Saturday, May 19, 2018

Prayer in School

With all of the violence going on in schools these days, many of us are getting tired of the "thoughts and prayers" reactions and looking for some real solutions. A lot of my Christian friends, whether Facebook or face-to-face, are talking about the importance of putting God, or prayer, or the Bible, or all of these, back in public schools. They believe that ever since America kicked God out of schools, the violence and immorality has skyrocketed. I'm about to say something that a lot of my Christian friends won't like, and so I'm asking them to hear me out before writing me off on this issue.

We don't need to put God back in public schools, we don't need corporate prayer in public schools, we don't need creationism taught in science classes, and we don't need theology or Bible classes taught alongside the other subjects. What we need most is for the church of the living Christ to stop pointing it's collective fingers at everybody else, and start doing the job that He has commanded us to do.

Almost every time I have this discussion with a fellow church member or Christian friend, I feel as though they look at me as some kind of apostate or heretic for even doubting that morning prayers in public schools will usher in some new Great Awakening. Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that prayer isn't powerful and effective, because it is, when believers pray in the right spirit. I'm not saying that there isn't an urgent need for spreading the gospel, because there definitely is. What I'm saying is that both of these things are the church's job, not the state's, and expecting the world to carry out the church's mandate is lazy and foolish.

For one thing, God never left the public schools, and God doesn't get "kicked out" of anywhere. God is omnipresent; He is everywhere at once, and that means even the darkest and most corrupt places as well. In Psalm 139, David writes, "Where shall I go from your spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!" If we really believe that the Holy Spirit lives in us as believers, then God is in public schools with every Christian student or teacher that enters them, however few there may be.

However, whether we like it or not, we live in a country that has as part of its constitutional underpinning the separation of church and state. Frankly, I do like it, and I think it's a great idea. If you don't, then consider this - if the state is willing or able to promote one religion over other, what makes you think that the religion they promote will be yours? If you allow the government to promote one religion and suppress others, pretty soon they'll get around to suppressing yours. At some point, you'll be the one who's not orthodox enough, or not active enough, or not fervent enough, to pass inspection. The church has never been partners with the government, not in this country or any other. I'll save the discussion of whether or not America was founded as a Christian nation for some other time. For now, I'd simply say that there is no such thing as a Christian nation. There is the church, and there is the government, and they are not the same thing, and never should be. Because of this necessary separation of church and state, which the beloved founding fathers intentionally wrote into our constitution by barring the government from promoting any religion, we cannot have state schools that conduct Christian corporate prayers, and somehow exclude Muslim, Jewish, atheist, and other belief systems.

Furthermore, even if we wanted corporate prayer in schools, or Bible verses taught in English, or creationism taught in science, who's going to do it? It's always remarkable to me that the same people who decry the godlessness of our schools and the secular and atheist agenda of the teachers would trust that same faculty to teach their children the things of God. I know there are some hard-working Christians in public schools, but by and large, most of them aren't. So, if you have a child in public school, which one of their teachers do you want leading the class in prayer? Which one do you want breaking down Scripture and theology for them? Which one do you want teaching them about creation? Which one do you trust to disciple them in Christ? Frankly, it's the parent's job to disciple the child first, and then the church's job. The schoolteacher never enters into the equation. There is no verse in the Bible that commands, or even suggests, unsaved educators to spread the gospel. That's our job as the Christian church and Christian parents. If you expect a secular school system to do this job, expect to get back students who have been misinformed and led astray.

