Monday, August 24, 2015

Don't Tell Me I'm a Good Mom



I'm a bad mom. I sleep too late. I don't cherish every moment. I complain when my daughter wakes up in the middle of date night. I leave her on the floor so I can get on Facebook. I let her cry. I leave her diaper on too long. I get impatient when she cries. I don't do these things all the time, but I do them enough. I'm a bad mom.

When you compare me to some moms, maybe I'm not too bad. I may make mistakes sometimes, or have a bad day every now and then, but in general, I'm a pretty good mom. I don't abuse my Bumblebee. I breastfeed, cloth diaper, play with her, read to her, don't let her watch TV.... By a lot of standards, I'm good enough.

Here's the thing, though. I don't want you to tell me I'm good enough. I'm not! I am a bad mom. I'm also a bad wife, a bad sister, a bad daughter, a bad friend. Why is that? Because I'm a bad person. I'm a bad person because I'm part of a fallen world. I'm a sinner. I will never be a perfect mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend. I can try and try, but I am incapable of being good.

When you tell me I'm a good mom, I know you're lying. You may think I am, but a truly good mom wouldn't do those things. She wouldn't ever let her daughter cry. She wouldn't ignore her baby. She would never become unreasonably upset with her child. When you tell me I'm a good mom, and then I do one of those things, I feel guilty. I feel like I've failed. The weight of being a bad mom gets heavier and heavier, and the more I feel like a bad mom, the more likely I am to do bad mom things.

When you tell me I'm a bad mom, but I've been redeemed, I feel relieved. I know I don't have to carry the weight of being a bad mom around any longer. I can try again. I will try again. And I will fail again. I will never be a good mom, because as a sinner, I can't stop sinning. But as a redeemed child of God, I am a good mom.

So the next time you hear me say, "I'm a bad mom," don't jump to correct me. Agree with me. Say, "Yes, you're a bad mom. But that's okay, because Someone died to redeem that bad mom. You're now a good mom, not because of your power, but because you've been washed by the blood of Jesus Christ!"

On this earth, I am simul iustus et peccator; I am simultaneously good mom and bad mom. One day I will leave this body behind and no longer carry the weight of being a bad mom, but until that day, I will acknowledge that I am a bad mom, because a mom who's good on her own doesn't need Christ. A bad mom does. And I need Christ.

I'm a bad mom.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Raising a Woman Proud in Her Femininity

We live in a culture that has destroyed what it means to be a woman. We applaud men living as women, celebrate gay marriage, and fill our vision with distorted images of beauty. As a mother, I am terrified of trying to raise godly men and women surrounded by images like these. I know I need to start early to counteract the culture, so I have begun to think about what I will do to raise my daughter to be proud of her femininity. These are just a few of the things I intend to do throughout my life to help my daughter become a godly woman.





Celebrate feminine milestones. Being a woman is a beautiful thing, but she will never learn to recognize that beauty if I ignore the feminine milestones in her life. When I started my first period, for example, my mom took me to get a manicure with her, just me and her, as a celebration of my entrance into womanhood, and I intend to do something similar with my Bumblebee every time she reaches a new stage in life as a woman.

Teach her to treasure her body. There is a ridiculous amount of body-shaming in both Christian and non-Christian circles. Some parts of the purity movement teach girls to cover their bodies out of fear of the reaction of the men around them. Some parts of the secular culture teach girls to show their entire bodies to assert their freedom and independence, or to attract a man. Neither of these teachings is correct. I need to teach her that her body, God's unique creation, has value, and as such, it is only for herself, and one day, if God wills it, for the man who becomes her husband.

Show her what a good marriage is. It is my responsibility to show my daughter what the vocations of wife and mother entail, as my mother showed me. By loving me in his words and actions, my husband will be setting standards for our daughter's future husband (if God wills that she has one), and by loving my husband with my words and actions, I will be setting standards for how my daughter should live out her vocation of wife.

Teach her appropriate standards for sexuality. A mother's responsibility to her daughter regarding her sexuality goes beyond teaching her about the mechanics and to abstain from intercourse marriage. I will teach my daughter that, like her body, her sexuality is a gift, to be used in marriage within the boundaries God has established. As my mother taught me, I will teach her to safeguard it as a young single, and to generously gift it to her husband as a married woman.

This will not be an easy undertaking. From the moment she was first conceived, my husband and I received a lifelong challenge, given to us by God, to raise her to the best of our abilities to live as His creation, and I pray that He will guide us to live out this vocation of parents well.

Mothers, fathers, what would you add to this list? How do you (or did you) raise your daughters to be godly women?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

God Will Provide...but How?

First, I'd like to apologize for my extended absence. For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you will know that eight weeks ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, and that since then, I've been in the process of preparing to move. While my intentions post-baby were to maintain the blog, as a first time mom I had no idea what was in store for me, and parenting is a much bigger task than I realized.

Be that as it may, I've finally got the little Bumblebee on a semi-decent sleeping schedule, and I believe I can start blogging again during naptimes. Here's hoping.

Photo Credit: All-free-download.com

Between the birth of my daughter, our income situation, and my husband's job change, it's been a stressful year. I've struggled a lot with worry. I've never been afraid that we would miss a rent payment or be unable to afford groceries, but I have worried about paying loans, hospital bills, or taxes. I've worried about having a job or having insurance. I've been afraid we won't be able to afford to visit family, or buy the new clothes we needed.

