Friday, November 17, 2006

Other People's Reality

Sometimes talking to other people slaps you upside the head with what your own reality is.

I was talking with the pastor's wife earlier this week. Having noticed that Maggie wasn't at Didache on Monday night, she wondered what was up with regard to surgery, and if Maggie might be in the hospital now. I told her that surgery was still almost two weeks away and that Maggie had stayed home because she was tired and wanted to go to bed early. I told her that I wasn't going to encourage Maggie to come out late for class on Monday because the "punies" seemed to be making headway in our house. The germs haven't won an all-out battle, but the germies were sapping the vitality of a few family members last weekend.

My friend suggested that, with two weeks to surgery, that wasn't so bad because that'd give people time to get sick, pass it around, and still get over it in plenty of time to be healthy for surgery. And that would make sense: in most other families, she'd be exactly right. But it is so far from my reality. For a kid with a depressed immune system, two weeks into an illness is just getting started on the down-time.

Somehow, that gave me a jolt as to how what I now consider "regular life" isn't actually so regular. Kinda bummed me out.

But what is important for me to remember is that everybody has things like this -- things that other people are unaware of, or that other people don't understand. Some people have struggles because of money problems that aren't obvious to others. Some people have sons or husbands fighting in the mid-East. Some people have conflict with their children or spouse, or maybe really rough waters with the extended family. Some people have personality conflicts with the folks at work. Some have health issues. Some are mourning and taking "too long" to get over it (as if the length of mourning has a prescribed cut-off time). How often is the mom-with-a-job jealous of the stay-at-home mom for the time she has with her kids? And how often is the stay-at-home mom jealous of the income of the employed mom (and the adult conversation available to her)? How often is the person with a physical disability jealous of someone who appears healthy, not knowing of the person's debilitating allergies or mental illness?

My friend Cheryl commented on the homeschool email list the other day about how she just can't keep up with everything like other people seem to. But the others don't!! Everybody is failing. We're just failing at different things.

It's like reading those demoralizing homeschool magazines. Gertrude's kids are violin whizzes. And Marybell's kids are starting college at age 15. And Ernestine's kids have home-grown businesses. And BettyMae's kids do all the housecleaning and cooking while Mom teaches Latin to the 3-yr-old. And my kids just want to play legos and video games, often "forget" their chores, fuss with their siblings, don't take music lessons or play soccer. My kids don't do all the things "their kids" do. Thing is, none of those kids do all the things the "other kids" do.

Sometimes we're so accustomed to our own struggles (like with an immune-depressed child) that we don't even recognize the facts of how it slows us down, and we wonder what's wrong with us that we can't keep up with everything that everybody else is doing. Other times, we see the ease that other people enjoy, while we're very much aware of the struggles we face each day, and our little hearts cry out, "But it's not fair!" And yet, those other people have "realities" that I'm not privy to. So I don't even have sense enough to rejoice in all the ease that I have. Or on the flip side, I don't even have the sense to rejoice in the fact that sometimes I can take "struggles" for granted and simply go on, plowing through life with them as if it's just "regular life"; no biggie. :-)

You know what? I think this has turned into a Thanksgiving post.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Cost of NASA

We watched the conclusion of Connections this evening. It reviews and connects everything in the preceeding installments. Then there was analysis about society's possible responses to the accelerating rate of changes in technology. One tidbit was startling.

The amount of money spent on the Apollo space program was huge. A lot of people said it was a waste. And yet...

the amount of money spent on the space program during those years was equivalent to the amount of money spent on cosmetics and beauty products during that same period. Kinda puts things in a different perspective, eh?

John 19:32 + Romans 6:6

From the end of the passion account: "Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him."

When Pastor was reading that the other night during Didache, I wondered about which one was "the other." Checking out Luke's account, I found that the "first" was the unbeliever, and the "other" was the one who repented.

Toss that into the mix with what Romans 6 says about being baptized into His death, and being united with Him in His death. Then throw in a bit of
Let us also die with Jesus.
His death from the second death,
from our soul's destruction, frees us,
quickens us with life's glad breath.
Let us mortify, while living,
flesh and blood and die to sin.
And the grave that shuts us in
shall but prove the gate to heaven.
Jesus, here I die to Thee
there to live eternally. (TLH 409:3)

And you start to think that maybe John's comment about "the other who was crucified with Him" isn't just a historical statement about the people who died in a particular place on a particular day. After all, it doesn't mention that the "first" was crucified "with Him." Maybe this comment by John is also a theological statement about our old man being crucified with Him that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

In Memory of Scott

Five years ago, Pastor Marincic died.

