Evel Knievel Had a Mother, Too

Evel Knieval had a mother, too. There are days I wonder how she coped when her son was doing daring things that surely had her scrambling to help him or clean up after him at some point in his youth.

Today, my Evel Knieval decided to put a large wad of paper on top of a lit candle and walk away from it. The candle was on the sill of a window, and the flames were as high as the bottom of the open wooden window. Another child saw it and screamed for help.

Last week, Evel decided to walk home after being dropped off at a babysitter’s and break into our locked house to get his new rocks from the Natural History Museum to show to his friends. Tom called my cell phone to say he’d received a call at work saying that the motion sensors in our house had been set off and that the police were on their way. I was almost to my destination, but turned around. I came home to find my child sitting on our front porch, crying, and a police officer walking up our steps and asking him if he was okay.

My child is brilliant when it comes to taking things apart, even if the deconstruction only occurs in his mind. When we were on the Shinkansen on the way to Hokkaido, he located the emergency door-control panels, fire extinguisher, English guide to the route, and bathrooms — all within the first ten minutes of boarding.

He also quickly wanders off on his little quests of discovery. My first good scare occurred when he first start crawling. We were at a wedding and he swiftly crawled away from the kids’ play area. My son had found a hidden door and crawled up the stairs leading to the balcony where the sound and lighting systems were housed. The reception dances screeched to a halt as a woman started yelling that there was a baby about to fall through the bars of the balcony. A whole story above us, my son was teetering between bars wider than his chubby little body, laughing. It took several moments for us to find the door to even get to him to rescue him. Another time, when he was all of four, he got lost in Tokyo and walked over a mile to find us on the other side of a very large park. I’m thankful that he seems to have an innate compass, and that while he wanders away, lost in thought, he at least can find his way home… although we did have a pretty close call with him when he disappeared and ran off to see where the train tracks went. His guardian angels certainly have to work for their paychecks!

But, he also has a very tender heart… if you can get to it. When he finally humbles himself and fesses up, he becomes a big puddle of tears and blames himself harshly.

Today I had to explain to him that he has a pattern of doing things without thinking them through. The answer cannot simply be, “I don’t know why I did that!” In the case of the candle fire, and in breaking into our house, and a few other named problems he’d caused (for instance, a hole in the plaster wall hours before our house was to be shown by a Realtor) that these things warrant being confronted. I’m not trying to personally attack him — it would be wrong for me to turn a blind eye to them. It’s for his own growth that I must talk to him about these things!

In response to his sobbing and his saying things like, “You think I’m stupid! You don’t love me! You hate everything that I do!”, I told him that I appreciated his mind, and that I am proud of him for wanting to understanding how things work. His skills are such a help to me for mechanically related projects — like taking apart our vacuum to thoroughly clean it out. I pointed out that, out of all of my children, he is the one for whom I have bought nice tools (not just plastic hammers, but the real thing — and nails to go with it!) and building toys designed for children way older than his age group. My goal is to encourage him in his endeavors… but with some boundaries.

I told him, “It’s not enough to simply ask, “I wonder what would happen if….?” He must also stop and ask these two things:

1. Could my actions endanger myself or someone else? (Yes = Need to ask permission!)
2. Do I have permission from the owner to tinker with this object? (No = Need to ask permission!)

And… if he is not sure of those two answers to please ask his parents.

For those who are tinkerers or have children who are — any advice or encouragement for me? :D

Why Are Christians So Afraid of Dying?

Here’s something to read with your morning coffee.

“There is a real theological problem if our Christian hope lies entirely in God’s ability to heal, and not in the resurrection. Hope placed entirely in God’s ability to physically heal is, in a sense, misplaced hope because even those who are healed die eventually. True Christian hope is an eternal hope that goes beyond death.

I know I could die tomorrow and I could die 80 years from now. More than likely I will die somewhere in between. All of my loved ones face the same fate. I know even if I were to be stricken with a deadly disease and then healed, death would still come for me eventually. No matter how many bananas I eat, that truth is inescapable.

And yet, so many of us, as theologian Stanley Hauerwas has said, are desperate to think medicine will get us out of life alive, even though medicine can’t do that. We are terrified of death.”

Brian Kiley via Relevant Mag

For some sobering encouragement and extra chest hair, please check out the article in its entirety here.

PS:

I really don’t like the thought of dying.

I love life.

