Wednesday, 30 November 2011

What I Am Into - November 2011

Pardon the quiet around here. Between finishing up the Rod Verses series and preparing for the Christmas season, I've been feeling more than a little spent. I hope you'll forgive me, then, for ignoring the draft folder full of half-finished posts and instead taking a page out of the ever-lovely Megan at SortaCrunchy's blog today by sharing What I've Been Into this past month.


What I'm Into :: NOVEMBER 2011

On My Nightstand:

Fathermucker by Greg Olear. So far, a big disappointment. I was looking forward to reading this one but now I'm not even sure I'll finish it. Mostly because I despise books that make reference to pop culture. I don't want to read about Facebook or Dora or anything like that. I just don't.

Want to Read:

I have a fast-growing stack of books I intend to read as soon as I give up on Fathermucker. Piling up on various counters and bookshelves around here are:

T.V. Show Worth Watching:

Once Upon a Time. You must watch this. From the beginning. Oh wow. I have not loved a show this much since the prematurely-ended piece of brilliance that was Firefly.

As an added bonus to an already incredible show, I saw part of it being filmed this summer. There's just something childishly awesome about being able to say, "that right there! I saw that exact scene being filmed!!!"

In My Kitchen:


Tonight we ate Rosemary Chicken. It was even more amazing than it looks, and that's saying a lot. Oh my. My mouth is already watering at the thought of the few potatoes and mushrooms I tucked away in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch.

Since I don't yet have a cast iron skillet (Christmas present, anyone??), I skipped the browning step. Instead, after the potatoes had boiled for a few minutes, I piled it all in a glass baking dish, poured the marinade on top, and baked it all for 45 minutes in the 450F oven. It could not have turned out any better. This will definitely become a new favourite in our frequent dinner rotation.

Next week will be the Christmas baking marathon, including white-chocolate-topped gingerbread cookies and white-chocolate cherry shortbread. Yum. Should be an interesting change to last year's spicy gingerbread cookies and lemon thumbprint cookies.

In My Ears:

While I usually listen to The Civil Wars and Rosewood's Diary, the end of November has brought with it my beloved Christmas music. Lots of old family favourites (including, yes, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, and Alabama) coupled with some newer favourites (Sufjan Stevens, Josh Groban, Sixpence None the Richer, and Weezer) and supplemented with various random Christmas songs I've stumbled upon over the years.

Items of Note:

  • Twelve Causes for Christmas @ Joy in this Journey: "We are going to be the change we want to see, telling the stories of multiple organizations working on the same cause on the same day. We will highlight all the ways they work together where we can."
  • A Quiet Advent @ Introverted Church: "Tomorrow I will post an article of mine that will kick off the series, and then each Sunday I will write a reflection on the Advent theme of the week. During the week we will hear from guest bloggers who are reflecting on Advent and what it would mean to celebrate this season in a quiet way. The Savior is coming, and let's meet him, even amidst the clamor of the cultural celebration, in the quiet of our hearts."
  • Resources for the Season @ Internet Monk: "This afternoon I thought I would pass along some links that might be of help to you or to someone you care about during this Advent and Christmas season. Some provide daily readings, prayers, and other personal devotional materials. Other sites give ideas for creative ways of loving Christ and our neighbors during the holiday season."

Pinterest Finds:

Ah, Pinterest, how I love thee.


I cannot wait to make this cinnamon roll cake. I'm thinking breakfast treat. Maybe even tomorrow morning - happy first of December!


Let it go. I need this reminder as the demands of the Christmas season begin piling on.


Loving this Occupy Christmas idea, courtesy of Kristen at Rage Against the Minivan.

What I'm Looking Forward to in December:


Need it be said? With the Advent season in full swing and Christmas on its way, there is much to look forward to. In less than two weeks, we fly halfway across the country to spend a week with my parents and sisters. A few days after we arrive back home, we hop in the car for the 11 hour drive up to my in-laws' home for another week-long visit. Arriving back home in the new year, I anticipate spending January holed up in my house, recovering from all the Christmas excitement. Even still, I will seek to hold to last Advent's ideals: keeping Advent focused, simple, and intentional.

And with that, I bid good-bye to November and welcome December in all its celebratory glory.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Weekend Reading

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Operation Christmas Child



This week is collection week in Canada for Operation Christmas Child.

If you haven't filled a shoebox yet, there's still time!

Final date for collection in Canada is this Sunday, November 27th.

Check their website (Canada, United States (until Dec 10), UK (until Dec 3), Australia) to find a drop-off location near you, or build a box online!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Exhale

There is this moment every evening.

I have just slipped out of the bedroom. The kids are breathing deep and I, for what feels like the first time today, breathe out.

The dishes are drying beside the sink. The books are lined up on the bookshelf (by size, of course). The toys have been put to bed in their appropriate resting places until tomorrow. Only a stray toy car or animal lies in the middle of the floor, overlooked or dropped as boys were corralled to the bedroom.

The emails have been sent, the paperwork tended to, and the work either complete or put off (but the decision to put it off makes it complete for now, in my mind).

The counters have been cleared, the table has been wiped down, and the floor has been swept (maybe). The dryer is humming with clothes that will be folded in the morning.

The day's responsibilities are complete. The house is at peace and so am I. Tea in one hand, journal in the other, I finally let that long-held breath out.

I exhale.

Monday, 21 November 2011

The Rod Verses: What are they really saying?

This is the third in a three-part series on the "rod verses" included in Proverbs. Part 3 (What are they really saying?) was preceded by Part 1 (Taking the rod verses literally) and Part 2 (Taking other Proverbs literally).

Introduction

The five rod verses included in the Book of Proverbs are often used to support the "biblical model" of corporal punishment of children. Despite the rich figurative language used throughout Proverbs, these rod verses are interpreted literally and then applied in a pseudo-literal manner. These five rod verses include the following:

He who spares his rod hates his son,
but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
(Proverbs 13:24)

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
the rod of correction will drive it far from him.
(Proverbs 22:15)

Do not withhold correction from a child,
for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.
(Proverbs 23:13)

You shall beat him with a rod,
and deliver his soul from hell.
(Proverbs 23:14)

The rod and rebuke give wisdom,
but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
(Proverbs 29:15)

The word translated "rod" comes from Hebrew word "shebet". It is used both literally and figuratively throughout Scripture.

