Monday, December 29, 2014

It's Not Fair!

I suppose it's inevitable that we will hear that phrase from our kids at some point.  This chapter of my life has my eldest son of 9 years shouting it from the mountain tops.  Add that to his recent desire to argue and/or question us multiple times daily and you have a recipe for frustration for all parties.  Michael is a rule follower but he also wants to understand the rules.  And if he sees a disparity, he is quick to call us out on it. I get this in concept but in practice, a parent can easily get to a point of glorious anger after having just about every action and decision questioned.

It was last night that he pushed me to that point.  I errupted but didn't go overboard in the car as we drove home from Grandma's house. It was sufficient to make a point and effectively communicate that his inquiries were no longer appreciated, that we were still firmly in charge, and that we were not accepting applications for the position of a third parent.  But I still felt guilty as he sat in the awkward quiet I had just created.  I still knew that answer was not a good one.  It's akin to "because I told you so".  And though I greatly understand that answer now, I always hated those kinds of answers as a child and knew he probably did as well.

So when we got home I pulled him aside for a little one-on-one meeting.  By the grace of God, who must have put these words and knowledge into me (because I am not this brilliant) I said something to this effect:

"Michael.  I agree with you.  We are not treating the three of you equally.  I think that is why you have concluded things are not always fair, right?  Well I am not really sure that is what you truly want and I have an example to illustrate my point.  On average you get to stay up one to two hours later than Joshua. If everything was equal, I would probably pick a bedtime a little later for him but earlier for you so that all of you go to sleep at the same time."

He quickly realized that scenario did not benefit him and said he preferred it the way it was.

"I am raising three completely different kids.  Even if you were all identical in personality (and they are NOT), you and your twin sister are different gender.  And Joshua is five years younger.  It may not be fair but I will raise you a bit different from how I raise your sister because there are some gender appropriate reasons to do so.  It may not be fair but I will always be five years behind you in what I am doing with Joshua.  Tonight when he was picking on you, I didn't feel the need to rescue you.  You are older, smarter, tougher, and I simply gave you the advice on how to handle him when he takes the opportunity to frustrate you.  When you pick on him I feel the need to protect him because you have all the advantages of being smarter, tougher, and older. So while its true that I am doing different things for each of you, I don't think its accurate to conclude that I am being unfair.  However, I am sure there are times that I am.  Remember I am learning along with you.  I have never had a nine year old until you turned nine a few weeks ago.  Let's agree to give each other room to learn and make mistakes, ok?"

I won't know until visible changes occur but he seemed to "get it" when this talk was over.  It was like a light bulb turned on and he realized that there were very good reasons for unequal treatment.  He further realized that for every occassion that these disparities were a disadvantage to him, there were several others that gave him the advantage.  If fair treatment is even possible, that is where the accounting will show it.  Not in the individual line items but in the final balance.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hunger Games Analysis - Part 4 (The Police State)

"Peacekeepers" keeping the citizens contained.
I am the conspiracy theorist in my house.  It's a label I embrace. Give me my tin-foil hat and let me be.  So when Hunger Games presents a society that is living in a Police State, my mind immediately thinks about how possible this actually is in America. Who knows what catalyst might be used to round us up? It could be anything from "an outside attack" to a "natural disaster" or a combination of the two...a cyber attack that takes our grid down, creating disaster.  Whatever the method, the possibility seems ripe and real and not without cause.  There are no shortage of articles citing reasons for concern including one called "14 Signs America Is Turning Into A Police State"  over on Distractify.

The article's list is as follows:

1. Police are killing more people every year.
2. Unlawful harassment is becoming the norm.
3. Even children are seen as criminals.
4. Stop and searches are more common and invasive.
5. Stop & Frisk programs encourage racial profiling.
6. Non-criminals are being arrested for ridiculous things.
7. You can face jail time for not paying rent.
8. NSA is recording and capturing phone and internet data on its citizens
9. More are being sentence to life in prison without parole for non-violent crimes.
10. Police don't face the same punishment as civilians.
11. America's incarceration rate is the highest in the world
12. Peaceful protests are being met with violence.
13. Government is hunting down whistle-blowers.
14. FBI can watch you whenever, for no reason at all.

And this doesn't include at least four more that I can add without much thought:

1. Freedom of Speech being challenged more and more everyday.
2. Right to Bear Arms being challenged more and more everyday.
3. Arming Police as though they are Military installations.
4. An inordinate amount of FEMA camps, ammunition purchases, and even plastic coffins being stock-piled.

(If you want links supporting ANY of the above, let me know or just Google for yourself)

It may not ever happen but its plausible more-so now than ever before in my lifetime.  And as a Christian, I believe we will be considered Enemies of the State during the End Times season.  So as I stare at the vivid images of people in this movie who are living under such tyranny, it strikes a chord.  There has always been a ruling class and a people to rule.  Some rulers have been better and more just than others.  But often those are the exceptions, not the norm and Scripture clearly warns of persecution and trials.  This could easily come in the form of more minor, personal issues like financial struggles, addiction, and even health problems.  But its historically accurate that it can also come as a National tribulation and challenge.  In Revelation it's even prophesied to be a global issue.

