31 March 2008
(Disclaimer: This is not in reference to any church in particular. It happens everywhere.)
Pastors are in a bad spot when it comes to 1 Peter 3:3-6. They can't tell the girls in their confirmation classes to put more clothes on, because what kind of perv would notice that the little dears are dressed like streetwalkers? And I also can't exactly go up to someone and request that their daughter throw on a sweater over her skintight, lowcut, spaghetti strap suspended top on account of my husband has to look down it every time she skips up to our Lord's altar in the classy getup. I attended a Lenten supper a while back put on by a certain group of youngsters, and I wasn't sure if I was at the parish hall or Hooters. This is not a stable environment for the perpetually parturitional or postpartum Frau Pastor who worries constantly (and needlessly, I know) about her husband not having a properly proportioned wife waiting for him at home.
So anyway. I found this cute little book and hoped that it might be of some use as, perhaps, supplemental reading for 6th commandment studies or a confirmation gift to a female catechumen. But the scandal of Lutheran particularity reared its predictable head, because of course it's full of smarmy evangelical theology and piety. Eg, Lift up your arms like you're totally rocking out in worship!!!!!! If your stomach shows, quit dressing like a ho!!!!!!!!!!! Awesome!!!!!!!! (My memory may be colored slightly by annoyance with the disorienting graphics and pullquotes, and hip punctuation.) One anecdote told the thrilling tale of a girl accepting Jesus while on the phone with someone who discerned via what she had said about chaste dressing that she wasn't a Christian. Bottom line: I bought and read this so you wouldn't have to.
But what to do? The papists have resources along these lines, but their stuff is also always reliably packed with doctrinal propaganda. I have zero confidence in Our Beloved Synod's youth resource providers to come up with something useful in this regard based solely on the promo pics that turn up in our mailbox for the youth gatherings ("Yeah huh Lutherans are too young and hot, and it would be totally Law-oriented not to show it off, which is the only thing we know about being Lutheran!"). And Higher Things, while having much to recommend it, also patrols close to the antinomian border of the Lutheran neutral zone that is personal piety. I can't help getting the impression sometimes that the only sin they're really that worried about is contemporary worship--have these people forgotten how teenagers think?
It would be silly of me to imagine that there's a CPH contract for someone in this somewhere . . . but I sure wish there were. In the meantime I'll take smug comfort in the knowledge that only my Pietism is showing.
29 March 2008
28 March 2008
A while back one of the National Review writers kept linking to this kind of story in the Corner. I emailed her every time she did it begging her to quit, and after a while she did (although she never responded to my emails). Seriously, what is the point? Don't we all know that people are no darn good? I used to just avoid the problematic site for a while when one of these headlines would go up and hope it would have cycled out by the time I went back, but they're getting increasingly harder to avoid. I'll say this for NPR, for all their irritating bias (and their charming blindness thereunto, which really is cute), I've never heard them report on one of these purely sensationalist horror stories.
27 March 2008
I'm intrigued by the gDiapers link at the end, but my cursory investigation, which is all I have the time and energy for right now, seems to indicate that this is yet another one of those products which allows only rich people to do the responsible thing?
26 March 2008
a [third] son is given!
I beat the widget and went into labor all by my very own self for the first time.
And Dad is thrilled because Babyboy held off until Easter Monday (His reasonable requests regarding the delivery of this baby: that he not have to miss church, sleep, or a meal. What a good wife I am to meet all three!)
I didn't beat Rebekah's world record of 71 minutes, but a 12:10 pm delivery for a 10:00 am check-in to the hospital isn't too shabby, if I do say so myself.
So far his brothers even seem reasonably fond of his 8 lb. 1 oz, 21" self.
And hey, someone change the counter; he's pagan no longer :)
But now there's the question of how to spend this borrowed cash. My knee-jerk desire is to put it in the bank, but I don't get the feeling that Mother Gov. wants this. Saving isn't stimulating. So, as a patriot, I should spend the ever-loving heck out of it. Here's the problem: everything I want is made in China or India or Iguanistan . . . and while I'm no economist (or even the ghost of an economist), spending Chinese money on Chinese goods to inspire American economic growth sounds fishy. Sushi. Tsunami. Splash.
