How Much Is Enough Comfort?

“Even biology tells us that a high degree of habitual well-being is not advantageous to a living organism.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn
At Harvard’s commencement in 1978, Soviet dissident exile Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn spoke to the graduating class, the future academic, business, and political leaders of America.  He told them that “intense suffering” had produced spiritual development in the East, and that our comfortable lifestyle in the West had produced in us a state of “spiritual exhaustion.”
Solzhenitsyn said that Americans had “lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility.”  He said we needed “voluntary, inspired self-restraint” to “raise man above the world stream of materialism.” Continue reading “How Much Is Enough Comfort?”

A Legacy of 100 Years

“It is not until much later, as the skin sags and the heart weakens, that children understand; their stories, and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones, beneath the waters of their lives.” Mitch Albom
One hundred years ago, there was a pottery worker from a small town in Ohio.  His young wife was busy tending her five children and expecting her sixth.  This next child was a son. The son’s life would lay a pavement of stone stories that would show others their way in life.
The young boy would rise early in the morning, long before school.  He’d buy 25 one-cent newspapers. Then he would sell the papers on a street corner for two cents. He gave his mother the 25 cents he earned and kept the other quarter for the next day’s work.
The year the Great Depression began, he was thirteen years old. By then, he had five younger siblings. But the children were orphans. Some were already grown and others went to live with grandparents.  Two single ladies who lived next door took the boy in so he could help them with men’s work.
The only sibling to finish high school, he absorbed learning. He carried Achilles and Ajax with him–Greek heroes of the Trojan War.  Continue reading “A Legacy of 100 Years”

Needless Panic, Steadfast Faith

“We do need to be vigilant but also we need to be wise about when to sound the alarm.” Throckmorton
Last week, news broke that the Iowa Civil Rights Commission had backed down after a lawsuit demanded the government stop “censoring the church’s teaching on biblical sexuality and from forcing the church to open its restrooms and showers to members of the opposite sex.” (Ibid.)
The lawsuit’s wording implied that churches had received edicts, pastors had been gagged, the Gestapo had arrived.  The equivalent of the Gestapo may be coming to America. They may even be on our doorstep. But they haven’t overtaken the pulpits of Iowa just yet.
The panic was needless.
It’s true that the state legislature passed a law and the commission crafted regulations to prohibit discrimination because of sexual orientation and identity.  It’s true that some of those regulations include churches.  It’s also true that the law passed in 2007, the regulations in 2008.  So far, no edicts, no gag orders, no Gestapo. Continue reading “Needless Panic, Steadfast Faith”

Elie Wiesel: Remembering horror in order to end it

Whether you return from war or elsewhere
when it’s an elsewhere
unimaginable to others
it is hard to come back.  Delbo, 256
I was a new teacher when I pulled Night off a bookshelf in my classroom.  It’s Elie Wiesel’s account of his concentration camp experiences as a teenager during the Holocaust. When I’d finished, it took me three days to feel normal again.
Years later, I had to read the book again in preparation for a grad level course in Holocaust Literature–a class I had accidentally signed into. After all, who would sign up for Holocaust Literature on purpose? Holocaust Literature would be depressing.
By the time I realized what I’d done, it was too late. The only other class that would fit my degree would have been filled by then. So I bought my own copy of Night and girded my heart.
The professor said the book would prepare us for the class. It did. The teacher was a Jewish woman. Her mother had survived Auschwitz. All she taught became so real. Continue reading “Elie Wiesel: Remembering horror in order to end it”

Fleas, Skunks, and Blueberries

So first there were the fleas. They’ve lived in our house before. And in spite of the temporary presence of a dog, we concluded that my husband brought them home from his recent camping trip. He was infested. The dog was not.
So I stripped sheets from beds, powdered the house with borax, and sprayed the dog with a mild vinegar and water wash. Three of the beds weren’t made yet. But we could take care of all that after the family gathering. There would be plenty of time when we got back with some grandkids who were staying overnight so we could pick blueberries the next day.
The plan was simple. I’d make the beds. Paul could walk the dog. Bedtime would be later than usual but not unreasonable.
Then the plan changed. Continue reading “Fleas, Skunks, and Blueberries”

So the Gospel Can Go Forth Freely

“If you’re fighting for religious liberty simply to win arguments for secular progressives, there are better things to do . . . If you’re doing it to carve out special places for your own rights and privileges, there are better things to do. We fight for religious liberty only so the Gospel can go forth freely.  Russell Moore
Every fight has a cost.
The founders of the United States of America knew that better than most of us ever will when they signed the Declaration of Independence. Continue reading “So the Gospel Can Go Forth Freely”