Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Power of a Negative Example

A recent link on my AOL homepage - yes I still use AOL - included a link to a brief article discussing whether or not an adult without children can or should offer advice to parents on child rearing.  The writer nimbly came down in the middle because, well, there are a lot of mediocre writers out there who don't have the nerve to take a solid stance on much of anything.  The accompanying poll, however, bore witness to the fact that most readers certainly are willing to take a stance and that stance is "NO".

Reading this only furthered my own appreciation of negative examples.

While teaching a good lesson to anyone is admirable, how often do we find ourselves actually learning more (or having our own beliefs solidified) by the power of negative examples.  Had I written the article on giving child-rearing advice I would have been that brave writer who dares take a stand and would resoundingly state that those living in glass houses should not throw rocks.  And we parents know that we are never the one in the glass house because we know better.  In our own experiences we have recently received some criticism for decisions made that affect our children.  One self-aggrandizing advice giver has never had children, will never have children, and has never spent enough time with children to offer any advice.  The other should probably consider looking at the parenting results they have experienced before feeling they know best.

I am often struck by the book of Job, and how in the midst of Job's suffering and the beautiful words that we often dwell on direct from the mouth of our Savior, we have the powerful negative examples of Job's friends.  Sometimes they are called "well-meaning".  They are almost always called "friends".  I would suggest that both adjectives may be a bit off their mark.  To read the words of these men is to hear those with flawed theology and very incorrect concepts of who this God is and how He deals with our sin.  To think of them as 'friends' would be to employ a rather loose idea of the term.  In the midst of suffering does a friend offer that "hey - it's all your fault - you brought this on yourself"...or does a friend offer a cup of cold water?  A shoulder?  When a friend has not worked out his own theology in a manner that is Biblical and proper offering the faulty theology is more the working of an enemy.  Job's "friends" provide a powerful negative example for each one of us when we feel that inexplicable surge to offer advice - whether solicited or not.

As Christians we have yet another powerful negative example - that being the workings of those around us for whom Christ is not preeminent.  These people offer up by their lifestyle, by their choices, by their lack of any real devotion to anything or anyone but themselves a powerful negative example as we make decisions each and every day of our lives.   When someone who has rejected our Lord offers us advice it's often best to just figure that the opposite of their advice may be the best avenue for our lives.

The negative example is as much a gift to the Christian as the blessing of positive examples which we each pray for in our lives and which we find in the inerrant, inspired Word of God.  And so we learn to be thankful for each gift....

Friday, February 19, 2010

52 in 52: Playing Catch-Up

Just to be clear, I am playing 'catch-up' on my posting of books read, not on my reading because, well, I'm a geek.  Yes, that's right, I own up to it...I'm a geek.  Not in the 21st century definition....I could barely tell you the 'operating system' of my computer (I'm just happy to be able to type on the thing).  I'm a geek by more old school definition.  I read.  I think too much.  But I AM working really hard on employing my 'edit' button.  Though I do think perhaps 'mute' is a better term for the button I should employ (or grow?)

ANYWAY - just to keep up, a quick listing of the books finished but not yet listed:

Alice In Wonderland.....the classic soon to be a Johnny Depp vehicle of psychological torture for movie viewers.  But, here's the thing, this book is full...full....of such great prose.  The twist of words, the things you read and then re-read to catch the undercurrent.  It's really a masterpiece of word usage.  Lewis Carroll's interesting use of English has made this book a favorite of mine, now cracking the top 100 when, as a child, I don't believe I was ever terribly impressed with the book.  Of course, as a child, I read it for the story, not really appreciating exchanges like this:

"I don't think...." began Alice.
"Then you shouldn't speak," said the Hatter.

