Posted in Mom Life

NORO-20

I am going to let you in on a little secret. I have found an amazing way to lose weight fast. I’m calling it NORO-20, short for norovirus-2020. Now, why this has not turned into a commercial enterprise by now, I cannot say. All that I know, is that by ingesting a little NORO-20 you will be well on your way to your weight loss goals.

Guys– this one is soooo easy. You don’t have to work out, it decreases your appetite for at least three days, and it cleanses your system like nothing else. If you need a fresh start and a reboot for your digestive system, let me tell you now– THIS IS IT.

The amazing thing is– it is completely free. That’s right, folks. You can take NORO-20 home for $0. All you have to do is come to my house and watch my children, and maybe find a tiny spot in our house that I have yet to touch with a cleaning solution (plenty spots left!) and you too can take home NORO-20 and watch those last stubborn pounds fade away!

But– act fast. These little germs (ahem, gems) can only last so long! Time is a-wasting! I have spots open for house-cleaning and childcare NOW, in my home. Please contact me to get a hold of this once-in-a-season deal. You have nothing to lose, except some stubborn weight (and approximately three days of your life!) Dial NORO-20 now for more information!

Seriously– best decision ever (not.)

Posted in America, Faith, Spiritual

Christians in Politics: Living in Tension

I was recently attracted by a quotation on social media that someone attributed to C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite authors. The quotation (supposed to be from the Screwtape Letters) is as follows:

My dear wormwood, Be sure the patient remains completely fixated on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control.

I thought this quotation was interesting and it gave me a moment of pause. A little research, however, brought me to the conclusion that this quotation was actually NOT written by C.S. Lewis. So, of course, I had to spend a little time researching what Lewis’s real take on politics was, especially given our present circumstances in the U.S.A.

I found an interesting article on Lewis and politics (here,) which gave me some food for thought. To summarize, the article suggests that Lewis felt a sort of tension about politics. The article points out that on one hand, Lewis abhorred politics, writing in a letter, “Our papers at the moment are filled with nothing but politics, a subject in which I cannot take any interest.” However, later in the same letter, he criticized the Labour government in a “well-informed manner.”

The article goes on to say that Lewis was involved politically from a young age, writing letters and teaching– not specifically about politics– but about the “natural law” underpinning politics. I found this entire article to be fascinating, especially when examining Lewis’s thoughts about how a democratic country gets to totalitarianism– and I quote from the article– It could take the form of “a benevolent scientific bureaucracy, which destroys or damages mediating institutions such as the church and the family, and makes genuine freedom … difficult to achieve.” (I got some chills when reading this.) But, I digress.

C.S. Lewis did not like politics as such and did not want to become a political figure. But, from my understanding of his writings and from research about the man– he couldn’t help but speak out on political issues because politics, after all, are only an extension of our deeply held spiritual beliefs.

Here are some further quotations that explore Lewis’s thoughts on power and government:

From The Allegory of Love: “The descent to hell is easy, and those who begin by worshipping power soon worship evil.”

From God in the Dock: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

And finally from God in the Dock: “He who converts his neighbour has performed the most practical Christian-political act of all.”

From my brief research, as well as from my prior readings of Lewis, here is my conclusion. A Christian’s end goal should never be political, but in our duty to speak the truth in love, we are going to undoubtedly run into politics.

I’m not sure exactly how this should look in the 2020 election, but I think we have to keep in mind the spiritual realities that are underneath “this present darkness.” As such, when I am tempted to yell at politicians I hear on the radio or t.v. (not that I would ever!) it may be better for me to remember that these are real people who are very often lost souls. It may be better for me to pray for our “leaders” than for me to get angry. It may be necessary for me to speak up, attend political rallies, and vote, but even if I do those things, I have to keep in mind that Politics Are Never Going to Solve Spiritual Problems.

The lack of a belief in God and the unwillingness to follow something other than our own inclinations are pulling our society apart. What this country needs more than anything is not for a certain party to win our election, but for a revival. If we are going to “Make America Great Again,” we need to examine our worldview and get back to the basics.

I’m going to close this off with another Lewis quote to consider: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” Let’s keep the end in mind!

Posted in Education

Four Weeks of Homeschooling– The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

This is my first year of homeschooling, due to our “unprecedented times.” We have completed four weeks of school since starting at the beginning of August when we eased into school, averaging about four days a week throughout the month. We’ve had some great times and some more trying times, but overall, it’s about what I expected, and I think we are going to have a really good year together.

