Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Pray for Jesus

When one prays for a bereaved person, one must do so with certain understandings: There is, in one sense, no help for her. She cannot have the thing she wants. She also cannot feel less agony over it, and there is a good way in which she does not even want to, because she knows the facts.

Pray for her to be strengthened rather than injured in her faith, and at least as much, pray for Jesus.

Pray for Jesus not in the interest of Jesus, but for the purpose of Jesus. Pray that He would come back. Pray that this would be the hour when the Father looks on the face of His beautiful Boy and bids Him to stretch out His hand,

the hand that gave sight to the blind, 

the hand that blessed five loaves to feed five thousand,

the hand that lay freely on the crossbeam,


and roll up human history into one little scroll to be shelved in eternity's stacks.



Pray for Jesus to rend the heavens wide, to come with clouds descending, to come and bring pleasure eternal

to raise the dead incorruptible

that we would meet Him in the clouds;

that the thing we all know must be true,

that there is no flipping way a human being can cease to exist

would come to us also.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Paying more attention to caregiving

I commend to you Andrea Palpant Dilley's article  "Paying Attention to Caregiving", published in Books and Culture. Dilley responds to Anne-Marie Slaughter's book Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work, Family, which deals with the problem of making jobs and personal lives get along. Here's a quote the article includes from Slaughter's book:



To make them equal, we liberated women to be breadwinners too and fought for equality in the workplace. But along the way, we left caregiving behind, valuing it less and less as a meaningful and important human endeavor.


In one sense we have to wonder how people didn't see this coming. But being the available caregiver sometimes has long-feeling stretches of inaction. Caregiving can feel a lot like lighthouse keeping: boring, unnoticed, unappreciated, but also very tiring since the need for vigilance never lets up. Not that many people have lighthouse keeper personalities, but every family needs an available caregiver anyway (and some need more than one, and some people need care but don't have family, and non-human entities like churches also need caregivers, etc.).


Workplace rigidity is a problem for both genders, [Slaughter] argues, but women bought into it decades ago when second-wave feminists with short-sighted, conformist thinking set out to claim equality in the work place and failed to hear the door lock behind them. Feminist journalist Susan Faludi calls it a "failure of will." "We have redefined feminism as women's right to be owned by the system, to be owned as much as men have been owned," she writes in "Feminism for Them?" "Women have led the charge to join men in the enclosure."


Being "free to work," in most jobs, means that you're not free to leave work. When your friend needs a ride to chemo, your grandma fell last week and is alone all the time, your baby is six weeks and one day old, your brother doesn't have anyone to be with him when he gets the news, your wife is sick and really needs rest and help with the babies . . . you get to go to work.



Slaughter falls prey to conflicting ideals. In the same breath she asks for "higher wages for paid caregivers" and also "high quality and affordable childcare." Setting aside the complex issue of government subsidies, the problem, as Elaine Blair put it in The New York Times, is that one group of women is in economic conflict with another group. Some women need cheap childcare to make ends meet. Other women—the providers of care—need a livable wage. 

I think this is where the middle class is most blind. Everybody wants to pay the people who care for their children as little as possible, and to say and think that their children are well cared for.  This demands a huge act of charity by the child care provider, who is by definition a person of less means than those who pay her only part of their own earnings, and whose work is a lot less comfortable by every measurement. Parents are all too willing to cash in on this wrong-directional generosity and think nothing of it.

Dilley concludes by saying,

I, too, am a caretaker, although a less illustrious one. The sheer volume of janitorial work I do is offset in part by the knowledge that I'm raising eternal beings for eternal purposes—and someday, I'll stagger through Heaven's gates waving flags made of spit-up rags.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Hey, where's my frontier?

Before me is a fascinating book, Moving Frontiers. It is a collection of primary documents of the Missouri Synod.

Here is a brief entry:

Texas has a babe governor. This is Looney Toons. END COMMUNICATION.

OK, OK.

Texas has a woman governor. The Associated Press announces from Austin under date of January 20 [1925]: "On this day a woman assumes the gubernatorial seat of Texas, which heretofore has been occupied only by men." There are other things which offer even more definite proof that even before its end the world has completely lost all common sense. (Franz Pieper, "Kirchlich-Zietgeschichtliches: Texas hat einen weiblichen Gouverneur," Lehre und Wehre, LXXI (Feb. 1925), 61.)



Huh.


You're next.

Every time has its assumptions, and clearly the quote is making an assumption. It assumes that all reasonable people will be able to see exactly what is wrong with a woman being elected governor.

Let's be honest. We can't see it. Tons of us were pulling for Sarah Palin and liking Nikki Haley and hoping for Carly Fiorina. What we see is exactly what's wrong with thinking there's anything wrong with a woman being elected governor. The times, they have a-changed.


So why did they think that way?


