Thinking Out Loud

August 22, 2016

Rolling the Dice on Grace

Mealtime Prayer Cube

I promised we’d come back to this image, and here we are.  The Mealtime Prayer Cube offers options to family prayer before eating. You “say the grace” that comes up when you roll. Only $1.99 US.

As a child, “saying grace” was the same at every meal:

Our Father in heaven, we thank and praise Thee for this food. We pray that Thou wilt bless it to our bodies’ use, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Every single meal.

For years.

When we started our own family, I was determined that it be different each time. It doesn’t vary a great deal, but there is room for special requests or anything else that we want to pray corporately at that time, provided the food isn’t getting cold.

I have two horror stories connected to this.

One is the way Christian camps make a mess of the mealtime prayer. What a great opportunity to model for the unchurched kids what Christian prayer looks like in a family setting. But we squander it with “Johnny Appleseed” and “the Superman Grace” and probably several you know that I don’t. A great teaching moment is lost.

Some camps redeem this by doing both however. Once the sung version is over, there is a moment of calm and someone genuinely give thanks to God for the provision of food and the health to enjoy it.

The other is a story about the outreach ministry my wife co-founded. It was decided not to do a prayer before the meal, at least not at first. The reason was that these were people who had previously been fed only in a Salvation Army-styled setting where, “you had to have the sermon before the soup.” On the one or two occasions that I became the person to announce that dinner was ready and they could line up, I think I said something like, “We’re here to share our food tonight because of the love Christ shared with us.” Short and simple, albeit mildly preachy.

But the organization, while it drifted away from its Christian roots to the point where my wife resigned, opted to use a book of prayers which came from a variety of religious perspectives. The person who is to “ask the blessing” simply flips through the book and chooses one. So we went from no prayer to having a spiritually vague prayer.

Better to roll a six-side cube, in that case.

 

Marmaduke - Saying Grace

July 22, 2016

Paying Someone to Tell My Wife I Love Her

Greeting Card Rack

The Short Version: Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about a display of blank greeting cards at the local Christian bookstore. Some people love them, but most people would never consider having to write their own thoughts. It occurred to me that at Christmas, Valentines Day, Mother’s Day, birthdays and anniversaries, I have basically been paying strangers to tell my wife I love her.

This doesn’t include cards I’ve sent to our kids, my parents, and others. The costs alone are probably staggering if I add it all up, and eventually the cards are thrown away.

Some Background: For years I’ve known a guy who owns a greeting card store. We were talking a long time ago about the evolution of gift wrapping and he shared this chronology:

  • People would wrap a gift in fancy wrapping paper and then tie it with a ribbon which would form a bow on top.
  • Then people started skipping the ribbon and bow.
  • Next, the gift bag arrived. No wrapping at this stage, you simply toss the gift in the bag and add a bit of tissue paper.
  • Then the gift itself ended. Instead, people purchased gift certificates and gift cards for a store the recipient would like, and placed that in a greeting card.
  • Finally, the gift card was replaced with an electronic substitute, sent by email.

How it Relates to Cards: It got me thinking about the cards themselves. Here’s my conjecture as to a possible sequence:

  • At one time, I’m sure people wrote more letters than we do today. People kept boxes of stationery in their homes and penmanship mattered. Some of these letters might run several pages — admittedly smaller format paper — and were kept and treasured by the ones who received them. Frequent writers dabbled in calligraphy, and people knew how to spell and compose a proper sentence.
  • Wikipedia traces the history of the greeting card — known to the Chinese in the 15th century — to its genesis in the 1850s. The introduction of postage stamps was a key factor.
  • By the late 1990s, the demise of greeting cards was said to be imminent, with the e-card replacing the need to mail a physical product. But when is the last time you got an e-card?
  • At the same time, some people were producing cards on their computers, which allowed them to possibly format a more personal message. This tied in with the scrap-booking trend, where people were making cards from scratch.
  • In 2016, Millennials are less likely to send cards, or even see the importance of them, unless a great aunt happens to send one containing money. Here in Canada, postal rates have skyrocketed over the last few decades. Sadly the tradition of sending thank-you notes (i.e. to the great aunt) has also diminished greatly.

