Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Voice from Theater 9

Marie, who wrote this blog post, was one of the unsuspecting innocents sitting in theater 9, in Aurora, Colorado when the gunman opened fire. Here is her take on what happened and why it happened. BTW, just for the record, I agree with her wholeheartedly.

STEPcoach Bob
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SO YOU STILL THINK GOD IS A MERCIFUL GOD?!

(Maybe, just maybe God spared my life because He loves YOU and wants you to hear this..He wants you to believe that He loved you so much He gave His only begotten Son that if you would believe in Him you would have eternal life.)
So, you still believe in a merciful God?”  Some of the comments online are genuinely inquisitive, others are contemptuous in nature. Regardless of the motive behind the question, I will respond the same way.
Yes.
Yes, I do indeed.
Absolutely, positively, unequivocally.

Let’s get something straight: the theater shooting was an evil, horrendous act done by a man controlled by evil.  God did not take a gun and pull the trigger in a crowded theater. He didn’t even suggest it. A man did.

In His sovereignty, God made man in His image with the ability to choose good and evil.
Unfortunately, sometimes man chooses evil.

I was there in theater 9 at midnight, straining to make out the words and trying to figure out the story line as The Dark Night Rises began. I’m not a big movie-goer. The HH and I prefer to watch movies in the comfort of our own home…where I can use subtitles and get a foot rub. I don’t like action movies. And I don’t like midnight showings.  But, as I wrote in my last post, parents sometimes make sacrifices for their kiddos and I decided I would take my fourteen year old and sixteen year old daughters who were chomping at the bit to see this eagerly anticipated third movie in the Batman Trilogy. Twice I had the opportunity to back out and twice I was quite tempted. But something in me said just go with your girls. I did.

So I was there with them, fidgeting in my seat, some forty or  fifty feet away from the man with the gun. It’s still a bit surreal, but I do know that when the seemingly endless shooting started, as my girls were struggling from whatever gas or chemical had been released, and we figured out what was happening, we hit the floor. I threw myself on top of my fourteen year old who was on the end of the row, straight up the aisle from the shooter.  In that moment, as the rapid-fire shots continued, I truly thought I was going to die. And I realized that I was ready. I have put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ as the redeemer of my soul, and there wasn’t the slightest doubt that I would be received into heaven, not because of any good thing that I have done but because of His merciful nature and the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Still, as I lay over my daughter, I began praying out loud. I don’t even remember what I prayed, but I don’t imagine it really matters. I’m sure it was for protection and peace. It drew me closer into the presence of God. When there was a pause in the shooting, people began to clamor for the exits. The girls and I jumped up and joined the masses. We had to step over a lifeless body, not knowing where the shooter was. We raced to our car and I dumped my purse, frantically searching for keys, looking all around, prepared to hit the ground. I yelled at Michelle to call Matthew and find out if he had made it out of the theater next door. She did. He did. We booked on out of there.

Why would you think such a tragedy would make me question the goodness of God? If anything, both of my girls said it made Him a much more real presence to them; the youngest shared this verse: Do not be afraid of sudden fear nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes; for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your feet from being caught.

He is not the cause of evil, but He is the one who can bring comfort and peace in the midst of evil.  It’s been amazing to see the outpouring of love from so many people after this unthinkable act.  Yes, there was one evil act, but it is being covered by thousands, possibly millions of acts of kindness.
We have not yet slept, so the girls and I are overtired and a bit emotional.  But overall, we are praising God and resting in His Goodness.  

I love this word of wisdom and encouragement from a former pastor of mine:
Up to this point I haven’t had words to say that would matter. Of course we are all glad that you and the family are safe. Of course we would all state the obvious that this is horrific and senseless. But those words still don’t carry weight that remain in the midst of the questions. Then it hit me… Do you know what the difference was between Job and his wife in their response to the tragedy of losing everything… Job 1:20 Job was the only one that worshiped in the midst of it. Marie, I know your heart and I’ve seen your worship lived out before your family. Before the weight of this becomes unbearable… worship. Your profile pic was not coincidence, not by accident that you changed it on July 15th, but a beautiful foreshadowing of your need to hear the cry of your heart and give Him praise.  
Though we don’t have all the answers, we do indeed listen to the cry of our hearts: When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What  can mere man  do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

God is always good.
Man is not.
Don’t get the two confused.

