Sep 24, 2016

Off-site Highlights: Reading Books and Chasing Heroes

(Compiled by Anna)

The internet may be helping us all to lose our attention spans, and so on,--(squirrel!)--but without it, I'd miss out on a lot of fascinatingly thought-provoking writing. Here our your semi-weekly reading recommendations. As always, I don't necessarily agree with every author in entirety, but I appreciate what they have to say.



1. I love this piece about learning to slow down and to read in a more human way.

Where Her Whimsy Took Me: Learning to Read with Dorothy Sayers by Veery Huleatt
"I had trained myself to gallop through books and journals, armed with multicolored hi-liter pens and a stack of Post-its. Technology had only accelerated my slide. Thanks to Google Books, I could ditch the hi-liters and give the impression of having painstakingly combed through Fear and Trembling—“impressive reading and research,” one professor commented—with only a few minutes of scrolling. I had perfected the skill of tweaking, recasting, challenging, interpreting—a skill that had saved my life more than once in the over-caffeinated hours of early morning. But I had sold the soul of the literature for it." More.

Sep 23, 2016

When Someone You Love is Gay (from our Archives)

By Rhiannon Kutzer

Every family has “that” person. The uncle who lives with his girlfriend but refuses to marry her, the brother who brings a different woman to every family gathering, or the cousin who comes out as a lesbian after years of medicating her loneliness with alcohol.

How should Christians deal with non-Christian friends and family who have "big" sins in their lives?

Two responses are typical, but neither of them works, because in both cases, Christians make the mistake of treating non-Christian sinners the same way they’d treat Christian sinners.

My Cousin, the Lesbian

In my case, it’s my cousin “Jenny,” who recently celebrated her “wedding” to another woman with family and friends back home. I live out-of-state and wasn’t able to attend, but I wouldn’t have attended anyway.

Make no mistake, I dearly love my cousin Jenny. We grew up in the same town and lived there as friends for twenty-five years until I moved away. When we were kids, after attending a family funeral, we made an important promise. It developed because of what we saw in the previous generation. Until our parents’ cousins flew in from California for that funeral, they had not seen our parents for probably twenty years. My mom complained to us that she only saw her cousins for weddings and funerals, and even that was probably putting it generously.

Sep 20, 2016

Sex, Romance, and Choosing Books for Teenage Girls

By Anna Ilona Mussmann

A few years ago I found myself talking with a woman who said, “Shouldn’t we encourage girls to aspire to finding the right guy? Isn’t it healthy to dream about love?” She said that she’d read an abundance of romance novels when she was young, and hoped that her daughter would enjoy them, too.

I couldn’t find the right words to explain my reservations.

It’s not just that most recently published romance novels (even the “Christian” ones) are blatantly sexual. Drawing lines between specific levels of physical intimacy is not the point. The issue is bigger than that.

The stories we read are all, in one way or another, about a single question: what does it mean to be human? In other words: what are humans like? What makes us miserable, happy, joyous, suicidal, sublime, contemptible, heroic, villainous? What is our purpose in life? How do different kinds of people think, reason, and live? What is it like to experience the challenges of human life?

Literature doesn’t always provide good answers, but it does truthfully illuminate the human condition and so teach us more about the divinely created bipeds whom God loves. Literature doesn’t have to be “literary” to tell us about our humanity--engaging commercial fiction is also built around the same theme. Indeed, many of the works of fiction that we now consider great art were originally constructed for popular entertainment.

Similarly, stories that run the gamut from pulpy bestseller to high-brow award-winner are equally capable of communicating attractive lies. These tales obscure what it means to be human. Often they subtly nurture the very appetites that make it harder for fallen humanity to recognize and love truth, goodness, and beauty.

Sep 16, 2016

How to Clean House with a One-year-old and Two-year-old

(In Which I Give You Advice About How to Clean Your Home Despite Your Children)
By Anna Mussmann

In addition to our other duties, we stay-at-home moms are generally expected to stand firmly between our family and a life of filth and squalor.

I completely agree that it is a valuable and beautiful thing when I am able to provide my family with order and cleanliness by caring for our home. I love a clean sink as much as the next woman. The problem, though, is that neither my one-year-old nor my two-year-old considers my housekeeping duties a priority and in fact actively undermines them simply by existing.

Not only do they eat in such a manner as to spew crumbs all over the dining room, or play with junk mail by tearing it into tiny pieces which they then file away in unexpected places, they also seem to think that watching me fold laundry is boring. Bored toddlers are dangerous.

It’s hard to clean with a baby hanging onto your legs, you know? Especially if she gets so mad that she goes and bites her brother and then you have to discipline her and they are both crying and why is this drawer empty where did you put all the clean underwear augh!!!

However.

There is absolutely no need to throw in the towel. I’ve heard women claim that they can’t get anything done around the house. I, on the other hand, am here to tell you how it’s done. The key is to be just as determined, and also as distractible, as your children. I know this because I have small children and my house is quite often clean. Or, at least, in the process of being cleaned. The looooooong process.

Sep 13, 2016

Bible Stories and Family Memories

By Alison Andreasen

My children love family stories. They ask about my childhood. They beg to hear stories from Grandma and Grandpa about what their aunts and uncles were like as small children. They love hearing about the times in their own lives that they don’t remember. And although stories from long ago when Great Grandma was little are harder to grasp, they still love hearing them.

Because they enjoy these family stories so much, I have found myself telling them for more than entertainment. I tell them to help keep family bonds strong even when thousands of miles separate us. I also tell them to help my children understand the consequences of their actions and to encourage making good decisions.

Besides my children’s biological family, there is another family that they are a part of--their spiritual family. Stories that our elderly church members tell of times when women sat on one side of the church and men sat on the other and how the services were done in German, not English, spark the curiosity of my children.

This spiritual family also includes those who live in other parts of the world. My oldest likes to recount the time Bishop Omolo from Kenya stayed at our house and we asked what he liked to eat. When he responded, “food,” everyone laughed, and connections to the Body of Christ in another part of the world were made.  

Sep 10, 2016

Off-site Highlights: Husbands, Fathers, and Sons

(Compiled by Anna)

This focus of this blog is on feminine vocations, but we wouldn't be sisters, daughters, mothers, and wives without our brothers, fathers, husbands, and sons.

As always, I don't necessarily endorse every point the different authors make, but I found these links thought-provoking and helpful.



1. Fathers actually have more influence than mothers do over children's future relationship with church. What does that mean for us as families?

Dads Being Dads by Joe Olson (Lutheran Witness)
We know that the vocation of fatherhood matters. But are we willing to accept how much it matters? Are we willing to accept that by God’s design the deliverance of the faith from one generation to the next depends on fathers more than on anyone else? More.

2. We don't always remember to recognize the sacrifices of the guy who works hard so that his wife can stay at home.

A Letter to my Breadwinner Husband by Suzanne Venker
It is the steady breadwinner husband, men like you, who allow women like me to live such comfortable lives. 
It is because of your willingness to work full time, year round—with no freedom to tell your boss “I quit!” and with no sabbatical to think about what other things you’d like to do with your life, and with no ability to have time just for you smack in the middle of a workweek that my life, and our kids’ lives, are as wonderful as they are. More.

3. This piece is sad but beautiful. 

Our Love Story Has Taught Us Not To Take Marriage For Granted by Judi Sheeks
My husband’s illness robbed me not only of the strong man I had leaned on for all of our married life, but also of the little things I had somehow taken for granted. More

4. My own son is still very young, but I found this post encouraging.  

The Unexpected Joy of a Grown Son, or, The Waiting is the Hardest Part By Angelina Stanford
Parenting has got to be the biggest act of faith a person can take.  You pour yourself into these young souls, knowing that you won’t see the fruit of that labor until well past the time that you can fix it. In faith you plant those seeds and you water them and you try to provide the most nourishing soil you can, but in the end you can only pray and wait to see what kind of plant will grow. And sometimes, the hardest part of the waiting is when that sprout first begins to show. You see something there, but it sure does look like a weed. More.

5. We've all known macho jerks. Yet we also recognize the need to teach our sons about masculinity, strength, self-sacrifice, and courage. In order to do so, it's important to recognize how difficult our world makes it to pursue those virtues, and how essential it is that we recognize the reality of our children's bodies as well as their intellect. 

Men Are Getting Weaker — because We’re Not Raising Men by David French
Our culture strips its young men of their created purpose and then wonders why they struggle. It wonders why men — who are built to be distinctive from women — flail in modern schools and workplaces designed from the ground-up for the feminine experience. Men were meant to be strong. Yet we excuse and enable their weakness. It’s but one marker of cultural decay, to be sure, but it’s a telling marker indeed. There is no virtue in physical decline. More.

You can read another, related post by a Lutheran here (note: language).


6. Looking for good books with which to nourish your sons? These lists may be helpful. 


7. During my teen years, a lot of Christian kids received "purity rings," and books like Joshua Harris' I Kissed Dating Goodbye were popular. Lately I've heard about a significant backlash. We shouldn't rush to brand all efforts to approach romance with integrity as legalism, but we can see ways in which the purity movement led to unintended results. This piece provides some very interesting analyses about the evangelical world of that era.

Purity as Branding in the Evangelical Sub-Culture by Jake Meador
Far more common [than controlling, cultist churches who used anti-dating books to control youth] is the sort of church where the virtue, though affirmed and encouraged, is still mediated through the language of branding. This in itself still poses an enormous danger to the actual virtue of chastity because it inculcates in the members of the community a way of thinking about virtue that is fundamentally about self-construction, self-presentation, and that establishes an essentially commercial grammar for thinking about membership in the group. 
This necessarily will over time erode the foundations of the actual virtue, leaving behind only the external manifestation of it as a brand that is desirable within a sub-culture. . . . . 
True chastity is not necessarily something that can be easily advertised or announced and it is certainly not a thing that can be easily commodified for establishing group identification in a commercially identifiable sub-culture. Modesty, on the other hand, can be commodified in such ways—and given the commercial incentive to do so, it inevitably would. Once chastity is reduced to modesty, one (comparatively small) external aspect of the virtue, then the brand needed to belong to the group now exists apart from the actual virtue the group wishes to teach its young people. You have the appearance, but not the internal reality. This is the sort of Christian practice many young people grew up with—internal realities occasionally existed but the main thing we were pushed toward was the appearance of godliness. More.

On-topic from our archives:

Dealing with the Nuts and Bolts of Sibling Conflict by Drusha Mussmann (in this piece my mother-in-law, the mother of seven--including four sons--talks about handling conflict among her kids in a boy-friendly way).

Sep 9, 2016

Your Friend Who Homeschools (from the Archives)

This piece originally ran two years ago. It's worth a re-read as your homeschool friends head back into another school year. 

By Cheryl Magness

"Oh, you homeschool your kids? You must be so organized. I wish I could do that, but I don't have the patience."

It is something every homeschooling parent has heard at one time or another. I don't know how other parents react, but when someone says it to me I usually smile and gently correct the misconception: no, I'm really not that patient, nor am I particularly organized, but I believe in what we're doing so we muddle through the best we can.

I first started homeschooling my children in 1999. At the time it was less common than it is now, but widespread enough that I have never experienced the extreme level of suspicion directed at some of my friends who started even longer ago than I did. Instead, I think the feeling with which I am most familiar as a homeschooling mom is isolation. The isolation is both physical, as the constant presence of children strictly limits a homeschool mom's freedom, and mental, as homeschoolers are still very much a fringe group. Even as homeschooling has become more common, homeschoolers remain the oddballs walking around town with their school-age kids at 10:00 a.m. on a Tuesday. We're the ones who may live in a top-notch school district or attend a church with a day school but who, perplexingly to some, choose to teach our children at home. We're the ones you may find still in pajamas at noon not because we're living a life of leisure but because adequate time for personal grooming can sometimes be hard to come by.

Sep 6, 2016

Singing About Sin

By Heather Judd

This article is part III of a three-part series on Lutheran hymns that address the “unholy trinity” of sin, death, and the devil.  Although it seems counter-intuitive, hymnody that addresses these evils actually makes a stronger confession of Christian faith than songs that merely focus on praising God.  By singing about the unholy three, Lutherans deny the theology of glory and find comfort in the theology of the cross, proclaiming that even while we are beset by these enemies, Christ has conquered them and our holiness, life, and salvation are secure in Him.


Lutherans sing hymns about sin.

In their song, Lutherans point the finger of God’s judgment at themselves and name themselves as sinners through and through, paralyzed—indeed dead—with the poison of sin.

There was no spot in me by sin untainted;
Sick with sin’s poison, all my heart had fainted;
My heavy guilt to hell had well-nigh brought me,
Such woe it wrought me.
(LSB 439:6 – Johann Heermann)

Through all our pow’rs corruption creeps
And us in dreadful bondage keeps;
In guilt we draw our infant breath
And reap its fruits of woe and death.
(LSB 562:2 – Lazarus Spengler)

From sin our flesh could not abstain,
Sin held its sway unceasing;
The task was useless and in vain,
Our guilt was e’er increasing.
None can remove sin’s poisoned dart
Or purify our guileful heart—
So deep is our corruption.
(LSB 555:4 – Paul Speratus)

Sep 2, 2016

Our Babies Say "Yes"

By Anna Ilona Mussmann


It’s one thing to look at pictures of the Grand Canyon, and another to stand on the edge of the real thing. It’s one thing to hold someone else’s baby, and another to look into the face of your own.

Having a baby is so big--so weird, so crazy, so overwhelming--that it takes a few years to get used to it. Perhaps it would be different if we lived in a place where every girl walks around with a younger sibling or a baby cousin on her hip, but even an upbringing as the eldest of five didn’t really take the edge off my own new baby experience.

On the day we brought our newborn son home, though, I would not have said that I felt overwhelmed. I was just exhausted from a long labor. I was busy taking photos. Perhaps there would have been more room for me to think about the bigness of what had just happened if everyone who saw my pregnant belly over the last few months hadn’t already said things like, “Your life will never be the same again!” Or perhaps, like an accident victim who doesn’t feel pain immediately after losing an arm, I was in shock.

Aug 30, 2016

Singing About Death

By Heather Judd

This article is part of a series on Lutheran hymns that address the “unholy trinity” of sin, death, and the devil.  Although it seems counter-intuitive, hymnody that addresses these evils actually makes a stronger confession of Christian faith than songs that merely focus on praising God.  By singing about the unholy three, Lutherans deny the theology of glory and find comfort in the theology of the cross, proclaiming that even while we are beset by these enemies, Christ has conquered them and our holiness, life, and salvation are secure in Him.


Lutherans sing hymns about death.  

Lutherans sing lots of hymns about death.  

According to the Lutheran Service Book Concordance, there are nearly 300 instances of the word death or death’s in our hymnal.  This is not just the prejudice of a few gloomy German hymn-writers.  This an essential substance of our church’s singing.  Moreover, these are not just funeral hymns.  You will find hymns that sing of death for almost every season of the church year.  
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