Friday, October 26, 2012


This week it struck me that every day God feeds people, clothes people, and puts a roof over our heads, not to mention provides a myriad of other daily blessings which constantly surround us; He does this for both Christian and pagan alike, and yet we struggle to have faith in Him.

On the other hand, people put so much faith in politics, yet when was the last time the President did anything for you?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

You Think You Have it Bad

I am about halfway through a wonderful book, that I only started 2 days ago.  It's a history of the Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan called The Worst Hard Time.  Very few histories of this time have yet been written, and most likely because the survivors refuse to talk about it.  The author asked one gentleman, now in his 90s, for an interview because he had kept a daily diary of this part in his life.  The survivor agreed, but then shortly saw his wife burning the diary in the fireplace.  When he asked her why she responded, "nobody needs to hear about that time.  It was too horrible to talk about."

He tells an excellent history, most of which I had never known before.  For example, during World War I the Russians were not able to supply Europe with wheat, because of the fighting.  As a consequence, the U.S. secretary of Agriculture, who was Herbert Hoover, set up the first-ever government price-fixing on wheat to encourage Americans to grow more of it.  He set the price unnaturally high ($2.00 per bushel at that time), and everyone started plowing for wheat.  Ranchers converted to wheat farmers, farmers planted entire crops in wheat, even big city types bought farms in Oklahoma, just to plow and plant in wheat fields.  Of course the market was soon glutted, and after the stock market crash of 1929 the price of wheat fell to 20 cents per bushel--less than half the cost of growing it.

As a result, farmers couldn't afford to plow their fields while piles of wheat rotted in barns and at the railroad station.  By this time Herbert Hoover was now president and refused to offer government assistance, because he wanted the free market to fix the problem of the wheat surplus.  The same Herbert Hoover who caused the problem 10 years earlier by government intervention in the market.

The early 1930s brought one of the worst droughts the High Plains had seen in a long time, and since farmers couldn't afford to farm, acres and acres of farmland was left exposed to erosion.  This created the Dust Bowl, which at one point destroyed 13 million of the 16 million acres of farmland in Oklahoma (not to mention the surrounding states).

Most of these High Plains settlers lived in dugout homes, which were essentially holes dug straight into the prairie.  One family of 7 had to share just over 500 square feet of living space.  Although the stock market crash ruined the farmers' finances, most could still subsistence-farm and grow enough food for their own family, until the Dust Bowl hit.  Once the land was destroyed, the farmers also began to starve.  One family with 4 children said they each had their "Dinner Night."  There was only enough food to have one family member eat dinner each night, so they rotated, and once every 4 nights you got to eat.  The worst hard time is certainly a fitting name.

Friday, October 12, 2012

I am Rich.

Republicans want what's best for the middle class.  Democrats want what's best for the middle class.  This argument continues on the same issue, ad nauseum.  This may sound repetitive, since I was posted on this here, but there is no middle class.

The Bible talks about the rich and the poor.  What we call the "middle class" is just an excuse for rich people, who aren't as rich as other rich people, not to have to call themselves rich.  Considering the fact that "middle class" people in the United States usually own their house, a couple of cars, three healthy meals a day (at the very least), and a closet full of clothes to wear, means that they are wildly wealthy compared to most of the world today, and even most people throughout history.  If you cling to the label "middle class," then you can excuse yourself from all the Bible verses that exhort and challenge the rich, especially in regards to their obligation to provide for the poor and be generous with their blessings, because of course that's not you--that's the guy down the street who owns a nicer house with cooler cars.

There is no doubt that healthy societies are those that have a small disparity between the living conditions of the very rich and the very poor, which is what contributes to the idea of the middle class.  But in our current political climate this guise of "helping" the middle class, just promotes the idea that everyone needs the government's help.  The middle class needs the government's help and the poor need the government's help.  Who should complain when the corporation CEO decides that he, too, wants in on the government's help?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Expanding Territory

We have entered the fall world of school drop-offs and pick-ups, soccer practices and soccer games.  Still having one little toddler at home makes me remember when our boys were little and my world ran a small orbit around our home.  Naptimes, park days, and library visits were our biggest outings for the week.  Now our solar system has expanded widely to include school and church activities, friend and sport activities.  As I reflected on this, I realized that as our kids continue to get older, their orbits will expand even more--travels, college, employment, and their own families.

