Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Taking a Walk

So, I took my walk today outside. For those of you living down South, this is a big deal! It is 50 degrees outside, perfect for a walk with a jacket. And I much prefer outdoor walking to the treadmill.

  • I thought I walked faster outside than I do on the treadmill, but today that was not the case! My pace was about a 26 minute mile. Indoors, I do a 24 minute mile and think that's slow.
  • I can't get away with not walking far when I walk outside. I walk a certain distance and then I have to get back!
  • There are a number of flower gardeners in our town and they have their beds ready and their rose bushes all pruned. Reminding me that I need to pull all the weeds out of my hostas so that I have a hosta bed instead of a weed bed this summer.
  • A plain silver panel van slowly passed me when I was in one of the less occupied parts of town. I was ready, though. I had my hand on my cell phone, ready to throw it so the authorities would know where I was when I was kidnapped.
  • The van passed me and I saw two (TWO) Better Business Bureau stickers on the back. Nobody who belongs to the BBB would stop and kidnap someone, right?
  • I passed the big Lutheran church in town while I was walking. I occasionally considering converting to a liturgical church just for the great art and architecture. I'm shallow, I know. Jesus is dragging me again.
  • It's the time of year for apartment rental again. Nobody ever evicts people in the dead of winter around here (I think it might be illegal, but it's certainly immoral), so they start evictions in the Spring. So, the great apartment swaps begin! Living as we do on the "apartment row" of Weyauwega, we are witness to this great migration. And, it appears to be beginning soon, based on all the rental signs that I saw.
  • The sidewalk situation in this town is convoluted, to say the least. Some streets have sidewalks. Some don't. Some sections of streets don't have sidewalks. On one street, it looks like one house just got rid of their own sidewalk, so I walk on the street around their sidewalk-less house. The yard looks nice, though.
  • I thought there was still a bit of snow in our yard, but I realized it's actually a bit of cotton. Why is there cotton in our yard?? I still don't know, but I hope it's from a Halloween costume. 
What do you see when you walk about your neighborhood? Do you walk often?

On a more serious note, please pray for all those affected by the attack on Belgium. Pray that there will be no more terrorist attacks. Pray for ISIS, that somehow their hearts will be changed to peace, and that this horrible war can end for everyone.

Friday, March 18, 2016

My Salvation Story

I'm an Evangelical and we all have one. A salvation story. How we "got saved" or "converted" or "came to know the Lord". Pick your favorite euphemism. Conversionism is the fourth part of the Bebbington quadrilateral. It's what Evangelicals are known for. We believe in the necessity of the individual to turn from sin and to God.

Conversion stories are fun to read. C.S. Lewis has a great conversion story in Mere Christianity. Growing up in the late 70s, I was also part of the culture that indulged in evenings of giving testimonies, an event where people would stand up and tell about how they became Christians. I am inspired to write about my salvation story today because of reading about Tim Fall's (and also because I don't want to do the laundry).

Alas, since I grew up in a Southern Baptist church, I don't have the greatest of all the testimonies: the debauched and sinful person who is brought to Jesus in a dramatic conversion a la the apostle Paul never to smoke, drink, or dance again. No, my salvation story is downright tame.

When I was about 9 or 10 years old, the kids my age at church all started going to the front of the church during the "invitation" time over the course of several months and then getting baptized (by dunking - we were Baptists). The invitation (for those uninitiated) is after the sermon and is a time when the congregation sings and those who feel led may come to the front of the church for prayer, for salvation, or for any other need. One Sunday I wanted to go forward. My Dad said that we'd talk about it later. 

That week, the pastor came by the house and we talked about "getting saved". I prayed the magic words and "asked Jesus into my heart" and the deed was done! The next Sunday I walked forward. The Sunday after that, I was up in the baptistry (like a hot tub, but cold and with no bubbles) getting dunked.

That was it. I was 9 or 10 years old and saved. Washed in the blood so to speak. I could now safely die. Or could I? Did it really take? Was I really saved? Really?

For the next five years I prayed the Sinner's Prayer (don't check your Bible - it's not there) at least every three months, sometimes every three days. It was an anxious time for me. Sometimes the pastor or youth group leader would talk about "knowing you are saved". Well, I didn't FEEL like I was saved. Down on my knees that night, I'd pray the prayer yet again.

Finally, at age 17, I was in an evangelism class where we were learning to share our faith, except that I suspected that I didn't have any faith to share. I went forward during the invitation again and confessed that I wasn't really saved. I prayed the prayer yet again. But, this time, I was baptized again! As a 17 year old! I must really be saved now!