When used literally, "shebet" refers to a shepherd's club (used to protect his sheep), a ruler's sceptre (used to represent his authority), or a tribe. When used figuratively, "shebet" refers to the authority of a person, a nation, or God.

As discussed in Part 1, a literal interpretation of the "shebet" contradicts itself. Exodus 21:12-27 is clear that a man can indeed die from being struck with a rod. Other instances of the rod being used to physically strike someone are referring only to grown adults. Boundaries are provided regarding the use of a rod on slaves. Nowhere in Scripture is there an example of a young child being struck with a rod, nor are any instructions or boundaries given to ensure its judicious use.

We will now look beyond the literal view to the deep meaning and wisdom these proverbs contain.

The Rod as Parental Authority

The Book of Proverbs is rich in figurative language. In Part 2, particular emphasis was placed on the concepts of metaphor, hyperbole, and proverbs as general principles rather than promises or guarantees. With these things in mind, it is logical that a well-known object would be used in Proverbs to bring to mind its culturally-understood symbolism.

If we replace a literal interpretation of the rod with its common figurative use of "authority", we find the rod verses speaking to the idea of parental authority over a child. Such an interpretation removes all contradictions and concerns of the literal view.

A parent's authority is one of purpose, leadership, and teaching. It comes from a place of life experience and has as its goal the idea of transferring this experience - knowledge, lessons, teachings, principles, character, morals, responsibilities, and more - over to the child as he grows. This authority is not intended to be used in an overbearing or selfish manner, but is intended for the benefit of the child.

What does that authority, practically speaking, look like? To examine this concept further, we turn again to the idea of the rod, exploring the rod as Corrective Discipline and the rod as Protective Guidance.

The Rod as Corrective Discipline

Proverbs 22:15 specifies the rod as being a "rod of correction" or, in other translations, a "rod of discipline". Here, the word correction or discipline comes from the Hebrew word "muwcar", meaning "discipline, chastening, correction". Of all 50 instances of this word, the KJV translates it as "instruction" a total of 30 times. It is never used in a manner which specifies physical chastisement.

This word "muwcar" is translated as "instruction" in Proverbs 15:5: "A fool despises his father’s instruction, but he who receives correction is prudent." The connection here is between instruction ("muwcar") and correction ("towkechan"), which means "rebuke, argument, reproof, correction". As with "muwcar", physical punishment is not inherent in this word.

Proverbs 23:13 states: "Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die." The two statements are used in a connective manner, with the idea of "beat him with a rod" being an illustration of the first part, "do not withhold correction". The word "beat" comes from the Hebrew word "nakah". This is the same word used in Jonah 4:8 to describe the sun "beating" on Jonah's head. This speaks to the idea of the sun being a constant presence, relentlessly striking down upon him. Likewise, quite apart from dealing physical blows, parental authority and discipline (correction, instruction, teaching, discipling) should be a constant presence in a child's life, even when such correction is unpleasant for the child. As we are reminded in Hebrews, no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but it bears righteous fruit.

Punishment, as understood in our culture, is the use of an undesirable action intended to make the child feel bad in order to reduce or eliminate the desire to exhibit the same behaviour again. The focus is on control over external behaviours to achieve compliance. The word "punish" comes from the Latin "peona", meaning "penalty". To repeatedly demand payment where payment has already been paid (on our behalf through Jesus Christ) is to negate the message of the Gospel.

Discipline is the continuous process of coming alongside the child to teach and guide them into maturity. The focus is on the internal, inspiring proper motives for heart-level obedience. It's goal is to impart knowledge, wisdom, self-control, an understanding of right from wrong, and an internal desire to choose the right course of action.

Proverbs 29:15 tells us that "the rod and rebuke give wisdom." While punishment (including spanking) can be used to modify behaviour (external), it does not impart wisdom (internal). A parent's corrective discipline draws from a much larger base of tools and relies on a strong foundational parent/child relationship. Physical chastisement is unnecessary as a tool to achieve the desired goals of discipline.

The Rod as Protective Guidance

Yea, 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.

-Psalm 23:4

When we consider the picture of the rod as a shepherd's rod, we find two more ideas to add to our understanding: the use of the rod as protection and as guidance.

In his book "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23", shepherd and author Phillip Keller described the use of the shepherd's rod ("shebet") in protecting his sheep:
"...[T]he shepherd boy spends hours practicing with this club, learning how to throw it with amazing speed and accuracy. It becomes his main weapon of defense for both himself and his sheep.

...The sheep asserts that the owner's rod, his weapon of power, authority and defense, is a continuous comfort to him. For with it the manager is able to carry out effective control of his flock in every situation.

...There is a second dimension in which the rod is used by the shepherd for the welfare of his sheep - namely that of discipline. If anything, the club is used for this purpose perhaps more than any other. If the shepherd saw a sheep wandering away on its own, or approaching poisonous weeds, or getting too close to danger of one sort or another, the club would go whistling through the air to send the wayward animal scurrying back to the bunch."

A shepherd also carried a second instrument, a staff. In Hebrew, this word is "mish'enah" and means support or staff. Although this word is not used in the rod verses, the idea is worth exploring in order to provide a more complete picture of a shepherd's care of his sheep. Keller described the use of the staff as well:

"The staff is essentially a symbol of the concern, the compassion that a shepherd has for his charges. No other single word can better describes its function on behalf of the flock than that it is for their comfort.

Whereas the rod conveys the concept of authority, of power, of discipline, of defense against danger, the word 'staff' speaks of all that is longsuffering and kind.

...There are three areas of sheep management in which the staff plays a most significant role. The first of these lies in drawing sheep together into an intimate relationship. The shepherd will use his staff to gently lift a newborn lamb and bring it to its mother if they become separated.

