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How odd, observed G.K. Chesterton, that many women consider it slavery to be the master of their own home, but working under a man in a place of business to be freedom.

Deception is a foul thing. But it is necessary for the destruction of the family. And so the world uses words like trivial, drudgery, and slavery to describe the work of a homemaker. With one question, the hissing serpent tempts women to doubt the goodness of domestic privilege. “Did God really say that you must be confined?”

Leaving home for a while can be the most wonderful adventure, but not necessarily freeing. Volunteering or working for pay can be rewarding, but not necessarily freeing. Being given a title may be flattering, but not necessarily freeing.

When I leave home to accept a job or assume a public position, I am obliged to work under the expectations and ideologies of someone else who sets the conditions for my labor. My talents and abilities are metered to the tune of an employer or board of directors. In my home, however, I labor not to grow a business or a corporation but to grow hearts and minds.

Never once did I think of my father’s mother or my own mother as being confined to the drudgery of their homes. My grandmother and mom were not free from day-to-day difficulties, but neither were they captive to slavery. Like the Proverbs 31 woman, they were blessed to find contentment in doing their best work from and for their households. They did their husbands good, not harm; they looked to the ways of their children; their lamps burned at night. They made time for hobbies and served in the church and community. Their tables welcomed family and friends. Relationships were strengthened. Neighborhoods were richer for it.

Within my home I am free not to compete with men or other women, but with myself. I am free to create, design, rearrange, make use of culinary skills, practice hospitality, organize, correspond, buy and sell, study, teach, train, mentor, read books, write books, engage through websites and blogs, supplement family finances, welcome neighbors, keep my lamp burning at night, and tell children and grandchildren what God has done.

The home where men and women complement one another in their roles as fathers and mothers is the foundation of a thriving society. A man may build and protect the house, but the woman makes and keeps the home. When chaos threatens, a woman can nurture a calming environment. By way of her quiet and gentle spirit, a woman can win an unbelieving husband for Christ. With grandchildren in mind, a mother in the home sets the moral compass for her children.

The way of the world makes no sense to me. Nor to Anthony Esolen who writes, “We must rid ourselves of the feminist spite that pretends to despise the woman of many talents and many tasks in the home, preferring the specialist who … does one thing well.” Esolen continues:

To do fifty things in one day for which you alone are responsible, for the immediate good of the people you love, is deemed easy, trivial, beneath the dignity of a rational person, but to push memoranda written in legal patois from one bureaucratic office to another, at great public expense and for no clear benefit to the common good, now that is the life. Chesterton put it well when he said that the work of a mother is not small but vast. A teacher would bring to fifty children the arithmetical rule of three, and though that is an interesting thing, it is but small and limited. The mother brings to one child the whole universe. That is no sentimentality. It is exactly true.

It is true that a woman may be needed by her family to temporarily leave the home to help provide for the home. But, writes Esolen, the “home is not a flophouse where we stay and recuperate so that we can go back out and earn money, much of which we burn in the very earning of it.” There is a difference between “money you make for yourself” and money made for the health and well-being of the family.

The world asks: Shouldn’t we save women from the drudgery of home and family? A civilization with eyes on the future asks: Shouldn’t we save home and family by holding in high esteem the home-making vocation of women?

There is hope! There is always hope! The Proverbs 31 woman, wrote St Bernard of Clairvaux, was not praised because she was so magnificent. She was praised for “not being deceived” by the world.

My dear niece,

In our communications, you have expressed the desire to see the “bigger picture.” I understand what you’re saying. You believe it would be helpful to know what God is doing through you and for what purpose.

Two people come to mind who most likely had this same desire. My mom–your grandmother–didn’t talk about her cancer very much, not even to her family. Instead, she lived. While she had strength, she kept doing the things she had always done. She kept working from home, stayed involved at church, kept up with her friends, and encouraged family activities. Your grandmother corresponded regularly with a man sentenced to life imprisonment. Every morning at 8:00, your grandmother called her recently widowed friend, Gladys, to help her start her new day. Gladys told me many times how important those calls were; calls from someone who put aside her own discomfort and fears to reach out to a grieving friend.