Blank Cards: Again, I can’t overstate what I see as the value in blank cards. The idea of writing something from the heart and not relying on what someone, sitting at a desk at a greeting card company office wrote.

In the Christian field, I continue to be appalled at what is offered by the dominant card company, Dayspring. Their texts seem to me as too flippant, too cute, and usually quite irrelevant. It never ceases to amaze me how they continue to rule this particular market in North American Christian stores.

It also occurs to me that with greeting cards in general, unless you add at least three sentences of your own at the bottom, you are basically outsourcing your expression of love, gratitude or respect.

Admittedly, sometimes it is hard to find the words. Sympathy cards are always needed because you want to do something, but don’t always know what to say. But even there, I think even a half-literate person could take a blank card and write down a memory they have of the person who had died. Imagine yourself asked to say something at a funeral or memorial and commit it to writing; to print

Also, it needs to be said that many today in North America don’t know how to spell or write. Computers and phones are contributing to the de-evolution of the English language. So people avoid the possibility of disaster by letting someone else do the heavy lifting.

Why I Will Continue to Purchase Cards: All this said, I think that the effort of going to a store and selecting a card means something to my wife. The absence of a card would be noted. It’s one of the things we do when we love someone. Sometimes there are flowers, and they don’t last much more than a week, but it reminds her (and me) that I took the time, that I was thinking about her, and that I didn’t mind spending the money to show my love.

Cards and flowers represent terrible financial stewardship. In our economic situation, we can ill-afford to do this. But so is an expensive meal in a nice restaurant, and every once in awhile, you need to do these things. You do it just because.

However, I will continue to try to insert my own thoughts into the card. I really don’t want to outsource my expression of love; I don’t want to pay some stranger to tell my wife I love her.

July 9, 2016

Media to Fill Your Home

It’s been awhile, but this is the third time for this article here, this time with revisions…

I’ve previously written here about how we’re big fans of sermon audio when we travel, and as someone who works in a Christian bookstore environment, it’s a given that I’m a huge booster of Christian books and music.

But today I want to approach this from a slightly different perspective. Many times I’ve written about the battle that goes on for our thought life, and how this takes place on a moment by moment basis. Back in June, I posted a great analysis of the types of thoughts, that are going on in our heads at any given point in time.

I don’t spend a lot of time commuting, but I am increasingly aware of the contrast that exists between the mental processes that take place when I omit to turn on the radio — which is mostly presets for Christian stations — and drive in silence, versus the times I have worship songs playing. This is a giant contrast in my thoughts and attitude, not a mild difference.

Listening to Bible Teaching

I frequently listen to sermons from Willow Creek, The Meeting House, Woodland Hills and North Point, in addition to live sermons at church, and the occasional streaming of conferences.

Life was not always so.

I can remember asking my parents why they had to constantly listen to more preacher programs. Their media of choice was WDCX, an FM station in Buffalo, and WHLD, a Buffalo AM outlet. Of course, my choice would have been Top 40 rock station 1050 CHUM in Toronto. I think that was the real issue.

But today, although I hunger to learn and grow and discover more about Christ through what others have learned, I also am acutely aware of what happens in the absence of Christian media in the home.

Bible teaching can come in other forms besides radio and television. There are the aforementioned sermons-on-demand and live-streaming church services on the internet, plus many pastors often do a separate podcast. But there are still audio CDs of sermons kicking around, and of course books.

Reading Christian Books

One of my latest rants is that, in the average 21st Century family, I’m not sure the kids have ever seen dad sitting in a chair reading, and here I’m speaking of reading anything, a newspaper or magazine would suffice. How much more is it important to take time out and immerse yourself in the Bible, devotional material and study resources. If you missed it, I encourage you to read an article we did on Bill Hybels’ “Chair Time” concept.

Listening to Christian Music

For some Christ-followers, the dominant form of uplifting, inspirational and wholesome media is Christian music; which may consist of hymns, mass choirs, southern gospel, adult contemporary, Christian rock in all its various genres, and the current favorite, modern worship.

