Vote Your Conscience, 2016

It happens every election, and this one is a doozy. This is a flaming dumpster fire of an election. A descent into madness. Winter has come, y’all. Winter has come.

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If only.

And every election, it happens, especially on the Right: Christians argue that you have to vote pro-life or else the blood of millions of babies is on your hands. And then comes the Left: you have to vote to take care of the poor, to welcome the stranger, and combat the sin of racism. Both agree, you will answer to Almighty God for your vote.

So. Much. Pressure.

Of course, we should take voting seriously. I agree! One-hundred percent! And yes, we will answer before God for all of our actions, for every intention of our heart, and every word we ever say.

But I’d like to step back a moment here, with all the necessary caveats, and make one point that easily gets lost: Voting is not really what God will judge us for. Because it’s not enough.

If I vote for pro-life candidates and then consider my “pro-life duty” fulfilled, I am mistaken. If I take pride in voting for candidates who seek to end poverty and then believe my duty to the poor is fulfilled, I am wrong. If I vote for the candidate to care for the planet, yet lead a wasteful life, I’m doing it wrong. If I vote for the candidate to reform immigration, but do not reach out to the new faces in my own neighborhood, I have not sufficiently welcomed the stranger. If I vote for the candidate to combat racism, yet do not love my neighbor, it profits me nothing.

I am so, so guilty of letting my vote do all my work.

Every four years, Christians debate each other over the eternal consequences of our vote. I’m here to suggest, if you’re like me, that the way we vote can easily be a way to let ourselves off the hook. Like, hey, we voted. We did our part, took a stand, defended marriage, cared about the poor, whatever. We’ll return to fight the good fight in four more years. *pats self on back*

Democracy lends itself to self-righteousness, doesn’t it? If you don’t vote, you can’t complain…about those other people who are ruining our country. We all console ourselves that the problems of this world are outside of us. We all voted for the other guy (or gal). We walk into the voting booth as if it were a confessional, seeking absolution. It is not there.

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May we remember this, and be a bit more demanding of ourselves when it comes to living our our values and a bit less judgmental of those who vote differently.

Because most of those other people are really good neighbors. And some of those other people are better Christians, day in and day out, than I am. People are more than their party identification.

I know it’s tough to love our political enemies these days. The opposing side just seems so terrible, so unacceptable, that its easy to let that negative emotion taint whole categories of people made in the image of God. Yet there stands Christ: right in the middle of our mess, calling us to love each other. To treat each other with respect. To assume the best of our opponents. To give each other the benefit of the doubt. This is hard.

I have always been passionate about politics. I probably peaked in 2010, when I volunteered consistently for a local congressional candidate. Since then, I have been convicted to cultivate a “holy ambivalence” to political elections. I almost always fall short! But I really do try to remind myself that my identity in Christ is way, way bigger and more important and more lasting than my identity as a member of any political party. And I am connected forever to my brothers and sisters in Christ who vote for the opposing party every time, for their own good reasons, or even for their bad reasons! We are all one body, the Body of Christ. His Body is greater and truer and stronger than any body politic.

God does invite us to enact and witness to His Kingdom on earth, but our responsibility to do so has never been fulfilled by a mere vote in an earthly political system. Of course not. So this election season, let’s remind each other to do justice, and love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God, not only on November 8th but in the small ways every day that make up a holy life.

And let us pray, yes. Pray for His will to be done and His kingdom to come on earth, as it is in heaven. We need not pray to win, as if the crucified Christ needed earthly success to bring about His Kingdom.

The Church has survived under kings, presidents and tyrants for millennia. We will survive no matter who wins this election. Our Leader has already ascended to His throne. Amen.

Happy Homemaking

The two older kids spent a weekend at my parents’ house, and my how did we enjoy that. And we got so. much. accomplished. I realized, vacuuming the upstairs that never gets vacuumed, that maybe I don’t hate cleaning. Maybe I just have a hard time cleaning while also parenting three kids four-years-old and younger. This was a revolutionary thought.

We organized. We rearranged. We played board games with lots of little pieces. We took a minivan full of stuff we don’t need to the Savers to donate. We only had one child! Everything was easy!

(It’s amazing how much our perspective has changed from our first child to now.)