When I face worry, people like to remind me of Matthew 6. "Do not be anxious about your life....all these things will be added to you." They remind me not to worry, because God will provide. "God promises us in Jeremiah 29:11 that 'I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,'" they would say.

I agree wholeheartedly. God has wonderful plans for my family. My daughter, my husband, and I will be taken care of. God has promised, and I trust His promises. God will provide.

What does that mean, though? "God will provide." The promises of Matthew 6 and Jeremiah 29 applied to the martyrs, as well, didn't they? If Stephen was more valuable than the birds of the air, why was he stoned? If Peter was equally valued, why was he crucified? All those children of God, for whom God has plans "to prosper...and not to harm", why did He not provide food, clothing, shelter, protection for them? "Some were tortured...suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated...wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth." (Hebrews 11) Did God renege on His promises to them? When my husband and I have financial difficulties, has God abandoned us?

By no means! Rather, those promises are for something even better than earthly provision. Yes, when we receive good things on earth, those are from God, certainly. But the ultimate fulfillment of Matthew 6, of Jeremiah 29, of all the promises in Scripture, comes in the person of Jesus Christ. The "hope and a future" given to us is the life and salvation given to us by the death and resurrection of Jesus. We receive them through Word and Sacraments, through the life-giving waters of Holy Baptism, and through the body and blood of Christ in the bread and wine of Holy Communion.

So when my husband and I don't know how we'll afford to cover the gas to get to a job interview and a friend gives us a gas card without being asked, we know that God is providing. When we don't how we'll cover our student loans and we get accepted for income-based repayment, we know that God is providing. And we know that even if He doesn't provide for our earthly financial needs, even if we are homeless, naked, starving, persecuted, God has promised to provide something we need far more than food, clothing, shelter, and protection. He has given us forgiveness, life, and salvation. When we leave this world, we will be free from all our needs. There is no need for us to worry.

I sin continually. I worry that we won't be able to pay back our loans. I worry that we won't have a place to live. I worry that we won't have insurance. So far, God has provided for all those earthly needs despite my worries. And like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said to King Nebuchadnezzar, when I face trials, even through my worry I can say with confidence, "our God whom we serve is able to deliver us...and He will deliver us out of your hand. But if not, be it known to you...that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." (Daniel 3). By God's grace, He will provide for my family here on earth, but if He will not, we will not worship the golden image of materialism or serve the gods of fear and worry. I know that He has given us a heavenly kingdom, and I know that He will always provide for our spiritual needs.

One day, I will be free from these struggles and fears. Until that day, I pray, "come, Lord Jesus."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Additional Resources: Bread and Wine Event

For the past few weeks, I have been sharing tips for planning family events on the Means of Grace. For the next few weeks, I'd like to share some additional resources for those events. Today's post goes along with the post Bread and Wine Means of Grace Event.

One of the suggested games and activities for the Bread and Wine family event was bread and wine trivia. I have compiled a series of trivia questions you could use for this activity. Feel free to borrow the whole thing, take select questions, rewrite the rules, or use it however you feel is best.


Pastor Jonathan Fisk of Worldview Everlasting is also an excellent resource for teaching on the Means of Grace (as well as other points of doctrine). This video on the Lord's Supper would be a good opener or conclusion for the lesson, it could be used to set up for the event, or it could open or close the event for you. Other videos and resources can be found on WorldviewEverlasting.com or on the Worldview Everlasting YouTube channel.


I hope these resources help make your event successful, fun, and filled with learning! As always, I would love to hear how it turned out. Contact me here or on the Families of Faith Facebook page. God's blessings!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Words! Means of Grace Event

Adaptable for the whole family, this event is part 3 of my Means of Grace planning series! The final topic: Words!


Objective: To teach the concept that the words of Holy Scripture are a means of grace through an intergenerational event themed around words

Advertising: Use the same tips as in event 1, Just Water? Promotion for this event could say, "When are words more than just words? Why do we believe words are a way God offers His grace to us? What's with that big Book of His, anyway? Join us to find out these answers and more!"

Games and Activities: As with the other two events, any games or activities based around the theme will do. These are some of my favorites. Choose activities based on your congregational demographics.

  • Scrabble/Bananagrams competition
  • Bible verse scramble relay
  • Guess the Book: Lay out 5 cards with Bible book names. Read a verse from one of the five books, and allow participants to guess which book the verse comes from. Award points for correct answers. Add or subtract cards based on desired difficulty level.
  • Bible trivia
  • Word Link (find instructions here)
  • Charades

Lesson planning tips:

  • As always, remember the attention span and cognitive ability of your group. You don't want to be too juvenile for your older listeners, but you don't want to talk over the heads of the youngest listeners, either.
  • As with the previous two events, it should be led by a theologically trained teacher such as the pastor or a commissioned staff member.
  • Potential source texts include:
    • 2 Timothy 3:14-17
    • Romans 10:14-17
    • Matthew 4:1-11

Small group discussion:

  • Separate by demographics such as
    • Age
    • Gender
    • Family
    • Random assignment
  • Assign a mature, trained leader to each group. Consider having a small group leader training session prior to this event to ensure leaders are prepared for questions that may arise.
  • Provide each group with a list of questions based on the lesson. Possible questions include:
    • Who wrote the Bible?
    • What does it mean that the words of the Bible are a "means of grace"?
    • What does it mean that we find Law and Gospel in the Bible?
    • What is the Bible good for?

