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The Great American Struggle (An Excerpt)

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From Chapter 4, “Keeping the Family Together”

The Great American Struggle

Family life in 21st century America is not easy. Though, I imagine our New Testament counterparts would scoff at such a statement.

When we want to take a hot bath, we walk 10 feet into our bathroom and turn a couple of knobs. We do not have to take 15 trips to the river with two buckets and then light a fire to heat the water. If we want to cook a meal, we walk into the kitchen, put some food in a pan, turn some knobs on the oven and wait. Or, we pull something out of a freezer, shove it into a microwave, punch a few buttons and have a meal in five minutes. Or better yet, we hop in our air conditioned cars and drive ten minutes to a place where somebody else does the cooking for us. Few of us have to plow a field, plant and cultivate seed. Few of us have to raise cattle or hunt wild game. We do not have to chop down wood daily with which to cook our food. I we want to wear clothe, we drive to the store (again in our air conditioned cars) and buy some. We do not have to make thread, weave material and sew our own clothes. Then when those clothes are dirty, we sort them into piles of matching colors and dump them in machines that wash and cry them for us. We do not have to carry them down to the river, beat them on a rock, try to scrape the dirt and muck out of them and then hang them out to dry.

Let’s face it. Our lives really are easy. What took our New Testament brethren hours to do takes us minutes, if we have to do it at all. This actually means we have more leisure time available than anyone in history. Don’t close the book. I know what you are thinking. “Where does this nut get off saying I have all kinds of leisure time?” I am saying that because you and I do not have to spend most of every day just providing the bare necessities of life. We actually have enough time to work overtime and get paid time and a half. We actually enough time to put our kids in little league, football, soccer, scouts and other activities. Our new Testament brethren did not have enough time for all the things that make our lives hectic because they spent their time surviving.

All this leisure time, however, has given us our own set of hardships. Few of us struggle for the necessities of life. However, because we have so much leisure time and so many opportunities to pursue pastimes, many of us struggle regarding the necessities of maintaining proper family relationships and togetherness.

Consider the following family.

Mom and Dad want to provide the best in housing, clothing and education for little Billy and susie. Therefore they both work in the corporate world. They get up early to drop Billy and Susie at school. Billy and Susie are three years apart, so Dad carries Billy to middle school on his way to work and secretly thinks, “I sure am glad I am saving up enough money to buy Billy a car in a few years. When he turns sixteen he can take himself and Susie to school and i will have little more time to myself.” Mom drops Susie off at elementary school.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Billy has practice for the school play right after school. Then he has either little league or soccer after that. Mom or Dad rushes to pick up Susie from school, then goes to get Billy to take him from play practice to sports practice, then runs through the drive through to get something for the kids to eat. They let Susie eat in the car on the way to her Monday piano lessons and drop her off in time to pick Billy up from sports practice. he eats while they drive back to get Suzy. They hurry home to make the kids do their homework before shuffling them off to bed. Wednesday are tough because they have to fit all this in before Bible class.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Billy has baseball games or soccer matches, while Susie has softball practice. All of Susie’s softball games and tournaments are on the weekends. When the softball season is over, Susie’s Saturdays are filled with tennis lessons and competitions. On thursday, they also try to fit in scouts for both of the kids. Fortunately, the parents in each troop take turns picking up several of the kids from school and taking them to their various den and troop meetings.

Mom and Dad want to be active in Billy and Susie’s schooling. They work with both PTAs (elementary and middle school). They try to make it to all the parent-teacher conferences. Billy is in the band and Susie is in the choir and they attend all of their concerts and competitions.

On top of all this, Mom and Dad have lives of their own. They have to fit work into all this. Every once in a while they have to go on business trips. Further, they try to find time to pursue their personal hobbies. That is tough because of all the time they spend helping Billy and Susie with school projects.

