Sep 19, 2017

"Judgmental, You Say?" How Robust Moral Language Actually Cultivates Humility

By Anna Mussmann


Even the devil can’t stop people from recognizing that sin and evil exist. He must instead redirect us. In C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, a fictional demon explains, “We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger. . . .  The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood.”

In our own generation, postmodernism has taught us to set our fire extinguishers to “kill” whenever anyone mentions the word “sin.” We were promised we would escape the fire of judgmentalism if we denied that right and wrong can be objectively judged. Yet it didn’t work.

Postmodern America is flooded with indignant condemnation. I am a good person because I have struck a blow against homophobia, racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and the other political party by sharing a meme on Facebook or by piling-on via Twitter. You, on the other hand, either agree with my beliefs completely or you are irredeemable and filled with hate. Postmodernism’s version of tolerance has resulted in a culture filled with anger and self-righteousness.

That’s because humans can’t help noticing that evil exists. When humans lack recognition of sin, they tend to create moral language that nurtures self-righteousness and hinders repentance. They tend to name labels instead of naming sins. Ultimately, such a vocabulary groups people into “us” vs. “them,” but fails to teach anyone to examine his or her own heart.

Sep 8, 2017

Off-site Highlights: Babies, Saints, and Other Things

Dear Readers,

It's been a long time since I posted any off-site highlights. How are things with you all?

The news at my house is that, like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, we too are expecting. My eldest kiddo is a little worried that the new baby will "cry all the time," but he's offered to donate one of the doll cribs so that the baby will have somewhere to sleep.

Here are your links:

Sep 5, 2017

When You Aren't as Generous as You Think

By Ruth Meyer


“Over half of the members in this congregation give less than the price of a Happy Meal every week.”

These words were spoken in a sermon about stewardship, and they’ve stuck with me ever since. Churches seem to be perpetually behind budget, nearly always in debt, and is it any wonder? If half of the members are giving $5 or less, how can we expect to sustain our congregations? Granted, this includes all those members “on the rolls” who don’t actually come, but let’s face it––tithing is not a common practice in our culture today. Sure, people can spend money on cable and Internet and cars and sports and lessons and… But church? Tithing is foreign to many people. So as I sat in church that Stewardship Sunday while the pastor discussed giving, I admit I felt a little swell of pride. Ah, I thought to myself smugly, but I DO tithe. I’m a faithful giver. But upon further reflection, I came to a startling revelation. I’m not nearly as generous as I’d like to think I am.

Sep 1, 2017

On Joyfully Aging

By Rebekah Theilen


“For when we were yet without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6

Everyone is getting older these days. Fun fact: You’re two seconds older now than you were three seconds ago when you first began reading this paragraph. Twenty years ago I was just starting high school, and with the exception of my beloved parents, people in midlife didn’t even exist. Ten years ago I was nursing my daughter in the midnight hours, passing the time with the thirty-minute infomercials. Cindy Crawford had bottled up the secret of Meaningful Beauty, her anti-aging skin care products. Me and the baby yawned ourselves to sleep while women sat around discussing fine lines and wrinkles. I hadn’t the brain-foggiest clue what they were talking about. I knew wrinkles were something old people had, but I had no idea what fine lines were.

Now I know, and interestingly enough, you don’t even have to be old to have wrinkles. I’m not sure when it happened--slowly over the past twenty years I suppose--there’s no need to deeply look into the matter. The fine lines and wrinkles are here to stay, there’ll be more to come, and no rare melon extract out of the jungles of France is ever going to change that. I don’t mean to sound cynical.  It’s making me giggle just thinking about it, how there was a time when I yawned and shrugged at Cindy Crawford’s wrinkle testimonies. I kinda wish I would’ve listened. . . .

Aug 25, 2017

A Tricycle Accident and the Search for Blame

By Nicole King


My three-year-old son has a scar.

It’s kind of nasty—a road rash on the outside of his upper leg. It’s a whitish patch, bumpy to the touch, about the size of his little fist.

He gained it last summer, precisely a year ago, in August. My two little guys and I had just finished an early dinner, so to bridge the awkward gap before beginning the bedtime routine, I took them and the dog for a little stroll. I put the nine-month-old in his carrier, strapped snugly against my chest. The toddler, Ben, gleefully exclaimed “bike ride!” and ran to his tricycle.  “Bike rides” for toddlers, as any parent knows, are really more like long stretches of staring at rocks, bugs, and/or cars broken up by periodic frantic pedaling. Or, in the case of my son, who wasn’t quite to the pedaling stage, pushing his bike along with his short little legs.

