Mar 21, 2017

An Anniversary. An Announcement. A Giveaway.

Dear Readers,

Guess what? This blog has been online for three years. Our blogiversary is this week!

I've had such a good time during these last few years. Thank you for clicking over, for reading, and for sharing your writing. I love learning from you all.




In order to celebrate the occasion, we have (a) a special announcement and (b) a giveaway.

Mar 17, 2017

Embracing our Bodies' Purpose

By Nicole King

Over at Acculturated, Ashley E. McGuire recently asked women to please, please, for the love of everything holy, stop posting semi-nude pictures of themselves on Facebook and Twitter in the name of “body positivity.”  

McGuire’s point was that really, these women didn’t look all that bad. Rather a lot of them still make most of us women feel bad about ourselves. Like the fitness guru who, after giving birth, shows off her little flap of “postpartum belly” in the name of “body positivity.”

McGuire’s point is a good one, because the Internet right now is rife with images of semi-clad women baring it all in the name of making all women feel better about the way we look. No airbrushing, only a few size 0s among them. Somehow, pictures of other women looking like, well, real women and not like Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition women is supposed to help us all develop more sunny feelings about our own paunches, wrinkles, stretch marks, and cellulite.

But all this chatter about bodies has neglected the most important point—what, precisely, is the purpose of our bodies? In a discussion of sexual immorality, Paul famously asks the Corinthians, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”

In church a few weeks ago, my two-and-a-half year old son was having a bit of a rough morning. I can’t remember why—he didn’t finish breakfast, he still had a bit of cough from our winter plague, or something like that. As I held him during the prayer, it occurred to me how incredible it was that my body alone could comfort his little soul. He was draped on me—his head on my shoulder, his little arms around my neck, and his legs dangling down past my hips. In that moment, I thanked God that I was still able to hold him, that he found comfort merely by being pressed against me. 

Mar 14, 2017

When Church Work and Family Collide (From our Archives)

This post first ran in 2014

By Cheryl Magness

Imagine arriving at church one Sunday and being stopped in the narthex by a fellow member. "Please follow me," he says. Confused, you nevertheless obey. Moments later he stops at the door of the conference room. "There," he says. "They're expecting you." Still confused, you open the door and enter. Around the conference table sit the pastor and several lay leaders. There is an ominous feeling in the air and you sense this is not going to turn out well. You sit where directed, and then you hear these words: "We're sorry, but we have come to the conclusion that you are no longer a good fit here. We're going in a different direction, and your gifts and talents are an impediment to our vision. We'll give you two months to find another church home. In the meantime, for the sake of congregational peace, please keep this confidential."

Sounds preposterous, doesn't it? Churches don't fire people! In truth, though, this scenario is not rare. It happens to church workers quite frequently and is a special type of vocational collision that secular workers don't experience. When a church worker is dismissed, he is not just dismissed from his job; he is in effect dismissed from his church. The secular worker who is fired can go to church the following Sunday, seek the support of his church family, and ask for their prayers in his time of trial. The church worker who has been fired cannot. Whether or not the dismissal is justified is not the issue. Every situation is different, and my point here is not to address when and in what manner it is acceptable to fire a church worker. The point is that no matter what circumstances led to the worker's release—whether he is at fault or someone else is, whether he is called or merely contracted—when a church worker is relieved of his duties, he is relieved of much more than just his job. Furthermore, whatever loss he suffers is shared by his family. Take the case of Fred, a day school teacher who has for many years served at St. Smithens-in-the-Swamp. Fred's wife Ethel is organist at the church, and their children are students in the day school. Needless to say, Fred's and his family's lives revolve around the church and school. But the day comes when Fred experiences something like the scene above. In a normal employment situation this would equate to the "mere" loss of a job (no small matter). But in the life of a church worker like Fred, it means not only loss of job and income but loss of church and pastor and social circle and his children's school as well (without the employee subsidy he will no longer be able to afford to send his children to the school, even if he wanted to). Additionally, Fred's wife, the church organist, must decide whether she wants to continue playing at the church that fired her husband. Will the church even want her around anymore, or will they encourage her to leave, too? You can see how all at once, Fred's and his family's entire support system is pulled out from under them. At a time when they most need their church, that church is of little comfort. 

