Monday, March 31, 2008

Our dilemma

Ava loves Makai. She gets him out of bed, picks out his clothes, puts them on for him, changes his diaper, helps feed him...

But is it okay to let a 6 year old carry a 10 month old? It makes Leatha nervous. But she is a big help.

Things that make me cry

Yesterday Cameron and Ava had a theological discussion about rain...

Ava: "I know that rain means God is crying."
Cameron: "No, I don't think so. He gives us rain to show his power."

I'm pretty sure rain is not God crying, but he does cry. The shortest verse in the Bible, "Jesus wept." He cried over the death of his friend Lazarus. It wasn't the world God intended. Here's a paradox: God created death then conquered it. Even in that story, he raised Lazarus from the dead. But he still wept.

And so, being made in his image, I also cry on occasion. On occasion, I think because for the most part I'm a simple minded optimist who lives in ignorant bliss. But every once in awhile, this jacked up world meets me head on. It did yesterday.

One of our college students lost his 13 year old brother two weeks ago. After church, I sat with him and his girlfriend, who sat in their seats staring ahead as everyone around them left the auditorium. I asked how he was doing, then sat and listened. I didn't have anything to say. All I had were tears. I know pastors are supposed to have something profound to say to inspire hope.

I didn't.

I gave them both a hug, and that was it.

But I think it's okay. At least that's what I'm trying to tell myself. I've learned a lot about grieving from some of our close friends. They went through a series of Job-like trials. They said it was like people would pull out the file in their minds labeled "Trials" and they would immediately start sharing the information from that file. It's a sort of empathetic preaching.

There are other things that make me weep:
- Feel good stories: The father and son triathlon, The autistic basketball player
- Sad movies: Ray, Cast Away, Awakenings
- Compelling movies: Glory, The Pursuit of Happyness
- Sad books: Kite Runner (The DVD just came out but I haven't seen it yet); A Thousand Splendid Suns
- All funerals, some weddings and rare worship services

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Kids are better than expendable income

Recently I was introduced to someone as a family man who "has 4 kids."

The guy's first response, "Sucker."

Amazed at his audacity, I gave a polite, awkward laugh at his absurd comment. I thought, "I'll give him the benefit of the doubt."

Then his pity toward me continued, "I happen to enjoy my expendable income."

Now that's brilliant. Unfortunately, it's the genius of humanity when overcome by narcissism. Look at Europe- they're paying people to have children. (I'll save this rant for another post...)

I took these pictures today. We've got some awesome neighbor friends who are great at sharing toys. This picture of Cameron and Beck in the pimped out Escalade made me think of this guy's comments.

What is worth more? At the end of the day, what brings greater joy?

The toy or the kid?

I had Beck clinging to my leg as we rode around the neighborhood on the skateboard thinking, "Does life get any better?" I have a feeling I'll reminisce about these days. Sometimes I don't appreciate it as much as I should. Sometimes the hard work of raising kids seems overwhelming. Sometimes an expendable income appears more worth it.

But my sanity is restored when I stop and think about the stupidity of selfishness. A self centered universe doesn't look so brilliant on one's death bed. The fact is, everyone wants to look back on their life and see a trail of righteousness- whether it's children and grandchildren who love Jesus- or people who you've impacted.

At the end of our lives, one thing is for sure, our expendable income is the last thing that will matter.

To singles and young families- let me give a plug for having as many kids as you can handle. Close your ears to the world, which screams (with every billboard, commercial,...), "How will you enjoy your life if you let 2, 4, 5 or 10 kids get in the way of your pleasure?" and hear the words of God, "Children are a blessing from me." see Psalm 127: 3-5.

Don't believe the prevailing cultural nonsense about you being the center of the universe. Our purpose on planet earth is much bigger than trinkets and toys.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Confessions of a racist pastor- me

I was sitting in the Library studying for my sermon for our college ministry tonight. I have such a "spiritual" job. (You know I'm setting you up to highlight how bad the following story is, right?)

Behind me I hear the voice of an African American man.

I can hardly bear to tell you my first thoughts, "I better not leave my stuff, I don't want it to get stolen. I bet he'll be talking loudly on his cell phone the whole time." Come to find out, it was a dear brother in Christ who was preparing for teaching his Sunday School class.

Yes, I'm ashamed. Horrified, actually. Is my heart really that depraved? I'm not from the South, I don't really think that, do I? I can only spare you by not letting you in further into the dark recesses of my soul. So for all my African American friends (and enemies?), I beg your forgiveness.

Last year I went out on a limb and watched the movie Crash (this is a correction- earlier I accidentally wrote "Traffic" in this post.)