It was a lovely August evening—not too hot, a light breeze blowing. Part of our route was along the town’s river, which was full of boaters enjoying the weather. We crossed the busiest road in our neighborhood. Ben is naturally cautious, and he made sure all the cars were out of sight before even daring to edge his tricycle wheel off the sidewalk pavement. We headed off the river one block and turned right. At the next intersection, I heard the ominous, twinkling music of an ice-cream truck. I groaned inwardly. Ben would undoubtedly find the truck fascinating, and we would be stuck staring at it for who knows how long. For bedtime to happen on time, we needed to get home in 15 minutes, and an ice cream truck would delay my progress. I also didn’t have any cash on me, and didn’t feel like explaining that to a hopeful ice-cream truck driver.

“Let’s turn right, buddy!” I said cheerfully, hoping he would acquiesce quickly. “Let’s go fast down the hill!”

Aug 22, 2017

Raising Kids in the Faith When You Weren't

By Alison Andreasen


Raising kids is hard. Raising kids in a culture in which you did not grow up is even harder. You don’t know the words, traditions, music, important people, or behaviors of that culture and yet you want to pass that knowledge down to your children. Many immigrants to our country know this. And if you are like me and did not belong to a Christian family growing up but are a Christian now, you know this too. Christianity has a culture. There is a belief system with certain words, traditions, music, important people, and behaviors that all Christians share. You want your children to grow up being a part of this new culture, even though you, yourself are playing catch up.

This is particularly obvious in church on a Sunday morning. What should I do with toddlers when they throw a tantrum in church? How strict should I be with older kids who are able to participate, but don’t? What do I do when my kid yells a word at the wrong place at the wrong time? I have been there. I think all parents have been there. For those of us who don’t have a clue how to respond because we never experienced being the child in these scenarios, this difficulty is very real. Below are a few thoughts for those who weren’t raised in the faith, but are raising their children as Lutheran Christians.

Aug 18, 2017

The Quantum Mechanics of Sanctification (from our Archives)

Note: This post first ran in July 2015

By Heather Judd

Quantum mechanics, the science of matter and energy on the smallest scales, is a field bulging with mind-boggling paradoxes. One of its counterintuitive principles is that at the subatomic level there is no certainty about a particle’s state until it is observed. In effect, it can simultaneously be both here and there, both yes and no. To illustrate this bizarre principle, twentieth-century physicists introduced thought experiments such as Schrodinger’s Cat, which is theoretically both alive and dead until a sealed box is opened revealing its actual state.

The idea that the act of observation can actually affect the state of reality seems slightly less outlandish if we consider how this so-called Observer Effect is evident in everyday measurement. If you wish to measure the air pressure in your car’s tires, it is impossible to do so without releasing a small amount of air, thereby changing the pressure by your act of observation. But this phenomenon is much more pronounced on the tiny quantum scale. Strange as it seems, when we look at things on the quantum level, we change their behavior or nature.

Sanctification has its own kind of quantum mechanics. As Christians we must and we do carry out good works (see Augsburg Confession VI), but as soon as we look at those good works, they turn in some degree into works of pride. Our observation changes the nature of our works, and when we try to start measuring our good deeds, we turn them back into works of the Law, and consequently our means of justification.

Aug 1, 2017

Note: We are Taking Some Time Off. Posts Will Resume in Late August.

Dear Readers,

Just an FYI: this blog will be quiet for the next three weeks. You'll hear from us again in late August.

Blessings on your summer!


Anna



Jul 30, 2017

Teaching Children to Participate in Church (Podcast episode)




Living Our Vocations, Season One, Episode 3: "Teaching Children to Participate in Church" with Ruth Meyer.

Have you ever heard the saying, "children in church are the devil's instruments?" Yet children, too, are part of the church; and children, too, need God's Word. In this episode I chat with Ruth Meyer about the theological basis for bringing kids into the Divine Service as well as practical ways to help them learn to participate. The questions we talked about include:
1. Why bring a potentially noisy bundle of cute distraction into church in the first place? 
2. Why is, "How can I keep my child quiet in church?" the wrong question for parents to be asking? 
3. What are practical ways to help kids behave well and listen to what is going on around them? 
4. What about older kids who once participated with gusto, but now have lost their enthusiasm? 
5. How can people without kids help support parents in the pew?

You can listen-in here in this post or head over to iTunesLibsyn, or Stitcher. As always, we are grateful for reviews (more reviews on iTunes will allow more people to find our podcast). 



Links:

Getting Kids to Behave in Church

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

Whisper, Whisper: Learning About Church (a helpful picture book by Mary Moerbe)

Jul 28, 2017

What We're Reading (July Issue)

I have two really, really good books to recommend (and other SDMW writers have titles to share as well). What about you? Anything we should add to our book lists?



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