Mom and Dad are Christians the hope Billy and Susie will be someday too. It is very important to them to make it to all the worship services and Bible classes. They do make it to most of them. However, to be honest, it does rumple their feathers a little when the preacher comments on how few people are getting their lessons completed. “Doesn’t he realize what an amazing eat it is for us to be here?” they wonder. They get to the building and shuffle the kids off to their classes and then go to theirs. They come into the worship assembly. The new preacher is big into getting all the kids to sit together, so the kids sit down on the front few rows away from their parents. The one making announcements talks about the training class for the boys taking place every Sunday afternoon, the Sunday night devotional for middle school and high school, the Bible drill for the elementary kids and the various special things members have set up for the various age groups.

When the family does get a few minutes to be together on a Friday or Saturday evening, they are so exhausted they decide to simply pop in a video or go to the movies. They sit next to each other but are mentally miles apart as they gaze upon the silver screen.

In the extremely few moments of solitude and meditation, Mom and Dad wonder how they can fit anything else into their schedule and are about ready to murder the author of a book who claims they have more leisure time than anyone in history.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Is it any wonder even Christian families are falling apart? With these kinds of schedules, when were these families ever sticking together? Add into this equation that time at home is often spent just as separate as time at school, work and church. The family are all within the same dwelling, but each member is doing his or her own thing. Each child has their own room, equipped with television, telephone or computer (with internet access). They can spend all evening in the same house with two to four other people and never actually se each other. 

This is the great American struggle–keeping the family together.

Check back in next Tuesday’s Springboard for Your Family Life to learn how to combat this great American struggle and have meaningful family time together.


October 7, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Family Life, Family Time, Raising Kids | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

More Tests Should Be Like an Eye Exam

I took Ethan, my eight year old, for an eye exam today. This whole experience proved how uptight I am. Ethan was sitting behind that crazy contraption hearing, “Which looks better? One or Two?” and “Can you read the smallest line?” I was sitting on a chair in the corner upset because I could see the smallest line projected on the wall and he was getting the questions wrong.

Can you believe it? For a brief moment I was sitting there thinking, “Oh my goodness, my son is going to fail his eye exam.” I know, I have issues.

Very quickly it hit me. You can’t fail an eye exam. Eye exams aren’t about pass and fail. The eye exam doesn’t say, “You can’t read the bottom line? You are a loser and a failure.” Rather, it simply says, “Here is where you are and here is how to get you where you need to be.” 

Getting an accurate assessment of exactly where a person is with this exam is pretty important. In fact, we had to have this exam because the new glasses we just spent hundreds of dollars purchasing didn’t work right because the prescription was too powerful. It made his distance vision extremely clear, but he couldn’t read. With school starting up next week, we had to get that fixed.

Plus, since this exam is not about pass and fail, there is no need to cheat. In fact, cheating is detrimental to the process. Cheating will give us the wrong prescription again. 

It dawned on me. Maybe more tests, even in school, need to be more like an eye exam. Instead of testing in order to determine pass or fail, how about we start testing just to see where everyone is and what they need to work on? Instead of saying someone has failed because they can’t read the same line as someone else, how about we just learn where they need to work and then prescribe a plan of action for them. 

Maybe that approach won’t work at school. I don’t know. After all, it will really be hard for one teacher to tailor the teaching to the 25 different levels on which his/her students find themselves. It is just a lot easier to try to get them all on the same page, fail them if they can’t keep up and then shunt them off to the remedial class. 

I can’t fix schools. But I can work on me. My kids and I would have been spared many heartbreaking nights and altercations if I had been taking this approach every time I helped them with their homework. Instead of viewing them as failures because they didn’t get some principle yet, I should have recognized the homework and tests merely showed where they needed to work. It was actually a good thing to learn about the questions they missed. Then I get an accurate assessment of where they are and then I learn how to help.

It also helps me personally. When I mess up and get something wrong. It doesn’t mean I’m a failure or a loser. It just means I have to do some work on that particular spot. That means I don’t have to cheat to impress anybody. I just need to figure out where I am and work to grow from there.

Let’s work and learn together.


July 31, 2008 Posted by | Making Mistakes, Success | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments