Dealing With the Dreaded Monster of Disappointment 

The saddest picture I could find…

The other morning I woke up disappointed, my wife had promised me that she would do something the night before. But we arrived home late and having chased children all day and gone shopping she collapsed exhausted into bed without doing what she said she would do. 

I went to bed sad that she hadn’t done what she said she would do but I forgave it and went to sleep. But after she woke me up at 5:00 AM to lower our awning during a storm,  I could not go back to sleep. I kept thinking of my disappointment.   I did not want to go back to bed. I let my disappointment ruin my sleep.  I was so resentful that when she finally did what she said she was going to do I let the disappointment ruin my gratitude for it.

Disappointment is not sinful. We live in a world filled with sinners and sin, there are going to be plenty of times when we are disappointed.

What is sinful is allowing that disappointment to fester into discontent or resentment. 

What is sinful is using that disappointment as leverage to be selfish and disappoint others. 

There are ample opportunities in life for disappointment to rear its ugly head. In marriage, in parenting, in work. Any place where sinners interact is a place where disappointment can take up a comfortable residence. Everywhere that we have expectations of others is a place we can be disappointed. 

Don’t be like me and not voice those expectations. And really don’t expect others to randomly know what you expect and meet those expectations as though it was their idea. 

Does that person know your expectations of them?  Does that person know how strongly expectation is? Do you express your expectations in a healthy way or do you expect that that person is just going to meet your desires of their own volition?

Give everyone the benefit of the doubt.  I’m sure that your wife or your child or your coworker do not make it their goal in life to make your life miserable.  I doubt that they make it their purpose in life to disappoint you.  Sometimes they just don’t know your expectation. Sometimes they just don’t know how strongly you expected it.  Often, they may not know how to go about it or they’re just not going to do it until you press the matter and make it important to them. 

Even in places where we don’t have to interact with people we can find ourselves disappointed. When rain washes out your evening walk. When weeds choke out our favorite garden plants. Really, anytime we don’t get our way is a time in which disappointment can take hold. 

The best way to avoid or turn away that disappointment is to adjust your expectations. Understand the fallibility of those you interact with. Understand the fickle nature of the universe around us and realize that it doesn’t revolve around you. Nature will hurt you, people will hurt you. 

Adjusting your expectations doesn’t mean that you become a pessimist and expect others to fail. It just means that you anticipate the possibility and have the grace to accept failure when it occurs. 

When my wife fell asleep before the lights of the trailer were even out, I responded sinfully by holding onto her failure towards me and letting it fester into resentment. Instead, I should have forgiven her and given her grace. I should have adjusted my expectations (she was exhausted) and let it go. Then, when she did get around to doing it, I could have enjoyed it and been grateful instead of grouchy. 

Disappointment is a fact of life. The better we learn how to handle it the better off we will be. Adjust your expectations of fallen man and learn to forgive. Only then can you begin slaying the beast called disappointment. 

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Spanking? Or Every Other Method? 

The Gluesticks of Correction

When I said that my wife and I have adopted peaceful parenting techniques I didn’t mean that we completely ruled out physical techniques. This is one area where my wife and I slightly disagree. While she completely rules out spanking, I don’t. 

I reserve spankings for very specific moments, often when natural consequences would be too traumatic or permanent. There are moments when a child needs a quick attention getting and oftentimes (short duration) physical pain is the best way to accomplish it. These circumstances tend to be circumstances where behavior change is more important perhaps than heart change. Physical enforcement is useful in these cases.  

If a child has a habit of running out into traffic, a quick swat on the butt is often helpful in driving home the concept of danger. If the child pesters an animal it is often useful to gently swat their hand before the animal responds with a far more painful gesture. 

My wife makes several good points about spanking and why she doesn’t do them anymore. First, it is difficult for sinful parents to spank without anger. If there is even the slightest bit of anger, you are spanking for the wrong reasons. Second, we don’t hit adults, why do we think it is OK to hit children? There is a certain degree of dehumanizing that we do to children. I have had an avid spanking advocate tell me that children are just like dogs and only respond to physical pain. If they are only intelligent enough to understand physical pain, how do we expect them to understand the explanation required by Tripp’s methods? 