I knew it would be highly offensive. But I thought I'd give it a shot based on the fact that some people I respected said it was worth watching.

It was one of the best movies I've seen.

Don't get me wrong- it's a horribly offensive, violent, vulgar and graphic movie. But I walked away feeling like I was part of the problem, and not, "The problem is that there are too many racist people in America. Why can't they get past that." Of course I want to be affirmed in my self righteous ways, but this movie didn't afford me that opportunity. Which is why it was a brilliant movie. I walked away feeling like something was really wrong in my heart, and I needed to repent and get right with God. Today I was reminded that I've not yet arrived, but I'm working on it.

Another movie that had this sort of effect on me- Munich. Another terribly brilliant movie.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

In the mood for a laugh?

My friend Brent Thomas posted a couple funny links.

This is one of the funnier things I've seen in awhile: The Man Song

This is preaching at its worst. No wonder more people don't want in on church: The Wyoming Preacher

The Library is Cool

Another reason the library is cool- you can check out DVDs like this:

Paul Sabino, our family pastor, hit a home run tonight at D6, our family ministry. You can check out his talk on bringing the nations into your living room here (the talk should be up tomorrow or Friday). I got home and shared with Leatha how I was feeling bad that I wasn't doing a great job of talking to our kids about being a "world Christian." (i.e. God is not an American and Jesus died for the Asian as much as the American).

But thankfully I didn't have to feel bad for too long, because I found out my wife is excelling at this. BTW: If she is doing something well, I chalk it up for myself. Good thing somebody's pulling the weight of teaching our kids about God... (I haven't quite figured out how I can make a living at something and yet do such a poor job of it at home. I'll let you know when I get it figured out.)

Ava loves this video series "Families of the World." Today she watched this one on Egypt 3 times. She watched it with the neighbor girl and here's the conversation (i.e. I think it was more of a monologue than conversation- Leatha overheard it)...

Ava: "Jill (not her real name), you need to watch this video. Now remember, these people are Muslim, which means they're going to hell just like you and your dad, so you need to pay attention. You need to remember to give your life to Jesus- he can save you from hell."

Cameron chimes in: "And you don't want to go there. It's worse than any place on earth. It's worse than the worse place here."

Not the most tactful way of sharing. But I guess their method of sharing Jesus is better than most of our methods of not sharing.

So as it turns out, we are doing a good job of bringing the nations into our home. So now I can go to sleep feeling good about myself.

P.S. I think I figured out my earlier dilemma- I often suck at leading my family spiritually because I, too, am a son of Adam. Don't let any author, pastor, role model, etc fool you into thinking they have it all together. I recently learned of a famous American pastor most of you know and respect who has had a tumultuous marriage. It proves the point.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Overnight Vacation

We stayed overnight at Uncle Reed and Auntie Rachael's house in Mason City, Iowa. Every kid's dream...sleeping in the same room next to each other in sleeping bags while on vacation.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


He requested that his picture be taken while he was foldinng the towels.
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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Parenting Part 5- Eating

Here's the progression of the meal time experience in our house. The food on the plate is an "un-kid-friendly" Thai meal (cabbage, carrots, onion, garlic, egg...typical healthy meal kids would never choose). Beck decided he didn't want to eat it so...

He cried (i.e. screamed)

We told him we'd set the timer and he'd have 5 minutes to eat all his food. So he cried some more.

He realizes what the consequences will be (see Parenting Part 2)

Slowly but surely he finishes his food. In this last picture you can see how thankful he is for the food :)

Friday, March 21, 2008


Jordan (Salt Company's graphic designer), Cameron, and Beck went all out building with Legos today. At least something tangible came out of Mark's staff meeting at our house.
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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Parenting Part 4 - Sleep

I'm not sure why I thought this, but I was always under the impression that we were depriving our kids if we put them to bed too early.

About 4 years ago, we were hanging out with our friends, the Scheibes, and we noticed their kids were in bed by 7:00pm. I thought that was kind of crazy. Those poor kids were missing out on all kinds of late night fun.

But thank the Lord for a wife who had a clue.

Kids who get sleep are more pleasant human beings. Too many kids are sleep deprived. Fortunately, Leatha saw wisdom in the Scheibe's example, so we decided to give it a shot.

Sleep Observations:

- Kids seem to need 10+ hours of sleep.

- For our kids, there is a difference between 10 hours of sleep from 8pm-6am and 11pm-9am. Sleeping in is of less value than going to bed early.

- Putting our kids to bed later rarely means they'll sleep in longer. They just wake up at the same time...grumpier. Regardless, the younger kids wake up early crying and then wake everyone else up. I'm sure this is not true for all kids and I'm sure things will change the older they get.

