Deep Wounds and Hello Kitty Bandaids

Hello Kitty bandaids work better than normal ones; this is scientific fact, indisputable. Ask my nieces. Given the choice between a plain beige bandaid and a Hello Kitty one, they will choose the Hello Kitty one 100 times out of 100. They’re medical miracles. They dry up tears, stop pain, and return a three-year-old to normal play mode as quick as a wink.

They also don’t work on a deep wound.

Everyone knows this when it comes to physical injuries. Your child slices her arm open, and you’re rushing for the car keys, not the bandaids, Hello Kitty or otherwise. Worse, your child is diagnosed with some chronic disease or illness, and you know that no amount of licenced products are going to help.

But reveal a struggle with depression, or anxiety, or panic attacks, or dark, spiraling despair, and suddenly the same people who would advise a 911 call and some prompt medical attention, or long-term medical treatment, are handing out bandaid answers like you just skinned your knee.

Today I read of a husband’s agony as he watched his wife struggle with post-partum depression. The comments section was character bandaids galore: make sure she’s getting enough B vitamins! one commenter insisted. Don’t forget to make confession of sin part of your daily life, said another. No, no, don’t use the Hulk bandaids, no one likes those. Have these bandaids instead!

All I can say to that is… don’t.

Just… don’t do that.

Friends, sin is not always, or predictably, the cause of suffering. Jesus rebuked the pharisees for thinking that a man’s blindness resulted from his sin or that of his parents. Suffering does not always seem to have a purpose; sometimes it doesn’t seem to have a cause, or a reason, or an origin. It’s not always taken away when we pray (2 Cor 12), or even when we treat it medically (Luke 8).

But for the Christian, suffering is always part of the hard providence of God, never escaping his notice or care, never catching him off guard. Satan himself must seek God’s permission to trouble us, and his power is always limited — how much more must the suffering we experience be controlled and limited by a loving and watchful Father!

True suffering defies and confounds tidy, pat answers. If the tools with which we approach it don’t go beyond a range of bandaids with superheros and cartoon characters splashed across them, we will have no comfort to offer those who desperately need it.

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“You’re What the French Call ‘Les Incompetents.'”

You disagree with the Affordable Care Act? Terrific. It is the constitutional right of every American, and therefore every Congressman, to oppose and work to overturn laws they find unjust or immoral or unwise. But trying to overturn or defund an existing law by tacking a rider onto a spending bill without which the entire government will shut down is like a toddler holding his breath so mommy will let him watch another hour of TV.

Government shutdown isn’t just some abstract thing. It means servicemen and women might not get their paychecks. It means regions that depend on tourism to their national parks are losing that revenue. It means federally-funded research hospitals have to stop doing their research. It means “essential workers” still have to go to work even though they aren’t getting paid. Oh, except for congressmen — their paychecks are written into permanent law and not dependent on the stopgap spending bills they’ve been passing for the last two years because they can’t seem to pass an actual budget. No WIC during the shutdown — sorry moms and kids! No federal civil trials — sorry, citizens’ right to a speedy trial! No DHS immigration checks — sorry, business owners who want to verify citizenship of prospective employees! Oh, and sorry, taxpayers; it’s going to cost you way more money to fix this than if the government hadn’t shut down, because once this debacle is over, we not only have to pay all the back paychecks that would have been paid anyway (ahem, that is, if Congress feels like doing that), we also have to find a way to fund the fines for contract delays and other administrative fees that are inevitable after a circumstance like this.

This should not be happening. So what do we do about it?

I heard two suggestions today that I really like. The first is that, if congress allows a government shutdown, their pay is immediately suspended for the duration of the shutdown, and they face serious fines if the shutdown continues past a certain date. The second is that, after a certain date, states may call emergency elections for all seats in the House, Senate, or both, depending on who’s dragging their heels. How much do you want to bet they would try harder for a solution if they know THEIR paychecks were on the line, not just the paychecks of 800,000 hard-working Americans?

Dear Congressmen: The functioning of the agencies and arms United States of America is not a bargaining chip. When it comes to laws, you are free to disagree, negotiate, bargain, play “Let’s Make A Deal” into the wee hours of the morning. But I did not send you to Washington to let the government shut down. Thanks.

Still Over It

A few more thoughts on this morning’s post, just in the realm of assumptions.

1. Sexual sin is a grievous thing with long-standing consequences. It’s an offense, both against a holy God and against one’s own body, according to the Scriptures.

