Parenting Rooted in Orthodoxy

“Hey, Mum, a bunch of the kids are going to Moody’s for pie after rehearsal. Okay if I go?”

One prerogative of motherhood is to meet every question with more questions:

  • Who’s going?
  • Who’s driving?
  • Are you going anywhere afterward?
  • Can you remember to let me know if your location changes?

This has become a familiar routine by now, eased by the knowledge that (so far) this youngest son has chosen his friends wisely and well. They’re great kids, but I’ll keep on asking questions, not because I don’t trust this green-eyed boy, but because his life and my life are governed by eternal verities such as “Do not be deceived. Bad company corrupts good morals.”

The Permanent Ideals

Herein lies the challenge of parenting:  The decisions and the forks in the road are always sprung on you like a pop quiz in algebra on a Monday morning. There’s no time for reading up on the topic or for preparing an outline or even to think deeply before responding. Parenting rooted in orthodoxy must rest upon the bedrock of sound theology which supports the more quotidian verities that shape the day-to-day decisions. For example, we could argue all day about how old a child should be when he’s allowed to carry his own cell phone, but it ultimately boils down to the more timeless issue of just exactly whom do you want having unfettered access to your child?

G.K. Chesterton expressed it in this way:  “There must be something eternal if there is to be anything sudden.” (165) What he refers to as a “permanent ideal” sets policy “whether we wish the king’s orders to be promptly executed or whether we only wish the king to be promptly executed” — or whether we are willing to be consistent in enforcing curfews for our teen sons. A parent’s roots need to be sunk deeply into timeless truth in order to do the hard work of justifying family rules and standards.

Teaching Our Children to Work

In Chapter 7 of Orthodoxy, G.K.Chesterton flits from topic to topic, but lands with both feet in a discussion of freedom of thought and the failure of humanity to “imitate its ideal.” (162) He argues for a settled mind, and a thought process based upon the lessons learned from past failures. This implies that, as parents,  we are wise to begin providing occasions for our children to learn the discipline of focused attention:

  • What kind of preparation leads a third grader to start over when a project isn’t going well?
  • How can we train a young piano student to work on one measure of a piece for twenty minutes if that’s what it takes for that piece of music to be recital-ready?

Chesterton takes the question further and deeper:

“How can we make a man always dissatisfied with his work, yet always satisfied with working?”  (163)

Good is Always Good. Sin is Always Sin.

Chronological snobbery prevails, and it urges us to look with scorn upon the customs and conclusions of previous generations. Even so, historical precedent is also used as a justification for all kinds of evil. Chesterton writes this off as lazy thinking, arguing that “man may have had concubines as long as cows have had horns:  still they are not a part of him if they are sinful. Men may have been under oppression ever since fish were under water; still they ought not to be, if oppression is sinful.”

It’s never too late to disengage from sinful patterns and to make a fresh start, but this kind of resolve is rooted in a commitment to truth that runs deeper than convenience. There is a time for apologies and starting over, for choosing to go forward based in timeless truth.

May we find grace to lean into the practical impact of our theological underpinnings even in the day-to-day decisions that govern the way our home functions and they way we shepherd our children’s hearts toward orthodoxy.

As usual, your insights on Chesterton’s writing are welcome in the comments below, and if you are also inspired to create your own blog post, be sure to share the link with us so we can continue the conversation over at your place.

Praying along with you for a deeply rooted orthodoxy that impacts the way our families live and work,

This post is part seven in a meandering journey through Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. If you’re just joining us, you can start here for the rationale behind this project. The journey through Orthodoxy has taken us into topics as diverse as parenting, the irony of free will, the humility of being right, and the miracle of God’s creative genius. In May, we examined Chesterton’s thoughts on patriotism just in time for Memorial Day, and in June we marveled at the “furious opposites” inherent in orthodoxy.

 

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Where Wrath and Love Run Wild

If you Google the phrase “balanced Christian life,” you will find over 2 million results in the blink of an eye. Books, magazines, and sermons will rush to your aid in calibrating the conflicting priorities that characterize this following life. It was no surprise that G.K. Chesterton’s thoughts from Chapter 6 of Orthodoxy were not among the first wave of responses, and that’s likely because he found not balance, but conflict to be the chief virtue of the Christian life.

