No, the Kids Aren’t Alright – Summing it Up

Image100One of the best articles I have come across recently on the subject of the tragic fallout of our hook-up culture is an article called, “The Kids Aren’t Alright” (unlike the song which claims The Kids ARE Alright.)

Jeff Mallinson, professor at Concordia University Irvine, writes a deeply thought-provoking piece on where things stand now among young people who are left with the terrible consequences of our throw away, disposable sexual culture.

He writes:
 ” This ghost of desire, this ghost of eros, is all around us, and it serves only to mock us. There may have been a time when we could hope for love. Now we only have a shadow of love. This erotic problem, at its root, is a byproduct of our failure to understand and promote agape, unconditional love. Agape gives a couple confidences that they can authentically be unveiled to each other. It says, “I’d cross the desert for you,” and “I’d endure a thousand trials for our love,” but also, “I’ll be by your side when you suffer with clinical depression,” and “I love you so much, I’ll cuddle you when we are old and you have to wear adult diapers.” Incidentally, the loss of agape is largely to blame for the widespread phenomenon of middle-age divorce. Without the astonishing commitment of agape, the flame of eros dies out. But our bodies still desire physical gratification. The cheap answer? Fake it. Modern technology makes it possible. After a while, though, the imitation stuff seems as unfulfilling as anything. “

This empty shadow of sexuality as God designed it leaves nothing but brokenness in its wake. We see that everywhere in popular culture and news headlines. Thankfully, the real thing is still alive. Agape love, firmly at the root of marriage relationships, leads to the ultimate fulfillment of human beings. Our culture denies it to its own destruction.

Throwback Thursday

It has already been five years since Emily was born. I’ve been a mother for 28 years in April and a grandmother for almost three. Babies have been a part of my life since I began babysitting at 13 years of age when I had to learn how to fold a cloth diaper (no prefolds for that baby) and use diaper pins (run your hand between the baby and the pin so you don’t poke her!) Since then, it has been babies aplenty. Below my photo is my daughter-in-law with Peter and Max, the two most recent additions!

While I never achieved a lot of the hopes and goals I set for myself outside of motherhood, I have loved every moment of the calling I have had in being a mother and now, a grandmother. I don’t have a professional photo anymore, but this photo pretty much sums up my life’s work. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity and pray for my children and grandchildren daily.

 

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A Reflection for Today

Hymn reflection. These old treasures of English hymnody are largely unknown to younger generations. I share this one today in fitting contemplation of our Savior’s sacrifice on the cross. The music sung below only uses four of these stanzas, but the totality of the text tells the full story.

Cross of Jesus, cross of sorrow,
Where the blood of Christ was shed,
Perfect Man on thee did suffer,
Perfect God on thee has bled!

Here the king of all the ages,
Throned in light ere worlds could be,
Robed in mortal flesh is dying,
Crucified by sin for me.

O mysterious condescending!
O abandonment sublime!
Very God Himself is bearing
All the sufferings of time!

Evermore for human failure
By His passion we can plead;
God has born all mortal anguish,
Surely He will know our need.

This—all human thought surpassing—
This is earth’s most awful hour,
God has taken mortal weakness!
God has laid aside His power!

Once the Lord of brilliant seraphs,
Winged with love to do His will,
Now the scorn of all His creatures,
And the aim of every ill.

Up in Heaven, sublimest glory
Circled round Him from the first;
But the earth finds none to serve Him,
None to quench His raging thirst.

Who shall fathom that descending,
From the rainbow circled throne,
Down to earth’s most base profaning,
Dying desolate alone.

From the Holy, Holy, Holy,
We adore Thee, O most High,
Down to earth’s blaspheming voices
And the shout of Crucify.

Cross of Jesus, cross of sorrow,
Where the blood of Christ was shed,
Perfect Man on thee did suffer,
Perfect God on thee has bled!

Text: William J. Sparrow-Simpson, created for John Stainer’s oratorio, The Crucifixion

A Woman of Influence

She was a powerful woman, that poorly paid caretaker of children in a small village in Bulgaria. She didn’t know it, but she was. Day in and day out she turned up for work in the poorly-heated, ramshackle building built by the communist government to house orphans. So many children, so many needs.

A 3-year-old boy came to stay at the orphanage, and he was very frail. He had brittle bones and suffered fractures constantly. He had to stay in bed when he would fracture, sometimes for weeks and weeks.

This woman would tie the tiny boy to her back with a shawl and carry him on her sturdy back while she made the rounds. He looked so alone just lying there, and he was so happy when she’d let him hitch a ride with her.

