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Monday
Mar202017

When your child sees a troll in the mall

Many years ago a good friend of mine told me a very funny story. Her son, four years old, was with her as she entered a mall. There were two sets of doors: one from the outside into a the foyer, and one between the foyer and the actual mall. There was a pay phone in the foyer. As she and her son approached the first set of doors, outer doors she spotted a woman on the phone. Knowing her child as she did, she tried to distract him. Children that age don't always have a lot of tact. However, she was not able to prevent his observant little eyes from seeing this woman, who was clearly a dwarf. Breaking the silence of the space between those two sets of doors, were the little boy's said excited cry, "Look, Mom, a troll!"

Well, you can imagine my friend's humiliation. Trying to usher him out quickly, she told him to be quiet. As they opened the door into the mall, he said in amazement, and still audibly: "Look, she even has a little purse!" That was a fairly humbling moment.

Humility. Parenting small children helps us in that regard. With small children, we see that despite all of our training, guidling, instructing, and leading, children refute our fond notions of how much control we have. Children will do and say what we don't expect. In fact they will do what we are raising them to do: act independently.

This does not change when our kids become young adults. Their independence proceeds. Suddenly, they make decisions which may puzzle us. Whose house did he grow up in? How did she come to that conclusion? Older children humble us less in the foolishness typical of childhood, but more in the regular reminders that though we have certainly influenced them, ultimately, they are God's creation, made in his image to reflect him. While they will reflect their upbringing, there is no guarantee they will mirror us exactly. Cloning is not the objective. While of course, we want them to love our God and embrace the faith heritage which they were raised in, that may look different from their parents' lives. My children already have different lives than I did at their age. My oldest is 27, single, and sharing an apartment with her brother. At 27, I had two children, a husband, and a mortgage. 

There is often a lot of competition among young mothers, and it doesn't always subside as kids grow. Instead of taking pride in our child's ability to read independently or tie his shoes, we take pride in whether or not the child is in professional ministry, how many children they have, or what their jobs are. It is a bad habit in both cases. While we raise our children, pouring ourselves into them year after year, it is still God who blesses. Taking pride in their success or complete responsibility for their failures only reveals that we think we have more control than we do. Frankly, I'd rather not think I control my child. I rather think the Spirit of God does.

Watching my adult children as they grow and mature is humbling, although not like my friend in the mall. I see that despite my many failings in teaching them, they do the right thing. Despite the occasions of my own bad example, they show compassion, kindness, and mercy. And despite the times I failed them, they continue to show love toward us, and include us in their lives. I don't get to see them as often as I would like, and I do have one child who isn't very good at keeping in touch, but  I'm thankful for how they have grown and how God has blessed them.

Sunday
Mar192017

Daily Readings - Matthew 7:12-14

Daily Readings - Matthew 7:12-14
J.C. Ryle

In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matt 7:12)

This is the golden rule, indeed! It does not merely forbid all petty malice and revenge, all cheating and overreaching. It does much more. It settles a hundred difficult points which arise between mn, not by laying down endless rules, but by one mighty principle. It gives balance and measure by which duty is defined. What would be like others to do to us? Let us do it to them. What would we never want others to do to us? Let us not do it to them. A rules for honest use which decides many problems! 

Ryle's words, that we ponder how we want to be treated, by implication, means we should evaluate how we treat others. How are we perceived? Do we inadvertently treat others unkindly? Part of sorting through this matter is to avoid carelessness in how we treat others. And often, carelessness is a result of being too focused on ourselves and not others.

Friday
Mar172017

Hold the whiskey, and thank an Irishman

If you like reading, thank an Irishman. Although in its original form St. Patrick's Day was not really about celebrating the Irish culture, that seems to be what it has become. I'm not sure how or if they celebrate it in the Republic or in Northern Ireland, but in North America, it has morphed into drunken celebrations.

One of the things I love about Irish history (and I love a lot about it) is what happened when Rome was sacked and the barbarians took over the Roman Empire. On a little island west of Britain, intellectual life survived. That is the subject of How the Irish Saved Civilization. For anyone who likes to read and appreciates classic literature, you'll enjoy this book. I wrote about this a few years ago. 

A lot of Irish history is not very happy if you happen to be Irish. Famous men like Oliver Cromwell and Winston Churchill didn't have very charitable attitudes toward the Irish. And it is a country whose history is filled with strife. That is generally what happens in a country which has been conquered. A couple of Fridays ago, my husband and I re-watched the movie In the Name of the Father, which is the story of Gerry Conlon, who was wrongfully convicted for the Guildford Pub bombing. Conlon's aging and ailing father, who had nothing to do with the bombing, was also convicted, and languished and eventually died in prison. The movie drew my interst when it first came out because I enjoy Irish history and because Daniel Day-Lewis is one of my favourite actors. Conlon, after 15 years in prison, struggled despite producing his book, Proved Innocent, on which the movie was based. That book is in the queue for my reading list. Conlon died in 2014.