Looking back on this time in my life, I can laugh at my anxiety-ridden self. Was I "saved" at age 10 or age 17? Actually, I have loved Jesus from as long as I can remember. I know that Bebbington's quadrilateral says that we have to have a conversion event, but I can't find that specifically in the Bible. Maybe it's OK to be an Evangelical and not have a specific salvation event. Maybe?

I loved God in whatever way I could at whatever age I was. When I was 10, I was very concrete, so I was very anxious to do everything right. Hence, my constant need to "know" that I was "saved". That's certainly what my church taught - get saved and be sure about it. And at 17? I don't know what that was all about! Peer pressure? Not understanding my relationship with Jesus?

What do I know now? I have loved Jesus for as long as I can remember. When I was 17, I started walking with Jesus in a newly conscious way. I tell people that I have been a believer since I was 17.

What is your conversion story? If you are no longer a believer, what is your deconversion story? I'd love to hear? Post in the comments, or post your link in the comments!!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Yoga Pants and M&Ms

A year or so ago, there was a kerfuffle (I love that word!!) in the Christian blogosphere about the propriety of wearing yoga pants outside the comfort of one's own home. The concern was that a woman wearing yoga pants might cause a man to lust.

Well, first of all, I can assure you that no man is going to look at my booty in a pair of yoga pants and lust. Except maybe my husband, but then it's not lust and it's perfectly OK. Secondly, men need to be concerned about their own temptations and where their eyes go. Nobody said that they can't take an admiring glance. It's the second glance when a man and the Holy Spirit need to get on the same track and fight the good fight.

For example, when I go to the grocery store, I don't ask the stockers to remove the M&Ms off the shelves because I might want to buy those M&Ms that I most definitely do not need. No, I walk past them. Then, I might take a second look. And that's where the Holy Spirit and I start waging spiritual warfare against the spiritual principalities and power and I walk past those M&Ms and right into the produce aisle.

Or maybe I tell the Holy Spirit I can handle it myself and I put those M&Ms in my cart because they're such cute spring-time colors and I have to have them in my house.

Yoga pants.

Ya'll we need to pray for each other. The chocolate Easter bunnies are coming soon.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Failing Communities

This week, David French in The National Review favorably quoted an article by Kevin Williamson in his article "Working Class Whites Have Responsibilities - In Defense of Kevin Williamson". I found the quotation by Williamson to be distressing and one of the reasons that I hesitate to call myself a conservative these days, although I have to admit that French walked back the most egregious statements. What was it that so disturbed me?

It is immoral because it perpetuates a lie: that the white working class that finds itself attracted to Trump has been victimized by outside forces. It hasn’t. The white middle class may like the idea of Trump as a giant pulsing humanoid middle finger held up in the face of the Cathedral, they may sing hymns to Trump the destroyer and whisper darkly about “globalists” and — odious, stupid term — “the Establishment,” but nobody did this to them. They failed themselves. 
If you spend time in hardscrabble, white upstate New York, or eastern Kentucky, or my own native West Texas, and you take an honest look at the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy — which is to say, the whelping of human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog — you will come to an awful realization. It wasn’t Beijing. It wasn’t even Washington, as bad as Washington can be. It wasn’t immigrants from Mexico, excessive and problematic as our current immigration levels are. It wasn’t any of that. 
Nothing happened to them. There wasn’t some awful disaster. There wasn’t a war or a famine or a plague or a foreign occupation. Even the economic changes of the past few decades do very little to explain the dysfunction and negligence — and the incomprehensible malice — of poor white America. So the gypsum business in Garbutt ain’t what it used to be. There is more to life in the 21st century than wallboard and cheap sentimentality about how the Man closed the factories down. 
The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. Forget your goddamned gypsum, and, if he has a problem with that, forget Ed Burke, too. The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.
Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/432796/working-class-whites-have-moral-responsibilities-defense-kevin-williamson
To be fair, I haven't read all of Williamson's article because it is behind a paywall. Nonetheless, this section is disturbing, to say the least.

Maybe part of the reason I feel so strongly about this is because my extended family is part of this working class America. Yes, my immediate family managed to work their way out of it, but they were the exception and not the rule.

Williamson starts by claiming that working class white American have "failed themselves". Victim blaming is not an auspicious start to any argument. But, he claims that the working class can't blame some outside force for their circumstances, so they must look to themselves. 