Edwin is the father of my close friend, Mary. When Edwin was 34, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He lived a faithful life into his 60s. Everyone who knew Edwin agreed that he was a humble, always cheerful, helpful, and encouraging man. He chose to live each day as he always had: working on the farm, raising his son and daughter, volunteering at church, and being a good neighbor. Edwin turned conversations to the matters of life that are most important. He seemed to realize that he had a window of opportunity, not to do something for himself, but to become more bold in directing people’s attention to the Word and work of Christ. Edwin was well-studied by medical students. He impacted lives with his “it’s not all about me” attitude. Even when Edwin’s vision and speech were impaired, he continued teaching Sunday school. He would laugh and explain to the children why he talked differently. He would ask them to be patient whenever he mispronounced a blurry word. Those children still remember him. Edwin didn’t just pass the Christian faith on to his son and daughter. He showed how it can be lived out. Mary remembers her dad saying, “Be kind to your mother. Support her. Be the family she needs you to be.”

Dear niece, I could speak to you like Job’s friends Zophar, Eliphaz, and Bildad spoke to him. They came to sit with Job in the ashes, but their words provided little comfort. Job asked: “Where is my hope?” I cannot come and sit with you, but I can be like Job’s friend Elihu who faithfully reminded his suffering friend of God’s Word and work. Elihu understood that he didn’t have any great wisdom or advice for Job. All he had was love for his friend and reverence for God.

“God is greater than man,” Elihu said.

“God does no wrong.”

“God is mighty in strength and understanding.”

“God delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity.”

Elihu was faithful to his friend, not by showing him all the things Job could do but reminding Job of all that God does.

The Pharisees wanted to know why the man had been born blind. “Who sinned,” they asked, “the blind man or his parents?” Jesus replied that it was not because of a particular sin that the man was blind. Instead, he was blind so “that the work of God might be displayed in him.” God’s strength “is made perfect in weakness” (1 Cor. 12:9). Elihu seemed to understand this, assuring Job that God often uses affliction not for punishment but for deliverance. Affliction opens ears to learn the Lord’s purposes and opens mouths in praises.

Elihu never presumed to speak for God. Nor do I. (Eve did that and regretted it the rest of her life.) But, Elihu was faithful in reminding Job to fear and love God; to be humbled and in awe of His power. I, too, want to be faithful in reminding you to fear and love God. Why? Because the best thing you and I can do for each other is to help one another be ready for God’s visitation. On the day that the Lord visits us, all that will matter is our confidence in the mercy and saving work of Jesus Christ.

My dear niece, I continue to pray that you have peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

A letter to my niece who bears the cross of brain cancer.

Photo credit: celebbabylaundry.com

 

What did I see the night of the President’s State of the Union Address?

I saw people gathered, some believing that had come to tolerate the words of a fool.

When this fool exposed New York’s celebration of legalized full-term abortion and the governor of Virginia’s promotion of infanticide, I saw a senator from New York with a smirk on his face. This man, in office long enough to know that the camera might very well be focused on him, continued to smirk while a fool spoke what some pastors will not: “Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life. And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: all children—born and unborn—are made in the holy image of God.”

I saw women dressed in white stand with applause when a fool recognized women’s rights and bursting opportunities as legislators but sit stone-faced when that fool spoke of “dignity of every person,” most especially “children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.”

I saw those women dressed in white, but why? The early suffragettes once wore white as they sought the dignity of voting rights. But Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others agreed there was no dignity in the right to abort children. “When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.” (Stanton in a letter to Julia Ward Howe, 1873)

I saw a fool speaking against socialism. I saw people stand and applaud while those women in white remained seated and silent.

I saw a fool renewing his promise to “build a wall” in order to stem the tide of human trafficking and sexual slavery. When the chamber burst into applause, those women in white called attention to themselves by their silence and stone-cold betrayal of defenseless women and children. But another fool—his name Nehemiah—told the citizens of Jerusalem to build a wall. Of course, the neighbors surrounding the crumbled Jerusalem laughed at the ridiculous notion. Wouldn’t it, after all, be the mark of progressive people to see all ideologies as equal, all blessings evenly distributed, and a utopian dream come true? But Nehemiah understood human imperfection and the potential for corruption. So, for the sake of homeland security, he instructed that the wall be built, the gates repaired, and the citizens armed with weapons and the Word.

