Jun 24, 2016

Friendship, Grief, and the Mother of a Miscarried Child (from the archives)

(This article first appeared in 2014)

By Dawn Gaunt

There was a time, not all that long ago, wherein society possessed elaborate social protocols for dealing with bereavement and grief. When a family member died, those connected to him were expected to enter a period of public mourning. This mourning occurred within clearly defined parameters. Widows and orphans, parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins twice removed—each knew what was expected of him regarding rituals of dress, manner, and propriety. To depart from these rituals was to invite the disapproval of one’s fellows, because death was a community affair. The grieving process was structured and controlled; everyone on all sides knew what to say, how to behave, and what to expect.

The above approach seems rigid, perhaps, considering our modern ways (“Fie, Death! What business have you with me? I’ll not think of you today!”). But, oh, for a bit of guidance in speaking to the bereaved! It is paralyzing not to know how to approach those who mourn (does she still mourn? does he wish to be noticed at all? do I dare, and do I dare?). And thus is it far easier to approach a mourning person as though nothing is amiss. Let us speak of the weather, or of the dessert table—of anything but the confusion and sorrow that lurks in the absence left by him who has died.

On December 26, 2005, my third baby left my body in a torrent of blood. Three days prior, I had submitted to an ultrasound only to find that my child, who was to have been 11 weeks along, was too small even to be adequately seen. The pregnancy was not viable, the doctor told me. My joy was my sorrow. My child was dead.

Jun 21, 2016

The Ninth Commandment: Being a Good Neighbor

By Cheryl Magness

You shall not covet your neighbor's house. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not scheme to get our neighbor's inheritance or house, or get it in a way which only appears right, but help and be of service to him in keeping it.

As Lutheran Christians we tend to define “neighbors” in a very broad sense as those we are called to serve while carrying out our various vocations. But this past year I have developed a greater appreciation for the more common definition of neighbor as someone who lives near me.  

Over the course of almost 30 years of marriage, my husband and I have lived in 10 different residences, seven of which we rented and three of which we bought. We purchased and moved into our current home only about six months ago, and since then we have met and interacted with more neighbors than in any other place we have ever lived. 

Shortly after we moved in, several people stopped by to drop off baked goods and provide their phone number in case we needed anything. When my mom fell six weeks later and I called for an ambulance, a gentleman a few houses down came over within minutes to see what was wrong. Recently, when our new riding lawn mower broke, that same gentleman offered to lend us his. (And when we accidentally drove his mower into a small sinkhole in our yard, causing minor damage, yet another neighbor lent his!) We have been given fresh-caught fish, invited to pick produce at will from a garden that is not ours, and told we can dump yard waste into someone else’s burn pile. Perhaps best of all, my 12-year-old son has more playmates than he has ever had. He roams freely and I don't worry. And I am not a free range parent! But there is something about this neighborhood that feels safe. It is different from any other place we have lived, including the house we owned in Illinois for 13 years. Why is that?

Jun 17, 2016

What Does Headship Look Like? (Q and LA)

Sometimes our readers send us questions about which they would like to talk to other Lutheran women. Today’s question, submitted via our recent survey, is,

"What does the headship/helpmeet dynamic look like in your marriage and home? What has helped you learn and grow as a couple in this area of life?"

We’ve asked a few writers to respond. This Q and LA (questions and Lutheran answers) session is meant to be informal and conversational, rather as if we were all having coffee together. Feel free to chime in via the comments.

Jun 14, 2016

Teaching the Faith at Home: What Does This Mean? (Review)

By Anna Ilona Mussmann

In Teaching the Faith at Home: What Does This Mean? How Is This Done? DCE David Rueter explains that after years of seeing the majority of teens quit church immediately upon confirmation, he has “spent the last few years in doctoral study on the nature, history, and models of instruction or confirmation.” He argues that the Church must move away from a model in which confirmation is often perceived as “graduation,” and instead focus on a lifelong catechesis anchored in Baptism.

After discussing current problems in the way we teach youth (including the effect that postmodern culture has had in shaping our kids), he provides a range of suggestions. He believes that we must make use of educational theories and knowledge of child development. He suggests that we introduce memorization of the catechism at a younger age so that the instruction of middle school and high school youth can focus more deeply on wrestling with theology, applying beliefs, and delving into life as a Christian. He wants young people to be able to challenge the faith in a safe environment that encourages deep thinking. He would like to see families and youth mentored in structured ways. In the second half of the book, he walks through the Small Catechism and gives detailed examples of how parents can understand and teach its contents to their children.

Jun 10, 2016

When Mother is Dispensable

By Marie MacPherson

It was a beautiful dream come true: finishing school, getting married to her college sweetheart, becoming pregnant. It wasn’t an easy pregnancy by any means, though. So much morning sickness. Except that it wasn’t morning sickness at all. My friend’s son was delivered by C-Section at 28 weeks, so she could begin stomach cancer treatment as soon as possible. She had a few more months with her son and husband before she left this world, and thanks be to Christ, into the arms of her heavenly Father.

My friend was safely home. What about her little boy? Family, friends, and the community came together to help the father and lift him up in his difficult vocation of single father, all the while still mourning for that beautiful dream. Before long, God provided a new wife for this man, and a new mother for his son. I recently saw this lovely family with their active 4-year-old son, his new little sister, and another baby on the way.