The following clip was perhaps the most chilling portion of dialog in the whole movie.  President Snow explains why he is hosting another Hunger Games so soon but listen to his reasoning for the games to begin with:

"As a reminder, that even the strongest CANNOT overcome the POWER of the Capital (the Government)," Snow says!

Thank God, I serve a Kingdom that is not of this World and a King that is just and righteous! If all I had to look forward to was this world and this system, I would be pretty discouraged.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hunger Games - Analysis Part 3 (The Matrix)

This movie is not the first to inject the idea of a world based in illusion.  The Games take place in a dome with holographic scenery, terrain, and scary beasts (as if having all the other contestants trying to kill you isn't stressful enough).  But I digress.  In Hunger Games - Catching Fire, Katniss does some scouting atop a very tall tree.  She stares up, knowing she is in this dome and shoots an arrow as high as possible just to see what will happen.  The arrow makes contact with the dome and causes a ripple in the fake sky.  This is seemingly insignificant at the time other than to acknowledge what she already knows.  She's locked in for the duration of the game.

SPOILER ALERT: Considering two other movies have been released since the one I am referencing the odds are you have aleady seen Catching Fire.  But in case you have not, I am about to reveal a key part of this movie. Read at your own risk.

Later in the story, a plan is developed to eliminate some of the other players using copper wire to harness lightning and electrocute the water they are standing in.  In the dome, they have noticed a repeating patttern of lightning hitting a certain tree, each day, at a specific time.  The plan backfires and everyone scrambles.  Allegiances are questioned and the other players seem to have been tipped off.  Katniss runs back to the tree that's rigged up with the copper wire and sees a lead laying on  the ground.  She wraps the wire around one of her arrows and shoots it at the forcefield's ceiling right as the lightning bolt surges. In an explosion of electrical majesty the dome's integrity is broken and begins to collapse exposing the real world and the means for escape.

Why does this concept work so well on us?  I believe its because we relate to it.  Inwardly, we know this is not the world we should be living in.  On some level, its a training ground or some kind of temporary illusion.  The real thing awaits us.  Scripture talks about God writting certain knowlege into us.  Romans 1:19-20 for instance, tells us none should have an excuse for not acknowleging Him because its clearly installed in us and all creation.  Another passage in Romans 2:14-15 speaks about how God has written his law on our hearts, giving us a conscious to know that we have sinned and fallen short.  In computer terminology, you might say He has installed a certain intuative knowlege in our Operating System.  I believe this is part of being created "in His image."  We are ALL looking for a way to get out of this illusion and step into the REAL world God intended.

We have an arrow in our quiver and every bit the same chance to harness a lightning type explosion to help us escape this dome in Jesus Christ.  In fact the lightning is an appropriate symbol considering Matthew 24:27 which states: For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Will you escape the dome?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hunger Games - Analysis Part 2 (The Game Show Host)

They could not have cast a better actor for this role.  Stanley Tucci is so over-the-top in this horrifically juxtaposed fake world verses the real world role he plays that it would be hilarious if not so accurate and therefore sad.  While the twelve districts are under Police State governance forced into slavery, being tortured, and barely surviving we have this all-teeth-smile and ever evolving bouffant hair-style of Ceasar Flickerman beaming through everyone's TV asking questions like, "What dress will Katniss wear to her wedding?  How did Peeta pop the question?  Have you set a date yet?"

I found myself wondering if this was supposed to be actually working on these enslaved people?  Wouldn't they instead be appalled by the notion that their minds could be swayed by such pomp, glitz, and glamour?  What do they care if some celebrity picks a pretty dress or not?  They have REAL problems and a REAL world that isn't all rainbows and roses to deal with.  Then it hit me.  Couldn't I ask myself and even you the same questions?  Granted I am much more blessed than those portrayed in this movie.  But am I any less the targeted viewer with any less the same goals in mind?  To keep me entertained and caring about what the Royals name their baby instead of what is really going on around me?

I contend that the author of this book series has keenly observed what is already happening and it was but a minuscule leap to create Ceaser Flickerman.  Isn't he just a few generations more exaggerated than talking heads like Ryan Seacrest? Granted, American Idol isn't a game of survival, starring young teens, whose only hope in getting to the next round is to be the most talented, always on-the-ready to eliminate their competition, wait...that is exactly what it is, isn't it? If I've hit a nerve, I am not sorry.  But I will admit that no weapons are (thus far) part of American Idol or other shows just like it.  Weapons need not ever exist though if the goal is to distract us with bobbles and trinkets.

Are you guilty?


Monday, November 17, 2014

Hunger Games - Analysis Pt. 1

My wife read the books.  I couldn't be bothered.  This lazy American was happy however, to get the cliff-note-Hollywood-version when it went to silver screen.  I mostly went to appease my fan-girl of a wife and thought to myself "it CANNOT be any worse than Twilight" and I was right. I enjoyed the first movie for its action, creativity, and did I mention it wasn't Twilight?  Furthermore I am quite the Jennifer Lawrence fan and this solidified her heroine qualities for me.

