Jan 20, 2017

Announcing: the Third Annual SDMW Contest for Theologically-correct Valentine's Day Cards!

Dear Readers,

St. Valentine's Day is fast approaching.

While we at SDMW are not so misanthropic as to object to the celebration of love (or to chocolate! we love chocolate!), we can't help rolling our eyes at the theology displayed on countless teddy bears, chocolate boxes, and greeting cards. All of these grocery-store tokens would have you believe that the validity of love is measured by the intensity of our feelings, that we should be looking for a soul-mate to "complete" us, and that romance is all we need to be happy.

This St. Valentine's Day, would you rather give your beloved a card that says he is the soulmate who sets your world on fire, or one that says there's no one else with whom you'd rather bear the cross of marriage? Exactly.

That is why we are delighted to announce our third annual contest for theologically-correct Valentine's Day cards! We know that you, as enterprising Lutherans, posses both wit and humor. We are eager to see what you will come up with.

You text can be satirical or serious, sweet or silly, rhyme or prose, but it ought to convey reality instead of sentimentality (see the example at the end of this post).

The winner of this year's contest will receive a beautiful hardcover copy of Reading the Psalms with Luther. Each entry includes Luther's introduction to a Psalm, the Psalm itself, and a short prayer. It's a wonderful devotional book.

(The prize)

Here are the rules:
  • Each individual may submit up to two entries.
  • Submit your entry/ies to us via e-mail (sister-daughter-mother-wife(at)googlegroups. com) by February 3rd.  
  • Submissions should be no longer than a maximum of 55 words (anything longer may not be run). 
  • Submissions should be text only. No graphics or special formatting.

Qualifying entries will be posted to this blog, and readers will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite. If voting produces a tie, I (Anna) will choose a qualified Lutheran judge (probably my husband) to make the final selection.

We look forward to reading your submissions!

For additional fun and inspiration, take a look at the entries from 2015 and 2016.


Jan 17, 2017

Is Your Boyfriend "The One?" (From our Archives)

This post first ran in 2014

By Kaitlyn Nowak

“I mean it’s crazy…” 
“We finish each other’s…” 
“That’s what I was gonna say!” 
“I’ve never met someone…” 
“…who thinks so much like me. 
"Jinx again!" 
“Our mental synchronization can have but one explanation.” 
“…and I…” 
“…meant to be!”
For those of you who don’t recognize the lyrics above, they’re from the recent movie Frozen.  And for those of you who weren’t crazy about Frozen, sorry you had to suffer through them as the opening to this article!  It’s just that since both my sister and one of my best friends have been addicted to the Frozen soundtrack for months, I’ve had those lyrics stuck in my head quite often.  Combine that with the fact that I’m dating someone with the intention of marriage, and the fact that I tend to overanalyze lyrics, and you can see why I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the concepts of dating, marriage, and soulmates.

When I was younger, I put my analytical little brain to the concept of soulmates.  I reasoned, “what if your soulmate was born on the other side of the world, and you never got to meet?”  Part of me thought it unlikely that your “perfect match” would come from a completely different culture, but there are obviously some people who meet their spouses overseas and live long, happy lives together.  In fact, both my campus pastor and his father met their wives as a result of international student exchanges!  Years later, that same campus pastor talked to my student group about Christian freedom, and how God does not have a set “right” and “wrong” option for every decision in your life.  Even the extremely important decision of whom you marry is up to you.  In other words, you can stop worrying about determining if your boyfriend is your one and only “soulmate,” because the idea that you have only one “soulmate” is simply untrue.  Unfortunately, you’re still left with an intimidating situation.  How do you decide if the man you’re dating is “the one” – not your soulmate, but the one man with whom you’ll spend the rest of your life?

Jan 13, 2017

Four Reasons It Is Good Your Children Are Being Too Loud in Church

By Anna Mussmann

It’s the same for us all. For the Roman Catholics. For the Fundamentalists and Evangelicals. For the Methodists. For the Lutherans. In all of our churches, the babies get loud. The toddlers get grumpy. The children create an ecumentical challange by stressing-out their parents and failing to behave with the charmingly pious decorum we would all love to see.

Fortunately, the culture in most Lutheran congregations embraces the idea that families should pray and worship together. Most Lutherans recognize that children, too, are Christians who are part of the body of Christ and need to hear God’s word right along with everyone else. We are blessed with a liturgy that feeds not only multiple generations but also connects Christians across time.

