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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Will the Church Choose to Be Relevant?

After months of pushing back with all our might, the local school board and administration have made it clear that they intend to keep funneling more transgender propaganda into our schools, introducing kindergarteners to sexual orientation, gender identity, and the possibility that who their bodies and their parents say they are isn’t really who they are. Our school system is doing this already, via activist teachers, counselors, and staff who are slipping rogue sex-ed into whatever curricula they can, which is surprisingly quite a lot. The school board and administration have now decided to codify this ideology in a policy implementation procedure that they’re launching in the fall, despite dissent from a large number of parents and community members who find it unacceptable.
I’m discouraged. I know discouragement isn’t where I should live. I know God is still in charge, and he isn’t blindsided by anything. But I’ll admit that I’m struggling to hold onto that in the face of everything else.
I’m not discouraged about the amount of active deception around this issue, nor about the depth of foolhardiness, shortsightedness, and hypocrisy among the pro-trans folks who crow about “love and acceptance for all” while hissing over public speakers whose message they don’t like and trashing with words I won’t print here anyone who questions them. I’m not discouraged by the barbs and nasty-grams I’ve had fired at me, or about the “friends” I’ve lost, or about becoming a pariah in my left-of-the-left, blue-to-the-core community.
I’m not discouraged that the committee which wrote the transgender position statement for the American Academy of Pediatricians is headed up by two doctors who work in gender clinics, and who therefore have financial incentive to drive children to gender clinics for medicalized transition, rather than to counselors or therapists for help getting comfortable with their natural bodies.
I’m not discouraged that the school board and administration are being deceptive and arrogant, and care more about their “optics” than about the children to whom they now refer as “customers.” I’m not discouraged that left-leaning publications and websites are suppressing debate by deleting comments (and petitions) they don’t like. I’m not discouraged that my colleagues and I are demonized for speaking truth and believing that biological facts are more valid than a nine-year-old’s feelings about her philosophical existentialism.
I’m not even discouraged to be “suffering” for a righteous cause.
Nope, none of that.
Instead I’m discouraged that a great many Bible-foundational churches—where is preached the valiance of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; where is preached the blessing of God upon persecuted believers; where is preached the holy necessity of personal and sacrificial righteousness—won’t even put a blurb in their congregational newsletters about what’s happening in our public schools, or call for corporate prayer, or hold a fast, or do much of anything at all. They’re silent, they’re scared, and that’s discouraging for those of us on the front lines of this.
At the last school board meeting, where this policy was handed to the school board for implementation, forty speakers commented. More than three-quarters had been organized to speak for the pro-trans side, including a pastor from a local Presbyterian church.
No clergy stood up with us.
Does the Church have anything to say outside its own four walls? Is the Church still relevant to public life? What will the Church’s witness be to a world that already considers faith irrelevant, hypocritical, and outdated?
We’re all listening for the answer.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

It's Okay to Feel Not-Okay

I have a secret to tell you that can change your life, if you’ll believe it:
Nobody is normal.
If you’re in high school or middle school, or even if you’re a fully-fledged adult, and you think you’re the only one who doesn’t fit in, or measure up, or get it like everyone else does—you’re actually just like everybody else.
Nobody feels right in their own body at thirteen, or even fourteen, and sometimes fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, and beyond. You’re a butterfly breaking out of a cocoon, dear one. It’s hard, and it's painful, and it feels impossible. But that’s just—
And beautiful, in the end, if it’s accomplished as it’s intended to be.
A lot of us feel like square pegs on a board of round holes, like fish trying to ride bicycles, like ugly ducklings bumping around in a world of swans.
But most people—especially when they’re youngish—are just faking the appearance of being well-adjusted, confident, and in control of life.
Sadly, the most ill-at-ease people in the world often try to make those around them feel less-than, wrong, a mistake. Because misery loves company. If such people can draw you into their pain by making their misery look like happiness, or if they can push you to feel worse about yourself than they do about themselves, they think it will elevate them and will make them feel and look and be better.
(It won’t.)
You’re a masterpiece already. Don’t ever think you need to change who you are.
You say you don’t look like other people?
Nobody does. As much as people claim to want to be one-of-a-kind, most spend their lives trying to copy whoever they think has it most together. You don’t need to do that. You’re more than enough just the way you are. You were fearfully and wonderfully made.
You argue that you don’t like the same things other people like?
I promise that somewhere there’s someone similar to you—but not exactly the same—who likes that too. When I was a kid I liked to draw maps. Not real maps, imaginary ones. I have no idea why. A friend’s college roommate chilled out by looking at typesetting fonts. There are boys who macramé and girls who weld. Don’t buy into other people’s strict, stereotypical definitions of what a girl or a boy is. There’s no hard drive in the world that could hold all the myriad variations of personhood on it. So how could “Girls like pink” or “Boys like trucks” ever be able to sum up a human being?
You worry because you have, or might have, a diagnosis—autism, depression, anxiety, OCD, or something else—and you think that could mean you’re not actually who you thought you were, or who you wish you were.
Everyone has something that’s gone awry emotionally, psychologically, or physically. Every. Single. One of us. Some of us are just lucky enough to have a word for our particular combination of abnormalities, and some professional guidance for managing it.
You may have been told that you need to change something about yourself in order to feel better. But here’s another secret:
It’s okay to feel not-okay.
Sometimes life hurts. Pain exists as a red flag or signpost, to alert us that something needs to be attended to: I need to remove my hand from the hot stove; I need to find friends who care about me rather than use me; I need to find out the truth rather than continue to believe a lie.
I’m sorry if you’re hurting. I’m sorry if people have hurt you. I’m sorry if life feels like a battle every day.
But drugs can’t fix your heart. Surgery won’t fix your feelings.
They just won’t.
Can I offer you a novel thought?
Try working on your feelings instead. Find someone trustworthy—someone without a horse in the race—who can help you figure out why you hurt, and where that hurt started.
If you want to sort some of that out, here are a few good places to start:
You’re amazing, young one.
Believe it.

