Does anyone remember Human Dignity?

GM-Wheat

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

1 John 3

 

“We think the price is worth it.”

United States Secretary of State Madeline Albright

 

The last year has been truly remarkable in terms of the violence, terror, murder and chaos taking place in the world. The protests in our streets have reminded many in the United States of the tumultuous 1960s. Terror afflicts Europe and the World on a daily basis. The world seems to be descending into violence at an accelerating rate. I wonder why we are at all surprised.

For decades we have rationalized the erosion of human dignity. Our culture has practically forgotten that we are all children of God, the Almighty, and heir to the throne of the Creator of the Universe. He creates each individual human with a specific purpose and unique talents. He places His children in circumstances where they might be able to realize their value and live rewarding, fulfilling lives, enriching those around them. He carefully places each and every human in just the right place and at just the right time.

And then we take that life and we carelessly extinguish it. Whether the cause is abortion or war or gang violence or terror, it seems that the world no longer finds life to be precious.

The quote above from Secretary Albright was during an interview in 1996. Our Secretary of State was asked about the US sanctions that had been imposed on Iraq and at that point had cost the lives of 500,000 Iraqi children. The question was posed: “A half million children have died. That’s more than died in Hiroshima. Is the price worth it?”

Since my son was born the United States has been at war. The war(s) in the Middle East has lasted longer than any other war in our history. It has gone on for so long that I don’t think many people remember how it started. We are always told that war will be the last resort. I am beginning to think that it is the only resort. Robert E Lee commented “It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.” I fear that governments have grown fond of war, especially given the disproportionate damage it bestows on its victims.

In the eyes of God ALL lives matter. That includes Afghani lives and Iranian lives and Syrian lives. Their lives are not less valuable. Their lives are not more disposable.

But war has been with us for centuries. Abortion is a more recent and subtle way that our culture cheapens life. The figures are simply horrific. The World Health Organization estimates that there are between 40 and 50 million abortions every year in the world. Let that sink in.

How many teachers and doctors are included in that death toll? Who among them was put here by God’s design to cure a disease? How many among them was given the special touch by the Almighty to alleviate poverty on our planet? How many lives could have been helped or saved by the fantastic amount of human capital that is far too often considered to be a burden?

The richness and beauty of the human experience that has been lost because of the hundreds of millions of lives that have been prematurely wasted should be enough to make us drop to our knees in despair. But it is so casually dismissed that it hardly warrants discussion anymore. Abortion is a stain on our civilization in much the same way as human enslavement was to an earlier generation.

Why have we forgotten about the beauty of human dignity? We are made in God’s image and He gives us each a purpose. It is not for us to decide whether the winds and waves of any given moment find value in that purpose. It is our responsibility to do with human life what we should do with any gift from God: nurture and protect it.

Every life has meaning but we see this most strikingly in stories of great accomplishment from people with humble beginnings. These stories inspire us and serve as a reminder that God’s special signature is on each of our souls.

Not many people know Norman Borlaug. Norman was born in Iowa to Norwegian immigrants in 1914. He attended the University of Minnesota and became a biologist. He invented a wheat variety with a stronger stalk that was disease-resistant. He is credited with saving the lives of over a billion people from starvation.

God can do amazing things with just one life. I encourage all of us to appreciate that gift in yourself and work to realize that potential. But mostly in today’s troubled world I implore all of us to recognize the God-given beauty in each other.

Come on scaredy cat!

wavesDon’t be such a scaredy cat… nothing will happen… just try it… I won’t let anything happen to you… there’s nothing to be afraid of. I remember saying that to my kids quite often… trying to chide them into doing something new and exciting. When my patience wore thin… I have to admit that it wasn’t always said with a loving, caring attitude…. but more out of frustration and impatience. Why couldn’t they just be as adventuresome as I was and just trust me?

This week I had the privilege of spending some awesome time with our grandkids at the gulf. I was excited to get out into the water and waves and experience it with them but they were pretty hesitant… afraid of many things. When I started looking at the whole experience from their perspective, it changed my whole view. What I realized was that their hesitation to go deeper into the surf… beyond the breakers… was because they had not experienced it… it was a big scary unknown. They had not had anyone guide, teach or help them know how to deal with the surf, the big waves or even the possibility of jellyfish. So after teaching them how to stand, when to jump, what to watch for… slowly helping them experience progressively deeper water and bigger waves… they soon began to relax and actually enjoy it. The experience moved from one of hesitation, fear and resistance to joy and the desire to do more… to experience more. There was music to my ears when I heard them say… with big grins on their faces… this is fun!

I thought about the underlying lesson about parenting and walking through life with those around me. Instead of looking at hesitation or fear as some character flaw or weakness, I realized that in most cases it’s just about not having the experience or having someone with experience to walk alongside. We all need others to keep from being frozen by fear or to be slowed down by the unknown.

To get in deeper water or to gain the skills and confidence to navigate the big waves of life, who can you help… who do you need to learn from?

What experiences in life has God given you that can help others when the waves come?

The July Whetstone Newsletter

parenting

Welcome to the July Whetstone Newsletter!  I hope that you all had a great 4th and were able to celebrate with friends and family.

Read

7 Lies We Tell our ChildrenBarnabas Piper

“We all lie to our kids. Sometimes it’s on purpose and for what we deem a good purpose. Sometimes it’s because we’re idiots and just don’t realize what we’re doing.”