How firm a foundation,
ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith
in His excellent Word!

And today we had a funeral here for a man in the congregation who died quite suddenly and unexpectedly this weekend. And people sang the hymns -- really sang! That's not common here, and especially not for funerals. It was great!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Acts of Mercy

In Bible class last week, somebody asked about whether "we" (as in, the congregation as an organized entity) should be doing more good works to help people, be they Christian or non-Christian. She wondered if it mightn't be easier for people to hear the Gospel and come to faith if first their temporal needs are met. That is a standard line you hear from most missionaries. And she's right about the kindnesses we show to others not being contigent upon what they believe, but that these things are done for the sake of being kind and merciful and good to anyone, particularly to those who don't "deserve" it.

In the last couple of years, "acts of mercy" has become a popular new buzzword, frequently heard from the folks running our deaconess programs and synod's Human Care office. But there are a few things I don't understand.

1. If we say that people will be more willing to hear the Gospel if we first attend to their temporal needs, are we trusting in our good works to change their hearts instead of depending upon the Word of God to create faith in them?

2. Sometimes it almost sounds like good works are being promoted to intentionally entice people into the Church, rather than good works being the natural outgrowth of a lively faith.

3. So many people are already doing "acts of mercy" simply by changing their children's diapers, or taking their elderly grandparents to the doctor, or helping neighbors, or adopting an abandoned child, or working in hospice. But I've heard professors and synodical officials speak as though these mundane everyday acts "aren't enough" and we need to be doing different "bigger" acts of mercy.

4. If we institutionalize our "acts of mercy" through church programs and paid employees, is it easier for people to excuse themselves from actually getting involved in their neighbors' lives?

5. If we start programs (food pantry, English as a Second Language, homeless shelter, day care, etc), will it ever be enough? Of course, like Coral posted a while ago, we do what we can, and those small efforts matter a great deal to the ones who receive these temporal blessings. But we must also take care not to buy into the idea that these things are necessary to "get people to listen." If so, then churches will turn into social agencies, because we will never be able to do enough to solve all poverty and suffering. I think Jesus might've even said something about having the poor with us always. That's not to say Christians are callous to suffering, but that the Church's focus is on Jesus and not on social work.

6. Do we ever fall into the theology-of-glory trap of thinking that Christianity is primarily about having less suffering in this life?

7. Are these programs in our congregations being run entirely by willing volunteers, or is it possible that people are being guilt-tripped into maintaining these programs? Are we taking care that volunteers are never encouraged to consider "helping others" to be more important than the time they need to spend caring for their own families? Are young women encouraged to go into church work instead of into the holy estate of being wives and mothers?

8. In this synod, it is not common to hear the Gospel preached in all its sweetness; there's too much moralism preached. Furthermore, it is an exceedingly rare thing to hear the Law preached fully, with intent to kill the sinful flesh. If we can't get the basic message of Christianity preached rightly in our pulpits, it seems a dangerous thing to branch off from that into encouraging "acts of mercy." If we really believe the Law, and if we really trust the Gospel to be the power of God, and if it were really preached rightly, then wouldn't that Gospel capture hearts and change lives, and wouldn't "acts of mercy" just be abounding all over the place?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Serves 8

We finished working on a physics lesson this afternoon. Not having the energy to get up and start housecleaning (aren't we supposed to take naps on Sunday afternoons?) I picked up the newspaper, noticed a special food section in the weekly magazine, and browsed for a few minutes.

I saw a recipe for chicken chimichangas. Looked good, but there's the big "but." How much would I have to make?

I'm just tired of cooking SO much of the time. I want fast-food. I want insta-food. I want food that will take me only an hour of prep time, so that I have time for physics and decimals and auditory therapy and all those things I'm supposed to be doing with the kids. I thought this chimichanga recipe looked like it would take less than an hour to prepare the recipe as written. But I can't make a recipe as written.

It said it "serves 8." I busted a gut laughing! So I asked one of the boys. "This recipe calls for 8 flour tortillas and about 3 cups of chicken meat and 2 cups of cheese. There's also some sauce and some chilis and some onions, but the bulk of the recipe is the tortilla, chicken, and cheese. How many servings is that?"

He looked at me with some skepticism, and answered slowly, "One."

Yup. That's about what I figured! Actually, with my old age and decreasing appetite, I figured it would be about 1.5 servings, not just one. Serving that amount of food to growing children, no wonder it takes me so much time to prepare meals!