But in precisely the same way, the staff is used by the shepherd to reach out and catch individual sheep, young or old, and draw them close to himself for intimate examination. The staff is very useful this way for the shy and timid sheep that normally tend to keep at a distance from the shepherd.

The staff is also used for guiding sheep. Again and again I have seen a shepherd use his staff to guide his sheep gently into a new path or through some gate or along dangerous, difficult routes. He does not use it actually to beat the sheep. Rather, the tip of the long slender stick is laid gently against the animal's side and the pressure applied guides the sheep in the way the owner wants it to go. Thus the sheep is reassured of its proper path."

According to Keller, sheep will not lie down and rest unless they are free of all fear. Thus the rod and the staff are used only for the benefit of the sheep. At no time is either instrument used to strike the sheep. Likewise, our "rod" (parental authority, corrective discipline, and protective guidance) must ultimately be a comfort to our children, never a source of fear.

The Rod Verses Restated

Taking each of these ideas into account, how would the rod verses read if we included all of the rich meaning below the surface, with the figurative language spelled out in a more literal manner?

He who spares his [authoritative discipline and guidance] hates his son,
but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
(Proverbs 13:24)

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
[a parent's authoritative discipline and guidance] will drive it far from him.
(Proverbs 22:15)

Do not withhold correction from a child,
for if you [constantly correct and discipline him in your authority], he will not die.
(Proverbs 23:13)

You shall [constantly correct and discipline him in your authority],
and deliver his soul from hell.
(Proverbs 23:14)

[A parent's authoritative discipline] and rebuke give wisdom,
but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
(Proverbs 29:15)

Thus we have explored the concept of metaphor and how it is used in the rod verses. The two other figurative concepts mentioned earlier - hyperbole and generalities - come into play as well. Focusing particularly on Proverbs 23:13-14, we see it stated that this idea of authoritative discipline will cause the child to "not die" and will "deliver his soul from hell". This is both hyperbole (exaggeration) and generality. We understand that a parent does not literally have the power of salvation; Scripture tells us that only the Grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ can bring about our salvation. Furthermore, proper discipline does not guarantee the salvation of a child.

As parents, however, we have a weighty responsibility and much influence over our children. We must discipline them, instruct them, teach them, guide them, pray for them, and steep them in the knowledge and love of God, all while understanding that their ultimate salvation will come from Christ alone - and indeed, can and has come to many in spite of their parents' failure to properly disciple them.

Further exploration of Proverbs 23:14 leads to another interesting insight. The word "hell" comes from the Hebrew word "she'owl" and has a number of meanings:
  • sheol, underworld, grave, hell, pit
  • Sheol - the OT designation for the abode of the dead
  • place of no return
  • without praise of God
  • wicked sent there for punishment
  • righteous not abandoned to it
  • of the place of exile (fig)
  • of extreme degradation in sin

Here we find the idea of "hell" as the "abode of the [eternally] dead" expanded to also include the meanings "without praise of God" and "of extreme degradation in sin". A parent's authoritative discipline can not only point them towards God (who ultimately has power over their salvation), but can also assist in preventing the child from being "without praise of God" and from entering into "extreme degradation in sin".

The Rest of the Bible

While God's Word is inspired and unchanging, it has also been subject to much cultural interpretation over time. The rod verses have been burdened with man-made ideas of corporal punishment as it relates to children, and much of the wisdom in these verses has been overlooked as a result. When we examine the rod verses alongside the rest of Scripture, we find a very different message than the one usually drawn from them, one of gentleness and mercy alongside authority. Consider the following passages:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!
(Matthew 18:1-7)

Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.
(Mark 10:13-16)

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
(Ephesians 6:4)

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
(Colossians 3:21)

But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.
(1 Thessalonians 2:7)

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
(1 John 4:18)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
(Ephesians 4:2)

Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’
(Matthew 18:32-33)

Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
(John 8:3-7)

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(Romans 12:17-21)

What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?
(1 Corinthians 4:21)

Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
(Matthew 7:12)

Summary

A literal interpretation of the rod verses fails to reveal the rich meaning, wisdom, and truth the proverbs contain. The literal interpretation was examined in Part 1, while the figurative language found throughout the Book of Proverbs was examined in Part 2. Part 3 has looked beyond the literal interpretation to the deeper meaning these verses hold.

The rod was, at the time the Book of Proverbs was written, a culturally-understood representation of authority. In the rod verses, this speaks to the idea of parental authority over a child. This authority is one of vision, leadership, and instruction, with the parent's life experience (knowledge, principles, right-living, and more) transferred from the parent to the child as he grows.

The rod verses also speak to the idea of corrective discipline. Examining the Hebrew words behind these concepts reveals nothing that points specifically to physical chastisement. Rather, we find the idea of a parent's authoritative discipline and correction being a constant presence in a child's life. From a foundation of relationship, this discipline seeks to impart wisdom and generate internal change rather than merely modify external behaviour.

Finally, when examining the picture of the shepherd's rod, along with his co-tool, the staff, we discover the idea of the rod as protective guidance. The shepherd's rod was used to defend and discipline his sheep, and was a symbol of his power, authority, and defense. The shepherd's staff was used to gently lift and guide his sheep, and was a symbol of comfort and compassion. Neither tool was ever used to strike the sheep. Likewise, a parent should use his authority not to instil fear, but to gently protect, guide, and comfort them.

In short, the rod is a picture of a parent's constant authoritative discipline as he gently guides his child along the right path.


For further study:
Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me: Christians and the spanking controversy by Samuel Martin
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller
A Study of "The Rod" Scriptures
An Answer to Proverbs 23 and 'beatest'
Christian Child Discipline: Is Spanking Biblical?
Train up a Child in Whose Way?

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Rod Verses: Taking other Proverbs literally

This is the second in a three-part series on the "rod verses" included in Proverbs. Part 2 (Taking other Proverbs literally) was preceded by Part 1 (Taking the rod verses literally) and will be followed by Part 3 (What are they really saying?).

Introduction

"A wise man will hear and increase learning,
And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
To understand a proverb and an enigma,
The words of the wise and their riddles."