Barnabas gives us a rundown of 7 lies we tell our kids. Lies we tell that enable them, limit them, or give them the wrong priorities. 1- You can do anything you set your mind to. 2- It doesn’t matter what anybody thinks. 3- Good grade matter most. 4-Don’t worry about results; it’s the effort that counts. 5- It’s the thought that counts. 6- Good job buddy. 7- It will be ok, I promise.  Me? #2 is my lie.

Retirement Reexamined – James Clark

“This kind of carefree, work-free post-retirement life is a widely shared dream today, but it does not align with a Christian understanding of work and vocation.”

Retirement is something that I’ve been thinking a lot about. What does it mean? What should it look like? What does God want? I think the answer is in answering defining questions about “calling” and “work”. I don’t think that calling is something that ends when you reach retirement age and if calling doesn’t end the “work” doesn’t end either. But I don’t think that “work” and job are synonymous either. I don’t believe you need to get paid to consider it “work”.  Find out more in the book referenced, Aging Matters:Finding Your Calling for the Rest of Your Life.

Why Helicopter Parents Produce Boomerang KidsTim Elmore

“Do we prepare the path for the child instead of the child for the path because we secretly want our kids to remain dependent upon us? Because…it feels good to be needed and wanted?”

I am becoming a huge fan of Tim Elmore. This guy seems to really get the differences between generations and really understands this current generation. Tim’s article dovetails perfectly with Ken’s blog post last week, Childhood Freedom. Where explored whether or not we let our kids explore enough without us.

Watch

Navy SEALs Have a ’40 Percent Rule’ And It’s the Key to Overcoming Mental Barriers

This video just illustrates to me how wonderfully created we are, by God, and how much He has given us. Put it to use!

Listen

The Book of ManWilliam Bennet on the Family Life Today Show

This is an excellent 3 part interview with former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett on raising boys. Pick up his book The Book of Man (I own it too).

 

Stay Sharp

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Childhood Freedom

Boy in woodsIt’s a miracle I survived my childhood. Left on my own to fend for myself, I faced one harrowing experience after another, narrowly escaping death, dismemberment and/or abduction on numerous occasions by the time I was 13 years old.

Hmmm. OK, not exactly. But that’s the way it seems based on today’s societal norms.

Let me back up for a minute. No, I wasn’t a victim of child neglect or endangerment, and I didn’t experience a terribly dangerous childhood. In fact, by all accounts I enjoyed a pretty normal childhood for kids of my generation. My mom was a loving and compassionate (mostly single) parent that sacrificed much to provide, and gave me the freedom to be adventurous and explore my surroundings. My summer days as a boy usually consisted of hopping on my bike in the morning to head out for the day’s adventures. Mom didn’t always know exactly where I was going, what I was going to do, or who I was going to hang out with. I just had to be home for dinner. I fished, explored the woods, climbed trees and cliffs, fished some more, rode my bike, waded streams, camped without adults, fished again…. You get the idea.

Sure, I made some bad choices and decisions along the way. Crossing the highway to get to an elusive fishing spot (and getting busted by a neighbor); throwing snowballs at cars (and chased into the woods by a guy whose car I hit); jumping my bike off a ramp into the lake (OK, that was actually pretty cool); and other experiences I probably wouldn’t have had if my mom had been hovering nearby. And yes, I suppose I could have been run over by a car, or drowned in the lake, or had something else terrible happen. But I wasn’t. And I didn’t. And I learned a lot life lessons along the way that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise.

And that’s my concern. Kids today don’t have anywhere near the freedom we had 30+ years ago. To allow our kids the freedom most of us enjoyed is now often considered irresponsible or criminal. And might even get you a visit from child protection services! With 24-hour news cycles constantly shouting global, national, (and yes, sometimes even local) tragedies, we seem to have become convinced as a society that it’s too dangerous out there for our kids. Better just keep them inside occupied with their video games and other electronic distractions (that’s another sore topic with me…), or under watchful eye outside with adult organized sports and activities.

Seriously?!

I’m personally not convinced it’s any more dangerous “out there” today than it was 30 years ago. Most statistics actually indicate it’s one of the safest times to be a kid – Google it and see for yourself. I don’t know what the result will be of this hyper controlled and supervised childhood, but I suspect it’s already a significant contributor to the recent phenomenon we’ve labeled as “extended adolescence”. The adventures and freedoms our kids don’t get to experience when they’re young are just delayed until their teens and twenties. Or even longer.

So what should we as dads (and moms) do about it? While our kids won’t have the same childhood we had (just like ours was different from previous generations), I think it’s important to give our kids more freedom and opportunities for real world exploration and adventure. To give them chances to learn from their mistakes, develop problem solving skills, and grow into mature adults. One small example is an annual father son camping trip a friend of mine organizes every summer. Yes, it’s parent led and not a solo kid expedition, but we make it a point to give the boys a lot more freedom than they experience at home. And I want to give them chances to spread their wings here in town too. Maybe encourage longer bike rides and trips to the park or burger joint with a few buddies and no adults. Not perfect, but it’s a start.

What about you? Do you also lament the lack of freedom and adventure our kids experience today? What ideas do you have to give them more freedom?

And my perspective is from raising two boys. What about those of you with daughters? Do these same concerns apply, or are they different? Let me know what you think!