As for the argument that schools were bastions of righteousness when there was prayer in schools, I would say that while the overall climate of the nation has moved towards godlessness and immorality, the blame for that is also on the church and not the schools. The fact that we ever expected the school system to proselytize for us was a grave mistake, and one that we should learn from, not repeat. Below as a few pictures from schools in this so-called golden era of education in America, depicting the racial integration of our school system. They show some very ugly moments in history when American children on their way to school had to endure racial slurs shouted at them, being spat on, having rotten food and sometimes bricks thrown at them, by mobs of violent people who opposed integration. These mobs consisted of otherwise normal men and women, fathers and mothers with their own children, jobs, and homes to tend to. The hate was so vicious that these children needed government protection from the National Guard or US marshals, because many of the local police departments would not protect them. Ruby Bridges had to walk past such mobs with federal protection every school day for a year. And yet, the first thing those children did when they got into those classrooms was to begin the school day with prayer. Every one of the people in the mob outside also grew up in a school that began the day with prayer, and they still turned out to be hateful and violent. The school taught them reading and math. The church should have taught them to imitate Christ and love their neighbors as themselves.

If you want your child to have a religious education, aside from what they should be getting in your home and your church, then you have to enroll them in one of many fine Christian schools across the country that are doing a great job at that very thing. And you have to pay them, because their job is difficult and requires special skills, and because the worker is worthy of his or her wages. Many of these Christian schools are accountable to churches who see Christian education as an extension of their mandate to make disciples, and they will partner with you in raising your child in the likeness of Christ. But you can't reasonably expect a secular entity like the government or government schools to mold your children into the form of Christ. If you are concerned about the souls of the other students in your child's public school, as you should be, then get involved as a parent and start a Bible study yourself. When I was in middle and high school, there was one parent in the neighborhood who had a Bible study in his house every Friday evening. It was loose, it was fun, but it was focused on Christ and the Word, and there were always lots of kids from the surrounding schools in attendance. You could start something like that with your kids' friends. Most teachers complain about the lack of parent involvement, so this is definitely one way for you to get involved. If the school gives you opposition to that, even though it shouldn't be any of their business, then focus on the Christian students you do know, and train them to be witnesses to their classmates. Equip them to talk to their classmates about Christ, or at least to invite them to church or youth ministry events. If you really wanted to be a radical Christian, you could demonstrate how to do this to your child by witnessing to their teachers and inviting them to church. Your children need to learn how to do this anyway, since they'll be taking over our churches some day.

Ultimately, my biggest problem with the theory that putting prayer or "God" back into public schools is that it is really just a lazy cop-out. It is a way of laying down the weapons that God has given us to fight against sin and darkness, retreating to the safety of our computers and complaining on Facebook that the school isn't doing our job for us. If God really does judge America for it godlessness, I wonder what He'll say when His church stands before Him and says, "It's the schools' fault for not teaching them about Christ!"

Saturday, April 28, 2018

We Wear the Mask

A while ago, I saw an exchange on Facebook of some old students, very smart and woke kids and different ethnicities, who grew up together in a unique multicultural school, where the white kids were usually the minority. One of the white students was asking - genuinely asking - if it would be too much to wear an African dress to the Black Panther premiere. She was really excited about the movie and everything that it stood for, and she wanted to go all out. This is what I love about this group of kids - not only do they think about things like that, but they reach across these ethnic barriers and share their experiences and wisdom with each other. And the best thing is that they do this before they act, instead of apologizing afterward. About five or six friends joined in the conversation, and the consensus was that a white girl wearing a dashiki or other African garb to the would definitely draw the wrong kind of attention, and would probably be seen as insensitive or thoughtless. It would have the exact opposite effect that the young woman wanted to project, and would distract from the event itself. The suggestion was to wear a Black Panther t-shirt or any other Black Panther gear to get in the mood and show some solidarity with the fans, and the added bonus is that she could actually wear those items again, almost any place, and get more value out of them.

It was a really beautiful exchange to watch, and one of the most interesting things about it was that it ended with the white girl completely understanding the situation, and remarking that it just felt weird that she couldn't wear something because of the color of her skin.

I think a lot of us white folks have this reaction to cultural appropriation, and all of those articles and YouTube videos telling us that wearing African garb, or saris, or cornrows, or Native American accessories is offensive to the cultures that produced them. Why can't I wear what I want to? I thought that was the whole point of defeating racism, we say.