Mar 10, 2017

Why You Should Marry Someone Who Laughs at the Right Things

By Anna Mussmann

On Valentine’s Day, one of my Facebook friends shared this quote from Timothy J. Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage: “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.”

Mr. Keller is right. I am married myself, and it is an amazing thing to live with someone who knows more about my flaws than anyone else does, yet continually lives out his marriage vows by loving me anyway. I am deeply grateful that I am able to experience the blessed estate of marriage. It is truly awesome.

Yet finding a spouse isn’t always easy. In fact, in a world filled with marital strife and divorce, it is downright scary. Many young people have reacted to this by delaying marriage and waiting for someone who is perfect enough to sweep away all of their fears. Unfortunately, like unicorns, perfect spouses are extraordinarily elusive.

I have heard many debates about the qualities that Christian young people should really be looking for in a prospective spouse. I would suggest that the list be kept short. The items at the top are (or ought to be) pretty obvious. Find someone who recognizes his or her own sin and who rejoices in Christ’s forgiveness. Find someone who treats others kindly and whom you would trust to raise your children. Find someone whom you are willing to try to love, no matter what, even though he or she is flawed (note that this is really about you more than it is about the other person). In addition, I would like to point out one more trait that I think makes married life more pleasant for everyone.

Find someone who laughs at the right things.

Mar 7, 2017

There's More than One Way to Give up Pietism for Lent

By Ruth Meyer


I'm giving up pietism for Lent.

Perhaps you've heard this line before. Maybe you've even used it yourself. And the translation is that you're not giving up anything for Lent. Giving up something has long been a Roman Catholic tradition, but as Lutherans, such a practice may make us bristle. We’re saved by grace through faith, after all, not by works. So the suggestion that we do something may rub us the wrong way. It seems to smack of pietism to deny ourselves something for a season, as if we’re the Pharisee bragging about how much we do or how often we fast. And certainly, it’s true that our works cannot contribute to our salvation. But let’s take a closer look at fasting before we dismiss it outright.

Those of us who studied and memorized the catechism recall Martin Luther’s words about the Sacrament of the Altar. He asks, Who receives this sacrament worthily? And the answer is, “Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training. But . . . .” Let's be honest. Most of us focus on that “but.” We don't have to fast or do any bodily preparation after all. We are truly worthy and well prepared because we have faith in the words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Whew. No fasting needed.

Feb 28, 2017

Feb 24, 2017

When Your Friend has Kids and You Don't

By Anna Ilona Mussmann

Loneliness is on the rise. Many people find it difficult to build and maintain the kinds of relationships that human beings need. This culture of isolation and increasing polarization is tragically dehumanizing--it not only cuts us off from being loved, but also from the chance to love and serve others.

One of the best ways to resist the tide is to build and nurture friendships. Doing so isn’t always easy. In particular, I’ve heard many young women lament the challenge of actively staying friends with the ladies in their circle who have had children.

When your friend has kids and you don’t, spending time together can begin to feel awkwardly difficult. Maybe your schedules no longer mesh. Maybe you can’t get her to focus on the conversation because she is interrupted every three minutes by her children or starts talking randomly about potty-training. Maybe she doesn’t even invite you over anymore because she doesn’t want to impose the ups and downs of toddlerdom on you.

Yet if you can both let the friendship stretch and grow with her new stage of life, you are striking a blow for what is good. It isn’t just that we all need friends--in a world where narcissism happens to be one of our pet sins, it is especially helpful to nurture relationships that help us see beyond ourselves and our own stage of life. Moms benefit when they are reminded of the wider world beyond the so-intense challenges of babies. Non-moms can learn a great deal about humanity by observing the earthy reality of early childhood. Furthermore, it’s a wonderful thing when children are able to learn from “extra adults” who care about them and when childless folks are able to enjoy intergenerational friendship.

