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Peanuts creator Charles Schulz made a habit of dispensing advice through the mouths of cartoon characters, especially the blanket-carrying Linus van Pelt.
Like any offering of counsel, some of it is to be heeded and some of it is not.
“There are three things you must never discuss with people,” the comic strip’s philosopher/theologian once said, “religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.”
Since we regularly wade into the first two topics anyway, we might as well go for broke and address the latter.
The traditions surrounding Oct. 31 conjure up many good memories for me. Over the years, my wife and I have chosen to allow our sons to engage in the innocent and harmless side of Halloween. They enjoy dressing up in positive-themed costumes (Captain America, for example) and going trick-or-treating around the neighborhood.
I understand that Halloween is a hot topic with many Christians, and understandably so. With its admittedly pagan and creepy origins, involving druids, ghosts and goblins, many choose to either ignore it altogether or amend it in order to have it better complement their convictions.
I take no issue with either side and respect the strongly held perspectives in both camps.
Instead, I want to address the broader culture concerning the holiday.
Here are my thoughts:
Christian or not, it is high time to turn away from the dark, gory and horror-filled side of the holiday. It’s always been time, but the confluence of culture and recent current events raises this matter to a new level.
There is absolutely nothing entertaining or redeeming about hatchet wielding villains parading in costume or front-lawn displays featuring blood spattered body parts.
Some might suggest I need to lighten up and relax, to not take intended fantasy so seriously.
“It is all just a joke,” they say. “It isn’t real.”
Or is it?
Those people who press will have to forgive me. My family and I live, pray and play in Colorado. In October 2012 a 17-year-old killed and dismembered a 10-year-old girl. Parts of her body were found in the murderer’s house. The young man was eventually sentenced to life without parole for this heinous crime.
How can hearts break in two at such horrific news – and yet grow indifferent to the site of a ghoulish Halloween display just blocks away?
There is nothing “fun” about a sinister-looking character, strapped from head to toe with plastic automatic rifles, casing the streets – even with a bag full of candy in hand on Halloween night.
You’ll remember it was also in 2012 that a young man, also in Colorado, who allegedly called himself the “Joker,” burst into a movie theater and opened-fire, injuring more than 50 people and killing 13.
It seems that life is increasingly imitating “art” these days – but it’s too-often the heinous kind, not the glorious or good.
Evil has been on the loose since the beginning of time, and dispensing with evil-themed Halloween traditions won’t change the reality of a broken world.
I get it.
But can’t we agree that it’s unwise and unhealthy to embrace wickedness in any fictitious form?
As a culture we can find common ground with parents of every creed concerning the need to lift up the good and turn away from macabre traditions.
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Two weeks ago, Brittany Maynard’s op-ed, “My right to die with dignity at 29,” ran on CNN.com. In it, she shared about her diagnosis of brain cancer just a year into her marriage. Doctors told her she had only six months to live.
I can’t imagine receiving such a diagnosis at age 29. My heart breaks for this young woman and her family.
After talking with doctors and her family, she declined palliative care. Instead, Brittany and her family moved to Oregon, where a so-called “Death with Dignity Act” allows terminally ill patients to “end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications.”
During the flurry of media interviews that followed, Brittany talked about her plans to take her deadly, doctor-prescribed pills on Nov. 1 – this coming Saturday.
A Different Perspective
Some days before America learned of Brittany Maynard, Focus aired a broadcast with another woman battling terminal cancer. Her name is Kara Tippetts.
Kara, who has been living with her cancer for two years now, has chosen a different route than Brittany. A pastor’s wife and mom to four children ages 5 to 12, Kara decided early on to embrace all the lessons of love and grace God would teach her on her end-of-life journey. In her blog, she shares her cancer story, speaking openly of joy and suffering, grace and brokenness.
The title of her latest post summarizes in a phrase how Kara views her life: “The Beautiful Rough Road.”
Reaching Out in Love
When Brittany’s story became national news, Kara reached out to her through a humbly written, love-filled blog post, “Dear Brittany: Why We Don’t Have to be so Afraid of Dying & Suffering that We Choose Suicide.” In it, Kara told Brittany,
“Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known… knowing Jesus, knowing that He understands my hard goodbye, He walks with me in my dying. My heart longs for you to know Him in your dying.”
The wisdom and compassion Kara shares with Brittany is hard-won and God-given. Through her two years with cancer, Kara has learned to identify with the suffering Jesus, a man of sorrows who understands her grieving and pain.
But in that pain, there can be hope. Kara shows us how the process of making end-of-life decisions can be infused with grace and faith. How, even when facing a terminal illness, God can reveal beauty and value in life’s small moments.
Kara is living – and dying – with dignity. She is showing God-given courage as she lives her last days. She has found how to abide in the seeming paradox of beauty and pain, showing the world that “suffering is sacred.”
There is Still Hope for Brittany
Today we woke to the news that Brittany has decided against taking those lethal pills this Saturday. In a video, she says she still plans on taking them:
“I still feel good enough and I still have enough joy and I still laugh and smile with my family and friends enough that it doesn’t seem like the right time right now… But it will come, because I feel myself getting sicker. It’s happening each week.”
I am thankful that her recent decision provides more time to reconsider her initial decision. More than ever, we should pray that Brittany would seek comfort and strength in God during these difficult days just as Kara has.
Please also pray for others who have been following this story. There are many who might be swayed into believing that ending their own life is the answer. As Kara has shown us, nothing could be further from the truth. We must pray and advocate for God’s truth: Life – from fertilization to natural death – is beautiful, even in the midst of pain. And we must extend enormous amounts of grace and compassion – and be willing to walk with those walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
On today’s broadcast, you can listen to Kara and Jason Tippetts and palliative care expert Dr. Margaret Cottle talk about end-of-life decision-making and how Christians can deal with the pending death of a loved one. Part one of “Navigating End-of-Life Decisions” is available on the radio, online, or via our iPhone and Andriod apps.
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America’s favorite duck-hunting family is in the news again.
John Luke Robertson, the son of Duck Commander CEO Willie Robertson and wife, Korie, proposed to girlfriend Mary Kate McEacharn on his Oct. 11 birthday. According to John Luke, both families are supportive and “thrilled.”
While it seems most people are happy with the couple’s plans to wed, there is one thing some people seem to be criticizing: the couple’s tender age.
John Luke is only 19 years old.
In his blog post describing their engagement, he wrote:
“Some people say we are too young. I have heard all the stories and all the advice. I have come to the conclusion that a lasting marriage does not depend on when you get married.”
John Luke is certainly in the minority when it comes to marrying young. According to Pew Research Center, the “median age at first marriage has never been higher for brides (26.5 years) and grooms (28.7).”
But are they really “too young” to get married?
What really matters in a marriage
While a 2010 study found there is some benefit to couples waiting until they are at least in their mid-20s before they get married, age is not the only indicator of maturity or of a marriage’s likely success. There are many couples who marry in their 30s and beyond who don’t go the distance.
So how does a young man or woman know if it’s wise to take that next step?
Our Family Ministries team gives us five guidelines to help couples know if they’re ready for marriage.
- A growing faith
“The divorce rate among Christians is significantly lower than the general population,” writes Focus marriage expert Glenn Stanton. “Couples who regularly practice any combination of serious religious behaviors and attitudes – attend church nearly every week, read their Bibles and spiritual materials regularly; pray privately and together; generally take their faith seriously, living not as perfect disciples, but serious disciples – enjoy significantly lower divorce rates than mere church members, the general public and unbelievers.”
- Financial independence
It’s not a good sign if your marriage survival plan includes depending on parents to bail you out at the end of the month, or on credit card use. On the flip side, however, financial independence doesn’t mean a couple must be able to afford luxuries like an expensive honeymoon, a large home, or a new car right out of the gate. Many times, couples need to sacrifices for a season or two before they are comfortable – and that’s OK.
- Ability to communicate well and handle conflict
No matter how compatible a couple may be, there will be times of disagreement and conflict. It’s important that both husband and wife are capable and willing to work through those situations without insults or closing off their hearts to each other. Both should have the maturity to extend and receive forgiveness.
- Realistic expectations for marriage and your spouse
Christian marriages should certainly experience joy and be love-filled, but they still require a lot of work. Committing to someone for life requires sacrifice – and that’s not always easy. That’s why a person is only ready for marriage when they understand being married won’t be unending bliss and when they don’t expect perfection from their spouse.
- Affirmation from family and friends
It’s a good idea for young people to take into consideration the counsel and perspective of their parents and close friends – those who know and love the couple the best. Parental wisdom goes a long way in honestly and lovingly evaluating a young man’s or woman’s ability to handle the responsibilities of marriage.
I’m encouraged by the way John Luke finished his reflection on their decision to marry while still young:
“A lasting marriage depends on how forgiving you are and how much you love God Almighty. Those are the things that hold people together.”
It sounds like he understands something very important about marriage. I, for one, appreciate John Luke’s and Mary Kate’s bold witness for biblical marriage in a culture that seems increasingly confused.
I’m interested in hearing from you: What do you think about getting engaged and married young? What do you think are some indicators that a couple is ready to wed? If you’re a parent, what advice do you give your children?
The post Is Duck Dynasty’s John Luke Robertson Too Young to Get Married? appeared first on Jim Daly.
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There are only 57 days until Christmas.
If your kids are like most, they’ve already given some thought to what they’d like to see under the tree.
But have they thought about what they’d like to give?
It’s an important question to ask. The natural tendency to focus on presents can make it challenging for kids to remember and understand that the season revolves around a Savior who said “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
That’s why we, as parents, must intentionally teach our children the joy of giving.
As with most things, it’s a lesson best learned by doing. Children who experience for themselves the satisfaction that comes from serving others will better understand how true Jesus’ words are.
An easy introduction to giving
One practical way to get our kids excited about giving during this holiday season is by packing a shoebox through Operation Christmas Child, the yearly outreach of the international relief ministry Samaritan’s Purse.
Jean and I have been packing shoeboxes with our boys for years. It’s a fun tradition filled with laughs, together-time and excitement. But more than that, it’s a way we share the Gospel as a family.
Our boys know that the children who are served by Operation Christmas Child will receive our gifts at a local church. The event includes age-appropriate presentations of the Gospel – perhaps the only time these boys and girls will be introduced to Jesus. These children are deeply touched by the love the shoeboxes represent.
That real impact is why Focus on the Family has been working together for the past three years with Operation Christmas Child. Our collaborative efforts this year include:
- “A Guide for Serving Others as a Family:” This free, interactive booklet contains a wide variety of ideas on how families, couples and kids can model God’s love to others through acts of service in their communities.
- “Give a Plush Lamb” effort: Give a gift of any amount and Focus on the Family will donate a stuffed lamb for the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes
I encourage you to pack a shoebox (or more!) as a family, and to talk with your kids about why you’re doing it. As a family, pray for the child who will receive that box, asking God to prepare his or her heart to receive the Gospel and Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
National Box Collection Week runs from Nov. 17 thru Nov. 24.
The post Teach Your Kids to Serve Others with Operation Christmas Child appeared first on Jim Daly.