I was amazed to see that as a homemaker, my own ministry is growing with their growing sociability.  When they were little, my greatest ministry opportunities included our regular grocery check-out employee and another mom at the park for about 15 minutes.  Now it includes friends and acquaintances through soccer or swimming or school.  Since I am the school secretary, even the toddler girl gets to make more friends than her brothers ever did.  As God grows my children, He grows my opportunity to minister to others along with it.  Lord willing, when they go out into the world, my ministry will graduate along with them, to go into the world.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Summer of Steinbeck

     We have an extremely small, local library that we've gone to every week this summer, which inhabits a very tiny building that is run entirely by volunteers and donations.  They have a wonderful kids' section, but the adult section looks eerily like your 80-year-old grandmother cleared out all the books she bought in the 1980s and hadn't read.  The "Literature" section in the kids' department is pretty good, and is also about 90% John Steinbeck.  Since living in California, I've realized that everyone raised here became inundated in Steinbeck from school, and yet I can't remember reading one of his books.  At some point in my life I'd read multiple good quotes from Travels with Charley, so I thought I would give it a try, and it was excellent!  I followed that up with a collection of his short stories in The Long Valley, and finally decided to go for the plunge and read Grapes of Wrath.
      To paraphrase another author: "It was the best of books, it was the worst of books."  I've entirely fallen in love with Steinbeck's ability to describe characters and tell a good story.  He really likes his characters, and it shows.  The one-eyed junkyard supervisor is one of my personal favorites.  However, there is definitely some heavy-handed political statements he's trying to make with the story that get oppressive and trite with repetition.  There is no way that one Okie family could encounter every possible event of the Dust Bowl, and the sentimentalism of it is too much for such a good writer.
       Steinbeck's genius can be found in how many times he's been copied over the last 80 years.  It seemed that writers as far apart as Tom Wolfe and Wallace Stegner have copied aspects of his style.  In fact, Stegner is extremely similar, but has even less hope for his characters' unhappy endings than Steinbeck does.
       Steinbeck certainly wasn't a happy character himself--he drank and partied his way through college (which he didn't finish), his first wife was an active Communist who had an abortion because Steinbeck thought being a father would inhibit his writing career.  He neglected his second wife and children, and was possibly happiest with his third wife.  It sounds as though he enjoyed the company of the characters on the page more than those that inhabited his house.  However, his skill is amazing, and I'm looking forward to a visit to the National Steinbeck Center, which is about 20 minutes from my house.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

From Alfred to Victoria

     Both ancient Hebrew and classical concepts of rural life came together in the founding of the United States.  As many as 90% of the earliest colonists from England were Puritans of the yeomen class, which consisted of free landowners.  This class of English commoners had been raised under the 1,000-year-old English common law written by King Alfred in the 700s A.D., who modeled his private property laws on the Hebrew Old Testament.  They were educated by John Wycliffe and William Tyndale who sought to educate the common farmer by widely distributing the Scripture in the vernacular language.  These Reformers arrived in the New World with their thirst for religious freedom, as well as English property law engrained in their hearts and minds.  Thomas Jefferson, the son of Puritans as well as the Enlightenment, wanted to institute the agrarian ideals of liberty that were espoused by both John Locke and the French Revolutionaries, who took their cues from the classical agrarian revolutionaries.  Jefferson believed that the key to democracy and a moral society lay in the equal distribution of property, and even tried to include such requirements in the Virginia State Constitution.  He found a kindred spirit in James Madison who incorporated agrarianist ideals at the Constitutional Convention, into the Bill of Rights, and in the building of Washington, D.C.  
     However, the 19th century saw the beginnings of a break in this ancient, long-standing relationship between productive land ownership and civil rights.  The Industrial Revolution created a society that, for the first time in history, did not have to exist just at or barely above subsistence.  The factory, instead of the home, became the focus of productivity.  Husbands desired the steady paycheck of a factory job, while their wives (who had both servants as well as modern, industrial conveniences), had to justify their lack of productivity in the home.  This situation created Victorian society, wherein the home was transformed into a place of consumption, not production.  In addition, the Romantic Movement reacted to the Industrial Revolution by hailing the beauty of wilderness and naturalism.  The Romantics discouraged farming, viewing it as an activity that imposed upon the inherent beauty and function of nature.  In addition, the creation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the Civil War placed more constraints on small, family-owned farms to be financially viable, leading even more farmers to abandon the work of their ancestors and move to the cities. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Agrarian Ideas

I've been doing some reading and thinking about agrarianism, and thought I would post a bit of it.