Keep in mind:
  • Small children may not be as engaged in this topic as with the previous ones, particularly if they are not able to read. Consider having a nursery/childcare option for families with small children, or use games that will be more effective for younger, non-literate participants (such as charades and Pictionary).
Sample schedule 1:
2:00 Welcome. Detail schedule, process, and any rules or announcements. Pray.
2:10 Charades
2:45 Bible trivia
3:15 Lesson
3:30 Small group discussion
4:00 Close

Sample schedule 2:
2:00 Welcome. Detail schedule, process, and any rules or announcements. Pray.
2:10 Word Link
2:30 Bible scramble relay
2:45 Bananagrams tournament
3:15 Lesson
3:30 Small group discussion
4:00 Close

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bread and Wine Means of Grace Event

Part two of my Means of Grace event planning series! This one covers Holy Communion in a fun and educational event for children to adults.

Photo credit: All-free-download.com
Objective: To teach the meaning of the Sacrament of Holy Communion through an intergenerational event themed around bread and wine

Advertising: Use the same tips as with the Just Water? event. An advertisement for this event could say, "Wine in church? Eating a body and drinking blood? Are we cannibals? Find out the answers to these questions and more at our family fun learning event on Communion!"

Games and activities: As with the Baptism event, any games around the theme will do. The following are some of my favorite ideas.
  • Tour the sacristy with speakers such as the pastor, elders, and members of Ladies Aid explaining their part in preparing the Sacrament
  • Have a bread-making event. Donate the bread to a local food pantry, sell it for fundraising, or let participants take it home. Consider recipes such as matzah bread or no-yeast bread
  • Bread and wine trivia
  • Grape stomping (bonus points if you preface it with an I Love Lucy clip!)
  • Grape toss (like a water balloon toss, but with grapes)
Lesson planning tips:

  • Remember the attention span and cognitive ability of your youngest listeners.
  • As with the previous event, it should be led by a theologically trained teacher such as the pastor or a commissioned staff member.
  • Potential source texts include:
    • 1 Corinthians 11:23-29
    • John 6:35, 53-58
    • Luke 22:14-20
  • Luther's Small Catechism is a great source to guide your lesson plan.

Small group discussion:

  • Separate by demographics such as
    • Family
    • Age
    • Gender
    • Random assignment
  • Assign a mature, trained leader to each small group. You may wish to have a training event ahead of time for all of the small group leaders to ensure they are prepared to answer any questions their group may have.
  • Provide each group with a list of discussion questions based on the lesson. These may include:
    • What has to be used for Communion?
    • Who can give Communion?
    • Who should take Communion?
    • Is Communion a symbol? Why or why not?

Keep in mind:
  • If you choose to do the bread-making event, remember that yeast-based recipes will take much longer than yeast-free recipes.
  • Allergies and physical or behavioral sensitivities should be thought of when preparing. (For example, how will you prepare for attendees with gluten intolerance or recovering alcoholics?)
Sample schedule 1:
2:00 Welcome. Detail schedule, process, and any rules or announcements. Pray.
2:10 Tour the sacristy
2:30 Bread-making
3:00 Lesson (while bread is cooking)
3:15 Small group discussion (while bread is cooking)
3:45 Enjoy fresh bread and fellowship
4:00 Close

Sample schedule 2:
2:00 Welcome. Detail schedule, process, and any rules or announcements. Pray.
2:10 Bread and wine trivia
2:30 Grape toss
2:45 Lesson
3:00 Small group discussion
3:15 Tour the sacristy
3:30 Refreshments

As always, please leave feedback and suggestions if you use any of these events!
Click here to find part one, "Just Water? Means of Grace Event"

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Just Water? Means of Grace Event

My regular readers may have noticed that my posts for the past few months have been more serious and less program-oriented than this blog began. I'd like to go back to sharing some programming tips and options for church workers, but rather than sharing ideas for demographic-specific programs, these programs will be more in line with my constantly developing philosophy for family life ministry.

With this in mind, today I begin a new three-part series on how to cover the Means of Grace through family events. Topic one: Baptism!


Photo credit: All-free-download.com
Objective: To teach the meaning of the sacrament of baptism through an intergenerational event themed around water

Advertising: Get the news out in whatever way works best for your congregation and community--and in as many ways as possible! Have a bulletin insert, put up flyers in the church and community, announce it during your worship service announcement times, and make sure your advertising begins several weeks in advance! Highlight the games and learning opportunities that will be provided. An advertisement could say, "Is baptism Just Water? What's the deal with it? Join us for a family fun and learning event filled with water games, a lesson, and small group discussion on baptism!"