So I figure that it's my American duty to bypass the Chinese stuff and do one of two things: 1. Give those dollars away. 2. Spend them local (as in, really local; like, direct-from-the-fatta-the-land local).
The first option hurts a bit. I like money as much as the next patriot. But I figure if I skip the retail sector and give my Economic Stimulus check to, say, the church, then those dollars are doing their jobs paying out people who do their jobs. That's stimulus, right? Help me out here.
The second option hurts as much as the first. I want an outdoor grill more than I want locally raised steaks to pan fry in the house. But the local farmer holds a dear place in my ignorant little heart, and I'd like nothing better than to fill his coffer a bit more full. That's stimulus, too? Yeah?
Ack! The pressure! It's starting to get to me! I'm seeing spots! Out! Out!
Please advise here, people. My principles are giving all of us headaches.
25 March 2008
Not that I didn't receive the gifts--but I didn't get to savor them, and that makes me sad.
19 March 2008
Kinda hard to maintain these silly illusions throughout the various indignities and limitations of pregnancy, to say nothing of my increasing emotional and economic dependence upon my husband as my marketability decreases in inverse proportion to the number of children and the years I spend almost exclusively with them. (Not like I was ever seriously marketable in the first place, but still.)
Here’s the amazing thing: when I get to griping about anything from the fact that I’ll never have “a job where I can use my brain” to the fact that it’s pretty darn hard to tie my own shoes nowadays, my husband, who has been my hero for quite some time now, simply says, “This gives me a chance to do my job.” He hands his entire paycheck to me and trusts me completely with it. He peels the boys off me when he comes home and takes them out of my sight for awhile so I can recover some sanity (or blog about my lack of sanity). He talks with me like I'm a person who still has a brain. He even ties my shoes for me.
Wow. All along, he’s been waiting for me to get over myself so that he can get on with his calling to lay down his life for me. You know, that whole “this is my body, given for you” thing modeled by the Heavenly Bridegroom? Yeah. That’s the one. That’s incredibly powerful stuff. The importance of marriage in God’s eyes, and the horror of its brokenness in this world, is becoming clearer to me all the time.
And of course, marriage, pregnancy, and motherhood give me the chance to fulfill my end of the deal, too, when I can stop the navel-gazing long enough to remember what it’s all about. Truly, the very literal giving of a woman’s body for the life of others is sacrificial, even sacramental.
Love incarnate. Christ for church; husband for wife; wife for husband; parents for children. Christians for the world.
18 March 2008
Now. The sine qua non of CSPP is that there is a husband out there bringing home the bacon. And here is where it gets tricky, because people who are young and in love want to get married. Sometimes they're still in college. Sometimes they're looking at another year or two or four of seminary. Students don't make any money. You do the math (don't forget to factor in tuition and insurance).
It used to be that a father would ask a prospective son-in-law how the latter planned to support the former's daughter. Does anyone do this any more? It seems strange to me that a lot of young women are effectively being asked to put their husbands through school--especially the seminary--and no one in the church, even us crazy folks, says boo about it.
As usual, I'm chief of sinners in this department. I got married a week after graduating from college to a guy just starting at the seminary. To make matters worse, I spent his time there vainly pursuing a pointless degree of my own. Obviously there wasn't room for a baby in our lives. Looking back, I'm inclined to ask myself, what business did we have getting married?
Why do I bother thinking about this? Because someday one or more of our little babies are going to be young and in love. What do we tell them? You can't get married until you're done with school, even if you've got six years to go? To engaged people, six months or six weeks is a purgatorial delay. But again, there was a time when a man wouldn't carry anyone across his threshold unless he owned that threshold fair and square and had the wherewithal to hold onto it. Jacob waited seven years and a week. Why do we think it shouldn't be like that for us? This troubles me.
16 March 2008
Gilbert Meilaender’s Bioethics: A Primer for Christians (Second Edition)
I’m always looking for a good read in the field of bioethics. This was pretty good, although it felt a bit thin overall (hence the “primer” part of the subtitle, I suppose).