The truth is, if you're white, nobody is saying you can't wear a dashiki, or African accessories, or whatever other cultural items you want. There is no force to stop you from doing this. The only consequence is that you risk offending people. If you're okay with that, then there probably isn't any other consequence at all. But that isn't true for everyone from every background or ethnicity.

For people of color, wearing cultural attire or hairstyles can have real consequences, far more severe that just hurting someone's feelings. There are a couple of Nigerian families in my church, and they often wear their long robes and head dresses to church, because that's considered formal in their culture, and hey want to dress up for church. I, on the other hand, wear jeans and a comfortable shirt, because I hate formal clothes. But if some of these same men and women wore their formal robes to work, they could get written up for being out of dress code. My wife has been told on several occasions that her natural hair was inappropriate for the workplace. Her hair is about as tight and kinky as possible, and its most natural shape is a low, tight afro that always looks neat, but apparently is unbecoming of an accountant, even one who doesn't deal with clients. For white folks, there is no comparison on this issue. A white woman with straight or wavy hair can pull it back in a ponytail if she's in a rush, and still be considered perfectly professional, but a woman with hair like my wife's has to spend time and effort on changing the natural texture and shape of her hair or she risks losing her job.

Attitudes matter, and ideas have consequences, but some ideas have more consequence than others, depending on whose ideas they are. In her famous essay, "On Seeing England for the First Time," Jamaica Kincaid wrote "I may be capable of prejudice, but my prejudices have no weight to them, my prejudices have no force behind them, my prejudices remain opinions, my prejudices remain my personal opinion." The opinion that white folks shouldn't wear cornrows or dashikis is an opinion that has no force behind it. Their jobs are not threatened, and they are not profiled as criminals or foreigners as a result. In fact, it works the other way. White folks can wear cornrows or dashikis or saris and be considered avant garde or exotic. They can walk down runways in New York or Paris wearing culturally appropriated attire and be lauded as "cutting edge" or "the next big thing." Not only doesn't it cost them anything, but it brings them very positive attention, except from a small, but growing, group who object to this. On the other hand, if some of my church members decides to wear clothes that are representative of their own culture, clothes that they consider professional or formal, they can be threatened with the loss of their jobs. Furthermore, they risk marking themselves as foreigners or immigrants, and incurring a very negative kind of attention from authorities and even neighbors. My wife is very blessed to have a job where she works in a very small company, and where she is surrounded by friends who grew up together and now work together, but, again, when she was working for more corporate accounting firms, the policy was that she would conform her appearance to the white norm of hairstyles. This was far more that just a cultural issue, since it meant that she had to spend $200-$300 each month on products and stylists in order to achieve this unnatural feat. This is the point I want to make to white folks who still don't understand the backlash against cultural appropriation. It doesn't seem fair that in order to keep her job, one woman should have to spend hundreds of dollars to achieve an appearance that another woman gets for ten dollars in shampoo and scrunchies.

That's the real source of the offense in cultural appropriation. Imagine if you had to wear a special mask in order to get a job or even move about safely in your neighborhood. Imagine if that mask covered up so many of the things that are inherently beautiful about you, things that you were proud or. Imagine that this mask was also expensive, so much so that you were aware that for the first day or two in any month, you were basically working just to pay for the mask you have to wear to keep the job in the first place. Imagine that this mask was a hassle to put on, but you couldn't really get by without it, because other people don't want to see the real you, because the real you is unprofessional or ugly or "thuggish."

Then imagine that other people were wearing other masks, masks that look like the real you, and somehow nobody seemed to think that they were ugly. Whenever they wear the mask that looks like you, everyone seems to think it's beautiful, even though it's just an imitation of your real self. The same features that you have to hide, out of self-preservation, they can flaunt, and be celebrated for it. Even though you couldn't do anything about it, you'd probably be offended too.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Pray for Those in Authority

Over and over lately I keep hearing people remind me that I have to support our current president, because the Bible says so. They post memes on Facebook and Instagram telling me that the Bible says to obey all authorities, and pray for those in power. And it seems as if no matter what Trump does, whatever prejudice or hatefulness or stupidity comes out of his mouth, through his Twitter feed, or across his desk, I'm supposed to support it and find some reason to rationalize it, because the Bible says so.