Theologically, we’re all accustomed to paradox. God’s great rescue plan involved becoming a man while remaining fully God; we live by faith, all the while knowing that works are the evidence of that faith; and we accept the truth that, somehow, God’s foreknowledge does not diminish by one whit my freedom to act according to my own will.  It turns out that making peace with paradox at the theological level is a helpful skill in actually living the “balanced Christian life,” because Christianity finds its balance in the combination of “furious opposites.”  (143)

I invite you to a few moments’ pondering and delight in three “furious opposites” from Chesterton’s viewpoint, and then, from the biblical record:

1. Dignity and Humility

“In so far as I am Man I am the chief of creatures.
In so far as I am a man I am the chief of sinners.”  (142)

“The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.”   (Zephaniah 3:17)

 “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)

2. Wrath and Love

“We must be much more angry with theft than before, and yet much kinder to thieves than before. There was room for wrath and love to run wild. And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.” (144)

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:29,30)

“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21,22)

3. Meekness and Madness

“By defining its main doctrine, the Church not only kept seemingly inconsistent things side by side, but, what was more, allowed them to break out in a sort of artistic violence otherwise possible only to anarchists. . . Historic Christianity rose into a high and strange coup de théatre of morality–things that are to virtue what the crimes of Nero are to vice.” (145)

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)


The Angle at which We Stand

In our 21st century quest for balance, it’s no wonder we’re knocked off our feet by the demands of a Lamb/Lion God, a Deity “slain from the foundation of the world” who has still retained “His royal ferocity.” And so we teeter first on one foot, and then the other as we take forgiveness with thanksgiving only to sin again within the hour. We recoil in horror over pornography and materialism, and we shed tears over child abuse and human trafficking, and then turn unsteadily to offer the peace of Christ and the welcome of the gospel to the guilty. We pray for grace to show up for the daily routines that mark a life of faithfulness and trust that these are building our faith muscles for “good things to run wild” in and through us.

Dwellers in Narnia soon encountered Aslan and learned that he “is not a tame lion.”  Dwellers of Earth are invited into “the thrilling romance of Orthodoxy” which is not “something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy.”

Rejoicing with you in this perilous and exciting following life,

michele signature rose[1]

As usual, your insights on Chesterton’s writing are welcome in the comments below, and if you are also inspired to create your own blog post, be sure to share the link with us so we can continue the conversation over at your place.

This post is part six in a meandering journey through Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. If you’re just joining us, you can start here for the rationale behind this project. The journey through Orthodoxy has taken us into topics as diverse as parenting, the irony of free will, the humility of being right, and the miracle of God’s creative genius. Last month, we examined Chesterton’s thoughts on patriotism just in time for Memorial Day.

Photo by Meriç Dağlı on Unsplash

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Patriotism, Pessimism, and the Church

Believe it or not, I’ve still got one pillowcase from my husband’s college dorm years. Its red, white, and blue stripes, warm out of the dryer, never fail to take me back to the 1970’s. Every imaginable consumer product from T-shirts and bed sheets to school supplies was available in a stars and stripes motif as the nation put Vietnam behind them and waxed unabashedly patriotic for what seemed like an entire year of my childhood. Against a backdrop of parades, fireworks, and a patriotic color scheme, we celebrated the United States bi-centennial. Patriotic young citizens hung buntings and strung crepe paper in the school gymnasium, learned the words to God Bless America, and spent entire band periods working our way through patriotic medleys.

Predictably, the pendulum has swung its slow arc in another direction, and I’m wondering if there is a role for the patriot, the incurable optimist, in a world of tweeting presidents, heinous school shootings, and online political vitriol. The 70’s were certainly not without their own moments of significant chaos:  the beginning of busing and the end of the draft; unrest on college campuses and pervasive angst at the gas pumps. Even so, as with a certain Dickensian holiday “men and women seem[ed] by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely” just for the sake of the celebration, to love the past and to look toward a better future for the U.S.A.

The Patriot as Irrational Optimist

In his classic work, Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton refers to this determination as “irrational optimism,” a love for country that does not falsify or pretty-up its history and reserves the right to criticize, to “safely be a skeptic.”  Rather than living on the sharp edge of “surly contentment,” the irrational optimist operates out of “fiercer delight and a fiercer discontent” that might just lead to meaningful change.