Reflections on just a few of the topics addressed:
Organ Donation: This chapter provided me with the most new food for thought, probably because I’ve read and reflected on it the least. Now I just have to figure out how to work these neat phrases like “noble cannibalism,” “useful precadaver,” and “non-heart-beating cadaver,” into everyday conversation. (No, he’s not necessarily against organ donation—just brings into the conversation some nuances that I hadn’t previously considered, including discussion of living donors.)
Embryos: Apparently in the first edition, Meilaender “gave considerable weight” to the possibility that “a new individual human being comes into existence only after ‘twinning’ has or has not occurred.” I’m pleased to see that he has now concluded that “the argument that individuality is not established until approximately fourteen days of development is not going to stand the test of the embryological evidence and is likely to seem increasingly arbitrary” (ix). Individual, unique human life from the moment of conception seems to be the most consistent, Biblical, and logically tenable position.
Abortion: I wasn’t expecting to find anything new or disconcerting here; I was rather surprised to find that he counts pregnancies resulting from rape or incest among the “genuinely exceptional circumstances” in which the “privacy argument” for abortion may narrowly and legitimately apply. He argues that a woman may legitimately choose to abort if either she or the child must die, then applies the same argument to cases of rape or incest: “In the ordinary sense, of course, a woman’s continued life is not threatened by such a pregnancy; yet, the case bears important analogies to that where lives conflict. For in this instance, even though the fetus is, of course, formally innocent, its continued existence within the woman may constitute for her an embodiment of the original attack upon her person….she may find the courage and strength to love and let live even the one whose presence embodies the attack of her enemy. But, again, we cannot claim that such a decision would be the only way to follow Christ” (14).
I don’t know. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to carry to term a child who was conceived in violence, no matter with intent to parent or to place the child for adoption. I don’t doubt that the mother would be ambivalent at best toward the child she carried, and that the pregnancy would indeed constitute a sort of re-living of the original violence.
But this is one of the places where I found the book to be particularly thin. There are a few more sentences in this section, but what I’ve quoted here is the gist of it. Even if we only consider things from the woman’s point of view--What about the woundedness that most women experience for the rest of their lives after an abortion? Will choosing to perpetrate another form of violence upon her person somehow negate the first act? Won’t it only compound the pain and the regrets? Meilaender simply doesn’t ask, much less answer, these questions. This seemed like an almost offhand treatment of a tremendously difficult situation.
All in all, I think the book is best where is serves as a review of what's at stake and a starting point for thinking about some of the stuff that we tend to neglect till we or someone we love is in a crisis (organ donation, end-of-life stuff, etc.) Probably a good resource for pastors to have on hand, yada yada.
Stay tuned for book review, Part II: Meilaender Meanders; or, Watching a Bioethicist Wiggle around the Topic of Contraception.
14 March 2008
Discussing his reservations about living wills (he favors the health care power of attorney, and rightly so, I think), Meilaender writes that part of the problem is that living wills "free us from the need to deal with the ambivalence we feel in caring for a loved one who has now become a burdensome stranger. I realize, of course, that freeing loved ones from such burdens is supposed to be one of the benefits of a living will, but Christians ought to be wary of such language. For to burden one another is, in large measure, what it means to belong to a family--and to the new family into which we are brought in baptism. Families would not have the significance they do for us if they did not, in fact, give us a claim upon each other. At least in this sphere of life we do not come together as autonomous individuals freely contracting with each other. We simply find ourselves thrown together and asked to share the burdens of life while learning to care for one another. Often, of course, we will resent such claims on our times and energy. Indeed, learning not to resent them is likely the work of a lifetime. If we decline to learn the lesson, however, we cease to live in the kind of community that deserves to be called a family, and we are ill prepared to live in the community for which God has called us--a community in which no one stands on the basis of his rights, and all live by that shared love Christians have called charity."
This paragraph reminds me strongly of another quote about what family is that I've come across--maybe C.S. Lewis? or J. Budziszewski? The footnote says that this paragraph was a partial rewrite of something he'd published earlier in First Things, so maybe it's just deja vu, if I already came across it elsewhere. (Someone help my addled pregnancy brain here!)
