I recently traveled to Arizona for my brother's 50th birthday. It's weird to think that I HAVE a brother who is 50, but then when I think about it, I am not that far from 50 myself. Ugh. In my brain, I feel about 32. My body would tell a different story, but my brain and my heart, they still feel really young.

Funny thing about my family, which is probably not a unique story, but we don't really know each other that well due to divorce. Our parents divorced when we were young (11,9, and 7 respectively) and we almost never all lived together after that. There was a year or two when we three kids all lived with the same parent, but those days were very, very rare. Usually two of us lived with one parent and one of us lived with the other and then there would be a fruit basket turnover and things would be different for a few months or a few years. This went on until we were in our teens. From that point forward, I lived with Mom and the boys lived with Dad. My younger brother, Dewey, and I have always been close, even before the divorce, but somehow remained connected over the years, and are close today. But Carl (the older brother) has pretty much always been distant. I used to think it was a defense mechanism (life was hard in our family as a kid, very hard) that kept him separated from us, maybe it was.

But here we are 50, 48 and 46 and just now we are starting to become a family again. Carl, at 50, has decided that he wants to know his brother and sister. I am happy that he has reached that place. I hope that it will be the first step to peace for him. He's had a tough life.

It was weird being at the birthday party of my 50 year old brother and feeling like I don't know him at all. Truthfully, all I really know of him are the tragedies in his life. I don't know his hopes or his dreams or his aspirations. I don't know what kind of food he likes or if he's allergic to anything or what his favorite tv show is. I know he has a mullet (a source of amazement for me) and I know he likes motorcycles and drives a Harley.

All that to say, I'm glad that each new day God gives us a second chance at something. This is a second chance for three little kids to actually become brothers and sisters.

The Best and the Worst

I remember a lot of years ago, when the first and second Harry Potter books came out, people, mostly parents, were constantly asking me my opinion about Harry Potter books and whether or not their kids should be able to read them. Then the movies came out and that created a whole other "stir" about Harry Potter. I did not offer my "opinion" for a long time, because it would be just that, my "opinion" and nothing more. Finally, I did give my opinion in the form of a newspaper column. I don't think it was the scathing "anti-Harry" report most of my Christian friends were waiting for. But nonetheless, I wrote it, finally weighing in on the whole Harry Potter thing. (By the way, my son told me the other day he saw a church sign that said something like "Jesus, the real Potter." HA!)

Of late, I have been asked to weigh in on the whole "should kids have a Facebook page or not" thing. I have hesitated, again wondering if the world really needed another opinion about Facebook. But after continued questioning from parents, I have decided to give my two cents worth.

Let me begin by saying that we must always remember that the www we type into a web address stands for "world wide web." World Wide means everything that is good in the world and everything that is bad in the world is at the fingertips of your child. Never, ever, ever should your child have unsupervised access to the Internet.

Facebook requires that you be a minimum of 13 years of age to set up a Facebook page. There is a reason for that. Their disclaimer says this: "Despite Facebook's safety and privacy controls, Facebook cannot guarantee that its site is entirely free of illegal, offensive, pornographic or otherwise inappropriate material, or that its members will not encounter inappropriate or illegal conduct from other members. Consequently, you may encounter such content and conduct."
Think about the ads that your young child is seeing over in that right hand column. Think about the wall posts that he/she is reading in their news feed. Think about the photos they are exposed to and decide whether or not they should be seeing these things.

Also, because Facebook requires your child to be 13 to have a Facebook page, if you are aware of this policy and let them get a page, then you also are aware that they are having to lie about their age to sign up. You are condoning this lie. I saw a mom once at a movie theater buying movie tickets for her kids. Two were preteens or young teens and one was obviously much younger. The mom asked for one adult and three kids' tickets. One of the young teens whispered, "If you say he's under 5 he is free." The mom answered, "That's true, but my integrity is worth more than $3.50 to me." That scenario plays out in my head every time I see parents lie for their children or even every time I am tempted to lie about something. I ask myself, "How much is my integrity worth to me?" So parents, think about what you are telling your kids when you are willing to lie in order for them to get their very own Facebook page.

And lastly, there are so many things in the world that we have to wait to be a certain age to do. Some of these things are good, and some of them are not so good. Have you ever noticed that the things that are not so good for us are the ones we lie about our age to do?

All that to say, being "online" requires a lot of maturity and responsibililty. You know your child better than anyone else. Do they have the maturity to be on a social networking website before the established age? Only you can answer that question.

The Table

I just got home from Preteen Camp. I have so many "moments" that I could blog about, but I decided to blog about "The Table." A few years ago, I heard a message taught by a guy named Rodney Anderson. The message was entitled "The Table." It told the story of how the Jews celebrated the passover meal by "remembering" what God had done for them. He told of how each person told stories of old, stories of Moses and Noah and David, as though they, themselves had lived them.

That same summer, I was leading a preteen camp and we were trying to decide how to celebrate communion and at the same time, make it unique and different and something the kids would never forget. So I told my team about "The Table." And we chose to celebrate communion that way. Each of us, children and adults alike, telling our rememberances of all God had done as though we, ourselves, had lived the moment. But we also included moments from the life of Christ, as though we ourselves were there. Wow. What an incredible communion service. It truly was a celebration and the first time that I think I actually understood what Jesus said when he said, "As often as you do this, remember me."

Fast forward four years. This morning we celebrated communion again with children ranging from 8-13 years of age. And we celebrated it the same way. This year though, they added their remembrances from the week of camp. "I remember that on Monday night I asked Jesus to be my Savior." Or "I remember on Wednesday when God showed me that I was holding on to bitterness, and I let it go."

There was this one little boy at camp, though, that had really struggled to make good choices all week. When it came time to celebrate communion, he said, "I remember . . ." and then he couldn't speak. He could only cry. He said, "I can't do this. I owe you all an apology for my behavior this week." And when he was finally able to talk again he said, "But I remember this week that Pastor Greg said that God teaches us that our past is the past. And today I can choose to let go of the past and live for Him." "I remember that God loves me." And then he ate the bread and drank the cup in a worthy manner.

All that to say, people doubt that children have the capacity to truly and deeply understand the things of God. But I don't doubt it. Not for a second.

Baby Steps

My son, Jacob, my "baby" is graduating from college tomorrow. It's a weird feeling I have about all of this. His brother, my oldest son, Zack, graduated a year ago, and that felt pretty awesome. And while this feels joyous, and worthy of a celebration, it feels a little bit like the official book of childhood is closed. My "children" are officially not "children" any longer.

Oh, I know they have been grown-ups for a while now. I "get" that 23 and 24 are ages of adults. But this . . . this marker, it makes it official.

It feels like getting to the end of a book, closing the cover, breathing in a heavy sigh, rubbing the back of the book cover, and placing it on a shelf. Childhood is over. Gone are the toddling steps. Gone are the glances over the shoulder on the first day of school. Gone are nervous jitters as they pull out of the driveway for their first solo drive. Gone is childhood. And that feels a little final.

But the baby steps of adulthood are here. They are off to find jobs and the wives that God has set aside for them. Off they go to live their lives, free from the incumberances of parental boundaries.

All that to say, I should feel free, but I feel, well . . . I don't really know.