Faith: April 2009 Archives

TulipGirl linked to this post on a blog called Quiet Garden. It's a letter from one mom to another on making the shift away from some of the controlling, behavioristic parenting methods popular in evangelical circles and toward a way of Christian parenting that reflects God's fatherly grace towards his children. It is packed with helpful and convicting insights. Here are just a few:

I started questioning all of the things I had been taught about "christian parenting", and I did word studies in the Bible on things like "obedience" and "discipline". I was shocked at what WASN'T in there... none of the harshness or retribution I expected; instead, obedience was almost always linked to *love*, especially in the New Testament. "If you love me, you will obey me"... not "if you don't obey me, you will suffer". It was obedience based on relationship, not fear of punishment, which was a totally foreign concept to me. I guess in my mind I thought it was "if you obey me, then I can love you".

I had to really look at how I viewed my relationship with God... is that the way I thought he saw me? If I was obedient, he would love me and be nice to me, but if I wasn't, he would make bad things happen to me? I couldn't find that idea anywhere in scripture. Instead I found him saying "if you focus on loving me, you will WANT to be obedient". The focus was always on my relationship with him, my obedience was supposed to be a natural product of my love for him.

When I started asking God to show me how to parent, it didn't happen the way I expected. Instead of getting "Holy Spirit parenting tips" on how to make my kids behave, I started getting convicted for my OWN behavior. When I started to get angry at them for something they were doing, I would be reminded of a situation where *I* was doing the exact same thing my child was doing, only in an adult context....

If I wanted them to handle frustration calmly and reasonably, then I had to demonstrate self-restraint and not fly off the handle and yell at them when they ticked me off. The idea is not just to *tell* them how to act, but to *show* them what it looks like. After all, how can we expect them to do something we can't?...

If I could not behave better than my child, how could I be so arrogant as to stand in judgement over him and be less merciful than I would want God to be to me? God showed me all of the times I made excuses for myself for my bad behavior, for being crabby or impatient or selfish, or just plain rebellious towards him. It was so easy to rationalize my own behavior, but my children, who were immature and still learning were expected to jump to it, never have a bad day, never make mistakes?...

Take your cue from the Holy Spirit... one who is called along side to help. Instead of MAKING your kids do what you want, work on finding ways to HELP your kids do what you need them to do. Don't see yourself as standing over them, but be someone who comes in alongside them and helps them do what they need to do. More kindly coach/mentor and less crabby old school teacher.

There's more. She unpacks the description of love in I Corinthians 13, turning each phrase into a question for parents to ask ourselves about our motivations in how we direct and discipline our children.

We read the Ezzo books before our oldest was born. Many of our friends -- good, loving Christian people -- recommended them to us. I regret it. That approach to discipline alienates parents from children, and sets mom and dad up as scorekeepers and penalty managers. I found myself denying myself the enjoyment of time with my brilliant, funny, and beautiful kids for the sake of teaching them a lesson. And a child's natural desire to please mom and dad turns to despair -- the feeling that nothing he does will ever be good enough, so why bother trying?

It is hard to ditch the Ezzo mindset. You're confronted with regrets over years wasted and damage done, as the letter on Quiet Garden discusses. There's also the inner Ezzo nagging you that you're being too lax, too lenient, that you're spoiling your kids. But I'm starting to think that the worst kind of spoilage would be if my child no longer felt connected to me, if my child felt alienated from me, no longer identifying with my values, uninterested in my advice, unwilling to learn from my experiences.

I'd rather work alongside my children, enjoying their company, sharing laughter, and guiding them down the right path -- not like the guy back at the gas station who gave you directions but like the sherpa who is with you step-by-step up the treacherous mountain trail.

If you're an evangelical Christian who has struggled finding a church where you feel at home, my friend Forrest Christian has a webinar scheduled for next Sunday, April 19, at 8 p.m. Central time, called "Why You Hate Your Church" that could help you understand why and what you can do about it (other than grim endurance).

Is this you?
  • You feel a personal faith but you have just become so disappointed in your church. Or any church.
  • You used to feel a strong sense of belonging in church, but now feel alienated just by showing up.
  • You feel like no one wants to talk with you, and indeed they really don't.
  • People at your church don't bother calling you for a party, but always call you when something goes wrong.
  • Your Christian friends assume that you have lost your faith in Christ when to you it feels like you lost your faith in the church, not God
  • After awhile, you've just gotten plain bitter about the whole "church thing".

Forrest Christian is a career consultant and a writer on the subject of the way individuals fit (or, more often, don't fit) into the companies that employ them. He's also an evangelical Christian, and he began recently to explore how these ideas on management and job fit apply to churches:

As I examined the dominant ways that evangelical leaders are taught to organize their churches, I realized that these organizational rules show how their very success can marginalize thoughtful and spiritually-oriented Christians.