They had a different status quo. This is not to endorse a romantic love of the past, but an historical respect. Here are the reasons as well as I am able to see them, which is likely still not that well.

At that time, 

1. it made no economic sense for married women to be publicly employed in the same way that men were; that is, as a primary, external household income rather than a supplemental, internal one. Who would care for her children if she were publicly employed? Who would pay for that care if she were not of substantial means?

2. it made no practical sense. Women are generally less reliable employees because they prioritize being reliably available to family members and even friends, for which we are all grateful when we find ourselves in need of a reliably available family member or friend.

3. it made no social sense (which is of staggeringly less consequence in material terms; ie, the only terms that amount to much meaningful in the lived human experiment). Men are the heads of households (at the time, this was still generally accepted outside the church). The state is society's household. Synthesize.

4. it made no spiritual sense. God is our Father, and the government shall be upon HIS shoulders. No accident of pronominalism there.


Human existence will bear a tremendous amount of stress and experimentation, but reality will always prevail. So we'll see, or our descendants will. 

We can only be offended by what our forebears thought if we believe them to have been either quite stupid, or malicious. I just plain don't believe that. I think they were people like we are: analytical, sympathetic, and repentant. Because I think that, I think it is very important that we try to understand the ways they thought that were radically different from our status quo. In 1925, a woman governor was as nonsensical to our great-grandfathers in the faith as gay marriage was in the general population only 30 years ago, or allowing boys to use girls' locker rooms remains for the fleeting moment.

Were traditional households so intolerable to women that the world as we have it today, where sexual perversion is ascending to absolute social power, is preferable?  Did we have one perfect decade (the 90s) when everything was just right; when married women could be CEOs but we could all get behind the secular Defense of Marriage Act, and it got inexplicably messed up from there? Or maybe it was just a year, 1972, when everyone had advanced as far as they could after getting the comeuppance they needed from The Feminine Mystique but abortion was still illegal. It's clear that things have gone too far, which is why we must remember that it all started with things we now consider non-negotiable, but that our forebears believed to be fundamentally wrongheaded.

There are all kinds of ways of running a society. Let's also notice that Dr. Pieper doesn't say it's a sin for a woman to be governor. He says it is proof that the world has lost all common sense.

It's said that a gentleman is someone who knows how to play the accordion but doesn't. I disagree, because I love accordions. But I think there's a case to be made that a lady is someone who could govern Texas but doesn't.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Lutheran Summer Conferences rated by potato salad

5. Issues, Etc. Making the Case conference. This conference features boxed lunches from Panera. You know what that means. No potato salad. But what the conference lacks in potato salad it makes up in everything else. You should just forget the potato salad for once and go.

4. Preus Family Reunion. I don't know if this conference has potato salad. It seems like it would, BUT you are not invited unless you are a member of the Preus family. BUT a plurality of Synod is members of the Preus family, so you might be one. If a member of the Preus family could report back about potato salad, then we'd know.

Pictures of potato salad always look gross. 
Use a plain potato instead.
3. Redeemer Family Retreat. I don't know if this conference has potato salad. There is a potluck so you might get some, but since everybody at the conference is on vacation it will probably be in a tub from the store. So not that great of potato salad, but a conference you should totally go to.

2. Gottesdienst St. Louis. ThGem├╝tlichkeit potato salad is very, very good, except for needing more salt. If you help clean up the kitchen, you might get to take home some leftovers and then spend the whole next day eating salted potato salad. This conference was yesterday, so unless you were there, you missed it. Make sure you get there next year to eat this very good potato salad (bring or look for salt).

1. Concordia Catechetical Academy Symposium. The Augsburger Barbecue is the best Lutheran conference potato salad out there. It's the kind that isn't yellow (which doesn't necessarily make a potato salad good, but does make this the best Lutheran summer conference potato salad). I have hurt myself with this potato salad before. We haven't been to this conference in several years but the main thing that makes me want to go back there besides holy things is the potato salad.



NB: the key to having good potato salad may be giving the meal at which it is served a culturally relevant name. If we hear from a Preus we will know for sure.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Dear LadyLike: What about remaining single?

Dear LadyLike,

What do you say to a young woman who doesn't want to get married? Is this biblical? Or is it sinful? Related to this: Is there room for single adult women in the life and work of the (LCMS) church? I would really appreciate any thoughts and counsel you have on this topic. 


Dear Lady,

"I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I." 1 Cor. 7:8


1 Corinthians 7 is the go-to passage about the reasons for getting married or not getting married. The bottom line is that most people find that it is not good for them to be alone and make their way through life better if they are married. But some people do not have an inclination to marry built into them. There's nothing wrong with that.

"There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband." (vs. 34)


Remaining celibate is placing one's care in the things of the Lord rather than the things of the world. That is a noble and blessed way of life. It is an act of trust and an investment in one's own spiritual well-being, and a testimony to the intrinsic value of each individual life. A secondary benefit of this is that a person who does not need to be available to an immediate family can be more available to the church.

The form that a single person's service to the church takes is wide open. Other Christian traditions have a system for celibate people to formally devote their entire lives to the church. Lutherans pretty much don't have a thing for that. Loehe's deaconesses were virgins or widows (and left deaconess work if they married), but that is no longer the case.

If this is a deficiency in Lutheranism (and I think it is in some ways, as the lack of formal recognition or position may imply that single people lack a place in the life of the church), it is made up in the Lutheran theology of vocation. A single woman doesn't have to be a nun to serve the church, or even a deaconess, teacher, or managing editor of The Lutheran Witness. She could be a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker. A Christian geologist has at least as much to offer the church as a Minister of Religion-Commissioned. A person who works in a non-church-work field has a non-church-work income from which to tithe, a much better situation for engaging non-Christians than people who work in a church building all day, and evenings and weekends on which to come to church and volunteer. And if a single lady is better at cleaning gutters than she is at teaching Sunday School, that aptitude is no less valuable or welcome. Churches have gutters too.

You just plain don't have to get married if you don't want to. There are a number of costs and disciplines built into that decision. The long term benefit is having forgone the icon and its built-in distractions for the sake of preparing for the real thing: eternal union with the true Bridegroom.


Gertrud von le Fort's book The Eternal Woman includes a profound treatment of the station of virginity. I recommend it for anyone interested in the topic. I also recommend the thoughtful posts of Heather Judd at Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife.

Thanks very much for this question. LadyLike



UPDATE: After posting, I received this valuable correspondence from a reader who gave me permission to reprint it.

Single Christians serve the Church and their neighbors--and I would emphasize, they don't live for themselves.  In our secular culture, you stay single (or get divorced) in order to live for yourself.  (Or if you do get married, you avoid having children, or too many children, in order to keep more of the pie for yourself.)  Both single and married people should understand this, that in whatever state one is called, one is to serve, and we are not to judge one another in this matter.  It is not right for a person to avoid marriage simply so one can have the whole pie.  St. Paul makes it clear that the single person should care for the things of the Lord, in contradistinction to the things of the world--even if one is cleaning gutters, or making tents, for a living.  But we Lutherans should do more to honor and value the vocation of celibacy, as well as make it clear what this calling is for.  Hopefully the tide is beginning to turn in that direction. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

It's almost summer and folks need books.

Dear LadyLike,

What should I be reading right now?

Love,

Bored Lady



Dear Bored Lady,

We thought you'd never ask!



First, the ones I haven't gotten to read yet:

The Messengers: Discovered (I love dystopias. Oh, you too? Here's another.) Lisa Clark has awesome taste in sweaters and I love the premise. CAN'T WAIT.

Blessed I could tell you how smart the involved parties are, but there's
a whole book for that. I'd rather let you know that I am thankful to be able to personally testify that both Dr. Chris Mitchell and Mrs. Mary Moerbe are real actual Christians.

Celebrating the Saints I struggle some with the saints, and on the other hand I really like them. I can think of no one I trust more to navigate this catholic strait than Pastor Weedon.


It's almost like CPH is on a roll or something.


OK, second: books I've almost read.

Without Precedent: Scripture, Tradition, and the Ordination of Women I'm partway through and absolutely neglecting secondary duties to get it done. I feel that I can say that not only do I want you to read this book, so does Rowan Williams.


The Phoenix and the Carpet With the children you know and love, start with Five Children and It, and proceed through the Psammead Trilogy. Edith Nesbit, interestingly, was a semi-radical progressive of her time. Somehow her books are an astonishingly perfect nexus of intelligence and basic decency. Almost like we don't get some stuff about how folks used to think!

Clarissa Ever been mad that there's no such thing as a man-slut? There was until Feminism©® . (They used to be called libertines or rakes. Huh, antinomian is a euphemism for libertine now.)



Finally, stuff I can vouch for front to back.

Moby Dick. I was so scared to read this book, but I told myself I should just try it and it was like the best or something. I know not everyone feels this way, and I try to keep my problem under control, but you should really at least try Moby Dick.

Mothering Many For whoever might be trying to mother many in your life, as Mother's Day approaches. I sincerely hope they're Christian.  :D

The Choir Immortal Here we are at the end of this post, and CPH has still Got It! I'll be honest, this installment of the Bradbury series was a hard read, and a harder recollection. In my mind, that's the whole beauty of being Lutheran. We don't have to kill it at life, we just have to live it. We don't have to smile at funerals or live happily ever after. THANK GOD. And I do.



