More Than Just Listen

I believe that the preacher has two duties:to teach the people how to read, and to teach the people how to think. By reading, I don’t mean the ability to look at letters and turn them into words and sentences, but the ability to look at words and sentences and understand the context and subtext, to read critically. And by thinking, I don’t mean the ability to think approved thoughts, but the ability to take approved thoughts and evaluate them according to an ultimate standard.
I’m always dismayed when I go to hear a sermon and I hear words being read, but no Reading being done, thoughts being recommended for adoption, but no Thinking bring demonstrated. It does no good to convey truths to a people like a black box, and give them no hope of learning how those truths actually integrate. How then when other preachers come and authoritatively hand out more attractive untruths?
It’s as though a soldier was added to the roster of a military unit, and was subjected every week to his captain and first sergeant demonstrating on his behalf all the skills of a great soldier, but was never trained to perform those skills himself. How then when he deploys? How when he is promoted will he handle increased responsibility?
I don’t remember, growing up, if I was subject to  good preaching on Sunday mornings. I remember a few really good pastors, but I also remember moving a lot. What I did have was a mother who was faithful to teach me doctrine, and recordings of great preaching, and an excellent library. We had lots of theological conversations growing up. We probably had a lot of conversations that no other family would have. I’m always running into situations where a friend learns, as an adult or a reasonably mature Christian, something that was part of normal conversation when I was a kid. (Of course, I’m also always filling in lots of gaps.) My point is that I was taught to read and I was taught to think. Oh boy was I taught!
God has ordained two primary channels for Christian education: the parents and the preacher. Every other role is a supporting role.  And it’s the preacher’s job to train the parents. My mom did her job, and an excellent one. But not every Christian gets an excellent mom. How much more then does the preacher have a heavy responsibility to teach the people every week to do more than just listen?

You see, of course, my dilemma.

So I’m listening to the Writing Excuses Season Capstone, and I’m starting to realize why I’ve never become a professional writer: I have too many hobbies. I have a lot of things I’m interested in and I do well enough at them naturally that I could have chosen any one of them to pursue professionally, but only at the expense of dropping all the others. I sing and dance; I play guitar; I write fiction and non-; I study theology and economics… but none of those turn into money, except at a very high level of development.

Developing one means dropping all the others and taking a gamble, and it’s a gamble I’ve never been willing to take. Which is odd, because I’m not particularly risk adverse. But I am proud. Too proud, for instance, to stay in my parents house for a decade, pursuing a career that might not work out. To proud to risk being accused of failure to launch.

So what have I done instead? I picked the one interest that had low barriers to entry, and easy to monetize early: sitting at a desk, organizing stuff. Small fame there, but a decent paycheck. And that’s how I became the Army Sustainment Officer I am today. It turns out my most lucrative calling is to be a bureaucrat.

That doesn’t erase the itch to accomplish something more… refined? with my life. It just steals a certain chunk of my time. So I am even now looking into refining the roughage out of the remaining hours that I have, so I can set aside time to do pursue one of my old affections. I’m going to have to shove aside one or two of my big three weekend and evening pursuits: church involvement, Facebook, and being a dad.

But I like the idea of shyness as a virtue

Ran into a blog on teaching from my sister. This post piqued my interest and had me nodding in time to the music, until I got to the last quote:

But don’t children need to play with one another? We have to see the difference here between what children want and what they need. The play that children need for healthy development is emergent play, not social play. Emergent play (or creative solitute) does not involve interacting with others… If playmates are involved, they stem from the child’s imagination… The parent is always the best bet for this kind of play, serving as an attachment anchor–although even the parent must not overdo it, lest the emergent play deteriorate into social play, which is far less beneficial. Children are not able to serve the function of an attachment anchor with one another, so their emergent play is almost always preempted by social interaction. Because of the strong emphasis on peer socialization, emergent play–play arising from the child’s creativity, imagination, and curiosity about the world–has become endangered.

I’m the last guy in the world to advocate children spending most of their time surrounded by other little children. But this sounds like somebody advocating for homeschooling and single child families!

A Reflection on Parenting (Part 2)

Kyle and I have been having some rather extended conversations about parenting and the direction in which we wish to lead our children (novel concept right?). And we’ve been discussing the fact that we want to instill into our children a forward thinking perspective that looks towards long term goals and benefits. Now Kyle tends to focus mostly on legacy building, but I have been coming back to the need to raise our children in an environment that embraces responsibility at an early age.

In my last post, I talked about the current definition of childhood and how we have culturally glorified it to an untenable position. I would like to further look at this social construct in light of our responsibility as parents to train our children.

