Politics, Religion and the Wisdom of Silence

Start discussions of FAITH with the nonbelievers and do not get sidetracked on the nuances of life and how to live it until they know WHO the live it for.

Save the discussions of politics for fellow believers so that iron may sharpen iron and you can grow in wisdom, better understanding HOW to live this live in glory to Christ

So I am a follower of Christ. That is no secret, nor would I want it to be.

I am also very politically active, with the majority of those activities leaning conservative, which does not seem like an issue, in fact being a religious conservative is fairly typical.

But there is a problem because the two things can not and will not always agree.

Sometimes my view as a Christian and my view as an American get mixed together because I happen to be both things but it does not change that they are not mutually inclusive or exclusive.

Sometimes what I know to be true as a Christian is not what should be legally true as an American.

My desire to defend the rights and freedoms of Americans is not born of my love of Christ. It does not mean it’s unchristian of me to do so but I have to examine these desires carefully.

Sometimes I’m compelled to speak, sometimes i’m compelled to silence. Sometimes I pray from a place of confusion, other times from one of peace.

Sometimes my religion is used against me by people who have never cared to actually understand what it is they hate. Sometimes my religion is used by people who think they understand it as a reason to hate things they don’t like.

But at the heart of all of this I think one thing can be forgotten by myself and my fellow Christians.

This it NOT our home.  America (or wherever you are reading this!) is not our country. We are foreigners here. We are strangers in an alien land. God called us to be. So everyday that you wake up and watch the news and feel like you just can’t understand all the evil and hate and ridiculousness in the world…you shouldn’t. You don’t belong here. We are here for one job, and it is not to fit in, it is not to change society, it is not to win battles. We are here to lead people to Christ.

I will still vote and remain politically active because I have children and I don’t want them to grow up in a place without the freedom to choose their own paths just like I got to. I will still debate privately with people who want to understand my perspective. I won’t let my political voice drown out who I am though, I won’t let the hatred that is synonymous with politics define me instead of the self sacrificing love of Christ. I will attempt to show Christ’s love to people I strongly disagree with.

There is far too much political apathy in the church and I don’t want to condone that but many have been driven to that point to avoid being associated with the small but loud and angry mob who use Christ’s name as a shield. We need more Christians who take stands in love, not giving up ground on issues of faith but not screaming and attacking over them either.

Proverbs 1:7 reminds us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” 

A relationship with God is the beginning of knowledge, you will never convince someone you are right on a political point that is based on a religious worldview until you first convince them of that religion.

Start discussions of FAITH with the nonbelievers and do not get sidetracked on the nuances of life and how to live it until they know WHO they live it for.

Save the discussions of POLITICS for fellow believers so that iron may sharpen iron and you can grow in wisdom, better understanding HOW to live this life in glory to Christ.

 

Preschoolers, Sensory Issues and Play

When I was teaching Kindergarten many parents would stress about the Kindergarten readiness test and I would reassure them with the truth, few kids “fail” the test, it is more about giving me a baseline on where they are coming in and to give the parents time to help them work on any area they might be “behind” typical.

I would also tell them the truth: I would rather have a student who can play well with other kids at playtime and recess and knows proper bathroom behavior than one who can read, add or recite the Gettysburg Address. Why? Because you can teach most “school” skills to kids at very young ages if you try but when you do you are taking time away from the skills they should be naturally developing. Kids need to be able to deal with their own emotions, share, take turns, maintain self control long enough to use a bathroom unsupervised, eat a food that isn’t their favorite, wear clothes that feel a little funny occasionally…in short to deal with life. They should have learned to bounce back from little unpleasantries (not getting picked first or having to wait for a toy another child has) and be able to use their imaginations, initiate basic problem solving and they should know how to fail sometimes.

When I went into education had a wonderful resource in my Nanny who taught headstart for years, raised 5 boys and helped with a dozen or so grandkids and 9 great grandkids to date. She used to tell me that the older 6 of us grandkids (we are in our 20-30s while the younger half are still kids in elementary-high school) were very different, that she had to “relearn” alot to babysit the younger set because kids today are different. She would explain how different play was for them but until I began teaching it wouldn’t full hit me.  Now I understand because play looks very different than it did for my generation or those before us. I spent many hours at my nanny’s as a child happy with 3 main “toys”: my cousins, nature and crayons (and the occasional nickolodean show when it was time to cool off inside;)). We climbed trees, explored creeks, fished, chased lightning bugs and played “bad guys” and “school”. Kids now want devices, toys, items and specific activities to play so even somewhere as untouched by some changes as Sardis, Alabama… kids are different.

