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Archive for the ‘Biblical manhood & womanhood’ Category

June is “Pride Month.” But isn’t pride the opposite of humility?

We are to fly the rainbow “Pride Flag” or “Pride Banner.” But what does it mean? What is its history?

Vexillology (a strange-sounding word) is the study of flags and their meaning and symbolism of color and design. Stephen Black, the Executive Director of First Stone Ministries, studies vexillology. He is aware that the Bible speaks of flags and banners. For example, “There is a victory banner over sin and death for those who love God.” There are “banners in Scripture of love” and “of salvation.” Banners, says Stephen Black, “represent something significant.”

It is for this reason that Stephen Black writes, “I have been cringing for years at the sight of any pride banner and at what some naively call a ‘rainbow banner.’ Ever since knowing Christ and leaving homosexual sin, I’ve had disdain when I see pride flags flying. It is a recoiling idea to me that this pride banner supposedly communicates ideas of diversity, love, and God’s rainbow. This so-called ‘Rainbow Flag’ or ‘Rainbow Banner’ or ‘Pride Flag’ is the symbol of the sin of pride.”

The “Pride Banner,” explains Black, is said to have been created by Gilbert Baker, “a known drag queen and flamboyant homosexual from Chanute, Kansas. Gilbert Baker was inspired by the known pedophile, Harvey Milk. Milk encouraged Baker in 1978 to create the flag for a symbol of ‘gay rights’ and as a prideful display of homosexuality for the San Francisco ‘Gay Freedom Day Parade.’ Both Harvey Milk and Gilbert Baker are known in the gay community for their outrageous promiscuity and for their prideful display of their homosexual activity.”

All of this takes on special meaning to Stephen Black who, in 1983, left homosexuality “and the chaos that surrounds it.” He says he has never seen “a more decadent display of pride, perversion, pedophilia, transgenderism, sadomasochism and now, even the pride of bestiality” in the U.S.

The “Pride Flag” is not God’s rainbow. Its six veins of color, says Stephen Black, “represent the number of man . . . man doing his own will when left to himself, and not the will of God. . . . This flag of pride is the symbol of revelry and self-indulgence. It has nothing to do with God.” Instead, it is man doing “what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

There are “so-called ‘gay Christian’ advocates,” says Stephen Black, “who desire to add another colored stripe to make it a seven-color flag.” Seven is often biblically understood to signify God’s completion or perfection. Six falls short of seven. Do these “gay Christian” advocates believe that God will bless or approve a “Pride Flag” with seven colors?

The Christian needs to remember God’s bow in the sky and what it signified. The world had been so corrupted by revelry and self-indulgence that God could no longer bless it. The pride and arrogance of man was followed by destruction. (Proverbs 18:12) Eight humbled people were saved by faith. And when they saw God’s rainbow of infinite colors in the sky, they knew it did not represent pride, but promise. “I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant . . . “(Genesis 9:13-15).

June is “Pride Month.” We are told to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride and fly the Pride Flag. But pride is the opposite of humility. Puffed up and prideful conceit—in homosexuality or heterosexuality or sensuality or selfish desires—separates us from God.

BUT! There is a different banner… a banner of promise and hope. The Lord Jesus is our banner. He is our “robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). Therefore, may all of us—yes, all of us—humble ourselves “under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

Linda Bartlett (6-22-21)

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There are threats all around us. There is a virus and an experimental “vaccine.” There is a border crisis that includes drug and human trafficking cartels. There is the military might of China. There is critical race theory that has infiltrated schools and churches. There is an assault on children through abortion, transgenderism, and same-sex “marriage.” There are enemies both foreign and domestic. How can we carry on with “normal” things of life with all of these threats?

In the fall of 1939, C.S. Lewis gave a sermon called “Learning in War-Time” to the congregation at the Oxford University church of St. Mary the Virgin. World War II had begun. The question he wanted to help people answer was: What use is it to carry on with studying, learning, and “normal” things during wartime?

C.S. Lewis said, “I think it is important to try to see the present calamity in a true perspective. The war creates absolutely no permanent human situation; it simply exaggerates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to live under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun.”

Lewis continued, “We are mistaken when we compare war with ‘normal life.’ Life has never been normal. Even those periods which we think most tranquil . . . turn out, on closer inspection, to be full of crises, alarms, difficulties, emergencies. Plausible reasons have never been lacking for putting off all merely cultural activities until some imminent danger has been averted or some crying injustice put right. But humanity long ago chose to neglect those plausible reasons. They wanted knowledge and beauty now and would not wait for the suitable moment that never comes.”