Fast forward to two nights ago and I finally get a chance to watch the second movie on Netflix.  Thinking it was mostly something to kill the time, I instead found myself in deep thought afterward, hardly able to sleep that night.  My wife, seeing that ever familiar look in my eye said, "Oh no, that movie got you thinking and you're going to be in analysis mode, being very quiet and driving me nuts now aren't you.  What are you even thinking about?"

My reply was something along these lines:

"Where do I start?  First you have the Police State theme that I think the USA is steadily headed towards.  Then you have the total media control of what gets shown, how the content is manipulated and spun for the people to see.  Then you have the parody of how the talk show host in all his buffoonery tries to keep the people brain dead and entertained so that they don't see what's really going on and revolt.  And that is even if I don't talk about the brilliance of how she figured out how to escape the dome and how that is just a visual metaphor of the fake world we live in, not unlike The Matrix or even The Truman show. I would stand up and give the salute she gives if it didn't look so much like the one Hitler used! And I wonder if that was intentional...?"

So as you can see I have several avenues I can and will explore but not all at once.  Hence the "part one" caveat in the title.  Let me get this out of the way though. I recognize this movie is no Oscar-worthy piece.  I recognize there are better movies that illustrate the same points.  BUT...I don't get out much anymore and this is what I have to work with for now, so forgive me for using what may not be your favorite narrative to do so.  Lest I break my rule of more than four paragraphs per post, I shall wrap up with this invitation.  Come back for part 2 where I tackle the Game Show Host angle of this movie.  See if you are guilty of what this author is clearly seeing in our modern society.  I know I am.  At least in part.

Monday, October 06, 2014

A United Front

We’ve all heard this parenting advice before.  “Never show anything but unity in decisions with your children.”  The reasoning can stem from keeping angry conversations out-of-view to keeping your child from thinking a divide-and-conquer counter attack could work.  You see they will notice if Mom tells them one thing and Dad tells them another.  Like little data-mining spies, they store away this information and know who to ask for what and when.  Even if their strategic tactics fail to work, they can sometimes inadvertently cause mom and dad to go at it.  And so long as they have even one parent fighting for their cause, a feeling of victory can be claimed.

So how can we combat this and who among you didn’t do the very same thing as children?  It’s only natural when two people are co-leading a group for them to have different ideas, personalities, preferences, sensitivities, senses of humor, and hot-buttons.  My wife and I are complete opposites.  Though this is by the grace of God and I am very grateful that all of my weaknesses are shored up by her strengths (and vice versa) it creates and inherent challenge in presenting a unified front for the kids.

Even if we were closer to the middle in our thinking and personalities, we were raised by people with very different styles which is another source for possible disagreement since so many of us use the pros and cons of our childhood to customize parenting stratagies for our kids.  The key moment of course is when a disagreement is discovered.  If the two of you have not already discussed your thoughts, feelings, and come to a united conclusion…you are in the danger zone.  I admit, I don’t yet possess the proper maturity to table the discussion for another time and I end up talking it out in front of the kids…who then know (at least on some level) that they’ve won. 

The older they get, the more important this will be to get better at.  How are you doing with this issue at home?  What techniques have you adopted and what Scripture verses do you lean heavily on?

Friday, April 04, 2014

Photo Friday Frenzy - 118

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Domesticated Ironman

Look. It's just business!

My sentiments, exactly.

Hospital humor @ Christmas time.

Roasting like a BOSS.

Ok, fine!

A whole new definition.

Logo explained.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Aggressive Or Passive?

Like the old man that starts a story with, “In my day…” then goes on to describe an idyllic, “how-it-used-to-better” story when he was a kid…I would like to say…
“In MY day…boys used to be aggressive & competitive and I think that is a GOOD thing.”

Problem is, I don’t know if that is an accurate statement or not.  I was and certainly still am aggressive and competitive, sometimes to a pitiful fault (don’t ask).  But is it just me or has modern society beaten the naturally occurring competitive spirit out of our boys?  Or has there always been aggressive and non-aggressive types in vast quantities and I just failed to notice?
I am fully aware that there were SOME more timid than others. I am not making the blanket statement that none existed.  But I am seeing what I believe to be a pendulum swing to an extreme proportion where the non-aggressive far outnumber the aggressive.  In my own house, my eldest son Michael struggles with this as his sister and younger brother are naturally more competitive than him.  What this sets up quite often is Michael at the losing end of a battle that he could have actually won, since he is more skilled (and bigger) in various areas than either of them.

It’s a classic case of Rudy (the highly motivated but less skilled) winning over his opponent because his heart was in it and NOTHING could stop him.  But how do you teach aggressiveness, especially in sports and especially the RIGHT way?  I don’t want to change Michael into a macho man or train him to be something that he is not.  But I do want him to be able to compete in the sports he has chosen to participate in.  I also understand that words like “aggression” have a negative stigma and that it can be a bad thing in the wrong doses and in the wrong contexts.  To eliminate it completely though, seems counter-intuitive and equally harmful.
Thoughts? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook so we can discuss…