Yet, right and proper as it is to see little ones kneel beside siblings, parents, and grandparents, this doesn’t automatically make it easy for parents to teach their kiddos how to behave respectfully in church. Over the years I have seen stressed and frazzled parents trying all kinds of methods to wrangle their offspring. I know how they feel--my own sweet babies have been known to occasionally put their little sin natures on display in the church pew. It doesn’t feel easy to receive the word of God when your kiddos make it impossible to listen for more than a few seconds at a time.

You know what? It’s actually a good thing that your kids are being too loud in church. Here are four reasons why.

Jan 10, 2017

Finding Comfort in Our Children's Baptism

By Anna Mussmann

Recently I heard the assertion that motherhood is simply a long string of disappointments. In other words, for moms, every passing day chips away at the illusion that our children will make the choices we hope for.

It’s enough to give anyone the willies. Why bring home a sweet-smelling infant if it is inevitable that she will one day grow up to scream, “I hate you!”? Why invest hour after hour in teaching manners to toddlers if they are only going to eventually reject most of what you ever said? What’s the point of countless hours coaching math homework if your kid might turn into a violent abuser or end up homeless under a bridge?

Jan 7, 2017

Off-site Highlights: Fiction, Grief, and Parenting

(Compiled by Anna)

Dear Readers,

Blessed Epiphany! I am emerging from all the Christmas festivities and am starting to feel sad that I am probably going to have to take my Christmas tree down soon. We procrastinated (I mean, were liturgically correct) and bought it on December 23rd, so it hasn't been up long in comparison with the trees of my childhood.

What are you reading these days? I just finished a long-ish short story by Rachel Kovaciny (who, by the way, is part of the SDMW community!). It's a retelling of Sleeping Beauty set during the gunslinger days of the old West, and it's a lot of fun. You can find it here. I look forward to enjoying the rest of the tales included in the same book.

Here is a collection of recommended articles from around the web.

1. This was recommended by someone I know who lost her baby.

"Yes, You Should Say Something: Overcoming Awkwardness with Grieving People" by Nancy Guthrie

2. Here's a reminder that reading to our children should be part of life, not something we twist into an unnatural, "serious" shape.

Finding Freedom in Reading Aloud with Children by Maura Roan McKeegan

3. Parents are called to love their children unconditionally, but also to teach and raise them. Sometimes this means we must tell them when they are behaving in ugly, selfish, or annoying ways. As another blogger pointed out elsewhere, this article about being a good boss in the corporate world also applies to parenthood.

Radical Candor — The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss

4. Eating together as a family is important. But sometimes it's less than relaxing for the grown-ups. I like "Auntie Leila's" advice on slowly making it better.

"Seven Strategies for Dinner with the Barbarians" By Leila Lawler

5. Some useful thoughts here:

Porn Proofing Our Kids: Emotional Investment by Jenny of Mama Needs Coffee

6. Plus, you can read my thoughts on Enjoying Your Toddlers and Enjoying Motherhood over at The Federalist, or listen to me talk about both pieces by going to Issues, etc.


Jan 3, 2017

Friendship and the Christian Writer

By Caitlin Magness

In this life, God blesses us with three main kinds of relationships: marriage, family, and friendship, each with its own set of duties and gifts. Much has been written about Christian family and even more about Christian marriage. Historically, the topic of friendship has been of great interest to Christian writers as well. Lately, however, it seems that the topic of friendship is falling out of vogue, not only in popular culture but also in the church. This is a shame, as I believe Christians, and the world in general, have much to gain from reading and writing about friendship.  

Like other relationships, friendship is given to us so that we can give and receive love, care, and support. Whether it’s between a married couple, between family members, or between two otherwise unrelated people, friendship provides a stable framework for love to exist. This love can take many forms, from the affectionate love of storge to the comradely love of philia to the self-giving love of agape. And as with all godly relationships, friendship reflects the love of God. But what does the importance of friendship mean for the Christian writer?

Dec 30, 2016

Christmas Morning by Morning: When Some Things Never Change

By Rebekah Theilen

When I was a child, Christmas never seemed long enough. There was one day--from Christmas Eve to Christmas morning. By Christmas afternoon you could already tell the world had moved on. The Northern Hemisphere had turned away its face from the morning. The cinnamon rolls were long gone and the wrapping paper had all been thrown away. The stockings lay forgotten on the floor, having gone from full and overflowing to limp with a returning emptiness. I swear there was something in the emptiness, but still, still, still. It didn’t feel right to say goodbye to Christmas so soon, for it had only just arrived. I’d waited all year for a passing moment in time.

