Saturday, August 14, 2010

An Age of Innocence

I went to the movies today with my daughter and another mom and her little girl. We sat in the theater with our popcorn and frozen yogurt waiting for the feature to show when a preview to an upcoming movie came across the screen. I'll let you check it out for yourself.

I've seen the trailer before, and I always watch it with a critical eye, because the fact is, it has the potential to be turned into one of those dime a dozen raunchy teen films that plague movie theaters today. The fact is, as a family our movie outings are becoming fewer and farther between. As I read in a particular movie review today (because I always check reviews before any of us go see a movie) if it's not ok to be spouting off profanities or using the Lord's name as a curse or a swear word, what makes it ok to go watch a movie that does? Truly, that's kind of become my own opinion for a while now.

Anyway, I'm actually off on a rabbit trail. And I will say for the record, I actually have hope this movie isn't going to slip down the slippery slope of inappropriate, a hope supported by the fact that my local Christian station has promoted the movie, even on their Facebook page, so I have hope that this movie will be what it seems to present itself as, a memory of far more innocent days.

So after all that build, here in lies the actual meat of my intended blog. As I sat and watched the preview and turned to my friend and told her how sad I was, because I truly believe, our generation is probably the last to truly have an "age of innocence" to look back upon. My guess from the looks of things is that this movie is in and about my generation, perhaps a little before, in the late 60's to the 70's.

Maybe the children of the 80's will have some semblance of innocence, but not truly the way my generation did. I remember the days of playing outside with the only directive being to be in when the street lights came on. My mom would walk out the door maybe once or twice in a whole day to check on my whereabouts. That's a luxury my children have never known. At 8 and 9 Ethan and Victoria have just entered the era where they are allowed to walk down the street to the neighbor's house alone... well, alone together. And it's not rare for their dad or I to walk down shortly after to make sure they are safe where they belong.

I remember being maybe 9 or 10 years old, and for some reason I was up watching TV really late at night. Maybe I was ill, or we were on vacation, I'm not sure but my parents had a movie on TV and I remember I heard someone use the word "bastard" (sorry) and I remember being in absolute shock at what I had heard on TV. Nowadays you can't get through a commercial much less a TV show or movie without hearing all kinds of profanity. And it shows.

Thursday I had my kids at the beach, and after being down in the water I walked back up to our blankets. As I passed a couple of boys playing paddle ball I heard one of them call the other a bad name. He couldn't have been more than 12. I turned toward him in shock and as I did my friend who'd been hanging under our umbrella said, "yeah, you should hear all the profanity coming out of his mouth." Why should I be surprised? It's on TV, in the movies, on billboards and license plate frames. Somewhere along the line it has become the completely acceptable way to speak and communicate, and our kids are exposed to it constantly. And it should not be so.

I grew up in a house where it was constant, profanity and cursing. It's still prevalent in my parents' home and lives, and for that reason I struggle with it immensely. We had a bad spill courtesy of the cat earlier and I am not proud of the words my daughter was exposed to because of it. The bible says "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." And it is my personal opinion that the "abundance of heart" not only applies to what we ourselves put into it, but what we are exposed to. And there was a lot of years of profanity shoveled into my heart, and I worry I may pass that curse on to my own children.

It's not as severe as what I grew up with (but when I have lost my temper the exposure risk increases exponentially,) but somewhere along the line the words "crap(py)" and "fricken" have become acceptable alternatives, and I am beginning to realize, it shouldn't be like that. It's a lesson that really comes full force when I see the word written on Facebook by my 16 year old, or worse, I hear it coming out of the mouth of one of my little ones. It is the slippery slope.

I have already talked to my kids about removing those two words from our casual conversation (not to mention the need I have to clean up my angry words) and we are all going to try to remove those words from our vocabulary. Believe me, in this area, I am the chief of all sinners, and I do not want it to be a "do as I say, not as I do mentality." On the very day I made the suggestion to my kids, they busted me twice the very same afternoon, but it's a good thing, I want my kids to hold me to the higher standard, because as Christians, we ought to be living to it.

I wish it were just an issue of language and words, but it's not, it's so much more. Our kids are assaulted every day with inappropriate images. Don't believe me? Walk through the mall sometime and peruse the front window of a Victoria's Secret store. What is now displayed bigger than life for all to see in a public place used to be something some dads and teenage boys used to hide beneath their mattress or in the top of their closet. Victoria used to at least sort of keep her secret back in the old days, but no more.

