Oct 20, 2017

Three Things I Want My Catholic Friends to Know about Reformation Day

By Anna Mussmann

This is the time of year when my Lutheran friends share photos of Reformation choirs and Luther-themed socks on social media. Yet to my Roman Catholic friends, the Reformation isn’t something to celebrate.

In their eyes, our admiration for Martin Luther is as misguided as holding a big party in honor of one’s divorce. They argue that the Reformation ushered in a world where each individual’s personal taste in interpretation became supreme--leading to the moral chaos and postmodernism that riddles the cultural landscape today. At best, they see Protestants as limping along without the spiritual blessings God bestows through the Church; yet, like anorexics, rejoicing in this near-starvation.

I readily concede that the Reformation brought costs as well as benefits. Yet as a Lutheran, I am profoundly grateful for the sixteenth-century return to Scripture that reminded us of Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, and Solus Christus. I am deeply appreciative of the Lutheran determination, demonstrated in the Book of Concord, to find and cling to Biblical truth. That is why I want my Catholic friends to know three things about the event I will be celebrating on October 31st.

Oct 17, 2017

Why It's Important to Learn the Art of Writing Thank You Notes (and how to do it)

By Heather Smith

Three months of marriage is not enough to hone expertise in most areas of married life, but it has sharpened my skill in one small area: the writing of thank you notes. As of a few weeks ago, I had written well over 200 of them in conjunction with my wedding. Being prone to ponder deeply upon even mundane tasks, I naturally found myself musing over the art of the thank you as I compelled  my throbbing hand to scrawl out “just one more” before resting. But what really made me contemplate this topic was the number of people who thanked me for their thank you notes.

I began to realize that people truly are moved by sincere expressions of gratitude. Furthermore, like any other art, writing such notes is not an innate ability, but rather one that can be learned and heightened through thoughtful practice. Writing lovely, true, kind thank you notes is good for author and recipient alike. It honors the gift-giver’s generosity while training the receiver in graceful humility, and it ultimately speaks to the value of human beings over material gifts.

My habit of thank you note writing began early under the tutelage of a mother who made sure I wrote a thank you note for every Christmas and birthday gift. No doubt many of these were simplistic, but in my high school years, thank you notes often became an outlet for my burgeoning rhetorical skills. I remember one in particular, written in thanks for a glass apple, in which I waxed eloquent about how viewing the bubbles suspended within the glass inspired me to ponder the rare quiet moments that seemed suspended in time . . . or some similar over-the-top philosophizing.

I expanded my habit of gratitude during my college years when I made it my custom at the end of every semester to write a thank you note to each professor under whom I had studied. Sometimes a small card could hardly contain the effusive gratitude I wished to extend. Sometimes I struggled to find anything both true and gracious to say in thanks.

Oct 13, 2017

That Time When Motherhood Changed Our Story

By Rebekah Theilen
“Even if you don’t sense joy in your immediate circumstances, that doesn’t mean God doesn’t intend to give it to you.” Leslie Ludy
Nobody likes it when the main character dies. This was the opinion of director George Lucas, the original Star Wars film producer. In the book You Are What You Love, James K.A. Smith highlights an interesting conversation between Lucas and his co-writer, Lawrence Kasdan. While writing Return of the Jedi, Kasdan tries to convince Lucas to kill somebody off, to give the story an edge with emotional weight and personal impact for the audience. Lucas protests again and again, finally putting his foot down to reveal the heart of where he stands: “This is a fairytale. You want everybody to live happily ever after and nothing bad happens to anybody.”

I like the way the man thinks. Who hasn’t, at least once in her life, dreamed of a world where nobody dies and everyone lives happily ever after?  Wouldn’t it be fun to be friends with the adorable mice who could craft us a beautiful dress for the ball and for all it took to arrive there was the waving of a wand to make a pumpkin come alive?  But that’s not how it works. Our hearts are being shaped by a different kind of story, far bigger than any of us. The story calls us to be all in--to know and love the Truth. The truth is there are two kinds of knowing. One kind of knowing comes with an agreeing nod of the head. The other kind of knowing comes only through tears.

It’s the tears we often find so hard to accept. The long days. The hidden years. The steady and rugged uphill battles and struggles. There is no choice but to fulfill what is required, to face the real world head on, to pick the vomit out of the car seat cracks. The vocation of motherhood gives us an up-close-and-personal relationship with life and death in ways we never signed up for. Upon entrance into the life-giving work of bringing up children, there are times it can surprisingly feel an awful lot more like dying than living. We’re receiving a painful, but liberating lesson in the God-ordained story of the world. The truth is we are not the main characters. We are not Cinderella, we’re more like the pumpkin.  A pumpkin doesn’t glow unless somebody guts it.

Oct 10, 2017

Making Peace with the Vocations We Don't Have (From our Archives)

Note: This piece first ran in 2016.

By Anna Ilona Mussmann

Barbara Cooney’s classic picture book, Miss Rumphius, tells the story of a lady who fulfills all three of her childhood goals.
“In the evening Alice sat on her grandfather’s knee and listened to his stories of faraway places. When he had finished, Alice would say, ‘When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea.’ 
“‘That is all very well, little Alice,’ said her grandfather, ‘but there is a third thing you must do.’  
“‘What is that?’ asked Alice.  
“‘You must do something to make the world more beautiful,’ said her grandfather. 'All right.’ said Alice. But she did not know what that could be.’”