Proverbs 1:5-6


These two verses included in the opening paragraph of the Book of Proverbs give us an important clue as to how the proverbs are to be read. This book is not a set of direct instructions, but is rather proverbial wisdom literature that makes liberal use of metaphor, hyperbole, anthropomorphism, and other types of figurative language, none of which are intended to be taken literally.

Taking Proverbs Literally

In spite of the figurative language used throughout this book of wisdom, there are many who insist upon a literal interpretation of the five "rod verses". This literal interpretation is then applied in a pseudo-literal manner to form the idea of a "biblical model" of corporal punishment of children.

What would it look like if we took other proverbs literally? This is the question we will be exploring. My comments on each will be brief; the concept as a whole will be expanded upon in the "Figurative Language" section below.

Proverbs 1:8-9 "My son, hear the instruction of your father,
And do not forsake the law of your mother;
For they will be a graceful ornament on your head,
And chains about your neck."

Proverbs 6:20-21 "My son, keep your father’s command,
And do not forsake the law of your mother.
Bind them continually upon your heart;
Tie them around your neck."

Proverbs 7:1-3 "My son, keep my words,
And treasure my commands within you.
Keep my commands and live,
And my law as the apple of your eye.
Bind them on your fingers;
Write them on the tablet of your heart."
These proverbs could be used to make a case for a modified version of Tefillin, with a parent's instructions physically bound around the child's neck.

Proverbs 1:31 "Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way,
And be filled to the full with their own fancies."

Proverbs 18:20 "A man’s stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth;
From the produce of his lips he shall be filled."
Just as we recognize that the phrases "fruit of their own way" and "fruit of his mouth" are referring to something other than physical fruit, it is not unreasonable to presume that the phrase "rod of correction" is referring to something other than a physical rod.

Proverbs 3:21b-23 "Keep sound wisdom and discretion;
So they will be life to your soul
And grace to your neck.
Then you will walk safely in your way,
And your foot will not stumble."
To read this as a guarantee that the wise will not trip is to miss the bigger picture. Furthermore, reading the proverbs as promises can lead to much spiritual abuse; for instance, the idea that the wise will always be safe (as this proverbs states) lends support to the popular notion that those who experience injury or illness are experiencing the wrath, punishment, or discipline of God.

Proverbs 4:17 "For they eat the bread of wickedness,
And drink the wine of violence."
The bread of wisdom...the wine of violence...the rod of correction...

Proverbs 10:10 "He who winks with the eye causes trouble,
But a prating fool will fall."
Is this a warning against winking...or is there a larger meaning behind the words, perhaps a warning against being dishonest, sowing discord, mocking others, or tempting others into sin?

Proverbs 12:11 "He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread,
But he who follows frivolity is devoid of understanding.

Proverbs 28:19 "He who tills his land will have plenty of bread,
But he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough!"
These are very wise sayings, yes, but they are not promises or guarantees. Many a hard and faithful worker has fallen on hard times; many who work hard to till their land still go without food; many who are frivolous have more earthly riches than they could ever hope to use.

Proverbs 14:1 "The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish pulls it down with her hands."
A literal interpretation of this would have many of us learning a few new trades; however, it would miss the deeper meaning and true wisdom in this proverb.

Proverbs 14:3 "In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride,
But the lips of the wise will preserve them."
There's the rod again - only this time, it's a rod of pride. Is there a literal rod in the mouth of the foolish?

Proverbs 17:12 "Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs,
Rather than a fool in his folly."
Truly, I would take the fool over the mama bear robbed of her cubs! But to argue the point would be to miss the point of the verse altogether.

Proverbs 18:22 "He who finds a wife finds a good thing,
And obtains favor from the LORD."

Proverbs 19:13 "A foolish son is the ruin of his father,
And the contentions of a wife are a continual dripping."
The contrast of these two proverbs is an interesting one. A wife is a good thing, but a contentious wife is (like) a continual dripping. The first proverb is not a definite statement, but rather a generally true idea.

Proverbs 19:4 & 7 "Wealth makes many friends,
But the poor is separated from his friend.
All the brothers of the poor hate him;
How much more do his friends go far from him!
He may pursue them with words, yet they abandon him."
All of the brothers of the poor hate him, and all of his friends abandon him. Is this always and invariably true?

Proverbs 19:24 "A lazy man buries his hand in the bowl,
And will not so much as bring it to his mouth again."
I love the imagery here; to take it literally, however, would be foolish.

Proverbs 20:4 "The lazy man will not plow because of winter;
He will beg during harvest and have nothing."
...generally speaking, that is. Many lazy people, in spite of their laziness, do not go without. The Proverbs are not literal truths or guarantees; they are, however, very true when read as the wise sayings they are.

Proverbs 20:13 "Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty;
Open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread."
Tired moms like myself are doomed. I love my sleep.

Proverbs 21:9 & 19 "Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop,
Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.
Better to dwell in the wilderness,
Than with a contentious and angry woman."
Truly better? Is this the advice we should offer to our friends who are having marital troubles, or the tactic a man should employ when living with a contentious and angry woman?

Proverbs 21:17 "He who loves pleasure will be a poor man;
He who loves wine and oil will not be rich."
The entertainment industry alone proves that this is no promise or guarantee. Many who love pleasure luxuriate in their riches.

Proverbs 23:2 "Put a knife to your throat
If you are a man given to appetite."
The instruction is clear; there is really no gray area here.

Proverbs 26:3 "A whip for the horse,
A bridle for the donkey,
And a rod for the fool’s back."
It is interesting that we no longer use corporal punishment on criminals, and yet we strike our children based on similar proverbs.

Proverbs 26:4-5 "Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Lest you also be like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
Lest he be wise in his own eyes."
So...do or don't?

Figurative Language

This is only a minute sampling of the proverbs that make use of some type of figurative language. The idea of taking any of the above proverbs literally is unimaginable. Despite this, there are many who read the proverbial rod verses and, ignoring the figurative language they contain, use them to create an entire model of corporal punishment of children. As with other proverbs, this literal interpretation fails to unearth the rich wisdom and meaning the verses contain.