Farming is, quite literally, the oldest profession, Jewish history tells us that the first Man was commanded to be a one (Genesis 2:15).  His job was to care for the Garden of Eden, as well as to look after the animals that populated it (Genesis 2:19-20).  Farming was, once again, the profession of the man who re-populated the world, Noah (Genesis 9:20).  In fact, Noah is called a “husbandman,” which in Hebrew means literally, “a man of the ground.”  Much later, when the Hebrew people left Egypt through the Exodus, Jehovah brought them out from under a cruel tyrant who forced them to work his land, to a land that they owned, that was “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8).  He even gave laws guarding private property and ensured that family farms would be handed down throughout Israel’s generations (Leviticus 25).

The classical world also had a high view of farming, but one with more revolutionary connotations.  The Greek poet Homer spoke of farmers in exalted terms and only barbarian monsters, like the Cyclops, did not farm (Odyssey IX. 113-124).  Hesiod, another Greek poet of the same period, says that only warriors, or “Men of Ares” do not work for their bread and that the gods look more kindly on those who make their living from the soil (Works and Days 147).  The Romans, under the tribune Tiberius Gracchus, enacted forced land re-distribution, giving the government the right to take land from the wealthy and re-distribute it amongst free Roman citizens.  This law was called lex sempromia agraria and is where our term “agrarianism” originated, along with its socialistic connotations. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Planet Hogwarts

I enjoy Harry Potter, but would never consider myself a "geek."  However, I think the content of this post will qualify me.  If this doesn't interest you in any way, please feel free to move along.  I won't be offended.

Yesterday I made a discovery in the Harry Potter universe and would like to share it with the world.  I would love to personally ask J.K. Rowling if I'm right, but alas, she seems to keep to herself and only accept the occasional handwritten fan mail (she doesn't even have an e-mail account).  Maybe this post will eventually find its way to her and I can get an answer.

Anyway, this discovery comes from reading two books simultaneously.  First, I am re-reading Michael Ward's Planet Narnia, in which he argues that C.S. Lewis wrote the seven Narnia books as a reflection of medieval cosmology.  The pre-Copernican, geocentric universe viewed Earth at the center which was, in turn, ruled by towering spheres of 7 planets: Moon, Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.  At this point in time astrology and astronomy were indistinguishable from one another, and although Christians did not believe that you were fated to follow your horoscope, the material heavens were seen to guide people and events on Earth.  Even Thomas Aquinas believed that they exerted an "influence," although Christians could resist it.  This was how he interpreted the Bible in several points such as "the stars in their courses fought against Sisera" (Judges 5:20).  Ward goes on to say that Lewis used each Narnian book to describe the true God through the "lens" of each planet.  Each one of the books has a different planetary "theme;" for example, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the Jupiter, or Jovial, book.  As the King Planet, there are references to the kingship of Aslan as well as the crowning of the 4 children, just to name a few characteristics. 

Now on to Harry Potter, which I am currently reading aloud to our boys.  Rowling, much like Lewis, is a medieval scholar and has a degree in Classics.  Many aspects of the Harry Potter books mirror medieval morality plays, which has been noted by the scholar John Granger.  Rowling has also admitted to a lifelong love of Narnia.  So, what if she picked up on the astrological themes of Narnia years ago?  If you know what to look for the themes are easy to pick up, all the more so if you come from a background of medieval and classical training.  She makes many jokes throughout the series on the influence of the stars or divination, which may be her way of hinting at the truth.  There are also 7 Harry Potter books, just like the 7 of the Narnia series, which, once analysed, begin to show up distinguishing characteristics of each planet.  I'm no literary scholar, and some of the books are more clear than others, but see for yourself:

1) Sorcerer's Stone: Jupiter
    Harry becomes part of Gryffindor House, which is marked by the color red (Jupiter) and by a lion (king of beasts).  Harry also has to fight Professor Quirrell, who with Voldemart incarnated on the 
back of his head, becomes a Janus-figure.  Jupiter rules over the month of January.
2) Chamber of Secrets: Sun
    Harry Potter is rescued by Dumbledore's phoenix, Fawkes. Phoenixes are pictures of the sun and their ashes can turn silver into gold, the metal of the Sun.
3) Prisoner of Azkaban: Mercury
    This story is mainly about Sirius Black.  Sirius is the name of the "Dog Star," the major star in the constellation Canis Major, which is ruled by Mercury.  The children also have to do some stealing in this book (Mercury is the god of thieves), and Sirius makes his escape while flying away on the Hippogriff (like Mercury with his winged sandals).
4) Goblet of Fire: Mars
    Mars is characterized by war and strife.  This book opens with a mock-war, the Quidditch World Cup, then sees the rise of the Death Eaters, and ends with a battle with Voldemort in the graveyard, whose entrance was the forest of the Labyrinth (Mars is also god of the woods).  Also, Ron and Hermione have major romantic strife.
5) Order of the Phoenix: Moon
    "Luna" Lovegood is the most important new character in this book, and she is often described as having a "dreamy" look or a "dreamy" voice.  The pale light at the Ministry of Magic becomes important at the end.
6) Half-Blood Prince: Venus
    Love potions take center stage in this book.  Also, it's a bit of a stretch, but the Battle of Hastings took place on a date under the sign Libra, making that England's zodiacal sign.  Albus
    Dumbledore is a symbol of England (Albus was an ancient name for the island), and this book is mainly about him.  Libra is ruled by the planet Venus.
7) Deathly Hallows: Saturn
    Considering that the classic picture of the god Saturn is Death with a scythe, this one seems a bit more obvious.