One of the comments made in the movie by Conlon's lawyer, Gareth Pierce (played by Emma Thompson), when the verdict was finally overturned was that the arrest and conviction of the four young people happened not because of overwhelming evidence, but because they were "well, bloody Irish." I don't know if that comment is part of the court transcript; I'd like to know. Part of Irish history is the bigotry they experienced, at the hands of the English and later, as they emigrated to North America.

I love Irish history and the pictures show scenery that I hope some day to photograph myself. Until then, I enjoy books like How the Irish Saved Civilization. And I'm thankful for books about St. Patrick, for whom this day is really about. If you're interested in Patrick, check out Michael Haykin's great little volume.

Thursday
Mar162017

Answering the door in my pajamas

I had an idea of something that would make a good blog post. I believe it would be helpful to someone. But even as I logged in during a study break, I hesitated. I was glad I did. I've been writing more in paper these days, and as I jotted down a few thoughts, I changed my mind. In being too transparent, there is a risk.

When we are transparent with others, regardless of the venue, it is an offering. We open up ourselves, knowing that there is the potential for rejection; ridicule; shame; judgment. Even when we are "anonymous" via the internet, the risk is the same. The difference is that we don't see the reactions of others. Anyone who thinks that the risk is less when online isn't thinking through the matter.

In the past couple of years, there have been bloggers whom I think have said too much. I recognize it because in the past, I have been guilty of that myself. Not everything needs to be said. There are things I said as a mom of teens which I see now as a mom of adults I shouldn't have said online, despite the facade of anonymity. When a blogger who hasn't been married all that long says something too personal about the marriage (despite getting "permission" from the spouse), I feel embarrassed for that person. The only kind of things my husband and I reveal about one another to others are the things which are not all that serious; the silly things we tease each other about. I would never go into any detail about my husband's emotional situation or anything serious about our marriage. It's off limits, and rightly so.

Unfortunately, I haven't always been wise. There are things I have written which, now that my blog is all but dead, make me feel the same way I do when someone comes to the door and I'm still in my pajamas. Yesterday, as I contemplated that post, and rejected the notion, I wondered, "Does this mean I'm all grown up now?" I doubt it, but I think I'm on my way. My post can stay safely contained in paper and maybe some day, I'll share it. But not today.

Wednesday
Mar152017

This Canuck Reads

I've not had time for a lot of reading other than school reading, but I do make an effort to read for pleasure. It makes being a student that much more enjoyable when we can relax with a book. This year, in light of Canada's 150th birthday, I have been reading Canadian fiction and non-fiction. So far, I have enjoyed a few.

Fiction:

The Break, Katharena Vermette:  Vermette is a Métis writer from Winnipeg. This is a brilliantly crafted story about interconnecting relations between Métis women in the north end of Winnipeg. 

The Birth House, Ami McKay: The story of a Nova Scotia girl who becomes a midwife. It is set in the early years of the 20th century. Someone told me later that it may have been on Oprah's reading list. I didn't pick it for that reason. I enjoyed it, but there were some anachronistic parts. 

The Way the Crow Flies, Anne-Marie MacDonald: A story of a young girl living on a military base in the London, Ontario area in the 70's. In the summer months, one of her classmates goes missing. The story also has multiple layers of relationships. 

Barometer Rising, Hugh MacLennan: Wonderful book by MacLennan set around the Halifax explosion in 1917.  MacLennan was a brilliant writer, and this was one of the best books I've read in a long time.

Non-Fiction:

Shattered City, Janet Kitz. A carefully compiled account of the Halifax explosion. I picked this up after reading Barometer Rising. Years ago, our family visited a museum in Halifax where there was a lot of information about the explosion. The chapter about what happened to the children was rather heartbreaking.

Just Started:

The Education of Augie Merasty: A Residential School Memoir, Joseph Augustus Merasty with David Carpenter:  The story of Canada's residential schools is not a pleasant one, much like many stories related to Canada's First Nations. The story of how Merasty collaborated with David Carpenter is just as interesting as the first couple chapters of Merasty's narrative.

Looking forward to:

The Orenda, Joseph Boyden: Although there has been some controversial accounts of Boyden's claim to aboriginal heritage (I have closer Métis ties than he claimed at one time), I love Boyden's writing. Looking forward to this one. 

Peace Shall Destroy Many, Rudy Wiebe:  I have read reviews of Wiebe's writing, and heard many others say how good it is. I'm going to find out for myself. This is the first of his novels. Another, Come Back, sounds very good. I read a review of it recently.

Vimy, Pierre Berton:  I have read many of Berton's books. I am drawn to Canada's history in the first few decades of the 20th century, inclding her war history.