Again, these can be accessed in various forms. Some choose mp3 files which can be played back in the car and in the home. Many people are still buying music CDs. Christian music song videos abound on video sharing sites like YouTube. There is an abundance of Christian radio available online, and here in North America, most people live within range of a broadcast station that plays music, teaching or a mix of both.

But I have to say that as a worship leader, nothing compares to the songs what you experience in a worship environment with your faith family. Even today, I hear a song and I’ll remember which church I was in when I heard it and who was leading worship that day. Or I’ll be reading a scripture and I’ll recognize the verse as a line from a worship lyric. If you happen to be blessed with a gift that allows you to play in the worship band, a particular song can get stuck in your head for hours, and in a good way.

For a listing of some of my favorite songs with video, visit the sidebar in the right margin at Christianity 201.

Christian Movies

Our family was never a movie-culture family. We’ve been to the cineplex less than a dozen times, ever. But the production of Christian cinema has exploded over the last few years, and if you’re the type who enjoys gathering everyone around the home theater there are now some really decent films from which to choose, plus you’re supporting a genre that has tremendous outreach potential. You can purchase DVDs — great for loaning out after you’re done — or stream movies live.

Listening to God

These varied media I find to be a positive alternative to anything else, and in fact fulfill a direct instruction from scripture:

Phillips – Col. 3: 16-17 Let Christ’s teaching live in your hearts, making you rich in the true wisdom. Teach and help one another along the right road with your psalms and hymns and Christian songs, singing God’s praises with joyful hearts.

What will control your thought life this week?

May 31, 2016

Driver’s Ed and the Meaning of Life

img 053116

I still remember the four principles I was taught in Driver’s Ed. all those many, many years ago. I know they probably teach something different today, but here they are:

  • Aim High in Steering – Don’t be one of those people who is looking down at the asphalt directly ahead of them and fails to see what’s happening in the block ahead.
  • Get the Big Picture – Be aware of the general traffic pattern; cars that a trying to merge; drivers who are in a hurry; people turning from cross streets.
  • Make Sure They See You – Don’t drive for long stretches in other people’s blind spots; make sure they know your intentions
  • Leave Yourself an Out – In a 3-lane freeway, don’t pull into the space between the car in lane 1 and the minivan in lane 3; have an escape route if there’s a problem

This list of guiding principles has been useful many times, but took on new meaning last night as I was counseling a recent university graduate on next steps.

  • Aim High – It’s time to think about career. In the meantime there may need to be an entry-level position, but being a bagger at the Walmart Supercenter isn’t necessary. At this point, there are some things you can start turning down, but don’t expect a reserved parking space or a corner office anytime soon. Maybe it should read aim higher.
  • Get the Big Picture – Know the industry, trade or profession you want to work in. Read its journals. Study its online resources. But also have a handle on the job market in general, and what’s going on in the local community as well as nationally. Learn to be conversant in several employment dialects.
  • Make Sure They See You – You’re building a career resumé now, not simply looking for spending money. Start thinking about what that piece of paper will look like five years from now. Make an impression. Have a business card. Start a personal website. Commit to excellence.
  • Leave Yourself An Out – At this stage, if the job is a stop-gap measure with little chance of upward mobility, say so. Tell the employer you intend to do good work, and be worth his or her training investment, but that you see the position as temporary. When the moment comes where something better arrives, leave on good terms.

 

May 29, 2016

Yesterday We Graduated from University

Filed under: Christianity, family, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:26 am

He graduated in terms of actually taking the courses and getting the diploma. We graduated in terms of parenting him through the process. His undergraduate years as a student are now behind him, as are our parent-of-an-undergraduate years.

James Dobson frequently talked about the role of parents to “just get them through it.” I have mixed feelings about that phrase. I like the idea of parents seeing their offspring through the different stages of life, and going from A to B to C to D. But I think there’s more a parent can do. We can encourage them to completion of A and B and C, but we can also enrich the process so it isn’t reduced to a fatalistic ‘let’s get this over with and then we can relax.’ Women reading this are free to comment something like, ‘Only a male would say that parenting is just getting through it,’ because according to the stereotype, men are more goal oriented, and women are more process oriented. I would agree, there has to be more than just reaching graduation day, in the four or five years which lead up to it.