The Good

Homeschooling has been mostly good, from my perspective at least. (You would have to ask my kids how they like their teacher, though, to get a full opinion.) I chose to go with the Sonlight Curriculum, which is based on a strong foundation of Bible, history, and literature. Doing Bible in the morning is a great discipline; we are currently reading Luke and Genesis and are memorizing Psalm 8. I love to see the kids growing in their knowledge of God’s Word! We are also using Core “D” this year and are reading books about the founding of America. This is a “good books” approach to learning. Instead of reading textbooks, the kids are reading books that are set in the early Colonial time period; some of these books are fiction and some are non-fiction. I appreciate that they are learning history in a natural way while they are improving their reading skills.

I also appreciate the structure that the curriculum provides. The curriculum comes with a teaching binder that outlines what the kids should read, how much to read, and what questions to answer. I basically open it up in the morning and we start school with zero prep work from me.

I was very blessed to have most of this material loaned to me by a fellow homeschool mom, so the cost for me was low. This program could definitely get expensive, but if you can afford it, I do recommend it, especially for families that enjoy reading. (If your child does not like reading or can’t read well, this might not be where I would start, but if your kids are readers, they will take off with Sonlight.)

Another highlight of homeschooling for me has been that our mornings are much less stressful, as I don’t have to attempt to get five children out the door by 7:30 in the morning. I also like the flexibility we have to add in some fun field trips and learning days with other kids. In addition, the kids have been enjoying looking up art projects on youtube, where they find much better art teachers than I am! They made Native American inspired drawings last week that impressed this art-challenged teacher.

We also love our science! We are learning from Science Apologia, which is am immersion type of science, meaning the kids learn deeply about a subject (Botany, for us) from a Biblical perspective. Science is probably our favorite subject, so we are doing this at the end of the day when the kids are about ready to check out of school. We are growing herbs to eventually put into homemade soap and are recording the progress of the plants, while we learn about the parts of a plant. At this point, we are set to add some more fun lessons to our schedule (piano and dance,) but are still finding our groove and trying not to start out with too much.


The Bad

I’m not going to say that there has been much “bad” in our first four weeks, but there are certainly some challenges to homeschooling. The biggest “challenge” for me as a teacher, is to deal with one unruly student (who happens to be two years old.) My four year old loves to be an extra student and is great for me during school time. My two year old likes my undivided attention and does not like when I am occupied elsewhere. I’m chalking this year up to a learning experience for him and an exercise in patience for me! Other challenges are that my kids are spending lots of time together (great,) but as they interact more and more together, they also tend to squabble more and more. If you have any magic for breaking up sibling fights, let me know! They are the best of friends and the worst of enemies. Balancing schooling, housework, shopping, and social life is certainly challenging, but I think it’s doable as long as I can keep realistic (i.e. low enough) expectations.

The Ugly

Of all of my curriculum, my least favorite is our Singapore math. I don’t exactly hate it, but I certainly don’t love it. I chose Singapore, because it more or less follows the Common Core math, which I do actually like. The idea is that you teach kids to do mental math faster by combining numbers to make them easier to add and subtract. My kids seem to do well with this method, but I really hate the format of these books. Singapore math comes with a textbook and a workbook for each kid, along with an instructors’ guide for me. Since all of them are soft cover, I personally don’t see why they need more than one book to begin with, and the instructor’s guide is difficult to follow. With three kids in three different maths, I am constantly flipping pages in these books to look for the answers to the workbook or the textbook or to find the day’s lesson. At this point, I am handling 1st and 3rd grade math confidently. I am okay with 5th grade math, but I have to admit that I have already been stumped on a word problem. (My fifth grader got a huge kick out of seeing me struggle with her math problem for 20 minutes. We giggled all the way through it. It will make a great memory, I’m sure!)

So, there you have it– the good, the bad, and the ugly. Have a great school year everybody!

Posted in #covid19, America

Anti-Science?

I had my first negative comment over my blog (which is great, because it must mean that someone other than my mother and aunts are stopping in to read.) This comment, laced with expletives, complained over one statement in my writing which apparently made the commenter very angry. In this statement, I explained my firm belief that young children are not developmentally ready to wear masks all day, and also pointedly said, “I do not have research to back this up, and I don’t care. I am a mom. I have 5 kids. I don’t need a post-doctorate to come to this conclusion.” Yeah– those were fighting words, I suppose.

This person who disagreed with me complained that anti-science people like me are what is wrong in our country. Ouch. Am I anti-science? I had to take some time to reflect on this statement. I have definitely never thought of myself as someone who is anti-science or anti-education or anti-establishment, (although I admit that those sentiments are growing during this season of life.) I actually loved school and did very well academically. I also considered Chemistry as a major in college, but ultimately chose the Humanities, as they were more interesting to me overall (and still are).

