Archive for the ‘Vocation’ Category

Book Review – Being Dad

April 17, 2018

Being Dad:  Father as a Picture of God’s Grace by Scott Keith

I purchased this book on a whim a few weeks ago at a conference.  I’ve met Scott a few times and was interested to hear what he has to say.

This book is encouraging in several ways.  Firstly, it stands rather starkly against the mainstream insistence that mothers and fathers are interchangeable and optional.  For those who are used to this steady stream of nonsense, and have perhaps begun to buy into it, this book will be a cold splash of water to the face.  Unexpected and perhaps unpleasant initially, but I argue ultimately refreshing.

As such, it is encouraging to both fathers and mothers.  To mothers, because they have to (get to?  should?) be partnering with their spouse and father of their children, but may be perplexed or frustrated by differences in subconscious parenting styles.  To fathers it should be encouraging because it is also a challenge to the notion that dad’s ultimate authority derives only from his strength and ability to enforce the Law.  Rather, Scott argues, father is a role of Gospel rather than Law.  He utilizes (loosely) the Prodigal Son parable (Luke 15).  But the book is far less a theological treatise than both a paean to an influential mentor and a celebration of the joy of fatherhood.  Towards these ends Scott enlists perspectives and inputs from moms and dads who also happen to be colleagues and friends.

This wasn’t the book I was expecting, but I think perhaps it is a book that I needed.  Knowing Scott’s interest in catechesis and faith transmission, I’m hoping that this first book (second edition) will serve as a launching pad for more in-depth study and struggle to regain the dignity and value of fatherhood in the Church as well as the larger culture.

 

 

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Don’t Get Cute

December 21, 2017

Someone – someone I’m not sure I even know – sent me a hard copy of this missive today.   What a great Christmas present.

Because of course pastors are stressed out about Christmas Eve service.  As my buddy notes, there is an added pressure to this service, perhaps more so than any other service the entire year.  Additional people present.  And not just extended family of current members, but others as well.  Perhaps estranged former members of the congregation.  People that had a falling out with a pastor some years ago – or perhaps with me! – might show up for some reason they can’t even define well themselves.  People injured by the Church in the past, stepping their toes back in the water after years or decades away.

To have the perfect message – witty, sparkling, engaging – could mean so much for these people and my congregation!  Old faces returning and new faces showing up on Sunday mornings.  Is there a better feeling as a pastor to be told that you’re the reason that someone has decided to return or come to church or the faith?  The monstrous pride that lurks within many preachers and pastors, sometimes masquerading as pious humility – that monster gorges itself on those sorts of comments.  It’s not that the comments are bad, or shouldn’t be shared.  It’s just that the sin within me wants to lead me down dangerous, dark roads of self-congratulatory ego-caressing.

But the perfect message isn’t mine, it’s God the Holy Spirit’s.  And while the Holy Spirit deigns to work through imperfect pastors that fall out in different places on a dizzyingly broad spectrum of speaking skills and writing mastery, the message that counts is the message of salvation in Jesus Christ.  The baby in the manger and the God on the cross.  I should care about delivery and about making it enjoyable for the people festively attired in the candlelit pews, but only towards the end that the Holy Spirit’s Word might penetrate the heart, might strike the lethal blow that leads to the death of the old Adam within us, and raises up a new creation in Jesus Christ.  I can’t do that, only the Holy Spirit can.

So I will endeavor, as I like to think I always do, not to be cute.  To make sure the full message is delivered, and that the results of that are to God’s glory not mine.  On Christmas Eve and during every other worship service of the year.

True Worship

December 20, 2017

Since this is the time of year when many Christians take up the familiar lamentation about how our culture is forgetting the real meaning of Christmas, I read this article the other day arguing that it isn’t secular cultural we should be mad at for being, well, secular.  Rather it’s Christians we should be mad at because they don’t prioritize Church for Christmas.

Which of course, got me thinking.