13 March 2008
Now, someone answers the phone at the pastor's house, and sometimes that person gets an earful whether or not it's the pastor. It also happens that the pastor's family, wife included, is usually among the better catechized families in the congregation and therefore a useful source of Sunday School teachers and lesser included offenses. But this mentality really stumps me. A proponent of the entity purveying said mentality was shocked and offended by my scornful wondering what wives had to do with it (I conceded that I didn't get what any of it had to do with whatever "it" might be). Have these people noticed that there's a fairly major Christian tradition that has been actively disproving this notion of the indispensable pastor's wife for centuries with its celibate priesthood?
All's I know is, a lot of icky stuff goes down in a parish and I don't understand how my getting tangled up in it would help anyone. I see how these things burden my husband, and I'm pretty sure I serve him better by making sure he has some treats to cheer him up and by keeping my own spirits up, which is a lot easier if I'm not also depressed about the dirt on everyone. I think it is a great offense against parishioners to let anyone other than the qualified person from whom they sought help in on their sad secrets. Furthermore, I honestly doubt I'd be any more or less involved at church if my husband weren't the pastor. I like church and would probably be more involved than most people--but it just doesn't have anything to do with him. And when it comes to theological questions--I even have some formal education in this department, but I know very well that sticky matters should be passed on to the local professional. I can't tell when these questions aren't just academic, thus again rendering them none of my business even if I think I do know the right textbook answer (not to mention the fact that he's just a lot smarter than I am).
Well, anyway . . . I don't think "First Lady" is a foreign policy credential.
12 March 2008
Just before the battle, Mother,
We are thinking most of you
While in cyberspace we're watching
With your baby coming due
Comrades brave are round you blogging
Filled with thoughts of home and God
For well we know that on the morrow
You may have a pea ex-pod.
10 March 2008
I was giving some things some thought and got a bit stumped. Help me out, will you?
Here’s how things look from here:
It started with our mothers, so to speak, as those who actually started this train were not likely literal mothers, at least not mothers of many, who won us women a vast emancipation from kitchens the country over. Goodbye, dishpan hands! Hello, Kraft Macaroni-N-Cheese!
It gained steam with my literal mother, who worked outside the home, because what other choice did she have? My Dad couldn’t make enough to tie two ends together. (Thank you Ronald Reagan.) But my literal mother was not as emancipated from the kitchen as those figurative mothers expected and thus she had dishpan hands AND we kids ate a lot of Velveeta. A LOT of Velveeta.
It continues with me, a mother, married to a pastor, and thus very, very fortunate to be barefoot and pregnant in a parsonage kitchen. I’m home and I have time to labor with real cheese. I don’t think my kids have ever tasted Velveeta or Chez Whiz or that powdered yellow glue you can sprinkle with water, mix with “noodles” and call food.
But, here’s “it:”
I do not have a healthy relationship with food. I cannot have either a scale or a full length mirror in my house. My husband has forbidden any and all “appearance talk” within our walls with the hope that our kids will not grow up crazy. I cook everything from scratch because I have to—HAVE TO. I ate a lot of fake-but-fast food growing up and I hate food, so I figure the more time and effort I put into the food my kids eat the better chance they have at escaping social disease surrounding food. Doesn’t that make sense?
I do not know a single person who enjoys food in moderation or with healthy abandon. The definitions of “eating disorder” are expanding every day as every day people are getting more creative at abusing their food. And it’s food, simple nutrition, a basic pleasure of life. When did something so basic become (scary music) THE ENEMY? And why?
I’d really like to blame Velveeta, but I think it may be more than that. I spend a lot of time with our food and use the best ingredients we can afford. My eldest child is six. She is showing signs toward crazy. She's always been picky, but this feels different. I see that now she’s thinking as she pushes that balanced meal around on her plate.
What is going on? I would really appreciate it if someone would join me in blaming Velveeta. I'm already aware that I'm a colossal screw-up.