I’m also married to a science dude (veterinarian) and have multiple doctors in my extended family. I’m fully vaccinated as are my children. I generally respect doctors. So, am I anti-science or not? And, am I really representative of what is wrong with this country?

To me, science is a discipline that can answer questions about how things work. It is a system of study designed to answer questions about our world. It has done some really amazing things for our world, but the field has also had some really horrible results (think eugenics.) Science is a powerful discipline that has great potential, but in my humble opinion, it should never be divorced from the other disciplines or allowed to rule over them.

In this pandemic, scientists are working hard to protect people from disease. They are using the best research that they have to prevent deaths due to an epidemic. When I get frustrated that Dr. Fauci’s recommendations are really cramping my style, my veterinarian husband reminds me that this is Fauci’s whole job– to prevent infectious diseases.

So, maybe Fauci and co. are doing an awesome job, but as I stated earlier, science is only one discipline out of many that teach us about life. Science can tell us how things work (again, imperfectly), but it can’t answer deeper questions on its own.

Science can’t tell us how much a smile is worth. It can’t tell us the value of a hug. Science can’t tell us what the cost of giving up close relationships is in favor for virtual ones. It can’t measure the worth of a small business to its owner. It can’t tell us what effect our social distancing is having on young people as they develop. It doesn’t tell us the social or political consequences of government “lockdowns” or extended wearing of face masks.

I’m all for science guiding us during this pandemic– but I am not all for it having the only voice in the room. If we make “science” into our dictator, we are going to lose a part of ourselves. I think science can be a guide, but I fear that many in our country have turned it into a god.

If we silence voices that disagree with the way we are doing things because they do not come from the “science” field, we have a problem. If regular people who are being impacted by pandemic mitigation do not have a voice in how we should handle said pandemic, we have a problem. If a person who does not have a post-doc is now bullied because she sees things a different way, then we have a problem.

Some of the smartest people I know have impressive degrees. Some of the smartest people I know also have no degree at all. Not everyone sees the things the way the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases does. We obviously need the voices of scientists during this time. But– we also need economists, sociologists, parents, educators, pastors, and regular people to understand how everything is playing out here. If we don’t take all voices into consideration, we are missing out in a big way. Am I anti-science? Nah. Let science answer the questions in can answer, but let’s not make it do things in was never intended to do in the first place. In the end, science is a tool; it should never be our god.

Posted in #covid19, Education

Dear Parents- Stand Up

So, I’m stuck back here thinking about masks on students in schools. I’ve already chosen to home school for the year, but still. My philosophy on public schools is that schools and students do the best when parents are involved in the educational process. Withdrawing from the school system may be better for my family (and my mental health!) in the short term, but what is the effect if more and more parents disengage from the system long-term?

We are hearing a lot about “systemic inequality” in our country, particularly in regards to our “black and brown” brothers and sisters. I have no doubt that those inequalities exist for very complicated reasons, but one reason is that as things got worse in the inner cities and more disadvantaged people (often people of color) moved into communities, more and more affluent people (often whites) left those cities. This flight undoubtedly left things in a poorer state than everyone’s continued engagement in their communities might have.

My theory is that public schools are the same type of system. The kids who are served in the public school are often the ones who have the least resources. Their parents can’t send them to private school, and they can’t afford and may not have the skills to homeschool them. As things get worse in a public school district, more and more of those who can will leave, while those who can’t will stay in a crumbling system.

My local school system is not perfect, but it is still good. Parents are still involved in the process, and yet. I fully understand why parents choose not to send their children to school and choose other options (as I am indeed doing this year.) When a parent feels like he or she has no say over the educational process and that his or her child may be harmed by the system, what is a parent’s natural response? Obviously– to pull her children from the school district.

Well– I’ve chosen that direction for this time period, but I am not disengaging from the process completely– not yet. There are two main reasons that I could not stomach sending my children to school this year. In our state, universal “mandates” have come floating down from our governor. All children (two years old and up) are mandated to wear masks all day in school. This is deal breaker #1 for me. Not too many years ago, I was a public school teacher, and it was hard work. It is hard to get kids to bring their pencil to class, let alone to wear masks all day long. Masks on children (especially in the early elementary years) seems like a ridiculous mandate made up by people who are out of touch with the reality of childhood. Children from the ages of 2-7 (at least) are not developmentally ready to wear a mask all day. I do not have research to back this up, and I don’t care. I am a mom. I have 5 kids. I don’t need a post-doctorate to come to this conclusion. I have no desire for my children to go to school to learn how to wear a mask all day long.

