Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Weight of Glory

I love this offering from C.S. Lewis.  I love pretty much all things Lewis, but this ranks as one of my favorites.  I think it is very applicable to the discussion on parenting.  

It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”

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If I had readers this would be the post where I offend them...

Parenting. Big Topic.  Important topic. At times, a controversial topic.  This will be one of those times.  Especially since I want to talk mostly about why I find one approach that I see very troubling.  Which I will admit is the easy way.  So much safer to pick apart some other philosophy than to put your own up for scrutiny.  So in fairness I will do that as well,  but for now I have a bone to pick.

I am taking issue with the idea that parenting in just the right manner can produce godly children.  I'm taking issue with the idea that parenting is all about getting the children to submit to the parents' God given authority.  I'm taking issue with obedience needing to be blind, immediate, and cheerful. And especially that any time our children disobey we need to make a big spiritual issue out of it.

*disclaimer: I am going to be talking about some very specific definitions that I have seen floating around in books and video series and the like.  Some may associate these with particular teachers.  I would like to avoid talking about specific people because I think the ideas go much further than one or two teachers.  So lets just talk about the ideas*

First idea: that Proverbs 22:6 is a promise that we just simply need to claim.  "Train your children up in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it".  I put forth (and might be branded some sort of weirdo liberal who doesn't believe the Bible) that this isn't a promise given to us by God.  If we read Proverbs as a list of rules and promises I think we have serious problems.  It tells us things like the lazy man not prospering, and the wicked coming to a bad end.  This doesn't always happen.  At least not here on earth.  It often happens, but not always.  I would put forth that Proverbs is a book full of wisdom, not law.  Full of observations, not promises.   Teaching our children good things, and  teaching them well is likely to follow them into adulthood.  If they have a solid Biblical World view they can then evaluate what is thrown at them later.  If they know how to work hard when they are young it won't come as such a shock later in life and they are likely to prosper.  But the problem with treating Prov 22:6 as a promise to claim, and a program to follow is that it makes the parents responsible for their children becoming Christians.  Yes, if the parents are bad representatives of Christ it is likely to sour their children towards God and if the parents are wonderful bearers of grace and truth and light the children are going to see something they want.  But last I checked it was God who saves.  It is His Spirit that indwells His children.  It is Christ that is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  It will be Christ who saves my children.  It will be Christ who convicts them of their sin.  It will be Christ who sanctifies them.  Christ has the power to do that, not me.  To Him be the glory.

The next issue: that parenting is about getting children to submit to the parents God given authority.  I have never ever found a verse or passage in the Bible that charges me with this.  It tells children to honor  their parents. It tells children to obey their parents in the Lord. It does not tell parents to make  them do it.  In fact it tells us to not provoke them to wrath.  My perspective on this is that taking away a child's sense of self and independence, by making them submit to my personal preferences simply because they came out of me would be a sure fire way to provoke them to wrath.  {It was stated in the video I saw that giving a toddler a choice between two outfit options was the beginning of giving your authority away and would lead to a rebellious teenager who wouldn't listen to you and wear a "life sucks" t-shirt instead.}  I definitely see authority in the Bible.  But never used as a club.  And those who are "in charge" seem to be given the job of servants, not bosses.  Do my children need to obey me and honor me? Yes.  But is this what my relationship with them should be all about? No. No. And a thousand times NO!

I have heard it said that obedience that is not 100%, immediate, without question, and cheerful is actually disobedience.  My first question is: is this how we are expected to obey God?  I put forth that it is not.  Once again, before I get branded a heretic, let me explain.  I see over and over again in the Bible (most notably in the Old Testament) where God talks to His children.  He dialogues with them.  He explains Himself even though He is under no obligation to do so.  He (it would seem to me) desires relationship with us, not just obedience.  Yes, we show our love for Him by obeying, but if the only goal was blind obedience why was Christ necessary? If questions aren't allowed why was Abraham permitted to talk to God about His plans for Sodom and Gommorah? Why did Jacob wrestle with God? Why did God choose Thomas or Peter? Yes, God desires to bring us into a more perfect relationship with Him, but I think this is done through making us more like Him (through His spirit) where we desire to do the things of God because we are like Him, rather than doing the things of God out of fear and submission to His authority.  