In our zeal to appeal to the modern world, we’ve let society dictate to us how we should respond our children’s youthful urges and behaviors. This dictation is undermining Christian principles because it in no way acknowledges a Sovereign God who has given us the duty to mold our children to seek after the paths of righteousness. On the contrary, society would rather have us be our child’s ‘best friend’ and ‘understand what they’re going through’ than to follow our calling to love, admonish and discipline our children. Society would rather we give unconditionally to our children’s desires without thought to their rightful needs.

The desire to give good gifts to our children is not a bad thing and neither is wanting to shield them from worries. But to let society dictate that the best way to do that is to allow them free reign to pursue their desires is decidedly unchristian and detrimental to their ultimate happiness.

A Reflection on Parenting (Part 1)

I have found responses to this to be very frustrating. Ever since the Time article came out, there have been a lot of media sources jumping on it and railing about the horrors of teen pregnancy. Most of the topics that have cropped up in response to the initial article have been centered around access to birth control and better sex-ed. Both of which are missing the mark as usual. Continue reading “A Reflection on Parenting (Part 1)”

I’ve found a solution

For a long time now, I’ve disparaged families who are so negligent as to “use the TV as a babysitter.” I had my reasons:

* TV are stuupid. Television is designed to pitch to the widest possible audience. In part, this is usually accomplished by also pitching to the lowest common denominator. This means that most television, even movies is noticeably lacking in any kind of content which might require an attention span. But people only mature and become capable of working with more complex information by being regularly exposed to stuff that is beyond what they’re actually used to. You don’t improve in anything unless you have to struggle a bit. Since TV constantly pitches low, a regular diet of television makes you dumb.

* TV are annoying. Young children are geared toward repetition and memorization. Which means that, even if you find a way to expose your kids only to “smart TV,” they’re going to want to be watching it a great deal more than an adult is quite prepared to tolerate. I don’t care how much better than the standard fare Thomas the Tank Engine is. It’s not good enough for me to have to memorize it. And I don’t know that I want my kids memorizing it either. OK. Maybe Veggie Tales songs. But I have limits.

Unfortunately, ideals are all wonderful until you encounter real life, in which a child requires a great deal of stimulation. Continue reading “I’ve found a solution”

Captain of the Changing Table

Some day in the future, I plan to be very intimately involved in the raising of my son. I shall teach him how to ride a bike and how to read. (No, I mean how to *read*.) I will discuss with him how to raise a family and what to look for in a wife, the importance of preparing to be a provider from an early age, the joys of duty and responsibility. But for now, the days of early infancy are primarily a mother’s realm. No matter how beautiful the baby, it takes a mother’s heart to truly cherish a child who only wants and never learns – who is a bundle only of needs.

To love and coo and long for this experience is beyond me, but Valerie does it, and every woman I meet seems to wish to aid her. As for me, I cannot feed him at the breast, and to see him in a perfect little outfit that is just *so* cute stirs no excitement in me. What joys I have in the duties of infant childhood parenting I perceive through the lens of my wife. She loves this time and in it feels that overwhelming mother-love for her son, and through her, I feel these things too. But in all honesty, there is little of the parenting at this age that is truly mine to do.

There is one capacity, however, that I can be fully vested in: the changing table. I am captain of the changing table. When David wakes in the middle of the night, I can’t feed him, so I don’t stay up all and lose hours of sleep every night. But in the middle of every feeding, there is a procedure that involves getting up from the bed. Valerie leans over and wakes me (which is fortunately easy – I have the felicity of being immune to baby cries, but very sensitive to my name); I get up, fetching her a glass of water, and take from her the baby. I carry him into the other room, make all the adjustments, and bring him back, ready for his second helping. This happens 2-3 times per night, at most 10 minutes lost of sleep. For me, nothing, but everything gained for my wife.

My captaincy ends around 6:30 in the morning, when I leave the house to go to work. At 3:00 (uh, 4:00? 4:30?), I come home and resume my stake. On the weekends, of course, my role never ceases. It is an exceedingly small burden for me since, with today’s technology, wet diapers are not so much wet as surprisingly heavy; breastfed babies also have the advantage that their waste is actually not all that unpleasant to smell (It’s about the equivalent of a strong cheese), and our son seems to be uh, blessed, with very infrequent bowel movements anyway.

Of course I also am still at home in my own house and know how to cook and clean, and a greater responsibility in these areas has fallen on me. Occasionally I am also viceroy of the bathtub and lieutenant of tummy time, but from my perspective, my contribution is almost nothing. Yet my wife says what I do is such a great relief to her that I continually earn her gratitude. This is a good thing, because in my mind every service I perform for our son is first and foremost a gift to her, and every complaint a cry of concern for her wellbeing.