Last week, during 45 minutes of terrifying turbulence while flying over Russia – during which, I barely heard over my pounding heart – it got so bad, the pilot told the attendants over the PA system to secure their food carts and fasten their seat belts immediately. My one comfort was that I was seated by the emergency exit. I thought, ‘Well, *if anyone on this flight is ready to die, it’s me. So, if this plane goes down, I can give it my all and not be scared.’

That didn’t stop me from praying for our safety, though.

Eek.

Believe it or not, I’ve already thought about what I’d like to be read at my funeral.

Are you ready to die?

*PPS:

This reminds me of a story.

In 2000, Tom and I lived in a second story apartment. Our downstairs neighbor, a single guy running an internet job search agency, was away on vacation.

It was winter.

Tom worked the night shift.

Thomas, my oldest son, was born in early March of 2001. I definitely had the pregnancy waddle going on.

In the middle of the night, I heard glass break and then lots of banging noises in from the apartment downstairs. I popped a clip in our Beretta and slowly opened our door. From the upstairs balcony, I could see that the door to the downstairs apartment, supposedly vacant, was ajar.

A light was on.

More noises.

I quietly closed my apartment door and called the police.

They showed up, and I slowly opened my door and whispered hello. I kept the door open a crack to watch.

They got into formation, two guys on the stairs from a higher vantage point, and two guys on the ground floor.

The older of the two on the ground said, “You go first.”

The younger cop said, “There could be someone in there. I don’t know what I’m going to be facing here.”

The older cop said, “You’re a cop. It’s your job, no matter how scared you are. Now do it.”

He did.

Turns out the idiot neighbor left his lights on, and left the windows open. It was pretty windy, and a vase knocked over. The house was old and there were weights in the window frames, which banged the house violently in the wind. He was notorious for leaving his door unlocked, and it never did shut very well without a good kick.

Why Don’t We Teach Children About Death and Burial?

Chandelier at the Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic

… and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. – Ecclesiastes 12:7

Just as American children are far removed from the connection between slaughtered animals and the food on their plate, they are also unnaturally removed from human life and death. I find both to be sad.

I do not want my children to be afraid of death… or life.

(As a childbirth instructor, I have shown my children videos of birth, and they have a pretty good idea where babies come from. Yes, my oldest is nine.)

Today, and I forget how we arrived at the specific conversation, although life and death are always part of an on-going conversation, we discussed two different burial practices used in places where there is limited amount of space for burial.

These are two of the sites we visited today and discussed as a family:

The Tibetan Sky Burial: In Tibet, where the ground is so rocky that it can only be dug down a few centimeters, burial in the ground would be very difficult. Instead, people are given a ‘sky burial’. The nude body is washed and then wrapped and taken to a ‘burial’ ground. The body is sliced open and incense is lit nearby. The smells of the incense and the blood attract hundreds of vultures who then eat away the flesh and carry the remains into the sky. Because the brain is encased in by the skull, when the birds of prey are done with the rest of the body, the burial practitioner cracks open the skull and the vultures finish their feast. The bones are then scattered down the mountain for open-air decomposition. In a culture that believes in reincarnation, such a burial is considered an honor.

Ossuary (Wikipedia) : Another solution to burial in places with limited space is to store just the remaining bones once the flesh has decomposed. Bodies to decay in temporary graves, sometimes covered with a pile of stones, or even in dirt. They are then washed, labeled, and stored.

Some places get a little creative with the storage of bones, such as the Sedlec Ossuary. Part of a Roman Catholic chapel in the Czech Republic, human remains in this ossuary are used as decoration, including in the form of an elaborate chandelier.

* * *

For what it’s worth, I’ve found that there are very few non-fiction books about death and burial for children outside of studies on ancient Egypt. I could not find a single book for children on modern American burial practices or even a matter-of-fact book on the career of being a mortician. Thankfully, there are many books available on grief.

Why don’t we as a society talk much about death and burial?

If you do talk to your children about such things, what resources to you use?

In what ways would openly talking about death and burial in society as a whole change how we think of and value life?

Do you think toxic embalming chemicals would be used as widely if people weren’t so afraid of the natural decomposition process?

Photo Credit: B10m via Flickr

Half-Empty : Optimism, Pessimism and Realism

John writes:

I’m getting pretty sick of people with the whole optimist outlook. Call me rude or whatever else, but isn’t it appropriate at times to be angry, upset, etc? I see optimists as people who don’t have the sense to take off the sunglasses when it starts raining.