2. Some sexual sin carries with it more emotional baggage than others, and some carries with it more tangible consequences than others.

3. No sexual sin — or any other kind of sin — is beyond the reach of the forgiveness of God, and no sinner is beyond the amazing transformation brought about by the Holy Spirit.

4. Pre-conversion sin can, as mentioned in #2, have consequences that last throughout one’s life, but these consequences are not ours to enforce. When we see a non-virgin who, by the Holy Spirit’s power, is currently living a chaste life, we should rejoice in God’s provision not shake our heads at the ongoing shame of past unchastity.

5. It is the VERY GRIEVOUSNESS of sin that makes Gospel transformation so amazing, so worship-engendering, so God-glorifying! If I told my friends that the estate of Bill Gates had not only paid off my mortgage and remaining student loans, but also given me ten million dollars, I hope they would be incredibly excited for me and celebrate with me, not say, “Shame on you for no longer living in your former indebtedness!” That, friends, is exactly what Jesus has done for sinners: he has paid off the debt we owe to God and given us every spiritual blessing and resource for godly living.

6. The attitude of “I thank you that I am not like that publican” has no place in the hearts or mouths of those who have been rescued from their (grievous, offensive, disgusting, condemnatory) sin by a merciful God. But for the restraining grace of God, who among us would not have given in to the lowest and vilest of our desires? If you think it’s your own effort and free will that have kept you sexually chaste, then of course you’ll be driven by pride to look down on those who have not been — after all, if I can do something in my own power, why can’t other people? But if you humbly believe that your heart, left to its own devices, is every bit as wicked as that of the worst sinner, and that every bit of good in you is there only because of the kindness of a loving Father who preserves you from falling into sin? Your attitude toward others is going to be very different.

What keeps coming to my mind are the words to one of my favorite hymns.

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains!

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away!

No, I wouldn’t like to try online dating, but thanks for asking.

I’ve given some thought to just coming up with a brief little canned response when people ask me why I don’t try ReformedChristianSingles.com or eHarmony or whatever. Brief, because they do NOT want to hear the whole spiel, which goes a little something like this:

Marriage is good and I would like to be married. But it is not the goal of my life. The goal of my life is Christlikeness. Now, if I felt like there was some Christlikeness-obtaining value in me signing up for eHarmony and going on dates with strangers, then I would consider it. But all that would be accomplished if I personally signed up for a dating service would be for me to be more focused on marriage as a goal and a purpose for life, rather than more focused on Jesus. Online dating isn’t inherently evil or anything, and I know many happily married people who found their match online. But online dating is also definitely not for everyone, and I can tell you without the slightest hesitation or doubt that it is NOT. FOR. ME. 100%. End of story.

 

Here’s the thing: I think for some people, they can sign up for eHarmony or whatever, humbly submitting to God and feeling like He’s leading them through the whole process to the person He means for them to marry. But for ME, with my personality? It’s totally going to be me either saying A) “Look, Lord, you’re not doing things quick enough so I’m going to take it into my own hands, thanks,” or B) *siiiiighh* “Fine, I guess if I don’t want to be a pathetic spinster for the rest of my life, if I want my life to have any meaning, I’d better just resign myself to whatever loser I can find online…” And both of those things are founded on total lies, and completely stupid, and I’m not going to have anything to do with either of them. You dig?

See? People are not going to want to stand and listen through that whole thing.

Stop It. Just Stop It.

OK, I have officially had enough.

Back in September, Tullian Tchividjian‘s church made the move to one service, from their previous format of one “traditional” and one “contemporary” service.  He wrote an initial post about their kickoff week and a little of the background behind their decision.  At the end of the post, what he didn’t write but might as well have was “Cue Psalms-only, Western-musical-tradition-obsessed, Regulative Principal types: pontificate away, fellas.”

Here are just a few of the many comments that made me want to throw stuff at my computer:

I foresee a time, probably when the current minister of music retires, when the two services will be blended. My hope is that Jesus will return before that happens.

Even the best expressions of blended worship represent a level of compromise

I’m having difficulty understanding why churches insist on dumbing down something intended primarily for God so that we aren’t challenged by it.

Granted, classical music is not as appreciated in today’s society as it has been in the past, but then again, neither is the Gospel.

