Wednesday, June 28, 2006

It is better to leave revenge in God's hands

Tonight after a time with our youth ministry small group, I came home to deliver some girls for their moms to pick up here, only to leave again to bring others to their houses. In the short time before I left to do so, I found that a neighbor mom had brought her son over to "hug" Tim--the implication being that there was an issue to make up over. I couldn't get the information from her then, so after delivering the rest of the girls, and since it was too late to talk to the other mom by then anyway, I talked to Tim. I thought he was going to be in for some discipline and I wasn't sure what to expect.
I have noticed since we've been here that since Tim is younger than all the kids except a couple of three-year-olds, and perhaps since he is homeschooled and therefore somewhat different, and/or since he has no siblings playing out there alongside him as they do, that often they will gang together and pick on him. The other day they were crowing with delight at having supposedly won a squirtgun fight against him--five of them, against him alone. I pointed out that it wasn't a major victory, but more like cowardice, for so many to fight against one alone--and asked them why no one took his side. No one gave me any reasons (one said he thought someone would side with Tim) but they all generally gave me a blank look. I wouldn't have minded hearing the truth, if he had truly been provoking them all in some way, in order that I might address it. I do think that they are prone to meanness.
Anyway, when I got home I asked Tim what happened. He said that Parth (one of the small boys) hit him hard on the neck, and laughed. Tim in response grabbed his arm and shook him (bad boy!)...which I addressed. This was taking revenge; also shaking a little boy is wrong and can be dangerous. Still this was only part of the story. Parth hit him because all of the other kids were pelting Tim with water balloons. Tim was on his knees because of their impact, and none of them would stop, and he just lost patience when he got hit on the back of his sunburned neck.
I told him of the importance of forgiveness. We read about the man in the Bible who was forgiven a great debt against his master, but wouldn't forgive another a small debt against himself. Therefore the master took him back into custody and demanded repayment after all. We discussed it in depth and I think he understood that Parth had done only an infinitesimal thing against Tim compared with all any of us have done for which Christ forgave us.

We also discussed the matter of taking revenge. I read to him Psalm 18. This is an incredible psalm as far as I am concerned. I love the fact that the man cries to the Lord and the Lord in His anger comes down, furious from heaven, to defend His righteous man. It is always better to let God do the work--whether it is revenge or forgiveness, whether we see any of it or not, and always hoping that our enemy receives the grace of salvation instead of wrath.
After I read Psalm 18, Tim was somewhat amazed. "Does God really do that?" Well, if it is in the Scriptures characterizing Him this way, of course He does. He asked, "How did people know that God did that?" I had to explain that God is Spirit, that people knew to write it because of the Holy Spirit making it known to them. "Did people really see God do that?" I told him that people don't see Him physically but they may sometimes see the effect of what He has done on their behalf. Then he asked if I'd ever seen Him do it. I got to tell him about a time when I had just become a Christian and we were headed south on I-5. A beat-up old van came up behind us, careening down the freeway out of nowhere. They got practically upon our bumper and were honking and making hostile hand gestures. They finally passed, but just as their van passed us up, smoke started pouring out from under their hood. They immediately had to go over to the shoulder and as we drove away, we saw their vehicle come to a complete stop, hissing and smoking in the distance. I was convinced at the time that God had intervened for us. I also pointed out that if we had taken revenge ourselves instead, maybe by making gestures back, or honking, or ramming their van with our car, disaster could have resulted. Tim, of course, enjoyed that story immensely!
We prayed of course for all who were concerned and Tim's ability to forgive and we will be working in the coming day to see what sense we can make of it. I will be talking with Parth's mom, telling her Tim's side of the story and seeing if she has any more to tell me, telling her of anything I can regarding Tim and forgiveness and anything he can do to make things right from his perspective between him and Parth. I also want to talk to the kids of the neighborhood, trying to find out what reasoning they can give regarding how they treat Tim, and showing them, if called for, their unfairness and unkindness. We need to get to the root of it. I'm not assuming that I've heard the whole story from Tim. Still if Tim is right and honest about how things were getting (and I know these kids and he could be), then he has a sympathetic ear here as well as the ultimate Defender in heaven.
In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears.
Then the earth shook and quaked; and the foundations of the mountains were trembling and were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went up out of His nostrils, and fire from His mouth devoured; coals were kindled by it. He bowed down the heavens also, and came down with thick darkness under His feet.
He rode upon a cherub and flew; and He sped upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness His hiding place, His canopy around Him, darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies. From the brightness before Him passed His thick clouds, hailstones and coals of fire. The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered His voice, hailstones and coals of fire.
He sent out His arrows, and scattered them, and lightning flashes in abundance, and routed them. Then the channels of water appeared, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at Your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.
He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my stay. He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me. Psalm 18:6-19