So, it is their fault that these families are largely welfare-dependent, drug using, bearing children they can't afford, and in family anarchy. And since this is all their own fault and that they should just stop it and get on with a healthy productive life. Really? As if they could just do that?

This is where Williamson shows his lack of understanding of social structures and mental illness. Someone brought up in a community with fractured families and who lives financially hand to mouth has not had modeled for them anything like what we would call middle class values. In fact, they probably are living with survival instinct. Their chances of changing their social class without some serious effort is low. This is not because they don't want to but because they don't know how. Even in a stable home, these communities are not able to teach children how to do the basic things that middle school families teach their children: self control, saving money, the importance of education. The poor and working class of this country simply don't share middle class values.

People often use drugs or alcohol as a response to the hopelessness they see around them. Getting off drugs or alcohol is not a walk in the park, though. Those who are addicted have the physical illness of addiction and usual one or two psychiatric diagnoses as well. They can't just quit using.

Women have children they can't afford for lots of reasons. Some don't think about or know about contraception. Some think a child will help them hold onto a man. Some want a baby to love them. It's all dysfunctional, but you can't just tell them to "get over it." These young women making babies without the benefit of a stable relationship need help. Yes, they are making bad choices, but these women are making these choices for reasons and they need good examples and life rope to get out of the quagmire of poverty and single motherhood.

Williamson writes from a conservative point of view where the individual is primary. The failing working class could turn around if the individuals involved would just start making better choices. On the face of it, that is true. But, the reality is that their social world impacts them so much that they can't just "make good choices". They rarely know what good choices are and then there are social costs to making those choices.  In many small communities, people have gotten jobs based on personal relationships. They may have never dealt with employers outside the community. They may have few job skills and be poorly educated. The individual does not exist outside of their social milieu.

What is the answer to these failing communities (because, I agree that they are failing)? On the face of it, I don't know. Welfare cheating is bad, but I'm sure that some welfare programs are still needed. Women and families need education and motivation to change to more positive habits. Schools can do a better job helping children learn self-control and self-efficacy strategies as well as pointing them toward post-high school opportunities. 

If there are no jobs and people move on, then, sure, maybe the community will dry up. But, a community is a group of people and it doesn't deserve to die just because it's not functioning. We as a society need to come alongside the community and work with the people to help them. We have a problem with our working class, but let's deal with the issue and not blame the victims.

Your thoughts?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Doubt Matthew 11:2-6

Doubt. It's one of those things that Christians don't like to talk about. I usually think more about having faith instead of doubting. But, particularly when I had to quit working because of my chronic migraine, I struggled with doubt. I didn't doubt God's existence, but I doubted his love for me. I meditated on lots of scripture during that time (and now).

Yesterday, our pastor used the passage Matthew 11:2-6 as a text to preach about doubt. I had never considered this before.

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see:The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[b] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
John was questioning if Jesus was really the Messiah. What? I guess I can understand it. John is in prison for speaking out against Herod Antipas killing his wife and marrying his brother's wife. He's lucky that Herod hadn't already killed him.

But, you'd think that he had to have grown up knowing about Jesus. Mary and Elizabeth, their mothers, were cousins so they were second cousins (I guess?). They probably didn't grow up in the same town since the Bible talks about Mary having to go to visit Elizabeth. But, Elizabeth knew that Jesus was special (Luke 1:39-45). I imagine that John heard a lot about Jesus while he was growing up.

He and Jesus were just about the same age. I wonder what the two of them were doing between coming of age and when Jesus started preaching? Did John wait until about age 30 to start preaching or had he been preaching for 5 or 10 years before Jesus started his ministry? Did John know since childhood that his cousin Jesus was special or that he was likely the Messiah?

Being in prison, though, made John doubt. And, no wonder. Prison in the first century in the Middle East can't have been much fun. And John had to have known that he'd ticked off Herod enough that he was looking at a death sentence.

And how did Jesus respond? He said to look at his record. Look at the things that he had done. It was all Messiah-like. Nobody else had done that kind of stuff.

And when I was doubting that God still loved me since I had to quit work because of chronic migraine, that's what it came back to for me. Jesus and I had a history together. We'd been walking together (OK, sometimes he'd been dragging me) since I was 17. God never promised an easy life to anyone, but he said that he'd walk with us through it. 

John 16:33 -  In this world you will have trouble; but, take heart, I have overcome the world. 

