Remember

Do you remember?

The Fuller household has been somewhat busy today, with a variety of household chores and some leisure time, as well. But I’ll admit we’ve not yet paused to think through and talk about the meaning behind this extended Memorial Day weekend.

Have you stopped to reflect on the meaning of today’s status as a federal holiday?

In his weekly radio address on Saturday President Obama called upon Americans to take time out from Memorial Day activities to,

…hold all our fallen heroes in your hearts, and if you can, to lay a flower where they have come to rest.

Excellent point.I can’t say that a lot of the people I know have been personally affected by the death of a relative fighting for our freedom.

Here’s an editorial that captures the heart of the day.

Memorial Day is the most profound holiday of the year. July Fourth may be more significant to us as a nation, but this is the one that brings lumps to our throats. I gaze at the waves of small American flags in cemeteries, flapping in the breeze like Kansas wheat, and I am overwhelmed.

You really should read that article, and also this excellent op-ed piece in today’s Chicago Tribune by a former U.S. Marine, in which the author tells of the costs associated with the defense of liberty. The writer’s main point for readers comes together in this thought:

…what I do ask is that on your way to the beach, or wherever else you are spending your holiday, you take one brief moment and just stop. Stop and think about our amazing country, and the men and women who gave all to make what we have possible.

Finally, here’s a tremendous story of a “man’s man,” a retire Lt. Col in the Army, who found out that life was far more valuable than he realized.

In the midst of barbecues, matinees, yard work and time with friends or family, I hope you’ll stop to remember.

Strange Days

What are we to make of such days, which seem to have an overabundance of sad, weird, even disturbing stories about family, faith and culture?

Alright, enough railing against the culture…and back to raising my kids and loving my wife.

Looking In The Mirror

None of this is really a revelation. Light will eventually shine on every misspoken word and deed. There seems, however, to be a propensity of public moral failings lately:

Sports

Politics

Religion

Entertainment

While there is always great disappointment accompanying moral failures, and much pain for those most closely associated with the fallen, there isn’t great surprise. Men (and women) have shown poor judgment and engaged in foolish – even illegal – behavior since the beginning of time. I think that there is great truth in the old saying that “your deeds will find you out.”

I don’t think we need to condemn those who make poor choices and find their lives in a mess. As followers of Christ, we should show compassion to the fallen, not judgment. The person whose sin is out in the public is feeling plenty of remorse, even if they don’t show it. They know full well that they’ve blown it. They feel guilty. They are cringing at the mess they’ve made. The last thing they need is a “holier-than-thou” finger being wagged in their face. And, God knows full well, I’m far from perfect and have plenty of things in my life that could use some cleaning up. So I’m not in any position to render judgment on someone else. It’s that old principle Jesus talked about in Matthew 7:3, about the propensity we have to point out the speck in our brother’s eye when we have a plank in our own eye. We shouldn’t try to “help” someone before we examine our own lives first and deal honestly with our own sins and shortcomings.

So I’m committing to pray for those public figures who find themselves explaining why they committed adultery, or that they have an addiction, or that they broke the rules in an effort to get ahead. When the next celebrity or sports star fails, I’ll be asking God to speak into their brokenness, to give them a tender heart towards His offer of forgiveness in Christ, and to bring restoration into their lives.

And I think I’ll do that praying as I’m looking in the mirror.

Not Going To College?

I’ve been comfortable with our 18 year-old son’s decision to skip college, at least for the upcoming year. And now, maybe some evidence that Seth is being smart about school. There’s an article in the New York Times that addresses the growing number of high school grads who aren’t – or shouldn’t – go to college.

Here’s a thought-provoking insight about jobs that don’t require a college degree:

Among the top 10 growing job categories, two require college degrees: accounting (a bachelor’s) and postsecondary teachers (a doctorate). But this growth is expected to be dwarfed by the need for registered nurses, home health aides, customer service representatives and store clerks. None of those jobs require a bachelor’s degree.

From my perspective, Seth is doing me a favor by waiting at least a year before heading toward college. That’ll mean I won’t have two kids in college at the same time, something my pocketbook would surely have noticed!

Leavin’ Home?

We’re about to celebrate the graduation of our second child from high school, and rather than prepare to head off for college, he recently decided to take a “gap year.” There’s a growing trend among 18 and 19 year-olds to delay their freshman year of college, opting instead to work, volunteer, or perhaps travel. This gap year often helps clarify goals and interests. I think it is fine for Seth to take a year to be certain of his projected career path before committing to a degree and all the attendant costs of college.

In the course of discussing this planned year off, we’ve made it clear that Seth is welcome to stay at our home, but that we’ll be expecting a modest amount of rent, and that he’ll need to think about his own car (he’s been using one of our vehicles to drive siblings around and help us out).  Perfectly reasonable, we agreed. Seth is also considering moving out and living on his own. I can’t blame him for that, as we have a fairly small house and very little privacy and quiet.

All of this came to the front of my mind as I read in the Wall Street Journal about young adults who don’t leave home, or who return home. Here’s what really grabbed me:

A big difference between today’s young adults and their grandparents, however, is that today’s twenty-somethings are being supported by their parents, instead of helping to support the family, as young adults did in the early 20th century…Parents at all income levels are spending 10% of their annual incomes to help their young adult children, the study says.