- Some families have to have a different schedule by necessity- maybe dad gets off work at 7 or 8 every day. In those cases, kids should stay up later to see their dad (esp. if they don't see him in the morning). But I know a number of dads who say they have to stay at work until 7 or 8 or 10 and they just need to get their butts home and spend time with family. Dads, we shouldn't take ourselves too seriously. The world will go on without us moving more dirt, crunching more numbers, counseling one more person, making one more widget, or __________. (Maybe you should let your wife fill in the blank).

- Things go much better when kids are not rushed off to bed. There's a difference between starting the process of getting kids to bed and actually getting kids to bed. Starting the process early allows us to enjoy the bedtime experience. We generally try to allow 30-45 minutes (putting the kids to bed by 7 means starting at 6:15 or 6:30). That gives me a chance to read, tell pirate stories, pray, talk to them without them feeling rushed off to bed. And of course there are times when I have to tell them to get to bed and the process takes 2 minutes. But this isn't our normal cadence.

- Laying in bed allows kids mind and soul "space"- time to think, imagine, and pray. I still remember those times as a kid (i.e. praying for everyone in the world to know Jesus, imagining if I were a tiger in the jungle, or a prince in middle earth, or all the mean things I said that day...). Kids are more introspective than we might give them credit for.

- Your kids have all day to play, don't feel bad about putting them to bed early. Kids need sleep.

- Enjoy the quiet evenings with your spouse then get to bed early. Generally, watching tv is not a good way to end your day (unless of course the World Series or March Madness is on). And you shouldn't feel guilty for sleeping 8+ hours. If you're grumpy the best thing you can do for God, your family, and the world is take a nap or sleep more. Parents need sleep.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

C.S. Lewis Quote

"A man can no more diminish the glory of God by refusing to worship him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word 'darkness' on the walls of his cell."

-CS Lewis Problem of Pain

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Victory in the Laundry Room

I recently started doing laundry differently and I love it.

We used to gather all the clothes and sort them by color and then wash them and then sort them again by whose they were and then put them away. I'm not sure why I did it this way but I did. So after watching a particular episode of Jon and Kate plus 8 and seeing how she did laundry I decided I could adapt her method to my family.

Everyone has their own laundry basket (one for each kid, Mark and I share, and 1 for towels). The kids also have a laundry bag in the laundry room. The rule is if you take your clothes off downstairs then put them in your basket. If you take them off upstairs then they go in their own laundry bag. I also have a basket in the laundry room for just towels. On laundry day the kids bring their baskets to the laundry room and dump their bag of laundry in their basket. Then I wash each basket by itself on cold. Each basket is a large load-or close to it. After the load is dried it goes back into the basket and in the case of the kids they take them back downstairs and fold and put their own clothes away.

I still do laundry once a week but this method has saved me time in the sense that I'm not doing the sorting before or after washing. Maybe this wasn't an epiphany to anyone but me, but I'm sure glad I figured it out.

Speaking of Sex...

If you're single, please skip this post and come back after you get married...

This article in Christianity Today is a must read for married couples. Here's all you really need to know- it's about sex.

You can thank me later for this post.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Parenting- Part 3 The Sex Talk

I had 12 conversations last week with college men about sex (per a message at church from Matthew 5- Jesus' teaching on lust).

They told me everything- first exposure to pornography, first discovery of masturbation, sexual history and current struggles with moral purity.

With the exception of one student, there was one common factor in all these conversations: Dads never talked to their sons about sex. In that one case, the dad explained in generalities and then said, "Don't have sex before you're married." Although it was better than nothing, it was hardly enough to keep him from sexual experimentation. In another case, a mom gave her (then) 5th grader a series of Focus on the Family messages on the topic. This proved to be the most effective of all (this is one of the purest guys I've talked to). If you leave the conversations about sex for your kids to have with their peers on the playground, locker room or overnight at a friend/cousin's house, don't be surprised when your kid stumbles into sexual perversion.

Recently, a parent shared their concern that words like, "adultery" and "rape" were being mentioned in our church. Their kid was over 10 years old. Two questions for this parent: If you are not willing to talk to your child about these issues, and if the church can't educate your kids, who do you want to teach your kids about sex? School? Peers? And how old should your child be before you talk to them? 12? 14? 17?

I was bathing Makai with Cameron and his cousin the other day. As they watched, one of the boys said, "Makai has a penis like me. I push my pink part in so you can't even see it anymore. Do you want me to show you guys..." I told him God doesn't want us to show anyone our penis or let anyone touch us there. He also didn't intend for us to play with it- we should just use it for going potty. These are two 6 year olds having this conversation. I'm glad I was there.