Do you doubt? What helps you overcome it? Do you overcome it? Are you still doubting? What doubts do you have? Let's talk about it.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Republican Primary Debate Postmortem

I finally watched a whole Republican Primary Debate last night. They keep scheduling them on Thursday nights which is when my favorite TV shows come on and I can only DVR two shows at a time, so I keep missing the debates. Not that it has hurt my feelings. It sounds like the previous debate was a PG-13 event. But, as a good Republican, I figured I should know what was going on. (And I just realized that this last paragraph shows just how shallow I can be . . .)

So, I watched it. Along with Wild Man. He won't be old enough to vote in the primaries, but he's interested in the decline of our political system just like anyone else.

Here are my thoughts - in ascending order of probability of voting for them.


  • Debate - Did remarkably well for the first 20 or 30 minutes last night. I almost thought I liked him a little bit. Then his circular reasoning kicked in. Wild Man said his English teacher would never accept a paper with those kinds of arguments. His main argument throughout the night seemed to be that we just need to make better deals and "make America great again" (how???). He doesn't seem to have very solid ideas or policies. He would like to use more torture techniques if they could be legalized. He also didn't forcefully speak out about violence at his rallies and then actually defended the violence, explaining that people are just having strong feelings about this country. No. Just no.
  • Overall - Trump is xenophobic, misogynistic, materialistic, and racist. We have no business electing a man like this to be our president. He encourages violence. He does not have an overarching philosophy of politics which means that he doesn't have any real ideas or policies. He's a bad choice for the US.
  • Debate - I wasn't impressed. He's an excellent debater, but he was the first to attack another debater instead of debate ideas. Not good. He does have a strong ideological base and has specific policies that he would implement. That's really where he shines. He's still a bit xenophobic, but not nearly as bad as Trump. He can at least see the difference between Islam and Radical Islam. He also is all for torture; I'm not OK with that. Nonetheless, I think he had a good night.
  • Overall - There's no way that I'm voting for Trump. Glenn Beck is one of his major supporters, and I'm no fan of Beck. Cruz's Keep the Promise PAC is run by David Barton, a pseudo-historian that is one of Beck's favorite people to get on his show. Barton has been discredited by real (Christian) historians numerous times, but he continues to peddle his lies about the US being a Christian nation and the Founders being Evangelical Christians. Cruz also has a liability in his father and other far-right Christian dominionists who are claiming that God has chosen Cruz to be president to usher in the end times or some such nonsense. Anyway, I'm not voting for him.
  • Debate - He had a great debate last night. The last time I saw a debate, Rubio was repeating the same points over and over. This time, he actually sounded intelligent. He didn't articulate an ideology, but did have particular policies to discuss. He didn't attack people, but ideas. Very smart.
  • Overall - I like Rubio. I probably won't vote for him in the primaries, but I like him. I'm concerned that he has Wayne Grudem as his faith and values adviser since Grudem is very complementarian and believes in very limited roles for women. Rubio has also only had experience in the Senate. But, overall, not too bad.
  • Debate - Kasich is just not a great debater. He doesn't jump in when other people are talking and he doesn't attack other people. So, last night wasn't as good as his rallies. But, it did point out a few things. One of his main ideas is to get as many federal programs back to state level as possible. It seems that he thinks that some things are still best done by government, but done by government closer to the people. i.e. education. He also emphasized his experience in the Senate - balancing budgets, working on the defense committee - and as governor of Ohio - balancing budgets. It wasn't a bad outing for him; he's just not as strong a debater as the other three.
  • Overall - I'm voting for Kasich. I like that he has a lot of experience. Polls show that he can beat Hillary Clinton in a general election. He's a Republican, but more moderate than the other three candidates. I like that he wants to put more power in the states. Kasich is clearly the best candidate for the Republican nominee.
What did you think about the debate? 

Wednesday, March 09, 2016


I am a reader. I love books. And I mean real books, made of paper and ink with spines and pages. I had a Kindle, but never could get used to reading books on the Kindle. I love to read blogs and newspapers on my computer, but I always gravitate back to my books.

When I was working, I didn't get to do much "fun" reading. Most of my reading was medical journals. Important, but not fun.

Nowadays, I'm a library user. Living in a small town, we have a rather small library. Thankfully, though, the Weyauwega library is part of the Outagamie Waupaca Library System. I can order any book from over 15 libraries in the area. Of course, the most popular books are short-loan, so I have to finish them in two weeks. That's usually not a problem unless I end up getting two or three short loan books at the same time!!