This all came into play when my own son was born, I knew what kids used to be like and I knew what they are like now and I wanted him to be like I was…but can you control society’s impact? We would see. He was in daycare for the first 3 years of life and he did it very well, in fact, in very structured and routine environments he flourished. He was a model student who never got sent to the calm down spot and always got rave reviews from the teachers…but outside of “school” he struggled with free play environments. He had difficulty knowing how to play with other kids, make his own games and overcome small obstacles without a teacher there feeding him the “right” responses. I will never know how much that environment, which had lots of play but was still too academic for 18-36 month olds, combined with my mommy guilt inabling, played into his social and sensory issues because I can’t go back in time but I do know that the issues developed while in daycare and with a few years at home many are gone or minimal now.

At one point I considered having him seen for an official diagnosis due to societal pressure to “explain” his atypical behaviors, off the record a friend who specializes in this told me he would most likely recieve a diagnosis of sensory processing disorder but since it is not recognized as a stand alone disorder he would get slapped with something like anxiety then the diagnosis of SPD could be attached as a “rider”. I know my child though and I knew that even if he met all the criteria in the world he doesn’t have a “disorder”, he has some sensory issues (or quirks as I call them) but he is a perfectly healthy and functioning little boy and instead of getting him “help” to “accommodate” his issues I wanted to deal with the cause of those issues where possible and teach coping skills where not. I had a feeling this was stemming from unrealistic expectations and the lack of authentic opportunities to develop naturally occuring developmental skills.

I thought about my Nanny’s stories of how children have changed in the last 50 years and began a combination of occupational therapy based activities designed to help remediate his specific sensory quirks that my friend had recommended AND a change in what play meant to our family. I like reading to him, I like making him happy which, when I was working and filled with mommy guilt, meant playing board games with him when he asked…and blocks and cars and…everything I could find time to. No more. When I began staying home I stopped scheduling him in classes, activities or even library storytimes. I stopped taking him to museums or the zoo every single week. I started taking him outside…for hours…even when he got bored, while I did other things in the yard. He had to entertain himself. We would go to a nearby creek bed so he could throw rocks and build stuff with sticks. I would set aside hours each day for him to entertain himself while I cleaned, read or even watched tv (guilt free yo!) in the other room. I stopped giving him “craft” projects and started dumping the art supplies on the table and walking away so he could figure it out himself. I had friends bring their kids over for playdates and then we’d happily chat in my front room and ignore the crap out of the kids unless serious crying broke out so that they could spend time figuring it out themselves; no tvs, no adults, no direction.

It worked by the way. The kid I took out of daycare at 3 had enough overwhelming sensory issues to interfere heavily with his daily life; dressing, eating, changes in routine, it was all difficult and cause for a meltdown. I no longer have to spend 2 weeks of my life getting my child to transition to shorts for summer and then 2 more to get him back in pants during fall because the feeling and sensation of the material on his legs is so jarring. I no longer have to worry if he’ll ever make friends because he has lots and talks a mile a minute with adults (once he feels comfortable, he is still a shy guy but that’s just part of him!). I don’t miss having to stress over the temperature and texture of food because the wrong one can make him cry and gag. These things were part of my life for 2 solid years (from the time he left the “baby” room at daycare and went to a “classroom” to the time I quit my job) and I am so glad I didn’t give into the fear and have him diagnosed because there was never anything wrong with him. He might always hate the feelings of “sticky” or “messy” things, he might never enjoy certain types of foods or clothes but now when he has an issue he has the problem solving skills to work past it and if I had labeled him as broken and went around preparing everything to match his brokenness then he may never have learned those skills.

I’m not the only one to notice that sensory issues and the lack of true play in our society might be linked though…countless articles like this one “The decine of play in preschoolers – and the rise in sensory issues” are being written now that research is coming out to suggest that the two just may be linked.