The other thing that stands out about the conversations I've had with college students and teenagers over the years- in most cases, the (negative) exposure happens well before junior high. And the destruction of sexual sin is overwhelming.

So what do we do?

Leatha and I use the strategy of making this kind of conversation as normal as possible. We don't talk about "privates" "pee pees" etc, we use the real terms, "penis" "vagina" etc. We use these books called "God's Design for Sex" and there are four books, all age appropriate. We first heard about these books through the book, How and when to tell to your kids about sex.

Dads, like it or not, we have a responsibility to take the lead in this. Moms, help us out by getting the book in our hands. Imagine the scene in our house this evening...I'm reading the following to Cameron (5) and Ava (6), "A boy has a penis and scrotum between his legs. The scrotum is a soft bag that holds two round [me trying not to laugh, thinking 'Am I really saying this??!!!'] harder organs called testicles..." At this point I'm interrupted by Ava who says, "I've got two of these" (She points to her throat area)... Leatha comments from the kitchen, "No, Ava, those are your tonsils, not testicles..." We all laugh.

Men, this won't be easy for you. But what's not easy at age 6 won't be any easier at age 16. One guy told me that his mom sent him and his dad away with cassette tapes to listen to and discuss. About five minutes into the road trip, the dad looked at the son, then hit "stop" on the tape player in the truck. They spent the rest of the afternoon shooting rabbits and squirrels with their guns. That was a conversation that could've spared a lot of confusion and sexual experimentation that followed.

But think about it- your child will learn about sex. And it will most likely be much sooner than you'd like. Who do you want your kids to learn from?

We have an obligation. We must not abdicate our God given responsibility. Let's put down the newspaper and remote control and raise up a generation of men and women of purity.

Hearty Oatmeal Pancakes

2 cups rolled oats 2 cups buttermilk or plain yogurt (I use 2 cups milk + 2 T of vinegar) The night before using, mix together in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight. 2 eggs 1/4 cup oil In the morning, stir into oat mixture. 1/2 cup flour 2 T sugar 1 t baking powder 1 t baking soda 1/2 t ground cinnamon 1/4 t salt In a small bowl mix together then add to batter and mix briefly. Fry in a hot, greased frypan.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ode to Grandpa Bill

He served in WWII.
He loved to quote A.W. Tozer.
He knew how to say "hello" in over 30 languages.
He befriended and served internationals that came to America.
He intentionally went to the longest grocery line so he would have more time to tell that person about Jesus.
He drank so much carrot juice he literally began to turn orange (during his battle with cancer).
He was often found dumpster diving.
He shared Jesus with all my friends (which made me nervous in the junior high years)
He shared Jesus with anything that moved.
He loved hymns.
He would ask people every Good Friday, "What's so good about Good Friday?"
He was so cheap he requested upon his death to be frozen with his legs crossed so he could be screwed into the ground (thus avoiding the expenses of casket/burial).
He built us a tree house in his woods (with electricity running up to it).
He built a real house in his woods.
He had 10 Volvos parked in his woods.
He was an electrician.
He was a plumber.
He had a sharp mind.
He saturated his heart, soul and mind with the Scriptures.
He moaned when others prayed, and on some occasions toward the end of his life, he moaned, then fell asleep and snored, then moaned again in prayer.
He loved to get rubbed. On his death bed when he couldn't speak, he would moan when you rubbed his head or back.
He took naps on the floor and used a telephone book as his pillow (my friend Sam searched high and low for the phone book, and guess where it was...)
He ground his own wheat in a massive coffee grinder and made waffles every Saturday morning.
He loved ice cream (though it made him congested).
He challenged other 70 year olds to race him.
He climbed trees.
He drove old cars, made wise investments, shared cool quotes, ("Mark, let God have your life, let people be your life, and let wisdom lead your life.")
He loved people.
He loved Jesus.

He was my Grandpa Bill.

Thanks, grandpa, for paving a superhighway of righteousness for me and your children and grandchildren. May your legacy of passionate faith in the Lord Jesus be passed on to all your offspring until his return. May every path of folly be met with difficulty, while the path of righteousness met with joy and peace, and may we enter through the narrow gate beholding the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Bill Arant died almost 14 years ago- I was inspired to write because I never want to forget his legacy. Some of you have memories of Grandpa Bill, please feel free to post them as a comment.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Another Reason I'm a Metropuritan

Ed Noble referenced this Puritan prayer (c. 1700) in his message "Speaking to God." It's like listening to God talk to himself. The prayer comes from the book Valley of Vision, a Collection of Puritan Prayers. I can only strive to worship the God of the Puritans...