I don't buy a lot of books, but sometimes I want books that the library system doesn't have. Scot McKnight is one of my favorite authors and might be coming to speak at our church sometime this year, so I bought three of his books the other day. I also have two of Pete Enns' books and some Alistair McGrath and C.S. Lewis (the library has his, I just want to have my own copies). 

And, then there are audiobooks. Our library system has a large collection of audiobooks online through Overdrive, so I don't purchase audiobooks. I've gotten hooked on podcasts recently, but I still like fiction audiobooks.

So, friend me on Goodreads and we can read each other's book reviews and get more ideas for books to read. Like I really need any more. But, hey, why not? A book list a mile long isn't a bad thing!!

What are your recent favorite books? Are you one Goodreads? Go friend me!!

Monday, March 07, 2016

Andy Stanley - Big Church vs. Small Church

Now that the rest of the Evangelical world has commented on Andy Stanley's ill-conceived comments last week, I guess I'll take a shot. First of all, I'm critiquing his comments and not Andy Stanley as a person because I don't know him. But, his statement was public and is fair game for discussion. Second, Stanley did apologize on Twitter. His Twitter apology was short and sweet, but I assume he was apologizing for the whole statement. Nonetheless, I have read and heard similar sentiments among other mega-church proponents, so it's worth discussing.

What did he say that was so disturbing?

“This is one reason we build big churches. People say, ‘Why do you have to make them so big?’ Let me tell you why we make them so big. You probably didn’t know this. This is kind of an insider secret. We want churches to be large enough so that there are enough Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers that we don’t have one youth group with Middle School and High School together. We want there to be so many adults that there will be so many Middle School and High School kids that we can have two separate environments. So when I hear adults say, ‘Well I don’t like a big church, I like about 200, I want to be able to know everybody,’ I say, ‘You are so stinking selfish. You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your 5 friends. You don’t care about your kids…anybody else’s kids.’ You’re like, ‘What’s up?’ I’m saying if you don’t go to a church large enough where you can have enough Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers to separate them so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big old church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people and grow up and love the local church.”
A lot of the people I know have been commenting about the church size issue. At least, locally, that's because we are in a small-medium size church because we are in a town of 10,000. Realistically, we aren't going to have a mega-church here.

Does God want us to have big churches? God wants us to preach the Gospel, make disciples, feed the poor, take care of widows and orphans, and more. We can't control who converts and how big our church is. What we can control is whether or not our church is following Jesus. I truly believe that some churches that are obeying Jesus' call for our community will not be large but will have an impact.

The main thing I wanted to discuss regarding Stanley's comments was his belief about youth groups. He's telling people that they need to go to a large church so that their kids can be in a middle school or high school youth group. Actually, he wants the church to be large enough to have a separate middle school group and a separate high school group.

So, here's the thing. I'm not anti-youth group. The world will not end if kids are segregated by age at church. And there may indeed be advantages. Kids will be in groups with age-mates which means that they are likely experiencing similar issues and stresses. The middle and high school years are years of significant change and being in a group of other students who are also learning about Jesus can be a significant support.

But, families at smaller churches are not depriving their kids of the kids' inalienable right to go to youth group. Smaller churches are different, not bad. Instead of youth group, they'll be in family Bible studies. Instead of separate middle school and high school groups, they get to do stuff together. Sure, the high schoolers think middle schoolers are all dweebs (or whatever the word is today), but hanging out with them is a good way to learn to love them. Right?

In smaller churches, a lot of stuff gets done by family groups instead of youth or adult groups. When I was in a smaller church as a teenager, the whole church came out one day and laid sod on our church yard. And we all worked together, teenagers, kids, and adults. Age segregation is not inherently better. 

My point here is not to say that big churches or small churches are better than the other. But, that is what Andy Stanley said and he's wrong on that count. A church that loves God, is filled with the Holy Spirit and is trying to follow Jesus is a good church, no matter the size and not matter the kind of youth group.

Addendum: The day after this was written, Andy Stanley apologized for his statement. I'm not taking down this post because it addresses the small church vs. large church issue which is still present in the Evangelical community.

Source: http://sbcvoices.com/andy-stanley-says-im-worthless-and-damage-young-people/

Sunday, March 06, 2016

The Parables of Jesus

I came across a couple of good tweets today about parables that I want to discuss. Mark does not have a lot of parables; in fact, I think it has just the parable of the sower and the parable of the tenants (chapter 12). But, since I just read the parable of the sower, these tweets are particularly relevant.