During her medical ordeal, I checked my friend’s Facebook page frequently for updates. I talked to fellow church members to hear if there was any news. I hugged my own children a little more tightly. And I realized that I am dispensable.

Jun 7, 2016

When the Day of Rest Wearies the Soul

By Rebekah Theilen

“We implore you to hear us, good Lord, to grant all women with child, and all mothers with infant children, increasing happiness in their blessings.” (The Litany, Lutheran Service Book, p. 288)

I couldn’t stand to be there anymore.

The pain was too much, the silence too loud, the burden too heavy. Staying in the pew alone was too hard. The walk across the lawn was too close, too easy.  I whispered to the children, told them we were leaving, snapping at them to pick up the mess of papers and crayons. I avoided eye contact with the ushers as I led our children through the narthex and walked out the door. The farther away I was from that building, the more relief came to me, the less I felt crushed, and the more I could breathe.

We stumbled into the parsonage and the kids old enough to dress themselves ran off to change their clothes. Starving for food, for something to feed me, I went straight to the kitchen, devouring the left-overs from yesterday’s supper. I leaned against the counter, my back sliding down the cabinets to the cold kitchen floor. I could hear the Communion hymns playing, the organ humming through the parsonage walls. Sobbing at the Lamb’s high feast, I picked up a pen and journaled these words:

Jun 4, 2016

Kids, Books, and Summer Reading (Off-site Highlights)

(Compiled by Anna)

Oh, how I would love to have this shelf (image found here).

Sadly, I lack all carpentry skills. Perhaps I can instead make a little house house like this one by artist Zach Franzen (the portrait is of Reepicheep).

Jun 3, 2016

Law, Gospel, and a Dead Gorilla

By Anna Ilona Mussmann

A preschool-aged boy managed to get through the barriers separating him from the gorillas at the Cincinnati zoo recently. Harambe, the zoo’s seventeen-year-old silverback male gorilla, dragged the child through a shallow moat and was eventually shot so that the child could be rescued. Now, the internet is awash with anger.

Some of it is directed at the zoo. Much of it is directed at the parents. If only their supervision had not lapsed, the gorilla would still be alive. Staggeringly large numbers of people have signed a petition demanding “Justice for Harambe.”

The rescue of a little boy and the unfortunate death of a resplendent, captive animal has become a vitriolic debate about punishment and parenting. Clearly, the conversation is about more than this incident alone. Amidst the flurry of commentary, two types of responses are evident. On the one hand, the event triggers philosophical questions that currently divide our polarized society. For instance, what is the comparative value of a human and an animal life? Is the ultimate job of a parent to guarantee their child’s safety? When something bad happens, must someone always pay?

On the other hand, the gorilla’s death has also triggered yet another example of the ugly underside of modern life: the rush to form online lynch mobs against individuals who have erred. It doesn’t matter that we know nothing about these parents or about what happened immediately before their son ended up inside a gorilla enclosure that has successfully kept animals and the public apart since the 1970’s. It doesn’t matter, because people are angry.

May 31, 2016

Five Things the Church Can Do For Single People

By Caitlin Magness

The church has always upheld marriage as the foundation of the family and a blessed way of life. But while in past centuries, marriage was generally regarded as a good thing in Western culture, it has recently come under attack, with divorce, adultery, promiscuity, and other forms of sexual immorality being not just tolerated, but actively promoted and celebrated. In response, the church has become extremely zealous in its defense of marriage, to the point that many uphold it as the highest form of Christian life.

I worry that this passionate promotion of marriage has led some to make marriage into an idol. Even more, I worry that single people are becoming increasingly invisible and isolated in the church’s marriage-minded culture. Being unmarried myself and with no plans of changing that in the near future, I’d be lying if I said I don’t sometimes wonder about my place in the church.  

I have a complicated relationship with the word single—on the one hand, it can be empowering, as it is a “presence” word and not an “absence” word like unmarried or unattached. On the other hand, it also implies a solitary, isolated existence, as if singles somehow exist separately from other people. However, God’s Word teaches that we are all part of the Body of Christ. In that way, none of us is truly alone or “single.” Here are some things Christians can do to reflect that truth and reach out to single people in the church:

May 28, 2016

Letting People Help You and other Off-site Highlights

Compiled by Anna

1. "Asking favors can be a way to give a gift." The Washington Post's advice columnist Carolyn Hax writes with far more nuance than anything you'd find in the columns of "Dear Abby" or the like. Ms. Hax's outlook is decidedly progressive--existential, even--but she is often refreshingly sensible. As a Lutheran, I liked this quote from a recent online chat she gave, in response to someone who feels that she cannot ask any of her friends for all-day medical help:
"...people often have a backward understanding of asking favors. . . We look at asking a favor as an imposition, but sometimes, especially when it's rare and comes from someone who prefers to stand alone, asking is actually a gift. Have you ever had a friend trust you with something big, and felt flattered to be asked? And/or grateful for the chance to show this person you care? That could be what you offer here. Trusting someone with your vulnerability can help can bring the friend you choose (carefully, of course) a notch closer to you--especially if you're able to return this level of favor for him or her." Carolyn Hax.

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