Games and activities: Any water-based games and activities will do. You can host your event on congregational property, go to a public park, or rent a facility. Below are some options based on event size and finances, but feel free to mix and match based on your demographics and budget.
  • High budget/large group ($1000+ or 100+ attendees)
    • Rent out a pool, beach, or water park for a few hours/a day
    • Rent a dunk tank, inflatable water slide, and/or inflatable slip n' slide (prices may vary by location)
  • Medium budget/medium group ($500-999 or 50-99 attendees)
    • Sprinklers
    • Slip n' slide
    • Backyard pool party (only an option if someone in the congregation has a backyard pool they are willing to open for the event)
  • Low budget/small group (Less than $500, less than 50 attendees)
    • Water balloon toss
    • Leaking bucket relay (video example here)
    • Water limbo (instead of a bar, use a hose!)
Lesson planning tips:
  • Should be led by a respected and theologically-trained member of the congregation--ideally an ordained or commissioned staff member (Ex. Pastor, Director of Christian Education, Director of Family Life Ministries, commissioned teachers, etc.)
  • Should be understandable for your youngest listeners but not so juvenile as to lose the interest of teens and adults. To this end,
    • Use concrete examples whenever possible
    • Consider incorporating humor
  • Should not exceed fifteen minutes in length (young children will probably lose focus after the first five minutes)
  • Some Scripture options include:
    • 1 Peter 3:21
    • Mark 16:16
    • Romans 6:1-10
    • John 3:1-5
  • Luther's Small Catechism is a great guide for directing your lesson plan
Small group discussion:
  • Choose the demographics you would like your small groups to be. You can separate the groups by
    • Families
    • Ages
    • Gender
    • Random assignment
  • Assign each group a leader. These leaders should have training on the issue, be old enough to teach (I recommend 18+, at least), and be comfortable leading a group of potentially varied ages.
  • Provide each group leader with discussion questions based on the lesson.
  • Sample questions:
    • Is baptism a symbol? Why or why not?
    • What has to be used for a baptism?
    • Who can do a baptism?
    • Who should be baptized?
Keep in mind:
  • Be aware of attire regulations and ensure that these regulations are shared with attendees BEFORE the event. (You may also choose to provide swimsuit covers or t-shirts for attendees that come unprepared for the regulations.)
  • Consequences for inappropriate behavior should be determined ahead of time and shared at the beginning of the event.
  • Providing water and a shaded cool-down area will help prevent attendees from dehydrating and overheating.
  • Be aware of your church's insurance requirements, as well as the requirements of any outside facilities you may be using.
Sample schedule 1:
1:00 Opening, welcome, and prayer. Detail schedule, rules, and consequences. Separate into teams if desired.
1:10 Water balloon toss
1:30 Activity 2
1:45 Activity 3
2:00 Lesson
2:15 Small group discussion
2:30 Open activity time
3:00 Close

Sample schedule 2:
1:00 Opening, welcome, and prayer. Detail schedule, rules, and consequences.
1:10 Open activity time
2:30 Lesson
2:45 Small group discussion
3:00 Close

If you use the tips here, have other ideas, or want further clarification and assistance planning, let me know! I'd love to hear how your event went and what advice you'd give to others incorporating the same sort of program.

Next week will cover a similar event discussing Communion!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Updates for March

News, news, and more news! Bad for the blog, good for life. Some of this you may already know, but I'll just go over everything big that's happening so far..

My husband will be leaving his current teaching job at the end of this school year, so we are looking for a new job! He is applying to teaching positions throughout the Midwest, and I am looking for a job in the realm of family life. Because we're on a bit of a time crunch (less than 3 months until his employment ends), we're both looking for jobs. We will probably have one of us stay home with the baby (and possibly work part time) while the other works full time.

While we search for jobs, we're also in another time crunch: our baby is due in 6 1/2 weeks! This weekend two baby showers were hosted for us (one a complete surprise!). I'm spending the week trying to catch up on all the thank you cards--we were overwhelmed by the generosity of our friends, family, and church family.

Speaking of generosity, we have had the greatest blessing! Some members from our congregation (where I did my internship and where my husband works) collected a grant for me to finish my final class for graduation! I started that last week, and I am now buckling down to finish this self-paced course before the baby arrives.

As you can see, between the job applications, thank you cards, homework, and baby prep, life has gone wild here. I'll be taking some time off the blog to catch up on things here, but hopefully within the next week or two things will tone down and I can get back to posting. (I'd like to have some advance posts prepped, also, for when the baby arrives, so we don't end up with a summer-long hiatus.)

I apologize for the temporary break in posts, but while you wait, please check out the blogs linked on the side of my page! There are some great resources there for family life, sexuality, and faith. And if you have any questions I am still available for contact on the Facebook page (which you can also find linked to on the side of this page). Thank you for your patience and understanding, and God's blessings!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Sexual Education: Parent's Responsibility

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The final part of my three-part series answering the question:
Who has the responsibility to teach sexual education?
My final answer: the parents.

It will come as no surprise to my friends, acquaintances, and regular readers--really, anyone who knows me at all--that I believe parents have the ultimate responsibility when it comes to a child's sexual education, as with all other aspects of a child's life. No one in the child's life is so uniquely situated as the parents, to influence them so heavily throughout all life stages.

Psalm 127 speaks of what a blessing children are to their parents. "Children are a heritage from the LORD," the psalmist remarks in verse 3. And as with all other gifts from God, we are called to be good stewards. Scripture is rife with instructions for parents, beginning as early as the creation of man and woman with the command to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). Proverbs 22:6 urges parents to "train up a child in the way he should go," and the epistles encourage fathers not to "provoke [their] children" (Colossians 3:21 and Ephesians 6:4). Clearly, according to both Scripture and reason, parents ought to educate their children.

Of course, many will argue that by sending their children to church and school, they are teaching them sexual education; to an extent, I have to agree. Ensuring that your child is in a sufficient sexual education course at school is a perfectly acceptable alternative to teaching all the content in the home, and provided that your congregation is covering sexuality and rightly dividing Law and Gospel when doing so, there is nothing wrong with parents "outsourcing" that aspect of sexual education, either.

My concern with this perspective, however, is that many parents naturally assume that the sexual education provided in the church and school is sufficient. In many schools and congregations, this is not true. A friend of mine once told me that in school, he received nothing on sexual education beyond an explanation of the changes in puberty, and the only supplement to this education he received at home was a book. His parents never explained the issues of sexuality that were not covered in school, and he had no one with whom to discuss his questions.