Oct 3, 2017

Motherhood Isn’t What the “Back-to-School” Ads Would Have You Think

By Laura Vandercook

Around the time that school starts each year, I see various ads built around the theme of how excited moms are about their children going back to school. These ads portray children as robbing moms of their sanity, being argumentative with their siblings, complaining of being bored, not allowing mom to have time to herself, and so on. In contrast, they show mom reading a book, watching television, having a clean house, drinking alcohol, sleeping, talking with other moms, and enjoying life without her children when the kids are finally in school.These ads portray motherhood and children in such a negative light. They make me shake my head and wonder about how society views children and motherhood. At times, everyone becomes annoyed with those around them, especially when a lot of time is spent together, but children are amazing and bring lots of joy and an interesting perspective to life. With all of this negativity towards children and motherhood, I started making a mental list of benefits of motherhood. Here are four ways my children have made my life better.

Oct 1, 2017

Audio Article: Four Ways Women Can Support the Vocation of Fatherhood (Podcast Episode)

Too busy to sit down at the computer? Here is another of our occasional audio articles. 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). 

(Alternatively, too busy for podcasts? You can read the original text here).


Living Our Vocations, Season One, Audio Article 2: "Four Ways Women Can Support the Vocation of Fatherhood."
In this episode, we provide an audio version of Anna's article on ways women can support dads (even--and especially--when they don't parent exactly like us) . 

Four Ways Women Can Support the Vocation of Fatherhood

Dads being Dads from The Lutheran Witness

Sep 29, 2017

Are Moms the Law and Dads the Gospel? (A Review of Being Dad: Father as a Picture of God's Grace by Scott Keith)

By Anna Mussmann

I picked up Being Dad: Father as a Picture of God's Grace by Scott Keith because I saw it recommended so highly on Facebook by a fellow Lutheran. Before sharing my own take, I must admit something: I am female. I may not be the best judge of a book about fatherhood and masculinity. However, I’ve watched good models in action--I’ve been blessed with an excellent father and husband of my own--so, for what it is worth, here is my response to Dr. Keith’s vision of what dads are supposed to be and do.

Dr. Keith argues that men are created differently from women and that dads have been given a unique vocation distinct from the role of moms. He also points out that our culture, full of children sired by absent or passive men, has a “fatherhood problem.” Thus far, I am with him 100%.

Keith feels that most Christian books on parenthood are built upon the Law and the “same old tired approach of telling you that you need to ‘train your children right.’” His volume is not an attempt to apply the Third Use of the Law to family life. Instead, the author says, ““I believe that the Law is natural to us and we need very few tips regarding its implementation in the home.” He wishes to write a book for Christians who live a life of pure Gospel.

This desire to view fatherhood from a strictly-Gospel perspective shapes the author’s vision. In the first half of the volume, he focuses heavily on the Parable of the Prodigal Son as a model for masculinity and fatherhood. In the second half, he structures his writing around the idea that because a father provides an apologetic model to children of who God is, a father must be a picture of God’s incredible grace and mercy. Here is where I--while agreeing with the principles at stake--began to question some of the author’s views on how this applies to family life.

Sep 26, 2017

Our Babies Say "Yes" (From Our Archives)

Note: This piece first ran in 2016.

By Anna Ilona Mussmann

It’s one thing to look at pictures of the Grand Canyon, and another to stand on the edge of the real thing. It’s one thing to hold someone else’s baby, and another to look into the face of your own.

Having a baby is so big--so weird, so crazy, so overwhelming--that it takes a few years to get used to it. Perhaps it would be different if we lived in a place where every girl walks around with a younger sibling or a baby cousin on her hip, but even an upbringing as the eldest of five didn’t really take the edge off my own new baby experience.

On the day we brought our newborn son home, though, I would not have said that I felt overwhelmed. I was just exhausted from a long labor. I was busy taking photos. Perhaps there would have been more room for me to think about the bigness of what had just happened if everyone who saw my pregnant belly over the last few months hadn’t already said things like, “Your life will never be the same again!” Or perhaps, like an accident victim who doesn’t feel pain immediately after losing an arm, I was in shock.

Sep 22, 2017

Teaching the Faith at Home (even when devotions aren't going well) (FROM OUR ARCHIVES)

Note: This piece first ran in 2016.

By Alison Andreasen

After hearing about families who have enacted devotion time in their homes effectively, our family has attempted to do the same many times. We’ve had our plan in place and were excited about the new strategy we would employ to lead our children in the daily habit of being in the Word.

Enter real life. The time we thought would work was the toddler’s bedtime. FAIL! My husband has a job that requires him to be away from home at least two nights a week and the allotted time was in the evening. FAIL! We tried lunch time, which happens to be WAY too close to the toddler’s naptime and husband’s job often means he is away from home at lunch breaks unexpectedly . . . . FAIL again! Stomach flu wreaking havoc, unexpectedly moving houses, mom being exhausted and pregnant and doing well just to keep everyone alive. FAIL, FAIL, FAIL!  

If you are like me, you have felt the sting of failure from our struggles with the world, our sinful flesh, and Satan. If you feel that you have neglected this duty and are sorry for not implementing this in your family, my advice to you is to confess your sins to God, our Father, knowing that He is faithful and just and will forgive you your sins!  If you struggle against the world’s requests of your time and are weary from work (whether inside the home or out), tell the Lord your struggles and ask for the God of peace to grant you rest, trusting that He has and will provide that rest. We all ask that the One who conquered Satan would curb his action in our lives so he would not be granted an opportunity to tempt or prevent our being in the Word.

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.
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