Monday, February 16, 2009

No Explanation Necessary

If you are a mom, you've probably had this (or some variation) happen to you at some point or another. We decided to laugh about it, which was much better than the screaming my head off, what were you thinking, option. (The little one is our nephew, Nick)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day

In spite of my post last year, I decided to do this Valentine's Day meme that I saw on Kimberly's blog. I still think that Valentine's Day sets people up for unfulfilled, imaginary expectations. Some guys are romantic by nature, and some guys aren't. If your man isn't, you are putting a ton of pressure on him to perform, whether you realize it or not. Trevor works with a kid who is dating someone, and he was so stressed out over how to plan Valentine's Day. Since a card and dinner don't appear to be enough these days, guys are spending enough money for a car payment on impressing their significant other.

OK...I'm slowly backing away from my soap box now. (And trying to ignore the dismal use of tenses in the previous paragraph.) Did I get my husband a card this year? Yes. Did he get one for me? No. Do I care? Not in the least. Do you know why? Because I started my morning by rolling over into his sleepy, warm chest and felt his arms go around me. Happy Valentine's greetings were exchanged and I was happy.

Didn't I say I stepping off the box? So, here's the meme, if for no other reason than to stop me from talking any more...

♥How long have you been together? We've been married almost 12 years.

♥ How long did you know each other before you started dating? 11 years (we were friends throughout Junior and High school.)

♥ Who asked who out? Trevor called me when he was on leave from the Navy for our normal dinner and catch up session.

♥ How old are each of you? I am 37 and Trevor is 36.

♥ Whose siblings do/ did you see the most? His brother Will (they live 6 houses down from us!)

♥ Do you have any children together? Yes, Nathan (7) and Grace (4)

♥ What about pets? Yes, one cat named Zoe

♥ Did you go to the same school? Yes, that's where we met. We both played trombone in the band.

♥ Are you from the same home town? We grew up in the same town...I moved there from Louisiana when I was 4.

♥ Who is the smartest? We are both smart in different ways. He is an engineer, so there is NO way I could compete with that kind of intellect, but I know my stuff in therapy. We are both well read and it's wonderful being married to a person with whom I can have a real conversation about anything.

♥ Who is the most sensitive? We both are but in different ways

♥ Where do you eat out most as a couple? Chili's

♥ Where is the furthest you two have traveled together as a couple? We went to Italy in 2002...I would love to go back.

♥ Who has the worst temper? Without a doubt, I hold this dubious honor. He has a fuse about a mile long.

♥ Who does the cooking? We both do it during the week, but I do most of it on the weekends, and all of it for holidays and family gatherings.

♥Who is the neat freak? We go in phases..sometimes it's me, and sometimes it's him.

♥ Who is the more stubborn? This meme is not putting me in a very good light! Again, without a doubt, me.

♥ Where was your first date? The Black-Eyed Pea and then (I can't believe I'm announcing this to the world) we saw Mars Attacks.

♥ Who has the bigger family? I do. I have 2 siblings and he has 1.

♥ Do you get flowers often? Not really. I loved getting flowers when I was single, but now that I'm married and know how much that stuff costs, I'd rather have dinner out or a movie!

♥ How do you spend the holidays? Once we had kids, we decided that Christmas morning was to be spent at home, but otherwise we alternate Thanksgivings with our families and we spend Christmas Eve with his parents. My parents usually drive in a few days after Christmas and we celebrate with them.

♥ How long did it take to get serious? A few days. We had been friends so long, and it just hit me like a ton of bricks when I realized he was "the one"

♥ Who eats more? Me. Trevor is one of those fortunate people who sees food as a necessary part of staying alive. I see it as an opportunity to please the palate and I will eat even when I'm not hungry (which explains why I am eternally on a diet and he looks slim and trim!)

♥ Who’s better with the computer? Trevor

♥ Who drives when you are together? Trevor. He gets carsick unless he's driving, so it's sort of by default that he drives on long trips. Sometimes he has to have help (like the time we drove straight through from Houston to Denver), and I drove too, but most of our trips are 5 hours or less so it's not a problem.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Thirty Six Years Ago

Thirty six years ago a young couple drove to the hospital in the snow. It was an unusual event for southeast Texas, but not unheard of. The young woman was frightened as her labor pains came closer and closer together, and all the young man could think of was getting her to the hospital.

