Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Some Thoughts on Bonhoeffer's Ethical Dilemma

Last Sunday after church we were talking with Pastor Ken and Kit...we were telling them of a show we'd seen about Nazi Germany, and all the frustrated efforts on taking Hitler's life. Pastor Ken asked me if I knew that Bonhoeffer had been involved in such an attempt? Which I knew as a fact, but not well. So as they swept us into the church library (I kind of think it's almost their library, that they've read most of the books there), I asked them, "What would you do if you had the opportunity to kill Hitler?" I got the kind of response that I've gotten so many times before. They don't always try to give me their answer as much as they try to give me some material to come to my own conclusion. Pastor even got down on his hands and knees to get a good look at some of the bottom shelves, trying to find one resource that he wanted to recommend to me. Soon I had a small pile of things to take home, though he never found the one he wanted. At one point he started to hand me a book, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke in the Wheel, by Renate Wind. I hesitated to take it, thinking I would be overwhelmed with too much to take in. I am so glad I took it; I have already read it. Well, I've read it without total comprehension. There are many terms and names and references that the writer makes that I don't understand, not being German and not being closely acquainted with such political or theological machines as were in operation at that time. Sometimes I had to read a passage through a few times to realize what the writer was saying, and after the third reading I might find that something said the exact opposite of my first impression. But it was impossible not to understand the general overall message of what the writer was saying.
It is clear why Bonhoeffer's name has gone down through history. When all of Germany, including, alas, the churches, participated willfully in the Nazi machine, Bonhoeffer was doing everything he could at great personal cost to stand against it, and to help others do so as well. It was an uphill battle to say the least. I think that in the dictionary, the word "backbone" would have his picture on it. I hate to think how well I understand the tendency of humanity to tolerate or even engage in such audacious evil; there is something self-preserving in us that makes courage an elusive and foreign element. I remember we had a German exchange student staying with us a few years ago. At one point she and Katie and I got talking about Nazi Germany...I guess you could say that Katie and I don't hesitate to go where angels fear to tread! You could see the exchange student get a bit agitated (though I don't remember exactly how the conversation was going), and at one point she leapt from her chair and defended the Germans by saying, "They didn't have a choice!" I hope that I could be excused that the late hour made me dull enough to accept that for the moment...but Katie, on the alert even then, immediately responded with an emphatic but calm "Yes, they did." It startled me and made me realize my stupidity. I had actually had to turn her words over in my brain and realize the truth of them, that the position that could kill a person is not always the same one that could destroy him.
When we learn more about Nazi Germany, it's hard not to think that the same thing could happen again. Mankind is no stronger, no smarter, no better prepared against evil than we were then. To think that people could have let it happen and said they had no choice; or that at the time it seemed like the right thing to do and even to do it in God's name; or for that matter, there are those who even deny that the atrocities ever really heppened...well, those are the elements that make it possible to make the same horrendous mistakes again. When we watched the show on television that explained how Germans were brought to think that the Jews were a threat to them, it was ludicrous to think that the whole campaign could work so absolutely. It would be incredible fiction, but it's history. It happened. One man's hatred became the hatred of a nation, and millions died because of it. We need to make it a caution against our own opinions; we need to be on our guard against such campaigns, to have Scripture remain our primary influence and not to allow media and other human influences color our thinking against any group of people, against any ethnicity or nationality or religion. And we need to decide and pray ahead of time that we would stand against such a campaign, and how we might do so.
The interest that sped my progression through the book was my curiosity to find out what motivated Bonhoeffer to actually become involved in the effort to kill Hitler. I had to learn his justification and whether it were based on Scripture. Well, the book doesn't describe it in such detail to fully satisfy, but Bonhoeffer is quoted,

"Jesus is not concerned with the proclamation and realization of new ethical ideals; he is not concerned with himself being good. He is concerned solely with love for the real man, and for
that reason he is able to enter into the fellowship of the guilt of men and take the burden of their guilt upon himself...If any man tries to escape guilt in responsibility, he cuts himself off from the redeeming mystery of Christ's bearing guilt without sin and he has no share in the divine justification which lies upon this event. He sets his own personal innocence above his responsibility for men, and he is blind to the more irredeemable guilt which he incurs precisely in this..." (1)