She believes (and is quite persuasive) that if a child is inclined to run into traffic that the child should simply not be allowed to walk.  If a child cannot handle themselves around an animal, remove him from the situation. Rather than be reactionary to “bad” (immature) behavior, be proactive and remove the child from temptation. 

The reason I am inclined to disagree with her logic is that I am not always there to redirect or remove them from temptations or dangerous situations. I prefer to instill an association of pain in them which might persuade them to flee the situation themselves. 

A meltdown in the store is best handled by redirecting the child’s attention away from the object which has caused the meltdown, by quiet words of correction, or by simply ignoring the child and not giving him the attention he wants. We have found that our kids learn quickly what gets them good things and what gets them nothing. 

If we were to haul our child out of the store every time they fussed or whined, not only would we never get our shopping done, we would reinforce in the child’s mind that she is in control. Consistently demonstrating calm strength in the face of chaos is a great way to teach our children that we are in control as parents, not them. 

There are parents who advocate the tactic of taking the child away from the activity as punishment. This is fine, as long as the activity is only fun for the child. If we are participating in a family activity where I am having fun, or the other, more well behaved children are having fun, there is no way I am going to suffer or force the other kids to suffer just because the two year old is grumpy. Our tactic again is usually redirection or ignoring. Harsh consequences are often unnecessary if you consistently train them that tantrums get them nowhere. 

This, I believe, is what the father in the photo was doing. Instead of telling his daughter that her feelings are unimportant or that she should not communicate them, he allowed her to express them in her own immature way. But he didn’t give in. He didn’t coddle her or express to her that her tantrum would get her her way. He simply let her express the feeling and then move on (as adults are allowed to do, just in a more mature manner). 

As for “subjecting everyone in the store to it”, who cares? It doesn’t look like anyone else in the store cares. And if they do, it’s most likely because they either have no children or they are delusional and think they are perfect parents. Having dealt with thousands of little tantrums I can assure you that I do not judge other parents for their children’s behavior (their own behavior however, is another story).

It’s high time we stop telling other parents how horrible they are. Instead, we should focus on our own parenting job and ask ourselves how we are doing. 

When we are perfect, then we can go judge everyone else. Until then, we should probably keep our disgust at other people’s children to ourselves. 

Peaceful Does Not Mean Permissive

The “offensive” picture 

Spankings. Whoopins. Corporal punishment. All of these terms describe physical forms of discipline. But are these the only forms of acceptable or effective discipline? 

This post wasn’t going to be posted for awhile, but there has been a picture floating around social media which has prompted me to fast track it. 

Since adopting the NAP we have tried to move away from coercive and aggressive forms of discipline for our children. We have adopted a philosophy commonly known as “Peaceful Parenting”. 

Among many Reformed folks and among many in the general public, peaceful parenting gets a pretty bad rap. Some mistake it for permissive parenting. Some insist that the Bible requires physically coercive discipline. 

The recent photo of a toddler throwing a tantrum in Whole Foods while her father and grandfather stood passively over her prompted quite a bit of backlash in the conservative world. One post struck me in particular, that of Matt Walsh. I typically agree with Matt on most subjects, but this is one where I find myself in the minority among his followers. 

Many of the comments on his post were along the lines of “I would never let my child do that without harsh physical consequences!” or “If my toddler acted like that I would have drug him out of that store and taken him right home!” Perhaps worst of all, they accused the father in question of raising a snot-nosed liberal who will forever throw tantrums to get everything she wants. 

As a father of five I can say with conviction that if we followed either of the suggested courses above our shopping would never get done. 

“Spare the rod, spoil the child” is an oft quoted verse when Reformed folks debate discipline methods. One would think Reformed people would be more meticulous, as this is in fact a misquote. 

The actual verse says:

“Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Proverbs 13:24 ESV. 

No mention there of “spoiling”.  The Proverb actually describes it as something worse. You aren’t “spoiling” your children if you fail to discipline them, you are hating them. 