We had a good friend renovate our hall closet: img_0162

Unfortunately, I didn’t take a “before” picture, so you’ll just have to trust me that this is a vast improvement. The closet was built wrong – too shallow – and the previous owners had “solved” the problem by tearing out the sheetrock in the back wall of the closet. 😐 With the drywall back, the closet was too shallow to even hang a coat in on the standard horizontal bar. Our friend Bailey came up with this design, and our closet is now more functional than ever. More than once, I’ve opened the doors to peer inside and admire the organizational beauty. #thelittlethings

I also enjoyed creating a “home altar” or “prayer table” in our living room. A place of beauty, a place to follow the liturgical year. It was a challenge to spend as little as possible, and I accomplished the “ordinary time” design for about ten bucks.img_0220

I used a green color scheme to coordinate with the green liturgical vestments during this season of the church year. Our Light-N-Love Jesus doll is there for the kids. 🙂

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We had this table in the garage. I love having this little space in the living room — it’s central enough to our lives without being ostentatious. It’s also conveniently located on the wall where we hung our (reusable, fabric) advent calendar last year.

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I love this table, and I love this room. It doesn’t even bother me that the children haven’t asked about it yet. That’s OK. It reminds me of my life in God, and it helps me be more intentional about following the life of Christ through the church calendar all year. I hope that this small act of faith, this little table holding open space for transcendence, will serve as the background of our family’s life together. I want the rhythms of grace to sink deep into our bones, for the routines of faith to become muscle memory, and someday, a fond memory of my love, and of God’s love, for my family.

Peace.

 

A Real Retreat

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Last Sunday I made a retreat with The Practice (a community of Willow Creek). The Practice was meeting all day at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, Illinois. They promised me hours of silence, a prayer session led by a Jesuit priest, and a hot lunch. I left all three children with my husband and made a break for the door.

In short, it was wonderful. I left truly refreshed and energized. Walking the nature path in solitude, I tried to remember the last time I was surrounded by such quiet. I had what I would call a “chat” with the Almighty — not a time of fervent intercession or petition, but a simple conversation with long pauses in between the words. I cannot tell you how much easier I found it to listen.

If you ever have a chance to make a similar retreat — especially with someone leading you in Ignatian prayer, I would highly recommend it.

**I took the photo above while sitting on a iron bench beneath the crucifix. The text comes from the Book of Common Prayer.

Let us join the revolution of tenderness 

Dear fellow white Christians,

Listen. I am one of you. Maybe you feel like I feel, today, after the news last week of two black men, of Minneapolis and Baton Rouge, respectively, shot to death for seemingly no reason at all by police officers, and after several cops were shot while protecting a peaceful protest in Dallas in retaliation. I read the names of the African-American victims: Alton Sterling, whose 15-year-old son doubled-over in grief on CNN, and Philando Castile, stopped only for a busted tail light, with his girlfriend and her four-year-old child in the car. My heart sinks. I shake my head. I do not know what to do.

I am dazed, but I have children to care for. My children believe that the world is basically just and fair, because mommy dispenses the M&Ms evenly between the siblings and daddy won’t put them in time-out unless they really deserve it. How can I begin to tell them what the world is really like? I put my phone down, and pour the cereal.

Perhaps you feel like me. Hopeless, helpless. Angry. Afraid. Looking for someone to blame. Someone, ideally, on the other team – maybe political opponent. We reach for the most-plausible self-exoneration, whatever is nearest to hand. That time you spoke out when someone made a racist remark. That brown friend you had in college. The black coworker who you laughed with on long days. Maybe you can hold up your non-racist voting record or your appreciation for Kanye. Whatever. You and me, we’re not the racists. Not the kind of racist who would shoot a black man sitting in his car without good reason, at least. So goes the tape in our head, repeating the same excuses of the past.

Grief upon grief upon grief. Violence begetting more violence. This root of bitterness runs deep. And what can be done? What can be done?

I’ll let others more knowledgable address policy proposals, like these folks at Campaign Zero or  Justice in Policing. As a stay-at-home mother of three, I am not planning on marching through the streets. But I could write a letter to my mayor about our local police force. I could talk to my friends and family members (perhaps with my cop friend), seeking understanding. I could talk to my pastor about how we could respond as a church.  And I could pray for all involved.

For now let me speak to the community I know best: the white church. In these times, we must remember who we are. We are not white people first. Nor are we primarily Americans, even. We are not Republicans or Democrats or Libertarians. We are Christians, and we are God’s. So from one daughter of God to another, please allow me to share my thoughts on the way forward from here.