@DerekVreeland wrote
 "Truth needs to seep into your soul like a gentle rain…and that takes time. This is precisely why Jesus told stories."  
Wow. isn't that great? We don't easily remember propositional statements, but we do remember stories. And as we ponder and consider those stories, what they mean gradually becomes clear and it does "seep into" our souls.

I think this is also why reading fiction is important. And not trashy fiction (although a little junk food for the brain isn't a bad thing on occasion). I'm talking about real stories. C.S. Lewis' Narnia stories and JK Rowling's Harry Potter series both take us into different worlds and give us characters to care about and conflicts to mull over. I just realized that those are both children's book series, but many adults love them as well. But, consider To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee or Orwell's Animal Farm or anything by Jane Austen. These are all adult reads that get into your soul.

@Derek Vreeland also tweeted
"Some of Jesus’ parables do not make things clear. They make us think."
Think back to the parable of the sower. The listeners didn't get it at first. Were they meant to? I'm not sure I know now that I think about it.

I grew up learning that Jesus told parables so that people would have an easier time understanding his message. What if the stories were actually not to make things clear, but to make us use our brains? I think that Vreeland has hit on something important here.

The underlying message of the parable of the sower (Mark 4) is not inherently clear. His disciples didn't get it immediately so Jesus had to explain it to them. So, Jesus was probably using the parable to make us think and figure the story out. Of course, we get the meaning with the disciples, right from Jesus' mouth. But, the others who heard it that day, ended up going home and talking it over and working through it. I think they may have a better understanding than those of us who had it spoon fed to us.

I have had a pretty simplistic view of Jesus' use of parables. I was taught that Jesus used them as a teaching tool to help the illiterate crowds of people to understand the truths he was preaching. I agree with Derek Vreeland, though, that Jesus told stories to allow our souls to gently drink in their truth and to make us think. And we need to give these parables more time and energy and not just skip over them as Jesus "teaching tool for the masses". We're not "too educated" for them. Jesus' parables are filled with his love and truth for all the ages.

What are your thoughts on parables?

P.S. Pardon the formatting. I'll figure blogger out someday. I've only been doing this for eight years!

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Supreme Court Abortion Clinic Case

There's a case in front of the Supreme Court right now about a law in Texas that will make all abortion clinics have to meet the same requirements as ambulatory surgical centers.

Let's start with the fact that I am very pro-life. I'm an MD (not practicing right now). I've never performed abortions, but I've delivered lots of babies! I don't want to see any elective abortions happen at all. But, I disagree with this current approach to reducing abortions by making abortion clinics abide by a higher standard of medical care. I've watched videos about these laws and they claim to be "for the safety of women" and "for women's health". Let's look at that.

The first requirement is that the treating physician would have to have admitting privileges to a nearby hospital. While that would be ideal, it's not necessary. Texas law requires that abortions not be done past 20 weeks gestation, so these procedures are generally low-risk to the mother. The physicians doing the abortions or prescribing the medications do not require the surgical skills to handle potential (and quite rare) complications. Local hospitals are required to see any patient who presents with an emergency complaint and provide them with the appropriate care. And, apparently, most docs already have privileges.

The bill then requires all abortion clinics to meet the level of medical care and safety standards of an ambulatory care center. The problem is that abortions are not an invasive procedure like many of those performed in an ambulatory care center. Women getting a first trimester abortion do not require airway management or general anesthesia. Gurneys are not wheeled from room to room requiring full 8 foot wide hallways as in ambulatory care centers. Young, otherwise healthy women don't need negative pressure rooms. A backup generator is not necessary for a clinic performing abortions, a short, elective procedure.

The Texas bill gives one reason for these changes as wanting to prevent a situations like the Dr. Gosnell clinic in Pennsylvania. However, there are plenty of laws in place in Pennsylvania to have prevented the poor clinic conditions and deaths that occurred in Dr. Gosnell's clinic. The issue was that his clinic went without inspection for 17 years!! 

Why am I not happy that this bill is shutting down abortion clinics in Texas? Because it is shutting them down for the wrong reason and getting the government into practicing medicine where it shouldn't be.

If we want to stop abortion, we need to provide comprehensive sex education and contraception. And, that may require keeping Planned Parenthood around because other health clinics aren't able to pick up the slack. Abortions have declined about 13% from 2008 to 2011, so we're already making some progress.