I would like to draw particular attention to two of the forms of figurative language used throughout the Book of Proverbs: metaphor and hyperbole. According to Merriam-Webster, these two terms are defined as follows:

Definition of metaphor:

a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in drowning in money); broadly : figurative language

Definition of hyperbole:

extravagant exaggeration (as “mile-high ice-cream cones”)

In addition to making use of such analogy and exaggeration, it must be stressed that the proverbs are general principles, not promises or guarantees. Interpreting them as promises lends support to many atrocities, including spiritual abuse ("your financial/health/marital struggles are evidence of your unrepentant sin...") and prosperity theology (the "health & wealth gospel").

The Bible includes narrative, prophesy, law, proverbs, poetry, epistles, and more. To take it "literally" where it is not intended to be is to misunderstand it. Scripture must be viewed as a total work and grounded in context (exegesis), not used backwards to support man-made concepts (eisegesis). When reading Scripture, we are to be wise and discerning, testing the spirits, and recognizing hyperbole and metaphors where they clearly exist.

Summary

From the above examination, we can draw three conclusions:
  1. Proverbs are not promises or guarantees.
  2. Proverbs make liberal use of metaphor.
  3. Proverbs make liberal use of hyperbole.

With this foundation in mind - first, the comparison between the "biblical model" of corporal punishment of children and the underlying rod verses themselves, and second, the exploration of the figurative language used throughout the Book of Proverbs, we can move on to the meat of the series in Part 3: What are the rod verses really saying?

Monday, 14 November 2011

The Rod Verses: Taking the rod verses literally

This is the first in a three-part series on the "rod verses" included in Proverbs. Part 1 (Taking the rod verses literally) will be followed by Part 2 (Taking other Proverbs literally) and Part 3 (What are they really saying?).

Introduction

Many Christians and Christian authors point to the "rod verses" as evidence of God-sanctioned corporal punishment of children. These five verses, all found in Proverbs, include the following:

He who spares his rod hates his son,
but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
(Proverbs 13:24)

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
the rod of correction will drive it far from him.
(Proverbs 22:15)

Do not withhold correction from a child,
for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.
(Proverbs 23:13)

You shall beat him with a rod,
and deliver his soul from hell.
(Proverbs 23:14)

The rod and rebuke give wisdom,
but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
(Proverbs 29:15)

There is also a sixth "verse" frequently referenced: "Spare the rod, spoil the child." This saying, however, is found nowhere in Proverbs nor anywhere else in the Bible. It actually comes from a section of the satirical poem Hudibras written by Samuel Bulter in the 17th century, where he describes a widow suggesting that her suitor could prove his love by whipping himself or letting her whip him.

"Now if you'll venture, for my sake,
To try the toughness of your back,
And suffer (as the rest have done)
The laying of a whipping on,
(And may you prosper in your suit,
As you with equal vigour do't,)
I here engage myself to loose ye,
And free your heels from Caperdewsie.
But since our sex's modesty
Will not allow I should be by,
Bring me, on oath, a fair account,
And honour too, when you have done't,
And I'll admit you to the place
You claim as due in my good grace.
If matrimony and hanging go
By dest'ny, why not whipping too?
What med'cine else can cure the fits
Of lovers when they lose their wits?
Love is a boy by poets stil'd;
Then spare the rod and spoil the child."

Clearly, this bawdy line is in no way intended to be applied to children. (For further context, the entire text can be read here.)

The "Biblical Model" of Corporal Punishment

Returning to the verses which are found in Proverbs, we will now consider the practical application commonly derived from their literal interpretation.

Popular Christian culture uses these verses to support corporal punishment of children. Numerous Christian parenting authors declare this practice to be not only acceptable, but biblically mandated. There is much hedging about only carrying out this corporal punishment in a "biblical manner". Typically, this "biblical method" of corporal punishment includes the following:
  1. Spankings should only be administered on children between the ages of two and twelve.
  2. Let the child knows that a spanking will be the consequence for disobedience. When said disobedience occurs, tell the child that you must now spank him in order to help him do better in the future. Be sure he knows why he is going to be spanked.
  3. Never spank in anger. The spanking should be carried out in a calm and controlled manner.
  4. Administer the spanking promptly. The spanking should be applied to the child's bottom. Use only an open hand so that you can be sure you are not spanking too hard or too soft (according to some); use only an implement so that the child will not fear your hand (according to others).
  5. The child should be repentant and grateful after the spanking. If the child remains recalcitrant or cries for too long afterwards, another spanking should be administered.
  6. After the spanking is over, reconcile with the child. Pray with him and reconnect through a hug.

With only minor variations, those Christian parenting authors who promote corporal punishment follow this general model, including Michael and Debi Pearl, Gary Ezzo, Tedd Tripp, James Dobson, Chip Ingram, Roy Lessin, Bill Gothard, and more.

Interestingly enough, this "biblical model" is nearly identical to the Spencer Spanking Plan. At first read, one would assume this was yet another set of instructions on child discipline...until reaching the part about wives and husbands. Yes, the Spencer Spanking Plan is in fact instructions for domestic discipline. It was drawn up by Mrs. Dorothy Spencer in the early 1900's and was never intended in any way to be used on children, and yet much of the "biblical model" is drawn directly from it.

The "Biblical Model" and the Rod Verses: Comparing and contrasting

Returning to the proverbs themselves, what would it look like to take them literally, at face-value, and how does that line up with this "biblical model" of physical chastisement? We will go through the "biblical model" step-by-step and examine these questions.

What the model says: 1. Spankings should only be administered on children between the ages of two and twelve.

What the rod verses say: Only strike young men.

The word "child" in these verses refer to a role ("offspring") rather than a particular age. The Hebrew word used in these verses is "na'ar" and is most frequently translated as "young man" throughout the Bible. While the "biblical model" typically recommends that parents stop spanking their children somewhere around 12 years old, the rod verses, if taken literally, would instruct a parent to begin physical chastisement at that age, likely as a last resort to bring a wayward son back in line for his soul's sake.