We will continue to praise and worship our mighty God, anticipating that He will bring beauty from ashes, as only He can do.

If you want to know how to pray for us: first and foremost, we need sleep. Somehow our bodies seem too wired. We also want the life that God has graciously allowed us to continue to live to not be a gift given in vain, we want our lives to draw others closer to Him. We do not want fear to dominate, for God has not given us a spirit of fear. We want His joy to be seen and experienced in all that we do.
Pray for the families who lost loved ones, and for young people who witnessed such horror. Pray for this to be an opportunity for God to manifest Himself in mighty ways.

As for you…we will pray that YOU might know His goodness.
Still grateful for this wonderful life,
Marie
Original blog post: http://aminiatureclaypot.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/so-you-still-think-god-is-a-merciful-god

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Guest Post: Playtime!



This is a very nice borrowed-with-permission article that I couldn't resist sharing with you. It originally appeared in Simple Marriage blog at http://www.simplemarriage.net/playtime.html Stepfamilies are all parents - otherwise, you'd just be a couple. And I have been hearing so much lately about issues and clashes between husbands and wives about the kids, that I am pretty kid-minded. So when this post came my way I grabbed it to share with you. Enjoy. And let me know if and how this applies or helps your family.

--------------------------------

Playtime


Post written by Dr. Corey Allan.
Play has become a lost art in the adult world.
Perhaps even in the kid world … play is not be what it used to be.
Gone are the days of tag, chase, tackle the man with the ball, dodgeball, and the like.
Also gone are the “dangerous toys” like the metal Tonka trucks that are indestructible, the monkey bars that tower into the air, the tree house built way up in the tree with a homemade zip line going into the garage, and the metal slide that’s 4 stories tall with no side-rails and several bumps on the way down. Okay so the last one may be a bit of an exaggeration but it’s not far off.
Play serves a great purpose.
Remember when you used to call up your friends or head over to their house and greet them with “wanna play?” It didn’t matter what you played, you’d make it up.
Today it seems that play is all but dead. Especially in the adult world. Even parenting has been impacted.
Parenting often becomes more about the child’s achievement and directing towards goals – be it the child’s – or far more likely the parent’s goals.
Schools are doing away with recess in the belief that giving up play time will allow more time for study. Even preschoolers are not immune to this shift.
Through the 80’s and 90’s a 4 billion dollar industry sprang up … tutoring. With 26% of it being devoted for 2 to 6 year olds. Babies … who should be spending more time in imaginative play than structured learning.
Play develops a child’s cognitive skills.
By play, I mean true child directed play: free, unstructured play where the kids invent the activities that reflect their own curiosities and interests.
Too many children are parentified, or expected to become adults too fast. And too many adults have added too many stipulations and parameters to play – in short, they’ve lost the art of play.
Play is critical in a child’s life. According to David Elkind, play is vital in teaching a child how to control himself and interact with others.
But play is also important in the adult world.
It opens to door to new solutions and creative sparks. It adds passion and energy to life and marriage.
Researcher Jaak Panksepp believes play turns on hundreds of genes in the brain. Specifically, play stimulates neurogenesis to hasten the development of the frontal cortex in the brain.
Play is vital to the development of our children and the health of our families, but it is also vital to us as adults.
So what can you do today?
  1. Encourage your kids to play with other kids. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it doesn’t seem to happen that often. Many parentified children would rather play with adults than other kids. While this may seem mature and grown-up, anytime a kid plays with an adult, imagination and leadership skills are stifled. Adults often take charge or limit the imagination because we can’t compete with a child’s imagination level. When you do play with a child, let go of your imagination restrictions and let them take the lead. When they want you to be a princess or a prince who helps tame the nice dragon so you can fight the mean one, do it!
  2. Play with your kids everyday for at least 30 minutes. Spend time as a family playing. One of my favorite times each day is the wrestling time I get with my daughter and son. My son, before he could even talk, would walk over to the floor and point meaning “it’s time to wrestle dad!” Before long, my daughter and my wife would be in the mix. Now that he’s 5 he just runs and jumps on me anytime I’m within range. It’s a great bonding time as well as a testing of my children’s strength and abilities.
  3. Take your kids out of school for a day. You don’t have to do this too often, but take your kids someplace instead of school. You could even incorporate some learning opportunities into this. Visit the zoo, the aquarium, local museums, or galleries. You could even go to the park. Give them an unexpected break from their normal structure and spend the time together.
  4. Play with your spouse. Pull out the games after the kids are in bed, or go outside ride bikes together. Build a blanket fort in the living room. Point is, you don’t have to be structured in every aspect of your life … just play.
Now … off you go. Have fun storming the castle!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Why can't most people be satisfied in married life?