What I see this statement to say is that Bonhoeffer had come to the point where he was so concerned with solving the problem of so many people suffering and dying that he wasn't concerned with whether he sinned to bring it to an end; it's a stunning position to take, something akin to Paul saying that he could wish that he himself were accursed for the sake of the Jews (Rom 9:3-5)--and yet Paul did nothing to bring himself to damnation on their behalf, but performed the will of God in continually sharing Christ and His truth. Bonhoeffer faced a huge ethical question, but to weigh this out, as Christians, we still have to look to the Scriptures and use them as the ultimate authority.
There are a number of points in Scripture that I feel apply: The first that came to mind was Paul's exhortation, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be!" (Rom 6:1, 2a)The Holy Spirit who inspired Paul knew all the ways throughout man's time on earth that this passage might be applied, and the emphatic never is absolute. I think it applies as much to this great dilemma as to stealing a wallet. We rely on Christ's blood to cover our sin, and we should not spend it willfully.
There's also the consideration that God is the one who places men in positions of authority (Dan 2:21, Rom 13:1, 2). David knew this when he had the opportunity to kill Saul, and restrained his hand. The temptation must have been great! He could have justified it as self-defense, knowing that he had been anointed already to become the next king of Israel; he could have pointed out that Saul was acting as a madman and was ill-equipped to lead a nation. He stood close enough to Saul to cut off a piece of his robe, and he did not kill him.
For that matter, when New Testament Saul was a primary persecutor of the new Christian church, Jesus didn't inspire someone to kill him--Jesus Himself intervened, struck him blind, asked him why he was persecuting Him, showed him a great deal of mercy, and turned him into one of His greatest proponents of the faith...later Saul turned Paul called himself "the very least of all saints" (Eph 3:8), "least of the apostles, not fit to be an apostle" (1 Cor 15:9)...and Paul became a great example for all Christians since that time.
We might also consider, in retrospect, the lack of success that various men faced when they tried to kill Hitler. They worked out plans that would take a year or more to implement, and at their culmination, within the course of a half an hour, each plan would be thwarted even if it was not discovered. Hitler's life seemed to be under God's divine protection for whatever reason...and in the end it was Hitler who ended his own life.
If indeed Bonhoeffer was mistaken in his effort to kill Hitler, I think it was because he didn't seek the wisdom of men who he knew could offer help (Prov 11:14). It seems to me that Bonhoeffer had become stymied and discouraged by the long battle, and he needed to engage the reasoning of other believers before taking such action. He considered it necessary to keep his plans and his reasoning secret, so much so that his friends were stymied at his apparent change of position.
The author says that Bonhoeffer "insisted that there can be situations in which a Christian must become guilty out of love of neighbor."(1) This again fails to take the whole counsel of Scripture, that we are called to also love our enemy and pray for those who persecute us; that our weapons are not those of the world, but have divine power to take down strongholds (2 Cor 10:3-4).
I greatly admire Bonhoeffer's long, courageous stance; I hope that I would imitate it; and yet, I am troubled by his eventual efforts to take the matters of life and death into his own hands. That effort is so understandable but so troubling. The one thing that perhaps most convinces me of my stance on this is that the counsel of Scripture is so opposite my natural thinking; I would on my own of course say it was right to kill Hitler--because he had killed and tortured so many helpless people. To me it's a warning to look to the whole counsel of Scripture; to pray and seek God's face on every issue, and on behalf of those who are persecuted; and to seek wise human counsel as well when the course I would take involves such an ethical quandary.
(1) Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke in the Wheel, by Renate Wind, pp. 143-144, quoting Bonhoeffer, Ethics, 209f.
(2) New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Grace Given as the Sower Sows the Seed