Some would say that parenting without aggression or physical coercion is parenting without discipline at all. They believe that we are hating our kids by not using a physical rod to discipline them. In the minds of many of these people every infraction (such as a grocery store meltdown) is to be met with a swift swat. Either the hand is to be used or an object like a gluestick or “something that doesn’t leave a lasting mark” (so as not to draw the attention of the Child Protective Services). Their thinking is that physical pain is the only way to reinforce instruction. They insist that discipline cannot happen without this pain. 

A few years ago we went through a Sunday school class on Paul Tripp’s “Shepherding a Child’s Heart”. The process for discipline outlined in this book goes something like this: Child does something wrong, child is sat down and told what they did wrong, child is spanked, child calms down, parent and child reconcile with a hug, child learns. 

The stated intent of the book was to teach parents to to train a child’s heart and not just change their behavior. While I agree with the premise that a child needs heart change more than simple behavior modification, I disagree that spanking is always necessary. In fact this book tries to make the case that spanking is the only Biblical method of discipline. Honestly I don’t believe that this method ends up being much more than behavior modification. 

Physical pain as reinforcement for instruction is less a matter of heart change and more a matter of instinct. When a child (or adult) performs an action and is met with a painful consequence, it is usually natural for them to respond by ceasing that action (I say usually because often we are inclined so strongly towards sins that even physical pain won’t drive us away). It makes sense that we can change a child’s behavior with spankings or other physical punishment. 

But discipline requires far more than just changing behavior. We must not only turn our kids from the wrongs and towards the rights, we must also ensure that they know why actions are right or wrong and encourage them to want to do the right. This depth of discipline cannot be accomplished by spanking alone, if at all.

So how do we ensure our kids aren’t railroading us or everyone else they come in contact with? Permissive parenting differs from peaceful parenting. Where peaceful parenting creates and enforces boundaries (just without coercion or aggression), permissive parenting allows kids to do whatever they want. This is, by definition, parenting without discipline and in fact, hating the child. 

To keep our kids from becoming little hellions we establish firm boundaries and teach them to respect everyone, regardless of that person’s status or position. We teach them to live by the Golden Rule and the Non-Aggression Principle. We teach them to treat others with kindness, even in excess of how they would want to be treated. We also teach them about property rights and to respect what others own or possess. 

Next time I will discuss both my wife’s philosophy on spanking and mine and talk about a few other methods of discipline which we prefer.   

Beauty and the Eyes of The Beholder 

Beauty 2/24/00

Beauty they say,                                         Is in the eye of the beholder, Something only skin deep.                   But why do those who lack it,           Hold their eyes and weep?
Sympathy passes on,                             into the life of the pained,               Lifting its head from the few who pass, Without knowing gain,                         But why do those who get it,             Wish to the skies for more?                 Life is filled with everything,             And everything is beautiful,               Life is dealt without sympathy,           And sympathy is alone,             Wondering,                                       Through black streets,                           And dark roads,                                   Lying in lonely disarray,                   While beauty is admired.

Is “beauty in the eye of the beholder” as the common phrase says?  Or is beauty objective and determined by fixed rules? 

When I hear someone say there are objective standards for beauty I often get the impression that what they really mean is “everyone should agree with my subjective opinion about what is beautiful.”  When pressed about these objective standards, most people who claim an objectivity about beauty will point to some cultural standard or some past expression of beauty that they personally find timeless and standard. These are obviously just subjective opinions held by the majority, not a truly objective set of standards. 

Is there an objective standard of beauty? Sure: God Himself. 

God is the only objective measure of all things. Since nothing is beautiful compared to the perfect God, it can be argued that nothing is truly beautiful. If this is true it can be argued that mankind is incapable of producing anything objectively beautiful. We merely produce ugly things and insist that they be called beautiful. 

That view is too pessimistic in my opinion.

God gave mankind a cognizance of beauty, therefore we can find beauty in nature. We know there is beauty because we know that a beautiful God created the universe and imparted beauty to it. Not only can we recognize beauty, we are part of that beauty, because we are made in His image.

If God made all things, does this make all things beautiful? In a sense everything God has made is beautiful. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” There isn’t anything ugly which God has made. So where does ugliness come from? 

The simple answer is this: sin. 

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” – Isaiah 52:7

Good news is beautiful, the Gospel is beautiful, and news of happiness is beautiful.  In a sense beauty is truth: that which corresponds to reality. 