Thirty six years ago, a baby boy was born into a family that loved and nurtured him. He was the first grandson on his mother's side, and one of many on his father's. He had red hair like her and a stubborn streak like him.

Thirty six years ago, as the young man and woman looked in wonder at their first child's angelic face, they had dreams in mind for him. They wanted him to grow strong and to be be kind and considerate. As he grew, they gave him the tools he needed to be a man. She loved and nurtured him, showing him what real devotion was, and he showed the child how to be a husband and a father.

Thirty six years ago, my husband was born. God knew before his conception that he would one day become a husband and father. He knew what Trevor would need to fulfill his destiny, and used his parents to mold him into the man he is today.

So, today I say a prayer of thanksgiving for three people. The young man and woman who raised him to be a man of worthy character, and for the man himself who has brought me untold joy since he came into my life.

Happy birthday, Trevor!

Spectacular Sins (Chapter 3)

It's week four of our online book club, and I am still excited about this book. There is much about Satan that we will not know until we get to heaven, but Piper gives some great tools for dealing with the evil that is in this world.

1. On page 40 Piper tells us that the name Satan means "accuser." Do you ever feel accused? I know I do. Sometimes I lie in bed at night and obsess over all the ways I have failed throughout the day, or I relive all the sins of my past. Turn in your bibles (or click here) to read Romans 8:1-2. What does this verse say?

Because of my salvation, I no longer stand condemned before God. I still sin, which requires repentance and forgiveness, but I am not condemned.

If this is true, from whom are all those accusations of failure?
What then should we do when our thoughts go there?
We have to resist the condemnation of the devil, and call to mind the scripture that affirms our perfection in Christ. I Peter 5:9-11 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

What is the difference between condemnation of our sin by the Evil One and conviction of our sin by the Holy Spirit?
Our condemnation by Satan is not edifying…it rejoices in our weakness and is joyful because of our sin. The polar opposite is the encouraging, edification of the holy Spirit. It moves us to repent of our sin, and to be changed for the better.
2. How does God allowing Satan to live bring glory to Christ?
The sharp contrast of Satan’s evil plots and schemes and Christ’s perfect love and grace, brings Christ’s glory into clear focus. We can’t help but see His glory when we see fellow Christians bearing up under the burden of pain and difficulty, or when we see the love of Christ being displayed through willful acts of kindness and service in spite of opposition.

3. Read the 'Eight Things to Do with Evil" and "Four Things to Never Do with Evil" lists on pages 50-51. Which of these do you have the most problem with?
Expose evil. This one seems pretty simple, but it becomes more complicated in my daily life. I know what is right and wrong, but how do I expose it? Does this mean that I simply walk away from situations that might cause temptation (i.e. a gossip session at work), or does it mean that I should actively speak up for what I know to be true? It seems that not participating is not the same as exposing.

4. Recall Piper's introduction, specifically pages 13-16 when he speaks of persecution of the Church. Since December I have been praying for Martha Samuel Makkar. She is an Egyptian sister in Christ who converted from Islam, and has faced persecution ever since. In December, she was arrested at the airport when she tried to immigrate to Russia. Martha was placed in prison, tortured, raped, and her two and four year old sons were denied food in an attempt to cause her to renounce Christ. She was recently released on bail and is awaiting trial. You can read her story here and here (and please join me in praying!)

How might the truths Piper has conveyed in this chapter regarding evil - the "weighty doctrine" - bring comfort to Martha and her family while she undergoes persecution for Christ?
The fact that no matter what happens to her or her family, it’s all temporary. Satan can hurt and even kill our bodies, but he can never destroy our souls. We are instructed to rejoice in our afflictions, because they bring us endurance, character and hope. Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Also through Him, we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

iPod Touch Giveaway

I was over at Rhonda's blog, and read about this giveaway. Mommy Daddy Blog is giving away something you’d love to have; a shiny spankin’ new 2nd Gen 8GB iPod Touch MP3 player and a $10 iTunes gift card! Click here to enter this sweet giveaway!

No matter what time of year, free stuff is always great! Head over there and enter to win.

Fresh Air

Today is a beautiful day. It's cool, clear and breezy. I have all the doors and windows thrown open to welcome the outside in, and I'm basking in the beams of sunlight that make their way over to my chair.