What is it that Lewis says “exaggerates . . . the human situation?” Thomas P. Harmon writes, “It is our perception of the importance of death. War changes our perspective by bringing what is potentially very far from us to being potentially very close to us, so does a pandemic. But the relative proximity of a thing does not radically change its nature. War and disease do not change whether we are going to die; they only change when we might die.”

This, writes Harmon, is not meant “to frighten, but rather to embolden. If a thing is worth doing outside of Covid-time, it is still worth doing in Covid-time. As Lewis said, ‘The war will fail to absorb our whole attention because it is a finite object and, therefore, intrinsically unfitted to support the whole attention of a human soul.’ The same can be said of disease. Learning and study, to be sure, have at their highest point the fixing of our attention on the infinite: God and the things of God. Those are things most worthy to absorb our whole attention, whether we are under imminent threat of death or not.”

When “the omnipresent media” constantly blares “dread signals into our brains,” writes Harmon, “a culture of death-deniers” is more easily tempted into anxiety and fear of the future. But C.S. Lewis wrote, “Do not let your nerves and emotions lead you into thinking your predicament more abnormal than it really is.” (Source: “Reading C.S. Lewis in the Times of Covid” by Thomas P. Harmon, 10-16-20.)

So, what is the Christian to do? We can work according to our vocations of father, mother, son, daughter, neighbor, or laborer. We can combat fear by turning off the TV. We can be disciplined users of the internet, recognizing the enormous amount of information it offers but not letting it be a substitute for God’s Word and discerning brothers and sisters in Christ. We can leave the future, as Lewis said, “in God’s hands. We may as well, for God will certainly retain it whether we leave it to Him or not. Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment ‘as to the Lord.’ In times of challenge and uncertainty, we can offer hope and the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Savior who defeated sin and death.

May we pray to be a faithful pilgrim… through this life to the next… in Jesus’ name.

[Note: The above was written for the May 2021 edition of Christian Citizenship.]

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Why do we cry “foul” when girls’ sports are invaded by boys “transitioned” as girls?

Who cried “foul” when boys’ sports were invaded by girls? Wrestling. Football. And female reporters in male locker rooms.

Feminists called it “equality.” And “equal,” they said, means “being the same.” Interchangeable. But this is not true. Male and female are equal, but they are not the same. Every cell in a boy is male. Every cell in a girl is female. Never mind the science, cried feminists. This is about rights! Women must compete on an equal playing field with men in the workplace, the Navy Seals, and reproductively.

Now we cry “foul” when girls’ sports are invaded by boys who want to believe they are girls. Sports may be almighty important, but this tragedy is not about sports.

The tragedy is that more has been done to feminize boys and masculinize girls than to help them understand and value what it means to be a boy and what it means to be a girl. The tragedy is children in—or barely out of—puberty injected with hormones or put under the knife. This happens, reports the American College of Pediatricians, even though “… as many as 98% of gender confused boys and 88% of gender confused girls eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty.”

The tragedy is irreversibly changing a person’s body to match their feelings rather than helping them change their feelings to match their biological body. The body is not irrelevant. Sex is not “assigned” at birth. When a baby is born, the doctor does not wonder, “Hmm, what sex shall we put on the birth certificate?”

The tragedy is not girls being elbowed out of winning competitions. The tragedy is a world where children have the right to decide not just whether they are boy or girl, but who they are physically attracted to, emotionally attracted to, or if they are “free-floating.”

Even after hormones or surgery a boy’s body will always be male. A girl’s body will always be female. Cardiologist Paula Johnson explains, “Every cell has a sex–and what that means is that men and women are different down to the cellular and molecular level. It means that we’re different across all of our organs, from our brains to our hearts, our lungs, our joints.” Nancy Pearcey continues, “In other words, no matter what your gender philosophy, when you are ill and the doctors put you on the operating table, they still need to know your original biological sex in order to give you the best possible health care.” (Love Thy Body by Nancy R. Pearcey)

My concern, as a Christian, is for children whose greatest need is to be reconciled with their Creator. God created male and female not to be the same but with distinctively different bodies and purpose. The physical body is not insignificant. Jesus had a physical male body on earth. He was bodily resurrected. He bodily ascended to heaven. And so it will be for those who believe that Jesus is their Lord and Savior. Just as we are here on earth, we will be body, mind, and soul in heaven.