While that friend grew up without a horribly distorted view of sexuality, his parents--to whom I mean no disrespect--clearly missed part of their responsibility. With such little parental guidance, he could have received his sexual "education" from friends, television, or even pornography. Being aware of the content taught in his sexual education at school would have allowed these parents to better supplement it with discussion and targeted resources.

Most parents also assume that their church is covering the issue of sexual morality sufficiently. In many congregations, though, sexuality is a taboo, or issues are taught with a "that's wrong and don't ask questions" framework. To teach sexuality well, congregations should encourage questions, address what is being addressed by the culture, and offer Gospel as well as Law. This can be done in Sunday school, Bible study, youth ministry, or even directly from the pulpit. If it is not being done in the congregation, or not being done comprehensively, parents need to address these issue from home or find a source to do it for them.

Parents can't just assume that schools are teaching sexual education well; nor can we assume that churches are addressing sexuality fully and correctly. We need to be involved in our children's lives and education, aware of what is being taught and supplementing or correcting where needed. To those parents that are already doing so, I applaud you, and to those that were unaware of this need, I encourage you, don't let strangers dictate your child's sexual philosophy.

What are your thoughts? How much responsibility do parents have to teach sexual education? Are most parents, churches, and schools doing enough, or does the system need revamped--and if so, how?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sexual Education: Church's Responsibility

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Part two of my three-part series answering the question:
Who has the responsibility to teach sexual education?
This week's answer: the Church.

A sad trend in our modern society is that we've kicked the Church out of our bedrooms. "It's none of the Church's business who I'm sleeping with," we say to ourselves and others. "What happens between two consenting adults is no one's business but their own," we try to justify. All the while, we forget the Sixth Commandment and meaning:
You shall not commit adultery. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead sexually pure and decent lives in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other. (Luther's Small Catechism)
While I certainly could spend this whole post talking about the Scriptural definition of "sexually pure and decent lives," that's not what I'm here to do. That's the responsibility of our congregational leadership. I am here to explain why the Church has a responsibility to teach sexual education.

When I assert that the Church has a responsibility to teach sexual education, I do not mean that congregations need to teach the same things the schools are teaching. Schools teach the mechanics--the definitions, causes and symptoms of STIs (sexually transmitted infections) and pregnancy, forms and effectiveness of contraceptives, etc. Congregations, then, have the responsibility to give a moral lens through which to view these mechanics.

Schools, at least in the public system, rarely teach that sex outside of marriage is wrong. Rather, they teach how to prevent STIs and unwanted pregnancy both in and out of marriage. They teach what different forms of sexuality and gender identity are, but they do not teach which forms of sexuality and gender identity are acceptable before God. They teach what forms of contraceptives are available, but they do not teach which ones kill an unborn child.

The Church has an obligation to teach what schools cannot or will not--the morality of sexual issues. Congregations have freedom to do so as they will; seminars or classes, parochial schools that provide sexual education, studies on the Sixth Commandment and sexual ethics, and many more options are available for congregations to educate their members on sexual ethics.

Sexual education is best when it is team-taught. If any part of that team fails to do its job, our youth suffer. Schools teach the mechanics, and the Church teaches the morality. When the school fails to teach the mechanics of sexual issues, youth may make physically unhealthy decisions regarding their sex lives. When the Church fails to teach the morality of sexual issues, youth will make spiritually unhealthy decisions regarding their sex lives. And next week I'll be talking about the parents' role in sexual education, as well as what is lost when parents neglect that role.

What are your thoughts? Does the Church actually have a responsibility to teach anything regarding sexuality? What about schools? Who has the primary responsibility--or are all parts of the "sex ed team" equal?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sexual Education: School Responsibility

This week's post is coming several days late not because of dereliction of duty (I may have been a bit behind on writing), but primarily because I have spent the past few days without a solid internet connection on my laptop. I finally was able to use my cracked iPhone screen to locate a successful solution via Google, so hopefully this will not be a problem in future. (The problem, it seems, was some nonsense about needing to flush the DNS, whatever that means.) Anyway, thank you all for your enduring patience, and I hope within the next few weeks to have some news to share with you all, which should further explain my tardiness in writing this week.

Photo credit: All-free-download.com

Today I'm beginning a three-week series on sexual education. I'll be dealing with three answers to the following question:
Who has the responsibility of teaching sexual education to children and adolescents?
This week, my answer is school. Why do schools have a responsibility to teach sexual education? I believe the responsibility comes from two primary factors: law and a need for basic knowledge.

Law

Many states have legal policies mandating sexual education in schools. In such states where sexual education is mandated for schools, it seems redundant to say that schools have the responsibility to teach sexual education. (There are, as is noted in the above link, many states in which parents can opt out of sexual education for their child. I'll be addressing this more in week 3 of this series, but in such a case, the school would no longer have a responsibility to provide sexual education for that child.) The next factor into why schools have this responsibility, however, is the primary factor, and, I believe, the source for the legal policies previously mentioned.

Basic Knowledge

In order for our society to function well, all of our citizens need a basic level of knowledge. This reasoning is why we in America have mandatory education, We expect that our fellow citizens are able to read, write, and perform basic math. We also--whether we know it or not--tend to expect that our fellow citizens have a basic level of knowledge regarding sexual activity. When we see a young girl who is pregnant or hear that a young guy has gonorrhea, we often judge that young person for not using adequate protection, forgetting that in many cases, these people may simply have been poorly educated on issues of sexuality. Because some children and adolescents do not have access in the home to adequate sexual education, schools ought to be teaching sexual education in order to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

I believe that little else on this topic needs to be said, and because this post is almost 3 days later than usual, I'm not going into as much detail as I usually would. If you have any questions or concerns, however, I would be happy to discuss them. You can contact me on my Facebook page, Families of Faith (link in the side bar), or comment on this post.