So yes, we worked to get him through it, but hopefully we also contributed to making it a life-changing experience regardless of the outcome; though, for the record, he did pass every course.

Congratulations, Aaron.


This also seemed like a good place to reiterate some text which has appeared, I believe, three times here now.

no vacancyOur kids hated road trips. We would get to a city, walk into a motel, pull out our coupon book, and then be told that due to a soccer tournament, there were no motels with openings anywhere within an hour radius. Back to the car, hungry, hot, tired, and another hour’s drive.

Later on, we discovered the joy of planning destinations ahead, and making reservations, though by that point, the kids were older and opting out of our excursions.

Their road trip phobia later turned into an interesting object lesson.  I told them that somewhere in the future, they will find themselves in situations that will tempt them to compromise their principles, or do something foolish and unsafe. We said that like our motel example, they need to pre-book their choices. That way they won’t regret something done in the heat of the moment. Decide now what they will and won’t do.

May 9, 2016

Meet Evangelical Vaughn Ohlman: Ranker.com’s Worst Person of the Week

Girls-are-like-apples-on-trees

Image: Raw Story screenshot from Let Them Marry

vaughn-ohlman-photo-u1Last Wednesday we linked to a story at HomeschoolersAnonymous.com, a website we’ve been aware of for a long time. Two newer stories focused on concern over the invitation to early marriage advocate Vaughn Ohlman to speak at a homeschool conference, as well as an updated story concerning a decision by a Salvation Army camp in Kansas to retract a previous arrangement whereby his organization, Let Them Marry, would have hosted a “Get Them Married…” 3-day ‘conference’ at their facility. That got us curious, so we started to delve into the story on the weekend.

Let Them Marry has stripped their website to bare bones, apparently unable to handle the recent publicity.  More details were available at Vyckie Garrison’s Patheos blog No Longer Quivering which we’ve also been aware of for a long time. In a May 6th piece she links to an article in the Kansas City Star.

…Vaughn Ohlman, who works as an ambulance driver in Schulenberg, Texas, operates a blog and website devoted to “the idea of Christians focusing more on young, fruitful, Godly marriages – getting rid of some of so many of the obstacles that stand in the way,” he said in an e-mail.

According to biblical interpretations  posted on the site, supporters believe it best for girls to be married before age 20, and that their consent is not necessary.

“Scripture speaks of the father of the son ‘taking a wife’ for his son, and the father of the bride ‘giving’ her to her husband,” Ohlman writes, citing passages from Jeremiah, Judges, Ezra and other books.

“It gives example after example of young women being given to young men, without the young woman even being consulted, and often, in some of the most Godly marriages in Scripture, the young man is not consulted.”

How early should girls marry? For some, as young as age 13, says the Let Them Marry website.

According to Ohlman, a girl is ready for marriage when she has breasts, which “promise enjoyment for her husband.” A girl also should be “ready to bear children” and “ready for sexual intercourse sexually and emotionally,” Ohlman writes.

“We do not endorse marriage at ages as young as twelve.”

After news of the Wichita retreat began circulating online Thursday, Ohlman took to his blog to address critics who said the concept of the retreat was offensive and possibly illegal.

Under Kansas law, no one under the age of 15 can marry. Eighteen is the minimum age, although 16- and 17-year-olds can get married with parental consent…

Ohlman’s Book What Are You Doing? has a website (possibly also recently sanitized), and the Amazon page doesn’t provide previews. However there are two reader reviews:

I have often been tempted to write a book on covenant, Christian marriage that I would call, “I Kissed Courtship Goodbye.” The reason for the title would be to address a particular definition of courtship that in essence, operates as two families “dating” each other. It subconsciously goes something like this, “we’ll let our children court for awhile and see how things go, but if things don’t go the direction that we want to, or we discover that they just aren’t “compatible” we can just cut it off and there is no harm done.”… My wife’s and my relationship and attraction grew naturally and as time went by after our covenant making we both revealed and discovered how we, over time, came to the point where we could not see ourselves marrying anyone other than each other. That simple. Relationships are complicated. They are complicated because we complicate them. But as we grow spiritually, mature, and become more like Christ and wisely meditate on the words of God which were not spoken vain, we apply the principles resulting from this learned understanding to gradually and incrementally casting off the complications that man creates and simultaneously embrace the simplicity and beauty of God’s created order. “What are you Doing?” is a casual, and I believe, effective tool of exercising our minds to think more biblically in the realm of how two people covenant together in marriage…