“The man who will improve the place is the man who loves it without a reason.” (106)

Chesterton maintains that a “reasonable optimism” in a man is “likely to ruin the place he loves,” for one danger of devotion is that it leaves one open to “defending the indefensible.”   True patriotism sings, “Land that I love,” allowing the sadness of that land’s failings to lead to a deeper and more active love, a love that seeks resolution.

There is much to be disturbed about in the news and in our own neighborhoods and schools. The fate of young immigrants hangs in the balance while politicians wrangle. Public schools languish in a mediocrity fueled by unfunded State mandates; pop culture icons are generally laughable, often pathetic; and even the staunchest glass-half-full-heart struggles to find a foothold for optimism.

As a woman who believingly follows Jesus Christ, I can fall off Luther’s horse in either direction. The marathon horror of #MeToo stories makes me pessimistic about our leadership and the entire world in general. But then, my heart softens as I read the words of–and, also, bear witness up close to the lives–of young men and women who live and interpret the faith with incredible courage and an optimism that is utterly infectious.

The prophet Jeremiah lived in a time that would challenge the most ebullient optimist, and yet God declared himself as eminently present, even as civilization was clearly making its slow spiral down the drain:

“’Am I a God near at hand,’ says the Lord,
‘And not a God afar off?
 Can anyone hide himself in secret places,
So I shall not see him?’ says the Lord;
‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:23,24 NKJV)

This Memorial Day, I’m challenged to the bone by Chesterton’s pondering on patriotism. Viewing a flawed nation led by deeply flawed individuals, the question is:  “Can we hate it enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing?”  (109) Can we find grace to “heartily hate” the weak and the ugly about our past and our present, and at the same time “heartily love” all that is well-intentioned and hopeful about our future? (108)

In these post-crepe-paper-and-bunting years that sometimes feel like something akin to exile, maybe more than ever, we are called to an “irrational” devotion to our nation.

When we embrace our surroundings and let ourselves fall in love with a nation we no longer trust, we join the garden-planting, fruit-harvesting Israelites, carted off to Babylonian soil with instructions to make a life and, thereby, to make a difference. Too often, the church’s response to patriotism and the political food fight in D.C. has been either an off-putting and unexamined flag-waving OR a disinterested shrug–because “we’re citizens of heaven” and we’ll get our “pie-in-the-sky” later.

“And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.” (Jeremiah 29:7 NKJV)

Patriotic holidays are a great excuse for a little “peace seeking,” a perfect opportunity to fly the flag, sing the songs, and practice a little “irrational optimism.” Last year, resisting the tendency to live in a bubble, our church hosted a community picnic on the Sunday before Independence Day.  We passed out invitations to surprised neighbors and welcomed anyone who came, even if they did not attend the service. When we gather our people for hot dogs and potato salad, and then fling the doors wide to those outside the bubble, we foster common life—which can lead to common ground.

Community gardens, turquoise tables, and neighborhood lawn sales are non-political (and non-threatening) meeting places where we can land in peace as the aliens, sojourners, and exiles (I Peter 2:11) that we are. We live in challenging times, but we live in hope, and our lives are under a call to faithfulness, or, in Chesterton’s parlance, a call to “irrational optimism.” When our love for country is formed around a deep belief that God is at work in our circumstances, we are better equipped to look for Him to be at work in our country and in our world.

Patriotism, Pessimism, and the Church, Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton, Jeremiah 29

This post is part five in a meandering journey through Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. If you’re just joining us, you can start here for the rationale behind this project. The journey through Orthodoxy has taken us into topics as diverse as parenting, the irony of free will, the humility of being right, and the miracle of God’s creative genius.

As usual, your insights on Chesterton’s writing are welcome in the comments below, and if you are also inspired to create your own blog post, be sure to share the link with us so we can continue the conversation over at your place.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Image courtesy of Kevin Morris via Unsplash

The Miracle of Humanity (and Fairy Tales for Grown Ups)

She assumed a humble expression, but the look in her eyes said plenty.
This was a great accomplishment.
A moment.
She held my gaze, and then allowed the smile in her blue eyes to spread to her entire face as she did it again:
My granddaughter stood up in my lap.