And, let's be honest here. All these new requirements for the Texas clinics (and in any other states that are thinking about requiring them) aren't for "women's health"; they are to decrease women's access to abortion. If they were for women's health, they would be looking at every single procedure done in an office clinic to decide if it should be done in an ambulatory care center - for the patient's health. 

If we are pro-life, let's say that we are pro-life. We want to stop abortion because the fetus is a new and separate life from the mother and deserves to live. When we say this, we need to then be prepared to support mom and baby not just to birth (that would be pro-birth), but through childhood and beyond if that's what it takes. If this family needs help for this child to get a good education and have food on the table, we who are pro-life had sure better be willing to help. After all, we're the ones who are telling the moms that God wants that baby to live. And I'm betting God wants us to be part of that.

Let's stand up for moms and babies at all stages of life. Love the families, even after birth. And quit with this nonsense of pretending that making abortion "safer" is your agenda. Say what you mean.

Your thoughts? Be civil, but say what you think.

Sources: http://www.hro.house.state.tx.us/pdf/ba832/hb0002.pdf#navpanes=0

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

What I've Been Up To March 2, 2016

What have I been up to? No good, that's what!! Oh, I jest!! My headaches have been worse over the last few months, but I have still managed to keep busy.


  • I haven't been knitting quite as much as usual, but I did finish a pair of socks for my mom. They are the Traveling Woman socks done in Hearthside Fibers yarn in the Rhapsody color. So, the exact ones I entered in the county fair in the summer. 

  • Mom also needs me to mend the socks I made for her several years ago. Somehow, the picot edge on the top is coming undone. I still haven't sorted out how to fix it. I don't have any yarn that will match, so I will probably do it with thread. 

  • Last night, I cast on another pair of socks. The are "Here Be Dragons" from Knitty using Cascade Heritage yarn. 

  • I'm also making a blanket using some of our locally sourced wool from when The Knitting Nest was open. It's all garter stitch. Perfect for when I don't want to think while I'm knitting.


  • Blessed by Kate Bowler. I can highly recommend it.
    • An excellent review of the American Prosperity Gospel movement. Bowler writes clearly and tells her story well. In addition to the history, she also uses modern-day examples to help illustrate the movement and how the beliefs affect everyday life. 
  • American Apocalypse by Sutton is another I can recommend. 
    • This book is a good history of the Evangelical movement in the US. He starts in the 19th century with the earliest premillenial dispensationalists and moves forward through the Fundamentalists of the early twentieth century to the Evangelicals of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century.  The reader gets the history of everything from the old-style revivals to the history of the first Fundamentalist Bible colleges and seminaries, from Billy Sunday to Billy Graham, and so forth. It's well worth reading if you are interested in the history of religion.
  • I'm finishing The Invitation Only Zone - The True Story of North Korea's Abduction Project by Robert S. Boynton. 
  • I'm working on Beginnings by Steve Wiens. I love his writing style. I'll do a full review when I'm finished because I think it deserves it.
  • Also on my desk is Rescuing Jesus: How people of Color, Women, and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism by Deborah Jian Lee.


  • I've been using MyMemories digital scrapbooking program to make scrapbooks. I first finished the one of my parents' 50th Anniversary Party and received it from the printer last week. It is gorgeous!

  • I finally finished Rosie Girl's scrapbook from her graduation - 3 years ago!! I sent it off to the printer a week or so ago, so it should show up here pretty soon.
  • I've got Wild Man's book just about done except for his band, choir, musical, and graduation stuff. I'll do that after graduation. He'll actually get his book this summer.
  • I'm doing a book for Ashley, but I haven't started. Hers will be smaller since it will only cover about 6 months. I'll probably mail it to her new address in the fall since she'll be back in the US.
  • You might have noticed that I didn't mention any audiobooks in my book list, which is unusual for me. That's because I have discovered podcasts!
  • Serial. I listened to the first season of Serial, which got me hooked. Now I'm listening to the second season about Bowe Bergdahl.
  • Hardcore History - This is what is really replacing audiobooks for me. This guy's podcasts are each about three hours long, so I don't usually listen to a whole one at once. Right now, I'm listening to a five podcast series (each about three hours) on World War I. Wow. So much to learn!!! 
  • Criminal - These are 30 minute shows about a crime and they're interesting.
  • Sword and Scale - These are longer podcasts about a crime or a set of crimes or even something else to do with criminal justice. With my macabre interest in true crime, I find these really interesting.
Coloring - I got some coloring books and colored pencils, so I sometimes sit down to just color for some relaxation when everything else seems too hard.