[Despite the fact that Sensory Processing Disorder is one of the most “overdiagnosed” labels out there right now I am not downplaying that it is real and that for a very small minority of kids the symptoms could not be overcome without alot of therapy but the medical world would agree those children are the very rare exception (and typically have a diagnosis such as autism or adhd that might contribute to their issues). Since I know dozens of kids in my local area with the diagnosis that…well they can’t all be the exception, i’d say some of them just need the chance to fail and play and get messy and for the adults in their life to stop expecting them to sit still and be quiet and “behave” so much.

TRUE SPD is a neurological disorder that impacts the way the brain processes sensory information not just kids who haven’t learned to deal with certain things yet, every human has sensory preferences and left to our own devices we could easily take those preferences to a place that resembles a “disorder” it doesn’t mean we actually have one. ]

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Teaching my Kids Truth AND Tolerance

Our society loves to throw around the word tolerance. It’s become synonomous with “accepting everything as right or true”. Sorry folks, you need to break out the dictionary because tolerance only deals with how much you can put up with an opposing view point, it does not in anyway mean you accept it as valid. [Actual Definition: “The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.”]

I want my kids to be tolerant but also not to accept false things in the name of “tolerance”. It’s a tricky path but for the Christian a 100% necessary one. Jesus preached against adultery but still loved the sinners caught in it. I love alot of people I disagree with but that does not change that they are wrong (just like people who love me when i’m wrong). Being tolerant of their views can NOT look the same as agreeing with their views, I can not knowingly support something that is wrong but I CAN knowingly love someone who is wrong. I am called to love my fellow sinners. I am raising my children in a society that hates truth (because truth is offensive to those who live in contradiction to it) and it would be poor parenting on my part to let everyone else’s desire for political correctness overshadow truth.

One of my favorite movie quotes of all time comes from Disney’s Mulan when the emperor says, “No matter how the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow to it.” Truth is unchanging, it is not a societal construct that can be changed to suit our moods.

I am raising my children not to speak about things they do not understand (the opposite of our culture which encourages children, and adults for that matter, to speak loudly and frequently regardless of whether they have any actual understanding of a topic). We forget that freedom of speech is not a compulsion to speak! They will not be jumping into the bandwagon with the Argumentum ad Populum crowd and proclaiming they know best because “a whole bunch of other people agree so it must be true!”. I see this far too often but popular does not equal correct.

My children are being taught to think for themselves but to make sure those thoughts are backed by facts before they share them. I was taught to think for myself but also to have deferrence for facts and life experience and wisdom and I am thankful for that, in fact without an open mind AND closed mouth I may have never become a Christian. People can only hear what they understand but they can only understand what they stop to actually hear. I want my children to grow up listening, knowing they can speak up anytime they need, but having the maturity not to always exercise that right.

Our society has created so many false dicotohmies that sometimes it seems like there are only two choices: religion or science, republican or democrat, christian or atheist, pro this, anti that, the list could go a while but there is no actual duel between truth and tolerance, in fact I think they coexist perfectly, you can know and speak truth AND be tolerant of others views. Telling someone you think they are wrong is not actually an act of aggression, in fact, if done for the right reasons, in the right way, it is an act of love!

Disagree, people, stand up for what you believe in but don’t hate those who disagree with you. The hatred in our society is an overwhelming force. Don’t participate simply because it’s popular.

 

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Finding Beauty in the Mess: Week 3

This week I felt surrounded by ugliness. Mainly in the form of media, I just felt overwhelmed by the death, anger, hate and stupidity plastered all over the screen. I have realized that i’m usually pretty good at finding the beauty in my own personal little mess but I often have difficulty finding it in the mess of our society. It took some perspective but I found beauty in two places, one very unexpected and the other so expected I forget to count it at times.

The expected, but overlooked, beauty hit me as I sat in the middle of a pile of boxes, bags and products at church Wednesday night. I was surrounded by food & hygiene items my church family had generously donated to help me create crisis kits to be handed out to local woman in need. In a society full of “what can you do for me” I had asked a bunch of people to donate hundreds of dollars worth of supplies to bless a dozen local women we will never know and that is an amazing and beautiful thing. I sometimes forget how beautiful my fellow servants of Christ are because they are so humble but they are part of society and with them come the love and service modeled by Christ.