Sin both corrupts the beauty of God’s creation and distorts our ability to see it correctly. Sin distorts our mind’s interpretation of reality and therefore our ability to comprehend beauty is corrupt as well. The corruption of our souls often leads us to miss true beauty. Often we instead perceive true ugliness (sin) as beauty.

Does sin destroy our ability to see beauty at all? Some might say that we cannot truly see beauty because of our sin. I think we are capable of seeing beauty, but our minds corrupt and darken the beauty we see (see Romans 1).

So what is the objective standard, if any, for beauty?  I can only define beauty by what it is not. Anything which violates the Holy will of the Holy God is NOT beauty. Sin is not beautiful. Violence, lying, theft, illicit sex, idolatry, covetousness, and blasphemy are not beauty. Anything which is untrue is not beauty.

Objectively speaking then, anything which is not sinful can be considered beautiful. 

But what about subjectivity? Is beauty inherent in things or is it “in the eye of the beholder?”

To those with natural senses there are at least two things that I would say are universally considered beautiful: sunrises and stars. No one looks at either and says “that’s ugly!”  Other natural wonders could be added to this list, but every other one I can think of may be tainted by cultural perspectives, i.e. the ocean may be beautiful to islanders, but to inland folk it could be considered mysterious and terrifying. Perhaps even these cultural perspectives are tainted by sin (fear). 

The common thread through all of these beautiful things, whether they be natural things or Gospel things, is that they all point us to God. So if I was to answer the question “What is the objective standard for beauty?” I would say “That which is truth and that which points to God.”

And to me, that can take many forms. 

Why I Am [Not] A Conservative [Anymore] Part 2

​Here’s the second part of “Why I Am a Conservative”, if you missed the first part you can find it here:

“Universal health care: what shall I say? It is a falsehood, anyone who lives in a socialist country, even our neighbors to the north, can tell you: universal health care is never universal. Yes, you may be guaranteed a spot on the list for a heart transplant, but you can also be guaranteed that your wealthy neighbor is more equal than you and is higher on that list. Socialism has never worked in the way liberals claim it does, there will always be elites, there will always be upper classes, there will always be powerful people; that is the way things work. The only way socialist governments have been able to assure complete equality is to assure that everyone is equally poor (except the leaders, they need more food, bigger houses, and fatter wallets to be able to rule). [conservatives are actually pretty good at keeping artificial wealth differences in place as well, though they are a bit more discreet about it] The best way to fix health care is to get the lawsuits out of the courts [actually no, people should have the right to sue negligent companies, judges should be sorting out the nonsense from the legitimate cases] , allow drug companies to develop their medicines without harsh outcries from the wacked out liberal animal cruelty people (hey, sewer rats have a far worse life) [here’s an idea, why not let companies make products that people want or need and let people decide on their own whether the benefits of said products outweigh the risks?] and let people have more of their hard earned money so they can afford to go to the doctor. [I. e. “taxation is theft”] 
I have no idea what they mean by “comprehensive family support policy” so I won’t touch that except to say that I believe the church is the best support for any family. [second best, behind extended family] Let the church do its job to help the needy and to help families stay together. Do not devalue marriage by placing “progressive” ideas such as homosexual marriage upon it. [actually, do not devalue marriage by allowing government to define it] Do not disrupt the family by allowing divorce to run rampant because the couple just couldn’t get along. Marriage is a binding contract, one that should not be taken lightly, it should not be as easy as it is to get out of it. [again, we let government define the terms of the marriage contract, why are we surprised that they can so loosely allow the breaking of the contract?] 

As for the inherent dignity and worth of every human being, I had to chuckle at this one. Liberals always want to keep the appearance of being the “dignity and worth” philosophy, and they are pretty good at securing rights for women and minorities, but they take these rights too far. Not to sound libertarian [LOL, oh old self, so worried], but I think liberals have violated the rule of “my rights extend as far as your nose”. Liberals have managed to beat bloody the rights of the unborn with their fight for women’s “rights.” Liberals have blackened the eyes of many well qualified whites when they decided that we should give extra value to a person’s skin color (but only if they are a minority). Liberals have broken far too many noses on their fight for “freedom.” I believe every human life is sacred and every human has immense worth and dignity (even my liberal adversaries), that is why I believe in protecting the right to life of the unborn, the elderly, and the disabled. When liberals stop supporting the killing of unborn children and the euthanization of people who are “not living a full life” they can talk to me about this subject, until then I am not going to believe that they think human life is worth something. [I actually still agree with all of that, but I was sounding libertarian LOL] 

Why am I a conservative? I am a conservative because I believe that values and morals do not change [yep], no matter how unpopular they are with the minority of people; I believe people need to work for their food [yep]; I believe health care is the responsibility of doctors, not big government [yep], and that frivolous lawsuits and the resulting insurance bills drive medical practitioners to set their fees sky high [nope, it’s actually the whole “insurance as third party payer” system that makes health care costs so high]; I believe that the family is the most basic unit of human existence and that we shouldn’t tamper with an institution which has worked out fine for thousands of years [yep] without “progressive” tampering (more on this subject later [don’t know what “later meant, I wasn’t blogging then]); and lastly I believe that every human being has worth and dignity and that we need to protect the fundamental right of every individual to be born and to live without fear of being extinguished for a perceived “suffering” or lack of contribution to society [Meh, I agree still, but how often are liberals actually executing people for not contributing? Hyperbole helps no cause.]. This is why I am a conservative, and whether or not the liberals win the courts [which wouldn’t matter in Ancapistan] and win over the Democratic party, I will always be a conservative [LOL] because my values and ideas don’t change with the passing of a breeze, my morals are not thrown out with my belief in equal freedom for all, and my God doesn’t change his mind when society tells Him to. [Preachy much, old self? My values haven’t changed, but I have since dug deeper into their logical conclusions and changed a great many of my views on social and political matters. Having picked apart many of those values I discovered many instances where my morality was not matching up with those values. Consistency is important in the realm of values and morals, and when the two are at odds or are even slightly off-kilter it is important that we act quickly and decisively to bring the two into harmony.]”

I hope you have enjoyed this little exercise as much as I have, go back and read the first part if you missed it. 

Why I Am [Not] A Conservative [Anymore] Part 1

The original article made Ron Paul’s skin crawl…

I was looking through some old writings of mine the other day and ran across this little gem written around 2004 or so. If it wasn’t so polemic it would crack me up. Actually it kinda does. I wrote this awhile before I began my “descent” into anarcho-capitalism and it’s neat to see where I was at the time. I’m sure in another ten years or so I will be just as amused at this blog as I am at this little rough draft. For ease of reading I am breaking it up into two parts. I will give my current day responses in brackets.“Why I am a conservative

Recently I have seen conservatives compared to Fascists and Nazis [this is still quite common]. The comparisons made are between our staunch nationalism and our commitment to tradition and the authority of government [when the shoe fits]. That’s where the real comparisons ended. The rest of the comparisons seemed to be a bit on the misinformed, conspiracy-theory-driven side. Big former CEO’s were put in government offices, therefore we have a government which is tightly bound to corporations (which we all know are corrupt and evil). [oh wait, the government is in bed with corporations, hence lawmaking that is clearly biased towards certain companies and industries] The current administration has put people in place who have lied and cheated their way to the top (repeatedly pointed out by liberals but never proven), we have tried to place “bigoted” judges into federal court, we have tainted the government with religious rightism and hatred [yep, yep, yep and this is every administration]. And all of this from the New York Times.
To top it off I find an article describing the “superiority of liberalism” which includes a list of what liberals are: people who believe values and ideas evolve, that the government needs to help the underprivileged, that universal health care is long overdue, that the nation should have a “comprehensive family support policy”, and people who believe in the inherent dignity and worth of every human being. [this is actually a pretty good definition of modern “liberalism” though they don’t actually believe in human dignity, government supersedes all human dignity] The article went on to describe how America was founded upon liberalism and how George Washington was a liberal [this is true, but not that kind of “liberal “] and how liberals have been victorious in every battle they have ever fought. 