Now, some people call this pessimism. I, however, argue that I’m a realist. I see the world more or less as it is.

Some say the glass is half empty; others say the glass is half full. I simply say the glass is too big. Maybe the person was expecting too much. I have at this point begun to see the world with resignation. Things are neither good nor bad. They just are.

Thoughts, gentleman?

Dear John,

Bad things happen, and they happen to good people. We live in a fallen world. It is a wonder than any of us are okay at any given time. From a spiritual perspective, I wrote about this in my post regarding the earthquake in Haiti.

While we don’t have control over what happens in life (and giving up control to God is very liberating), we do have control over how we react to them. We can choose to push back in anger, as if we are owed happiness and perfection — or we can accept the circumstances, make the best of them, and praise God anyway.

Another thing we can do is make a habit of doing good to others, even people who are not kind to us. As you pointed out, bad things are never in short supply. Consider for a moment, then, the impact you can have as a person by doing good things to others. Quite simply, it is shocking, heart warming and compelling to the recipient. It is unexpected.

My friend Nate started a site called ItStartsWith.Us — a “club” of sorts (free membership) where a mission is given each week to do something that will make a difference. It could be as simple as putting someone’s cart away in the grocery store parking lot (hmm… might have to suggest that one to him ;) ) or writing a thinking-of-you note to a child who is suffering from terminal cancer. Please take a moment to check out the site. Consider the Change the World statement and the idea behind it. We’d love to have you join us.

Since being intentional about helping others, I have realized just how far a little kindness will go, and how strong it is against the “bad things” in this world. Bad things can happen, but a little bit of love goes a long way.

We cannot see the love in this world if we are only looking out for ourselves.

Realistically,
SJA ;)

PS: You can follow Nate @itstartswithus. Please mention my name when you introduce yourself :D

Guest Post at CCEF : God is Awake

The resources offered through Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation have been a huge influence on my life. Their books make up a well-used section on my reference library shelf, and the instruction in Biblical counseling my mother-in-law received from their training program has benefited our family as well as a number of lives who have been touched by her personal ministry.

When Twitter friend Barbara Lane asked if I’d consider guest blogging for CCEF, I ran into my bedroom, screamed like a little girl, did a happy dance, picked my jaw up off the floor, took a deep breath, and then humbly responded, “Yes!” via e-mail. ;)

If you’d like, please take a moment to check out my post God is Awake, which I wrote after a long talk with my daughter Tabitha, about finding rest on anxious sleepless nights.

There is a place at the end of the guest post for comments, and I’d love for you to join in the discussion. What keeps you awake at night? What verses speak to your heart and help combat these fears? I’m interested to know your thoughts on how to “put off” fear and “put on” entrusting your cares to God’s infinitely strong and capable hands.

Please don’t stop there! While you’re at CCEF.org, take a moment to peruse the bookstore (their hope-giving mini books on tough topics are a handy size to keep in your purse or in a basket in your bathroom for guests), national conference information, counseling services and School of Biblical Counseling.

Last but not least, if you have been blessed by CCEF, please consider donating to wonderful and life-changing ministry.

Photo credit: “Joy of Holding a Baby’s Hand” by lifecreations via Flickr.

How Do I Talk to My Children About The Earthquake in Haiti? Why Did it Happen? What Can We Do?

“Did children die in the earthquake?” my seven-year-old daughter Tabitha asked gravely when I told my children the devastating news.

“Yes,” I said.

She hung her head.

“Will the earthquake come to Japan?” asked Aiden, age six, concerned.

“Not this one,” I replied.

“But there are earthquakes in Japan, right?” Aiden pressed.

“Yes. Sometimes there are,” I answered honestly. “Remember the one we had last summer?” He nodded. It was a small one in comparison, but it left us quite shaken.

Talking to my children about the January 12th earthquake in Haiti was an important but heart-wrenching conversation. With death toll estimates between 50,000 to 100,000, it is even hard for grown-ups to fathom the loss of life.

Why did it happen? Like most adults, my children wanted to know, “Why?” I asked them a question in return. “Why don’t we live in a perfect world?” The answer is one they can recite off the tops of their heads, but it’s easy to forget in situations like these. It bears repeating.

