27 October 2010

And what about the vegans?

Americans go to heaven.

for life's not a paragraph And death i think is no parenthesis

Came across the following quotation in today's Memorial Moment (a daily devotional written by Rev. Dr. Scott Murray of Memorial Lutheran Church, Houston, Tex.), and thought it worth sharing here:

"But we should not be amazed, for the greater part of mankind is ignorant of the true love of wisdom ... It is as if a person did not know how to recognize the beauty of human bodies but attributed beauty to the clothes and the ornaments worn. Thus when he saw a handsome woman possessed of natural beauty, he would quickly pass by her, but when he beheld one who was ugly, ill shaped, and deformed, but clothed in beautiful garments, he would take her for his wife. So also in a similar way, the multitude is affected about virtue and vice. They are attracted to the one that is deformed by nature because of her external decorations, but turn away from the one that is fair and lovely, because her beauty is unadorned, for which reason they ought to choose especially her." --John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 29.8.

I don't know about y'all, but my vanity takes a major hit every time I get pregnant again. I think that when I was younger I might have glowed a little bit; these days, I look like a swollen, gimpy lizard.

But, hey, it's OK. Unadorned beauty is that by which a woman ought especially to be chosen. And, unlike Maybelline (and, please, what can even Maybelline do for me?), it's free.

So, limp on, limp on in majesty! In lowly pomp, limp on to birth! And have a nice day.

25 October 2010

Dorcas, Lydia, and Phoebe

All praise for faithful women,
Whose toilet bowls did squeak,
Who mastered the persimmon,
Who taught the babies Greek,
Who knew crochet from knitting,
Who wigged not out when stressed;
Let us raise props befitting,
Then get that cassock pressed.

You're next.

23 October 2010

Likewise, the building of a family

In case anyone didn’t see Bonhoeffer in today’s Treasury reading (on the building of the church):

“It is a great comfort which Christ give to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province. Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions. Don’t ask for judgments. Don’t always be calculating what will happen. Don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge!....Christ alone is your Lord; from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds.”

(No time for further comment right now, except to note that it seems like I’m always chewing on (ruminating, as it were) that don’t always be calculating what will happen morsel—can’t quite seem to just swallow it and be done with it).

22 October 2010

Or else

It’s such a relief not to know everything anymore.

Before I had my first baby, I knew pretty much everything there was to know about babies. (Considering that I’d always preferred dogsitting to babysitting, this was a particularly impressive credential.)

For instance, I knew that introducing a pacifier too early would interfere with breastfeeding, and that in fact my baby might be better off without one at all. (Which is why there was nary a nuk in the house at midnight when everyone besides the screaming two-week-old was interested in sleeping, so a family member had to be dispatched to obtain one at that rather inconvenient hour. Fast forward to babe-in-arms number four: we shoved the binky in her mouth while still in the hospital.)

I also knew that babies must be roused every few hours at night for the first few weeks, in order not to miss a feeding. (What?! You think anything could induce me now to waken a peacefully sleeping babe? And you mean that some newborns actually sleep for more than a couple hours at a time?!)

Wake that baby up! He's obviously starving!

No, I sure don’t know everything anymore. And I feel badly for all the parents-to-be and new parents who [think they] do. Navigating all that information for the first time is beyond overwhelming. It’s attachment parenting OR ELSE you’re callous and your child will be maladjusted. It’s strict scheduling OR ELSE your baby will never learn proper sleep patterns. It’s every vaccine, following the schedule exactly, OR ELSE your baby will get a deadly and/or disfiguring disease. It’s no vaccines/delayed vaccines, OR ELSE your kid will end up on the autism spectrum. Some people believe everything their doctor says and some believe next to nothing of what is purveyed by the traditional medical establishment.

Do I have opinions (and often supporting research) on these and other topics? You betcha. But they’re not held quite as tightly as they perhaps once were. Don’t get me wrong: I’m an objective-truth kind of person. And I know what I know—but I also know that most of what I know pertains to the particular baby whose head I’m looking over as I type this and/or to her brothers. We’ve all got to figure things out as best we can for our families, and so long as prayer and common sense figure high on the parenting priority list, the rest will get sorted out eventually. In the meantime, simply acknowledging that omniscience belongs only to One can lift a huge burden from a mom’s shoulders—and maybe make her a more pleasant companion amongst her circle of acquaintance, too. ;D

19 October 2010

Movie-ish thingie, recommended

Girls, the next time Dad is out tending his flocks by night, consider eating your stash of Lonely Time chocolates while viewing Babies, a newish short film which documents the babyhoods of four children from different parts of the world. I watched this thing days ago and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Relatively free of socio-political commentary and completely sans stuffy British narrative, Babies presents a stark (albeit obviously edited) look into the parenting practices of people with whom I (and, presumably, many of our gentle readers) have little in common. And yet, while the subject matter is familiar, scant attention is given the annoying Pitocin drip of PSYCHOLOGY! we Americans have grown so used to enduring. Viewers aren’t subjected to lengthy interviews about the supposed benefits of tandem breastfeeding or boring discussions about a child’s cerebral responses to overstimulation. Rather, Babies is all about the babies—who naively become the consequences of their parents’ actions—and each viewer is given the freedom to formulate her own opinions on what’s working, what isn’t, and what, ultimately, doesn’t even matter.