I saw a fool who was unafraid to speak truth. Admittedly, I have never spoken to this fool whose buffoonish ways irritate restless souls. But his words to American citizens remind me of who I am called to be.

“… We have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you [disciples] are wise in Christ … When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat” (1 Corinthians 4:9-13).

Fear Not!

My niece, a young wife and mom, is dealing with cancerous brain tumors. My husband’s nephew, a young husband and father, is dealing with thyroid cancer. It is my way to encourage them through written letters. Here’s the one I sent them both today.

This morning in my devotions I read about Ezekiel’s call from God. What happens between God and Ezekiel strikes me as very significant for you. Let me try to paraphrase:

God tells Ezekiel to stand up so He can speak to Him. The Spirit enters Ezekiel and he hears God’s instruction. God tells Ezekiel to go to the stubborn and rebellious Israelites. God tells Ezekiel not to be afraid of them, even if “thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions.” Then God tells Ezekiel to open his mouth and eat the scroll that He puts in his mouth. He tells Ezekiel to go speak “My words to them … the house of Israel.”

God explains that the people of Israel won’t want to listen to Ezekiel because those people have “a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.” But then He says, “Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.” (Excerpts from Ezekiel 2:1-3:11)

Now, you haven’t been asked to go speak to rebellious Israelites, but you are up against a stubborn and rebellious enemy who hates the human life that God so loves. As God’s child you are not only living in a world broken by sin, but your body and soul are engaged in physical and spiritual battle. In sickness and difficulty, Satan wants you to doubt the mercy and work of Jesus Christ. He wants you to think that God has abandoned you.

God has not told you to “eat this scroll” and then speak to a rebellious nation, but He has told you to digest the Word He has given you for life—the Word fulfilled in Christ Jesus. He wants you to trust His Word and then use it to speak to the fear and doubt that comes in your weak and weary moments.

Here’s the profound part of the dialogue between God and Ezekiel that I think applies to you. God made Ezekiel’s “face as hard as their faces” and his “forehead as hard as their foreheads.” In other words, the Lord prepared Ezekiel for the challenge he would experience. He gave to Ezekiel the strength and determination needed to stand up to strong-willed and determined people. He comforts Ezekiel, saying, “Fear them not.” I believe that God has prepared you for your own challenge. With the faith He has given you comes determination and courage even in the face of cancer. He promises you His Spirit who comforts you and intercedes for you (Romans 8:26). And when a neighbor or caregiver struggling with their own difficulties and fears sees your eyes resting on the Cross of Christ, can you deny that God might work through you to turn their eyes there, too?

God is God. And He will be exalted (Psalm 46:10-11). Repeatedly throughout all of Scripture, we read how God is exalted at those very times when Adam or Abraham or Jacob or David or even the disciples believed everything was hopeless and lost. That is how it is with Almighty God. That’s how He works. Nothing overcomes Him. He overcomes everything. In His way. And for His purpose. If this mighty yet merciful Lord and Savior is our God, then you and I have nothing to fear.

This morning, the FB post of a young friend of mine caught my attention. The post read something like this: My attitude is based on how you treat me. I took a deep breath and responded, saying: Or, my friend, there’s this. I’ve been working on having a better attitude… no matter how anyone treats me. Sometimes I need to confront my own negative spirit so that I can adjust my attitude concerning a person or situation.

My friend thanked me. But our conversation didn’t end there. My reason and all my senses encouraged me not to shy away from a deeper conversation. So, transitioning to a less public mode of correspondence, I confessed my fear of offending her. But here’s the thing, I told her: There is a negative spirit spreading not just across the country but in our congregational families and homes. At times, I feel this negative spirit wanting to consume me. I must call it what it is… and press back against it. It’s too easy to give myself a pass and just say what I want or maintain the attitude that justifies my cause. But, truth be known (and more often than not), it’s my own attitude that needs adjustment.

Stay the course, I encouraged my friend: Don’t forget who you are! You are God’s own daughter in Christ. Knowing that, you are equipped to battle all wrongs… in the spirit of humility and truth. Your family needs you. Your life and how you live it matters to more people than you know.