Deal breaker #2: in my state, my governor enjoys throwing down mandates at very inconvenient times– such as changing rules a week before school starts. I have very little confidence that the floating mandates will not also affect and interrupt the rest of my kids’ school year, dragging them back into online learning, which, in my opinion, is not a Free Appropriate Public Education for children in rural areas with spotty internet (and for elementary children, in general, as skills like socializing and physical activity will fall to the wayside for obvious reasons.)

So, here I am, wondering how I can still engage in a system that I believe in, while hypocritically doing what is best for my own children (and me.) But– hear me out, parents. These public schools are made to serve our children. Parents– our schools and our communities need our voices in the educational process. If we want our communities to be stronger, we need to stand up and make our voices heard– not just for our children, but for our community’s children.

So far, I have e-mailed my school administrators, the governor (twice,) my state senator, and my state congresswoman. Now, not everyone will share my exact opinions here, and that is okay. That is not really my point. My point is that parents care about their kids more than anyone else. We need to continue to advocate for them, using our political processes and engaging in the system as much as we can. Parents– these are our children, and if anyone is being left behind during this pandemic– it is them. Let’s stand up– work through the process– and advocate for them. Our school districts and communities will be better when we stand up.

Posted in America

Tired of Pretending: Speaking the Truth in Love

In our culture today, there are so many things that you “shouldn’t” say. You shouldn’t say that you believe in standing for the pledge of allegiance because you will be labeled a racist. You shouldn’t say that marriage is meant to be between one man and one woman because then you are intolerant and hate gay people. You shouldn’t say that America has been a good country because then you aren’t noticing all of the sins it has committed. You shouldn’t say that a man is a man even though he thinks he is a woman because then you are transphobic. You shouldn’t say that Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion make “nasty” music because then you aren’t empowering women.

I am not someone to stir the pot. I believe very strongly in respecting all people, no matter what their beliefs are. I strive to love all people, even if I sometimes fail. I think that participating in our culture and interacting with people I don’t agree with is good and what Jesus would do.

But– why am I (and so many others) expected to pretend that we agree with the majority opinion (or at least the loudest opinion?)

I am not a Donald Trump fan. I think his morals are lacking and his approach and demeanor are not helpful or unifying for our country. I wish we had chosen better. But, I understand why people vote for him.

I think people are attracted to him because he says what he thinks. What he really, really thinks. In a nutshell: many people in our country are tired of pretending, and so they are headed on the Trump train.

If you want to blame someone for where we are politically, let’s think about adding nuances to our national conversation. Let’s understand that not everyone sees or accepts the new moral order. Let’s understand that we have true diversity in our country, including diversity in the way that we think. Let’s stop immediately condemning everyone who does not hop on the latest bandwagon.

We need people who think differently than us; we need one another, but we also need to respect that we are not always going to agree with one another, and we need to stop apologizing for not always thinking alike.

Do we want true diversity in our country? That includes diversity in thought. Speak the truth– but don’t forget to do it in love.

Posted in #covid19, Faith

Our Only Hope

My four year old is very conscious of death for a little guy. When he was three years old, he briefly became a vegetarian when he realized where chicken nuggets come from. His vegetarian phase lasted for a good couple of weeks until the temptation to eat those juicy nuggets finally overcame his reservations. His curiosity about death and dying have not gone away, however. The other night, my blond little boy sat on the couch across from me and randomly said, “Mommy– someday I’m going to die. I don’t know what it will feel like, though. I want to know.” (He’s definitely my philosopher.)

I think some people would be worried about a four year old thinking about dying, but I think it’s healthy and normal for people to think about it– not all of the time– but at least a little. Because, the thing is, in the end– everyone dies. The fatality rate for human beings in this fallen world is currently 100%. If we never get COVID, or never get the flu, or never get hit by a car– in the end– we still die.

Unfortunately, COVID is becoming a dividing line for people who see life and death very differently. Some people see COVID as an immediate threat that needs to be mitigated so people can live life longer. They might get angry at people who don’t follow the strategies that are implemented to keep them safe. Some see COVID as just another threat in a host of other threats and think we should keep living life to the full because life is uncertain anyway. They might feel angry that people are taking away their freedoms.

Me? It depends on the day. I have no desire to get sick, and I certainly don’t want to bring illness back to my loved ones. But, how much life am I willing to give up for the threat of COVID-19?

I think that this decision has to be an individual one, depending on one’s circumstances, health, and other factors. It is our responsibility to watch out for others, yes, but we still have to realize that life is very short and very uncertain. The Bible says, “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away.”