Growing up, our family tradition was to go to a late-night Christmas Eve worship.  Probably not technically midnight, but maybe 10pm or 11pm.  It was great as kids because we’d get to stay up late and sing some cool Advent and Christmas hymns.  Then we’d get a paper bag with some peanuts and an orange and a candy cane in it on our way out of church.  We had no idea why this combination of things was supposed to be in some way valued, but we’d at least eat the candy cane.

I serve a congregation with a tradition of worship on Christmas morning.  I don’t have any problem with this tradition and am happy to continue it and foster it.  But if I served a congregation who didn’t have a tradition of meeting for worship on Christmas morning, I wouldn’t be inclined to start one.

Some might say this just reveals my lazy, self-centered nature.  I’m guilty of what the article author blames as the demise of Christmas in Christian culture.  But my wife and I have intentionally set up ground rules to buying into (heheh – that’s a pun, get it?) the consumer mentality that does tend to overwhelm all other aspects of the Advent and Christmas season.  The author sets up an either or without an in between and without necessarily questioning the validity of the one pole while presuming the other pole is of course evil.

But here’s my radical thought.  You don’t need to go to church on Christmas morning in order to have a Christ-filled Christmas.  You may not have the technical Christ Mass which the author likes to emphasize, but this is, after all, not a Biblical mandate either.  It’s a tradition, to be sure, and a tradition that had great value perhaps in an age when persecution was rampant.  Perhaps as our culture becomes less Christian on the surface, Christians will once again see value in gathering communally to celebrate the birth of Christ.

I’d argue that while it’s fine to go to Church on Jesus’ birthday, if that’s how you define putting Christ back in Christmas, you’re woefully missing the point and settling for the very surface-level sort of lip service that the author tries to decry.  In other words, the Church should be in the business of teaching people how to celebrate the birth of Christ in their families.  Before church.  After church.  For the whole season of Advent and Christmas and Epiphany (gasp!).  Heck, every day of the year, every day of our lives.  If putting the Christ back in Christmas consists simply of attending the literal Christ’s Mass, we’re actually no better off.  And perhaps, this is actually the reason we’re at this point of apparent Christian decay in our culture.

There is no glory or benefit per se in Church in and of itself.  Yes, we are to continue gathering together as the faithful, to be certain (Hebrews 10:25).  But why do we do this?  Because there is intrinsic merit in this?  No.  But rather because of what Christian community can and should do.  It enables us to hear the Word of God – but this should be something we are doing in daily prayer and devotion.  We receive the gifts of God in his Sacrament, and to be sure this is something that traditionally only happens in Church as believers gather together.  Church should be equipping people to live out their faith in their daily lives, as parents, siblings, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, employees, employers, citizens, etc.  Church is supposed to help connect our faith to all the aspects of our life.

Simply equating church with having a Christ-filled Christmas is oversimplification.  And I could conceivably see myself saying to people wondering whether or not they should start a Christmas Day service – No problem, as long as you’re going to sing or listen to the Christmas hymns at home as well.  As long as you’re going to pray together at home as well to give thanks to God for sending his Son into the world.  As long as you’re going to read the Christmas story to your kids and talk about what it means to you so they can learn what a life of faith looks and sounds like by watching and listening to you.  So long as you’re not going to spend the rest of the day focused only on football or food or drinks or whatever other good gifts and creations of God may really fire you up.

In other words, Sure, let’s gather together to praise God for sending his Son, so long as you don’t think you’ve fulfilled your ‘Christian duty’ in this act alone, and the rest of the day is yours to spend without a second thought for God.  Sure, let’s celebrate together, as long as you’re celebrating with your family at home as well.  Because Church is NOT supposed to be a substitute for that most primal and critical congregation of faith, the family.  The Church should strengthen that smaller congregation.  Equip it.  Minister to and with it.  But never set itself up as the replacement for it or to it.