Her name was Maria, and I said she was powerful, because she was. She changed a human life. Over time, nine years in all, that kindness she showed enabled the little boy to trust, to feel affection, and to feel that he was a worthy of love.  She didn’t realize that she was giving that child something utterly essential – an emotional foundation for the rest of his life.

That young boy is now a man who works in a hospital here in America, putting medication in IV bags and preparing chemo treatments for patients who are counting on him to do the job right. He is meticulous in his work, conscious of the responsibility he has. He has finished all the certifications he can for his job and is preparing to move on with his training in pharmacy. Despite physical challenges and setbacks, he enjoys helping others and has set goals for himself that with God’s help, he will meet. That’s just who Jonathan is.

Most importantly, he is deeply loved as our son. He is able to give and receive love as a direct result of the compassionate woman in the photograph who loved him before we ever got to meet him at age 12. We are indebted to this very influential woman named Maria whose loving arms changed our son’s life.

It must have seemed like a small thing to show extra love to the little boy, all in a day’s work. But it really wasn’t a small thing at all in the end. Nothing ever is when done in love.

(Tom snapped this photo of Maria and Jon together at the orphanage.)

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A Friend in Deed

A well-meaning person insisted I read a book about the end times and the rise of the anti-Christ. With the terrible headlines all over the place, they couldn’t understand my reluctance to fill my mind with the author’s blood-soaked schematic for the end of all things.

It doesn’t take much to understand that we’re entering an era of humanity fraught with more potential for terror, bloodshed and horror than ever before in history. Be that as it may. There are other things pressing on my mind, however. For our family, the daily challenge is raising a young child, educating her, feeding her, clothing her, getting her healthcare, and teaching her values and faith in a hostile world. In other words, it is supremely difficult to deal with the job at hand while watching videos of Christians in mass beheadings and prophecy buffs sharing their particular vision for biblical apocalypse.

Pious platitudes aside, there are real needs pressing on Christian families at a time when evangelicalism and much of Christian fundamentalism is either corrupt beyond redemption and/or obsessed with escaping the whole mess they helped to create.

A few weeks ago, we had visitors at our home. They were Christians who at one time were listeners to the radio program I co-hosted. They had heard I had been sick, and they stopped by with a basket containing dinner and several other encouraging things. The little girls had a wonderful time with Emily, and the two women and I talked and talked. Their presence was such a blessing in our home.

This is a recurring theme at the Hope Blog – the need for friendship, the genuine kind. People can flip out trite phrases and verses and hashtags on social media, but their presence is what makes the most difference. This article, How to be a Friend in Deed from the NY Times, is very practical. Having been at both ends of need through the years, I agree whole-heartedly with what this article says.

if you have some thrills and chills end times books, please enjoy them. For many of us, we have to focus on what is at hand, the pressing needs that won’t wait. The end may be near, but until it comes, there are burdens we can help lift and hearts we can encourage.

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Happy 80th Birthday to my Mother

Today is my mother Freda’s 80th birthday. My sister and I and several of our children are planning to meet her at 4pm today, so we can show her our love and honor her on her day. Mom used to put Scripture on little cards around the house, literally on the doorposts of the house. We’d brush our teeth, look up at the mirror, and see a card with a verse we were learning. Over breakfast, she would take a card out of her box of “Daily Bread.” When I went through a very difficult time in my young adulthood, she would write out a whole page of verses for me of encouragement with my name put in every promise of God, like the note below from many years ago. Thank you, Mom, for loving God and loving us all in spite of a challenging road. There is a crown for you laid up.

Four years ago, we held a party for my mother at our home. It was such a wonderful afternoon. The words we had put on the cake were taken from the book of Proverbs, chapter 31:28. “Her children call her blessed.”

 

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When Abuse is Entertainment for Christian Women

This article is written by Marie Notcheva, a friend of mine who has written counseling material on a number of important issues that affect women. In light of the popularity of the 50 Shades books and now, the movie, I thought the piece might be helpful to some. If Barna is correct, those identifying as “Christian” women are as much consumers of this as the rest of the country. The Hope Blog is written as an expression of my own Christian faith, and out of concern for young women (I do believe many young women are) eagerly consuming this material and normalizing it, I wanted to share Marie’s article.

“We are about to see a new wave of counseling cases because of “50 Shades of Grey”, and here’s why: Christian women are reading this tripe at the same rate as the general population. A Barna survey shows that nine percent of American adults have read “50 Shades”, and the statistic is exactly the same for professing Christians.” ~ Marie Notcheva

Happiness is…

….making vanilla cupcakes with Emmy. My friend Sherry from Des Moines sent Em a Peter Rabbit cupcake kit that we used this morning to make some treats. Emmy stirred it all together and put in all the ingredients. She also frosted them with a little help and a few licks. Her daddy declared they were perfect when he tried her handiwork after dinner.

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