Spoiler alert for next week's post: Churches have a responsibility to teach sexual education!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Finding Comfort When an Unbeliever Dies


My Bible study group this week was discussing a friend who was in mourning, and in the course of the conversation, we reached the topic of the death of unbelievers--namely, how believers can find comfort when an unbeliever dies.

Losing a loved one is devastating. For believers, though, we know that we do "not grieve as others who have no hope." (1 Thessalonians 4:13) We will meet our believing loved ones at the resurrection and worship God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with them for all eternity.

What happens when the loved one that died was not a believer, though? How can we possibly find comfort knowing that our dear friend or family member will not be with us in eternity?

There is no easy answer for this question, and most of us will struggle with it for our whole lives. However, keeping in mind the following points can help us from sinking into complete despair during this time.

Know that Christ grieves with us. John 11 records the story of the death of Jesus' friend Lazarus, and verse 35 says so simply, "Jesus wept." If Jesus wept at the death of even a believer that he would raise just a few moments later, how can we not be assured that he grieves with us at the death of an unbeliever?

Cling to the promise of the Word. God says in Isaiah 55:11 that His "Word shall not return to [Him] empty, but it shall accomplish that which [He] purpose[s]." While we should never claim that we know someone is saved if they were not a confessing believer, we know that the Holy Spirit works even to the moment of death. Even the thief on the cross was told, "Today, you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43) Find comfort and hope in the fact that God can change even the most hardened heart up to the last moment it beats.

Be assured of God's goodness.  We all deserve death as the punishment for our sin ("the wages of sin is death"), but God has provided a means for escape from death through His Son Jesus Christ ("the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.") (Romans 6:23We know from 2 Peter 3:9 that God "is patient toward [us], not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." Even though there is pain and death in this life, God is not the author of it.

Look forward to the resurrection. "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning." (Psalm 30:5) While we are on this earth, we will always have the pain of grief and death. At the resurrection, with the creation of the new heavens and the new earth, we know sorrow and pain will no longer touch us. Revelation 21:4 says "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

If you are mourning the death of an unbeliever, let me pray with you:
Heavenly Father, we know that we are all sinners deserving of your eternal wrath and punishment. We thank you for your great mercy that you have not given us the punishment we deserve, but have saved us from sin, death, and the devil through the suffering and death of your perfect Son, Jesus Christ. 
We grieve today the death of a loved one who did not know you. We know that this was not your will, because you do not wish for anyone to perish. We thank you for the comfort of knowing that you are good and that you grieve with us. Help us to rest in your comfort and mercy as we travel in pain through this veil of tears, until you bring us to be with you and wipe every tear from our eyes. Amen.
*All Scripture references are from the ESV Bible.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Help! My Teen Is "Experimenting"!

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Last week I got a call from a colleague regarding a situation which had some Christian parents highly concerned. Their daughters had been texting mildly sexual content to each other. It was unclear if anything beyond texting had gone on between the girls. Today I'd like to share some tips for parents on how to address situations like this one.

Before getting into how to address the problem of your teen "experimenting", we need to clarify what we mean by that term. Experimentation, as I'll be discussing today, refers to talking about or acting on sexual behaviors with someone of the same sex while not actually claiming to be homosexual. While it's more commonly recognized among females, experimentation can be done among males or females. In media, it's particularly common among college girls, but in reality, it can be done by anyone of any age or gender.

Experimentation has become more popular in recent decades. I believe that one of the contributing factors was the 1948 development of the "Kinsey Scale", which claims that people are not strictly "heterosexual", or "homosexual", but rather they are on a scale of heterosexuality/homosexuality. Other contributing factors may have been the "free love" and "gay rights" movements.

Regardless of the origin of the prevalence of experimentation, though, many parents will have to deal with the issue at some point in their child's life. The following are some ways that parents can do so in a loving manner while upholding the biblical standard for marriage and sexuality.

Make your position clear. Not reacting to this situation would be a mistake. Oftentimes parents will say, "it's just a phase," or "they'll grow out of it" and ignore the situation altogether. If parents don't give their children guidelines for proper behavior, though, the children will never have a reason to change their behavior, or, as some would say, "grow out of it".* Teens need to know that according to Scripture, any sexual relationship beyond one man married to one woman is sinful. For information on how to guide discussions on this with your teen, you can see my previous post on Talking to Your Teen about Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

Find a happy medium. While not reacting is dangerous, overreacting can be equally so. If the parents I received the call regarding were to cut off all contact between their daughters, the girls would most likely rebel by expressing even more deviant behaviors. The parents could, however, respond by setting in place rules to govern the girls' behavior, such as allowing the girls to spend time together with parental supervision, not allowing sleepovers, and monitoring phone contact.

Involve your teen. The best way to prevent the teens from rebelling against these rules is to have them involved in making them. Ask them what would best help them to not be tempted. As the parent, you have the final say in what the rules and consequences are, but if your teen was involved in the process, they will be more likely to follow the rules even when you are not there to enforce them.