(1) Let us stay close to the crucified Christ. Brothers and sisters, let us remember that our Lord Jesus Christ was unjustly murdered as a result of the abuse of state power. The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, knew Jesus was not guilty of anything worthy of death, but he made a ceremony of washing his hands and let it happen.  Jesus, our God and Savior, has identified himself with victims of unjust violence. Full stop. Whatever we do to aid the victims of unjust violence, we do unto Christ. This includes both the victims of color and the officers in blue.

There are so few words when facing the injustice and sorrow of the world. Tragedies like these raise many questions to our Father in heaven, and I believe He welcomes the questions. But the Father’s definitive answer is the One on the cross: the Son of God, suffering with us. Let us go out to Him, standing with Mother Mary and the Beloved Disciple, and hide neither our eyes nor our tears.

(2) Let us mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12.15). Let me be frank, I am a white, married, middle class mother. I am not likely to be on the wrong end of a gun (or the “right” end). Nor are my blonde, blue-eyed children likely to be caught in the crossfire. None of my family members are in law enforcement. It’s easy for me to be sad for a couple days and then go about my business. Even worse, it would be easy to minimize the problem altogether, papering over injustice as the actions of a few “bad apples,” conveniently absolving myself of any responsibility to do anything about it.

But it’s not just a few bad apples, is it? Gun violence is a widespread epidemic in our culture, from Orlando’s Pulse nightclub to Sandy Hook Elementary. The causes are complex and deeply rooted. But the lack an easy solution does not excuse my apathy.

And far be it from me to handwave away another’s grief. Let us not be like those whom the prophet Jeremiah condemned for minimizing the wounds of God’s people (verse 6.14):

They dress the wound of my people

as though it were not serious.

‘Peace, peace,’ they say,

when there is no peace.

Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct?

No, they have no shame at all;

they do not even know how to blush.

 

(3) Let us lead with repentance and humility. We really have to get out of the self-justification business, Church. God is handling our justification through Christ. And do you know what that frees us to do? Repent. We must take responsibility, not just for our sins, but for the sins of our fathers and mothers before us. We have inherited a legacy of white racism that must be disowned and forfeited completely.

The sins of other people do not matter. We can only repent for our part. So let us seek peace and pursue it (1 Peter 3.11). The Bible says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).  Let us go as far as we can to heal the old wounds in our communities, in our nation, and in the body of Christ.

Let me give you an example of the kind of humility we need. Earlier this year, Pope Francis apologized to Protestants for the Catholic Church’s mistreatment of us in the past. He did not debate the merits of the Reformation, or point out that he wasn’t pope at the time, or argue that on the principle of the thing the Catholics were right, but okay, they shouldn’t have gone about uprooting heresy in that way. He simply sought to heal “the sin of division, an open wound in the Body of Christ,” so he led with humility and asked for forgiveness. That, my friends, is the example of a Christian.

This is the call of the Gospel:


Let us go and do likewise. Viva la revolución.

Seven Quick Takes

I.

So I’m trying out this Warby Parker thing. They send you five pairs of glasses to try on at home (for free). I’m on my second box. It’s hard to choose!  I might go with these:

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But then again, I might not. I wonder how many times they let you order a “home try-on” box shipped to you for free. Hmm….

II.

Last Thursday night I met up with a couple friends for a ladies’ night at Denny’s. I love my friends. They are essential to my well-being. Even my kids know friendships are important — as illustrated by this group photo of Audrey and Austin and all their peeps. 🙂

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To be more accurate, some of these toys are their “kids.” Audrey’s oldest is five now and going to kindergarten. Mickey sure has grown up fast.

III.

Friday we left for vacation in northern Wisconsin. It has been a truly restful time. Here’s Alexei chewing on a letter H at our vacation destination. The second night here he slept from 7:00pm to 3:30am, and then from 4:00am to nearly 11:00! For a kid that usually wakes up about 7:00 or so, that was a lot of sleep.

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IV.

The friend we’re visiting is an excellent chef.  It’s like eating at five-star restaurants every night, except for free. I’m normally a rather picky eater (hence my complete lack of moral standing with my picky-eater kids), but I will eat whatever our friend prepares. I have never regretted a plate.