There you go.  Now I'll just sit by and wait for my book deal offers to come rolling in.  Or my Harry Potter Geek badge to come in the mail.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Saved from Death

My husband, the teacher that he is, has organized quite a summer school program for our nearly-3rd-grader and nearly-1st-grader.  This year they are studying ancient history with them and are beginning at the Beginning.

A few weeks ago we read Genesis 5 together and made a chart of the lifespans of Adam's descendents through Noah.  We charted when they were born, when they had their children, and when they died.  If you've never done this before, I highly recommend it.  There are several amazing things you can learn, for example, that Mesuthelah likely died in the Flood (I wonder how long he would have lived if he had been righteous), and that Noah began building the ark about 50 years before his sons were born.  Building the ark was clearly a family activity, and his son's wives must have known what they were getting themselves into!

But my husband noticed one detail that had passed me by.  Enoch "was not because the Lord took him" (Genesis 5:24) only about 5 years after Adam died.  Now, imagine living in the Antediluvian world, and the shock you would feel when the First Man actually died.  Here the king of the human race, the Man who came from God Himself has died.  Murder had occurred already, but nobody had yet gotten old and died from the Curse.

Now almost immediately following Adam's death, God reaches down and spares Enoch from the curse.  Here is a reminder to the world that Death does not have the final say.  Even at the realization of their own mortality, God reminded the Antediluvian world that He is still master over Death and the Curse will be undone.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Juicy Piece of Fruit

Sometimes, in being a parent, you feel like you've planted, watered, weeded, and worked for days and days on end.  Then, once in a while, you see a massive piece of tasty, juicy fruit hanging from the branches, and it makes all that work worthwhile.

My oldest son's class was discussing how much they were excited for Jesus to return and have the Resurrection.  They were excited about the giant feast and party with Jesus, but most of them were upset; "Why does it have to take so long?  I wish it was the Resurrection right now!"  My son told me that he addressed his friends by saying, "There are so many people in the world, and so many of them are Christians.  It must take God a long time to set such a big table!"

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sometimes I Wake Up Laughing

Especially when I watch something like this first thing...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Chesterton 2012

"It may be said with rough accuracy that there are three stages in the life of a strong people. First, it is a small power, and fights small powers. Then it is a great power, and fights great powers. Then it is a great power, and fights small powers, but pretends that they are great powers, in order to rekindle the ashes of its ancient emotion and vanity.  After that the next step is to become a small power itself."
                      --G.K. Chesterton from Heretics

Well, here's to hoping.  Maybe if Ron Paul gained a couple of hundred pounds and stopped brushing his teeth we might get close.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Father Hunger and Patriotism

"The great gap in his mind is what may be roughly called the lack of patriotism.....He admires England, but he does not love her; for we admire things with reasons, but love them without reasons."

---G.K. Chesterton on Rudyard Kipling from Heretics

Last week I read this line and began to mull over what Chesterton means. He criticizes Kipling for not t
ruly loving his country, but only liking his country. He likes England because she has a strong military or because he likes the current prime minister. However, you don't need to give reasons for why you love your child, or spouse, or parent. Even if your child disobeys you, you still love them. However, you prove your lack of love if you give up on someone when they don't do what you like.

This being an election season, I began to see this everywhere in our current right-wing, left-wing politics. The right-wing likes America because we have a strong military, or conservative economics, or moral values. The left-wing likes America because of our democracy, or public education, or socialized medicine (in progress). Why do they argue so intensely over these platforms? And why do I always have the sneaking suspicion that although they pretend to be opposed to each other, they are really quite similar? If Chesterton is correct, then neither side shows true patriotism. They fight viciously for their platforms because they are afraid of not liking America any longer.