So, while this film is heavy on the details, I won’t go into any and spoil the whole thing for you. Check it out, if you’re feeling like it (it’s available for instant play on Netflix, for those of you who subscribe). If nothing else, you’ll get to watch someone else deal with the poop for once.

N.B. As this movie is unabashed about letting all the poop, pee, breastfeeding, and baby parts hang out, I don’t think the dad/kid cordon will really get into it. I liked it because it talked my shop, you know? Poop. It’s on my business card.

18 October 2010

Savior, when in dust to Thee

Women and mothers: we are our own worst critics. Living with ourselves all day and all night, often deprived of the company of rational adults who might function as buffers, or at least moderators of our excesses, we have ample opportunity to display and to deplore our vices—and to see our failings reflected in the child-mirrors that are before us all the day.

The seriousness of this sin cannot be dismissed. These are no mere mistakes, nor simple moments of weakness, nor unfortunate confluences of events beyond our control. My sin is my fault, my own fault, my own most grievous fault. Most grievous!

Darkly alone amid the children’s clamoring, a woman can begin to feel lost in the cyclical grievousness of her own faults. Resolutions once made are broken a moment later by an impatient word, an angry glance, a downward spiral of despair. Confession itself can begin to seem a dreaded burden when the very selfsame sins comprise the list time after time, not even bothering to disguise themselves or to affect a more creative flair, but parading brazenly through in the same old rags, week after week. A woman’s heart grows heavy, and her words weary of reprising the tiresome theme.

But! Confession is an important word, a crucial word, a daily word—but not the last word. No, the last word is not confession, nor is it “just try harder…or at least sin a bit more creatively so that it seems like you’re getting somewhere.” The last word is sweet, sweet absolution. No matter how spectacularly awful or tiresomely trivial the offense, grace has the last word—if only we can shut our mouths and still our hearts long enough to hear it.

“Your sins are forgiven. Christ has made you whole.” Depart the confessional (whether that of a father confessor, of corporate confession, or of two minutes’ sobbing in the bathroom), go in peace, and sin no more. God’s mercies are new every morning—every hour—every moment.

Dwell in the exhilarating deluge of Baptism. Feast on His forgiveness. Pass the grace, please, and hold out your hands to receive a lavish portion as it goes by.

15 October 2010

Esolen or else

The Internet belches forth no end of dreck, but I think most of us have a person or two whose contemporary writing incites a private happy dance. Aside from people I actually know, whose thoughts therefore interest me and whose family photos bring me joy, a guy who gets me happy dancing in my own dour and humorless way is Anthony Esolen. He's at Touchstone and the Mere Comments blog, he was a guest on Issues, Etc. recently, and he turns up other places too. Perhaps the most astonishing thing about him is that he's an English professor who doesn't run away crying if you say some numbers in front of him. Get your ears on some Esolen, the man is good. Here's an article my brother-in-law sent me on being a Woman of Leisure:
But what is this life for, after all? . . . . It is not the vale of body building, or of career crafting, or of job enhancement, but of soul making, and if we take the lessons of our faith seriously, that can only be by humility, opening ourselves up to the beauty and wonder of the world, and deigning to love those most beautiful and wondrous creatures, our fellow human beings. Certainly we can do that in our work -- I am not saying that any arena of human endeavor is shut off from grace. But let us beware. The tendrils of work for work's sake and of self for self's sake have long been maddeningly entwined.
Sweet, Esolen posted again.

14 October 2010

Mutiny on the Bounty

Terrible title. Gives away everything. I propose Breadfruit on the Bounty.

13 October 2010

Hard to swallow

"It was as if, every month of that former life, I had walked into an abortion clinic and said, 'I’m probably not pregnant, but if I did conceive, take care of it,'" Mrs. Kevin Golden writes in the current issue of the Missouri Lutherans For Life newsletter.

I am not a scientist. When I read something about how a particular drug works, I can't assess the scientific accuracy of that statement. But any lay person can consider the implications of scientific statement and make a personal decision about potential risks.

7.5 years ago I had my life overhauled by Randy Alcorn's booklet "Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?". Not everyone agrees with the case Alcorn makes. But there is evidence that the birth control pill can cause abortions. I speak not as a scientist but as a Christian when I say that the pill is not a risk married (or fornicating) Christians can be willing to take. This is not a statement about contraception, but about hormonal contraceptives (pills, rings, patches, IUDs, etc.). Don't want to get pregnant and don't buy the anti-contraception business? That's an argument for another day. This post's argument is that non-abstinent Christians cannot take the pill. A scientific ambiguity with implications for morality (and morality here means human mortality) requires Christians to err on the side of caution. There are other ways to engage in intercourse and avoid its results.