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This was grilled pork and baby bok choy, with a “salsa” that included rhubarb and garlic scape. I would have never come up with such a meal. I had seconds of everything.

V.

Today we went to the beach. At least, that’s what the kids called it. 🙂

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VI.

Tomorrow is the 4th of July. We will only barely acknowledge the holiday. The fireworks start too late, hours after bedtime for the kids. We may or may not attend a parade. I’m fine with this. I mean, first of all, we’re already “on holiday” for the next week, so it’s not like we’re short on fun or relaxation. And second, my husband’s allergy to shows of patriotism as finally spread to me.  I’m glad I live in the USA. I am thankful that I can worship freely, don’t get me wrong. But the more we try to be intentional about celebrating the church calendar as a family, the less I want to emphasize the national calendar. The nation’s calendar is no less formative of our souls. I enjoy fireworks and sparklers and hotdogs, of course. But my true homeland is heaven and my ultimate allegiance is to my God.  It is Christ’s blood, shed for me, that has purchased my most important freedom. And I should remember my connection to my Christian brothers and sisters the world over, whatever nationality we may be. For we are citizens together of the eternal Kingdom, and as fellow-citizens they, too, deserve my prayer and concern.

Our story did not begin in 1776. It began on A.D. 33. And it’s the older story, God’s story, that I want our family to celebrate and remember the most.

VII.

This is the first Sunday night in 10 weeks that I do not have a new Game of Thrones to watch. Now all that’s left is another year of re-reading the books and wild speculation.

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Where have you gone, Jon Snow-Targaryan? This watcher turns her lonely eyes to you. Ooh oooh ooh.

Happy Independence Day. 🙂

 

 

In search of love stronger than suffering

I almost didn’t click on it, but I made myself. The headline at Vox read:

A woman had an abortion at 32 weeks. Our laws made her hellish experience even worse.

Her story was certainly “hellish,” if not for the reasons the headline-writer intended. The problem here is not the law.

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My son, Austin, during his 17 days in the NICU. For cuteness in this mournful post.

“Elizabeth” and her husband had wanted a child, and she is now trying to get pregnant again. The problem was that her son had a host of frightening test results that suggested muscular dystrophy or spinal bifida. The poor boy even had a club foot. Her doctor said his problems were likely so severe that he was “incompatible with life.”

It is a nightmare situation: The hope of a new child turned to ash when you learn that your baby will not live very long. Hours, perhaps. Possibly days. Words no parent wants to hear.

So this loving mother did the only thing that made sense to her, and this should make us pause. Her next “obvious” step should make us question our presuppositions, our political priorities, even our idea of what life itself is all about. Because she concluded that the most loving thing she could do was to “minimize his suffering.” By having him euthanized before he ever saw the light of day.

It is difficult to get an abortion at 32 weeks pregnant in this country, especially given that the mother’s life was not at stake. The article makes that clear, and has the gall to complain about it. She had to fly out of state to one of only four doctors in the country and pay $10,000 in cash. As any loving mother would do, she overcame all the obstacles to spare her child the agony of ….life.

His life would have been brief, yes, and full of physical pain. But it could have also been full of love and comfort, snuggles and songs, gentle kisses and long naps on his mother’s chest. He could have died at his home, where we would all like to die, if we had the choice. Even if he had died in the NICU, he could have been held. Someone would have held his tiny hand.

She loved her son. But somehow she was convinced that it would be better for him not to suffer a death outside the womb. She could have given him a death in her arms, feeling the warmth of her love and her tears. She chose not to. She “truly would have put [herself] through anything,” except witnessing the life of her son. Instead she chose to euthanize him in the womb.

At least she got to control that death, I suppose.  Perhaps it was desperate act to exert some power over an uncontrollable and unwanted death. I can only guess. I do not think her baby is the one who benefited.

Nor, ultimately, is this abortion for her good, though I do not know what it may take for her to see what she has missed.

I can’t help but remember the first time I held my “surprise” son Austin, three days after he was born, in a small room in the NICU. (Austin is fine now, age 3.)  It had been a traumatic birth; he almost died of sepsis, while I hemorrhaged as the doctor pulled the placenta out in pieces. As I held him, my whole body relaxed as days of worry melted away. Smiling, I turned to my husband with tears in my eyes and said, “Can you believe we almost missed this?”

Tell me, what suffering, what suffering is stronger than love?