"Great God, in public and private, in sanctuary and home, may my life be steeped in prayer, filled with the spirit of grace and supplication, each prayer perfumed with the incense of atoning blood. Help me, defend me, until from praying ground I pass to the realm of unceasing prayer. Urged by my need, invited by Thy promises, called by Thy Spirit, I enter Thy presence, worshiping Thee with godly fear, awed by Thy majesty, greatness, glory, but encouraged by Thy love. I am all poverty as well as all guilt, having nothing of my own with which to repay Thee, but I bring Jesus to Thee in the arms of faith, pleading His righteousness to offset my iniquities, rejoicing that he will weigh down the scales for me, and satisfy Thy justice. I bless Thee that great sin draws out great grace, that, although the least sin deserves infinite punishment because done against an infinite God, yet there is mercy for me, for where guilt is most terrible, there Thy mercy in Christ is most free and deep. Bless me by revealing to me more of His saving merits, by causing Thy goodness to pass before me, by speaking peace to my contrite heart. Strengthen me to give Thee no rest until Christ shall reign supreme withing me, in every thought, word and deed, in a faith that purifies the heart, overcomes the world, works by love, fastens me to Thee, and ever clings to the cross."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

First Haircut

Here is the before and after of Makai's first haircut. Ava helped hold him on the stool because I was afraid he was going to flip off. I like to cut hair outside or in the garage. Then I don't really have to clean up. I cut everyones hair except my own. I first started doing it when Mark and I were dating. I've gotten a little better since then, though the other day someone told me that Mark's hair reminded them of Ava's when she was little. I'd never thought about it before but it actually does remind me of Ava. I keep asking Mark if I can cut his hair but his reply is always, "What do you mean? It's just getting good."
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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New Doll

A few months ago I was out talking to my neighbor Sharon and she mentioned that she knew how to sew. I asked her if she would be willing to help me learn a few things. Boy was I surprised when I stepped in her basement and saw that she had about everything you could ever want for sewing/quilting/crafting. She even dyes her own fabrics!

One morning Ava and I went over so she could show me how to sew some bias tape on a bib I was making. While we were there Ava played with the doll that she's holding in the picture. Before we left she asked Ava to pick out a dress pattern for the doll and said she would make it for the doll and give the doll to her. She whipped up this dress for the doll over the weekend and gave it to Ava today!

Ava was super excited, she didn't have a doll that had hair. She says it's her American Girl doll. She named it Addy. A few weeks ago we finished listening to the Addy series on CD from the library.
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Monday, March 10, 2008

Funny stuff

I can't believe I just found out about this. It's laughter I've been missing out on all these years.

Tim Hawkins is a funny dude. Check out his youtube site.

Thanks, Scheibe for the lead with Tim Hawkins' home school video (this is also on his youtube site). Also, if you just do a search for "Tim Hawkins" on youtube you'll find more funny videos. We loved the kids rock.

A Morning Prayer

"Good morning, heavenly Father; good morning, Lord Jesus; good morning, Holy Spirit. Heavenly Father, I worship you as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Lord Jesus, I worship you, Savior and Lord of the world. Holy Spirit, I worship you, Sanctifier of the people of God. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence and please you more and more. Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you. Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three persons in one God, have mercy upon me. Amen."

- John Stott's Morning Prayer (It was said of Stott that if Evangelicals had a Pope, he would be the man).

Ed, thanks for the message on "Speaking with God" that so stirred my soul toward prayer last week, and continues to blaze in my soul fresh this morning. You continue to be my spiritual mentor. The last two series' on "Connection" and "Postively You were money. Praise the Lord for podcasts.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

To Own a Dragon

This was a great book by Donald Miller... Especially worth the read for anyone looking for insights into what it's like to grow up without a father.

He has some incredible thoughts, but it's very accessible. It's not thoroughly biblical in the sense that his purpose is not to unpack the Scriptures, but to tell his story in light of God's Story. And yet you feel his biblical world view triumph throughout the book. The net result is that you long for intimacy with the heavenly father and ache for the fatherless. His writing style is fun and it's a quick read.

His chapter on sex was worth the price of the book (ok, maybe not quite worth the whole $10). But as a college pastor, it resonated with me and the trends and views toward sex I see in the next generation.

And the second to last chapter on "Education" will compel you to watch less, read more, and enjoy the beauty of literature...

"I find [beauty] in words. By beauty, I mean the feeling you have suddenly glimpsed another world, or looked into a portal that reveals a kind of magic or romance out of which the world has been constructed, a feeling there is something more than the mundane, and a reason for our plodding"

"A diligent commitment to reading will get you far... These days, I just think of the mind as a muscle, and by working it, we get more enjoyment out of life... if we aren't learning, we are forgetting, if we aren't getting smart, we are becoming dull."

My copy is available if any of you would like to borrow it.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Sentimental Conversations are Therapeutic.

Coming home today to this (Makai in the laundry room) was especially sweet today. There is a new found delight I have in being the father of 4 energetic, happy, often disobedient, messy, snotty nose, sometimes sick, sweet little kids.

It was an insightful 90 minute conversation with an 85 year old woman that helped my perspective.

I went over to see my Grandmother's best friend of 67 years, as she had recently had a mild stroke.

We talked about life during the great depression. She shared about meeting my grandparents and how their friendship endured tragic loss (i.e. she was the first to tell my grandmother her brother died in a car accident), but also times of joy (i.e. the birth of children and grandchildren).

She spoke about life before refrigerators- what it was like to have an "ice box" (they literally put a block of ice on the top of a box to keep food cool). Life before radios, before electricity, before carpet in homes and before phones with numbers (There was a dial and no numbers where one line was shared by 6 other homes. You could listen in on other people's conversations and had to wait until they were off! Imagine WAITING to use the phone...are you kidding me?).

Then there was the War. She and my grandmother worked in a canning factory and shipped corn straight to the soldiers in battle. When the screw broke that worked the well pump, there was no Lowe's down the street. A machine store in another town had to custom make a replacement. The only problem- they were too busy making parts for tanks, guns, ships, etc...

Waiting was normal.
Shopping was unusual.
Transportation was limited.
Communication was relational.
Information was audio.
Faithfulness was expected.
Walmart, internet, "hooking up" and "co-habitation" were non-existent.

It was life before conspicuous consumption (sigh...) People were more content with having little. They seemed to want what they already had. That's a far cry from me (daily?) looking on to see if the $70 jeans I want are on sale yet.

Their lives were more about hanging out for tea on the front porch than safely entering the garage as an escape from having to interact with neighbors.

It was the 30's and 40's. The Great Depression marked ones childhood, while the War consumed early adult years. It was husbands coming home from war, then sons leaving for Vietnam. Then it was my generation coming into the world around the time of her granddaughter (1976). Now it's suffering the loss of daughter-in-law, son, and husband within 20 months. Now a mild stroke. The technology of iphones, TiVo, podcasts, and WiFi seems to be a futile pursuit. It's waiting to "go home."

It was a return to the past- a conversation filled with laughter, tears, and prayer.

It was the kind of nostalgic conversation I wish I had time for more often. But after looking over the horizon of a life time, I'm glad to be home.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Parenting- Part 2- Spanking

This is going to be counter-cultural parenting advice.

Our family has a biblical conviction that we ought to spank our kids. Why such a bold statement?

Popular or unpopular, the Bible compels us to this method. The Proverbs are laced with this advice- Proverbs 13:24, 22:15, 23:13-14, 29:15.

Here are some principles to consider:

1. Your kids need to see you as their authority.

When you ask your kids to do something, they should obey. You shouldn't have to say it twice. You shouldn't have to say it loudly. Your kids should feel the weight of your words. The goal is not a domineering dictatorship, but a loving leadership. The assumption is that everything you are asking your kids to do is not just on a whim or for your personal comfort, but it's in their best interest to obey. Consider Deuteronomy 10:12-13. God's rules are not for him, but for us. When God says "Don't do that." We should hear that as "Don't do that- or you'll hurt yourself."

I'm not a big fan of "child proofing" our house. It's not like it's that big of a deal, but I've seen too many parents who do it because they simply don't have control of their kids. We tell our kids "don't open this door" or "don't turn on the television" or "don't touch this outlet" or "don't take anything out of this drawer" and expect them not to do it. If they don't obey, we spank them.

Recently, we noticed our kids getting out the scissors and markers without asking. We told them not to do it again (a kid on a stool reaching up high to get out scissors is dangerous). That afternoon they did not obey and they were disciplined (i.e. spanked in this case). They haven't gotten out the scissors without asking since then.

If you don't establish point #1 by age four, it will be an uphill battle for you. Don't give up, just know you might reap some of your parenting apathy from when they were younger.

2. Spanking for any other reason than love (i.e. anger, bitterness, rage) will always do more harm then good.

If you're an angry person and you can't disconnect your anger from the act of spanking, it might be better not to spank.

Here are some other tips related to this point
- Never snap at your kids and react too quickly. Wait five seconds before you speak if your temper goes off like a firecracker.
- Establish a controlled place where you regularly do the discipline. This will also help you take your time and not merely react.
- Ask your kids, "Did you obey daddy when you..."
- Tell your kids you love them and hug/hold them afterwards.
- Psalm 23 says, "your rod and staff, they comfort me." The rod is God's way of keeping us from straying into danger. He disciplines us out of love, and we cling to him because we need his correction in our lives (Hebrews 12:7-ff). He is slow to anger (Psalm 145).

3. Be consistent

Hold the line on whatever your standard is. Whether you spank or use timeouts, the main thing is that your kids know what to expect when they disobey.

Kids will rise to the standard you call them to. But mixed expectations will be confusing.

4. Work as a team with your spouse

Not only should you have the same conviction about whatever method you use, but you should both discipline for the same things. I don't think it's a good system to have mom use timeouts and dad use spankings.

You should also help each other out. Where one may be more inclined to show mercy, the other may be more of a rule keeper. This should bring balance to the way you raise your kids, not conflict. Leatha is much better at consistency than me. I need her to help me remember the standard. I can be lackadaisical or just plain lazy.

5. Don't look down on people for raising their kids differently than you.

Since I'm blogging, I can openly share our convictions on this. But if you have us over and your kids get sent to a "time out" for disobeying, we're not going to correct you on that. This shouldn't become a point of division. Heaven and hell are not on the line with this one.

I wish more people were teachable in this area, but they're not. Most people don't want you to give them advice on how to raise their kids. Personally, we love it when people with awesome kids give us tips on how to do a better job. They might spare us and our kids from a lot of heartache.

6. We've also had a strong willed child.

I've seen fits that look like demonic oppression. We would ask other parents who said their kids were strong willed and would also throw fits, "What do you do? HELP!"

They would tell us and we'd ask, "Yeah, but what about when they're pulling their hair out, banging their head against the wall, biting themselves almost to the point of bleeding, screaming uncontrollably..." Then we get this look like, "Are you serious? Your kid does that?"

Lots of prayer, patience, love, and discipline is how we've persevered. We also cut out sugar from their diet (more on that in another post). Once in a blue moon this child will throw a mild fit, but they are few and far between. In those days, the only thing we could count on was screaming every night. I'm not sure when it happened, but there is calm in the Arant house at bedtime. We're making progress and we're seeing the fruit of our hard work to persevere through those dark days.

Establish yourself as the authority. Enforce first time obedience. Hold the line on this- your kids will thank you later.

A Prayer of Longing

Jesus, today your words are life to me. I cling to you, the savior of my unworthy soul. Your word reminds me that you are the final end of all my desire for relationship, joy, happiness, justice, mercy and glory. The one thing I have to offer you I give you now with open palms- my need. By satisfying my thirsty soul, show your infinite goodness to the world by exalting Jesus Christ, in whom the fullness of deity dwells. I long to be filled with longing. I thirst to be made more thirsty still- until Jesus becomes my all in all. Amen.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Parenting- Part 1 (Do you have kids 4 and under?)

Here's an observation- some of you who have read my homeschooling post are wary of my "observations" :) ...

But see if you agree with this one-

If you don't consistently (i.e. all day, everyday) discipline your kids, you will pay for it. Or to put it another way, "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him. Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death." (Proverbs 13:24; 19:18)

We need to get this parenting thing right. If not, as Solomon says, we just might be participating in their death.

We have some distant friends (rest assured, it's none of you...). All their kids are between 4 and 8. They are out of control. But you should see this mom in action- it breaks your heart for her. Her kids own her. And it's even more pathetic with the dad. It's a terrible example to teachers, family, friends, neighbors, and everyone who has the privilege (er burden) of interacting with them.

Sadly, this is all too common. Some of you may be thinking, "Is he writing about us?"

The most definitive book we've read on parenting is Shepherding a Child's Heart. This book, and others that have been our parenting lifeline, would agree- your child's disposition toward you as an authority will be established between ages 0-3.

In other words, if you tell your 2 year old not to touch something, they disobey, and there are no consequences- then don't be surprised when that child is an 8 year old who doesn't respect or listen to you. Or even scarier still, a teenager who could care less who you tell them they can/can't hang out with.

And it will not be a pretty sight watching you try to get that 8 year old over your knee to spank them. It might look something like abuse, or an MMA brawl at that age. Actually, it might be a good thing for you to start taking Mixed Martial Arts lessons now if you are lax in your parenting...

I'll get more specific about disciplining in this series of posts on parenting. Stay tuned...

Get to a theater on April 18th

A friend of mine here at Iowa State University, an astrophysics professor, was recently hanged on the gallows of modern academia and scholarship.

Guillermo Gonzalez was recently denied tenure in spite of the fact that he more than met all of the requirements for tenure. Moreover, his appeals fell on deaf ears from the president and regents. His colleagues in the physics department emailed each other and conspired against him from the beginning. The regents refused to look at these in his appeal.

I may feel this more than most Americans simply because my job revolves around the university environment. But there is no doubt- the ideas that rule in the university will shape the world for better or for worse.

I recently saw this movie trailer that everyone should see. That's a pretty sweeping statement, but I believe it to be true.

It's not a "Christian" movie, it's an honest look at the persecution that's happening to those who hold to "intelligent design."

Check out the documentary by Ben Stein, Expelled, in theaters April 18th.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

I'm an idiot.

Men, your wives need to read this post. It will either make them grateful you're not as much of an idiot as I am, or it will help them see you're just like many other men (or at least there's one other man in the world like you...)

Leatha gave me simple instructions before I left to run errands yesterday, "Stop by Aldi and get the following...Here's a note with everything I want you to get there." Easy enough.

I ran some of my errands then went to the grocery store and got EVERYTHING on the list (no more, no less). It was a success. A huge success. She even gave me $22 cash (we use an envelope system), and the bill came to $20.96. I thought, "Wow, she's good at estimating, but good thing I went for the no-name stuff (and sale items). I called her, proud of my accomplishment.

I said, "Babe, I'm just 10 minutes away- I'm just leaving Fareway."

"FAREWAY!!!!!????," she exclaimed.

"Yeah...uh..." (I look at the top of the note and realize my mistake)

"Mark, you spent at least $8 more than you would've at Aldi"

Even as I post this, she's saying, "That makes me sick to my stomach [with a smile of course]"

Well, when things are tight financially, it's never fun to work so hard at saving money here and there, then to watch your husband flush cash down the toilet.

It might have been worth the laugh this time, but seriously- think about it. The difference between a cheap grocery store (Fareway) and an even cheaper one (Aldi), was $8 on 10 items! If I made the same mistake every week, or if we just didn't go to Aldi for certain items (we don't get certain items there...) that's about $380 over the course of the year. That's a mini family vacation. Or a weekend long date with Leatha. Or eating out for date night a couple times every month.

I know we shouldn't obsess over pinching pennies, but there is something to be said about shopping smart. By shopping with shrewdness, it's like Leatha is making money for us.

The only problem is me.

Maybe next time I'll remember to go to the right grocery store.

Now I just need to turn my attention to not getting anymore parking tickets. Shhh....

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Good bye Netflix, Redbox came to town.

You better check the Redbox website and find out if they're in your town.

Whoever thought of this is brilliant. Why not pick up a movie with your burger and fries? (Another money seeking capitalist, I'm sure. Their greed is now feeding my pleasure seeking, movie watching habits. Thank you.)

Our town has 3 redbox locations- one inside Cub food, and two at McDonald's. For the most part, they have new release movies. They are always giving out free rentals, and even if you pay full price, it's $1/night. Every Monday, they text my cell phone and give me a free rental code.

Moreover, if you're on a family road trip, rent a movie at the drive through in Colorado, and return it in Arizona.

Here are some free codes to be used one per debit/credit card: "president", "dvdonme", "breakroom", "FOF208", "BST53H"

Home schoolers are all Amish wanna-be's

Just kidding.

I went to this home school extravaganza on Friday. I stopped by to see my daughter, Ava, who was tagging along with some friends (Thanks, Wallaces!). Truthfully, I was looking for more ammunition for another home school rant. I was trying to fine tune my argument by verifying that home schoolers are indeed a little out of touch.

I was shocked.

I only saw two tight pairs of jogging pants with Walmart shoes. Only two sets of kids trading Lord of the Rings cards in the corner (this is the Christian version of Dungeons and Dragons). Everyone else, for the most part, I probably could not pick out of a crowd as home schoolers.

I think this goes to show that the tides are turning a little. Home school moms are more culturally savvy than ten years ago, taking care to make sure their kids don't get out of touch with what's going on "out there."

I will also say that I'm pretty sure I wasn't giving speeches as a first, second, or even fourth grader. These kids are having to do research, organize thoughts, and communicate effectively in front of a group of people. That's about as practical as education gets...

So chalk it up for the home school team.

Current Tally:
Home school 2 (This and Erin Meschke's response)
Public school 4 (I'm not sure how we got four points, but we're still in the lead by a close margin)
Christian school -2 (The two Christian butt heads I met the other day... a blog soon to come on that topic)

Anyone want to go to bat for the Christian schoolers?