The Coddling Trap

I wanted to share a  little insight into the problems frequently cited in young people today — their sense of entitlement and their  emotional incontinence. A few years back I was reading a book called, The Christmas Mouse (published in 1973) by a British author who used the pen name, Miss Read. It isn’t a children’s book, it is  a charming story set in an English village with some female characters (along with some children.)

In the course of the plot, one of the female characters, recently widowed, is home alone on Christmas Eve and has a run away child break into her pantry that stormy night. The boy was a foster child from a good family she knew down the road. What struck me reading the book was the response of Mrs. Barry to the hungry, crying child eating her pies in the pantry. The boy being fostered at the farm down the road was upset, because he felt the kids of the foster family had a better set of gifts than he received, and he felt left out not having his own family, so he ran away.

Initially, I found myself thinking, Oh, poor child!  So alone and sad on Christmas Eve without his own family!  But the response of Mrs. Barry set me back very quickly. Rather than emotionally surrounding the shivering boy with a blanket of emotional comfort and understanding, she proceeded to address the core problems. The core issues were that he was A) ungrateful for the warm, safe family home where he was living B) ungrateful for the wonderful family that had taken him in and their buying him gifts he otherwise would not have had C) That he had worried this good family by running away D) That he felt he had the right to break in to her home and steal her food, because he was unhappy.

In short, she rebuked his sense of entitlement and brought him to see, eventually, his wrongheadedness on every front. She let him warm by the fire, met his needs and then called his foster family.

This is the set of values that made Britain and the US strong.  In the West, we  long ago departed from this way of handling children. We are prone to coddle kids when there are core character issues that need addressing. The results are all around us.  Didn’t get what I deserve!You have ‘privilege’ and I don’t!, You have better stuff and it’s not fair!,   I’m entitled to what you have cause I have nothing!

Christian teachings – as found in the Bible – emphasize humility, gratitude and respect for others. When a culture at large ceases to value that and it is no longer taught in homes, you get the atrocious state of things we are now witnessing. I DEMAND this !, I DESERVE WHAT YOU HAVE! , I’M A VICTIM AND YOU OWE ME!I’m UNHAPPY AND YOU NEED TO FIX IT!

No loving,  responsible parent is going to ignore the emotional needs of their children. But there is a difference between idolizing happiness, as though anything that threatens happiness is the problem – in essence, allowing for the tyranny of emotions in a child’s life –  and making sure a child is not carrying unnecessary emotional burdens  I tell this to our young daughter  when she is very unhappy and very unhappy that she is unhappy. “Your happiness is not the most important thing. Obeying and doing the right thing comes first.  Sometimes we are sad, angry, and unhappy. That’s just how life works. But how we ultimately pick ourselves up and respond to it  is what matters.” That’s what I try to get across to my children (and myself!)

Something to remember is that the ongoing mindset of victimhood wars against acknowledging the GRACE in our lives and squelches gratitude. It kills it.

The Christmas Mouse is a wonderful little book by Miss Read, but I found something deeper there worth recognizing, I think.

(There are still copies of this book in some libraries, and there are used versions of this little book available online with a simple search. Sometimes it is combined with two other Christmas stories by Miss Read, all of which are a joy to read.)

A Thank You from the Schlueters

compassionThere are a precious few in this world who are capable of understanding how to respond in times of loss. This thank you is to those who get it.

Thank you to those who are able to look beyond public image and big works and see hurting people in crisis and reach out.

Thank you to those who refuse to pile on with  judgments based on ignorance and hate at a time already fraught with complexity and anxiety.

Thank you to those who came to this small blog this last week, because you see our family and the Russ Turner family as people worthy of kindness and respect, and with an intent to pray for us or offer to help, rather than satisfy your idle curiosity for purposes of gossip. Your decency is worth more than gold. And just as rare.

My father, Vic Eliason, died last Saturday in the hospital. We were there, as we had been earlier in the week. Life is not a Hallmark movie. It would be nice if we could write the endings, wouldn’t it? But on this broken planet, life doesn’t always work out the way we hope and pray. All of us can only do what we can do. We are not in control. We are not in charge.

One thing my sister’s family and mine have seen often in the past years, is that every piece of the shattered glass of our lives can be part of a new mosaic. But it only happens if we give the pieces to God for arranging. What seems like unbelievable destruction really can be beautiful. Those in the middle of their own struggle can look up at God’s lovely design, see the light of His presence through the glass and say, “You can do that for me, too, God. Give me faith and courage.”

A blessed and Christ-filled Christmas to all who have stopped by.

 

Light in the Windows

Emily and I like looking at Christmas and snowy winter photos, and together we picked out the ones we liked the best. Our little girl (she is six-years-old now) is excited that we’re only 12 days away from Christmas Eve. Today she has practice at church for the Lessons and Carol service coming up next Friday.  She will be wearing her white choir robe and singing with the other children in the Cherub Choir the old, old story of our Savior’s birth. “I love to sing, Mama,” she told me last night.

Here are some of the images that we like best.  The contrast between the cold and dark and light and warmth through the windows in these images never fails to draw a viewer in.  It’s a cold and dark world and that’s why the love light in our homes and communities is what matters most.

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A Blessing at our Door

Our doorbell rang this morning and a nice delivery man brought in beautiful trays of food to our house. Some friends of ours who do not share our Christian faith, but love us anyway, ordered the food for our family to enjoy at Christmas.

It reminded me of the little excerpt I shared, the story about the dejected man and his wife at Christmas, when the doorbell rang, and God brought a blessing. This time, it was our house, sent by people who care about us.

We are deeply touched and grateful for the kindness shown to our family. They have no idea how much it means to us, but we hope they know it’s a whole lot!

 

Christmastrays

O Great Mystery

O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
meruerunt portare
Dominum Christum.
Alleluia.

English translation

O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.
Alleluia!

 

No Fake Jesus Wanted

The only Jesus this child will see and know is the One who shines through the lives of those around her

We can sing about the baby Jesus and get all misty eyed at carols, but it doesn’t mean squat if all we have is sentiment and rhetoric.

This child knows about Jesus based on what she experiences through the lives of those who love her. She doesn’t need fake Jesus, the one that has no more depth than the ones on the cards that we send out.

She needs the real Jesus who overcomes darkness, loves unconditionally and who forgives and heals.

Any other Jesus is a fake. Anybody professing this fake Jesus is a fraud.

Emmy knows that those who love her are there for her, no matter what. Some of her own relatives have already rejected her in her short life. But there is someone who will always be there for her.

The real Jesus.

That’s who Christmas is all about.

 

EmChristmas

Home Again

Will is home from college tonight. He arrived at the bus station too early for his dad to pick him up after work, so he walked down Wisconsin Avenue carrying all his stuff from college and arrived at Gesu Church where his beloved Schantz organ was waiting for him in the dark organ loft.

Our son recorded a Christmas carol just for me. I thought I’d share  Silent Night with the Hope Blog readers.

He also recorded this joyful fanfare just for fun. This is a fanfare he learned from Organist Emeritus at Gesu, John Weissrock, Will’s mentor in organ from the time he was a very small boy. The fanfare is usually the introduction to Christ the Lord is Risen Today at Easter, but Will whips it out when he is in a particularly joyful mood. He’s glad to be home, and Tom, Mary , Emmy and I are all so happy to have our tornado back for a few weeks from college.

 

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