In Chapter 4 of Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton matches me awe for awe with his vivid “sense of the miracle of humanity.” He would be amazed–not merely that my granddaughter stood up, but that she has legs! He would be transfixed not merely by her adorable pug nose, but with the wonder that any of us has a nose at all.

“The mere man [or blue-eyed granddaughter] on two legs, as such, should be felt as something more heart breaking than any music and more startling than any caricature.” (72)

Chesterton sees more wonder in one ordinary encounter with creation than most of us would see in a lifetime of miracles. Even the sunrise, by his reckoning, is not merely a happy confluence of planet-tilt and celestial orbit, but rather a delighted God proclaiming, “Do it again!

The More You Were Made For

We are part of that much-loved creation, and without diminishing His dignity one iota, God is positively smitten with us — with you! He waits to be gracious to you. He rejoices over you with singing.

Chesterton’s Path to Orthodoxy

In his pre-Christian life, Chesterton worked to frame a personal philosophy or a “natural religion” (75) that would express his thinking about some of the fundamentals of life.

Imagine his surprise in finding that (1) the essence of all he had “discovered” was already embedded in Christianity; (2) his thinking about the world had been shaped by his reading of fairy tales.

C.S. Lewis would have whole-heartedly agreed, pronouncing:

“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

According to Lewis, fairy tales, “say best what needs to be said,” and awaken the desire for “something beyond,” a something that heightens appreciation of the real world and gives it new depth. “He does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods: the reading makes all real woods a little enchanted.”

Delighting in the enchanted woods of “Elfland,” Chesterton gained “a certain way of looking at life” through reading fairy tales, but then learned that the perceptions gained through his reading were actually confirmed by his observations of real life. He invites his readers to delight in the imaginative cause and effect of “blow the horn and the ogre’s castle will fall.” (79) No fairy tale character would call this a “law,” but a scientific explanation of the process of metamorphosis (and even of the beginning of human life) reads more like magic and miracle than pure science.

The Astonishment of Real Life

“Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”  ~C.S. Lewis

As much as Chesterton enjoyed “astonishing tales,” (82) he noted that very young children do not need to be astonished in order to enjoy a story.

“A child of seven is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door and saw a dragon. But a child of three is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door.”

I experimented with this notion, because all the home spun tales I told my own kids involved heroism and pirate ships and the continuing saga of their ventriloquist dummies on a crazy, impulsive road trip. Sure enough, when I told my grandson a story that featured his brown fuzzy slippers, his dog Ruby, and a glass of juice for breakfast, his response was, “Again!” along with a big smile. Because he was three, every day life was astonishing enough.

The Purpose and Plan of the Storyteller

We are made to love and to respond to story, and Chesterton began to perceive, through story, “that this world of ours has some purpose; and if there is a purpose, there is a person. I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller.” (93)

Before Chesterton had “even thought of Christian theology,” he had laid down five “ultimate attitudes toward life”:

  1. This world does not explain itself.
  2. The magic of the universe must have meaning, and “meaning must have someone to mean it.” (98)
  3. The design is both purposeful and beautiful (in spite of the dragons).
  4. The right response to this beauty is “humility and restraint” (99) in our use of it, along with obedience to its maker.
  5. All that we see that is good is a “remnant to be stored and held sacred out of some primordial ruin.”

Clearly, Chesterton’s ponderings set him on a course of rescue, and this encourages me as a parent and as a teacher. When we share stories with our children, we are seeding in them the ability to find and appreciate bigger truths than the entertaining plots we all enjoy on the surface.

Too, in God’s rejoicing over us and in His waiting to extend grace, there are cords of love, drawing us ever closer to the Truth of His existence and His right to rule over His creation.

How does this land on your heart today?

If you are praying for a prodigal, I would be privileged to pray along with you. If you are a tired mum, reading the same story book for the tenth time this week, kick it surreptitiously under the couch and spin a tale for your tiny person in which he is the main character who eats toast for breakfast and then goes outside to play in the sunshine.

How has God led you in your path toward Orthodoxy?

I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below, and, as ever, thank you for your eyes here and for your faithful encouragement,


Oh, and one more thing:  My persevering friend Linda has written an insightful post about this chapter of Orthodoxy as well, and I invite you to click on over to her place for more thoughts on Chesterton’s Elfland.

