Category: Family

Making memories to last a lifetime

Some days are more special than others. I think I always will remember Saturday, November 17, 2012, unless dementia robs me of it somewhere down the road.

Saturday night, one of my daughters, Tabitha, and I took two of my grandchildren to their first college football game. Baylor hosted number one ranked Kansas State in Waco.

It would have been a memorable night for Madison (8) and Tristan (5) no matter how the game went because it’s simply pretty amazing to be in a stadium full of 40,000 or so people for the first time. But then the game became a classic, with the unranked Bears defeating the previously unbeaten Wildcats.

I don’t know if Madison and Tristan had even heard of the Baylor Bears before Saturday, but they were screaming and giving high-fives as if the green and gold were a life-long passion.

Madison is not a big football fan; she’s more into the princess thing. But Saturday she found her inner-footballer and raised her Bears “paw” and shouted “Sic ’em, Bears” with the rest of us.

Tristan especially got into the game. The south side of the stadium would shout out “B-A-Y-L-O-R,” and our side would respond with “Bears.” Every time it was the moment for “Bears,” Tristan raised his clinched fist as if curling a bum-bell and yelled “Bears,” with a look on his face similar to that of former Bears linebacker Mike Singletary. He did it over and over and over.

The day after, my dad told Tabitha he didn’t think Tristan, at age 5, would remember the game. She responded that his son (me) remembered when his dad took him to his first big-time football game at age six–Dallas Texans vs. San Diego Chargers at the Cotton Bowl. Like it was yesterday.

Some things in life stick with us for a very long time. We wish we could get rid of some of the bad memories, so maybe adding some good ones is one way to crowd out the bad. It surely cannot hurt.

A football game is not very important in the big scheme of things, but just as Jesus took time to go to parties, it’s nice to take time away from the more serious pursuits of life and simply enjoy life with family and friends.

The Apostle Paul said, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15 NRSV) I rejoiced with my Baylor friends Saturday; I’m afraid I didn’t weep with the Kansas State folks whose hearts were broken. But this is only football, and I’m still a work in progress.

‘I take thee and thee and thee . . .’

Many people could see it coming. The seemingly unstoppable redefinition of marriage in our culture to include same-sex marriage was bound to open doors to other forms of marriage, most notably polygamy.

Lisa Brown, in an online post for The Washington Post, lays out the basics of the debate very succinctly even though the headline is about an academic who is saying, in essence, that two is good, three or more is bad.

John Witte Jr., a scholar of religion and law at Emory University in Atlanta, offers four non-religious defenses of monogamy:

1) Unlike most other animals, “humans crave sex all the time, especially when they are young and most fertile. They don’t have a short rutting or mating season, followed by a long period of sexual quietude.”

2) Human babies are “born weak, fragile, and utterly dependent for many years. . . .  Most human mothers have a hard time caring fully for their children on their own, especially if they already have several others. They need help, especially from the fathers.”

3) Most fathers will “bond and help with a child only if they are certain of their paternity.”

4) Unlike virtually all other animals, “humans have the freedom and the capacity to engage in species-destructive behavior in pursuit of their own sexual gratification. Given the lower risks and costs to them, men have historically been more prone to extramarital sex than women, exploiting prostitutes, concubines, and servant girls in so doing and yielding a perennial underclass…who have rarely fared well in any culture.”

These conclusions by Witte are derived from the social sciences. For those of us who are non-scientists, Witte’s conclusions seem intuitively correct, although I’m not so sure about the third one.

If, however, one is going to accept the logic of his points, then it would seem one should see both polygamy and same-sex marriage as socially destructive. Witte makes the obvious, natural connection between the union of one man and one woman. That, it seems, is the way it should be whether one is looking at it from a religious or a sociological perspective.

Where is commitment in male-female relationships?

Cohabitation outside of marriage is spreading to older adults, including parents with children at home, according to Census data reported by USA Today.

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when very few unmarried couples lived together. Then it became a phenomenon more of young adults who had never been marriage. Now, nearly 30 percent of cohabiting people are divorced, nearly half are 35 and older and growing numbers are parents with children at home, USA Today said.

As of March, 15.3 million unmarried heterosexual individuals were in live-in relationships, that’s 6.5 percent of all U.S. adults 18 and over. The survey did not count those who had cohabited in the past but are now married or are living alone or with family or friends.

Here are some other highlights:
– 41% of cohabiting couples have kids living with them.

– 47% are 35 and older, and 13% are 55 and over.

– 21% have a bachelor’s degree or higher, 31% have some college, 35% have a high school diploma, and 13% did not graduate from high school.

As a person who has been married 33 years and never even thought about living with someone before my marriage, I find this changing cultural situation hard to grasp. It does not seem right to me that unmarried people should live together, but some of my family and friends have been or are in such relationships.

I grew up in a family with my mom, dad, and sister. That’s the kind of family I generally saw among my friends. And television tended to affirm that model of family. As a result, I grew up expecting to marry for life and raise children. The world of today’s children fits that pattern less and less, and the implications are immense. Fewer children are experiencing what I and my children have experienced.

There is not space here to go into a detailed discussion of what the Bible says on this issue, so let me ask a question and provide a simple answer without simply saying, “Because the Bible says so.”

The question: Why is it important to uphold the importance of marriage for long-term, male-female sexual relationships?

The simple answer: Because commitment is good and important, both for the couple and for any children connected to that couple.

It is important that we value commitment. This seems especially important in regard to children. If they grow up in households lacking in basic commitment, there is a good chance they will not bring it to their own adult relationships in the years ahead. Despite what is seen on television, marriage is the place for sexual relationships. (See the Bible for further documentation.)