Only a few minutes passed before my friend reached out. “I appreciate your honesty and am not offended at all,” she told me. “But lately it seems as though I’m a literal rug laying on the floor of this home. Some days it’s so hard to keep going… to keep giving… knowing that everything I do is for people who don’t seem to appreciate me. Deep down, I know they do, but they sure could do a better job of showing it! I know… I’m selfish. I admit it. It’s hard to keep a positive attitude when I feel like I’m taken for granted.”

It wasn’t difficult to recognize myself in this younger woman. And it would have been unkind of me to just let her confession hang in thin air. I took another deep breath and wrote these words to her:

My dear friend, I do understand. Some challenging experiences in my life once prompted my husband to share this verse and commentary with me. I’ve never forgotten them. St. Paul writes, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all” (Philippians 2:17). The commentary that speaks so well to this Scripture is from Oswald Chambers who wrote,

Are you willing to be offered for the work of the faithful—to pour out your life blood as a libation on the sacrifice of the faith of others? Or do you say—”I am not going to be offered up just yet, I do not want God to choose my work. I want to choose the scenery of my own sacrifice; I want to have the right kind of people watching and saying, ‘Well done.’ It is one thing to go on the lonely way with dignified heroism, but quite another thing if the line mapped out for you by God means being a doormat under other people’s feet … Are you willing to spend and be spent; not seeking to be ministered unto, but to minister?

Remember your Baptism! As Lutheran Christians, you and I are both God’s children through Baptism. God has given us the gift of faith! He has called us by His name! He has made us His heirs! We are redeemed by Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit! Believing this, we begin to reflect more of Christ and less of ourselves. Our attitude toward others changes.

Oh my! I wish I would have better understood the Lutheran teaching of vocation when I was a younger wife and mom. God has been patient with me and now, as a grandmother, He is showing me that a vocation is the station in life where God places us and from where we serve others.

Think on this! You have vocations of woman, wife, mother, daughter, niece, friend, and so on. In all these vocations you are called by your heavenly Father to serve your neighbor. You are called to be faithful in these stations whether you feel appreciated or not. Why?

Because in doing good for others we are loving God. Those we serve—whether they acknowledge our service or not—are receiving the benefits of our love for God.

As for our own personal care and nurture, well, God knows our needs better than we do. He provides just what we need when we need it most.

“People have trigger warnings and safe zones because they feel powerless against the ideas they’re facing, but when students grasp reality through a biblical worldview they don’t feel powerless.” (Jeff Myers, President of Summit Ministries).

When I was a young woman, I don’t remember being “triggered” or needing to seek a “safe zone.” But then, I wasn’t nurtured by parents, teachers, pastors, or the culture to think that an emotional gut reaction to a problem or alternate way of thinking is acceptable and healthy.

Ok. I get it. The times have changed.

But people have not. Women and men have always had–and on this earth will continue to have–emotions triggered by sights, sounds, smells and, yes, those ideas that oppose our own.

Whenever given the opportunity, we ought to engage not a whole crowd of “triggered” people, but one triggered person at a time. For example, when someone rants against Christianity, we can ask, “Why are you angry? What has caused you to respond in this way? What barriers stop you from living the Christian life?”

When we talk about the things we haven’t done right, we give others liberty to talk more freely about things they haven’t done right. Carrying the burden of guilt can prevent someone from living a life that’s wholesomely committed to Jesus. Holding on to guilt, pride, or fear puts us all in the position of being taken captive by some deception, myth, or dangerous ideology.

So perhaps, when we encounter a “triggered” person, we can be an example of how to confess sin. We can explain the mercy and forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ and, in this way, lead from despair to hope. We can make use of the fruit of the Spirit which includes patience and kindness as opposed to emotional outbursts and harsh rhetoric.

We can profess with confidence, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Source: “Generational Guidance,” WORLD, 9-1-18

Maura is “hooked,” but she has faith in the Savior of her life. His Word is real to her. It will speak to her conscience. Maura also has a friend who will be honest with her and always remind her why setting boundaries and guarding body, mind and soul is healthy and hopeful.

But, Nichole has faith in the things of the world. She doesn’t have a friend who will be honest with her. She, too, is “hooked,” but doesn’t realize it. Nichole, like Maura and most every other young (or older) woman, doesn’t know about neurochemicals.