Photo in the featured image by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

Musings: March 2018

In this month of serial snow storms, it’s been challenging to get into an Easter frame of mind. So often, resurrection is paired with images of new birth and sprouting things, but then, I was reminded amidst all the shoveling, blizzard warnings, and cancellations that resurrection springs forth out of death and THE resurrection was a complete surprise to Jesus’ friends and followers. Be encouraged, then, that God comes to us today in surprising ways:  in the midst of the hopeless mess or the routine of laundry folding or the deep disappointment that feels like a small death.

Hope in God is a confident expectation — not a cross-your-fingers aspiration.

Run! Let's live in power going forward in that sacred knowing.

On the Blog

It’s been a pleasure this month to focus on resurrection with one post of suggested Easter reading followed by another featuring a collection of poems I’ve written for celebrations of the past.

"When you choose anything, you reject everything else." G.K. Chesterton

 

In March, I continued in my conquest of Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton with a post on the consequentiality of our choosing and its impact on our parenting and every area of life.

“Every act of the will is an act of self-limitation” –even if you happen to be the Son of God.

 

 

The reading in March has been varied with two memoirs, a biography, and a work of fiction.

In How to Fix a Broken Record: Thoughts on Vinyl Records, Awkward Correcting the Soundtrack in Your HeadRelationships, and Learning to Be Myself, Amena Brown looks back over her shoulder with humility and gratitude to honor the resiliency and courage of the women who have contributed to her story’s formation:

“My great-grandmother picked cotton
and worked in a tobacco factory
so my grandmother could work at a hospital
so my mom could become a nurse
so I could become a poet.”

As I progressed through Holy in the Moment: Simple Ways to Love God and Enjoy Your LifeI found myself pausing and pondering over shimmering glimpses of wisdom that stand alone in their gracious beckoning toward truth:

“Aim for consistency but walk in grace.”

“You can choose the thoughts you will receive and the ones you will reject.”

“The faith way is to think,”I know my work is taxing, but Christ is my strength.”

“Far more than a doctrine to follow, holiness is a life to enjoy.”

“It’s important to understand that joy is not the absence of pain in circumstances, but rather the presence of God in the midst of them.”

Everyday choices build a life. Mundane moments of loving our kids, cherishing our husbands, and supporting our friends in ten thousand different ways over the course of a lifetime well-lived change us from the inside out. “Loving God whole-heartedly is choosing the life we were made for,” and one day, we discover that God is doing His work through us, and we shine with a glory that is not our own

In Karl Barth: An Introductory Biography for Evangelicals, Mark Galli has The Life and Theology of Karl Barthextended a gift to the community of readers in the form of an accessible and balanced look at a well-known and yet inscrutable theologian. Whether we choose to argue that Karl Barth’s theology supported him in poor moral choices or that his theology was terrific and truthful, but he simply failed to live up to its ideals, he is arguably one of the greatest Protestant theologians of the 20th century. His story becomes a cautionary tale for any of us who teach and study Scripture, for we will never live up to all that we know, but may we find grace to live consistently with the remarkable message of the gospel with all its provision for forgiveness.

Can You See Anything Now?In her review of Can You See Anything Now?: A Novel, Jen Pollock Michel reminded her readers that they’re not picking up a work of Amish fiction when they read Katherine James’s debut novel. While it received Christianity Today’s 2018 award for fiction, it is a complicated read that requires believers to assess their willingness to read R-rated language in order to fully enter into a clear picture of the fractured human heart.

In the Snow

Yes, the snow gets its own category this month because it has played a major role in disrupting life on this country hill. Nonetheless, we’ve had some great moments for walking, enjoying the sunshine when it appears, and visiting with family.

Weekly, I have met in the church library with a group of women who take their Bible very seriously, and we are persevering in our study of Cynthia Heald’s Becoming a Woman of Grace.

The patient husband and I are continuing in our read through of the Bible out loud, and we even had the opportunity to do some teaching together at a Christian Education conference here in Maine.

Thank you for your encouragement that comes in the form of comments and dialogue. So many of you have become on-line friends and I look forward to your insights whenever they come. May your days be filled with meaning because of the gushing “river of resurrection” that flows just beneath the surface–sometimes washing over us when we least expect it!

He is risen indeed!