Trevor and I went on a date last night to celebrate his birthday. He wanted to see the movie "Taken", and we both enjoyed it. The premise is that an ex-CIA spook's daughter is kidnapped by a prostitution ring, and he has 96 hours to find her. As a mother, I was emotionally connected to the mom and was empathetic to her anguish at receiving that kind of news. Trevor, on the other hand, came out of the movie feeling a little angry because it made him think of Grace and how he would handle things if someone took her. I had to laugh once again at how the differences in men and women are shown on a daily basis.

It's not that I wouldn't be angry if someone took my child. I have a mother bear instinct that I have to stifle on a regular basis. It's just that our take on the exact same movie was different, and I like different. I like it that God created us to see things differently and to compliment one another. He saw the movie from a "protector" point of view, which is what he is to our family. He is our first line of defense against people and things that would harm us. I, on the other hand, saw the movie from a "nurturer" point of view. All I could think of was how the daughter was feeling and the sense of loss at the separation. I wanted to make it better emotionally...he wanted to make it better physically.

I'm so glad that I'm married to a man with whom I can have conversations of substance. We love to joke and play, but I love having and being a sounding board. He is the first person I think of when I have good news or bad news. He's the one I want to share my deepest secrets with and know that he will never betray me. There is such joy in being married to my soul-mate, and it's impossible to imagine my life without him.
See. He just walked through the front door, and my heart jumped, and not because I am easily startled, thank you very much. HE does that to me. Just the sight of him or the sound of his voice still gives me butterflies. I love that man! Twelve years and praying for many, many more.
I know those last two paragraphs were way off topic...actually, I can't remember what the topic was to begin with. This is why I don't write for a major publication and why editors are not knocking down my door, begging me to write for them. I can't even stick to one topic per post.
I think it's all the fresh air.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Memo to Worship Bands

I saw this editorial by John G. Stackhouse, Jr. in Christianity Today, and it really struck a chord with me. It's no secret that I prefer traditional music during worship, but I listen to contemporary Christian music on the radio and I love it. My preference is not due to the fact that I don't like rock style music, or that I don't think it's appropriate for church. It more due to the fact that I don't feel engaged in worship. The music is too loud and it feels like a concert instead of corporate worship. What do you think?

Memo to Worship Bands

Can you hear me? You can? I'm sorry if I am shouting, but I have just spent half an hour in a church service with a typical worship band, and my ears are ringing. I'm sure to be fine in a minute. Or hour. Or day—I hope.

Why does everything every Christian musician performs nowadays seem to require high amplification?

I was at a Christian camp not long ago where we gathered to sing around a bonfire. Guitars appeared, but just before I could get nostalgic and suggest we sing "Pass It On," the microphone stands appeared, too. Apparently three guitars for 40 people were not enough. No, they had to be amplified.

I am not 110 years old, friends. I grew up in the 1970s with fuzz boxes, stacks of Marshall amplifiers, and heavy metal bands loud enough to take on Boeing 747s and win. I have played in worship bands for more than 30 years, and like lots of juice running through my Roland keyboard or Fender bass or Godin guitar. Furthermore, I'm a middle-aged man and my hearing is supposed to be fading. But even I find almost every worship band in every church I visit to be too loud—not just a little bit loud, but uncomfortably, even painfully, loud.

So here are five reasons for everyone to turn it down a notch—or maybe three or four.

First, I know it's breaking the performer's code to say so (the way magicians are never supposed to reveal a secret), but cranking up the volume is just a cheap trick to add energy to a room. The comedic film This Is Spinal Tap showed us all the absurdity of using sheer noise to compensate for a lack of talent. (The knobs on the band members' guitars and amplifiers were modified to go to 11.) Do not compensate for mediocrity by amping it up to MEDIOCRITY.

Second, when your intonation is not very good—and let's face it, most singers and instrumentalists are not anywhere close to being in perfect tune—turning it up only makes it hurt worse. If I hear one more "harmony singer" have trouble deciding whether to hit the major or the minor third and instead split the difference at a scalp-tightening volume, I think my head will split also.

Third, the speakers in most church PA systems cannot take that much energy through their small, old magnets and cones, especially from piano, bass, and kick drum. So we are being pounded with high-powered fluffing and sputtering—which do not induce praise.

Fourth, consider that you might be marginalizing older people, most of whom probably do not like Guns N' Roses volumes at church. And if you suspect older congregants may be secretly delighted behind their tight smiles, ask them. I dare you.