Hymns like “A Mighty Fortress” and “O God Our Help in Ages Past” ministered to me and soothed the hurt I felt inside. Trading all that for the moaning and twitching of contemporary worship, the loud praise band and flashing lights, is a thought too horrific to contemplate.

Can we please just take a second (after we’ve all picked our jaws up off the floor) to evaluate the assumptions behind these claims?

1. Modern styled music is something to be dreaded, avoided, and pushed back.
2. The choice of music and style is primarily about my felt needs (oh, the irony).
3. Our only choices are the lovely, rich, comforting old hymns and an overwrought seeker-sensitive rock concert style (complete with “moaning and twitching”?!?).
4. If a long-standing traditional style is denigrated or underappreciated, that’s a theological issue akin to people’s rejection of the Gospel.
5. The culture is changing, so we have to reject change by holding our ground with traditional styles of music.
6. Anything other than a Western classical style represents “dumbing down” of worship.
7. The goal of modern styles of music is that we won’t be challenged by worship.

Seriously, people.  Stop it.  Stop making arguments against your brothers and sisters in Christ based entirely on logical fallacies.*  Stop claiming some special knowledge about how public worship gatherings are supposed to look.  Stop insisting that Western classical musical from 400 to 150 years ago is the pinnacle of all human achievement.  It’s not just silly, it’s xenophobic and exclusionary.  (Notice that I didn’t say that using Western classical music, or even preferring it, is xenophobic and exclusionary — insisting on its superiority [even its spiritual superiority] over all other types of music is.)

We sing theologically rich songs at Sojourn, songs that are full of Scriptural truth. We often sing hymns — in fact, I would guess that a majority of our songs have a hymn structure (i.e., a particular meter in each verse). Four of the five songs we did this past week were hymns.  Two were traditional hymns, two were written more recently.  One of the modern hymns was based on a Puritan prayer from the outstanding Valley of Vision.  We sing a fair number of Psalms (I can think of a dozen or so) and are always up for singing more.  Why, then, do people continue to insist that, because we use guitars and drums, we’re contributing to theological shallowness in the church?

Church music ministers need to be students of their culture and their congregation as well as of the Scriptures.  And, furthermore, it’s absolutely possible to obey the commands of the Scriptures without having to use only piano and organ or orchestral arrangements or Western classical style (thank God — if not, boy, would overseas missionaries be in trouble).  It’s even possible to adhere to the Regulative Principle and still — gasp! — use guitars.  Maybe piano, organ, and classical style are what’s best for your particular congregation.  But why then does everyone else have to agree that it’s better?

If we want to talk about what styles of music best carry theological content in a coherent way, I’m happy to have that conversation (and no, I don’t think all musical styles are equally suited for public worship, just on a practical level, but I also think that particular knife cuts both ways).  If we want to talk about reverence and decency, I’m up for that too.  Attitudes toward our collective history?  Yeah, definitely, let’s talk about that.

But if folks are going to approach this conversation with an attitude of snobbery towards everyone who doesn’t have their “special knowledge” about the superiority of the Western classical tradition, a traditional hymnnodic structure, and the Fill-In-The-Blank Psalter… Well, I’ll just turn off my computer and have a little chat with the doorknob instead, thanks.  😉

*In that list, you’ll see a false dilemma (either good thing A or hideously unimaginable thing B must be true), a package deal fallacy (modern music goes together with shallow content and theological inferiority, therefore if you use modern music you’re embracing shallow content and theological inferiority), an appeal to fear (this thing is so dreadful that I hope Jesus comes back before it happens, an appeal to emotion (hymns are comforting; if you want to get rid of hymns you are getting rid of my comfort waaaaaaah), cherrypicking (here is the worst example of how churches can do this, never mind all the good examples), confirmation bias (I believe it will be like X, therefore I will experience as X), tons of bare assertion fallacy (NO IT’S THIS WAY DON’T ARGUE IT IS SO!), and plenty of equivocation (what exactly do these folks mean by “traditional” or “classical” or “hymns” or “contemporary” or “modern”?).

No, I’m Not a Traditionalist.

It ticks me off that people refuse to see the difference between Traditionalism and Biblical worldview.  I kind of get it when we’re talking about non-Christian folks.  But they’re not where the trouble lies.