We have to be real about death and dying. It’s going to happen to each one of us eventually. Our ultimate hope should never be in vaccines or medicine or politics or mitigation strategies, although those might be tools that we can use to fight for life. In the end, our hope has to come from somewhere outside of ourselves, or we have no hope at all.

Jesus offers this. He says in John 11:25 “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

When my kids start asking me about death and dying, I try not to brush it off. I try my best to be honest with them. Yes, we are going to die someday– hopefully when we are very, very old, and no, we can’t do anything about that. The best I have to offer them is the hope that one man over 2,000 years ago defeated death for the rest of us when he hung on a cross and died and lived again. That message? It’s a hope that’s an anchor for our souls.

Posted in #covid19, Faith

Hard Days for Planners

These are hard days for planners. You know the type of people I’m talking about– those who bring their agenda books to meetings and neatly pencil in their commitments. Yep– the covid-19 era is tough for these people. So, say a prayer for them now, because as the popular meme states: These people are not okay.

If you know me, I’m a recovering Type A planner. (Still recovering.) I like to have my calendar filled out as neatly as my messy handwriting will allow. I like to know what will happen tomorrow and next week and even a month from now. Personally, I believe that planning things out is an asset. If you know there is going to be a party a week (or a month) from now, you can get the necessary supplies, budget your time, and not be stressed out on the day of the big occasion. To me, planning is responsible and respectful of other people.

And yet. If I have learned anything from being melded into a big family and now having a big family of my own, it’s that planning is good– but being flexible is maybe even better. When lots of people get together, life contains many immediate needs that sometimes trump the best-laid plans. Children get sick, messes happen, and the washing machine stops working. You have got to be flexible in order to survive.

Now Covid-19 has brought a new kind of stretching to, not just my family, but our whole society. Who would have thought that something as reliable as school would suddenly end for three months of time? (I remember the days when a snow-day off from school was a big deal.) Who would have imagined people holed out in their homes, hiding from a virus– for months? Flexibility is definitely an asset today, and planners need to do their best to let some of their plans go.

I was reading my devotions this morning, and I came to a timely piece of wisdom I thought I would share– from James 4:

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 

I am not in control. I can be a good steward and do my best to plan the next step, but in the end, only God knows what is going to happen next. The things I take for granted are not guaranteed. So, I wait, expectantly, for what is next, balancing my desires with the truth that my plans may not come to fruition. But in the end, His will, and I’ve heard His plans are pretty good.

Posted in #covid19, Education, Faith

To Go Back to School or Not to Go Back– That is the Question

I am struggling with the decision of whether or not to send my children back to the public school in the fall. I am sure I am not the only parent with this dilemma. First– I have to admit that I am privileged to be in the position where I can choose. Since I am a stay at home parent and since my husband has a job, I have the option to home-school my kids. It might be challenging, but I at least have that option. Others don’t have that choice as they need to work to support their families and their kids need an education. They will have to send their kids back to school.

Last year about this time, I wrote a blog post in support of sending kids, Christian kids, in particular, to local public schools. Now, in this post, I was not dogmatic about my position and I was not against other types of schooling; I was just trying to show the reasons for sending kids from Christian families to the public school. The chief reason that we have sent our kids to public school in the past is that we are attempting to engage in our community– to be where the people are– and to influence others, as well as to be influenced by them. Thus far, we have benefited from the public school and I hope we have been a blessing to it.

Now, enter COVID-19 and things look a little different in 2020. Now, the kids are going to be entering a different system than they left in March. They will be “socially distanced” and will be wearing masks periodically throughout the day. (I am a skeptic of how this will work at the elementary level. I just have a vision of first graders primarily using their mask as a tissue.) Students may be doing part of their schooling online (also, not a fan at the elementary level.) Schools may start up, just to shut down. Overall, it seems like a big headache to me.

So, the bigger part of me wants to pull my kids from school for the year. I would avoid the extra stress that comes from all of the changes and provide my kids with some stability for what looks to be a volatile school year. I’m about 90% sure about this decision.

And yet– I still don’t have great peace about it. Part of me wonders if this is bailing on our school family since other children (my kids’ friends,) our teachers, and our administrators have to deal with all of the chaos, along with the fear of getting sick. Am I teaching my kids the wrong lesson by pulling them from the district? Are we supposed to continue to engage in what looks to be a stressful situation? What is the Christian thing to do in the covid 19 era?