UPDATE:  I just read an interview with “Elizabeth,” the woman who had the abortion at 32 weeks, and my heart breaks for her. Clearly, she has been through a traumatic experience — getting a shot to stop the baby’s heart in Colorado, then flying back to have an induction in New York, then not being able to push due to a previous brain surgery (!) and ending with an invasive forceps-type delivery followed by a D&C to remove the placenta. She has been through so much physical pain, it’s maddening. The other sad thing, I feel, is that it’s unclear to me that having an abortion reduced any of her trauma. Her other option was to have a scheduled c-section and let the baby die naturally. Having a stillborn child, or one who died shortly after birth, is terrible any way it happens, but I really cannot imagine how this abortion was easier, physically or emotionally.

Worse, it seems like she was carried along into this decision by the logic of her previous miscarriage (once it was deemed “unviable” the pregnancy was over) and by her well-intentioned, pro-choice doctors. Why have a c-section for “nothing”? They referred her to the abortion doctor, who told her that her 32-week-old baby would not feel pain when he inserted the needle in her belly to stop his heart. Everyone there told her she was making the right decision.

People make a big deal that she has a right to make “her own decision,” but I can’t help blaming the community around her that presented this abortion as the best way forward. I sincerely contend it was not.

 

Prayer of the Day

I pray,

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I don’t really feel like a sinner. I feel like a basically OK person who is above-average morally most of the time.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Mercy is great, Lord. I am thankful, truly, for all your blessings to me.

Except forgiveness, maybe, not so much. I have to be a sinner to need forgiveness.

I’m tired of feeling bad about myself. I’m no Ramsey Bolton, you know.

Again: Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

OK. I’m no Mother Mary, either. You know. I know.

I do not have the love of your mother, or the hospitality and work ethic of Martha, or the faith of Lois and Eunice.

My sin feels abstract and unspecific. I do not want to know, Jesus, what my sins really are.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Lord, you’ll have to tell me.

My eyes are closed, but I’m listening.

Seven Quick Takes

This Friday I’m linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum. Click over there for more good stuff.

I.

Last week I took the kids on a road trip all. by. myself. And I only peed in the grass once! (You know I am not dragging all three kids into the truck station bathroom next to the XXX store just so I can pee.)  We drove six hours to Missouri for an old friend’s wedding, which was fabulous.

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A1 at the reception. She loves to party. 🙂

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The “bride” at our very own “rehearsal.”

II.

After the wedding, we drove to my parent’s place in Tennessee. The kids had been looking forward to visiting Nana and Papa’s house for weeks. Their house is super fun because they have a train set in the spare bedroom AND a sprinkler in the backyard AND a dollhouse from the 1990s (a true antique heirloom Playskool set). The highlight for me was not having to cook or feel like I needed to clean all the time. (Note, I said “feel” like a need to clean. I certainly do not actually clean all the time. Cleaning is not one of my spiritual gifts.)  Wait, no, my real highlight is talking to my dad. My dad is not much of a phone-talker, so I relish the chance to discuss politics, current events, theology, and life with him in person.

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My dad is as honorable as Ned Stark and still alive. You go, Dad.

III.

Then we caravanned with Nana back to Missouri to visit my sister and her family for her 29th birthday. My kids love their cousins — my sister and I had our first babies less than two months apart, so they are all in the same age range. It was wonderful to have the kids play and catch up with my sister. And who wouldn’t love to play on this sandbox/swingset/boat?

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I mean, really, can I have a boat? My sister has this in her backyard, people. My kids would never willingly leave. 🙂

Happy birthday, sis.

IV.

Last Saturday we left for home…and almost made it.  Forty minutes from home, the van’s transmission failed. Luckily I was able to navigate into a Family Video parking lot, and I was there befriended by Ken and Ilene — Ken helped push my van into a parking space, checked under the hood, and drove us to a nearby Culver’s once I knew Joel was on his way. Angels, those two.

V.

I’m thankful for: Kids for whom a breakdown is a big adventure and who can be bought off with ice cream; Ken and Ilene for making sure an unlucky mom of three had help coming before going home to watch the movie they had rented from Family Video; a transmission that “waited” to fail until we were close to home and not at a rest area or the aforementioned grassy ditch by the XXX store; and, of course, AAA. By 10pm, the tow truck, “Mater,” arrived, and we watched the van be loaded onto the back of the truck. Austin applauded. Bless.