That’s rather astounding to me! Spending 10% of my salary on a child who could – should – be on his or her own seems wrong to me. While the article is informative, it is the comments left by readers of this piece that really are fascinating. Many are, like me, a little dumbfounded by the amount of support some parents lavish (yes, lavish) on their adult children who are not yet showing independence.

I don’t want to be harsh, but I’ve looked at the parenting process as one of preparing a child for maturity, and that means a life of independence and self-provision. I don’t understand why a parent would want to empower a grown child with significant financial support.

Maybe when my children are on-their-own I’ll send a gift every now and then, as seems appropriate. But I’m in no position, nor am I of the inclination, to give my adult kids 10% of my income so they can live a comfortable lifestyle, stay with me while looking for a “dream job,” or otherwise shirk responsibility. So, we’re making it clear that we’re happy to contribute to Seth’s college expenses, but that there’s no financial assistance for a gap year. I want my kids to succeed, but when they hit 18 or 19, it’s up to them to define what success is and how they’re going to attain it. Away from home.

Writing this, I am reminded of Deuteronomy 32:11, “Like an eagle stirs up its nest…” (ESV). Indeed, that’s what I’m suggesting here. Just as the mother eagle pushes the eaglet out of the nest, forcing it to fly or die, I think parents should stir up the home/nest so the child can learn to fly. It seems reasonable and pretty natural, doesn’t it?

If you’re working through this kind of issue of establishing some healthy boundaries for your adult child, here’s the first in a series of articles you might find helpful.

Men At The Cross in San Antonio

My friend Joe White will be in San Antonio Saturday, speaking along with several others to men, sharing a vision for discipleship, being effective for Christ, and encouraging the next generation of Christian leaders. It’ll be a powerful time! Details here.

More On Russian Adoption

The sad case of the 7 year-old boy from Russia, Artyom Savelyev, who was adopted by a Mom in Tennessee and then unceremoniously returned to his home country — via one-way airfare — caught many of us by surprise. It was an inexcusable incident, and the matter raised tensions and fueled speculation that Russia would shut down oversees adoptions.

Today some good news for those in the process of, or thinking about, bringing home a Russian orphan: the government is saying that they will continue to allow adoption of the more than 600,000 orphans there. That door will stay open!

For further background on the situation, over at RealClearPolitics.com Cathy Young had this insightful piece which examines this specific matter and the plight of Russian orphans in general.

And my friend Paul Pennington wrote about Artyom’s case on his blog, offering his seasoned perspective on the adoption-gone-wrong.

Finally, to learn more about the needs of abandoned children in that country, here’s a New York Times article about Russian orphanages. It’s pretty touching.

(and for those interested, the photo above shows the entrance to the orphanage our youngest is from. Not a lot of curb appeal…but fairly warm and caring inside)

Hands Off, Mom?

This past weekend my wife was at a retreat for women in our church, and she told me about some of the conversations she enjoyed having with the ladies. They had a lot of fun, shared some tears, and it was a great time for her. One of the many topics the women covered over coffee or as they hiked around the beautiful national forest caught my attention: moms who can’t seem to let go.

Dena made the observation that several of the younger mothers at the retreat had checked in on their families to make sure everything was all right. They expressed relief that their husbands had not experienced a trip to the emergency room, that the kids had made it to that soccer practice, and that the home was not in chaos. I guess they couldn’t stand being away from their kids for a day or two, fearing that something would go awry and they’d not be able to help fix the problem.

Fat chance of my wife calling me to check in! After parenting for more than 20 years, Dena has “let go” of the household management when she goes away. When she goes on a retreat, Dena leaves all the worries and cares of our household behind. She detaches. She turns off the cell phone (or, as was the case this time, lets the battery go dead). She invests fully in the new surroundings, the opportunity to think and talk without interruption, the ability to refresh. So after she left Friday morning for the retreat center, Dena was out of touch until she returned Sunday evening. We could have gone to Texas for the weekend and she wouldn’t have known until she came back.

As we talked about this, I asked Dena if, as we’ve mellowed over the years, she’s learned that her time away is hers, and that caring for the home isn’t something she has to think about all the time?  She noted that, unlike many of the younger moms at the retreat, we’ve got mostly older children, and that has helped us gain a longer-term perspective on parenting. “It’s harder letting go,” she said, “even for a weekend, when your children are small.” I can understand that.

When I asked if perhaps those younger moms aren’t entirely sure if they can trust their husbands with the kids? “Well, that might be the case for one or two of the ladies,” she replied. No specific dads came to mind, but I can guess that some men are just clueless about managing the children and home. They’d not do well at juggling the kids’ needs and schedules, or what to do in a medical emergency. Most fathers I know, however, have done just fine when their wife has been gone for a time.

I’m glad Dena can get away and do so with no worries about the kids. Over the years I’ve demonstrated that I’m capable of driving our kids to their obligations and activities, preparing reasonably healthy meals and solving problems. Things aren’t necessarily taken care of the way SHE would handle them, but when Dena returns from a weekend away the children are alive and well…and the house is usually fairly clean and orderly.

I hope those young moms who interrupted their weekend retreat to call home found the time away relaxing, and that all was well when they got home Sunday. And I hope that in the near future, they’ll be able to let go…release…and trust their husbands to manage the home in their absence. As indispensible as Mom is, she can be – temporarily – replaced.