The trouble is, we haven’t been bothered to separate the two.  We’ve been content to conflate the teachings of Scripture with Traditionalism, which is why people still think, among other things, that Christians hate women.  Um, hello?  Remember that guy Jesus chillin’ with all the ladies, from the rich patroness to the prostitute?  Remember how in the Gospels the eejits who don’t get it are a bunch of dudes, and the clever interlocutor, some of the few left at the cross, the one who gets to the tomb first, are women?

We’re ill-equipped to encounter that nonsense.  We can’t discern the absurd and wicked elements of Traditionalism because we think it’s what we believe.  We’ve been hornswoggled by our own equivocation.

Traditionalism sucks.  Traditionalism sucks because it’s an ideology that controls, that masters.  But tradition, like most ideas, is an all right servant.  Scorn for the past isn’t my thing.  It isn’t God’s thing.  But idealizing the past, idolizing the past, that will get you nothing but 40 years of wandering in the desert while you pine for the good ol’ days in Egypt, or 1955, or the Reagan years, or whatever.

We do it with politics too, we let some movement or institution or organization tell us what we believe, or at least what we can believe publicly.  Oh, you’re just like us because of whatever.  Jump on board the tea party express, or the hope and change bandwagon.  Christianity is a tool that political parties can wield.  Right?

Knock it off.  The Gospel is not a talking point to be hammered on, a political agenda, a social reconstruction plan.  It’s nothing to be co-opted and subsumed by a larger, another ideology.  There is no larger, no other ideology for the Christian.

At Least It Made Me Appreciate My Students…

After going-on three years of teaching at a classical Christian school, I’m so accustomed to polite, well-trained kids that I don’t know what to do anymore when faced with rude or untrained ones. 

A girl of around ten ran up to our table this afternoon (at the J-town Gaslight festival where my school has a booth), pointed at the bowl full of beads, and demanded, “What are THOSE?”  When I told her she and her friend could make bead bracelets, she ran off without another word.  No “excuse me,” no “thank you,” no “Oh, let me go ask my mom if it’s ok,” nothing.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think the girl was trying to be rude.  It just seemed like she’d never been taught how to talk to adults.

Why do people not think they have the responsibility to teach their kids basic manners?  How is your kid going to learn manners if you don’t teach them?  The reason you teach kids to say “please” and “thank you” and “pardon me” and “oops, sorry” and all that is not so you can show off what a good parent you are, nor is it about forcing your rambunctious little darling to become a boring Stepford child who smiles and says, “Yes, ma’am” on command.  You teach manners to children so they can get along in the real world, both as they grow up and when they’re adults.

/rant

Blergh.

I got my census form in the mail today. In the first column, they ask that you enter a phone number, so that they can call you if they “do not understand one of your responses.” 

I’m strongly tempted, under “Race,” to write “HUMAN” — only because there’s not enough room to write, “I categorically reject the concept of race as a genetically-derived, immutable, meaningful designation of human beings.  All humans belong to a single race.  Cultural and ethnic differences may be useful to learn about as we seek to understand one another. It is, however, utterly useless — and, in fact, often wicked — to attempt to construe meaningful data about the character of humans from the color of their skin, the texture of their hair, the shape of their eyes, or any other merely physical characteristic.”

Do you think I’d get a phone call about that?

Words Matter, part 2

(Previous warning about “shouty and capsy” remains in effect.)

Dear Blog Reader,

Seriously, quit thinking that every blogger is out to get you.  If you find yourself getting offended by pretty much everything you read on blogs, you need to do two things: 1) GET OFF THE INTERNET. and 2) FIND A HOBBY.  Nobody is sitting around coming up with new and creative ways to hurt your poor widdle feelings.  There comes a point where you need to ask yourself, “What is the common denominator in all of the posts that make me angry/offend me deeply/cause me to question people’s salvation?”  I have the answer to that question.  IT’S YOU.

Maybe you’re totally convinced that the KJV-only position is right, or that women should wear long dresses and headcoverings, or that daughters should ALWAYS stay home until they get married, even if that means no college and no job, ever.  WHAT ARE YOU DOING READING MY BLOG?  Or blogs of OTHER people who you KNOW do not agree with you on those subjects?  You HAVE TO REALIZE that you’re going to be in the minority, right?  And that comments sections on blogs are probably NOT the best place to convince people to burn their NIVs and their PANTS?