Last Thursday night we got together for our church study of the Gospel of Mark. We were discussing the parables of the seeds, particularly the parable of the soils. Pastor Ken pointed out that the Sower is Jesus; the seed (as it says in His explanation to the disciples) is the Word; of course the varied soil represents the various levels of responsiveness in the hearts of men. At some point someone mentioned grace...now grace is one of those words that to me is cloaked somewhat in mystery; it is one of those tools that God uses that is unseen and I think not fully grasped by humanity, or at least by this frail human. The mention of grace got me thinking, stumbling a little over that subject...thinking that the Pharisees had not been given grace, while the disciples had. Why would God pick and choose to whom He gave grace, if He didn't play favorites?
After pondering it, I realized from our study that He doesn't do either: He doesn't dole out grace selectively, and He doesn't play favorites. Pastor Ken pointed out that the sower sows the seed over all the soil. I pictured the sower throwing the seed with kind of a wild abandon, not like the typical earthly farmer, who would be careful to put it in the most fertile soil only, because his seed is limited. God has no limits; His grace abounds; He longs for all to be saved. So He can cast His seed far and wide, over any type of soil, in hope that it might take root in the most unlikely of places.
God says in His Word that He loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7). I remember hearing that the word in the original language means "hilarious." In other words, not sparingly and measured, but as if there were no end to one's resources. I think of it something like a person who celebrates, throwing confetti into the air--it goes everywhere. Did you ever see anyone putting confetti out carefully? It is just not done. So it is with the hilarious giver, and with the hilarious Sower of the seed. Well, if we're giving according to what God supplies, that makes sense. And if God expects it of us, He provides the example for us in the way that He gives. So I see Him sowing the seed hilariously, with abandon, pretty much like we throw confetti--but His bag of confetti is endless! It doesn't bother Him that some is sown on the path, where the birds will eat it up. He sows it there anyway. Who knows but that there might be one little soft spot, one little crevice, where one seed of so many might fall and take root?
2 Corinthians 9:6-12 contains one of the most beautiful assurances for believers, and I had even forgotten until just now when I looked it up that it started out with reference to sowing. How fitting! Here is what it says: "Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written, 'HE SCATTERED ABROAD, HE GAVE TO THE POOR, HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS ENDURES FOREVER.'
"Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God."

God's grace, and His Word, doesn't get received by all the soil, but it is given. It is cast abroad. Everyone has the opportunity to know and respond to God, but not everyone avails themselves of doing so. The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hand, Psalm 19:1 says. Since that is the case, His glory is there for all to see! He doesn't play favorites. And He multiplies our seed for sowing, because He has an endless supply, giving it by His abundant grace to anyone who would receive.
So grace is there for everyone. It abounds. If we don't receive it, we only have ourselves to blame. Hallelujah!

Friday, January 23, 2009

How Can I Take Every Thought Captive? My Thoughts are Escapist!

Sometimes I struggle with the practice of taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. I think this is a common struggle. So I pondered what things would help in the practice of taking my thoughts captive, and I thought I'd post the list that I came up with...partially to formulate it and further "captivate" it in my mind, and partially to share in case it might help someone. So here is what I came up with:

1. Read the Scriptures. You can't go wrong with that--well, I guess you can, but not as readily as with non-Scripture! 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." So in reading it, you may very well find that happening.
2. Pray for God's help in resisting the tendency to dwell on unpleasant thoughts. Without His help you can do nothing (Jn 15:5). He wants your mind to think on the best of things, not the worst (Phil 4:8), so you know you are praying in His will. He has promised that you can resist temptation: 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it."
3. Meditate on the Scriptures; work to memorize verses that apply to subjects that you feel the need to ponder. Besides, those that are memorized can be brought to mind all your life by the Holy Spirit when they are needed. Psalm 119:23-24 says, "Even though princes sit and talk against me, Your servant meditates on Your statutes. Your testimonies also are my delight; They are my counselors."
4. Play Christian songs and sing worship wherever you can get away with it! It will reduce the likelihood that you will be pondering grudges and offenses as much as dwelling on the goodness of God. Psalm 18:48-50 says, "He delivers me from my enemies; Surely You lift me above those who rise up against me; You rescue me from the violent man. Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O LORD, And I will sing praises to Your name. He gives great deliverance to His king, And shows lovingkindness to His anointed, To David and his descendants forever."
5. Remember the great things that God has done in the past, whether in the Scriptures or in your own life--even how He has brought you out of your former darkness. Eph 2:11-13 says, "Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called 'Uncircumcision' by the so-called 'Circumcision,' which is performed in the flesh by human hands--remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." In addition, we must remember God's continual benefits that are so plentiful we could so take them for granted. This will remind you of His character, His faithfulness, His provision, His sacrifice on your behalf...and help you to trust Him in your present storms. Psalm 103:1-5 says, "Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle."
6. Share with others the story of what great things He has done for you! If they are believers, they will rejoice and be encouraged with you; if they are unbelievers, they will not be able to deny the things you yourself have experienced at His hand and may consider His truth and goodness for themselves; besides, this blesses God and gives Him glory that is due His name. Psalm 96:3-4 says, "Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods."
7. Go and help someone who may have greater struggles than yours--such as the elderly, a new mom, a young child. It will give you joy and perspective about your own situation. 1 John 3:16-18 says, "But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth."
New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.

The Work that is Not Ours, and the Work that is Ours

For a while I have been pondering the idea that it seems that today's focus in the Christian faith at times seems so much on our inner selves, that sanctification is viewed as something akin to a self-improvement program (with God, hopefully, at the helm rather than ourselves)...which in a sense it is, the most effective way of improving our selves that has ever been designed. But I often feel that our focus can be too much on that inner self and too little on how we might impact the world for Christ, what God would have us do with what we have been given.
I have to admit that recently for a while I was wallowing in self, to the point that I am convinced I wasn't fully accomplishing the work that God had set out for me from long ago (Eph 2:10). Pondering this problem of focus shook me out of preoccupation with my own troubles, and reminded me of the larger perspective that contrasted the smallness of my own concerns. When we ponder depressing and negative thoughts, we can get so wrapped up in self that we forget to reach out to others, and reaching out to others is usually the perfect thing to pull us out of our own doldrums.
I submit that any challenge we face, any thing that God puts in front of us isn't so much so that we will do it because God needs us to, and surely not because it earns us any salvation (Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9), but that we might be changed within. It's often been said that God doesn't need us, He doesn't need our money or our efforts; but we need to respond to His Spirit. We need to follow His leading, and He has given us the privilege to be His ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20) and His workers (Lk 6:46-49; Jn 14:12, 15:16; Eph 2:10; James 1:22, 25). We need to submit to His refining work within (which He will perform, not us), and at the same time we need to be about His work in our community as well; I think the two are quite intertwined. I think it provides the better "self-improvement" or sanctification not to be so inwardly focused, looking at what God is doing in us, but looking outwardly at what others need us to do on their behalf in His power and for His glory; it is so easy to forget this and think we have such a primary role in our sanctification. The sanctifying work God is doing in us will happen with our submission, but with God's direction, and doesn't need our full attention.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.
New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

By Faith I can Leap Over a Wall...

I am reading a book I borrowed from my friend Kit. The book is To Walk and Not Faint: A Month of Meditations on Isaiah 40, by Marva J. Dawn. I haven't read anything by this author before, though from what I gather she and Eugene Peterson have collaborated together in the past. This fact recommends her to me, because I've liked Peterson's writings (introduced and lent to me by my pastor).
There was a footnote in the introduction of To Walk and Not Faint that troubled me, though I was so glad to have continued in my reading, because the rest of her book so far has been excellent in content. The footnote was an apology for using the male pronouns in reference to God, assuming that some of her readers would object. I have three objections to this, the first being most important: God's nature, traits, character, purpose, and action need no apology. He makes none in His Word, and we would do well to follow suit, because all that He is is perfect and holy. The second objection is that to apologize for the use of the male pronoun in reference to God the Father validates for that questioning reader the right to insinuate that God's actual nature is less than adequate, less than right and good. It minimizes Him into some lesser being that a human might scrutinize and want to make into his or her image, rather than hope to reflect His image instead. It also casts doubt on God's very Fatherhood. If He is not God the Father, as He calls Himself, what is He? It casts doubt on the truth of His Word and therefore the truth of Himself as God. The third objection is that if a reader has trouble with God being male, that reader is at too elementary a level of understanding of God to have the rest of the book be of interest. If His being called by male pronouns, and being called the Father, is a hindrance, then all the rest of who He is and what His Word says about humanity is likely a stumbling block as well, and the rest of the book is likely to fall fruitlessly on that reader's ears. This very apology that she makes would cause this book to be slammed shut by most church leadership I have ever known.
That being said, I am still so glad that I continued on in the book. I have dropped other readings because of similar objections in the past, but I wonder whether I should have more often tried to get past the problems I found. When I think on it, it's almost like seeing a teenager with lots of metal post jewelry stuck in his face. He does it in part to see how many people will look past the metal to be willing to consider his validity as a person. It is a wall that is put up intentionally or otherwise, and sometimes there is great reward in leaping over those walls--whether for the teen's benefit, or for my own.
I come from a background in Christianity that is dogmatic, quick to label, place judgment and condemn, and I am learning slowly (ever so slowly, alas) how much it has hindered my love of humanity, my ability to consider the needs of others, and my ability to learn other points of view. If I were to put down my book, I might never learn some of the great insights Marva Dawn has on Isaiah 40. If I cringe at the sight of a teen in metal and tattoos and brightly-colored hair, rather than treat him like any other person, I will probably never be able to get to know him and hear him well enough to reach him with the love of Christ. If I determine that a Christian that believes more liberally, more conservatively, more legalistically, more charismatically is not valid in his faith, then I have closed the door on learning about his point of view--or sharing mine. I also have closed the opportunity for the unity for which Jesus prayed in His priestly prayer of John 17. And I may be questioning his very salvation, which, thankfully, it is not my place to fully determine.
I am loving the tone of the books that Pastor Ken and Kit have been lending me. They are less strident, less formulaic, less absolute in their tone than those with which I have been acquainted in the past. I'm not sure that this is all the difference, but I know there is something gentle that draws me near to learn what they have to say. I would expect that people from my past might label these writers as more liberal. If liberal means contemplative, prayerful, gentle, and teachable, then liberalism has some traits I want to adopt. I want to leap over the walls that have hemmed me in in my understanding of what Christ would have me learn and imitate. If I have to accept the labeling of even liberalism to do so (and perhaps you don't have any idea what a shocking statement this would be in my life), and the goal of knowing and imitating Christ is better reached by doing so, then I will accept it.
I am being reminded that Christian faith has less to do with reflexively labeling or rejecting others, and more to do with recognizing one's own shortcomings; less to do with categorizing others, and more to do with focusing on one's own walk; less to do with keeping oneself pure from contamination from others, and more to do with keeping oneself pure from contamination from one's own miserable attitudes and thoughts. I stumble along still, and have a long way to go. But this book has reminded me of something that it didn't even set out to, and for that, I'm thankful.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lord, Teach us to Number our Days Aright...