To help resist the foul-play of transgenderism, boys and girls need parents and other adults to help them know 1) what it means to be male and female, and 2) how to embrace their biological sex.

Adults can begin by reading Love Thy Body by Nancy R. Pearcey; Gender, Lies and Suicide by Walt Heyer; Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters by Abigail Shrier; God and the Transgender Debate by Andrew T. Walker; and When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement by Ryan T. Anderson. Or, visit the website of the American College of Pediatricians and read the articles by Michelle Cretella, M.D. 

Linda Bartlett, 1-31-21

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My oldest grandson turned 18 this month. This is a sobering rite of passage (especially in an election year). Such a birthday deserves a special letter from grandma. In writing that letter, I shared some personal thoughts just between grandma and grandson, but also similarities between his 18th year and mine. Here is the historical portion of my letter:

Dear Grandson,

At 18, I was excited about the life that stretched out ahead of me. I remember riding in the car with a friend of mine. When the radio blasted out the song “I’m 18 and I Like It,” he cranked up the volume and sang along. Me? Not so much. I sensed this was a transitional time for me. I was looking beyond 18… to adulthood.

In chorus, we sang “The Age of Aquarius.” When the “moon is in the Seventh House,” did we really think we would experience:

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation…

A lot of troublesome ideologies and theories were floating around during my eighteenth year. Evolution was taught, but my biology and science teachers didn’t chastise me for believing in creation. One of my classmates was living with her boyfriend. None of my friends’ parents were divorced. Most everyone went to church. However, in looking back, I recognize that secular humanism in the form of sex education, “social justice,” and “liberation theology” were making their way into church bodies.

I turned 18 the November after Woodstock (August 1969). I remember thinking: What an odd thing to do. Sleep in the rain on a muddy field while smoking weed and getting high. All over the country there was a sense of “being different than our parents.” In 1967, the song explained:

If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.
If you’re going to San Francisco
You’re going to meet some gentle people there.
… All across the nation,
Such a strange vibration,
People in motion,
There’s a whole generation
With a new explanation.

When a few high school and mostly college-age people went to San Francisco with “flowers in [their] hair” they lived as “hippies” in “tent city” communes. Drug use was common. “Make love, not war” was graffitied everywhere.  Some may have thought they were creating a utopia. To me, it seemed lonely, dangerous, and hopeless. The full court press against institutions of family, church, and government had been set in motion. Too many in my age group seemed to want to “do whatever feels right to me.” By January of 1973, “free love” led to Roe vs. Wade. I admit to not knowing much about abortion during my 18th year. Ten percent of my graduating class was pregnant. All five girls gave birth to their babies and all married. Later, I would learn of at least two area college girls who went to New York for abortions prior to 1973.

In my 18th year, Black Lives Matter.inc did not exist, but the Weather Underground did. Originally called the Weatherman, this militant group of young, white Americans formed under the leadership of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dorhn in 1969 on the University of Michigan campus. The organization grew out of the anti-Vietnam movement and evolved from the Third World Marxists, a faction within Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). They represented the “New Left” that was active on college campuses during my junior and senior years. The confessed ideology of this group was a mix of Communism and Black Power. Their cause was to advance Communism through violent revolution and use of street fighting. They called on people my age to create a “rearguard” action against the U.S. government that would weaken and collapse the country.

Christianity stood in the way of Communism. This is true because Christians have hope. It is difficult to beat down someone who has hope and can find meaning even in suffering. It is difficult to divide people who see one another as members of one human race. For this reason–between my 18th year and yours, my grandson–Communists with their anti-God ideology worked tirelessly to infiltrate churches and compromise Christians by way of sexual and gender identity, same-sex “marriage,” transgenderism, social justice, and critical race theory. In part, I wrote The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity because I was beginning to see how many of the Communist goals for the U.S. had already been accomplished.

Communism sobered me up in my 18th year. But I only saw the consequences of its aggression in countries far away. Constantly in the news during my senior year was the war to prevent South Vietnam from being completely taken over by Communist North Vietnam. At that time, we weren’t told what to think 24/7 by “talking heads” on TV. Instead, we received “news” from on-location reporters who photographed and reported what they saw rather than offer their opinion for debate.

The Kent State riots started on May 1 just before my graduation in 1970 when a mix of bikers, students, and out-of-town young people assaulted police with beer bottles and engaged in criminal behavior. On May 2, the campus ROTC building was set on fire by arsonists. Protesters surrounded the building, cut a fire hose, and assaulted fire fighters with rocks and other objects. City officials and downtown businesses were threatened. I remember it well. A National Guardsman and four students were killed. It was a bit frightening yet seemed far away. Today the riots in Seattle, Portland, L.A., Minneapolis, Kenosha, Washington D.C., and NYC don’t seem very far away at all.

Many of the songs during my 18th year reflected the restless culture. There was “Woodstock,” “War,” and “I Want to Take You Higher.” Strangely, during our senior year your Grandpa and I went to a Sly and the Family Stone concert at Iowa State University. Neither of us liked the band but, hey! It was a great excuse for high school seniors to mix with university students.  Truth be told, the concert was a bust. Sly and the Family Stone did not show up because they were stoned!

In the fall of my 18th year, I was a student at our local community college. There was only a hint of rebellion and unrest. Mostly just talk. Curiosity. And stories told of soldiers going to and returning from a sadly politicized war. I sat next to a student in chemistry lecture who had just returned from Vietnam. He was very quiet. Very private. (Good looking, too!) I tried talking to him. But he responded with few words. I can only guess what images were etched in his mind. Later, it was important for me to stand at the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C. Seeing the names of soldiers who gave their lives left an impression on me. I could never understand why Hollywood types like Jane Fonda could aid and abet the enemy and, therefore, betray the American boys, husbands, and fathers who sacrificed to press against Communism.

In my advanced writing class, I took on a big project. I wrote a lengthy story about the terrors of war from the perspective of a wounded warrior who was left a quadriplegic. It was a strange story for a girl to write. But I was a strange girl. I started reading books about the Holocaust and Nazi War Crimes in 8th or 9th grade. I believe that such reading prepared me for the pro-life work that I would one day be involved with. Perhaps I wanted to be more familiar with the past so that I could better recognize “good” and “evil” in the present. Like you, my grandson, I was trying to pay attention to what was going on in the world. I wanted to enjoy life, friends, and activities. I wanted to be involved in meaningful ways. I wanted to make a difference. But I did not want to compromise my faith. I won’t lie. There were a lot of temptations. Today I have to believe that the Lord of my life kept me from some dangerous choices and close calls.

A part of my 18-year-old person wanted to be in the city where “things were happening.” I assumed I would be moving on from the community college to a university. Eventually, I envisioned living in Minneapolis where I would be an interior designer. Well, that was one possibility. But I was also starting to be interested in theology. What a mix! An interior designing theologian. Ha!

Upon reflection, my grandson, I see so many similarities between my 18th year and yours. At 18, one is poised on the brink of adventure. There is excitement. But there is also some anxiety. We do better with both when we know who we are.

God gave you His name and His Spirit at your Baptism. Through water and Word, you became a son and heir of God because of what Jesus Christ has done for you. You are a character in God’s Story. No matter what is happening in the culture around you, remembering who you are to God will help you know how to think, speak, and act.

How do I know that? Because between my 18th year and now, God has been merciful and patient with me. He has taught me much about who I am and why I am here. There have been good days and bad. Successes and failures. Through it all, I didn’t hold on to Him nearly as tightly as He held on to me. I wonder. Do you think it might be that He had me experience the roller-coaster of 18-plus years so that I could be a better grandma to you?

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A pregnant woman is not autonomous.

Her pregnancy is not “a cancer.”

And the placenta knows it!

When serving as president of National Lutherans For Life, I had long discussions with my Ob/Gyn friend, Karen Rehder, M.D. I’ve never forgotten what Karen told me: “Birth is a miracle. Were it not for the placenta, the mother would reject the baby as something foreign to her body just like a transplant patient rejects a liver or kidney.”

Two separate entities—baby and mother—are attached by umbilical cord and placenta. The placenta tells us that a pregnant woman is not autonomous.

The placenta “is the only organ made in cooperation by two people,” explains Dr. Kristin Collier. It is “the organ through which the baby and mother interface.” Dr. Collier is Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and practices general Internal Medicine. She also serves as Director of the U of Michigan’s Medical School program on Health, Spirituality, and Religion.

The placenta, “made from the growing baby’s tissue and the mother’s tissue together . . . is known as a ‘feto-maternal’ organ . . . [that] helps provide nutrition, produces hormones, and protects the baby against infection.” This “purposely transient organ” acts like “a lung, kidney, gastrointestinal tract, and the endocrine and immune system.”

