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Family Day?

Fam Pic May 2014Sure, a government can declare a certain day of the year “Family Day.” That’s what Albertans are celebrating today and British Columbians celebrated last Monday. But does that actually encourage families? If so, why is encouraging family even important?

Let’s answer that last question, first. Research over multiple decades now has shown that a healthy nuclear family unit – defined as children being raised by a father and mother who are committed to each other in marriage – has multiple benefits for a society including but not limited to:

  • higher life satisfaction
  • better health including heart issues & cancer
  • increased fertility rate and thus long-term economic stability
  • fewer mental health issues
  • fewer social problems (eg. addictions, minor & major crimes)
    (for detailed research specific to Canada, consult the Cardus Institute or in the USA, consult The Witherspoon Institute)

So if promoting healthy nuclear families is good for society, what can a provincial (state) or federal (national) government do to encourage their development… other than set aside one day of the year?

Here are some ideas…

  • Set paternity policies that enable one parent to stay home with the child for the first year. (Yeah Canada!)
  • Provide child tax credits for each child so that all parents have the necessary financial resources to provide their children with physical nourishment (ie food) as the grow and develop. (Again, yeah Canada!)
  • Provide funding for builders and/or municipalities so that affordable housing is available for all families.
  • Fund child care (not only daycare) at the discretion of parents, especially those in low income situations. See this article from the Toronto Star.
  • Fund K-12 education that allows parents to choose from options that align with their values. (Yeah Alberta! …so far)
  • Ensure this K-12 education (as well as post-secondary education) remains on the cutting edge of education in terms of methodology, technology, and developmental ideas so the next generation is prepared for the future.
  • Provide income tax deductions to parents for having children involved in various activities that contribute to physical, social, emotional health (eg. sports clubs, music participation, etc).
    Note: Canada did this for a couple years but the Liberal government withdrew the Child’s Fitness & Arts tax credit.

Undoubtedly there are other government initiatives that could tangibly demonstrate support for the family. Feel free to share them below.

Yes, a government (provincial or federal) can do things to support the family. Have a happy Family Day!


The Blessing of Grandparents

anna-bday-2018-3.jpgWe count it an incredible privilege for our children to live in the same town as both sets of their grandparents. All four grandparents are alive and reasonably healthy… at least physically! Realizing some children do not have even one grandparent nearby geographically, here are some of the benefits our children experience:

A part of their lives
Arguably the rest of the benefits flow out of this first benefit in some way, yet despite its obviousness, it needs to be stated. The fact that our children know their grandparents want to be invited to their sports game, dance performance, musical recital, etc. results in them expecting adults to be interested in their world.

Likewise, they realize they also need to be interested and able to discuss matters with adults. As they grow in discussing matters with adults, whether their grandparents or others, they learn (hopefully!) appropriate ways of speaking and interacting with other people.

A source of fun
While recognizing this is not the situation for every grandparent, the ideal is for grandparents to leave the parenting – aka correction, discipline and other not-so-friendly though necessary responsibilities – to the parents and enjoy and have fun with the grandchildren. This is one of the reasons it is unfortunate when grandparents are called on to raise their grandchild(ren). Regrettably, this is sometimes necessary. Nonetheless, it robs the child of a chance to simply have fun with the grandparents when the a grandparent becomes the primary caregiver(s).

A(nother) source of wisdom
As a child matures, especially as s/he reaches the teenage years, they are not simply going to trust their parent’s voice as the only source of insight on life. They will be looking to other voices – friends, teachers, other influencing adults (eg. coaches, employers, counselors of various sorts). Advisors who will confirm or correct what the parents have taught the child. Grandparents can be another source of wisdom for children of any age, especially teenagers turn to as they seek answers for some of life’s bigger questions. In Growing Young, the Fuller Youth Research Institute team found that a “grandparent’s influence” was the surprise success factor in whether a child’s faith stuck with them through their teenage years and into early adult life.