Partner with the other parents. If your teen is experimenting with another teen, the parents of the other teen need to be made aware as well. Talk to those parents about setting guidelines for contact between your children and ask them to enforce them as well. If appropriate for your situation, get together with your teen, the other parents, and the other teen to discuss what is happening and what the proper response is.

Be firm. If your child will not work with you to set guidelines for their behavior, you are the parent and have a right--a responsibility, even--to set rules for them that they must follow. Make consequences clear and consistent. Regarding the other child's parents, if they disagree about the dangers of experimentation or refuse to enforce the rules you have set in place, you may have to refuse to allow your teen to spend time with the other teen without your supervision.

Remember the Gospel. No sin is too great to be forgiven. When repentance comes, don't withhold grace from your child. Consequences do not have to be removed when you forgive them, but make it clear that they are still loved and accepted. Their identity is found not in what they have done, but what has been done for them--the atonement for sins by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, given to them through the Word and Sacraments.

Is there anything you would add to this list? As always, feedback is welcome!


*It should be clarified that while people may "grow out of" experimentation, sexual orientation is not generally something that one "grows" into or out of. Anecdotal evidence may indicate otherwise, but scientific studies seem to indicate that sexual orientation is innate. (Read this article on a study by Professors Richard Pillard and Michael Bailey for more information.) My intention in this post was not to address the issue of parenting homosexual/bisexual children, but to discuss the issue of heterosexual teenagers that are experimenting with same-sex sexual behaviors. In future I hope to write on parenting homosexual/bisexual children, but nothing is in the works as of yet.

If you have questions on the official LCMS policy on homosexuality, you can read this pamphlet by President A.L. Barry or see the LCMS Frequently Asked Questions section on sexuality.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Our Love Story (and What You Can Learn from It)

Photo credit: Captured by Kathy K
With Valentine's Day coming up, I thought I'd use this week to share the story of how my husband and I met, dated, and married, as well as how our story can be a positive example for singles that are looking to be married.

During my first week at college (Concordia University - Ann Arbor), I made friends quickly. By the end of my first week, I already had developed relationships with several of those that would be part of my friend group through the next four years and beyond. I wanted college to be a time of trying new things and branching out, so when one of those friends mentioned they were going to a meeting for the theater group, I tagged along.

I walked in, took a seat, and looked around. Across from me sat Andrew Gumm, the man that I would one day call my husband.

This isn't a story of love at first sight. To be honest, I don't even recall noticing him that day, aside from as the clearly-much-older-than-me student director with the basketball shorts and bushy beard. He made a much more distinct impression a few days later, when I started volunteering in the scene shop, which he was in charge of. And at that point, he kind of frightened me a bit. Add the bushy beard and basketball shorts to a half-crazed grin and power tools (I think he was trying to frighten the new recruits...plus he really likes power tools), and you have one scary picture.

Still, we spent a lot of time together for the next semester. His roommate and best friend (who happened to be dating my roommate) was Tom in The Glass Menagerie (our fall play), my best friend played Laura, and my roommate was one of the stage managers. Andrew was the student director, head stage manager, and head of scene shop, and I was the costumes manager. One of his close friends (playing Jim in in the play) was the older brother of one of my close friends (who worked in the scene shop). We spent a lot of time together with our mutual friends. When we weren't working on the play, the theater group was going to Steak n Shake or having game nights. Neither of us looked at each other as more than a friend--we were both interested in different people at that point--but we had a solid friendship.

When the spring semester came, he began his student teaching and wasn't going to be able to be involved in theater as much. By that point, I was starting to think about dating; I didn't necessarily want a serious relationship, but several of my friends were dating people at that point. I thought it would be fun to start spending time with someone and casually dating. Andrew was the first person I thought of, not as someone that I could ever be seriously interested in, but as someone that would be fun to spend time with and get to know better.

I started inviting him to spend time together in smaller groups. He came to my dorm to play games and talk, and he would come into theater when I was working (being on student teaching, he wasn't working much in theater) and talk to me while I worked. Before I knew it, I had developed feelings for him.

Because I was unsure of how he felt, I tried to deny my feelings while still keeping our friendship. The day spring break started, I invited him to ride up to the airport with me and my grandparents as I left to visit my parents. When I saw him coming up to my dorm that day, though, my heart was racing. We were going to watch a movie before my grandparents arrived, but we ended up talking. About five minutes before my grandparents showed up, he asked me to go out with him. Excited, but not wanting to get my hopes up, I asked him what he meant. "Well, as my girlfriend," he said, which I replied to with an enthusiastic "yes". The next few minutes were a blur of blushing, awkwardly looking at each other and away, and laughing, until he took my hand. Which quickly ended when my grandpa walked up and knocked on the window.

While I was gone on spring break, we texted almost non-stop. We talked casually, like we had when we were just friends, but we also talked about life goals and serious issues--things that could make or break a relationship. The more we talked, the more I realized we had in common, and the more I realized that I could see myself with him in the long term. I was quite sure that I wasn't in love with him at that point, but I knew I could love him.

Over the next few weeks (and all through that semester), we spent time together one-on-one and with friends, played games, watched movies, and spent a lot of time talking. One night, just about three weeks after he asked me out, we were texting, and he said something both thrilling and shocking. The text read "I guess I'll have to be getting a ring sooner than I expected." Sure I misunderstood, I asked him what he meant, and he clarified that he'd be buying me an engagement ring eventually.

I met his parents the week of his graduation, a little over two months after we started dating. He met my parents that October when they came to visit me at school. That Christmas, he came to Germany with me, and during his Christmas visit he asked my dad's permission to marry me. He proposed in March, 13 months after we started dating, and 16 months after that--about 2 1/2 years after that first day--we stood before God, our friends, and our family, and pledged to be true to each other until death.