There is in the Law descriptions of grown men being beaten with a literal rod ("shebet"). Boundaries are given regarding the use of a rod on slaves. There is no such example anywhere in Scripture of a young child being likewise struck with a rod, nor are any instructions or boundaries given to ensure its judicious use.

What the model says: 2. Let the child knows that a spanking will be the consequence for disobedience. When said disobedience occurs, tell the child that you must now spank him in order to help him do better in the future. Be sure he knows why he is going to be spanked.

What the rod verses say: Nothing.

There is no reference to this step in any of the verses in question, nor can the "biblical model" be found anywhere in the Bible. Common sense would instruct a parent to be sure a child is aware of any consequences that will be applied as a result of their actions, but the verses themselves have nothing to say on the subject.

What the model says: 3. Never spank in anger. The spanking should be carried out in a calm and controlled manner.

What the rod verses say: Discipline promptly. If you beat him, he will not die.

There is no caveat in the "rod verses" for not spanking in anger. Proverbs 13:24 says only to discipline "promptly". Parenting can be challenging and frustrating; our natural human reaction towards a disobedient child is often at least some measure of anger. And yet no allowance is given for taking time to calm down before administering the rod; it is to be done "promptly".

Proverbs 23:13 assures the parent that the child will not die from the beating. In contrast, Exodus 21:12-27 is clear that a man can indeed die from being struck with a rod. Taking this proverb literally results in a clear contradiction in Scripture.

What the model says: 4. Administer the spanking promptly. The spanking should be applied to the child's bottom. Use only an open hand so that you can be sure you are not spanking too hard or too soft (according to some); use only an implement so that the child will not fear your hand (according to others).

What the rod verses say: Strike the back. Use a rod.

The buttocks is never mentioned in Proverbs. Other verses that refer to striking a grown person with a rod refer only to striking the back (Proverbs 10:13, Proverbs 26:3). There is no biblical backing for striking a child on the buttocks (and for very good reason).

Furthermore, if a rod is what the verses specify, then a rod is what must be used. There is no permission given to substitute the rod with a wooden spoon, paint stirrer, paddle, dowel, belt, strap, switch, plumbing line, glue stick, or hand. A rod ("shebet") is a long, thick stick; this word is used throughout Scripture to refer to a shepherd's staff, a king's scepter, or a tribe. Other Hebrew words, including matteh and choter, are used elsewhere to describe smaller or thinner rods, such as branches or twigs, but the word used in the rod verses is "shebet". This is what must be used if these verses are to be taken literally. (Incidentally, the use of any implement whatsoever when spanking a child is illegal in Canada.)

What the model says: 5. The child should be repentant and grateful after the spanking. If the child remains recalcitrant or cries for too long afterwards, another spanking should be administered.

What the rod verses say: Nothing.

Again, the rod verses are silent on this aspect of the "biblical model". Scripture, however, validates the presence of many emotions; Psalms is particularly rich in a variety of emotions.

The "biblical model", on the other hand, recognizes happiness as the only acceptable emotion in a child. In his book "Shepherding a Child’s Heart", Christian author Tedd Tripp instructs parents on how to respond if their child remains angry or distant after being spanked (emphasis added): "If your child is still angry, it’s time for another round. ‘Daddy has spanked you, but you are not sweet enough yet. We are going to have to go back upstairs for another spanking.’" Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21, however, quite apart from recommending that a child have his anger spanked out of him, would suggest that a father not provoke his child to such anger in the first place.

What the model says: 6. After the spanking is over, reconcile with the child. Pray with him and reconnect through a hug.

What the rod verses say: Nothing.

Once again, there is no support for this aspect of the "biblical model" in the rod verses. Logic would suggest that the ideas of "spanking in love" and "reconciling afterwards" would set a child up for a very unhealthy dynamic in future relationships, but the rod verses have nothing to say on the matter.

What the model suggests: Corporal punishment is God-sanctioned and God-mandated.

What the a literal interpretation of the rod verses says: Ignore the Gospel.

Just rip the whole New Testament right out of your Bible. Proverbs 23:14 clearly states that striking the child with a rod will save his soul from hell. There is no need for a Savior. God's grace through Jesus Christ is not required for salvation. You and your rod can take care of that yourself.

Now that Jesus is no longer part of the picture, we must return to a life under Law rather than under Grace. As the Law states, rebellious sons are to be stoned (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). This may be difficult for you as a parent to carry through with; however, the Bible demands it and we must be willing to do as God instructs.

Summary

After examining the "biblical model" of corporal punishment, we find no biblical support for any of the steps. The "rod verses" which are used to support this model are silent on most of the steps while contradicting others.

The "biblical model" instructs parents to promptly spank young disobedient children on the buttocks in love (not anger), using either the hand or another instrument, after which the child should be sorrowful and repentant (but not overly dramatic), at which point the parent and child should pray and reconnect with a loving hug.

The rod verses, conversely, if taken literally, instruct parents to strike a disobedient young man on the back with a long, thick rod, which will not kill him and which will bring about his salvation.

The "biblical model", while claiming to be a literal interpretation of the rod verses, neither teaches nor carries out these verses in a literal manner. Considering the vast difference between the "biblical model" and the rod verses, it may be wise to reconsider the meaning behind the rod imagery used in these verses. This will be explored in Part 3 of the series. The proverbs are full of wisdom and truth, and to insist upon a strictly literal interpretation (and pseudo-literal application) is to lose the rich meaning they hold.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Hana Williams: Another child "disciplined" to death

This Saturday will mark six months since the tragic death of thirteen-year-old Hana Grace Rose Williams, born Hana Alemu, who died at the hands of her adoptive parents Larry and Carri Williams.

Hana is the third in a string of deaths linked to the use of training methods outlined in Michael and Debi Pearl's book, "To Train Up a Child". The deaths of seven-year-old Lydia Schatz and four-year-old Sean Paddock were also attributed to the use of these teachings. The siblings of all three children were found to have been struck repeatedly with plumbing supply line, the tool recommended by the Pearls for "training" children as young as six months old.