Although the webinar is designed for disaffected evangelical Christians from "Generation X" (born 1961 to 1978), those from other Christian traditions may find it useful. Forrest adds that, "Church leaders and those who minister to cranky parishioners will find value in learning how to better minister to them."

Because this is a seminar dealing with a matter of faith, Forrest is waiving his usual webinar fee and offering "Why You Hate Your Church" on a "pay what you want" basis. Space is limited. Follow this link to sign up and for more details.

Although I don't hate my church, I plan to participate in this webinar. The "symptoms" Forrest lists call to mind past frustrations with churches and religious organizations, frustrations that I expect my children will experience as they grow older.

There's plenty more information at the webinar link, and be sure to check out Forrest Christian's blog, Requisite Writing.

This morning, Christians will gather in freedom across America and throughout the western world to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, His victory over death. Although our faith is the object of ridicule and contempt, none of us in the west need fear arrest, imprisonment, or torture because of our faith.

But we have brothers and sisters who are suffering even as we celebrate. In many nations, particularly in those nations still in thrall to Islam and Communism, Christians are subject to persecution by the government. In other countries, freedom of religion exists, but mobs threaten Christians who are open about their faith.

Let me call your attention to one prominent case. Gao Zhisheng, 44, is a Christian and a human rights attorney in China. Once a member of China's Communist Party and hailed in 2001 by the justice ministry as one of China's ten best lawyers, Gao helped his fellow citizens defend themselves against corrupt local officials.

In 2004, Gao began to dig into the persecution and torture of members of Falun Gong. In October 2005, he wrote a letter to the leaders of China urging an end to this persecution. His law firm was shut down. He quit the Communist Party in December 2005. He was abducted by secret police in August 2006 and later that year convicted of subversion. In 2007, after urging a boycott of the Olympic Games, he was again abducted and tortured for two months. (Here is a link to Gao's open letter, in which he details the torture he suffered during this period.)

On February 4, 2009, security police took him from his home. He has not been seen since. His wife and children are now in the United States under political asylum.

Voice of the Martyrs, based in Bartlesville, Okla., is seeking to call world attention to Gao's fate in hopes of pressuring the Chinese government into releasing him. They have joined with China Aid in setting up the Free Gao website, where they are soliciting signatures on a petition to the Chinese Ambassador to the U. S., e-mails to Chinese officials, and funds to help defend Christians in China:

We will deliver a printed copy of all the signatures collected to the Chinese embassy. Add your voice, and encourage your friends to sign the petition, to make the Chinese government aware that the world is watching this situation and to call them to account for their inhumane treatment of Gao Zhisheng.

Officially, China claims to have freedom of religion and a system of law that protects human rights. During the Cold War, public attention and pressure in the West brought about the release of many dissidents in the Soviet Union. The hope is that public attention to Gao's cause will not only result in his freedom, but will help all who suffer religious persecution in that country. I urge you to join me this Easter in praying for Gao, for his family, and for all those who share in Christ's sufferings around the world. And I urge you to take action.


New Yorker blog entry from April 3 about Gao's disappearance
A description and excerpts from Gao's book, A China More Just
A Facebook "fan" page for Gao Zhisheng -- a way for Facebook users to show support and raise awareness

Today, I learn from Ron Coleman, is the once-in-28-years recital of Birkat Hachama, the Blessing of the Sun, on the day when, according to the Talmud, the sun returns to the starting point in its cycle, the same place it was when it came into being on the fourth day of Creation.

As explained in the Talmud, there is a tradition that the Sun was created in its vernal equinox position at the beginning of the springtime Jewish lunar month of Nissan.[18] The sages of the Talmud settled disputes over the halachic definition of the vernal equinox by establishing it on March 25 of the Julian calendar. Because both the Julian calendar and Jewish tradition define a solar year as exactly 365.25 days, the halachic vernal equinox historically fell out on March 25th every year. This halachic equinox now falls about 17 days after the true equinox, with the error increasing by about 3/4 of a day per century.

In summary, Birkat Hachama is recited when the halachic vernal equinox (the position at which the Sun was created) occurs at sundown on a Tuesday (the time at which the sun was created).

The blessing to be recited at the sight of "the sun at its turning point" is "Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the Universe who makes the works of Creation."

According to Wikipedia, the service of observance includes the first six verses of Psalm 148:

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts!

Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the LORD!
For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them forever and ever;
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

The next occurrence is April 8, 2037.

Given that life would be impossible on Earth if the sun were closer, further away, or not there at all, the least we can do is to say a little prayer of thanks for its existence once every 28 years.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Faith category from April 2009.

Faith: March 2009 is the previous archive.

Faith: May 2009 is the next archive.

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