And every year, beyond all reason, I’d do it all again. One Christmas Eve my sister and I tried to wait up for Santa. We kissed our parents goodnight and pitched our sleeping bags on our bedroom floor. We had a strange door that only covered three-fourths of the doorway. This made it handy to listen for when Mom and Dad had gone to bed, and perfect for letting the light shine in on our wide awake faces. We were old enough to suspect that Santa wasn’t who they said he was, but the doubts only fueled our desire to believe. I don’t know exactly what we wanted to be true. We only knew Christmas had the power to make the dead of winter come to life.

Dec 27, 2016

The Worst Christmas Gift I Ever Gave

By Jenna Lampe

 I’ve given my share of bad gifts: the toy the child already had two of, the computer case that didn’t fit the intended recipient’s computer (but fit mine!), and the hat for an adult that really only fit a child. One gift in particular, however, sticks out in my mind as the worst.

Juggling a job, graduate school and my first relationship was more difficult than I realized at the time. My job involved caring for women with disabilities in a group home and put me in a position of responsibility for others’ lives that I had never experienced before. At the same time, graduate school demanded a large portion of my time. And the relationship with my boyfriend was becoming an engagement, a stark change to my previous single way of life.

Although school was breaking for Christmas, two other priorities were trying to take their place. My manager wanted me to work during the holidays. My soon-to-be fiancé, on the other hand, wanted me to be present for the holidays, spending time with his family in another state.

After struggling to please both, I decided to put my foot down and stand firm on spending time with the man to whom I would be married the following year. This, in turn, caused work life to spiral downward. My manager was in a sticky place, trying to keep a hardworking employee but also trying to make the workload fair. We tried compromising, but soon threats were made to give me some sort of corrective action for not picking up a holiday shift. Going to work as Christmas approached was uncomfortable. Meanwhile, my manager decided to hold a bowling party for her employees. The plan was to have pizza, bowl, and exchange Christmas ornaments.

I had forgotten about the ornament exchange until the day of, and in truth, was not looking forward to taking time to go bowling (a sport I do not love) and being in close contact with the very people I was deserting over the holidays.

Therefore, it wasn’t until an hour before the event that I remembered the ornament. Looking around my room, I reached up to my ceiling fan and grabbed a red, sparkling star ornament I had gotten years before that I hung up for a random decoration. From a distance, the ornament was pretty but obviously cheap. Close up, it was dusty and you could see a piece of the ornament had broken off. I stuffed it into a gift bag I had lying around my room. I did feel a twinge of guilt knowing I had put no time into finding an ornament, but mostly, I didn’t care at that time. I knew most things exchanged at such parties were tossed to the side, and I hoped to get in and get out of the party as unnoticed as possible.

Dec 23, 2016

Unsettling Assymetry of the Advent Wreath (from our Archives)

This post first ran in 2014.

By Heather Judd

Churches are places of symmetry. In traditional architecture, the nave, the altar, and the cross all embody beauty through symmetrical perfection. 

The Advent wreath is just the opposite. It begins well but ends, quite frankly, lopsided.

I don’t think I actually have OCD, but I do like things “just so.” Pictures should hang straight and books stand at attention on the edges of the shelves. In my classroom, I begin to feel uneasy toward the end of an antsy day when all my students have scooted their desks to sit at odd angles. Thus, the Advent wreath has always caused me perturbation. 

The first week is not so bad, as the single candle shortens next to its three stately compatriots. If there’s a pink (er—“rose”) candle, it’s opposite the one in use this week anyway, so the whole thing still has a line of symmetry.

The second week, there is a subtle shifting. If I were on the Titanic, I would start to be uneasy.

The third week, my asymmetry-senses start tingling. 

But by the fourth week, I begin to lose my grip. Not only is the whole wreath off-kilter by now, but in my church, the wreath, which has been used daily for school chapel services during the previous three weeks, is lit only on Sunday and Wednesday now that Christmas vacation has begun. And even if that were not the case, the fourth week of Advent is almost never a full week, so the fourth candle cannot possibly attain seven days’ worth of diminishment before the Christmas candle is added. 

Dec 20, 2016

My Kids Don't Pay Attention in Church During Advent

By Alison Andreasen  

What a crazy, wonderful thing to have the Creator of the universe come to live with His people!  Advent gives us an opportunity to look forward to His coming and His coming again. This message is not lost on little ears.

Yet sometimes in this season of multiple church services a week, which my littles may or may not have attended while clad in jammies, I have wondered if they are paying attention. They look around at others in church. They spend the service looking through the hymnal finding words they know. They stare at the stained glass windows and ask about the “P” with the “X” on the altar cloth. And when they are done doing that, they tap their feet and dance to the music. If they aren’t listening to the pastor, are they learning about Christ at all?

Well, in short, the answer is yes. Yes, they are learning about Christ because the church is Christ’s!
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