I have little ones, and I am deeply grateful for the childless ladies who are willing to enter the world of kid-land with me. Here are my top tips on nurturing a friendship with someone who has kids when you don’t.

Feb 17, 2017

The Fine Line Between Perspective and Fear

By Anna Ilona Mussmann


I find it hard to forget a story that was recently making the rounds on Facebook. In it, a mother vividly recounts a car crash (she was driving) in which her little boy died. In conclusion, she encouraged parents to savor every moment with their little ones, because after all, none of us knows how much time we have left.

No doubt the post was helpful to many people. But it wasn’t something I should have read. The line between perspective and fear is a thin one.

I have heard young mothers comment that when they struggle with a parenting choice, they try to always err on the side of least regret. For instance, if they can imagine themselves regretting that they let their child cry in bed alone--or that they said no--or that they administered punishment over a small incident--or that they were too busy--they will instead err on the “safe” side.

I can see how that approach might feel right. Yet emotional safety is not the goal of life. It is true enough if, God forbid, my child died in the night, I might regret that I hadn’t sung him as many songs as he wanted that evening. I would surely long for more everything with him. That wouldn’t necessarily mean the decision I had made was the wrong one.

It is most likely that my son will grow and thrive and become taller than I am. I want him to be a man who can handle being told “no,” who has internalized a sense of right and wrong, who has learned self-control. I try to make parenting decisions with long-term goals like these in mind. To do otherwise would be to make his life harder, later on. It is not in his best interest to strive always to make him happy now in case he doesn’t see tomorrow.

Furthermore, there is a deeper problem with the “parent-like-there’s-no-tomorrow” school of thought. I am a sinner. Apart from any false regrets that might assail me (regrets born of the stark reality that my chance to indulge my child is over), if tragedy struck, I would also suffer from real regret. I will look back and see my blunders and my sin. There is no way that I can give my children everything on any given day. There is no way that I can look back and say, “Yes, I maintained a proper mindset and loved my children enough.” There is no way that I would not feel a gut-wrenching need for more tomorrows to try again.

I am already keenly aware of the fragile beauty of human life and love and of the privilege it is to be a mother. I have seen enough loss in the lives of people around me to know that much. Perspective is important. Yet by showing us how much we have to lose, the quest for perspective can send us perilously close to fear. Fear tempts us to turn our eyes away from God’s promises. Fear can even encourage unconscious superstition along the lines of, “If I worry enough, bad things won’t happen,” or, “If I can manage to be grateful enough, good things won’t be taken away from me.”

Scripture points a different direction. The seventh petition of the Lord’s Prayer begs, “But deliver us from evil.” In his explanation of this line, Dr. Luther says, “We pray in this petition, as in a summary, that our Father in heaven would deliver us from all manner of evil, of body and soul, property and honor, and at last, when our last hour shall come, grant us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this vale of tears to Himself into heaven.”

The story I read on Facebook was an admonition to look at death in order to live more fully. The Lord’s Prayer instead tells us to look ahead to eternal life. There we see the blessed hope that the fears and suffering of earth cannot swallow up what is good. It is not helpful for me to live in fear of tragedy. Instead, it is far better to remember that my children belong to a God who loves them and who numbers the hairs on their heads. It is far better for me to commend my life and my family into God’s hands and say, “Amen.”


***

After graduating from Concordia Wisconsin, Anna taught in Lutheran schools for several years and became so enthusiastic about Classical Education that she will talk about it to whomever will listen. She is a big fan of Jane Austen, dark chocolate, and the Oxford comma. Anna and her husband live in Pennsylvania with their two small children. Anna's work can also be found in The Federalist.


Image source.
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