The placenta is so important that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the U.S. has a research arm called the Human Placenta Project. A “healthy placenta is not only crucial for healthy development of the prenatal child, but also affects the health of the child and mother for years to come.”

There is “a unique transfer of cellular materials that happens across the placenta. In science, microchimerism refers to the presence of a small population of genetically distinct and separately derived cells within an individual. In pregnancy, small amounts of cells travel across the placenta. Some of these cells are the prenatal child’s cells that travel from the baby into her mother, and some cells also pass from the mother into her child. The cells from the prenatal child into her mother are pluripotent, which means they haven’t yet differentiated into the type of cell specific for one organ or tissue in particular. These cells find their way into mother’s tissue and start acting like the tissue in which they find themselves. This process is known as feto-maternal microchimerism.”

Scientifically, we can say that mother is helped by her unborn baby. “For example, these [fetal] cells have been found in Caesarean sections incisions helping to make collagen to help mom heal after a surgical delivery. These cells have been found in the maternal breast and have been hypothesized to help reduce mom’s risk of breast cancer in her later years.”

The “gift of these cells from the baby, entering into mom’s body and helping her heal and protecting her from cancer, is amazing to think of and really challenges our ideas of people as autonomous beings.” Just as amazing is the fact that “these cells that enter the mother are allowed to survive and are not attacked by the mother’s immune system, even though they are somewhat ‘foreign.’ This again speaks to a cooperation, at the cellular level, between mother and child.”

This science sheds new light on the abortion debate. “Every dehumanizing ideology succumbs to the same temptation—to see the undesirable other as a non-person. In the abortion debate, as in similar debates around marginalized vulnerable populations, language is used when describing the undesirable other that is dehumanizing. In the abortion debate, the prenatal child is referred to as a ‘clump of cells’ or even a ‘parasite.’” We must “resist appeals to individual autonomy that detach us from our duty to aid others, and resist language, practices, and social structures that detach us from the full reality and dignity of . . . marginalized [persons]. A radical view of autonomy that leads to the end of another human life is one that is anti-life and oppresses the rights of another in the name of ‘freedom.’”

Dr. Collier admits that she is not a theologian, but she encourages us to think of biology “in a relational sense that mirrors the nature of God. The scriptures speak of a God who is in relationship with his people. We then would only expect that God, being the author of biology, would create our bodily nature in a way that was also relational—even down to the level of the cell.” Dr. Collier draws our attention to the “cells from the incarnate word of God, Jesus Christ, in his mother, the Virgin Mary [who] not only carried the Son of God in her body when he was in her womb, but . . . likely carried his cells in her body throughout her life . . .”

It is a loss to the human family when we pervert the language of conception and pregnancy. May we instead share God’s hope for mother and child revealed through the miracle of the placenta. A baby in the womb is not “a cancer”—and the placenta knows it!

 

by Linda Bartlett 2-16-20
(Source: “Together, baby; forever, baby,”
an interview by Carolyn Moynihan with Dr. Kristin Collier
in MercatorNet.com, 2-5-20)

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There are dozens of different genders. (If I disagree, I’m a hater.) Women must allow men to use their locker rooms, bathrooms, and showers. (If I disagree, I’m a bigot.) Marriage can be between two men or two women. (If I disagree, I’m a hater.) It’s ok for a child to have two mommies or two daddies. (If I disagree, I’m a bigot.) Abortion should be legal up to the moment of birth. (If I disagree, I hate women.)

BUT… I don’t hate women. A great deal of my life has been spent listening to women who’ve had abortions explain their grief, regret, and hope that younger women will not choose to do what they did. With concern for mother and child (and in spite of my own inadequacies), I try to defend both.

I am not a hater or a bigot. I respect my fellow human beings. Even when someone chooses to live differently from me, I do not turn my back on them. Their personhood–body and soul–matters to me. If they want me as their friend, I will strive to be an honest and persevering friend on good days and bad. As a Christian, I simply believe that God the Creator of male, female, and marriage gets to define male, female, and marriage. I trust that He knows better than me how His creation and design benefits every generation for the good of society.

In this period of time described in Romans 1, I realize that some will call me a hater, a bigot, small-minded, deplorable, judgmental, and even dangerous. But, in the end, it matters most what Jesus Christ has done for me and, therefore, why I need to draw closer to Him rather than to the world. God help me.

L. Bartlett

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Peace at the end of my day does not come in being a wife. It does not come in being a mom.

It comes in being a daughter.

There is peace in knowing that I have an inheritance that is imperishable and kept for me by my Father in heaven (1 Peter 1:4). There is nothing I do to earn that inheritance. It is a gift. I must wait to receive its full richness, but even now the Lord reveals a bit of that gift in His forgiveness and mercies that are poured out every morning.

My identity as the Father’s daughter affects my character. Remembering who I am affects my words, behaviors, and self-restraint. If God has mercy on me, shouldn’t I also have mercy on others? Every day is really an opportunity to act more like His forgiven daughter.

Every day, however, comes with temptations. One of them is to confuse my identity with being a “wife” or a “mother” or a “grandmother.” Those are vocations. Vocations are awesome callings and privileges, but they are for this life only. My identity is for this life and the next. I won’t be a wife and mother and grandmother forever because Jesus says there is no marriage in heaven. Individual family units will no longer exist and, instead, there will be one visible family of God. My place in His family will be then as it is now… only perfect in body and soul. No longer will I disappoint my Father, nor will I frustrate my brothers in Christ.

A vocation is what God calls me to do on this earth and in ways that honor Him. I can be a better child to my parents, wife to my husband, mother to my children, sister, aunt, and friend when I act like His forgiven daughter.

A vocation is a way for me to love God by serving my neighbor. I sin in my vocations, but that doesn’t change my identity. I can feel like a failure in my vocation, but that doesn’t change my identity.

No one can alter my identity. Nothing will cause the Father to stop calling me His daughter. My sinful choices and selfish behavior do not make me less God’s child, but they can change my attitude toward Him. Being unrepentant of my sins dangerously leads me to becoming my own little god. To prevent that, God the Father stirs my conscience and uses emotions of shame and guilt to rescue me from myself.

It is in humbling moments of rescue that the eyes of God’s children are turned to the Cross of Christ. His sacrificial outpouring of mercy is a love the world can’t understand. It is the kind of love that my neighbors need.

My children are my neighbors. The father of my children and grandfather of my grandchildren is my neighbor. In a world bent by sin—in a world that tells me to think of myself first, the neighbors I love most can be the most challenging and painful to love.

At the end of the day, there is peace. There is peace because my identity does something else. It helps me endure and live through the circumstances and consequences of a sinful, messed up life.

The circumstances of life—age, abilities, health, successes or failures—are always changing. Vocations change. But the identity given to me by God never changes. It cannot change. I will always be God’s daughter.

And that’s the reason why Satan hates me. It’s why he prowls around stirring things up. He does to me what he did to Eve. He deceived her into forgetting who she was. And then he tempted her to doubt God, fear vulnerability and desire control. Satan wants me to stop acting like I am God’s child so that I can’t show children and grandchildren how to act like His child.

The battle isn’t me against my neighbor. It’s me against the devil and this world. It’s me against my own fearful and selfish nature. In this spiritual war against evil, it’s me united with my closest neighbor—my husband—for the sake of generations.

When Satan targets me, he is really attacking my Lord. When he targets my marriage and children, he is attacking what the Lord has made. When he targets my home, he is attacking the place where my Lord has promised to dwell. Satan attacks the Lord by targeting His children.

Satan wants me to forget my identity so that my words, attitudes and behaviors cause division between me, my neighbor, and God.

The whole “love your neighbor” thing takes on a deeper meaning for the Christian when we remember that Jesus lives in us. So, what I do to my neighbor, I do to Him. Saul hurt his neighbors. He stoned Stephen. When he was blinded on the road, Jesus asked, “Saul, why do you persecute Me?”

Oh. My. Goodness. How many times have I wounded the Lord who gave His life for me? The number should burden me to such despair that I no longer want to live. But wait! God doesn’t measure or judge me by my failures and sins. When He looks at His daughter, He sees Christ in me and as my Father opens His arms to me.

God doesn’t love me because I’m loveable. He doesn’t love me because I make Him happy. He loves me because I am incomplete and lost without Him. He chooses to be merciful and forgiving even when I’ve betrayed Him. He pursues me with His Spirit.

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16). Jesus suffered on this earth. I can expect suffering in my vocations and relationships, too. But at the end of the day there is peace in crying, “Abba Father.” And…

He answers, saying, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27a).

   Linda Bartlett
10-30-19

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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.

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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).

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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.

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