Thank you, Missouri Lutherans For Life, for publishing Mrs. Golden's candid article, and Joy, thank shrew. I mean you.

12 October 2010

"Be thankful for what you have, Lucille."

Good times at the second annual CSPP conference. Seven moms, 16 shockingly dirty kids (and three in absentia and three in utero who whose dirtiness cannot be spoken to), two generous babysitters (they wouldn't let me pay them so I'm mailing it to their mothers), and one very dear guest speaker whose willingness to share so much of herself with some crazy strangers was deeply appreciated. Her advice to her former self gives this post its title, so anyone whose name isn't Lucille can make the appropriate substitution and gain the benefit her years have led her to perceive in it. Who knows, maybe in a few more years there will be a third annual CSPP conference (or find a Lucille in your locale and host your own!).

06 October 2010

Usage you can use: RSVP

RSVP, as one may learn in Paddington Takes the Air, stands for the French expression "répondez, s'il vous plaît", meaning "please reply." This means that it is redundant to say "Please RSVP."

Incorrect: Cocktails at my house Friday at 8. Please RSVP.
(In fact cocktails are always served at my house on Friday at 3, and I already said please.)

Correct. CSPP conference on Monday the 11th. RSVP.
(In fact there is a conference and if you're coming we'd like to reserve you a spot, so let us know. While we're on the topic, let me mention again that this is mostly a glorified playdate for any mom and kids who otherwise plan to be bored that day. I will not be counting children and making personal judgments on the basis of my accounting on that day. Or any day, as I have attempted many times to explain.)

Five innocent words that strike terror into the heart of every boy mom

"Hey Mom, look at me!"

(Boy Motto)

The more exuberant the shout, the more inevitable the ER trip.

04 October 2010

In defense of Captain Underpants

JK! Of course you’re right: even if I were so inclined, I could find absolutely nothing to offer in defense of Captain Underpants and his ilk. I’m as tired as the next guy of the cheery and/or winking and/or resigned expression of “Well, at least they’re reading!”

I’m really sorry that it even had to be said, but since it did, I’m glad that someone took advantage of a public venue to say it: “One obvious problem with the SweetFarts philosophy of education is that it is more suited to producing a generation of barbarians and morons than to raising the sort of men who make good husbands, fathers, and professionals. If you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn’t go very far.”

Thank you, Mr. Spence, and for your good work I may even forgive you another of your comments: “Who knows—a boy deprived of electronic stimulation might even become desperate enough to read Jane Austen.” :D

(HT: My kids’ grandparents, who know quite well that the last thing boys need is official sanctioning of bathroom humor.)

03 October 2010

That counts. No, really.

I recently received a copy of Lutheranism 101 on account of having a kicked out a few pages thereof. My own few pages aren't of much interest outside of the fact that I can now say very literally that I wrote, well, not quite the book, but a good part of the chapter on repentance. Plenty of expertise there. :P

Anyway, that's not what I sat myself down here to jabber about. What caught my eye when I flipped through was, predictably, chapter 14, "What About Women?" As I've mentioned here, I am of the persuasion that Our Beloved Synod has not handled the woman problem (and we are always a problem, aren't we? :D ) too well. By reason of fear (and more recently, I think, a resulting theological sciolism) and means of attrition the LCMS has really sold out to the world in this department.

So what does Lutheranism 101 say about women? That's right, the same old lame stuff. "The highest honor ever given to any human being was a given to a woman" and "The influence that Christian mothers and teachers have upon the spiritual development of children and youth is enormous." Bo-ring.

But that's just it, isn't it? What the Synodical Powers mean by approving this is for publication with the coveted CPH logo is: that counts. It counts that the Savior of the world was born of woman. It counts that women bear and raise children. All that pain, all that fear, all that loneliness, all that scorn, all that frustration, all that doubt, all that invisibleness, all that bo-ring: it counts. It is good. It is enough. It is respectable and admirable. It is blessed. It is faithful. It is the life and work to which women have been specially appointed. It is a gift twice over: to give and nurture life, and thereby to assiduously cultivate that profoundest and most painful virtue, humility. It is pleasing to God and as such should be pleasing to man.

Then after that is some blather about chicks who wrote hymns. So someone over there on Jefferson Ave. still hasn't gotten the "And what else are you doing?" question out of his or her system yet (Reb. Mary posted on this once but now I can't find it--bother). OK, whatev. The point is, if the "Mary" and "motherhood" answers sound like they don't count, like they aren't good enough, like they don't deserve the respect granted to other pursuits, it is because they are falling on ears tuned too much to the world. The fact that our little corner of Christendom still gives them top billing is a good sign.