As a teacher and mediator, I am often compelled to chime in on discussions online, in public forums, and sometimes just sitting in a coffeeshop eavesdropping. This column consists of one of those times I couldn't resist giving my opinion on what I feel is a very important question - why do people divorce so much? I hope you enjoy my answer - and I hope you will let me know what you think of my ideas. I welcome all comments and questions!

This is my answer to a question on the Quora website. Quora is a website of questions and answers to some of life's most difficult ... and sometimes silly ... questions. I responded to this question because I thought the reasons for the high levels of divorce are very important to our society, our families, and the children who will make up our future. You can find the original posting of this question and answer at [http://www.quora.com/Divorce/Why-cant-most-people-be-satisfied-in-married-life-Why-are-divorce-rates-so-high-around-the-world ]

Question: Why can't most people be satisfied in married life? Why are divorce rates so high around the world?
My answer:

I've developed my answer to this particular question over 16 years of intensive work with divorcing couples, dissatisfied married couples, and re-married couples ("blended families"), as well as my own divorce and second marriage. I honestly believe that some couples should not have married in the first place. I agree, generally, that marriages are entered into too lightly, with too little clear, logical thought.

Marriages like these are NOT true marriages, they are couples playing house on a temporary basis.
Marriage is a lifelong commitment. A sincere, legal, moral, and often religious vow is taken to never leave or forsake each other through any difficulties that may arise. If this vow is not a flippant lie, divorce is impossible. I've never heard vows (though I'm sure someone has made up some) that allow for escape possibilities - "till boredom do us part," "as long as you remain interesting to me," etc.

Divorce is always damaging. Period. Even when the couple "is cool with it." To have failed at a solemn vow degrades the personality and the soul. It makes the vow breaker think less of him/herself and makes all future commitments much weaker. When there are children involved, divorce is akin to abuse. Ask any child whose parents have divorced and they will tell you they wish their parents had resolved their differences and  remained married. The statistics of what damages are done to children of divorce are many, and all tell of children whose quality of life and happiness has been severely reduced.

But, the question is why people can't be satisfied in marriage (someone said correctly that divorce rates have dropped in the US dramatically in the last decade). My understanding, again based on 16 years of working intimately with divorced, divorcing, and remarried families, is that their understanding of commitment is flawed, often by parents who taught them and society which reinforced that they could have whatever they want, they have an innate right to be absolutely happy all the time, and because they have selfish desires for new adventures despite what effect satisfying those desires will have on others.

Unpopular ideas, I know ... but I've had far too many divorced/remarried people tell me those ideas are correct to doubt them. We want everything perfect and when our marriage relationships or home situations are not, we whine and run away. Society supports this dangerous behavior because the majority of society wants to keep that same option open for themselves.

Should some marriages be ended? Yes, but very few. I have successfully helped many, many couples rehabilitate their relationships who had experienced what society calls "deal breakers" - adultery, drug addiction, abuse, and betrayal of many sorts. These are only deal breakers if one or both sides are determined to give up and run away and abandon their vows.

Christians, in particular, have very few true reasons for divorce, and those are still excuses to lie. Yes, yes, yes, a woman (or a man) who is consistently abused by their spouse should get away from him and protect herself. But there are often alternatives to divorce. When children are involved, they must certainly be protected, but divorce of their two parents is not always the best, and certainly not the only solution. I've witnessed far too many families brought back to peace who were convinced divorce is the only solution.

... Now, if you'd like to see a few responses to my answer and my replies to those responses, visit the original Quora link at the beginning of this column. And, if you have any questions or comments for me, please just reply to this email message and I'll get it and reply as quickly as I can.

STEPcoach Bob Collins

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