Now while that list is impressive, and while I would agree to some extent that our forefathers were pretty liberal for their day, I would like to point out the great failures of the liberals and list a few reasons why I do not consider myself one of them:

Values and ideas evolve: Yes, they do, but not always in the right direction. Rather, ideas change, values do not. The values of this nation, regardless of what they in the left want you to believe, are based on Judeo-Christian principles. Our founding fathers, those rabble-rousing revolutionary liberals that they were, were for the majority a devoutly religious crowd [well, more devout than most “liberals “ today anyway]. They did not fight against the values they were raised with, but because of their values. While God was not specifically mentioned in the Constitution you only have to read the journals and prayers of [some of] the signers to know that they felt it unnecessary to put God in there. Everyone would understand the law of the land to be based in these principles [at least in part].

The government needs to help the underprivileged: yes, the government is here to help protect its citizens and give them the freedom and the rights they were endowed with to get ahead in life, but it’s not here to give handouts to those who deem themselves “less fortunate.” [actually no, the government does not “give” rights, and it should definitely not be giving out handouts to anyone]. I believe we [not government, “we” is a general term for parents, churches, well meaning older folks Etc] need to educate those who are behind in life, we need to give the young urban blacks a better message than “you are oppressed, you will never make it anywhere without government help” or worse “go smack up some hoes, do drugs, join a gang, kill cops, and be bigger than everybody.” [I didn’t stereotype much back in the day did I?] Handouts can only go so far. Education, while not as quick to show results, results in permanent change [especially government sponsored education, how else can you create permanent statists?] . The liberals believe we can help the needy by legalizing drugs (decriminalizing the poor drug dealers) [actually this would help a lot of people and make the drug industry less profitable and improve a lot of neighborhoods], giving jobs to less qualified minorities because of past oppression and primarily because of the color of their skin (which puts them into jobs they are not able to handle) [the government doesn’t “give” anyone a private sector job and definitely should not be in the business of telling private industry what to do], and by giving out food and health care to everyone including the illegal immigrant who doesn’t have protection under our constitution [yep, that piece of paper is what gives us rights and human dignity, if you aren’t in the club, we are perfectly within our rights to strip you of both #Sarcasm] . Now, that may sound cruel, but I guarantee you will see results if you educated the poor instead of giving them a blanket to cover their symptoms [this I still agree with]. As for minorities, I believe this country will be color blind once it stops using color as a leg up, once we take the race box off of college and career applications, and once we finally stop discussing racism as if every white person is a KKK member ready to go out and hang every black, Mexican, or Asian that lives within our borders. Racism is a self perpetuating problem, ignore the few insignificant instances of it and you will prevent the large scale retaliations of scores of white people just trying to say “hey, get off our backs!” [it might help white people a bit if they would stop eyeballing with suspicion every brown person with a Spanish accent and begging for a wall]. “

Come back in a couple of days to see the next section, it’s more fun in my opinion. 

Doubt and the Clouds of Doom

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:4-8

Doubt is destructive. It makes a person unstable and indecisive. It can lock you into a cycle of depression and feelings of inability. Doubt is anti-faith. Just like it’s ugly cousin anxiety, doubt can keep you chained up and numb to the good things you have been blessed with. 

On a recent trip to the “big city” (everything is big compared to Cloudcroft) my sinful tendency to doubt was thrown right in my face. The transmission on our truck began to act up and lights on the dash began flashing. Immediately my mind went to the worst possible scenarios. To my mind, there was no way the situation was going to work out well. What had been a fine day quickly became grumpiness and gloom. 

Indecisiveness is deadly. A few weeks back a rabbit darted in the road in front of us, made it across our lane, and changed its mind halfway through the other. It turned just in time to catch our rear dual. If that bunny had just committed to its choice to cross the road, rather than doubting its chances, we would not have been checking the dual for bunny that afternoon. 

We can all find ourselves like that bunny. If you find yourself running around indecisive and wishy-washy, you might want to ask yourself if you are doubting God’s Providence. 

God will not leave us lacking in anything, if we ask in faith. He won’t give us all of our wants but He promises to provide His child with all of their needs. Doubting this promise can lead us to stop asking Him for our needs altogether. And when we stop asking, we tend to go adrift. 

Don’t be a dead bunny, kill the doubt in your life before it kills you.