Just like the family should never, under ideal circumstances, be the substitute for Church.  Just like those folks who insist on worshiping alone in their family or in front of their television instead of plunging themselves into the messy world of congregational relationships are in error.  Just like those who insist that they can worship alone better than they can worship with others are waving a massive red flag about something in their heart or past that the Holy Spirit should be working through to resolve, not reinforce.  Circumstances may dictate that Christians worship in hiding or only as families, but this is the exception to the rule.  The healthiest life of faith consists of a strong grounding at home reinforced with regular involvement in the larger community of faith, where forgiveness of sins, the Sacraments, and as necessary even private or – God-forbid, public – rebuke is possible for serious misunderstandings or misappropriations of the life of faith.

The author is dead on – Christians need to keep Christ at the center of Christmas as well as every day of their life.  The Church should help them do it.  But let’s not oversimplify things to the point where Church becomes the definition of a Christ-centered Christmas.  If you have the ability to gather with other Christians to celebrate Christ this Christmas, by all means do so!  Do it week after week, frankly.  Maybe even do it on Christmas Day at church!  But by all means, make sure that in your private life of faith, in your family life of faith you’re doing it as well.  Don’t assume that just going to Church puts Christ back at the center of Christmas for your heart or your family.  Don’t separate or confuse Church and everyday life.  Keep them both together and in proper relationship.

Thoughts?

 

Choosing Exile

December 13, 2017

I had the privilege of sitting with a group of congregational leaders last night.  They weren’t my congregational leaders.   This congregation is nearly 100 miles away from me. I didn’t know any of them before last night, and I had only met the pastor via phone and text last week.  Yet here I was sitting in on their council meeting as they grappled with exile.  When a Seminary prof began one of my first Sem courses by emphasizing the noble task – a kalou ergou in the Greek – we were aspiring to, I had no idea that this could also apply beyond the realm of purely pastoral parish ministry to the less defined world of polity organization and hierarchy.  Yet here I was, functioning as a pastor to another pastor and another congregation, being with them and encouraging them in a hard moment to choose exile.

That’s how their pastor described it at one point.  The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years.  We won’t be wandering nearly that long.  It was a good analogy, though perhaps not an overly comforting one in the moment.  They’re saddled with a building in desperate – perhaps mandatory – need of repair and renovation.   With bills they aren’t able to pay.  They have struggled and clawed to keep their ministry alive and moving, but are up against walls they cannot avoid or break through.

Choosing exile is a hard thing.  Stepping into the unknown.  I’m not sure if I’ve really thought about that aspect of the Biblical exodus.  The descendants of Abraham had a choice to make that dark and terrifying night.  In the midst of inky blackness and the Egyptian wails of loss and mourning, they could either get up and trickle into the alleys and streets, meeting others shuffling through the darkness with their bread troughs on their heads and sleepy children in arm.  They didn’t know where they were going, only that they were leaving.  They couldn’t imagine what it would mean, what life would look like from day to day and week to week.  All they could do was decide whether to head out the door or stay huddled inside.

Many congregations can’t handle that decision.  They put it off and put it off and put it off until there really isn’t a decision to be made.  Until the choices don’t exist any more, or until there is nothing left but bad options.  When the neighbors are gone and there is nothing but the sound of crickets and the waiting to see who will be the last one left to turn off the lights when all is said and done.  When there is nothing but bitterness about how things have worked out and a scrambling search for someone to blame.

But last night a sat with a group who, amid tears chose exile, an uncertain future  In so doing, they opened up all sorts of unseen doors.  Possibilities they have no way of knowing about and yet to be revealed.  But it’s hard to leave what you know, even when what you know isn’t really all that it could be.  It meant a great deal to them.  It had impacted their lives in various ways and created a sense of loyalty that made their vote last night seem like betrayal and treachery on the scale of Judas.

But in exile, step by step and day by day they will learn by new means about the Lord they follow and the myriad ways He works – always for the good of those He calls (Romans 8:28) but not necessarily in ways we would like or even want.  Day by day and step by step the inky darkness and the wails of loss will give way to a new day and new possibilities.  New challenges as well.  My prayers are with them as they move down this road together but not alone.  The hardest part always seems to be the choosing, at the moment of the choosing.  Only later do we realize that was perhaps the easiest part of all, and the most necessary for all that would follow.

My prayers are with them as they prepare to enter a wilderness they’ve never known, trusting in the Lord to lead them, providing them what they need and when they need it, forming them continually more and more into his people and his image.  May they serve as guides and inspirations to the many other councils struggling with similar choices and fears.

 

Fired Up

December 7, 2017

A good portion of the back country mountains to the east and slightly south of us is on fire.  The Thompson Fire has generated a good amount of publicity nationwide since it erupted on Monday night.  As of this morning they are beginning to evacuate people from the town where we used to live.  Not close to where we used to live – not that particular neighborhood – but closer.  And that means the fire is getting closer to us and where we are now.  Again, not terribly close, but closer.  If the fire were to reach the mountains around our town, we personally would likely be safe from mandatory evacuations, but some of my members wouldn’t be.

Getting information is difficult.  The official fire site (above) is not updated very regularly, and we often hear information that isn’t posted on the site so we’re not sure.  It’s frustrating that good information isn’t readily available in a more reliable way.  Still, we have as good an idea of what is happening as possible.

All of which has made for some interesting conversations with our kids the past couple of days.  They’re old enough to be aware of the situation, but not old enough yet to conceptualize how to respond and prepare.  We’ve had conversations about what we would do if it got closer or if we had to leave our home.  We’re working today to identify the important things we would need or want to take with us if we had to leave quickly.  All good life preparation stuff.

It has also prompted the discussion that if we were to have to leave, it would be the kids and my wife leaving, driving away towards safety with family in another state as opposed to cooling their heels for days or longer in a hotel or imposing on friends.  I would want to stay behind.  Most of our congregation is older.  Many of them have family and friends that could help them and ensure they had a place to go.  But not all of them.  I’d need to make sure that they were safely evacuated.  And then it would be a matter of trying to minister as best possible to those people in the area dealing with loss and uncertainty.  Emergency shelters.  First responders camps.

Frankly,  I can’t wrap my  head precisely around what I would need to do if I stayed, I just know I would need to stay.  There aren’t courses in Seminary about what to do in the case of natural disasters.  You sort of feel it out as you go, I guess.  But the first thing that’s clear is that I need for my family to know that I’ll be careful and that they should go when they need to.  I think we’ve communicated well.  I don’t think it will be necessary, at least I pray it isn’t.  But if the time should come, we’ll part ways just as we’ve lived our days together – trusting that God is in charge and watching over us, and knowing that we are safely in the arms of Jesus at all times.  Not that this means bad things can’t or won’t happen, but even if they do, we’ll be together again.  It isn’t the end.  There is  hope and it is in that hope that we make our plans and preparations.

It’s surreal, looking out the window at the thick smoke that fills the air.  Knowing that the dusting of white on the ground isn’t snow.  It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  In hell, perhaps.  Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of death, I will fear no evil.  For Thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

May He be your comfort as well.  In fires and earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes, life and death, tedium and banality.

 

Pastors or Theologians?

December 5, 2017

I was sitting in a Board meeting today for our regional polity and a discussion ensued about – predictably – worries for the future of the Church.  Fewer young men are seeking ordination, which means lower enrollment at our Seminaries and fewer men available to serve congregations as pastors.  There was talk about how to make the process towards ordination easier.  As it has traditionally worked, a man completes his undergraduate degree and then pursues graduate work for four years – three academic years on campus at one of our two seminaries and a year of practical work in a congregation.  It’s expensive – our denomination spends more per person to prepare someone for pastoral ministry than any other denomination.  In excess of $40,000.

Of course talk turns to practical alternatives.  Consolidate the seminaries.  Close both seminaries and offer theological training online through our existing network of first-class universities throughout the country.  At one point the discussion turned to the fact that our seminaries aim to produce theologians, whereas the Church is looking primarily for pastors.  Perhaps we should quit trying to create theologians and instead aim to produce pastors.

Lots of thoughts and ideas.  Some impassioned.  Some reasonable and good, others more questionably so.  What struck me was the distinction brought up between being pastors and being theologians.  Is this a dichotomy?  Should it be?  The value of Lutheran pastors I hear many people talk about is their teaching and preaching.  Because of extensive education, there are many, many good Lutheran preachers and teachers out there, people who can help connect the dots between what strikes people as a confusing and arcane book  (the Bible) and their daily life.  Is this the role of a pastor?  Or is a pastor someone or something else?  Is a pastor an evangelist?  A counselor?  A human care provider?  In our circles we tend to lump all of these things together.  The pastor is to provide or oversee all of these functions to greater or lesser extents.

I’m sure there’s an interesting discussion to be had in that arena.  Whether such an interpretation of Scripture is either wise or required would be a lengthy one that few in my circles would be willing to go into.  But it struck me that there is another direction the conversation could and arguably should continue.  If our strength both historically and currently is providing theologians, and if this is a somewhat unique emphasis within the larger Protestant arena, why would we sacrifice this to provide more pastors?  Why wouldn’t we double down on what we already do and do well, rather than fold that in order to create something else?  Especially something that arguably others are already doing.

We think of Church in terms of congregations.  Historically this has made sense.  Either as evangelistic outposts or to serve people in newly developing areas, Lutherans along with most other denominations planted churches to tend to the spiritual needs of the people.  Now we’re in a situation where church is largely irrelevant to many people under the age of 60.  While people still hunger for community – something I believe the Church is uniquely poised to provide – many of the other functions of Church are fulfilled by other organizations and entities.  There are social services of various types to fall back on to some degree in hard times (at least in theory).

Churches have evolved in some instances into competitive entities, trying to reach and win the same groups of people to membership, sharing back and forth members as situations in one congregation or another drive membership shifts.  Congregations from other denominations in addition to a plethora of non-denominational community churches (basically Baptist theology) spring up regularly.  In this environment, is there another role for the Lutherans to play?  If we’re better theologians than pastors (not that we necessarily or actually are, but hypothetically speaking!), is there a way we can capitalize on this?  Is there a role we could play that is not competitive within our own polity or with other polities, yet would be of benefit to the Body of Christ as a whole?

It seems to me like there could be.

Not that this would mean the ending of Lutheran congregations, but it would mean that we would quit defining ourselves solely by them, and would expand and deepen their foundations to provide theological as well as pastoral care and guidance to members and the local community.  If congregations worked together to form fewer but stronger ministry posts, multiple pastors and other staff could be deployed to effectively care for people better while also creating opportunities to start offering theological teaching and training not just to members but the community at large.  Digital and print publishing along with other media production could take more of a center-stage, along with corresponding expansion into hosting of such media to ensure we aren’t subject to the random purgings or censurings of other privately-held entities like YouTube or Facebook.

It just struck me as odd that the assumption was we would give up what we’re known for in order to become something else.  Maybe that’s necessary, maybe it isn’t.  But it seems like an odd direction to start out!

 

 

 

YFA – November 26, 2017

November 26, 2017

A colleague and classmate of mine serving a parish in Nebraska shared a devotional aid several months ago that he developed for his congregation.  It provides a daily suggestion for personal study and devotion time based on the Sunday readings, hymns, and Luther’s Small Catechism.  He calls it Your Family Altar.   I stole the format and began putting together my own content for it, and I’ve decided to start posting those here in case they’re helpful to anyone.  The intent, again, is to encourage parishioners to get into the Word throughout the week by directing their attention to the Scripture selections for the coming Sunday, similar to my Reading Ramblings.  By also referencing the Small Catechism as well as hymns (chosen from the Lutheran Service Book),  I hope to provide folks with a way to see the unity in each worship service and reflect on the readings prior to hearing me preach on them.

A few notes.

First off, there’s an excellent, free, web-based version of Luther’s Small Catechism (and other of his key writings) here.   I like encouraging people to make use of this great tool for studying the elements of the life of faith that impact us day to day.  How should I pray?  Why bother going to Church?  How should I live my life?  These are tangible questions with Scriptural answers, and Luther’s ground-breaking Catechism is a bite-sized means of digging into those answers.

Secondly, I have to admit that his title for the tool (Your Family Altar) threw me a bit.  It seems so un-Christian at first, like a Buddhist shrine in a family home.  But over time the language has grown on me.  After all, the home is to be a place of worship no less than the Church, and in some respects far more so, since much more of our life takes place in our home than on church grounds.  I like also that it encourages families to be proactive in their life of faith.  It is the family unit that is charged with passing on the faith, with the Church as support for this process.  I think the centralization and compartmentalization of the life of faith in terms of what happens in worship or at Church is problematic, to say the least, and whatever encourages families to take a proactive role in the life of faith is good.

Thirdly, I want to ask questions that help people probe and consider Scripture not just academically but personally as well.  How do the words in Scripture describe or assist me in my life today?  I want people to explore and search on their own and, if they come up blank, we can talk about it on Sunday in Bible study.  I much prefer trying to push people to sharpen their theological skills than tread water at a basic Sunday School level.

Fourthly, I like that it encourages families to be specific in their life of prayer.  It’s so easy to say we’ll pray for someone and then neglect actually doing it, or neglect doing it repeatedly.  Visualizing who we’re praying for is a great way to keep us on target with our prayers.

Fifthly, our congregation generally follows the three-year Revised Common Lectionary, LC-MS edition.  That means that we are starting the Year-B cycle on 12/3, which highlights the Gospel of Mark throughout the rest of the liturgical year.  I sometimes depart from the assigned readings during Ordinary Time (between Pentecost and Advent), but I’ll note when I’m doing that.

Finally, there is a rich treasury of theology expressed in hymns.  By taking time to actually think about what we’re singing, our faith is strengthened and nurtured.  Music is a great memory-aid and provides a ready means of recalling words and the ideas they summarize.  I’ve had multiple parishioners – just in the past few weeks – share how deeply they were calmed and strengthened in very difficult times because the words and tune of a hymn were brought to mind when they needed it most, and they clung to that hymn as an anchor in the storm.  If you don’t have access to the LSB, you can find the lyrics to most of these hymns online at several very good sources such as this or this.

Suggestions?  I know the format doesn’t translate as nicely here, so I’ll see if I can clean it up a bit.  Again, the idea isn’t my one – thanks to Michael for that! – but the content is mine (for better or worse).  I pray it might be a useful tool for you and your family each week.

Your Family Altar

A Weekly Devotional Resource

The Week Starting November 26, 2017

Sunday: Reflect Upon Today’s Sermon & Service

Monday: First Reading – Isaiah 64:1-9

  • What Biblical event is v.3 referring to?

  • What is an example of v.4 in your life?

Tuesday: Epistle – 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

  • Who is the cause and source of God’s grace to us (v.4)?

  • Who do we rely on to fulfill the promise of Christ’s return (v.9)?

Wednesday: Gospel – Mark 13:24-37

  • Is Christ’s return imminent, based on your observations (vs.28-29)?

  • How will you prepare your heart this day for Christ’s return?

Thursday: Psalm Psalm 80:1-7

  • Who are Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh (v.2)?

  • What do you look forward to about our Lord’s return?

Friday: Small Catechism – Luther’s Preface 

    • What is the misery that Luther discovered in his travels?

    • What are Luther’s four recommended ways to teach the faith?

Saturday: (LSB #332) Savior of the Nations, Come

  • How do stanzas one and four make this an Advent hymn?

  • What has Christ accomplished, and what remains to be done (ST4)?

Our Family’s Prayers This Week Include:

 

 

(Un)Common Sense

November 7, 2017

I can’t find any sense in the growing insistence over the past 50 years that gender and sexuality and gender roles and all such related things have no real meaning beyond whatever we choose to assign to them.

As a Christian who believes that we were divinely created specifically in the image of God, and that male and female together comprise the whole of humanity, the idea that we can redefine these things however we want of course makes very little sense, and certainly runs strongly against the grain of Scripture.  The Church is called to maintain the very uncomfortable but very historic teaching that men and women exist, that they are equal in essence, but not necessarily in function, and should stand against those who would deny and unravel these identities as well as those who would abuse and exploit them.

I don’t see how someone who holds with natural selection and evolutionary theory could reasonably see these as arbitrary constructs suitable for rearranging or redefining on personal whim either.  Millions of years of evolutionary chance and natural selection are somehow to be completely discarded as irrelevant?  Doesn’t this amount to a monumental arrogance, that we are capable of undoing or redoing what has been done over and over again for very good and important reasons?

Common sense is no longer politically correct, but that is not the same as saying that it isn’t still true.  Here’s another article summarizing several aspects of current research into the importance of gender roles (mother) particularly in the early years of a child’s life.  Of course this is to be rejected by those who insist such roles are arbitrary and even completely unnecessary, and that children can just as well (or even better!) raised in a pre-school collective as in the home with their actual mother.

To those mothers who might read this and realize that they have hurt their children because they weren’t there for them in the way they needed to be, we must be quick to speak forgiveness.  Multiple generations have been lied to about what is good and healthy, based on nothing more than ideology.  We are always prone to being misled in one direction or another, sometimes to harmful ends.  Research and articles like this are not cited in order to condemn, but rather as a means of encouraging current and future generations to think carefully about the choices they make and why, because they may have long-term repercussions.

 

Exhausted

October 30, 2017

I am.

The last of our guests left five minutes ago.  As my wife prepares for bed I have to take a second to try and process, but there’s too much.  A wonderful mixture of familiar faces and one new one tonight.  And then a multi-hour discussion that spanned the authority of Scripture, the roles of men and women here and now in a fallen world in Christ, and the pain of feeling marginalized as a woman in a male dominated world.

We covered immense theological and emotional terrain.  Tempers flared.  Tears flowed.  Many stood and listened without actively engaging.  By and large people hung into the discussion, but not everyone could or would.  My prayer at the end of the night, as I articulated to one of our recent regulars, is that Satan not be allowed to drive wedges and discord through theological wrestling.  That the relationships that have been built and the community that has formed over the last year and a half would not simply endure, but strengthen and deepen and thrive.  If we can’t struggle with the Word of God as it applies to our lives here and now, what hope is there for any reality of Christian community?  And if this can’t be a place where people can bare their hearts and know that even when they don’t hear what they want to hear they are still loved, then it doesn’t really have a purpose at all.

I think things will be OK.  For most of us at the very least.  For all of us I pray.  And in the meantime, sleep.

Inconvenient Truths

October 28, 2017

Common sense says that a child needs their parents.  Common sense says that a child would have a special bond with the mother that has carried him or her for nine or more months.  Common sense would say that this bond is unique and special and should be honored.

Common sense is really inconvenient to ideology, however.  And sometimes, so is science.

The author of a book detailing how important it is for mothers to be primary caregivers for the first three years of their child’s life is being shunned by liberals dismayed at her scientific findings.  No matter that the author herself is ideologically liberal.   The problem is that she validates an inconvenient truth in the continuing war on motherhood (and parenthood in general).  Parents matter.  Mothers matter.  Mothers and fathers are not created equal but both are necessary in order to provide children with the best possible circumstances in their most vulnerable years of life.  Replacing mothers and fathers with younger and younger pre-school and early childhood caregivers has potential long-term consequences that have nothing to do with the collective good intentions of all involved but everything to do with how we are created.