Look, I don’t frequent (for instance) the blogs of people who think that it’s fine/good/desirable for women to be pastors/elders in the local church.  That’s not because of some kind of confirmation bias, but just because I know that I’ll get annoyed with their bad exegesis or disregard for Scripture and be tempted to let it all out in the comments sections.  I don’t read Pyromaniacs anymore because those dudes are seriously NOT OK with people who believe in the continuation of all the gifts of the Spirit.  I mean NOT OK AT ALL.  So rather than going over there and painting a bullseye on my charismatic self, I just leave them to it, knowing that the Lord will one day correct THEIR theology just like he’s definitely going to correct mine.

I mean, really, it gets to the point that I want to ask you, DO YOU HATE YOURSELF?  If not, WHY do you subject yourself to this all the time, and then get hurt and prickly and obnoxious about it?  MARTYR COMPLEXES ARE NOT CUTE.  CAN YOU DIG IT?

Love,
Laura

Words Matter

(Caveat: I am going to be a little shouty and capsy on this subject.  Bear with me.)

Dear fellow Christian bloggers,

If someone comments on your blog and says, “I felt really hurt by what you said about ___,” THINK ABOUT IT before you reply with, “You just don’t understand my deep theology/humor/word choice” or “You’re being so sensitive, just man up, already” or “WHAT?  HERESY!”

YOU do not get to decide what hurts OTHER people’s feelings.  YOU do not determine THEIR perception.  Maybe they’re totally unjustified in their criticism.  FINE.  But don’t just assume, for the love of God, that they just need to pull up their big girl panties and get down with whatever higher spiritual knowledge you’re privy too, mmkay?  Newsflash: YOU ARE WRONG SOMETIMES.  In fact, on a spiritual level, apart from Christ, you are 100% wrong!  Not mostly wrong or partly wrong but COMPLETELY WRONG.  If a brother or sister in Christ is hurt by some thoughtless remark you made, even if you think they SHOULDN’T be, JUST FREAKING APOLOGIZE — for the misunderstanding, if nothing else.  You know they have this fancy button on most blogging platforms, it’s called the “EDIT” button.  You can use it to — get this — GO BACK and change the content of your posts.  I know.  Crazy. 

Whatever your opinions, they are not so important that you can excuse bad manners toward brothers and sisters, in the name of being RIGHT.  NO, THEY AREN’T.

Love,
Laura

A Tiiiiny Rant

Scenario: Somewhere in blog-land, someone says, with genuine curiosity, “Y’know, I just don’t get ___.  Can someone explain it to me?”  The first half-dozen replies are either, “Me either!” or “Here’s my opinion, but to each his own.”

AND THEN.

Some ravening pseudo-intellectual turns from monitoring all the OTHER regions of blog-land to sniff, “You know what I just hate?  Elitism.  I just cannot abide people who think that no one else’s opinions, experiences, or thoughts matter.  It’s just this (food-snob/Calvinist/seminary-educated/white/yuppie/middle-class/Western/xenophobic) hegemony that I cannot stand, where people think that their views come down from heaven written by the finger of God.  Ugh.  Judgmentalism!”  And then they go back to trolling at all the other foodie/natural-birth/theology/whatever blogs on which they misuse vocabulary from their Word-of-the-Day calendars.

I saw this today on a fun foodie message board I frequent, in which someone said they didn’t get the concept of drinking a certain kind of beverage with dinner.  Everything is going along fine until some snark starts dropping passive-aggressive crap like “that doesn’t make you the Ultimate Critic” and “running screaming to the judgment booth”.

What kind of idiots are we if we can’t respond to a legitimate question without resorting to rhetoric like this?  And what kind of idiots are we if we take the bait?

Theology

I overheard some ladies at the Chinese restaurant where I picked up lunch yesterday, grumbling about how the men in their Bible study were just so obsessed with the little details of the Bible that they missed the big picture. “It’s just all that… theology. Ugh.”

I felt very pleased with my self-control that I managed to keep my wails of dismay to myself, and very pleased indeed that I also held back the lecture on the fact that everyone has a theology, it’s just either a good one or a bad one, that theology just means “the study or knowledge of GOD,” for crying out loud, and everyone on the PLANET possesses beliefs about God (even atheists!) and if you think theology is about arguing over whether Martha and Lazarus were half-siblings or if the punctiliar emphatic aorist in the Greek indicates a completed action, YOU NEED HELP! AUGH!!! But I didn’t say it. Nope! Self control, right there.

So I’m just saving THAT rant for my students. HA.