Today I stopped by our pastor's house. I was wanting to borrow a book, and see their new puppies. (I had half a hunch I might not be able to resist them, and so far, they're so tiny and new that I don't think I'd better touch them. So at least some bonding possibility was evaded for the moment.) While I was there, they asked me how Katie got off to return to college. She left without a hitch. This time, for the first time, there were no tears, no particular sentimentality. She was so looking forward to seeing her friends, and has come to realize she will return soon enough to see us again. But Kit, our Pastor Ken's wife, was pointing out that she is turning into an adult and developing a life of her own, as if she expected me to sorrow over it. Yes, I know. And it doesn't bother me. In fact, I am looking forward to it, I'm glad for her!
I feel a little insensitive in saying so. It seems that the proper attitude for a parent is to sorrow over their children's growing up, to look back with wistfulness and look forward with dread. I kind of understand this; looking at pictures of Katie when she was seven and dresses just popped over her head and life was simple, I kind of miss those days. I kind of do; but more, I kind of don't! I am glad for the changes that have taken place, for the woman Katie has become, for the maturity and wisdom that she is gaining. It isn't that I didn't love being a mom, and raising her; I did! It is just that each step prepares me for the next, and I see God's hand in her life, providing her with things that we could never have done, even if we had strength of our own, more than we could ever do apart from Him and His grace. She has wisdom and insight that I didn't plant there. She has an ability to relate to others that surpasses mine (and I envy her in that one thing). She is confident and getting ready to take her place in the world.
I think if we get stuck in the wistful-over-the-past kind of mode, we lose the joy of the present and the future. The past is ours, it is given, but it is also gone so we can't go back. If we hold our children back from maturity, we do them a great disservice! They need to grow up; it is what God created them to do. We should encourage them and spur them on! With Katie, this was easy; she always seemed to want to grow up. With Tim, I find it more of a challenge, since he seems to cling to the stuff of childhood.
And I think of my seeming lack of sentimentality. Is it a bad thing? How did I get to be so awfully practical? Why do I so easily give it up? I look back, and when I think of having been responsible for young life, I find it so overwhelming. I have always been the disciplinarian in the house; also the homeschooling mother, the one who has supervised and orchestrated their days, sometimes not very creatively, but to the best of my ability. Many of those years were plagued by various challenges aside from child-raising and homeschooling. These things were very much for my good in that they brought me to Christ, but still, it was an overwhelming time that I am glad is in some ways done and gone. I'm glad we have pictures and reminders, but I can look forward to the hope of grandchildren and, Lord willing, relive the easiest, happiest aspects through them (and then return the little ones to their parents for the harder stuff!).
So Katie goes to college to see her friends, and I rejoice for her that she is growing up, and preparing to "leave the nest." She will, before long, develop her own little nest, and it will be fun to watch her do so. She will be better-equipped than I ever dreamt of being at that age. And God has His hand on her as she does so. I am so thankful for that. I rejoice, I rejoice so much that God has made such a plan for our days. Hallelujah!
Psalm 90:12 Teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.
New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Puzzle for the Prophets was a Puzzle for me Once, Too