Facing the reality of violence against children

It is hard to fathom violence against children. How can anyone hurt a child? But we all know it happens in our neighborhoods and even in the homes of so-called “good, Christian people.”

These crimes close at hand make us cringe, and they are part of a global situation where violence against children continues to grow.

Today, I received a news release from the Baptist World Alliance with the headline, “Widespread violence against children.” I’m not really sure why BWA released this information now, but it reveals some maddening statistics about such violence. The release says:

“Between 500 million and 1.5 billion children suffer violence (UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children 2011). While these figures are frightening enough, broader statistics from UNICEF paint an even more depressing picture: Approximately 1.5 million children between 5 and 14 are involved in child labor; 1.2 million children have been trafficked each year since 2000; one million children are detained through justice processes; 18 million children are living with the effects of displacement; and 70 million females in 29 countries, many of them young girls, have experienced female genital mutilation or cutting.”

This is really too much to comprehend, at least for me. Numbers sterilize human tragedy. All I know is that it is hard to imagine such evil pertrated against children. The release continues:

“Further complicating a terrible picture for children in the world, child soldiers are a norm in several countries. A child soldier is ‘any person under 18 years of age who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity’ (1997 UNICEF and NGO symposium in South Africa).

“Children were actively involved in armed conflict in government forces or non-state armed groups in 19 countries or territories between 2004 and 2007 (Human Rights Watch, Child Soldiers Global Report 2008). The Human Rights Watch report estimates that ‘although it is impossible to accurately calculate the number of children involved in armed forces and groups, it is clear that there are many tens of thousands of child soldiers. Child soldiers exist in all regions of the world.'”

I’m proud to be a Baptist when we, as a group, stand against such tragic circumstances. And we have stood against this through BWA, which has given direct and indirect assistance to combat this scourge through Baptist World Aid. BWAid has been involved in resettlement programs for displaced persons; refugee assistance; post-conflict healing and reconciliation programs; and assistance for war orphans.

Unfortunately, the “warnings and cautionary notes that the BWA has been declaring over the years are as relevant now as they have ever been,” the release says. “The state of children around the world, rather than improving, is getting worse in too many instances. In addressing these horrible facts, we Baptists should surely see ourselves being compelled by love to find the means to help these children.”

It is hard to face up to the ugliness in the world. It is even harder to act against it. Hardness, however, has never stopped good people from seeking to do what is right.

Simple pleasures

Last night, as I was getting ready to go to bed, I heard some very kind words coming from the dining room — “Thank you, Mom.”

The speaker: My youngest son, a seventh grader. He had been toiling over his pre-algebra homework with his mom by his side joining him in the struggle. His words of thanks were not slopped out as if fulfilling some kind of familial requirement of politeness. They were stated with genuine appreciation.

Trese’s help with our son’s homework has reminded me of my own mother’s help with me years ago. I struggled through the fourth grade, and every night Mom would sit with me at the dining room table and struggle with me. I was tired and grumpy near the end of the day and thought the work would never end. Mom’s commitment to me was never more greatly illustrated.

When it came time for me to move to the fifth grade, they put me in what was called the “excelerated” class with all of the smart kids. I did just fine the next three years in that group before we moved on to junior high. I would never have been put in that class if not for my mother and her tireless work.

My son is grumpy about his homework now, but he already appreciates his mom and he will appreciate her even more in the years ahead. I know.

Storm watching 2

Last night, for the second day in a row, a tornado warning and emergency sirens interrupted our evening plans. A twister had been sited and was heading our way with 20 minutes to prepare. This time, we ran like scared chickens.

Our house sits on a hill, so we’re rather exposed; no, we’re really exposed. The ladies in our house were ready to flee, and we had three choices of refuge — under the house, down into a low creek bed with a large culvert or over to an matching culvert sitting in a field. I had a preference for under the house, but that didn’t seem to capture the imagination of the others. My youngest daughter, age 16, lobbied for the latter option of the culvert in the field. I trumped her with my age, experience and maleness, so we hopped in the truck and drove to the creek bed.

At the edge of the creekbed, we sat in the truck and watched. A giant, white cloud appeared above us tailing down to our right at about a 35 degree angle. “It looks like a butt,” Trese declared because near the top, where the cloud connected to the cloud bank, there was a long, dark “crack” in the cloud. More importantly it looked to be a broad funnel cloud. Abandon ship or, in this case, abandon truck. To the creek culvert.

As one might expect, and I knew in advance, there was water running a couple of inches deep in the creek bed. The problem with the culvert is that the water doesn’t flow through it; instead it flows around it with a pile of broken limbs at one end and mud in the bottom.

I did not anticipate the depth and stickiness of the mud. One of my daughters promptly lost a flip-flop in the muck and I did a hand-dive to retrieve it.  About that time I also realized I had failed to shod myself properly. I had on the shoes I normally wear to work  — nice Rockports.  They couldn’t be seen in the mud. Our 16-year-old was the best prepared — fashionable, polka-dot galoshes.

The cloud stayed off the ground, but the lightening didn’t. More than once, my 16-year-old raised the point about us standing in watery mud beside a water-filled creek with lightening all around. The logic of her argument was unasailable.

Then a reenactment from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” occurred. Runaway, runaway. There was no killer bunny, but we didn’t want to be fried Fosters. Back in the truck for an escape to the other culvert.

I did risk life and limb for the family to open a metal gate in the midst of the electric funhouse, but no one said thanks. We waited out the storm at our new sanctuary — obviously the best choice all along.

No damage to us or our stuff. The only damage was to my fatherly ego. My 16-year-old daughter did the best thinking in the midst of the storm. Of course, that does make me feel really good in one sense; she’s going to do just fine on her own in a few years. I just hope the guy she’s with has the sense to listen to her. Or maybe I should say, I hope they both have the sense to listen to one another.