…The basis of the book’s betrothal solution is that any man and woman who are not celibate and are willing to “do good” to a mate are eligible to be married to one another. Further, since this sexual interest is present, they should not seek a potential spouse themselves since that will inevitably lead to some sort of sexually charged relationship. Even a merely verbal relationship will lead to sexual thoughts that defraud the couple if they do not eventually become man and wife. Therefore, the fathers should be the ones to initiate any possible discussions of marriage. The man and woman can certainly have a friendly relationship, but considering each other as potential mates can lead to trouble.

Some will decry the involvement of parents in the choice of a spouse as “arranged marriage”. But careful readers will understand that the author is not proposing a medieval plot where a young girl is chained in a dungeon awaiting puberty and marriage to a toothless old man. Rather, sensible families will welcome a reintroduction of a multi-generational vision in which parents guide their children through life’s major milestones…

Ohlman’s own daughter-in-law describes the process in her blog PrinceCharmingDiapers.com in a post entitled The Betrothal Story:

…I should note that people often get the impression that we got married on blind faith, simply trusting that God would miraculously sort out any difficulties which came along afterwards. I think this is, in large part, a product of people’s own insecurities: they cannot imagine trusting in a vetting process in which they did not directly participate. But when I say “months” of communication went between the two fathers, I hope it’s obvious that we weren’t doing anything on “blind faith”.

Indeed, what really happened is that Joshua and I trusted our respective fathers to do the vetting for us… and to do a much better job than we could have done. Our dads weren’t dealing with raging hormones, crazy emotions, or an overwhelming desire to ignore important issues simply for the sake of getting married. My dad was able to take a serious look at Joshua’s character in a way I would have been unequipped (and unlikely) to do.

Finally, the entire Ohlman family -excluding Joshua- arrived one Wednesday in August (Joshua couldn’t fly in until Friday due to work). The days before Joshua arrived were mildly awkward because everyone was pretending they didn’t know what was going on and that the Ohlmans, a family from Texas, “just happened” to have stopped by to visit a family they’d never met before… in Michigan. At the same time, however, our families hit it off immediately and we felt like life-long friends right away.

When Joshua finally arrived my dad met him at the airport, took him out to lunch, and “grilled” him. Satisfied that he’d done his due diligence, my dad brought Joshua home and introduced him to us all. Dad then took me on a walk and nervously asked me to assure him I was all right being betrothed to someone who was still, emotionally and practically, a stranger. I assured him that I was more than “all right” with it and that I had already grown to love his family.

Less than two hours later we held a small ceremony in our back yard. My dad and Mr. Ohlman gave a short sermon/admonition, each to their respective children… and then my dad put my hand in Joshua’s, thereby giving me away to the man I henceforth have had the privilege of calling my husband! Barring family members, I had never held a man’s hand before. It was so special to do so with only one man, and only after being covenanted with him for life.

I can’t tell you how deliriously happy I was at that point. To have blissfully skipped through all of the nerves, awkwardness, and — even worse — possible heartbreak of courtship in just two hours. To be completely secure in my relationship with Joshua from day one…

Ohlman’s blog, The Practical Theonomist records the text of the covenant — this is the first half — as posted in August, 2013:

It is with great joy in the mighty blessing of the Lord that we, the undersigned, in obedience to God do Covenant or Witness thereto that:
Joshua Phillip Ohlman
and
Laura Marie Camp
Are this  the 23rd day of August, 2013 bound in the sight of God and man in the unbreakable Covenant of Betrothal; are now husband and wife to each other; and await the blessed day when they will come together physically.
In this covenant we bind ourselves or our children to the following:
A lifelong continual sexual union in which the body of each spouse belongs to the other.
A union which shall be ever open to the blessing of children; and where the children shall be raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
A union in which the husband shall love his wife, as Christ loves the Church; washing her in the water of the word.
A union in which the wife shall love and respect her husband, love her children, and keep the home; helping raise her children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
A union, under Christ, with the husband as its head, the wife as his submissive helpmeet, and the children bound in obedience to their parents…

On the Progressive Atheist channel at Patheos, the blog Progressive Secular Humanist was able to capture some of the scriptural basis for Let Them Marry before the website was wiped:

Doesn’t a legitimate marriage require the consent of both the people marrying?

