Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Parenting Tip: Now or Later

It’s Friday evening, and you’re coming home from work looking forward to a fun time with the family. As you come through the door you hear your five-year old speaking in a disrespectful tone to your wife. Body language, tone, content, it’s all wrong. So what do you do?
  1. Excuse it. “It’s just a phase he’s going through. He’ll grow out of it.”
  2. Hope your wife will deal with it. “I’ve had a long day, I deserve a little rest.”
  3. Ignore it. “Want a fun evening. It’ll be hard to do that if I discipline him.”
  4. Blow your top and shout at him. “If I can terrify him with my anger, it will teach him not to talk that way. I’ll shout at him and put a good scare into him.”
  5. Threaten/Promise, but don’t act on it. “If I hear that again, I’m going to paddle your bottom.”
  6. Deal with it biblically. “Hey, buddy! I just heard what you said to mommy, and it was downright disrespectful! What do you think Jesus would say about that? I think we need to go to your room and have a little talk.”

One of the keys to a family that honors Christ is biblical discipline that begins very early in the life of your child. It involves teaching, reproof, correction, and training. Your children need to be taught what God says—by YOU—right out of the Bible, and your teaching needs to be backed up with properly applied parental discipline. The model of discipline the Scripture most frequently provides is spanking: “The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15). If you doubt this, look up the occurrences of “rod” in Proverbs—most of the time it is speaking of a properly administered spanking.

Biblical discipline is hard to do, it is time-consuming, it’s often heart-breaking for us as parents, it’s not fun, and it often brings as great a conviction of sin on the parent as it does the child. As I discipline my child for how he/she spoke to my spouse, I am convicted of my own sinful speech as well.

But if you spend the sweat equity to teach them now, you will honor Christ, and you’ll enjoy the fruit of an obedient, peaceful household as they grow older: “Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul” (Proverbs 29:17) .

Your efforts to “preserve peace” in the short-term by neglecting discipline, however, will yield long-term heartache and grief. “A foolish son is a grief to his father, And bitterness to her who bore him” (Proverbs 17:25). Putting off discipline is a bad bargain: discipline your children now, while there is hope of correction!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Book review: Warrior Soul

Warrior Soul is the memoir of Navy SEAL Chuck Pfarrer, a true account of his training, experiences and exploits. I read it as research for my own novel, Falcon Strike. It’s always difficult to review a book whose content concerns a matter the reviewer has never personally experienced. I believe the book is authentic and honest, but only another SEAL is really qualified to make such judgments.

I grew to like the author as I got to know him through his own words. Pfarrer is a man with clay feet, but refreshingly he does not seem inclined to hide it. His indiscretions and mistakes get the same treatment as do his acts of valor, probably because after all he’s been through and accomplished he simply does not care about my judgment, or yours.

The book is divided into three parts. The first deals with his training at BUD/S and beyond, and then eases into actual operations. The second deals with his deployment with SEAL Team Four to Beirut and the massive truck bomb that killed 220 men of the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit in 1983. Bitterness and anger seep through every page of this portion, and it infects the reader as well. Perhaps it had been better for America if that truck bomb had taken out 220 of our politicians or top brass instead of the marines [my observation, not his]. Idiotic rules of engagement and a military command structure that had apparently learned little since the days of the Ardennes consumed men in place rather than preserving their operational value by rotating them off the line periodically. Our recent attempts at nation-building make it apparent that the political leadership (both liberal and conservative) aren’t able to tell a SEAL platoon from the Peace Corps.

That anger spills into part 3 as Pfarrer recounts the change in leadership of SEAL Team Four, and his difficulty returning from Beirut. Pfarrer applies for and receives a coveted spot on the secretive SEAL Team Six’s training team, the “Green Team,” and passes the brutal training regime, ultimately winning the command of a platoon in the black ops group.

One of the things I take away from this book is the almost super-human edge to which the SEALs are trained. That training regime, their strict performance standards, their meticulous planning, and the indomitable will of the individual operators is what accounts for the amazing record of success enjoyed by these elite units.

The quality of Pfarrer’s writing is outstanding. At no point in the book was I bored. And he’s not some soulless shooter; he’s a deep, honest, and at times profound thinker. His literary craft is excellent. For example, Pfarrer opens the book with an account that he does not complete until the end of the book, creating a bookend structure that is delightful. It’s a neat literary arrangement. A warning is in order, however: there’s a great deal of bad language in the book.

Warrior Soul is a great book, a large picture window into a world most of us can not even imagine. On the one hand I am thankful for the men who are willing to sacrifice so much to keep the bad guys at bay. On the other, it makes me disgusted with the political figures and the political generals and admirals who misuse our armed forces and task them with rules of engagement in operations better given to the Boy Scouts than the SEALs.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Psalms studies snippet

One of the members of my church emailed me with a question, "Do you know how old David was when he wrote Psalm 23?"

Here is my answer, which might provide a few useful snippets of information to you as you read the psalms:
No. One of the more speculative parts of Psalm studies is attempting to discover what theologians call the sitz-im-leben, a term that means "situation in life."  These speculations have led to all sorts of fanciful ideas not anchored in Scripture. Occasionally we will get some help from the caption, or superscription. In our English bibles, the caption is the small type at the very beginning of the psalm, and it is usually not in italics. The superscription of Psalm 23 is "A Psalm of David." Not much help there locating the psalm in a situation. But take a look at Psalm 18 - it has an extended caption that provides some background, not only of the situation, but of how the psalm was to be used: "For the choir director."

The captions are actually in the original manuscripts, and they are part of verse one. For example, the Hebrew text of Psalm 90 has "A prayer of Moses, the man of God" as the opening words of the psalm.

Most conservative scholars believe there is a reason why the psalms are so hard to pin down to a specific life situation: it enables the reader to identify with and apply the psalm regardless of his situation.