I can never do anything consistently. I'm in choir every other six months. I'm in this and that and the other group, but my attendance record isn't earning me any gold stars. I show up where and when I can, but since my entourage is usually with me I always end up leaving early without having really participated. I want to do all the things a good pastor's wife should (I know, there is no "should"--but in a small parish, there sort of is), but the only way for it to happen is for Dad to take time off from doing the things a good pastor should.
I really hate this for the babies. It's troubling enough to me to have such an unpredictable schedule. Then, just when they get used to oatmeal for breakfast and reading marathon at 10 and naps at 1 and games in the evening, everything gets all screwed up again. Even if we do crack the books at 10, I've been known to fall asleep mid-sentence (something I would never dreamed possible a few short years ago) depending on what kind of nights the baby of the house is inflicting on me.
I know there's no getting around it, but I still find myself waiting for things to get back to normal. Uninterrupted nights of sleep, clothes with no peculiar openings or elastic, a quick run to the store, eating or drinking whatever strikes my fancy, playing tennis with Dad--it's been so long since any of this has happened, but I just can't stop thinking of them as normal, and some finite distance from when we are now.
08 March 2008
Case Study: A mother, who happens to be 8.5 months pregnant, bundles her preschooler and toddler outside to play. It's cold but sunny, and a good time is being had by all on everyone's favorite snowpile at the far side of the yard (which, being continguous with church grounds, is quite sizable). But the windchill is turning nasty and Mom's back is killing her. It's time to go in--at least in Mom's opinion. She knows the boys are not of that opinion.
Now, she has two options:
1)Simply inform the kids that it's time to go in, at which point a happy situation will quickly degenerate into a worst-case scenario: whining, protests, coaxing, threats, screaming, culminating in the attempt to haul a 75+ lb. boy-octopus across the snowy yard.
2) Offer a bribe that will result in cheerful compliance.
Can you guess what I did? I brightly announced, "All right, boys, pick up your shovels and buckets. It's time to go inside and have some...[drumroll]...chocolate milk!" Immediate, cheerful cooperation did indeed result.
Before anyone gets too excited about me abdicating proper parental authority in favor of shameless, thoughtless bribery, allow me to point out the crucial nuances here. Then you can render your verdict:
1)It's still Mom, not the kids, deciding when the activity will end. The decision is handed down as a statement, not a question. The statement is not weakened by the tacking on of an "okay?" at the end. Actual, as well as seeming, parental authority is thereby upheld.
2)The picking up of one's toys is assumed, not optional. No negotiation there.
3)The terms of the bribe are thought out beforehand--again, no negotiation. Such an offer is never made in response to whining or a tantrum. (For instance, a tantrum in a checkout aisle will never result in candy being purchased there--though we've had very few incidents of that sort, once ground rules were established and understood.)
4)Had protests ensued after all, I would imemediately have clarified that chocolate milk is a privilege, not a right, and I would have somehow hauled them back inside sans treat.
5)Also note the benefits of regularly and un-American-ly depriving your children of food items that other kids misguidedly consider to be an on-demand right (other examples include gum, cereal with marshmallows, fruit snacks, American cheese slices, and other processed snack foods). Hence, food becomes a useful tool.
We are teaching (well, attempting to teach) our children to obey, not for expectation of reward, but because it's the right thing to do. That will mean occasional quite public humiliation. Case in point: Mr. Almost-Four and I had a heart-to-heart in the women's restroom during Wednesday evening's church service. I had to usher him out with a firm grip on his arm, with him saying, "but i don't WANT you to spank me!" all the way. I could have appeased him into quietude in the pew (thereby depriving the parishioners of their week's amusing topic of conversation) but that would not have been an artistic, scientific application of bribery and hence was eschewed. (For the record, I was not intending to and in fact did not spank him.)
07 March 2008
But wait! My husband isn't a jerk, yet he somehow musters the strength to put me through the baby wringer on a regular basis! What gives? I decided to ask some hard questions.
He laughed. "They're just afraid she'll get fat if she keeps having kids." Really? That's it? "Yes."
I don't know, it seems to me there could be other motivations. But he was pretty insistent on the point.
06 March 2008
Sandra Boynton's "Dog Train" book and cd.
