Saturday, May 31, 2008

Memorial Day at the Lake

"Well, looks like you named 'im right," said my uncle Harold, mumbling around the cigarette in his mouth.

Fischer had just reeled in his second fish before anyone else even caught one! That is a successful first fishing trip for a two-year old. He loved going out on the boat, too. If you ask him, he'll tell you, "I caught five fish...two keepers!" And we only went out for an hour or so!

I have always hoped that Fischer would enjoy going to Lake Eufala just like his dad. So many adventures and good fishing stories from out there. It was fun to recapture the wonder through young eyes.

We ended up catching about 75 keepers (sandbass, crappie) the three nights I was there.

Now, to convince my wife to try cooking them up for us!!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Open Letter to Omaha Public Schools

Dear Public School System,

I am writing to you because of a crisis we are facing in our society. It is a crisis involving our teenagers, who you are trying to help us mold.
Unfortunately, I think you are creating the problem rather than helping it. Let me explain...
The public school system already complains (and rightly so) that our kids are "too tired" and that they "lack concentration." There seems to be more apathy than ever towards schoolwork and school-related items.

But here's the problem...
You complain that our kids are too tired, but then you make them stay after school for HOURS of extracurricular practice! They lack concentration, so you lengthen their school year. You make them work at camps from 9:00 to 5:00 IN THE SUMMERTIME!
I have teenagers in my church youth group who seem to be able to do NOTHING other than school! Does this produce well-rounded citizens? Why do we think that ALL their time needs to be occupied? Why can we not let them dream anymore? (They don't have time to dream!) What ever happened to lazy summers?

First of all, it is COMPLETELY UNFAIR to take away their summer "vacation." Teens in my church group are going to be BACK at Show Choir Camp just TWO WEEKS after they got out for summer vacation! EVERYONE needs time for rest and renewal, but you don't seem to grasp this concept. Our children are overbooked and overworked. Please, let them have a vacation!

Secondly, this scheduling is detracting from family time...a much-needed (but quickly vanishing) pasttime. Even though many parents are working longer hours and some working through the summers, there are still parents who don't see their kids til 9:00 PM because of schoolwork. Summers are decimated by camp schedules and other things. Families are passing each other by on their way to the next activity.

Third, overscheduling is unfair to other organizations. My youth ministry is trying to affect the same kind of results as you are. I would LOVE to work in conjunction with the schools, but the schools want ALL the time. While YOU are working on increasing the knowledge and athleticism of these kids, I would like to help work on their character, but my time to do so is increasingly taken away. It is very frustrating when schools tell kids (or give them the impression) that their GRADES depend on attendance of all ballgames, shows,etc. Even during the summer! I agree with the old saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." I certainly do not wish to do away with schooling, but I wish kids could experience more help from church, work, and non-profit organizations.

Lastly, overscheduling is not necessary. It seems that the schedules have been left up to the competitive minds of the local coaches. While I admire their tenacity, I would also question their motives. Are they trying to teach the kids something, or just put another trophy on their shelf? Many kids are working their tails off for those coaches, but they have NO collegiate or professional careers in sight. While hard work is a desired trait, it can also be a boon. Many families are being ripped apart because of dads who never come home. Could it be that we are overworking kids just like we are overworking their parents?

It used to be that we had the WHOLE summer off. Soon, August became "Back-to-school-camps" month with band, choir, etc. Now, the schools have taken June as well. ONE MONTH for summer vacation is not enough! PLEASE leave them alone until August!! Let them have a solid eight weeks of vacation. Let them rest. Let them dream. Let them be gone long enough to actually "miss" school!
Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.

Franklin Wood
Omaha, NE

Monday, May 05, 2008

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Do you have any idea what it would have been like to grow up in Afghanistan?

A Thousand Splendid Suns is written by someone who knows. The Afghan writer Khaled Hosseini has kept me riveted for the past few weeks, and especially last night as I raced toward the last page of this book!
This fictional story of life in Kabul reaches out and grabs you. I felt like I could understand life in the Middle East better after reading this book. Hosseini does a great job at making you experience life in another country.
The story spans the 1970s through 2001. You will feel the excitement of the people as the Soviets are driven out of their country. You will cringe as a splintered leadership develops into warlords and tears apart the once beautiful city. You will hear the bombs exploding as the Taliban, who are viewed as saviors, rescue the city and promptly lay down their law. And you will experience what it meant to be an Afghan woman during this time period.

There are many jaw-dropping parts of the book, but I would like to share one with you. After the Taliban invades, they started laying down their Islamic law (page 248 of the book.) (Please keep in mind, I don't know if these laws were all real or not. After all, this is a work of fiction. But the author makes it seem so true.)

  • All citizens must pray five times a day. If it is prayer time and you are caught doing something else, you will be beaten.
  • All men will grow beards at least one fist length under the chin. If not, you will be beaten.
  • Singing is forbidden.
  • Dancing is forbidden.
  • Playing cards, playing chess, gambling and kite flying are forbidden.
  • Writing books, watching films, and painting pictures are forbidden.
  • If you keep parakeets, you will be beaten.
  • If you steal, your hand will be cut off at the wrist. If you steal again, your foot will be cut off.
  • If you are not Muslim, do not worship where you can be seen by Muslims. If you do, you will be beaten and imprisoned. If you are caught trying to convert a Muslim to your faith, you will be executed.
  • Women: You will stay inside your homes at all times. If you go outside, you must be accompanied by a male relative.
  • You will not, under any circumstances, show your face. You will wear a burqa at all times. If you do not, you will be severely beaten.
  • Cosmetics are forbidden.
  • Jewelry is forbidden.
  • You will not speak unless spoken to.
  • You will not laugh in public. If you do, you will be beaten.
  • You will not paint your nails. If you do, you will lose a finger.
  • Girls are forbidden from attending school.
  • Women are forbidden from working.

Wow. Maybe I should quit taking my freedoms for granted.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Feeling Special

The garage door hums as it closes. My footsteps are announced by the creaking of the stairs. Six stairs to the landing by the front door, and I turn to ascend the last seven steps.
My son is almost always there...waiting for me. "DAAAADDYYYYYYYYYY!!" He doesn't even have to say anything. I can just tell that he's glad to see me. A smile brightens his face, followed by the little twinkle in his eye.
"Daddy, come here!" He grabs my hand and I'm hooked. Not by the hand, mind you, but by the heart. Why is he so eager to see me? I'm not this special to anyone else in the world!
He turns toward our destination and bites his lower lip in anticipation of my reaction to...whatever he's going to show me. I just chuckle at his little blond head bobbing up and down as we run down the hall together.
I've never felt so special in my life.

Maybe I should apply this principle to my other relationships. I wonder how my wife would feel if I was waiting for HER at the top of the stairs instead of staring at the TV, fingers lazily working the remote control? How would people at church feel if I acknowledged their presence loudly and made a point to tell them how happy I was to see them? Does my heavenly Father experience this kind of feeling when I approach Him in prayer?