Scripture speaks of the father of the son “taking a wife” for his son, and the father of the bride “giving” her to her husband (Jeremiah 29: 6; Judges 21: 7; Ezra 9:12; Nehemiah 10: 30; 1 Corinthians 7:36-38). It gives example after example of young women being given to young men, without the young woman even being consulted…

A “bride price” is anything paid or given by the man or his representative at the time of his betrothal or receiving his bride.

Scripture certainly teaches about it… The law concerning bride price (Exodus 22:16-17) indicates that . . . the bride price was a normal part of the marriage process.

The bride price plays a significant function: It shows the woman’s value, and the point isn’t that the father gets the money but that he keeps it for his daughter, if her husband should ever abandon her.

At the website ChristianToday.com, we learn there is also an historical claim:

Perhaps his most controversial teaching is his advocacy of “young marriage”. He cites Calvin’s view that a woman is in “the flower of her age” between 12 and 20, John Gill’s figure of 12 and a half and Martin Luther’s of 15-18. However, he says: “We do not endorse marriage at ages as young as twelve,” and he flatly denies endorsing paedophilia. He adds: “But we are certainly in agreement with the commentators that marriage (in order to be timely and to accomplish its purposes) ought to happen before the age of twenty for almost everyone.”

While Ohlman’s website has been cleaned up, we do have the benefit of a Google Cache of his FAQ page. This question and answer were carefully worded:

Can a betrothed couple sleep together? No one that is not betrothed should have sex. Such sex is either fornication, adultery, or sexually perverse (as in Sodomy).

What is usually meant by this question is if the couple who is ONLY betrothed can have intercourse, or engage in other sexual activities. My answer would be that the action is legal but not possible.

You see, what separates being ‘only betrothed’ and being fully married is the consummation. So the question is kind of like asking if you can paint on a blank canvas. You are allowed to, obviously, assuming it is your canvas, but if you do it isn’t blank.

Traditionally, including Biblical tradition, the time of consummation includes a celebration called a wedding, marriage supper, marriage feast, or the like. The friends and family of the bride and groom come together to celebrate the new sexual union, the potential for offspring, the joining of the families, and the like. In our modern age we have come, erroneously, to see that ‘wedding’ as the event that authorizes the physical joining (at least in the Church—the world now largely sees the ‘consent’ of the couple as what authorizes sexual union, consent focused on an event by event and sometimes even intra-event basis—a complex subject and beyond the scope of this FAQ).

But Biblically, this was not so. Of those marriages where we have some details, only some of them take place in the context of some kind of celebration. And no law requires, or even hints at, these celebrations. Instead, it speaks of special protections for the betrothed man, so that he can immediately consummate with his new wife before going off to battle, etc.

So there’s an overview, all of which brings us to Ranker.com’s #1 rating of Vaughn Ohlman as the week’s worst person

So is this just a fringe movement? Again at Patheos blog, Love, Joy, Feminism, writer Libby Anne writes:

I really wish I could just gawk at this, I really do, but I was homeschooled and I knew families who were into things like this. If this had been around when I was a teen, it is very likely that families I knew would have gone—and it is barely possible that my own family might have considered it (though I very much hope they wouldn’t have). These are real people we’re talking about, and the number of fellow homeschool alumni I know who entered into early marriages like these and are now divorced seems to be growing by the month. Need I add that young women typically exit these marriages with little in the way of education, skills, or career prospects?


Media coverage: The video below contains some errors; online consensus seems to be that Ohlman is not connected to the Duggar Family. Warning: There are also language issues in the commentary.

 

May 2, 2016

This Sunday’s “Mother’s Day” is Better as “Women’s Day”

One of the things that struck me when reading Pete Wilson’s book, Plan B, was the many mentions of infertility. I remember thinking, ‘This is a big issue among people in his congregation.’ And maybe for some of you.