Last night I went to our church's Sunday School teacher's meeting. Our Associate Pastor Bob had a devotional and had me read a section of Scripture for it. He related how Jesus came down to earth to be among us and feel and live the life we're feeling and living. He relates to us because He's been here, He's endured more than we have, even taking on human form to do so. Pastor Bob had me read 1 Peter 1:10-12:

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven--things into which the angels long to look. 1

Pastor Bob related how we come from a different perspective because "we've always had" the knowledge of the New Testament, it's part of our heritage as Christians, we know it...and so we have an advantage that the prophets would have loved to have. "Except," I thought...except. I used to be as those prophets. I used to be mystified and in the dark, having yet to have things revealed--except that I never knew that they would eventually come clear. The prophets were looking forward in His story--I was lost, even in what was future to them, even though I lived in a world that was bathed in Jesus' grace in the aftereffect of His sacrifice. They had a future hope because they had a present faith. Having come to know Christ, having my own present faith, I have gained the heritage, the ability to look back at the history that has been unveiled, that has belonged to the family of believers from the start. I have gained the ability to look back as a New Testament believer and see how the prophets' prophecies are fulfilled in Christ. And I get to look forward into my future hope of seeing Him face to face, as well. It is a mystery to me, yet to be unveiled, and yet it is a certainty. I know that my Redeemer lives and that I will see His face. Hallelujah!
1 New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

An Unbelievable Law Going into Effect in February!

I'm happy to say there's an update (click here) to the below concern which will exempt used items from being banned...not new ones; even all new books will have to be certified lead-free...and the language of the law is still vague. So continue to pray, and to act on this as you feel led to do.
I can hardly believe what I've learned about a new law coming into effect this February severely limiting sale of children's items: books, clothing, toys, furniture. Even used items would have to be certified lead-free in order to be sold. I can't put it all into my own words very well, so I will copy what was e-mailed to me so you can read it.
And today I found a blog that addresses this law at http://nationalbankruptcyday.com/ ("National Bankruptcy Day" because the day the law is implemented will be the day that many smaller businesses start heading into bankruptcy as a result). If you are skeptical that the US could implement any law that would be so expansive in its costliness and control, read the links below. It's true, and it's incredible. Another link that relates many small business owners' concerns: http://www.squidoo.com/FixCPSIA. Click here for a television news report on the new law, from Austin.

Here is the article in the e-mail; please don't be put off because it initially mentions homeschooling concerns, because the e-mail is directed to homeschoolers; but this incredible law will greatly increase the price of new items, fill garbage dumps, eliminate pricing competition for manufacturers, close many small businesses and thrift shops, and impact any parent who ever bought and intends ever to buy anything used for their children (or grandchildren). One more action you can take in regard to it is pray: pray that the law will be repealed, and that this isn't an indicator of typical controls our government might ever come to implement.

Oh, how I wish this were a joke! But it is a grim and looming, almost Orwellian, reality.

