Today I want to talk about a touchy subject–one that most people want to deny exists, especially if it’s going on in their own family. If this goes on in a family, it generally is a well-kept secret. It’s a secret because other people don’t understand. They fear, judge, or simply don’t know how to respond.
The subject: mental illness. Though this subject is avoided, or even covered up, this should not be. Especially among Christians. The Church should be a support system. We should be able to reach out to our brothers and sisters in Christ and they should empathize and offer support. Instead, we live our lives in silence. Sometimes we endure the judgment of the very people who should be supporting us.
I am pondering this for a couple of reasons. One is that Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church is returning to the pulpit this weekend, following the loss of his son to suicide. His son had a mental illness. He is in my prayers. The other reason is more personal.
Why do you think it’s so hard for families to reach out for support? How do you think Christians should respond to families who are dealing with mental illness? How do you think Christian families should deal with mental illness? If you have this issue in your family, what has been helpful to you? What has not been helpful?
Today we celebrate the birth of our great nation and the freedoms we have as Americans. Praise the Lord for His blessings upon us!
I always have been a patriot. When I was 17 years old, I made a decision that put patriotism into action. Halfway through my senior year in high school, I visited an Army recruiter, told him I wanted to join up, and signed six years of my life away. I began weekend drills at the 100th Division, in Louisville, Ky., while I was still in school.
As soon as I graduated, I got on a plane headed for Ft. Dix, NJ. Nothing–and I mean nothing-could have prepared me for what I would experience there. In fact, if I’d have known what to expect, I never would have enlisted. I guess that’s why recruiters are known for lying! I’m glad I didn’t know, though, because I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. In basic training, I accomplished things I didn’t know were possible for me–physically and mentally.
After eight grueling weeks, I headed for Ft. Benjamin Harrison, Ind. to attend the Defense Information School. There I learned how to be a top-notch journalist. This was an amazing experience that opened doors for me even after I was discharged from the Army Reserves.
In January 1990, I received a call that would change my life–the call to active duty during Operation Desert Storm. Though my unit was not slated to go oversees–at least not yet–it still was full-time service. I was thrilled to be able to serve my country at Ft. Knox, Ky. Our unit trained new recruits to operate tanks. Once they completed training these soldiers, we were to go to Kuwait with them. That didn’t become necessary, however, because the war was over so quickly. I was completely prepared to go oversees, but I also didn’t mind not having to experience combat. After that, I returned to the 100th Division in Louisville as a reservist until 1995, when my enlistment was up.
I share this because I believe in serving our country. A little over two centuries ago, bold patriots fought and shed blood to secure the freedoms we still enjoy. This country is far from perfect, and I am deeply concerned about where we are headed, but I appreciate the many blessings of being an American. I am grateful I had the opportunity to serve, and would gladly do it again.
Thank you to all who serve or who have served our great nation on our soil or oversees, and thank you to their families, who sacrifice as well!
In today’s world, where ideas fly around at speeds too fast to catch, much less verify, it’s imperative that we raise our children to think. You may think I’m stating the obvious. I wish I were.
There is a difference between knowing a good deal of information and knowing how to think. It’s important for our kids to learn a variety of concepts and to memorize facts and formulas. But that’s not enough, especially not in today’s culture.
Children raised in Christian homes are abandoning the church, their faith, and Biblical values at alarming rates. These aren’t just public school kids. These also are kids who attended Christian school or who were homeschooled. I’m sure there are myriad reasons for this trend. I want to focus on one that I’m passionate about–a lack of thinking.
Many well meaning homeschool parents (and Christian schools) employ traditional methods of teaching and learning. They require their children to memorize facts and to diagram sentences. They require daily Bible reading and Scripture memorization. They teach them all of the required subjects and their children get high scores on college entrance exams. This is all excellent, but is it enough?
What about thinking? Do these children grow up to be able to think for themselves? When a college professor or a work colleague challenges them about their faith, will they be prepared to stand strong? If they are taught to think from an early age, they probably will be.
Public schools are far from perfect, but at least in the schools where I’ve taught, this is one thing they’re doing right. They’re teaching kids to understand the why behind the how. They’re teaching them to examine their own thinking and be able to give an explanation that supports it. This reminds me of 1 Peter 3:15, which says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” We’re prepared only if we can articulate our thinking and support it with evidence.
It’s been my passion to empower Christian children and youth with an understanding of what they believe and why. This is of utmost importance if they are going to keep the faith as they go out into the world. I believe our children must first understand the truth of the Bible and what evidence there is to support a Biblical worldview. They need to apply Scripture to situations in their own lives and to consider how they will respond to situations they may encounter in the world. While they do need to be sheltered to an extent, especially early on, they also need a gradual release into responsibility for their own decisions and learning about contrasting points of view. If they’re able to do this under our authority, we can talk and work through those things with them. In contrast, if we over-shelter, we run the risk of releasing them into the world all at once, with substandard preparation. If we under-educate, by not teaching them to think, someone else will end up telling them what to think. If their argument seems logical enough, our children, whom we raised to know better, just might abandon the faith–maybe all at once, or perhaps little by little. Either way is devastating and tragic.
How do we practically educate our children to be thinkers? One of the most effective ways is to ask them lots of questions, like Socrates did with his students. Ask them questions that will require them to justify their thinking. For example, if you are studying the origin of humans, ask them questions like, “How do you know we didn’t evolve from lower life forms?” You want them to be able to give both Biblical and scientific support. If you are discussing the government’s role in healthcare, they should be able to articulate and defend what they believe. Ask them questions that will get them to think deeply about their position, to clarify it, and to defend it. Be flexible. They may be able to support a different point of view than yours on some positions, and they may have Biblical justification.
One thing is apparent: Children who don’t learn to understand and articulate their faith are not likely to stand strong in that faith as adults. We owe it to our children to teach them to think.
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” Ephesians 4:14