Monday, March 18, 2019

I Am Not Jazzed

I got disinvited from speaking to a local middle school’s student book club last week. The librarian who arranged the event was instructed by someone higher up to cancel when that administrator noted my status as an indie author. I get it. Who knows what kind of controversial influence I might exert on impressionable young minds.
So the irony is rich that the school board at this same school system is working to fast-track a transgender student policy that will, among other things, require instruction on transgenderism and homosexuality in the Family Life Education curriculum for grades K-12.
You read that right: This policy would mandate that five-year-olds be taught at school about transgenderism and homosexuality.
I make my indie status up-front and first-page. That this policy is currently in development is buried three links deep on the county’s public school website.
Also last week two kindergarten classes at a local elementary school received a read-aloud of the books I Am Jazz & Julian Is a Mermaid. Parents got a verbose, enthusiastic, and disingenuous letter a few days before the event, with the single word “transgender” buried in the middle of the second paragraph. No opt-out clause was offered, or any suggestion made that some parents might have concerns about the reading. The letter flew under the radar of many over-paperworked parents’ attention until the Washington Post ran a story on it, after which the elementary school reportedly got slammed with calls from furious mothers and fathers.
Why so much subterfuge about practicing gender and sexuality politics at school? Because as one staff member said at a working group on the policy, the school needs to “help parents who are unsupportive or who aren’t quite there yet… help to move the parents along.” These school administrators seem to think they know better than parents the values and beliefs with which children should be inculcated.
I may not be allowed to speak to students about my books, but I will be speaking to administrators about their role in my kids’ lives and about their policies regarding my kids’ education.
Because right now, I am not jazzed.

Friday, February 1, 2019

How to Offload Takers

About ten years ago I realized that I’d collected in my life a lot of Takers. Takers are people who, as the word suggests, take things without giving anything in return: parasites, freeloaders, mooches, leeches.
(Okay, those might be strong words.)
I reflected on why this might’ve happened, and I realized that Dr. Phil is right: we teach people how to treat us. I’d created this dynamic by trying to live out two very good and truthful statements—
1. Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you, and
2. Be a friend in order to have a friend.
—but I’d never coupled these mantras with appropriate boundaries.
Boundaries help keep good stuff in and bad stuff out. No matter which side of the MAGA-Build-The-Wall debate you’re on, you probably have an understanding of how fences work. (If you’re outside the US and you don’t know what I’m talking about, God bless you and can I come live where you live for a while?)
So how do you know if you’re feeding a flock of Takers?
You have friends/family members who only contact you when they want something.
Your own calls/texts/asks for attention or assistance are met with crickets.
Serving these people often feels like pouring your love into a sucking black hole.
Before we talk about offloading all these Takers, it’s important to take note of one other thing: not all Takers should be offloaded.
There are two kinds of Takers in the world: those who DON’T give back, and those who CAN’T give back.
People who can’t give back are genuinely in need. They are physically, emotionally, financially, mentally, or in some other way unable to take care of their own needs well enough to create the overflow that characterizes healthy, two-way relationships.
I have people in my life to whom I give—attention, time, love, resources—because I have the capacity to care for them, though they do not have the means to return the favor. I recognize this, and I expect I will get nothing back. (Sometimes I actually do, which is gravy!)
But people who won’t give back simply because they don’t want to? Those people don’t get my time or attention anymore.
Here’s how I shed them:
1. I identified them using the bolded statements above.
2. I stopped asking them for anything.
3. I started saying, “No,” when they asked me for things.
That last one, No. 3, was really hard. I’d spent a lot of time doing a lot of things I didn’t want to do, and a lot of time being mad about doing those things. But I’d had no real training in how to say, “No,” i.e., to establish boundaries around my time and resources.
So I got a coach.
K. knows how to refuse a request, and can do it with a smile on her face. She agreed to be my boundaries Yoda. When I got a request to do something I didn’t want to do, but I didn’t know how to refuse it, I called her.
“You just say, ‘I’m sorry, that’s not going work for me,’” K. explained.
The earth stopped moving. “I can say that?”
“Of course you can.”
I enumerated all the arguments I expected this person to throw back at me, explaining why I could, in fact, do the thing asked of me.
“I don’t think you’re going to get that kind of pushback,” K. said. “But if you do, call me again and I’ll tell you how to respond.”
So I hung up, held my breath, and texted, “I’m sorry, that’s not going to work for me,” to the person who requested my services.
“Okay, no problem,” they texted back. “Thanks anyway.”
Hurricane-force exhale.
Holy Not-Gonna-Do-It, Batman. It worked.
If you’ve never tried this, you will not believe the freedom it gives you when you do.
The Takers vanish almost immediately. They aren't used to hearing “No,” and when the script gets flipped they're suddenly thrown into foreign waters in which they’ve never swum before. Sadly, they'll probably flail over to get rescued by someone else’s lifeboat. But at least they’re not swamping mine anymore.
Real relationships get better. When I agree to do something, I mean it and I find more pleasure in it. When I don’t agree, others respect my time and resources even more, because they recognize that those hours and assets are indeed finite and valuable.
I resume authority over my life, and no longer feel at the whims and demands of other people. I discover that I don’t need anyone else’s approval or appreciation to feel that I and my life are worthy of being. I can give out of my abundance, rather than out of a need for validation.
Yes, I’ve lost some people.
But I don’t miss them at all.