A long time ago, God did create a perfect world. When God was finished with creating the Earth, He was satisfied with His handiwork. He said it was very good. Delicious food was readily available. Adam and Eve were perfectly made for each other. Humans co-existed with wild animals. Childbirth didn’t hurt. There was no death. There was no shame. There was no suffering. There was only beauty and an intimate relationship with the Creator. Adam and Eve disobeyed the one rule that God gave to them. By their own hands, they picked and and ate fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Everything changed.

As humans, created in God’s image, we long in our hearts for perfection and purity. People, even those who do not consider themselves to be “religious”, see pain and suffering and know deep down that it is not how things are supposed to be.

When Jesus, the Great Physician, was on Earth, He performed many miracles. It was as if He was thumbing His nose at the fall and saying, “I am here to restore the Earth to how it was meant to be.” People with life-long deformities, illnesses and injuries were made whole. A blind man saw. A lame man walked. After twelve years of incurable hemorrhaging, a bleeding woman got her life back. Leprosy was cured. Peter’s severed ear was fixed, good as new. As I have said before, never once did Jesus partially heal someone who came to Him. They were always restored instantly. It was never “take two of these and call me in the morning” or “come back in a month to have your stitches removed.”

In a world of quick-fixes, where there is an easy-to-swallow pill for just about any ailment, we have distanced ourselves from the idea that pain and death are real. We think of the “fall of mankind” to be like an ancient fairytale. We forget that we are mankind. We kid ourselves to think that if we just recycle enough plastic, get enough anti-oxidants in our diet and make strong buildings that we can live forever. Natural disasters are especially jarring to us because they poke a hole in our comfort bubbles. They remind us that, as much as we’d like to think so, we are not really in control. That any of us are still alive and breathing after the fall is only by God’s grace and mercy.

We have a responsibility to help. As Christians, we need to help those in Haiti. We can do this by giving, by praying, and by offering our own time if we are able to go and help on the ground. Helping others, though, goes beyond doing something to create a rewarding warm feeling in the cockles of our hearts. Reaching out to those who are hurting and finding ways to gently restore them – not just in natural disasters, but disasters of the soul such as being caught in a sinful pattern – is a way to claim dominion over the fall. Bearing one another’s burdens is a way to show a glimpse of Jesus; of Eden; of Heaven.

It was simple example, but this point was driven home to by my friend Debi at All Saints, my home church. God said, “Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field.” Whenever Debi pulled up the bracken and weeds from her garden, she would call it “exercising dominion,” that is fulfilling one of our purposes as humans, to “fill the earth, and subdue it.”

We can prepare for disasters. While we cannot prevent natural disasters from happening, we can do our best to ready for them. We are not fatalists. If we feel the earth beginning to rumble, we can have our children move away from windows and crouch down under something to protect them. We can teach our children ahead of time tips for surviving an earthquake. We can build strong buildings – the wise man built his house upon the rock. We can keep a reserve of food and power supplies on hand in case there is an emergency. We can practice stewardship all the while remembering our fragility and that sometimes, even when we do everything right, bad things can and still do happen in this fallen world.

We can prepare our hearts. As my children and I read about Haiti’s earthquake, we came across the story of the rescue of 11-year-old Anaika Saint Louis, who later died from complications of her injuries.

One of the things that brought tears to my eyes and peace to my heart was something Anaika’s aunt, Etiana Jean-Baptiste, said during an interview, “[Anaika] said … ‘Bring me a Bible. There is a psalm I like a lot, which is Psalm 23. She spent all her time reading the psalm. She said, ‘My God, come help me.'”

Anaika trusted in God even while her body was being crushed down by the weight of the rubble. She did not give up hope. She lost her mortal life, and gained an eternal one. Even though she was a child, she thumbed her nose at the effects of the fall by putting her trust in Christ. Just as a flower dies and its seeds live on, Anaika’s soul can proclaim in its heavenly body, “O death, where is your victory? Where is your sting?”

The Bible says that God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” None of us know the day or the hour when our life will be required of us. We have a choice to live in fear of that moment, or live confidently knowing that our souls are secure.

As mankind, our bodies are not the only things that suffer the effects of the fall. So do our souls. Yet, God did not leave us stuck under the weight of this rubble. He sent his perfect son as a sacrifice for sins that we can again have the same kind of fellowship with Him that Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden.

When I read Anaika’s favorite Psalm, there was something particularly chilling about it that tied everything together for me. It is the message that was amplified in Anaika’s life and death. It is the message that lives on past the grave. We can honor Anaika by realizing what she held fast to even in her dying moments: Jesus restores souls.

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.