Are the teachings in the Pearls' book inherently abusive? At first glance, perhaps not. They wrap their message up in pretty bows, encouraging parents to "tie strings" and develop mutual respect and trust. A cursory read-through by a well-meaning parent may raise only a few easily-ignored red flags. But what happens when these teachings are followed religiously and taken to their logical conclusion?

The horrifying affidavit filed after Hana's death paints precisely this picture. For months, Hana had been regularly beaten, denied food, forced to shower under cold water outside, locked in a dark closet, and permitted to use only the lavatory set up for her behind the barn. She ultimately succumbed to hypothermia when left outside in the rain. Her adopted brother had endured similar abuses, including being hosed down in cold water when his documented medical condition caused him to urinate in his pants.

The Pearls would deny that any such abusive actions had any relation to the teachings in their book. And yet according to the affidavit:

"Other forms of discipline taught in this book include cold water bathes to assist in toilet training or putting the children outside in the cold weather, having them miss meals and sleeping on the floor or outside as forms of punishment."

The book itself further substantiates these claims:

"So, my suggestion was that the father explain to the boy that, now that he was a man [at all of three years old], he would no longer be washed in the house. He was too big and too stinky to be cleaned by the babywipes. From now on, he would be washed outside with a garden hose. The child was not to be blamed. This was to be understood as just a progressive change in methods. The next dump, the father took him out and merrily, and might I say, carelessly, washed him off. What with the autumn chill and the cold well water, I don’t remember if it took a second washing or not, but, a week later, the father told me his son was now taking himself to the pot. The child weighed the alternatives and opted to change his lifestyle. Since then, several others have been the recipients of my meddling, and it usually takes no more than three cheerful washings."

"If a child doesn’t like what is on the table, let him do without until the next meal. A little fasting is good training."

"If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final."

"Use your own judgment as to what is effective. I found five to ten licks usually sufficient. Sometimes, with older children, usually when the licks are not forceful enough, the child may still be rebellious. If this occurs, take time to instruct and then continue the spanking. A general rule is to continue the disciplinary action until the child is surrendered."

Continue the disciplinary action until the child is surrendered...or dead.

After Lydia's death, Micheal released a statement saying that he "laughed at his caustic critics". A child is dead, and Michael laughs. He concludes his lengthy mocking statement with the following:
"Even my chickens are laughing...well, actually it is more like cackling, because they just laid another organic egg for my breakfast and they know that it was that same piece of ¼ inch plastic supply line that trained the dogs not to eat chicken."
To put this into perspective, consider author Stephen King's response when actual school shootings were linked to his book "Rage". Far from laughing, King expressed deep remorse and had the book pulled from further publication. That is the human, compassionate response to death. Michael Pearl laughed.

But there is hope. These deaths are not going unnoticed. As these children rest safely in the arms of their Heavenly Father, others are questioning the Pearls' methods. CNN recently a ran a two-part series on Michael Pearl and Lydia Schatz (Part 1 and Part 2), which was later followed up with their report Ungodly Discipline and interview Faith and Discipline after the death of Hana Williams. The New York Times has also reported on the Pearls and their role in Hana's death. Although the reports thus far have failed to truly unearth the severity of these teachings, they are a hopeful beginning.

Others are speaking out against the Pearls' abusive teachings as well:


In memory of Hana, I will be devoting next week to a three-part exploration of the "rod verses" in Proverbs. While the issue at hand isn't limited to corporal punishment - even many who spank find the Pearls' teachings to be horrifying and cruel - it is the Pearls' twisted use of Scripture that so many supporters, both fervent and reluctant, hold out as evidence that what he teaches must be biblical. It is my hope that the idea of physical chastisement as a necessary, or even acceptable, part of "biblical" discipline will continue to be questioned by those who learn of the tragic results of such twisted theology.

As I've asked before: How many more? How many more children need to die before the teachings of the Pearls are seen for what they really are? How much longer will this needless abuse happen behind closed doors, not at the hands of monsters, but those of well-meaning, loving parents who have been taken in by the Pearls' promises of godly children? This is not a case of taking away nuggets of gold and leaving behind the small part that tends to the extreme - no, this is a case of digging through a garbage dump in hopes of finding one small fleck of gold. Perhaps the Pearls are all the more insidious for that very reason: for all their advice of "tying heartstrings", the practicality of carrying out what they put forth achieves anything but attachment.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The Saturday Evening Blog Post


It's time again for the Saturday Evening Blog Post, hosted by Elizabeth Esther. Elizabeth collects the "best of" posts on the first Saturday of every month, an opportunity for bloggers to gather and share their favourite post from the previous month.

Tonight, Elizabeth invites us to share our favourite post from October. I added more gentle discipline posts last month - Attachment Parenting: Beyond the baby years, Nurturing parent-child relationships through play, and Ten alternatives to time-outs - which are always some of my favourite posts to share.

But my most favourite of all from October is Bedtime bonding, in which I recall a particularly peaceful bedtime experience in our home. Other nights would include more frustration, more grumpiness on my part because patience wears thin by the end of a long day. These more peaceful nights, however, are the ones I want to remember, and particularly so because it is the memory of them that somehow calms me during the nights when I am tempted to snap and growl and throw a temper tantrum of my own. Just remember the better nights...and breathe in peace.

If you've written something you'd like to share this month, swing by her blog and add your link!

Weekend Reading


And a bonus this weekend, because it made me laugh and lifted my spirits after our long evening in the ER:

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Inevitable

It was bound to happen.

I'd known it since he was just a few months old, climbing the stairs before he could even crawl.

I'd known it back when I would regularly find him grinning at me from the top of the kitchen table, long before he learned how to walk.

I'd known it from the anxious looks on the faces of the other parents at the playground as he climbed far higher than seemed right for his age.

I'd known it as he shook off bumps and scrapes and bruises that would leave most toddlers sobbing.

I'd known we'd end up in the Emergency Room eventually.