And, of course there are other factors to consider with getting the virus itself. We get sick a lot in our family from the “regular” diseases– flu, colds, and stomach bugs are regular parts of our life with five kids, and cold and flu season are not particularly easy. Am I going to be running to the doctor for every cold or flu now? Will I have to quarantine my kids endlessly through the winter months?

These are tough questions, and this is a hard decision. You can pray for us, and know I will be praying for our schools, parents, and students as well. Once we commit, we will make the best of it, and I think that God can use this situation for good, even if it looks different than what we expected it to look like. But, at this point, I still haven’t answered the question!

Posted in #covid19, America, Faith

The Great Mask Debate and a More Important Mandate

Now that our governor has re-issued a “mask mandate,” face-masks are a hot topic once again. I am not going to come out with my opinion on masks (sorry–I know you were really looking forward to hearing it.) Instead, I’m going to try to present both sides of the Great Mask Debate in the hopes that people can see underneath the masks we present (deliberate metaphor here.)

I have heard several stories of people going into stores and either being criticized for not wearing a mask or others yelling back at mask-wearers. I think it helps to remember why people are choosing to mask or not to mask. These are sometimes deeply personal reasons.

So– on the one side… the maskers. Maskers, in general, are trying to prevent spreading covid to others and are trying not to get sick themselves. They believe that masking is a commonsense strategy that can slow the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. and in their communities. Maskers are trying to protect people, and the way they see it, there is very little downside to wearing one. Yes, you are uncomfortable for a few minutes (or hours, depending on your situation), but personal comfort is worth sacrificing for the greater good. They will also point out that it is now the law to wear masks in public in many parts of the United States and that others should follow the laws laid out by people in charge, who, for the most part, have some expertise and knowledge about the spread of disease. Sometimes, maskers can feel that non-maskers are irresponsible or don’t care about them or other people. They may view non-maskers as “selfish,” just by looking at them.

Now the other side… non-maskers. Non-maskers do not buy into the theory that masks (homemade ones, in particular) actually stop the spread of disease. Some believe that mask wearing has not been proven to stop the spread of disease at all and causes everything from personal discomfort (hyperventilating, anxiety, etc.) to real disease from breathing in your own air all day (fungal infections, for example.) Others have different objections to masks. Some have not bought in to the idea of halting covid-19 at all. Many have bought into the “slow the spread” idea, but because there is no treatment or vaccine (and may never be one), they reason that it is best to have the virus run its natural course, in order that the pandemic may be over sooner. Still others are afraid of the government taking too much power over its citizens and will point out that mandating masks, in theory, could become much like making Jewish people wear yellow stars in Nazi Germany. Non-maskers sometimes refer to maskers as “fearful” or “sheep.”

I am not defending either side’s stance here. I actually think both groups have valid points. What I wish would happen, however, is that everyone could see the different motivations underneath the masks (or non-masks as the case may be.) Instead of looking at a non-masker as selfish or irresponsible, would it be possible for a masker to see a person who views the pandemic differently than they do? Instead of a non-masker marking a masker as a fearful sheep, would it be possible for a non-masker to slip a mask over their face while in the store with a masker? Could we respect other people’s views and bend our own for the sake of another’s?

We were reading last night from the book of Titus, a tiny little book nestled in the back of the Bible. I was reading it out loud, and my 10 year old said to me, “Mom– that’s just like all of this arguing about masks.” (She may have heard my diatribe about them being worn by children in schools.) Good point, Ruth. I’ll share what we read together from Titus 3:

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 

People have argued forever about everything– from circumcision, to festivals, to genealogies, to meat-eating, to mask-wearing. I think if you read other parts of the Bible, you will see that sometimes we are encouraged to draw firm lines and stand and fight for principles, but, in lesser matters– in foolish controversies–we are encouraged to consider other people, to be gentle, and to focus, not on winning the argument, but on loving others. I don’t know which side of the Great Mask Debate you are on (and frankly, I don’t care,) but my hope is that we can take God’s mandate even more seriously than our governor’s.

Posted in America, History

The “New Moral”

It is nothing short of amazing to see how fast the values of our country have shifted. Even in my lifetime (I’m not that old!) our morals have changed fundamentally. What once was right is now considered wrong. What was wrong is now right. What’s even more amazing is how many people have accepted this change so completely that they don’t even remember (or appreciate) the way our grandparents used to do things.

Now, we are “enlightened.” Now, we “do better.” Now, we are “woke.” Now, the people who don’t buy into the new morality are bigoted, intolerant, and ridiculous if they have not yet reached moral enlightenment. Clearly, we are living under a new moral– ahem– I mean, normal.