Effective February 10th, in the United States, the sale of all children's books (books intended for children ages 12 and under) is to be PROHIBITED. Every single book printed prior to the ruling is affected, whether new or used. New books in production are required to include a "lead-free" certification and will be the only books that are legal to offer for sale. What does this mean to the homeschooling family? Well, for one, curriculum fairs across the country will be cancelled as book vendors scramble to figure out how to comply with the new ruling. Complete book inventories will have to be destroyed -- the ruling even prohibits giving away the books! Local thrift stores will be hard hit -- most will likely have to close their doors -- yes, even Goodwill and Salvation Army. Clothing, toys and books -- even CDs and DVDs are included in the ruling. Thrift stores will no longer be able to accept or process anything (including clothing) that would be intended for a child. No more library sales. Libraries will not be permitted to give away or sell book donations. It is unsure yet, however, how the libraries' shelves themselves will be impacted (the ruling doesn't explicitly mention "loaning" books, just selling or giving them away). The key word, however, is "distribution" -- libraries may well be required to destroy books from their shelves. (The ruling that originally passed was about toys, but the EPA has since made a statement that clothing, books and media are included in "children's toys".) Just how serious is this new law? Amazon.com has already notified all vendors of their need to comply. No book can be sold at the Amazon site that was printed prior to compliance. And the "compliance" must be coordinated at the manufacturing stage. At the time of this article there is no clause to be able to grandfather-in older books or even rare out-of-print books. It can cost between $500 and $1500 to test a book for lead. I happen to own a children's bookstore specializing in living books from the 1950s and '60s. My punishment for selling a book after February 10th? Up to $100,000 and 5 years in jail. And yes, it is a felony charge. For selling a SINGLE book. (Although I don't think the S.W.A.T. team scenario would become a reality overnight, at the same time I would be leery of blatantly violating Federal law.) So what can you do to help save your local used bookstore that sells children's books? Or that homeschool curriculum business? Or your EBay business selling children's items? ACT NOW before the quickly approaching deadlines:

1) Email or call the CPSIA - the office of the CPSC ombudsman at 888-531-9070.

Comments on Component Parts Testing accepted through January 30, 2009.
Or email:

2) Contact your local [Federal] representatives. For their contact information, just enter your zip code.

3) Make your voice heard by voting on this issue! The top 3 in each category will be presented to President-elect Obama.

4) Sign the petition.

5) Spread the word! Forward this article. Send an email. Write about this on your blog. Tell others about this issue and encourage them to do the same.

For the complete story, read the following links:

Consumer Product Safety Commission Summaries on Legislation Index page for Children's Products Containing Lead; Lead Paint Rule and other rulings

Office of the General Counsel FAQ on retroactive inventory requirements -- The use of forward effective dates appears to force current inventories to adhere to the ruling on February 10th, 2009

Specific FAQ on their interpretation of books and other media to be included in the testing of lead based products

Effective Date: Lead content limit of 600 ppm becomes effective 180 days after enactment. An advisory opinion regarding the application of the new lead limit to inventory existing at the effective date can be found on our web site at

Getting the Lead out: There is no lead in children's books

There is no lead in Children's books: From a Pediatrician

This article was provided with permission by:
The Homeschooler's Notebook Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 10 No 2 January 8, 2009 ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2009 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net
To subscribe to their newsletter, go to: http://www.familyclassroom.net/index.html

Sunday, January 04, 2009

How to tell if Your 10-Year-Old Boy has Discovered that Girls Don't Have Cooties; or, The Civilizing Influence of the Female of the Species

I just thought it might be helpful to provide a few hints so that you can tell whether or not your 10-year-old boy has discovered that girls don't have Cooties. Now, you may think that it isn't an actual issue, but "Cooties" is an actual medical condition that I think must have been eradicated, perhaps in view of all the inoculations that have become so prevalent. I know that it is an actual condition because it used to be that the Mayo Clinic actually had a web page devoted to it. (They don't any more. That's why I think the disease must have been eradicated.)
My 10-year-old son has joined the realm of those who have gotten past the concern for getting Cooties. This is how I can tell:

1. He used to have to be reminded to take showers. I remember asking him once, "How long has it been since you took a shower?" thinking that it might have been he hadn't taken one that day. I should have known from the interesting fumes emanating from him. He said, nonchalantly, "Three days." "Aaagggh!" I shrieked. "Go take one now!" These days he takes one every morning before coming downstairs.
2. He changes his socks more often. I don't see any walking around by themselves any more. (For that matter, he's more willing to wear them in the first place, since not doing so has bad effect on his shoes.) We've recently discussed (again) what clothes he needs to change every day and what can wait. And he was receptive to the news. We're making progress!
3. He looks in the mirror, and sometimes he isn't making faces or seeing how many weird noises he can make with his mouth and what shapes his mouth takes on in the process; he's trying the handsome, cool, with-it kind of expressions instead. Silently.
4. He is specific about what kind of soap, shampoo, and hair stuff he wants. It's always something with a strong, manly scent. Well, better strong manly on a 10-year-old than strong...well, you know.
5. He makes cards even for little girls who come over to visit. At least, he did the other day. For three sisters, so I guess it wasn't to impress one in particular, unless he is trying to throw me off the case a little bit.
6. He welcomes the idea of being in certain places where it's a new thing for for him to want to be. Places where certain little girls are present.
7. At church he asks to use the breath freshening spray before meet-and-greet time.
8. His teeth don't have sweaters on any more. They tend to be shinier and whiter, and his dentist doesn't scold him so heartily as he used to. Okay, occasionally he forgets to brush, but far less than he used to.
9. He cares more about wearing impressive types of clothes that have some structure and lack ragged edges, rather than the ratty comfortable ones. At least, usually. Well, at least when he predicts the possibility of seeing girls.
10. When he goes to friends' houses who have sisters, all the above benefits go into full implementation, whereas this used to be the least likely incentive for soap and sudsiness.

Sigh. I don't know if this is a good trend, since in some ways, he's safer not liking girls until he's of marriageable age, but it does keep him cleaner and tamer for the present in peaceful and pleasant ways. My mom used to say that "it's an ill wind that brings no one any good," meaning even bad things have benefit for someone, somewhere. And the wind is sweeter, these days. I like this change, myself, even if we do have far more discussion, prayer and teaching before we are through with these subjects of girls, personal hygiene, and appearance.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

How to tell if Your 10-Year-Old Boy has a Friend Visiting

I thought it might be useful to have a few hints that would help you know whether your son (or brother) has a friend visiting:

1. There are twice as many shoes sprawled out in the entry way.
2. There are double the dirty socks sprawled out on top of them.
3. Nerf bullets are flying across the room at twice the regular rate.
4. Your fridge and pantry are emptying out at twice the regular rate, and your sink is twice as full of dirty dishes.
5. There are twice the thumps, bumps, yells and screams coming out of the basement.
6. If he's staying overnight, there are voices coming through the door--and it's not just your son talking in his sleep.
7. If he's staying overnight, they wake up twice as early, with dark circles on the bags under their eyes; they're a little bit testy, and they can hardly move, especially if it's to clean up after themselves.
8. If he's staying overnight and you wake up freezing cold, to the fact that your blankets are missing, go downstairs and see whether they've been constructed into a fort along with all the couch cushions, chairs, and card tables in the house.
9. You find Nerf darts in the sugar bowl, behind the couch, stuck to the back of your sweater, and flapping around on the top of your socks with every step.
10. Your son is learning all sorts of new annoying jokes, sayings, songs, mouth noises, dance moves, wrestling moves, pranks, YouTube videos and weird and gross websites, and a secret handshake that means absolutely nothing.
11. If you are going around barefoot, you're twice as likely to step on a Lego, a Monopoly marker, or something else equally sharp-pointed, edged, and otherwise potentially damaging.
12. When you go out to the car, there's twice the rubble awaiting you in the back seat.
13. Any sisters are twice as perplexed or edgy and spending twice the amount of time in their room.
14. The floors are caked with twice the mud, grass and leaves.
15. There are twice as many chairs pulled out into your pathway.
16. You're developing gray hair at twice the regular rate.
17. Let's not even talk about the bathroom.

But there are benefits:

1. Ummmm. The television and computer are used by your son half as much as usual.
2. Your food gets eaten before it gets stale or moldy--except for the vegetables.
3. Your son knows what it's like to be a fairly normal boy (whatever that is) rather than a momma's boy, because his mom isn't so 99% his main impact.
4. When you clean, it's twice as gratifying to see a clean surface--at least, after the visitor leaves, so it stays clean twice as long.
5. The quiet and order that comes afterward is twice as sweet.
6. Sometimes the visitor teaches your son a good habit, just by accident.
7. There is one more boy to play a prank on that you learned from the last boy who visited.
8. It feels strangely good to think that somewhere out there, there's a little guy who likes to come over and visit your house.
9. You can see more of God's grace at work.
10. By the next time he visits, you've forgotten all the messes (kind of like forgetting all the pain of labor), you're onto more of the pranks (kind of like having been through boot camp) and you're glad to have him come over again (kind of like having Alzheimer's).