VI.

I’ve been without a van all week, and it’s been OK. What would have normally been a crazy-making amount of stir-crazy homebound insanity actually feels nice and restful after such a long trip. We’ve all been able to catch up on sleep. Especially this guy:

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He’s so cute I can’t stand it.

VII.

I awoke Sunday morning looking forward to my favorite ultra-violent fantasy fiction TV series. I went on Twitter to check in with my fellow Game of Thrones geeks, and I quickly discovered news of the massacre at Pulse in Orlando. We think we are mostly safe, that we are somehow more evolved than the medieval world that inspired GoT, but we’re not. People can go out dancing, never to go home again, the targets of a mad man inspired by hatred of gays and radical Islam. The night is dark and full of terrors, indeed.

I remembered this image of Mary cradling the crucified Jesus in her arms. And I said a prayer for all those who, like Christ, were victims of unjust violence. Lord, have mercy on us all.

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Vocations of Love

These three are my vocation, the revelation of God’s calling upon my life:

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And also my relationship to this guy, my husband, Mr. Joel: 101_0649

It strikes me that the vocations in my life that are most clear to me — marriage, motherhood — are relational, not professional. I am called to love my husband and my children, and hopefully through that love, and as I am shaped by that love, to love the world. And I am called to right relationship with God, by which I mean I am called to love God, not somehow “be a good person” or “holy” in a abstract, religious way.  The way is Love.

Recently our church observed Trinity Sunday, and our pastor did an admirable job of the difficult task of preaching directly on the Trinity, that doctrine that we serve One God in Three “Persons”: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It’s a confusing one, a mystery, and difficult to see how it matters in our ordinary life.

But one thing we can say is that God Himself is relational. The Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the Love that flows between them, so powerful that the Spirit is another “person” altogether.  St. Augustine spoke of the Trinity as “the Lover, the Beloved, and the Love that binds them together into one.”  So we know what being made “in the image of God” means: to be made in love and by love and for love.

That is such a profound teaching of the Church. But before I go too far into the beauty of the Trinity, let’s get back to a popular topic of conversation around our house of late: vocation.

Mr. Joel is trying to discern his vocation, by which he means his profession. He, too, has the marriage-vocation and father-vocation already, so this is the discernment of those other 40 or 50 hours a week (you know, the essential but essentially less important hours). Despite being the primary breadwinner in our home right now, his primary vocation is not breadwinning. His vocations are relational, too, the same ones I have. It’s hard to live according to your vocation as husband and father in the corporate culture in which he must perform. But he’s working on it.

Meanwhile, I try to find ways to fulfill what I understand as God’s other callings on my life — writing and teaching, for instance, in small stolen hours. Who knows where I may yet be called to love? I am waiting to find out. As least now, as opposed to my angsty 20s, I have the patience and hope to wait. Another season of life will come, with new projects and profession(s) and ambitions. But how simple it is, now, to rest in my vocation to love. May God give me the grace to always be restful and not restless (spiritually speaking — of course parenthood isn’t physically restful, haha!). May He give the same grace to you.

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Image from Gloria Romanorum, with thanks

 

Wheaton College & etc.

I’m waaaay behind on this news, but I’m adding my thoughts, anyway.  Hello, long lost readers, I have opinions. 🙂

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Joel and I the day he graduated from Wheaton with his MA, 2007.

My alma mater has been in the news a lot this year.  Dr. Larycia Hawkins, who donned a hijab during Advent in solidarity with American Muslims, is no longer employed by the College. I was saddened by this, but I also know several faculty members personally who are wonderful models of evangelical faith — one of whom has spent considerable time getting to know our neighbors at Wheaton’s Islamic Center.  I know there are good things happening, still, with regard to interfaith outreach.  But then I read another article about an employee leaving the college, and this one broke my heart.

Julie Rodgers was the ministry associate for spiritual care in Wheaton’s chaplain’s office. She’s gay. Wheaton knew she was gay when they hired her; in fact, that was whole point. Wheaton wanted someone to “support sexual minorities on campus.” They also needed someone who could sign their Statement of Faith and abide by the Community Covenant, which calls on students and employees alike to “uphold chastity among the unmarried (1 Cor. 6:18) and the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman (Heb. 13:4).” Rodgers did.
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Image from Rodger’s wordpress blog; she now blogs at julie-rodgers.com.