We've now been married for six months and four days. In May, we're expecting the birth of our first child, a daughter named Abigail. These past few months have been challenging, but we both know that this is just part of a cycle and things will get better.

Andrew and I made many mistakes in our relationship, and I know we will make many more. I could write a whole post on what not to do based on our example, but today I'm just going to focus on what we did well that might work for others. This is not an exhaustive list of how to find a spouse, nor is it a guarantee that any relationship that does this will work out. These are just the aspects that I feel were most important to the success of our relationship.

We were friends before we dated. I am a firm believer that a solid friendship is vital to a good relationship, especially a marital relationship. We knew each other quite well even before we started dating, so we were able to tell if the relationship was even possible. We learned about each other before becoming emotionally involved, so if one of us had found any non-negotiable traits in the other, we could have ended the relationship before it started, saving ourselves a lot of heartbreak.

Our friends were an integral part of our relationship. Before we were dating, we spent a lot of time together with friends. After we started dating, little changed there. We spent time one-on-one, but we also still spent a lot of time with our group of friends. Because of this, we each saw how the other interacted with friends, and we were able to maintain a healthy social life, as well as having a solid support base. If the relationship had any major warning signs that we didn't notice, our friends would have been there to let us know.

Our families were involved. Because we were both living far from our parents (his were in Wisconsin, mine were in Germany, and he and I were at school in Michigan), they weren't able to be as involved as we may have liked. However, the first day he asked me out, he met my grandparents and spent two hours in the car with them, only one hour which I was present for. We spent holidays with each other's extended family (he came to Ohio for Easter with my family--minus my parents--and I went to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving with his family). He met my parents as soon as possible, and he spent an entire week with them over Christmas before he proposed. He also showed deference to my father's authority by asking him for my hand in marriage. Because our families were involved, we had extra accountability; they reminded us of proper behavior and were able to confirm that the relationship was a good fit.

Once we got serious, we got really serious. We didn't spend a lot of time in that in-between, "we like each other but aren't sure where the relationship is going" stage. As I said before, he first mentioned marriage just three weeks after we started dating! While we were together for over a year before getting engaged and for 2 1/2 years before getting married, we knew from a very early point where the relationship was going--to marriage. There was no uncertainty on that front that could have led to heartbreak.

Our faith is the center of our relationship. When I said that these were general guidelines that don't apply to everyone, I may have been slightly misleading. The others were negotiable; this one is not. A Christian should never begin a relationship that does not have Christ at the center. "A threefold cord is not quickly broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:12) "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers." (2 Corinthians 6:14) Not to say that someone who became a believer after being married should divorce their spouse who does not believe; rather, a believer should not begin a relationship with an unbeliever. For more on this, see 1 Corinthians 7:12-16

Married couples, is there anything you would add to or take away from this list? Singles, what are your thoughts? How do you structure your dating life?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Supports for Children in Worship

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If you read my post Walking the Christian Life, you may have noticed that I consider it vital for people of all ages to be in corporate worship. Today I'd like to share some resources for children that can enhance their understanding and participation in the service. Some of these were mentioned in the previous post Participation in Worship: for your family member with special needs.



Parts of the sanctuary

Understanding what different parts of the sanctuary are can help your child better follow along with the service. You may wish to remake this particular support with pictures from your own congregation, which you are welcome to do, but make sure that you cover all the main parts of the sanctuary, especially those that are used during the Divine Service.



Simplified order of service based on the Divine Service

Young children may be confused as to what is happening in a liturgical service. This simplified order of service can help them understand what the parts of the service are about.


Sermon guide for younger children

For children that are old enough to read but would not be able to write full sermon notes, this sermon notes guide can help them focus on the sermon. When key words are mentioned in the sermon, they can make a tally mark in the box for that word. If a word is used that they do not understand, they can write that down to ask about later. They also can draw a picture based on the sermon. For example, if the sermon text is the story of the prodigal son, they can draw a picture of the father embracing the son, or the son feeding the pigs.



Sermon guide for older children

Older children can take more comprehensive notes than younger children, so this sermon notes guide helps them to follow the sermon as the pastor covers Law (sin) and Gospel (grace). They also have a section to think about their response to the Law and Gospel, as well as a section to write down words they did not understand so they can look the words up later.

Please feel free to take any or all of these supports and use them or edit them in whatever way works best for your family.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I Won't Be Seeing Fifty Shades (a List of Recommended Posts)

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On February 14th, the almost universally recognized holiday of love, the much-anticipated Fifty Shades of Grey movie will come to theaters. I won't be seeing it.

The topic of erotica and sexualized "love stories" has been treated so often and so well by other Christian bloggers that I see no need for me to cover it as well. However, I would like to share with you a few relevant posts on Fifty Shades of Grey that I agree with.

Why Erotica Will Wreck Your Sex Life by Sheila Wray Gregoire at To Love Honor and Vacuum

Is There Anything Redeeming in the "Fifty Shades" Trilogy? by Jonalyn Fincher at Christianity Today

I'm Not Reading Fifty Shades by Dannah Gresh at Pure Freedom

To Everyone Who Thinks 50 Shades Is All Sorts of Awesome: Please, Stop and THINK by Jonathon Van Maren at Life Site News

Will you be reading Fifty Shades? Will you be watching Fifty Shades? What are your thoughts on the series?