An example to follow
Along with being a source of wisdom, the example a grandparent shows a child(ren) not only in their living, but also in their declining physical (or mental) abilities and eventually dying, can also have a deep and meaningful impact. Obviously, the impact of the loss will be deeper the stronger the relationship between grandparent and grandchild. Yet the value of seeing the process of growing old gracefully (or not) provides the younger generation with an example of how to live when life is not all rosy. When done well, a grandparents decline in health leading to death can actually teach a young person significant lessons developmentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

For these reasons and many others, we count it a blessing to have our parents involved with our childrens’ lives.

I would be interested to hear your input on other advantages grandparents bring to a child’s life.

Review – “Samson” the movie

samson movie2.jpg

Pure Flix films will be releasing the movie “Samson” in theatres on February 16, 2018. The biblical story about Samson, a man specially called and endowed by God to deliver the people of Israel from Philistine oppression. The writers and producers have done an excellent job reflecting the biblical record. Though my experience as a costume and design critic is minimal, this aspect of the movie also appears well done.

Featuring Taylor James as Samson, the movie is not your standard “Sunday School” version of the story. Along with Samson defeating 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey, the movie contains the necessary violence to accurately present the story. Likewise, Samson`s relationship with Delilah is a romantic relationship, again with appropriate scenes.

Based on the preview montage, I look forward to seeing the movie, recognizing the appropriate PG13 rating. (In other words, this is not a child-friendly movie.)

Note: Film montage has been provided courtesy of Pure Flix and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. to the reviewer in exchange for an unbiased review.


Book Review – In Sickness & In Health

 Ben Mattlin has compiled thoughtful and challenging stories of inter-abled couples: couples where one partner has a physical disability and the other partner is able bodied. While his own journey of growing up with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is told in his book Miracle Boy Grows Up (Skyhorse, 2012), this recounts the joys and challenges of developing a romantic relationship and satisfying marriage with his wife, Mary Lois… a marriage of 26 years!

After sharing their story – both the highs and lows, the joyful events and the sometimes rude, often ignorant, comments they receive as a couple – Mattlin interviews 14 other inter-abled couples and gives them an opportunity to share their unique love story. In some couples, the husband is disabled; in other couples the wife is the disabled person. A variety of different types of disability are including some with SMA like Mattlin, some with quadripeligia, and an assortment of other medical conditions. In reporting the discussions, Mattlin interjects his own comments and comparisons, often resulting in further exploratory questions. No topic is off limits for Mattlin, though some couples are more private than others. Relationships with in-laws and extended family members, live-in care and assistance, the finances and funding of medical expenses, having children & child-raising, and of course, sexual intimacy, are just a few of the many topics Mattlin probes and discusses. Willingly admitting his own skepticism and cynicism and some answers, he honors each couple for sharing and developing their own story that is.

This book was of special interest to me as I have posted about living with a disability.

I recommend this book for any couple where one spouse (or both) has a disability. Likewise, it would be beneficial for extended family members (or friends) to read if they have a loved one in a romantic relationship with a disabled person and have questions and concerns.

The only area in which I personally found the book weak was in any discussion of faith or religious community support. In this regard, I am looking forward to the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability at Duke University in June 2018.

Note: A pre-release copy of this book was provided to the reviewer for the purpose of a blog review by Beacon Press.




Don’t forget Why

Routines can be boring. But routines are necessary for life, success, and even adventure. But sometimes we forget the reason we started certain habits that have become routines in the first place.

When we forget the WHY for the routine, a good habit becomes a harness. It might keep us steering straight, but it also means we are liable to drive with blinders on… right into something dangerous!

Consider the parents who were trying to teach their child the value of developing the routine of starting his day with a reading from the Bible. They noticed him taking a few moments while still in bed to pull out his Bible and read for a few minutes each morning. They were so proud. Then one night, they noticed him reading the Bible again.

“Wow! Now he wants to read it morning and night they thought. What a saint!”