Fifth, let me drop some church history and theology on you. By the time church music matured into Palestrina and Co. in the 16th century, it had become too demanding and ornate for ordinary singers. So Christians went to church to listen to a priest and a choir.

The Protestant Reformation yanked musical worship away from the professionals and put it back in the pews. Luther composed hymns based on popular melodies, including drinking songs. Calvin insisted on taking lyrics from the Psalms. This was music in which almost anyone could participate. The problem today, to be sure, is rarely elaborate music. We could use a little more artistry, in fact, than we usually get with the simplistic and repetitive musical figures of many contemporary worship songs.

No, the contrast with the Reformation is the modern-day insistence that a few people at the front be the center of attention. We do it by making six band members louder than a room full of people. But a church service isn't a concert at which an audience sings along with the real performers. Musicians—every one of them, including the singers—are accompanists to the congregation's praise. They should be mixed loudly enough only to do their job of leading and supporting the congregation.

Now, I like Palestrina and I like good Christian rock. So, church musicians, if you want to perform a fine song that requires advanced musicianship, by all means do it. We will listen and pray and enjoy it to the glory of God.

But when you are leading us in singing, then lead us in singing. And turn it down so we are not listening to you—or, even worse, merely enduring you. I know that is not what you want to happen. But I am telling you that's what is happening.
Sorry, again, for shouting.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Spectacular Sins (Chapter 2)

It's week three of our book club, and my study of this book and the biblical references that support it have been amazing! John Piper has a way of putting my thoughts into sentences for me, and I'm really enjoying the different perspectives of my fellow readers. Here are my answers to Lisa's questions:

1. I loved your quotes so much from the first session I'm going to ask you to share your favorite from this chapter!

Everything that exists, exists to make the greatness of Christ more fully known-including you, and the person you have the hardest time liking.

2. Re-read Colossians 1:15-16. Piper makes special mention that of all the things Paul could list that were made by, through, and for Christ, that he specifically mentions evil powers. In answering why Paul did this, Piper pulls an example from 2 Timothy 1:8 to show how he used weighty doctrine to address Timothy's practical issues of anxiety and fear that threatened the effect of his ministry. Considering Paul thought the 'heavy' things of God would help Timothy deal with everyday matters, how does knowing God created beings that He knew would turn from good to evil translate to your everyday life? (Use paragraphs 2 and 3 of page 36 to help form your thoughts.)

If we understand the weighty doctrines such as God’s sovereignty, then we can be confident that every time we face evil, it is already defeated. We can be confident that no matter how difficult things are, or how hopeless our world seems we can stand firm in the knowledge that we have a God who is mighty to save and that He is in control of everything. Knowing that God is an intentional God spurs me on to seek to know His will more fully and to try to understand His character more fully so that I can glorify Him more. I love the way Piper puts it: “Great biblical truths are fuel in the fire of the God-centered soul.”

3. Five summary statements are given on p. 37 as to why God wants us to know the truth of Christ's sovereignty over 'rulers and authorities' and the way they are involved in the most spectacular sins of the universe. Which one is most meaningful to you? Does it comfort you? Give you courage against the evil that we know has been disarmed by Christ?

“To make us valiant in the face of odds that seem overwhelming to the natural eye.” This particular statement gives me so much comfort, especially in light of the recent events in Washington. I know that even when it seems as though Christianity as a whole has suffered defeat, that God is not defeated. We live in a win-win situation as believers. When good triumphs, we win. It’s a clear victory and we can see the results fairly quickly. But when evil triumphs, we can take comfort in knowing that it didn’t really win. It may think it did for a season, but when all is said and done, there is no victory apart from God and we know that good has still won. It’s just that in cases such as this, it is not always immediately evident what the real victory is. Case in point…Joseph and his brothers. YEARS went by before God’s hand was fully revealed to the parties involved. We live in such an instant gratification world that we want answers right now! The will of God cannot be rushed or molded into a shape made by man.