With Mother’s Day happening this Sunday in many parts of the world, Russell Moore has written an ever-timely article on infertility. We link to Dr. Moore quite often here, but I don’t know if we had ever committed wholesale theft of one of his blog posts before stealing this one three years ago. But it needed to be seen, and still does. You are encouraged to click through to read it.

Mother’s Day is a particularly sensitive time in many congregations, and pastors and church leaders often don’t even know it. This is true even in congregations that don’t focus the entire service around the event as if it were a feast day on the church’s liturgical calendar. Infertile women, and often their husbands, are still often grieving in the shadows.

Mothers Day and the ChurchIt is good and right to honor mothers. The Bible calls us to do so. Jesus does so with his own mother. We must recognize though that many infertile women find this day almost unbearable. This is not because these women are (necessarily) bitter or covetous or envious. The day is simply a reminder of unfulfilled longings, longings that are good.

Some pastors, commendably, mention in their sermons and prayers on this day those who want to be mothers but who have not had their prayers answered. Some recognize those who are mothers not to children, but to the rest of the congregation as they disciple spiritual daughters in the faith. This is more than a “shout-out” to those who don’t have children. It is a call to the congregation to rejoice in those who “mother” the church with wisdom, and it’s a call to the church to remember those who long desperately to hear “Mama” directed at them.

What if pastors and church leaders were to set aside a day for prayer for children for the infertile?

In too many churches ministry to infertile couples is relegated to support groups that meet in the church basement during the week, under cover of darkness. Now it’s true that infertile couples need each other. The time of prayer and counsel with people in similar circumstances can be helpful.

But this alone can contribute to the sense of isolation and even shame experienced by those hurting in this way. Moreover, if the only time one talks about infertility is in a room with those who are currently infertile, one is probably going to frame the situation in rather hopeless terms.

In fact, almost every congregation is filled with previously infertile people, including lots and lots who were told by medical professionals that they would never have children! Most of those (most of us, I should say) who fit into that category don’t really talk about it much because they simply don’t think of themselves in those terms. The baby or babies are here, and the pain of the infertility has subsided. Infertile couples need to see others who were once where they are, but who have been granted the blessing they seek.

What if, at the end of a service, the pastor called any person or couple who wanted prayer for children to come forward and then asked others in the congregation to gather around them and pray? Not every person grappling with infertility will do this publicly, and that’s all right. But many will. And even those too embarrassed to come forward will be encouraged by a church willing to pray for those hurting this way. The pastor could pray for God’s gift of children for these couples, either through biological procreation or through adoption, whichever the Lord should desire in each case.

Regardless of how you do it, remember the infertile as the world around us celebrates motherhood. The Proverbs 31 woman needs our attention, but the 1 Samuel 1 woman does too.

January 28, 2016

What’s On Your Fridge?

Filed under: Christianity, family, prayer — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:53 am

Prayer2

Sometime during the summer I posted a small list of prayer requests to our refrigerator. It was during one of those periods where the needs of people around us seemed to be growing and I wanted to make sure that nobody fell through the cracks of forgetfulness. This doesn’t mean that other requests aren’t shared at mealtime as needed, but it’s a core list that is glanced at every time someone reaches for food, and it hasn’t changed much over the past six months.

Prayer Requests on RefrigeratorThere are 17 requests on the sheet. What’s below is going to have some considerable overlap into a few different categories.

  • 2 are for people living outside North America. I wish our world concern was higher. One is a family from our church who are in Africa for two years; the other is my oldest son’s Compassion sponsored child. (And yes, we prayed intensely for Saeed’s release, but somehow that transcended the list.)
  • 3 represent our family; two of these are our sons and one is extended family.
  • 2 would fall into the category of prayer for salvation for someone yet to cross the line of faith.
  • 9 would fall into the category of prayer for healing, 8 for physical healing, 1 for mental health. Since the list was posted, 2 of these have improved to the point I wouldn’t add them to a future list, one is facing final days.
  • 4 I would categorize as prayer for God’s direction in life.
  • 1 would be a prayer for finances, and another 1 is a health situation that is affecting finances.
  • 1 had to be amended since the list was posted; the request for prayer in my friend’s life involved a name that was crossed out and was replaced with another name.
  • 1 is more institutional, the other 16 are names of individuals or families.

So what’s on your fridge?


Image: Couldn’t find what I wanted, so did some cutting and pasting. Full disclosure as required by FTC rules: Our own fridge door opens the other way.

January 12, 2016

Book Review: The Looney Experiment

Nested among the advance reading copies from Zondervan last fall was a book for younger teens. I kept wondering why it was included, but after a conversation later into the year I flipped through the book and formulated a plan.

So today, I bring you a guest reviewer (who I don’t think I’ve met) who is in the same grade as the student in the story, and has a similar first name to the author. I guess it was meant to be!

The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds
Zonderkidz, 2015, Hardcover, 208 pages

reviewed by Lucus Wood

The Looney ExperimentAtticus is a young boy in middle school. He is a target for the school’s bully. He likes a girl that doesn’t really know he’s there. Because of the fighting his dad has left his family and Atticus feels confused and angry. Atticus’s teacher leaves to have a baby and they get a supply teacher named Mr.Looney. Mr.Looney seems to show up with Atticus’s dad out of the picture and helps him stand up to the bully at school. He stands up for himself and he makes life better and he goes on to be happy.

I really liked Mr.Looney. He is probably one of the funniest book characters that I have ever read about. Mr Looney has a wacky personality and is very wise though he makes his points in the strangest ways possible. He was my favorite character hands down. My favorite part was when he was jogging around the class room.

My thoughts on this book are: Amazing! Having a crazy teacher in a book is my favorite part of fiction books. I would recommend The Looney Experiment to others because it contains lots of laughs and a valuable life lesson. I enjoyed this book even though I thought I wouldn’t like it. I hope the author will write a sequel. (If he does, I’d love to read it.) I wonder if this book reflects the author’s childhood?  It was a great book and I will definitely read it again.


Read more about the book at Zondervan.com
See what other reviews are saying at BookLookBloggers.com

January 8, 2016

New Christian Video Series with Talking Owls is a Hoot

OwlegoriesFirst there were talking vegetables. You may have heard of them.

Now we have Owlegories with talking owls.

Owlegories is a series of videos where the allegories are a parallel between things found in nature and foundational principles in scripture. In the first DVD, there are three episodes.

  • The Sun – about the nature of God
  • The Seed – about our relationship with God
  • The Water – characteristics of God’s Word

Each episode runs about 16 minutes and preceded by some banter between kids (live actors) and then moves into the episode itself which is entirely animated. The target audience is clearly young children — my guess would be ages 3-9 — but knowing that older kids and parents are watching alongside, there is a very short teaching segment at the end. One the first DVD, those presenters were Jen Wilkin, Matt Chandler and Tony Evans.

The animated sections begin in the classroom; Theowlogy 101 to be precise. The owls are given both a quest and an assignment, but always face the potential of their mission begin thwarted by Devlin, whose name is a bit of a giveaway. They complete the assignment in the course of trying to complete the quest.

Owelgories was the brainchild of husband/wife couple Thomas and Julie Boto who also make brief appearances. In addition to what’s on the DVD there is an offer to download an additional episode for mobile or tablet, as well as a smartphone app.

The series was launched in October, and the end of this month sees a release of Volume 2: The Ant, The Fruit, The Butterfly. You can watch a short trailer here:

After watching the first episode, my wife and I discussed the similarities and differences between the owls and the aforementioned vegetables. While there is some humor in Owlegories to make the adults smile, Veggie Tales was a little more sophisticated in that respect, thus its secondary appeal at middle school sleepovers. The biggest difference we noticed was that the main building blocks of VT episodes were Bible narratives, whereas the Owls are teaching doctrinal principles. Despite this, I would stick with my age 3-9 recommendation.

For those who want to see a strong Christological element in their children’s ministry products, you’re more likely to get that in the teaching segments appended to each episode. In the first DVD at least, the principles taught are somewhat general.

You can learn more about the series at owlegories.com

 

 

 

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