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Accounting for the Time

It just occurred to me that there was another conversation at that graduation party (I blogged about MySpace recently because of one conversation there) that was a trifle opinionated on both sides...this time regarding paint ball. Well, I don't have any teenage sons, so I haven't resisted it firsthand. I also think it's good for guys to get out and have fun together. Still...
There was one woman there whose sons were into paintball, and she asked me what I thought of it. Well, she did ask...and she knows me, so she knows I'll tell her truthfully. Without hesitation I told her I thought it was a waste of money and time. Well, okay, many things of that sort are okay in moderation, but do you know many guys who do paintball in moderation? I don't. I know guys who have jobs chiefly to support their paintball habit; that gives me an inkling of how predominant it is in their lives.
I see our neighbor boys, it seems constantly (maybe that's an overestimation, but it's all I ever see them doing) playing airsoft-pellet-gun games. Fine now and then and for a while, but when it's hours and hours every day it seems like overkill. These kids are getting to an age where responsibility and usefulness are good things to learn.
What is a better alternative? Well, helping their parents for one thing. Washing vehicles, vacuuming them out, sweeping the walks, mowing and fertilizing the yard, washing windows, doing home repairs.
They could be reading books: not useless or evil books, but biographies and instructional books, books on self-development, spiritual growth...many kinds of books are out there that are useful for boys' reading. There are many biographies of many fantastic Christian men who were by no means wimps, and whose lives were inspiring, amazing and adventurous. There are biographies of non-Christians even that are worth the read.
For that matter, how about serving others? Helping in the church, helping widows, watching people's kids or pets or doing lawn jobs around the neighborhood for profit or simply for the benefit of others--imagine how transformed our world would be if teens considered the world around them and the viewpoint and needs of others rather than their own self-gratification. No need to consider summer a boring set of days to be filled with playing games until companions have to go home, but befriending all ages of people around who have lost the vision of seeing anyone consider their needs as important.
Some of the purpose in having a child or teen use his time wisely is for the benefit of the moment; but there is also the matter of preparation for the future. What kind of men are we making? What kind of adults do we expect to result from those who spent their childhood in frivolous activities? How well will they prepared for the onslaught of responsibility that comes with adulthood, marriage, and parenthood?
Still, teen boys are just one segment of the population, and paintball is just one way of spending time. Any sort of recreation belongs only in its proper place...whether shopping or basketball or embroidery--or blogging. If it keeps a person busy such that there is nothing significant to show for the bulk of the time available, nothing of service to family, church, friends, or neighbors, then I don't see how a person can justify that use of time.
Yes, paintball--or any recreation--may be fun, and it surely has its place for rejuvenating a person after a period of work. Still, I think in our society, recreation is vastly overrated, taken for granted, and out of proportion with better uses of time in service to others. Teen boys, and their parents, will have to account to God for those stewardship decisions made now.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4

Boys and Underarms

Today we stopped in to a Grocery Outlet store to see what serendipitous finds were there for us. Tim stated on the way in that he wanted to buy some hair gel; he's been asking for it off and on for a while. Going through that area searching for his little vanity-pleaser, Tim noted that perhaps he would also benefit from having deodorant. Well, Tim of course associates this with the rite of passage of "growing up," and therefore it sounds good to him; we thought it was a great idea--anything that smells good on Tim is a good thing.
When we got home, first thing he looked for (other than a candy bar that he had to reserve for after lunch) was his hair gel. He went in and came out looking very spruced up. Which is strange because I positively love his hair in its natural state if it's clean...he has a great cowlick that runs the whole width of his forehead so his bangs fly straight up like the look so many guys goop up to get. Without goop in it, his hair has a great soft, thick texture and I can't imagine goop seeming like an improvement.
Next thing he came out into the kitchen with his deodorant applied, and lifted up his shirt to display the not-visibly-changed look of his underarms. With a sigh he said that he couldn't wait for his armpits to grow hair. I loved how unabashed he was!
That reminds me of when my younger brother was hitting that age and lifted his arms up for some reason out on our deck, and I noticed a couple of hairs there. I commented in surprise, and he looked startled at me but said nothing. Next thing I knew, I went into the house, and happened to pass by his open bedroom. As I looked in I was amused to see him standing in front of the mirror with his arms up in the air. He was not happy at my amusement, but it was a memorable moment.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A Conversation and some Justification