(I was recently reminded that this blog exists. I'll try to do better.)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

These aren't the gifts you're looking for

What do you mean, you don't
know who Martin Franzmann is?
Church has a way of making us honest, and I don't mean that in a noble way. A few years ago someone asked me if I taught Sunday school. "No. Thank goodness!" I answered.

Fun while it lasted.

Teaching children is not my gift. Wait, I mean: teaching children is not something I would choose to do if the choice were inconsequential. It is not something I enjoy or feel I am particularly good at. But under the circumstances, I had to get honest about the fact that my not wanting to do something was not a good enough reason for me not to do it. So now teaching Sunday school is my gift. It is a service God has graciously given me to do. 

Remember your manners, self.

Thank You.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

But what about the girls? Thoughts on acolytes

Perhaps you have heard of some zany churches where only boys serve as acolytes. The rumors are true. I've been to such churches. I am OK with it, and I think we all could be on account of our forefolks were and maybe they weren't so dumb. Roman Catholic Rachel Lu recently put up an article on the topic, which I encourage you to read and think about.

Boys being boys.
I stole this photo from Redeemer Lutheran Church
Ft. Wayne IN
I'd add this practical point to Dr. Lu's arguments: acolyting in most Lutheran churches asks very little of those who do it, while granting the appearance of commitment and involvement. Lighting the candles is visible and impressive (robes! fire!), but requires virtually no time or effort. It's the easiest way to prove we're involved at church without really being that involved at all. The family can still walk in two minutes before the service and walk out two minutes after, and then not show up until the next time a kid is on the schedule to throw a grungy robe over his/her shorts and trip on up to the front. Naturally we want this wonderful opportunity to be offered to our daughters as well as our sons.

BUT IF ONLY BOYS CAN ACOLYTE, WHAT ABOUT THE GIRLS???

See, her article and my paragraph didn't help at all. Sigh.

Here are some things girls can do:

--Assist the Altar Guild

--Sing in the choir or play an instrument

--Visit or write to long-term or temporary shut-ins

--Be one of those people who does whatever those people who are always in the church kitchen do

--Volunteer for one of those jobs that always needs volunteers (church cleaning, grounds work, holiday [un]decorating, etc.)
"If only we could have been acolytes!"

--Assist in the nursery or for Sunday school and/or VBS

--Be a pew helper to someone who needs one (a person who needs help getting up/down or in/out; a family with young children; someone learning to navigate the hymnal; etc.)

--Be one of those people who understands that getting up while everyone else is still zonked so she can change the grave clothes no one know will got changed is a job worth doing.

--Am I really having to make a list of stuff people can do to help out at church?


Nothing you didn't already know. But the point is that these tasks require more of the people who do them than the task commonly referred to as acolyting in most Lutheran churches. The trouble is that they are less visible than acolyting (since the reason we do jobs at church is so people can see us doing them). Many of them also demand much more of the parents of a girl too young to drive herself places.

In a church that only ordains men (which is to say, The Church), the argument that "girls will feel left out" doesn't hold water. If adult girls can handle not being pastors, child girls can handle not being acolytes. In fact, that practice is good . . . practice. It allows us to trust our small ones with something small so that someday they will be trustworthy with what is great. I have heard proponents of women's ordination argue that telling girls they have to stop appearing in vestments in the chancel once they reach a certain age is confusing. I totally agree. I call that bluff. Even though there is no "Thou shalt not have girl acolytes," we would be wise not to.

As for those who don't want female pastors but do want female everythings but pastors: women's ordination is not a litmus test for right thinking with regard to Scripture's teaching on men and women. Opposing women's ordination but seeing no other implications in Scripture or our holy God's Creation for the lives of Christian men and women beyond that is facile; it amounts to a test not of faith, but contrived and manipulative partisan loyalty (If you love me, you'll carry this pebble in your pocket every day just because I asked you to).  Itemizing women's ordination from the man/woman thing and then opposing it as a platform issue is simply jumping through a social or intellectual hoop to gain admission to a certain segment of the Christian population.

The real matter is this: It is impossible for men to take what women have by nature. It not impossible for women to take what men have by nature. A faithful man takes up duties he is not materially required to perform, and thereby gains their honor (a faithless man abdicates and shrinks). A faithful women yields honorable duties she is not materially excluded from performing (a faithless woman extorts and arrogates). So y'all live right.

Finally: feeling left out is a real feeling. But real feelings can be wrong. "I want what he has!" is coveting, and feeding a grudge over other people having good things is a sinful sickness. Women of all ages who are afflicted with this sin need loving catechesis, repentance, and forgiveness, as do men who resist truth and wisdom because they fear God less than they fear women.

I speak bluntly, as to people of careful thought. I am more than aware, as a mother of young girls and boys, that living out these things requires the greatest of care. Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail; in Him do we trust, nor find Him to fail

even through loads of glumpy junk like this.