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The unexpected place I found beauty was in a strong disagreement with my younger cousin. A disagreement seems like a weird place to find beauty but it was a good reminder that you can have completely different thoughts on anything, or everything, and still respect and care about a person. You can each think the other is wrong and still recognize that you are both intelligent, thoughtful people who just happen to have completely different starting perspectives because you are different people. In a world where the first hint of disagreement is typically met with name calling and vitrol it’s beautiful to have a discussion of an issue rather than just stone throwing.

It’s true when you begin really looking for beauty in life you will find it hidden in less than obvious places.

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Finding Beauty in the Mess: Week 2

This week my moment of beauty came as I tried to clean blood out of washclothes and off my bathroom counter. I found myself reflecting on my gratitude for my children’s health and safety. Shortly before I had been holding a wet washcloth on my toddler’s mouth trying to slow the flow of blood gushing from her teeth. She had slipped on the bench at our table during dinner and her two top teeth connected with the edge pretty hard. I was upset and worried for a moment but once it was clear there more blood than anything I settled in to grateful. The minor injuries of my children’s lives are just that minor, small, momentary discomforts and for that I am tremendously thankful. It’s beautiful to have a healthy child, even one covered in blood.

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Finding Beauty in the Mess: Week 1

At my Momtourage group (a group for moms of preschoolers) this past week we were challenged to try and find the beauty each day in the mess of life and parenting (because it’s always a little messy but with the right perspective it’s always beautiful too!). I’m better with accountability so for the next 4 weeks I am going to try and reflect on the week to see some beauty that might have otherwise been hidden. Hopefully, this can encourage you to do the same.

My son has become increasingly independent since he turned four, trying to do things on his own he’s never tried. Sometimes it’s great…sometimes it means my husband finds two ziploc baggies containing: playdough, water, pompoms and miscellaneous items in his bedroom…one slightly leaking. He’d helped me make gel writing bags for preschool a few weeks ago and thought he and his sister would like some at home… he would have asked me for help if he hadn’t been so confident he could figure it out himself! He explained his ingredients (playdough, water to make it squishier, pom poms he thought would change the color if they soaked in water and some pretty things since he didn’t have any glitter).

I could have gotten mad at him for the mess and the waste and the sneaking them in his room but I instead looked at his intentions. He truly thought he could surpise me when he made these cool pouches for him and his sister, his heart was in a beautiful place. I laughed at his attempt before throwing them away and promising we would buy more hair gel to make our own next week.  I love this sweet, creative and independent side of him, in fact just writing this made me smile then give him a big hug again.

There is always beauty in the mess. Today of all days I remember that, what happened 14 years ago was ugly and horrible but from the ashes rose so many beautiful acts of love and compassion, they don’t change the damage but they give us hope.

Look for the beauty in the mess this week.  

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Preschool Co-Op Year Two

Last year I joined with two other moms to start up our own preschool co-op. It was a terrific experience that we all really enjoyed. The kids learned and played, we planned field trips (and spontaneously decided on a few more) that took us on nature hikes, to the planetarium and zoo and even for some physical education at a local indoor kids play space. They counted, sorted, colored and wrote their names, made crafts and science experiments and learned to navigate the social structure of an intergenerational classroom! (There is an art to navigating not just your peers but the younger siblings at play and the moms and dads teaching and supervising.)

Today we kicked off for year two! We have 3 new families and i’m looking forward to this years learning and growth! I want to encourage parents who think about joining or starting a co-op to jump in! We started months late last year, largely due to my own feet dragging caused by trepidation that it would be alot of work or not rewarding enough to justify the effort. When my friends and I jumped in I quickly realized it was not that much work (certainly less than just home preschooling him with no one to divide responsibilities was, I know I tried it a few months!) and it was tremendously rewarding!

Today was a typical first day, kids flitting about, somewhat sitting, interacting in the alternating shyness and excitement, siblings extra boisterous, parents still feeling out their roles. Soon we will all find a routine and rhythm and the children’s little sponge brains will soak up so much new information that we will be amazed. I am so thankful for this little piece of community I get to immerse my kids in.

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