If you know me, you know that I parent on the more protective side of most parents I know. I don't apologize for this. I am convinced that it's the better extreme, over letting children go with less protection while they are young and lack discernment, strength, wisdom, and/or trustworthiness. As they acquire these things so they have a good balance of them, they should gain appropriate freedoms. That is the introduction I make for this blog, acknowledging that this tendency of mine is intentional.
We went to a friend's son's graduation party today. There were a few families we knew from a previous church we all attended. I got into a conversation with the parents of the largest family there...after a while we started discussing the MySpace trend, which seems to polarize people pretty quickly from what I've found; it also is a huge draw for teenagers, and no amount of speaking out against MySpace from two of our pastors has seemed to lessen its appeal; maybe it has only increased awareness of its existence. It reminds me of a verse (which now that I think of it shows that Jesus also had a tendency to be on the protective side as well): O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! Luke 13:34.
I was clearly against My Space, and it was soon apparent that most of their children old enough to be on it had a MySpace. Thankfully there was another family, the husband of which was in the conversation, and who took my side. He and his wife had checked it out and were appalled at the things the Christian kids he knows would show, or tell, or the thoughts they would entertain on that site.
My reasoning was that its biggest appeal is to an age group who for the most part lacks wisdom and discernment and is very vulnerable. They also don't recognize fully the consequences of some of their actions. In addition, it can be a bad witness for a Christian to be on a site that is so troubling that it has been in the newspaper a number of times--even those far from Christ have trouble with the ramifications of it, for reasons that the Christians should take into account. There's the matter of stalking, the matter of quick and visible access to pornography, and just the matter of bad content as a whole. A person who has even a clean and Christian MySpace would by doing so affirm the supposed validity of this problematic website.
The thing that disturbed me in our conversation was not so much their affirming MySpace, as much as the reasoning that the parents of the MySpace family used. Now this is a family of about 8 children, obviously of various ages. The parents said, "You've got to let them grow up sometime" or "Eventually they've got to make their own decisions" or "Well, once they move out we can't watch their every move." Well, all those things are true, but the children they were talking about I'm pretty sure aren't ready to be considered grown up, or to make their own decisions; I think that two of them are 11 and 13. Most people's children in this age group who access MySpace, well, maybe the parents ought to watch their every move for accountability, especially knowing that their child is on it. Not for always. But while they are under parents' care and authority, the parents are accountable to God for what the children are learning and how they turn out.
The following verse comes to mind; it's used so frequently that it seems to lose its punch. Still I think it applies very well to this situation: Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Just a Summary of a Busy Day