Oxytocin is a neurochemical. It is present in both male and female, but is primarily active in females. The female body releases oxytocin at four different times. Take note! Each has to do with procreation and the care of children. Oxytocin is released:

During meaningful or intimate touching with another person (Action: bonding and trust)
During sexual intercourse (Action: bonding and trust)
During the onset of labor in a pregnant woman (Action: causes uterine contractions, results in birth)
After baby’s delivery (Action: stimulates nipples and produces flow of milk from mom for nursing)

How does the human race continue? God said that husband and wife would become “one flesh.” Sexual intimacy results not only in the bonding of two people, but in procreation. Oxytocin plays a vital role in the continuation of the human race. With sexual touch, the woman’s brain is flooded with oxytocin. She wants to be with the man she has bonded to. Long-term connectedness often results in healthy male-female relationships. It is actually rare for an American woman in an intact marriage to have sexual intercourse with anyone except her husband. Such stability is affected by oxytocin. Think of the significance. The bonding of father and mother greatly increases the chance for a child to be raised in a healthy, two-parent home. Such a child is blessed, not necessarily with a perfect home (do they exist?), but with a hopeful environment for becoming all God desires them to be.

The world speaks about the emotions of love. The emotions of connectedness. In reality, the desire to connect is more than an emotional feeling. Bonding is like glue. And it can’t be undone or ripped apart without great emotional pain.

Whether Maura or Nichole realize it, they are “hooked” to the men with whom they are sexually intimate. The flow of oxytocin serves to promote trust. Oxytocin will trigger the bonding process even if a girl hasn’t “gone all the way,” but has kissed and hugged a boy. For this reason, if he wants to “do more,” it will become increasingly difficult for her to say “no.” Parents! Do you know this? When you allow your thirteen-year-old daughter to spend long periods of time with a boy, you are placing her in serious jeopardy. Her protective boundary of modesty and inhibition will gradually break down with each kiss, each touch, each pledge of love… even though the boy she’s with has no intention of marrying her or having children with her.

Maura’s confession to me said it all. “. . . It’s so very strange. The more time I spend with my boyfriend, the more I need to be with him.” Does Nichole find herself in the same circumstance? Before a well-meaning counselor, Planned Parenthood clinic, or parent gets her on The Pill (or whatever), do they tell her about oxytocin? Do they explain that she’s going to be “hooked” because neurochemicals are doing what they’re supposed to do?

The cruelty is this. Our culture removes all the boundaries. It encourages sexual activity among boys and girls. Then it washes its hands by saying, “We explained how to do this safely.” But, who turns off the oxytocin? Maura has difficulty breaking with the boyfriend who isn’t good for her because she has bonded with him. Nichole has been in several intimate relationships. She has “hooked up.” Has “friends with benefits.” All seems so casual. So harmless. So sophisticated. But, oxytocin is at work. Every time that Nichole and her “friend” break up and she moves on to a new sexual partner, a bond is being broken. This is emotional. Painful. Sometimes paralyzing.

In truth, being sexually intimate with one person, breaking up, and being sexually intimate with another is like a divorce. Repeating this cycle again and again places a girl in danger of negative emotional consequences. Nichole doesn’t realize it, but she is acting against — actually fighting — her own body and the way she was designed to function. Eventually, damage is done to her brain’s natural connecting or bonding mechanism.

Sexual intimacy, as Maura has discovered, is addictive. But, she has the hope for change in God’s Word and the honesty of a friend. What does Nichole have? Who will speak on her behalf? Who will guard her body? Mind? Soul?

(Source: Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting our Children by Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., M.D., and Freda McKissic Bush, M.D.) Recommended reading: The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity by Linda Bartlett)

Note: This blog was first posted on May 18, 2011. Since that time, Maura separated herself from an unbelieving and verbally abusive man to begin a new life. Today, Maura cares for others as a nurse and has stepped in to rescue her youngest sister from a mom addicted to meth. Maura, who sees what is good and right, has undertaken the huge responsibility of raising a sister, yet she herself is still “hooked” to sexual intimacy outside of marriage. There is someone special in Maura’s life, and she hopes to marry. But while the neurochemicals of her female body tell her that she should become the wife of a loving and protective man, her fears seem to have paralyzed her. My prayer is that Maura will trust the One Man, Jesus Christ, who knows her body, mind, and soul.