It is h
ard to find true patriots these days. But just like loving your family, loving your country doesn't mean that everything it does is righteous. You love your own father because he is your father, but if your father is destroying his family you have a Christian obligation to love him by pointing this out to him. The Latin root of "patriot" is literally someone who loves their father, and this country is our fatherland. Because examples of godly fatherhood in our country are rapidly disappearing, we should not be surprised that true patriotism is also hard to find. The healthy, irrational loyalty that is inspired in a family by a faithful father is the kind of loyalty we should also have for our country, which is patriotism. This is not "my country right or wrong," or "my country, as long as I get my say," but "I love my country, so she may not do that."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Government Should Stay Out of My Safeway

I recently finished reading the book The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I know this is a bit out of date, as the book came out several years ago, but that's just because I'm slow. I finally decided to read this one for two reasons: first, I had seen Pollan interviewed several times on different food documentaries. Most of these documentaries were full of fire-breathing organic-ists, but Pollan always sounded surprisingly sane. Secondly, I know some people who became fire-breathing organic-ists after reading this book, so I wanted to be able to find out how that happened.

Here is where I was coming from. "Organic" is a word that certainly doesn't mean what it really means anymore. I used to ask my students what organic meant, in my biology class, and they would answer "without chemicals," or "no pesticides." They never believed me when I told them it just meant "life" and consequently they did pretty poorly on their tests. It also makes ridiculous the idea of "inorganic food." This was probably the first thing to bias me against the organic movement. Also, although I love the way good food tastes--and usually the more local, the better--I despise the elitism that goes with words like "organic," "free-range," or "natural." Most of the elitists show disdain for the poor and lack of gratitude for the food God made.

Pollan divides his book into 4 different meals, and describes how those meals arrive at our table. His first meal is one made fully from industrial agriculture (and he visits McDonalds for dinner at the end). His second meal is what he calls "Big Organic." For this meal he buys everything from Whole Foods. His third meal is a pure, free market meal, which he calls, "Greetings from the Non-Barcode People." In this chapter he visits the farm of Joel Salatin, a well-educated, multigenerational, Baptist-preacher/farmer, and eats with his family. His last meal is the Hunter/Gatherer meal, where he hunts his own wild boar and makes the meal with things he finds in the woods or grows himself (lettuce, wild mushrooms, sourdough bread, etc.).

He actually does a wonderful job, whether he intends to or not, of demonstrating that our entire "industrial" food system is the result of government subsidies. Our government subsidizes the growing of corn. As a result, thousands of local farmers have gone out of business because they haven't been allowed to sell their product for what it is worth. Also, this has led to a surplus of corn that we need to use; which has created the feedlot-style system of raising farm animals.

God made cows to eat grass, but we feed them corn. Because their guts don't digest corn well, we need to give them antibiotics to help them fight infection. We also have to fatten them quickly, so they can be butchered before they die at a young age. Also, corn doesn't contain the correct fatty acids for their bodies, so we grind up other cattle bones and fat for them to eat--turning our cows into cannibals. This also necessitates the need for more antibiotics to guard against mad-cow disease (what happens to cows when they eat other cows). The same system is in place for feeding chickens (and yes, they feed dead chicken parts back to the chickens also).

Pollan was also surprisingly moderate on the organic movement. He does a wonderful job of attacking what he calls "Big Organic," such as the Whole Foods empire and organic regulatory groups. He does a wonderful job of describing the quaint farm picture of the free-range chickens at Whole Foods, and then he actually goes and visits that farm. It turns out that free-range chickens are no different from regular chickens--as California law only forces them to "have access to the outdoors." This means that the free-range chickens are raised in the same massive silos as the other chickens, but there is a small slit door in the bottom corner of the silo that leads out to a narrow strip of grass that runs part-way down the edge of the silo. Since these are also "organic" chickens, the chicks don't receive any antibiotics, so they are not actually allowed to even use this outside option until they're old enough to ignore it. In his visit to this particular organic, free-range chicken farm he never saw even one chicken get close to using their free-range option.

The most entertaining farmer he visited was, without a doubt, Joel Salatin. Besides the fact that I enjoyed seeing Pollan, who is a Berkley professor and liberal Jew, loving his time with this fundamentalist Baptist (he graduated from Bob Jones University), who even has a fish sign on his front door; Salatin is a really fun guy. He inherited his farm from his father, who worked on the farm over weekends and holidays, all with the goal in mind of passing it on to his son who could hopefully support his family solely by farming. He describes himself as a "Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-lunatic-Farmer," and he sees the root of all farming problems and food-price problems in our country as a result of government regulation. He does not consider himself an "organic" farmer, per se, but insists that if you understand the growth and behavior of animals and plants you don't need much pesticides, fertilizers, or other chemicals. His prices are affordable and reasonable (his chickens sell for $1.99/lb.). He also lives in West Virginia and refuses to ship his food farther than 150 miles from his home--but he insists that if the government got out of the farming business, there would be many more farmers just like him. I'm interested in reading his book called Everything I Want to do is Illegal.