A few nights later they noticed him again reading at night. Mom commented, “Son, we are so pleased that you are enjoying reading the Bible. We’ve seen you reading each morning and that’s a great habit to get into. Now you are reading at night too! That’s so wonderful!”
boy reading bible

“Oh, thanks mom. But I’m just reading ahead tonight. Remember, I’ve got to leave for the hockey tournament at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning and I want to have a good breakfast so I thought I would read a couple days ahead.”

The reason the parents wanted to encourage the child to read daily was so he could learn to appreciate the

Bible’s wise teaching and get into a habit of seeking God’s Word. Unfortunately for the child, it became a spiritual checklist. He forgot – or didn’t really understand – the why behind the habit.

Perhaps a married couple make a habit of a weekly date night. Every Tuesday night they go for a coffee and dessert to their favorite restaurant. Once in a while, they even go for a full meal. After a while, it becomes a nice hour away from the noise of children.  Just being able to have some peace and quiet. What a relief! They talk over upcoming activities and events and make sure they are aware of potential schedule conflicts. But they forget the reason they initially started a weekly date was to keep their communication open and be able to share honestly about various stresses or struggles they may be facing individually or as a couple.

So while habits are beneficial for success, whether in relationships, finances, work or other areas of life, if we forget the reason for the habit, the routine can quickly become a rut.

Here are 3 ways to put the reason back into the routines you have developed.

Change up the routine
If you go on a weekly date night with your spouse, cancel the date night for a couple weeks and then go on a weekend retreat to another city. Again, the habit was designed to make sure husband and wife connect relationally. What better way than a get-a-way. Yes the child care may cost a bit more, but it is worth it to accomplish the purpose behind the initial routine. Afterwards, you can go return to the weekly date night habit (or maybe not).

Find an accountability partner
You may already have a person who checks in with you to make sure you are practicing the habits you committed to. If you do not, it may be wise to find someone who can hold you accountable for your habit. If you already have an accountability partner, ask them to not only check up on the specific habit, but what you are learning or experiencing as you do the habit.

Do something different
Sometimes the same why can be accomplished in a different way. For example, instead of reading your Bible each morning before breakfast, why not use one of the many audio Bible apps and listen to the Scriptures as you drive to work? The same why is accomplished yet in a very different way – listening instead of reading, while driving in a vehicle instead of before breakfast at home. You might do this for a short season (2-3 months) or for a whole year. Then you can return to your original habit and it will not seem as rote or routine.

I would be glad to hear from you about how you keep your habits fresh. Feel free to share ways you have continued to renew your habits so that the reason behind the routine does not become a rut!



Routines are important!

Routines? Who wants routines? Routines are boring!

Many people think this way about routines. However, rather than eliminate any “fun” or “excitement” in your life, let me suggest routines are not only important, but they actually allow and enable you to have the exciting life you desire.

GoalchecklistFirst, routines are necessary at every stage life. When you were an infant, you needed someone to make sure you were fed regularly, changed regularly (diaper rash?), got adequate rest for your body and brain to develop appropriately. When you were a toddler, people continued to teach you using repetition – how to speak, how to eat with utensils, how to put your own clothes on, etc. All life learning before you entered school was by watching others and doing the same thing over and over. A boring, repetitious, yet highly effective method of learning.

Then you began formal schooling where you entered new routines and learned a lot more through repetition. You woke up, had breakfast, brushed your teeth, packed your backpack including your lunch and then headed to school. Each class met for a certain time and then you went on to a different subject. Hopefully, your routine helped you not to forget important things to bring to school, to do specific work in a certain class, and to succeed at school. You played on school sports teams and learned by practicing the same skills over and over again – free throws in basketball, skating and shooting for hockey, certain steps and timings in dancing or gymnastics, etc. You practiced these basic skills so that when it was time to perform you were ready to excel.

Another name for routines is habits.

Second, routines (or habits) help us succeed (or not) in our responsibilities.