Today was a busy and eventful day to say the least...I started with something of a quiet time and then a walk. I'm trying to get really familiar with the Psalms. Sonja gave me a blank book for my birthday, one of those journaling types. At our Bible study last year one of the recommendations for memorizing Scripture was to write down the first word of each letter in a verse. Well, maybe I'm a little extreme, but I decided I'd use that blank book for it. So I have used this method for the first three chapters of Genesis and I'm on Psalm each morning that I'm not doing something more specific elsewhere, I try going over a number of these. It's amazing for one thing that I remember any of it, but also amazing how many times I go over and over it and don't remember as much as I'd like. Still, I can tell that my brain cells have had a more intense workout by trying these out than by just reading the Psalms more casually from the regular text. I'm going to continue writing them in my book, and trying to get really familiar with all the Psalms and the Creation account and a few other things. It seems good and helpful, though I wish I were smarter and had a better memory.
Then I took a walk twice around our cul-de-sac. It's 500 steps around, so it's a neat little package for a short walk, safe and measured, and you can do a little walk or a lot, and still be close to home. I took a few cards with verses written on them and I'm going to use these walks to try to memorize verses while walking. Again I'm amazed at how I read a verse and immediately forget how it starts. Old brain.
Well, after that Katie and I went to the One28 ministry leaders' meeting; Katie to watch kids and me to participate. It's always good. We did a bit of role-playing regarding interaction between leaders and students about the latest series of messages. Pastor Sean came up with some challenging questions, just like students are so good at presenting. I'm glad for it, though I can't think that our group gets into these kind of conversations very often. I'm not sure whether it's because they accept everything Sean says, or because they don't share their doubts--though they do share many things that surprise me. Hmmm. That's thought-provoking for me. Seems like the other groups run into so much more intense interaction where they can really grapple with things, and I envy that some, even though I'm not sure I'm up to the challenge to answer with sufficient wisdom. Not that I'd be the main one answering; I am third of three leaders! I wonder what the difference is that brings these topics to the surface for the other groups? With God all things are possible...maybe in the coming year!
After we came home I had to immediately get a dinner going, and then talked with a friend over the Excellent Wife study which we just started. That was great! So far it's easy, and I expect it to get more convicting as it goes along. I don't think I could have eagerly started it last year, but now perhaps I'm ready. My friend and I were both rejoicing over how similar our struggles are. Not in the fact that we have struggles, but that we relate to each other in them. We don't even know each other that well; we were in Bible study together year before last and hardly talked since. When we did, this study providentially came up, and here we are, intending to work on it and talk once per week.
We (the family) ate the dinner I made for lunch, because it was garlic-and-onion pork roast, and smelled too good to wait for it until dinner time. It would be good to have a real meal before Tim's baseball game anyway, I thought; though Tim in all his epicurean sensibilities preferred a peanut butter sandwich instead. Sigh.
After that we went to Tim's game. Tim hit two home runs today! Now he's hit four of them this season. His head seemed a little swollen on the way home, judging by the things he was saying. I don't think he has to worry, he's in a family that will cure that trouble for him if it gets out of hand. We only believe in a limited measure of self-esteem--more like, hardly any--that is, we should esteem one another more highly than ourselves and God most highly of all. Still, I pondered what possible potential there might be in his skills for athletic scholarships some day...with one parent who entirely lacks the sports gene? Wow. That would be amazing. I can just picture him playing a game professionally that I barely understand.
On the way home we delivered an invitation for Katie's graduation to her friend LaShani. Her brother who I must have met once at her birthday answered the door and immediately knew we were the Abbotts...which surprised me. He was incredibly polite, like LaShani. We've always been amazed at LaShani's kind nature and her family's fantastic lovingkindness.
We then went home and made some really quick cookies and started out to carry them to new neighbors from Iowa, but then Tim had to come back in the house for a moment and I called a friend who I thought needed a dinner. Turned out she did, so we brought that over (which was part of what I'd prepared before the game)--after all, it was dinner time...then we came back and delivered the cookies. Our new neighbors seem very nice. He's in the military. I'm hoping they might consider coming to our church...but when I mentioned it they didn't exactly take the bait for the moment. Still, I'm not sure I would, in their shoes, with a house full of move-in and not knowing anything about the church...I'm looking forward to getting to know them better and we'll see what the future brings.
Tim came home from playing outside. He rang the doorbell and then kicked the door. I opened it and was ready to scold him for that when I realized his hands were full of blood. A neighbor kid had given him a bloody nose by saying "Think fast" and then poking him in the face with a ball. Since he disappeared rather than come show some care for Tim, I went to talk to him and his father, and though the boy lied when I addressed it, his father saw through it and the boy came and apologized all around. It was good to see a parent really doing some parenting in the neighborhood.
Since we had dinner for lunch, we were sort of short for dinner time. I baked some potatoes and put chili on them. So much for gourmet cooking, eh?! Then we all went out and finally planted some plants in our vegetable garden that is finally fairly level. An exciting day, overall. Soon we will also plant some seeds that ought to work with such a short time left to the season, maybe some lettuce and other greens. It seems a shame that it took so long to get planting started, but I know God is in control! I can hardly wait to really get it going.
While we were back there, our neighbor Stacia came into our yard and brought me a present--she's the one with a birthday coming up, not me! She bought me a devotional book for moms. She said it popped out at her for me. This friendship growing with a next-door neighbor is so amazing to me I can hardly believe it. So much fun, too!
Tomorrow's church and that guarantees the day will be full. It always marks the week for me, and it seems that we go to church every other day, not because it's any chore, but the weeks go by so fast! It will be good to get together and have fellowship. The teaching is always good; I always learn or am reminded of something important.
I hope I didn't babble too much. It just seemed good to sit down and summarize today. It was a good day aside from Tim's bloody nose. And that was good, too, in that I met the father of some neighbor boys. God works that way. All things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose...