May 24, 2017

Guys! You Can Now Listen to Our First Podcast! (Humility and the Benedict Option with Cheryl Magness)

I had a chance to talk to Cheryl about the Benedict Option and about her SDMW piece, "Walking the Cultural Tightrope."  Cheryl shares about how she and her husband raised their children and how the Benedict Option is actually about humility and recognition of sin rather than self-righteousness. By the way, Rod Dreher himself has quoted her Federalist piece about his book.

You can listen here in this post or head over to iTunes or Lybsin. If you can't find us on the app you use, let us know, and we'll look into that. Not sure how to listen to podcasts on-the-go? Check out our handy-dandy guide here.

May 23, 2017

How to Listen to Podcasts [Like Ours] on the Go

Living our Vocations, the SDMW venture into the world of podcasting, is now reality! Join us as we chat about books, being Lutheran, and serving the various neighbors God has placed in our lives. We’d love to keep you company while you clean the house or drive the car.

Want to listen to our "teaser" mini-episode? I must warn you that it is, in its entirety, nothing but bad Lutheran jokes.

For those who are unfamiliar with the various options for tuning in to their favorite podcasts on the go, we’ve prepared a handy-dandy illustrated guide. (Quick note: If you are at home and like to keep things simple, you can listen on your computer through iTunes, Libsyn, or episode-specific posts on the Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife site).

May 19, 2017

The Harvest Raise (Review)

By Cheryl Magness

Three years ago Concordia Publishing House released the first book in the Anthems of Zion trilogy by author Katie Schuermann. As I was already a fan of Schuermann’s non-fiction writing, I was excited to experience her debut novel, House of Living Stones. I downloaded and read the first chapter and decided I couldn't go on. Having recently come off a traumatic church experience, one that impacted not only me but my whole family, I was still struggling with seeing church as a safe place. As for church people, I had frankly had enough of them. I set the book aside.

Fast forward two years to The Choir Immortal, the second book in the Zion series. Knowing the author and her writing skill, and seeing the testimonials of others, I still wanted to read Schuermann’s books. So I tried again, reading both books in quick succession, and this time I found myself falling in love: with Mrs. Scheinberg, with Blaine, with Candice and Evan and Beverly and Curt, and yes, with Emily Duke and Rev. Fletcher. Certainly, it was partly the passage of time and the fading of old hurts that allowed me to immerse myself in the world of Bradbury without feeling anxious. But it was also the pen of Mrs. Schuermann that did so. It was clear how much she loved these silly, hapless, sinful creatures: how could I not?

With The Harvest Raise, Katie Schuermann has seemingly wrapped up her Anthems of Zion trilogy. But has she? In my mind, and I daresay in the minds of the author and her many readers, the story of the people of Zion-Bradbury is ongoing. While several of the series storylines achieve resolution, others do not, at least not in the way we might have hoped. But it is the lack of a nice, neat happy ending for everyone involved that lends Schuermann's trilogy much of its power. The Christian life is not a nice, neat thing. If you are like me, it seems no sooner has one problem or situation been resolved than another comes along to stir everything back up again. Is there never any rest? The words of Jesus come to mind: "In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." Like the first two books in the series, The Harvest Raise has its share of tribulation. But it also has plenty of Jesus.

May 16, 2017

Yes, Lutherans Have Feelings, Especially in Church

By Marie MacPherson

The prelude for “Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me?” piped out of the organ as I walked toward the altar for the Lord’s Supper. As soon as I recognized it, I knew the rest of the service would be difficult to navigate without tears. Years ago, I struggled to memorize all eight verses of Gerhardt’s rich theology applied to each and every life circumstance, singing it twice daily as I rocked my fourth living child to sleep. Having just experienced a miscarriage a few weeks earlier, cross and trial were deeply embedded in my heart.

As I knelt at the rail to receive Christ’s body and blood, I barely whispered, and the congregation boldly sang, verse three:

God oft gives me days of gladness;
Shall I grieve
If He give
Seasons, too, of sadness?
God is good and tempers ever
All my ill,
And He will
Wholly leave me never.

May 9, 2017

"You Come Too": Inviting Children to Learn with Us

By Alison Andreasen
“The Pasture” by Robert Frost
 I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.
I’m going out to fetch the little calf
That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.
(1915, North of Boston)
This poem sounds like something I would hear coming from the mouths of many ranching fathers in my rural neck of the woods as calving season comes to a close. They invite their children, still with sleepy eyes and in pajamas, to put on boots and check on the cows. They instinctively call them to witness events together, work together, and learn together.

Is “together” a good thing? Any parent can tell you that chores around the house take twice as long when little ones are “helping.” Expect flour on the floor, grease on hands and dust bunnies left in corners. Together is laborious. Together is messy. Together is hard. A lot of people decide it is just easier to be apart. Even if families are in the same house at the same time, they may be doing different things.

Being apart is not inherently a bad thing. People need alone time. Doing different activities means you may have more things to share with your family when you are together.  Introverts need quiet time in order to be fully present with their family. The problem, though, is that our current culture has lost our knowledge of the benefits of being together.

May 5, 2017

Blessed: God's Gift of Love (Review)

By Anna Mussmann

“By God’s Word and working of the Spirit, God must reveal Himself and His gifts. Blessings are an expression and gift, given and enacted by God for His creation and those in His favor. Blessings can be spoken, prayed, wished, and embodied. In the hands of the Creator, they can be an intimate expression of the potential good in the world. In the hands of infinite Love, they are part of the boundless, steadfast mercy of the triune God.” Mary Moerbe and Christopher Mitchell, Blessed: God’s Gift of Love.

Blessed: God’s Gift of Love by Mary Moerbe and Christopher Mitchell is an in-depth examination of a single word. “Blessing” is one of those terms that is rich with theological meaning yet has also developed extensive, idiomatic cultural usage. Even non-Christians say “bless you” when someone sneezes--or tell each other to “count your blessings.” Among Christians, the word is used even more extensively, often as a synonym for “anything good that has happened to me,” but also as a way to talk about prayer or God’s will.

The thing is, Scriptural usage of the word isn’t entirely simple, either. It might seem obvious that we should ask God to bless us, but why would we also say things like, “Bless we the Lord?” Why would anyone bless inanimate objects (including meals)? Why would God promise the blessing of peace and success to some individuals or nations, yet also say, “Blessed are those who are persecuted?”

May 2, 2017

Church is a Triggering Place

By Rebekah Curtis

Last spring a man from my congregation was terribly injured in a work accident. He spent the last month of his life in a burn unit while a whole town cried and prayed. Finally he left behind on this earth a wife, two children, and a close extended family.

Not long after that, the saints of Trinity Lutheran Church were singing our way through "How Firm a Foundation" on a Sunday morning when this stanza crashed into our piety:
When through fiery trials your pathway will lieMy grace, all-sufficient will be your supplyThe flames will not hurt you; I only designYour dross to consume and your gold to refine.

I couldn't get the words out. Far less could I imagine they were being sung a few pews back by this family who had suffered so recently, so horribly, so relevantly. All I could think was, "NOT THIS HYMN."

Or here's another version: When I was in high school, a girl from my church suffered a severe asthma attack and lay in a coma. Her older brother, who had been in my class, had died a few years earlier. Our congregation could hardly believe that a mother would lose two of her children. On the Sunday when Julie hung between life and death, the lectionary gave us the raising of the widow's son.

The lector held on, but we all knew what was coming. Jesus: "Do not weep."

The lector wept. The pastor wept. We all wept. Finally the pastor finished the reading for us.

The widow at Nain, THAT Sunday?

Church, the immovable object of safe space, has been known to meet the irresistible force of triggering, and something's got to give.

Apr 28, 2017

Morning by Morning: Go and Bear Witness

By Rebekah Theilen

“Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
In the markets she raises her voice:

At the head of the noisy streets she cries out,

at the entrance of the city gates she speaks.”
Proverbs 1:20-21

“No one saw the Great Flood coming.”

These are the opening words of author Rod Dreher in his new book, The Benedict Option. The book puts into words what many of us have been thinking but unable to articulate--the growing sense that something isn’t right, that even the strongest Christian families around us are beginning to buckle under the pressure of a dark and stormy and invisible weight, that the business-as-usual way of American life is no longer sustainable, or even acceptable, for Christians.

No one saw the Great Flood coming. The words strike a match against a long-lost memory, an old eternal flame and ancient ache in our hearts. We’ve heard this story before. The Lord looked down upon the earth and saw man’s wickedness had become deep and wide. And because sin separates, and tears creation from Creator, there’s a lasting love that can’t be found. God’s heart broke down with pain. Man excelled at striking God. God regretted making man.

He could’ve ended it all right there. But God had everything to lose and man had squandered all his gain. So God--who in the fullness of time would gain a reputation for asking men to do strange things--God told Noah to build an ark. Noah was a righteous man, and we’ve fallen so far, we don’t even know what that means anymore. The water was coming. A Great Flood would come to put an end to the destruction, slaughtering everything evil under the sun.

Apr 25, 2017

Sometimes I Don't Like Playing with My Kids

By Anna Mussmann

 Sometimes my toddlers want me to sit at their little table and pretend to eat plateful after plateful of imaginary food. Sometimes they want me to stand at the door of an imaginary house and be the arriving guest. Sixty million times in a row.

It’s sweet that they love it when I play with them. But sometimes it is so horribly, mind-numbingly repetitive that I can’t stop my fingers from twitching and my brain from whispering that I could be reading a book. I could be doing laundry. I could be enjoying myself so much more productively somewhere else. I’m not supposed to feel like this, right? I’m supposed to treasure every moment, aren’t I?

It’s not that I don’t like my children. I think they are a hoot and two of the best companions in the world. We have a blast working together and exploring the world. It’s just that sometimes I don’t like playing with them. And it’s a funny thing--even though I firmly believe that children’s attention spans and imagination benefit from playing alone, even though I think it is philosophically correct of me to refrain from joining in every time, I still feel guilt. I still wonder, at the close of the day, if I was “present” enough. Should I have steeled myself for ten more minutes of imaginary cookery? Should I make a fresh resolution not to read articles on my phone while the kids are awake?

And here, I think, we see one of the great conflicts within parenting today. On the one hand, parents are expected to be constantly engaged with their children. Kids aren’t even supposed to go to the backyard alone. The general vibe is that it will take eighteen years of vigilance, parenting books, and music lessons to give our little ones a chance at surviving in the big bad world. It’s all about constant safety and enrichment, which means there is no level at which a mom has done “enough.”

On the other hand, we also live in an era in which automobile-based lifestyles and personal screens make it easy to be emotionally distant with our nearest and dearest. We’ve all seen the articles about about the ways that omnipresent technology decreases eye contact and social skills. It’s common to spend more time in the physical presence of our children than moms in the 1950’s did, while actually talking with them less, and our generation feels the tension between the benefits and the costs of the way we live. Perhaps it is because “being present” is a struggle for us that we are never sure if and when we do it enough.

Apr 21, 2017

Easter, Church, Friendship, and More (Offsite Highlights)

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Annibale Carracci, Holy Women at Christ's Tomb

The world may have already moved on from Easter, but we know our SDMW readers are just getting started. As you bask in resurrection joy, here are a few recommended links for your reading and listening time this week.

First, Anna had two pieces at The Federalist. Don't miss her plea to Netflix not to turn the beloved classic Anne of Green Gables into something it was never meant to be. Then be sure to read her superb contribution to the continuing conversation about whether or not men and women can be friends. 

Cheryl wrote one for The Federalist about why people who visited church on Easter should go back the following week. You can also listen to Cheryl talk about her article with Rev. Todd Wilken on Issues, Etc.

Jayme Metzgar, a senior contributor at The Federalist, offered this beautiful meditation on how the occasion of her grandparents moving out of their longtime home reminded her of Christ's resurrection. If you're up for a longer read, consider this Touchstone article about how the Church offers the gift of calm in anxious times.

Are you doing anything special at your house to celebrate the Easter season? A SDMW reader recently shared that she and her children are celebrating by making a cake every week until Ascension. Sounds like a divinely delicious plan!

In other news, the SDMW team has been working hard to learn all about podcasting so as to begin bringing you SDMW content in a whole new way! Look for our first episode in the not-too-distant future. :)

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