 

michele signature rose[1]


I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the titles listed in this post simply click on the title within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

And since this is the end of March, I’m joining the party over at Leigh Kramer’s place where bloggers gather for What I’m Into. Come on over for lots of book, podcast, and viewing recommendations.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

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Musings: February 2018

On a day when snow was sticky and ankle deep, I took kitchen shears and lopped branches off a bush that grows in disarray outside the dining room window. The rush of school and schedules had bowed to the will of February vacation, and suddenly there was time for hope. Three fourths of the way through a winter season feels like just the right time to remind myself that naked branches can sprout vivid yellow blossoms, internally luminescent and unlikely as warmth in winter.

Bare twigs await spring.
Where only memory gives hope,
Faith sees greening leaves.

February Reads

In February, I reviewed four books that run in four very different veins.

First, Carol Kent’s real life story is heartbreaking, but in He Holds My Hand: Experiencing God’s Presence and Protection, she shares the truth that carried her through her son’s arrest and imprisonment for murder.

For anyone who has struggled with fitting into Christian culture or embracing their role in a church family, Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community offers an understanding ear coupled with a firm push to set aside our petty preferences and to remember that worship is about God and not about us.

Alan Jacobs challenges believers to a life of cognitive courage in How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds. He’s a C.S. Lewis scholar and a skilled thinker himself, so I appreciated his words on what it means to think well in a world where the informational fire hose is on full blast.

The life of Walter Wangerin, Jr. has been populated by memorable characters, and he has skillfully woven together a collection of stories to demonstrate the truth that there is always grace shining behind our darkness.  Wounds Are Where Light Enters: Stories of God’s Intrusive Grace is a glance into the rear view mirror in which theology and biblical narrative lie just beneath the surface.

February Discussion of Orthodoxy

There were some great February conversations at Living Our Days, probably the liveliest centering around the monthly post on G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. 

Parenting After the FallChesterton is laugh-out-loud creative and stop-you-in-your-tracks sobering on the topic of original sin. He maintains that it’s “the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved,” and I’ve certainly done my part in providing evidence for humanity’s fallen condition. As a parent who is in the middle of preparing (with fear and trembling) to teach a parenting workshop here in Maine, I was thankful to spend some time pondering the plight of sinners parenting sinners.

February Hospitality

It’s always a stretch and a great grace to be invited into the writing space of on-line friends. This month, I offered a compilation of two book reviews on racial reconciliation to the readers of The Redbud Post. If you’re not already a subscriber to this monthly collection, I encourage you to take advantage of this regular infusion of good writing and thinking from The Redbud Writer’s Guild.

Diversity and the Church: A Culture with No Excuse

Decoding the Beauty in the Universe

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Perennial Gen is a gathering of readers and writers “of a certain age” so I wanted to introduce them to one of my “book mentors,” Luci Shaw through her wisdom found in  Thumbprint in the Clay: Divine Marks of Beauty, Order and Grace. Well into her eighties, Luci is a poet who writes with skill about a life of decoding the rich presence of purpose, design, and beauty in the universe.

On Vacation!

Cinnamon rollsTo be honest, there’s nothing relaxing about vacation here on this country hill. This recap will be shorter than usual because this morning, the most important writing task is to scribble white glaze across the top of cinnamon rolls.

The week has been full and fun:

  • A day of tiny cars and thick tempera paint with the adorable grand boy;
  • A great visit with our second son and his wife, which included the bonus of a long listen, both coming and going, to the audio book To Kill a Mockingbird;
  • Extra time to soak in Jeremiah’s warnings against false messages from voices who claim to speak truth for God;
  • The great satisfaction of finishing the purging, cleaning, and organizing of bookcases!

Michele Morin Living Our Days

We’re still a month away from the calendar’s demarcation of the season of greening leaves. While the official beginning of spring is an empty promise here in the northeast U.S., it’s a reminder that the snow won’t last forever. Thank you for your eyes here and for the encouragement of your reading, commenting, sharing, and inspiring contributions to the discussion.