Being a Mom - Yeah, I'm a mom. Sometimes, the headaches keep me from acting like a mom, but the rest of the time, I manage the mom thing pretty well. Ashley is taking a hiphop dance class, so she and I drive to dance every Monday evening. I had to take Ashley last week to get new contact lenses. Wild Man and Ashley occasionally need help with their homework. And, there are the discussions of current events that occur over the dinner table, etc. I can't believe that PWM and I are going to be empty nesters next year!

So, what are you up to these days!!

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Idolizing the Family

My kids were born in the 90s, right when the Evangelicals were getting into the whole "family" craze. Everything was about the family. The two parent and their kids kind of family. Entire ministries were created for families. Churches were developing chidren's wings and outreaches specifically for children and teens. Everything was family. And it's still happening. My parents' church in South Florida is no longer a First Baptist, but is now Family Church.

I want to think out loud a little about why this came about and what it means for Evangelicalism now. Is it a good thing, a bad thing, or something else.

Why did Evangelicals start to place so much emphasis on the family (and, I would argue, start to idolize the family)? I think it was largely a response to the 1960s and 1970s loosening of moral values. Evangelicals looked around and saw feminism, women working outside of the home, increasing acceptance of sex outside of marriage, and they got worried. Their response was to emphasize the opposite (as they saw it) of all of these things.

We saw the start of ministries like Focus on the Family with it's radio show with Dr. Dobson. It has now blossomed into a business with audio productions, books, and a quasi-theme park at it's headquarters in Colorado Springs. The Family Research Council also came about at this time with it's activities being more political.

In addition to parachurch ministries, many churches themselves developed specific ministries to families. In mainstream Evangelicalism, families were encouraged to participate in AWANA and marriage seminars. Children's wings were built onto churches.

More conservative and reconstructionist churches were teaching a much more strict patriarchal vision (and many had been even before the 80s and 90s). Vision Forum (now defunct) taught that women had no role outside the home and that children should only be homeschooled. ATI, run by Bill Gothard (now let go from his organization due to allegations of sexual misconduct) has the same kinds of teachings.

These organizations and many others came about because of fear. The Evangelical church was afraid of what was happening in the larger culture and saw a need to fight back and to keep it's own members safely ensconced in the Evangelical world. The idea for most of these churches and organizations was that if they could get the families back to the 1950 ideal or Victorian ideal then they would be safe from the temptations of the world.

Is this a good thing, a bad thing, or something else? As you can see from my title, "Idolizing the Family", I don't see it as a completely good thing. Let's call it a mixed blessing.

First of all, the word "family" tends to have a pretty rigid definition when used in Evangelical circles. For the most part, it means Mom, Dad, and their children. This is 2016, though, and "family" is starting to mean lots of other things. Grandparents are living with their kids more often than used to be (in the recent past). Singles are living with roommates. Divorced people live with kids (and it's not always the mom with the kids). When we talk about the family these days, it's much more of a mixed bag than when we talked about it 20 years ago.

The emphasis on the family through the years has made the family almost an idol in many places. Christian organizations become "family" organizations and we hear little about Jesus. This might be OK for a group that is intended to support families through a Christian worldview, but churches are to "preach Christ and him crucified." Anything that takes our eyes off of Jesus is an idol. And many of us have come dangerously close when it comes to family.

Encouraging strong families, though, does have some good aspects. Churches that have activities in place for children and teens give us a good option for our kids to have another place to learn about Jesus. Marriage seminars are often a good thing. The Bible actually doesn't say a lot about marriage, but learning to be better Christians makes us better at marriage.

The whole "family" thing can be isolating for some of our brothers and sisters in Christ. God has not called all of us to marriage. Jesus wasn't married. Paul wasn't married. In fact, many missionaries in the 19th century were single women and they did amazing things for God. When our churches become completely family centered, what does that mean for our single members?

And how do we integrate our LGBT brothers and sisters into a family-centered church. Whether you believe they are required to be celibate or not, we have to deal with the fact that they aren't going to be in a conventional heterosexual marriage. And the family ministries that most churches have are not appropriate for them.

Let's quit idolizing the family in our churches and in Evangelical culture. God created us all different. Some will get married and have typical nuclear families, but others will be in different living situations. Let's love them like Jesus and help them to be followers of Jesus. Let's enjoy all the different family structures in our society. 

What are your thought?