In the words of a wise friend: “You [ought to] study theology the right way, where truth moves your heart to joy and praise. If more of us would do it this way, maybe it wouldn’t have such a bad rap in some circles. Theology should not intimidate the uninitiated, but cause them to want more of it, like a thirsty man who finds water in the desert. “

OK, It’s late, but…

Quick rant:

What is up with guys doing covert ops on girls they’re interested in? You know what our parents called it when a guy was getting to know a girl he was interested in? They called it DATING. Because they were DATING. Gosh.

Is it really so hard to walk up to a girl and say, “Hey, would you like to have a coffee this Saturday afternoon?” Surely it cannot possibly be as complicated as spending six months scoping her out, trying to get the skinny on her from all her friends via your friends, hemming and hawing around, sending her name out to the prayer committee at your parents’ church, confessing to your accountability partner that you think she’s hot, casually and vaguely mentioning group outings in her presence… all the while planning to ambush her with a carefully scripted speech. It’s like sleight-of-hand dating: Now, look here, nothing in my hand, look closely, and… PRESTO! I pulled a coin from your ear! I mean, WE’RE DATING!

Just. Say. No.

Stuff

Random list time!

Stuff Christians should stop freaking out about:

1. Halloween. Dude. What a bunch of wasted energy is poured into the anti-Halloween lobbying that happens every year!! Is Samhain a pagan holiday? Yup. Is Halloween a pagan holiday? Uh, no. It’s primarily the Eve of All Saints, and secondarily a cutesy Hallmark-perpetuated candy orgy/ excuse for little kids to dress up and show off their dressed-up-ness. Let your kids trick-or-treat, don’t let them trick-or-treat. Whatever. But please don’t try to convince me that the Bible says it’s wrong for Christians to let their kids put on Superman capes and go door to door asking for candy. Please.

2. Disputable issues like consumption of alcohol, R-rated movies, tattoos and piercings, birth control, etc. Read Romans 14, and remember that we’re not to look down on people who don’t feel freedom in these areas, nor judge those who do.

3. Politics. Christians can vote, be involved in their community political processes, argue passionately for their political positions, and even (in some circumstances) run for office. Should they hang all their hopes of their country being transformed for the better on a political party, politician, or ideology? Definitely NOT. The Kingdom of God isn’t Republican or Democrat or Green or Labour or any other such thing, and it won’t be advanced by the (conscious) efforts of secular political machinery. God will advance his Kingdom.

4. Anecdotes that “prove” our points. We’re so eager to latch onto this or that bit of scientific or archaeological or historical or sociological evidence that confirms our positions (like in this Boundless article), but we roll our eyes when pagans and atheists do the same (like with the ossuary found a few years ago containing the bones of a dude named Jesus son of Joseph). We ought to take an attitude of quiet confidence when it comes to these sorts of discoveries. Of course history, archaeology, and the like will confirm and support the Scriptures — God did, after all, create everything and all truth belongs to him — but that’s not why we trust the Scriptures. We trust them because God has, by his incomprehensible grace, enlivened our hearts and enabled us to see in the Scriptures the testimony of Christ, his perfect Son and our atoning sacrifice. So we should be glad, knowing that the Scriptures are true, when some new affirmation of their historicity comes to light, without placing our hope or confidence in those discoveries.

Stuff Christians should get more fired up about:

1. Nominal Christianity and twisted “Gospels.” Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, TBN, Katharine Jefferts Schori, Ann Holmes Redding (the Muslim Episcopal priest), and Jeremiah Wright should not be given a free pass by Christians and pastors around the world. Just because someone claims to be a brother in Christ and uses churchy-sounding words does not make him a Christian. And don’t even get me started on hip-hop artists who give a shout-out to Jesus when they win a VMA for their hit single about making sure one ho don’t find out about another ho.

2. Manhood, womanhood, and families. The Scriptures we (supposedly) hold dear are full of instruction about and examples of what godly men, women, and families look like. Something is not right when people who call themselves Christians divorce with impunity, reject and despise God’s blessing of children, and in all other ways look just like the world in the way they live as men and women, and the way their families work. Early apologists and historians appealed to the morality and purity of Christian families as evidence for the truth of the Christian faith. Pretty tough to do that now, huh?

OK, that’s enough ranting and randomness for the day.

Maybe one more thing. I’m watching NCAA basketball RIGHT NOW. AWESOME.