Good food is a good thing. Sometimes, I believe, Christians give up the realm of tasty food to liberals, and it's not because we like food too much; it's usually because we like food too little. The Lord's Supper is bread and wine, two of the most developed tastes imaginable. The organic elitists are truly nauseating, but the realization that most of their food complaints are the results of government regulation was truly eye-opening. God gave us taste buds and a world that is edible, and the difference between a tomato we grew in our backyard and one that came on an airplane from South America a week ago (and was picked a week before that) is certainly noticeable. However, even though I was impressed at how much Pollan connected food problems in our country to government regulation, I have actually seen him in documentaries calling for more regulation as a solution. Hopefully more guys like Salatin will be able to make a living at farming, as there is certainly plenty of farmland out there (if only the government would leave it alone and let people use it)!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Who is my Neighbor?

Let's pretend, for a moment, that you have two neighbors. On one side, there is a father that you are pretty sure does a poor job supplying for his family. He calls in sick to stay home and watch ESPN, his kids are disorderly, and his wife looks like a mess. You know that one of these days he's going to get fired, and then his family could, quite possibly, starve.

Your neighbor on the other side, at this very moment, is standing in the front yard pointing a loaded rifle at his toddler.

I don't think it takes very much thought process to determine which of these two demands your immediate attention.

However, now imagine that instead of being home to see this travesty, you are away at work this morning, and a bystander is walking by on the sidewalk. He lives nearby, and has seen the messy state of the lazy neighbor's yard, and can probably figure out that the man there doesn't take care of his family. However, at this very moment, he can also see the other father in the front yard, ready to blow his son away. Now this bystander takes quite a different opinion. He thinks it's good for fathers to have the option of killing their children, and, in fact, gives money to fathers who do this sort of thing. So he puts a few dollars in the murderer's pocket and strolls on. When he comes to the lazy neighbor's yard, he decides that he's had enough. He marches right up the walk, tears open the door, and walks in, demanding that it's high time for this man to get a job or his family will starve.

Now, even though you agree with the bystander as to the state of the lazy man's home, there's still no doubt that he has some serious issues with proportion and morality. After you come home and have a talk with the police, you may be able to have a decent discussion with him about standards and the value of human life. He may be intelligent and decent, just seriously confused. Maybe he doesn't know what guns do. Maybe he doesn't know what toddlers are. However, is that the kind of man that you would elect to run your own family? How about your church? How about your country?

Now imagine this bystander is also running for office in a local election. Even though you agree with him about your lazy neighbor, and that something should be done about him, how do you trust him when he simultaneously encourages fathers to murder their own children?

Monday, March 5, 2012


My younger son has decided to make his older brother a present every day when he gets home from Kindergarten. Usually it's something clever and small, like a homemade coloring book, or a rocket made from a toilet paper roll, but today he reached a new height in gift-giving.

First, some background. My husband brings his 8th grade class to Mexico to do service work in an orphanage every spring. He usually brings back tasty Mexican candies for the boys when he returns. Several years ago he brought back lollipops that had an actual, dead scorpion encased in the sugary coating.

This was the inspiration for today's gift. Segundus found a small jar and searched out a suitable spider outside. Then, with parental assistance, asphyxiated said spider with several cotton balls soaked in fingernail paint remover. Then we mixed up a tasty concoction of orange juice, bananas, and sugar. Then we put the dead spider in a paper cup, filled it with juice, stuck a stick in it, and froze it. When big brother came home, he was welcomed with an officially original dead-spider popsicle. He did devour it and was proud of the fact that he's pretty sure one of the legs is stuck in the back of his throat.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Modesty Talk

Modesty. What comes to mind when you read that term? What other people wear? What you wear (or maybe used to)? What is popular to wear?

The dictionary definition of modesty, in fact, has very little to do with clothing. One definition I have includes "(1) Freedom from vanity, boastfulness, etc. (2) regards for decency of behavior, speech, dress, etc. (3) simplicity; moderation." Besides the short reference to dress, there is no mention of clothing.

The Bible's handling of the subject has even less to do specifically with what we would call "immodest clothing." The most famous verse on modesty, I Timothy 2:9-10, states, "in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works." If anything, "immodesty" in this context is wearing a ball dress and jewels to church! However, taken together, modesty seems to be the keeping of your behavior, manners, and dress from being vain or self-glorious.