Blessings and love to you,


I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the books mentioned in this post,simply click on the title here or within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you:

He Holds My Hand: Experiencing God’s Presence and Protection,

Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community,

 How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds

Wounds Are Where Light Enters: Stories of God’s Intrusive Grace 

Thumbprint in the Clay: Divine Marks of Beauty, Order and Grace

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Parenting After the Fall

The front-and-center project that’s consuming time and thought these days is a parenting workshop that my husband and I will be teaching in March. Preparation includes reviewing everything we’ve read about parenting in the past couple of years, remembering everything we’ve stumbled upon in the past two decades in the trenches of parenting, discussing all our shared memories of what worked and what-most-certainly-did-not-work, and then trying to wrestle it all into an outline that will carry the content toward a substantive conclusion in a mere 45 minutes.

Without sounding too negative, it has occurred to me more than once in this process that parenting keeps circling back around to the topic of sin management — the parents’ first of all, and then the child’s. Because of the Gospel, we are enabled to “put to death” our own selfishness, laziness, willfulness, impatience, and complacency long enough to assist our delightful offspring in stamping out the same qualities, all with a goal of following together our yearning for obedience to the law of God which has been written on our hearts.

What About Original Sin?

In the providence of words that arrive at just the right time,I found G.K. Chesterton’s theological ponderings on original sin in my reading of Orthodoxy, . Although he and his wife Frances were never able to have children of their own, I hear a latent understanding of kid-nature in this thought:

“Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.”  (27)

Certainly, plenty of evidence has been amassed here in the Morin compound to prove the doctrine of original sin, and in conversations with other parents, I’ve finally realized that we aren’t the only ones with dented sheet rock from illegal indoor-baseball-throwing escapades and memorial corners where naughty chairs were placed on a daily basis.

Whether it’s the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon at work, or whether there’s been an ongoing conversation about original sin, and I’ve just finally tripped over it accidentally, I’m thankful for the moorings in orthodoxy that Chesterton’s writing provides. He laments a “fastidious spirituality” among his contemporaries who “admit divine sinlessness, which they [could] not see even in their dreams. But they essentially den[ied] human sin, which they [could] see in the street.”

For my money, Chesterton’s strongest argument for humanity’s fallenness has more to do with virtue than with vice:

“The vices are, indeed, let lose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity . . .is often untruthful.” (49)

The Tyranny of Wandering Virtues

Parents of adult children, beware the tyranny of free-wheeling virtues when your children begin to make poor choices. We are a generation of parents who will change our ethics to avoid offending our adult children, thinking that this enables us to empathize more fully with their moral floundering. When we value our relationship with our children over our children’s relationship with God, we circumvent the convicting work of the Spirit in their hearts.

And since our politics will follow our ethics, in an article in World Magazine called “Political Pelagianism,” Marvin Olasky references the optimism of policy makers on both sides of the aisle with Democrats assuming only the best of motives and intentions in those who benefit from government programs and Republicans tending to “glamorize the noble CEO.” With no allowances made for selfishness, greed, or opportunistic impulses, can we really view the world (and make laws?) with wisdom?

The Plight of Sinners Parenting Sinners

Tracing this topic back to its origin on a bad day in a certain garden, it’s not difficult to diagnose my most pressing parenting dilemmas. The challenge to live with a submitted will and to accept God’s “hands off” when He puts boundaries around something that “looks perfectly good to me” was the root of the first sin and all subsequent sins. Making an idol of my freedom and control mirrors the very same manifestation of original sin that I confront in my grandson when I refuse to honor his temper tantrums.

Sally Lloyd-Jones takes me back to the garden in plain speech with her description of God’s motive behind the Garden’s one rule:  “If you eat the fruit, you’ll think you know everything. You’ll stop trusting me.” And, of course, God was accurate in His prediction, for humanity has spent every spare moment since then trying to “make ourselves happy without Him.”

Chesterton frames the idolatry behind original sin along with our misdirected quest for happiness:

” How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it . . .” (36)

And this:

“. . . if a man would make his world large, he must be always making himself small.”

Yes, and amen. And this would seem to be a worthy goal of missional parenting — and of living our days in this following life.


Parenting After the Fall

Some of you have said that you’re laughing out loud at certain Chesterton-isms, and everyone confesses to the challenge of his writing. I hope you’ll share in the comments below some of the quotes you’re especially amused or flummoxed by, and if you happen to have a blog post bubble to the surface as a result of your reading, feel free to share a link to it in the comments. It will be fun to continue this conversation over at your place.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Image by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash