Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Deeping Respect for my Mother: Letters from Prison

I have been 'taking a trip down memory lane' recently as I am sorting through letters that my father wrote to my mother and myself when he was put in prison. The letters date back to 1976 when he first arrived in Hennepin County Jail. My intention in sorting through these letters is to compile them as memoirs from my father in a book, sharing insights from a person who has had a father in prison most of their life and recognizing God's love for my father even through all of his actions. I haven't read these letters for years and didn't even realize some of them existed.

The most profound thought that came to my mind, as I began sorting through the 20 some years worth of letters, wasn't how awful the nature of my father's crime was or the things he chose to share with me about everyday life in prison, but was the sacrificial love that my mother chose to show him and me.

For the longest time, my father thought he was going to beat the system, actually right up until his death, and be released from prison. There was a time when he came to grips with reality, a short time, and saw that he wasn't going to be released and as he described it, "I love you Bev, but I don't think things are going to work out very good."

He knew what he had done and he knew that there was a good chance that my mother would abandon him.

I had grown up thinking that my mother was a sucker in staying with my him for as long as she did. She stayed with him for several years after he was put away. I believed it was her upbringing and naivety or insecurity that kept her with him for so long. When I went back to the letters he wrote her from prison, I saw something different.

My father pleaded with her to stay with him.

"Bev, what I got to say is that I love you and Traci very much and I have done a lot of bad things to you two. I don't know if something is wrong with me or not. My head hurts a lot and that all I do is think about you two guys and all the good things that we had. And all the good things we could have had if I would have not done things.

I know that you are hurt very much from all of this and you are about to give up. All I can do I can do is pray to God that you will not give up  and that you will try to still want me and love me.

And if you can't love me, please stay with me because a little bit of love or bad love is better than no love at all."


He later went on, in other letters, declaring how he would end his life if he didn't have us. I remember my mother coming to me, when I was about 10 or 11 years old, and asking my permission to divorce my father. She had stayed with him nearly five years after he was put away.

I can't imagine all the heartache she must have gone through in those five years of visiting, writing, and receiving phone calls from him. I remember taking trips to the prison and entering the visiting room with all the other inmates and their families. I was an environment I was unaccustomed. It was certainly an environment my mother was unaccustomed to; growing up in a suburban, two-parent, church-attending home.

If I had been in my mother's shoes, I would have bailed as soon as I could get myself a divorce attorney. I wouldn't have thought about my actions and the consequences it would have on the person who had hurt me most in life. I would have wanted to do the opposite. I would have taken my daughter and ran as far as I could have, letting him rot in prison for what he had done.

My mom was a gentle spirit though. She had a way of just being there for people, that I am not so sure has been passed down to me. I think she stayed as long as she could and had compassion on my father when he didn't deserve compassion, a Christ-like compassion. Maybe she was thinking about me as well; how by knowing that my father and mother were still married would create a sense of security where there really was none.

Either way, I now see my mother's actions as a sacrificial love toward my father and myself. Not an insecure reaction to a horrible situation as I have seen it for so many years.

My mother and father are both dead now. But my hope is, that I will see them both in a different light as the words from these letters unfold.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Violence in Schools: A Heart Issue

Restore our Schools

This is what our schools looked like not too long ago

Today my daughter came home and shared about the anti-bullying campaign that went on in her high school. She said that she was very emotional as the testimonies and stories were shared of the people involved in a particular school shooting.

When I attended school, there were no anti-bullying campaigns, no mention of God, really nothing to teach to the affective part of the students. God was removed from schools before I attended.

The intentions are good for starting these programs. But they are a response to the violence we are now seeing in the schools. But what is at the heart of this new kind of violence we are seeing?

Some people suggest that the violence is because of Hollywood and video games and a general desensitization to violence and a lack of regard for human life. This could be part of the problem, but more acurately is the effect of the problem.

Some people suggest that we don't deal with our emotionally and mentally handicapped people, that they are 'mainstreamed' with the rest of society and not given the attention that they need. This could also be part of the problem but, again, only the effect of the problem.

Some people suggest that the availability of weapons, namely assault rifles, are the problem. Which, who knows, it could be part of the problem. But more likely, what people do with weapons is an effect of the real problem.

I would like to suggest that we look a little deeper into where the problem lies. Obviously, weapons can't kill another person. There has to be a person operating the weapon. Violent video games don't turn a person into a killer, my son plays them all the time and has a kind and gentle heart.

So what then makes a person commit such a crime against others?

I did some research on school shootings and discovered that the first school shooting was on August 1, 1966 when Charles Whitman climbed on top of an observation deck at the University of Texas-Austin, and killed 16 people and wounded 31 during a 96-minute rampage.

On June 25, 1962 there was a critical ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that removed prayer from our nation’s schools. 39 million students were not allowed by our U.S. government to do what they have been doing since the founding of our country. They were not allowed to call upon the name of God at the beginning of each school day. Keep in mind that since our country was founded, God was allowed and invited into our schools.

The New York school children which prompted the Engel vs. Vitale ruling in 1962 had prayed a simple, yet profound, prayer: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence on Thee and beg Thy blessing over us, our parents, our teachers and our nation.”

In 1925, it was against the law in the state of Tennessee to teach evolution. The ACLU stepped in and now the majority of schools cannot teach Creation, only evolution.

In 1963, Courts banned Bible reading in schools. In 1980, the Supreme Court said that posting the Ten Commandments went against the U.S. Constitution.

Again, the first U.S. school shooting happened in 1966.

Before these laws were enacted against Christianity in the public schools, children read Bible verses within their school curriculum, verses that taught them moral principles on a daily basis.

As a teacher myself, I was instructed by our public school administrator to not address any moral issues in the classroom. "Language arts, bell to bell," was the directive. This administration, I might add, also shut down the student-led Bible study that I allowed to take place in my classroom every Friday during lunch. A study that was allowed by previous administrators. This type of governing, unfortunately, is not uncommon in public schools in America.

An article I read on Forbes online quoted an author who asserted that Christians have "confused their cultural heritage with biblical Christianity." I would agree that, yes, we have had a significant cultural heritage of Christianity in this country. However, it was based on biblical Christianity and what the God of the Bible calls his children to do. I am not going to quote every verse that addresses the nations who make the Lord their God, you can read them yourself. But I will make an overarching statement that, indeed, God blesses the nation that turns away from idolotry and turns to Him. There is no question about this as one reads through the Bible.

I think you can probably figure out where I am going with this blog. I firmly believe, and am deeply saddened by, the "systematic removal of the teachings of God" in our country as Mike Huckabee eloquently put it. I believe this has put our country in a more vulnerable position, vulnerable against attacks from other nations or hostile groups, and vulnerable against attacks from within. When are we going to wake up as a nation and realize where our blessings have come from in the past?

Our young people are not learning the truths of the Bible, the truths that protect us from each other. What they are learning, if not taught right from wrong at home, is what they see in the media they are so constantly bombarded with our current technology.

My call to action is to pray that God would be restored in our government, and even our public schools, not just in the form of anti-bullying campaigns, but the God of the Bible himself.

Lord, please soften the hearts of our people.

This is not what we want our schools to look like anymore

Monday, January 21, 2013

Blue Monday and the Bullet Symbol

Today was a work day at the paper. It was unlike other typical work days in that my usual upbeat co-workers were unusually quiet. It probably didn’t help that it was one of the coldest days of the winter. Karry, who works on billing and in the front of the office, shared that it’s probably going to be a quiet, boring day. I thought maybe I could clean the toilet or change some light bulbs if no ads or emails came in. Thankfully, no toilets or light bulbs for me as ads trickled in steadily throughout the day along with some stories to format.  Not surprisingly, our email was bombarded by news of the inauguration ceremony for President Obama. That wasn’t very exciting though. I think the only one who cared much about that was the CNN reporter who couldn’t contain her tears, saying, “I have to pinch myself today.” The phone only rang three or four times the whole day, most of which were just family members checking in with each of us. We had maybe one call for business purposes.

My boss checked in at the beginning of the day. He usually has something funny to talk about or some story about a football team that played over the weekend. He and Patty, the other football fan in the office, usually trade comments and complain about the quarterback. Nothing today, though.  I suppose it may be because the Vikings are losers and have been knocked out the playoffs. Or maybe it’s because nobody really cares who are in the playoffs now, being left with the usual successful teams in the running for the Super Bowl. Or maybe it’s just because it’s cold and a Monday. I don’t know.

I went to the café next door to pick up lunch, the café that is usually noisy and filled with locals. Today the café had two patrons sitting in the back corner with glum looks on their faces, one of them gesturing the waitress for a coffee refill. I guess people weren’t very hungry today either.

The long day ended and I drove home. On the way home, the radio announced that it’s “Blue Monday” which is thought to be the most depressing day of the year. I recollected on the highlight of my day, the one thing that brought me out of my slump; an accidental discovery of the keystroke combination that produced a bullet on my Apple computer . .  Alt 8!

 That was it. That was my excitement for the day. I will attribute it all to being ‘Blue Monday.’ Or maybe it’s because we currently have about 3.2 hours of sunlight a day. Or perhaps it’s because I just took our Christmas tree down and realized I’ll have to wait until February for Groundhog Day, my second favorite holiday. I don’t know what the cause was for all the moping. But I hear that we are on the upward swing now with only 55 more days ‘till spring. Hoping we all have a terrific Tuesday tomorrow!




Thursday, January 17, 2013

Time with God

As I am sitting here, ready to do my devotions, even taking time to pray and ask God to help me learn something from today's Bible reading, the Cheer's theme song is ringing in my head. Why can't I focus? Why do I do one-hundred million things before I sit down and spend time with God? Why have all of the sudden, taking the Christmas wreath off the wall and putting all my guitar pics neatly in their case become things that must be done. It's certainly not because I am a type A, neat freak. Ask my husband, I'm a slob.

I attribute this to one of three things: 1) I am highly distractible and in need of a dose of Ativan 2) Lack of spiritual discipline 3) Satan.

I would like to think there is nothing I can do about this and choose either option one or three. However, I am probably stuck with option two and will just need to learn to park by butt on the couch and spend some time with God!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

'More Laws' may not be the Answer

On hearing President Obama's speech today about further gun control, I cringed in thinking that many are going to continue to be led astray by this agenda. The liberal's, and possibly some conservative's, solution to the recent epidemic of school shootings, is more laws; This time, more laws about what type of guns Americans are allowed to purchase. Is this really the problem?

That has been the answer to many problems that exist today. More laws. Is it possible that the liberals, and again, possibly some conservatives, are missing the boat completely? Not seeing the bigger picture and the heart of the issue?

More laws were imposed on the schools: Laws on removing God and prayer from schools; Laws on mandating certain test scores to show student achievement. Has that made the schools any better? 

Consider what our schools would look like if we were still teaching values, at the primary level, such as the Golden Rule to all students: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Luke 6:31).

Consider what our schools would look like if we were teaching a fear of God to all students:  'Do not take advantage of each other, but fear your God. I am the Lord your God' (Leviticus 25:17).

Certainly, children could choose to reject the teaching, but they might think twice about shooting up a school, turning the gun on themselves and the eternal consequences of their denial of God's principles.

Consider this, administrators and political leaders: What would your schools and our country look like if you ruled with a fear of God? "The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: 'When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth.'" (2 Samuel 23: 3-4).

Consider what our schools would look like if all students were taught the ten commandments: You should love your neighbor as yourself; You should not murder; You shall not steal; You should not lie; You should not commit adultery, etc. (Exodus 20: 1-17).

Has our government 'thrown out the baby with the bathwater' in eliminating all religious teaching in schools? My answer is "absolutely".

The teachers were instructed at a school I taught in, to teach only subject matter. Nothing else. All affective parts of a child were to be left to the counselors of the school. This is not what I learned in college, however. We learned that we are supposed to teach the whole child and were, by law, 'In loco parentis', which means 'in place of the parent' when a child is in school.

I expect that the teachers of my children (who happen to attend a public school), teach and model values and ethics. I don't expect them to be robots. I expect there to be diversity, even among the teachers. If one teacher is a Christian, great. If another teacher is not, my child will learn from that experience as well, and perhaps, grow stronger in their faith.

I am deeply disappointed in what I have seen in the last 20 years: The agenda to create more laws and restrictions on our people, both our teachers and our citizens in general. We have rights and a Constitution in this country that were intended to allow us freedoms that are slowly being taken away from us. We had the freedom of speech in the schools, to be true to our faith. That is gone. We have the freedom to bear arms. Is that going to be gone next?

My call to action, is to stand and speak up against this movement and take a serious look at the heart of the issue. What would our schools look like if we taught biblical principles to our children again? Might we offend some who don't believe exactly the same things? We might. But consider the benefits. Even more so, pray, for the God of the Bible, to be restored to our nation.

"Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance." Psalm 33:12