You were probably excited to graduate from high school because then you would be free of the “boring” school routine. Yet you quickly discovered that work (or further study) had its own routines, not only necessary to succeed, but just to survive. If you showed up for work at 8:00 am one day, then at 10:20 am the next day, and then at 9:45 am on the third day, you would probably have a “discussion” with your supervisor on the fourth day… if you were invited to return. Likewise, while you were free to live wherever you wanted, eat whatever, whenever and where you wanted, the landlord still expected your rent check on the first day of the month… and didn’t really care about who? what? where? when? or why? you couldn’t pay. They simply expected their rent check.

So routines are not only necessary for life, but routines also help us succeed in our responsibilities as adults. In order to hold a job, sleep in a semi-sanitized location with a roof over your head, and input something into your body that will provide sustenance, you need routines. Medical doctors will tell you the kinds of food that are best to give your body to be healthy and strong. Eat these regularly, and you will likely have a good measure of health. Research continues to show human beings require a certain number of hours of sleep to function well. The more consistent your going-to-bed time and waking up time, the better your sleep quantity and quality. Finally, some organized, scheduled or routine house cleaning (eg. vacuuming, dusting, cleaning various rooms and eating supplies) will also result in a safe, sanitary, and healthy lifestyle.

Yes, routines are necessary to learn the basics of life. And yes, getting various adult life tasks into a routine will be significantly beneficial in living life responsibly.

Best of all, getting into routines will actually allow you to enjoy the best in life!

For example…

  • When you choose the habit of putting a certain amount of money away in a savings accounts, you will be able to enjoy a vacation sometime in the year without causing yourself additional stress.
  • When you make eating meals together as a family a habit, you put the building blocks in place for your marriage and your children to have healthy relationships with one another and then with other people.
  • When you choose to do routine vehicle maintenance – change the oil, change the tires, have small repairs done as issues arise – you lessen the chances of having a vehicle mishap (ie breaks failing one time when you try to stop because you chose not to check them even though they were squeaking for a couple months) and your vehicle will likely be functional longer. There are financial implications to this too!
  • And so on…

Life will always have “emergencies.” Situations arise suddenly that can cause financial, social, and emotional devastation. Yet for the individual (or family) with good habits in place, stress can be minimized and the turmoil experienced without additional angst because the routines have provided a boundary for living well.

For those of you twenty-somethings who are not convinced, consider reading Stephen Covey’s excellent book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (now available in a 25th anniversary edition).

So… next time you see someone and think, “Their life is so organized and structured, they must be a boring person,” pause and consider the exact opposite may be true. They may be living a great life because their routines give them the flexibility to enjoy life!



Book Review – The Gospel for Muslims by Thabiti Anyabwile

Originally published in 2010, this updated paperback version is a great starter for the Christian seeking to connect with Muslim acquaintances or co-workers. As the title indicates, it sets forth to clearly present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a Muslim, not necessarily attack or defend the differences between Islam and Christianity.

The first five chapters draw attention to five essentials of the Gospel message that are important for the Christian to focus on as s/he shares his/her faith with a Muslim. Again, the book does not get into detailed arguments about individual Bible verses or Qu’ran suras. Rather it presents the key theological areas of difference and helps the Christ-follower focus on explaining them to a follower of Islam. As a former Muslim who came to Christ after college, Anyabwile shares good stories and examples along with his explanations.

In the final five chapters, Anyabwile focus on practical ways to share your faith with a Muslim that are not specifically “apologetic” (eg. hospitality, connect to a local church, discussion of suffering). The final chapter includes a thoughtful and honest discussion of the African-American (aka “Black Muslim”) challenges. Again, in all these chapters, Anyabwile’s conversion experience and pastoral heart come through along with his thoughtful and even-handed analysis and advice.

If you are looking for a point-by-point argument demonstrating the superiority of Christianity over Islam, this is NOT the book for you. Nonetheless, if you are looking for a starting point to learn how to answer Muslims who contend “we all worship the same God,” this resource presents good material for discussion in an easy-to-read and orderly fashion. I gladly recommend it.

Note: This book was provided to the reviewer by Moody Press in exchange for an unbiased blog review.

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