This goes against our popular definition of modesty, which much like the word "organic," doesn't really mean what it means anymore. To talk of immodesty, we are more likely thinking of a swimsuit issue model then of someone who is boastful and vain--but what does the Bible say? Reasoning from I Timothy 2:9-10, vanity of the heart leads to vanity in dress, which means immodest clothing is a symptom of a sinful heart, not necessarily the sin itself.

If this is the case, how do we teach our daughters the value of modesty? In a big way, by leading by example, but also by teaching them the standards of modest talk and behavior at a young age to help them avoid the swimsuit issue problem at a more mature age. If our little ladies despise vanity and self-glory, they will naturally be in love with the good examples of dressing once they are old enough to understand the consequences of their dress and behavior. This is similar, in a way, to teaching sons the discipline of self-control at a young age, so they will be equipped for the temptations of adolescence. We shouldn't have to fear for our teenagers' dress, if they despise boastfulness and self-centered vainglory when they are young.

How then do we deal with immodesty in the world? If it is true that immodest dress is a symptom of a sinful heart, we should not be surprised that it is everywhere. However, this just goes to show us how much the world needs the Gospel. A scantily-clad woman, then, should be the subject of our compassion. She is a lost soul and needs Christ, and our daughters should eventually be equipped to minister to her (but their brothers can run and hide).

Monday, February 27, 2012

I Think I'll Eat Some Worms

I am constantly amazed by the nonstop doctrine women seem to get on the issue of happiness. It seems that we are told by everyone in the world, that we need to love ourselves and accept ourselves for who we are. We need to look in the mirror and love the person that is there, instead of agonizing over our shortcomings and faults.

This seems to be simple good advice, but maybe that's because we hear this everywhere we look. However, Jesus stated that the second greatest commandment was to "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39). In stating this, He was quoting Leviticus 19, which gives specific instructions on how to love your neighbor. The Bible, then, takes it for granted that you love yourself already. It would be impossible to command someone to love their neighbor "as themself," if that person was incapable of doing so.

What is it, then, when a woman is highly self-critical? Whether she hates the way she looks, or her body shape, or her clothing, or the way she talks, etc., etc.? Is this really self-hatred? Does she only need to learn to love herself?

I would submit that the answer is no. Constantly thinking about the way she looks or her own faults is a form of self-love--in fact, it's too much of it. If you're constantly thinking of yourself--even if it is criticism--you are being, quite practically, self-centered. Everyone notices the way you look bad, everyone notices what you just said, everyone is thinking about how you don't look appropriate.

The solution to this self-centeredness, is certainly not more of it. The last thing a lady in this type of trouble needs is more time to focus on herself. However, what she does need is a healthy dose of self-lessness. Instead of thinking about her own problems, her own looks, her own issues, what she needs is to forget about herself. Busy and productive women don't have the time to obsess about themselves, and this selflessness is what truly leads to lasting happiness. Truly giving selflessly what we are and what we have is a death that God rewards with resurrection joy.

This is not a morbid, begrudging giving, as in, "I'm just a doormat, I'll give everything to everyone else, no one cares about me"--which is just another form, once again, of self-centeredness. But this is a joyful offering of worship to God, in all the charity we give to our neighbor. As C.S. Lewis said, "Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less."

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Reaper is Grim Because He Is Doomed

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." Psalm 116:15

On Wednesday this week two dear saints saw the sun for the last time this side of glory. One was my 83-year-old grandmother, who passed away peacefully in her sleep at the hospital. She was a missionary, pastor and professor's wife, mother to four godly children, 12 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren. She lived a full life, was close to friends and family, and finished the race.

The other was my friend's nephew, born at only 15 weeks gestation. He saw the brightness of the sun and heard his mother's voice before also passing away, without a sound.

Death is always hard, and always grim. Death is the last enemy, and even when the race is finished well, it still ends in tragedy. We are called to fight this enemy our entire lives, all the time knowing that he will win and he cannot be cheated.

It is easy to thank God for my grandmother's life. She accomplished much, and died at peace, old and full of years. However, it is harder with the tiny baby, who had such a short life. Why was he created only to die? Why did God choose to take this tiny one home so soon? Maybe I only have a hard time because I have said good-bye to my own tiny babies several times.

And then I was reminded that the Creator wants us to be like Him. He sees all tragedies, all small, quiet deaths, everywhere, every day. In that moment when that young mother said both hello and good-bye to her son, she was given the opportunity to grieve as God does who is present at every death, millions of people every day. He sees His enemy at work, on a massive scale, and is waiting for the perfect timing to sound his defeat.