Finally (at least for this post) I am deeply concerned about the idea of making disobedience a spiritual issue all the time.  Example: Little Johnny is playing blocks.  Mom calls for Johnny to come to her in the kitchen.  Johnny doesn't and keeps playing.  So Mom takes Johnny aside tells him that he disobeyed.  And that disobedience is Sin.  And that God tells her that she has to punish/discipline little Johnny's sin. (usually in this scenario spanking it what follows).  Then little johnny is informed that all is right between him and mom.  One of the problem's with this I have is that it puts household "sin" on the same level with Sin against God.  The only reason it is wrong for Johnny to not come when called is because that is what Mom decided.  There is no list of household rule all children must obey anywhere in the Bible.  Is it sin for Johnny to disobey His parents? Yes. But isn't it God's job to convict us of Sin? To forgive us of Sin? To reconcile us? To say to your child, "You sinned and God tells me I have to spank you, " is so so wrong.  They sinned and God tells me that you are forgiven through the power of His blood.  You sinned and God loved you while you were in that sin and sent His Son to draw you to Himself.  You sinned and you are forgiven.  Period.  No spanking required for this process.  Am I opposed to spanking? No, I am not.  BUT I am very opposed to spanking as some sort of tool used to dole out reconciliation for sin.  Spanking can be a very effective tool for behavior modification and even an attitude adjustment, which can be necessary for a variety of reasons.  But "the rod" has no spiritual power to it.  Period.

I need to stop here.  There is a lot for me to process in all of this.  These ideas go against a lot of what the culture around me is doing, and I find that painful at times.  I know people that I respect and love that hold these views and I worry about hurting them if I express my views.  I see families that are  running well using these methods.  Families that have raised Godly children who are now raising Godly children who are using these methods.  It causes me to pause.  Am I right? Are they? Does it matter? And I think it does matter.  But probably not as much as I might think.  Like I said, ultimately it is God who saves not me and so I have to trust Him for grace for me and my parenting and  trust Him for grace for others families as well.  And if I am wrong, trust Him to correct me.

I am still working out a lot of practical details of parenting in my home.  My husband and I talk about all this ad naseum it seems at times.  Our conclusions are still tentative, Which is a little scary to me a times.  My oldest is 5 and I would liked to have the "perfect" solution to all of this by now.  Some fool proof plan that produces perfect children, that doesn't offend anyone, and is easy.  But that isn't life.  I'm glad I haven't clung rigidly to ideas I had when my eldest was a baby.  Just because you think you have it figured it out doesn't mean you do.  I need to grown in wisdom and grace and know my Lord more and more and in light of that look at all that I do and make sure it lines up.  Even if it is hard.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

In Memory

October 15 is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I wrote about this 2 years ago with a post of the same title

At that time I has lost 3 children in very early pregnancy. Since then I have lost one more. We are coming up on what would have been her first birthday.

Amenyah Zuriel 2/13/2008
truly YHWH, God is my strength

She might have been the hardest in many ways. I was far enough a long that we had had opportunity to tell all our family and friends, to tell the girls, to have enough time to really get excited. It meant a lot of phone calls and really hard conversations. Despite that though I was glad we had told so many people. We had gotten to celebrate her life and we weren't isolated in our mourning. It was just two days before my second daughter's second birthday so life couldn't stop. There was another child to celebrate. A child with bright blue eyes and dimples who gives the most amazing hugs. There is nothing quite like life to make you forget the sting of death.

I believe in the Holy Shores of Uncreated Light.
I believe there is power in the Blood.
And all of the death there ever was, if you sat it next to life;
I believe it would barely fill a cup.
For I believe there's power in the blood.
~Andrew Peterson, "Lay Me Down"

Since losing Amenyah we have had the joy to celebrate the birth of another little girl. Three girls now! That's what we tell people when they ask how many children we have. But in my heart my answer is 7. Noa, Chaim, Itiel, and Amenyah are all as much my children as the three playing next to my desk. I feel like I know them. And one day I will meet them. There was a hymn that I sung over and over again to myself and my children after losing Amenyah. And that my church was kind enough to sing the following Sunday as well.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul, It is well, with my soul, It is well, it is well, with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well, with my soul, It is well, with my soul, It is well, it is well, with my soul

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

There is a beautiful recording of it here.

After losing Amenyah we found out that my progesterone levels were dropping too early in pregnancy and that was why (most likely) I had lost Chaim, Itiel, and Amenyah. It was very easy to find out and fix (with the diagnosis and help of a reproductive endocrinologist) and required no major intervention or anything else in order to see the birth of our most recent child. Which is wonderful, but doesn't change that we lost them. Most people who know people who have lost babies early in pregnancy don't really know what to say I don't think. They want to help, they want to be comforting but they just don't know where to begin. Some families prefer not to talk about it, which is fine. But many people appreciate a hug, and a simple "I am so sorry." Don't try and make it easier with things like "at least is was early" or "there must have been something wrong with the embryo". Although these statements might have some truth, they don't help. Just let her be sad. Offer a meal, or to watch her other children if she has any. Miscarriages are often very hard physically and you need a chance to recoup. After losing Noa I bought a Memorial Tear necklace. I wear it when I am thinking about them a lot. Often around loss dates or due dates. Considering getting one for someone who has lost a baby, there is something comforting about having something tangible. And if you see them wearing it know that they might need an extra hug that day.

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Matzo Ball Soup (aka- Jewish Penicillin)

I make great Matzo Ball Soup. Especially for a little Lutheran Girl from North Idaho. :) So I thought I would share my recipe. (the photo is from, although the recipe is not.)

The secret to any great soup is a good base. That means no store bought chicken stock! You can go about this one of two ways. You can buy an already roasted chicken to make stock from or you can roast your own. I am going to assume you know how to roast a chicken. If you don't, I highly recommend using America's Test Kitchen recipe for it.

Take your carcass from your chicken. You want to kake sure there is still some meat and skin and definitely fat drippings, but you can use the chicken for a meal or two and still have enough on the bones to make stock. Put chicken in stock pot and cover with water.
Other ingredients:
  • two purple onions
  • 4-6 carrots
  • 3-4 cellery stalks with the leaves still on
  • whole head of garlic
  • tsp of cloves
  • spices- salt, pepper, savory, basil, thyme (to taste). Go light on the salt, you can always add more later.
  • parsley
  • lemon zest
  • approx 1/4 c balsamic vinegar

Roughly chop and add all ingredients except the last three. You can leave the paper on the garlic and the onion, just take the very outer layer off for cleanliness. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down (leaving covered! this is important, you don't want to expose broth to bacteria!) and let simmer 12-24 hours. When you are done simmering add the remaining three ingredients and bring to a boil for approx 10 minutes. Strain out all ingredients (I use a mesh colander) and then put back on stove. Boil it down to get a richer tasting broth and to conserve space in your freezer.

Ok, now you have the base for matzo ball soup. You need just need to make the soup!
  • Chicken (I sometimes leave this out)
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Onions.
  • Garlic
  • Matza Balls (recipe below)
Other optional ingredients:
  • Broccoli
  • Leeks
  • Barley
Take your veggies and chop them fine for soup. I like a lot of veggies, do the amount that suits you. You then want to saute them. You aren't going for a long saute here. Something shorter that leaves them (especially the carrots and onions) slightly caramalized and still with some crispness. After you do this add your stock and barley (if using) and simmer together for about 30 min (longer is fine).

Matzo Balls

  • 1 Cup Matzo Meal (not matzo ball mix!)
  • 4 large Eggs
  • 1/4 C veg oil
  • 1/4 C seltzer water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • dash of pepper, thyme, and Za'atar

Beat the eggs. Add Seltzer, oil, and spices. Mix well. Add Matzo meal and mix. Refrigerate for 1/2-1 hour. Moisten the palm of your hands with cold water and form the matzo balls. Use about 1 tsp to form balls 1/2 inch in diameter. Bring your soup to a boil and drop Matzo Balls into the soup. Cook for about 15-20 min. Then your soup is ready!

This is called Jewish Penicillin due to all the good things it has in it from the home made stock. The vitamins and minerals you get from this sort of stock are so good for you- especially during cold and flu season or while sick. I use this stock as the base for all my soups.

This is great to serve with a salad or sandwiches, but is also really a meal unto itself. Enjoy!