Boy1 will actually SIT and listen to the cd, turning the pages at more or less the proper places. Not what we'd want to listen to every day, and it leads to some questions that are hard to answer, such as "Why are they looking for Cow Planet?" but in these long winter days, we can't be too picky. And that's the beauty of children's library books: Just when you think your head will explode if you have to read "Muck's Muddy Day" one more time--oh look, it's due back. (Never mind that whole renewal thing; they haven't figured it out yet.)
Anyway, I've found a favorite in this Boynton book. It could be today's theme song, actually, for those of us who went to bed too late after church last night and got up too early this morning.
"I Need A Nap"
Well, the sun is still high in the afternoon sky,
but the morning seems so long ago.
I was happy before and I'm not anymore,
though why there's a change I don't know.
I'm so tired of this day and I don't want to play
and I don't want a story to read.
But I look in your eyes and at once realize
that I know what it is...yes, I know what it is...
now I know what it is that I need--
I NEED A NAP!
I just can't take anymore.
I NEED A NAP!
Can't stay awake anymore.
No more running around--
I just need to lie down
04 March 2008
The gist of this column: we Americans are into "shopping" for religion, "U-Hauling our beliefs off [from one church to the next] in search of a better fit." Not surprisingly, Goodman presents this trend in a postive light.
She quotes a Donald Miller (religion prof. at U. of Southern California): "You are the artist of your own life when it comes to religion."
Now, my brain hasn't been working too well lately, but it seems to me this is an echo of something I read somewhere once...wait...it's coming back...some drama set in a Garden, maybe?
Wow. Once again, the relative poverty of the human imagination is demonstrated. We can't even come up with new sins and heresies; we just keep recycling the old ones, reshaping them a bit. (Kind of like that Play-doh.) I guess that's why pastors, after a few years of confidential counseling, start to feel like they've heard and seen it all. Sure, there are variations on the theme. But go ahead: try to invent a new sin, so awful that it's never been done before. Or try to indulge in some heresy that hasn't already been tried. (Um, on second thought, please expend your time and energies in a different way. But you know what I mean.)
That's why it's such a shame that so many people who are really hurting let fear and shame stop them from taking advantage of private confession and absolution. The women in the home Bible study that I (more or less) lead are just discovering the immense relief that follows the "you too?!" or "I'm not the only one who struggles with that?!" moments that sometimes occur, and the grace that follows. For many, it's only then that they will finally allow themselves to begin to hope and to heal. Knowing that others sin in some of the same ways that I do doesn't decrease my horror of my own sin, but opens opportunities to bear one another's burdens, uphold each other through tempation, and encourage each other with the truth of Scripture.
Sorry, Prof. Miller. I've often yearned to be more artistically inclined, but when it comes to my life, I'm sure glad Someone else is holding the paintbrush. I can't resist grabbing it sometimes, but all that makes is a big, ugly mess.
03 March 2008
(Completely reasonable explanations offered by blond, blue-eyed Nebraska farm girls will be accepted only with deepest begrudgitude.)
02 March 2008
Husband (not having found record player, but not convinced there isn't one to be had in this massive den of chaos): Do you happen to know if there's an old record player in here somewhere?
Flea Market Lady: Yes, but it's broken.
Husband: Does the turntable work? We don't need it to play records as long as it turns.
Flea Market Lady: You don't need it to play?
Husband: No, we just need it to turn. We're going to use it to build a zimbelstern.
Flea Market Lady (deadpan): Oh, a zimbelstern. Everybody needs one of those.
Next we stopped by our local Buddhist Supply and picked up the luckiest little bells in the world, rescued from their intended pagan purpose to be consecrated for holy use. Then we turned the project over to my mother-in-law, an absurdly skilled crafter of just about anything (I should have skipped college and apprenticed myself to her for four years). She fixed us right up and even managed to package the thing so that it didn't break in the mail. Easter will be the maiden voyage. I am still laughing over the idea of our little church with its little organ having a zimbelstern--ha! We're indebted to the Elephant's Child and the Mad Musician for advising us on zimbelstern etiquette for the Lutheran Mass, a definitive source for which I was unable to locate online. Now, when I come into my money, we're going to get some decent stained glass windows around here . . . .
01 March 2008