Jesus showed us that death will be defeated. I will see my grandmother again, at a great feast, drinking wine and rejoicing. This mother will hold her baby boy. But, like our Heavenly Father, we have this opportunity, here and now, to see through His eyes. The blessing is to be present at the side of a loved one, and cry out as they breathe their last breath, just as He does all around the world, every day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Big, Bad Wolf

There is a reason why we named our daughter after a fairy tale hero, mostly because we love fairy tales. We love the ancient-ness of fairy tales and the Christian stories of fairy tales, which includes lots of witch-burning and troll killing.

I was raised knowing all the famous fairy tales, and as soon as I had children, I knew that they needed to know them too. It was part of their culture to know who the big, bad wolf is and why you should always listen to your mother's instructions. We got a beautiful copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales when my oldest was still a newborn, and began to read the stories as soon as the kids were old enough to listen.

As I started reading them aloud, though, I realized that many parts of the stories ruffled my adult comfort feathers. There were some gruesome parts, some seemingly ignorant parts, and some violent parts. Sometimes I hesitated to read these stories--like the fact that Hansel and Gretel's mother wanted to abandon them in the woods and let them starve to death. But I also realized that if I cleaned up these stories, I would be guilty of the same crime the Disney Corporation has been committing for years!

But what really taught me to love the fairy tales--in all their bawdiness and gruesomeness--was that I want my children to love the Bible in the same way. Our family standard of "appropriate" is anything you can find in the Bible, and fairy tales fit neatly into that category. The Bible is certainly not G-rated (despite what this may lead you to believe), but we still want our kids to know and love all of it. That doesn't mean that they need to know in detail what some of the racier sections mean (like my personal favorite, Leviticus 15), but they shouldn't be shocked when an unbeliever tries to discredit God's Word by surprising them with the Book of Judges.

I also realized that all of those same elements that bothered me in fairy tales as an adult, were still in those stories when I was a kid, and didn't bother me at all. Most of these stories, at least those written in the medieval days, were entirely Christian. They spoke the truth about the gospel in a way that was written specifically for children to understand.

In elementary school I remember begging my own mother to tell me a Bible story that I'd never heard before. She opened up Judges and read the story of Ehud killing Eglon. It was the first time I can remember being fascinated and grossed out by something simultaneously. Children everywhere seem to be fascinated by the grotesque, and nearly nothing we can do as parents will make them fall in love with perfectionism. This is why toddlers stare at odd people in a way that makes their parents want to melt into the carpet. And why those same toddlers create chaos anywhere they find order. The Bible and fairy tales are one way to direct that fascination the way God intended it: to show mercy to those who are beaten down, and what to with those who are doing the beating.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Science Friday

Today in the car I happened to catch the first few minutes of NPR's Science Friday with Ira Flatow. I used to listen to this more often, and he would occasionally irritate me with his social and political interpretations of science, all the while pretending to report things from a truly scientific perspective. However, today I laughed out loud in the car listening to this week's line-up of stories, which you can see here.

Notice anything funny? The first story is "Defending Climate Science's Place in the Classroom," where he reports that just like the anti-science of Creationism was being pushed in public schools, now the anti-science of climate change doubters is causing problems. He had nothing nice to say about either the Creationists or the Doubters.

But here's where it gets funny--the next story was about the benefits of meditation and included an on-air meditation session. Lastly, was a look at the planet Mars and its possibilities for life.

So here's what I learned: Creationism is stupid and to doubt climate change is ignorant, but meditation and Martians are healthy and scientific.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Underground

Right now I'm reading this and loving it. Dostoevsky has an amazing talent for irony and sarcasm (which seem to be the theme of all my favorite writers). The first story in the collection is a striking satire on romance, which is hilarious. However, my favorite "short" story in the collection (really the longest one) has to be Notes from the Underground. The very epitome of irony, malice, and man's sinful heart. I'm also starting to notice lots of similarities between Dostoevsky and Chesterton; including their love of irony, irrationalism, and the common peasant of their own countries.

Here's a bit of fun from Notes from the Underground on free will:

"For man is stupid, phenomenally stupid.....I would not be at all surprised, for instance, if suddenly and without the slightest possible reason a gentleman of an ignoble or rather a reactionary and sardonic countenance were to arise amid all that future reign of universal common sense....and say to us all, 'Well, gentlemen, what about giving all this common sense a mighty kick and letting it scatter in the dust before our feet simply to send all those logarithms to the devil so that we can again live according to our foolish will?' That wouldn't matter, either, but for the regrettable fact that he would certainly find followers: for man is made like that."