4. Okay, this question is more of an assignment. Look at the previous commenter's answers and respond to one of her(his?) insights. If you are the first commenter, you can refer to this original post. Let's get some discussion going! :)

“Knowing it is not of him (Timothy) or me gives me and Timothy the courage to take a stand against the powers of evil that have already lost the battle at the cross.” I like the way Kim put this fundamental truth, and I think we lose sight of it when we are in the midst of our battles with evil. We don’t have to overcome evil…He overcomes it for us.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dear Xandra

Beth started this meme here, and then I saw it here and here, and decided to thow caution to the wind and participate. I had all sorts of funny things framed in my mind, but as I wrote it became more focused. I really wish that I could have read these things 20 years ago so that I could have avoided some heart breaking experiences, but then I wouldn't be the person I am today without them. But at least this advice might have eased the way a bit and erased a few of the big regrets in my life.

Dear Xandra,

I know that getting this letter is making you roll your eyes and think about how much you hate the space time continuum story lines in science fiction, but hear me out. There are so many things that I want to tell you, but not enough time or paper in the world to say them all so I'll just stick to what's important.

At 20 years old, you like to think of yourself as self-sufficient, and to a large degree you are but things are going to change in the next few months. You will have to dig deep inside yourself to make it through 1992 and 1993, because you are going to face things that you never dreamed in your short life. When Mama walks through that door on New Year's Eve 1991 and tells you with tears in her eyes that the biopsy results were positive and that you have cancer, do not brush her off. Do not pretend that everything is okay and that you don't care. Let her hold and comfort you. You aren't a mother yet, so you don't understand the basic need to hold and comfort your children, but one day you will and you'll feel ashamed that you denied her the opportunity to do it.

On the same note, when Patrick and Ronna question the need for a exploratory laparotomy and splenectomy in the coming weeks, LISTEN to them. Mama and Daddy are doing the best they can with the information they have, but don't do it! The surgery will be brutal, the recovery excruciating and your bellybutton will be in a different spot. Trust me, you will look at that 14 inch scar every day wishing you had done things differently, not to mention the fact that your 4 year old thinks your bellybutton placement is really funny.

You can't avoid the radiation and chemo, but you will get through it. Again, stop trying to be so self-sufficient and let people help you. Don't turn them down when they offer to take you to treatment, and when they want to do things for you. Doing it yourself doesn't always make you makes you exhausted and weak. You will learn as you get older that letting others do for you can be just as satisfying as doing for others. Denying help from those who are concerned about you builds a wall around yourself that can be hard to climb after a while, and people just stop trying.

Right now you think that Aaron hung the moon and that he is the boy you are going to marry. You get lost in those brown eyes, and you just love his family, but he is going to break your heart into a million little pieces for no other reason than he couldn't handle the fact that you have cancer. He's not worth the pain, and you have so much more waiting for you. As a matter of fact, when Trevor asks you to go to Mizell Lake with him, say yes every time. I know you guys are just friends, but he will become the complete and total love of your life. He will be the father of your two beautiful children (please stop rolling your eyes), and he will complete your life in ways you can't even imagine.

Most importantly, when you get out on your own, save us both a lot of heartache, and do two things. First, rip up any and all credit card offers that you get in the mail. I know you think you are living large with your $1000 every two weeks, and that opening accounts at Marshall Fields, Speigel, Macy's and Target is a incredibly good idea, but I promise it's not! Save your money and live within your means. The decision to purchase all your towels from Speigel, and putting all of your Christmas gifts one year on that credit card will haunt you for the next decade. If you can't afford to pay cash, you can't afford it.

Secondly, trust God. Keep Him at the center of your life, and get involved in a church. Meet other people your age that you can hang out with and share your hopes and dreams. Stay away from Zack, even though you think he is the one that will heal your heart after Aaron. He is no good for you and you will just fall further and further away from God during your time with him. I promise that all those million pieces will be put back together when you find yourself staring into Trevor's green eyes on the day of your wedding, knowing that you finally found the one God intended for you.

Finally, I know that you feel a little lost right now. You've been diagnosed with a terrible disease, pulled out of college and are living at home while you receive treatment. You feel like a failure. Although no one suspects, you are in a bit of a depression about how your life has turned out. Let me tell you...your life isn't going to be anything like you planned! You will not get your degree in microbiology, but you will find fulfillment in treating fellow cancer patients for a living. You will not marry the man you thought, but you will have joy like you've never experienced. Although you think you don't want children, being with Trevor will change that forever. You will want his children, and will never experience a more pure love than when you look in their eyes for the first time. Your life is not will have the life God intended for you and it will be more than you ever dreamed.


PS Be sure to give Uncle Tellius and Gramps extra hugs and kisses every time you see them. You'll wish you'd had one more chance when they are gone.