The hot button issues are clear in the new morality: Abortion is freedom, sexual liberation is the ideal, and the individual’s feelings are of utmost importance. (At least, these are among the most controversial issues.) The easiest place to see the new morals celebrated is in the media, of course. Watching the evening news helps us to see what is now “normal” (and right) in our culture. Last night, I watched as our local newscaster casually talked about a pride parade held down the road, where drag queens “performed” and others shared their “coming out” testimonies. Can you imagine if this happened in our grandparents’ lifetime? While drag queens might have been performing in bars in cities, they were likely to be arrested for strutting their stuff around downtown Pottsville, PA, let alone celebrated by the evening news.

Now, what I am getting at here is not exactly to criticize all of the “new morality.” What I am getting at is that the change in morality has been extremely swift and total and has with it, a rather frightening element of hypocrisy.

I was a child of the 90’s, and the new morality really started to take off in my childhood. However– I still remember that the things that are celebrated now, were not celebrated in my childhood. In fact, when I was “coming up,” ( I sound like an octogenarian) we were in the “tolerance” phase of accepting the new morality. We were not yet “celebrating” pride month, but rather, we were encouraged to have “tolerance” for the new morals. “Tolerance” was the goal, except that didn’t really end up being the case.

Instead, the goal was to change the value system of America, by degrees. Now, the vast majority (or so it seems) has bought into the new moral system and holds this new system up as “the way.” The major problem with the “New Morality,” in my opinion, is the hypocrisy it is built on. Instead of giving freedom or allowing diversity of thought as the New Morality originally promised, the New Moral code instead assigns simplistic moral codes that all good people should adhere to. They are just different codes than the codes of yesterday. Rather frightening, isn’t it?

I keep thinking about George Orwell’s books Animal Farm and 1984. I’ll give a very brief summary of Animal Farm, for those who are interested. In Animal Farm, the animals start a revolution to overthrow their unfair and lazy human owner. The pigs (the smartest animals in the book) start out nobly, making up their own government where “all animals are equal.” They establish seven commandments that all of the animals are to follow, and call this “animalism.” The animals all buy into this, but the pigs turn out to exhibit special leadership skills, so special, in fact, that they eventually become exactly like the man that they were originally rebelling against. The original rule “All animals are equal” morphs into “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Change is inevitable. Cultures come and go. So far, America has survived for over 200 years. I hope it survives for another 200, but who knows? In any case, I think it is helpful to go back and remember what our country was built on, so I’ll go ahead and share an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience has shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Declaration-of-Independence/Text-of-the-Declaration-of-Independence

We’re coming up on July 4th when we celebrate what was started long ago. In our journey toward the future, let’s not forget the past. God bless America!

Posted in Marriage and Family

Happy Fathers’ Day!

So, I lucked out when it came to dads. My dad has always been an important part of my life, since the time when I was little to the present, when I am lucky enough to live next door to both of my parents. I don’t take this for granted.

In my family, “Dad” was always the one you would go to when you wanted something (or wanted to get out of something.) He was the one who was the most likely to say “yes” to whatever my sisters and I wanted. He’s still like this, by the way. Any one of my children can go right up to “Gramps” and ask him for anything (fruit snacks are their favorite,) and he is happy to oblige. He also hates to see any of them cry and will do whatever he can to dry their tears (again– fruit snacks.) But, my dad was more than just the “fun dad.” He taught me how to look at the world from different perspectives, how to have a sense of humor, and how to show empathy and compassion to others. My relationship with my dad set me up to have really good relationships with the men in my life, and for that, I am very thankful.

When I picked out the man who would be the father of my kids, I did not pick out a man exactly like my dad; perhaps this is because I am too much like my dad to marry someone like him. In our relationship with our kids, I am the soft touch, while “Dad” is the one who is more likely to say no or to hold the line firmly. Even though my kids’ dad is different than the dad I grew up with, I know that this relationship is setting my kids up to have great future relationships with their spouse. They are learning that men are reliable and trustworthy and that they can be counted on to be strong and protect them (and throw them up way too high in the air to their infinite delight and to my consternation.)

As I was thinking about fathers’ day and what the day means, I was pondering how grateful I am for these two men, but my thoughts also went to all of the relationships I have had with father figures in my life. Sometimes our culture is hard on men and portrays them as bumbling, macho caricatures. But the men I know who have made a difference in my life would not have fit into any of those stereotypes.

Don Boardman was one of those men. After church services, he would take time to talk to me about the latest book I was reading or just chat about what my interests were at the time. The biggest impression he made on me, though, was when he would read his poetry in front of church and his eyes would well up with tears. Seeing Don up in front of church with his eyes welling up with emotion while reciting poetry gave me a different perspective of what a “man” is, a perspective I hope to keep in mind as I raise my own little boys.