Don't even get me started about the sexual and violent content in movies and video games. We are absolutely foolish to think that our kids can spend hours watching, even participating in violent acts via a computer or video game and not be affected for it. It's bad for the soul. I have heard all the different levels people set as acceptable. Shooting is ok as long as there's no gore or no blood. Really? It's ok to kill as long as it's not messy? We have one "shooting game" for our PS2, it's a star wars game, and mild by comparison, but I have watched from a distance as my kids have played it. I have heard their words, talking about killing and shooting each other. I have watched as the tension level rises between them and the conflict that arises out of it. And that's with me putting tight restrictions where they are only allowed to play it on occasion, what about the kids who sit there for hours playing those games? There have been studies done about the physical responses to the playing of those games, blood pressure rising, etc. We are absolutely foolish to think it has no spiritual effect too.

Now I am not anti-war, or anti-gun, please don't misunderstand me, but unless you are training your children to become little soldiers, what is the good purpose of feeding their souls violence and profanity? I long for the days when we told our kids to put sticks down because they might poke out their eyes.

I have done my best to create a bubble for my kids to live in. A place where people are kind, and innocence is valued, but it is constantly a losing battle. I will drive up behind a car only to have my young readers see a licence plate frame that says, "If you think I am a Bi*$%, you should meet my sister." Really? There was a need to display that for all to see? Or I take my kids to a baseball game, "America's pastime" only to have to divert my son's eyes from the woman whose breasts are falling out (and not just the young ones, but the middle aged ones too) and to try to drown out the profanity of the annoyed fan behind me. These things should not be so. But somewhere along the line, it's what the world has become, and it truly, sincerely breaks my heart.

As a nation, we need revival. As a nation, we need a change. Maybe I cannot change the nation, but I can raise the standard here in my own home. I can teach and train my children up to live a better way. I can make the changes I need to make (by the grace of God) to lead by a better example. I can do my best to provide for my kids what their generation, as a whole, will not have, I can do my best to give them, foster in them, and protect for them an age of innocence. Not just my little ones, but even my Jake. I can encourage them to live a better way, to live God's way. They may have to be in the world, but they do not have to be of the world. I may have to be in the world, but I do not have to be of the world. I am not called to be of the world, but I am called to be a person of impact in it, even if it's only within the walls of my own home. It's my responsibility as a parent, and as a Christian.

I hear lots of Christians talk about the world going "to hell in a hand basket" but we as Christians don't have to put the bow on it as it gets sent off. Quite the opposite, as Christians, we ought to be the first to work for change, because apart from Christ, the world is without hope.

Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.

Colossians 1:24-29

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Gift of Promise

I had an amazing experience a week ago tonight. I asked God for something special. Actually, I hadn't dared to ask, but I had expressed the desire for something specific to others not Him, and like any good parent, my Father made Himself aware of what would mean a lot to me, and He gave it to me just because He loves me.

I asked for it in a wistful way. I never expected to get it, I had asked and hoped before and been told "no," not directly, but by the fact when I asked, it didn't come. This time, I didn't ask, but God gave it to me, and in a very specific way that I wanted it to come. It was amazing. And I'm sorry I am being so coy, but it's something I can't even bring myself to fully share, but suffice it to say, it was just what I was seeking and He gave it to me in the exact way I'd hoped for, and I have been holding to it ever since.

What I will tell you is it wasn't tangible. It wasn't even like a completed answer to prayer. It was more like a promise, and me and God (God and I?) we have this thing about promises. It's like His love language to me. He gives me something to hold onto, and it makes waiting easier, and it builds my faith stronger in the process. God has made many specific promises to me, and His timing hasn't always been what I would have liked, but I have always gotten just as much, if not more, out of the promise as I did out of the answer to the prayer.

The Lord has proven Himself to be the Promise Keeper to me. In fact if you ever drive up behind a mini van with the license plate frame that says "God Always Keeps His Promises - Jacob, Ethan & Victoria" give a little honk and a wave and I promise to wave back.

Two of my favorite scriptures are about God's promises:

God is not a man, that he should lie,
nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?
I have received a command to bless;
he has blessed, and I cannot change it.

Numbers 23:19-20

for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.
Romans 11:29

The reference for latter scripture is even engraved on the pen we used to sign Ethan's adoption papers. That was the end of a season where God truly showed Himself to be the Promise Keeper. I have had a lot of promises broken to me in my lifetime, but never once by the Lord.

So I am excited, because I feel like I have something to hold onto again. It's not as specific as other promises in the past, but it is something to hold onto, and I am excited for the revelation that lies ahead.

To be honest, I don't really know much of anything about the gift, even though I asked for it, but I do know the Giver. I do know His character and His love. I do know Him. And I do know that the value of the gift comes Who has given it.

I serve such an amazing God. The Shepherd who loves His sheep. My God is not just a promise keeper, He is The Promise Keeper. And I am eagerly looking forward to watching the promise He has given me unfold.

By the way, my last post didn't seem to get much notice, but I really felt like it was an encouragement meant to be shared, so if you have a few more minutes, click here and check it out. Blessings!