Last night was the night. Our first, somehow, in our four-and-a-half-years of parenting. The boys were almost ready for bed, just finishing up their bedtime snack of cheese as they ran around the living room. I was getting things ready in the bedroom - the toddler's favourite blankets, the boy's pallet, my laptop ready to entertain me as they drifted off to sleep - when I heard the crash.

The crash was followed by a cry - The Cry - the one that causes you to drop everything and run to check for broken bones or gaping wounds. I found the toddler curled up on the floor, face down as he sobbed into his hands, and his older brother next to him, stroking his hair and asking him if he was okay.

I gently turned him over. It was the latter - gaping wounds - and chaos erupted as I called to the husband, "we need to go to the hospital!" There was that instant knowing that this needed a doctor. When he'd fallen yesterday and bumped his head, I sent the older one for a wet facecloth for the blood and ice for the swelling. When he'd danced his way off the counter a few months ago, I checked his pupils and watched his behaviour and snuggled him oh-so-tightly. When the oldest had that bad fever as a little baby, I kept him close and nursed him often and watched him carefully. But this - this needed more than a mother's touch could provide.

Facecloths and shoes and phones were grabbed. The oldest was strapped into his carseat while I snuggled the bleeding one on my lap, laws be damned. The husband (the one who was never good with the blood, the one who passed out as the oldest was crowning) drove, looked over, got queasy, looked away, drove some more. I whispered reassurance in my baby's ear, kissed his face, mopped up blood. He stopped crying halfway there, my tough little boy.

We talked to registration, waited, talked to triage, waited, talked to registration again, waited. Half an hour...one hour...two hours...two and a half. The bleeding had slowed and my little clown had returned. He made eyes at all the ladies. They cooed over him and clucked over his bleeding wound and fetched him more leaves when the ones he'd found on the floor had fallen apart. He pretended to be stuck behind the chairs while I hovered, nervous, not wanting him to bump his head again. Now that the bleeding had slowed, I could see how grossly deep it was - how was there even that much room between the surface of his skin and his skull?

When he got too antsy, I scooped him up again and wandered the waiting room. He wanted to be hung upside down and I was reluctant because hello, bleeding head wound. I could hear half the waiting room thinking for shame, hanging him upside down when his head is bleeding! and the other half thinking for shame, denying an injured child the one thing that is making him laugh! But he kept trying to fling himself back and sometimes I let him, just for a quick second - so much for consistency, so much for being kind yet firm, but all those good parenting rules go out the window when your sick or injured child looks at you with those big gorgeous eyes. What's that? You want some ice cream? And a pony? Anything for you, baby.

Finally we were called out of the waiting room and into the doctor's office, where a nurse applied numbing gel and covered the whole mess with tape and gauze and more tape. Then it was back to waiting, playing "this little piggy" and carrying on conversations in toddler-ese and trying to ignore the growing ache in your own limbs from two and half hours of holding and rocking and pacing.

At last the doctor came in, looking serious and short-tempered. I steeled myself as he began to speak. "So...you'd like me to put your kid back together for you?" I let out the breath I didn't know I was holding, laughed, nodded. But then he was called away - "STAT!" - and there was more waiting.

Half an hour later, I'd given in to the ache and found a chair, and the toddler had given in to the late hour and fallen asleep in my arms. I kissed him and rocked him and waited until finally the doctor was back and it was Time.

The nurse wrapped him in a blanket and he stirred but fell asleep again until the doctor poked that first stitch through and the screaming began. I held him down and held back tears and sometimes the most painful things really are for your own good.

Five stitches later, it was done. I scooped him up and he stopped sobbing but I was still shaking like a leaf; little man is tougher than his mama, that's for sure.

And so ended our very first trip to the ER. Back home and ready for bed for the second time that night, the little one fell right asleep. The older one (who had waited oh-so-patiently in the waiting room the entire time) chattered away about diggers and graders and whales and other things of Great Importance to a four-year-old boy. The husband and I, too hopped up on adrenaline to sleep, decompressed in front of our computer screens, heading to bed shortly after the boy's whispers were finally replaced with the deep, slow breaths of sleep.

This first trip, with this boy? It was inevitable.

Now it's just a matter of biding our time until the next one.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Snapshots

The boys' castle, where they trapped an evil spider
and saved all of the townspeople from certain death.
(Really, there was quite the elaborate story that went along with this particular creation.)

Making pretzels.

(Yum.)

Playing airplanes...

...and helicopters.

Rolling in the leaves.

"Excuse me, is there something in my nose?"

"Ah, just joshin' ya."

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Why I need you

I need you because sometimes I forget.

I forget that relationship trumps all, that all the compliance in the world is meaningless in the absence of love.

I forget that my children are not intentionally manipulative and bent on defiance.

I forget gentleness.

I forget.

I need you because you help me stay focused in a world that is telling me obedience is the focus, the goal, and the prize.

I need you, gentle mothers and fathers, to keep me strong when temptation calls. It would be so much easier - so easy - to use force and dominance to get my way. MY will be done.

I need you, gentle Christians, to encourage me when I feel alone. Remind me that I'm not the only one who loves God and believes with my whole heart that He would never have me strike my children to gain their obedience.

I need you, like-minded people, to bring peace to my confused thoughts. Yes, yes...that's right. I remember now.

I need you, not-so-like-minded people, for your knowledge and wisdom and grace. Our differences need not divide us when we assume the best in each other, knowing that we're all just muddling through as best we can. I don't have all the answers and I will never be right about everything. Your mocking and criticism hurts; I would value, however, your friendship.

I need you, online friends and mentors, intangible and yet so very present. I need you when those I can see and feel and touch would pull me away from what I know to be right and good and true.

I need you when I am in the valley, yes, but I need you when I am on the mountaintop too. The view may be clearer up there but God knew that we would need others to walk with us on this journey.

I need you. I need your support when I feel weak, your reminders when I forget, and your friendship throughout it all.

I need you.


Perhaps, if you have not yet done so, you would take this opportunity to introduce yourself? Who are you? What brings you here? What needs do you have? If there is anything you'd like to share, I would love to hear it.