Another man whom I secretly adopted as my grandfather more recently was my Sunday school teacher Ron Herr. Here was another man who “emoted” freely and enjoyed sharing his thoughts with us, along with laughter (and tears.) He taught me that men can have big ideas and dreams and that they can pursue them at any stage of life. He showed me how to invest in relationships with younger people and how to have enthusiasm for those relationships even when there were many years separating us. When he died unexpectedly, I let my tears fall freely.

I really did luck out when it came to the men in my life, because, honestly, there’s a list of good men who have made a big impression on my life, from my dad and husband, to Sunday school teachers, professors, and coaches. To each and every one of those men: You have made my life richer! Happy Fathers’ Day!

Posted in #covid19, Education, Faith

Searching for Truth in a World of Confusion

I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person. I am college-educated, well-read, and I know I’m not stupid. But, I’m finding it difficult to understand the news these days. Once upon a time I didn’t feel that reading “the news” required me to fact check sources or to research who owns the company who put the information out in the first place. But, in our current climate, that’s often what I feel I must do in order to have a balanced idea of what is going on in our country and world.

I’ll point out two very obvious players in the news world whose “news” is more than a little confusing: CNN and FOX News. Here you have two sides of the same coin. One is obviously a leftist-leaning propaganda machine, while the other is similarly a right-dominated operation. (I probably don’t need to explain which is which, do I?) You can read about the same issues on each outlet, but each will have an obviously biased spin on that story. Here are two from yesterday’s news, both about police-forces (obviously a hot-button issue right now): See the shocking moment police pushed man to the ground (CNN, June 5, 2020) and Houston cop seen comforting 5-year-old girl at George Floyd protest (FOX NEWS, June 5, 2020). Both stories most likely happened. Both stories are probably technically true, but notice how each station highlights what they want you to think about and see? Neither carried the opposing viewpoint that I could see. (You can play this game every day if you want. It’s super fun!)

Once upon a time, I was an English teacher, so my job was to help kids to read and think critically about what they read. This is so important right now that I thought I would go ahead and give my best English-teacher advice about finding truth in a world of confusion.

  1. Get your information from a variety of sources. This is probably the most important step you can take. Everyone has a bias, and it is easy to read only sources that support your bias. Don’t do that! Read articles and opinions from many perspectives. You will see that the world is bigger than just one story.
  2. Go to the original source if possible. So this week, I started seeing a “retracted” article on most news outlets. Apparently, Surgisphere, a “data-analytics company,” had their study about hydroxychloroquine published in The Lancet, a medical journal. Fact-checkers raised objections to the truthfulness of the data, especially when they were unable to see it for themselves. Here’s a link to one article I read about this situation on Reuters. Checks and balances are good things! (Disclaimer– I am not saying that hydroxychloroquine is effective… I have no idea! And, it seems that the medical community does not yet know at this time, either, despite what CNN blasted all over its front page for days.)
  3. Check for professional, conventional grammar and spelling in full length news articles. If an article is full of misspellings and grammar errors I have a difficult time believing that the people who wrote the article are people I should take seriously. (This rule does not necessarily apply to all cases. There are many people who may not have the best spelling or grammar who still have important things to say– sometimes on social media, for example.) But if it’s a “published” professional article, it had better follow conventional English rules if I am going to take it seriously!
  4. Hold tight to common sense. Common sense is not something that you can think your way into. People can come up with elaborate arguments to support almost any perspective. If it defies common sense that is based on the vast majority’s human experience, then even it if it is wrapped up in fancy arguments, I’ll tend to ignore that particular viewpoint!
  5. Keep searching for the truth. Jesus said in Matthew 7:7, “ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Of course, not everyone believes what the Bible has to say, but it is a book that has stood the test of time and that will influence our world for much longer than our current media will. Keep searching, keep asking, and keep believing that there is truth in the world and God will honor your search for it.
  6. Be humble. Sometimes, we get so stuck in our own mindset that we can’t see that we have been missing out on seeing things from a different perspective. Diversity in thought is not bad; we don’t all have to believe the same exact things, but we can benefit from listening to others’ perspectives, too. There is no way I have this current situation all figured out, and there is a probable chance that you don’t either.

I should have made this list an even five or ten like a good teacher, but I’m going to stop there. In conclusion– be a smart reader and think about what you are reading. Get your news from a variety of sources, and don’t forget to search for a Truth that lasts.