Greatest Hits: How NOT to Give Advice to Single People

(Originally Posted October 27, 2008)


Since I won’t be writing much while I’m on Spring break this week, I’ll be posting some of my previous articles.   I’ll be back at it on Monday, March 22nd.

So the other day, I met a really nice couple. The husband was friendly and asked me a lot of questions about my life. We chatted about travel, and I told them about my trip to Europe with my family.

“Husband and kids?” he asked.

“No, parents and brother. I’m single,” I replied.

And then… such a speech. Here’s what he advised me to do.

1. Make a specific list of everything you’re looking for in a husband. This advice was accompanied by a lot of questions. Have you thought about what kind of things you’re looking for? Really? Specifically? In detail? What about things you don’t want? Really? Specifically? In detail?

2. Realize that that man exists. Pray specifically for him. He is the only man for you.


3. Recruit other people to pray for that specific man (who, remember, is the only man for you). Don’t forget about the parable of the unjust judge. Pester God until he brings your husband along.


4. Remain under your father’s authority.


5. If that doesn’t work, join eHarmony.

I definitely wished I could have made the whole conversation just STOP, for the love of heaven and all its angels, STOP!! It basically sums up all the bad advice I’ve gotten about singleness — not just the advice itself, but the context in which it was offered.

So here (as revenge) is MY advice to married people who feel tempted to say any of the above things:

1. Don’t give advice to single people you just met. Relationship advice should be given in the context of — surprise!! — relationships. Most people would never give marital advice to a couple they just met, but the rules somehow go out the window when talking to single folks.

2. Think about your attitude before you offer advice. As Christians, we have to recognize that the problem of humans is sin, and the solution is the Gospel. Singleness is NOT a problem to be solved. Do I want to get married? DUH. But please don’t see my life as something you can “fix” with some pithy tips.

3. Keep in mind that every person’s situation is different. Again, folks get this ordinarily. But with singles, it seems like people are so much more tempted to say, “Well, such-and-such worked for _____, so it’ll definitely work for you.” It’s not that your advice is necessarily wrong, but… for example, I have ZERO problem with online dating services. And the courtship model makes sense for younger singles who live near or with their parents. And I wish more of my married friends would be bold enough to set me up with some dudes. But not all of those things is right for every person. For crying out loud, one of my dearest friends emailed a guy from halfway around the world because he read her blog and jokingly called her a feminist and she didn’t like it and then they started talking and fell in love and now they’re married and she’s pregnant with their first child. Good GRIEF. PEOPLE ARE DIFFERENT. Ok. Rant over.

4. Please, please, please, don’t perpetuate the idea that there’s one ideal man out there for every single woman, and she’ll never be happy until she finds him. The Prince Charming Myth has disillusioned and embittered countless young women, clinging to their “lists” while overlooking godly men all around them. Yes, in the grand scheme of God’s sovereign plan, he knows and chose who I’ll marry. But in my time-bound perspective, there are any number of godly, ministry-minded men with whom I could have a good, happy, sanctifying, Gospel-centered marriage.

OK, single peeps, any other advice for our married friends? 😉

Rules/Rants About Blogs

The “rules” bit:

1. If you don’t have time to read or address reader comments, consider that you might not have time to blog.

2. If you have a strict disclaimer or instructions for commenters (what behavior or content won’t be tolerated), but don’t have time to enforce these policies, then really don’t bother blogging.

Theologica and Boundless Line are two prime examples of what happens when you don’t consistently respond to out-of-line or heretical comments, and in the case of Boundless, what happens when you don’t enforce your comments guidelines. The moderators end up suborning heresy, the comments sections spiral out of control, and the constructive discussion gets choked out by confusing, contradictory comments by believers, unbelievers, and pseudo-believers.

So, do you 1. address and refute out-of-line or heretical comments, 2. delete them, or 3. let them slide?

#3 is irresponsible and foolish, and either 1 or 2 works. I lean towards deleting (although a blog that’s turned into a public forum would want to be crystal clear about the standards for deletion). Heretics who find themselves being blocked will keep moving until they find somewhere else to comment.

And really, have you ever heard a new believer say, “You know, I was an atheist until I started commenting on this blog…”?

Things I love and things I love not so much.

Things I love not so much right now:

People thinking their wedding is the perfect excuse to be the selfish brats they’ve always dreamt of being but were afraid to try. I’m going to write a book about this someday, I swear, and one of the chapters is going to be called, “Your Wedding Day: Celebration, not Extortion.”