The bigger issue is that I'm starting to think that some of these people really do support the prejudice and hatefulness and stupidity, and this whole "Bible says so" thing is just the cover story.

It's ironic to me that we love stories of rebellion against unjust and corrupt governments in the Bible, but when they happen in real life, against our party or our elected official, we shake our fingers and call the rebels unChristian. We love to hear the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refusing to bow down to idols set up by a tyrant, but we excoriate men for refusing to salute the American flag. We celebrate Nathan pointing his finger in the face of King David, exposing his wickedness and telling him, "You are the man," but we either blast or unfriend anyone who dares to call Trump's lack of morals into question. We rally behind young David as he gathers forces to fight against King Saul, only stopping short of killing him in ambush, but my Facebook feed is full of so-called Christians calling down hate and wishing harm to a bunch of teenagers daring to gather together to ask for a safer country. Just imagine what Christ would think about the members of his church persecuting a young person asking for peace and safety, just a couple of months after he or she watched his friends being gunned down while running for their lives. Does that sound like the kind of thing that should happen among God's people? Does it even sound like the kind of thing that should happen among Americans?

The truth is, we are very selective about how we apply the doctrine of obeying the authorities. We glorify the men who dumped crate after crate of tea into the Boston Harbor to protest the British government, but we encourage people to run over protestors with trucks if they block streets in a peaceful, if inconvenient, protest.

One of my favorite passages about Jesus is in Luke 13:31-35. Jesus had been healing and preaching on his way to Jerusalem, staying in one spot for two or three days before moving on. The Pharisees told him to stop, to go hide somewhere, because Herod wanted to kill him. Instead of showing fear, instead of blindly obeying Herod's authority, and instead of praying for him, Jesus said, "Go and tell that fox, 'Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.'" It's worth noting that this was after Herod had already had Jesus' cousin John imprisoned and ultimately beheaded, so Jesus definitely knew what he was capable of. Still, Jesus not only defies the authority figure, but broadcasts his location for the next three days, and dares Herod to do something about it. He even calls Herod a fox, which did not have the positive connotation that it does today in our culture.

For the record, I am praying for President Trump. I pray several things in connection with him. First of all, I pray that God's will be done in America, just like I pray for God's will in my personal life, because I know that whatever the outcome, His will is perfection. After that I make my petitions. I petition God to move in the president's heart to make a radical change of spirit, to rescue him from his own sin and stupidity and darkness, and repent, publicly, of his ways and embrace goodness and wisdom. Failing that, I pray that those around him, his cabinet, Congress, the Supreme Court, would all make it their business to break from party loyalty and show some loyalty to righteousness and reason for a change. I pray that they would block his harmful and foolish policies and edicts, that they would condemn his sins and faults, and praise his achievements and good works, instead of the other way around. I pray this for myself, for my family, for the families that his policies might hurt, and for the president himself, as well. I pray that, for his own sake as well as ours, that he doesn't go down in history as the president who started World War III, or recreated apartheid in America, or otherwise destroyed the lives of the people he was elected to protect. And failing all of that, I pray that God removes him from office in the most peaceful way possible.

But no, I don't support the president. I don't support the racist and prejudiced things he says and the harmful policies that he promotes, his attacks on the media and anyone who speaks out against him, or his immoral lifestyle, whether we're talking about ten years ago or this week. Not only do I refuse to support such a man, I condemn his words and actions as unrighteous and dangerous. Furthermore, I don't want to hear about any other president that he was supposedly better, smarter, or more Christian than. Even a "baby Christian" should know that the life of a believer is not about trying to be just a little bit less sinful and repulsive than the next guy. Besides, I can only deal with one president at a time, and so should everyone else.

The result of all this "support" has been devastating to the church of Christ in America. While disciples are being made around the world, in the harshest, poorest, and most dangerous situations, American Christians are having a hard time defining what a lie is, or what constitutes adultery, or who wins the horseshoe game of getting as close as possible to outright depravity without getting caught. The word "evangelical" has become synonymous with "hypocrite" in the minds of many Americans and people around the world. Michael Steele, a man who led the Republican party to unbelievable victory in 2009 and 2010 before being told recently that he was only elected because he is Black, put it best when he said, "I have a very simple admonition at this point: Just shut the hell up and don’t ever preach to me about anything ever again. I don’t want to hear it, ... After telling me how to live my life, who to love, what to believe, what not to believe, what to do and what not to do and now you want to sit back and the prostitutes don't matter? The grabbing the you-know-what doesn't matter? The outright behavior and lies don't matter? Just shut up." I think a lot of Americans are looking at the evangelical or Christian support for President Trump and thinking exactly that. And they're right. If we can only condemn immorality, racism, and ignorance in our enemies, and either overlook, rationalize, or "support" them in our allies, then we really are hypocrites, and the Scriptures are just another weapon we use against others.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

He Will Not Depart from It

I'm really struggling with the concept of raising older children and younger children these days. It can be a blessing sometimes, but other times it's just disheartening to see the older ones make mistakes and bad decisions, at the same time time that you're trying to train the little ones not to make those same bad decisions. It's like standing out in the yard watching the home you've built for them burn right down to the ground, and knowing that you have to rebuild it with the same tools you used to build the first one.

For a blended family, it's so much harder to train a child. You feel as if you only have about fifty percent control over their environment, their culture, their indoctrination - and even less on bad days. You constantly fight with opposing viewpoints and lack of communication that complicates so many of the already complicated issues of parenting. You spend as much time untraining and retraining as you do training, and if you make any progress, it's usually in spite of yourself. Even if both homes and both parents in both homes agree on the basic morality and trajectory for the child, there's up to four distinct opinions on how to execute that plan.

For a mixed family, it's even harder. There are so many voices in the culture advising your children about their worth, their expectations, their role in society, their limitations, and most of those voices are louder and flashier than yours. Too often love and sincerity and wisdom are drowned out by beats and memes and punchlines. There are so many negative forces attacking your children's perception of themselves, their perceptions of you, their faith. And that's if they have faith, which, despite our best efforts, is not the kind of thing we can mix in with their formula or inject with their scheduled shots. We lead our children to the temple and place them on the altar, but it's up to them, and before them maybe it's up to God, to produce and sustain their faith.

I trust God, and I know the differences between prophecies, proverbs, and promises, and yet I still have a hard time with the Proverbs when they tell us that if we "train up a child in the way he should go" that "even when he is old he will not depart from it." The problem is that it ends up being untrue at least as much as it ends up being true. And in some ways, it's always untrue, because we all depart from it. We all sin, and some of get caught and some of us live in fear of getting caught. The truth about the church is that half of us are like alcoholics that can't hold a job or a spouse or a conversation because the liquor has us so under its spell. The rest of us are just like functional alcoholics who somehow get through the workday and dinner with the family, and keep our drunkenness and addiction hidden enough that all the other alcoholics think that we can give them some advice on how to sober up. We all know the right way, and we all deviate from it; some of us just suffer more as a result. At some point, we're all disappointments to our Father, and we all violate the expectations He set for us.

I'm trying, really hard, to temper my disappointment and frustration with my faith in the redemptive power of Christ. I'm trying to focus on the fact that my Father is somehow always disappointed in me and angry with my ways just like I'm sometimes disappointed and angry with my kids, with the only difference being that He is holy and I'm not. I'm trying to extend the same forgiveness that my Father gives me, like a starving man sharing a meal that he didn't pay for. I'm reminding myself constantly that all of the prayers that I've said and the sacrifices that I've made and the pain that I've endured for my children are nothing compared to the prayers and sacrifices and pain that Christ endured for me. I'm trying, really hard, and sometimes I even succeed.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Sak Pasé

Living in Miami, you get to know people from a lot of different places. Or maybe it would be more correct to say that you have the opportunity to get to know people from a lot of different places, as well as the opportunity to stick to your own kind. Either way, in my neighborhood, I can go a few blocks north to the Chinese grocery store, around the corner to the Haitian restaurant, and a quarter mile south to an Indian/Caribbean roti shop. There's an African goods store up the street from our church, that sells mostly clothing and some other items. I could throw a brick from my front yard, in any direction, and I'd probably hit a Cuban restaurant, bakery, or at least a food truck going by with pastelitos de guayaba on board. We used to have the best Jamaican restaurant in the world just a couple of miles away, but the owner closed it down and retired, so now we have to go to one of the other three that are closer, but just don't make the curry chicken patties the same.

Down here, ethnically mixed families are pretty common, and they come in all kinds of different combinations. It's not unusual to have households where two are three languages are spoken, especially during an argument. I often wonder how my family, with African-American, Jamaican, Jewish, and European roots, would fit in to other cities and towns around the country. Overall, I feel lucky to still live here.

We know people whose families have been in this country as far back as they can remember, or who are second or third generations of their kinfolk who immigrated here. Some of them are still trying to work out something with Uncle Sam before it's too late, and some are already too late, and don't know what to do about it, or who to trust enough to ask for help. Some of our neighbors have taken that oath proudly and become citizens Others are content to be legal residents, saving as much money as they can, with dreams of returning to their home countries and enjoying retirement in a place they love, where the American dollars they've worked hard for will let them live well for the rest of their lives.

So when we hear our president say the racist and degrading things that he says about immigrants, about foreigners, about people in color in general, we get riled up. We get angry. When we think about the kinds of policies that he might enact in the next three years of his term, we get concerned. We get scared for the people we love. Already, he's closing down avenues to residency and citizenship that many of my neighbors were counting on to fulfill their American goals of freedom and prosperity. We look around and wonder how many of our neighbors and friends wouldn't be here if he gets his way, how many of our wives and husbands. 

But when we hear otherwise normal people, especially people who claim to be Christians, defending those racist and oppressive ideas, or minimizing them in an effort to prop up some vague and dubious political agenda, we get hurt. When we hear some church leaders endorsing this president, again and again, regardless of how vile he behaves, we wonder if the American church has any real sense of justice or compassion, or if it has completely sold out to politics for the sake of one or two hot-button issues.

We start to wonder if it's even about those issues anymore, or whether these Christians and church leaders actually agree with what this president says.

In the first part of Thomas Paine's "Crisis" pamphlets, he says that one good this about panics and crises is that "they are touchstones of sincerity and hypocrisy, and bring things and men to light, which might otherwise have lain forever  undiscovered." Maybe this is the crisis that will allow us to really know the people around us. The hard part is to continue to extend love and grace even as we confront these issues.

So I have a challenge to everyone who still supports Trump, still thinks he is a "baby Christian" like Dobson said, or a "good candidate with flaws" as Grudem called him, before backpedalling and asking Christians to vote for him despite the fact that he was not a good candidate or even a decent person. My challenge is to look around and determine how many of your friends and families would be affected by his racist policies. If you don't see any, then make some new friends and try to get to know some people that are outside of your current circle, people who don't look like you, people who may come from some of the countries that the president is disparaging. Tell them how you think that Trump's positives outweigh his negatives, or how he didn't really mean what he so emphatically said. Listen to them when they tell you about the major issues that motivate their politics. Try to get a different perspective that the one you're used to. Don't do this on Facebook or social media either. Look them in the eye and have an honest discussion about it.

And to those brothers and sisters from Haiti, Nigeria, Zambia, Swaziland, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, and Trinidad, who left a nation that they love to follow a dream, there are a lot of us behind you, wishing you the best, and willing to use our hands, ballots, and voices to support you. When you feel the heat, we're in the fire with you. N'ap boule.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Faith of a Child

This year when Christmas morning came, our five-year-and-one-day-old Christmas Eve baby climbed up into our bed at about five thirty, like she always does. This time, instead of dragging herself into the room looking slow and sleepy, she had the biggest smile on her face, just overflowing with excitement. She’s always loved Christmas time. It comes so close to her birthday that she sometimes thinks it’s just one long party for her, with twice the presents. But this year, it was more excitement than ever. She practically danced into the room and into our bed.

“I wanna go outside!” she yelled, throwing us completely off center.

We told her that under no circumstances were we getting dressed and going outside so early in the morning, with a pile of presents under the tree.

“I want to go outside and play!” she said.

“You want to go where and do what?” I asked, wondering if I was still sleeping. “Don’t you want to open presents?”

“I wanna go play in the snow first!”

Both of us stared at her for about a minute before we could respond. “We live in Miami, baby. It’s seventy degrees outside," I said, forgetting for a moment that they hadn't covered that in kindergarten.

No amount of scientific explanation or experiential evidence could get her to understand that it wasn't snowing outside. She grabbed my wife's hand and dragged her to the sliding glass doors to prove to her that there was a winter wonderland out there waiting for her to come frolic. Even after she threw the shutters open and saw nothing but the same old pool and a yard full of very green and not too recently mowed grass, she still had to take a long look to the left and right to convince herself of what she was seeing.

Sometimes, I wish I had faith like that. Sometimes, I wish Christianity was that simple and that solid to me. We just spent this last month of December thinking and talking about Advent, focused on the idea of waiting and watching for Christ's return, just like Mary and the rest of the world was waiting for His birth. I believe in this. I believe in Christ, His love and sacrifice for me, and God's plan for this world. I believe, but help my unbelief.

I'm so skeptical about everything, and that's not a bad thing. It keeps me from believing everything I see on the Internet, and everything that I hear about other people. On the other hand, I have to have some kind of proof for everything I believe, like Thomas demanding to see the wounds himself.

But that's one of the best things about all of this starting over and having this little girl later in life than I expected. Disney World is magical again, instead of just an expensive place to wait in line for an hour. Children's books are clever and funny again. I have a more socially acceptable reason to go see kids movies again. And I have the opportunity to see what real faith looks like again.

There's a reason why Jesus told us that we should have the kind of faith that children have, and it's not because it's a childish or ignorant faith. My daughter's belief that it would snow Christmas morning was not stupid or uninformed. Every reliable source in her life, from Sophia to Spiderman, has been telling her, showing her even, that Christmas Day and show are inextricably linked. She believed them, so unwaveringly that even her own parents couldn't shake her faith. She had to see it with her own eyes before she would doubt, just like I have to see it before I believe.

What's more, she wasn't really crushed by the reality that there wasn't going to be snow outside our house on Christmas, not this year or any other. She was disappointed, but when we told her that it doesn't snow in Miami because it's too hot here, and that it does snow in Minneapolis where her auntie lives, or in New Jersey where her other auntie lives, or even in Virginia where her cousin is, she reset her thinking just that quickly and everything was once again right in the world. Christmas snow does exist, just not here, and one day, as God is her witness, she will revel in all of its frozen glory. We showed her some of the Facebook pictures from the family who live in the realms of snow and ice, and promised her that one of these years, soon, we would make sure she got up there to see it. That, plus a reminder that there were still Christmas/Birthday presents to unwrap, set her mood right back to excitement again.

I've had that same experience, when some of the things that I'd been told by the church turned out to be false and unsubstantiated, either by science or just by my own experience. My faith has been challenged, and even changed over the years. I've had to give up on some traditions and beliefs that were never a part of the Gospel anyway, and I've decided that I can still believe everything God tells me, without having to believe everything that people tell me. But my faith is intact, and stronger than ever. And seeing my little girl's faith in something as simple as snow makes me aspire to ask for more faith from the One who makes it snow.

I just need to work up the faith that I can save up enough for plane tickets to the frozen North by this time next year.