The Well-Trained, quite honestly, a book generally read only by the homeschooling community.  And within that community, pretty much read only by those who take the educating of their children quite seriously.  Yes, 'tis true, there are a good many within this population group who homeschool for reasons that do not include:  I want to give my child an educational experience superior to what he would find in a traditional school.  The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer is a bit of a Bible for me...I mean 'bible'.  In the sense that it is a guidebook.  A guidebook filled with information and ideas and ideals which I shall never meet but which prod me on to better myself as the (current) co-master of my children's education.  This is all about classical education my friends.  The kind of education the great thinkers of far in the past engaged in.  The kind of education that promotes thinking - learning how to do so in an orderly fashion and then learning how to (bravely) defend, explain, reason, and point out fallacy.  Will the average person want to pick this book up and read it?  Probably not.  Should anyone wondering what their child would/should/could learn consider at least paging through it?  Yeah - fit it in somewhere.

I have four books on my bedside table as I type.  Each in various states of being finished.  A couple will be completed this weekend.  Just to show you how potluck my brain is:

Why We're Not Emergent by Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck
The Broker by John Grisham
My Life In Paris by Julia Child
When Character Was King by Peggy Noonan

It can be very hard work being a geek....

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Of Phishing & Philosophy

To know our life as a family the past several months is to catch a glimpse of something replete with lessons learned, battles fought, and faith tested.  Sometimes, however, it's best just to sit back and laugh until my belly hurts because laughter may not be the best medicine, but it's often all we have left (and sometimes the only thing actually in the entertainment budget).  It seems, however, that the individual who decided to phish their way into our bank account last week does not know of our recent circumstances for he would not have wasted his time.

That's right, of all the banks in all the world, he had to walk into mine.  And not just electronically walk into my account, but right into my checking account which he promptly emptied.  I'm using 'he' not because I inherently think all men are evil but, truly, who can't help but picture some lazy greasy oaf of a man sitting at his computer hacking into bank accounts?  So this beacon of electronic energy determines that our account should be phished.  Truly.  Could it be the 2010 version of the story of Job?  No boils or destruction of the house my children are partying in, but rather electronic claws sweeping in and taking what little is left of a bank account.

Philosopher John Locke believed, among other things, that the "hoarding up" of money was quite acceptable because it did not spoil or rot.  Locke liked to make such observations while determining not to consider the inequality of those who have plenty hoarded and those for whom hoarding is but a distant, far off concept never dealt with because of the struggle to pay the bills.  John Locke the philosopher never met my new friend the phisher.  It would seem that no matter how much we 'hoard' - or store up - someone in the electronic age can make sure we don't feel too secure in our treasures stored here on earth.

Oh and now you see the spiritual twist to the entire irony that is my life of late.  In all I still believe that God will either avert all evil in my life or turn it to my profit.  And while sometimes it seems that the evil that affects us all is not being averted very often, to see the profit gives me reason to hope.  To hope in a God whose purpose is bigger than my own - bigger than that of my friend the phisher's - more than any hoarded amount which, though it won't spoil, it won't buy the hoarder a bigger crown after death.

So, phisher, while I will not say 'have at it' (and while I relish the fact that you found me at the point in our lives that you did), I hope that someday you too can find the peace that comes in a bank account not quite so full.

Monday, February 1, 2010

52 in 52: Girls in Empire Waist Dresses & First Novels

A first novel.  This means more when the 'first' is from a notable name.  And with a notable name comes more readers.  For example, if it were my first novel it would mean little to most though I would be able to check something off my "To Do" list.  However, when it is a first from someone remarkable - say when it's a first from a lady named Jane....well, "first" becomes interesting reading for reasons beyond topic or plot.  It becomes interesting because it has a large body of work to compare it to.

Enter:  Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.

Abbeys and young, thin girls described as readers or something similar.  Dances very foreign to our current culture's definition of such and gentlemen who live up to the moniker.  A romance that may blossom...or may not.  A relationship that is what it seems....or may not be.  An undercurrent of Puritan morality with loosened corsets and high waisted dresses.  So much of Jane's first novel contains threads found in other novels.  Characters which may be identified elsewhere in books to come.

While not her finest hour, it is her first.  As such, it is a worthy endeavor to visit Jane the first especially as an exercise in comparison....perhaps as an exercise in proving that one does improve with practice.    And improve she did....