I have the upmost respect for anyone committed to living a chaste life, especially those among us who are unmarried. And despite the challenges that come with her sexual orientation, Julie Rodgers was committed to chastity — without the “carrot” of marriage at the end.  She found herself in the uncomfortable middle with little support: she’s not trying to change, so some Christians found her suspicious, and the secular community would find her rather pathetic (I presume).  Yet she stood, by God’s mercy.
I should note here that I think committed celibacy is the future for the church’s response to homosexuality. And I think someone at Wheaton must see that, or they would not have hired Julie Rodgers to begin with.  Ex-gay ministries have mostly failed.  Evangelicals like to point out that some gay people are “healed” and go on to marry and have kids in traditional marriages. However, we know that — whatever the malady — God does not always heal, and we should not make healing the expectation for all gay people — let alone a requirement! There has to be a way for gay people to be, well, gay and conform to the traditional Christian sexual ethical standards. And there is! See fellow Wheaton alum Wesley Hill, Eve Tushnet, and MudbloodCatholic blogger Gabriel Blanchard for wonderful examples of gay Christian traditionalists.
As ridiculous as this sounds to many progressives, this whole “celibacy option” for gay believers does actually represent “progress” for the church, especially for evangelicals. (I might note here that the aforementioned Tushnet and Blanchard are both Catholic, and Hill is an Anglican, like me, so we all have resources within our religious traditions that are different from the standard evangelical…which is a post for another day, perhaps.)  Anyway, I recall that when I was a student at Wheaton College, one of our chapel speakers was an “ex-gay” now-married-to-a-woman husband and father who worked for Focus on the Family. So I mean this seriously: asking for “mere” chastity from gay believers is a change. It requires that we straight Christians stop asking our gay brothers and sisters to keep on trying to become straight, to call themselves “same-sex attracted” (unless they so choose) instead of the more straightforward (queerforward?) “gay,” and foreclose on the option of traditional marriage as a “solution” — basically, to quit asking gay believers to *just stop it* with this whole gay thing.  In contrast, the “celibacy option” posits that gay believers don’t need to go to therapy (or no more than I do); they don’t need to repent from their very orientation; and they don’t need to be held at arms-length as a special class of sinners.
Obviously, the evangelical community-at-large that constitute Wheaton’s alumni and donors is not willing to take even this small step toward our gay brothers and sisters in Christ.  Since Rodgers was in the mold of Wesley Hill, et. al., I was happy when she was hired and proud of my alma mater for doing so. I was sad to hear that she had announced her support of gay marriage and resigned.
I really don’t doubt her story in this article as to how this all went down.  I would bet that Wheaton underestimated the pushback they would receive from conservative donors about the hire of an openly gay person to the chaplain’s office, even if she was a “good evangelical” at the time. They showed themselves cowards in the face of this criticism, repeatedly asking Rodgers to stay off social media, cancel speaking gigs, stay quiet, hide under a rug, etc. It would be easier for them if she understood that she was a PR problem, a threat to their theological bona fides.
After some consideration, I’ve decided that the College has played into the devil’s hand. The lie of the enemy (and here I mean the devil, not any human actor) is that all objection to gay marriage is rooted in nothing more than bigotry, and you cannot counter that lie if you capitulate to bigotry. By not championing Julie Rodgers as a member of the community and standing fully behind her against criticism of her hire, Rodgers clearly got the message that the evangelical community of Wheaton College could not fully accept her  (never mind that she was committed to chastity).  This breaks my heart.
It saddens me for the sake of Rodgers, who is clearly the injured party, and for the souls of the gay students at Wheaton who will hear from this that  life-long celibacy, heroic as it may be, is not good enough.
It seems like the administration values the opinions of donors over the care of the souls of their students. They see the threat of “progressive evangelicalism,” and they fight it all wrong. Their efforts at safe-guarding the institution are counter-productive; instead of leading the way for evangelicals in this new generation, they are doubling-down in fear on the issues their conservative donors deem a priority. Meanwhile, they alienate a significant number of current students and younger alumni from evangelicalism, and (I worry) from God Himself.
I would rather see my alma mater lose money, and lots of it, before they push away another quality example of Christian faithfulness like Julie Rogers and Dr. Hawkins. You cannot serve both God and mammon.