Allergies. How can my nose be stuffy AND runny at the same time? Hmm?

Having to move at the end of the month. Do you think that if I just pretend it’s not really happening, my stuff will all just miraculously box itself up and find its way to the condo I’m hoping to buy? Hey! That’d make the house-hunting process a lot quicker! I’d just have to call around to the folks who own the places I’m looking at and ask if a whole truckload of stuff just materialized in their living room!

Things I love right now (so as to end the post on a more cheerful note):

The Dick Van Dyke Show. I actually love this all the time — it’s a truly one-of-a-kind show. A sitcom that portrays the American family as it might have been, if only: a smart, clever, successful husband with a loving, supportive wife, an unfailingly hilarious premise (comedy writer whose life is often funner than his job), and some of the best supporting characters ever to softshoe, sing, and hurl oneliners in the background make it my absolute favorite. The first two seasons are available at hulu.com for free streaming. Best Episodes: the “Walnuts” one, Richard “Rosebud” Petrie, the haunted cabin episode, and anything with a flashback to Rob and Laura’s Army/USO days.

Having a job (see also: Classical education).

Michael Phelps. I know, I know… not very original. But have YOU ever found yourself spellbound by a swimming competition before? That’s what I thought.

Tomatoes. For reeeeeeal. This week I’ve had an organic Brandywine and an organic Cherokee Purple from my friends Justin and Stacey’s garden (both of which were delectable, but let’s be honest. It’s Justin’s garden.), as well as a beautiful and exceptionally delicious tomato of some faintly heirloomish variety that I sliced, salted, and ate alongside a few tiny nubs of fresh mozzarella. For supper.

Discernment

In the church, there seems to be an idea that “discernment” means “praying and waiting for God’s specific, personal direction on every decision in my life” — see John Eldredge’s book, Walking with God for a classic example. But is that the view of Scripture? I think not. Such an understanding of discernment leads to several errors:

1. A separation between Christians who “know God’s will,” i.e. the super-Christians that God speaks to, and the “ordinary” Christians who seem not to hear from God about stuff like the color of their wallpaper.

2. Using “discernment” to excuse unwise behavior and even sin. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say, “Well, I’ve prayed about it for months and the Lord has told me it was OK,” even if “it” was buying a $300,000 house when you’re $60,000 in debt, or living with but not sleeping with your fiance, or being slack in disciplining your kids. Those are not areas about which we ought even to pray. The best advice I can give people who encounter this “God told me” business from people is to remember that it’s not a trump card. We have a responsibility to one another in the body of Christ, and letting someone off the hook just because they played the “God told me” card is hardly showing love to our brothers.

3. Total paralysis in decision-making, stemming from not using your brain and instead waiting for some sign or feeling to show you that God has given you direction. I strongly believe that for the Christian, the ordinary way of making decisions goes like this: Learn, study, and love God’s word. Use the mind that God is sanctifying to make wise decisions. Rinse and repeat. But too many people seem to think that’s just not “spiritual” enough. A Christian’s life IS spiritual — it’s life IN the Spirit! And it can look very ordinary, but an ordinary life lived faithfully still results in “Well done, good and faithful servant.” That’s not to say that I don’t think God sometimes uses other methods to reveal his will to us — I certainly do believe that he does! But the ordinary way seems to be knowing God’s word and living wisely in accordance with that.

Two Things

1. BAH! I hate possums!! I was going to post a picture to give you an idea of how disgusting they are, but I didn’t have the heart. They are SO foul. Last night while Katie and I were enjoying a lovely evening on the porch, a nasty possum tried to climb up the steps. Hang on, aren’t they supposed to be afraid of people? Evidently not, because after Katie (my hero!) shooed it away while I tried to suppress the urge to shriek uncontrollably, the dang thing skittered through the bushes and tried to jump up on the other end of the porch, mere feet from us, with the porch light glaring away! SICK ME OUT! SICK ME OUT!! Dude, a possum is basically a R.O.U.S. It’s a two-foot-long rodent with a ratty tail. RAT! SICK! That’s right, everyone, a RAT (possum), a giant RAT (possum) tried to JUMP up onto my porch while I was sitting RIGHT THERE. AUGH! Am I making the trauma of this moment clear to you, folks? A RAT!! (possum)

2. I’m driving home a week from tomorrow. Oh, you’d like to see the route? I thought you’d never ask.